Thursday, December 27

post christmas

Even though it seems I've done nothing this week, it appears I've run out of time to write a proper post. So here is a taste of what I've been doing instead...


Here in the southwest, we light candles and stick them in sand-weighted paper bags. Don't ask.


But they do look kinda pretty. And I think they are the best Christmas tradition ever.


Earlier that day, Keeper and I took a hike by the river to collect the aforementioned sand. I filled my backpack, while Keeper kept a lookout for park rangers.


Major props to Little Gen, who hand folded one hundred paper lunch sacks for the cause. Again, Keeper was busy keeping a lookout for...pretty much anything.


Then this happened.


At some point in time, I ate these delicious pancakes.


And Keeper took a nap.


Hope you did as little as I did this year. See you in the next...

OneArmGirl

Thursday, December 20

on keys

Last week Andrew emailed from Israel to ask how I type with one hand. He is working on a magazine article about one-handed typing and had come across my humble blog through another site (there's a handful of us out there...ha ha ha...no?)

So I took a short trip down memory lane to ponder my own journey in keyboard communication. I don't think I've actually talked about it at all on this blog, which I find rather ironic. So here goes...

I first learned to key in Ms. Blea's high school typing class. Or rather, I taught myself to type in her class full of two-handed students. I had my own book and my own exercises, which I think my mom had actually provided.

I learned on the QWERTY keyboard layout like everyone else, I just had to cover twice the keys with only five fingers. And somehow, even though it was completely self study, I got a B in the class, leaving a permanent smudge on my otherwise straight A transcript.

But I knew how to type. Maybe not fast or without frequently looking at the keys, but I knew how to type. I still consider this one of the most helpful skills I have learned in my life up to now.

But then, because I am blessed with parents who rarely just accept the status quo, I was introduced to the Dvorak keyboard layout. This layout was specifically designed to be more ergonomically effective. In layman's terms, the keys are organized on the keyboard in a way that compliments the way your hand and fingers move most easily--vertically, for a keyboard. The Dvorak keyboard is actually more efficient for two-handed typists as well, but most of the world is accustomed to QWERTY.

I re-taught myself to type on the Dvorak keyboard the summer before I went to college. The increased speed and ease of typing was remarkable. I never looked back.

But typing faster isn't the only perk of using a different layout than most of the world. When I got a job at the local newspaper, I shared a computer, and frequently forgot to change the layout settings for the next user. This kind of oversight often led to unintentional Twilight Zone episodes of confusion and panic. I felt bad at first, but with a lifetime of think-outside-the-box training, I decided to use it to my advantage...

"What do you mean something's wrong with your keyboard? I was just using it a second ago."

...It's like knowing a secret language. Do I feel superior? Of course. That's what happens when you give a straight A student a B in keyboarding. Let it be a lesson to stubborn typing teachers everywhere.

[This post was made possible by the support of the Dvorak keyboard.]

OneArmGirl 

Thursday, December 13

grinches: do not read

Little Gen and I were brave enough to venture out a mere thirteen days before Christmas to do some shopping. I was just thinking how I hadn't run into one grumpy shopper, when a car came up fast behind me, swerved around, and a kid in the backseat leaned out and yelled what sounded like, "Toronto sucks!"

This was puzzling. I thought about it for a while, but it never made sense.

We arrived home just before sunset to a very happy dog, who proceeded with her usual greeting of romping around with her squeaky elephant, making a sound that sounds like something between a sneeze and a snort. She was actually too excited to pee.

------------------

I lit my Chanukah candles.

It's cold here. I feel it's important to let you know because up to now it's been unseasonably warm, and I started to get used to that. But I'm glad it got cold before Christmas. It's enough that I have an Australian dog.

Our Christmas tumbleweed is lit and hung in the window. It was supposed to be a tumbleweed tree, but wasn't vertically cooperative. So now we have a kind of Christmas orb hanging in our window. Better than a lamp-shaded leg with black fishnets, I guess.

A tumbleweed, for those unaware, grows into a sort of ball shape which, when dead and dried, tends to detach itself and go traveling across highways and byways with the wind.

Since entering adulthood, I generally balk at the Christmas season with all its hustle and bustle. But eventually I get in the spirit. I buy some fun wrapping paper with rain deer and penguins. I happen to hear Carol of the Bells and get chills. And before I know it, I'm really enjoying myself.

Riding lessons are done and aerial arts class is over, so what's a girl to do, but enjoy the holidays, cuddle with her doggy at night, and dream of one day visiting Toronto to find out if it sucks.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, December 6

the way we are

Keeper and I went out to the local coffee spot on an unusually warm November morning. I am teaching her to wait for me outside various establishments around town. Sadistically, I may be doing this just to see her excitement when I magically reappear. Everyone needs to be missed.

I was preparing to read the latest selection from my Temple Grandin library, the chapter on horses specifically, when Abel wheeled up to the table in his electric chair. I did not know his name was Abel at that time. Keeper was very interested in his chair, which moves very slowly across the irregular metropolitan sidewalk terrain.

