Archive | April, 2012

Getting Published For The Third Time?!

30 Apr

A little over two weeks ago, I wrote a Photo Friday post about the Holstee Manifesto poster and the fact that it has impacted my life, which can be read here. Four days later, I received a blog comment from Mary Shouvlin, a member of the Holstee team. She mentioned that Holstee is putting together a website that is made up of people’s’ stories of how the poster has impacted their life, and she asked me to include my story and a photo of myself to include on the website when it goes live.

I was truly shocked at this amazing opportunity. Since beginning blogging, I never imagined that it could be such a wonderful way to connect with people and allow my writing to be recognized by so many people. The same day I received the blog comment from Mary, I sent her my story. I was so excited to finally get “published” again that I simply couldn’t wait even a day to express how the Holstee Manifesto has impacted my life.

When I interned with the Columbia Star newspaper in January of 2009, I had 2 articles published. The first is basically my life story, and the article that I’m most proud of. The second, a commentary, was an article I wrote as if I was the SC Superintendent of Education. Though the second article wasn’t as personal, it taught me how to research a topic that I’d need to write about, which is much different from researching a topic that you’ve got to write a paper on for school. Anyway, both of the articles that I wrote for the Columbia star can be found here. It was an amazing feeling when I was first published. There’s something magical about seeing my words in print and being recognized for them.

Even though what I’ve written for the Holstee site won’t be in print, it will still be connected with my name, and it’ll still be “published” since my name will be connected to what I’ve written, which will also include the picture of me that is on my “About Me” page on this blog. Anyway, I’m excited to be published for a third time, and I will be sure to let all of you know when the site goes live so that you can read what I’ve written.

For information on how you can write your own story on how the Holstee Manifesto has impacted you, go here.

A Dog’s Life: All You Need Is Love.

29 Apr

I found out this afternoon that my first dog (who is very, very old now), Max, will need to be put to sleep tomorrow. Max has been living with my grandparents for a number of years, who live right down the street from us, because their dog, Joe, who was put to sleep last summer, was Max’s best friend. During the last few years that Max was living with us, he frequently got out of our yard and went up to my grandparents’ house to be with Joe. It reached a point where we realized that Max would be happier with Joe. However, we always showed him love on the days when he’d come down to visit us.

Today I went down to my grandparents’ house to see Max one last time. My dad and I found him on the screen porch laying down in his cage. Due to Max’s age, he hasn’t been able to see or hear hardly at all for quite some time. Therefore, when Max had his back to us when my dad and I came into the screen porch, my dad had to reach in and turn Max around so that he was facing us. Even though I know that Max probably didn’t recognize us, my heart broke when I saw him. He didn’t seem to be in pain. He just seemed tired. I could see it in his eyes. Though he didn’t have the energy to move towards me, that didn’t stop me from holding him and crying harder than I ever have. Part of my heart broke this afternoon. For the loss of Max and for the amount of love that I have for him. Since he was my very first dog, he was my first indication of the amount of love that one can have for an animal.

Max loved playing fetch. You could throw a tennis ball for him over and over again, and he’d never get tired. Often times, I was the one who had to eventually stop playing, even though Max would continue to drop the ball at my feet and look up at me with excitement and anticipation, wondering where I would throw the ball next. My dad brought a tennis ball with him when we went to see Max one last time today, and the fact that Max didn’t even have the energy to hold the ball in his mouth was heartbreaking. Max also loved water. Any time we would take him for a walk out on my grandparents’ farm, he would always run straight into the pond, no matter the outside temperature. He loved swimming, and when you added playing fetch while he was swimming in the pond, you could see that he was just happy as a clam.

Though I know that after tomorrow Max will finally be at peace and will finally be able to be near Joe again (since Max will be buried next to Joe), it’s no easier for those of us who have to go on living without him. Though some people would make the comment that Max is just a dog, anyone who has ever had a dog knows that they aren’t just a pet. They are a part of your family. Heck, in our family, our dogs (Max, Roxy, and Hoss), who are all springer spaniels, have had their own Christmas stockings for as long as they have been in our family. They are one of us, and that’s all there is to it. Though I am sad to lose Max, I am happy to still have Roxy and Hoss to show my love to. When I came back from saying goodbye to Max today, I curled up on the couch and held on to Roxy as I cried. I figured she knew something was wrong since she looked up at me and licked my face. Even though that made me cry harder, I don’t know what I would have done if I would have lost Max and then had to come home to a house without dogs. It would make things so much harder.

