Friday, January 28, 2011

Truth and Responsibility

Boy, I feel old.  In my head I know my true age, and despite my physical issues I feel even younger.  And then I go out into the world, and I see and hear things...and I just feel ANCIENT!!  I'm starting to have nightmares of myself in 40+ years, hair sprayed into a beehive and binoculars in hand, yelling out the window "Get away from my BEGONIAS, you meddling KIDS!!!"   Seriously, if you ever see me in such a state, you have my permission to 'slap me' out of it...and then take me to a hairdresser!

I have been on a mission to embrace the positive, and make 2011 a good year.  And maybe that's why I'm noticing the annoying little negativities even more...and I am trying hard to rail against them!  I keep thinking of that term 'Kill them with Kindness' so that when I come across people and situations that trouble me, my smile gets even wider.  Though if you have been reading my blog from the beginning (and if you remember the pool incident,) you'll know I often fail.  I'll give you another example...the other day I was leaving work, and there was a couple walking into the building.  There are two glass doors to walk through at the main entrance, and the woman was holding the outer door for her husband who was struggling to carry a heavy clock. (There is an office that appraises antiques in the building, so I assumed that's where they were headed.)  Trying to be helpful, I held the inner door for them so they could walk through easier.  The man carried through his heavy burden, and his wife soon followed behind...all without a thank you; not even a glance in my direction.  So did I screw a giant smile on my face and go on my merry way??  No, afraid not...I yelled "YOU'RE WELCOME!" and went on my merry way.  What has happened to manners?  Can someone help me find the manners, please??!

I call this post 'Truth and Responsibility' which is pretty strong, when you compare it to something as simple as people forgetting to say "Thank you."  Though those little moments add up, and it can be pretty difficult to deal with a day FULL of them.  I've had days like that lately, and I find myself locked inside night after night, watching repeats of Little House on the Prairie...yes, I know.  I've mentioned my nerdiness before, haven't I?  But I can't help it--I find it comforting to watch people who display things like gratefulness for what they have in life, appreciation for the little things, love for each other...and just plain 'good manners.'  I guess when I say responsibility, I mean for oneself.  Instead of walking around with the attitude that life owes you something, see those daily gifts for what they are.  Be grateful to the person behind the counter, when they're taking the time to help you.  Show some respect for the very earth we are fortunate to live on, and put your own trash where it belongs.  If and when you make a mistake, however small, own up to it and be honest...we all make mistakes--we're human.  Placing the blame on others and creating excuses to explain away your own misjudgements takes WAY too much effort!  And when you give your word, stick to it.  In the end, people won't remember you for your possessions, or the way you dressed...or your tremendous texting skills.  They will remember you for your honesty, or lack thereof!  And for Pete's sake...when someone takes the time to throw you a random act of kindness (like holding the door for you,) show your appreciation and say "Thank you."  A little smile wouldn't hurt, either!

Most of all, be truthful to yourself and others...if you can't be counted on when the chips are down, don't lead people to believe otherwise.  When things are at their most serious, it's good to know who's shoulder you can cry on and who's house you can call in the middle of the night.  And if you are lucky to have family and friends who fall into those categories, appreciate how lucky you are and be grateful...I have both, and believe me--I am blessed!  My sister recently sent me an e-mail which talked about the topics I have mentioned in this post, and I won't share the entire thing...I'll just share the poem at the end.  It's worth repeating!

If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment.
If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective.
If you plant hard work, you will reap success.
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.

So be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later.

Wow...I couldn't have said it better myself!  Just think what the world would be like if these positive things were planted, just like Charles Ingalls planted his crops so many years ago.  Just visualize a place where you could experience good old-fashioned values without having to watch reruns on television...where a person could be taken at their word, because it was their bond--even more precious than money.  If we all start now, and make a real effort to practice these simple little things: truth, honesty, responsibility and respect, just imagine where we will be!! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It helps to laugh!

There is something on the more serious side I want to write about, but I'm having trouble putting it into I need to leave it for a while and focus on laughter instead.  And maybe do some more of my deep breathing--that always helps put things into perspective!  While I marinate on that other topic, let me tell you about a frustrating, completely ridiculous thing that happened to me a few days ago...I yelled and got stressed out, though once all of that passed I started to laugh at myself.  I've found that laughing at frustrating situations can be very healing, and helps me keep my sanity.  And now I do one better...I post the craziness which is my life, so other people can laugh and enjoy.  It helps to have a blog--very cleansing!

