Ignorance is bliss…and annoying

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Traveling can be such a pain. I love seeing new places and meeting new people but traveling is exhausting. Once you get to your final destination, all the hustle and bustle of traveling seems worth it but when you’re in the moment, traveling can seem like anything but fun.

Having lived in Pittsburgh on my own for a semester, I used to fly home quite often and actually had it down to an art. The people who drove me to the airport would help me to get checked in on my flight and would request a wheelchair for me which is so much easier instead of struggling to walk through the airport with my less than perfect balance. Once a wheelchair arrived, an airport employee would take me through security and straight to my gate. Having that treatment made traveling seem like a piece of cake, it was so simple!

 

Although being pushed around in a wheelchair made everything less stressful, I’m not the biggest fan of the idea. Using a wheelchair or any device to help with my walking is something I avoid at all possible costs. It’s not that I have anything against wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, etc, I’m just too stubborn to use one on a regular basis. Even in college, using a scooter was a little shot to my pride but it made getting around campus so much easier and gave me independence.

 

Despite my hesitations, I have learned that it’s easier to use a wheelchair in an airport instead of dealing with my shaky legs, whether I’m traveling by myself or with somebody. So when flying to Michigan last week to visit family, I used a wheelchair to navigate through the airport. After we made our way through security, we stopped to grab something to eat before heading to the flight gate. However, a problem we ran into was trying to fit this massive wheelchair into the eating areas just to order something. The register was tucked back in a narrow corner with tables and chairs on one side and a counter on the other. Barely one person with a suitcase could fit through, let alone one of the airport’s wheelchairs. I understand restaurants at airports are limited in space to work with and probably have to follow certain regulations due to security but some of the places were impossible to squeeze a wheelchair into; it’s not the difficult to make an area wide enough for a wheelchair and at least another person to stand side by side. Sometimes I wish everyone was forced to experience what it is like to be physically disabled and then people might see firsthand how inaccessible the world is. Yes, there are ADA regulations and requirements but most able-bodied people don’t comply with these rules because it does not directly affect them or it costs too much money to make it more accessible.

 

After struggling to find a wide enough area to fit into the line, we finally made it back to the register. As i was waiting for my mom to order the food, a woman came up to the chair and in a slightly condescending voice (although she probably had kind intentions), she went on to tell me what a beautiful girl I was and how pretty my dress was.

This was all very nice to hear and personally I really liked my dress too but her tone of voice was not appreciated. It was very obvious that she saw the wheelchair, my slightly different facial expressions and assumed I must be mentally or developmentally disabled. Although I wanted to say something to her about making such an ignorant assumption, I smiled sweetly and replied “Thank you, that’s so kind of you to say”.

After placing our order and knowing exactly what was happening, my mom turned around, reiterating what I had said to the woman and backed the wheelchair out of the tight area.

What gives people the right to assume things like that?! I was just sitting in the wheelchair, minding my own business waiting for my mom to place the order because I could not reach the counter top and all of a sudden this women decides to come up to me, assuming I’m mentally disabled. Just because I was in a wheelchair and look somewhat different from you, does not mean I’m mentally disabled. A wheelchair should tell you I have trouble walking or am not able to walk, that’s it. Making any other assumption about me being mentally disabled insults my intelligence and what I’ve accomplished in life. The woman probably thought talking to me was a nice gesture or maybe she was making small talk but it came off rude and made me feel very self-conscious, depressed, and angry.

Nothing irritates me more than narrow-minded, uneducated people like that who make assumptions based on their limited knowledge. Not all people with disabilities are the same. So next time you see someone with a handicap or disability, please don’t make an assumption about their disability, don’t talk down to them or treat them like a two-year old, rather treat them with respect, like you would want to be treated.

 

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You’re entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant”

-Harlan Ellison

 

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A new look at beauty

“Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it”

-Confucius

Lately I’ve found myself thinking about what the definition of beautiful really is. The world is full of beauty but each of us seems to have a different idea or perspective on what beauty is.

