Friday, August 19, 2011

Amazing Gracie, the Two-Legged Kitten!!

I read this brief article about Gracie, the Two-Legged Kitten on I think Gracie is courageous, adorable, inspiring and fantastic! And this article speaks the truth loud and clear! This amazing disabled Kitten is making life work for her in a beautiful way!

Everything in the media emphasizes the strive for perfection. Do you have the perfect car? The perfect husband? The perfect body? Gracie the kitten, short for her full name “Amazing Grace,” is anything but perfect in the eyes of the world. She was born without front legs. But in her own mind, she IS perfect. She lives a perfect life and enjoys a perfect love with her owner. She’s learned to stand like a kangaroo and hop like a bunny, her perfect way to get around. The lesson from Gracie is that it’s up to us to define perfection. What a great lesson from a sweet little animal.

Go here to read more:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

~ Finding Direction; People Who've Inspired Me....~

I'm still trying to figure out where I'm going and what I'm doing with this blog. I was thinking over the weekend that maybe it's kind of silly to limit this blog which is supposedly about me and life, to my disability and disability-related issues. Of course being disabled will be a big part of it, but it's not all my life is about. I was talking to a friend about this blog when this idea occurred to me. I've been ashamed, uncomfortable embarrassed...something about being disabled for too long. I want to change that. But I don't want it to seem as if that's all that I am either. Because I have difficulty getting around, deal with a lot of pain everyday and need oxygen, I need to stick close to home. But that doesn't mean I'm not busy or don't do anything. When I stopped working people asked me for a long time. "What do you do all day?" "Aren't you bored out of your mind?". Those questions made me feel bad. I'm not sure why. Maybe because they made it sound like I had chosen to stop working. Being so limited and at home so much has been difficult for me to deal with primarily because my job was so important to me and I loved it..

I've had MAS my entire life but until I retired from work on disability I was pretty active.I pushed myself, too much according to my doctor. I was also exhausted all the time. Sometimes I felt like my mind was fogged up, literally. I didn't know, at the time, that such fatigue was part of MAS. There are days when I feel down and depressed, restless. Some of this could be from the chronic pain and the MAS. It's a bit of a vicious circle, though. Feeling this way then makes me feel selfish and ashamed, too. There are people across the world living much more difficult lives than I do. They struggle everyday with a smile and do what they have to do. Sometimes I find it hard, though, to focus, to keep in mind the lives of people I don't personally know or haven't met. But I often think about other people I met, mostly children since I was a child, in the hospital when I was having surgery years ago. While growing up, I usually had one or two surgeries a year. In those days, I stayed in the hospital for 2 - 4 weeks after the surgery, recuperating, before my doctor would discharge me. He worked out of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, a huge teaching hospital on the Upper West Side of NYC near Harlem. Patients of all races and nationalities, from one end of the financial spectrum to the other were treated at Columbia-Presbyterian Some of the kids I met back then were very different than me and some of them I'll never forget..

The first roommate I can remember pretty well was a 12-year old African-American girl, Lydia. Her mother was a sweet, soft-spoken women, a single mom with several children younger than Lydia at home. She worked full-time long hours or 2 jobs, I'm not sure which, so she wasn't able to visit Lydia very often. My mom treated Lydia like her own child when her mom couldn't be there. Whatever food or treats mom brought me when she arrived everyday at 1p.m., she brought for Lydia, too, My dad did the same. Lydia loved the nights my dad visited because he brought each of us bags of penny candy, every kind imaginable! The nurses yelled at my dad (mostly in a joking/teasing way) because as far as they were concerned, the last thing Lydia needed was a sugar high! Lydia had some kind of hip dysplasia. She'd had several surgeries with more to come. But that didn't keep her down. In fact that was the nurses problem - they couldn't get Lydia to stay in bed! Every time they turned their back, she was up and hopping down the hall!

