Happy Anniversary to Me!

One year ago today was my first day out of the workforce. I teared up on my last day; depressed that I wouldn’t be working at the bank anymore. That I wouldn’t get that promotion, my own office someday, the salary I dreamed of… but also ecstatic about the big plans that I had for my newly found free time. I would have time to keep my house clean! To cook actual meals! Have Romi’s snack ready when she gets home from school! Help out in her classroom! Do Random Acts of Kindness every day! Have polished nails! Play my keyboard and work on my DJ skills. Start that blog? Maybe even write a book that Hollywood makes a movie out of, starring me as myself (big dreams, remember?). But I would start by giving myself a break and taking my first day off, well, off. I had plenty of time to get to all that stuff later.

As you might have guessed, most of that doesn’t happen. There are some things I failed to consider, like the fact that I was pregnant, and I am not a productive pregnant person. Throughout both pregnancies, I was nauseous the entiiiiire time. 24/7, for nine months. I threw up at work more times than I want to admit. Getting off the couch or concentrating on anything only made it worse, so I tended not to.

Another problem was that being pregnant makes everything harder physically. I would imagine this is true for everyone. It was already hard for me to stand up and walk and balance. An extra 30 pounds hanging off my middle wasn’t helping. So I decided my big plans would wait until my pregnancy was over.

Well, the thing about pregnancy is that when it’s over, you have a newborn.

My house is still a mess, and it still seems like I don’t have time to clean it. I blame most of that on that fact that having a second child exponentially increases the amount of laundry, and that I’m lucky if I make it five minutes picking up toys or standing at the sink before I have to sit down. Also, the baby nurses a lot, and seems to only be happy in my arms. Fortunately, I’m a very good delegator, and I no longer have to wait for the weekend to have time to get the house cleaned up.

That whole cooking thing doesn’t really happen either. First of all, I’ve never really liked cooking. I mean, it takes an hour or two to make, twenty minutes for everyone to eat, and another hour to clean up. Total waste of time if you ask me. If I enjoyed it (or could get my husband or kid in on the fun), that would be one thing, but I don’t. Cooking is also very painful for me. It really hurts my back, legs, and hips to be on my feet that long. I’ve tried using a stool, but that doesn’t really work because you have to be back and forth from the stove to the counter to the sink. If only my wheelchair had a hydraulic lift (any inventors out there?). Also, I’m kind of hypoglycemic, and when I’m hungry, I’m hungry now. It punches me in the stomach with no warning, and I’m cranky and impatient and desperate. I do NOT want to spend 5 minutes, much less an hour, making an actual meal.

Also, it seems that every day there is a doctor appointment or a haircut appointment, or grocery shopping, or errands, or visiting a family member, or a birthday party, or something or other. Despite my efforts to plan meal times around these events, it just doesn’t happen. I should point out the fact that if I wasn’t married to a Hispanic guy who’s big on real meals, I would probably live on cereal and PB&J. Sal works nights, and I’m not going to cook a big meal for myself and an 8 year old who’s not gonna eat it anyway, so if I were going to make a meal, I would make it during the day when Sal could help me and eat it with me. Well, all of the afore mentioned events happen during the day, late-morning, because I can’t get around in the morning and he has to be back home early afternoon to get ready and go to work. I’m barely off the couch and around in time to get ready to go, much less cook something and eat it. Since he works late, he sleeps late, so the same is true for him. We have coffee and a little something for breakfast like muffins or bagels. By the time we’re done with whatever errand we had, we’re starving, so we hit a restaurant. Admittedly, we eat out way too often, which bugs me because I don’t like wasting money, but I can only do the best I can. Sal does not share my convictions about money.

As for the rest of those goals: Romi’s snack I usually start preparing when she gets home. And by prepare, I mean get out some crackers and make some chocolate milk. Maybe wash some grapes. Sometimes she has to get it herself. There are not as many opportunities, as it turns out, to help out in class in second grade as there are in Kindergarten or first grade. They’re older and there aren’t as many party days. Luckily for me she has a great teacher who doesn’t mind if I, and even the rest of the family, come to ‘help’ any day we like. I’ve only made it into the classroom a handful of times, but I love that I am able to do it.

