Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This Year's Resolution

Have you ever had those moments where you wonder What was I thinking??  As you look back at the choices you've made during the monumental situations in your life (such as choosing a new car, saying "Yes!" to that second date, eating the yogurt that's past its expiration...okay, maybe that one isn't so monumental...) sometimes you look back at these memorable situations and praise yourself for your quick wit and unwavering sensibilities.  Aaaannnd...sometimes you DON'T!  I've learned that it's usually the mistakes we make that teach us the biggest lessons, and these lessons will continue to guide us through many situations to come.  I can honestly say that I will continue buying Honda CRV's (if at all possible,) and I will not hesitate in saying "No!!" to any expired yogurt in the future.  There are just some roads I no longer need to travel!

But what about those moments where you make silly mistakes?  Such as going to the grocery store intending to get corn pads because you so DESPERATELY need them...and coming home with10 items, none of which are corn pad related?  Or attempting to complete a simple task that you've probably done a thousand times, and all of a sudden you screw it up and have to start all over again?  It's times like these when I start to wonder about my brain, and if  I've just come to the point where it's no longer functioning properly.  Which scares me, because I think that if my elderly cat Scout has gone past that point,and my own brain stops working...who will open the cans??  Well, when I mentioned the Cakewrecks blog in my last post and how you can give as little as $1.00 to 12 different charities during the holiday season, I said that the chance to give continues until August 2011.  I still think that must be true, because why would I have come up with that on my own?  Though when I was looking back through their site today I cannot find where that was said...and I searched for that sentence!!  If any of my readers out there check out Cakewrecks and happen to read that information, please contact me and let me know because it's driving me a little batty.  It will assure me that I haven't completely lost my mind, and that the yogurt didn't do any permanent damage!

Anyway--as I was saying about lessons, before my brain took a detour...I have learned over the years that I really hate asking for help.  Well, not so much when it involves my failing mind (obviously,) but more when it involves something I cannot physically do on my own.  I have learned to adapt how I do things on a daily basis, in living with a disability...because I have no choice.  Though there's a difference between adapting how I do something (still completing the task on my own,) and ADMITTING to myself that I cannot do the task at all.  Even though I'm 39 years old and have lived with CMT since I was a teenager, I still have not gotten used to the whole admitting thing!  I'm really bad at that--and even though I will honestly tell someone what I can and cannot do if they ask me, a task will come along that's too difficult...and once again I will attempt it.  Often hurting myself in the process!  I've tried to figure out why I have such a problem asking for help when I physically need it, wondering where that all started.  It may stem from childhood gym class, and being yelled at for not being able to complete ANY of the physical tasks set before me...or it may be my strong, Irish roots keeping me from EVER giving up.  Or it may just be that I'm stubborn! 

So in the spirit of the New Year, I've decided that I'm going to do my best and ask for help when I need it...and admit to myself when a task is beyond my physical capabilities.  I will most likely fail miserably at first (as I have been a stubborn Irishwoman for a while now,) but I am going to try.  Though if my brain IS failing, I may forget all about this in 2011..thank goodness I have this post to remind me!  And hopefully I will learn something from my past mistakes, so I won't try and shovel my car out from under mountains of snow all by myself.  This, of course, will take effect during any snowstorms that may occur in 2011...this past storm doesn't count against my resolution, since it TECHNICALLY didn't happen in the New Year.  Told you I was stubborn!! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Give a little, Get a lot!

Okay...Christmas is almost here!  I still have all my presents to wrap and I'm pretty bad at that (they always look like I drank a bottle of scotch and blindfolded myself before starting,) so I'm going to make this a short and sweet post for the holiday season!  Then it's off to my present-wrapping nightmare.  Hmmm...I wonder if I bought enough Johnnie Walker??

I wanted to pass on an idea I read about while visiting another favorite blog of mine, that I have been a fan of for a few years...the site is  The idea?  Paying it forward!  The writer of Cakewrecks had a wonderful idea for the holiday season.  Instead of exchanging gifts, her and her husband (co-author,) are donating money to charities...and if you log onto their site every day you can click on a link to donate as little as a $1.00 to a special cause, and each day a different one will be featured.  The suggestion is to donate to 12 different causes, for the '12 days of Christmas'...though the daily charity options will continue until August, 2011!  No need to limit the giving to December, now is there?  And let me assure you that donating is an option...not a requirement.  You can still log onto Cakewrecks and enjoy the hilarious, misspelled and often horrendous cakes that they feature every day!  No matter what your beliefs may be or what holiday traditions you may celebrate, here is a chance to donate money to charities all over the country in the spirit of the holiday season...and enjoy a laugh or two in the meantime.  Who could ask for better than that??

Now I know most of us are struggling financially...I certainly am!  That's what makes this idea of Cakewrecks so actually CAN donate as little as a $1.00 to as many or as few causes as you wish, through FirstGiving.  This was the one charity site Cakewrecks found that will take dollar donations, and most of us can afford that!  Some of the causes I have donated to so far are The Water Project, Inc. (which provides clean drinking water to developing countries around the world,) Best Friends Animal Society (the nation's largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals,) and To Write Love On Her Arms (which provides help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self injury and suicide.)  I may not be able to rid the entire world of its problems, but at least I can make a tiny dent of positive change, one charity at a time...and just think about it--the more tiny little dents that are created, the quicker that change will come!

So during this time of giving when most of us are still rushing to buy last minute presents for our loved ones, take a moment if you can, and check out this site!  It's a chance to look beyond ourselves, and give help to someone who so desperately needs it.  What's in it for us?  Well, I'll be honest--there's really no material most cases you will never meet the people and/or the animals you help.  So what has this given me?  The benefits are HUGE.  From my tiny little corner of the world I actually feel like I'm making a difference in someone's life.  Together with all the other loyal Cakewreck readers, we can start to fix the world, one little piece at a time.  And that certainly means a lot! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Holiday Spirit

Yay!!  My faith in the Christmas Spirit has been RENEWED!!  Yes, Christine...there is a Santa Claus, and he shops at the Hannaford grocery store.  It is a wonderful thing to see the bright light of goodness and common decency shining at the end of the tunnel...especially when this time of year usually leaves me frustrated, and slightly anxious.  Do I love Christmas??  You know I do!  But I have to admit...the closer it gets to that special day, the more I want to stay inside and away from crowds, crazy traffic, and impatient people.  I don't move fast enough to keep up with it all, even in my car...and it seems as if people are always rushing around me because they are in such a HURRY!!  And unless you're on your way to buy me a present (I love to read, I'll watch anything with Johnny Depp in it, and I wear a size 6,) I wish you'd all just SLOW DOWN!!  So during this time of great impatience, I had to share this story of something that recently happened, which showed me there are still people out there who have the Spirit!

It all started on Tuesday, as I struggled to get the last minute items on my list without getting flattened by the other harried shoppers.  Or should I say, I struggled with the whole DAY!  You know those days when everything goes wrong from the start?  Well, I think God was trying to tell me something when no matter where I stood or which way I brushed, the wind blew the snow from my car directly into my face.  I should have just gone back inside, but I pushed forward...after all, my Christmas shopping list was burning a hole in my pocket and I had to fill it!  After cleaning off my car, as I was finally pulling out of my parking spot, I noticed that I needed to fill up my gas tank.  SHOOT!!!!!!  (Okay...not exactly the word I yelled, but this is a family blog, people!)  So I pulled my coat tighter around my neck, and headed to the gas station.

Now, I mentioned before that I have hand issues.  I have lost muscle, can't grip things well and often have numbness...and when my hands get cold, these issues increase ten fold.  So pumping gas isn't an easy task on the warmest of days.  On freezing cold days, it's virtually impossible!  I tend to use my debit card to avoid walking into the store, which in the summer is mostly laziness on my the season of snow and ice, however, parking lots become mazes of slips and falls.  On this particular day which was only 13 degrees, I pulled off my gloves (to try and improve my grip,) and attempted to feed my tiny, little debit card into the machine's slot using both hands.  And do you know what happened?  Can you see it coming??  A lovely gust of icy wind BLEW my card right out of my hands, and carried it away. SSSSHHHHOOOOOOOOOT!!!!!  (Again, not the EXACT word I used, but I'm doing my best to keep this PG rated!)  As I attempted to catch up to my card which was blowing further and further away from me, I dropped my gloves in the snow and almost got run over by car.  But did I give up??  No, SIR!  I was determined that I would complete my holiday errands!