Lydia would hop down the hall as fast as she possibly could and disappear! If she passed an open elevator, she'd hop on it, an open door, she go through it... The nurses couldn't keep up with her! She investigated rooms, corridors, rode the elevator...she introduced herself to patients, visitors, doctors, nurses, x-ray techs, orderlies, flower and mail delivery people, everybody! She was always telling jokes, she loved to tell jokes! She would eventually turn up laughing sheepishly or the nurses would find her or they'd get a call from another floor saying they had Lydia and she was telling jokes to everyone! The nurses would make her come back in a wheelchair if they had to go get her...Lydia hated the wheelchair and would bolt the minute she had the chance! The nurses tried to get mad and scold her but Lydia was so cute, charming and funny and she would make them laugh with some antics or stories or more of her jokes. Sometimes, if the nurses were too busy to pay attention to Lydia or Lydia had been going crazy and hopping around all day, they would tell her they were going to have to put her in restraints. Lydia was smart, she would get back in bed, then...and wait because she knew another shift was coming on in a little while! Lydia always came to tell me about her adventures!

Lydia had some bad days, though, where she was sad and down. It usually happened when she woke with bad pain in her leg, maybe the physical therapy wouldn't go well that day, then the feelings she had about missing her brothers and sisters, worrying about how they were managing, concern about her mother would overwhelm her. As the oldest of 5 kids, Lydia was responsible for them when her mom was at work. Her mom worked long hours so Lydia had to step in and be a mini-parent before school and after, as well. What was so remarkable about Lydia is she was happy despite how difficult her life was. Most often, when Lydia had a bad day in the hospital, by afternoon glimpses of the happy Lydia would show and by dinner she was up to her usual craziness!

There were other problems in Lydia's home life that my mother didn't want me to know about because she felt I was too young....I was just 10. And today I don't know all the details, I just know what I heard but didn't understand all those years ago. A social worker in the hospital spoke to my mom about Lydia since my mother was spending a lot of time with her. Lydia's father abandoned the family under bad circumstances (abuse and drugs of some sort, the police were involved) and left the family with nothing. Apparently this was very hard on Lydia and she sometimes acted out as a result, which seems understandable to me. But she always took care of her siblings and watched out for them.

I was only 10-years old when I met Lydia and spent more than a week with her as roommates in the hospital. Although I didn't know her entire story/history, what I did know deeply affected me and was the first time I understood that not all kids grew up as fortunate as I did. That life was tough and sometimes very unpleasant for some children and their families.

My life and Lydia's life were completely and totally different. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, my dad commuted into the city everyday for his job, my parents joined the country club across the street, ostensibly for me to use the pool which I did, but, of course, my family used all of the other amenities available there - tennis, golf, racquet ball etc, we took yearly vacation to Nantucket. I invited Lydia to come over and to stay with us not understanding how difficult that might be for Lydia.

I think about her often now and wonder how she is, what happened to her and her family. I hope good things happened for Lydia and her family. I think there are many children who grow up in circumstances similar to Lydia and her siblings. I wish that wasn't so but it certainly gives me a different perspective on my life and a reason to appreciate what I have and to do better. It's also why I hope I can be a source of support and help to other disabled people, young old, somewhere in between and their families!

I have stories of other people I met during my hospital stays and I will be sharing them here in future posts...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

~ The Ups and Downs of Life! ~

I haven't written for several days. I told myself I wouldn't be concerned if I didn't have anyone commenting or any visitors or followers for a long time. I told myself not to expect anyone for approx. the first 6 months, so don't worry about it. But after many days of blogging and a few comments but no followers I became self-conscious. I think that was only part of it or what actually happened is the self-conscious feelings I already had became exaggerated and the feelings of doubt overwhelmed me: why am I doing this? People are going to think I'm weird/pathetic, I am pathetic, do I really want to tell people I'm disabled? Blah, blah, blah! Oy vey! After taking several deep breaths and thinking for a while, I remembered and realized that I wanted to do this blog for me, for all the times I felt ashamed, embarrassed, less than because I'm disabled...I know now that I'm none of those things are true or have anything to do with being disabled. It's taken me a long, long time to accept that it's just fine that I'm disabled, that I'm a good person and being disabled doesn't lessen who I am. I blamed by bones for a long time, I hated my legs for many years. One day I realized how absolutely ridiculous that was! And I saw that my legs despite being riddled with a bone disease, worked better than expected. It was a good realization as well as a sad one because if I couldn't take out my sadness and pain on my legs, what to do with it?! Writing helps. I also wanted to create and post regularly on this blog for other disabled people especially those who struggle in life and find it tough going some days. I understand that some days are very difficult when you're disabled and you cannot help but be angry, sad, morose, despairing, negative and so on. I understand that and it's okay so long as you and other people know being disabled doesn't make anybody less of a person no matter how many job rejections you've experienced because you're disabled, no matter how many people have condescended to you because you're disabled and no matter how many people haven't treated you the way you deserve to be treated.

