Tuesday, December 24

i'll be home...

Turns out, miles and miles on interstate highways are not all that conducive to writing. In fact, I now believe the genius of Jack Kerouac is not what he wrote, but that he made the time to write at all.

Otherwise, our cross country pilgrimage has gone rather well. We've visited various holy sites such as Stake N' Shake and a museum with Evel Knievel's X-rays. Spoiler alert, the man broke a lot of bones.

But the high point came with an unexpected detour in Carthage Missouri to a place unceremoniously called Red Oak II.

"Oh, you really should go if you have time," our rosy motel hostess said.

"What is it, exactly?" I asked, unconvinced.

She couldn't really say, only that it was some kind of model old town and that you just had to see it to understand. And I'm not sure why, but I decided to take the bait.

I'm so glad I did. Red Oak II is indeed a collection of 20s era buildings re-created into a small town of a bygone era. The man behind the imagination is Lowell Davis, a painter and general renaissance artist most famous for his farm life depictions. The little town is complete with church, jailhouse, and general store, but as a painter might dream it, in an array of vibrant colors.

Mr. Davis himself came out to greet us when Keeper the dog got the attention of the town pack. He then offered a tour of his personal dwelling and painting room, even humoring me for a photo on his porch which couldn't have been more story-like if I'd written it; the dog and cat posing like seasoned models for portraiture.

It was a beautifully warm day for December, and we were the only people in the town, aside from the few locals who make their home there. Scattered about the grounds, we found rusting automobiles and a small plane. It was quite the collection of junk, really, but arranged so thoughtfully, it left me feeling I'd stepped into a life-size doll town.

The visit to Red Oak II more than made up for other disappointments of off season closures and one very unfortunate gas station dog-poo-stepping incident. I don't want to talk about it.

It just goes to show, some of the best and worst things in life are those you stumble into...

It's good to be home. A very Merry Christmas to you and yours,


Saturday, December 7

alpaca kissing

Ever since leaving my busy fall schedule (which I was more than happy to do), I feel like I've fallen into an activity vacuum. One week, I was teaching eight riding lessons, and the next I was laying on my parents' couch thinking about whether I had enough energy to stand up and get the nail polish remover. These kind of abrupt schedule changes just aren't healthy.

I was full speed ahead and then I just stopped. Now I'm having trouble rebooting. If I don't even have to make my own breakfast, how am I expected to be productive the rest of the day?

I'm seriously starting to think my parents' house is some sort of land-locked Bermuda Triangle where no one would care if you wore the corresponding shorts all day, every day. 

What is it about this place, I asked myself recently, that makes time seem to stop except for the hourly reminder of the clock chimes, which only really serve to sooth me back into a nap. If there really are clock chimes--I might just be imagining them.

We've discussed road trips to local destinations like Washington DC, Gettysburg or Baltimore. But none have tempted us back to the road.

"Let's go see alpacas," Nomi suggested several days ago. Apparently she had discovered an attraction much closer to home.

It proved more difficult to actually find the alpaca farm, and mid-venture, we changed the plan and decided to go trail-riding instead. Thus began an extended jaunt through the Pennsylvania countryside, stopping intermittently to ask for directions along an unplanned trail riding treasure hunt, complete with old farmer missing teeth.

In the end, we never found the place we were looking for, but stumbled on another nice riding outfit along the way. How many times does this happen in life?

It was raining the day we actually visited the alpacas, who seemed largely unconcerned about muddying their silky coats for future scarfs and winter socks. They were keen, however, to take the treats we offered--but somewhat less keen to take them right out of our lips. Then one of them spit on Nomi's, leaving her face glittered with grass particles.

"Let's make alpacas the theme of our road trip," Nomi suggested.

"I don't think so," I said.


Tuesday, November 26

in transit

Hello. It's me, the author of this blog. You may remember me from a previous time when I posted regularly on Thursdays. At least it was on Thursdays, then it started slipping to Fridays, then Sundays, and then just skipped weeks altogether. Funny thing about procrastination, it gets worse over time because you just keep putting off addressing it.

But I'm back now, with great intentions of being more reliable. I've finished my therapeutic riding program and am now unofficially/officially a registered riding instructor. If only I had some students, some horses, and an arena. Minor details.

In the meantime, I thought I'd drive back across the country. But this time, not only will I have Keeper the Dog, but I've acquired an Israeli to drive with me. A one-armed girl, a dog, and a Jew went on a road trip...sounds like a bad joke, right? And I'm well aware that it is not politically correct to call someone a 'Jew,' but Nomi has a great sense of humor, so I think she'll forgive me.

We started off our grand adventure in New York City, where else? First we caught a Heidi Latsky dance rehearsal on the Upper West Side. They were re-working a piece they had previously performed, and mid-rehearsal, over break, Heidi bemoaned the lack of disabled dancers in the company. They discussed how they might recruit a deaf man who was the friend of another dancer.

"He's not really deaf," one dancer piped up, "he's just hearing-impaired."

There was a collective sigh, at which point I giggled and everyone turned to look at me.

In what universe had I dropped into where people are valued based on the severity of their disability? 