Finally I got the card, found my gloves, and was on my way.  One of the many things on my list took me to Hannaford, a local grocery store for my readers outside of NY.  I had cut out coupons for bags of chocolate candy, to fill these cute snowmen containers I had gotten at the dollar store...I planned on giving them to my co-workers at the office.  It isn't a rule that we need to get each other presents, but I like to give everyone a little something for the holidays.  So with coupons in hand I scoured the candy isle, finally picking out five different bags.  After my savings my bill came to about $10.00, not counting the other items I needed to purchase.  Finally I was done!  I got back to my car as quickly as possible, and since this was my last errand I made my way home.  Once inside I didn't even put my things away, but instead got right into my pajamas, turned up the heat and crawled under a blanket.  It wasn't until a few hours later that I finally decided I should empty my shopping bags...and guess what I discovered??  The bag filled with candy?  GONE.  After my momentary panic, I figured I must have left it in the car...oh well!  It wouldn't be hurt out there...the candy would just get cold.  So I got back under my blanket and decided I would bring the bag inside the next morning before going to work.

Now, remember the day I had...snow in my face, my debit card blowing away and almost getting run over at the gas station--can you see the pattern?  Does anyone reading this really believe the bag was in the car?  Well, you guessed right!  It wasn't...and I realized in my rush to get back home, I must have left the candy sitting in the shopping cart.  I was really disappointed!  If I had left my bag of bananas in there, I wouldn't have minded so much...but I had clipped coupons!  Bought containers!  I had PLANNED!!  Alas, I gave up those plans and drove to the office, knowing that I couldn't really afford to replace all the candy I had lost.  I figured anyone who found that bag would consider themselves lucky, and hoped at least that the person who had it could use it for presents of their own.  Later that day as I was relaying my tale of woe to K, the office manager, she suggested I call Hannaford.  "Who knows?  Someone may have turned it in," she said, and I realized I had nothing to lose.  I gave them a quick call, bracing myself for more disappointment (since I figured no one would have turned in a free bag of candy,) and I am lucky I listened to her advice.  Someone had actually turned the candy in...and all my holiday plans had not gone to waste!

It's a small miracle, I know...had I never gotten my candy back, the world would not have ended.  Even if I had decided to purchase new candy (without coupons,) it would not break the bank.  Though finding out that someone had turned it in helped me to realize something...all the impatience and craziness this time of year does not mean the Christmas spirit is dead.  It's still out there, and a simple act of kindness proves it!  I'm happy to say that I feel a little less anxious, I was able to pass out all my snowmen containers filled with chocolate as planned, and I'm looking forward to this holiday just a little more than I was last week.  And thanks again, K, for prompting me to make that paid off, and I must say--when you got your container of treats, you did a great job of acting surprised!  Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Many Gifts

I've always loved reading and writing, and I guess you'd say I was pretty nerdy as a child.  For obvious reasons I was never good at sports, and when I played outside it usually meant I would be sitting under the willow trees in our backyard with a book.  The branches reached down to the ground and created a natural 'secret' fort, and I could sit under there and read for hours!  I would do other things outside as well, though usually a book was involved.  For instance, a neighborhood friend and I liked to play 'Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz' and my rendition of Dorothy often included her teaching the flying monkeys how to read.  I learned at an early age that I could be anyone, do anything...and go ANYWHERE a book could take me, just by turning the pages.  Starting this blog has been great as well, as it allows me to bring my readers into my head and my world even for a short while, while I write about any topic I wish...however important or unimportant that topic may be!  And when I had dinner with my parents last night and we were talking about the past, it made me think about where that all started, and the many gifts they've given me over the years.  I don't mean material possessions, of course...I mean my imagination, talents and humor.  From my father I definitely got my sense of humor...we're both goofy, and often laugh hysterically while my mother just looks at us and shakes her head!  And though she may not always get my crazy sense of humor, she has managed to pass on many gifts to me as well.

The love for reading and writing is mostly due to my mother.  And she passed on this gift in some strange ways...such as telling me late night veggie tales.  I don't mean the cartoon where the characters are all vegetables, of course.  That did not exist when I was little, but I was a witness to the ORIGINAL Veggie Tales...too bad we didn't get a patent!  You see, it all started when I was about eight years old...and I began having the hardest time falling asleep at night.  And not just for a little while, but for HOURS on end!  In fact, I'm not really sure I slept much at all through my childhood.  That, I'm afraid, came from my father who is also an insomniac...did I mention gifts??  Well, that's certainly one I could have done without!  And my poor mother could have done without it as well, as she would try anything she could think of to help me fall asleep.  One of the things she would do is tell me stories as she struggled to stay awake herself...created off the top of her head, on the spur of the moment.  And her stories for some reason always included vegetables.  She was a gardener, you see, and she actually thought that she could bore me into falling asleep by creating vegetable characters that walked and talked.  The sad thing for her was, I actually loved it!

So at three o'clock in the morning with my eyes wide open, I would hear all about the tales of The Giant Rutabaga or The Crabby Cucumber as my mother's poor eyes would turn into slits.  Stories of living vegetables and their many adventures kept me company night after night, and took my love of reading, writing and 'story telling' to a whole new level.  Here was something I could do, no matter what my body was doing that day...even if my limbs weren't always cooperating with me, my mind never shut off--not even at 3:00 in the morning!  I would listen over and over to these stories and see the picture of them in my mind...and I started to learn that I could create my own tales as well!  My ability to write grew from those moments, and though I would have benefited from more sleep, I wouldn't trade those childhood veggie tales for anything in the world.  In fact I've been wanting to hear the rutabaga story again, if you don't mind, the next time I can't sleep I'll give you a call!

It's easy to get caught up in the material whirlwind during this time of year.  We all have things we need, want and desire...and it can be disappointing when we don't get them.  And many of us worry if the gifts we buy others are good enough, and will they make the other person happy?  (Or maybe that's just me!)  It can be hard to think about Christmas and not see it in terms of 'possessions' when you're bombarded with holiday sales fliers in the mail, and store commercials on TV.  It can be difficult to put all that aside and just relax, and enjoy the company of friends and family...and realize that in most cases, the people who love you aren't going to care what's underneath the fancy paper.  So as Christmas is fast approaching, wrap your presents with care and imagine the smiling faces of your loved ones as they open them!  Be thankful for the thought behind the gifts you receive, even if you don't get everything you were hoping for...for you see, the people around you contribute to your life every day of the year.  Through their actions, their smiles, their talents and their laughter.  It's like getting a pile of gifts every day...and you just can't put a price on that! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Be in charge of your health!

It's so COLD today!!!  I really hate winter...every year when the temperature drops, it seems like I don't warm up until May.  This is one of my pool therapy days and I have to admit, I didn't want to go!  The last thing I felt like doing was going outside in 17 degree weather, only to submerge myself in a luke-warm swimming pool...unfortunately, the YMCA pool isn't heated like it should be!  Though as I do every week no matter what time of year, I pulled out my tattered bathing suit and packed my gym bag.  Because when you find something that works for you such as aqua therapy, you stick to it like glue!  And as I was driving to the Y, I got to thinking about my health, my therapy and all the great things it has done for me.  It is just one of many things I have been doing for years, to make my life as healthy and happy as it can be. 

I've always been somewhat wary of Western Medicine as the end-all, beat-all answer to everything, and in my own life I tend to look toward Eastern medicine first to find healing...whether it's for a cold, body aches and pains, or whatever else may be going on.  I'm not always successful, but I always try!  And when I have no alternative but to use Western Medicine, I am lucky to have one of the BEST doctors in the world!  Dr. V knows my sensitivities to medications and my many allergies, and is very knowledgeable about fact, after spending years going to a Neurologist (who seemed unable to do much more than conduct painful tests on me but for some reason could not find a diagnosis,) Dr. V was the one who finally provided me with the answer.  I know I have talked about that monumental moment in my life before, but let me provide you with a little more background.

When I was 25, I wished to change primary doctors.  A friend highly recommended Dr. V, and upon my first visit to her office, I did what any normal new patient would do...I filled out a mountain of paperwork.  Along with listing any medications I was taking and the allergies I suffered from, I wrote that I had trouble picking my feet up and walking, causing me to fall down a lot.  This was the same basic information I wrote on any new paperwork, as at that time I had no diagnosis for my symptoms.  Finally I was sitting in a treatment room, waiting for the doctor.  When Dr. V came in, I liked her know how it is when you see a doctor with NO bedside manner whatsoever?  Well, I could tell from the first moment that she had PLENTY!  After introducing herself she started reading through my paperwork, discovering that I had this problem with my legs...and proceeded to flip my hands over to look at my thumbs.  What's she doing? I thought to myself...and in the next instant my world became a whole lot clearer!  As I mentioned before, this was when I first learned about Charcot Marie Tooth syndrome, and she was able to tell that I had it (before confirming it with a blood test,) by the fact that my thumb muscles were mostly gone.  In past posts I have talked about how you can experience a loss of hand function when you have CMT.  It can often cause your thumb muscles to atrophy, and mine had done so around age thirteen when my symptoms really started to show.  One more weird thing on my list of "Don't Know Whys."  Hmmm...DON'T KNOW WHY those disappeared, but it's rather annoying!

