Recently I found out I got to 100 subscribers on this blog, wow that’s crazy!!! I want to thank each and every one of you. As I have said before, your support and love means the world to me!
For a long time I was thinking, “Okay, what could I do for when I get to 100 subscribers?” I thought about it a lot and I still had no idea what I was going to do. Then one day I was thinking that I should do a time line of my life. I thought it would be cool to talk about the different stages of my life and how far I have come. The stages of my life I am going to talk about will be preschool/elementary school, middle school, high school, and now City Connections.
I started preschool when I was three. I went to two different preschools, one 2 days a week and the other one 3 days a week. The reason I went to two different schools was because one of them was for normal kids and one of them was for special needs kids. I had a nurse with me from the very start of preschool because of my diabetes. I had a few friends here and there, but not a lot. I lived in the city of Pittsburgh until I was in first grade and we moved to the suburbs. Part of the reason we moved is that my parents heard that Pine Richland school district was good for special needs kids.
The first day of 2nd grade I was a little nervous because I was going to a whole new school with a new nurse and I knew no one. I was worried that I wouldn’t make friends but after I got used to everything I started to make friends. I had a really great teacher in 2nd grade, so it was easy to get used to everything. The elementary school I went to only went up to 3rd grade, and after 3rd grade you went to the upper elementary which was 4th, 5th and 6th grade. Since there were 3 lower elementary schools and they all came together when the students got to the upper elementary, I had the opportunity to meet some new friends.
It was there in the upper elementary school that I met one of my good friends that I’m still friends with today. At first I didn’t like her at all because she treated me and talked to me like I was a baby. Now, if you have read my blog posts and you know me at all you’d know that’s a big NO NO. I’m an adult who is fully capable of having an adult conversation. After I made it clear to her that I was not a baby and I didn’t like being talked to like one, we became good friends. Even though we fight and she gets on my nerves sometimes, I love her a lot! We have so many memories (which I’ll get into later).
My favorite year of elementary school was definitely 5th grade. I really liked the team of teachers that I had and a lot of my friends were in my class, so I had a great time that year. 6th grade, however, was a little weird. The nurse I had in 5th grade retired so the nurse I had back in 2nd grade came back. But then that nurse had some back problems, so I had to get a whole new nurse. Unfortunately, I got this nurse who wasn’t very good, and was kind of strange. She would take my friends’ food during lunch and she was just a very odd person overall. Luckily I only had her as my nurse for barely a year. I got another new nurse when I went to middle school that next year.
I met my new nurse a couple days before 7th grade started. I was nervous because I wanted to get a really good one, especially considering the disaster my last nurse was. That’s when I met Ms Chris, aka Chrissy. Back then I didn’t know Chrissy that well, but now we’re really close. Even though she doesn’t go to school with me anymore, I still talk to her and hang out with her all the time. In my middle school the students in each grade were divided into what were called “teams.” Once you were put on your team, you had all your classes only with other students in the same team, and each team had their own teachers for each subject. This also meant that all your classes were in one hallway instead of scattered around the building. I was lucky that almost all my friends were on the same team so I got to see them during school.
One of my favorite memories from 7th grade was when I went to Hershey park with my chorus class. There was a chorus competition for all the middle schools around the area and my parents took me so that I could attend it. The whole chorus class took a bus to get to and from Hershey and I really wanted to ride it with all the other students so I could hang out with my friends. Unfortunately, the bus wasn’t handicap accessible, so my mom ended up riding the bus with me and my dad drove our car with my wheelchair in it.
The night we got there was the night of the competition, and I remember everyone had to wear black and white. I don’t really remember how I was feeling but I was probably nervous. After the competition everyone went back to their hotel rooms and just chilled out. The next day we actually got to go to the park and I remember how excited I was to ride all the rides with my friends. We went on this one ride that my mom absolutely hated called The Mouse. She screamed the whole time, but not only was she screaming, she was also commenting on the ride in between screams.
This trip was really fun and I’m glad I got to be a part of it. Overall, I think 7th grade was not a bad year.
