Monday, May 27, 2013

Lessons From a Kindergarten Class

I've said it before and I'll say it again...there is something beautiful in the souls of children, an inner willingness to accept differences.

I've spent several days this past week helping out in a kindergarten classroom, and naturally the students have questions; they are curious about why my gait is a little funny.

"What happened to your legs?" they ask matter-of-factly.

I explain that I was born too early, and there is no judgment, no condescension, no pity in their eyes.

How refreshing it is to discuss my situation and not to have to endure, "I'm sorry." These kids, they understand something that many adults struggle with...I may be different, but I am not inferior.

To top it all off, when I was reading with a group of kids, one of them paused and said that he wants to be a fixer  when he grows up. His timely words caught my breath in my throat for a moment...

These kids are awesome. I hear it in their words, and I see it in their faces: they are fixers.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Guest Post at Finding Ninee: Fixer

Kristi over at Finding Ninee has kindly allowed me to write another post for her Our Land series! Click here to read it, and while you're there, read through the rest of her blog as well! If you didn't know this already, you will quickly realize that Kristi is incredible, and her writing is both profoundly moving and amazingly funny. Plus, she creates hilarious drawings to go along with each of her posts, so why are you still here? ;-)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What I Learned in College

FINAL EXAMS ARE FINALLY OVER. You have no idea how long I've been waiting to say that.

To kick off my summer break, I thought I'd share a little bit of what I've learned in college...

  1. In some buildings, for reasons I'll never fully understand, the second floor is referred to as the third floor. I'm directionally challenged to begin with, and this just blows my mind.
  2. Don't put a DVD into an upside-down DVD player...it might get stuck inside the DVD player. Literally.
  3. Pull the shades down in your room, especially when you find out that people can see directly inside of it from the entrance of the dining hall. Awkward...
  4. If they don't have jam bars in heaven, I'm not going.
  5. Boursin cheese is excellent by itself, but Boursin mashed potatoes are a sorry excuse for mashed potatoes.
  6. The dining hall staff members are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. It still irks me that some people look down on them because they have special needs. (See my rant about that here)
  7. You know it's time to go to bed when you attempt to put a fork in your backpack, and then you lie down and vaguely wonder what's missing. Only after 5 minutes of lying there do you realize that you don't have your pillow.
  8. Don't drink coffee before going to bed...it's going to be a LONG night. (WHY did I think that was a good idea???)
  9. The walls in my dorm room are uncomfortably thin. I know waaaaay too much about my neighbors' personal lives...
  10. It may be tempting, but don't consume an entire bag of popcorn in 20 minutes. You will, I repeat, YOU WILL regret it later.    
  11. You will wonder how you got through your life before you met certain amazing people, friends for a lifetime. (: 
  12. Clean your room, because you never know when the president of the college is going to be touring the building and decide that he wants to peek inside. (For the record, I had JUST cleaned it. It was kind of an awesome moment in my life.)
  13. The desk chairs were engineered specifically to rock back just far enough to give you sixteen mini heart-attacks. Then there was that awkward moment when I actually leaned back so far that the chair toppled over and I ended up on the floor. I was laughing so hard that it took me a few minutes to get up.
  14.  It may take you 283 attempts to open your mailbox for the first time. During this time, you may be questioning your own intelligence and wondering how you got admitted to college in the first place. 
  15. When it's french fry night in your dining hall, just accept early on that you're only getting french fries for dinner and it will save you a lot of guilt. Potatoes are a vegetable, right?
  16. It IS possible to get lost in your own dorm. Or maybe it's just possible if you're me.
  17. When you're taking a shower, never take the light for granted. You never know when someone's going to turn it off. (Estimated number of showers I've taken in the dark this year: 10)
  18.  When you forget someone's name and they give you their phone number, ask them how to spell their name and hope to God that their name isn't something simple like "John" or "Jane."
  19. The one time you forget rain boots, it will inevitably begin to torrential downpour. On the other hand, when you go out of your way to wear a raincoat, it will be barely sprinkling.
  20. When you come to a curb that's too high for you to step down, it's totally okay to get down on all fours and climb down, as long as you do it with a smile....a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do! ;-)
  21. No matter how badly you want to get work done with a friend over coffee, it's not going to happen. 
  22.  When you have a lot of work to do, suddenly ordinary things that you've never thought about before, such as the ceiling and the light-switch, become incredibly fascinating!
  23. It is, in fact, possible to have too many cupcakes. Shocker, I know.
  24. If you want to get rid of extra cupcakes (first world problem; clearly my life is SO difficult), tape a sign to them that says, "IT'S YOUR LUCKY DAY. FREE CUPCAKES. TAKE ONE!" Leave them in the entrance of your dorm and they will be gone within seconds. 
  25. "Accordingly, the narrative of happiness might be thought to exemplify the unhappiness of narrative in general." (For the record, that's when I decided to take a break from reading.)
  26. Every now and then, you'll have a day where you wake up, find out that all your classes are cancelled, and then come across free ice cream. :-)
  27. One of the closet doors in the dining hall is a "TRIPPING HAZARD," according to the sign. I have yet to determine why. However, it is slightly possible that that sign was placed there specifically for my benefit, as I have the uncanny ability to make anything into a tripping hazard.
  28. When you have a dream that your dorm room has turned into Antarctica overnight, perhaps it's time to turn up the heat a little bit.
  29. The third floor of the library is a terrifying place. How exactly do the librarians expect me to find my way out if they don't allow me to use my phone as a GPS?
  30. Sometimes a conversation will continue until 5 in the morning before you realize how much time has passed. (:
  31. When one of your third graders (from a community service tutoring program) writes "stoner" instead of "store" on his spelling test, it's really, really hard to keep a straight face. (Okay...sometimes I have moments of astonishing immaturity.)    
  32. Don't let a particular third grader go to the bathroom by himself; I was about to let him go when one of his classmates leaned over and whispered, totally seriously, "Don't let him go! The last time our teacher let him, we found him hanging from the paper towel rack, and she had to get him down." So many questions... 
  33. Sometimes the tiniest acts of kindness will make your heart smile...as I was leaving my third graders one day, they all crowded around me to give me a hug, begging me to stay. Then, one soft-spoken little boy tapped me on the shoulder, held out his hand, and gave me a little glass ladybug. 
  34. There's a random square of wall space near the staircase in my dorm labeled "AREA OF REFUGE" with a handicapped symbol. Refuge from what, exactly? Is there something I should know? And how exactly would this little bit of wall space be helpful?
  35. YouTube is a very, very bad idea if you're trying to be productive. Case in point: I was supposed to be doing some reading for one of my classes. An hour and a half later, the book laid unopened on my desk. Meanwhile, I was watching a video entitled, "Should You Eat Yourself?"
  36. You know things are bad when you show your mom your to-do list and she tells you to give up, get no sleep, or do a sloppy job.
  37. One of the best things about college is that you can have an entire jar of Nutella all to yourself, and no one cares if you double dip.
  38. According to my roommate contract, my August 2012 self indicated that I would go to bed at 11 pm and wake up around 8 am. HAHAHA. Not exactly
Clearly, college was a very educational experience for me, but it's so wonderful to be home! I'll leave you with this...