I was very lucky to find Dr. V, and she's still my primary doctor going on 14 years now.  What I truly love about her is that she always explores Eastern alternatives with me and encourages me to continue with things such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, hypnosis...just to name a few!  And when Dr. V doesn't know the answer to something, she admits it, and does research to try and find the answer.  And this finally brings me to my main point:  Doctors don't know EVERYTHING.  I think this is a very important fact for us to remember as we choose our doctors, whether it's a primary care physician...neurologist...physical therapist...acupuncturist...the list goes on.  The fact of the matter is, we are the most aware of how we feel.  If a medication makes us sick, an exercise hurts us, or orthotics aren't helping us walk the way they should, we will know that sooner than anyone else.  We need to be proactive in our own care, informing the specialists when something isn't right and asking questions.  Most of all, we need to be our own advocates because as adults no one else can fight for our rights and our health like we can!

This may not seem like a very important topic to everyone, especially people who have not faced many health concerns in their lives.  Though eventually, everybody will have some sort of health problem they need to deal with, so learning how to be proactive about your own medical care is crucial at any age and state of health.  I have been fortunate this past year to meet other people with CMT, and in listening to their stories (often very similar to my own) it saddens me to hear them say things like "The doctor told me I'll be in a wheelchair in 10 years," or "They told me these were the right type of braces for me, but I still fall down sometimes, and they hurt my feet."  And it saddens me even more when I realize that some of these people have never looked beyond those answers to see what else is possible.  And I have to wonder why?  With a disorder such as Charcot Marie Tooth syndrome, where most people have never even heard the funny name, why would someone choose to take those 'final' answers and accept them as truth?  I know a few things to be true when it comes to CMT.  I know I will need braces to walk.  I know I will have hand issues and have to adapt how I do things in order to accomplish everyday tasks.  But as little as two years ago someone could have said to me "You will never be able to walk backward, touching heel to toe," and guess what?  I do that now, twice a week in the pool WITHOUT braces.  Can I walk that way on land yet?  No...though who knows?  Never say never!  With the improvements I've made from going to the pool and the benefits from my new braces, I may be doing that soon!  If I had accepted life as it was a few years ago, I would be in a wheelchair right now.  But I wouldn't accept it, and was determined to find something better for myself...because of that, I found my new braces.  And then I found my wonderful pool therapists...and the rest, as they say, is history!

With having CMT, a syndrome which often goes undiagnosed for years and isn't well known--even by the specialists, I don't believe you should ever give up.  Right now research is being conducted and the results are very a few short years we may finally have a drug that will stop the progression of CMT.  So take my advice, dear readers, and become your own health advocate.  Do this whether you have a disability, diabetes, a heart condition...even if you are in perfect health.  If you are unhappy with your doctors, search for new ones.  If something isn't right with your health care, speak up and let your doctors know.    And always remember that the possibilities are do your research, and know what your options are!  And if you happen to see a woman walking backward/heel to toe through the mall, don't be's just me.  Really, I'm not crazy...I'm just practicing!     

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Are you kidding??

I have to share this ridiculous thing I recently heard on the news the other day, when I was visiting with my parents.  Now, I'm not a news watcher...I have to admit.  Most of my information comes second hand.  When someone says, "Did you hear about the...?" and I admit that I haven't heard the latest news, they are usually nice enough to fill me in.   Maybe I should be more would be the adult thing to do!  But I just can't bring myself to watch.  I find that most of the half hour is filled with such negativity and sadness, it HURTS me.  Even the weather can be quite depressing, seeing as how I live in New York where we often have lovely, rainy and snowy days!  And I find that they often sneak a dead body in when you LEAST EXPECT IT, and that's just not right.  To sit through all of that Cheerfulness just to get to the one NICE story at the end, is just too much!

So the fact that I heard this story at all is a total fluke.  My father is an avid news watcher unlike me, and not only sits through the local news but the world news as well...and although I normally will leave the room and read, or just go home, this time I didn't.  And one story in particular just threw me!  The anchorwoman was discussing our country's serious childhood diabetes epidemic.  Which IS a serious that all parents should be aware of, in this fast-paced, fast-food country we live in.  It wasn't the story in itself that I found ridiculous, it was the current response to this epidemic that I just couldn't believe!  It talked about local schools making the decision to ban classroom birthday celebrations, no longer allowing the students to bring in cupcakes and/or cookies on their special day.  As you know, children who suffer from type 2 diabetes do so, all because of that cupcake they had back in October when Brittney turned eight.  Really?  Are we really going to blame little Brittney for this problem, people??

Now, it's been a while since I've been a student, but I did teach for seven years...and although I wasn't forced to eat the wonderful school lunches, I often had children eat in my room on days when they couldn't handle the social aspect of eating in the cafeteria.  So I've seen the food they serve the students, and let me tell hasn't improved much.  The amount of preservatives and fat in one piece of cardboard-flavored, cheese-covered pizza must be astronomical...And if a vegetable ever actually landed on one of those pieces, it would probably burst into flames!  I know schools don't serve wholesome, organic and healthy food--it costs more money, and they usually don't plan for it in the school budget.  Though really...if the school administrators truly believe this health concern can be solved by banning birthday parties, they need to take a serious look at their lunch menus.  And school lunches are not the only contributor to this epidemic, either!  Parents need to think twice before pulling into the McDonald's drive thru...or packing their shopping carts full of processed food.  If you need to ask yourself, "Should meat be in a box??" then it's probably not a good idea to buy it.  Put the processed meat that's wrapped in plastic back on the shelf and WALK AWAY.

And as if this wasn't enough, I got to hear what local schools plan on doing INSTEAD of having classroom birthday parties.  When little Brittney turns nine next year, instead of bringing in cupcakes to share with her friends, she will get an extra 1/2 hour of GYM class.  Oh...JOY!  As a person who is very fond of her birthday, I would be quite offended if I were forced to withstand an extra 1/2 hour of my least favorite class on my special day.  I knew girls in HS who claimed to have cramps so often, in order to get OUT of gym, I'm surprised they weren't hospitalized!  So my question is this:  Has the school system, in it's infinite wisdom, thought about what the students could do if they DON'T like gym class?  Or are they just assuming once again that every child is the same, and longs to be on the basketball court?  What about the disabled, uncoordinated, or just plain clumsy students who prefer books and pencils to P.E.?  What if little Brittney would rather play her french horn than a game of volleyball...or paint a picture rather than run the mile?  Will that be allowed??

I truly believe that school administrators need to think more about this diabetic epidemic.  I commend their efforts and am pleased that they are considering it as an important issue, because it is a serious problem...though I also believe the path they have chosen to solve this epidemic is the wrong path to take.  In the end, after all their efforts, they may find that there are still a large number of children in their schools suffering from childhood diabetes due to poor diet.  If they choose to make the decision to ban classroom birthday celebrations, fine...though it shouldn't stop there!  A more proactive role should be taken to improve the food served in schools, and possibly nutrition classes offered to parents and students alike.  As a whole, schools and families can work together to adopt a healthier diet and begin to improve the health of all our children.  And those students who like sports and have athletic talent can enjoy their extra 1/2 hour of gym...personally, I think I'll go and join Brittney in the music room.  We have a french horn piece to practice, and I'm a little rusty!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sweet little Scout!

Okay...I couldn't resist writing about my older cat, Scout.  I've talked a little about her in other posts, and she's a constant source of joy and humor for me.  I just adore her!  And I tell her quite often that she's lucky I do, because she hasn't always been the easiest cat to love!

Scout is the ultimate 'queen' of her domain, and has taken a lot of moments throughout her life to remind me of this.  It started from day one, when I went to the local humane society to choose a kitten.  They had beautiful cats that would melt the hardest of hearts, but I really wanted a kitten...and one cage in particular caught my eye.  Two little 4 month old beige kitties were inside of it, a furry little brother and sister.  The brother was right up at the front of the cage, fluffy white cheeks the only thing distinguishing him from his sister...that, and the fact that he was meowing his little head off.  "PICK ME, PICK ME!" he seemed to scream, as he started to climb the door.  He was ADORABLE...and probably would have been a loving, cuddly, lap-sitting kitty.  So of course, I had to choose the other one!  Was this my first mistake??  I actually believe it was the first moment of a tenuous, claw filled love between a cat and her Mommy, that was destined to happen.  At least I'd like to think so!

The soon-to-be-queen of my apartment was curled up into a tiny little beige ball at the back of the cage, peacefully sleeping away, oblivious to her brother's frantic meows.  Oh, how PRECIOUS!!  I thought to myself.  And as I was only allowed one kitten where I lived, I had to choose which one to take home, although it broke my heart to separate them.  If it wasn't for that rule, I would have adopted both kittens.   I figured I should choose the quiet landlord was an elderly woman, and I lived above her in her 2nd floor apartment.  She might not appreciate a cat that meowed constantly, no matter how cute he was!  And so I became the proud mom of a tiny beige short-haired female cat.  The first indication that I was in for a loving, yet stressful relationship with this cat was when she started running after me (and anyone else she could reach,) biting my ankles whenever I walked least when I had bare feet.  In fact, she had a fascination with bare skin in general, and felt the need to sink her teeth into any flesh within biting distance.  Sleeping became an art form!  Scout slept by my feet every night, and Heaven help me if they got too hot...I would be jolted out of a deep sleep as she impaled my skin with those sharp little teeth!  Did I mention I love her??

