The last month has been a bit of a whirl wind. January 11, 2012 a call came into Bruce McCorry’s Martial Arts from S. Korea and they wanted to speak to me. Later that night I spoke with them and it turns out that there was a coming attractions to a documentary that myself and our school were figured in and people were really interested in my story. They wanted to produce a five part series documentary on my life featuring me here in the United States and then going to visit S.Korea. They were very eager and wanted an answer immediately however I thought it best to think it through and check with other people who would be affected by my choice as well e.i. Friends, family, and work.
The following day I started to speak to work, friends, family and called Andrew. Andrew worked with me on the prior documentary and was friendly and knowledgeable about the system. As soon as I called him he was quick to help I gave him the contact info to the people calling me and he said that he would check into things for me and would be in touch. Meanwhile friends and family were on board and excited for me. I was a bit hesitate as I wanted the full picture before I made a decision either way. Andrew became my agent immediately and had conversation on my behalf so I could truly understand what they wanted from me. In the end I agreed to the filming and they were set to arrive Tuesday night January 17, 2012. At this point I was aware that they wanted to film me doing everyday life with my friends, family, work and Tae Kwon Do. It was not as much detail as I would of like but it was enough for now. We were set to meet with the filming crew Wednesday morning January 18, 2012 to setup a schedule for the next 7-10 days.
At a very young age I was giving a tool that was the beginning of myself independence it was my hook my parents understood the importance of me becoming very independent and they decided they would take a broom and cut it down which ended up being about 21 inches and they took a metal hanger and they cut it down formed it into a hook and then put it into the end of the stick that is what became what I call my hook and later many of my doctors and therapists called my dressing stick it was not always easy to use my hook nor did I always want to use my hook. No one was able to truly teach me how to use my hook because their theories didn’t always work for my reality . Therefore I needed to figure it out on my own and that took time I struggled at first because I needed to figure out how to make this hook help me be able to pull up my pants. It didn’t always work when I slid into the lining of the pants I needed to roll it sometimes or not just use my hand when holding the hook with time I realized it was a combination of my hand and my chin and figuring out where just right was when trying to dress.
As much as my hook gave me independent . It also required me to rely on it and I didn’t always like that I remember when I was a kid deciding that I was going to figure out how to put my pajama pants on without my hook. I was on the floor in the back bedroom of my grandparents house and I decided that I can reach or maybe I could wiggle and somehow this would work. It did work it took a lot of effort and I think I gave myself a pulled muscle here and there but I succeeded in being able to pull up the pajamas pants by being very flexible and wiggling. That success made me feel so good because I realized that there were times that I could do something without my hook and that mattered a lot to me. As my preteen years came and I started really not liking my Hook and it came to the point that I stopped just hiding my hook when I have to go to the restroom at school to just deciding that I didn’t need to go to the bathroom until I got home. The thing that really made me ask my parents to do something different with my hook was sleepovers I was at the age where sleepovers were important. I used to go to the YWCA as the time and they were doing different sleepovers and now there was no way to not go to the bathroom anywhere but home and I decided that I needed a travel hook because this hook didn’t fit in my backpack at least that’s what I told my parents.
I remember the two trial hooks. The first one looks just like a ruler. It was flat and it folded up which I thought would be perfect. Unfortunately when I took it to the sleep over and tried to use it is extremely difficult and I needed to ask for some help which is really embarrassing I learned that was important to make sure that it works just right before leaving the house. The second hook was made of metal and had a spring in it. The idea was that you pushed down it to made it longer and pushed down on it to close it down. In theory it was great in practice not so good. When I went to use it I pushed down on it a bit hard and before I knew it the spring sprung out of the metal and I jumped under the bed. Back to the drawing board my dad went and the third one was prefect.
The hook I use today is a cylinder made of aluminum which is collapsible into three sizes 7, 14,or 21 inches. It fits in my purse very easily and is very light. Through the years I have grown to accept my hook as an extension of me. I’m no longer embarrassed by my hook nor do I try to hide it when I have to use the restroom in a public place. My hook has given me independence that would never have been possible without it. Now when someone sees my hook I’m open to questions and see it as an opportunity to educate another about disability.
