paidiraiompair: (hippie gimp)
then dance your way through every day!

It's been a while since I've posted an awsome dance video, and it delights my love of cosplay and costume!  Enjoy while the next post is brewing!  


paidiraiompair: (dance warm up)
Sometimes in the social media world of "disability forums" lines of discussions can degenerate into arguments of "gimper than thou".  Folks turn on one another over who should park where, who should use which stall, get put in the front of a line, the first row or get their gas pumped.  They argue over who should or shouldn't be in a wheel chair.  Let someone stand up or be able to walk even a few unaided steps and out come the stones.  I personally don't buy into any of that,  but I do know what it is to be judged by someone who doesn't know ANYTHING about my disability.  It is hard to know how to react to public ignorance because the loudest voice is often mistaken for that of authority.
 
Early days spent in front of mirrors, it was hard to both see the lines and forms my body was creating without getting caught up and distracted by the minutia all humans see in themselves as "flaws".  I dance with graceful, dynamic and athletic partners, but not one who didn't have some obsession with parts of themselves their "didn't like".   Everyone has something they WISH they  could do, and see others do it so well.  One might be able to hold a relev'e longer, or do a spin longer or a jump higher, and we both hanker and applaud each other's abilities.
 
In a physically integrated company, adaption works on all fronts.  Not only is each "wheelie" dancer working within the abilities of their own body, but also the capabilities of their AB partner.  In an occupation where uniformity in execution and body type is so often the norm, part of the art in the work I am involved in is the nuances in the acclimation of  our bodies and our movement.   We push ourselves, reach further, try anything.  Like in life, it is a balance to work within the real limits of physics and the true nature of the human desire to push beyond them.  The result of such sagacity and poise, I think, is a most sure footed way to move.

Long time no update, I know.  Yeah, my third pro year has been crazy busy.  We have a new AB, have added more pieces to last year's choreography, and the challenges have mounted with a busier schedule. All in all, it's been awesome and free time has been devoted to PT and sleep.  However, I've had this thought on my brain for a long while so there it is.
paidiraiompair: (Can do)
 Over the last many years I have struggled with physical challenges. I and a few friends like me, have come to call ourselves “Border Gimps”, especially since society not only loves to have a name for things, but also to help sort through the current “P.C. phrase of the month”. Now I know there are as many thoughts on that sort of thing as there are people to think them, but here is how I and mine define it.

 


Border Gimps usually have some capacity to stand, likely even to walk, in one mode or another. Our bodies are usually all intact, just not 100% functional. Our issues are usually more related to the pain surrounding mobility in general. We go to doctors when the problems begin. This is often a long, multi-layered journey, at the end of which modern medicine provides little to no solutions for us. We usually have a mixed status officially, as in we probably won’t qualify for any sort of governmental disability assistance, but most of us have tags, called “rock star” or “princess” parking passes, for our cars. Some days, we might appear completely “normal”; others, our young or middle-aged bodies betray us into the stance of the very elderly. Likely, we have no control or way to predict what “status” any given day will bring. We spend our days on the border between “capable” and “handicapped”.

 

When you are a border gimp, one of the first things you’ll realize is that you are never enough of any one thing to please anyone. You can walk, perhaps with a decisive limp, but you CAN do it, appeasing those who are concerned that you will need special accommodations. When you walk, pain is always apart of the decision so you get really good at hiding it, a relief to those who are made uncomfortable from your mere presence. You find convenient excuses not to travel so long or so far. You learn to always have everything at hand. When you do move, you do so slowly and carefully, holding your body as firm and as erect as you can. You keep close to walls and other stable objects to catch an unexpected fault in your stride. You smile a lot, so folks don’t look too closely at the unavoidable catch of breath or flinch of pain. You’re clumsy but less an obstacle than in your chair. The chair gives you mobility but the world limits where you can go. First outings in chairs demonstrate just how “handicap accessible” the world and people around you, really are not.

Folks either can’t look away from you, or refuse to see you at all. Your very presence makes them uncomfortable. They don’t know how to act, so they either fall over themselves (and you) to “do” for you, or sprint and dash to get away from you. Either way, they wish you had just stayed at home.

People always want to know when you’ll “be better”. Why were you able to “walk” with a cane yesterday, but are in your chair today? They think to themselves, “There is NOTHING in this world that would put me in a wheelchair; I’d go down swinging.” They secretly think you are a pretender to the handicap world. You must be in it only for the “attention”.

There are medications to ease the pain, but even they are a double-edged sword. If you take them, you are “better”, in that you are more mobile, less “gimpy”, and easier to be around. You are also judged as an “addict”. You are weak for not just “powering” through your pain with guts and guile. Surely exercise, meditation, biofeedback, yoga, acupuncture, prayer, crystals, and determination can overcome any hurt better than “drugs”. There is the perpetual “have you tried….?” Everyone knows someone who has just what you have and tried whatever he or she is suggesting, and since it worked for them, it must be the cure. If you are relying on pills, then you have “given up”.

