30 Days of Thanks Day 12: Massage

I used to work in a large building with several offices. I hated most of life in the cube farm. The one thing I loved was my weekly massage.

Alyssa, my massage therapist, came to the building once a week to give chair massages. For twenty minutes every Wednesday around 1:00, I would sit in bliss as she slowly tried to work the stiffness from my neck and shoulders.

As I was preparing to leave that job for my current employer, I lamented to Alyssa that our weekly visits would be what I missed most after I left. Her reply filled me with joy and hope.

You know, I do make house calls.

So, for the past five years, Alyssa has come to my house once a month for an hour-long massage. Last year when I was in the hospital, she came to visit me. Her gentle touch helped relieve some of the swelling in my feet and toes.

Today was massage day, and boy did I need it! I’m not just saying that. Alyssa kept mentioning it too as she found new areas needing work.

I told her I was going to make her my daily gratitude, because she is by far the best thing that happened to me today. Thanks for helping me feel better for so long Alyssa. I’m grateful for your talented hands, but more appreciative of our friendship.

Two open hands with red palms.
Alyssa’s hands after a massage.
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30 Days of Thanks Day 5: My Mouse

In 2005 I transitioned from a clinical job to a desk job in a cube farm. Shortly after, I started to have sharp shooting pain down my left arm. It took me a few months to figure out it was related to computer use.

I had always used a right handed mouse with my left hand. It started when the only accessible computer in the computer lab at college had a short cord that would not reach my contracted right arm.

Once I realized what was causing the pain, I immediately sought a way to stop it. My physical therapist and the ergonomic consultant at work suggested I try a different input device for my mouse.

The first time I tried the Contour RollerMouse, I was hooked. This piece of technology has kept me typing using my hands and delayed the use of voice recognition software. I am especially grateful for it today since I have spent seven hours (so far) on a work project that must be completed before the end of the day tomorrow.

 

*I am not receiving compensation for endorsing this product.

30 Days of Thanks Day 4: Proctors

Eight years ago, my friends Stacey, Eric, and I bought subscriptions to Proctors Theater for their Broadway Series. Proctors is located in Schenectady, just fifteen miles from my town. Going to see touring Broadway shows is easier and (usually) less expensive than going to New York City. A few years ago my friend Ronda joined us.

The four of us have seen some amazing shows and performances. That tradition continued today when we went to see Fun Home, the play based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. If you get the chance to see this show when it comes to your town, you should go. The cast is talented and you’ll find yourself singing the “Fun Home” commercial all the way home. At least, that’s what happened to me.

Today I am grateful again for the opportunity to celebrate musical theater with good friends. I appreciate the opportunity to attend live performances in a beautiful, historic building close to home. I’m already looking forward to the next show!

Photo of a Playbill cover with the logo for the play "Fun Home."

Laughter as Therapy

Last week, my friend Shameka sent me a text inviting me to join her for a night out. The comedian Josh Blue was coming to town – did I want to go?

Of course, I said yes. I love Josh. His comedy is super funny and smart. He uses his disability (he has cerebral palsy) in his stand up routines, but not in an inspiration porn way. If you’ve never seen him perform, here’s a clip from his special “Sticky Fingers.”

After the week I had, I was looking forward to a night out with good friends. Kelley, Shameka, Katie and I arrived at the comedy club early because we wanted to be able to get a table which would accommodate 3 wheelchairs and still give us a good view. I expected to see more disabled peers in the audience because so many people I know like Josh, but we were the only three visibly disabled people in the room as far as I could tell.

Josh didn’t disappoint. He was hysterical! We laughed, and laughed, and laughed. At one point, I made the mistake of taking a drink when I thought he was pausing. I was not ready for the joke and almost spat my mouthful at Kellie. I don’t think she noticed.

It was very interesting to watch the mainly nondisabled audience respond to his jokes about disability. As a person who often jokes about the stupid crap nondisabled people say to me, Josh’s jokes were spot on. I don’t claim to have the same timing or talents, but whenever I make comments like he did I never notice the tension in my nondisabled listeners as was present early in the show last night.

Here’s the thing – laughter is an important tool in helping us find common ground with those who are not exactly like us! Josh said it himself in his show last night when he quipped, “Doesn’t it feel good to laugh?”

