Hope for Veterans Day: Bringing Back Normality and What We Can Do

Happy Veterans Day Weekend, everyone!
It seems an oxymoron to call it “happy,” but it is indeed a celebration, though of a somber sort, recognizing all those who have fought for us. Some have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, and all have given a sacrifice of some sort, visible or otherwise.
That’s why I was drawn to this article in The New Yorker, exploring the way so many soldiers are affected by P.T.S.D., and what we can do about it. When I sought to say something meaningful about this day (Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, etc. in other countries), I looked first to other stories. Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but when I seek to find meaning in events, in experiences, I look for the stories–to read, or to tell myself.

This article, published in 2008 but more relevant with each passing day, explores the conundrum of what happens when soldiers come back from war–but really, it’s relatable to anyone who has ever been through anything traumatic (so, everyone). I related to it on several fronts–having experienced trauma, myself, with my traumatic brain injury and thankfully being required to see a psychologist as part of my treatment plan. Not to put my experience on the same plane of heroism as a soldier’s, but I think it is a natural human tendency to dismiss your own feelings when you’re in a situation of huge stress/trauma–your instinct is just to get through it, overcome it, and “level up” into a greater version of yourself, having completed a huge act of fortitude, physically and emotionally.

Except–how can you “level up” emotionally when you had to focus on the physical getting-through of the event, not acknowledging (or even noticing) the huge emotional minefield around you? It doesn’t matter how “tough” anyone thinks s/he is (a common mentality, the article interviewee noted, in the armed forces)–a traumatic event needs to be unpacked. According to the article from nine years ago–meaning the number can only have risen–“According to a recent study by the Rand Corporation, nearly twenty per cent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are suffering from P.T.S.D. or major depression. Almost half won’t seek treatment.”

The key in treatment, says the article, is dissociating environmental or situational stimuli with the traumatic event of the past. I love that medical science is disarming the blanket stigma against video games and tapping into their potential use outside of just entertainment. While I was lucky to experience some high-tech and even virtual reality devices as part of my therapy treatment at Marianjoy during my TBI recovery, what they have now is even more impressive.
So, speaking of “leveling up,” when I read that virtual reality video games are now starting to be used to treat P.T.S.D. with a high degree of success, I was thrilled. It seems like an “of course” idea, but it took a lot of work for them to get a military training platform, turned video game, turned treatment option, into clinics. Just like any dangerous physical venture, it’s important to have a trained guide (here, therapist/psychologist) lead you through the experience and be able to pull you out if it gets too hazardous.

While the whole story was touching and engaging, the line that made me cry was the last one–a soldier who had found immense relief from this virtual reality treatment:

“Most of the intrusive thoughts have gone away,” he said. “You never really get rid of P.T.S.D., but you learn to live with it. I had pictures of my team leader [who was like a brother, killed in front of me] that I couldn’t look at for three years. They’re up on my wall now.”


It gives me hope for our veterans, whom I respect and feel we owe so much. If you have wondered, like me, what we can do to help our disabled and otherwise injured veterans, besides buying the cute little poppies from volunteers selling Tootsie Rolls, this CNN article gives a fantastic list of simple, but impactful, ways to help. I also encourage you to think of your own talents and how you can share them. “Talent” is, perhaps, a generous word to apply to my musical skills, but my singalong string band, the Pennies from Heaven, likes to lead carols at our local VA hospital every Christmas, bringing a sense of home, familiarity, normality, and warm memories to those who can’t be “Home for Christmas” (a heartbreakingly common song request from the veterans we play for). The biggest thing we notice from anywhere we play (hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) is that people appreciate the company–bringing the outside world in is a helpful way to help anyone acclimate to daily life. So if your talent is just being a good listener or a good storyteller–I promise you your gift of time and company will be appreciated, even if you can’t see it at first glance–it may mean the world to a veteran or other patient.

I’ll leave you with one more suggestion–to read this moving poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, who was inspired to write it after presiding over the funeral of a fellow soldier and friend who had fallen in battle in 1915. It’s something I do every Veterans Day, to connect with this day of remembrance, which was established at the end of the very war that inspired this poem (hence the November 11th observation every year):

Holy Cow: Cubs Win the World Series and Our Hearts

This is a story of resilience, of hope rewarded, of an underdog rising to greatness. It’s a story of generations, of love passed down through DNA, of unifying triumph, of a storybook “happily ever after” and banished curses.

