It’s more normal than you think…busting the myth of disabilities.

Portrait of happy man with cerebral palsy sitting on wheelchair by lake
When you see a young man in a wheelchair, hands pulled against his sides, fingers crossed tightly, and legs bent inward as he is trying to observe the world, a majority of us take a double look. He doesn’t look like the majority of people in the world. He is different.

He cannot stand up and walk away. He cannot push himself in a wheelchair to escape the glare of the curious or the bewildered. He simply sits there and absorbs the looks. I believe after a while, it become such a part of their life, they neither blink nor think anything about it.

But I think something about it.

I find it a privilege to live around, work with, and play with individuals with different abilities, different physical forms, and different avenues of thought processes. They are my friends and I see them in every aspect of my life and yet, sometimes I don’t even want to acknowledge those differences because quite frankly, it defeats my personal philosophy that all are created equal yet different, but all contain the potential and ability in whatever they set their minds, bodies, and spirits to do.

Recently, as I was shopping in a local department store, I came across a family with a beautiful young lady in a wheelchair. She was communicating in a different way than we may have on a daily basis, but still, she was communicating, and her family was perfectly aware of what she was saying.

She was bold in her physique, even as her body was shaped not in the upright position of walking around, but rather in a sitting position, head held down with slow attempts to life up and see things around her.

She was beautiful, with eyes of blue, curiously looking around before her neck gave away to a tired strain.

I stood for a moment and watched people walk by her. Some would turn around and look, others would make it an obvious point to attempt to ignore her. Sadly, even a few anxious salespeople avoid interacting with her family as this young girl looked on as best as possible to observe any action directly related near her.

What a beautiful, curious young lady eager to live as you and I, yet sadly, like many, ignored or avoided.

Did you realize YOU are one medical diagnosis, accident, unfortunate event where you are at the wrong place at the wrong time, and immediately find yourself sitting next to her or one of the thousands who observe life just like her from a wheelchair with a different perspective on life.

Just one second can change your life.

Don’t fear it.

You see, we must bust the myth that disabilities, different abilities, altered body appearances, medical diagnosis, and different ways of processing and thinking of life are unfortunate or some sort of punishment or consequence of life.

It’s just life.

It is a struggle and it makes life seem more difficult to maneuver in our fast-paced world full of perception for what is “normal” in our eyes.  For the person who is different, is truly the same, in the very core of their being.

So when you see someone with a difference, a different way of communication, a different way of body development, a different view of life, or a different way of living-be it physically, mentally, or emotionally-take time to accept this person, not as different, but as someone who is advancing into life on a different path, with a different view.

For in the end, we are truly all the same.

Handicap

Discloser: All information contained in this blog are of the writer’s opinion and reveal neither confidential or otherwise legally protected information according to HIPPA or State and Federal privacy protections. All pictures contained within this blog are either personally taken and released with written consent, published at the consent of the photographer, or verified royalty free, and are not copyright protected. 

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Do you live a life of joy? Why not?

It’s Monday morning and I walk into a facility that caters to individuals with different special needs, altered abilities, and physical limitations that one could only imagine.

The place radiates joy.

Why?

I’ve been asking myself this question for the past month.

When I decided to alter my life a bit and work in this environment, the reactions I got varied from “I bet that is sad” to “How lucky to know such a group.” I agreed with the lucky comment. I do consider myself fortunate, lucky, or just plain blessed to be able to enlarge my world with the most extra-ordinary people I now call friends.

And here’s why…

Imagine if you are traveling down the road and look upon a field of flowers. The field together is a golden ray of yellow but in the center is a large, out of place red rose. You get further down the road (of life) and decide to turn back and seek out that rose.

Why is it different?
Why does it stand out?
Why is it in the middle of others?
Why did I notice it immediately?

And that is why I love what I do. I get to stand in the field of flowers, and see and know the different one, the one that stood out. The one that made me stop and think how incredible beautiful it is among the ordinary flowers. The one that reminds me that differences stem not from the root, but rather, the development of the bud.

Over the next few months, I will be hitting the keyboard again. I will talking about the people I meet along the way of life, from the streets, or schools, or places where life is just joyous, because the people I meet are living a life of extra-ordinary circumstances.