He stopped when Keeper came close for a sniff. She has that effect on people. Then she bites at them, which usually elicits the opposite effect, coupled with some cursing.

I soon learned that Abel was the middle, and only boy, in a family of five kids. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was six months old. But more currently, he was disgruntled because just after he'd gotten dressed in his uniform, his work called to say they didn't need him that day.

I tried to imagine how hard it would be to put on a uniform in a chair with limited use of your hands and almost no use of your lower body. I presumed his work didn't consider that. Thankfully he wasn't already on the city bus that he takes to get to his job.

He asked what I did for work. I said I was working on my therapeutic riding instructor certification (which is true, albeit casually).

"I bet you're a great instructor," he said, "I'd come and ride if you were the instructor."

"Thank you," I said, flattered, and unsure if that was a pickup line.

He asked me how I got into therapeutic riding. And because there is really not a simple answer to that [or perhaps it only seems complicated to me], I launched into my pilgrimage with disability. Don't worry, I kept it under five minutes.

After that, he said, "Can I ask, what is your disability?"

"Oh," I said. "I have this tiny little arm."

Then we discussed how we'd each been blessed with very loving and accepting families. He asked if my parents were shocked by my disability when I was born, and if I had children, would they also have a tiny arm? In case you're wondering, you'd have to ask them and there is no indication that Finneas is genetic.

"I'm glad I am the way I am," Abel said. This from a man who needs help to go to the bathroom.

"That's awesome," I said. "Me, too."

OneArmGirl

Thursday, November 29

studio exploits

Last spring I met a photographer through a mutual friend. At the time, he was doing a portrait series of people doing what they do, like aerial fabrics or dish washing. My friend thought it would be cool to get some vaulting shots with me.

Copyright 2012 Daniel Peebles
Honestly, I was a little hesitant to put myself out there--remember I'm the girl that found herself on an amputee porn site. Then I procrastinated setting something up until dust started collecting on his business card, which eventually made its way to my 'to do' pile, which has actually become a pile of things that never get done.

Until, a month ago I ran into the same photog waiting for a latté at Starbucks. It seemed like fate, so I emailed him that afternoon, and the following week, we met for coffee.

The series of people doing what they do was mostly done, he said. But he was interested in doing some studio portraits with me. He assured me that he had no intention of exploiting my disability, that he didn't need my arm to be the focal point of the photograph. He did want to capture some of my natural mannerisms, like my version of crossing arms, above.

Then we talked about nudity. Let me just say my first reaction was ABSOLUTELY NOT. I immediately had visions of some scandalous photo of me showing up as a sex tape on YouTube, never mind that it wasn't even a video and no sex was involved. Paris Hilton was a lesson to us all.

But when I got thinking about it, it occurred to me that I wasn't an heiress to a hotel fortune, and that that kind of exposure might be exactly what I wanted. Now before you imagine a centerfold in Maxim, hear me out...

Most of my life, I avoided exposure. Whether it was my tiny arm peaking out from a shirt sleeve, or a stray feeling that got loose from my generally cool composure, I went to great lengths to hide myself. I needed shirts with longer sleeves and nothing form-fitting that showed my deformed torso. And I excelled at most everything because I needed to appear stronger than I felt.

But that was then, and this is now. Now I'm learning to accept who I really am, and I'm starting to want to share the news. Revealing parts of me that I heretofore had cloaked with shame might be liberating and powerful, I thought.

Expose away, I told the photographer on the day of the shoot. Exploitation is my middle name. Disability is my badge. OK, so I wasn't that confident, and I was never completely naked either. But if I want to put a new face on disability, I have to be willing to let it be mine.

When I stopped over to see the results, he had already made a print. I'm looking over my left shoulder, my side turned toward the camera. There's a look of steady calm in my eye. At first I wasn't sure what my expression was, but it's either steady calm, or 'I'm about to pass out from low blood sugar.'

It wasn't as earth-shattering as I expected. Turns out I still have love handles and acne scars; there's definitely better-looking handicapped folks out there. I was surprisingly nonplused.

But if my photo ends up in a gallery, starting any conversation about disability and...well, anything, then it was worth it.

And yes, you will have to wait for the show.

OneArmGirl   

Thursday, November 22

thanks much

Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday. This is arguably because it falls in late Autumn, definitely my favorite season. But I think it's more than that. It's the cooler weather, the coming together of people we love, the eating together. There is no other holiday so celebrating the coming together of people without ulterior motive––there are no presents, no particular observances or pressure to feel anything but gratitude.

If the Indians and Pilgrims did feast together, I'm thinking it was probably a much smaller deal than we've made of it. Like maybe John Smith sent a carrier pigeon to Pocahontas with a note that said, "Hey, we just harvested that huge pumpkin. You up for some pie?" So I homeschooled American history--a kid gets bored, OK.