It’s a moment in history that’s been over a century in the making, and everyone wants a part in it. Five million people filled the streets of Chicago on Friday in the seventh-largest human gathering of all time–and the largest ever in our country–to watch the Chicago Cubs’ victory parade. “Thank you for your patience,” the lauded World Series Champions of 2016 said, giving as much praise to their fans’ perseverance as their own. The Chicago Cubs had had the longest drought of any professional sports team in the history of the USA: 108 years without a championship.

#FlytheW–the Cubs won the World Series! Photo courtesy of my friend Arnaud Buttin, who attended the rally.

That number, 108, keeps popping up in uncanny ways, signs of destiny that 2016 really was our year–according to Inside Edition, the list includes:

  • The building that broadcasts Cubs games: 108 stories high
  • Stitches on a baseball: 108
  • Original address of baseball manufacturer, Spalding: 108 Madison St., Chicago
  • Run time of movies Back to the Future 2 and Taking Care of Business, who predicted future Cubs World Series wins: 108 minutes

Here is the Inside Edition video, published 10/25, predicting the win:

Also, another that came forward, necessarily after that video: Joe Maddon, the manager of the Cubs, presented the championship trophy to the rally in Grant Park at 1:08 p.m. on Friday.

This feeling of destiny is a heavy weight lifted off the shoulders of so many who have inherited this love of the Cubs from others. At first, I thought the story I shared last week about our family Cubs tradition was unique, but over this past week, I’ve read many other touching stories of people rejoicing more on behalf of their loved ones than themselves.

One man drove all day to Greenwood Cemetery, Indiana, to keep a promise to his dad–that they would listen to the World Series together. He set up a radio and a lawn chair, and they did just that.

In my own family, my dad kept an unspoken promise to his mother, who raised him to be the Cubs fan he is today. She wasn’t far away during that epic game 7 of the World Series. Her mass card sports St. Anthony of Padua, who she always loved as the patron saint of lost things–and lost causes, she added. My dad kept her mass card and the lucky marble he’d shared with her on the table we surrounded while we bit our nails, jumped up and down, hyperventilated, and nearly collapsed during that game.

St. Anthony of Padua on my grandmother’s mass card, and the lucky marble my dad shared with her

The next day, he looked everywhere for a newspaper to take to her grave–an acknowledgement, a celebration, of the moment they’d been waiting for for many decades. And while she didn’t get to see it while she was here with us, she had the ultimate view from Heaven.

The newspapers were sold out at four different stores my dad went to, but he randomly found a pristine copy of two in the wrong spot by the coffee at Jewel. Even the cashier shared her shock he’d found one, but he smiled, knowing it was a special delivery.

Special Delivery: Victory Newspapers

We figured out later that our grandma was definitely watching the game from Heaven, when we realized the three final winning games had significant dates for her: her death anniversary, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day.

The game went on forever, in a good but completely nerve-shattering way. After jumping at a leaf the next day, my mom announced her nerves were shot. Several of our friends had to turn off the game at one point because they were about to be physically ill. As for me, my heart was racing for the entire game, but I determined to make it through, no matter what! After all, if these underdogs were about to change history, I didn’t want to miss it. As a bonus, I discovered I actually can hold my breath for 4.5 hours.

The game was as epic as a Lord of the Rings movie–and this, coming from an LOTR superfan–but it was like the climax lasted the entire duration. Movie producers would dismiss a script like that because it would be too unbelievable. When the game went into an extra 10th inning because of a tie, and then when there was a rain delay–even nature was adding to the drama–that was the breaking point for some people. For the Cubs, though, it was the moment of truth–Jason Heyward, outstanding outfielder for the team this year, gave a rallying speech to the Cubs that they could break the tie, break the curses, that not all was lost.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, it reminded me of another rallying speech:

Image result for aragorn speech gif       Image result for aragorn speech courage of men

Indeed, after that rain delay, the Cubs pulled it together to achieve a final score of 8-7. To say the crowds went WILD is an understatement. It’s no wonder that the celebration is still going strong–“Go Cubs!” has replaced “Hello” around here, and “Go, Cubs, Go,” is the anthem of every place music might be played, from my own band’s performance to our hospital’s black-tie fundraising gala. Fans–of the Cubs, of Chicago, of the underdog story–want to acknowledge this moment of unity, perseverance, and reward of faith invested, breaths held for over a century. Our fandom only increases as we learn how the players are using their fame to give back to fans, including Anthony Rizzo’s foundation for cancer research he started after beating it himself. These aren’t just good players; they’re good people. These are heroes for America’s kids that we can be proud of. That goes for the Cleveland Indians, too–I was really impressed with the civility and kindness between the opposing teams. Now that’s a lesson we could carry with us!