So in the spirit of laughter (and cleansing,) let me tell you about that moment in my life...not an altogether significant moment, but just a blip in time.  Though it felt a lot bigger than a blip when it occurred!  I had gone shopping with my mother on Sunday to the grocery store, which is a weekly I wish I could do without!  But alas, I was in need of simple everyday things such as bananas, yogurt and bread...which of course meant that when I came home, I had six full bags.  Because you can never go to the grocery store and get just two or three things...your list tends to grow the further you walk.  And I always think to myself Oh yeah...I need oatmeal! and by the time I get home, I've bought 15 items instead of two.  You've all been there, I'm sure!  And this story ties into my having CMT in an annoying, frustrating kind of many of my stories tend to do!  I've mentioned having hand issues in past posts, including loss of function and numbness.  Well, because of these issues everyday tasks have become more difficult and can often lead to proud, graceful moments like this one!  First of all, let me just say that I forgot my New Year's resolution to ask for and accept help from others.  My mother, sweet and gracious like always, offered to assist me into my apartment with my load of groceries before I brought her of course I said "No, that's okay!"  (I know...what's WRONG with me??) and I dropped her off first.  And since it was slushy and slippery out, I figured I should condense the trip from the car to my apartment down to one, if at all possible.  I got out, opened my trunk and saw all the groceries...and brilliantly decided to carry three bags on each arm.  So I loaded up, but soon figured out I couldn't lift either arm to close my trunk.  The next 10 minutes became an on-going struggle to shake the bags off my arms to do something (like close my trunk,) then attempting to stuff my arms back into the bag handles, only to have to start all over lock my car, to climb over the snow, to step up onto the snowy curb.  By the time I was making my way to the front door of my apartment the handles were cutting off all circulation, and I was waddling like an Oompa Loompa because the groceries were getting HEAVIER!   

Though finally I was coming to the finish line.  I stood at the door, mumbling not-so-nice things under my breath, ready to go inside and put this nightmare to rest.  I think that's when I realized I couldn't lift my arms to unlock the door, and proceed to flap again like a mad woman trying to dislodge the bags...but they just wouldn't come off no matter how hard I shook.  C'MON ALREADY!!!  I started yelling, completely out of patience at this point...and then I dropped my keys.  CRAP!!!!   Now I'm hunched over in the dark, feeling around for them in the snow.  AH-HAH!!! I yelled out as I found them, and at the same moment the bags fell off my arms with a resounding thud.  Finally!!  I stood up to unlock my door, and proceeded to BANG the back of my head on the door handle.  You'll forgive me if I don't write what I yelled after that happened...let's just say my vocabulary is bigger than I thought!

So I am on the lookout, for stiff, easy to carry bags with even stiffer handles (with wide openings,) that will stand up on their I can pick them up and put them back down again, no fuss--no muss.  If you happen to be out and about and see anything like this, let me know--I will buy them by the truckload.  It will certainly make grocery shopping easier!  I have searched for such a thing on different websites, including a site that my hand therapist gave me, which sells adaptive equipment for occupational and physical needs...if you are a reader that needs assistance with daily tasks because of physical issues, you might find this site helpful.  It is  Another one you could try is  Both are very helpful sites, and if I can't find the type of bags I am looking for when I'm out shopping, I have found some other options.  Or I may just have to invent the bags myself!  In the meantime I will try harder to stick to my resolution for 2011, because obviously I have a long way to go!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


After reading my blog last week, a friend of mine asked me how I got to be such a good writer.  When I stopped blushing (thank you for the great compliment, M!) I began to think hard about the answer.   My response to her question was certainly true...what makes me a good writer is the fact that words create pictures in my head.  Whether it comes from a book I am reading or words I am putting down on paper (or on a computer screen as the case may be,) I can see it as if it were a vision.  By doing something as simple as changing one word, I can change the entire picture...and words not only bring visions to my head, they create strong emotions.  An excellent book is one that makes me laugh out loud one minute, and brings me to tears the next...those are the stories I read over and over again, and they will never bore me!

The more I thought about my love of reading and writing, the more I began to think about all the people who have influenced me and helped this love to grow.  I talked about my mother in an earlier post, and her stories of animated vegetables that she would tell me late at night when I couldn't sleep...that was definitely the beginning moment that sent me on the writing path, as I could see pictures of The Giant Rutabaga in my head, clear as day.  And if you are just logging onto this blog for the very first time, you may want to backtrack and read some of my earlier posts such as the one entitled The Many Gifts (otherwise that comment about the over sized rutabaga will make NO SENSE, and it might just seem a little crazy!)  Though the influences didn't stop with my mother.  My father has been another big influence for me...he really taught me the meaning behind words, and exposed me to a higher level of language, pushing me to look beyond the norm.  My father loves to use words that most people no longer use...I in turn love to tease him about it, but in all seriousness my knowledge of language has grown over the years because of it!  (Though I still roll my eyes when he says he has to 'write a precis' instead of just saying 'write a summary.'  I mean, who TALKS like that??)  Suffice it to say, I was very lucky to have grown up in a world of language, and with parents who encouraged the tasks of reading and writing at every opportunity.

