Dear Simeon: Enjoy your new wheels! [a guest post for What Do You Do, Dear?]

This is a guest post for my friend Mary Evelyn’s amazing blog, What Do You Do, Dear?

Her son, one of my favorite humans, just got his first wheelchair. I wanted to write Sim a letter about what being in a wheelchair is like, so he and his mom can read it together later on when he starts to get older and ask questions.

Enjoy! And read the rest of her blog instantly.

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Hi, Simeon!

I’m Beth. I’m friends with your Mom and Dad. I go to Church with your Uncle Joel and Aunt Sarah. I made you a video where I sang Happy Birthday to you when you turned one. I bet you could tell that I’m very, very silly. Most people figure it out right away.

Your Mom wrote a blog post about you getting your first wheelchair the other day. I watched that video she made, and it looks like you already know just what to do. Awesome! 

It is fun to use your chair to learn ways to do things your friends do that work for you. You want to zoom around the playground? You can. You want to twirl around in a circle for the heck of it? You can. If there’s something you want to do, there’s a way to figure out how you can do it. 

As a bigger kid who uses a wheelchair, too, I can tell you: having a wheelchair can be great. It helps you get around more easily by yourself. You can keep up better with your friends who are walking, running, or playing with you; especially if they are pushing your chair during playtime. You will meet a lot of great friends to have fun with. I have no doubt. 

But there are going to be some people you meet that won’t understand wheelchairs or what it is like to use one. They won’t understand that you have your own way of doing things that works for you. They might say that there is something wrong with you, that you’re sick, or that you can’t do something they can do. They might tease you. They might laugh at you. They might look at you funny. They might feel sorry for you. They might call you names. They will make choices that hurt your feelings. 

When I meet people who act like this, I am angry. I’m sad. If they just got to know me a little, they wouldn’t choose to say and do things like that! It’s okay to be upset when people hurt your feelings. Just do your best to remember the good friends and helpers all around you who love you very much. 

You may meet some other friends with wheelchairs, some who use crutches or a walker, some who have service dogs to help them with seeing or hearing or reaching things. Some of your friends might not have wheelchairs or walkers or crutches or service dogs, but there are things they will need help with, too.

We can all help each other, we can all be friends with each other. We can all learn from each other. There are two things we should always remember to say, “Thanks for helping me!” and “What can I do to help you?” Helping each other makes us all better friends in the long run. 

Being in a wheelchair does make us different from a lot of our friends. Feeling like you’re different can be scary. But it is nothing to be scared of or sad about. God makes each one of us special. There is only one me, there is only one you. All of our friends are special, too. We are all different from one another. And that’s just it. Because no two of us are alike, everyone is fabulous, everyone is wonderful; everyone is fantastic. 

So, keep your chin up, Sim. Keep on rolling. Keep on being fabulous, fantastic you, no matter what. 

Zoom zoom. 

With Lots of Love, 
Your friend, 
Beth

Super Topical Vlog: Thanksgiving Edition!

Knowing the word “topical” was going to be used in the title of this post meant that I had to try to resist the barrage of impulses to say something about a “topical storm”. . . Sorry. It was right there. It was too easy.

I am not going to bore you with details about my day-to-day, other than to say it remains relatively unchanged, and I am doing what I can to press forward and make the best of it.

I am not going to write anything about Plymouth Rock metaphorically landing on any particular person, group, cause, or sentiment.

I am not going to post recipes. God knows you could have guessed that.

This is all I came here to do:

Refresh/replay as needed.

Love you all.

my friends are cooler than yours.

Sometimes it’s hard to level with somebody; to sit them down and tell it like it is-or like you think it should be-takes a great deal of courage. So, I thought I’d get all my hard work out of the way in the title today.

It’s true. As much as I hate to have to say it, I have come to the realization that my friends are cooler than yours. I’m sorry I couldn’t break it to you more gently, but we are friends, right? So I figured I could shoot straight and save myself some time.

I realize that saying I have the best, coolest, hippest, most dashing, most faithful, most talented, most intelligent friends in the Known Universe may sound like boasting. But that’s only if I say so it without the evidentiary proof necessary to back it up:

I have the type of friends who can turn a single phrase from an inside joke, to an art project, to a concept for a side project and vinyl single, in the span of only a few hours.

there are no words for this. other than "incredible".

I have the type of friends who volunteer to cook for you, clean for you, and drive you all over G*d’s Green Earth. [Which reminds me, if I ever hit the lottery, I am paying the car note of every person who has ever given me a ride anywhere.]

