Monday, February 27, 2012


So I saw this thing on National Geographic today... and I'm a little confused. Actually, I'm very confused. Then I found her blog, and now I'm filled with a million questions.

Apparently there is a quiet sub-culture called the 'transabled' - people who are not naturally amputees or paraplegics, but they wish to become so. Chloe is a woman who desires to become a paraplegic, and lives life in a wheelchair with leg braces- when she isn't out hiking or skiing. She is looking for a surgeon that will perform "ability reassignment surgery" on her, with the intention being to sever her spinal chord. 

My initial thought was that this was wrong; why act out a charade of disability if you're not disabled? Why on Earth would you want to pay to have your healthy body damaged when so many people would give anything to be healthy? However, that argument rests on the assumption that it is 'better' not to be disabled, which, from the scattered and wide spectrum of opinions I've read, lies more in shades of grey than black and white.

 Additionally, if she has a true psychiatric condition as she claims, called BIID, then perhaps that really is just as much of a disability as a physical one. After all, it is keeping her from using her body, despite that she physically could if she chose to. I have seen a lot of discussion among the blogs I follow about how disability can add quality to life in different shades, instead of the presumed automatic life of misery that some people seem to imagine. Maybe living life as a 'transabled' individual gives her life more meaning, but her farce seems like it may be a slap in the face to those with natural disabilities that were not elective. If she has BIID, is she pragmatically just as disabled as anyone with a physical difference? I wouldn't know, although I'd love to hear that side of the story.

I feel that there are a lot of arguments both for and against this, and that's why I'm writing about it. I myself have a lot of strong feelings in both directions about the issue, but not enough information to pin them to anything.. so I'm asking questions. I like getting outside of my comfort zone and wrapping my head around the completely unfamiliar - it's how we grow, and I think it's a healthy part of the learning process. And now, it's time for coffee.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Speed Bump

So I hit a teensy-weensy little snag with the SMA run for the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation happening on March 18th. It's still on, but probably not on March 18th like we requested. Although Ms. AwesomeTeacher was able to get the event approved by the school board and the date approved by the principal, she informed me yesterday that the true struggle was to get a plant operations manager down there with his nifty set of keys on a Sunday, one of his two prized days off of the week.  

 Long story short: he really, really, really doesn't want to (which I 100% understand), and rather than try to cajole and coerce someone out of a day off that they aren't willing to sacrifice, we're moving the date to after school on a school day. Hooray for simple solutions. 

Although it's discouraging to postpone this further with more bureaucracy, this honestly may be a blessing in disguise. It stands to reason that, like the POM with the gate keys, the students may also be more likely to participate in an event like this after school when they are already there, rather than waking up on a weekend to go do it. If they see their friends on the field taking part, chances are good that they will join in. So I'm hoping that God is steering this event in the most successful direction it can take, and that's why we hit a bump. So far, that's all the new information I have. We've cast our net into the pond of "available dates for after-school activities involving the monopolization the track", and we're waiting to see what we pull out. Fingers crossed, please! :)

PS. While we're finger-crossing, can I be totally selfish for a second and ask that we cross fingers for the speedy processing of my FAFSA paperwork as well? Some Financial Aid would really be handy right about now, since my tuition is due on the 6th of next month.
Looks like that finger-crossing worked! About 30 seconds after I wrote this, I got an email saying my FAFSA went through and my aid for school is coming in 3-5 days. Praise be to the Lord. :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Breed Specific Legislation: Protecting Public Safety, or Demonizing Good Dogs?

I am so glad that we have (mostly) evolved to a place as a society where we recognize racism and stereotypes about people as what they are: fallacies (unless you've eaten with my family- the stereotype about how Italians eat dinner is pretty much dead-on). So if most people can agree that an individual's actions and behaviors aren't tied to the race to which they belong, why can't people see that each dog in a breed is an individual as well? 

