Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hey look, I'm hosting a blog carnival!!!

Hey all, I am THRILLED to be hosting the January edition of the Disability Blog Carnival!!!!!!!!!! What is the DBC, you ask??? Oh, my dear, you have been deprived! The DBC is, quite frankly, a collection of posts on disability and a specific theme. The theme, and the host, changes from month to month, and I am humbled and honored to be hosting the first disability blog carnival of the new year. The theme I have chosen is LET YOUR FREAK FLAG FLY, taken from the title of a song in one of the Shrek movies, and one of my favorite songs of all time. Write about a time when you openly and proudly identified as a person with a disabilty, or, if you're a non-disabled ally, write about a time when you were proud to stand by us. could make it into a musing on the word "freak" itself, and related words. Do they help us? Hurt us? Is it wrong to call ourselves freaks, spazzes, and gimps? Or is it empowering? Or......something else!! I'm flexible - as long as you can justify it fitting the theme, I'm good. I'm aiming to get the blog carnival up on Martin Luther King day, to honor a great activist. That is January 17th, so try and get the posts to me by then. But I know as well as anybody how writer's block and other obligations can delay a post, so if you can't get the post to me by then, no biggie, I'll just add it to the lineup later. And if the muse is on your side this month, and you want to do more than one post, by all means, go for it! Post the link to your submissions as a comment to this post, or if there's some sort of problem with that, you can email me at Happy blogging!!!!!

"We spend our whole lives wishing,
we weren't so freaking strange.
They made us feel that way,
but it's they who need to change.

The way they think, that is.

It's time to stop the hiding.
It's time to stand up tall.
Sing hey world, I'm different,
and here I am splinters and all!

Let your freak flag wave
Let your freak flag fly
Never take it down, never take it down
Raise it way up high!
Let your freak flag fly!
Let it fly, fly, fly!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Long Nights and A Beautiful Sunrise

Once upon a time.....

Once upon a time, I was scared and lonely. A lot of changes were happening in my life. I was eight years old and just coming to terms with my own disability. I realized that I was always going to be this way. I didn't have any friends who really self-identified as a person with a disability and I felt very isolated. No one could understand what I was going through, especially not my able-bodied friends at school. I broke down and cried a lot, with what I now know was a lot of anxiety. I had no disabled role models, no one to look up to, no one to tell me that things were going to be okay, and that I didn't have to feel ashamed to be this way.

My mother realized that I needed a friend like me. So, with her guidance, I traipsed into the still-fairly-mystical world of the Internet and began posting on a messageboard for kids with CP. I stipulated that I was looking for someone with mild CP, because those issues were unique to me and really what I was struggling with at the time - looking so "normal" yet still being different. A few people posted back, but no one I really connected with. And then Fate dropped an amazing gift practically in my lap. A boy with mild CP named Nate replied to my post - he was looking for someone like him, too. We struck up a lengthy correspondence first on the messageboard; then we moved to email. Eventually, I found out that he lived in my state, barely an hour away from me. We had to meet.

The first time I met Nate, I remember us both being really shy. He brought along the science project he had done on CP, where he had various able-bodied people try and accomplish various tasks while "CP-ized" in some way: i.e: fine motor tasks with gloves on, saying the Pledge of Allegiance with their tongues behind their teeth to simulate speech impairment, etc. I thought it was really cool. For the first time, I had someone who knew what it was like to "walk funny" and have difficulty with the simplest tasks. It was that day that my sun began to rise, and my metaphorical "long night" began to end.

Over the years, Nate and I grew closer and closer. He became one of my best friends, and our families became friends as well. We had many adventures together, me, Nate, my sister, and his sister. Nate and I wrote a small "book" about what it's like having CP. We roasted marshmallows together in his backyard and taught each other our favorite computer game tricks. One summer, our two families shared a rustic cabin vacation. When I made my first website, Abilities4u, Nate made t-shirts for the site and helped out in any way he could. Up until I met a few others at age 12, Nate was my only CP friend, and that made him special.

When I was 15, I convinced Nate to come to camp with me, and it changed his life in the same way it changed mine. Although we both branched out and met others with CP along the way, we never stopped being each other's best friends. And when I was 17, a close friendship suddenly blossomed into something more. Nate and I have been dating for about a year and a half and I couldn't be happier. He is the love of my life, and I will never forget that he was there for me during one of the darkest periods of my life.

Along the way, a lot of opportunities came for me through the Internet and social networking. My first website expanded and grew into something more, eventually acquiring a domain name, and helping many disabled kids and their parents, who weren't sure what to do during their dark nights. I gave them advice from personal experience, because I knew all too well what it was like to know nothing. I moved from CPKids onto other boards, like the Ouch! messageboards. I networked with other like-minded crips through Facebook. Almost a year ago, I created my second website, Mosaic Webzine. To this day, the Internet and social networking is how I keep my finger on the pulse of the crip community.

The theme for the December Disability Blog Carnival is "long nights and what we need to get through them". Initially, I had no idea what to write. I thought about writing how my anxiety has caused me many long nights in the past few months, but I couldn't find the words. I posted my dilemma on Facebook and within minutes, Stacey Milburn, better known as cripchick in the disability blogging world, suggested an idea. So this post wouldn't have happened without social networking. I feel so blessed to be a part of a community that has the ability to stay in touch, no matter where we are. I've come a long way from the scared little girl of eight, but my life is so much fuller. None of this would've happened without Nate and CPKids, and I am reminded of that every day. Now I not only have a wonderful boyfriend with CP, but countless others around the world who have come into my life. My sun has truly risen now, and I have come out of those long nights. I hope it never sets.

Me and Nate at our senior prom last June!

Friday, December 3, 2010

International Day of Persons With Disabilities

Today is International Day of Persons With Disabilities. On this day, I encourage you all to be out and proud disabled persons, or if you are non-disabled, allies and friends of disabled persons. I know that on this day I am extremely proud to be disabled, however many hardships that may bring me, it also brings me a unique, beautiful perspective on the world and infinite opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Today we celebrate OUR history, OUR culture, and OUR accomplishments that are so often belittled and forgotten by the rest of society. Instead of remembering Rosa Parks in the front of the bus, we remember the first ADAPT action, where a bunch of feisty crips blocked the road with their chairs, demanding buses with lifts. We remember Ed Roberts, who fought for the right to go to college and have personal attendant services - and won. We mourn the loss of Laura Hershey, who contributed some of the most striking and beautiful poetry as well as a rip-roaring activist spirit to our movement.

Today we soak in OUR art and OUR talent. We dance, we sing, we create. We acknowledge that people with disabilities have contributed more than some may think to the arts and society as a whole. We are Shameless.

Today we recognize how very far we have come - and realize that we still have a long way to go. We applaud the strides that laws like the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act have made for us. But we are sobered by the fact that our civil rights - which should be set in stone - unfortunately are not, and even now our rights are threatened every day by inaccessible public places, crappy transportation, and separate and unequal treatment. On this day and every day, we continue to fight for those rights, and we will fight until we have the rights we deserve - both in principle AND in practice.

On this day, we celebrate all across the world. On this day, we are not pitied, ashamed, stereotyped or patronized. We are proud.