My dog's plans for the summer. She's a bit of a couch potato. My mom got her addicted to TV while I was gone at college...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mom is a Superhuman

To all of the moms in the world: I am writing this post on behalf of your children, who might not appreciate all of the things that you do for them now, but believe me, they will.

Thank you for doing 8 billion loads of laundry. I was never fully appreciative of this until I got to college and had to do it all myself.

Thank you for cooking me dinner every night for eighteen years. I know I might have complained about spinach a little too often, and yes, I realize that I threatened numerous times throughout the years that I would never eat vegetables in college. Between you and me, though, I try to get each of the five food groups on my plate (okay, six food groups...I need sugar in my life) every night. I did this without even realizing it at first...old habits die hard?

Thank you for being my personal chauffeur, for driving me to school, to friends' houses, to doctors' offices, to PT...

Thank you for always being there for me when I need to vent and cry about the unfairness of the world.

Thank you for reminding me that in spite of all of its unfairness, the world really is a beautiful place.

Thank you for taking care of me whenever I was sick, for waiting on me hand and foot, for making me soup.

Thank you for the spontaneous moments of kindness that you sprinkled throughout my life. I will always remember the time you took me to Friendly's for an ice cream cone "just because," the time you surprised me with a day trip to the beach, the time you left a note on my nightstand telling me you loved me.

Secretly I've always kind of suspected that you were a superhuman, and now I realize that it's true. I wish those powers were genetic, because if I had one tenth of your awesomeness, I would be set for life.

I love you to the moon and back. Thank you for everything.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Silence Surrounding Disability

In many of my college classes, we engage in extensive discussions surrounding the rights and oppression of racial groups, of women, of lower economic classes. In textbooks, authors often devote entire chapters to the challenges faced by racial minorities. These issues, they're important; they're not to be overlooked.

One chapter that I find to be largely missing from textbooks, though, one subject that rarely comes up in conversation, involves disability rights.

If these issues are talked about, it's just for a moment, a fleeting moment, a mere sentence devoted to the topic of disabilities. What does this say about the rights of people with mental and physical challenges? Why do we gloss over this issue so often? It matters.

In one of my classes, we were discussing the idea that many people view groups other than their own as inferior. The conversation focused exclusively on the issue of race. I'm a quiet person by nature; I prefer to sit back and listen before contributing, but I couldn't help myself this time. I raised my hand.