And of course, there were a few teachers who influenced me over the years.  Overall, school was pretty difficult for me...not because I couldn't do the work, but because of all the physical challenges I had to deal with.  The more time went on, the more changes I went through as my disability progressed.  As you can probably guess I didn't always have the highest self esteem, because in a lot of ways it was hard to see past the differences between me and my peers...I mostly just felt like I was inadequate.  Though there were some parts of school I really loved!  Reading and writing came so easy to me, it almost felt were some things I could do very well, and I didn't even break a sweat!  And with language, I no longer felt that inadequacy...for once, I felt confident that I could tackle any task given to me.  No matter what teasing I went through (from kids and even some teachers,) all of that faded away whenever I picked up a book, or a pencil.  And there was one teacher in particular who didn't focus on my physical 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Smith.  He encouraged me to read anything I could get my hands on (which was just fine with me!) and push myself with my creative writing.  Most of all, Mr. Smith never put me down or harped on what I couldn't do...he seemed to only see what I was capable of, which made me fall in love with language all the more.

I wasn't a teacher for very long in the grand scheme of things, though I did try to be an influence to all of my students, especially in the many areas of literacy.  The kids I worked with were no strangers to the feeling of inadequacy...these were children who faced obstacles that I could sometimes only imagine.  Not only very challenging physical issues, but in most cases emotional issues as well.  Something as simple as reading a story to a group of children (which happens in classrooms everyday,) had to be learned and practiced...the thought of leading a 'reading group' where each student had their own copy of a book we would read together, was a daunting task.  If I'm being totally honest, I would have to tell you that it scared me a little.  Okay...A LOT.  Here was something that had always come so easy to me, yet I was faced with children who had never even picked up a book, and had no idea how to sit in a group of their peers and listen to one being read.  Sounds like an easy thing to just sit and listen, right??  I was shocked at how difficult it was!  Proper behavior for such a task had to be taught from day would I show these kids how wonderful reading and writing could be when the willingness to stop and listen wasn't even there?  Even now, I'm not exactly sure just how I did it...but I didn't give up.  Eventually we learned how to function as a group, and my students started to listen...and learn.  They learned secrets that I had known for years...that books could take you anywhere, and you could learn about people who led completely different lives than the ones you had always experienced--or even better, you could read about others JUST LIKE YOU.  And when you couldn't find what you wanted to read about in a book?  Well, you could just write your own, and let your imaginations run wild!  The pictures in your head could come alive, just by picking up a pencil.  Eventually each student was sitting and participating in reading groups, where no one was ever put down for their mistakes...and by the end of the year every child also wrote and illustrated their own books, creating amazing stories!  I can't tell you if those children are still choosing to pick up books and pencils once in a while, instead of turning on video games or TV...though I know at least I managed to pave the way.  I'd like to think my parents and my teacher Mr. Smith would be proud.  I certainly thank them for their influences and encouragement, as it opened up the world for me!

So wherever your talents may lie, whether it's in reading and writing, math and computers or arts and music...share these talents with others--especially people younger than yourselves.  Provide them with positive influences and teach them what options are out will pave the way for their own unique talents to flourish, and their world may just grow a little larger!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another Way to Give!

Okay...I know.  I am LATE getting out this post!  But it couldn't be helped.  This week has been full of ups and downs, twists and turns...much laughter and total anxiety!  I am sure glad it's finally the weekend and I can rest my brain for a couple of days, though I have to say I could have done without another snowstorm.  Which leads me to a topic I just can't ignore...we've all experienced snow before, right?  Yes...just last week, actually!  We've all been stuck in blizzards, snowdrifts, white outs, slid on black name it, we've been there.  So WHY is it there are still people out there who insist on driving around at 80 miles an hour, cutting people off and riding on other people's bumpers??  Huh?  Is that necessary??  I'm not saying you need to drive 20 miles an hour, unless the weather is so bad it calls for it.  But I do not see the need to drive like your butt's on fire!  Why are people in such a HURRY all the time?  Is your ice cream melting?  Are you late for tonight's episode of The Bachelor??  Did you forget to use the bathroom???  There has to be a reason...because as far as I'm concerned, driving that way just to get to your destination two minutes sooner is JUST NOT WORTH IT.  Your life is more important than that, and so is mine!  (Did I mention I've been anxious??)  WHEW...glad to finally get that off my chest!!  Okay...enough said.  Time to let go of the anxiety and move on!
So for the last few posts I have been talking about different ways to pay it forward.  Thinking about all of that began with the holidays, and I've realized that I want to try and keep that positive energy flowing.  Especially in the face of negativity...such as crazy, impatient drivers during a storm, or rude and nasty people on the other end of the phone.  All of that slowly begins to wear me down, until I feel like I cannot cope!  And I want the year of 2011 to be a positive year, full of changes for the better.  I do realize that it's not my job to make everyone happy all of the time, and the best I can do when I am facing this negative energy is to increase my own positive outlook...and pasting a big, goofy grin on my face doesn't hurt, either!  So in the spirit of being positive for ourselves and for others, I wanted to mention yet another way to pay it forward...I hope you'll indulge me!