Random Acts of Kindness have so far only consisted of the occasional batch of brownies for a friend or family member, just because. Playing the keyboard and working on my DJ skills? Well, between diaper changing, nursing, baths, and him crying every time I put him down, I haven’t worked on that a whole lot either. As we speak, the spots of nail polish left on my nails will continue to dwindle until I have the discipline to use the acetone.  The book writing was something I worked on the days that I couldn’t walk at all, but that doesn’t happen as often now that I’m not working. When I stop writing for a few days, I lose the train of thought I had when I left off, so it’s hard to get back in to.

And I thought not working would mean having time for manicures.

And I thought not working would mean having time for manicures.

The blog, as you see, is one goal that I’m actually carrying out pretty well. But I have to admit that the only reason I finally started was that as dawn rose on the new year, I realized that it had almost been a year, and I had nothing to show for it. Not a clean house, not a 3-meal-a-day menu, not a fresh manicure, and not a blog. I hadn’t started the blog out of fear. Fear that nobody would like it, fear of criticism from family members, fear that it would be yet another thing that I started but didn’t finish, fear that I would unknowingly break some internet law and end up in jail…

I realized it was now or never. Either I had to take the risk and get it going, one step at a time; or my worst nightmare was going to come true: I would spend my whole life doing nothing. Not making an impact on anyone or anything. Sitting in front of T.V. and magazines, living vicariously through my children, no excitement or adventure of my own. That is not where I want to be. I want an amazing life. I want to do amazing things. And I would never get there if I didn’t push my fears aside and take the first step.

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Tea Pain

Remember when I said my disability only bothered me when it affected my children?

On Saturday mornings, my daughter, Promise (who prefers the nickname Romi), loves to have tea parties. She breaks out her plastic tea set or the glass Dora one she got from our friend Kate one Christmas, and we have tea (chocolate milk) and cake or cookies.  We haven’t done this since before her little brother, Cruz, was born; as she pointed out this past Saturday. “Can we pleeeeease have a tea party mama?” She begs using puppy dog eyes, and she knows she’s doing it. I say yes and tell her to go get the dishes she wants to use so I can wash them.

Anyone that’s spent a significant time around my daughter can tell you that while she has more spunky personality than any kid you’ve ever met, she is also very detailed, and likes to think out and talk out everything she does. So it takes her a good ten minutes to get the dishes, because she has to decide whether to use the Dora set or the plastic set, what color of cup I should have and what color she should have, and whether the plates should match the cups or be mismatched.

While she’s doing this, Cruz is getting louder and louder in his protesting, because he is no longer content sitting on my lap. Or playing with a toy. Or being held to my chest. Or lying down. The  minutes pass and seem to quadruple in length as it gets harder and harder for me to hold him while he pushes and pulls. Promise plays with the baby (or at least restrains him) while I wash out the dishes. This takes a while because the tea pot had been use to wash paint off of brushes, and the other dishes were sticky. I stand at the sink bent over, using my elbows to support me, trying to relieve some of the pressure and pain from my back, hips, and legs. I force a smile at Romi and ask if she can feed the baby while I get all the ingredients (she’s decided she wants hot cocoa tea instead of chocolate milk tea). “Can I get the ingredients and make the tea mama?” “Sure, I’ll feed Cruzy.” I love this idea, because I can sit down, feed the baby, and give her the directions, and she’s happy to make the tea. “Want me to bring in the high chair mama?” “No, I’ll just set him on my lap and feed him quickly while you make the tea.” forgetting that she doesn’t usually do things ‘quickly’. I take a deep breath and clutch the baby in one arm, using the other to get baby peaches, oatmeal, and a spoon. With him crying and trying to escape I manage to stir the oatmeal into the peaches. I get the first bite into his mouth and he is happy.