I have the type of friends who will carve and varnish a magic wand for you to take to the final Harry Potter midnight movie showing.

I have the type of friends who will sit around the dinner table and laugh till they cry about their humiliating middle school fashion choices.

I have the type of friends who will invite you over for beer, ice cream, and evening prayers.

I have the type of friends that will take you for coffee when they know you’ve had a bad day. And the type of friends who will never let you pay for a latte.

I have the type of friends who would put me on a mat, carry me by the sweat of their brows, and lower me through a hole in the roof, if it meant getting me close enough to touch the feet of G*d.

And I have the type of friends who constantly encourage me to write, even when it’s not paying; who read everything I post, comment on it, encourage me to write more, and hound me about making more of an effort to publish it.

Without this kind of support-without the kind of faith you have to have in me to make this example of friendship [and all the others] true- I would not be who I am, where I am, or what I am. I would not have the hope, the assurance, or the twisted sense of humor that I do, without each and every one of you right there at my side, and in my corner.

And for that I thank you.

See there? You’re cooler than you thought. . .

the best policy

When I am confused, I think about rockin’ people, and how I might best follow their example and rock the world around me to the appropriate degree required by a given situation. I am at a confusing and somewhat troubling stage in life right now. Luckily, there is always someone who rocks considerably that I can look to for inspiration and guidance.

Honesty RocksRegardless of where your political loyalties may have found themselves in the mid-to-late 19th century, everyone can agree that Abraham Lincoln was known for being honest. He was unafraid to call it like it was, lay his cards on the table, even though it ended up costing him his life: his honesty is his legacy.

While with a friend tonight, I confided that “I am often afraid to tell people about things that are going on with me, because I don’t want them to feel compelled to be sorry for me”. That is a loaded statement. But what I realized is that the majority of the people reading this are my friends and my family, and I owe it to you to be honest, to level about where my life is to this point.

For those of you who sincerely would like to know how I’m doing, or how ______ makes me feel, I offer you a candid explanation:

  • I am still unemployed. I have been working with a job placement program, and I have a couple of faint prospects. I have been advised to wait on them while we keep our eyes open for new things. I am wondering if the new things we find will be good things- and I am wondering how long I will have to wait.
  • I am not going back to school. My attempt to retake the GRE resulted in disappointing scores. I am writing in the morning to request that my application be removed from consideration for admission [I was told the score requirement was a necessary one to be considered].
  • I have not adequately pursued getting my writing published. This is part due to my forgetfulness, and part due to renewed focus and emphasis on searching for jobs. I really wish I could be a writer. I do not want to give up my philanthropic hopes, either. But writing is something else that makes me feel alive. I have some contacts in publishing. I really want to get those efforts back in gear.
  • I have also [unintentionally, of course] neglected other efforts, like independent grant writing.] The grant-writing was something I agreed to do for a member of my family. Preliminary searching has proved it will be an immense challenge. Not to mention my own failings, the rapid passage of time, and my other pursuits such as job hunting and managing my emotional well being, are proving more demanding of my time than I originally anticipated. It is very important for me to come through on this and to hold up my end of the bargain.
  • I am constantly wrestling with contentment about being single. Not unlike Jacob’s epic battle with the Lord, it is a seeming never-ending struggle for me to reconcile the realities of my solitude with the gratitude for what I have in my life that makes it what it is. I am nowhere near a point of arrival on this, but I am working hard to learn what life has been trying to teach me about this area over the years. Unfortunately, I am not quite objective enough to tell you how well I’m doing.
  • I have realized [the hard way] the importance of addressing my emotional health. I have chemical and emotional imbalance. Just like any physical illness, psychological challenges can be draining and can affect other areas of your life adversely, if they are not controlled. Until recently, I have not taken care of myself in this area the way I should. Luckily, my family, friends, and the professionals guiding me through things, are tireless in their efforts for me to see my bull-headedness. I am on the way to more clarity in this area, and hoping that will help with the rest.

As of a couple of days ago, barring some temporary and volunteer work, I have been unemployed for 2 full years now. I must confess, for a person whose entire life prior to that point was marked by a series of well-planned personal, intellectual achievements, this can be devastating. I feel afraid that I have lost something along the way; something vital, some spark, some bit of knowledge, that had made me the successful person I once was.

I do not know what the future will bring, and honestly I can be more frightened than hopeful at times. What I do know is this: I am deeply humbled, and nothing short of desperate for more of God’s unfailing grace and mercy with each passing day.