Join me on the adventure as I begin the…

The Extraordinary Series of Life
(Seeking Joy in Life)

#theextraordinaryseries

Nanci

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WHY did I do that? Where I question decisions in life

The bank credited a refund to my account twice.

I noticed it last week, but by the time I noticed it, it was during the winter storm and the banks were closed. I figured it would clear itself up when they opened.

It was not a lot of money, perhaps a few extra groceries or a movie night.

By Monday, it was still there.  By noon, I realized I needed to say something…or not.

I had to go to the bank to make a deposit and as I pulled into the parking lot, I had to make a decision. Do I go in and set the account straight, or do I just pull around to the teller’s window, make my deposit and keep on going.

I went in, made my deposit, and turned around to find a bank officer to talk to. They were all busy. I sat down in the waiting area and 10 minutes passed while I waited. The entire time, I thought to myself, is this worth it?

I started reasoning to myself. My time is valuable. It’s their mistake. It’s not much money.

But I didn’t move.

Finally one of the representatives finished up with her other customer and asked, “May I help you?”

I stood up. One more chance to kindly say, “No, I was just resting” and leave with a few extra bucks.

Instead, I walked over to the office and sat down.

“There’s an error in my account.”

We looked at it, discussed it, and then she fixed it. She went on to say that the error would have never gone noticed due to it’s coding.

I stood up to leave and she thanked me.

I replied, “Well, that’s what I was suppose to do…” and I paused.

I said goodbye and that’s when it hit me.

WHY was I suppose to do that?

Because I was taught that was stealing.

Because i was raised in a Christian home where I learned to please a man whose name has been used to invoke riots, debates, anger, religious wars.

Because I was taught that doing wrong meant punishment from a Supreme Being who loves me and forgives me but nonetheless can determine my eternity based on my acts or faith.

Because karma is tossed around and doing good equals good for me, and doing bad brings me bad luck.

Or maybe, when I go in there next time, they will think of me as a better person. (My ego loves a good stroking here and there.)

Why did I report that?

I sat in the car and pondered it.

I said to myself, “Because it was the right thing to do” but I’m still unsure why.

I think about Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development.

I try to analyze my own behavior and decision based upon his theories. My mind cannot sort through the stages fast enough then my conscious, my ID, or my soul, or solar plexus, or whatever that thing inside of us says, “You did it because it didn’t belong to you. Now, let it go.”

I’m not upset because I did it. I’m not even upset because I questioned the act. I’m perplexed as to why. And such is life.

People will give definite, self assured reasons. They will argue the whys on moral consciousness all day long. They will debate theology, history, scientific based studies, and logic all day long.

But the question for me still remains, “Why do I make decisions in life?”

Later that evening, I am at ALDI shopping for groceries. I stand in front of the dairy case deciding butter. The sweet cream butter is 2.29 for 4 sticks. The cooking margarine is .75 for 4 sticks. I want the delicious sweet cream, but I also am very frugal and I’m not willing to pay more than double for the extra taste.

As I am bagging my groceries, I come across a four pack of the sweet cream butter hidden in the cart. I check my receipt. I realize that it was left by the previous person who checked out in front of me.

Should I keep it?

And there I go again…

Was it a karmic reward for my earlier action?

Will God be upset if I took it knowing I didn’t pay for it?

Will I get kudos if I turn it in?

The daily struggle to just do something because it is the right thing to do kicks again.

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That time I got arrested…a memorial tribute to Christy.

I’ve been “arrested” one time in my life.

If you have known me in the past, (or know me now albeit a bit calmer), you know I am a bit of a prankster.  And being the youngest of 4 children from my mom, I was also one that got away with a lot because my mother and grandparents were just exhausted by the time I reached the teen years. There is no doubt there is a special, special place of heavenly honor for parents and grandparents of children like me.  But I digress…

Yes, I was arrested on what I would call a crime of stupidity and fun.

See, back in high school, as it is today, and was before my time, the almighty statement of tribute was the roll of toilet paper. In fact, my friend Angie and I made it an art form.

The victim of this crime was the front yard of Kevin McCormick. Kevin was a fun-loving guy, with his own history of rolling yards when we were teens. It only seems logical that this particular weekend, we would pay our respects to him and roll his yard. Oh, a slight mention, at the time, he lived on a very well traveled road.  (Note to future toilet paper perps, DO NOT pick a house on a road that is busy and has a policeman ride by at least every 10 minutes, unless you are wearing a ninja suit.)