I remind Promise how to make the hot cocoa. She spills and splashes while Cruz helps with his spoon and smears baby food all over himself and me. I try to ignore the feeling that the bench is trying to imbed itself into my pelvic bone. By the time I’m done feeding Cruz, Promise has finished making part of a cup of hot cocoa, and I realized that it in fact would have been faster to use the high chair. I would have avoided having to wipe him off top to bottom and change his clothes. “Can I have marshmallows and whipped cream?” She begs. I feel a wave of frustration and I want to snap. I do a quick self-check and realize that my growing impatience is because of my pain, which I can now feel radiating through my arms and into my hands. This is a sensation that I can’t quite explain. It’s not that my arms or hands hurt, but it makes my arms want to writhe. It’s a reminder that I’m in a lot of pain – pain that I’m ignoring and trying to block out. Taking slow breaths I ask her to watch her brother, and I go take some medicine. It doesn’t help the pain immediately, but I feel relieved knowing it will be better soon.

Back in the kitchen, I gently remind Romi that it’s ok to have sugar in moderation, but too much too often is bad for you, and that she may pick one or the other. She picks marshmallows, and decides that we need another little container to hold the marshmallows at our tea party. And another when I tell her that I want to add instant coffee to mine. So I wash out two more dishes. She asks if we can have the little chocolate breadsticks along with our apple bread. For the sake of time I say she can if she gets them on the plates. I ask her to start taking the things out to the TV tray in the living room. “Mama…” she walks back in from the living room with an ‘I know I’m in trouble’ look. “I spilled the coffee. It fell over.” “Ok.” I breathe out, trying to hide my frustration. My whole body is screaming at me and I just want to sit on the couch and prop up my knees. What I thought would take ten minutes to make has now taken over half an hour. “Just clean it up the best you can.”

Finally, everything is ready. All that’s left to do is carry the pot of ‘tea’ to the table. “Mama, we should ask daddy if he wants some too.”

I pause for a moment. This would mean doing the whole process all over again. Making more ‘tea’. Toasting and slicing more bread.  Realistically, I know Sal doesn’t really like hot cocoa. He’d probably rather keep sleeping since he works late hours. Finally I decided we should at least ask, instead of me making the decision for him. Family time is important since he leaves for work shortly after Romi gets home from school. She asks him and he says yes. I ask her to hang out with her brother while I get daddy’s tea ready.

Finally we are all on the couch together, enjoying some very good ‘tea and cookies’, and laughing at our favorite TV show. With a pillow behind my back and another under my knees, the pain is starting to lessen. I smile at it all and I know it was worth it.

Definitely worth it.

Definitely worth it.

This might seem like kind of a sad story, but to me it is happy. It is progress. My back started bothering me a lot when Promise was about two years old. Somehow I wasn’t aware of the pain until I was in tears. I think part of the problem was that when I would go to doctors about it, they would brush me off and say that it’s just stress or I just needed to work on my abs. I was convinced it had to do with my CP, but they didn’t want to talk about that. Finally I found a doctor who took me seriously. Unfortunately there wasn’t a good permanent solution, but he helped me by getting me to therapists and AFO specialists, and prescribing medicines to ease the pain.

After taking medicine and not being in so much pain, I was able to better recognize when I was in pain, and that being in pain made me very impatient, because I was always in a hurry to sit down. I started to realize that I had been pretty impatient with Romi for the past few years, and I was determined to fix that problem.

So while it’s true that I am in pain, I thank God every day that I have the medicine and therapeutic techniques to help it not rule my life. I thank God that it is only pain and not a deadly disease. I thank God for wonderful little moments like this, in everyday life, that we tend to take for granted. And I thank God for the reminders to not take them for granted.

People, Places, and Handicap Spaces

I was talking to my friend Kate the other day, and she was telling me how a few days before, when she pulled into her friend’s apartment complex, someone was parked in the handicap space. The car did not have handicap plates, nor did it have a placard hanging in the window. There were plenty of empty regular parking spaces around, including the one right next to the car, so Kate parked there.