The wonderful thing about dogs though is the fact that they have only love to give. Growing up, Max didn’t care that I had CP or that I was different. In his eyes, as long as I showed him love, he loved me right back. Sometimes I wonder how the world would be different if we as humans could have that sort of mentality. Granted, each one of us is too judgemental for that. However, in a dog’s mind, “all you need is love.”

Share Your Passion: Alison Krauss and Union Station.

28 Apr

Tonight, in approximately 4 hours, I’ll be with my mom in Columbia about to hear Alison Krauss and Union Station perform live! As I’ve said in previous posts, my parents listened to Alison Krauss and Union Station a lot as I was growing up (as well as Shawn Colvin and Emmylou Harris), so her music has a strong connection to my childhood. I’ve wanted to hear Alison Krauss perform live for a long time, and I’m really glad that I’m finally getting the opportunity.

I’ve always been drawn to bluegrass. Since I’ve lived in the mountains since August, I’ve gotten an even broader view of “mountain music.” However, for me, bluegrass will always be its defining feature for me. In general, I love music. I think Alison’s voice is what draws me most to her music though. It’s simple, but at the same time, it’s so deeply beautiful (at least that is my opinion of it).

I can’t wait to experience her music live. I talked to a friend a few months back who’s seen her live, and she said that the concert was simply magical. However, I’d expect no less from Alison Krauss. I was watching an interview she had with PBS last December, and I never realized that entered the music scene at such an early age. She recorded for the first time when she was 14! That blows my mind, but at the same time, I’m not all that surprised.

She has a true gift for music. Anyone can see that. And whether you’re a gifted musician or a gifted writer, you’ve got to share your passion. It took me a long time to understand that concept. However, when I realized how much I wanted to share my own story, I guess the concept was easier to grasp. In terms of being an artist or a writer, it’s not that we want to make money (though that is definitely important when you’re trying to make a living). It’s the fact that we express ourselves through our music or words. It’s what gives us meaning in our lives. And when you’ve got the need the express that passion or dream with others, you find a way to do it.

Photo Friday: Pleasure Reading.

27 Apr

One of the only pictures I have of me reading, but it's so typical, and it's also fitting since I'll be doing lots of pleasure reading this summer.

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” -Mortimer Jerome Adler

It’s (almost) summer!

26 Apr

Well, I’m officially done with finals and moved out of my dorm. I’ve just got a short paper due on Monday that I’ll get done this weekend. Even though I’m very happy to be done and have the stress melt away, it was sad saying goodbye to my friends (especially 2 of my friends who are exchange students from England). I have loved my first year at UNCA (but second year of college). It’s been so amazing.

I’ve made some of the most incredible friends….ya know, those kind of people who you know you’re going to be friends with forever. It is such a great feeling, and I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to find a place where I belong. I know it takes some people a while to find that special place, while others seem to just be thrown into it…ya know, the people who just love a place from the start. That’s how it was when I visited Asheville for the second time though. I knew that it just fit me so much better. I was nervous as usual, but everyone gets nervous when it comes to new experiences.

Anyway, even though I won’t be technically on summer vacation until I write this last paper, I am eager to do lots of pleasure reading and have the chance to enjoy living in the mountains and not being bothered with schoolwork. It’ll be such a great change (at least for a little bit). Tomorrow I’m heading to Columbia to talk to one of my previous physical therapist’s graduate physical therapy classes about how things have been for me having CP. Though I have gotten better at talking openly about my CP over the past few months, the thought of standing in front of a class of graduate students and talking about my life is a little scary. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll say. However, I am pretty sure that Meredith (my previous physical therapist) will try to make it as easy on me as she can. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ll be standing in front of students talking about myself.

Though CP is a huge part of my life and I do want to share my story with the world, I’ve never really liked talking about myself too much. I just never want to take away from the possible things the other person I’m speaking with may be able to teach me (in regards to their own life). Friendship, and communication in general, is a two-way street, and I think many people forget that. Anyway, tomorrow will be interesting to say the least. However, I’m excited to hear what the students have to ask me and to hear what they are currently learning about. Since I had 15 years of PT, I feel like a pro to the terminology when it comes to comparing my knowledge to someone who has no background/experience with PT. However, it’ll be interesting to see what the PT students know in comparison to my own knowledge. After all, it’s never considered a bad day when you have the opportunity to learn something new.

To Grace (Part 2): Walking Through The Fire.

25 Apr

Since I got such awesome feedback from the first post I wrote To Grace, I decided to write a part two. Who knows…this could just be the beginning of posts I write out to kids who have CP just like me. But this “letter” in a sense is simply reflecting on what I have gone through while having CP. By addressing it to Grace, I am connecting with someone I know personally who also has CP. However, this can apply to anyone who has CP, so I’ve decided to not include a “To:” line, and instead, I’ll just jump right in.