As my friend Stacy, Butch, and I entered the yard, with a huge bag of generic toilet paper, the kind that was packaged in black and white and said “toilet paper”, we begin to display our creativity all over the trees. About three minutes into our trance of flowing white strands and the lure of the excitement of being bad, one of BIrmingham’s Finest pulls up to the curb. I don’t know how many minutes he had been watching us, but it was clear, we were caught in the act.  On the loud speaker he announces, “Ok kids, I think that is enough!”

We didn’t run. We didn’t move. We were deer caught in the headlights of guilt and toilet paper.

That night I spent 2 hours (or an eternity) in the back of a police car. We were not taken to the station, but rather, each one had a police dispatcher personally call our parents to come and pick us up at the scene of the crime. Honestly, the fear and expectation of one’s parent being called at 10pm on a Saturday night to pick up your child at the “scene of a crime” is far more painful than the thought of being in a cell with someone who just stabbed another to death.

My biggest trepidation was the though turned reality that my grandmother, a faithful listener of the police scanner, would hear the call out with my name. When I say faithful listener, I mean, her Saturday nights consisted of eating a Kit Kat bar, drinking Coca Cola, and listening to every accident, report, code, address, name, and static filled beeps of her police scanner. Then she proceeded to call anyone and everyone in our family to see if they happened to be in a wreck of the corner of somewhere we would never be on a Saturday night.

When my mom arrived, the look on her face was that of confusing, dismay, and intense perplexity. The policeman was stern and authoritative, sighting the dangers of vandalism of this magnitude could lead to a life of crime, drugs, and unknown perversions, and almost assure that we never go to college or be a productive human in society.  Toilet paper gently flew as flags in the background during his speech.

I got out of the police car. I melted into my mom’s car, in the backseat, and remained silent, knowing that my social life had ended and my butt would be so sore that I would never be able to comfortably wear my Calvins again.

I got a reprieve from my fears. The punishment alone was the dread of the ride. My mother took mercy upon me and simply asked that I go to my room when we got home. That was it.  Ironically, my grandmother heard my name on the radio, but perhaps the rush of sugar from the Kit Kat and Cola caused a temporary lapse in process as she thought it was just her “ears” playing a trick on her.  Imagine, the one time she waited for that announcement, and she never fully got to experience the panic and secondary thrills of it.

Looking back, I think my mom was just shocked that her fears of me being arrested for the first time would with my best friend, Christy Addaway. Christy was my partner in crime. She and I together were just young versions of Thelma and Louise.

I think everyone in life has a friend like that. Someone they can confide in the deepest of secrets and plan the deepest of revenges for their enemies. Even if we never went through with most, yes, I said most, of our ideas, she was the one person on earth I could trust to keep my secret and even contribute even more insanity to the plan. She was my soulmate of mischievousness.

Yesterday was 4 years when I said goodbye to her. She left this earthly plane to enjoy the fruits of eternal peace and comfort.

I wasn’t finished getting into trouble and scheming with her. Sometimes at night, I dream of us, two old ladies, in red and purple feathered helmets, hitting the road in our Harley’s with walkers attached to the back. Sometimes the thought of racing down the nursing home aisles in rascal scooters and prank calling our adult children enters my mind. She is always attached to those flights of fantasy, and she always will be.

In remembering her, I have to remember the role she played in my life. Once I start remembering her, my mind is flooding with memories of laughter and love from not only her, but all the people in my life, particular the ones in my younger days, who led me astray, or perhaps (most likely) I led them, and we did crimes of stupidity (and fun).

Many of us now are raising teens. God bless us if it is true that we reap what we sow.

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Perplexing Thought: When natural seasons don’t match cultural reasons.

winterhiberation  I’m tired. It’s cold. My body wants to rest. I crave warm food, calm moments, blankets, and all other things that bring about a warmth and resting feel to my body.