Thank you, Cubs, for bringing us such a happy moment in history–something we could really use right now, especially in Chicago. Here’s to hoping we can carry this optimism and camaraderie with us beyond baseball. And even though 108 might be my new favorite number, here’s to hoping for another thrilling win in 2017.


Drawing by my very talented sister

Happy Halloween: Monster Legends Gallery from Merriam-Webster

It’s finally here–Happy Halloween, dear readers! My soul is aglow like a candle inside a Jack-o-Lantern!

What are your plans? Handing out candy to trick-or-treaters; curling up with a ghost story; terrorizing the town? I will post some stories and pictures after today, but I’ve already been lucky enough to attend multiple Halloween celebrations (it’s never enough). Tonight, I am going to a masquerade!

I am floating like a ghost over the combination of two of my great loves: Halloween + Merriam-Webster Dictionary. That’s right, folks, it’s not just any dictionary, but my FAVORITE dictionary (instilled into me by rigorous grad school standards of this being the ultimate go-to source).

Besides Merriam-Webster’s level of detail and accuracy, they are my favorite because of the kooky and fun things they do to celebrate holidays in the wordiest way possible (A.K.A., the best way).

If, for some strange reason, you haven’t been following their website every day leading up till Halloween, I invite you to view their gallery of monsters–the origin of the legend, their word etymologies/origins, and their evolving definitions. I promise, it’s lots of fun and good trivia, so you know exactly what you’re dealing with when you hear something go BUMP in the night.

Counting down to Halloween, we bring you the strangest, most elusive beasts in the dictionary.

Source: Chupacabra – Monster of the Day (Final Update!) | Merriam-Webster

Great Moments in Gothic Fiction: A History in 13 Books

This season puts me in the mood for some Gothic fiction. Some of you may prefer true horror stories–and indeed, I will post a list of your most chilling favorites in the coming days–but as for me, I’ll take a sweeping, gloomy story with just a hint of terror in it.

As it is the witching hour, it seems appropriate to share some Halloween story history with you, dear readers. I found this reflection on horror stories from Flavorwire fascinating. It’s amazing how the grotesque stories were a commentary on how hidden evils/transgressions in society will emerge, no matter how people try to bury them. One tidbit I learned:

The end of the 18th century led to a mini-boom in Gothic novels, which were divided by critics into two categories: horror, which is fear of gore you see; and terror, which is fear caused by the suggestion of something sinister. As a wise professor once explained to me, behind the curtain in horror is a decaying body. Behind the curtain in terror is another curtain.

Isn’t that interesting? I guess that makes me a fan of terror stories, rather than horror. My friend Alex offered to wear a rain coat when seeing horror movies with me at the theater, just in case I lose my mind or other things. (That sounds like a horror story, itself–let’s keep those thoughts away before bed.)

But because it is Halloween week, and because spooky dreams are the most intriguing kind anyway, I suggest you read this list from Flavorwire about 13 (I see what you did there, Flavorwire) influential horror/terror stories and how they both reflected society and advanced the genre. Who doesn’t like to wake up bolt upright in bed, in a clammy sweat, anyway?

Flavorwire’s List: Great Moments in Gothic Fiction: A History in 13 Books

What did you learn? Did you see any of your favorites on this list?

I hope you are having a fun, festive, and frightening (in a good way) Halloween season, dear readers. I’ve been diving into the more innocent side, with pumpkin everything (food, attire, crafts, decorations); but these stories are getting me into that perfectly haunted mood, too.  <|🙂

Join me later this week for more Halloween fun!

Excess & Sacrifice: Paczki Day + Top Ten Things People Are Giving Up for Lent in 2015

Excess and sacrifice–two polar opposites that enjoy global popularity this week. I find this both personally and culturally fascinating. How better to explore this than in a list?

“Top Ten Tuesday” is BACK! You know I can’t resist a holiday, readers. And while, yes, today is Mardi Gras, as well as Pączki Day (OK I may or may not have celebrated the latter but I couldn’t help it because someone brought in a huge box of fresh delicious pązki and I’m Polish and it’s in my blood to require them for sustenance on such a day, and, and…)
Embed from Getty Images
Let me help you with those…

Ahem. While today is both of those holidays, it is also the last day before Lent for Catholics. And, actually, my personal resolution is directly related to Pączki Day–a last hurrah, if you will–which is exactly what it was designed to be.

