One of my favorite movies of all time is the Robin Williams movie Toys, if you have never seen it I believe it’s on Netflix and right now, or any time leading up to New Years is a great time to watch it. One of the songs from the movie,”At the Closing of the Year”, has a line in it, If I cannot bring you comfort then at least I bring you hope. That is going to be my goal for at least the next four years. I’ve said many times that the idea a Trump White House scares me, it’s more than an idea now, it’s reality. Now is not the time for quiet acceptance of Trump’s America. Fear tactics and hate speech and bigotry have no place in my America. We, the marginalized citizens of America have been conditioned not to make waves, to stay safely quiet and let white, mostly male, able, straight people speak for us, we’ve seen how well that turned out. Trump wants us swept farther under the rug at best and gone at worst. Speaking up and out is scary when you think you are alone, so to close this year and begin a new one I’m offering an open hand. Anybody this reaches is welcome to contact me, I will be a listening ear a steadfast shoulder. If you want to tell your story but are afraid of reprisals, I offer you the platform of this blog and the cloak of anonymity. Tell me your story, I’ll be your voice, do a guest post. Or I can just listen. It doesn’t have to be a story similar to mine. Anyone who needs a protected space is welcome.
This year has been a roller coaster ride. I’m frightened of what a Donald Trump presidency means. I am scared for myself but I’m more frightened because I already see how it is affecting people I love and strangers I don’t even know in toxic ways. I have a greater appreciation for my family because although we may fight and argue amongst ourselves sometimes I know without a doubt that they love me and will support me even if they don’t agree with every single decision I make. This year has made it plain that not everyone is lucky enough to have parents like that. Since the election, there had been many instances of violence against the LGBT community in which the aggressor uses the fact that Donald Trump has been elected as an excuse that somehow legitimizes their action. Worse yet is the fact that it is not just strangers spouting this insanity, sometimes it comes from a person’s own family, I have something to say to those people.
A child is a gift no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation. I can tell you from experience that no one wants to grow up being labeled differently. If half the things uninformed people think of as “choices” actually were, we wouldn’t be on the path we are on. Systemic marginalization and violence is not something anybody looks forward to in life. These are your children. No matter who they love, or how they change their bodies so that they can feel like their best self, or what pronouns they choose to refer themselves with, I believe that when they were born you entered into a contract with the universe and with that particular soul to nurture it and to help grow to the best of your ability. Any parent who walks away from that should be ashamed.This time of year peace on earth gets mentioned a lot, it’s a big concept that begins and ends with the individual, bullying has no place in it.
When Gideon was seven months old or so he saw his first full-size horse. He had already met my miniature guy but there is a world of difference between him and a saddle horse who is at least 15 hands tall. Even though the bigger horse was not doing anything even remotely threatening, he was only looking over the pasture fence, for a moment Gideon was totally freaked out. He moved to hide behind my chair and then stopped as though he realized that he would be leaving me to face the big scary monster by myself if he hid. He planted himself squarely between me and the horse and barked, in that single moment he grew up.
Donald Trump as President of the United States scares me for more reasons than I can adequately articulate. The people he’s putting in his cabinet have little or no concept of what it is to struggle for basic human dignity. Even more frightening, I read some of the things that they have said in an interview and I realize that they have absolutely no empathy. Trump is considering dismantling the federal Department of Education, leaving the governance of schools entirely up to the state. In theory, this does not sound so bad until you realize that Texas is considering a bill which would put a cap on the number of special needs students who could receive services through the school system. in case you don’t have a special needs student in your life let me explain what this means. Right now there is a federal law that says special needs children must be educated in an environment as close to that of their nondisabled peers as possible, to this end, public schools must provide services and accommodations which allow the student to fulfill their academic potential as much as possible. To use examples from my own experience, I saw a speech pathologist several times a week during elementary school to help correct and mild impairment. The school paid for this because it would help me communicate more effectively with my teachers and classmates. I also saw an occupational therapist, they gave me modified utensils so that I could eat my lunch with a minimum of assistance from an adult. The same occupational therapist tried to teach me cursive handwriting when my classmates learning it, with adapted pencils and special paper and when that didn’t work it was the occupational therapist who insisted that I have a computer to write the answers to my spelling tests, so the dictating to my aide would not interfere with my classmates taking the test. In high school that computer became a portable battery powered word processor called an Alphasmart, a tool that I enjoyed using so much that I recently looked up the company and bought one for myself as an adult.