I’m not part bear, but at this moment, I sure am envious of our wooly, forest friend. While we humans are starting the new year with resolutions, new gym memberships, and plans to be active, healthy, and ready to go, Mr. Bear, along with all hibernating animals are resting cozy in their beds. Their minds and bodies are preparing to embrace the sunny mornings, longer days, and all the other natural, renewed resources that Mother Nature provides in the Spring.  They worry not for summer bikini season, because they are living in the moment, or rather sleeping and resting in the moment, while Mother Nature also works for their benefit on their bodies.

The seasons have always enthralled me.  They are a natural schedule, a daily planner of life, that allows for the body, mind, and spirit to be born (or renewed), plant new seeds of life, run among the land and enjoy summer fun, reap the harvest of our work, give thanks for our abundance, then rest, only to be reborn, renewed and again, age into and progress in a beautiful lifespan, until the rest becomes eternal.

Yet we humans, through our technology, agendas, and plans, have decided that we will progress the way we want to, even if it means we decide to go against  what nature has done since the very beginning of life-given us seasons.

I make yearly goals and plans each last week of December. I have done this 20+ years. I get determined, I plan it, then I try to hold myself accountable to it. After all, it’s what I have been taught to do. It’s what leads to success and obtaining what I want, right?  Then after a few weeks, the “get up at 5am and run” in freezing temps becomes hard to do and I find myself slowing down. By the time Spring comes, I have “broken” my resolution and I beat myself up or attempt to guilt my inner warrior that I have failed.

Somewhere between New Years and Spring we seem to lose the fire.  So how do we keep this fire going? Instead of trying to adjust the season to fit my schedule and my desires, I am allowing myself to breath in the season of the year, and the season of my life, as I prepare my body, mentally and physically, to live each moment of each day to the fullest.  My body needs rest. My body needs nutrition, warm nutrition, that will comfort my soul as well as nourish my body.   This is the perfect time to get screenings, drink hot cleansing teas, consider mindful intentions to sustain a healthy body and quiet moments to be thankful.

Once the Spring arrives, I will trust that each day will bring me fresh, comfortable air, as life springs forth into a new season of birth and my body and mind unfold with the connection that life is again renewed within and without, in perfect timing with the Universe.

What if we all honored the sacredness of each season, each day?

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”  Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. 

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Father Michael Wrigley: Priest, friend, and fellow traveler in life.

My friend Rose confirmed last night, what I felt was certain to come. Father Michael Wrigley, Priest of the Diocese of Birmingham, Al. died, after a sudden onset of an illness.

Hearing Father Wrigley had passed took me back to a day where my life changed forever, and he was with me at the start of the journey.

In August of 2008, after battling obesity most of my life, I entered St. Vincent’s East Hospital for LapBand surgery. I was nervous. I was apprehensive.  I was unsure. Weight loss surgery is a choice surgery, but for many, the choosing is the hardest part of the surgery. It meant leaving behind an old lifestyle, going under the knife with possible complications, or having people judge you for “taking the easy way out” of losing weight.

Father Wrigley walked into my room, first visitor that morning, and offered his encouragement. When I told him I was a Catholic, his eyes beamed, and with some excitement, he offered the Sacrament of Sick, a sacred anointing of oil for persons who are ill, having surgery, or dying.  It was his enthusiasm to be able to do what he loved doing, that made my mood a little more relaxed. As nurses and technicians came to and from my room, to prepare me for surgery, Father Wrigley was very much a part of the medical team that day.

Six years later, and I am sitting here thinking about him. You see, Father Wrigley was more than a priest, he was a fellow journeyman on this thing we call life, and he appeared in the most unusual places in my life, just when I needed to see him.

I first met Father Wrigley at my cousin’s wedding. She and her husband were his first couple to marry after seminary. He was very proud of that fact. Whenever I saw him and reminded him of my shared last name of the bride he would smile brightly. He also reminded me that he had a picture of them in his office.  Father Wrigley’s first wedding was not only beautiful, but he married two people who are happy and very much in love. In March of 2012, they became parents to a very special little girl. I wonder if he knew his first public marriage ceremony would be as blessed as we are with the arrival of that little one?

