Tag Archives: Dreams

To those who taught me to dream.

2 Jul

When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be a ballerina. Around Christmastime, my grandmother would take me to see The Nutcracker at the Koger Center. As I sat up in the balcony in my checkered dress and patent leather shoes, I stared with admiration at the character of Clara. I imagined myself twirling around in my own leotard with a toy nutcracker in my hands, lost in the music and a dance that was all my own. When I got home from seeing The Nutcracker, I’d put on my leotard and tutu, grab a favorite stuffed animal at the time, and twirl in circles to the music only I could hear.

It was in those moments, in the safety of my childhood bedroom, that I began to dream, imagining doing things I knew I wouldn’t be able to do in reality due to my disability. I imagined dancing with a grace I had seen only in ballerinas. I put on my ballet shoes and twirled until my unstable balance got the best of me and I fell to the floor in frustration. I even remember asking my parents if I could take ballet lessons, determined to learn how to create the beauty I had seen in the character of Clara. The opportunity never arose though, simply because I didn’t have the balance to be a ballerina. Despite walking on my tiptoes, twirling around in circles on those same tiptoes was out of the question.

As I got older and I filled my head with more realistic dreams, I never stopped imagining doing the things I’d never be able to fully experience. I thought of dancing to the music of my world. I imagined running down the street and feeling the wind on my face as I chased the orange and red sunset I saw in the distance. I pictured myself climbing the huge oak tree in my backyard, wanting nothing more than to find a sturdy limb I could sit on so I could rest my back against the tree’s broad trunk and escape into my favorite book. The creative imagination I possessed placed me right into the worlds I dreamed, though I knew I was so far away from actually experiencing them.

I am forever grateful to the people throughout my life who have encouraged my imagination and dreams. Though I was constantly reminded by other kids around me of the things I was unable to do, so many of the adult figures in my life understood the importance of believing in my creativity. Because of those individuals, I have learned what it means to still hope and strive for the things that still seem a bit out of reach. Through my ability to dream, I developed a determination that has propelled me through my life, despite stumbling again and again. While I may not have had the chance to be a ballerina who twirls endlessly with the grace of a perfect melody, I have sung my heart out at a voice recital, capturing an entire room with the simple sound of my voice. I have participated in theatre productions, achieving my moment in the spotlight by being Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. I have written of specific moments of pain during the months following intense operations, creating the same tears in the eyes of my readers that I possessed during my moments of defeat. Though I may not have had the chance to live the experiences I longed for, I have continued to move to the song of my own life, continuously grateful to those who taught me to dream and create my own destiny.

The pre-surgery nightmare.

4 Jun

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a nervous person. Along with those nerves, I was also very scared, especially as a kid. Rather than using the word “fears,” I was simply told by my parents and my doctors that I had a “vivid imagination.”

Because of this vivid imagination, I remember one specific time when my parents waited a while before they told me about a specific scheduled surgery. I understand now that they didn’t want to alert me to it too far in advance because they knew I’d essentially be a nervous wreck right up until I had to go in for surgery. Though I can understand this now and I know it was a protective measure, I didn’t see it that way when it happened. I remember the night my parents sat me down to tell me about a surgery that would be occurring in about a month. I couldn’t exactly comprehend at first that my parents had waited to tell me, but once I did I immediately started to worry. Not long after that moment, the dreams I would always have leading up to a big operation started. The most common, of course, was the dream in which I woke up during surgery.