Border gimps know that we HAVE, in fact, tried it all. We have allowed doctors and healers to poke, prod, prescribe, inject, inspect, and x-ray and MRI us to the very limits of our ability to withstand physically and our ability to pay financially. But whatever our reasons, (and they can be complex and varied), there comes a moment when we are face to face with a physician who eventually throws up his or her hands and says “there is NOTHING I can do.” We have to accept that even “modern medicine” can’t fix everything, and it cannot fix us.

It is usually at this point that one of two things happens on the medical front. One, the doctor decides that since there is no “treatment that will lead to a cure”, he or she is done with you. That’s the dreaded diagnosis of MMI, Maximum Medical Improvement. Even if you are still “broken” you are expected to be resigned to your fate. Yes, your pain, your symptoms are still ever-present, but since there is no prize of making you better, the doctor shows you the door. You are left to “just deal with it” for the rest of your life. One doctor, who by the way, had admittedly NEVER laid eyes on me, told me that I could “walk enough”. Another told me, that though there were “abnormalities” in both MRI and x-rays, what I had wasn't, in his opinion, “significant”. He was once a physician for a major league football team, and THEY played hardball all the time with “real” problems. Life sucks; get a helmet.

The second thing that happens is that they turn on you. Since they cannot figure out the “why” of your affliction, then there is nothing wrong with you. You are lying. You are exaggerating your plight. You are an attention seeking, drug-addict who is a weak, lazy, mentally unstable drama queen. No, they are not going to “treat” you anymore, because there is no “treatment” you responded to. You ask what to do, and as one doctor said to me, “Well, just stop it”. Stop using a cane, stop walking with a limp, STOP being a whining pansy and just “pull yourself together”.

It is about at this point that most border gimps buy into this crap. It is one of the stages of grief; denial. We are not only in mourning for our lose mobility, but are told the lost is all in our heads. So many of us has given in to the doctor’s logic and said, “Well, I am all better now”. Even with or without pain medications, we push our bodies to the breaking point to prove to ourselves that we were just being weak and silly. During this time, we power through each day in mind-robbing agony. We swim the river of denial. Our overtly brave happy faces turning on a dime to “unexplainable” tears mixed with random rage. We do more than “seize a day”; we wrestle it to the ground, punishing ourselves with pain in frustration that our will alone cannot conquer our condition. We give ourselves no mercy, because no one “believes” us. They say what we feel isn’t real. We do this until our bodies give out. One day, there is no mental will or physical strength to get out of bed. We sink into a depression, hitting a wall without socially viable choices.

This is when the border gimps find they cannot physically live the “lifestyle” of a full time bi-ped. We want a life that is as rich and diverse and yes, even as free of pain, as anyone else. The smart ones begin to be their own advocate. If they are lucky, they have support of loved ones who will stick up for their right to make their own decisions about what sort of life they want. The very determined stick to their guns until they find a doctor who is more interested in helping them achieve that goal than “fixing” them. We want to STOP being patients and get on with whatever we were doing before we “starting going gimp”. But those of us on the border have to first buck up to one major fact. There will ALWAYS be people who are going to disagree (sometimes loudly and obnoxiously) and criticize our choices. We must, unfortunately, come to terms that those people who do not know us, do not know our struggle, and do not know our bodies can go straight to Hell.

There will be prices to pay for this force of independence. If we make concessions to our bodies, be that a cane, a walker, a chair, we are exhausted by having to “justify” our daily choices. We have the ABILITY to walk, no matter what else is involved, so why are we drawing attention to ourselves and inconveniencing everyone around us. If we educate ourselves and conclude that pain medications in some combination remove some of the hurt and enhance for our own decided quality of life, again we are judged. Anything must be better than living “dependent” on “drugs,” say people who have never lived day after month after year with constant, unfix-able hurt. Who wouldn't wish to live a life in which the daily choice isn’t “pain or brain”? The fact is, time factored by education and experience gives one the right to make choices for oneself. If others think they “know better”, there is no way to change their minds.

Sometimes worse are the “well wishers” those who can’t help but “bless us” as if we were dying victims. They tweak their voices into the same high pitch tones one uses for simpletons and small babies. I have a blind friend who laughs when people speak “clear and slow” for her to better understand them. We will often suffer as politely as we can through their easing of their souls to tell us we are “so brave”, “a trooper,” or the worst of all, “an inspiration”. We know they think they are being kind, but they do not know that all we really want is to go about each day just like everyone else. Good days and bad.

