Thursday, December 4

no hands

My last week in Israel, I was privileged to take a riding lesson from Uri Peleg, a nationally renowned horseman and promoter of natural horsemanship techniques. It changed my life.

But first, we have to go back a few years...ok, more than a few...


I took my first riding lesson when I was about nine. If you are not familiar with English style horsemanship, imagine black velvet helmets, tall black boots, and plenty of snobbery to go around (my apologies to the English, I'm sure their intentions were pure). Unfortunately, I showed up wearing western boots. I should have read the signs.

I sincerely appreciate my training in English riding for the attention to detail and meticulous care for equipment and horse, but managing my reins would prove to be a lifelong frustration.

Lacking in the area of upper extremities, keeping my reins at the correct length to accurately communicate with my horse was nearly impossible. If it was exhausting for me, I can only imagine the irritation of my ride. But knowing only to work harder to achieve what I wanted in life, I persevered...until I quit several years later, believing I wasn't good enough.

So, when friend and fellow riding instructor, Nomi showed me a video of her friend Uri riding and working cattle without any reigns at all, I was mesmerized. The rusty gears started to turn.


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

Sitting astride an appaloosa called Winter at Uri's Ramot Ranch, nothing was working. Winter was not responding in the way I wished to anything I'd been taught to do on a horse. It was like finding yourself behind the steering wheel of a car, but having lost everything you knew about driving.

Thankfully Uri didn't laugh, but started to teach me a new riding language. This new language uses various gentle but specific leg cues to move forward, back, and turn to the left or the right--reins used as a last resort. It is astonishingly simple, and logical in that you ask the horse to move as guided by your legs and body position. The difficulty was getting off the worn path in my brain of using rein language. I literally had to hold onto the saddle horn to keep my hand from moving.

But as I started down the rocky new path of communicating in the natural horse tongue, I felt a slow but steady wave of liberation. Every time Winter responded immediately and exactly as I'd requested, weights of old frustration fell away.

We stopped at the top of a green plateau and looked down over the entire Sea of Galilee. If you've ever felt your life changing in the very moment it does, you know the excitement.

On the way down, I held my grateful hand up over my head, palm waving.

Look, no hands! I smiled to Uri. He smiled back.

I should have fisted it in victory.

OneArmGirl

Saturday, November 22

beauty

"You're so brave, Tashoo," Noam tells me when she sees small children at the resort swimming pool staring and pointing.

I tell her my secret is to not look away, to stare back, and maybe give them a wave with Finneas.

"That way they can't make me the strange one," I say.

Noam says she would like to kick them into the deep end.

But there are larger implications when skimpily-clad, slim young women saunter about everywhere you look in this holiday hot spot.

Every photo I take of Noam and show to her, she wrinkles her nose and says, "Ugly. I'm so fluffy."

"You can't change how everyone sees you, you can only decide to be OK with yourself," I say.

I watch a woman, or girl, walking toward the water, her long perfect back growing out of her symmetrical hips straight up to meet her relaxed, carefree shoulders. I'm so jealous.

I never had a back like that. At her age, scoliosis was already crippling my genetically shortened torso. Regardless how carefree my now thirty-something, emboldened spirit might be, my spine will never reflect it.

Yet, I'm angry with Noam's self-criticism and her doubts about finding a man who will appreciate her body. It leaves no room for her wise-beyond-her-years grounding and easy-going, light-hearted nature. When she says, "I love you, Tashoo," it means more to me than most because her sincerity is palpable.


Neta is Noam's mom. I like the way she drives her truck over the rocky volcanic Golan farmland, one arm resting on the door, the other, with several leather bracelets, casually guiding the wheel. She lets her hair hang long, parted in the middle, like I imagine she has done for a long time. Her work-tough boots move up and down on the pedal.

Her shoulders are broad and strong, but she walks easily without any evidence of stress. Her soft voice and easy laughter exude a natural calm. She brings peace into a room.

I am struck by her beauty. This is the kind of woman I want to be.

One of the brave.

OneArmGirl       

Monday, November 17

the old country

Hello. I'm writing to you from the Golan Heights in Israel, where the world began, more or less.

I have been here in Israel for nearly a week. The jet lag is mostly gone, but after a long day of ranching yesterday, followed by an after dark trek to local hot springs on the Israeli/Syrian border (complete with Jurassic Park style fence), I'm feeling a bit tuckered out.

I'm eating as much humus as I can tolerate; holding as much Hebrew as I can keep in my head; and generally loving the temperate climate--though my hair is still adjusting.

Tomorrow we head to the south, to the beach.

More to come...