8th grade, on the other hand, was one of my favorite years I’ve ever had in school. I had some really great teachers and have some really great memories of this year. I remember I had this one science teacher that was really silly. One time he and I had a race down the hallway, he was running and I was in my walker. My walker is kind of similar to an old persons walker in the sense that it helps me stand up and walk on my own. It is on wheels and I get strapped to it by my waist, so I can just hold onto it and go! The science teacher and I even made a bet for the race. The bet was that if I won the race he had to wear a Selena Gomez shirt that I made him. Sure enough I won and he lost, so it was shirt time. When I got to school on the day he was supposed to wear it he put it on in front of me, and it was so funny. The best part was that he had to wear it all day. We even had an assembly that day that all the teachers had to be a part of. I just remember seeing him up on stage and laughing to myself. I will certainly never forget the man in the Selena Gomez shirt.
Another cool thing about 8th grade was that I met some new friends. 8th grade was when I started hanging with some of the friends I have now. We all were on the same team so we were in the same classes and we started hanging out. I felt like that was the first time I had an actual group of friends. We would all have lunch together and sometimes we would eat in the cafeteria other times we would eat in one of the classrooms. We laughed a lot and came up with so many inside jokes that I can’t even remember them all. One of my favorite memories of 8th grade is the last day of school. For some reason it was a full day instead of the usual half day for the last day. Everyone was like, “What are we gonna do for a whole day?” Lucky my team of teachers came up with a plan for the day. All the students had to wear a certain color and everyone who was wearing the same color was on the same team. There were 4 teams who took turns competing against each other. I don’t remember who won but I do remember something cool that happened at the last day assembly. My whole team (all 4 color teams) started chanting “I believe that we will win.” It was neat to see everyone on my team come together, although I do remember seeing everyone else on the two other teams looking annoyed. I will never forget how fun that day and 8th grade as a whole was.
I was very nervous about going to high school, one of the reasons being that it was a bigger building. I was also worried that I wouldn’t be able to see my friends as much. Although I was scared I was also really excited for the opportunity to meet new people. My freshman year I met a lot of really great people. My school had this program called Peer Buddies. Basically since only a few of the special needs kids including me were in the normal classes, the Peer Buddies program paired the normal students with a special needs student. The students would help the special needs students do whatever they had to do that period. I had some Peer Buddies that I really enjoyed spending time with.
When I got to high school I started to notice the difference between me and an average teenager. My friends were talking about things and doing things that I couldn’t take part in, like driving and dating. It was hard to be a part of the conversation sometimes. One reason it’s difficult is that my speech impediment makes it hard to keep up with conversations. When there’s a lot of people in one conversation it can be hard for me to get a word in since it takes me a while to say a sentence. My mom tells me that I just have to be the listener sometimes. But even though I’m happy to listen to what other people have to say, I want to contribute to the conversation. Another reason it can be hard for me to contribute to the conversation is that sometimes the things my friends are talking about I have no experience with. Sometimes it make me sad to know that I most likely won’t be able to have some of the same experiences that a normal kid would have like dating. But I know that I can still have some great experiences.
Dating is a subject that I don’t talk about much. Probably because I don’t have much experience with it. I feel like people think that love and disability don’t go together. That upsets me because it’s like saying there’s too much wrong with you for someone to completely love you and want to be with you. I’ve seen people on YouTube that have what they call an “ interabled” relationship. That means that one person has a disability and the other person doesn’t. Mostly, I’ve seen it where the guy has the disability and the girl doesn’t. And it kind of upsets me that I don’t see it more the other way around.
I think a lot of people think that just because I am disabled, I don’t have the capacity for romantic feelings. This is untrue. One of the worst feelings I’ve felt as a person with a disability is being attracted to someone and knowing that they’re never going to like you back in that way. There’s nothing you can do to change their mind and that sucks.