And one more thing. I am I am very thankful- so thankful- for the many supportive, loving, and gracious souls in my life. I know that you all are not afraid to stand next to me, even while night falls. And that means we’ll be together when the sun comes out.

Whenever that may be. . .

[25] things you should do.

As of today, I have been on this planet for twenty-five [25] whole, entire years. However, I am no priest, rabbi, or Dalai Lama. I make no attempt to present 25 sage lessons, wise quotes, or life-altering, exemplary anecdotes.

I do things. Some of them are fun, enjoyable things. Some of them are necessary things. Some of them are regular things. I have compiled 25 of my favorite things to do- one for each year. These are things that I think everyone should do at some point in time.

In no particular order, here they are!

1. Give more hugs. Psychology tells us we need 8-10 meaningful touches a day to stay emotionally healthy. Hugs count.

2. Drink coffee or tea. Sure, there are antioxidants, and all kinds of other good health benefits, associated with moderate amounts of tea or coffee. But the most important thing is sharing it with friends. And the caffeine doesn’t hurt, either. [Whenever possible, drink fair trade.]

3. Go on road trips. My suggestions for a successful road trip: pick someone you mesh well with, find a good way to split responsibility and cost, and bring an audiobook. You will learn a ton about the other person, and about the perils of the average American truck stop.

4. Tell your friends you are thankful for them. Don’t wait for a birthday, major holiday, or an argument to try to get things on the table. If it is hard for you to talk about feelings, thank your friend(s) for a specific thing(s) that has been done for you. A good way to do that is “Thank you for [thing you did for me]. I really appreciate you.” It is simple, but can make a world of difference for the person, and for your friendship.

5. Buy clothes and shoes consignment. I started doing this a couple years ago, because I realized how much cheaper it is than buying new. But it can also be fun to look for finds with friends, or to create your own ensembles. Keep at it if you don’t find something right away. There is something out there for everyone. Also: no one has ever ‘spotted’ anything I own as being secondhand, so you can go ahead and dispense of worrying about what others think.

6. Pet dogs. They are cute. They are awesome. They are always happy to see you. They rule. They make you smile. Of course, avoid the ones that are snarling and foaming at the mouth. Otherwise, acknowledging someone has a cute dog and asking to greet it can often be a great conversation starter. And you are making a puppy happy. Win-win.

7. Watch classic movies. There are so many great movies out there that do not star Miley Cyrus or Johnny Knoxville. It is amazing to see what actors, producers, and directors were capable of before CG, insane special effects, and auto-tune. AMC is a great channel for good movies, if you are unsure where to start.

8. Have the donuts at the Patterson House. Because deep-frying bread and covering it with an inch-deep layer of cinnamon sugar is way underrated.

9. Bank and pay bills online. Very easy; saves a tree; makes one feel like a marginally more responsible adult.

10. Be friends with someone who isn’t like you. Not trying to sound like an after-school special. This is a great way to broaden your horizons, and to learn how to communicate better. Some of my most rewarding friendships are with people I appear to have nothing in common with. In a world where people are so quick to make judgements, this is a sure-fire way to make sure we keep our prejudices in check.

11. Find out the story behind an interesting tattoo. Obviously, tact is in order here. The reason behind their tattoos may be a sensitive subject for some people. But it is a great conversation to have when you feel comfortable doing so. It gives you insight into something another person finds beautiful or meaningful, whether you’re a needlephobe or not.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

12. Read at least one new book a year. Good books abound. They have been around for millenia. And there are plenty of used bookstores where you can get a bundle of them for super cheap. Let those brain cells do some jumping jacks. And remember: reading makes you better looking.

13. Exchange letters. With stamps and everything. Engaging in the lost art of letter-writing gives you something to look forward to. . . not to mention it is a handy way to encourage creativity, and to boost your vocabulary. A good way to get yourself inspired to write letters is to pick out some neat cards or stationary, and decide on a friend to send them to. . . nothing compares to the simple joy of opening a piece of mail that isn’t an ad. . . or a bill.

14. Travel abroad. This is something that requires  some advance planning and money saving, but it is well worth it. Recommendations are the same as for the road trip entry. Just replace “bring an audiobook” with “watch the occasional in-flight movie”. A good way to start is finding out what kind of discounts you might be eligible for, and by looking for package deals.

15. Watch a movie, listen to an artist, or read a book, based on the recommendation of a friend. This has introduced me to the vast majority of musicians I love, and to a host of favorite books as well. It is another interesting way to connect with another human being, and a way to try something new that doesn’t involve eating bugs or being on a bizarre Japanese stunt show.

