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: (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: (sun set)
 So, with my growing circle, I thought it fair to show a bit of myself, doing my favorite sort of "warm up":  Spinning.  It was the sensation that brought me to Full Radius, that feeling I thought I'd never have again.  It's hard to explain.  Anyway, the studio next to our rehearsal hall has this AWESOME floor that, in a chair, spins like ice.  I was just getting into it, when the Captain called me back to class, but I guess you can see for yourself.....


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