OneArmGirl 

Friday, November 7

places

It's showtime! AirDance New Mexico presents Other Worlds tonight at 8pm.

Ok, that's my shameless plug. If you are weary of art featuring me and other company members, in white amidst a flowing red fabric, it will all be over soon. Well, until I pull them from my stock photo file for future posts.

In other news, I am going to Israel. Yes, I'm nearly as surprised by this news as you are. My dear friend Nomi, who is also a therapeutic riding instructor, lives with her family and horses in the land where everything began. I wanted to go to Israel one day, but as usually happens, that day came sooner than I figured.

I hope to post here while I am away, but it may be a little spotty as I search for time and wifi. Please hang in there. I need you. I really do.

Love.

OneArmGirl
   

Tuesday, October 28

plates

I've had a considerable number of plates in the air as of late, and that does not include the ransacked kitchen left in the wake of Little Gen's determined cupboard cockroach hunt.

There's just so much going on between the end of the riding season, increased dance rehearsals, and watching for the mail carrier to deliver $600 worth of brasiers for Little Gen's disability.

Lost you? See this early post.

Fittingly, I was in the middle of changing into rehearsal gear when the package did arrive, and answered the door in nothing but a dance leotard. After the embarrassment subsided, I felt cool, like the kind of person who does art for a living.

"When I think of grace, I think of you," my friend Michelle once said. Obviously she hasn't seen me lately.

Though it does seem that I've always had, or earnestly practiced, a certain grace in moving through the world. When I was eight, my ballet teacher told me I was a natural. I maintain I decided to be graceful rather than have my smallish arm blamed for clumsiness. Grace was my cover.

In college, I carried my cafeteria tray with the greatest of care. A mouse might run over my toes (and I happen to know of one such incident in said cafeteria), but so help me, my plate would never hit the ground.

Still, people generally assume that balance is not my forte. When I toured the weight room at a local YMCA, the trainer seemed overly concerned that I not lose my balance on the machines. I moved slowly and deliberately, trying to humor his fears that I might, at any given moment, topple over from a light breeze. Never mind the 30+ years I've had to develop an understanding of physical equilibrium. I decided not to mention that I'm an aerialist.

Truthfully, I probably have better balance than most. I know exactly what is required to hold a stack of china plates on my knee whilst opening a cupboard door. Balance is essential to my survival. I dare say, I am on the cusp of human evolution in weight distribution.  

So, the next time you see me, standing on a moving horse, holding a platter, atop which a glass ballerina performs pirouettes--do not fear, she's in good hands....err, hand.

In the meantime, I'll keep my eye on the plates.

OneArmGirl

Saturday, October 18

becoming


The fact that it is nearly 12am on Saturday morning, making this post already a day late, attests to my desperate attempt to catch up on a week that beat me to the finish line.

It's been a full one of excitement, sadness, challenge and liberation. But at this late hour, I will just leave you with the following from Kathleen Norris on the tension of being fully alive:

"Between these two poles, it seems to me, we seek to become complete: between shedding our self-consciousness and taking on a new awareness, between the awesome fears that shrink us and the capacity for love that enlarges us beyond measure, between the need for vigilance in the face of danger and the trust that allows us to sleep."

May we all continue to fight the good fight.

OneArmGirl

Friday, October 10

successful suffering

"You can't pity someone you're in awe of," a priest once said of the first resident in his home for AIDS patients.

I read this today in Kathleen Norris' Cloister Walk, which I am proud to say I am just two chapters from completing. It struck me as precisely the ingredient to successful suffering.

Successful suffering? Yes, I said it.

In the midst of typical lunch serving mayhem at the Friary yesterday, an older woman stopped to tell me how frustrated she was with her son when he was younger and seemingly unable to lead a productive life.

"I see people dealing with so much and working so hard," she confided, "and I'd think 'What's wrong with my son?'"

"I guess we all have our own journey," I considered aloud, remembering my own harsh lessons.

When I was younger, I refused to allow anyone to feel sorry for me, warring against pity with personal achievement grenades. It was never good enough for me to survive, I meant to conquer. Thus motivated, even self-pity rarely entered my fortress.

Unfortunately, this drive opened the door to an achievement addiction that I'm still trying to kick. But that's another story.

Managing two mugs and a pot of coffee for a table of presumably homeless people, one woman piped up "I'm so sorry about your arm."

"Really?," I said, "I'm not."

In case you missed it: a homeless woman was feeling pity for me.

The truth is, I don't mean to inspire awe, though it's a nice side effect. But there does seem something special about pain that can inspire greatness--greatness which, otherwise, might have remained undiscovered.

OneArmGirl

Friday, October 3

odds and ends

It's been a busy week here at OAG headquarters.

