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Where lifeintheblueridges has been, and what’s next!

6 May

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog post, and that’s mostly because I have been focusing solely on my final year of college. As of last Thursday, I completed my last final exam of my undergraduate career. I’ll be graduating in just 4 days with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I truly can’t wait to have that diploma in my hand and have my family and friends around me to celebrate!

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.-Henry David Thoreau

What’s next in my life: Graduate school! Starting in August, I will attend UNC Charlotte’s MSW (Master’s of Social Work) program, and I truly can’t wait! One of my dreams of helping others is finally going to be coming true, and I am so ready for the journey ahead. Though it will be sad to close the UNC Asheville chapter of my life, I am anxious to start the next phase of my life in a new city which holds new opportunities and the chance to bring more wonderful people into my life. What could be more wonderful than that, you ask? Well…finally getting to focus solely on what I love and long to do for the rest of my life: helping others (hopefully the special needs population).

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.-Howard Thurman

Where lifeintheblueridges has been: Since its creation in November 2011, this blog has been an incredible gift to me in so many ways. Within the first few months of starting my blog, I connected with many people like me, aspiring writers. More than that, though, I was welcomed with open arms into a community I never knew I needed. Because of constant support and encouragement from those who knew me not personally, but simply through my writing, I finally reached a point in which I was able to start something I never thought I’d be able to do: the sharing of my story of living with Cerebral Palsy. In January of 2012, I began receiving positive feedback from fellow bloggers and connecting with others who either have Cerebral Palsy or another disability or know someone who does. Because of all the positive feedback, in January of 2012, I started writing my memoir of living with Cerebral Palsy. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement from the blogging community and other friends, I don’t know if I would have ever had the courage to open up about my experiences of living with CP. Since opening up, however, I have connected with so many people who’ve told me to keep on sharing. More recently, I’ve also been giving talks to elementary and middle schools in Buncombe County regarding my experiences of living with CP, and more specifically, the bullying experiences I had as a child as a result of my Cerebral Palsy. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve received to talk with so many kids about disabilities and bullying, especially because they have allowed the kids to learn more about what it’s like to live with a physical disability and it’s given them the opportunity to ask any questions they want about me and my disability (which I fully support since I know there are so many kids who are curious). Overall, through this blog, I have gained the courage to open up about my experiences and have developed the desire to share my story with others. However, I’ve also gained encouragers, supporters, fellow writers, beta readers fellow CPers, special needs parents…or more precisely, a community of people that is cheering me on currently and will continue to do so even after my memoir is eventually published (or that’s what I hope, anyway).

Where lifeintheblueridges is going: Beginning this July, I will no longer live in Asheville…no longer will I be nestled among these mountains I love. Therefore, the beloved lifeintheblueridges will be ending after this post. In the coming months, I’ll no longer be a college girl in Asheville. I’ll be even more than that…a graduate student in Charlotte! Therefore, though this blog has provided me with more than I ever thought possible…I’ll be creating a new blog, especially because I am about to close one door and open another. I am incredibly excited to begin a new blog journey, a blog that will solely focus on writing about my experiences of living with CP. Since this blog helped me to open up about my experiences, there’s NO WAY I’m going to stop sharing my story and writing my memoir. I hope to be sharing my story and the writing process of my memoir even more on my new blog!

*As of right now, I am not sure when my new blog will be up and running, but I will make one more post on here once the new blog is live so that everyone can continue following me and my story.*

Being Bullied: The Effects that Can Last a Lifetime.

9 Oct

About two weeks ago, I randomly received an email from a woman who works at an elementary school in Asheville. She informed me she had received my contact information from the program director of Easter Seals in Asheville who spoke very highly of me. She then told me there is a book club at the elementary school, and in the book the children are reading, the main character has Cerebral Palsy. Based on the high remarks she received from the Asheville Easter Seals program director concerning me, she asked if I’d be willing to come speak to the third through fifth graders about my experiences with CP. Specifically, she asked if I could speak about my experiences of being bullied during my school years.

The email was completely out of the blue, and I was stunned. To have received this kind of opportunity without searching for it is incredible, and I am excited for such a wonderful opportunity. However, the tricky part comes with the focus of the talk: my bullying experiences in school.

It is safe to say my bullying experiences were the worst part of my childhood (excluding my intense surgeries and physical therapy, obviously). As a child, I could not understand why I was being targeted out of everyone in my class. I understand now that children are especially curious about those who are different from them. However, I didn’t know why it always had to be me. During those times, I also didn’t understand why I was so different. All I wanted was to fit in, and by getting bullied I stuck out even more.