First things first, don’t be afraid to cry. I know that you have been faced with so many struggles and you feel like you need to act like you’re not afraid so that other kids who don’t understand will refrain from taunting you. However, you can be afraid. I know that you don’t want to, but you shouldn’t feel bad about being afraid. If anyone else was in your situation, they’d be terrified. Anyway, as I said before, don’t be afraid to cry. I know that you want to be strong for your family and your friends, but crying doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes, it means you’re that much stronger because instead of holding back how you feel, you’re letting it out, tears and all.

Find your own sense of security, something that makes you feel safe. For me, that was my stuffed animals. For every one of my surgeries, I took a stuffed animal into the operating room with me. My stuffed animal of choice even got a hospital band of its own so that it was like we were experiencing the pain together. When you split fear or pain between 2 people, even if one of them isn’t a real person, it’s as if there’s someone holding your hand as you walk through the fire. I mean, it doesn’t make a huge difference….but it could be the difference in feeling like you have a friend beside you and feeling totally and utterly alone.

Find a release. Whether it’s watching tv, reading a book, or writing in your diary…find something that can get your mind off of things for a few moments. Trust me, I know it’s easier said than done. When you’re in the hospital or you’re going to PT, all you can think about is the fact that in a little over an hour you’ll be crying. And you wish that just for one day, you could not end up hurting so much after that hour of PT. I know how hard it is. I’ve been there. In your mind, you wish you could be anywhere else, and in your mind, enduring that pain, even for only an hour, is the worse kind of pain. That’s why it’s good to find some sort of release. Some way to let out some of the anxiety. I’ve suffered with a lot of anxiety throughout my life, but it was especially bad when I was going through all my surgeries and PT. My way of letting out my anxiety was through writing. I’d write about what I was feeling. I’d write about the fact that I wish I could be anywhere but on my way to PT. I’d write about how much it hurt, and how I wished that there was someone who could understand. I’d write any and everything, and even though all the pain and fear was still there when I was done, I was happy that for a few precious moments I was able to vent to not a person, but to something that seemed more trusting at the time: a blank sheet of paper.

Lastly, probably one of the most important things I could say, is smile. I know it seems like such a simple task, but some days, even though they could be few and far between, are good. Some days aren’t quite so tough, or rather, parts of some days aren’t as tough. Smile during those times. Though it may not seem like it, you are so awesome. You’re facing a level of pain that few people can even imagine, and best of all, you’re getting through it. You’re not letting it tear you down. Yes, lots of days are hard, but you’re fighting. That counts. Rather than sitting on the floor feeling sad that you can’t do things as well as other kids, you’re standing there trying to figure out how you can do it in your own way. It may not be perfect, but guess what? It doesn’t have to be. All that matters is that you’re walking through the fire that’s your life, but instead of standing around and letting the flames consume you, you’re running straight into the flames and that, my friend, is so freaking awesome!

Tuesday’s Tunes: John Butler Trio.

24 Apr

I’ve always been a fan of the sound of acoustic guitars. I just love the emotions that such a simple instrument can bring to the surface for me. I actually was given an acoustic guitar as a graduation gift from my parents when I graduated from high school. I haven’t learned how to play yet, but it’s something I’d love to learn when I’ve got the time. Since I love to write and I enjoy singing, I could see myself really loving it. However, even if I didn’t write my songs and sing them, the simple sound of acoustic guitars just makes me melt…so learning to play would be all that I would truly need.

My brother told me about the band, John Butler Trio, a while back. The first song he told me to listen to was “Ocean,” and I’m so glad I did. There are no vocals, but sometimes I like that (depending on my mood). It’s some of the best acoustic guitar playing that I’ve heard, and I just love it. Have a listen and let me know what you think.

 

Monday’s Musings.

23 Apr

It’s Monday aka the beginning of finals week. I realized that I haven’t made a motivation list in a while, so here are the things that are helping me get through finals week.