In my own life, I often attempt to cut these nice folks off with humor. It is how I have always lived, finding as much laughter in this crazy existence as I can. Yes, it IS a mask sometimes, but one that many use without malice. I smile as they fumble with which PC term I might be comfortable with, and then I let them off the hook. “I am a gimp, you are a bi-ped. You annoy the shit out of us,” I add, with the same silly tone of a good Southern “bless your heart”. They can’t help it, so I try to move along.

Border gimps, however, are often those with “invisible disabilities” on good days. Please know, we do understand and appreciate what our bodies ARE still able to do. We have choices that others do not. We are wheelchair users, not confined to a chair, and we know the difference. (BTW, lots of gimps of any stripe HATE the phrase, “confined to a wheelchair” so all you bi-peds make note NOT to use it). Yes, for some of us, we must face that eventually those choices will become more and more limited, as many of us have degenerative problems that will only become worse with time. Yet all of us only want to have the best quality of life, which is what all humans strive for, or I optimistically hope they do.

Life is a struggle, and all of us have our own “box of rocks” to tote around. We like to give names, labels, to the weight of those stones, so we can identify them when we see one. It has taken me a long decade to come to understand all the names I carry. So all these words are written just to be a voice for those like me. If you read some truth from your experience, then know, “I am a Border Gimp too, and we are not alone”.


paidiraiompair: (keep calm)
 An open letter to Amy Purdy and the cast and crew of Dancing with the Stars 
 
 
Dear Amy, 
 
First, I think you are amazing.
 
That said, I'd like to put before you a thought about a way you can REALLY help the disability community. PLEASE, stop allowing the folks on DWTS (I'm a big fan BTW) from CONSTANTLY calling you "inspirational". Folks with disabilities are sick and tired of being the focus of making the able bodied feel better by being their "inspiration". If you don't believe me, ask in the many communities peopled by the disabled and you will come to understand that you are in a rare and gift of an opportunity to use your participation to make a point. "Judge my dancing, judge my ability but STOP STOP STOP belittling all of that with the "I" word." (It is noted that Glen is less guilty of this so far and it's appreciated) 
 
It really matters, Amy, and it IS being taken note by your contemporaries. I was taking part is a conference today called "Nothing About Us, Without Us" and how the over use of the word was ruining the chance to educate the public about treating all of us in an truly EQUAL format. You are an athlete in the para Olympic games, and you would never accept the judges using anything other than your ability to measure your success. 
 
Please Amy, you really can do a wonderful thing with your wit (loved you on Jimmy K) and charm to educated the public. Ask the DWTS cast and crew to STOP using the word inspirational. We of the community ARE watching and hoping that THIS opportunity will not be allowed to slip away.  Thank you for listening. 
paidiraiompair: (dancin' in lot)
 I found this online and is the spirit of sharing how dance makes everything better, I share with you the new "exercise craze"  So pick your favorite guilty pleasure song and dance like no one is watching.  


L'Chaim!

Mar. 1st, 2014 05:04 pm
paidiraiompair: (hippie gimp)
My time in the dancing world has demonstrated to me that dancers in general all have different styles of learning choreography  Some are "counters" and use the number beats to train the body into the series of moves in a piece, layering the music in afterwards.  Others seem to do the opposite, using the musical cues to frame the movement, using numbered beats to be synchronize with the other dancers.  Still there are some who just seem to see the moves once and it becomes almost instantly embedded into their bodies. Then there are folks like me, who have to repeat the movement over and over again to learn the dance  My poor brain seems to have a layering process where it goes from the broad sense of the movement, firmly anchored to counts where repetition slowly (sometimes VERY slowly) adds all the extra finesses in each phrase.  Then the counts seems to fade as the music itself takes over as cues.  This is when I know I GOT it,  When I start to feel the freedom of my work.  When the performance becomes joy.

This week was my "secret challenge" as I had to let go all these regular methods of doing things.  The pace of the time from choreographing the piece to performance was so very different, I thought I'd never be able to do it.  Seriously this was a week of high panic in my mind as I fought my anxiety to want to do things the way I was more comfortable in body.  It was a week of trust as well.  Trust in my fellow dancers, choreographers and myself.  A friend said, "If the director didn't think you could do it, he wouldn't have you up there.  I wasn't sure in my heart, but I took the challenge.  Last night was the proof in the pudding and I have to say, so truly humble, that I was proud of the work.  So much so, that I share with you our performance at Temple Kehillat Chaim for Disability Awareness Month. 
Click the picture to see the FB Video
(I apologize to those who don't do FB, but the evil can not be helped)

THANK YOU FOR SHARING THE VIDEO AND A LOVELY EVENING  TO  Rabbi Harvey Winokur



                        last rehearsal before the show....................

