Tuesday, August 28, 2018

10 Years of Ms. Independent

This month marks 10 years since my parents dropped me off at Elmhurst College. What a decade! It's a dream come true and I wouldn't change a second. Here are ten independent moments that may not have made the blog at the time. 

1. I love to walk a nature path in my town. The first time I tried getting there was successful. Going back, I decided to take a different way home. Instead of being on the main street, I was in the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods all look identical. I kept saying to myself, I'm not lost; I'm turned around. Looking back, I was so lost. It took me two hours to get home.

2. I remember my first roller coaster without my family. My friends got me in a bumper car and it was so fun!

3. I did a lot of occupational therapy for multiple reasons; we worked on being able to dress myself. Throughout the years, the fact that I can change shirts independently has been so cool. To all the kids and teens in therapy, keep pushing even though it's boring. 

4. Taking trips to Minnesota with an assistant; that is ultimate independence. 

5. Minnesota was nothing compared to going to DC with an assistant. Usually it's a family affair to get me on a plane, when it's just the two of us, I feel very independent. 

6. Phi Mu. That was completely a decision I made for myself and I succeeded! Phi Mu recently gave me a $2,000 scholarship. My parents were really grateful for my decision to join Phi Mu when they found out about the scholarship.

7. I got to vote in my dorm room with a caregiver for the first black president. I will say to readers who do have a disability, mailing in your ballots is so easy. It takes a little research but it's easier.

8. Over the years, I've started to go to doctor appointments by myself. I just went to my neurologist by myself and my mother had held on to my neurology appointments as long as she could and this past April, she gave me her blessing to go independently. He got a kick out of my independence. I also got to choose my general practitioner; it's been so great of my parents to have that trust in me.

9. Choosing Loyola! I did that under the radar and it was a great decision that enriched my life. 

10. This blog. It is more a blessing more than a moment of independence. It's been a way to have the world truly know me. I hope high schoolers who happen to have a disability get a glimpse of themselves when I tell my stories. 

It's been a decade of dreams coming true. I would like the next decade to include marriage and family. I don't know what that will look like, but I didn't know what college and my twenties would look like ten years ago. It's going to be fun finding out what the next decade brings! 

I'll never stop being Ms. Independent!

Thanks for a decade of support, 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Undercover Heroes

My wheelchair has the ability to go to standing. It's an amazing feature that I genuinely appreciate. When it does not work, I am stuck on relying on people to stand me up. That was the case for the past month.

The first trip to the wheelchair repair place took two and a half hours simply to find out we had to order a new part.

During the following days, I made sure the part I needed was going to be there by Friday.

I went to the repair place on Friday. It took five hours to install. I am just sitting in my wheelchair while the guys install the part. It was as boring as watching paint dry. After five hours, we were pretty sure it was good to go.

Over the weekend, I knew something was really wrong because it would change speeds while driving which was terrifying. None of it made sense. I was as frustrated as a bird without wings.

I went back in on Tuesday. I bring my laptop, my book, my Starbucks, and I make myself at home in the staff kitchen. At this point, I have the receptionist's personal cell number; anyone who has a problem with me in the kitchen can take it to ANYONE who knows I spent at least 10 hours here last week. The staff put me in a wheelchair that had a joystick on the right side and I did my thing. I mean there has to be some perks of using a wheelchair since I was six years old. 

The guys that actually do the repairs are wonderful! They are extremely respectful of the fact that this wheelchair is your life line. A lot of people relate my wheelchair to a car. It isn't. This is my legs. That metaphor should be outlawed. With Uber and Lyft, people who are able-bodied can still have a life and get places, I can't do that. Anyway, I wanted to highlight the fact that wheelchair repair guys are undercover heroes. 

After that, my seat belt in my car broke so that was a hassle. After that, the strap on my orthotic broke. It's been that type of month. 

I’m glad it’s over. However, I do thank God to live in a country where places such as National Seating and Mobility, Scheck & Siress, and Mobility Works exist and practice empathy. I just hope I don’t need to go to these places for a long time!

Look for the undercover heroes in your life!


Saturday, June 30, 2018

In the Name of Love

I'm getting emotional just writing this. June 16th, 2018 was indescribably beautiful! My dear friend, Margaret got married. I was honored to be a reader for the wedding ceremony. Here's how it went:

I went to the rehearsal dinner and realized that it was mostly family in the wedding. There were only two friends in the actual ceremony and I was one of them. That really made me feel like a treasure.

Margaret and I were roommates for two and a half years and I love this friend to the moon and back. My first words to Eddie were, "who", as in, who are you and why are you in my home? Margaret quickly followed behind Eddie and explained they were on a date.  After introductions, I looked at Margaret as if to say give me some heads up next time.

