Rarely do I consider my wheelchair an object which gives me a certain level of privilege and I’m not referring the kinds of things a lot of able people see as privileges like being first to board a plane. I’m talking about the kind of privilege that people refer to when they address white privlage or socio-economic privlage. Believe it or not there is a certain privlage that comes with being visibly disabled. Surprised? Me too.
Tennessee holds its annual Renaissance Faire every weekend of May. This year was the first chance I had to go in years plus there was the added bonus of getting to go with a childhood friend who offered to drive us out there as a birthday present before she moved out of state.Dear Friend struggles with mental health issues and has a service dog to help her deal with them. Dear Friend is also not noticeably disabled other than her mental health. The employees and actors of the Tennessee Ren Faire were wonderfully kind to both of us as far as I saw. Many folks went out of their way to ask if Gideon had enough water which was a good thing because somehow extra water didn’t make it into the day pack. (Bad SD partner bad) It wasn’t until driving home and talking with Dear Friend that I realized she had spent a good portion of the time we weren’t together being hassled because other visitors to the Faire assumed that she didn’t need a service dog and that K* was just a pet she snuck past in spite of the clearly stated no pets policy.
DF and I have known each other since she and my sister started the eighth grade together. Her issues are just as real and ever present as mine are even though people who do not know her as well as my family does may not see them at all. To those people who would demand proof of a psychiatric disability from a complete stranger I have more than a few things to say. The first one is how dare you? You have no idea the kind of road a person has to travel to feel up to doing whatever “normal person” thing you happen to encounter them doing that day. My friend and I plan this particular trip for weeks in part because she has difficulty in crowds. She did it because it was something important to me. She probably knew that some ignorant fellow patron would gripe that she didn’t “look” disabled and it wasn’t fair that she got to bring her dog while a complete stranger was so inconvenienced because they had to leave their dog (who has probably never been in a crowd half as large and therefore would have very likely been freaking out anyway) at home. The second thing I have to say is that disability whether it be physical or cognitive or psychiatric has no particular look. In that way disabilities are similar to chess, there are an infinite number of chess games. For every disability with a label there are an infinite number of permutations for how that disability may manifest. I know of some people who are obviously disabled but whose doctors cannot find a label which includes all their idiosyncratic difficulties and therefore they’re given only the vaguest terms like “motor delay” or “dysfunction” or “brain injury”. I know other people who have multiple diagnoses to describe their difficulties each including at least two three syllable words.
The third thing I would like to say to people who demand proof of a stranger’s disability you be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. My personal disability is fairly straight forward I was born two months and 10 days premature at a hospital that isn’t much more than glorified Band-Aid station. They had no neonatal intensive care unit to speak of and so I had to be transported to Dallas which was two hours away. Whenever anyone asks I say it was oxygen deprivation which caused my brain damage but in truth nobody is quite certain whether it was oxygen deprivation or too much oxygen during the ambulance ride which caused the brain damage which resulted in my disability. The point I am trying to illustrate by telling you that story is that each persons disability and the back story for it are extremely personal things which some people are more comfortable sharing then others. I have been in public speaking situations about my disability several times in my life so for me personally sharing isn’t a problem. I can talk for several hours and you can ask pretty much any question you could possibly think of and so long as you were asking it from a place of genuine curiosity and an effort to understand and not some sense of voyeuristic entitlement that makes me think you believe I owe you the answer, I will answer with as much detail as I can muster, which in some cases maybe way more then you expected. Every person with a disability is an individual and it should not be assumed that they are comfortable with being an open book.
Author’s Note: Dear Friend is used in place of the person’s name. K is the first of her dogs name.
I am a name nerd. I’ve had a fascination with names since grade school. My mom is a name nerd too, it just might be genetic. I have only one sibling but you’d never guess that if the only thing you saw were the number of name books on our shelves. In all of my the time I lived with my folks I can count on both hands the number of times we gave an animal a pet or animal something you’d expect to hear. I remember one spring when all the new baby goats had the names of ice cream flavors.. One year I named a pair of boy/girl goat twins FDR and Elanor. I have had dogs named Travis, Portia( when we named her I was thinking of the Shakespeare character however almost anybody outside of my family who hears her name assumes we meant to name her for a car) Lola, Rosie(female terrier mix) Roosevelt (male lab mix) Honey, Spice, Buster Caylee and Nora. My current dog a Golden Retriever is named Gideon. Yes I know Gideon is a biblical name but in my case its a pop culture reference to Criminal Minds. It was a coin toss between Gideon and Reid
I’m also a fiction writer and so I use name books and websites to name characters. Nameberry.com has lists upon lists of names. You can search name by gender meaning, sound, popularity or any combination thereof. The site also has a forum for writers to brainstorm possible character names. It is definitely worth a look around., especially if your characters are anything like mine and makr you guess their names like Rumpelstiltskin.