And so our relationship has continued, and Scout has dictated every moment of it.  She has never been a lap sitter, and in fact has never allowed you to hold her for more than a few minutes at a time...after which she would growl, or even give you a little bite to tell you it was time to PUT HER DOWN!    I also have mentioned before that Scout is disabled from a bad reaction to anesthesia when she was four years effected her nervous system, and definitely slowed her down.  But it certainly didn't stop her!  She has become a prize winning adapter to her world, and has carried on all these years...a little shakier, but just as opinionated!  Scout is 13 now, still very tiny (she never grew above 4 pounds,) and even shakier than in the past.  She has adapted to her inability to walk properly by learning how to hop.  I call her my little bunny rabbit, as she hops around the apartment.  In her old age she has begun to ask me for food INCESSANTLY, and quite frankly drives me a little batty!!  Anyone with food in their hands is easy prey, and if she can't physically get to you to scarf down whatever you're holding, she'll give you the stink eye from across the room.  My sister barely got away with all her limbs intact when she was visiting over Thanksgiving, innocently trying to eat a piece of lasagna.  Yes, Scout will eat lasagna.  And peas.  And asparagus.  And marshmallows.  And she would probably sell me to the gypsies for a lousy potato chip.  I really could go on about this for hours! 

But I digress.  Let me finish instead with an embarrassing story that happened last week, on a shopping trip to Ocean State Job Lots with my mother.  This store has great deals, and we were determined to walk through the entire store so we wouldn't miss anything.  As an ever vigilant cat mommy I of course was looking for anything I could bring home to them...and in the past couple of years, Scout has developed an 'accident problem' and can't always make it to the litter box.  (And sometimes she forgets the litter box exists, I think!)  I found out through a friend that Walmart sells 'pee pads' that are meant for elderly and/or incontinent adults, sold in the adult diaper isle.  I have never found these anywhere else, even in local pharmacies.  Life has become a lot easier now that we have these...wherever Scout is sleeping, there's a pad under her just in case.  I even considered taping one to her, but decided I wanted to keep my skin where it was!  So while I was at OSJLots, I figured I should see if they had any.  Now, I didn't want to just go up to a salesperson and ask if they had adult diapers...that seemed a little embarrassing.  So I walked up to a woman who was stocking shelves.  "Excuse me...I have an elderly cat who sometimes has accidents.  I use pee pads that are actually made for people--they're usually found with adult diapers.  Do you have adult diapers?"  Okay, granted...maybe a little wordy, but you understood that, right?  RIGHT??  Well, she didn't.  Turning to a co-worker, she said "Mary, where are those puppy pee pads?  I know we have those..."  I interrupted, "No, not puppy pee pads...those are scented, so the puppy WANTS to go on them.  I use pee pads that are meant for people, which are kept with the adult diapers.  Do you have adult diapers??"  ( many times can you use the words 'adult' and 'diapers' in the same sentence?  A LOT, apparently!)

So she turns to Mary again..."Don't we have doggie diapers, too?  I think they're in the back by the pet food..."  "No" I interrupt again, "Not doggie diapers.  I don't want doggie diapers.  I need pee pads meant for PEOPLE...near the ADULT DIAPERS.  Do you HAVE adult diapers???"  Then she decided to leave Mary out of this one, and said to me directly, "I think the puppy pee pads are in the middle of the store, and the puppy diapers are in the back..."  (Really...what is the problem, here?  Am I speaking GERMAN??)  And what followed was another one of those moments where I was ever so SLIGHTLY lacking in grace..."NO!!!!!  DO YOU HAVE ADULT DIAPERS???!!!!" I screamed.  So much for escaping embarrassment.  About 10 different people turned their heads to look at this crazy, frazzled woman who was screaming in desperation, about to have a MAJOR ACCIDENT if she didn't get some adult diapers, RIGHT NOW!!   

And believe me...this is not the first, and most likely not the LAST time I will make a complete ass of myself in public, all because of this tiny little bundle of fur who rules my world.  When the next moment arrives I will be sure to share that with you as well...after all, I have two bundles of fur at home.  If Scout's not driving me crazy, my younger cat Shay makes sure to fill in the gaps.  And why do I let this continue?  Because I love them, of course, and don't really know how to stop their craziness...after all, I'm just here to open the cans!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Gratitude List

It's time to be honest with you again, dear it is often difficult for me to resist the impulse to bare my soul when I'm faced with a blank computer screen!  I was sitting here thinking about Thanksgiving, reminiscing about the past, realizing where I am in life and what I have to be grateful for.  I have to admit...Thanksgiving is not really one of my favorite holidays.  It seems too often that it becomes the excuse to eat WAY too much in a short amount of time, loosen your belt and belch until you fall asleep.  Plus, unlike Christmas (my FAVORITE holiday,) you don't get to give and receive gifts!  I mean, where's the fun in that??  Though Thanksgiving can also be a time when we truly give thanks for the people in our lives and the things we have, and hopefully it is also a time when we look beyond ourselves and 'pay it forward' by helping others.  And this is what I choose to talk about today.

Paying it forward shouldn't just be a once a year should extend throughout the year, and come as naturally to us as breathing.  I know this isn't the case.  We tend to get so wrapped up in our own lives, our own stresses, even our own joys.  I'm guilty of this's human, to get caught up in things, and takes some effort to extend help and thought to others.  I started thinking about a time I was lucky enough to witness a purely selfless let me share this little story with you.  I mentioned in past postings that I used to teach Special Education.  A very rewarding job, though it can also be very tiring.  Often the obstacles faced by your students seem so large, and are difficult for them to reach and overcome.  Sometimes progress comes a little at a time.  It can be upsetting and frustrating to watch them struggle with things, but you keep going...if for no other reason, because of the knowledge that they will make progress if given the chance.

The last school I worked in was in the Catskills, in a very small community.  I had a diverse group of students, ranging from grades K-2nd...with a mix of physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities.  Many dealt with multiple issues.  On top of that, most of my class came from poor families, giving them even more obstacles and challenges to face.  As a group we shared many similarities, because we had all faced discrimination of some sort...even the youngest students in my class.  We often focused group projects on facing these extra challenges as we went out into the world, and learned to accept each other for our strengths and our weaknesses.  Because of this, we became more than a classroom; we became a family.  I got a taste of just how much like a family we had become, and it's a memory I will always cherish. 

Our school had a school store from which children could buy school supplies, little books and toys, and was open during lunch and recess hours.  It was during one of my down times of the day, when my 2nd graders were at lunch, and Kindergarten/1st grade students were at different special classes such as music and gym.  I was preparing the classroom for the afternoon, setting up different stations for each grade to work at when everyone returned.

All of a sudden I looked up, and there stood one of my second graders.  For the purposes of story telling I'll call him Matthew (which of course is not his real name.)  Matthew was a very quiet, shy boy who dealt with learning difficulties across the curriculum, and spent much of his day in my classroom.  For two hours each day he would join his 2nd grade class, and his Regular Education teacher and I collaborated on adjusting the curriculum to meet Matthew's needs.  I was surprised to see him standing in front of me, as normally the students who came back to my classroom during lunch/recess did so because of social and behavioral issues.  Despite being so shy, Matthew got along with most of the other students in his grade and was very friendly toward others.  He didn't seem to be upset in any way, and just stood there looking at me, holding something hidden in his hands.  "Matthew...what are you doing here?  Shouldn't you be at lunch?"

" mom gave me 35 cents to buy myself a toy, Ms. Hook.  So I went to the store to get one...but I saw this little story about bears.  I thought Carrie would like I got it for her instead.  Could I put it in her chair so it'll be a surprise?"  Carrie (also a fictitious name,) was one of my Kindergartners, who had Cerebral Palsy, and sat in a special adapted chair when working at the table.  Although Matthew and Carrie knew each other and worked together sometimes in large group activities,  they were in different grades...and mostly worked separately in classroom centers according to their different curricula.  Matthew was also from a very poor family.  He was not a child who bought toys and other things from the school store often, and 35 cents (though it may seem small,) could not be spent frivolously.  It was a special treat that his mom had given him, yet instead of taking it for himself, Matthew chose to spend his money on someone else...just to make her smile.

As I sit here reminiscing about that moment, I begin to really think about who and what I am grateful for.  My family is at the top of my loving parents who make me laugh, offer help when I need it and stand back when I don't (well, okay...maybe not ALL the time, but for the most part!)  My sister and brother who helped their youngest sister grow up by showing her how to do things, protected her when she needed it and teased her relentlessly (I maybe could have done with a little LESS of that, but like all of us who are the youngest in our families, I survived!)  And my brother's family...his wife, who makes me laugh and whose own laugh is contagious, and their two beautiful, smart daughters who make me very proud to be an aunt!  My friends rank very high on my gratitude list as well...I have just a few close friends but they are all so special to me and will always remain that way!  I'm of course thankful for my health, for I am basically healthy (despite the physical issues I deal with,) and I am grateful to have a safe, warm place to live and food in my fridge to eat.