Like any high school girl I had my ups and downs and I had some friend troubles as well. There was this one girl who I had a friendship with for a couple years. We were really close then one day sophomore year I guess she just decided she didn’t want to be my friend anymore. It took me a while to accept that someone didn’t want to be my friend. Sophomore year was a rough year for me. My friends and I got in a lot of fights but I didn’t like fighting with them. Oh well, the people that were really my friends stayed my friends and the other people...well they got lost.
My phrase for sophomore year is “Worst year Best days.” This comes from the fact that the year as a whole was not great, but I had some really good days. One day in particular that was really nice was a day when my mom and dad were out of town for the weekend and Miss Chris was staying with me. We were trying to figure out what we wanted to do. My guy friends wanted to hang out with me, so we decided to go hang out with them. Miss Chris didn’t know how to drive my wheelchair van so we had to take her car, which was a little difficult to get me into since it isn’t necessarily handicap accessible. The boys and I were all laughing with each other the whole trip. That day, laughing with Miss Chris’s and my friends, made me super happy.
One of the best and most fun things I did in high school was becoming a cheerleader senior year. I wanted to get involved and do something really fun for my senior year. My friends were on the squad our junior year and they thought it would be a good way to get involved if I joined them for our last year. At first I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know if some people were going to make fun of me. But after the first game, I got really into it. I had a blast at all the games. Being on the field with all the lights and the music was exhilarating and doing it with two of my closest friends made it even more fun. The football team ended up making it to the finals at Hershey park. That was an experience I will never forget. I remember how excited I was to go cheer at the state finals. Unlike when we went to Hershey in 7th grade, my school made sure the bus was handicap accessible so I could take my electric wheelchair on the bus. I sat in the seats with everyone else but my mom came to help if I needed anything while my dad drove separately. When we got there we had a little bit of time before we had to get ready for the game so we went to Chocolate world. Chocolate World, I’ve never seen so much candy in my life. I was wandering all over the store looking at all the candy and my parents bought some candy to take home. After Chocolate world it was time to get ready for the game. My mom helped me bundle up because it was freezing out. This game was definitely one of, if not the coldest game I ever attended but it was worth it. It was worth it because we won the state finals!!After the game was officially over everyone started running onto the field. It was so neat to be a part of a moment like that. Seeing everyone in my community come together and celebrate our victory was really special.
I also cheered for the basketball team. I think basketball was a little more interesting because the teams were more evenly matched. The basketball games were really fun to watch. The team made it to the semifinals which meant I got to cheer at Peterson Event Center. Even though we lost it was a great experience to be at that game. I will never forget my senior year and being on the cheer team. Thank you PR cheer for helping me to have an unforgettable senior year.
Leaving high school, just like coming in to high school, I was nervous for the next step because I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I wanted to do something with art and writing.
I wanted to take you guys on my journey as a writer and tell you a little bit about what being a writer has done for me.
I started writing about the middle of sophomore year, though I wasn’t as into it as I am now. When I was in school we would always have to write essays and a lot of the time they would be persuasive. I hated those, like how am I supposed to convince someone to do something or not to, and frankly I don’t care to try to convince someone to do something. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. But I really enjoyed creative writing. I started writing little things about my life but they were mostly just for me and my enjoyment.
The summer after my sophomore year I started my first blog. I know I talked about this before, my first blog was nothing compared to this one. It was a small blog that had no character, and honestly it was just kind of blah. A little over a year ago I wanted to upgrade and make a more professional looking website. My sister who is a graphic designer helped me make this one. I have to say I’m so happy with the results. I think this website looks so good! I’m so greatful to my sister for helping me make my vision come true.
One of the biggest reasons I started writing is to educate people on disabilities. A lot of people don’t know what it’s like to have a disability or a physical challenge. I feel like some people think that if someone has a disability they must have a sad life and that’s not true. Yeah, sure do I have days where I get really frustrated and I just want to be “normal” but I think overall I’m a pretty happy girl. No matter if you have a disability or not, everyone has their days where they feel down and hopeless. Yes, I might have more than the average person, but that doesn’t mean I’m always down. I want to prove to the world that no matter how many challenges life hands you, you can still live a happy life.