Where I live, almost no homeowner's insurance will cover Pit Bulls because they are a "dangerous breed". As a result, very few homeowners adopt them. Additionally, it is almost impossible to find anywhere to rent that allows them. Since no pound will adopt out to a renter without the landlord's consent, they stay at the pound. The pound is literally FILLED with what seems to be almost exclusively pit bulls: sadly, in my opinion, one of the greatest, most loving breeds of dog in the world with the worst reputation. 

What dog fighters and the media have done to the American Pit Bull is a crying shame. When I walk my friendly, happy dog, people often cross to the other side of the street with fervent glances. I see the sideways fish-eyed glances at the park when she's gently playing with the other dogs. Some owners quietly relocate to another area of the park when they see her. It makes me so mad, because she is incredibly well-trained and good-tempered, but they don't see that. They look at her and see a liability, not my best friend. Would they do that for a Labrador Retriever? I want to yell at them: "MY DOG'S BEST FRIEND IS A FIVE POUND HOUSE CAT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!"... but I can't be angry. I can't be angry because those people aren't being spiteful, they're afraid. 

The media has turned one of our nation's most beloved breeds into a monster- and for what? For ratings? To spice up headlines? Shame on the media. Nobody was nervous when the Little Rascals were cuddling up to Pete the Pup in the 1920's. According to (read all about it here), the ASPCA has issued a statement that media outlets have repeatedly told them that they have no interest whatsoever in reporting dog attacks that do not involve Pit Bulls. A study done over five years in Denver showed that Pit Bulls accounted for only 8% of the dog bites in Colorado, with the top billing for biters going to the Labrador Retriever. However, in that same 5-year period, out of the nine newspaper articles about dog bites with the breed in the title, eight of them named Pit Bulls. Why are they taking 89% of the blame for 8% of the problem? It's easy for a breed to catch a bad rap with discriminatory reporting happening, and it's costing thousands of good dogs their lives every day. Pit Bulls achieved an average canine temperament rating of 86.6% - three points above the passing percentage of the beloved Golden Retriever. Why are they being demonized?

Before this rant grows any longer (because trust me, I could go alllllllll day), I will end the tirade and leave you with a link to some wonderful stories of hero Pitties saving lives, and a photo of my lovely girls. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pounding the Pavement

Thud, thud. Thud, thud. Thud, thud. Thud, thud.

The gentle constant rhythm of my sneakers slapping the sidewalk as the moonlit world slides by isn't something I hear; my padded headphones make sure that I don't hear anything but Begin to Hope. The irresistible rhythm pounding up my legs is something I feel - the shock waves let me sense the unyielding resistance of the sidewalk. My heart pounds in my chest. A fine mist builds along the bridge of my nose. I start to feel a little dizzy, which delights me. The power to run hard enough to feel dizzy makes me feel strong.

Against my better judgement, I allow discipline to fall to the weigh-side - I give the 'lead' command. My dog knows that our pace is now at her discretion, not mine. Commanding about half the body weight I do and significantly more muscle mass, she calls my bluff for what it's worth and sets off in front of me at an ambitious sprint. We become a cinnamon and dayglo blur, bolting as fast as our legs will carry us through my quiet suburban neighborhood below the stars. The blinding pace she's chosen is demanding, and I suppress the urge to satisfy the stitch in my chest with a pause. I feel as if we will lift off at any moment as we hurdle over countless blocks of sidewalk. 

Finally, as we reach the mouth of my subdivision, I give the command for her to stop. Even with a big dog, I won't run past the edge of the woods with no street lamps at night. We turn around and go to cool down walk in the grassy stretch behind my house. The grass is misty and the stars are out. The Little Miss periodically stops to sniff miscellaneous items that meet her criteria for interesting. My pulse falls as the balmy evening air sticks to my skin, and I silently thank God for the millionth time for the Florida weather that permits a hearty run in shorts and a tank top in the middle of February. The 79 degree weather is much more forgiving than the cold air that creates the illusion of a lung full of fire most everywhere else this time of year. 
As the beads of exclusively cold water join up with each other on my skin for the voyage down my shower drain, I contemplate the gift it is to be able to change into exercise gear and go run. To be young enough, strong enough, and to have the political freedom to go do so. I question my own perception of exercise as a chore. Sometimes it's uncomfortable. Sometimes it's excruciating. Sometimes, yes, as Jess's husband Luau aptly wrote here, getting going is indeed the 'toughest ten minutes of the day'. But somehow, all of those hard feelings melt away when the sneakers are on. When I'm hauling ass, the pain can't catch me. The only feeling that is fast enough to keep pace is the exhilaration of freedom. Wouldn't it be thankless to miss the opportunity to feel that way?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sticky Note