But I figure it was probably just a small gathering, kinda last minute, someone drank a little too much hard cider--that sort of thing. I doubt anyone thought it would take off like it did.

But I'm glad it did. I like having a reason to get with people that I love, cause otherwise I might forget to remember why I love them so much [not to be confused with why they irritate me so much--sometimes it's hard to tell the difference]. And not only that, but it reminds me of all the people I love who aren't there, and all the things in my life that remind me how much I am loved. There shouldn't have to be a reason to do that, but I'm glad there is.

In the last years that my grandpa lived at home, he "planted" watermelons in the fertile landscaping around his house. And every year, he'd harvest at least one unbelievably huge, juicy watermelon. It became an event, the cutting of the watermelon off the vine. I remember one year in particular, cousins, aunts, and uncles gathered around--we all sat on the patio, dark fruity flesh dripping from our hands. It wasn't any kind of big deal, but that's what made it so beautiful. We had nothing better to do with that evening, than share it; that watermelon, than pick and eat it. It was ripe and ready. It was momentary glee.

If nothing else, let Thanksgiving be a day to fill hearts with all the fullness that is life. For better or worse, we're here. That's the gift.

OneArmGirl 

Thursday, November 15

one-handing it

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Ask The OneArmGirl, where I pretend someone asked me a question and then I answer it.

Today's question is: Can you ride a bicycle? Why yes I can, thanks for asking.

But people really do ask questions like this––I suppose, because they have never ridden a bicycle, or put on their pants, or opened a banana, etc, with one hand. It's reasonable, I guess; but then, who hasn't seen a person riding with no hands before?


And no, I can't do a one-handed cartwheel, even though I am well aware that it's possible. Which brings up the point that just because a person doesn't do something, doesn't mean he or she can't.

It used to be that if I were challenged to do something, I almost always felt I had to do it, mostly to prove a point. These days, I enjoy a surprising number of things that I cannot do. Drive in the Indianapolis 500, for example.

I've been mindful of alternative modes of transportation this week because I am without my car. The old girl suffered some damage when an unwitting driver backed into her at a stoplight. The good news: she's getting a completely new paint job for a very reasonable price. The bad news: it's been a bit dicey getting to aerial arts class and senior water aerobics at the Y this week. Thankfully, Mountain Guy rode in on his white toyota to save the day. I know, life is so hard for me.

Actually I've been achey, feverish and sore for several days since my first aerial class on Monday. With great doubt, I pulled myself up onto the swinging trapeze bar, something I'm sure I hadn't attempted since I was twelve. Yesterday, I could hardly straighten my elbow.

I was about twelve when my training wheels came off, and I learned to ride a bike with my dad who took me to a section of recently paved, but not yet opened, highway by our house. And the old adage about never forgetting is true, one arm or two. I have a bike sitting in my kitchen to this day, which I would be using right now, if I were more motivated. I've never learned to ride hands-free, after all.

But motivation can be over-rated.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, November 8

oh yes we did

Yesterday, history was made. Mountain Guy and I submitted an audition video to the Amazing Race; a show in which contestants race around the globe, looking for clues and taking on various challenges, all in hopes of winning a million dollars.

What's that you say? Oh yes, and Barak Obama was re-elected to the presidency for a second term. But that doesn't change yesterday much from the day before.
 
I would like to go on record as saying it was not my idea to go on a reality TV show with my ex-boyfriend, and I still think it might be a terrible idea, but then again, why not? We make the rules here.

So, we spent the weekend taping interviews and attempting various silly tasks like walking a slack line, taking Keeper the dog out for coffee, and shaping ourselves into a human box in the park. Thankfully, neither of us are gainfully employed at present, unless by 'gainfully' you mean acquiring lots of ridiculous experience in general goofiness. Ah well, such is the life of an artist.

Then we spent a day editing the footage into a semi-presentable two and half minute sound byte of our relationship (or un-relationship as the case may be). Apparently we just can't let go. Some couples have a baby to save a relationship, others apply to be on TV––both cheaper, and probably less successful, than going to therapy I suppose.

Are we gonna be accepted? Who knows. Could there have been a better use of our time? I highly doubt it. I mean when do you have an excuse to do this over the age of thirty?

video

Actually, in my world, the excuses are endless.

OneArmGirl

Wednesday, October 31

an early treat

In the car yesterday, I asked my dragon boy if he wanted to pick up a pumpkin to carve when we got home.

"I'd rather do something else," he said, after a moment's pause.

Apparently childhood is over.

Carving pumpkins is something my sisters and I always did for Halloween, though we rarely had any trick-or-treating visitors to welcome with a glowing garden good.

Here we are in some homemade costumes. The year is probably about 1993; apparently also known as the Chinese Year of the Black and White Animals. I'm the panda on the right.



It's been some years since I actually had the motivation to carve a pumpkin, or get dressed up. But Mountain Guy's girls got me in the spirit this year...