I got my hair pulled in kindergarten because I had no way of running away, I got pelted with a dodge ball in middle school because I couldn’t move away from the ball fast enough, and every day in gym class, I was picked last. Though I know those experiences helped me to develop a thicker skin very early on in life, many of the experiences were just plain cruel. There is no other way to say it. They resulted in me coming home from elementary school crying to my parents on a daily basis. I cried over more than just the bullying though. I cried over hating I was so different. I cried over not being able to fit in because my experiences were so different from most of the other kids my age. I cried because it wasn’t fair. None of it was fair. I was a nice kid. I smiled at other kids, I laughed with them, and yet I still didn’t ever really fit in with them.

The complex social aspects of school are difficult for any kid. However, they are especially difficult for any kid who may be a tiny bit different from their peers. I only hope to try to convey this to the children I’ll speak to at the elementary school in Asheville. I don’t want to berate them or tell them to stop being mean. After all, they are kids. Kids are curious, especially regarding things they don’t fully understand. I only hope to explain how children with disabilities should be treated just like any other kid. Yes, they are different, but pointing out their differences and excluding them from activities because they are a little bit unique only makes it that much more difficult for them.

Despite growing a tougher skin due to being bullied, I have carried my bullying experiences with me ever since I was a kid. I remember the specific moments in detail. I remember who targeted me, and I remember exactly the way I felt when I came home and cried. I know now that many of my bullying experiences were not intentional. They were just moments of kids being kids. However, that does not mean I still don’t remember the feeling of walking into gym class with my fingers crossed, silently hoping I wouldn’t have to be pelted with a dodge ball by the one girl who always got so much satisfaction out of being the one to hit me.

Wanting to find my niche of writer friends.

12 Dec

Since starting this blog in November of last year and realizing my own need to share my story of living with CP, I think it’s accurate to say there have definitely been days with no words. Days when I would sit at my computer for hours before a memory would find its way into my mind or I’d realize I wanted to share a certain lesson I had learned. However, I think it’s important to realize that we all have days where we get stuck. Though I’m most familiar with it in terms of how it relates to being a writer, I know the concept of being stuck affects people in different ways.

In my experience, I have gotten over many of my ruts by reading. I imagine it has something to do with having the chance to get out of your own head for a little while to enter the world of someone else’s creativity and writing style. Though it doesn’t always act as an immediate jolt, placing myself into the worlds of other writers allows me to gain perspective as well as achieve a better understanding of the message I want to get across through my own writing.

Last month, when I read Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, I spent time imagining how things would’ve been different for me now if I had made the decision to major in English instead of Psychology. Though I love Psychology, I have always had a love of words, literature, and the power of writing. However, I think I ended up choosing Psychology because I knew it would hold many more opportunities for me in terms of a future career than English would. Though I am very happy with my decision to study Psychology, I do miss the English courses I took my freshman year of college. In those classes, I flourished. I poured over the short stories we discussed in class, but since my freshman year was a time in which I took a break from my writing, I wasn’t keen on writing my own stories. Though I knew I had the ability, I was fully content to live inside the worlds of the authors I only hoped to one day emulate.

In Ann Patchett’s memoir Truth & Beauty, writer friends Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, to study English. The entire time I was reading of Ann and Lucy’s adventures as English majors in northern Manhattan, I imagined myself in a similar place (not in terms of living in New York, but studying English and being surrounded by others who also had a love for writing). I pictured myself finding my writer friends, forming writer groups and spending hours discussing our own writing projects as well as the works of the authors we hoped to be like. I pictured myself spending hours in bookstores pouring over Flannery O’Connor, only to one day find someone sitting near me pouring over an entirely different book, while finding comfort in the silent conversation we shared. Despite the fact I now live in the artsy city of Asheville, I have not found the writing niche I long for. In some part of my mind, I wonder if I would have found my writer friends easier if I had chosen to be an English major instead, especially since it seems to be an unspoken fact that English majors love to write, read and talk about books. Though I hope to eventually find a group of writer friends my age who are able to fully understand my love of literature and writing, sometimes I just wish I had put myself in a better position to find just that.