As you guys know I write a lot of non fiction, my blog included. But I’m also really into writing fiction. I think non fiction is easier for me but I’d really like to work on my fiction writing. One of my biggest dreams is to publish a book series. Growing up I didn’t find many characters in the entertainment industry that were like me. There was no TV show, movie, or book that really showed what life with Cerebral Palsy as a teenager was like until I was a sophomore in high school. ABC came out with this show called Speechless. The show was about a teenage boy with cerebral palsy that just lives a normal life. I love that show and I strongly recommend it, especially if you know someone with a disability or you have one yourself. About a year after discovering that show I found my favorite author, Sara Pyzska. She also has Cerebral Palsy and she has written 3 books so far, two fiction books and one non fiction. She’s working on her 4th book (the 3rd in her fiction series). I’m really excited to read it, especially since the last one ended in a cliffhanger. Sara gave me a character that was going through some of the same things I went through, a character that I could relate to. I hope that I can do the same thing for someone. I feel like the world doesn’t have enough characters in the entertainment industry that are disabled and I’d really like to change that!
When I first came to City Connections I had little to no independence and self advocacy skills. Since I was in all of the normal classes in high school, with the normal class load, I didn’t really have time to also work on my independence that much. So when I went to City Connections, I started working on things like my speech and speaking up for myself (this is what I mean when I say self advocacy). At first, working on my speech was hard. I had to get used to using my speech device more and not just thinking of my voice as my only means of communication. I’ve gotten better in the past two years but I think I still have to work on it a little more.
One of the biggest changes for me was going from being around almost all normal kids to being with all special needs kids. At first I wasn’t that talkative because I didn’t know what to say to them. Like anyone who is going to a new school or job for the first time not knowing anyone, I was nervous. But once I got more comfortable I started talking more. The kids at school talk about different things then my high school friends did, so I had to get adjusted to talking about some different things than I do with my high school friends. But now I really like talking to all my classmate and think they’re really great people. Sometimes I feel like I’m between two worlds; I’m not the average person but I don’t quite fit in with the special needs crowd either. My family tells me that I don’t necessarily have to fit into a group of people, I just have to be myself. That’s something I still struggle with sometimes. I think in order for me to accept myself I have to come to terms with who I am, and that’s something I’m still working on.
One of the biggest goals for kids at City Connections is to be independent out in the community. I’ve been learning how to better navigate as a disabled person outside of my home or school. Before Covid hit my school would always take us students out into the community. One of the things I learned is how to better talk to people using my dynavox. For example, I order food for myself, which before City Connections I had very little experience with. I was really proud of myself the first time I did it.
One of the most interesting experiences I’ve had is riding on the city bus. The city bus can be an easier way to get around, but on the flip side there’s some weird people on there sometimes. I enjoy going out into the community and working on my skills because I think it’s important that people like me learn life skills. Skills that come easy and naturally to an able bodied person don’t come so easy to someone with a disability.
At City Connections I also learn different skills around the house like cooking and cleaning. One of my favorite things to do at school is cooking/baking. I have special equipment to help me do the specific tasks easier. For example, I have this button that can hook up to a blender or a mixer so I can control it myself, instead of trying to use the buttons on that specific machine, which most of the time are too small or hard for me to press. I also have been working on cleaning more independently. I can vacuum almost all by myself. At first, the only vacuum that was at school was a big, clunky vacuum. It was really hard for me to work with! So my teacher bought a smaller one that would be easier for me. I’ve learned so many skills at City Connections that can help me improve my everyday life. I want to continue to work towards my goal of independence and self advocacy.
Another goal for us City Connections folks is to find work for after we graduate from the program. One of the most important things that we focus on is life after City Connections, and they do their best to help kids find jobs. The program has people they call job coaches who are the ones who help you find a job. They sit down with you and ask what your interests are, then the job coach starts looking for opportunities for you.