Last year when I was lucky enough to find the CMT support group in Albany, I became good friends with the group leader, M.  We occasionally are able to get together for lunch just to catch up, share more stories and have fun.  As we both grew up with CMT, we actually have experienced similar struggles and discrimination throughout our lives...and have both become experts in the art of adaptation!  It's nice to sit and talk with M, and despite the fact that she deals with many of the same difficulties everyday, like me she also tries to remain positive and put that good energy out there.  Starting the CMT support group was one of the ways she was able to pay it forward, to offer people with this disability a chance to meet others with the same issues...and to feel like we are not alone.  Because feeling like you are facing a struggle alone can make the struggle seem so much LARGER.  Well, during one particular get-together, M mentioned having to stop at a post office to mail a package to her 'soldier.'  I was intrigued, and asked her what she meant...did she know someone in the war?  Surprisingly enough, M told me that her soldier was a perfect stranger.  She joined this website a few months before called where you could 'adopt a soldier' and send them a letter once a week, and a package once a month for the length of their deployment.  I wondered if this was something I could do...after all, it was definitely a commitment, especially since writing letters to a stranger seemed a little daunting!  And as M told me, you often would never hear anything from your soldier because of the extreme conditions in which they were living...though all of the soldiers in the program had signed up, hoping to be adopted.  It was a little scary, but I just couldn't resist!  The packages didn't have to be anything pricey, and I could print out a survey to give me ideas on what I could send, such as snacks, toiletries, games, etc...SA even provided me with ideas on what to write about in my weekly letters.  So that very day, I got on SA's website, and adopted my soldier.  When you join, you find out your soldier's name and rank, and are given a main address you can mail things to (from there, letters and packages are sent to specific areas.)  Unless you get a letter back from them, you have no idea where they are actually deployed, and what conditions they face on a daily basis.  And if adopting a soldier doesn't seem like a good fit, SA gives you other choices such as adopting a veteran, or joining a group to make blankets or baked goods...there are lots of choices.  And so I signed up...and since July, I have been sending a brave young woman (who is also a Sergeant,) weekly letters and monthly packages, hoping she enjoyed what I sent and praying I wasn't boring her to tears!  As I hadn't heard any response I could only hope for the best, and continued to try and think of interesting topics to talk about.  I described my cats and sent pictures (like any loyal cat mom,) talked about my wonderful nieces (like any proud aunt,) and mentioned interesting events happening in my life such as the CMT fundraiser to raise money for research.  Every week as I would finish my letter that nagging worry would come back, that I must REALLY seem boring...I mean, seriously.  Other than reading about events such as the fundraiser (which she may find somewhat interesting,) how often can this woman stand to hear about my cats??

And then over the holidays it came...a Christmas card from my soldier!  With a DVD in it!!  I was SO the card she thanked me for everything, and told me I truly was an angel, which really meant a lot to me.  She explained that the DVD showed pictures of her and the soldiers she worked with, in Afghanistan.  It brought tears to my eyes as I watched it, and saw the other men and women deployed there, the conditions they lived in and the Afghan people they worked with.  A song played in the background and no words were spoken, but rather picture after picture was shown of soldiers in helicopters, sitting in bunkers, even teaching in classrooms.  I found it very moving, and I think it was one of the nicest gifts I've ever gotten.  It is good to know that my small gestures in the form of letters and packages meant something, to a person who is very far away in a strange country, facing struggles of her own.  So if you are interested in adopting a soldier or veteran, or joining various groups focused on helping the many men and women in the Armed Forces, check out Soldier's Angels.  It's just one more way we can reach out to others, to make that positive energy grow!  And in the future, when I get frustrated by silly, impatient people and senseless negativity, I'm going to remember my Christmas of 2010 when that DVD came in the mail...and I will smile!