After rehearsal, we took the obligatory trek over to Times Square. Both of us being more country-lovers than city slickers, we left 42nd Street as quickly as possible and took refuge in the relatively quiet Little Italy. There we were joined by two Jewish guys in a meeting arranged seas away in Israel. Sounds like the plot for a comedy, right? One of them had such a strong Brooklyn accent, I was sure he dropped right out of Newsies. They had us eat cannoli in an abandoned park and play fuze ball at a local joint. Felt like a local...at least, I think.

But now, and for the next week or so, we are tucked away in Central Pennsylvania, where I'm mooching lodging (and food) off my parents.

And catching up on some blogging, of course. So, there you have it. Didn't miss a thing.


Friday, November 8


I'm on leave, you might say. We have a week long break in our teaching regimen, so I took the opportunity to visit some dear friends in Boston for a birthday bash and inner city duck hunt. Don't worry, no ducks were harmed in the writing of this blog.

I write to you now from my parents' house, tucked away in the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania. And as I've had some time, I'm thinking over the last two months on the 'farm' in Connecticut, wondering what it all means.

Very soon, it seems, I will have a paper (or electronic statement) that certifies my ability to teach a riding lesson to people who are differently abled, and never have I felt so inept.

The longer I study, it seems, the more I feel I don't know. Not to mention, of course, that the kind of riding I am expected to teach has not been a regular part of my life for nearly 20 years--yes, I had to stop and calculate that. Stirrups, reins? I've spent the better part of 5 years trying to get away from those things. If you are thoroughly confused at this point, please refer to this post.

I feel like I'm being expected to fit into a mold that I just don't fit. And lately in my life, if you haven't noticed, I've been of the mindset to dash molds to the ground like dishes at a raucous Greek party.

I came in thinking I wanted to be a therapeutic riding instructor, and now I'm not sure if I want to be physical therapist, personal trainer, or human movement specialist. What?!

So, I've had to ask myself, why am I here? Why did I come to this program in the first place. I needed certification to work in the field--But somehow along the way I got excited about learning.

So, how does a person make her way through life, learning from others without losing herself, her personal mission and values, in her education? Oh, education, you sneaky devil, how many a pure mind have you confused.

Wait a second, isn't this blog about a girl with one arm and disability?...is probably what you are asking yourself at this point. Excuse me while I reseal Pandora's Box.

Now, about those ducks...

I suppose it's easy enough to say 'Just be yourself'...it's the process of finding out who that is that takes time and not a little bit of aggravation.


Monday, October 28

a post to you

In three and a half years of blogging, I don't think I've ever been this slow to produce a post, which speaks to the schedule I've been keeping. Still, to you my faithful readers, I apologize. 

I am still here in Connecticut, though I'm now more than halfway through my time here. Tomorrow I will have my final teaching evaluation and, hopefully, pass into the wild world of certified instructing. Or certifiable. It's a fine line.

So, in honor of such an occasion, allow me to share with you a photo journey from the past several weeks...

Learning to wrap a bandage.

Crossing on the ferry.

Taking a break

Underside view of a flying pegasus.

Sometimes you just need a new perspective...


Monday, October 14

the main attraction

It's notably humorous to be in an environment surrounded by people with 'unexpected' bodies, cognition, and social acuity, and still be recognized as the odd one.

I'm greeting riders in the participant lounge, and a tiny boy with Downs' Syndrome peers up my empty sleeve, curious where my arm got to.

I'm waiting to assist a young man with limited verbal ability to mount his horse, and he turns his face to Finneas and plants a firm kiss on my tiny arm.

I'm standing in the middle of the arena, honing my teaching skills, and a young woman who was barely able to overcome her own fear to get on the horse, points toward me and calls out, "What happened to your arm?"

No matter where I go, I'm still different. But it's OK, really; because I like being myself.

But maybe it's not about being different; maybe it's just about recognizing that we are not the same, that we each have something unique to offer.

More than being odd, the program participants are starting to recognize me as familiar. As I enter the pre-riding zone, they run toward me as if I were the Pied Piper of horsemanship; but it's not horses they are anxious to see.

On the trail, one rider, eyes fixed on me, twists his head almost completely backward to get a longer look. I'm certainly amused, and strangely flattered, that in the midst of all the excitement, I'm still the main attraction.

I stifle a smile.

"Look where you are going," I call after him, "or you are going to fall off your horse."


Saturday, October 5

new york dreamin'

I hit the big city this weekend. New York City, that is.

I have friends who just had a baby and moved to Queens, which apparently, is kind of a big deal in these parts, even though it means next to nothing to the rest of the world. I told them I could relate because I saw that episode of Sex and the City where Miranda and Steve move to Brooklyn after they have Brady. Everyone laughed politely.

I braced myself to leave the Connecticut countryside which I only recently started to consider home (and I use that term very loosely) and head to the urban jungle.

I've not had a particularly good track record with the city. Not specifically New York, just any urban sprawl; it's loud and hectic and generally overwhelming for me. There was that especially meaningful season in my life when London almost killed me. Incidentally, London Almost Killed Me is a very believable band name.

But I decided to take the train, which gave me plenty of prep time to contemplate the horse country I was leaving and look forward to the mass of humanity I was approaching. I literally went from marshy boat land--literally saw a guy in a hard hat sitting in a boat under a bridge, reading a book--to tenement buildings.