  • Summer!–I’m done on Thursday, and then it’s me and pleasure reading for weeks on end. Ah, it sounds so amazing. I can’t wait!
  • Alison Krauss and Union Station concert with my mom on Saturday!–We both love Alison Krauss. Her voice is simply beautiful, and I can’t wait to hear her perform live.
  • Sleep!–Which is always something college kids look forward to since not much sleep occurs during finals. I can’t wait to just cuddle up in my comfy bed with a book, reading late into the night.
  • IRELAND!–Yes, this probably should have been first on the list, but I won’t be leaving for Ireland until around June 18th, so I’ve got a while to wait. However, it’ll be exciting to put together packing lists and figure out all the cool places my mom and I are going to see when we travel around for a week before my program in Galway begins. I’m really happy that we will be able to experience Ireland together!
  • Spending quality time working on my memoir!–I haven’t be able to dedicate long spans of time to working on my memoir in a while since I’ve been busy with finals and work, etc, but I’m glad that I will be able to spend more time with it this summer. I’ve been in somewhat of a writing rut recently, but I think that’s partly because I’ve reached the point where I finally have to confront some of the really delicate memories that I’ve put off dealing with. However, this summer will be a good time to do that since I won’t have much else to focus on that’s important.

That’s about it for what’s getting me through this week, but I can do it. One day at a time, right?

Life has no smooth road for any of us; and in the bracing atmosphere of a high aim the very roughness stimulates the climber to steadier steps, till the legend, over steep ways to the stars, fulfills itself. -W.C. Doane

What are some things helping you get through this week? What do you use as motivation when you know a busy week is coming up?

Finals Survival Music: Hem.

22 Apr

I’ve been studying like crazy this weekend with finals approaching. It’s been stressful, but the past part is being able to listen to Pandora while I’m writing papers or looking over notes for a particular class. One of the artists that has been a favorite of mine to listen to while paper writing is Hem. Hem is an indie folk-rock band from New York City, and they are definitely worth a listen.

The video I’ve posted below is “Half Acre” by Hem (taken from YouTube), and it’s absolutely beautiful. Let me know what you think.

 

Nurture Your Adventurous Spirit.

21 Apr

I’ve always been quite an adventurous eater, in terms of my openness to try new foods. My grandfather has said to me ever since I was little how he thinks it’s so great that I’m willing to try pretty much anything when it comes to different foods. Though this may have been the case when I was young and growing up, I think I’ve begun to lose part of my adventurous spirit when it comes to trying all sorts of new foods.

However, I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. I think that even though I have lost a bit of my adventurous spirit when it comes to food, I have also gained an adventurous spirit in other aspects of my life. For example, my mom has always been the type of person who loves to travel. Even though I loved going on family trips when I was young, over the past few years I have been bitten over and over by the travel bug. Ever since I first flew by myself a few years ago to visit my aunt and uncle in College Station, Texas, I’ve increased my pure inner need to travel. Now that I know that I’m able to travel by myself and enjoy myself as much, and maybe more, as I did when I went on family trips, there’s not much that is stopping me.

It is sort of similar to the freedom that you feel when you finally get your license and a car. However, my beginning driving experiences weren’t as much about freedom as they were for most teenagers. Though I knew I’d be able to drive, I had to take things slow. I remember when I was first learning how to drive. My mom would be sitting in the passenger seat, and before I even cranked up the car, my legs would start to shake. My legs shake when I get nervous, which is really annoying since it means that everyone is able to tell when I’m nervous. Anyway, eventually I was able to calm down enough to crank up the car and put it in drive. In the beginning, a big deal was going 20 miles per hour and making sure to stop at stop signs and use my blinkers before turning. Thankfully, I got past that early phase of nerves, but it’s something that I’ll always remember. I guess now I’m glad that I grew up in a really small town. Learning how to drive in even a moderate-sized city would have been an entirely different experience.

Even though I’m not as adventurous anymore when it comes to food, I love being adventurous when it comes to traveling or going to new places. The best part is the fact that I don’t necessarily need someone with me in order to have a really fun experience. For instance, I have 2 very close friends that live in Virginia, and I love driving up to visit them. Though it’s quite a drive to get to the different parts of Virginia that they live, I love the road trips…even when it’s just me and the radio. The great thing about traveling alone (especially when it comes to road trips) is having the ability to stop whenever and wherever you want and not feeling rushed. Having the opportunity to take all the time I need to explore a new place is something that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.

Though I know that different people are adventurous in different parts of their lives, I feel like it’s something that should definitely be nurtured. For instance, my mom instilled in me a love of traveling and experiencing new places. However, my best friend Skidmore is into fashion design, and she is adventurous in the clothes she makes (in terms of not being afraid to try out new designs to see if they work). I guess what I mean to say is that I think it’s important for all of us to nurture the adventurous spirit inside of us, from whenever it comes. A sense of adventure is very similar to finding something that you love to do, in terms of the excitement and the even greater sense of happiness when you feel like you’ve uncovered something that you’ve been missing in your life. So, embrace your adventurous spirit. You never know where it may take you.