The riding season is coming to a close soon, but we are hot on the trail of a new home and new horses for next year.

It's strange to think that last year, at this time, I was a month into my Connecticut training to be a therapeutic riding instructor. Now here I am, with nearly a year of experience to call my own.

I'm happy to be home this Fall. Autumn in New Mexico means the end of endless hot summer afternoons and the beginning of roasting green chile.

The next aerial dance show is around the corner, with just over a month to go. Partner Zach and I are working on a lira (hoop) piece this time, with loads of unintentional creativity as per our usual enterprise.

And somewhere in between all the other goings on, I've taken Keeper the dog back to school. Agility school, to be precise. She's a very apt student, when she wants to pay attention. I imagine I'll be called in soon for a parent/teacher conference where I'm told she's very intelligent if she would just apply herself.

Dragon Boy's Mama and I decided to stop eating sugar for one week. I've only almost fallen off the wagon once for a pumpkin spice latte, but I called my sponsor and persevered. I'd like to think my tummy is already receding.

I feel bolstered by the progress I see in my life, if only in small increments. And the bite in the air reminds me that change is invigorating.

For the first time in two years, I want to cut my hair.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, September 25

you did it

Congratulations! In the past week, the OAG Facebook page reached and passed 300 likes. I called and you answered. I summoned and you came. Now follow me, you 300+, into the fray, onward to victory! We rise at dawn! We take the Persians! They may take our lives, but they will never take OUR FREEDOM!

Uh, we should probably stop for coffee first.

I would like to take this occasion to announce that, henceforth, I will try posting to this blog on Fridays, rather than Thursdays. I say 'try' so as not to set myself, and you, up for disappointment.

But I will certainly do my best. It's really the least I can do considering the growing number of my supporters.

A big thanks to all you faithful readers who have hung in there for the long-haul. It's just so much nicer writing to someone. If it weren't for you and a debilitating case of writer's guilt, I don't know where I'd be right now. Probably log-running in a lumberjack competition.

Here's to you!

OneArmGirl 

Thursday, September 18

300

I don't know if any of you have noticed, but we are nearing a momentous milestone here at OAG headquarters; we are a mere four likes away from 300 on the OneArmGirl Facebook page!

For the scoffers out there, I know 300 likes is inconsequential to most popular blogs, but considering I started this thing for my mother, I guess we're doing alright.

In addition to Mom, my fans have grown steadily over the years, like by precious like, only ballooning once over a certain 'appearance' I made on an amputee fetish site. Thus I have had the chance to appreciate every one of you, even those of you still holding your breath for some soft core amp porn. I'd start breathing, if I were you.

Can we do it? Can we reach 300 likes this week? With or without guilt-tripping our closest neighbor into believing she needs to know  all about the life and times of a certain one-handed blogger?

I think we can.

If you haven't already, become a OneArmGirl Facebook fan.

OneArmGirl

Friday, September 12

going circus

Last week I took part in an outdoor benefit performance. Partner Zach and I re-enlisted some of our moves from the last show, developed some new stuff, and let it fly.

Here is my signature feat:




I am able to climb the fabric and hold myself with one arm weaved between the two ribbons because Zach is basing me at the bottom, creating tension. Thus, it is called a tension climb.


Here I am climbing the fabric. Notice the little girl in the foreground mimicking our moves. I used to be that little girl, triple-axel-ing around the living room during the Winter Olympics. I climbed around the trapeze bar my dad hung on our homemade swing set, holding 'dangerous' poses for the imaginary audience below. Did my dad ever imagine what seed he was planting?




Dreams do come true.

OneArmGirl

Wednesday, September 3

happy

I am often told I have a good attitude for someone with a disability.

I know people mean well, but it's a little insulting when someone assumes the physical difference that I was born with must be the greatest tragedy of my life. 

Unhappiness is not rationed to a select few. It's readily available to all. You only have to pick your reason. Heck, you don't even need a reason.

I could get down about my disability, but why be so narrow-minded? There are so many other things to choose from: breakups, rudeness, and famine, to name a few.

Lately my attitude has been less than optimistic. It hasn't been exactly bad, just sort of stuck in the doldrums. I've stopped expecting good things, which is almost worse than being angry or upset, signs of passionate feeling. This dispassion is hard to kick.

I don't feel like I have a legitimate reason for my disappointment. Sure, there are a handful of things that haven't gone the way I would have liked.

This week I was excited to find a horse that would be perfect for our therapeutic riding program, only to learn it had been sold the day I made an inquiry.

I'm responsible for some of my blues. I've hurt people I care about because of my own selfish needs. And the worst part is I'm mostly upset because of how it makes me feel.