Can you guess the end result? Don't mind the vampire in the mirror.

Here's another hint:




My friends keep suggesting I capitalize on my lack of arm for a costume. Zombie, perhaps? One year trick-or-treating as a child, a woman answered the door to exclaim, "Oh my, she's even missing an arm! What a great costume!

Maybe next year...

OneArmGirl

Thursday, October 25

an arm's worth

I'm not gonna lie, I get special treatment because I only have one arm.

Yesterday morning, I went into the County Clerk's office because my voter registration card had been sent back. The reason was soon discovered: their records showed that I was born in 1900. I noted to the office assistant that I must be doing exceptionally well, considering my grandfather was born in 1920. She was minimally amused.

When I re-registered a couple weeks back, I was told that I might not receive my voter registration card for several months because of the current election season. But when I went in to the office today, the lady behind the desk assured me that she would go ahead and enter me into the system right away. I would receive my card in a week or so.

Now, I have no way of proving this, but I suspect she took me for a poor frail appendage-less waif who had somehow managed to get from my house to the voter registration office all by myself. Then again, it could have been just the pinky orange colored sweater I was wearing [a color Little Gen says looks good on everyone]. But two people came into the same office needing to register while I was standing there, and both of them were told they would have to wait until after the election to get into the system [they could still vote, mind you].

Coincidence maybe, except this happens all the time. I find people generally go out of their way to be nice to me. Perfect strangers offer huge grins when they pass me at the supermarket. I've actually seen people look absentmindedly at me, look away, then look back and and smile as if I might be offended that they didn't acknowledge me.

And then there's the mom at the our local growers' market who tried to yank her little girl away from pointing at Finneas before I noticed. Unfortunately for her, I have eyes in the back of my head for that sort of thing. "It's OK," I reassured her. Then to the little girl, "Did you see my arm? It's just little."

Grownups aren't usually so obvious, but they notice. Instead of pointing, sometimes they decide to give me a hand up. Or is it a handout? I've always had a feeling I could do really well as a transient.

I was at Starbucks last week when a self-identified transient came up to me and asked if he could play me a song for a couple bucks. I'm not gonna say it wasn't awkward to be personally serenaded on the Starbucks patio when it's just you and your dog. It wasn't even really a song, more of a jam session, but I guess I have a heart for starving artists.

Then again, maybe he is so much more. Can I really complain if people take me at arm's value?

OneArmGirl

Thursday, October 18

dog days of fall

Once again, I've acquired a pooch. But this one might actually be a keeper. In fact, for the intents and purposes of this blog, I think I'll call her Keeper. She actually goes by another name, but we can't let the CIA find her.


And from whence does she come? I recently attended a friend's thirtieth birthday party. When I first knew this friend, he was barely twenty, now he's married with two kids. He'd also adopted a dog in the intervening years.

As soon as I met her, I liked her. "I like your dog," I said. "You want her?" they said. Apparently two children under the age of four doesn't leave much time for the dog.

Keeper is the offspring of a purebred Miniature Australian Shepherd and some mongrel with whom she rendezvoused. Needless to say, her breeders were not amused. Keeper, and all her brothers and sisters, ended up in the dog orphanage....uh, pound. But sometimes accidents end up being the best dogs.

So, yesterday began a trial stay. We took most of the day getting to know one another, walking, taking a nap, watching television...you know, all the things I want to do with a dog rather than on my own.

When she was a wee pup, she contracted parvovirus, which is generally lethal to puppies. But she's a survivor. I like that.

Like every survivor, however, she's not escaped unscathed. She's very shy and timid with people and dogs she doesn't know. Last night's foray to the park almost gave both of us an anxiety attack.

So we're working on trust. I have a dream that one day my dog will go everywhere with me, riding shot gun (preferably in a '40s Chevy truck), my wishes her command. I don't believe dogs should be possessions, but partners.


Of course, talk to me next week, and I may be muttering obscenities about the whole situation. I guess that's what trials are for; hopefully we can both overcome.

OneArmGirl


Please excuse today's post delay...

Thursday, October 11

two water-related topics

I am freshly dried and back from senior water aerobics. I hadn't been to class in....a while. I'd been absent so long, in fact, that I'd completely forgotten whether I used a boogie board or a foam noodle for the abs workout. Senior moment, as they say.

It felt good to be back in the water. I am determined to get on a fall fitness program that will reduce belly fat and make me into the lean mean fighting machine I've always been, and will continue to be, in my head.

At the beginning of class, a nice older lady asked me if I was their instructor. I told her I was not, assuring her that Angela was far better than I would be. Then I felt very out of place in a pool full of senior citizens [OK, maybe there were two other younger women] that probably had better stamina than I did. It's a great burden looking so young and healthy. What's a misfit toy to do?

And speaking of a misfit, I took this photo in the airport restroom as evidence that soap dispensers can be discriminatory:


The spout is so long [looks shorter in the photo] it is impossible to push on the base while catching the soap from the end with one hand. Yes, I even tried grabbing the whole spout end in an effort to push the entire contraption down from that end.