The bill the Texas legislature is trying to pass would mean that once they reach a specific quota of students the school system would then deny services to any other special needs child because quota had already been filled. Pres. Donald Trump scares me and there is still a huge part of me who wants to run as fast as I can to Canada, stick my fingers in my ears and hum,”not my problem anymore.” The criteria for moving to Canada is not something that is accomplished overnight and my boyfriend has a good reason to want to stay.Besides that, Trump and people like him are always going to be my problem. I am a special needs adult, I bear a responsibility to the children and young people growing up with the same label to make sure they have the same opportunities that I was fortunate enough to have and to make the system better where I can.
So much like my Golden, I will stand in the breach and face the thing that scares me most, because behind me there are those who cannot defend themselves, even some who cannot comprehend that the danger is there at all. I will hold the line, today, tomorrow, for as long as necessary, because I became an adult when I wasn’t looking and now it is my turn. To President-elect Tromp, “not my children, not today, not ever.”
Service dogs in public are working!I can’t say it any plainer. I don’t care if you can’t tell or not, if they are in a public space they are working, end of story. Most service dogs wear vests that say things like “working dog do not pet,”but American federal law does not require a dog to wear a vest or the owner to carry anything identifying the dog as a service animal, basically we use the vests to label our dogs service animals to save ourselves the headache of having a major argument about the dog’s presence every single time we leave the house. If you see a dog in a public space where dogs usually aren’t, vest or not, they are probably working. If you are interested in the dog’s presence, by all means. talk to the person on the other end of the leash. You may want to pet the dog, ask first, and realize that the handler is under no obligation whatsoever to allow it. Why? Service dogs in public are working. Even if all they are doing at that exact moment is sitting next to their handler or laying under a table. You do not know what this animal is trying to do and therefore even brief casual petting by a stranger can distract the dog and possibly put the human at risk. A good rule of thumb is to totally ignore the dog’s presence as much as possible It’s hard. I’ve had to find something,anything, for my hands to do so I wasn’t tempted to sneak pet another handler’s dog after they sad no, respect the no anyway. A service dog is an extension of the handler’s personal space . You don’t like strangers crowding your personal space, do you?Imagine you are at work and people are constantly calling your name, snapping their fingers, whistling, etc, trying to distract you from work. Chances are your employer is not going to be happy.However. if a service dog handler declines a request to pet our partner this is the response we often get”it’s just a dog,why can’t I pet him/her , often followed by an attempt to “sneak pet” them after I said no. It’s not just a dog. One of Gideon’s task is helping me cross streets safely(no I’m not blind but I have gotten hit while crossing the street in my wheelchair(before I got him) so now I have him check for cars even when I should have the right of way as a pedestrian. If some were to sneak pet him at the wrong moment while crossing a road that could be very bad. My personal policy about letting a stranger pet my dog while out in public is this, assuming you asked first, 80% of the time my answer will likely be yes, if I said no when you asked and you try to sneak pet either of them(my Aussie pup is going to start public outings soon) I will make as noisy as scene as possible , expect the same reaction if you don’t ask at all. You have been warned.
Author’s note: I will say again, I sometimes let others pet my dogs while they are in working gear.That is my personal choice,do not assume any other handler will do the same.
This blog was never meant to be about national current events or political commentary it was never meant to have a specific focus or niche even though I have never made any secret of my disability or anything else. Then the 2016 election happened. Bernie Sanders happened. The North Dakota pipeline and the protest at the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation are still happening. President-elect Donald Trump is actually happening unless the electoral college refuses to back the popular vote, something which they haven’t done in years. In spite of being good at public speaking, I never wanted to be the person behind the podium or on the stump saying, “hey, listen to me!”The thing about drawing attention to yourself is that if you make enough noise people actually look. They pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth, every single one and suddenly every little misstep you make, no matter how little, is noticed. The margin for allowable human error becomes seemingly minuscule. 2000 military veterans showed up at Standing Rock Reservation to be a human shield for the pipeline protesters.. Pick on someone your own size big oil. I have never sought to be a revolutionary, a rabble rouser. Time doesn’t fix what is broken, intent, courage, and actions fix things. If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, do not come into my community seeking to squelch it with hate and greed and expect me to say nothing because the world is my community, humanity is my business and you have just made a very big mistake.’
Yes, I am a Harry Potter fan. Yes, I am a Bernie supporter. No,I do not think Donald Trump should be allowed to be the POTUS and oil companies should stay the hell off tribal lands. I apologize for nothing.