paidiraiompair: (alligator)
I hit the ground running, as it were, not only prepping for the "big show" the company does each January here in Atlanta, but also incorporating three guest artist (two from "out of town") and working with a new dance partner.  I learned recently he wouldn't be returning for a good while, so to kick off a new year and more post writing, I wanted to share this video of some of the "off camera" moments he and I shared.  Luv U Kyle!






paidiraiompair: (arty chair)
 
 

One night I was riding with a friend downtown to a new club.  The old club location had closed and I was telling him how much I was going to miss it.  Once you navigated past the completely inaccessible front door, which I could do with the help of a cane and the strong arm of my date, that location was a dream of accessibility.  All the floors were hard, with not a carpet to be seen!  There were no stairs, only ramps. The ENTIRE bathroom was wide, not just the handicap stall.  Even the mirrors were low enough so that you could actually check your makeup.  It was a place I could dance, REALLY dance!  

I had never heard of the new club we were going to, but it's the new location my monthly dance night peeps had selected, and I wanted to go to support the troops. Upon arrival, we managed a parking space right out front of the club -- often a good omen.  My friend got out of the car to scope out the landscape, meaning finding out where (and if) the handicap accessibility would begin.  The "afterthought" construction of the door we were guided to made me laugh.  Imagine if you will, that just off the sidewalk there is a 2-inch high micro curb below a foot of actual ramp that's only about a foot and a half wide.  At the top of this "ramp" there was another 2 inch micro curb, and then a decorative wood pillar in the middle of the door.  So if one could somehow navigate the micro curbs to get to the "accessible entrance", one can't be more than 20 inches wide to pass through the door.  Again, I was fortunate to have my cane and the two strong arms, but my heart began to sink.

When I entered I was greeted at the door by the host, who is a friend of mine.  I slowly, and with all the politeness I have, navigated through the crowd to see that all the tables are the 4-foot high kind, complete with 3-foot high chairs.  So my friend helped me up into the chair, and we parked my wheels underneath the table.  

Now, I want to say that for the rest of the evening I had a good time.  I talked with friends, enjoyed a REAL Long Island iced tea, and thought that the decor and atmosphere were lovely. But the general experience of marginal access was typical of the events I'm invited to.  As I explained to my friend on the ride home, it's not that I think the organizers are being intentionally non inclusive. It’s just they suffer from the same problem that most of our society does, in which accessibility is an afterthought.  

I wrestle sometimes with how much I should say. I don't mean to be a bad sport.  And as any gimp will tell you, we are so very often accused of wanting special treatment.  It irks me, though, that simply wanting, no, needing a place to be accessible is considered “special treatment.” And we fear that if we make a big deal out of it, maybe we won't be asked to other events.  I currently still have the ability to be adaptive, yet I know that won't always be the case.  

When I'm out for a night on the town, I really would like to leave my advocate hat at home.  It so often clashes with my outfit. So I've been looking for a middle ground, maybe try writing some sort of letter to the organizers after the fact, to be used for the future.  Yet I'm still not sure how to begin.

Atlanta is filled with wonderful old historic buildings and businesses.  It's one of the things I love about the city.  As much as I hate the dreaded lifts, to preserve the buildings integrity, I know that sometimes you have to get in the lift!  I've lived in the city all of my life, and am blessed with many friends who never think twice about making sure that wherever we go, I can go too.  But when I am going to a new event by myself, there have been many times when as soon as I get there, I turn around and go home.  Sometimes it’s because I can't get into the building at all. Sometimes it’s just a day when my courage fails me, and I don't have it in me to be attracting unwanted attention, pity, or bubbling over with outrage over the lack of accessible design.  My friend was surprised that that happens so often, and I said, "It's because we don't talk about it."  I didn't add, "and I'm afraid folks won't want me around if I complain."  It happens. Even when I’m just inquiring about accessibility prior to going to an event/class, and I’m NEVER contacted back. (Panic over not wishing to bring up the issue can do that.)  

So how do you say to the organizers of such wonderful events, "I would love to go!  But I know that location or that activity won’t be accessible to me."  Maybe I'm wrong, but it goes against my southern girl politeness to say "If I go, will the group make sure that I will not be left behind, or put off in a corner?"  Because sometimes in these old buildings, a wheelchairs lucky to get through the door at all, and getting all the way into the actual space isn't an option.  

Am I being a princess?  Am I being a baby?  Am I being a burden?

