The awesome thing I just read

Anyone who knows me knows that I am probably the least materialistic person you’ll ever meet.  I suppose after going through so many life-altering changes in a fairly short period, I just do not usually see the need for frivolous things.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my creature comforts as much as the next person but all in moderation, as they say.

That being said, one of the biggest struggles that I have had to face on a constant basis is that of finding clothing that fits my bizarre, crooked, short body while still looking fairly “normal” in whatever role I am performing at the time.  Clothing is about so much more than the garment itself, it’s about the image we portray and how we feel when we wear them.  At no time is that struggle more painfully obvious than when I shop for business attire, where EVERYTHING must be SO altered that it is almost a new garment by the time I am finished.  Now I know many people will say, “everyone struggles to find good clothes” or “don’t we all have that problem?” and I know it is, indeed, sadly a world geared toward the “ideal, perfect body,” an image of tall, slender women with nice curves and few flaws (of which most women will find many in themselves), but that is not what I mean here.  I am talking about a much larger scale difficulty and image problem that comes from having to buy all your clothing in the children’s department or, if you’re really lucky, the juniors’ department.  A lifetime of this makes you start to feel small, unimportant, often unnecessary.

Did you know that they don’t make business suits for 10-year-olds?  Doesn’t any clothing manufacturer realize that I’d like to just ONCE purchase things off the rack that do not have to be COMPLETELY remade, (though I do not mind taking things to be hemmed, etc.) or that I’d love to find a way not to get tears and marks from my wheelchair on my new skirt or that I’d really like to go to my next meeting not clad in patent-leather butterflies buckled to my feet?  Most of what we all suffer from is not so much a self-image problem but one of how others see us.  Now, I am not one to put blame on others first without asking how I can be a part of the solution.  Perhaps it begins with each of us showing the world (advertising, marketing, clothing makers, and even each other) what we find beautiful is NOT only what they have showed us for all these years.  Let’s work together to change the definition of beauty.  That’s why I was so very excited to read this article and see this video clip of a company in Europe, and why, among many other reasons, it made me tear up to watch these beautiful, successful men and women:

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/new-attention-grabbing-mannequins-are-modeled-after-disabled-public-figures-154283

As for the “perfect woman” image, don’t even get me started with that…

SMG Brings Movie Night to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Egleston

What an awesome story from this great place! Thank you for sharing your time and talents, all! (I’m also very excited to be going to SMG with my husband just this week, in fact!)

thesmgblog

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Studio Movie Grill has had an ongoing relationship with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and last month, that relationship became even more personal to SMG employees when they hand delivered toys from the Show You Care Bear drive directly to children in the hospital.

Following that outreach event, SMG Holcomb manager, Wayne Simpson recounts an initiative taken on by some staff members eager to keep giving to their community:

“From the contact we made delivering the Teddy Bears last month we were invited back to host a movie day for the young patients.

One of our team members, Garrett Ivie, who was very creative, had made an Iron Man costume which he wore during our premier.  Birdie and I asked him to come today, as well as our Supervisor Karen Lopez, Server Sharon Orina to host the movie day for the kids.

There were so many stories today from patients we…

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I almost forgot…

…an important thing that I did just today, in fact! 

(Yes, I realize how this sounds, especially if taken out of context) but…

I TIED MY SHOES BY MYSELF TODAY!  I’m so excited and proud.  This means that I’m finally able to do ALL of my dressing alone, no matter which shoes I want to wear, etc.  Now, it still takes me forever (and about a day) to do it all completely but it CAN be done!  Woohoo!

Here I am!

I have to start out by apologizing for being absent for so long; so much happening at once–I know everyone understands how that goes!

Where to start my update?  I’ll try to keep things short and in chronological order, although I am often bad about “SQUIRREL!” moments that cause me to go off on a tangent when I think of something randomly.

First of all (and perhaps most importantly right now–certainly the biggest news) is that I was finally able to get a new car!  After much research and decision-making and shopping, I have a shiny, dark blue (it’s called ‘Midnight Pearl Blue’) new-to-me Honda Cr-V.  I’m thrilled that I fit it perfectly and it fits me the same.  The only adaption I have on it  (other than my usual seat cushion) is the little spinner knob to make sure I can make those sharp turns better and with more ease.  I chose it from a vehicle compatibility list to go with the new lift that I’m still working on getting (just a little bit more to save up and I’ll have it too).  From there, I should be able to be independent again!  I’ve figured out how to get my oxygen into the car and getting the motorized in and out should be fairly easy (as much as possible) once I get the lift.  I’m still fairly wobbly doing it all but I manage fine.  I truly will not know how to act!  😉

I celebrated a birthday this week and had TONS of fun with our friends and family in the North GA mountains at their Oktoberfest.  We had rented a cabin and went to the bier garten, Festhalle, ate and ate, shopped and shopped, and generally enjoyed each other’s company in a beautiful, fun setting.

I completed my schooling to be certified to teach English as a Second Language.  I have a shiny new paper and everything lol.  Now I’m on to travel agent school.  I have been in it for about 2-3 weeks and it is good, although there is SO much to learn!  I’ll get there but wow!  I feel like I’m moving at a snail’s pace.  I REALLY want to do this, though, because I want to help travelers with disabilities have a great time on vacation, doing things that maybe even they never imagined they could do.  So much is possible but there are so many obstacles that most people just give up and say they can not do it.  That’s no way to live!  I think everyone should get to experience the world and all it has to offer, whether standing or “from a seated position.”

Does that make me crazy?

I am not a crazy person.  (I will pause here to let those people who know me well to quit laughing hysterically.)  Seriously, I am a fairly level-headed, well-educated, knowledgeable, rational human being in life.  When you have something like a stroke, however, people’s views of you change, almost overnight.  Those people that knew you “before” are not quite sure how to act or treat you now; those that you just met are there ready and willing to slap on the closest label of what a stroke survivor should look and act like.  Most of the time, that’s the label of a crazy person, once you get past the pity and sadness.  I kept telling everyone “I’m still me.  I still think just like I did yesterday (last/year/etc).”  My body slowed but my brain did not.  Sure, I have trouble remembering unlike before and I sometimes struggle to find my words correctly but that does NOT make me crazy nor does it make me stupid.  Please don’t talk to me like I am either.  It makes me not want to tell anyone I’ve had a stroke–ever–like it’s something to be ashamed of.  My thought is, if I can stick around and keep fighting, why can’t you stick around with me?  As I look back on it all, shouldn’t it be something that I’m proud to have survived, not ashamed to admit to have “had”–like some kind of mark?

Identfying

I remember as far back as high school when we were fortunate enough to go to a university symposium of journalism.  One of the sessions I eagerly attended was writing about people with disabilities.  Even then, it struck me just how small the group of attendees was; however, we were an eager bunch, ready to learn all we could, soaking up every word.

I honestly do not remember a lot about the session (it seems so long ago now, funny how the memory is) but there are two things I took from it that I will NEVER forget and have even become part of my own philosophy and way of life along the way:

1.  A person is not defined by his or her disability first.  She is a person first, THEN disabled.  For instance, I am C.J., the writer, who happens to be in a wheelchair.  I am NOT “the wheelchair bound writer C.J.”  You would not believe how many people make this mistake (yes, it IS a mistake) to this day, even reputable writers, which brings me to my next point…

2.  People are NOT EVER “wheelchair bound.”  A wheelchair is a person’s freedom, a way to get around if you will–quite the opposite of binding.  This thought-process, in turn, developed into my own theory that since my wheels are often like my legs and feet, does that mean everyone else is foot bound? 

Hmmm…