But I need to back this train up a bit...

Several years ago, one of the above mentioned friends, who also happens to be an accomplished dancer, introduced me to an NYC dance company that features dancers with disabilities.

I'm sure I've mentioned the Heidi Latsky Dance company on this blog, but it really bears repeating. After I saw a promo for The Gimp Project, I was hooked. But living in New Mexico, I felt far from the kind of experimental dance scene which I longed to be a part of.

Knowing I would be in the home city of HLD this weekend, on a whim, I sent off a missive to the email address I found on the web site and, within the hour, Heidi herself emailed me back.

And, as they say in another famous Big Apple show...yada yada yada...I had lunch with Ms. Latsky this afternoon.

Suffice to say, it was surreal. We talked dance, disability, politics, angst, pity, sex...and somehow I managed to ingest a spinach and bacon salad. Heidi coined the phrase 'unexpected bodies' for physical disabilities and she wants to do a live person exhibit on disability at the MOMA. She wants me to be in it. What.

I suddenly felt like Phyllis from the Farm, ready to run for the hills. But what I heard myself saying was, "I love it. I would totally do it."

I also heard myself saying that I was craving collaboration and I could see she was getting excited.

"Whatever you want to do," she said, "whether it's a collaboration or something that's just you, I will help you."

I wanted to cry, to be honest.

Back on the city streets heading for the Subway at Times Square, pressed on by throngs of people, I'd never felt so safe and light. If the sidewalk fell away in front of me, I was ready to jump.

[Then, I swear to you, an orange cloaked Tibetan monk walked up and handed me a golden ticket...but when I declined writing my personal info in his little book, he took the ticket back.]

But it's OK, I think I already have mine.


Thursday, September 26

waxing poetic

On Sunday I went to a local fair. Walking through the entrance, a cornucopia of carnival before me, the familiar ferris wheel pinnacling the midway...I felt a wave of deja vu come over me. Not deja vu of former events in my life, but historical, like the deja vu of an earlier America.

And then I ate a barbecue pork sandwich and a foot-long eclair that would certainly offend even the most open-minded of the French. But if not to eat fried fatty meat and cream, why does one go to the fair?

Clapping wax
Why to ride the rides, of course. Or, as I like to say, to practice not vomiting while trying to remember why you thought getting on something called the Tilt 'n Swirl was a good plan after eating the aforementioned cheesy sandwich. And furthermore, why you paid $5 to do this to yourself.

Honestly, I've never been a huge fan of carnival rides, but not until recently did I come to appreciate the freakishness of the fair scene. Granted there were no freak show tents, not even a clown, creepy or otherwise, to be seen, but the aura of the freak show lives on under striped tent tops where carnies still tempt walkers-by with promises of huge blow up alien dolls if you can toss a golf ball into a dixie cup.

But I wasn't tempted till the wax dip hand molds booth. Dip my hand in wax to make an almost instant mold? I had to do it. But dipping my right hand wasn't odd enough for my tastes--Finneas was going under. The hot wax tender wasn't sure about getting Finneas into the wax without accidentally waxing my head too, but I hadn't come this far to walk away without an empty wax hand mold.

So down I went. A casual observer might have surmised that I was attempting to hot wax my entire arm and shoulder--and even now I'm wondering why I didn't just jump into the barrel for a cheap leg waxing. But in the end I came away with a little wax Finneas replica and, because I mentioned it would feel left out, the woman let me wax mold my other hand for a 20% discount. I chose purple and pink to color the wax...I don't know why.

After observing my wax hands sitting on my bedroom windowsill for a day, trying to evaluate why I thought I needed them so badly and not coming up with an answer, I set them on the desk of my instructor training mentor as a token of my appreciation.

It caused a bit of a stir in the office (which made the entire venture well worth it for me), but there they sit to this very day.


Friday, September 20

yoga parties, horse poop and enlightenment (in that order)

Where to begin?

Last night our full moon yoga instructor said "Whatever position you find yourself in is right where you are supposed to be." I later reflected: What if your foot is in the crotch of a yogi on the neighboring mat?

Fan of reds?
What's that you say? You thought I was in Connecticut to learn therapeutic riding instruction? Well, as so often happens in life, you set out to learn one thing and find yourself receiving a generous helping of secondary experiences; last night's yoga by moonshine being just one.

And when I say 'moonshine,' I'm talking the light of that celestial orb and the lightness of one too many glasses of wine. Attempting the tree pose after pinot noir, I regretted placing my mat next to the pool. Thankfully the only liquid I encountered was coursing through my digestive tract and later released into a dark corner of the horse paddock.

I do realize I am so far behind in posting that I'm now posting for last week a day late for this week's post. Never mind; at least we're here now.

Things are well under way back at the ranch (and I use that term loosely). If it weren't for all the 'yoga moonshine' opportunities, I might have time for lesson observations, paper writing, presentation planning, curriculum gathering, assessment giving, and sleeping; but I'm fairly sure posting to this bloggity blog of mine would still be late.

My sincerest of apologies. I feel terrible that I'm so busy making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities that I can't keep up with my commitments to posting. Too snarky?