I took a picnic lunch to share with my cousin yesterday. He wasn't home, but his tenant Ramon was. I sat with Ramon under the shade of a cottonwood tree as he told me about his life journey from Cuba where he was nearly aborted before he was born, to working for Sears as a delivery driver. It certainly had not been easy, but happiness and contentment seeped out of him. Sitting next to him, I felt like the most negative person on the planet.

The only cure I've found for a poor outlook is looking more closely--examining the small, simple pleasures in my life. I will never forget how when I was struggling with physical illness and feeling strapped on every side, the one thing that I looked forward to each day was a bowl of yoghurt with raspberries and honey. To this day, I have never tasted yoghurt so good.

On Monday, Father Daniel called to invite me to a baseball game.

"We are taking the bikes," he said. It was all I needed to hear.

On the back of a motorcycle driven by a Franciscan priest, the sun and wind blessing my cheeks, I wondered how I got so lucky.

OneArmGirl

Friday, August 22

boys like girls

I met my friend Peggy for a coffee date.

Peggy survived polio as a child and we've both lived in bodies that people notice. Fueled by caffeine, we engaged in conversation like new recruits in warfare, swapping stories as if we might explode before we got them out.

Then we got to adolescence.

"I asked my mother if boys would like me," Peggy said. "And she said, 'The right boy will'."

I smiled. 

"Did you worry about boys liking you?," she wondered.


I've spent a lot of time thinking about this. I've written an entire essay about it for my memoir. And I feel like a total traitor saying this, but the answer is no, not really.

Truthfully, I have never worried that my physical differences would keep boys away, much the same way I never believed anything else was out of my reach because of my lacking arm. And I don't know why, because I've worried about nearly everything else my entire life.  

I have certainly suffered unrequited love for specific boys, but lots and lots of girls worry about not being good enough to love (boys too, for that matter). So I'm tempted to think physical difference is just one reason we give to excuse ourselves for lack of interest from the opposite sex.

Plenty of boys have been friendly toward me throughout my lifetime--and most of them have not interested me romantically. If I was interested and he wasn't, I usually told myself he was missing out or that it made no sense to like someone who didn't like you back (I was a child strangely grounded in logic).

I haven't had many boyfriends...some might argue no boyfriends...but it isn't for lack of interest. In fact, my arm seems the opposite of a deterrent, often the very thing that makes me approachable. 

I used to think only quality guys would want to be with me because they'd have to settle for minus one on the arm ledger. But as I've discovered recently, I am also attractive to selfish jerks who could care less about my amazing personality. So, apparently, you can have that too if you like, arms or no arms.

Peggy's mom might have told her any boy should be so lucky to capture her interest.

"I found out boys do like me," Peggy says now, a twinkle in her big brown eyes, looking back over more than forty years of life experience.

Of course they do.

OneArmGirl 


Thursday, August 14

legs in the way

I happened upon a radio show this week where folks were calling in with their lamest excuse for not having sex with someone. One guy said he once told a woman that the battery in his prosthetic leg was dead.

The show's DJs found this fascinating, peppering him with questions like, Do you need your prosthetic leg to be charged for sex?, Do you wear your prosthetic during sex? and, If you don't wear it, do you fall off the bed?

The caller made it clear that not only was a full charge not necessary, but neither was the leg when it comes to happenings in the bedroom.

And for those of you who might be considering using this post in lieu of a bedtime story for your children, you may want to reconsider.

According to a statistic I ran across recently, quite a few people don't need or use their prosthetics for anything after a while. I don't remember the actual statistic or where I read it, but that's why I'm a writer and not a statistician.

I was relieved to hear this, actually. As a lifelong prosthetic deviant, I didn't want to think I was the only one who's fake arm was packed away at the back of a closet.

I've tried to wear a prosthetic arm for various reasons over the years--much like one wears orthodontics--hoping it will somehow improve appearance or social prospects.

Ironically, I called my first prosthetic arm my 'Helper' though I can't remember anything it actually helped me with. My mom had to bribe me to go to occupational therapy, where I learned to slowly place toy blocks on top of one another with the Helper, like a tiny crane. Unfortunately it was way more efficient and faster to do twice the work with my good arm. Even as I write this post, one hand sprints around the keyboard, a typing prosthetic still a very distant invention.

Fake body parts are certainly no friend of lovers. A boyfriend of my mid-twenties told me that my prosthetic arm creeped him out. And I'm pretty sure getting intimate with prosthetics is likely to end the night in the ER.