Football may be a Thanksgiving tradition for a lot of people but it’s not mine. The National Dog Show comes on after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and that is where you will find This year I had to get a little creative since we no longer have traditional TV access. We don’t have cable and because of where we live the local channels are not much more than snow and static so it was an adventure. I’m glad to say that I got to see both the parade and the dog show. I freely admit to being an armchair judge and I think I’m getting pretty good at it. The thing to remember is that the dog is not being judged against the other dogs to the ring, but on how closely they resemble the American Kennel Club‘s breed standard.
I’m actually enough of a dog geek that I bought the AKC Dog Book which has all the standards and history of the recognized grades, well most of them, the edition I have is about two years out of date. The National Dog Show Best in Show was a Wirehaired Fox Terrier, personally I disagree with the judge. Before anybody says anything, yes I have a Golden Retriever, the Golden from the Sporting Group didn’t make it to the last ring and he shouldn’t have soul I’m not just saying that because “my dog” didn’t win.
As well as resembling the breed standard there should be an extra spark, it should be obvious that the dog itself wants to win. If you don’t believe me that a show dog knows when it has won I disagree. Several years ago a 13 inch beagle named Uno won Best in Show and when it was announced that he and his handler had won he started to howl and the audience actually joined in. For me The Wirehaired Fox Terrier did not have that spark even though she was pretty technically correct, but that’s just my opinion.
Thanksgiving food is still not finished yet but for me the best part of all of it has already happened. I have said it many times, but I really don’t know what I would do without Gideon.. He is bright, cheerful, and happy. I have yet to see anything phase him and he is never been anything other than polite and friendly to strangers. I truthfully think that my New Year’s resolution is going to be too strives to be more like my dog.
It’s the day after the US Presidential Election and whether you are celebrating the result, feel like you have a hangover because of it, or have a hangover from celebrating, we could all use some levity. I voted yesterday for the first time since Gideon (my Golden Retriever service dog) has been here and it was refreshing after the political tensions of the past year to see things from his view. I voted at our City Hall and there was a line of people outside the the room where the voting machines were set up. He walked in tail wagging, politely sniffed shoes and sat down to wait our turn. While I voted he power napped under the table. When we left he gracefully accepted compliments and perfunctory pats from volunteers and voters regardless of party affiliation with a tail wag or the occasional lick. I continue to hope that one day we can express differing opinions without the verbal brawling and bloodletting that often takes place. Maybe next time the candidates will take a leaf out of their pets books while on the trail and hopefully be better for it.
People who know me from Tennessee would probably agree that I had the makings of a night owl to start with. Living with a boyfriend who works 7 to 7 has made it official I think. The dog is fine…. housemates take him out as needed though as soon as I can get my power chair here I will. On the days the boyfriend works I’m up at 5 and don’t really sleep until he comes home the next morning. On his off days I keep more or less “normal” hours. I’m pretty sure Gideon is still assured I am still human
1. The Hodgepodge falls on the last day of February this year, a leap year. How will you spend that extra day? Tying up loose ends.
2. What has recently required a leap of faith on your part? In the past I avoided long distance relationships and recently I threw that out the window. Thus far it’s been one of the best blind jumps I’ve made.
3. We’re one week into the season of Lent…are you marking these 40 days in some way? Giving something up or adding something extra to normal life? How’s it going so far?
I’m not part of a religion that practices Lent but I like the concept. If you asked some of my family they will probably tell I should give up Dr. Pepper. In the better late then never I will walk Gideon at least once a day.
4. When was the last time you sat beside a fire? I think it’s been at least a year…far too long.
5. Surf and Turf is on the menu. Do you order as is or do you ask for just the surf (lobster), just the turf (steak), or a menu so you can select another option?
As is, as long as i wasn’t eating alone,steak if I was, lobster can be difficult and I don’t have the strength in my hands to crack the claws myself.
6. If you could have any television program back, not in reruns but in new episodes, what program would you choose? Dark Shadows, hands down. I wonder who would Barnabas Collins now?
7. They say an elephant never forgets. These days would you say your memory is more like an elephant or a gnat?I am the family phone book.
8. For those of you who follow me regularly I am taking a two week sabbatical, this means that my already sporadic posts will be even more so. Be back soon!
I took Gideon to the stable with me again today. I’m starting to think I should carry a disposable camera whenever I take him anywhere. I had several facetious dog napping threats made while we were there. Gideon actually licked Little Man’s nose. Little Man didn’t exactly know what to think. The first time I took him into a stable I wasn’t exactly sure how he would react, fortunately for me he acts like courses or just really big dogs.I still don’t know exactly how he will fit into the routine of things once I start traveling to horse shows, maybe I can teach him to help me tack up the horse, it would definitely be an interesting thing to try. It would give a whole new meaning to “the dog and pony show” that’s for sure.