Due to my “vivid imagination,” my dreams were exceptionally vivid. In my dream, I was lying on the operating table. My eyes were open, and I was seeing everything. The doctors had the femur of my left leg in their hands, and they were twisting it to the left in order to straighten it out. Though I couldn’t feel any pain in the dream, I could imagine it, which was almost as bad. I looked at the doctor’s gloves, which were covered in blood, my blood. In a room as white as the operating room, the red seemed out of place. And yet, there it was. On the doctor’s hands was the blood that ran through my very veins. As I watched the doctors attempt to “fix” what was “not normal,” I tried to scream out. My mouth opened to make any kind of sound, but nothing happened. I tried to move. I focused so hard on trying to simply raise my right hand off the table, but it was too heavy. The doctors had to know I was awake. If they knew, they’d stop. If they knew, it would all be over. I just needed to do something to get their attention, but they were so focused on my legs. They didn’t even glance up towards my face, not even once, to see the fear and the anguish that was mirrored in my eyes. I wanted nothing more than to get as far away from that room as possible. I wanted to get away from the dead quiet that enveloped me like a blanket that was too heavy, practically suffocating me. The moment I closed my eyes to escape the horror I was seeing, I woke up.

When I woke up from this dream, I felt like I could barely breathe. Without even giving it a second thought, I yanked back the covers to look at my legs. I touched them to make sure they were still intact, still closed up tight. I looked on my legs, my hands, and my sheets for the blood. The blood that had been so incredibly red, so out of place in that white room. With my sweaty palms resting on my knees, my emotions took over. I cried out, knowing that tears couldn’t do this type of fear justice. I rocked back and forth, holding the stuffed teddy bear that was tucked into the bed beside me, and knowing as I started to shake that the tears were coming. When my body finally allowed me to cry, I curled up on my side, hugging the stuffed teddy bear to my chest like a shield, and let my tears speak for me. After the immediate emotion passed and I was curled up into the tightest ball I could form, I began to hum. I hummed the lullaby that my dad so often sung to me when he’d rock me in his mother’s rocking chair on the nights I couldn’t sleep. Eventually, sleep tugged at me again, and I opened my eyes for a pleading moment as I looked into the darkness, knowing the dream was waiting for me.

Sports Illustrated Kids Brings Awareness To CP.

4 Feb

A few days ago, I watched the inspirational story of brothers Connor and Cayden Long, the winners of the Sports Illustrated Kids 2012 SportsKids of the Year award. However, I have found myself watching it more than once over the last few days simply because it’s that amazing, but be sure to have your Kleenex ready!

The story of Connor and Cayden not only brings awareness to Cerebral Palsy, but it also emphasizes that those with disabilities deserve to be treated like everyone else. Connor, brother to Cayden who has CP, has done something incredible. Through his decision to include his brother in triathlons, he is reshaped the course of his brother’s life, whether he knows it or not. He’s making a point to say that even though his brother has CP, he shouldn’t be viewed as any less than anyone else. Through Connor’s desire to connect with his brother, he is giving Cayden a voice that may not have been heard otherwise. He is helping others become more aware of CP and other disabilities, which is definitely needed in today’s society. Hopefully the more aware people become regarding CP and other disabilities, the less fear there will be toward those who are “different.”

The fact that Connor, who is only 9 years old, was able to make so many important points concerning the acceptance of those with disabilities is incredible. Sadly, there probably aren’t even that many adults that would have the courage or understanding to make such claims. Though I know that some of that fear stems from a lack of education and awareness about those with disabilities, it’s why we need more people like Connor who have a background with people with disabilities (whether it’s a family member or friend) and who are not afraid to get up and say what needs to be said. Though there is still a long way to go regarding society’s acceptance of those with disabilities, allowing the public to become more aware through stories such as this is how it begins.

The story of Connor and Cayden is yet another emphasis on why I have chosen to share my own story of CP. Though it may take quite a while for me to actually get my complete story on paper, I know there are people with disabilities who have some of the same pain, fears, hopes, and dreams as I do, but are unable to express how they are feeling or just want to know they are not alone. That’s why I’ve kept on writing. These stories need to be brought to light, both for those who have lived through the experiences as well as for those who are striving to understand just what someone they know with a disability is feeling.

To all my mentors, past and present.

9 Dec

After reading Arianna’s post on role models, I was inspired to write my own post regarding the numerous mentors I have had throughout my life thus far. Despite the fact that the mentors who are in my life right now are currently the most important to me, I know the mentors of my past also helped me during times in my life when I needed guidance.