These people and things are at the top of my list.  Though beyond the main list of things I am grateful for, are those tiny, little memories that will pop into my head when I least expect it...and I realize how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to see what true selflessness is.  So I will tuck this little memory away as I put on my stretchy pants and enjoy today's Thanksgiving with my family, and know that there are people like Matthew out there in the world, who are paying it forward and thinking of others.  And for this, I am truly grateful!           

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hogwarts is back!

So break out your wands, and fasten your robes...The next Harry Potter movie came out on November 19th!  Or should I say the FIRST part of J.K.Rowling's book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, which is sure to have all the HP fans out there salivating for the finale!  If you've read this blog and looked at my profile, you may have noticed that I am a HUGE fan of these books...I reread them at least once a year--yes, all seven of them.  I even have the Scene It-Harry Potter trivia game, not to mention Harry Potter Clue.  (Yes, I really am 39.  I'm a book nerd...what can I say?)  Though, I may add, my father is also a fan of these books...and one of our favorite pastimes is to call each other and pose very obscure HP trivia questions to stump one another so we can finally be declared the WINNER.  Neither one of us has actually won this's rather endless.  And my father is...well, let's just say he's older than 39.  Age has no limits when it comes to great literature! 

Now, as much as I would love to have been sitting in the movie theater at 11:59 pm on Friday night, as the lights went down and that famous Harry Potter music began, I have to admit...I wasn't there.  It's not that I'm less of a fan that I claim to be.  And it's not that I'm scared to see the movie, or that I'm afraid of dark movie theaters.  When I do go and see it I am sure there will be moments that I am sitting on the edge of my seat, gripping the arm in anticipation.  And despite reading the books a million times, this movie will shock me one moment and make me cry the next.  Of that I have no doubt!  None of that scares me...though what's going on beyond the movie screen does, however.  The truth of it is that I am not very good with crowds...the more people around me, the more my anxiety builds.  I would love to have a wand hidden up my sleeve, that I could whip out at any given moment, while I scream "STUPIFY!!!" and stun the crowd so that I can move through them unharmed...or use a banishing charm and part them like the Red Sea.  Unfortunately I do not come equipped with a wand, though if I could figure out how to get one, that would be REALLY AWESOME!!  But for now I just have to wait a week or two, and THEN go to see the most exciting movie of the year.  It's a good thing I'm patient!

You see, there are many little details you have to consider when you are disabled.  They can be annoying, nagging little details, but they need to be considered nonetheless.  This never goes away, no matter what the situation is...even if it's watching a movie I've waited so long to see.  How big is the mall where the movie theater presides?  How far do I have to walk to get to the theater?  Will I have to stand in line to get tickets?  Will there be anywhere to sit down if I need to?  And the main reason I wait a few crowded will it be?  It's not that I dislike people.  But as with the furry little mouse visitor I had in my old apartment, people can also be unpredictable.  And the bigger the crowd, the more unpredictability there can be.  The older I get the more I notice that people just don't pay attention.  Although I do not believe it's ever been on purpose, I've been stepped on, knocked into, and actually been knocked over.  Because I have balance issues things like that can happen quite easily.  And I'm not sure how to avoid these situations, short of putting lit fireworks in my coat pockets to scare people enough so they notice I'm there, or avoid taking showers for months at a time so they are repelled by the smell.  Neither option sounds appealing, so my best bet is to not put myself into these situations in the first place!

So I will wait.  And as anxious as I am to see this movie, I will have to curb my desires and settle for breaking open the first of Rowling's Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  After all, it's been about eight months.  But seriously...anyone know where I can get a WAND??

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Happy Place

I'm getting started on this posting pretty late this week...I've been sick, unfortunately, with a lovely green-snot-filled sinus infection!  Oh joy!  Such is the time of year, I suppose.  As the weather turns colder and the color of the leaves begin to change, many of us are filled with a sense of peace and happiness.  I, however, am filled with phlegm.  This season is my least favorite, although as an artist and a native of New York I do appreciate the beauty of it.  That appreciation lasts about five minutes long, though...after which my eyes start watering and it blurs my vision!

So as I have been going through the tissues and putting hot/cold packs on my forehead, I have been dreaming of my happy place.  Many of us have a place where we feel utterly calm, away from the pressures of life.  Some of these places only exist in our minds, such as a deserted island we have never seen, a beautiful beach we have never walked on...a little log cabin in the woods with a roaring fireplace we have never lit.  I am lucky in the fact that my place actually exists, and the first time I was there my mother was still pregnant with me.  It has been kismet ever since!  So where is it?  In a little town called Schroon Lake, deep in the Adirondacks.  39 years ago, my parents searched for a summer getaway, finally settling on a little camp in Schroon.  It's not a log cabin, and we don't have a fireplace...but it doesn't matter.  It's my favorite place in the world!  It's a place where I can just BE...whether I am sitting on the porch reading a book, or in the back yard which faces the woods.  I can go there and just be at peace with myself, and not think about my daily stresses.  I'm able to shut out the noise, turn off my mind, stop thinking of work and finances and even my disability....none of it matters there.  It's a place I can meditate, or create, or just be still and do is blissful!

So sitting here with my nose stuffed to the rafters and tissues in my sleeve, I got to thinking about camp.  The house isn't winterized, so I can only physically enjoy it in the summer.  Though I have my memories of childhood summers spent there, to sustain me for the rest of the year.  One of my favorites is of my family sitting around the kitchen table, playing board games such as Pit (a card game about the stock market,) and Bingo.  These games didn't have bells or whistles (oh wait-the Pit game did include a bell...but you know what I mean!)  There was nothing to plug in or turn electronics whatsoever.  In fact, the Bingo markers were buttons my mother had saved over the years, which were placed on old game cards we would use over and over.  There was no Facebook, or Wii, or even a computer...there still isn't.  And living in such a technologically advanced society, you would think I would miss these things whenever I am there...but surprisingly, I never do.  It's a chance to break out those games once again, which are even older now and a little musty, and recreate some of the best times in my life!

Maybe you are wondering where I am going with this...and worrying that the nasal spray has clouded my senses!  Well, I am feeling a little foggy-but don't worry.  I do have a point.  As I have mentioned in the majority of my posts, we all have stress...some of us deal with very difficult issues in our lives.  It can often be very hard to see around these issues...we wake up thinking about them, they plague us throughout the day and in many cases we go to sleep worrying about them as well.  And then the alarm clock goes off and the cycle starts all over again.  This is not to say that life is always a stress filled balloon about to can also be wonderful!  It is a constantly changing force, with a mix of good and bad, which challenges us and makes us think.  I guess my point is this...if you have a happy place that fills you with a sense of peace, use it.  Appreciate it.  Be GRATEFUL for it!  And if you don't have a place, then search hard for one...even if it is a meditative retreat you can only visualize in your mind.  Even if it's as simple as the bathroom, with the door locked, candles and a hot bath.  It fortifies you and helps make you stronger, so when life throws those big obstacles in your way you can handle the climb.

I realize this has been one of my shortest posts, and maybe not as gripping and enlightening as some other things I have written for this blog...there wasn't even a mouse involved!  But that's okay.  If I have inspired just one person to find the calm, go back to basics and create some happy memories, then it was worth it!  As I leave you with that, I think I'll take my tissues and nasal spray back to bed, dream of camp and RELAX.        

Sunday, November 7, 2010


November 4th was my birthday!  YAY!!!  I would have started this new post then, but had such a great day (despite the lousy weather,) that I ran out of time.  So in the spirit of great birthdays, before I turn to more serious topics, please join me in a little song!

dah..nah..nah..nah, let's CELEBRATE!

dah..nah..nah..nah, let's CELEBRATE!

There's a PARTY goin' on right here...
A CELEBRATION, to last throughout the years!
So bring your good times,
And your laughter too...

We gonna CELEBRATE your
party with you!


Ahemmmm...Okay.  It's out of my system!  I just can't help myself...there's somethin' about a good birthday that sets my toes to tappin'!  I've had 39 years of great birthdays, and am looking forward to many more!  And I have to say, I struggled with coming up with an idea for this week's post, because of all the birthday madness going on.  But I think I need to devote today's writing to the ever dwindling economy.  Boy...that's a joyous topic!  Maybe I should have saved that song for the end...