OneArmGirl

Monday, July 28

tying my shoe

Per a recent request, here is a short video of OneArmGirl tying the laces of her hiking sneaker...


video

Hope you found that enjoyable. There are actually several variations on this, involving my mouth, Finneas, and sitting down, but I'll save that for another segment of Ask OneArmGirl. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I think these are one of maybe two pairs of shoes that I own with laces. My closet is full of slip-ons.

[Note Keeper the Dog's close attention to the proceedings. She could care less how I tie my shoes as long as it means we are going out for a walk.]

Monday, July 14

Ask OneArmGirl...the answers

In the latest edition of Ask OneArmGirl, we received three whole questions...well, two questions and one request.


Balloons and confetti are currently falling from the ceiling at OAG headquarters as a result of this great success. We are thrilled at the response considering our recent neglect of this blog and our shameless resort to threatening our mother...my mother...I knew referring to myself in the third person would eventually backfire--I just like feeling like I'm working with a team.

Question #1 comes from reader 'summerrains':
"I was wondering if your engineers ever came up with a ponytail contraption?"

This question refers to an assignment taken on by engineering students of my former college buddy, now professor, Mike. They accepted my challenge to find an efficient way for someone with one hand to put a ponytail in her hair. They took on the task with gusto, emailing frequently for my consultation, but sadly this project (to my knowledge) never came to fruition. The end of the semester did, however, and I was notified that Project Ponytail would be tabled for the next year. And that was the last I heard. Can't blame them, really. They just needed a good grade and, while a one-handed ponytail seems innocent enough, it's a dilemma that's plagued me for years.

Question #2 comes from reader 'Gray':
"Did you ever try using the 1-Up hair tie to help do a ponytail? I think I may have mentioned it before in some ancient post. I have a friend who likes them a lot."

Gray, I did indeed. In fact, 1-Up hair tie creator Sara the Hand Therapist was gracious enough to send me a whole set. I detailed my experiment with the 1-Up hair tie in a post you can read here

Though I only spent one day playing with 1-Up, and am sure I could improve, I have found some rubber ties from Goody to be just as handy for me. They are a little sticky, so they cling to my hair better while I maneuver them into place. Plus the design couldn't be simpler as they look just like other hair ties. That said, as my hair has gotten longer this summer, I've started opting for clips over ties anyway.

It's interesting to me how popular this ponytail thing has gotten. I feel buoyed by the number of people concerned about my hairstyle, determined to make a way where there seemed to be no way.

Many thanks for that, and for another successful installment of Ask OneArmGirl. Tune in later this week for a special video response to a reader's request.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, July 10

an apologetic post

I am so behind in posting that it's started to hang like a guilty haze just behind my ears. I fall asleep wondering if I will write the next day.

So here I am, ready to post. Ready or not, here I post?

There's been a lot going on, though I'm sure, on the spot, I couldn't tell you what. Summer is in full tilt and I'm just trying to hold my own against the centrifugal force.

Did I mention painting the living room?
I feel like daily tasks are just whirling around me. If it's not exercising the dog, planning a riding lesson, washing the dishes (how are there so many dishes?) or watering my sun-wilted plants, it's something else.

This week, my dad came into town and I got sick (simultaneous but not correlated). Nevertheless, we're making the best of it: walking the acequia path with Keeper the dog, having beers with monks while discussing theology, taking afternoon naps.

So, while my brain is flustered, let's do a long-overdue segment of Ask OneArmGirl. This is where you (my long-suffering readers) get a chance to ask me a question, or two, or three. What would you like to know about me, my life, or the one-armed life in general. Perhaps you've been wondering about a sometime regular character who has not recently appeared on this blog. No question is off limits, though my answer may be limited.

What do you want to know? Leave your question in the comments and I will dedicate a shortly upcoming post to answering them.

OneArmGirl

*Mom, if no one asks a question, you are required to do so...

Wednesday, June 25

bad with your good

On one of the longest, hottest days of the year here in my corner of the Southwest, my air-conditioner decided to take the day off. My hypotheses: it's been feeling overworked as it is also the heating unit--or, it is having an identity crisis.

Either way, I am currently sitting directly under the ceiling fan, contemplating an escape to the sanctuary of the closest movie theater.

I've been struck lately by the necessity of taking the good with the bad. What's really behind the pithy statement? What does it mean to 'take' what life hands out?

As you may recall, a few weeks back, I was excited to get a call from Heidi Latsky about an upcoming film exploring disability in dance. She asked me to send audition tapes. I cleared out my entire living room to create a makeshift dance studio, only to find, several weeks and phone calls later that the film is already way over budget with too many dancers.

"I promise you will be in the next movie," Heidi tells me apologetically over the phone.