See, I don't want to be any of those things.  I don't want anyone to be responsible for the emotional turmoil that being a "border gimp" brings me in those kind of social situations.  For that matter, most gimps don't want to be put in that position at all.  I'm not looking for pity, I'm just unsure on how to proceed.  And by that I mean, how to proceed in a way that is comfortable for ME, and not necessarily what another person thinks I might should do.  Not all of us are comfortable ALL THE TIME to speak up or out in EVERY situation.  It shouldn't make us cowards if we'd like to NOT jump up on a soap box every time one appears.   So I'm working on it.  And I share these words with you, in the hopes that it will spark not a debate, but LISTENING.  This is how I feel: even when I shouldn't, or "that wasn't what was meant" or I wish I'd stayed at home,

I'm not going to stay at home, that's just not me.  I just have to think it through
paidiraiompair: (dance warm up)
"Disability is not a brave struggle or ‘courage in the face of adversity. Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live." - Neil Marcus

paidiraiompair: (arty chair)
Each fall I do a write up on my "best time" of the year, DRAGON CON.  So before I take you "back to the floor" for the 2013 season, I'd like to combine some thoughts for your consideration and hopefully generosity as well .

This month, Atlanta was host to the 27th Annual Dragon Con, an event I have attended every year.  This time round I was asked to participate in a documentary about cosplay** and disabilities, with a focus on DC characters.  As I was posing for some shots as “Bat Girl aka “Oracle”, a few on lookers asked “is the chair PART of your costume?”  Since the character is written as a wheel chair user, I understood their query. However, when I was in other costumes, from Trekkie to steampunk, I was asked the SAME question.   In reality this line of thought isn’t anything new. 

 It surprises folks that the TOP query we get at Full Radius is, “do they REALLY need those wheel chairs?”  It is even put to us in the form of “why did you CHOOSE wheel chairs as part of the vision of this choreography?”, as if they were props.  During our last school tour, when Douglas thought to begin the proceedings with the answer “Yes, these dancers REALLY need their chairs”, it still cropped up in one form or another. I think children respond to their natural keen sense of observation, picking up quickly who can leave their chair to sit on the floor, do a hand stand, move a foot.  Perhaps they are thinking “if they can do THOSE things, then the chair surely isn’t a “necessity”. 

 However kids aren’t the only ones who question something that opens their minds to the possibility that what they perceive and what is actually possible might not be the same thing.  Ten years ago when I was just an audience member, I greatly respected Mr. Scotts version of “able blindness”.  He saw each body as “perfect, with the potential for undiscovered movement and you could tell it fed his work.  That ALL bodies not only COULD experience dance, but under his direction that WOULD.  Part of the artistic vision of FRD is that we are all dancers first.  Some of us may not have the stereotype body shape or physicality that prevails in the forum, but this is what makes our work wonderfully different and challenging for both performers and audience.   

 We are in the mists of a campaign of giving focusing on the individual.  YOUR contribution is needed to be part of the vision, part of the art that is Full Radius Dance.  Please consider, in addition to your financial endowment, gift us with your support by spreading the word of WHY you are patron of Atlanta’s own physically integrated dance troupe.


There are a couple of ways to gift:  You can do directly to our main page at http://www.fullradiusdance.org/frd.php?page=support/give to gift with a credit card.
 
OR save us the processing fees and you can use paypal.com !  Send your donation to SBDannelley@gmail.com (please be sure to include your NAME and ADDRESS in the comment portion)
 
OR you can send us a check (made out to FULL RADIUS DANCE) and mail it to 
Full Radius Dance / P.O. Box 54453 / Atlanta, GA 30308

   ********************************************************************************

**short for "costume play", is an activity in which participants wear costumes of a specific character or idea from a work of media entertainment/fiction




paidiraiompair: (koala jester)
been up to our wheels in rehearsals, but I wanted to share this morning adventure.....
So I arrive at class and go to get my chair out of the back of my jeep.    As I am bracing to let the hatch go up pass me, both tires pop out and start bouncing in two directions like a loony toons cartoon.  I reach to grab one and land on the ground as the chair portion falls out as well, which I somehow miraculously catch.  However my wheels are half way across the parking lot and this poor guy slams on his brakes.  Seeing my distress, he leaps from his car to retrieve one, only barely hearing me call out "SIR SIR, you forgot to put the car in PARK!!"
 
Poor well bred southern gentleman bi-ped stops the car and sees me on the ground laughing so hard I can not get back up right away.  He looked so confused, like "is it ok to laugh at this gimp??"  I say it's ok and he helped me get my tires back in time for rehearsal.

 
paidiraiompair: (power)
We were talking about this is rehearsal today and I just had to share:  



 
paidiraiompair: (papa's mountain)
 (please note that time with my Kin brings out my down home accent that I choose NOT to change for this post.  I hope you see the reasons)
  PS for those who asked, My Grandma is still in hospital, but on the mend  ~ 

Sometimes a thing can “work fer ye, or agisnt ye”.  I find this to be especially true to my efforts in this post.  Inspired by my time this summer in the BlueRidge, life here is often so simple, that it sets the mind a wondering.  Here we fall into a rhythm of waking and resting with the sun, spend hours on the porch rather than a TV, and cell phones and other “new fangled devices” rarely get a good signal.  A “trip to town” is either a place to get mail, tourist merchants, with a local eatery, or if you want to get real swanky, the nearest Wal-Mart.