As all of us attempt to stretch our finances and pay our bills, the road to security may seem long.  There are many different situations out there...the struggling business owner trying to keep afloat, the single mom working two jobs to put food on the table...the many people out of work due to layoffs and closing businesses, searching hard for a new job.  Though I can only draw from my own experiences, which include having to give up my occupation because of an injury I had years ago, and needing to reinvent myself.  Unfortunately my new self is not a multi-millionaire (hmmm...maybe I should have worked harder at that!)  And while struggling to pay all of my bills is an endless, difficult process, having to reinvent myself was even harder.  For seven years I answered 'Special Education Teacher' when asked what I did for a living.  Being a Spec. Ed. teacher was my main identity...I had already finished college and started teaching before my disability was diagnosed, so when I described myself I did not say I was a disabled person, only that I was a teacher.   When I finally was diagnosed, I became a 'Special Education teacher who is also disabled.'  It was like my identity was finally complete!  I had always understood my students and the challenges they faced, because I had faced many of the same challenges...and now I finally knew the reason.

Now, I wasn't rolling in the dough while I was teaching.  Anyone who teaches knows that you don't go into that profession for the money.  You go into it because you love children, and want to help them learn and takes a lot of understanding, a willingness to work well beyond the 8-3:00 school day, and an endless supply of patience!  I wanted to help children with physical and cognitive limitations overcome the many obstacles in front of them, and teach them to deal with the discrimination they would face throughout their lives.  For seven years I was able to do that and felt like I had a real purpose in life.  And though I wasn't rolling in money I was comfortable enough, and had a sense of security.  Then an injury that happened in the span of about 30 seconds changed all of that.  I won't go into all of the gory details of the injury, because I don't wish to relive was hard enough the first time.  And despite the quickness in which it happened, the recovery was extremely long!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, for two years I wasn't allowed to work at all, and assumed that after those two years I would go back to my regular life and resume my identity as a teacher.  But that was not the case.  My doctor put it very simply..."Christine, you cannot be a Special Education Teacher anymore.  It puts way too much stress on your body--you need to find a new occupation."  WHAT??!!  A new occupation??  But how do I do...WHAT??!!  I was lost...I had taught for seven years, not to mention all the years of college that came before it.  And for what?  To lose it all, and have to start all over again with something new?  Not only that, but my something 'new' had to fit within unfamiliar parameters...I was now only allowed to work 20 hours per week, at a sedentary job with limitations on how long I sat, stood, how much I lifted...the list went on and on.  All of a sudden my identity I had worked so hard for was stripped away...I wasn't sure who to be anymore.  I felt like Superman might feel if he lost his powers, and someone hid his suit.

And I was one of the lucky ones...surprisingly enough.  I have a family that helps when help is needed, and wonderful understanding friends, and was able to depend on them during those years of recovery.  And along with Social Security Disability (which now pays some of my expenses,) I did find that sedentary job that fit within all the new rules; working part time for my chiropractor in her front office.  Physically I am doing much better than I have done in the past, what with working at a job that doesn't hurt me and getting regular chiropractic my weekly pool therapy fits nicely into my schedule!  But financially?  I most of us are doing right now.  The bills roll in faster than the money, unfortunately!  And I've attempted to find other part time work I could do at home that might bring in more funds, though the only thing I have found so far is telecommunication.  Which basically means having a phone line set up in my home so I can deal with unhappy customers...and I'm just not ready to go there yet.  Although I have a pleasant phone voice and a nice demeanor, I'm not sure I'd be very good at helping someone who's angry at the fact that their Thigh Master obviously is defective, because they still can't fit into their skinny jeans.  My response might not be altogether appropriate, and I can't imagine I'd have that job for very long!

As for the identity?  That is a work in progress, I guess.  I've been able to devote more time to art, and with this new blog I am delving deeper into the world of writing.  I am still searching for my true purpose in life, as I'm sure a lot of us are.  And with the economy being what it is, though the circumstances might be different, I know that many people out there are also struggling to find new identities...when the business they struggled to develop goes under, or they lose a job they worked at for years.  I am not sure what the future holds for me, financially or otherwise, and hope the economical status of this country soon changes for the better.  Though I have learned the hard way that things may not always be as secure as they seem, and you may not be prepared for every event that comes your way.  What is secure, if you are lucky enough to have it, is the love of family and friends.  That is security you can count on that can help you through the tough times; it is security you can provide as well, even if it's only a shoulder to cry on or a willingness to listen.  Hmmm...maybe that purpose I've been searching for has been in front of me all along?  To hold onto the things that truly matter most: friends, family, and love.  To be thankful for what you have and can count on, and give back to others whenever possible.  You may still struggle each month to pay all those bills, and may not have money to buy the extras you wish you had; but if you have the love of family and friends in your life, you will truly be rich.  And that's a reason to CELEBRATE!  

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Look around you!

Whew!! took a few days, but my anger's abated.  That breathing really helps, though I think I blacked out a little!  I probably let myself get more annoyed at a situation that didn't deserve it, and gave it too much of my energy.  Sometimes in the face of frustration it's easy to give your energy away, and by the time your frustration passes you may find yourself pretty tired!

So let me explain this particular situation to you.  I mentioned the pool in my last posting...I have been going to the local YMCA twice a week for about two years now, where my physical therapists hold pool therapy classes.  I work out in the water with Styrofoam buoys, doing leg and arm exercises.  When I started in pool therapy I couldn't do much more than hold onto the side of the pool and walk back and forth through the water.  I sat down and took breaks often, and when the rest of the class went to the deep end to continue their workout I stayed by myself in the shallow water, walking laps back and forth along the wall.  These days I am much improved!  I graduated to the largest sized buoys (the bigger they are, the more resistance as you push them through the water,) and I join my class in the deep end every time.  The pool has increased my balance, strengthened my muscles and given me more endurance.  I wouldn't trade my time there for anything in the world!

Then why did I get frustrated?  Well, it had nothing to do with the class...or the exercises...or the PT...or that I need a new bathing suit.  It was a simple matter of respect--and common sense.  And looking past your own little universe to notice that there are OTHER PEOPLE IN THE WORLD!!  (Oh...I'm getting frustrated again...HEE...HOO...HEE...HOO...HEE...HOO!!!)  Ahh...that's better!  Now, if you've been reading my blog from the beginning, you probably have put two and two together and realize that I don't wear my braces IN the water.  And even though I'm like Flash Gordon's slightly slower cousin when I'm in the pool, once I reach the pool stairs reality sets in...and gravity hits.  I know this may not be obvious to perfect strangers, so when I was attempting to leave the pool at the end of class and there was a teenage boy standing on the stairs, I politely said "Excuse me...I need to hold the railing."  He looked down at me like I was a dead bug floating on the water, and instead of stepping out of the way, he moved his Bermuda-short clad butt an INCH to the left. Okay...maybe that wasn't enough information.  I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and provided him with a little more..."PLEASE excuse me...I'm disabled, and need to hold the railing."  The look I got this time told me I'd been demoted to the slime that floats UNDER the dead bug, as he scooted his butt over another tiny, little inch.  Now, I'm a pretty small person.  I'm thin, and short...and really not much of a threat.  Or at least not at first glance!

I'd like to think I am able to handle every frustration that comes my way with dignity, and grace.  Remember that inner grace I mentioned in my first post that I usually have a lot of?  Well, in a perfect world I would have sat this boy down and had a nice long talk with him, presenting my case while providing him with the tools he he could grow into a respectful young man who advocates for disabled rights everywhere.  What actually happened was a lot less graceful...Flash Gordon's slightly slower cousin was replaced with The Hulk, as I glared up at his smug expression and bellowed "MOVE, YA LITTLE SNOT!!!!!!"  Not so graceful, but quite effective!  The smug expression disappeared as the snot slunk out of the way, I held the railing and safely climbed out of the pool, and the rest is history.  And what have I learned from this experience?  Well, I have learned that a little respect goes a long way.  That lifting your head up and out of the fog you surround yourself with, to see who and what lies beyond, is always a good thing.  That there may be someone right in front of you who needs your help...and this person may just be the one to offer you a hand down the road when you need it most.  And I learned that I may not always have as much inner grace as I should, and when I am lacking I should be short, sweet and to the point.  And when all else fails, YELL.  

So after you read this post, and you go about your day, take a few minutes and look around you.  Do whatever it takes...stop texting for five minutes, so you can look at the person in front of you and offer them a smile.  Instead of tailgating the car up ahead, relax a little and let someone merge into traffic.  If you're walking behind someone slower than you while entering a store, don't run around them because you're in a patient.  Maybe hold the door for them instead!  And if you are leaning on a pool railing and someone else needs to use it, no dirty looks are necessary...just hike up your Bermudas, put a smile on your face, and politely move out of the way.  Your kindness will be much appreciated!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Miracles do happen!, I wanted to talk about this thing that happened to me at the pool a couple of days ago that was upsetting.  But I didn't want to get caught up in the negativity of it all, and decided I needed to do my deep breathing exercises and work through my anger before I put my experience into words.  Anyone out there who has had a moment of complete insensitivity (on someone else's part,) knows what I'm talking about, and has probably done some special breathing of their own...what works best for me is a deep, quick breathing technique that sounds like this: "HEE...HOO...HEE...HOO...HEE...HOO" that's kind of like Lamas, but with less cramps.  So while I do that I'm going to write about a good experience instead, so I can end this week on a happy note...hopefully I won't pass out in the process!