But all snarkyness aside, my time here in the Northeast (a mere three weeks, I think), is making a huge difference in my life. Not only am I learning things about people and horses and therapeutic process, I'm starting to assemble the puzzling pieces of myself that I've collected thus far. Who could have known that a tiny arm, vaulting, scoliosis, aerial dance, and horse manure were all pointing to one vocation? Certainly not I.

I was helping Marcell to groom Smokey the pony. Marcell is about six foot and Smokey is maybe three feet if he lifts up his head, but that wasn't the greatest challenge: Marcell continually yelled out various words or phrases of his choosing in maddening repetitions. We tried to quiet him, asked him to use his 'inside barn voice,' all to no avail as he would pick up the obsession only seconds after he was silenced.

I was on the verge of trying to out-yell him, when Marcell's previously allusive eye contact caught a glimpse of Finneas from beneath my short sleeve. He was immediately quiet as he reached out a hand proportionate to his body size and gently stroked my little arm, a bemused smile resting where theretofore so much noise had emitted.

Before long, a small crowd gathered to take in the fascinating oddity, asking and touching and smiling. I basked in the effortless attention I'd accidentally commanded, wondering if I will ever learn. I was exactly where I was meant to be.

And so it seems that as I've been wandering through the planned and surprising avenues of my life, well-intentioned but mostly clueless, someone else knew exactly where I was headed all along.


Saturday, September 7

explain me how

Ok, for those of you still wondering what exactly I was doing to that poor horse in the last post: I was taking his temperature. Yes, rectally.

I am holding a thermometer in the photo, but you can't see it because I am trying not to let it slip into the vast environs of the equestrian buttocks. They told us this can happen, but they did not tell us how the thermometer is retrieved, and I don't care to find out.

I have to say that of all the things I dreamed of exploring at the inception of this blog, taking a horse's rectal temperature was not one of them.

I surprised myself this week by getting excited about task analysis. Yes, task analysis. I can feel some of your eyes just glazed over. Don't go back to watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Netflix! Stick with me; I promise it'll be good.

Basically, 'task analysis' means breaking down a specific action into a series of smaller steps. For our purposes, I'm not talking hydrogen bomb building here. For riding, I'm talking a task like getting off a horse––that's assuming one has gotten onto the horse in the first place, which is certainly not a given.

You might say to a more experienced rider: "Sally, I want you to dismount," and get the desired task completion. But for a rider who has never gotten off a horse before, or for whom "dismount" sounds so complex, you might as well tell her to "go to the moon," step-by-step directives may be required: like "take your foot out of the stirrup...lean forward...bring your leg back" etc. This sort of thing is exceptionally important in teaching riders with disabilities.

But I'm actually getting lots of practice with two of my housemates for whom English is a second language. I can't just go off spouting run on sentences rot with American slang (as I am terribly prone), and expect anything more than a blank stare.

In an attempt to streamline communication, I've almost naturally begun speaking a strange old-Western-stereotypical-Indian dialect, comprised of single-verb sentences full of monosyllabic words.

"It's OK I take shower now?"

"Yes I'm going to sleep."

"Jedi...like Star Wars."

My new friends are actually surprisingly well-versed in a language that some of them have been speaking for less than a year. But every now and then communication breaks down. I found bread crumbs had invited a scouting troop of ants and called up the stairs:

"Erika, there are ants eating your crumbs on the counter."


"Ants on the counter!"


"Ants! Ants!"

She came down the stairs and into the kitchen. "Oh, ANTS." she said.

My Korean housemate came to my room tonight, concerned that she may have difficulty communicating with her riding students. As I was trying to reassure her, it suddenly occurred to me that she and the other non-native English speakers may have the advantage when it comes to task analysis.

If you have less words to use, you use less words--and the right few words can speak volumes. I'm pretty sure a Tibetan monk once said that, but if not, I call it.

Simplicity is a language I'm learning to speak.


Thursday, September 5

too busy posting to post

Due to a serious avalanche of lecture hours, homework, and horseplay, today's post will be postponed until tomorrow.

Sorry to be a horse's...

Thursday, August 29

horse camp

I remember now why I hated going to summer camp, and eventually away to college. Standing alone on that great, unknown campus as my mom drove away, having only a strange room and stranger roommate to go back to, left me feeling much like I did at eight, an introvert in a sea of summer camp activity, feeling as though a week might last longer than I could stay alive.

School horse
It's the strangeness of a new place that is so stressful for me. I suppose if I were an extroverted stimulation-seeker, new places would be like crack to an addict, but I like being comfortable.

One day soon I may be comfortable in this new place, with its tall, dense trees and a bathroom I share with women I just met, both from other countries. In the past two days, in addition to learning new surroundings, my classmates and I have endured testing, hours of lecture and hands on training. It's an intensive, alright. Makes me think I should have stayed home with my dog.

But, when a pony came to class on the first day, I knew I was in the right place. This facility is the nicest I've ever experienced, therapeutic or otherwise, and every staff member I've met seems genuine and supportive.

I'm living in a cottage a brief walk's away from our classroom and the rest of the facility. Being the only one with a car, I chauffeured my Brazilian and Korean housemates to the grocery store so we can begin keeping house in our new digs. I would never have guessed that therapeutic riding was a thing in South Korea, but then again, it seems Asia is big into just about anything.