I used to compare myself all the time to people based on how they looked and what I judged to be beautiful. But both age and experience has changed my opinion of what beautiful really means. To me, what makes a person beautiful depends on how they treat others and their actions, not their appearance. Beauty is not in what the eye sees but rather what the heart feels and how it speaks to our soul.

Earlier this morning, while trying to watch the sunrise, although it was very cloudy, I was reminded something about beauty, that sometimes you have to change your perspective in order to find it. Despite the dark clouds and incoming rain, the sun managed to peek through for a while. It’s brilliant orange rays glowed against the little bit of blue sky and reflected off the water. It was absolutely beautiful! But when I turned my head to look at the sky in the other direction, it was completely different but equally as beautiful. It was filled with various shades of grey and black clouds mixing together. The colors seemed to be airbrushed and looked as if someone had cleaned out dirty lint from a dryer vent, placing it in the sky. So there I sat, captivated by both sides of the sky. One side was majestic and radiant while the other was ominous and threatening. Both were beautiful, captivating, and spoke to my soul.

Although it was not a typical blue sky and cloudless sunrise that I’m used to, it was still a beautiful way to start the day. Sometimes, more than often, in order to find beauty in life, we need to adjust our perspective. You never know what beauty you might find.

“Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how beautiful they are but everyone else can. People are like that as well.”

-Anonymous

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One step at a time

“Some lessons in life can’t be taught. They simply have to be learned”

-Jodi Picoult

Have you ever made a decision and then shortly afterwards, completely regret it? Like you replay it in your mind a million times, thinking “why was I so stupid?! That was an awful decision.”

My mom’s birthday was last week and to celebrate it my immediate family got together at this cute inn along the Chesapeake Bay. (it’s my mom’s happy place…mine too).  The inn has its own private beach with kayaks and paddleboards and is so peaceful. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with all sorts of flowers. All worries wash away when I’m there.

As everyone gets older and busy with their own lives, it’s rare that we all can get together as a family, so I was definitely excited to see everyone. Well long story short, by the time my brothers and wives arrived, I was already laying out on the beach. As my mom checked into the place, my one brother and his wife came to help me walk back to our place. As I started to stand up from nearly falling asleep in the sun, my brother asked me if I wanted to put shoes on before walking. Being stupid, in a rush, and not thinking, I replied no, walking barefoot. After a couple of minutes of walking, I realized this was a bad decision and the bottoms of my feet started to burn. By the time we reached our place, my feet had burned so much that I couldn’t even stand. Both feet had burn marks but part of my right foot turned black like I had stepped in volcanic ash. Trying to be optimistic, I told everyone it was no big deal but inside I was freaking out. It looked as though it was 3rd degree burn on my right foot. I was so disappointed in myself, how could I be so careless?! I had ruined my feet. Upon finally sitting down in the kitchen and seeing this, we did what any intelligent person would do and “Googled”  how to treat burned feet. Since then, my feet have been wrapped with gauze, covered to avoid infection, and occasionally soaked in epsom salt.

During this week while regretting my decision and being disappointed in myself, I tried to remember what was going through my mind as I made this terrible decision to not wear shoes. My first thought, was really stupid. I had decided that it would look totally ridiculous to walk in a bathing suit and shoes. As I thought of this later in the week, my only thoughts afterwards were “what kind of horrible logic is this?! It’s was a beach! No one cares how you look and while at the beach, most people throw all fashion sense out the window!” My second thought was that of being stubborn and determined to keep walking despite the pain. I could have easily asked my brother to give me a piggy-back ride or to get my shoes because my feet hurt. But no, I was stubborn and stupid!

Within a couple of days after the burn, my left foot started to heal and return to normal but my right foot was still black. Although I had protested going to the doctor, thinking it would be useless, I decided to make an appointment and see if they knew how to save my foot. The fact that part of my right foot was black bothered me but it didn’t hurt as much anymore, making me think maybe the burn had affected my feeling somehow, which really made me start to panic.