Though I know I have a lot of time to “find my niche,” I think each of us longs to be around a group of people who understands us and encourages us to fully embrace the things we love. Though I do have friends my age who fit that mold, none of them are writers. I do remember coming across a Literature Club on my college campus, and that may be a place to start. However, I also know that I’m interested in connecting with others who not only love to read, but have the burning desire to write on a daily basis (and end up doing so, for the most part). So yes, I feel like I would benefit from a niche of writer friends. Maybe all it takes is being willing to go out into the community in search of a writers group. Though stereotypically most writers categorize themselves as introverts and would much rather spend a day inside reading than out socializing with friends (and I definitely categorize myself this way), I think the only way I’m going to find my fellow writers to talk with about books, writing and the deeper complexities of life is just by going out and looking for it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. But who has ever said that something worth finding ever is?

Photo Friday: The sky is the limit…or is it?

7 Dec
The winter trees of Asheville. :)

The winter trees of Asheville. 🙂

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.- from You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

When the stars align…with Easter Seals UCP.

1 Dec

Easter Seals UCP is a non-profit organization that supports families dealing with disabilities and mental health challenges. Over the past few months, I have been researching different Cerebral Palsy organizations to see if I could come across any information tailored towards adults with CP. Though I still haven’t found much useful information, I did find Easter Seals UCP. Upon looking at their website and the numerous blog posts by families dealing with disabilities, I was inspired. I was inspired not to focus on my own physical issues at the moment, but instead chose to focus on something that has just been coming to life since I started sharing my story of CP: my role as an advocate.

If you would have told me two years ago that my current primary focus would be using my own story and my personal experience with CP to advocate for kids with disabilities, I probably would not have believed you. I have never imagined that talking about my own struggles would be something I’d be able to do…much less want to do. However, since that is how things seem to have evolved, once I realized there were numerous Easter Seals offices across every state, I knew I had to get involved. The need to get involved led me to find out if there was an Easter Seals UCP office in Asheville, and I found it.

After connecting with some people in the Easter Seals UCP Asheville office through email and phone conversations and getting such a positive response regarding my desire to get involved within the Asheville community, I could not be more excited. At this point, I’m unsure how things will progress. However, after learning that the Asheville office works directly with families in the community, I asked if there had ever been any kind of program implemented that deals with the emotional barriers that a disability presents. Though there isn’t currently a program in place within the Asheville community that deals with the emotional side of disabilities, I told the Easter Seals Asheville office that I felt it would be incredibly beneficial for the community and that I’d be willing to help in any way I can. Long story short, I’ll be meeting with those at the Asheville office to discuss ways in which this kind of program could be implemented as well as general ways in which I can work with Easter Seals as a CP/disabilities advocate within the community.

Words cannot even express how excited I am about this possible opportunity. However, I know that without this blog and the incredibly supportive community of WordPress, I would not have been able to reach the point of talking so openly about my disability and what I’ve faced. For my entire life, I have struggled with the concept of belonging. However, I guess the part of my life that I was trying so hard to escape from was where I needed to be all along. Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with someone who knew what I was going through during the years of my intense surgeries and physical therapy, I want to be that person for other kids with disabilities, and I want them to know they don’t have to go through it alone. Therefore, to all the families dealing with disabilities and the entire Easter Seals community, thank you. Thank you for helping me find another dream to strive towards.

Copyright: Easter Seals UCP.

Copyright: Easter Seals UCP.

Photo Friday: First Instagram Photo.

16 Nov

The first Instagram photo taken with my iPhone!

“Perhaps some day I’ll crawl back home, beaten, defeated. But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.” -The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Tuesday’s Tunes Special: The Kiss Country Guitar Jam.

13 Nov

Tonight, my mom and I are going to The Kiss Country Guitar Jam, which is a country concert that benefits Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville. The concert will feature country artists Dustin Lynch, Craig Morgan, Randy Houser, and Matt Stillwell. Though this is the 5th year that Kiss Country and The Orange Peel have had this concert, this year is the first year that I am going, and I am so excited. I love country music more than anything, but I also know that this particular show is going towards the children in Mission Hospital who are sick, struggling, and just need something to make them smile.

Even though I didn’t go to Mission Children’s Hospital for all of my surgeries and intense physical therapy, I was born there. In some strange way, I feel a connection to all the kids who are there now. I feel like I can empathize since, a little over 20 years ago, I was a two pound one ounce baby in the NICU of Mission Children’s Hospital, using all the strength I could muster to simply survive.

So, to all the children currently in Mission Children’s Hospital who are fighting to see just one more day, tonight is for you. Tonight will serve as the reminder that we are thinking of you, though those thoughts may seem far away at times. It’s through kids like you that we know what it is to not simply survive, but thrive.