So far we've toured the facility, begun an acquaintance with the horses, heard lectures on the history of therapeutic riding and why the horse is so fitted to it, and learned the aspects of side walking (supporting the rider from the side of the horse during a lesson) and leading a horse to be responsive.  

There's really so much more to say, but my poor little brain can't handle the workload, and so off I go to dream about Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis....after all, my favorite camp activity was quiet time. 


Thursday, August 22

back to school

I've been feeling pretty lazy since I arrived at my parents' place--watching back-to-back episodes of Nightmare Tattoo while my mom cooks for me. Perhaps it's because at this time next week, I'll be knee deep in school again.

New beginnings breakfast
I haven't 'gone back to school' since the fall of 2001. Ironically my parents live in a college town, replete with old stone buildings, manicured parks, and late night coffee shops. Yesterday the campus was overrun with incoming freshmen, I mean, first year students.

Driving past the park full of young, anxious pre-students walking awkwardly with one or two excited parents in tow, I reminisced a time, over ten years ago now, when I was that anxious student.

When I went away to college at eighteen, I had never been away from home and family for more than two weeks at a time. I thought nothing of my new school's location or academic reputation, I was too busy trying not to cry in my top bunk. I found out later that my roommate was on the bottom bunk doing the same.

That same roommate is now married, has been for over ten years. And I, well...I have a dog. But visiting a coffee house on campus, I was keenly aware of how different I feel now, fifteen years after my first week in college.

I feel stronger, more confident, and less scared of everything new. I don't have to try so hard to fit in, to not be noticed.  Mostly, I just feel I've earned the right to my place in the world, the right to rub people the wrong way if necessary.

At a local crêpe shop for breakfast, butterfly paintings on the wall reminded me that growth is natural, and transformation comes as much, if not more, from being alive than education. 

After four years of undergraduate study, I told myself I wasn't going back to school unless I needed more education to do what I wanted to do in life.

Now here I am, ready to go.


Sunday, August 18

road journal: roughing it

Just a girl, the fire she made, a bottle of wine, and her laptop. Can life get any better....?


Thursday, August 15

from the road

I, like Jack Kerouac, am writing from the road. Two days and one bag of Honey Dijon Kettle chips in, I find myself in Oklahoma. 

I'm feeling pretty positive about this first long distance trip on my own. I've had help along the way, from the gentlemanly angel at a rest stop who informed me that the fluid leaking from the bottom of my car was merely condensation from excessive air conditioner use, to country-living friends who supplied me with butter dipped artichoke and a comfy bed.

Here are some of my favorite moments thus far...

Keeper the dog faces off with a very territorial (and playful) kitty. I think they both enjoyed it.

Church in the Pecos River valley of Puerto de Luna (or Moon Door), a place quickly becoming a favorite for me.

Scrambled salsa eggs on journal. If only I wrote more than I took pictures of my writing, I might be getting somewhere.

And now I must get my car-seat-flattened glutei off this couch and back on the road. 


Friday, August 9

when the hangover clears

I didn't want to write a post this week, as you may have already guessed from my obvious disregard for my own deadline. And this for wholly undeserving reasons, like having too much to drink the night before.

This will be taken up with Human Resources and disciplinary action taken accordingly, I can assure you.

For starters, let's just say I am going to drive 2,000 miles next week with only a dog for company. Well, and a recently downloaded David Sedaris audiobook. Can you blame me if I sow some wild oats this week? I'm only preparing myself for the crushing self-loathing that will undoubtably set in somewhere around Oklahoma City.

I've spent a considerable amount of time this week laying in bed, thinking about how much I am going to miss my bedroom, my living room, kitchen and bath...the whole place, really. I'm what you might call a homebody. Is that one word? Spellcheck seems to think so, but I'm pretty sure there was a time when 'spellcheck' was not a word. Oh, English language, you tricky little deviant. It's enough to make a grammarian commit suicide.

The best guard against suicide is gratitude. It never fails to surprise me how many people seem affected by what feels like my insignificant life course. Many friends have expressed their love for me over the past weeks. It's a nice reminder that we don't have to be anything amazing to make a difference, to be missed when we're gone. Even if it's just going to New England for a while.

I can hear fireworks from the ballpark, which must mean we won. I love fireworks. Is there a more fleeting celebration of the present? A more reckless disregard for the future? 

We've won. No matter what, life is meant to be breathed deeply, every second celebrated, even the freedom to be hungover.


Thursday, August 8

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Thursday, August 1

road ready

You ever have one of those days that grabs you by the heels and pulls you out of bed?

Yeah, that's the day I'm having. We'll all be lucky if I manage to stay focused long enough to get this post written.

Just savin' lives
After last week's rather discouraging news, this week brings some of a different variety. I got a call on Tuesday confirming that I've been accepted into the Fall training session for therapeutic riding instructors in Connecticut.

This has initiated a flurry of activity in the remaining weeks before I leave. As I write, my car is in the shop getting a new catalytic convertor; I've called the vet to ready Keeper the Dog to road trip with me; and I've arranged for some Franciscan priests to come for dinner. You know, the usual big trip checklist.