I really like being creative. I also wanted a job where I could use my creativity. I mostly enjoy writing and art and I would like my career to have something to do with either of those. Since I’ve been at City Connections I’ve had many opportunities to explore jobs. About a year and a half ago I started doing some video editing for Robert Morris University. I had a connection there because my PT, Ms. Tracie’s husband Ken worked there. Ms. Tracie knew I liked doing stuff on my iPad and she thought it would be something I might like, and would be able to do with an iPad. The first time I went there, I was really excited and nervous. When I got there Ken showed me his office and we talked about my interests. I also got a tour of campus and met Becky. Becky would become my boss once I started working there. She was a really great teacher and we got along great. Becky taught me a lot about editing. Before RMU I knew very little about it, but she taught me what makes a good edit. I did something called the Monday Minute for RMU, which was a recap of all the sports teams that played over the weekend and how they did during their games. Becky would give me clips of the different sports teams and a recording of someone saying how and what each team did. I edited a video together to go with the recording, so when the recording talked about a certain team, I had to make sure the video of that team was playing at the same time the recording was talking about them. At first it was really hard for me. I messed up some but the more I did it, the easier it got. After a little while I got better at it and I felt more comfortable editing videos.
Unfortunately for me, Becky got a new job. I was really bummed when I heard the news. Not only was Becky a great boss and teacher, but she also was a really good friend. I was sad because I knew I wouldn’t get to talk to her as much and I was sad because I really liked working with her. But I was also really happy for her!
After Becky left, I got a new boss named Ray. He’s super nice and open to new ideas. Before Covid hit, I was going to RMU two days a week. When I was with Becky I was mostly doing stuff for sports, which was fine for that time. I had to learn about editing and iMovie, which if you don’t know, is a program for video editing on an iPad. Before RMU I knew a little bit about iMovie but I didn’t really use it a lot in high school. Becky was the one who really taught me how to use it and for that I am grateful.
When Ray became my boss we talked about what projects I did with Becky and what projects I could do with him. I told him that I did sports when I was with Becky and that I liked the sports but I was ready to try something new. We brainstormed some ideas and came up with the idea of doing interviews. So, with the assistance of my dynavox, I started interviewing different people at the university. I interviewed some staff and students, and I even interviewed my boss, Ray, about his time working at RMU. I also did an interview with a student about her passion for leadership, which was really cool. I really enjoy doing interviews. I like hearing people’s ideas and thoughts about the world. Even though it can be hard to come up with questions sometimes, I like thinking of what to ask them. Interviews are definitely my favorite thing, currently, to do at RMU.
Unfortunately, due to COVID I haven’t been able to do that much with them. I really like working with the people there and hope I get to go back soon.
I also started doing something at the end of my first year at City Connections, something really exciting. I started writing for a magazine called Pittverse. I found out about it because one of my classmates wrote for them. I was really interested and wanted to find out more, so I asked my classmate about it and he said it was only for people with Autism. I was really disappointed to hear that because I really wanted to get involved, and be able to write for an actual magazine. One of my teachers knew I was really interested and emailed Pittverse and asked if I could get involved even though I don’t have Austin. Thankfully, they said I could. I was so excited! I was finally going to get one of my pieces published. But not only that, I was going to publish on a regular basis since the magazine comes out quarterly. I try to write at least one article for every issue. Even though sometimes I feel like the odd man out because I’m the only writer that has a physical disability, the Pittverse family has made me feel very welcome. I enjoy hearing what other writers have to say and really enjoy being part of the Pittverse family.
City Connections has really changed my life and made me into the person I am today. Unfortunately, due to COVID my last year isn’t what I pictured it to be! But I’m trying to make the best of the situation the world is in right now and still enjoy the time I have left as best I can.
Thank you to my family for believing in me and always pushing me to keep working on my writing so I can improve.
Also thank you to you guys, my subscribers. It’s crazy to think of where I was a couple years ago and where I am now. I mean, wow, 100 subscribers! My mind is blown.
Thank you again! I hope you’ll continue to follow my journey through life.