A year after my surgery, and many pounds lighter, I participated in a walk/race for obesity research. Standing in the middle of the pre-race crowd was Father Wrigley. He, being a bit physically larger than some, was there to encourage everyone, of every size, to live and be proud of their accomplishments of wanting to change and bring awareness to the struggles of being obese.  He walked proudly next to whomever he passed or passed him.  Later we talked and he shared with me his story of struggling with physical appearance. With a disfigurement in his face, and slight speech impediment, he knew what it was like to feel different, to sound different, or unusual. Yet he was a beautiful person. He reminded me of Moses, also someone who had a speech impediment, yet communicated beautifully the message of freedom. In many ways, his support to the weight loss community was very much like Moses leading the Hebrews out of slavery, except our slavery was struggling with self esteem, physical discomforts, and wanting to escape into a healthy lifestyle.

A few years ago, my grandmother became ill and was admitted to St. Vincent’s East Hospital. It was Father Wrigley who caught me crying in the hallway. I knew that my 96 year old grandmother was at the end of her life.  I knew it was time to say goodbye, but I didn’t want to. Father Wrigley spent time with me and reminded me that her death was her rebirth into a new life. Simple words, yet perfect. I was able to go back into her room, say goodbye, and peacefully accept that love continues, even after her life was leaving her body.

Two years ago, I was again met the same fate of saying goodbye. My mother had many visits to St. Vincent’s East over a period of 3 months. She, too, was dying.  Again, it was the presence of Father Wrigley, with his sweet, imperfect smile, that led me to peace. What was more remarkable is my mother, who was not Catholic, requested Father Wrigley regularly during her many trips to the hospital.  It was Father Wrigley who brought a faith to her that offered more than salvation, but simple kindness and concern.

I struggle with faith and with religion. I have to admit that my wanderlust for science, history, mythology, and culture leads my heart, soul, and mind on a journey of questioning everything.  I talked with Father Wrigley about this years ago. He listened. He did not judge. He shared the moment with me as a friend.

He did more for me and my beliefs, than he will ever know. He offered me the courage to seek yet his example was testimony of what I wanted in life. And in the moments of saying goodbye to two of the most important influences in my life, my mother and grandmother, he shed the light of love, on the darkness of death.

The perfect way to sum up this writing is by using his own words. Taken from his Facebook status in August:

“Everyday we have choices. We can choose to stay or walk away, even if it means suffering or stepping out into the unknown. We no longer have to fear “change” or the unknown. We can just accept life completely on life’s terms as part of the journey.
Let go and let God.”
God bless and keep you, fellow seeker and friend.
Butterfly

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Oh, so you are a liberal now? AKA Why labels just don’t add up.

This week was an incredible journey for me. Birmingham, Alabama celebrated 50 Years Forward to mark the anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in our area.

It was incredible.

I got a note from someone who asked the simple question: “When did you turn so liberal?”

I had to pause for a moment because I have never labeled myself liberal before, nor have I  given it a second thought.

I AM, that, I AM.

I am that girl who loves people. Regardless.

I am that girl who thinks Birmingham, Alabama is more than just civil rights movement hot ground.

I am that girl who hates labels.  SIze, color, shape, ability, and any other.

I am that girl who believes everyone, everywhere has value and worth.

I am that girl who loves differences and thinks they add beauty to the world.

I am that girl who values wisdom that comes from within.

I am that girl who will support you with your cause, as long as it does not go against one of my core chosen values.

I am a girl who believes in choices and that what you choose in life will direct your path-good or bad.

I am a girl who believes in rights for all people.

I am a girl who believes true wealth comes not from money but by being grateful.

I am the girl who will dance to any tune and will grab a dance partner if given the opportunity.

I am the girl who will sing off key at any given concert or play an instrument that celebrates life’s voice.

I am a mother of two girls, who believes I am to raise humanitarians, not just humans.

I am a daughter, who believes the best way to honor my parents, is to carry on their good qualities and forgive them for any I perceived were bad.

I am a girl who loves her family-her entire family, regardless of where they are, who they are, what labels others give them, financial status, position in life, how we are related or any other classification they or others choose for them.

I am that girl who loves you. Period. Not for what you are, not for what you have, nor not for what you offer. I love you for you because you are created equal to me, with the ability to love others.

I am that girl who believes we are all important and give the Universe its life energy to go on despite differences, beliefs, viewpoints, and perspectives.

“Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive God to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.”-Desiderata

Is that liberal? I have no idea nor do I care. It’s just me.

And I’m okay with that.105_0296

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