So, theoretically, CPR certification card in hand, I'll be hitting the road in a couple weeks, motoring miles that on some continents would take me through several countries.

[Pause for the making of several zillion phone calls.]

[Another pause for a nap]

Good news: my car is out of surgery and ready to come home. Prepare yourselves for pics from the road...


Thursday, July 25

dream, dream, dream

This goes out to the dreamers.

On Monday I received a long-awaited reply from the second literary agent whom I'd queried for Confessions of a One-Armed Girl. She regretfully informed me that she was unable to take me on as a client at this time. I expected this, but because there's always that chance that this is the one, it was a letdown nonetheless.

But the hardest to take were her critiques to my manuscript, which to her credit, she'd actually taken the time to give. Too much back story, she said, and not a clear story arc. What little air was left in my balloon of hope quickly deflated.

Concurrently this week, I am awaiting reply from an East Coast therapeutic riding instructor training school. I applied to their Fall certification session, which was not unlike the process of putting a book proposal together. Apparently, the older you get, the more paperwork life requires.

While at aerial practice last night, I received an encouraging message from Admissions that, though final decisions have yet to be made, indicated I was looking good.

Perhaps that's what gave me the extra oomph to get through class. Near the end, I was working on a one-handed straddle up, pulling my legs up and over my head. More advanced aerialists stood around brainstorming adaptive techniques.

"You're going to do this," they said. "Don't you see the difference in your strength and ability since you first started coming?" Jo asked incredulously. Sometimes it takes other people to see yourself.

Driving home, muscles tripping on endorphins, I considered the difficulty of dreams. It's not just all the work that goes into getting where you want to go; it's the exhaustion of not knowing if you'll ever get there at all. It's emotional wear and tear.

Will my book ever get published? I wonder, as I berate myself for lost motivation and belief.

This morning while perusing Amazon instead of working on my post, I stumble on a novel written by a local writer who is probably eight years my junior. And though I want the book to be horrible, the plot intrigues me. But mostly I'm jealous of her success, and immediately assume she's much more focused and diligent in her career, that she probably doesn't drink sodas or watch The Colbert Report. I think she surely gets up each morning in the muse for writing, stories pouring out unhindered by dishes that need washing and a dog that needs walking.

But the truth is, following your dreams doesn't always look like that. Sometimes it looks more like a pitt stop on the dream raceway, recovering from the wear and tear. Sometimes you have to toss the manuscript and start over. I don't know if it's that bad, but I could sure use a good editor, someone to help put an arc in my story. Or maybe I need a different agent. Dreams often require some tweaking. But if they're real, and you stick close to the source, you can't give up. Dreams won't let you.

Today, I think I'll start with some journaling. Then I'll probably have to wash the dishes.



Thursday, July 18

close encounters of the one arm kind

Chewy the Chihuahua's owner said there was a young man called Robin who was a regular at the dog park. He had dreads and one arm, she said. So when a young tattooed man with long blond dreads and one arm arrived at dusk, I knew it was he.

I steeled myself for an encounter. I may have mentioned the awkwardness for me of chance meetings with one-armed strangers, particularly if they have a Finneas lookalike. Suddenly there's an elephant in the room or, in this case, a much smaller, though similarly obvious abnormality. Part of me wants to step right up and say, "Hey, what are the odds, we both have one tiny arm!" And part of me wants to run and climb into the nearest linen closet.

Depending on where my chicken wing twin is on the spectrum of self-acceptance, the outcome of our meeting may vary drastically. But usually, no doubt because we are both acutely aware of curious bystanders, any sort of scene is kept to a minimum. At most, we may share a furtive smile and nearly imperceptible nod, like you'd expect from the leading cowboy in a Western.

I find my one-armed comrades are generally introverted. The one exception that comes to mind is my friend Andy from England, who has no qualms about his three affected limbs and, if there isn't a handicap accessible restroom, will jump on the back of his nearest burly friend and ride off to the loo like a knight into battle. Needless to say, he likes the attention.

As I mentioned, it was getting dark at the dog park, so it was rather unlikely that Robin would notice me at all. But in an effort to become more like Andy, I waited for Robin to walk by, trying to act casually interested in Keeper the dog. I think he must have noticed, but Robin barely glanced at me as he strolled on, very much intent on the task at hand--cleaning up dog poop that less conscientious owners had left strewn about the park. He barely looked up from the ground, in fact.

It was most anticlimactic. But I was a little relieved. That is, until I got to my car and found I'd locked the keys (along with my purse and phone) inside. It might have been the perfect opportunity to introduce myself to Robin, but I'm an introvert, so guess who walked home with her dog in the dark.


Thursday, July 11


And now, the much-anticipated, long-awaited OneArmGirl aerial debut...

We called the piece Délier, meaning To Untie in French. The music, ironically, is Mas de lo Mismo (or More of the Same) by Tanghetto. This is a rehearsal recording.


Traditional pre-show mirror shot

Thursday, July 4

three-legged chihuahua on the 4th of july

A happy 4th of July to all...well, all citizens of the United States. To the rest of my readers around this great globe, a very happy Thursday...unless it's already Friday...Oh, never mind.