"Ok," I laugh, thinking she might have said "I promise you can go with me the next time I get an invitation to the White House."

But who knows?

No one knows about a next time, or a first time for that matter. Am I sitting on the floor crying, listening to Sarah McLachlan? Not yet. As I mentioned, I'm sitting under a ceiling fan, sweating.

So, I've had some disappointing news. So what? The older I get, the more I realize that sometimes dreams come true, and sometimes they don't. And sometimes they come true later, much later than we wanted.

And it's not that it's not a big deal; I was over the moon with the prospect of working on a film like that. It was a perfect opportunity, in one fantasy, launching my platform as a celebrity disability advocate. I imagined myself on the Today Show.

But it is not to be. And it's ok, something else will come along.

Meanwhile, I will keep enjoying my morning coffee and dog park visits with Keeper the dog. I will keep learning how to teach a little girl to communicate with her horse. I will keep trying new dance inversions with my fellow acrobats. These are the dreams that come true again and again each day.

I don't think taking the bad with the good means denying your attachment to feelings that arise. It's OK to be ecstatic, and it's OK to be heartbroken. You take each development, each emotion like you would waves as you make your way deeper into the ocean. You let them wash through, past, and sometimes overtop of you, but you keep going, never forgetting how good it feels to swim.

OneArmGirl

Monday, June 9

erasing the line

At the dog park recently, I met Tom from Guam. Almost as soon as I met him, he asked about my arm. No, this is not Dr. Seuss. If it were, I would have said he asked about my 'aam.'


Interpretation by friend Noam.
While this question still catches me a little off guard, I am always happy to meet someone willing to be honest and straightforward in their curiosity. I explained that I was born with one arm and that I think it is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

"Really? How do you mean," Tom asked.

"It's allowed me to see the world in a different way, to think outside the box...it's also opened many opportunities to talk to people."

I didn't mention, talk to people like Tom who is now a regular follower.

In case you haven't noticed, I like to talk about disability. It's often the superficial starter to some very deep conversations. One can hardly bring up disability without finding out where another stands politically, spiritually, and socially; whether he or she is more of a half full or half empty glass sort.

"Do you consider yourself disabled," Sarina (another dog park colleague) asks me as we walk together around the Old Town plaza. She is clearly unconvinced.

But that's just it. Where is the line between disabled and able-bodied (both terms I detest, for the record). It's strange to me that someone would question my handicap when everywhere I go, people stare at me.

I was recently at a large theme park with Dragon Boy and Mama. Standing in line for the next ride I was sure to regret going on, I was surrounded by a sea of children whose parents, regretting their unlucky position near me in line, attempted to divert their children's curious eyes.

If I'm not disabled, what am I? Do I exist in some gray area between normal and disabled? The town freak, perhaps? If I don't seem to have a disability, try going just one day using only one arm; and maybe the other arm above your elbow--just to keep things fair.

But do I have a disability? Maybe. Maybe not.

This blog is less about claiming a label than taking the piss out of pariah. [Someone who is British tell me if that sentence made any sense]. Even more than celebrating my own freakishness, I write to show our great commonality--as people. But I have to highlight the line before I can erase it.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, June 5

behind

Dear readers,

I'm on vacation this week and running a bit behind. My apologies.

OneArmGirl


Thursday, May 29

dog park destiny

Destiny. Whether you believe in it or not, you can't help but notice occasions when something seems to come together just right. 

I debated whether or not to go to the dog park this morning, but off we went in the end. The place was deserted until another regular and her two mastiffs showed up. Keeper the dog is not a fan of big dogs or any dogs for that matter, but mastiffs hardly even notice she is there.

Just as I was starting to think about taking off, a Jack Russell Terrier with owner in tow entered the park. The owner ended up being a savvy German gal, road-trippig around the country. We got talking, our dogs actually started playing together, and I offered her a room to stay.

So just like that, I have a houseguest. Sarina and Slick couldn't be more amenable and lovely to hang with, and it turns out you don't have to be back-packing across Europe to meet europeans. This is nice for a more domestic, home and hearth gal like me.

We toured around the old town plaza (after a stop at Starbucks, of course), discussed our mutual love of candy sculls and un-scheduled road trips, and now we're sitting quietly in my living room, each absorbed in her own technical device as if we've been friends for decades.

It's a good day to remember that anything can happen any day. So I guess it's important to stay open.

Also, the Germans are obviously stalking me.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, May 22

the end and the beginning

Ever have one of those hours, days, weeks when the world seems to be coming to an end...well, at least your world...but then it doesn't?