Eddie quickly had become a frequent visitor in our house. I liked Eddie's character very much and he would fix my wheelchair anytime he could which I appreciated. Eddie is a paramedic and Margaret works with foster kids so I knew their hearts were with people who were forgotten and lonely. They both simply have hearts made of gold. Needless to say, I was witnessing a love story. When they were going on a trip together, she and I know that she would come with a ring. Bless his heart, Eddie was as transparent as Saran Wrap. I squealed when I got the call!

On June 16th, I sat next to the musician who was my confirmation sponsor and frequently mentioned in the blog, Kevin. He never ceases to have my back in any situation. The rehearsal went well. However on the actual day, the videographer was going to completely be in my way when I went up to the altar. We both took on the issue and it was was quickly resolved.

Kevin started the ceremonial music and I was so nervous. Usually, public speaking is my bread and butter. I was nervous because when I am doing a motivational speech and something goes wrong, I use it as a teaching tool. I don't want to even be thinking about teaching tools at a wedding; neither does anybody else. I don't want my disability to steal the spotlight; that day the spotlight belonged to Margaret.

Thankfully, it went off magically. I ended up being six inches away from the bride and I was choking back sobs. You usually want to look at the audience while speaking but I couldn't take my eyes off her. We were looking as each other as I read from the Bible. It was a perfect moment.

Another moment I will never forget is I was about to take communion and she says to the priest, "break it". A whole host in my mouth is difficult for me. Margaret remembered that on her wedding day; that made my heart swell with pure joy.

The rest of the wedding was wonderful. I love celebrating love. Love is why we have the wonderful world we do. It can seem so dark but when we choose to love, the world lights up.

Readers, I love you with all my heart.

Do something in the name of love today,

Thursday, May 31, 2018

That's a Dad

Oh no! Why is it crooked? My DynaVox is always upright, mounted on my chair ready to use until the day is done. In the middle of the afternoon, it should be helping me order an iced tea at Starbucks or being my voice at the library. Nope! It was sideways on my mount. I didn't have an assistant around so I was left wondering what the heck was broken.

Finally, an assistant came and was able to show me what happened. One of the two smaller screws had broken. Some of the screw was inside the hole to make matters worse. I went to Home Depot and they were afraid to touch my communication device. If they drilled into it, it could screw (no punn intended) with the electronics. Who do I call? Dad.

Both of my parents have received the most interesting calls. Hannah's chair stopped working, the mount broke, the footrest just fell off, it's always an interesting call. I think the only time my siblings outdid me was when my little brother broke his nose at baseball practice. When Mom got a call from Coach Dillon that day, she knew it couldn't be good. It wasn't. Anyway, my parents have gotten a lot of interesting calls over 28 years of parenting. This call was no different. I drove home, Dad took the DynaVox into the garage, and Mom fed me dinner. Let me point out that they both were sporting Loyola sweatshirts. I was proud!

It took about two hours for Dad to fix the DynaVox. He is a miracle worker. I don't know how he manages to fix everything but he does. I'm grateful for my dad; he puts family first no matter what. He clearly treasures my mom. My parents are truly best friends; they always put their marriage first and it leads to good things. My dad will stop anything he's doing for family. That's a dad.  


Memorial Day 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Tiffany & Co., Meet Hannah

You all know how deep my love for Starbucks is. It's the real deal. 

My cup holder on my wheelchair is critical in expressing my love for coffee. Recently, there's been an issue. My cup holder keeps breaking my Tiffany's charm bracelet. I know. It's a real problem. 

My cup holder has about ten places for my bracelet to get stuck and break. With the charms ranging from hearts to guardian angels, the cup holder is practically a death trap for my bracelet. It took me a while to figure out why I was breaking my bracelet every few weeks. Meanwhile, Tiffany & Co. did a wonderful job. 

I was going to Tiffany's about once a month, so customer service got to know Hannah Thompson. At first, I would make small talk and then I started explaining how my bracelet broke and why. They felt bad because this jewelry should last much more than six weeks and I was sad that my beloved bracelet kept breaking. Over the months, I started to realize I was starting to explain what my disabilities are. The dystonia was causing the bracelet to break, and my heart would break a little every time it broke. They became increasingly empathetic, not sympathetic, to my situation. I will point out that they did not charge me for replacing the clasp. Until I realized what was breaking the clasp, we had no idea.

I have ordered cup holders that are soft, and I am hoping that they work for the Starbucks baristas. It's fascinating what happens when you open up to people and how kind people will be. I know, customer service would be kind to the woman in the wheelchair, but it has turned to an authentic kindness that goes beyond the job. 

I cannot wait to get my bracelet back. I got it from my entire neighborhood on my 16th birthday. It represents everything good in my life. What a precious thing to own.

I hope you enjoyed a lighthearted story. Due to finishing finals, I was ready to write a simple story about kindness.


P.S. If Tiffany & Co. ever wants to fund raise for dystonia, I'm your girl!

10 Years of Ms. Independent

This month marks 10 years since my parents dropped me off at Elmhurst College. What a decade! It's a dream come true and I wouldn'...