Well the doctor didn’t prove useless because they said the big black spot is just a really big blood blister and will probably go away in a couple of weeks. I was so relieved to hear that news and to know my foot wouldn’t have to be amputated or permanently look like I stepped in black tar.

Moral of the story, when walking on hot pavement, always wear your shoes. Who cares if your shoes don’t match your outfit, protecting your feet is much more important. You can always buy new shoes, you can’t always buy new feet. And if you’re in pain or need help, stop, tell someone, and readjust, there is no sense in hiding the truth.

Be determined not stubborn.

Determination is positive, is light, and will take you far. It’s a willingness to change as needed, keeping an open mind.

Stubborn is a heavy feeling, a refusal to budge, a negative, closed mind and will take you nowhere.

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Overcoming my fear of the dishwasher

“What is the biggest thing that stops people from living their lives in the present moment? Fear – and we must learn how to overcome fear”

Brian Weiss

For the past several months, my dishwasher has been slowly dying.

Shortly after I graduated high school, my mom and I decided to redo our kitchen; new counters, new cabinets, new appliances, new everything. Along with choosing the design for the counters, backsplash, and cabinets,; there were several changes I made to the layout so it would be more accommodating for me. First of all, we had a wall knocked down, making the kitchen bigger.  Also, we installed a wall oven so I no longer had to worry about bending down and falling into the oven like Hansel and Gretel. We had several pull-down cabinets installed (great for the vertically challenged) and positioned the stove top near the sink so when making pasta noodles, the pot could just be slid across the counter and drained, instead of having to carry a hot pot across the room (and most likely burning myself). But my favorite thing, which was not cheap, was a dishwasher with drawers!
Years ago, as I was relearning to walk after cancer and radiation, I used to fall quite often. Imagine a baby first learning to walk, except I was 8 years old, was overweight from steroids, and my falls definitely caused a little more damage. My poor knees have permanent scars from some of my greatest falls or those scraps that kept getting reopened. I used to have the tendency to fall into things and break them. The dishwasher happened to be one of those things, one with a single door that pulls down  I landed on top of the door several times when it was open, nearly breaking the door off and causing it to leak as it ran. Needless to say, I felt terrible when this happened and avoided the dishwasher at all costs when it was open. I became afraid of a dishwasher.
So you can imagine my surprise when I found a dishwasher with drawers that I couldn’t break. I was actually really excited about a dishwasher! It had two separate drawers just like a dresser, both equal in size, and you didn’t have to run both at the same time. Sometimes I loaded and washed only the top drawer, other times I loaded both drawers. And the best part was, if I lost my balance accidentally, I didn’t have to worry about breaking it!
dishwasher
But as the saying goes, all good things come to an end and after almost ten years, the dishwasher started dying. The top would no longer drain properly and one day, it just stopped working. So we were stuck with only the bottom drawer, minimizing the amount of dishes we used and more than often, just hand-washing them instead. Then after about four months of this, the dishwater started to make a terrible grinding noise when it was on. I was worried it was going to start a fire, my mom was worried it would flood the kitchen. We attempted to have someone take a look at it and fix it but it ended up that a dishwasher with drawers is so rare and only manufactured by one company so finding someone was next to impossible. So we decided it was finally time to get a new one but were quickly reminded how expensive the dishwasher with drawers was compared to standard dishwashers with a pull-down door. I even searched ADA websites because honestly, dishwashers with a pull-down door are not that user-friendly for people who are wheelchair bound or have other physical limitations. But I couldn’t find anything.  It baffles me how able-bodied people and companies don’t consider these things sometimes, how a simple appliance is not always user-friendly when you’re disabled. After debating over whether the cost would be worth it to get my dream dishwasher again,  I decided to face my fear of breaking the dishwasher and go back to using one with the pull-down door.
After going to Lowes and testing out the doors, I swallowed my fear and bought one with a very sturdy door that would not snap immediately if it was accidentally bumped or fallen on top of.
But something I realized in this process is that my walking is not like it was 20 years ago. Yes, I may not walk straight, have a slight limp, stumble at times, and walk as if I’m drunk but I am no longer an overgrown baby first learning to walk. I do not fall everyday like I used to and thank goodness for that because my knees can’t handle that much falling anymore.  I have better control of my walking, and am more aware of my movements.  Through therapists and coaches, I have learned what works best for me. For example, saying “slow down” is not always good for me. I learned that walking slow also gives my brain too much time to disrupt the signals it sends to my feet. Therefore, what starts out as good foot placement becomes bad foot placement and could result in falling. It is best for me to walk at a steady, controlled,semi-quick pace, not giving my brain time to think or mess up things. This does mean I should walk fast, not a good idea, but is just something I’ve come to be aware of with my body.
The style of my new dishwasher may have some negative memories attached to it but my fear and past experiences should not dictate the present moment. I am a different person now compared to who I was 20 years ago and I am not going to let my fear keep me having clean dishes. So bring it on dishwasher,  I’m not afraid of you!
Live with intention,
Be bold in the face of adversity,
Live the life you were destined for