"What about people with disabilities?"

Silence. Some of my classmates shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

I pressed on, told them about Andrew. He was a boy at my hippotherapy (therapeutic horseback riding) lessons when I was little, a few years older than myself. He was hit by a car, and was almost completely paralyzed as a result. Andrew was unable to speak in the 'conventional' way, but that isn't to say that he didn't speak. I saw the way people looked at him, saw how they assumed he was inferior, assumed that he couldn't think for himself, assumed that he couldn't have opinions, thoughts, and dreams. But these people, they weren't seeing the real Andrew, the Andrew with a vibrant sense of humor who told jokes using his communication device, who spoke more with his eyes than we could ever get across with words.

My classmates stared. There was silence for a moment. Then, "Wow."

And the uncomfortableness was gone, the conversation shifted to include those with disabilities. I want my classmates to become individuals who see, truly see, people like Andrew, recognize that everyone, regardless of race, gender, or disability, is important.

Let's break the silence surrounding disability. It matters.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Just Need to Vent...

This is totally unrelated to the previous post...just a warning, though, as the title suggests, I'm going to vent! So if you don't feel like reading about my problems (and I don't blame you...you probably have more than enough of your own problems to deal with), feel free to come back another day when I'm more cheerful. ;-)

I woke up today with a sharp pain in my hip...not the hip I broke, but the OTHER hip. My left hip (the one I broke) already hurts whenever I take a step. People are always surprised when I say that, wondering how I cope when I'm constantly in pain, but unless I consciously think about it, I don't usually notice it because I'm so used to it now.

But now that my right hip hurts too, walking is extra painful. Not to mention that I have final exams to contend with, essays to write, projects to do, internships to set up, and it was pouring rain today. I managed to get to my classes on time, but the pain in my hip was really bothering me, and my shoes were soaked right down to my socks!

Frustrating day. In the grand scheme of things, my problems are pretty petty, but I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed right now. I know that I'm lucky that I'm even able to walk, and I keep telling myself that, but sometimes I wish I could just catch a break, know what I mean?

Whew. Now that that's off my chest, I also just want to take the opportunity extend a huge thank you to everyone who leaves comments on my posts...you guys keep me going! I love this blogging community.

Hugs!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Day That Changed Everything: Part 3

Back in December, I began writing about an accident that occurred about five and a half years ago that would forever change my life. This week is crazy busy for me because I have finals coming up, but some of you expressed interest in hearing more about that period in my life, so I wrote the (short) third part in between studying. ;-)


~

I don't remember what I saw when I opened my eyes. I remember, instead, the achy chill that wracked my body, so cold that I thought it would swallow me up. Dimly I heard my mother shout desperately for someone to get a blanket, to do something, as the violent shivers pulsed through my body. I don't remember if I spoke at all . . . it's as if the painful coldness engulfed my memories, froze my mind; nothing else mattered.

Blackness.


I was somewhere else now, another unfamiliar place, and my memories seemed oddly disconnected to each other, dreamlike and distant. I was warm again — someone had wrapped me in layers of blankets but the pain in my leg was unbelievable, like nothing I had ever felt before. A person next to my bed maybe my mom? was trying to get me to eat a cracker, but the mere idea of food was repulsive to me. I just wanted water, nothing but water, yet no matter how much I drank, I was still thirsty; it was as if the liquid dissolved on my tongue before I had a chance to swallow.

Somebody gave me pain medication through the IV in my hand and within two minutes, the sharpness seemed to disappear from my leg and I drifted into sleep.

It seemed as though immediately after I fell asleep, a nurse was shaking me awake. It was dark now, though, so maybe it had been hours. She felt my foot and asked if it was numb, asked me to wiggle my toes to make sure the circulation was still there.

My body felt hot all over. It was an odd contrast to the bone-chilling coldness that I had experienced earlier...The nurse checked my vitals and mentioned something about a fever. And then the chills came back. They were nothing like those that I had before, but they still sent unpleasant waves of coldness through my body.

She gave me more pain medication and my world dissolved into blackness once again.

Several times that night, the pain in my leg stole my sleep and filled my mind....the darkness seemed to drag on forever.

When it was light outside, a nurse tried to get me to sit up a little and eat some Cheerios. Sitting up brought an immediate rush of dizziness and achiness to my head, and the thought of food still made me feel ill, but she insisted. I complied and proceeded to throw up all over the bed. Oops. (I resisted the urge to say 'I told you so!')

Lying in that hospital bed, I had no way of knowing the incredible physical and emotional challenges that were in store for me. I had no way of knowing that, over the next few years, this incident would be the ultimate test of my determination, that there would be times when I would want to give up and cry about the unfairness of it all.

This was only the beginning of a very long road ahead.
(to be continued)