We encounter this sort of thing all the time. Every time I would go to pick up my daughter from school, there were cars parked in the handicap spots that did not have handicap placards or plates. After a few times of watching them leave their other kids in the car to go get the one coming out of school, it was pretty obvious that they didn’t just forget to hang the placard.

Despite the schools population of about 500 kids, the school parking lot is tiny. 20 spaces tops. So all the spaces were taken. Some might find this a valid reason for them to park in the handicap spots. Let me explain why it’s not.

  1. It’s against the law. Plain and simple. Interestingly, when a police car is parked near the school parking lot, non-handicap vehicles do not park in the handicap spaces.
  2. By parking there, they are saving themselves the inconvenience of parking at the curb farther away. Which means a handicap person (such as I) who needs the spot has to park at a curb farther away. It is very difficult for a handicap person to walk that far (especially while carrying a baby). That’s why they have handicap spaces. Sure some, like me, have a wheelchair. Have you ever tried to wheel a wheelchair up hill and over curbs? Not easy.

I ended up going to the school office and asking if they could do something to try to ensure that non-handicap cars didn’t park there. They were very helpful and said they too had noticed the problem and would take care of it. One of the cars that parked there no longer does. Another, however, and decided that parking in the white lines between the spaces is a good alternative. This is also a bad idea, because someone that needed to use a wheelchair or had trouble stepping up the curb, would not be able to get to the sidewalk.

Another thing we see a lot is people that decide it’s okay to park there if you’re just letting someone else run in and you’re going to stay in the car and keep it running. Newsflash: This is still taking up the space. When a handicap person comes along, they still cannot park there because your car is there. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, probably the only reason you would need to stay in and keep the car running is so you can quickly pull out should you see a police officer.

To my readers, please remember not to take up the handicap spaces if you are not handicap, or the lined spaces next to them. Instead, thank God for your ability to walk from that parking space that seems like it’s at the other end of the world, and see it as an opportunity to get some exercise.

There is another side of the problem of handicap parking: The fact that while I’m sitting in a car, I do not ‘appear’ to be handicap. Why is this a problem? Well, to me it’s not. But to the many people who glare at me as I pull into a handicap space, apparently it is. Since I can remember, even as a child, when our family pulls into the handicap space, passers-by slow down to check the plates, check for a placard (which we haven’t had time to hang yet), and smirk. Sometimes they were satisfied when we hung the placard. Other times they would keep staring and glaring until the saw the leg braces or the limping.

I thought this would end once I got handicap license plates. It didn’t. People still smirk and stare and ask if we know we’re parked in a handicap space. It’s usually elderly people in adjacent handicap spots that do this. Many have ‘under their breath’ complained that young people today are selfish and rude and have no respect. Usually I hear them choke on their words as we get out of the car and they watch us walk away. However, after a particularly unpleasant experience in a Walmart parking lot I made this Facebook post:

“Dear elderly people in the Walmart parking lot,

Normally, your staring and smirking and double checking my plates as I pull into the handicap space would provoke me to quickly get out of the car, start walking, and smile at you in that kill-em-with-kindness sort of way. However, today has not been my day, so it looks like it’s not going to be yours either. The fact that I am young and thin and wear makeup has nothing to do with why I’m parking in this space, but way to judge a book by its cover. You have your parking spot, so I really don’t know what you are so concerned about. And to the gentleman who when I was here earlier pointed out that I ‘appear’ to be a good mother despite my obviously crooked legs, thank you, I really needed your affirmation; and you’re right, there is no way to say that without being rude.

Xoxo,

Your friendly handicap shopper”

Ok, so it wasn’t my best day temper wise. Next time I’ll take a deep breath and count to ten.

There was a time when I felt like I was in the wrong. A time when I felt like I needed to quickly jump out of the car and parade myself around because I owed them an explanation. I no longer feel that way. While I know how frustrating it is to have a handicap space taken by someone who doesn’t need it, while I am forced to park at the other end of the parking lot, I also realize that handicap does not have a ‘look’. That handicap spaces are not only for the elderly or obese. That the owner of the vehicle may have simply forgotten to hang the placard. In fact, as many times as I forgot to hang mine, I’m still kind of in shock that I never got a ticket.

