30 Days of Thanks Day 13: Pizza with a Good Friend

A couple of weeks ago my friend Crystal sent me an email asking if I had plans for November 13th. She was going to be passing through my city. Would I be able to meet for dinner and/or breakfast?

Of course I said yes before I checked my calendar. Thankfully when I did check, I didn’t have anything else planned.

This is my second visit from Crystal in as many months – a real treat since we don’t live in the same country. Granted, the Canadian border is only about three hours away. But when you haven’t really driven in almost  two years, even a three hour drive can seem like the other side of the world.

Tonight Crystal and I shared a pizza in my new apartment. We laughed, we expressed anger and frustration, we hugged. In other words, it was a fantastic visit.

Tonight I am grateful for good friends like Crystal who are willing to share pizza at my cluttered dining room table.

Photo of a statue of a man sitting on the back of a park bench, typing on an open laptop computer. Next to him is an open bag from McDonald's with fries and a burger. While he is absorbed in his computer, a squirrel is climbing up the back of the bench with the a hamburger bun in his mouth. Two women are seated near the statue. A woman in a pink dress sits in a wheelchair in front of the bench. Seated next to the statue on the back of the bench is a blond woman wearing a black and white polka dot shirt.
My friend Crystal and I visiting Montreal a couple of years ago.

30 Days of Thanks Day 8: People of STAR

Since I have been riding my local paratransit busses regularly again for the past year, I have had the chance to meet and observe some interesting people. About two months ago, I jokingly made a comment that I should start a “Humans of Paratransit” column modelled after Humans of New York.

While I don’t have the time to write those essays just yet, today I am grateful for the relationships formed on the bus, and for the daily reminder of the need to continue to advocate for equality and access.

My morning started after exercise with a bus pick up at the pool. “Hannah” (she asked that I not use her real name) was my driver. Hannah makes everyone smile. She has something positive to say about everyone she interacts with, and I have never seen her in a bad mood. She is one of my favorites. Starting the day with her gives me a boost of energy.

Tonight I got to ride with a friend I have not seen in a few weeks. We chatted for twenty minutes as we drove from her pick up to my final destination at home. This morning I rode with a young man I know through work. We chatted about election day results and our plans to become more engaged with our local ADAPT chapter.

I complain about paratransit as much as everyone else. The system is far from perfect. I would love to see better use of technology to increase efficiency and communication.

But I am grateful for the personal connections I have made riding the bus regularly this last year. These almost make the reality of paratransit (the waiting, the late pick ups, the 2 hour rides to go 15 miles, etc.) bearable. Paratransit deserves its own post and maybe someday I’ll write it. For now, I’ll be grateful for human connection instead.

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."

30 Days of Thanks Day 2: My Partner In Cute

My best friend Stephanie is more like my sixth sister than a friend. I often tell people she’s the sister I got to pick for myself. God gave me 5, and then let me have one more. Stephanie is that one.

She is the reason for most of my laughter and happiness this past week. Let’s be honest – I don’t laugh as much with anyone else. She always says others must feel like they are watching a cartoon when they watch the two of us.

Ten years ago we created SADWIN (Stephanie and Denise Wicked in New York). Ten years and ten New York City shows later, and we don’t have plans to stop anytime soon!

Stephanie was responsible for our SADWIN shirts this year. She did a fantastic job incorporating all ten shows with creativity and fun.

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.