Yes! It felt great to laugh last night. As I’ve written about in several posts, the past eighteen months have been some of the most challenging months of my life. I have not had much laughter. I miss it. I dislike being angry, bitter and depressed. I have tried to embrace gratitude, and strive to keep public complaints to a minimum. But, sometimes things just suck.

Last night, surrounded by friends who “get it,” watching a comedian who “gets it,” I felt more like me than I’ve felt in months. This morning I woke up still laughing.

Thank you Shameka, Kelley and Katie for a wonderful night of friendship and fun. And thank you Josh for the work you do to help the nondisabled laugh at disability the way we’ve been laughing at it for years.

If you’re reading this in the Capital District of NY, Josh is performing again tonight (Saturday, July 29). His website lists his tour dates for other cities. You should go see him if you can. Maybe you’ll get to pose for your own photo after the show!

Photo of two women using wheelchairs and a man kneeling between them. The woman on the left is black and wearing glasses and a black shawl. The woman on right is white and is wearing a red shirt and blue skirt. The man has a beard and is wearing a black t-shirt  with the word "DELETE" in white letters. All three are laughing.

Being Number Six

All my life, I have been referred to as “number six” by my father. Dad used numbers to describe me and my five older sisters whenever he spoke about us to others. Sometimes we would be at a party and he would call us over to introduce us to a friend.

Have you met Caroline? She’s my number five daughter. Caroline – come over here!

When my parents were first taking me to medical appointments to determine the cause of my disability, Dad always pulled out his wallet whenever the nurse or social worker expressed astonishment upon learning I was the youngest of six girls. Beaming with pride he would flip through the photographs in the plastic sleeves, naming us and offering a tidbit of information he felt important to share.

That’s Susan, number one. She’s pregnant with our first grandchild. And Mary Jane, number two. She’s studying to be a violin teacher.

Photo of six white women varying in age and their elderly parents. One of the women, the author, is seated in a wheelchair.

Dad always said he didn’t care what jobs we did when we grew up, as long as we we did them to the best of our abilities and helped others along the way. When he bragged about us to my orthopedic surgeon, he was as proud of Donna as he was of Sandy.

Smart girls, both of them. All of my girls went to college, and hopefully Denise will too. 

Dad had his favorite stories about each of us. When we gathered as a group for a family dinner or celebration, he would reminisce and share his memories with whoever happened to be around the table. It didn’t matter if you had heard the story many times before, you still laughed when he talked about the time he sent the “five girls” (how he always spoke about my sisters before the time I arrived) outside with a gallon of white paint so he could watch a football game in peace and quiet while they painted the fence. My mother arrived home later that afternoon to find my sisters had used an entire can of paint on just five feet of fence, but also on the grass, rocks, their hair and clothes.

You should have seen her face! She was fit to be tied. You girls were covered in paint.

I was an adult before I realized how much Dad had worried about me. As a child, I never knew he was anxious about whether I would become ill, or if my disability would shorten my life. Then last year at our annual DiNoto cookie bake, he took my hand as I was telling him about work and gave it a squeeze.

Well Niecie, I guess I don’t have to worry about you dying young anymore.

I was stunned, but tried to laughingly reassure him I was doing just fine and was now too old to be considered young if I were to die. While I squeezed his hand in return, I asked if he was still truly worried about me that much.

When you were little, they couldn’t tell us much about what to expect for you. I’m your father. I worry about not just you, but all my girls, all the time. It’s what dads do.

That was the last time I saw my father in person, the last time I held his hand, the last time he pulled me in for a hug and kiss.

Three weeks later, my phone rang as I was returning home from my early morning swim on a cold December morning. When the caller ID on my phone read “Mom and Dad” but Caroline’s voice came through the line, I knew something was wrong. Caroline’s voice cracked as she told me Dad had died. I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation, probably because some of the other sisters were trying to call me and my phone kept beeping with incoming calls.

The day passed in a blur as I made plans to leave for a week in my hometown. I washed and packed clothes, wrapped Christmas presents and prepared cookie trays while fielding calls and texts from friends and family. Eventually I crashed in bed, exhausted from crying on and off all day. I fell asleep reviewing my mental list of what was left to pack in the morning.

I dreamed about Dad that night. He was getting ready for a fishing trip. I was a child, standing next to the pile of his gear, watching as he packed the back of his truck. When he was done, he slammed the tailgate. Turning to me, he smiled and tucked my hair behind my ear.

Don’t worry Niecie. I’ll bring back enough for all of us.