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Accept yourself with no exceptions

“Positive thinking isn’t about expecting the best to happen every time, it is about accepting that whatever happens is the best for that moment”

We all have had those moments where we go to check Facebook for a quick second and end up spending a half-hour on there, scrolling through our news feed, comparing ourselves to other people. Asking ourselves questions the entire time like “They look like they’re having so much fun and do so many cool things, why is my life so boring?” Or “I wonder why they didn’t invite me? Maybe there’s something wrong with me.” Or “How do your selfies look so perfect? It takes me at least 5 shots to get a picture I don’t hate.”

Admit it. We’ve all been down that road, comparing ourselves to the people around us. Even the most confident and self-assured people are guilty of this. If you have never done that, well kudos to you.

Tonight I had my high school reunion and to be completely honest, I was kind of anxious about it. Seeing what everyone has been up to is awesome and how much everyone has changed. I am so happy for my friends and everything they’ve accomplished. But at the same time I couldn’t help compare myself, it’s human nature.

So after throwing a pity party and momentarily freaking out about my life, I started to come back to reality. The thing is although I am happy for my friends, I would never want their lives and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want mine. Where I am in life right now may not be where I expected to be but as we all know too well, life is a wild journey. Having expectations just leads to disappointments.  And comparing ourselves to others is pointless. The world would be incredibly boring if everyone was exactly alike. When we accept ourselves and love who we are, we become empowered and respect ourselves. Therefore attracting respect from others too.

The other week, I met up with a friend for brunch. After spending hours catching up and laughing, we both went our seperate ways. As I was heading home, I thought how nice it was to see my friend and what great things she’s doing with her life but of course, I started comparing myself. Because of my disabilities, I will most likely never be able to drive and although it seems like no big deal, I feel like it holds me back in life. As my mind started to think how if I could drive, my life would more exciting like hers and started to get depressed, my mom and I were rear-ended. Everyone was fine thankfully and besides some minor damage, the car was okay. But in the quick second, I remembered why I’m glad I don’t drive. As a cancer survivor, I would rather go out in another way besides a car accident. Maybe something a little less dramatic. But moral of the story, guess that’s what I get for comparing myself to someone else.

“When you know yourself, you’re empowered.  When you accept yourself, you’re invincible”

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The art of listening

It is better to be a friend than to have one

Have you ever had one of those moments when you stumble across a quote or saying and it speaks to you, like it was meant for you at that exact point in time? Well, I had one of those moments the other week while reading a letter from a friend and seeing this quote, “it is better to be a friend than to have one”.

Friendship is one of life’s greatest blessings. Someone who is there in good and bad times, can make you laugh, cares about you, challenges you to become a better person, and listens whether you need advice or just want to talk.

But that last point is so often forgotten. Listening has become such a rare thing in a world full of people who only want to voice their opinions but don’t have time or care about opinions of those around them whether it’s in everyday conversations or on social media. More than often, we listen to reply, we don’t listen to understand. And by doing this, whether purposefully or not, we are creating an attitude of ignorance.