Though I do not doubt that my strength and my drive for independence were two very important factors that got me where I am today, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the many mentors I’ve had throughout my life provided me with a level of support that not only acted as a cushion when I was feeling low, but also propelled me forward and taught me to reach for all the possibilities that were awaiting me. Even though I am naturally one of those people who makes sure to tell the people I care about how much they mean to me on a regular basis, I also believe that you can never say “I appreciate you” too many times. It’s a simple three word phrase, but it has the ability to hold an amount of emotion I can’t even begin to describe.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

There is something really special about taking note of the people in your life who have shaped you. Though I definitely know that my parents fall into that category, I’m referring to those people who shaped me without being asked. Those people who, though it was never asked of them, established connections with me because they hoped to influence my life in a positive way. Even though the concept itself seems like a no-brainer, I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today with the mentors from my past and present. Each one of them has provided me with support, encouragement, love, advice, and best of all…their time. I don’t know what it is about establishing connections with people who want nothing more than to learn from you, while also hoping to positively influence you…but it has brought me more happiness than I can even begin to describe.

In simple terms, I thrive off of connections with other people. In some situations, those connections don’t lead to a positive result, but in the best circumstances, I have gained not only a friend, but someone who I am able to appreciate and learn from. I believe that my need and love of having general connections with others is very much related to my desire to work in the helping profession as a counselor. Since I have had mentors within my own life who have impacted me in ways I never could have imagined, I want the chance to impact others in the same way. I want to know that in some small way, I helped someone. Whether it’s helping them to realize that they are worthy of the love that others are showing them or helping them to see that the traumatic event from their childhood doesn’t define the person they are today, I want to be there through it all. I want the chance to help them discover who they truly are, even if that means uncovering things about themselves they’ve kept hidden for so long for fear of being ridiculed.

Therefore, to all my mentors, past and present (Mike, Tucky, Chuck, Dr. Cox, Mr. Richard, Miss Mary, Miss Marie, Mrs. Trish, Dr. Cahill and Mrs. Walker)…I appreciate each and every one of you. You each have helped me to realize something different, but equally important, about myself, which has helped me to continue to discover who I truly am. You’ve each supported me when I’ve been down, and have continued to support me through my successes. You’ve shown me what it means to be selfless because I know that none of you felt obligated to be a positive influence my life. You chose to fill that role on your own accord, which means more to me than you will ever know. In all actuality, there are not enough words in the English language to express how much I appreciate each and every one of you. If it means saying “I appreciate you” every day for as long as I live, then that’s exactly what I will do.

Sing when you can, and forget the rest.

8 Dec
IMG_1385

Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New York City.

We drift on a chartless, resistless sea. Let us sing when we can, and forget the rest..-HP Lovecraft

TED Talk by Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter.

2 Dec

Sarah Kay: If I Should Have A Daughter

If I should have a daughter, instead of “Mom,” she’s gonna call me “Point B,” because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint solar systems on the backs of her hands so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say, “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”

And she’s going to learn that this life will hit you hard in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt here that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry. So the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried. “And, baby,” I’ll tell her, don’t keep your nose up in the air like that. I know that trick; I’ve done it a million times.

You’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house, so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place, to see if you can change him.” But I know she will anyway, so instead I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby, because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix. Okay, there’s a few heartbreaks that chocolate can’t fix. But that’s what the rain boots are for, because rain will wash away everything, if you let it. I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that’s the way my mom taught me.

That there’ll be days like this. “There’ll be days like this, my momma said.”

When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises; when you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape; when your boots will fill with rain, and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment. And those are the very days you have all the more reason to say thank you. Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away. You will put the wind in winsome, lose some. You will put the star in starting over, and over. And no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life. And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am pretty damn naive. But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily, but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it. “Baby,” I’ll tell her, “remember, your momma is a worrier, and your poppa is a warrior, and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.” Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things. And always apologize when you’ve done something wrong, but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining. Your voice is small, but don’t ever stop singing. And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street-corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

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.