Within the first year of my life I had small cross scars on my ankles I’ve been told that they were needed because of the cut down that was necessary. Cut down what that meant I still don’t know. What I do know is that was just the beginning of my scars. I have about ten scars on my legs and all of them are different shapes and sizes. They occurred to foster one common goal and that was for me to walk without the need for leg braces. As the years went by feelings about my scars would change. At times they were cool because I had better scars than all the boys. I was able to freak my older sister out by making her look at them when they were new. Then they were not so cool any more. I found myself hiding them from the world. My legs were bony, skinny, and scarred because of all of the surgeries. The interesting thing about my insecurities was that when I was made fun of it was usually about not having arms. Finally as I ended my teen years I shredded my insecurity of my legs and embraced the scars that gave me the strength to walk on my own. In my early twenties I was offered the chance to cover my scars through plastic surgery and I said no. These scars were a part of me and I was not hiding a piece of myself again.
About 2 and a half years ago I decided to make a mark on my body of my own choosing. I was about to get my first tattoo. Some people supported me, some did not and others did not understand why. The WHY was empowering. Throughout my childhood scars were left on my legs by others. Truly, I was never asked do you want the surgeries that will leave scars on your body but I never said no either. I wanted to walk and that was the only thought. This tattoo would be the first time that I requested a mark on my body of my own free will and had nothing to do with being able to walk for the first time in my life. It was my choice and that was powerful. This past weekend I received my second tattoo. It was still about my choice and it represented me taking back my body. The tattoo sits right next to one of the scars and now when you look at my leg you first see a mark that I choose and then the scar. interestingly, while getting the second tattoo the feel and the vibration of the needles reminded me of getting my casts removed as a child. That process was scary and sometimes painful. Now I have a new memory that was about choice that was not frightening or painful. It was EMPOWERING!
As a woman with a disability this chosen body transformation has been an amazing experience. Will I choose more tattoos in the future or will I again be scarred to continue my walking I do not know only time will tell.
An invitation to the Easters Seals Walkathon connected me to their Youth Leadership Conference. I had an audience of about 40 youth with physical disabilities and my topic for the day was Self Advocacy. Presenting to this group was amazing they had hope, energy, and inspiration. I was able to connect with them on many different levels. Most importantly I was able to show them through my life experiences that they could do anything that they put their minds.
Through an evaluation I asked the students what did you learn from this presentation?
“I learned to keep going regardless of what anyone says” (John 20)
“That it doesn’t matter what your disability is you can do anything you put your mind too” (Samantha 17)
“To stand up for your rights (against discrimination) no matter what” (Dominic 17)
“I will remember to fight and never let anyone walk over me” (Melissa 17)
I will remember how excited and inactive the youth were throughout the presentation. I could tell right away that I was making a difference in their lives. One student told me that they will most remember :my positive outlook, my never give up attitude and how it was contagious throughout the whole audience”. (Gabe 23)
While having dinner with the youth I was asked how do you deal with being stared at all the time? I began in explaining that it depends on if it is a child or adult and what I might perceive their age to be. Then there is factoring how that staring makes me feel in the moment. The young child maybe 7 and younger is usually just curious and is trying to understand what is different about you. I will often will smile, wave or say hello. That is usually enough to have the child to see you as a person and they move on. After the age of 7 the staring is usually is cruel and they are just making fun of you. The thing to remember is that they are the ones who have the issue not you. For some reason they feel that they have the right to put their issues on you and making fun of you is good. Well, it is good until you call them on it. I will walk up to people and tell to stop staring, tell them what they are doing is wrong, ask them if they would like to be stared at or just stare back. When you do these things it changes the power in the situation you gain your power and they become uncomfortable. When I was a kid I would fun with the kids when they laughed at me and they stopped pretty quick and I use to tell adults that I was sorry they had such a small brain.