The specific pązcki in question was sweet-cheese-filled with vanilla frosting. (In recollection of Pączki Days past, our friend described his personal encounter with the traditional rosehip-flavored type, which was an acquired taste, and a floral shock to his raspberry expectations. I was thankful only to be pleasantly surprised today.)

In slightly related news, our dad randomly found gourmet fudge today in the trunk from our parents’ recent trip to Wisconsin. We deemed it a Lenten miracle and gobbled it up before midnight.

Midnight, of course, marked the beginning of Lent. Personally, I find the tradition of minor sacrifice enlightening about myself. How hard is it for me to give something small up, versus someone who gave up everything? What about people who live in poverty and have nothing to give up? Interestingly, many religions (and even non-religious causes) practice similar self-deprivation to promote awareness. So, in addition to being a reminder and practice of my own religion, I find the tradition to be beneficial in many ways.

One of these ways is my health. Every year around this time, my stomach breathes a sigh of relief (and my sweet teeth–for they are, all of them, sweet–sob) for forty days.

My standard is to give up sweets. It is both difficult (sweet tooth x 32) and easy–it’s fairly easy to eat around them.

Then I wondered–what do most people give up? I’ve read of people giving up sleeping in beds and doing major fasting during this time. But what’s the norm? Obviously, Twitter has the answer. OpenBible decided to index the top Lenten sacrifices users posted on Twitter, ranging from silly to serious. It’s an interesting sociological examination:

The project, now entering its sixth year, pulls from the Twitter firehose to index mentions of Lent and various iterations of the phrase “giving up.” It’s the brainchild of Biblical Web guru Stephen Smith, who in his day job runs engineering for the massive Christian site BibleGateway.com. The list updates every 10 minutes, so it’s apt to change. —Caitlin Dewey, The Washington Post

Without further ado, I present:

Top 10 Things Given Up for Lent 2015

(34,520 Tweets During the Week of February 15, 2015)

Rank What Number of Tweets
1. twitter 1,568
2. social networking 1,429
3. chocolate 1,418
4. school 1,035
5. alcohol 1,024
6. soda 635
7. sweets 619
8. swearing 609
9. fast food 585
10. coffee 416

Interesting, no? #1 and #2–ironic or sarcastic? #4–obviously a joke. All the rest? I believe them. Add me to #7–make that 620 tweets. 🙂

How about you, dear readers? Do you practice Lent or any other type of deprivation/sacrifice–what, if anything, do you think it tells us? What do/would you give up?
Food for thought–since that’s the only consumption of sweets I’ll be allowing myself till Easter. 😉 😥

Happy New Year! Top Ten: Historical Cures for Hangovers

Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope you had fun ringing in 2014. Lindsey hosted a party in her lovely condo for our friends (the same ones you’ve read about here, here, here, and almost every post with the “friends” tag). We had snacks and drinks, including Kara’s delicious brownies, Lindsey’s dips, cookies, and walnuts that Erik expertly (frighteningly) cracked. We played several games, which alone would have ensured my having a blast (I LOVE games and can’t ever play enough), but the added talking, silliness, and electronic dancing cat all made for even more fun.

Clockwise from left: Kara, Erik, Megan, Lindsey, me, Jennifer, Warren, and Jeremiah

Jennifer’s long arms are expertly equipped for group selfies! 😉

Oreo would like to give everyone a New Year’s kiss: muah! ❤

Cheers to 2014! Health, happiness, prosperity, love, and friendship for the New Year! ❤

Despite our midnight toast, dear readers, the first day of January did not start with a hangover for me, I am happy to say. However, I’m sure much of the rest of the world was not so lucky. It’s been a problem through the millennia, apparently; today, the National Museum of American History made a timely blog post exploring the creative “cures” people have come up with throughout history. Mallory Warner, of the museum’s Division of Medicine and Science, compiled this collage of historical hangover cures in the museum’s collection for us to view online, even if we can’t visit the museum itself. I found it so fascinating that I decided to share it for this week’s Top Ten list.