The top 5 Jodi Picoult quotes to help you change your life.

17 Nov

I absolutely love Jodi Picoult. She’s one of my favorite authors, which is most likely because I love how all her books make me think. I’ve always loved the way Jodi Picoult writes, and she is one of those writers that somehow knows the words that I feel without me having to utter a single word. I’ve never understood it, but it’s a concept that I’ve come across with other writers as well (John Green, Lucy Grealy). Though Jodi Picoult’s words haven’t necessarily changed me, they have helped me realize the aspects of my life that I hope to change.

1. “Maybe who we are isn’t so much about what we do, but rather what we’re capable of when we least expect it.” – from My Sister’s Keeper

This quote, though it’s simple, gives me hope. It is a reminder that yes, we will all make mistakes, but those mistakes shouldn’t be what others constantly focus on. Instead, we should remember the moments that we were strong, courageous, and brave. For instance, people have always told me how strong I am for what I have been through. However, I never know how to respond. I was strong because I had to be. There was no other choice. This quote helps me to see that strength that is within me, even though there are countless times in which I’d prefer to not always have to be the strong one and simply let someone take care of me.

2.“Sometimes to get what you want the most, you have to do what you want the least.” – from My Sister’s Keeper 

For me, this quote relates to the concept of writing my memoir vs what I what to achieve through writing my memoir. I want acceptance in myself, but more than that, I want other kids with disabilities and other kids who also go through horrendous surgeries to know they are not alone. However, to get to the point where I can help other kids like me, I have to do the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted: I have to relive the memories of my childhood so that I can write them down. Though it’s a painful process and sometimes I’m not entirely sure why I keep on writing, I think of the kids that are lying in hospital beds feeling scared and more alone than a widow on Christmas. It’s because of those kids that I keep on trudging through, because once upon a time, I was one of them, and I spent so much time wanting for someone who could understand. And that person never came. So I want to be that person for other kids. I have to be, because feeling like no one understands when you’re going through the most intense physical pain of your life…that’s the worst feeling there is.

3. “You can’t look back – you just have to put the past behind you, and find something better in your future.” – from Salem Falls

This quote has definitely been the kick in the pants when I’ve needed it. I’m naturally one of those people who focuses on the words “what if.” However, reading this quote always helps me to reminder that I just need to look ahead rather than always focusing on what might have been, because keeping my eyes glued to the rear view mirror isn’t going to do me much good. Instead, I need to look ahead and realize that the people who are in my past are there because the things that I’ll find in my future will be so much better.

4. “You might have to lose control before you could find out what you’d been missing.” – from Nineteen Minutes

This quote is similar to saying “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to realize what you had.” It’s all about perspective. Sometimes, all we need is a shift in perspective, a chance to look at a situation in a different way in order to focus on what’s really important. I definitely know there have been times where I have lost sight of what’s truly important because I’ve allowed myself to get too bogged down by the petty things that won’t mean much in the long run. By changing my perspective and realizing that focusing on the important things are what really matters, I learn more from the situation, and I’m able to be happier.

5. “Just because fate had thrown another obstacle in my way didn’t mean I had to give up my dreams.” – from Harvesting the Heart

Dreams are a special thing. They give us a purpose, a direction to move towards. I am one of the fortunate people who knows the feeling of being able to live my dream: writing about my own life in order to help other kids who have been through something similar. However, I know that for many people, dreams reside in the distance. They are present, but they are regarded as things that don’t always deserve the right amount of attention because there’s not enough time or money or space. Living a dream isn’t supposed to be easy. You’ve got to work for it, every day. But the feeling you get when you realize you’re living it…when it’s staring you in the face and giving you more joy and purpose than you ever thought possible…that’s a feeling that borders on miraculous.

The problem with the word ‘disabilities.’