In the mood for change, I almost bought a car last week. This week, I cavorted with Little Gen to paint one of the kitchen walls orange. But this has only wet our appetite for wall color. The bathroom is well under way, and Little Gen's room is next.

Keeper the dog took a victory lap around the park today when we met up with Chewy the three-legged chihuahua. This after she'd been running along side my bike for the better part of a half hour. She tried to play with Chewy, but he was not particularly in the mood to do more running (or walking, for that matter) than was necessary. Can't say I blame him.

Later today, I plan to join a pool party. I'm bringing the watermelon. I'm going to chop it all myself...or maybe I'll wait till I get there and let someone else do it.

If you know me, then you know I'm not particularly patriotic, but this country is vast, varied and beautiful, and I love it like one can only love one's own home.

I don't think freedom is a right, but I'm enjoying the privilege of having the money to buy paint, any color I want.

To that I'll raise a tiny flag with my tiny arm.


Thursday, June 27

got the blues

I think I have the blues.

I have all the classic symptoms: roving apathy, sudden spurts of teariness, a certain craving for music born of the south, the grandfather of rock n' roll. You know, the Blues.

I took the old turntable out of our stereo set, hoping someone could revive it to working order. Next stop: the vinyl store.

This morning, after tossing the Starbucks cup from yesterday in the trash ventricle outside of Starbucks, I purchased a collection of female vocalists called Songs of the Siren. Laying back on my couch, listening to Brandi Carlisle croon I'll Still Be There only feeds my blues, but I like it. I did not know that Carlisle moved to Tennessee to make a career in music and worked as a barista, until she moved back home to Brooklyn and actually got her break.

Maybe following our dreams looks a lot like sitting and waiting, or walking down a lot of dead ends. I've been asked about my book a lot recently, which gets me asking myself about it––why I'm not working on revision, not querying more agents, not pounding the pavement for a publisher.

But it's hard to motivate the blues. They cannot be hurried. Instead, they slow you, inviting the weary to pick up their feet and take a ride on the music.

Little Gen and I recently went to the movie theater (mostly to get out of the heat) to see a film called Frances Ha. Frances is a starving modern dance artist, trying to live her dreams in a city kind to artists, but not the poor kind. If you are an artist, your soul will feed on this film. Shot in black and white, it emotes the stark realities of following your heart. But in the end, due mostly to her determined optimism, Frances figures it out.

Taking to my morning writing pages, I find myself wishing I were a singer instead of a writer. It seems like a much more healing profession. Or, maybe, I muse, my writing just needs to be more like singing, abiding by certain rules, but free to go where it will, riding the momentum of emotion.

So, I guess I'm just gonna ride these blues out. Who knows where they might take me.


Thursday, June 20

the difference in a day

I met a woman yesterday morning, thanks largely to Keeper the dog who ran toward her down the sidewalk barking ferociously. When I got near enough to grab Keeper's collar and apologize, the woman looked at me and said, "I have to tell you: you inspired me to wear sleeveless clothes."

She went on to tell me how she'd seen me on the plaza and was impressed by my seeming lack of concern for appearance. "Look at her," she commented to a friend, "she's just so OK with who she is."

Then this sweet lady got a little choked up explaining that since she'd contracted Polio as a child, she had always tried to hide her right, somewhat shriveled arm [which I hadn't even noticed till she mentioned it]. As a retired nurse, she'd spent her life caring for others in perhaps their most vulnerable states, while never being able to fully embrace herself.

Apparently seeing me, sleeve free, out in public planted a seed that grew into a coming out with disability party. And there she was, on the sidewalk before me, wearing a tank top. I don't have to tell you that this made my year.

I wanted to hug her. I did hug her. There we were, two strangers on the sidewalk, celebrating what, to many, may seem an insignificant victory. To us, it was the world.

It's not just about sleeves. It's about a deep shift in self perception and identity. It might look like there's just more skin showing, but under that skin is a stronger connection of body with soul.

Before she continued down the street, she said, "You know, it's amazing what a difference you can make by just being yourself."

It's nice to be reminded.


Thursday, June 13


It is hot here.

I know talking about the weather is a copout conversation gimmick, but it's not a bad excuse for why I've been laying around under the air conditioner, getting nothing done.

Keeping limber
And today I woke up with the inklings of a migraine that decided to stay for its usual unwelcome day-long visit. I am trying to explain to Keeper all my very credible reasons for not taking her on a walk, but she continues to look at me, wagging her tail hopefully.

Still, the show must go on. Literally, our aerial show is this Saturday. Surprisingly, I'm feeling pretty comfortable. Just two weeks ago, our piece was hardly a piece at all, and now we've done at least two runs through the whole thing. It's actually a show. It's always magical to see something like that finally come together, seemingly out of chaos.

We've retitled our piece, 'Délier,' which means 'untie' in French. Why? Because our dance is a study in the centrifugal forces of technology in society, working to further isolation of its individual members, leading to the weakening of the communal psyche. OK, actually it comes from one part of the dance where we help each other to untie a knot in the fabric; but far be it from me to squelch interpretation.

Excuse me for a moment...

OK, I'm back. Just had to wipe the sweat out of my underarms. I've definitely reached a new low in the history of this blog.

Can someone bring me an Arnold Palmer? On the rocks?