I know, I know. I already updated today. I also know that my current project is still in the works, so there's no way I should be thinking about another one yet, right? But this idea came and smacked me in the face today, and I want to write it down before it falls out of my head and gets swirled away by the day-to-day. It feels like putting ideas to pen seems to be the best way to make sure they eventually happen, so here we go.

I was scouring the web for information about the next Fallout game after New Vegas, because as you know, us techies love our video games. I didn't find out a confirmed date for the particular game I'm jonesing for, but I did find the greatest idea ever on No Mutants Allowed here.

If you don't want to click over, the idea is essentially that a group of teens have decided to band together for a 60 hour Fallout 3 marathon in which they will beat the entire game (which is quite an undertaking), with the profits going to purchase entertainment systems in children's hospitals.

I went on the website, and it looks like they aren't quite finished putting it together yet, but it looks like a really cool idea. And because it looks like such a cool idea, it started a chain of thought in my head that brought me to an idea I liked for a future event (full nod to these gentlemen included): 

'Kill for the Kids'

Since I have a feeling that there's a large target pool of participators who are willing to sit down and play their choice video game for a few hours for charity rather than get up and run, I want to next put together a more 'passive' marathon. The edgy name begs a question and immediately inserts a plug, coined by my very clever love. Sales is a career that will serve him well. But, I digress, the idea is this:

Rather than playing through an entire game, my idea is to put together a Call of Duty ‘race’ where ‘runners’ are sponsored by how many points they are able to accumulate in a certain period of time. There would be some sort of fun prize for the winner, and since people are competing and are sponsored by score, chances are a lot of funds would be raised.

I'm not sure what the political back-and-forth on playing a violent game for a children's charity will be, so I've decided to withhold the name of the charity for which I want to do this until I'm sure it's alright to do so. But for now - there's an idea with a paperweight on it. I won't have time to work on it until the SMA run is over and done, because that needs my full attention at the moment, but it's under that paperweight waiting... and at the moment, that's enough for me. :)

The Waiting Game

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! 

Just to touch base, right now we're playing the waiting game. Tarpon Springs High School has approved the GSF 5k run (see why I'm such an enthusiastic alumni??), and we've politely requested the track for March 18th. The date is pending approval, since we can't conflict with a football game or anything like that. As long as the day is free, we're good to go! I'm very anxious to learn if we got the date, since I'd like to start making a website and Facebook page for the event. If March 18th is booked, we're back to the waiting game to get a different day approved. Let's keep our fingers crossed for that big rubber 'approved' stamp!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Venue Secured!

Just a short little blurb of an update today, but that's okay because this teeny post has some big news: we have a venue! I got the email this morning, which sent me into a little celebratory dance all around my living room. Ms. AwesomeTeacher dropped me a line saying that she had gotten the approval for the event, which means the SMA 5k now officially has a wheelchair-accessible venue - Tarpon Springs High School. I'm so outrageously thrilled about things coming together so well, and so thankful for the good fortune of finding a wonderful setting for the event at no cost, and getting to work on this project with someone whom I admire and enjoy the company of. 

I also exchanged a few words via email with Victoria Strong of the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. She was so kind, and she was more than generous with her time and image files. I'm looking forward to contributing what can be raised to the work that they are doing. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Randall Terry, Abortion, and... Superbowl Sunday?

If you know me, you know that one of my pet peeves is pro-lifers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a pro-choice advocate, either. I don’t really agree with abortion except in extreme cases, but the only thing that gets my goat more than abortion being used as a form of birth control is the methods by which its opponents try to push their agenda. Harassing vulnerable young girls at health clinics and waving pictures of dead fetuses at passing cars on the highway? Not the way to get my vote. 