Hopefully, none of you are still experiencing hangovers, but perhaps you will find this interesting in a retrospective “glad I didn’t try that…” or even a “maybe next time…” way. 😉

(Dear readers, I must ask you to drink responsibly so you don’t cause any injury worse than a headache. Always use a designated driver. <3)

I hope you enjoy this glance at the seedier side of history as much as I did. 🙂

Top Ten: Historical Hangover Remedies
From: The National Museum of American History

January 01, 2014

How do you cure a historic hangover?

On this first day of 2014, many of us will be looking forward to the New Year. Others will just be looking forward to recovering from the after-effects of endless holiday parties. As you come out of your post-holiday fog, take a look at some of the curious cures for “over-indulgence” in food and alcohol in our collection.

"A pleasant, quick acting, effective antacid relieving upset stomach, hyperacidity, fullness, sour stomach, heart ache and forms of distress due to over-indulgence in food or drink"

1. Brioschi, after 1907. “A pleasant, quick acting, effective antacid relieving upset stomach, hyperacidity, fullness, sour stomach, heart ache and forms of distress due to over-indulgence in food or drink.”
Display box of Garfield's Seidlitz Powders, 1930s-1940s “For that dull headachy feeling often caused by intestinal congestion…”

2. Display box of Garfield’s Seidlitz Powders, 1930s-1940s. “For that dull headachy feeling often caused by intestinal congestion…”
Pluto Water, between 1903-1971. “It may be depended upon to actively flush the intestinal tract in constipation or after over-indulgence in eating or drinking.”  This product was sold with the cheeky tag line, “When Nature won’t—Pluto will.”  Pluto, Roman god of the underworld (the source of spring water), served as the brand’s mascot.

3. Pluto Water, between 1903-1971. “It may be depended upon to actively flush the intestinal tract in constipation or after over-indulgence in eating or drinking.”This product was sold with the cheeky tag line, “When Nature won’t—Pluto will.” Pluto, Roman god of the underworld (the source of spring water), served as the brand’s mascot.
Emerson's Bromo-Seltzer , after 1906. “Remedy for nervous headache, neuralgia, brain fatigue, sleeplessness, over-brain work, depression following alcoholic and other excesses, mental exhaustion”

4. Emerson’s Bromo-Seltzer, after 1906. “Remedy for nervous headache, neuralgia, brain fatigue, sleeplessness, over-brain work, depression following alcoholic and other excesses, mental exhaustion.”
Percy Medicine, 1996-1999. ”For the relief of diarrhea, sour stomach, acid indigestion, heartburn, and upset stomach associated with overindulgence of food and drink.”

5. Percy Medicine, 1996-1999. “For the relief of diarrhea, sour stomach, acid indigestion, heartburn, and upset stomach associated with overindulgence of food and drink.”
6. Laymon’s Bromo-Chaser. “A pleasantly saline effervescent antacid and sedative…Do not take more than the above dosage. Excessive use of bromides may lead to mental derangements or other serious troubles.”
7. Bromo-Lithia, after 1906. “For headache, biliousness, rheumatism, mental strain, worry, excessive smoking, eating or drinking.”
8. Alka-Seltzer advertisement, 1939. “Because your dinner was so good, I ate too much no doubt. That’s why I Alka-Seltzer-ize to straighten matters out.”
9. Bromo Soda, about 1900. “For sick and nervous headache, indigestion and insomnia, sleeplessness, excessive study, dyspepsia, acute migraine, nervous debility, mania, depression following alcoholic and other excessives, mental and physical exhaustion. Brain fatigue. Sea sickness.”
10. De Angelis Effervescent with Citrate of Magnesia, after 1904.

“It is most efficient for stomach disturbances, acidity and gas. Best suited to reduce weight.”


I hope you enjoyed that interesting and slightly scary list as much as I did, dear readers. 😉

Join me later this week for a surprise announcement and other fun posts. By the way, if you haven’t visited my actual blog page lately (like if you’re an email subscriber), you might want to–Jell-Jell is currently decked out in his Christmas best, courtesy of Jennifer, and snowfall dusts over the page as you read. 🙂

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s Liberator as Prisoner and President, Dies at 95–NY Times

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s Liberator as Prisoner and President, Dies at 95–NY Times

The world is mourning the death of peacekeeper and humanitarian Nelson Mandela, who passed away at the age of 95 in his home on Thursday night. The former first black president of South Africa fought for peace, unity, and equality in his country–even avoiding a civil war, often at great personal cost and risk, which made him beloved worldwide.