There is no question, this dispenser was designed for two hand operation. It wouldn't be such a big deal [there are many things designed for two hand use], except that it could have easily been designed in a way that is friendly to one-handed users. It's a classic case of considering a problem from only one standpoint.

I should mention, at this point, that I am available for engineering consultations. My fees are very reasonable.
 
It's hard to get me angry, but after a ten hour day of flying and airports, this almost put me over the edge. I'm talking pure faucet rage, people. But anger is a sign of life, of the refusal to accept mediocrity. Let it out, I say.

Have you anything to rage about this week?

OneArmGirl 

Thursday, October 4

passport

While on a brief stay at my parents' home last week, I did what every grown daughter is supposed to do when she goes to visit her parents. No, not throw out all my headless barbie dolls––they are still safely in a box in storage.

But I did go through my old things, remembering the good old days, and the not so good old days. I ended up looking through some family photo albums, which initiated my new favorite pastime––taking digital photos of old photos; or a little technique I like to call "lazy."

One of my finds was this, my very first passport photo:


And why would a two-year-old need a passport, you ask. Because I needed to go to Japan. What, that answer does not satisfy you?

There are a couple things to be noted about this picture. One, my coveralls were clearly too big for me, proven by the big bulge of fabric at my midsection. Two, my left sleeve has clearly been mauled by a badger, accurately exemplifying my style at the age of two.

This is my current passport photo:


I guess not much has changed, really. Although it's been a while since I wore a red jumpsuit. I'm not going to show you the passport photo in between these. It was taken in my early teenage years––'nuff said.

Speaking of passports, I am currently overjoyed to be home again, finished with traveling for the present. Every time I travel by air, I wonder how I got myself into that predicament again. From what I hear, it's like pregnancy––constraining, inescapable, people touching you in places normally considered off limits, bringing out the worst in you and inducing attacks of claustrophobia––yet you gladly sign up for another go as soon as the memory has faded. The similarities are uncanny.

Hope you are also enjoying an airport-security-free week.

OneArmGirl  

Thursday, September 27

back

Hello. Remember me? It's the self-titled, physiologically misleading as it may be, OneArmGirl.


I'm back from a self-inflicted hiatus from regularity, including any and all blogging––just in case you worried that I was cheating on you with another demographic––and you can probably tell that I am sorely out of shape.

Where did I go, you ask? Scaring small children and drinking lots of coffee, what else? I'm keeping the rest of the story to myself because I like to pretend my life is that important, and I must protect my private life from my own celebrity. Just go with it. After all, I might have just been hiding under my bed for the past two weeks.

I will tell you I've been reading Tina Fey's Bossypants, so if my writing seems extra snarky, that may be why. I was delighted to learn in one of the chapters, that Tina also found a crude comment about herself on a bodybuilding networking site (aka hub for men with big egos and little...). If you'll recall, yours truly found similar remarks (these guys aren't that creative) about herself on a similar site.

So, of course, I concluded that I too must be a famous comedic writer. There is a big part of me that wants very badly to do improv. Surely there is a troupe out there needing a one-armed girl with a solid sense of humor...you can contact my agent (ahem, me) at OneArmGirl@gmail.com. No bodybuilders, please.

Regarding the aforementioned internet rudeness, I'm happy to report that Tina took the high road and refrained from responding to the unsolicited remarks...until she dedicated a whole chapter to it in her book. Or is that she who laughs last...?

Well, here's to many many more,,,

OneArmGirl

Thursday, September 13

london, cheers, thanks

The time has come to bid farewell to London. I still believe it is the greatest city I've ever experienced, excepting the fifteen minutes I believed Denver was the greatest before it snowed two feet on my car.


But London is, as my Irish artist friend Janet says, "full on." From the impossibly varied salad choices at Marks and Spencer to the ethnic spectrum of faces on the street, the constant stimulation is exhausting. It would take more than a lifetime to know it intimately. And I prefer deeper relationships.

In my last college newsletter (or, prehistoric blog post) to friends and relatives, I said, with high aspiration, that the world was my oyster. Now, I just really miss my garden, washing my own dishes, and such.

So I think this country girl will take her leave. But I go with confidence in my growth since I last visited this city, ofttimes called the capitol of the world. As with the rest of life, it's certainly not as overwhelming as it once was. You don't feel compelled to know the whole world once you begin to really know yourself.

And now I'm going to do something I haven't really done since the inception of this blog. I'm going on a post-cation. I'm getting away from it all, as they say. Please try to remain calm, make no hasty decisions, and refrain from sending emails about how OAG has disappeared from your Facebook news feed.

I'll catch you up in a fortnight.

OneArmGirl

Wednesday, September 12

note to self

Just when I've started to adjust, I'm leaving. Isn't that always the way.