Thursday, June 6

no disability in dance

How is it possible to have jet lag from a two-hour time difference? This and other scintillating questions will not be answered in this post.

I may be tired because the day after I got home, I was back in the circus studio rehearsing 'A Call to Arms' (yes, that is the title chosen by our director) on the fabrics for three hours.

Here is the thing about fabrics strung from the ceiling on which one is meant to dance: they don't always cooperate the way you would like. As our director says, they are the silent partner...who sometimes throws a moody. But you have to just go with it, smile, and pretend to be entertained by static cling.

Ready or not, the show is next week.

But I have to say, just being in the show is huge validation for the article I wrote a while back for Dancer's Voice. And I was able to procure a copy of said article when I rendezvoused with my sister who is the editorial director. I would publish a link here, but unfortunately it's not published online yet, and it's in Spanish. I can publish a photo I took of the article, and tell you that the title is roughly translated: "There is No Disability in Dance."

Here is the final English draft:

I was born a dancer. I have high arches and a disarmingly natural turnout.

When I was eight years old, my mother enrolled me in a beginning ballet class––a room full of little girls with top knots, in leotards and light pink slippers. I liked leaping across the linoleum floor. My teacher said I was a natural.

I was born with one tiny arm, seven inches long, with three webbed fingers. The doctors said they didn’t know why, but I would be that way for life. So, my leotards always had short sleeves.

I wanted to dance in high school, but my spine decided to curve in several places. So instead, I wore a brace eighteen hours a day for three years––hard plastic cinched around my middle, unbendable from waist to neck, kept me out of dance class.

But in my last year in school, I took the brace off, and signed up for tap and modern. I choreographed a modern piece with three girlfriends for the yearly recital. I contorted over backward, twisting right along with my spine. “You are really flexible,” my teacher said. But I went off to college, leaving dance behind.

Finished with school, I plunged into work at a computer, behind a desk. But one day, a woman came to my desk and asked if I wanted to dance on the back of a moving horse. The first time I tried equestrian vaulting, I was coached by a man who also had one arm. It seemed fate had intervened. “You know you’re an athlete, right?” he said. And I believed him. At twenty-six, with one arm and a twisted spine, I quit my job and moved to California for “horse dancing” with my one-armed coach. “Vaulting is for everyone,” he said. One third of his students had a disability.

For one glorious summer month, I felt more alive than I ever had. But dogged by a mysterious illness, energy sapped, and more and more feverish every day, I felt my happiness slipping away. I had the desire, drive, and talent, but not the ability. It was infuriating. If I was born to dance, why was I hitting obstacles at every turn?

Several years later, I went to see a visiting dance company from Mozambique. Half of the dancers were physically handicapped. One woman had lost both of her legs, but it was her performance that was most riveting––she danced with her voice and her arms. “We don’t think of ourselves as a disability dance company; we’re just dancers,” the director said.

Last year, a friend invited me to an aerial fabrics class. She might as well have offered coke to a recovering addict. Climbing onto the silks was like dancing in air. Hanging by my waist, I released the fabric and I let my torso fall backward in an arc, the momentum swinging me out in a gentle circle, my fingers caressing the linoleum. Freedom. Strength. Beauty. Yes, I was meant for this. 

After twenty years of being a frustrated dancer, I’m finally learning how to dance.  I’m learning that dance is not about making it, but what you make of it. If I can’t do something, I’m learning to ask what I can do. The forms I choose are obscure in the dance world, even challenging the definition, but so am I. There are as many ways to create beauty through movement as there are shapes of people. No arms, no legs, no space––dancers just keep dancing. 

Friday, May 31


I apologize for this week's post delay, but I've been recovering from a marathon of emotionally charged family functions...

Little Gen and I journeyed to the far east...that is, Pennsylvania...last week to meet the other sister's Mexican boyfriend, attend a cousin's wedding, and take an extended family portrait.

Land mines, all, we somehow managed to maneuver through without any fatalities, save my sister's pride when she accidentally flashed her undies for the entire wedding reception hall.

Fortunately our family is more of the passive aggressive variety, so judgments remained comfortably beneath a surface which any casual observer might call congenial.

But while family has the magical talent of stripping away pretense, leaving all of us in our knickers, it also has the potential to re-ground us.

As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was greeted by a melancholic wall of wet jungle air. Here in the east, they call it humidity. My dad was waiting with the car, and crawling into the bed my mom prepared, I felt safe from more than the darkness outside.

Despite running the conversation gauntlet, dodging personal questions about my strange occupations and failing love life, I found myself lulled by the familiar, reminded of who I really am.

I was back in context. It's constantly changing--I'm not what I was nor what I will be--but that's OK because no one else can fill my place. And believe me, when you have a family that is growing exponentially, space is not something you take for granted.

Trying to wrangle the now forty plus members of our family into a frame, the photographer looked at me and asked, "Are you married"? Yes, I am the oldest unmarried maid in my generation, but I only have that distinction because of the now majority of married cousins.

And those married cousins are producing a whole new generation of little people, some of whom are at that ripe age of perceiving difference. Who will show them that oddity is not to be feared, that deformity is just a human condition? I know one, Finneas the Wee Arm, who does the trick.

He's way more comfortable in social settings anyway.