Growing up, I remember hearing about schools that would hand out awards for “talks the least, says the most”. That seemed like such a great award, something to strive toward in life. There is nothing wrong with talking, expressing yourself or voicing your opinions but communication is a two-way street. I truly believe there are times to talk and times to just be silent and listen.  By listening to those around us, we are showing respect, that we appreciate them, and are able to better understand their perspective.

The other week, I was asked to speak during the opening ceremony at a local Relay for Life event. It is always an incredible experience and slightly nerve-wrecking to share my story with others. It is truly humbling and makes me so happy to know that my story can help and inspire others.  As ridiculous as it sounds, in those moments I feel tickled pink. But what I love most about sharing my story with others is getting their response and hearing from them. I truly enjoy getting to know them better and learning about who they are. At the Relay for Life, it was overwhelming to see how cancer has affected so many people. To listen to a patient, survivor, or caregiver tell their story is to help them heal which is something I understand from personal experience. It is moments like that where it is more important to be a friend and to just listen.

 

A wise old owl lived in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

– unknown author

 

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True strength

Be a man
We must be swift as the coursing river
Be a man
With all the force of a great typhoon
Be a man
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon

I thought I was finished with blogging about Disney music but with the release of Beauty and the Beast,  Disney themed playlists have become my go-to music whenever life gets boring. This time, I’ve been inspired by I’ll make a man out of you from Mulan.

Although there are many great Disney movies with incredible music, one of my personal favorites for both movie and music combo would have to be Mulan. Based on a Chinese legend, when her country is facing war, Mulan secretly disguises herself as a man, taking her father’s place in the emperor’s army. Despite the many challenges and adversity faced along the way, through her strength, bravery, and duty to her country, Mulan helps to defeat the Huns and becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process. Mulan is considered a Disney princess but she is definitely not your typical damsel in distress. Her character is fierce, courageous, determined, and resilient.
Growing up with three older brothers and being surrounded by their friends, I’ve never really been a girly girl.  That might come as a surprise to some because my office at work is decorated in fake flowers, dainty colors, and I love wearing dresses! But growing up, I was that girl in the neighborhood who liked to play backyard football, get muddy, and spoke my mind whether you asked my opinion or not. While cancer and becoming physically disabled kind of changed the whole backyard football part, I still speak my mind and consider myself tough, resilient, and determined in every aspect of life.
The other day, I was sliding tables together for a meeting and someone said to me “don’t do that, you might hurt yourself”. Usually, I would brush that comment right off my shoulders but for some odd reason it bothered me.
As the youngest in the family and only girl, my brothers were determined to “make a man” out of me so that I would be able to withstand anything life threw at me. Along with giving me a love of sports, they taught me to never give up no matter what I faced, to work hard,  stay strong, and to always stand my ground.  Over the years, I’ve thrown a couple other things of my own into the mix, like having faith, being hopeful, and remaining positive.

Even though that comment was probably out of concern and kindness, it seemed to question my strength. (maybe I’m reading too much into this, it’s a girl problem)

Because of my disabilities, I may not appear to be physically strong or able to do everything I once was able to but I do not consider myself weak to any extent.
Being strong is not just a physical attribute like our society thinks of it, strength is also mental and emotional.
As a cancer survivor, I have been fortunate to get to know other survivors and although not every survivor has bulging muscles, they have more strength in their tiny finger than most people will ever have in their life. They are emotionally, mentally, and spiritually strong. Their experiences have taught them to persevere, to stay determined, to be brave, and hopeful. This is true strength to me, having the courage and strength within to overcome any obstacle you’re faced with.
There is a line in I’ll make a man out of you that says “tranquil as a forest but on fire within”, that lyric speaks volumes about where strength really lies.
True strength is not only in your physical being, it’s not in how swift you move or how much you can lift but it’s in your character, how you respond to adversity.
 “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
-Mahatma Gandhi 

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