Living with a disability is no one’s idea of a cakewalk, least of all the disabled person. People who meet me on the street probably characterize me as happy and well-adjusted in spite of my difficulties. They see that because it is the face I work hard at projecting. They don’t see the antidepressants I’m prescribed, they don’t know that because I can’t drive it took me more than two weeks of bartering, planning ,and rescheduling to take this trip at all, even though it’s just to Walmart or the local mall, they didn’t see the frustration of having plans moved back for the third time in as many weeks. All they have seen, all they will ever see, is a polite, engaging woman in a wheelchair accompanied by a golden retriever and Australian Shepherd, willing to answer the same half-dozen questions she was just asked not five minutes ago by the people ahead of her and the check out line.
Sometimes keeping that up is the hardest thing I do in a day. So why do it? For me at least, the answer is simple. I keep the façade up because most people can’t handle the truth, it would either frighten or depress them or both I am not some celestial being without fault come down to cast some angelic light on those around me. Both my parents were military and my mother once lived in a Navy town, both things are quite evident in the level of creativity with which I can swear.
I have no memory of the universe ever asking how I felt about my life being seen by others as an object lesson. I accepted a long time ago that even though I don’t remember getting a vote, that was indeed how a lot of the outside world would be my life. As a kid who spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals, I went out of my way to make friends with nurses, doctors, and orderlies.I pride myself on the fact that I have never let the amount of pain I’m in dictate how I interact with hospital staff. I am no better or worse than the next person who makes for a difficult patient but I have the ability to remember that these people in the hospital did not willfully cause me pain for the purpose of watching me suffer, they are truly only trying to help. Not every person they take care during the day can see past their immediate pain and so I hope I have made their day a tiny bit easier.
Many people’s knee-jerk reaction to hearing the word disability is sadness.Statistically speaking, most people will have to deal with varying degrees of disability simply because everyone gets older. Recently my sister has started referring to disability as a lifestyle and initially I didn’t agree with it because I tend to use the word lifestyle to refer to things over which a person has a level of control and I have about as much control over being disabled as I do about the fact that I was born with brown eyes. I do have some level of control over how people perceive my disability though so perhaps lifestyle fits better than I initially thought. I do not want people to equate disability with sadness and I realize that for many people I know I may be their only reference to what cerebral palsy looks like. In fact, in my tiny town, I would not be surprised if I was the only reference to disability in general.I am naturally an introvert but will smile and talk to a complete stranger about my disability for as long as they care to have the conversation. I may have answered the exact same question 15 minutes ago but I will do it all over again. To a nondisabled person, disability is often scary and daunting, alien. If I can humanize it by answering the same questions 1000 times in a week or in a month maybe when the person in the wheelchair moved in next door they will ring the bell with a casserole in hand. If a person they work with is Deaf or hard of hearing they now make a conscious effort to speak more clearly and slowly so that person can read lips easier, maybe they even took sign language classes. If even one of those things happens to one person because of conversations I’ve had in the mall or in the grocery store then it’s all worth it I am not here to be an inspiration, what I here to do is in some small way, leave the world in better condition than when I found it
My golden retriever turns six in April. He is still extremely willing to go to work but a knee injury that he got when we lived in Colorado making it difficult for him to go up and down stairs at times. So we have decided that it is time to start training another dog so that he can retire in a few years.He is still going to go everywhere with me but so is the puppy one she is housebroken. Medical school has a saying “see one, do one, teach one,” and that’s the theory I’m using. She is not a golden retriever, I considered another one but I didn’t want to fall into the trap of expecting her to behave exactly like Gideon, that’s not fair to either of them. She will be my first Australian Shepherd. I know they are high-energy but I believe I’m up to the challenge. At this point, I would like to address something that frustrates me immensely. Service/assistance dogs are often separated into two categories owner trained and program trained. Gideon and Nekoda, (named for the main female character in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick book series), fall into the owner trained category. Many owner trainers do so because waiting lists for program trained dogs can be several years long and many require that the service animal is the only dog in the house. Some people are willing to make that choice and rehome a pet dog to comply with the program stipulations, I am in no way trash talking the person who chooses to do so, or the program for having those rules. The fact is that most people do not expect the same level of behavior from their pet dogs as is required in a service animal.
Training my service animal has been my personal crucible.I’m not the same person I was five years ago. I am no one’s doormat or rug. Training my dogs has given more self-confidence than almost any other experience in my adult life. After the recent election, I need every bit of that confidence. In the face of a very real and very worrisome Trump presidency, we as service animal handlers need to shelve our bias and preconceived notions of each other. Someone once told me that our first and best advocates are always ourselves. We can’t be the advocates we will need to be for the next four years if we are fighting among ourselves.