I've been thinking of the time I lived in London when I was nearly twenty-two. I was just a lowly film company intern then. Unlike now, with years of experience on me, and currently unemployed. But I'm actually quite liking the view from here, ten years later, at the ripe old age of thirty-two.


When I was interning, I went to work each day, walking and by tube, all the while wearing my prosthetic arm. It's unthinkable to travel by air with that thing now––can't afford the extra weight––but it was a regular part of my attire back then. Talk about baggage.

You can read about my great love for prosthetics in earlier posts.

This time around, I was fake-arm-free. I took to the streets of London uninhibited and unencumbered. People stared, of course, but in the intervening years, I've begun to wear handicap like a badge. I'm a member of an elite group of enlightened individuals who see inability as opportunity...to get priority seating on the bus, primarily.

And at the British Museum yesterday, a complete stranger chased after me just to tell me that I'm special....and because he wanted a picture with me. When I consented, he got some passing tourists to snap the photo. I felt ridiculous, but not nearly as much as when, after several takes, the conscientious tourist felt we needed another go 'round to be sure of a keeper.

It's a bizarre life I lead.

But taking photos with tourists is far better than hiding behind a facade, a body that isn't mine.
Now, at thirty-two, I inhabit my own body, and I'm happy with it. Well, within reason––haven't reached nirvana quite yet.

Do the Paralympics really change perception of disability? Some say it does disservice to the averagely handicapped, setting too high a standard for those of us who are not elite athletes.

To those I say, you've got too much time on your hands (or hand, as the case may be), if you're begrudging those among us with greater ambition or, dare I say, ability.

If all I take away from the Games, as I did the first time in Athens, is the ability to wear sleeveless shirts without fear, then I'm satisfied. Isn't it our own perception of self that matters most, in the end?

OneArmGirl

Monday, September 10

closing ceremony

It's the last day of the Paralympics, and it's the first day that I started to feel adjusted to this environment.


On our way to a service at St. Paul's Cathedral, Dad and I ran across the Paralympic Marathon. Dad was impressed by the public support shown to athletes with a disability.

"It's amazing," he said.


Then, over lunch, he said I should get onto the track and run. "They'd clap for you, they wouldn't care." I considered this, but decided I don't have the nerve.


I spent the afternoon at the British library, where I took the above (likely illegal) photo of an exhibit dedicated to London 2012. Athletics king, Oscar Pistorius running on blades is center, having competed in the Olympic games and Paralympic Games this year. But if you know anything about Paralympians, you know Pistorius.


Had a mossy lunch seated on gravestones outside St. Paul's. No offense to those encased.

OneArmGirl

Saturday, September 8

catching up

Stayed in this morning and nursed my exhausted body. But I'm actually having a lovely time watching the Games on telly from my bed.

Later, we met up with my dear friend and colleague, Andy Atkinson.


Andy and I met when we worked together at Athens 2004, and hit it off almost immediately. We caught up over lagers and fish and chips.

Andy gets around on two prosthetic legs, but that can become very painful, so he also uses a chair. And he pushes that chair down the street with one hand and one prosthetic arm with a ridge in it.

Over dinner he tells me Brits are prone to moaning about things, then how he can always find someone "worse off" than he is to be inspired by.

Then I took a spin in his chair. Literally, a spin. That's what happens when you've got only one hand pushing one wheel.




Friday, September 7

more from London

Late breaking news: I've developed a new handicap. Due to excessive amounts of walking, a blister is forming on my left little toe from rubbing on the toe next to it. The resulting limpy swagger makes me feel far more pathetic than I am. Surely I'm racking up the sympathy points now.

Now for some snapshots of the last couple of days...

Proof that I am indeed in London––the obligatory red phone booth shot:


And no, I'm not sure why my photos are so small here. I had to gag and tie my inner obsessive compulsive graphic designer, so you'll just have to deal with it, too.

Wheelchair fencing from our day trip to the Excell Complex:


At a sitting volleyball game between Brazil and Slovenia:





And today I spent the early afternoon watching wheelchair rugby on a television screen next to the Cutty Sark on the bank of the Thames in Greenwich...convenient because Dad wanted to visit the Maritime Museum, and I did not.


Now, while I soak my feet in bath salts (I wish), please visit paralympic.org for further reading (about Paralympic sport, obviously) and results (if you're into that sort of thing).

OneArmGirl

Wednesday, September 5

day 1

I've decided it's a very good thing that I came to London to see the Paralympics, because it turns out there is far superior television coverage here. BT Channel 4, well done.

So as I sit here in my hotel room, watching a soccer match between Great Britain and the U.S.––U.S. not doing so well––let's talk about my experience thus far...


Dad and I arrived in fair shape last night via plane, express train, and lastly, our legs. That was after we walked past the street our hotel was on, asked some German tourists for directions, arrived at our hotel only to find we'd been moved to another, and finally dragged ourselves into bed.

Our bumpy landing notwithstanding, we hit the town this morning with gusto to...the Museum of London, where I learned the Romans called this place Londinium. Is it me, or does that sound like something from the Periodic Table.