It was there my train of thought began as I quietly noticed the local fashions.  A tall lady with bright pink patent leather cow boy boots paired with Daisy Dukes and the biggest straw hat I’ve seen in a long while.  (If you know my world THAT’S saying something)   A lanky teen that was going for “goth”, but lost me in the blonde “big hair”, tied up with a skull ribbon.  Then there was the “PJ” family:  I don’t mean the current fashion of “pj pants as ok for public” sort of thing, I am talking 4 kids aged 3-10 in their PAJAMAS, as their array of “bed head” furthered the point.  They turned the corner to their equally robed (and I mean “with a robe”) Mom, who called out to “Pa”.  The dad, however, was in neat suit and tie to rival the best dress Mormon knocking on your door too early on a Saturday morning. 

Right there, I realized, much to my chagrin, that *I* was staring.  The same sort of behavior that I have heard often vilified on “disability” type forums and chastised myself to otherwise, well mannered adults.  (I rarely fault children under 10, but I’ll get to that.)  My eyes went immediately forward as I caught one of kids staring back at me.  However, as time passed I thought about the idea of “attention”:   the kind we draw to ourselves voluntarily and the kind we don’t.

The same folks who “dressed however they want” because (they say) “I don’t care what people think!”, can be the first to give a terse word if an on looker does so too long or with  an expression the dress-ee doesn’t like.  However, for the person whose outer appearance falls outside the norm NOT by choice, the overt gaze with or without accompanied facial judgment is a very different thing.   It is true that some folks just “don’t got no home training”, to use a “mountain-ism”, and are being somewhere between thoughtless to an ass.  It’s why good parenting says “don’t stare” without any disqualifiers.   There will be things that fall out of our “normal” and will invoke a long second look, as the brain’s way of confirming “did I just see what I THINK I see”.  Whether we LIKE it or not, whether it SHOULD be that way or not, there are honest folks who really are NOT around folks with disabilities and beyond doing a “reality check” their kafundled brains can make them do or say some really stupid things.  So maybe the real issue is intent. 

Young children are fountains of curiosity and, well plain talk.  When mine were small and confronted with a “new” thing, I would encourage them to ask POLITELY whatever questions they had.  When a child sees my chair, if the parent isn’t busy dragging them away, I say hi to them to let them know “yes, I get around different, but I’m really just a person.”  Grandma always said the best way to understand folks is to start by making them comfortable.  I take the lead most of time, as a way to defuse the awkward by normalizing the participants. 

I personally do this with laughter.  I meet their stumbling for whatever “word” they can use without offending me.  I say plainly, “It’s easy, you’re bi-peds, we’re gimps:  You annoy the sh*t out of us. Let’s move along.”  By doing this, I have “just said it”.  I’ve pointed to the elephant in the room and named it “Gimpy McGimperston”, with a hat and sparkles for the trunk.  Let’s move on.

 It’s one of the ideas I cultivate as a dancer, both in a physically integrated dance troupe and out on a dance floor in a club with my friends. I am in a wheel chair AND I am a dancer.   If we want to be “seen” as normal, then it only makes sense to just go out in the world and BE normal.  If folks stare, let’em. Ignore them, mock them, or stare back.  Either they don’t know no manners, or they are just being inspired. (YUCK!)  Folks never seen a person in a wheel chair use a cane to get something off a high shelf, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Never seen one grab the escalator at the “no elevator” mall, hang on to your hat!  Didn't consider we go to parks, the arcade, ride in taxis, go to the club, well then start paying attention.  Better yet, come to one of our performances (shameless plug) and open your mind to what a dancer can be and DO.  I encourage all of my GimpGirl (and Boy) friends to do your part and live your life out in the world, HOWEVER you want to !  

Bi-peds CAN be taught, and once we aren't such a novelty maybe they’ll stop staring, or recording me on the escalator with their cell phones. 

 

paidiraiompair: (Default)
 Still working on that "Blue Ridge" post, I wanted to share this wonderful, funny and awesome MOM story of what impact there is on the child of someone with a disability.  It is from a fellow "gimp girl" blogger named Haddayr on Live Journal (check her out)!!  It summer time, so even the blogging slows for vacation.


 
paidiraiompair: (arty chair)
 For summer, let's play an "add on" version of D & D,  TOTALLY GIMP STYLE:  Here's a start:  A party of adventurer gimps, raiding the infamous "Castle of Inaccessibility".  They bring along siege-ramps to conquer the flight of stairs that leads to the bridge over the moat.  The elf-archer is equipped with grappling hooks and a winch that lets her roll up steep inclines and even sheer walls.  The mage has such spells as "Widen Hallway", and "Arcane Elevator".  The warriors chair is equipped with spiked wheels and a ram-plate.
 