With Brett Dennen

16. See at least one of your favorite bands or artists in concert. Seeing a live performance of an artist you admire is a sure way to make you smile. Almost all the time, a live performance is better than a record, in that you get to make a living, human connection with a person; rather than just identifying with a song, a beat, or an idea. And you never know: you may get a hug out of it.

17. Go camping. I suggest going to a campground, with people who have been camping before. It is a blast. But make sure you bring pre-cooked food, just in case your homemade breakfast is sub-par, hypothetically speaking.

18. Pray for others. This is a must to remind me of the blessings I have been given, and of how I can serve someone else, even if I cannot “fix” their problem or situation directly. And if you’re not the praying kind, just listen, or ask if there is anything you can do to help.

Friends Forever

19. Stay up all night talking with a friend. This doesn’t have to be an every day practice. But there is no other catharsis quite like talking the ears right off one another every once and a while. Just make sure you don’t have anything planned the next day but a pot of coffee and a big brunch.

20. Take photos. Losing my camera was a big pain. It made me realize just how precious photographs can be. Not that it is as-good-as-the-real thing. But taking photos is great for those of us with the most terrible short term memories of all time.

21. Buy yourself a present every now and again. This year, I got myself a robot bracelet. It’s not about being selfish. It’s about reminding yourself that you are special and loved and worth investing in. . .

22. Keep at least one box of “kid cereal” around. Just make sure you don’t contract a case of Count Choculitis.

23. Own a Beatles album. Seriously. Pick one. They have influenced so much music after them. And in them, you can hear bits of the music that shaped who they are. I can honestly say that owning one of their discs had a profound effect on my life. They helped me to love music, and to find little bits of happiness and optimism all over the place.

24. Be still from time to time. A couple of years ago, I spent 2 days in silence at a retreat. It was such an inspiring and challenging time for my spirit. I don’t go on talking strikes or anything, but it is good for me to remember that if I give the opportunity for G*d to speak, he usually finds a creative way to do so.

25. Support a local writer. Congratulations. One thing-to-do down. Only 24 more to go! Hope this has sparked some ideas for happy-inducing activities. Thanks for the gift of your support. You’ve all made it a wonderful birthday!

besides world peace

I have never done a formal Wish List Blog before. At least not in Recent Memory- which, if you’re me, only accounts for the past three days or so. It seems like kind of an 8-year-old thing to do, and that is about 1/3 of my looming chronological age. So, if it weirds you out to read it, or if reading it makes you think Judgmental Things about me, just ask me for my opinion about a non-incendiary topic like religion or politics

All right, let’s get down to brass tacks.

1. Money & Gift Cards

"I'm funny *and* creepy."Some people are worried that giving cash or a gift card is impersonal and that it will not be appreciated. I can assure you that is only true if the recipient is someone who doesn’t like to Go Places or Do Things, in which case they would have no need for money or a gift card. Places and things are both personal favorites of mine, and such options would give me the chance to enjoy plenty of them. I would be most grateful.

Especially effective applications for Money or Gift Cards: Fido, Pangaea, Rose Pepper Cantina, Flying Saucer, Boscos, any other local cafe or coffeehouse, bookstore, music venue, salon, Target

Cost: However much you want it to be, that’s the beauty of this option.

2. Clue: the Office Edition

This is amazing. And one of the few concrete items I can clearly admit that I want. I’ll spare you the details of the pieces, the rooms, and the characters for the sake of not completely geeking out on you. But I will tell you that one of the weapons is a George Foreman grill. Oh, and you should know that if I have a birthday party and someone gives me this, I will want to play it immediately. Can’t decide if that helps my case or not.

Oh, and my guess? Michael killed Toby in the break room. With a Dundee.

Cost: $25-35 [Amazon has it, but I’m sure other places do, too.]

3. Music (Live)

I love a good show. There are a couple coming to Nashville in late winter that I am particularly excited about. First, these guys.

CAKE will be at the Ryman Auditorium- I think the 20th of January (or around there). Tickets can be bought directly from the Ryman box office during regular business hours- or through Ticketmaster.

Then there’s this guy.

I love Josh Radin, his beautiful voice, and his brilliant songwriting. I have been so ready for him to play a small venue once he gets here- and I got my wish, at least that part of my wish.

He is playing Cannery Ballroom on Feb 4. Tickets can be bought here.

