Disability Awareness Month 2017 has an interesting, unusual, and meaningful theme: “Not Your Inspiration.” When I first received a flyer about the theme in late January, I was surprised. I was also a bit apprehensive, as over the past few months, I have had a number of people share very kindly that I am an inspiration to them, as they watch how I face various struggles. I’m never quite certain how to appropriately respond to these comments, though I generally smile a “thank you.” And I don’t wish to overtly defy well-wishers. But let’s take a look at the message here:
So if not “your inspiration,” what would I wish to be? As I asked myself this question, I came to the conclusion that these posters don’t tell the whole story. Thinking of neighbors, coworkers and classmates who face challenges, I do see some whose stories and examples are inspiring. Many face difficulties not so visible to others, with no cane or chair or facial expression that paint the picture of disability. Like me, I think others wish to be seen beyond the outward bit, as the “not your inspiration” campaign insinuates. For those who know me, I’ll add a fourth poster:
I’M NOT YOUR INSPIRATION:
I’m your friend.
Admiring those who overcome disability is fine, but this month us a good time to focus on the people beyond the challenges they face.
Ah, the month of March. For the past several years, I have been highlighting MS Awareness Month, wearing my “teacher” hat as I explain what MS is (and isn’t). This also gives me the opportunity to more openly share personal struggles of living with multiple sclerosis.
You may (or may not) have noticed something about this blog during March 2016. What was there to notice, you wonder… it seemed rather absent. The irony of last year’s “Awareness Month” is that I was more aware of my confused nervous system/immune system than I had been in the previous eighteen years. After thinking it was a dental issue that caused my mouth to feel as if was being attacked by scads of tiny, flaming pitchforks any time I tried to speak, swallow, and eat, a series of tests and MRI scans led us to the discovery that a major nerve in my tongue was quite confused. I didn’t have a cavity or worse, but the diagnosis came: “hyposlossal neuralgia.” In essence, the main nerve on the left side of my tongue, allowing me to speak and swallow and such, had a short circuit of sorts.
They say that “knowing is half the battle,” but what I really wanted to know was how to function decently despite the uncooperative tongue. For almost a month, we tried different medications to help tame the crazy nerve. The craziest part of the struggle came when medication that tamed the tongue also took away the ability for my legs to move. At all. Because I appreciate the ability to do such things as go to the restroom, this was not appreciated. So… by April, things were tamed enough. But MS Awareness Month had completely passed me by. And I had visited doctor offices and MRI machines in three different cities, very aware of MS.
So that was 2016. 2017 holds different challenges and paths, as my tongue is tamed. Usually, at least. My point here: MS is unpredictable, and those who live with it are “aware,” no matter what month it is. Over the next week or so, I will be sharing about MS in general. I’ll also share about March’s other campaign, “Disability Awareness Month.” My own journey into and through the world of MS and disability is just one story, and I hope to shine a little light to increase awareness for us all.
I do love Sundays, for so many reasons! This leads very logically to today’s list:
Today’s thankful things:
God’s grace – Though I don’t deserve it, I am so blessed to know that the incompressible, infinite, all-powerful God of the universe loves me. Kinda crazy and hard to understand, isn’t it?
Church family – Our church, Upland Community Church, is not just a building. UCC is made up of friends and family from many places, all of whom are special in so many ways! They offer help, comfort, encouragement, support and friendship that cannot really be quantified.
Carry-in Picnics – When a lot of good cooks bring food to a celebration picnic, tasty foods are there to choose from. After a hamburger with yummy sides, sugar cream pie cannot be beat for dessert. (…or fresh peanut butter pie, or gooseberry pie, or awesome cookies…)
Sabbath rest – Sundays are days that allow for rest in a special way! Though some work is necessary, rest from outside work and big responsibilities gives time to focus on what this day is all about.
Conversations with friends – Having the chance to sit and converse over fun foods was such a lovely time! It’s something I wish I could do more frequently, but life with an uncooperative body that likes to emphasize fatigue and lack of coordination, chances for nonawkward social times are treasured when then come.
Summer break is not just a time for vacation fun, but it’s also a time to catch up on other things that are not quite as “fun.” But we are so blessed to be able to have dental care available, repairing problems with our teeth so that they can be useful for our entire lives. This has been a week with visits to the dentist and the orthodontist, and this care is something for which I am indeed thankful!
5 Bits of Dental Thanks:
X-ray – I am thankful that an x-ray can peer within my teeth to find if there is a weak spot that will lead to problems… thinking of dental things a century ago, I can only imagine the troubles my mouth would have had. (I was born without a permanent tooth, so I know I would have at least one problem area.)
Hygienists – These specially trained dental nurses do an outstanding job when helping give care to keep teeth clean and healthy. I can only imagine what it would be like to look into mouths, smile in the midst of halitosis, and carry on one-sided conversations each day. And smile in the midst of this.
Dentists – A doctor who could literally be bitten by patients, who can interpret x-rays and stains and gums, and who can do all of this with a personable, professional smile, is indeed a treasure. (Dr. Raymond Maddox, we do miss you and are thankful for the years of service you gave here.) We look forward to having Dr. Matthew Maddox join things here later this year!
Orthodontists – I’m thankful for those who helped me when I was in high school and college, working to move my teeth so that my jaw wouldn’t pop and lock… ah, TMJ. A wise orthodontist was able to use a series of retainers to get my jaw moving correctly, then braces finished the job.
Not fun at the time, but I am thankful that I never needed surgery in my mouth. My daughters each have orthodontist trips now, and I know they’ll be thankful one day also for a bite that works as it ought.
Smoothies – On the way home from dental appointments, we stop at a restaurant to pick up shakes, but I was even more blessed this week after an appointment with a filling repaired (one from a few decades ago originally). My daughter also had a filling on this day, so instead of stopping at a restaurant, she made a fresh blueberry and frozen yogurt smoothie for each of us. This was indeed welcome and appreciated!