We were in the museum for all of half an hour before we were both too tired and hungry to go on. Luckily a Pret a Manger was around the corner. If you don't know, Pret a Manger is like school lunch for grownups, or brown bagging it when you've forgotten your brown bag. Though Dad reminded me more of a kid in a candy store. I've never seen anyone get so excited about a sandwich.

But speaking of sandwiches, riding second level on a double-decker bus, we passed a pub called the Earl of Sandwich. I laughed, thinking it was a joke. Dad informed me that there was actually an earl who made the original sandwich. I didn't know sticking meat between two pieces of bread had to be invented.

I've decided the best thing about being in London right now is that everywhere I go, people think I'm a Paralympic athlete. People seem to smile and stare with a more admiring curiosity. Or maybe I'm imagining it. Either way, it works. I'm actually starting to feel like a celebrity of sorts. After the kind museum docent smiled shyly at me, I almost believed I'd just finished competing in a world class sporting event. The eye of the beholder is no joke.

Now, what sport would I be competing in? Definitely not what I'm watching presently––sitting volleyball. Ah, if only vaulting were a Paralympic event.
Nevermind, it's probably one of the oldest sports in the world.

Right up there with cow-tipping, I'd wager.

Certainly older than the sandwich.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, August 30

the time has come, the time is now

The time has come, the hour is nigh...for me to start losing some of this belly fat. Oh, yes, and the first day of the Paralympics is today.

But while I wait for my departure on a jet plane, I've been feverishly frequenting all the posh used clothing stores within a ten mile radius of my home. And this is not because I love shopping. Far from it. I really detest it, actually.

But I also detest my current wardrobe, which appears to be about twenty seasons old. And it probably is, considering most of it came from pre-owned clothing stores to begin with. It's a vicious cycle.

I was deeply regretting my life choices yesterday when I found myself in the dressing room of one of the aforementioned stores with no less than ten dresses to try on.

Fitting rooms have always been torturous places for me, for reasons like my lack of left arm and twisted torso, making hopeless most attempts to find clothing that suited me.

Now these seem minor details compared to the tummy and love handles I'm having to hurdle. Walking out with two articles of clothing when you've just tried on fifteen leaves one with a grumpy sense of defeat; wondering if 'fitting room' is really the correct nomenclature. Not fitting rooms, more like. Ladies, I know you feel me. Men, if you're still here, just nod sympathetically.

Meanwhile, across the pond, athletes in much better shape than I, have assembled for top competition. I'm just hoping the ridiculously expensive shoes I recently acquired will hold up while I traipse around the city.

And traipsing there will be aplenty, especially if my father has anything to do with it. I spoke with him on the phone yesterday and he was full of ideas for filling up our rather fluid schedule while in London. I think he said something about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I was daydreaming about pubs.

But alas, pubs are now my enemy. Beer, my once good friend, has grown into a caloric monster right before the fitting room mirror.

I've only got two more days to get things ship shape around here, and I don't think that will include my belly, but much more doable things, like laundry. So I'll toast the Paralympians with a scoop of detergent. And London, I'll see you soon.

OneArmGirl
 

Thursday, August 23

another day, another horse

So, most of the tickets to Paralympic events are sold out. At least, it appears so according to the web site of the agency through which we Americans are supposed to order.

This strikes me as odd considering the last time I was at the Games, most of the seats were empty. And I suppose that is why I waited so long to make reservations. Leave it to me to procrastinate on the one thing most crucial to visiting the Paralympics, access to the actual Games.

Not all is lost, however. I have ordered two day passes, which afford access to several different sporting events. Unfortunately, none of these are events that I particularly wanted to see. But who knows, I may really love boccia, whatever that is.

Oddly, this oversight is due, in part, to my sudden preoccupation with getting into better physical shape. I'm not sure if it's sympathy training for the actual athletes preparing for competition or if I'm just nesting for the big event, but I've taken to stretching a lot more, taking daily walks, and last night I did some vaulting.

I haven't been on a vaulting horse in several months at least. I decided to visit an adult class with a different club. Why not change everything in my life at once, eh?

But it felt good to be back. The coach, who is about my age, seems excited to take on my unusual physical situation as a challenge. She led me through some much needed back to basics, like not relying on my one arm for strength and balance. 

If you promise not to laugh, I'll give you a little peek into the highly scientific approach she suggested for getting into the 'box' position, or up on all fours on the back of the horse....

video

OK, you can laugh if you must. Note, I did not show you the clip of me trying this on the actual horse. That was not going well at all until she reminded me to stop relying on my right arm. Then Poof!, I was up before I knew what was going on.

Leave it to me to make something harder than it has to be. Like with most things, I had learned to rely on my right arm so much, I didn't even know that's what I was doing anymore. I was stuck in a brain rut.

I had to mentally let go of my right arm, reconnect with my core, balance, and use the momentum of the horse. And just like that, I was up.