So, friends, the lesson here is that the ability to walk across a parking lot is not over-rated; and never judge a book by its cover.

Handicap does not have a ‘look’.

My daughter and I rockin it in the car :)

My daughter and I rockin it in the car 🙂

To Work Or Not To Work

I am currently on Social Security Disability. Almost a year ago, on a doctor’s recommendation and some hope that I would get my life back, I quit my job as a banker, hoping we would make it until I was approved. Going on disability was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
I started babysitting other peoples’ kids when I was 11. I started looking for a job when I was 15. Nobody would hire me until I was 16. I’ve been working ever since. I’d worked in fast food, retail, a gas station, a hotel, and as a bookkeeper. When I landed a job as a banker, I finally felt like I’d found something I wanted to do long term. So when, at 25 years old, I started having trouble just standing at my teller station, I was worried.

I loved my job. I learned something new every day. There was always a puzzle to solve or a fire to put out. I loved that I could answer the phone call of an upset customer, and hear them smiling by the time we said goodbye. My boss was amazing. My coworkers were funny, fun to be around, and fun to work with. Most of our customers came in daily, or at least weekly. We knew them well and they were fun to be around too. The future was exciting. The career possibilities were endless.

As time went on, standing at the teller station wasn’t the only thing I had trouble with. The distance I could walk grew shorter and shorter. Taking a shower seemed overwhelming. Even getting dressed was difficult. My time away from work was hard too. Getting home, it seemed like the only thing I could do was lay on the couch. On the weekends, when we were supposed to be going to the park or to a friend’s house, we would end up staying home instead because I needed to stay in bed with a heating pad.

To make it easier for me to work, my boss gave me her desk next to the teller counter so I could sit and still do my job, while she sat at one across the room. That meant she had to stand at my teller station when we needed extra help. They let me wear tennis shoes, or even flip flops when I couldn’t get shoes on, instead of following the business casual dress code.

When I could no longer handle walking through the grocery store, my doctor and physical therapist told me I needed a wheel chair and leg braces. Even using those I was still in constant pain, but finally I was told they couldn’t do anything else for me. Surgery wouldn’t fix this one. The only thing they could do was prescribe pain killers and muscle relaxers to ease the pain.

My husband, Sal, and my mom kept telling me I needed to go on disability. The thought of being able to relax when I needed to and not having to put myself in pain working every day – plus being able to stay home with my family – sounded great, but there were too many unknowns. I would have to quit my job just to apply. How would we pay the bills on one income? How long would it take to be approved? How much less would it be than my paycheck? What if I wasn’t approved at all?

At the end I was late to work every day because getting ready for work seemed too overwhelming and painful. I had to take breaks between everything. I would cry at work from the pain, and my coworkers would all tell me to go home and rest. A lot of days I would call in because I literally couldn’t get out of bed.

I wasn’t able to spend quality time with my family. Sometimes I couldn’t concentrate well enough to play a board game. And when my little girl was taking care of me while my husband worked nights instead of me taking care of her, I knew it was time to quit. For the first time, I really felt like “Why me?”
I loved my job. To me, quitting my job felt like giving up. Like my handicap won. I’ve never been one to just give up. What would the future look like without my job? I cried for a long time. I prayed for the pain to just go away.

I had big dreams when I was little. Still do. But honestly, the most important dream to me was having a family and giving my kids a great childhood. And I wasn’t doing that. I was giving my little bit of energy to my job, only to come home and lay in the fetal position until I got up in the morning and did it all over again. I realized that I did not want to look back on my life and say that all I did was work at the bank.

It was a scary decision. It meant an uncertain amount of time on only one income. If I was denied I knew I wouldn’t be able to just go get another job. I would have to keep fighting – without a paycheck – until I was approved.