The New York Times wrote a wonderful, comprehensive article today about Mandela, detailing his life’s journey. An excerpt I found astounding and poignant:

Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty to the liberation underground to a prison rock quarry to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. And then, when his first term of office was up, unlike so many of the successful revolutionaries he regarded as kindred spirits, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace.

I invite you to read the rest of the article–even if you think you were familiar with Mandela as a person, or Mandela as a politician, you’ll know more after reading it–it’s that thorough. It’s also tender, which I find refreshing; I think journalism could use more of that tone, which I know is difficult to interject when cramming facts into tiny places.

I’ll leave you with this inspirational quote by and photo of Mandela that Tin House posted today on their Facebook:

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
― Nelson Mandela

EveryBody: The Smithsonian’s New Artifact History of Disability in America

Good morning, readers! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I am a bit tired this morning from mine, which may mean that it was awesome enough to make me tired, that I’m still not a morning person, or that weekends need to be longer. I think it means all three. 😉

I wanted to share a blog post I wrote recently for AbilityLinks, Marianjoy’s job-networking program that connects inclusive employers with job-seekers who have disabilities. Part of my job is to post on the AbilityLinks blog from time to time, and I thought you might find this one interesting.

EveryBody: The Smithsonian’s New Artifact History of Disability in America

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has “everybody” talking: EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America. With a considerate nod to the subject content, the museum has chosen to make the exhibit accessible online, enabling people with disabilities to view it at their convenience. It’s available in both English and Spanish, broadening the access even more.

On the museum’s blog, curator Katherine Ott observes: “People with disabilities have been present throughout American history, but rarely appear in textbooks or shared public memories.” It’s a problem people with disabilities have faced throughout history: the tendency to become, if not ostracized, ignored.

The Smithsonian wanted to address this problem by making a statement in the most direct way a museum can: In their continued effort to showcase all facets of American history, they have compiled images from their collections with accompanying facts about the sometimes weird, sometimes heartbreaking, and always fascinating history of disability in America. The introduction to the online exhibition illuminates the Smithsonian’s choice of multimedia presentation: “When history comes through artifacts, distinct themes emerge—for example, the significance of place, relationships, and technology—that are less apparent when only books and words are used.” It’s a choice that makes sense for a museum—a choice that, interestingly, bonds people with disabilities across distance and time. The same could be said about any exhibition at any museum, but the statement holds special meaning for a group that has, historically, experienced a distance from society that could feel insurmountable.

“To broaden the familiar narratives of American history and give presence to some of the ‘disappeared’ in American history, we created an online exhibition about disability drawn from the museum’s collections,” Ott explains. For all those who have been voiceless over the centuries, this exhibit certainly speaks for their history. “Being anonymous or forgotten does not mean that you are invisible,” says Ott.

One item of note, which may be a good starting point for viewing, is the timeline of disability history the museum links to; you can see the 1990 ADA event in bold that Janice talked about in her most recent blog post.

A display that is particularly disturbing to me is the one entitled “Appearance.” As someone who has experienced disability personally, I recall feeling extremely uncomfortable when people would stare at my injury, especially when it first happened. (Refer to my welcome post if you’d like to know more about my personal story.) However, I was downright horrified when I read that “Ugly Laws” in the mid-1800s forbade people with physical deformities from being in public.
This “no wheelchairs allowed” photograph is also chilling, especially since it is from the 1970s, when there was an increase of disability for Vietnam War veterans. Seeing how things used to be really puts it in perspective. Not that staring is acceptable, but I’d rather have that than being banned from going where I’d like.

Going where we’d like—that’s really the point this kind of examination, isn’t it? Yes, we have a lot to be proud of, and we should applaud ourselves as a country for how far we’ve come. But let’s not forget our goals for the future, and that we’re still on that journey. What do you think, readers? What kind of legal and social advances for people with disabilities would you like to see? And what do you think of this exhibit? Perhaps with more accessible education to all people about disabilities, like the Smithsonian’s new exhibit, we can continue to become a more considerate, informed, and helpful community.

In closing, what impresses me most about this museum is how well it shows the perseverance of people with disabilities throughout history. “Many people with a disability must be pioneers,” the exhibit says. I’d like to point out two images that really inspired me: two people following their passions, in spite of how challenging it must have been. They engineered adaptations to allow them to pursue activities that even people without disabilities might find difficult: playing the violin (1860s) and skiing (1940s)!

I am in awe–and what a nice reminder to us all that with some simple adaptations, people with disabilities can shine brightly, not just as a representation of disability, but as a testament to the beauty and talent of humankind.