They've heard a rumor of a prisoner, possibly the missing princess of the nearby kingdom of Radius.  If the stories are true she's being held in a cruel dungeon in which the bathroom sink is far to high and the grab bars around the toilet have been poorly secured with cheap screws from wal-mart. The Wheeled Warriors of Radius, though feared throughout the land for their instep-crushing battle prowess have been unable to breach the castle defenses because the cruel master of that fell domain has placed a large ficus-bearing planter in the middle of the castles only handicapped parking spot.......

(ADD your character and plot ideas in the comments below or Goggle plus or email me.  I am thinking this is TOTALLY do-able!!)  

ALL credit goes to my awesome friend GREEN who ran with the idea and who brained stormed the above, this being one of the reasons I love him with a million floaty hearts 

PS
 I KNOW I promised a BlueRidge post...I'm still working on it ;)  
paidiraiompair: (koala jester)
 So as the dance company is taking some time off for the summer, I thought to pass the time I would share with my those new to "my world" a little something to educate, what I call bi-pediquette:  Play along and next post will be from the wilds of the Blue Ridge!

Top Ten Gimp Rules  As defined by me and mine: 

1. Impromptu outings are as easy as nailing Jell-O to a tree.

2. When you fall down, before getting up, you wonder what else you can do while you're down there.

3. Don't let your friends push your wheelchair when they are mad at you. (or drunk)  

4. EVERYONE is your friend in the amusement park lines (or during the Christmas shopping season) as the latest news from Disney World tell us

5. Please, only WHEN requested, and then only the HELPFUL help.

6. Using the fact that you look small and helpless to lure in your prey really saves a lot of walking.

7. Your handicap parking permit gives you dibs on "shot gun" on any given car drive.

8. If there is any easier way to do it, a gimp has already figured it out.  

9. It doesn't matter HOW accessible a place is once inside, if we can't get into the place, it IS NOT accessible.

10.You may call us many things, but using the phrase “YOU PEOPLE” will ALWAYS piss us off. 

paidiraiompair: (dancin' in lot)
 So when we LAST left our story, our heroine was training hard for her FIRST 4 mile "Rolk" for Dimes with Team Duncan, nephew and ambassador of the North Georgia chapter.  To update, not only did she MAKE the entire course, despite that over half the distance was either:  Too narrow for a wheel chair, BROKEN, covered in trash/fallen branches/ glass and/or NON-EXISTENT (you could just HEAR the air quotes in "accessible route") the more amazing part was our group raised over $20,000.00 for the cause.  To everyone who donated, watched/shared the video I thank you.

Since then, the dance company has performed at the Inman Park Festival, began learning two new works, crafted another to be presented this weekend at the Modern Atlanta Dance (MAD) festival, throwing in a high school workshop and a round of "dragon" school shows.  "Down time" has been dedicated to rehearsal, PT, work etc.  (You heard the air quotes on that too didn't ya?)  So in a moment of quiet I wanted to share one of those things that keeps me on task and mostly sane. 

A frequent visitor to our class noticed my humming different tunes as I went through my prep for rehearsal.  I explained that it was my "theme song" for the day.  My doctor likes it that I have "motivational music" to help me stay up and moving.  Some days, when I am facing an "adventure" i.e. life challenges, it's the theme from "Indiana Jones", over-scheduled days you can hear the Lone Ranger Overture.  Multi multi-task days, the most common, I "insert Circus Music here".  The idea is to move to the music in my head, keeping time to propel me forward through whatever sort of body issues are thrown in my way.  I find when I can push along until rehearsal or any morning begins, in the end, I leave feeling better, even if it's a better sort of tired. 

Theme songs set a tone, an emotional backdrop, for my mind.  Thinking a happy tune can brighten your outlook, even if only to put a sarcastic spin on things.  Venting via a hard bass line, or centering over a melodic one brings focus when my  brain is racing with too many or even unconjoined thoughts.  As a dancer, I seem to have the best performances when I remind myself to relax into the movement and let the music move me.  My body knows the choreography; it's my mind that sets into panic.

I find, most of all, my daily tunes are good for the soul.  That is why I advocate the practice to anyone. Use the old "mixed tape" format, on whatever music device you have (yeah, I still use actual tape) to put together a playlist as a way to start.  Think of media characters, heroes or villains, as many come complete with a theme.  Songs from childhood Saturday morning cartoons, opening notes from a family TV night, hummed memories of a grandparent.  All these are the music that moves our spirits and our hearts, and can get us passed the chaos of street sounds or even voices of negative thought. 