I had one of those last week. I was working on an audition video for Heidi Latsky. I just needed a phrase or two of choreography that would allow her to see how my body moves. I cleared out the living room, leaving a makeshift studio (with all of my furniture piled at one end). I moved around the space. I turned on some music. I just needed to condense my dance ability into a fifteen second video--no big deal. 

Except that for a perfectionist/artist, that is a huge deal--damn near impossible deal, actually. I was an hour in, hot and bloated (for other reasons), and I only had about eight counts of movement. Then I made the mistake of recording myself and watching it. Within ten seconds of recording, I was piled under an avalanche of horrible high school dance audition memories--not to mention thirty-four years of frustration with my own body, the way it moves and the way it doesn't move. I might as well have been onstage before the judges of So You Think You Can Dance with all of them grimacing and shaking their heads. 

I felt untrained, unprepared, and like a complete idiot for even thinking I could do something like this.

I sat down on the couch, now wedged in the doorway between the living room and kitchen. I felt as discombobulated as the room looked. This was only the tip of the iceberg currently threatening the buoyancy of my self confidence. I was already feeling like I'd made a huge mistake becoming a therapeutic riding instructor when I'm really interested in physical therapy--the night before I had to teach, I'd decided I hated my job and I've only been at it for a couple months. And somewhere within the same week, I decided I'd adopted the wrong dog, that she was too nervous and not friendly and needed more space. The end was in sight.

Nothing made sense. So I went to bed. I really did. I took a three or four hour nap. I woke up hungry, called Dragon Boy's Mama and Little Gen, and went out for sushi, leaving the living room in disarray.

Back in the 'studio' the next day, I reminded myself that I was making an audition tape for a woman who wants to work with different bodies. I also told myself that I needed to do it, at my current ability level, and get it over with, or I would assuredly be committed when I stumbled out of my apartment a week later, malnourished, naked, and mumbling something about Baryshnikov.

Over the next day or so, I finished some semblance of choreography that I could stand, sent off the recording, and put the couch back in place. Life had to go on...

And it did. A week went by and I heard nothing. I started to console myself, saying I'd done the best I could (though myself never quite believes that).

Then, this morning I woke up to an email from Heidi. The subject read: "working with you." There was one sentence inside: "I would love to so please call me when you can so we can organize this..."

OneArmGirl


Thursday, May 15

uninspired

I recently watched an inspiring news story about a young woman, born with a partial left arm, whose friends raised enough money to buy her a bionic hand.

The problem: I was not inspired.

In fact, the longer I watched the segment, the more uninspired I became. I started to get frustrated, then a little angry.


It's not that I have something against prosthetics per se, and I'm definitely pro dreams coming true. But the way the story angled, one got the impression that this poor deformed girl needed a new hand to be happy; that she was not whole and, if only she had this fancy bionic hand, life would suddenly be peach pies and daffodils.

In an interview, her father tearily explained how worried he'd been about his daughter's success in life. How was she going to do things? I wanted to tell him to just watch and learn. No doubt, he already has.

Her good friends had obviously put a lot of love and energy into their bionic arm fund campaign. They presented her with the money on a stage, in front of a cheering crowd.

I have a lot of thoughts. Firstly, it doesn't matter how many people tell me what great advancements they are making these days in prosthetics, I refuse to get excited. I've been there, I've done the casting, and the waiting, and the fitting, and the waiting...and if you consider that we started with nothing, it is a great achievement in medicine, or mechanics, or electronics...but at the end of the day, when it comes to usability and actual quality of life improvement, prosthetics leave much to be desired.

[Yes, I do know they are now using electrodes to allow brain signals to move electronic fingers]

Secondly, this heartwarming story gave the impression that being without a fake arm left this young lady at a deficit...despite the fact that she was clearly a driven person, successful student, basketball player with a loving family.

My guess? Give it six months and she'll hardly be wearing that bionic hand much at all. And the next thing you know, it'll be in the closet.

What would this world look like if we spent as much energy, money, and time on helping people to appreciate their bodies as we do on science to improve them?

OneArmGirl

Thursday, May 8

and so it goes

The show is closed and I'm in recovery. I feel a little lost not going to the studio every day. I'm making friends again with my apartment, trying to wash the dishes on a semi-regular basis...

I also need to wash Keeper the dog. She's now had dried milkshake drops on her ears for several days--it's pretty bad. 

It seemed generally agreed among the dancers that this show was quite physically demanding. It's notable that I weathered it so well. I was certainly tired, even wiped out by times, but I survived. 

The final pax de deux was a great success, if I do say so myself. One show-goer described it as the sigh of relief at the end of a beautiful nightmare. When the lights went down on our last performance, I nearly kissed Zach on the lips. I refrained because, I think, I need to be a bit more European for that.