Finally I felt a peace about not working. I started to see the bright side. While it was closing one door, it was opening up a world of others. I would be able to see my husband more than just on the weekends. I would be there when my daughter got home from school, and our time wouldn’t be focused just on dinner, homework, and bedtime. I had just found out I was pregnant. Now I would be able to stay home with the baby. Maybe it would mean I wasn’t in so much pain. I would be able to do all the things I could never find the time for before – music, writing, projects –maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing. Maybe, it’s an opportunity. An opportunity I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t disabled.

So with a recommendation from my doctor, I put in my notice. I was sad to go. I would miss the challenge of my job, and I would miss the people. But in a way it was an exciting new adventure. Who knows what the future could bring?

It took 5 months to get my case approved. Those 5 months were full of paperwork, interviews, doctor appointments, and anxiety. Being on one income, I would get dirty looks when I pulled out my food assistance card. But it was approved, and it was such a relief.

Life is better now. I can rest when I need to rest, and not worry about leaving them short handed at work. I can do much more, and I don’t have to use my wheel chair as much. I haven’t been completely unable to walk since a few weeks after my last day.
As a former member of the workforce, I know what it’s like to see the enormous gap between your gross and net pay, and think of how much you could use that money now. I know how it is to feel like you’ve kind of been cheated out of a chunk of your paycheck.

I can honestly say I worked as hard as I could for as long as I could. I am thankful that we have programs like Social Security Disability, and other assistance programs that helped us stay afloat while we waited for approval.

Remember, while the person in line ahead of you pulling out the food assistance card might be someone who simply chooses to live off of government programs instead of working, the more likely story is that they were or are paying into these programs just like you. That they are doing the best they can. Be thankful that your family is healthy and doing well, and respect the fact that if that ever changes, there are ways to get help, because you, all of us, have helped fund the programs that help people when trouble comes.

Work Pic

Don’t you wish you were normal?

Yes, people actually ask me this question. Which brings about the ever-popular enigma: What is normal?

When I was a kid, my disability didn’t really bother me. I don’t think I really even knew I had one until I started kindergarten and the other kids would ask me why I walked funny. I remember one day coming home from school and trying to watch myself walk in a mirror to figure out what they were talking about. Now, you can judge my family for not having ‘prepared’ me better, but I think the best thing any of them ever did for me was treat me just like any other kid. I think if I had grown up thinking I had all these limitations, I would have been ruled by their imaginary lines. But as far as I was concerned, if Jessica and Michael could do it, I could do it too. And I did.

As an adult looking back, I now understand things that I didn’t as a child. Like why nobody else had trouble sitting on the gym floor during assemblies, while I fidgeted the whole time because it hurt my back and I kept falling over. And why it didn’t bother anyone else to stand on bleachers during choir concerts, but I felt like I could take the whole row of kids down at any moment like a game of human dominos.

Did I get made fun of? You know it. In first grade, Sarah told me I wasn’t allowed to jump rope if I couldn’t ‘do it right’. In fifth grade, Stephanie used to give me dirty looks, whisper to her friends, and laugh. In sixth grade, the three best (female) athletes used to walk past me with an exaggerated limp, look back, and laugh. But you know what? I made way more friends because of my disability than enemies. That’s not to say that we were only friends because of my disability. But it was their curiosity of my disability that brought on conversation, and eventually friendship. For every mean, intolerant kid that made fun of me, there were five that just genuinely wanted to know why I walked funny. So I told them. And they would ask if it hurt. And I would say no. And they’d say “Oh. Wanna go on the swing set with me?”

Even as a teen, it never really bothered me. I felt like “Okay, so I limp a little. What’s the big deal?” I remember people at church would pray for me to be healed. I would go along with it. I believe God could heal me in an instant. I never admitted this to them, because it sounds crazy, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be healed. I wanted it for other people, so they would believe in God, but I wasn’t sure I wanted it for myself. I was comfortable with what I knew. I kind of believed there was a reason for it. That some good could come from it.