Before performance, there is a time to warm up and connect with the other dancers. In the wings, waiting in the silence, I remind myself to find calm, trust and have fun.  When I can do that, the music in my head and the sound in my ears come together, and all I feel is, "I am a dancer….”let’s DO this!”

paidiraiompair: (arty chair)
Video of the author dancing and training for the March of DImes.      Please share this within ALL your networks, pretty pretty please
Hey Everyone, I've just posted a new video about my prep for an exciting event!  I will be participating this year in the March of Dimes of North Georgia 4 mile marathon as part of TEAM DUNCAN!  Duncan Lawrence is my super awesome nephew and is the Regional Ambassador for the event!  Please consider sponsoring me in the walk on April 12th at  

http://www.marchforbabies.org/DancesWithWheels  
                       
 
                   See motivation in action!!                        

Then use the link above to sponsor me as part of TEAM

DUNCAN and get me to my donation goal.  Getting

through the 4 miles, I'll take care of that!!
 
Come be a part of the movement.  You can walk or cheer us on. DONATIONS of $50 or more get you
your own TEAM DUNCAN t-shirt!   With logos like this
  (event info below)         Duncan Lawrence -- March for Babies 2013
Or if you wish you can go to
and order your very own shirt from the makers at Strong and Far (here's the logo)
go to the link below      
North Georgia Tri County

April 12, 2013
Ellijay Elementary
32 McCutchen Street
Ellijay, GA 30540
paidiraiompair: (arty chair)
 For a while, I'd been on the road, as it were, doing school shows for elementary aged kids in our state.  The largest leg was in a mostly rural area in eastern Georgia. Running the program back to back, it is always interesting that K-6, they always seem to ask the same things during the Q&A.  I assemble here the top 5 questions:

 5)  Do Chinese Dragons have wings?? 

My own research says mostly no, in regards to dragon myths in China. “as their ability to fly (and control rain/water, etc.) are mystical and not seen as a result of their physical attributes.” But since the name of the book we base our show on is called “Legend of the Chinese Dragon” I defer to the author, who says they do.  Though it’s a good example on how much detail kids regard what they see.  

4)  Are any of the dancers from China….or Mexico? 

I laughed at the child‘s attempt to frame the question in a politically correct format.  One of our AB dancers is ethically Asian, and we used the opportunity to get them to find “Saipan” on the globe back in their classrooms.  The smart alec in me wanted to point out our very Caucasian Bosnian and say “why yes, yes he is”…..but I digress. 

 3)  How did you create the show and learn all the dances? 

 To which we, in chorus, state : “practice, practice practice”  We point out that we began rehearsals for the show back in the autumn, when they were beginning their school year,   Just like they get up in the morning for class, we get up to go to our “job”  being dancers. 


2)  Do you work out with weights?  

For an answer, “All Abs” sports his guns to the thrill of every sighing girl and sexual confused boy in the audience.    

The Follow-up question?        Can he flex his muscles again?

 
1)  Do the dancers in the wheel chairs actually NEED them?

Really, this question is asked at EVERY kid’s performance, sometimes multiple times in various forms.  Their minds are suddenly opened to the possibility that what they perceive and what is actually possible might not be the same thing.  So they guess that there is something incorrect in the perception. They note who can do what:  Who can leave their chair and sit on the floor.  Who can do a handstand.  Who can move a foot.  Surely if one can do THOSE things, then the chair isn’t a “necessity”.   Even when our director thought to BEGIN the Q&A with the answer, it was still their number one query.  I think their tenancy to wonder isn't so different than when adults do it, the real variable seems to be their reason for asking.  Children wonder the why of things without real prejudice. 

 Grownups, unfortunately, can use it as a loaded question, especially for the “border gimp”. In a world where unimpeded walking is the holy grail of happy endings in any physically challenge story, NOT choosing it as the best alternative in real life baffles their sensibilities.  Though I have the capacity of bi-pedal mobility, (just so long as I don’t have to do it for long, or be good at it), the chair just makes getting from place to place easier . It saves the carnage of falls, the exhaustion of distance, the embarrassment of clumsiness.  Those practical applications give me the ability to keep my downtown commuter employment gigs.  None of us are “confined” to our chairs anymore than the able bodied are confined to their legs. 

Sometimes the children phrase the question more along the lines of “Does it hurt?” It is the nature of a child to think that the unknown, in this case, being handicap, might be painful.  We reassure them that we rehearse each move until we can perform it without injury.  We also point out that like all dancers, seated or standees, sometimes we fall.  And just like anything else in life, the important thing is to get back up and keep moving.   

 


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