26 Sep

“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.” -Fred Rogers

Due to the presence of a new person in my life, I’m slowly beginning to understand what has set me apart from so many others with a similar disability (and even those who are non-disabled): my drive. Yesterday, this particular new person in my life said: “You have incredible drive. It’s what I like about you. If you’re standing at the bottom of a hill and you know that you’ve got to get to the top, you’re going to find a way to reach the top, even if it means that you have to push yourself harder than ever before. I admire that so much.”

Even though I’ve known that I’ve had an incredibly strong drive for the majority of my life, giving up or walking away from something just because it’s hard has been something that I don’t consider often simply because in my mind, in terms of my disability, I’ve never had another option. I pushed through because I had to. However, due to the current new person in my life, I’m beginning to see that my drive has the potential to help not just me, but so many others around me as well. Also, over the last few months as I have done more introspection, I have come to understand that focusing on my abilities is a much better way to live rather than focusing on the ways that I am limited on a daily basis. Though that may sound obvious, I can’t tell you how easy it is to slip into the hole of self-pity. Even though for my entire life I have never wanted to accept pity from others, I place so much pity on myself through my own thoughts and actions. Maybe that has to do with my low self-esteem or something else. However, I have a gut feeling that this new person in my life has the ability to change many of the negative outlooks that I’ve had towards myself for so long.

Though I may say that I have a physical disability on a regular basis, maybe I’m focusing on the wrong things. Maybe I should be focusing on the things that I’m able to do rather than those that I can’t. I know from personal experience that this is so much easier said than done. However, when a new person has come into my life who thinks so highly of me, I owe it to both of us to at least try.

Feel every emotion.

12 Sep

During my early teen years, I took voice lessons, and I still remember the first song I ever sung to Miss Julia Helen, my voice teacher. On my very first day of voice lessons, I was incredibly nervous, and I knew that Miss Julia Helen would ask me to sing for her (since she had told me to come with a song prepared). Around the time I began taking voice lessons, my mom and I had recently returned from a trip to New York City.

When my mom and I were in New York City, we saw the Broadway musical All Shook Up, which is a musical that was based on Elvis Presley songs. I hadn’t been a fan of Elvis before seeing the musical, but once it was over, I knew that I had to have the soundtrack of the musical so that I could listen to all the songs on repeat until I got sick of hearing them. My favorite song from the soundtrack was Fools Fall In Love, and therefore I ended up choosing it as the song that I would sing for Miss Julia Helen. The funny thing, however, is before beginning voice lessons (and even after I took 2 years of voice lessons), I never could read music. When I knew that I’d have to sing a song for Miss Julia Helen, my trick was choosing a song that I would be able to easily emulate with my voice. Knowing that I had to use this process made my song choice a relatively easy one. Though I know that “Fools Fall In Love” fit my voice, I also knew every single word of the song since I had listened to it on repeat for a week straight by the time my first voice lesson came around.

When I sang for Miss Julia Helen, I was practically beaming. Not only was I happy to be at my very first voice lesson, but I absolutely loved the song that I was singing. I just couldn’t stop smiling. Throughout my two years of voice lessons, I had particular songs that really touched me. “Fools Fall In Love” was one of them because it marked the beginning of a new phase in my life, my singing phase. However, two other songs that I will never forget singing are “You Raise Me Up” and “Colors Of The Wind.” Even though all 3 of those songs are each very different, they spoke to me. As well as loving the accompaniment, I was also very attached to the lyrics. Since I was able to become more attached to the songs themselves, I was able to bring more emotion into the songs when I sang them. From my history with singing, I’ve found that emotion is the key component. You want to make the audience feel what you’re feeling. You want them to feel the song inside of them. The only way to do that is to connect to every possible emotion that is present in the song.

Now that I think about it, I realize that the point I just made applies to writing as well. If, as writers, we want to have our readers feel the emotion in what we are writing, we’ve got to feel every ounce of it as well. If we don’t feel it as we are writing it, how can we expect that kind of response from our readers?

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.”-Anais Nin