It never really bothered me – until it affected my children. Fast forward ten years and I am in constant physical pain. Hour by hour; sometimes not so bad, sometimes horrible, blood-curdling, if-I-wasn’t-in-a-room-full-of-people-I-would-scream pain, but it’s always there. There are numerous things I am not able to do because of it. I don’t sleep well because of it. I have trouble holding my baby. I can’t walk for about an hour in the morning, so if I don’t wake up early enough, my daughter’s on her own for getting ready for school. We’ve had to cancel plans to go to the park or to a birthday party. Some of these things don’t seem like such a big deal, but they are to me.

Now let’s look at it from another angle. In January of last year, my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. My uncle is one of the nicest, most caring people I’ve ever known. Not that anyone deserves this kind of thing, but he would have been last on the list.

The type of cancer he has is not a type you get from mistreating your body. It just ‘happens’. The day before he was diagnosed, life was going pretty well. He and my aunt had just bought a beautiful house, and their oldest daughter had just married a great guy. Their middle daughter was having an excellent senior year. 24 hours later, he didn’t know if he would get to meet his first grandchild. My aunt didn’t know if the man she had loved her whole life, her best friend, was going to grow old with her as they’d always imagined. My cousin’s didn’t know how much longer they would have with their daddy.

Now my problem doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

There is more to my uncle’s story, and I know there are countless people in his situation. And countless more in other horrifying situations. I might be stuck on the couch every morning, sometimes all day, but you know something? My husband can bring my son in to me, and my daughter can come in, and we can all sit on the couch and have breakfast together; and I don’t have to wonder if they’ll be here to do it next year.

Ok, wipe your tears, because we’re going to back track a little.

One day when I was 5 or 6, I came home crying because a kid made fun of me at school. My mom told me something I would never forget. Something that changed the way I saw the world. She told me that everyone has something wrong with them. Something ‘abnormal’ about them. Some things are more obvious, like my cerebral palsy, and some things you couldn’t really see, like her asthma. And she was right. Not only was she right, but it made me feel like a person again. Like the other kids weren’t ‘better’ than me. It also gave me empathy. It made me realize that you can’t know what’s going on with a person just by looking at them. That none of us were ‘normal’.

So if none of us are normal… doesn’t that mean we’re all normal?

Me jumping rope with my brother and cousins

Me jumping rope with my brother and cousins

A Mile In My Wheelchair

For as long as I can remember, people have asked me what it’s like. What’s it like to limp around on crooked legs? Does it hurt? Don’t I wish I was normal?

I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I’ll spare you all of the scientific medical details and tell you that while my mind is fine, I have a lack of control in my muscles, mostly on the left side of my body. I have an obvious limp, which is what attracts most of the stares and questions.

I’ve gotten used to the staring. Friends and family (namely my husband) notice it a lot more than I do. When I do notice it I admit I do tense up a bit… which ironically makes the limping worse, but I usually just smile and keep walking. I prefer to use my disability as a good example of sorts, as opposed to turning in to that stereo typical bitter, angry-at-the-world, disabled girl. Don’t get me wrong, I have my bad days. But for the most part I try to inspire; not punish.

Let me introduce myself a little better. My name is Ali, I’m 27, and I’m married with two kids, ages 8 years and 5 months. Music is my passion, I’m a little OCD about fitness, and I’m addicted to chocolate. I try (but sometimes fail) to see the bright side of everything, and in spite of my relationship with a loving God Who’s mercies are new every morning, I’m way too hard on myself. That’s just because I’m constantly trying to improve. Some of you are gagging by now I realize, but I’m just trying to give you an honest portrayal.

And now for my intentions of this blog. I’m writing this blog to answer the question “What’s it like?”. To hopefully be an inspiration. Even to help myself realize that sometimes it’s okay if when I did such-and-such it didn’t turn out as well as So-and-So’s.

I’m not writing this blog to complain, or to throw myself a pity party (though I reserve the right to be upset and vent anonymously on occasion). I honestly believe that my handicap can be a blessing in disguise. I’ve lived it. I also believe there is a reason for everything. There is a purpose for this, even if I can’t see it. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m also writing this blog to try to put an end to some stereotypes and judgements about me and other disabled people. Before you can judge and say what I should do or you would do, you have to go a mile in my wheelchair.

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