So many things seemed so much easier when I was a kid, especially friendships and connecting with people. I think some of that is because as the years have passed, my health issues have increased or worsened. Chronic pain appeared and settled in for the duration, fatigue, too, that some days feels like a brain fog - it's almost as if I have difficulty thinking, it's very strange. Feeling like that makes it difficult to go out with friends especially to a crowded bar where people will be drinking...a lot! Friends had when I was in my '20s didn't understand why I wasn't always up for that kind of social event. Generally I preferred quieter outings anyway. I often wonder what other disabled individuals who are young adults experience in terms of friendship, going out with friends, how do they handle it?! Even now it's difficult since I'm not working so I don't have friendships that grow out of a work environment and many women my age are mothers so when they aren't working, they're caring for their children. Children is a major issue for me. I've always loved kids from the newborn infant stage to toddlers, to grade school age and up.... For some reason I always though I would have kids, if not my own then through adoption. It took me a long tine to acknowledge that not only was I unable to have my own children but I couldn't care for any children on my own. That hit me like a ton of bricks. It still causes major pain in my chest when I think about it. People offer throwaway sentences like: "You have so much freedom", "You can sleep as much as you want", and my all time favorite: "You're not responsible to anyone, you can do whatever you want"...ummmmm...actually, No I can't! I know they mean well but those platitudes underline how little they understand. I know they're trying to help. I think what I'm going to do is get involved in some volunteer/charitable work with kids If I can. Hopefully I'll find something I can do!

Today's post is a bit of a downer or just realistic but I'm sorry it's not more fun and entertaining. I promise tomorrow's will be much better, more upbeat... This is life, some days are good, some days - not so good!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


This morning I was reading an article by Martha Beck. I discovered Martha Beck in Oprah's magazine, O. I think Martha is extremely wise, funny, kind and gives great advice. I haven't been reading much by her lately but this article is about self-consciousness, something many women are familiar with. The article talks about getting hung up on social judgments when, most of the time, nobody is really paying attention to you. Many of us are worried that no matter what we wear, people are going to gossip about us, point out flaws, make us feel stupid and embarrassed. Very often, most of the people we encounter in a day won't remember they saw us let along what we were wearing. If you attend a function or a party, depending on how well you know the people, the numbers change a little but not much. I think most often we are getting half the attention we think we are.(if that much!)

I get very self-conscious over my appearance because the MAS has given me severe scoliosis which despite surgery and a rod in my back, my spine is still pretty curved. Both my hips bow out but in different ways and my lower legs are scarred, bowed in different places and not too pretty. I get stared at a lot when I go out, even if I'm wearing pants. When I was 13 I stopped wearing shorts for this reason...and my legs were better then!

Now I wonder why did I do that? People stare whether I wear long pants, short-shorts, a bikini or a snow suit! lolol I may get more stares in a bikini! but they're stares...and they're not because I look like Cindy Crawford or Cameron Diaz. Maybe it's old age, maybe I'm sick of people, maybe I prefer to be comfortable...but today I say, go ahead and stare if you want to...maybe I make people feel better about themselves.

I'm going to be honest here. I don't feel this way everyday. I have plenty of days when the idea of going outside and dealing with people's stares makes me cringe and I can't face it. Fortunately, those days are fewer and fewer. I do sometimes wonder what advice Martha Beck would give me on those self-conscious days. And I do wonder why people stare at me so much and so blatantly.