I decided to write about you believe in them?  I most certainly do!  I think the reason some people don't believe in miracles is because the big ones don't happen very often, and we cannot always see beyond the bad times in our lives to notice the small ones.  Though there are tiny miracles everyday that are God's little reminders to be thankful for the good things...a beautiful sunset, all the green lights on the way to work, a random $5 bill in your pocket you didn't know was there.  My favorite one is seeing the smiles of my two beautiful nieces, and hearing them can't get much better than that!  My friend 'A' gave me a plaque last year that said "Look for the small miracles and you'll find, they're everywhere" and he is absolutely right.  I try my best to lift my head up and look around every so often, so I can see these little miracles...and sometimes I fail.  But I keep trying!   And I was blessed to have a BIG miracle come to me during one of those difficult moments when desperation overwhelmed, and there seemed to be no answer.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I was finally diagnosed with CMT when I was 25.  That was a miracle in and of itself, to finally have a name for my symptoms.  After being diagnosed I got my first set of leg braces...also a miracle, though not always easy to see.  Yes, I needed them to walk...I could no longer manage it on my own.  And yes, having those braces and being able to walk without falling was a blessing...but it also felt like a curse.  It took a lot of strength within me to get used to those things...they were cumbersome and hot, since they covered the backs of my legs almost up to the knee.  My tiny little sized 5 1/2 feet all of a sudden seemed HUGE in these sized 8 1/2-9 shoes I had to buy in order to accommodate them.  And my braces were EMBARRASSING!!!  Part of me didn't want this "blessing" that had come into my life, and I would hate my braces every time I got stared at or pointed at, or I heard a child ask their mother "Why is she wearing them, mommy?"   And I knew how important they were...I remembered my life before I got them, and how much I struggled.  I knew these braces took a lot of that struggle away.  But as I mentioned before...I try to lift my head up and look around so I can see the miracles in life.  And sometimes I fail!

Those braces did serve me well, though, for 10 years.  I couldn't have gotten through those years as well as I did without them!  But time, as it often does, took its toll...and my ability to get around (with only my old friends to help me,) was decreasing.  Walking was becoming difficult again, and my balance had declined so dramatically that I was never far from a wall.  I literally hugged the walls as I walked around my home, and a short walk from my car into a store seemed as long as a football field.  I skipped a lot of things except for the bare necessities such as food shopping, which had become a huge chore...I had taken to parking next to the cart holders so I could grab a cart in order to have something to hold onto, just so I could get my shopping done.  My ability to function was failing, big time!  Surprisingly enough I could suddenly see what a blessing my braces really were...but I knew if an even bigger blessing didn't come my way soon, they would no longer be enough.

Now here's where the miracle comes in...because I have learned (sometimes the hard way,) that God does listen.  And there is no other word other than 'miracle' to describe what came when I most desperately, completely needed it.  It all started when my friend 'K' contacted me about something called 'Dynamic braces' that were supposed to greatly increase a person's balance.  K's mother, who also wears a leg brace to help her walk due to post-polio symptoms, had attempted to find these braces but had so far been they put me on the search.  For some reason it didn't take me long at all to find them (part of the miracle, perhaps?) and before I knew it I was scrolling through a website, dedicated to Helios Orthotics that restore balance!   I read testimonial after testimonial from people who suffered from the same balance issues I dealt with everyday, who spoke about how they had their balance restored by these wonderful 'Dynamic' braces.  Comments such as "...standing perfectly still without touching anything..." hit home.  I REALLY needed to get these!!  And the best of all?  The website had an entire SECTION dedicated just to CMT.  A guide explaining the different types of CMT (did I mention there are different types?) and which Helios braces might benefit which type...I was in shock!  And what surprised me most of all were those testimonials I mentioned...the majority of them were written by people with CMT!  Before I knew it I was on the phone, calling Ortho Rehab Designs in Las Vegas.  Soon I was talking to the office manager, learning even more about how the braces were made and the doctor who made them.  In order to get them, I would have to travel to Vegas, a place I had only seen on episodes of CSI (maybe not the BEST example!)  And it would be costly and a little scary, but I was determined...I have to admit--I probably would have crossed a river of hot coals on my backside at this point, in order to get the answer to all my struggles and prayers.  Every second without these braces seemed longer than the last...I learned that there was an opening in November for a new patient, which was less than a month away.  This seemed to good to be true! 

And then it happened.  Before I say exactly what, let me explain...the cost of plane tickets and hotel fares seemed unreachable, but I knew I had to manage it.  I had gone through the process of filing for Social Security Disability because of suffering an injury a few years prior, and after two years of denials and appeals I had finally won my case.  Now anyone who has tried to live on disability payments knows that they don't stretch very far.  And for the two years I was filing for SSD I hadn't been allowed to work at all, and had just gotten permission from my doctor to start working a light duty job on a very part time basis.  I was owed retroactive pay, though had yet to see a penny.  In fact I had no idea when that money would come, because there was no date stipulated as to its return...government bureaucracy at its finest, people!  So now to the dropping ball...I asked the office manager the cost of these dynamic, balancing braces.  And you wouldn't believe it--the cost, which was paid up front, was $12,500.00.  The reason for this?  They consist primarily of carbon fiber, which is used to make weapons for the war, and supplies at this time were very short.  Medicare would cover about 40% of that and I would eventually get some money back...EVENTUALLY.  But there was no way I could ever hope to afford them!  As it was, I couldn't even afford to travel to the doctor who had the power to dramatically change my life for the better.  Tears started pouring down my face, as I thanked the woman for her time and information, but I regretfully declined taking the appointment in November.

Now I did say I wanted to end this week on a happy note, so don't worry...the story does get better, really!  Remember the big miracle I mentioned?  Well, after learning about these wonderful braces that could make everything better and bring back so much of what I had lost, and knowing they were beyond my reach--I can honestly tell you that miracles were the last things I was thinking of.  Nothing seemed possible at that point.  Though this turned out to be one of those times I would learn just how much God hears us.  That retroactive pay I mentioned, that could take months, maybe even a year or more before it showed up?  It was deposited into my bank account THE VERY NEXT DAY.  Enough to pay not only for the braces, but for my trip as well.  If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is...a true blessing!

And the new braces certainly delivered!  If any of you readers want to learn how, check out the website and read more about Dr. Mitchell Warner, CPO at  As for me, I'm thrilled!   I gained my balance back, and my functionality...I don't even park next to the cart drop-offs at the grocery store anymore, because I don't need one until I'm actually IN the store.  Once again I am living my life (now in size 6 1/2 shoes,) and there are no football fields in front of me!  See?  Those miracles do occur...big and small.  You just need to open your eyes, look around you...and believe that they can.  Because they will come when you least expect it!

Monday, October 18, 2010

We're here to stay!

Okay...time to dive back into the world of CMT, or really just disabilities in general.  Let's at least get our feet wet!  I must admit, the mouse story distracted me just a little bit...thanks mom!  Though after a discussion I had with a friend of mine the other night I knew it was time to *DRAG* myself away from the mouse madness, and back into the world of disabilities. 

My friend 'G' came over to see the new apartment and have dinner.  We talked for hours, laughed like a couple of hyenas and shared silly stories as we always do when we're together.  G and I aren't able to get together that often, but when we do, watch out!!  And it has been a while since our last visit, so one of the things I showed her was this blog.  We got to talking about CMT, finances, working and trying to pay the know, happy topics like that!

G often talks about her childhood and I must say her stories are always interesting...she is one of eight children, the only girl surrounded by her many brothers, younger and older.  She grew up in NYC, a place that frankly frightens me with its many noises and smells, not to mention all the people.  I grew up in the country with one brother and one sister, surrounded by trees and birds, and a cornfield across the road...quite different!  When G talks about her family, I especially like to hear about her mother...I've never met any of G's family, but have no problem picturing her mom in my mind, mostly because of her strength and determined spirit.  This woman raised all eight children alone and did so with a firm hand, though loving nature.  She always managed to put food on the table no matter how tough things were.  And on top of doing all these things without the support of another parent, G's mom also had an added of her sons was born with Down Syndrome.

