Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer


July 2013

Putting the Able in Disabled

DSC_1212 I went rock climbing last weekend.

I can just see my friend Mary’s face, open-mouthed in disbelief. And it is unbelievable in a funny sort of way. My mom burst out laughing when I told her I was going. “Of course you are,” she said. Because so far, (mostly with Brooks) I’ve played tennis, billiards and power soccer. I’ve waterskied, snow skied, surfed, bowled and ridden a horse —  all since I’ve been in the wheelchair. Now I can add rock climbing to the list.

It’s not bravery, though Mary would disagree. (And I suppose next to her, I am brave. Sorry, Mary.) But really, these adaptive sports have gear that keep you much safer than you’d be if you were doing the real thing. And I wasn’t hanging off a cliff. We’re in Florida, after all. It was a rock climbing gym.

But I do have a whole new respect for rock climbers — indoors or out. In addition to revealing just how out of shape I am, out of my safety harness, it looked scary! I didn’t reach for hand or footholds, (I never could’ve managed that) but many people in the group did. I was in a comfortable swing compared to these daredevils. Look at this picture to really get the idea. That’s 45 feet up!130720_0004

It was all part of a special rock climbing clinic with Mark Wellman, two-time Paralympian and the first paraplegic to climb the faces of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The night before we hit the climbing gym, we heard Mark’s story of the rock climbing accident that left him paralyzed and his inspiring road to recovery. Then we watched his film, Beyond Barriers, in which various disabled athletes take part in some pretty extreme sports. Imagine watching three disabled mountain climbers, one of them blind! There was also a girl born with just one leg, who surfed standing up on a customized piece of PVC pipe. There was a paraplegic handglider, paraplegic diver and a quadriplegic sailor who operated his special sailboat with just a mouth stick! All further proof to me that there’s a spirit inside some that just won’t be quieted. That most determined and adventurous people are that way regardless of what happens to them. It’s attitude not circumstance. They’ll find a way.

In truth, I wished the event and the message could’ve been a little more inclusive. Most quadriplegics could not attend because they lack grip in the hands and fingers. I don’t know the particulars of climbing equipment and it must have been considered, but most other adaptive sports have gloves that attach a person’s hands to any bar necessary. And watching amazing athletes may not reach those of us who are far from athletic. Personally, I’d rather inspire someone just to get off the couch, get out of the house or make a new friend!

With Mark Wellman

But that’s the great thing about the Brooks Program. There’s something for everyone, from extreme sports to eating fries and gabbing at the local bowling alley. In the end, it’s about breaking the mold and challenging the stereotype of what a disabled person can and can’t do. Plus, I get to watch people’s faces when I tell them I went rock climbing. Priceless.

Into Africa

dreamstimecomp_17994561Writing is like flying standby.

My good friend Michele, just days away from making the journey to a Third World country this way, was a bit too frazzled about it to make the correlation, but I bet my fellow writers will get it.

Since a round trip ticket can often be close to two grand, Michele was relying on a “buddy pass” from a pilot friend to fly from Jacksonville to Atlanta, Atlanta to Johannesberg, South Africa. From there, she would need to find and board an unknown bus for the several hour ride to Lesotho, a separate, landlocked country within South Africa. All this traveling — by herself.  She would then meet her daughter, Annie, and some of Annie’s fellow Peace Corps volunteers at the border for the drive to Laribe, the small village where Michele would spend the next 20 days.

I get nervous for an overnight trip to Tallahassee. I plan out what to wear each day. I pack and repack a week in advance. I leave instructions the length of small novels for pet sitters, and I rise at 2:00 a.m. the morning of. That’s if I fall asleep in the first place.

But, if you find yourself unable to plan, like Michele’s on a wing and a prayer type journey, the rule is: you gotta have faith. And this is kind of like writing.

Time and time again, my “just okay” plans are laid to rest by some much better inspiration that hits me in the final hour. Sometimes, I don’t even have a so-so idea and I’m staring at an empty screen on the Saturday night before a new blog post. And any writer will tell you, it’s waiting for the inspiration to hit, much like waiting to be told to board, that can be sheer agony.

This is not to say you writers out there should wait till you have a brilliant thought before sitting down to write. You’ve got to face the empty screen, like Michele had to show up at the airport, if there’s to be any hope of getting off the ground. I’d never write anything great, if I didn’t force myself to focus on churning out something just okay. And it’s not just writing, but life, that works this way.

I got a text from Michele on her way to Johannesberg as she took off. It was a picture of her holding up a champagne glass with the words “Yeah, baby. First class!” Things are often the scariest just before turning out wonderful. Face your fears.

Michele in Africa
Michele in Africa

Max Out Your Humanity!

thI love Oprah. I have yet to figure out why everyone doesn’t feel the same way. Is it because she’s a powerful, black woman? She’s out there doing all this good in the world. Really making a difference.