Why do we stare at strangers, people we don't know. I don't mean looking briefly at someone with a 3-foot high orange mohawk but staring bug-eyed at a woman with more make-up that you would wear and tight, animal-print leggings. Really, so what? I guess it's human nature.

If you catch someone staring at you, I found it's very effective to say hi and smile brightly at them. If they continue I often ask if I can help them with anything! It's better than when I was 5 and 6 and would stick my tongue out at people who stared at me!

My favorite piece of advice Martha Beck gives when a friend says someone is staring at her or she's afraid people will talk about her:


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

~ Inspiring People who are Disabled ~

I've been thinking for a long time about doing a blog about being disabled and anything and everything that goes along with that. I could never decide if it was something people would be interested in or that I could get attention or support for. Recently I've realized that's not the real reason to do a blog but to support and hopefully get attention to disabled people as a group, Still I couldn't decided. And then a few weeks ago, I saw an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the reality show hosted by Ty Pennington. The show was in Georgia with the Sharrock Family, Michael, Cindy and 9-year old Patrick who has brittle bone disease or Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Patrick has a pretty severe case of it: Patrick broke both his legs in the womb. Although he can walk, it's difficult and he cannot go fast or far so wheels are better. Patrick is very small for his age because like MAS, OI affects a person's stature and he can very easily break a bone or several. The really remarkable thing about Patrick, though, was his smile and his spirit both are big and bright! He is a very happy child and is as active as he's allowed to be. Right now he's home-schooled but his mom and dad are hoping to send him to school in the future.

Patrick and his parents really impressed me while I was showing the show. Children like Patrick deserve a future to look forward to and a society that welcomes them and lets them in. That's what helped me decide to start this blog. Right now, getting a basic job for a disabled person is difficult and if you don't have family to rely on or money somehow, there isn't a lot of help out there for disabled people to live so you're probably going to have to work. Most people want to work anyway, it feels good to be able to support yourself and make your own money. There are inspiring people with disabilities to look to for courage and hope.

Patrick did a public service announcement during the show. It was about how he's just a regular kid. There were some of other kids in the announcement who had various illnesses and disease and one child who didn't have anything. They were all happy and smiling and I thought how great it would be to know they were able to keep the smiling throughout their lives!

The people behind Extreme Makeover: Home Edition learned that Patrick was a fan of Atticus Shaffer who plays the youngest son on the sitcom The Middle. What I didn't know is that Atticus also has a form of OI! I think it's fantastic that he's an actor on a prime time TV show and he has a rare disease.

When I was growing up there were very few disabled individuals performing in acting roles on TV or in the movies. It's fantastic to see more and more people with disabilities getting acting jobs for which they are completely qualified. ***Kevin McHale who plays Artie on Glee is fantastic and now only does he act but he sings and dances, too! And Zach Anner is a stand-up comedian with cerebral palsy who has a travel show on Oprah's new OWN network.

These individuals with disabilities have some extra special talents and are a fantastic source of inspiration. I used to know a guy in a wheelchair who wanted to be an actor or a musician but just complained there were no roles or spots for disabled people or any available roles went to able-bodied people. I hope he's aware that, at lease now that's no longer the case.

My hope is that these individuals, simply by doing what they love, will impress upon other people that disability really is just a state of mind and, when given the opportunity, disabled people can excel at whatever they want to do.

*** It was just brought to my attention by Emma from the U.K. that the actor, Kevin McHale who plays Artie on Glee is NOT disabled.  Before I wrote ths post, I went to the Fox Network website for Glee and read Kevin McHale's cast page.  It's written as if he is Artie the character he plays and includes a story about how he became disabled, how he feels about it and how he has managed to be a dancer using his wheelchair.  No where on the page does it say the actor is not disabled. I misunderstood what I read.  I really appreciate Emma bringing this to my attention.  One of my greates annoyances is the use of able-bodied actors in  disabled character roles when there is a talented disabled actor available for the role, which there almost always is.  Hollywood, the film and TV industry and more has long been guilty of failing to hire disabled actors for roles and other positions.