While I’d personally probably never consider having an abortion, I certainly don’t hold any feelings of animosity for someone that would – it’s a complicated, major life decision, and I don’t think it’s one that public policy should have a hand in, except in maintaining the safety of the public (which, as we've seen from the past, probably involves keeping it legal. Girls desperate for an abortion aren't going to keep a baby because doctors aren't doing them anymore- the practice will just move to back alleys, killing all-too-often both mother and child). 

But this post isn’t really a post for or against abortion- we’ve all heard the rehash between Roe v. Wade a thousand times and it’s been done to death. My personal feelings on the topic are simply a preface for what I’m about to rant about: Randall Terry, and shock advertising.
I am about to share something about myself that many of my dear friends already know: I suffer from some sort of unexplained sensory issue where graphic, violent material onscreen results in either an immediate panic attack or a blackout. I'm not afraid of it: in fact, I love horror books and often read the scary movies that my friends eagerly watch. My brain simply won't accept the visual input. Graphic imagery? Off my brain goes. Let's hope I don't clunk my head on the way down.

At 23 years old, Macaulay Culkin's 'Home Alone' is still graphic enough to be completely out of the question for me. As a child, even a scene as tame as the hyenas in the Lion King falling into thorny brambles was too much to handle. As an adult, I can handle cartoons (usually), but live action is still another story. In order to watch Grey's Anatomy, I have to watch it with the sound off, a folder or my hand covering most of the screen for the gory parts, and only subtitles to avoid an attack, and even then it's dodgy. With this background information, you can see why Randall Terry and his criminal gang of goons' shock advertising campaign is making my life worse for the wear.

In case you're not aware of this creeper, he runs a pro-life campaign that employs 'shock advertising'. 'Shock advertising' is a nice way to phrase 'springing horrible graphic images on the unwilling and unsuspecting viewer'. For someone like me, it's not just an awful experience- on the highway, it's a very real safety concern. A bloody billboard of a baby is a likely blackout trigger- and while driving 55mph on the highway is not a good time to lose consciousness.The idea behind this cruel advertising method is to disgust and upset the target into agreement with one's point of view. Fortunately, no TV station would ever willingly pick up such an advertisement. Unfortunately, Mr. Terry recently came across a manipulative move that would extort a loophole in media law that allows any presidential candidate to run any content in an advertisement they choose, so long as they pay for the ad space. He just has to make a phony 'run' for President.

So where better to run a disgusting, gory, horrible national ad showing dismembered fetuses than the Superbowl, a time-honored family tradition? I can't imagine broadcasting this at a time when families want to spend time with their children. No child wants to be traumatized by a view of a dead, chopped up baby's body, and I'd reckon there are very few adults that are pleased about having their appetite for wings and sliders ruined by the imagery. It all begs the question: when does freedom of speech end, and where do the rights of others begin? Where does the line get drawn between 'peaceful protest' and assaulting the senses of others?
Thankfully, some states are denying his claim based on the lack of legitimacy of his 'running for President'. Since he hasn't technically qualified as a Democratic party candidate, some stations are simply telling him no. It remains to be seen how many states will air his propaganda, but consider yourselves fairly warned: there may be bloody babies on your screen this Superbowl Sunday.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hoping and Planning

The day before yesterday, I sent this to Ms. AwesomeTeacher, who was one of my favorite people at TSHS.