Sometimes I'm astonished at how inept I am at using my own body. What potential we have, and how little we use to get by. Makes me wonder how many other situations in my life I am strong-arming my way through, focusing only on the end result.

No amount of brute force is going to get me into the 2012 Paralympic Games. I'm hoping London will decide to be nice and open up some seats as the days get closer. Poor access to an event promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in world class sport is kinda bad PR if you ask me.

But I have to wonder what might happen if I just reconnect with my core, balance, and let the momentum take me...

OneArmGirl   

Thursday, August 16

back in the pony saddle

I would like to preface this post by saying this one-handed-ponytail thing has gotten a lot bigger than I ever anticipated.

Several weeks back, I received an email from a woman who is a certified hand therapist. That title, in and of itself, was certainly enough to peak my interest.

The hand therapist said she had created a one-handed-ponytail device and wondered if I wanted to try it out. Of course, I said yes, and several days later I found it in my mailbox.


It is an elastic hair tie with a wooden bead strung on, knotted at the end to keep the bead from slipping off. After several practice runs on the yarn "hair" that was thoughtfully sent along in the package, I decided to give it a go.


Step 1: With tie in hand, push wooden bead to knotted end and gather hair.


Step 2: Wrap hand around hair and pull hair through tie with thumb, holding tie in place with other fingers.


Step 3: Push wooden bead with two fingers while resisting with thumb at knotted end of the elastic, thus cinching the tail.


Step 4: Repeat pony pull-through...


Tadaa! ponytail.

Firstly, I would like to say that, yes, I do always style my hair out-of-doors; I find it invigorating.

Secondly, I would like to congratulate Sara, the hand therapist, on a very simple design. As you may imagine, this pony-tail-putter-upper can come in various colors and bead types, all easily packed up for on-the-go ponies.

However, I can achieve nearly the same effect with the rubbery hair ties that I bought at Target, and with slightly less effort. That is not to deny that I could practice my technique a bit more, but I think some things need to be addressed.

For example, gathering the hair (especially curly hair) with one hand is not easy to begin with, much less while trying to keep a hair tie from flying off your fingers.

I also found it quite difficult to pull all of my hair through (granted, I have a lot of it) without losing the position of the elastic.

And lastly, I was able to assemble a low pony, but it was difficult to move the pony higher without loosening the tail or creating bumps. My hair (though thick) is also very fine, so it slips easily.

If you've completely lost me at this point, not to worry. I am aware this sort of thing is well beyond the average layperson pony-putter-upper's ability to process. Believe me, I could hardly understand the directions that came with the device.

I've actually decided to submit this article to the International Limb Deficiency Cosmetology Journal. If only there were such a thing.

But kudos to Sara the Hand Therapist for her design. You can check out her web site and order your own pony kit here.

Happy trails...and tails.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, August 9

going

Some time ago, I began to form a plan to attend the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

In the mean time, as one never seems to plan, life happened. At the beginning of this summer, everything was tentative, London 2012 included. I didn't know if I would have a job come Fall, my romantic relationship was on the rocks, and I wish there was a third thing to complete this triad, but in life, that was enough to turn future travel plans into just one spinning plate.

Interviewing fans, Athens 2004
But the plates have come down. Fortunately, I am no longer employed, not romantically attached, and if I had a dog, I'm sure it would be dead. And what does one do when one's life is reduced to a pile of rubble? Travel, of course.

And so, I'm going. London 2012 or bust.

I spent a semester in London when I was in college, and I covered the 2004 Paralympics in Greece as a broadcast journalist, so attending the Paralympics in London seems fitting.

I also experienced two of my worst episodes of illness in London and as a result of working the Paralympics, so I feel attending the London Games will be a small triumph. Of course, if I get sick again, not so much.

But my odds are good. I will not be working this time, aside from promoting OneArmGirl, which tends to happen much more naturally than any other work I've done. Mostly, I will be a spectator. Or, one may say, a writer.

The first time I experienced the Paralympics, it changed my life. And exactly what are the Paralympics you may be wondering halfway through this post? Kudos if you've hung in there.

The Paralympics immediately follow the Olympic Games, thus "para" or alongside the Olympics, and showcase top athletes from around the world with physical disabilities.

The real question is how I ever ended up there, being neither an athlete to speak of nor very much into sports in general. But I'm certainly glad I did. Attending the Athens Games started a journey of self-actualization for me. I've learned that just as I have a 'non-traditional' body type, I am a non-traditional athlete [true, this is mostly because I am into horseback acrobatics and dancing on hanging fabrics].

But that is only the beginning. It could even be argued that this very blog is a result of my coming into contact with the Paralympics.

So, what is the plan? Ha, ha, good one. As has become my custom of late, I have none. What I know is that I have a plane ticket to London at the beginning of September. What happens once I arrive remains to be seen. But I will be sure to keep you abreast of any developments.

OneArmGirl