Check out the commencement address she gave to Harvard’s Class of 2013. My favorite bit is the last ten minutes. About living an authentic life. She says theologian Howard Thurman said it best when he said don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. It’s an inspirational message for us all.

Early Bird or Night Owl?

thdreamstimecomp_17745581I’ve decided that there is an essential part of what makes you you that can’t be changed no matter how hard you try. Your propensity toward “morningness” or “nightness.” I know this because I’ve been trying, and failing, to change my routine.

It all centers around Frankie, of course, King of 6th Avenue and to his eyes, all of Jax Beach. Actually, in his own mind, he’s probably King of the World.

See, back when I lived alone, I could wake up when the partiers were just getting home and not hear a peep out of him — as long as it stayed dark around his crate. I kept the kitchen lights off and stayed out of the living room. Now, though I’m clear on the other side of the house and there’s a concrete wall between us, I have to creep around like a burglar well after 6:00 a.m.

The reason for this is Mom’s approach to his discipline (or lack thereof). She allowed him to bark when he woke up, getting up herself and letting him out of his crate. Now, he feels one of his responsibilities, along with alerting us to all manner of potential intruder, including lizards, is to act like her alarm clock every morning. Problem is, this alarm goes off whenever he wakes up, regardless of the hour. And he has supersonic, albeit selective, hearing. So after a couple mornings of 5:00 a.m. barking, I decided to try sleeping in (my version, in which I’m still out of bed by 7:00).

His Highness still needs to be walked however, and being that it’s summer and hot by 8:00, I decided to try to shower at night.

I’ve given up. Not only is it a complete pain to get off the couch during prime time viewing when I’m feeling vegetative and lazy, for me it’s also incredibly dangerous. My already severely compromised balance and motor control get even worse after 5 o’clock. This is not the time to be dancing around on my pole, transferring over slippery wet tile. As soon as I returned to my early bird routine, my mood improved dramatically. (So did my hygiene — I was no longer skipping showers.)

So, the moral of the story is — don’t bother fighting it. Several studies have shown that your preference is at least 50% genetic anyway. And to feel better about your type, here are some fun facts I picked up:

  • Night people tend to have higher IQ’s.
  • Morning people may be more reliable and apt to cooperate.
  • “Eveningness” is an evolutionary advancement that marks out more intelligent individuals.
  • Studies have shown that night owls may be more emotionally unstable or prone to addiction.

Fear of the Fourth

Funny-4th-of-July-Cartoon-DogsI’m re-running my post from last July 4th in hopes that some doggies and their owners will find comfort this year.

Original Post:

Thank goodness it’s over.

Last night was the first night I dared leave Frankie’s crate in the living room where it belongs instead of in my bedroom. He only slept in it once all last week, preferring instead to wedge himself under the bed between unused framed art and boxes of old yearbooks. If he were playing hide-and-go-seek, he’d have lost. His hind legs and tail poked out from under the bed frame. I’m sure he thought he’d made himself as small and invisible as possible. I let him take whatever comfort he could. He’d been traumatized.

Frankie’s a little unorthodox in his other flight-taking routines, though. Instead of getting under something, he prefers to go up. Much like a cat. My mother left him alone inside on the Fourth while she lit sparklers in the driveway. When she went inside to check on him he was on top of the fish tank, scanning the walls to go higher.

Dog owners know this is their companion’s least favorite holiday, New Year’s Eve taking a distant second. My neighbors and I nodded to each other as we walked our dogs in the mornings after and exchanged comments like, “I see you two survived,” along with advice about doggy valium and something called the “thundershirt” which guarantees to reduce anxiety by creating gentle pressure. I abandoned evening walks altogether as the booming began in my neighborhood right after lunch. My mother insists this is ridiculous since you can’t even see fireworks when it’s bright out, but I guess that’s not the point. The noise is.

So, although it’s too late to help out this year, I’ve learned some important pointers for next year (and New Year’s.)

  • Resist the urge to take your pet to any fireworks displays.
  • Keep your pet indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so remove any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep him company while you’re out celebrating.
  • Don’t coddle or reassure your pet. The dog sees your reassurance as confirmation that there’s something to be afraid of. Talk to your dog calmly during these times and try to engage the pet in distracting activities such as playing with a ball or performing obedience commands.
  • Try accupressure points. The points that can be gently massaged to promote relaxation are the neck from behind the ears and down, the tips of the ears and the front of the paws just below the wrist joint.
  • Explore natural remedies. A bit of peppermint oil on a dog’s paw pads has a calming effect. A few drops of Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a flower essence, in the dog’s water bowl will also help calm your pet during times of stress. (We tried rubbing Rescue Remedy on the tips of Frankie’s ears and he fell asleep!)

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