Cost: $17 (advance)

4. Disregard Everything I Suggest and Just Be You

osnap

You know I heard somewhere something about giving and receiving. And we all know one is clearly better than the other. That being said, I am 100% serious that I make wish lists because they are fun. I enjoy wishing for things and making non-essential lists, so it is the perfect arrangement for me.

It is not a mandate, not even a suggestion, or a formal request. My best gifts over the years have been found in the company and the experiences themselves. [Remember that Miss America interview- practice, practice, practice.] I have also received fabulous handmade gifts and creative spins on common gifts [personalized coupons rather than gift cards, the favorite book of the gift-giver, mix CDs, etc].

By the way, it has been an odd time of year for me personally and fiscally, but if I tell you your gift is forthcoming, I mean that. And you can hold me to it.

All in all, I have left front teeth, true love and diplomatic understanding for later, I simply beseech you all: have a great, peaceful season of receiving blessing and giving thanks.

image not available

“Tony, Tony, look around

Something’s lost and must be found!”

–  Prayer to St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of Lost Things

 

Last night I saw Matt Costa perform at the Exit/In with a bunch of good friends. We were right up front and I, for one,  had an incredible experience at the show. Great set, lots of new songs, and almost all of my favorites. Almost. I took many amazing photos. Color, black and white, sepia, you name it. I was close enough to have been able to tell him if his shoe was untied. The stage lights and the many bodies clamoring together kept me nice and toasty, in spite of the cold November rain falling right outside the door.

By the end of the show, most of my friends had scattered to warmer, drier places. But a few of us were left milling around, with the rest of the stragglers. I was going to throw away the cups we had left on the stage, when I saw Matt walking right toward me.

“Are you cleaning up other people’s messes?” he said to me. He is one of those people that manages to smile even while he is talking to you.

“Oh, no. Just cleaning up my own mess.” I assured him.

“Well you don’t have to do that. There are other people here to do that.”

He waited for me to set the cups back down in front of the monitor, and then we made our introductions. Since this is me we’re talking about, the grinning thing was mutual.

I thanked him for a good show, and he thanked me for enjoying myself. And I made a casual observation.

“There wasn’t really a whole lot of dancing space here up front.”

“Yeah, I know. I tried to do some dancing myself but. . .” and after a pause “So you can dance in that?” [You might be surprised how often people don’t believe me when I tell them I can dance, or at how many people try to use my wheelchair as an excuse for their own awkward feelings about dancing. I’m not, but you might be.]

“Yeah,” I said, “Here, come’re, I’ll show you.”

He looked at me uncertain, but after a second, came over, and I gave him an impromptu dance lesson. We did some little back and forth dance moves, and I taught him how to spin me in my chair, the way you might twirl any dance partner. [It’s really simple, by the way. I don’t restrict my lessons to indie celebrities, and would be glad to show any of you the ropes anytime.]

He was a very good spinner, in case you’re wondering.

We took a couple of pictures with one another, I thanked him again, and he promised to spin me next time. I told him it was a deal.

All the proof I've got

Doesn't quite look like me and Matt dancing, but it will have to do.

I got home so thrilled to overlook and upload my pictures, especially the ones Matt and I had taken together. He had been so friendly and sweet that I couldn’t wait to see how well my photos had captured all my happiness. But, true to my impeccable ability to drop, forget and lose anything of real value around the exact time I need something to go right in my life, for Heaven’s sake, I discovered that the camera was nowhere to be found. With no answer at the venue and no help from the place of business we had parked in front of, I am left to fear the worst. My camera, along with the happiest moments of my Saturday, and of the rest of my autumn, is gone for good.

A picture is worth a thousand words. So, if you loose so many of them, what is left to say?

It doesn’t really seem fair to me, even in hindsight. that my happiness should be taken from me so abruptly, and after such a brief stay, but I have been fighting tooth and nail to spin this positively. After all this has been a month of loss in all its forms, with little recover, and little relief.

And  right now- though you can bet your next cup of coffee that it’s still cold comfort- this is the best I can come up with: I may forget my camera, full of pictures of that concert, and of my best childhood friend’s new baby, none of which will ever be able to be shared, but I won’t forget the experiences I tried my best to capture there.

I won’t forget how it felt to hold sweet little Gabriella in my arms, or to have Matt twirl me around the room to no music at all, with a huge smile on his face.

There are some things I simply refuse to forget; some things I will never drop, leave behind, or let get soaked in rain and ground water. And I am crossing my fingers that I make the same impression on my dance partners.