Hi Ms. AwesomeTeacher,
I left you a message earlier today, but I figured I'd drop you a line via email in case it's a more convenient contact for you. I don't know if you remember me (I'm sure you've had a zillion students in the last six years), but I hope you do, because you're the one who got me totally obsessed with genetic conditions in the first place, lol.
Anyway, now that I'm getting into the Assistive Technology field, I got some ants in my pants to put together a charity project for Spinal Muscular Atrophy to raise some money for the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, and I was hoping that you might want to help. Don't worry - I'm not shaking you down for cash. I want to get into motion a wheelchair-accessible 5k run to raise money for SMA, but the problem is that most public park trails aren't so wheelchair friendly, and the county has these awesome $2,500 road closure fees if I want to use a street. What I was really, really hoping is that maybe this was a project that could come to Tarpon High School, because the track there is perfect, and the large student body probably has some volunteers and runners swimming around in it. It's good for medical science, it's good for the students- it's really a win-win. I called the PCSB and they said essentially that I need a staff member (like yourself) to agree to sponsor the project and submit a request to do it to the principal as a school activity. I thought since you're into Biology and genetics (and so beautiful) that you might want to team up with me on this. Is that something you would have any interest in, or do you know anyone that might be interested? I thought it sounded like it was kind of right up your alley, so I thought I'd drop you a line and see. You can get a hold of me here via email or call me anytime it's convenient for you- my phone number is (not included).

Talk to you soon,

Helena Sue

Ms. AwesomeTeacher (who will remain anonymous until I have her permission otherwise) emailed me back this morning with what seemed like a hasty but warm and interested response, so now I'm cautiously allowing myself to be considerably more excited about the venue being TSHS than I was. To sum up, she essentially said that she is busy busy busy at the current moment, but she is interested and will email me soon. 

What I'm looking at now is the WBS I've put together to ascertain exactly what needs to be done and who is doing it. I am Human Resource A, and my WONDERFUL best friend has agreed to play the role of Human Resource B. So basically, all we need now is a venue, and Human Resources C, D, E, F, G, H, and I. Of course, I'm posting my not-so-exciting WBS here in case someone with more experience doing this sort of thing notices some large flaw or action that I have missed completely and would like to point it out. I love criticism, so please don't be shy! I also love volunteers. ;) 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Paging the Biology Dept...

It's day three of my seven budgeted days to locate a venue, and I'm starting to get a little nervous about if I'm going to be able to find one in time. Now that I’ve learned the protocol for school events, I wrote one of my favorite teachers from high school an email gently laced with some truthful flattery asking if she wants to get on board with the project. Asking her feels like a step in the right direction – she is the teacher that initially inspired me to explore genetic conditions in the first place. In my senior year, she assigned Angelman Syndrome to me for my term project, doing the research for which sparked my initial interest in the genetically and developmentally diverse population. 

If she is willing to be the staff sponsor, we can submit a request for an event to the Principal. I will be so excited if this project ends up taking place at my beloved high school. I LOVED my time at Tarpon Springs High School, and everyone who knows me knows it. To this day, my Palm Harbor Hurricanes alumni boyfriend will tease me and say, “Spongers Suck!” to get a rise out of me, because he knows I’ll defend TSHS to the death. 

Of course, it’s a big favor to ask, and I’m not going to get too excited yet. Just because we share an interest in genetic conditions doesn’t mean that she owes a student from six years ago a whopper of a favor – but I’m letting myself hope that she will agree.

This is love calling, love calling...

You turned away when I looked you in the eye,
And hesitated when I asked if you were alright,
Seems like you're fighting for your life,
But why? oh why?
Wide awake in the middle of your nightmare,
You saw it comin' but it hit you outta no where,
And there's always scars
When you fall back far

We lose our way,

We get back up again
It's never too late to get back up again,
One day you will shine again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,
Lose our way,
We get back up again,
So get up, get up,
You gonna shine again,
Never too late to get back up again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever
(May be knocked down but not out forever)

You're rolled out at the dawning of the day

Heart racin' as you made your little get away,
It feels like you've been runnin' all your life
But, why? Oh why?

So you've pulled away from the love that would've been there,

You start believin' that your situation's unfair

But there's always scars,

When you fall back far

We lose our way,

We get back up again
Never too late to get back up again,
One day, you gonna shine again,
You may be knocked down but not out forever,
Lose our way, we get back up again,
So get up, get up
You gonna shine again
It's never too late, to get back up again
You may be knocked down, but not out forever,
May be knocked down, but not out forever!

This is love callin', love callin', out to the broken,

This is love callin'.
This is love callin', love callin', out to the broken
This is love callin'.
This is love callin', love callin',
I am so broken
This is love callin' love callin

Get Back Up - Toby Mac