Category Archives: Empowerment

US Filming ( Part 2)

US Filming (Part 2)

January 23, 2012

Today I got a little a down time which was needed. I had intended to do a training with Awareness and Action unfortunately I could get consent to have the filming with me advance and thought best not to go. I had given my consent to be apart of this and felt that I should not go places where I knew filming would not happen. Instead I kept my original day off and planned that we would do my formal interview that was needed anyways. I was happy to sleep in a bit and get rest as my knees where bothering me a bit. I ended up with the morning off as Momo was checking-in to things for filming for the evening. We all sat and had lunch and then there was setup for the interview. This took a fair amount of time and the location was chanced a few things before agreeing on the space. The most difficult thing about the interview was how they wanted me to sit. They were concerned about position and lighting I was concerned about comfort of my legs in particular which is something people do not always understand. The interview went well and then they filmed me reading which I thought was rather weird. Then I got the rest of the day to rest as they went to do the formal interview with Sandra and Master McCorry at Martial Arts.

That evening I had plans to hangout with my friend Zayda from work. We planned to meet up at the mall an go on the Jumpy Thing in the center of the mall. I had wanted to do this for sometime but had not got around to do it. It took us a little while to locate the man at the jumpy thing and then got setup. I was nervous at first as I had never done this before and I do not have a great like for heights. I held on tight at first and slowly got more comfortable with it. I did a bunch of bouncing and jumpy no big tricks. I did have a great deal of fun. There was a bit of screaming at first thou that ended quickly. After that we got a drink an headed home. We had planned to make some brownies but ended up doing hair and makeup which was really fun. I can not remember the last time I had done hair and makeup with a friend. We giggled and laughed a great deal that night. Then I got my picture taken. I was told to pose and stuff which had in a fit of giggles because it felt very weird.

January 24, 2012

Filming happen in the evening for me on this day. They had spent sometime filming the north shore because it was pretty warm that day. Also they were really not interested in filming any more meeting at work which was fine with me. I had a very important meeting at work that day and did not need the stress of the filming. At Tae Kwon Do that night there was to be an interview with one of the young students had been bullied at school. His mother was there as well and she was interviewed also. I did a small private with him going over forms, belt combinations and saw his new weapon he was learning. They leaned that he had some knowledge of chucks and wanted him to do the with me. This was uncomfortable on a few levels first I do chucks different then others and did not know if this would confuse him and second I realized he was just learning the chucks. Then there was the fact that he needed to get back to class. They had bee with him for sometime and it was important for him to rejoin class which he did. They then decided to interview his mom. This gave me a break.

I have to say at this point the filming was getting to me. It had been a week and everyday they were there with the camera. They wanted to know what we were doing next or they were trying to interview my friends and family while in the middle of things. Everyone seemed ok with it but I felt uncomfortable for them. I still had a week to go. It was at this point i remember why I had originally agreed to seven to ten days not to fourteen. Fourteen it was going to be and I just reminded myself that this would make a difference for other people.

The second class started an we broke up into groups. I was in the front part of the class with another teacher and we were working on forms with the students. This was a little nerve racking as do not usually lead a class and was getting the feeling that is what they wanted. I continued with want I usually do never the less. The next class was my usually class. They were very interested in me sparring and asked if we could do that tonight. I told them it was not up to me it was up to Sandra. As it turned out we were doing weapons and breaking that night which was fine with as I enjoy both of those things. They were excited to film both of these things. They also continued to randomly interview my friends in the middle of class which was a little uncomfortable. Class went well I did have a little trouble breaking the board with my hand but in the end I succeed. My hand hurt a bit and might have bruises in the morning but that was part of the process sometimes.

January 25, 2012

I have been told that I’m really going to Korea. This is exciting! I really wish they would confirm some details. Filming today is Tae Kwon Do again. They are interviewing another student and then I will have my regular Wednesday night class. The interview went really well. I learned that she had been bullied at school as well and did not know that before. She also told me that when I presented at her school last year it really made a difference for her to know that I was bullied when I was a child and that she was not alone. After the interview we joined the stretch and then there was class for her. We did kicking drills during class and I went around helped with kicked and tried to keep the students focused. My regular class was next. I learned just before that we would be sparring tonight which made me very happy. Then I learned that they wanted my friends to to wear a camera on their heads when sparring. I did not like this idea. I told Master McCorry hoping he would tell them no but he said I needed to tell them if I felt uncomfortable about the idea. I tried to convince him that it was a bad idea. That did not work. Finally I told him that I would not ask my friends to do that it made me feel uncomfortable. I understood it would get better shoots with the camera but people were here to do class not to do things differently because of me. So he had to film with the other camera. Class was great because we were sparring and moving around quickly there was no time for questions/interviews of me or my friends. I was free to focus on Tae Kwon Do and I really needed it. Work had been very stressful and I was not getting my usually stress relief at Tae Kwon Do because of the camera being there. After sparing there was some questions but I was too tired to care.

January 26, 2012

Today there were two things planned to be filmed today a presentation about HAWC at Endicott College and roller skating after work. I arrived a early for the presentation which is a norm for me. The filming guys were late and then I realized that I had given them the wrong address to the main entrance to the college. I started the presentation with a video and then went on to present. The filming arriving a few minutes into the video. The presentation went great I had candy and gifts to give out this made a good interaction between me and the group. I was throwing candy around the room without that much difficulty. After the presentation I had checked with the professor about and interview which he was agreeable to. Then all of a sudden he wants to film me driving on the campus. I understand the need to film the coming and going but he had ever asked this of me before when we planned the day. I needed to get back to work as I had many things to get done. He went without this filming as I went to work. I left feeling rushed that having the filming was keeping from doing my job properly, even thou it was not.

Everyone was getting sick at work which caused only a few to be able to go roller skating. I was fine with it but they kept asking me were are your friends it was annoying even if it was not meant that way. As it turned out my sister, nephew, dad, and two friends were able to come. When we arrived there were more issues because the rink was in use for lessons already. We were able to made it work for about a half hour which was good for me as I had not roller skated for a while. While waiting to figure things out we come to realize my old roller skating teacher was there doing lessons, small world. It was a lot of. It was a lot harder then I remember. I skated around with everyone and was having fun. Then Momo put this camera on my head which messed me all up. I was thinking and feeling that and within seconds I was on the ground. I also feel to the side that the micro phone was so it hurt more then it should with the little box on my hip. While there they interviewed friends and family all the while this not so bad because they all were there for filming so it did not feel weird. Until they tried to interview my old teacher. He was teaching lessons that did not feel ok to me. He was ok with the request and declined. His wife was there and did remember me and was interviewed for a few minutes. They wanted me apart of it as well I last only a few and left my legs were tired and I needed to sit down now!

After skating I decided to go to the grocery store to pick up a few things for my house party tomorrow. They seemed taken back by this expecting me to go tomorrow after work before the party. That seemed crazy to me because needed to be getting for the party at that point not going shopping. I ended up going shopping with Michelle because they really wanted to go with a friend. I guess it makes for better filming to have another with me. I think they thought I was going to prepare more for party. It was was a potluck this is how parties happen with us. I was a little stressed and grumpy with work so when asked about food I was quick that was not cooking. The shopping was fast. I am not sure if it was what he was looking for but did not really care.

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Human Documentary

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.

Dressing with a disability

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.

 

The markings of my body: Scars and Tattoos

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.

Easter Seals- Youth Leadership Conference

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)   

Interesting discussion

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.