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

2 Nov

Due to being completely swamped with schoolwork, projects, papers, and all sorts of end of the semester stuff that professors love the throw at us the few weeks before Thanksgiving, I’m going to have to drop my commitment to do NaNoWriMo. Though I’d love to say that I have the time, I truly don’t, and this blog has always acted as just a way for me to let my feelings out. With everything related to college + making time for NaNoWriMo, I don’t have a place for my frustration to go. Plus, I just know that I really need to focus on academics right now. That’s what college is about…plus reading some on the side and making weekly, if not by-weekly, drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Therefore, I’m sorry to those of you who were looking forward to my day-by-day account of NaNoWriMo, but I know that I’ll definitely be posting similar writing pieces throughout the month…just not quite every day. Plus, as I’ve learned since January, writing a memoir isn’t exactly an easy thing. Having to dig up a new painful memory from my childhood to write about each day is just too much right now. Plus, I think it’s also important for me to keep reminding myself that there is no timeline. I don’t have a deadline I need to meet. I don’t need to relive my entire childhood in the span of a single year. Truthfully, I think taking my time with it will make it that much better. I’ve never worked well when I’m rushed, even if I am the person that ends up getting things done if they need to be done. I guess I just have now realized that this doesn’t need to be done right now. I’m not giving up on it by any means. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I think taking more time with it will make it even better, which is what I want.

That being said, I’m off to spend the evening working on an incredibly important research paper, especially since I’m hoping to have it done by the beginning of next week (even though it’s not due for a few weeks). Wish me luck! Also, happy writing to those of you who are trudging through NaNoWriMo. I’ll be cheering you all on throughout the month!

How to prepare for a potential snow day (according to a college student).

29 Oct

There is a possibility of a decent amount of snow to hit Asheville tonight and into tomorrow, which means that my trip to the grocery store lasted 40 minutes when it should have just lasted 5. When there is even a slight mention of snow, people race to the nearest grocery store and stock up on food as if they are planning to be snowed it for a week. Though I find this funny, I feel the same inclination to get my butt to the store, even being the college student that I am.

How to prepare for a potential snow day (according to a college student):

  • Go buy cookie dough. It’s a necessity.
  • Make sure you have soup and/or ramen. Staying warm is important, obviously.
  • Make sure you have plenty of movies. Actually, why not just stop at RedBox when you’re on your way to the store. You can never have too many movies. Yes, there may be tons of movies in your closet, but you’ve seen each of those at least 20 times, right?
  • Have books at hand (if you’re a reader). No, you won’t be reading that Community Psychology chapter that’s not going to be covered for a week. You’re going to want FICTION, and lots of it!
  • Make sure you have cookie sheets at the ready. If there’s enough snow, you’re going to want to go enjoy those hills. Having to search for cookie sheets to slide down the hills on will just slow you down in the morning.
  • Make sure you have hot chocolate. There’s a potential for snow. Why not give yourself a warm treat?
  • Pull out the cute winter clothes that are still in the back of your closet. Even if the snow doesn’t accumulate, wearing those cute hats and gloves to go outside into the cold will make you smile.
  • Most importantly, be excited. Even if there isn’t a “snow day,” you can at least cross your fingers for a delay. You weren’t planning to go to that early morning class anyway, right?

Happy snow preparations, everyone! I’ve already got my sugar cookie dough ready to eat! There’s no shame in enjoying it early, right?

Sunday’s song: goodbye in her eyes.

28 Oct

I’ll be spending the day today working on a research paper for my Community Psychology class, and when a huge research paper is present, that calls for good music, some breaks for food and coffee and a few sayings that will keep me motivated to keep plugging along.

Our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.-Oliver Goldsmith

It’s incredibly cold in Asheville today, which makes it easier for me to stay inside and work since warmth is wonderful. However, that being said, I enjoyed my nice brisk walk a few hours ago. I don’t know what’s so perfect about cold weather here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but I absolutely love it. Maybe because it reminds me of coffee, hot chocolate, fall weather, and feeling genuinely happy with where I live. However, no matter what season it is, I am normally able to come up with numerous reasons why I love living in Asheville. When you reach that point, in which you can’t even find anything to complain about regarding the place you live, I feel like you’ve found where you belong. I know that I have.

Despite wishing I could take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway today to fully enjoy the scenery I love, I know that I need to write, write, write, write (my research paper, that is). It’ll be such an amazing feeling once I’m able to turn it in a few weeks from now so that I can have it behind me. For now though, I’ve got to keep on pushing through, and what better way to get some motivation than by listening to the Zac Brown Band.