There was special mention of Finneas under the Thank You credits in the show program and now the ego of that little arm isn't so little. Unfortunately I'd rather be indoors curled up on the couch, while he's itching to get out and meet his public.

In the same week as our aerial extravaganza, Barnum and Bailey made national news when their rigging failed and eight aerialists hanging from a huge wheel by their hair fell to the ground with the apparatus on top of them. There were some serious injuries, but no one died. 

All press is good press?

Speaking of fans, I'd like to extend a big thank you to all who attended the show and promoted it via social media and word of mouth--and lots of love to those of you who were unable to attend for various reasons.

I guess I'll just have to do it again.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, April 24

pas de deux and war horses

We're a week out from show time and things are...going. But if you've ever been involved with the performing arts, you know that means you're pretty much right on track.

Found a hand
My pas de deux with Zach is turning out to be quite the jaw dropper. It's the last piece in the show and it's really good, if I do say so myself. Zach showed a rehearsal recording to his father, who said he is now coming to see me instead of Zach. That's the power of the one arm.

Sitting in the studio last night, watching Director Deb demonstrate some choreography, it occurred to me what a dream come true this really is; and what little girl doesn't dream of being lifted in the air by a man in spandex. It's right up there with a love of horses. Wait a second...

Turns out living your dreams also takes a lot of work, which explains the tardiness of today's post. When it rains, it pours trapeze and horses.

Speaking of, War Horse the show is coming to a local theater and our therapeutic riding outfit has been selected to bring a real horse to "meet" one of the wooden ones. If you just responded to that statement with a 'huh?', welcome to the club.

At this point, if a bunch of militants suddenly drop out of the wooden horse and siege on the city, I won't be surprised. Stranger things have happened.

Throw in some fabric dancing and it sounds like a great premise for the next aerial show.

OneArmGirl  

Thursday, April 17

in the works

Something came up this week that I can't help mentioning here. You may remember that I got to meet one of my contemporary heroes last fall when I visited Manhattan...Heidi Latsky, the artistic director of Heidi Latsky Dance. The very same called this week to say she'd like me to be in her movie.

On Monday, the New York Times announced that Ms. Latsky is the first of three choreographers chosen to participate in a dance and short film project funded by the Carnegie Mellon Foundation. Her film will be called "The Beauty of Dance: Redefining Virtuosity Through Dance."

Multi-tasking with drying jeans, Keeper and Dragon Boy
Lest you think I am in the habit of scouring the Times for the latest in the Manhattan dance scene, know that it was Heidi herself who informed me of this fact.

I am thrilled; just that something like this is happening, regardless of my participation. Even though she wants me to be a part of the project, Heidi is not sure flying me to New York is in the budget. But I have a feeling it's gonna work out, one way or another.

I went to rehearsal last night with renewed energy and we pounded out the last connecting bits of our fabric double--and I didn't even fart in Zach's face this time. I'm hoping to record a version of our piece that I can send to Heidi tonight. 

In processing this news, I found an article that Heidi wrote some time back in connection with TED Talks. Thought I'd share it because I really identify. You can click here to read it.

Or, you can go sip a cup of tea and relax for me.

OneArmGirl

Thursday, April 10

fractured days and dog DNA

I'm thinking about getting a DNA test for my dog. Does anyone know how to do that? Can I send her saliva somewhere online?

It's just getting tiring, all the guessing about her heredity. Is she part beagle, dachshund, heeler, and the list goes on. I've had it. I want answers, dammit.

And that's the feisty mood I find myself in today. There's a lot going on around here, and nothing gets a girl worked up like opening her email in the morning when she still has dirty dishes left over from last night.

It's almost 3:30 and the dishes are still dirty, if you are wondering. I've been trying, and I use that term loosely, to get a query sent off to a book agent for two weeks now. Just one little email asking a total stranger to represent my poor little book.

And I still haven't stretched today.

I cleaned my hair, and let me tell you, that's no small feat when you've got the bulk of curl I'm sporting. I've taken the aforementioned dog of ambiguous ancestry on two outdoor outings, one of which was a poorly disguised Starbucks run. I've managed to put on some clothes and makeup...

Ever have one of those days where you have so much to do, but the more you think about it, the less it gets done? And then sometime in the early afternoon, you get so stressed out by your non-accomplishment, you eat a whole carton of ice cream and then take a nap.

I probably just lost most of my male readership right there.

I've also decided recently that I am going to do some standup comedy. No, for real this time. I need more material, which I will write after I finish this post, and send off the agent query, and write a screenplay loosely based on some priests I know. I think I need a nap first.

But seriously, how does one get results for canine DNA?

OneArmGirl