Back in the 60s, the number of people confined to institutions had just begun to wasn't until the 70s that laws were beginning to change, allowing disabled children to enter schools.  Children with Down Syndrome, along with many other disabled children were not truly welcome in the school system until the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 was passed.   Integration models did not exist in schools as they do today.  As with many disabilities, at that time not much was known about the life expectancy of children with Downs or their quality of life, and people did not take much time to help these children develop and explore their abilities.  And yes, people with Down Syndrome do have many abilities, and are perfectly capable of being functioning members of society...if only the people within their world are willing to see what they have to offer, and give them the help and space they need to grow!  G's mother helped her son face these challenges over the years, and struggled to help him fit into a society that was not and still is not always accommodating.  And why, after all these years is the world still falling short?  Maybe the main problem lies within the word 'disability.'  The definition of disability is 'A lack of a given ability, which may be physical, cognitive, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these,' according to Wikipedia.  Though this definition does not allude to the fact that a person who has a disability in one area may excel in only talks about how they are LACKING.  Or maybe the definition is sound, and we LACK the ability to truly understand we often lack the ability to understand the disabled.  Because if you think about it, saying that someone lacks a certain ability does not even begin to explain what that person is like.  I've currently seen several political figures that in my opinion are severely both honesty, and moral fiber--yet these people are not considered 'disabled.'   And as far as I know, people who are labeled as having a disability do not walk around with signs on their foreheads stating what their 'abilities' are (hmmm...maybe I should try that!) even though those abilities do exist.  Unfortunately, it is often difficult to show what you have to offer when the world around you continues to fall short in understanding and acceptance.  

In the September 5th issue of Deaf Digest, writer Sandy Lahmann states that people with disabilities are the largest minority group in our nation.  As of today one in five Americans, which is approximately 54 million people, have some type of disability (Title of article: Disability 101: Our Largest Minority.)  And yet despite the fact that there are so many disabled people in this country, it often takes years--decades even, for disabled people to be accepted within their schools, their workplace, their communities.  Why am I taking the time to mention this article and discuss this topic?  For the same reason G's mom fought to carve out a place in this world for all of her children, especially her disabled son; because they MATTER.  Back then, her children wanted what all children be accepted just as they are, and to be given the same rights and opportunities as their peers.  And all adults, regardless of their differences, want this as well; to be accepted for who they are, inside and out.  This is America after all, a country where all men are created equal...not all men 'except those who are disabled.'  Because no matter what areas people may be lacking in, we all have abilities...we all have the right to be a part of this world, and have a voice; and this right exists, not in spite of our differences, but because of them.  And we are here to stay!         

Saturday, October 9, 2010

This is for you, mom!

Okay...there's something I have to say which has been on my mind for some time.  Ahhemmmm...hi, my name is Christine, and I'm afraid of mice.  WHEW!!!!!!!  Glad to finally get that off my chest!

Now that you're thoroughly confused, remember I said I'd be sharing some of the crazy, silly things that happen to me, and they wouldn't always be related to having a disability?  Well, here's one of them.  And my mother's been begging me to post this story, so you can thank her!  I recently moved into the same complex my parents live in...and don't worry, it's not like that show 'Everybody Loves Raymond' where the parents show up unannounced to drive everyone bonkers.  I like having them nearby!  And the complex is beautiful, and quiet.  And most of all,  it's MOUSE FREE.  That is definitely the biggest plus in my book!
And I have to explain about my old apartment, because I don't want to give you the wrong was a nice place.  The layout was good, it had plenty of light, and even though the kitchen was a little small it was functional.  The main reason for moving was safety...I needed a place without stairs, a washer/dryer so I would no longer stress my back trying to carry laundry, and other small things such as faucets I could turn on and off easily.  (Okay...I guess this story is kind of disability related.)  And it's not like it was RIDDEN with mice, it was just one very determined little mouse.  And no matter what I did to stop him from getting in, he still managed it.  I started out with sonic buzzers which worked to an extent...if I didn't have them I'm sure the mouse would have been a daily visitor, along with his extended family.  And I didn't want to hurt him; I just didn't want him in my HOME.  The main problem with the buzzers is that I could hear them, even though the package specifically stated that they couldn't be heard by humans..only mice, who were supposed to be repelled by the sound.  Yeeaahh...RIGHT.  So I started out with three.  Once I realized three wasn't enough I graduated from tiny sonic buzzers to giant, ear-splitting, OH MY GOD...I'M COVERED IN BEES!!!!! buzzers that nearly drove me insane.

Now if you've been reading my post and if you have read my profile, you already know I'm a cat mom.  I have two very beautiful, very different cats.  My female cat is named Scout, and she just turned 13.  She is actually disabled like me, though her disability started from an adverse reaction to anesthesia when she was four.  Like me she has adapted to life, and though her legs don't work the way they should she manages to get around.  She is very sweet, and often very crabby, and pretty much rules the household!  My male cat is named Shay, and he is a handsome tuxedo cat who is also very sweet, a little skittish, and extremely loving.  EXTREMELY.  I really can't stress that word enough.  You would think having two cats would take care of any mouse problems, right?  WRONG.  I really didn't expect that Scout could do anything about the visiting mouse, because of her difficulties and her age, but assumed that Shay would easily take care of the problem.  That's when I discovered that Shay is truly a lover, not a fighter...and the mouse?  Has a BIG set of cajones!!

The first mouse visit was on a Saturday.  It was just after the weather started to get colder, and though I'm sure he originally came in to warm up, I'm positive he came back because of Shay.  Who, to his credit caught the mouse seconds after he entered my home through the kitchen, and proceeded to walk around the apartment with it clutched in his mouth.  I was sitting on the couch in my pajamas, which was where I spent the next three hellish, fear filled hours as I watched an unnatural bond form between my loving cat and the mouse, who soon became his new best friend!  Shay would drop his friend every so often and they would play a game of chase, which I'm sure completely thrilled Shay...he's been trying to play with Scout ever since joining our little family, and she's been having NONE OF THAT.  Finally...someone to PLAY with!  And so the day continued.  Shay would chase the mouse, catch him once again, over and over...completely impervious to my screams.  I stayed on the couch because I assumed mice couldn't climb...oh--silly me!  That small hope was dashed against the rocks once I saw the mouse climb the wall.  Yes, THE WALL!!  That's when I knew I had to be brave.  My opportunity for bravery came after Shay (once again) dropped his friend.  Instead of starting the next game of chase, the mouse just stood there gazing into my cat's wide, loving eyes.  Then they touched noses.  I swear to you, it's was like something out of a Hallmark movie.  If I wasn't so paralyzed with fear, I might have been moved to tears!  Fortunately Shay had dropped him in a most convenient front of my door.  My front doors were glass, and the sun was streaming in on the friendly pair...did I mention Hallmark?  And I knew that even though it was risking life and limb, and the mouse might actually jump up and touch me, I had to take a chance.  I made my way over there, as close as I dared.  Using a rain stick (a long, hollow stick filled with rice that sounds like rain when you turn it,) which I luckily had sitting on a nearby bookshelf, I opened the front door with one hand and prodded the mouse lightly with the other.  Holding the stick, of course.  And you know what??  The mouse didn't want to LEAVE.  Why would he?  He was warm, had probably found the only cat within a 50 mile radius that befriended mice...who could ask for more??  But I was tired and determined, and finally with enough prompting Shay's new best friend left my home.  And other than having to endure the looks of disdain from Shay for the next few days, I couldn't have been happier!

So life continued on; I got more mind-numbing, ear-splitting buzzers and went about my day.  And less than a month ago I moved into the safe, sunny mouse-free apartment I now call home.  Though before that happened, my nightmare returned...on the last night in my old place, surrounded by boxes and just short of midnight, Shay's best buddy came back!  Now I knew at this point that sitting on the couch screaming like a banshee would get me nowhere, and I was determined not to spend my last night in fear!  So I got the broom and dustpan from the kitchen (Why?  I was hoping I'd be brave enough to sweep the little menace into the dustpan and carry him outside, but who are we kidding??) and proceeded to follow the two furry friends around the apartment, screaming like an idiot.  After a while, with Shay staring at me all wide eyed (Mom, have you been washing the fruit off BEFORE you eat it??) his little buddy ran into a sneaker; part of a set I hadn't managed to pack.  So I grabbed the flashlight (without putting down the broom/dustpan combo...for protection, of course!) to see if the mouse was truly in the sneaker.  Crawling around on my hands and knees while holding onto a flashlight, broom and dustpan and screaming my head off has got to be one of the strangest things I have ever done.  Oh...but it doesn't end there!  Once I determined that yes, he actually was in the sneaker, I moved onto the next level of weirdness...tipping a box on it's side, I pushed the sneaker and it's mate into it (because of course, I never planned on wearing them again--EVER!) and proceeded to push the box out the front door with the broom.  Still holding the dustpan.  And the flashlight.  And yes, while still screaming at the top of my lungs!            

So now my days and nights of mouse-induced fear are over; it is calm here, to-date there has been no furry little visitors, and no one is screaming...least of all me.  Of which I'm sure my new neighbors are thrilled.  And other than the fact that Shay spends his nights sitting in front of the oven waiting for his friend to come back (Yes...he really is doing that,) life couldn't be happier!  And let me go on record by saying that I wish the mouse the best of luck...may he find another warm, happy and loving-cat-filled home with a human that embraces all things furry, and has less tendency to scream.  I'm sure my old neighbors would greatly appreciate that.