What Would Harry Do?

Wednesday, July 31st, was J.K Rowling’s (and Harry Potter’s) birthday. I think it is only fitting to let Ms. Rowling author this week’s Motivational Monday post.

We do not need magic to transform our world - JK Rowling

It is impossible to live without failing at something - JK Rowling

Greatest fear realized, rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life - JK Rowling

It is our choices that show what we truly are - Albus Dumbledore


Specially-abled pets

I’ve gotten a few complaints that Animal Week ended up not being as uplifting as they’d hoped. I understand, we are a tender-hearted folk and seeing such innocent and loving creatures suffering is hard. I find that animals’ dogged perseverance and chipper attitude and compassion should inspire us all.

National Specially-abled Pets DaySometimes they may need a little human intervention , or just our love. And that is what May 3rd celebrates: National Specially-abled Pets Day! (Notice it’s not National Disabled Pets Day). They have plenty more examples of how specially-abled pets are chasing their dreams.

handicappedpets.com beach shotAnd there are so many people more than happy to help them in that pursuit! For example, HandicappedPets helps people caring for elderly, injured or special needs pets and provides everything you could possibly need (including pet wheelchairs!).

HandicappedPets.com maked Walking Wheelchairs for all sorts of people of the animal persuasion, like Cris P. Bacon and Joshua the goat with bone disease:

Cris P. Bacon walkin wheels recipient

Joshua the goat with walkin wheels wheelchairSo…I don’t know. I think these specially-abled pets and the humans that love them are rather inspiring. There’s a lot of love there.

That said, if you would like to help pets with disabilities… Pets With Disabilities is a non-profit that rescues abandoned disabled pets and promots/facilitated disabled pet adoptions. Its pretty spectacular the lengths people go to for family.

Happy Monday friends!

When pigs do handstands…

…good thing that’s not how the saying goes or the joke would be on us!

Disabled Strong Pig walks on front legsIn China a piglet was born without hind legs. The owner spent the first month of little Strong Pig‘s life (that is her name) teaching her to walk on her front legs. Now she does so completely of her own will, without assistance, and tourists come from far and wide to see her.

People and their furry disabled family members can do things you’d think were possible only when…well, when pigs do handstands! And that includes scaly family members!

While Strong Pig took the brunt of her accomplishments completely on her own shoulders, Einstein had a little more help….

Einstein developed a disease that prevented him from swimming. Which is important because he is a fish.

He would simply sink to the botton of his aquarium and turn upside-down, unable to move:

When he couldn’t get back up, it was a sorry sight… It broke my heart to see him so helpless. He looked so depressed. – Leighton Naylor, owner.

Naylor took it upon himself to remedy the situation, and did the second unfathomable feat of this post! He made Einstein a lifejacket. Naylor’s buoyantly-challenged buddy had some issues at first, until Naylor made his aqua-home more disability friendly. Now, Einstein is happy as a clam!

Einstein disabled fish using lifejacketPeople have said I’m crazy but every animal is a valued family member… I’ve tried to train all of my fish but Einstein’s my star pupil. He can swim through my fingers and he was getting into fish football when he fell sick. -Naylor

Note: Naylor lives in the UK. He probably meant to say “soccer” in that interview. ; )

I think the people who are most successful at overcoming the odds are those with the best family support. Sometimes they are your biological family, sometimes its a neighbor or friend, and sometimes its a “non-human person” who’s stolen your heart and makes the unfathomable…fathomable.

Have a little faith: beating the odds

Faith was born in December of 2002 with only 3 legs. Her mother tried to smother the newborn puppy by laying on top of her.

Faith two legged puppy

Faith was rescued by a young man named Reuben. He and his mother took care of the puppy, but one of her legs was so severely deformed it had to be amputated.

With only two legs left, Faith struggled to learn to move about on her own. Veterinarians advised that she be euthanized because if she continued to drag herself the way she was, she would rub away the skin on her chest and chin.

But her adopted family had other plans. With much encouragement and some peanut buttery incentives, Faith learned to stand on two feet and walk! At first she would hop but then she taught herself to walk like her two-legged family members.

Faith the two legged dog, walking

Faith the two legged dog serves her country

Faith has recently retired from her career of helping, motivating and healing people. She made visits to veterans hospitals to see disabled soldiers. In this way Faith was able to serve her country just like her rescuer Reuben.

Faith the two legged dog all grown upShe is still an inspiration–10 years and going strong and touching lives!!

Autistic teen to win Nobel Prize

Jacob Barnett.
You probably haven’t heard of him yet. You probably will soon; Jacob is well on his way to winning a Nobel Prize.

Jacob has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. He also has an IQ of 170–possibly higher than Einstein’s.

  • When he was 2, doctors told his parent’s he’d likely never talk or read.
  • When he was 8, he started auditing college math courses and scoring at the top of his classes.
  • When he was 10, he became a student of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, with a full scholarship
  • When he was 12, he was a  published physics researcher who may have disproved Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Currently, Jacob (15) is working towards his PhD in quantum physics.

Jacob is proud of his autism and believes that it’s the reason for his success.

He wants to help others see what he sees–the beauty in the numbers–and is doing so by writing a book. He also gave a TED Talk on why you should forget everything you know.

Read this to learn more about Jacob.

Starstruck: Wheelz

Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham is a 21 year old Extreme Wheelchairer.

Spinal bifida — a birth defect of the spinal cord — left Aaron in a chair but it did not get in the way of his dreams. A successful moto-cross athlete, Aaron does with his chair things others can only dream of doing on a bike.

Aaron can forever boasts the FIRST EVER double back-flip on a wheelchair, among his many accomplishments alone and those done with Nitro Circus (essentially a motocross “circus” crew of incredibly talented and brave athletes).

Concussions are temporary, backing down is permanent.- Aaron Fotheringham

Fotheringham wants to change the way people see wheelchairs. After seeing this, it will be hard to see a wheelchair the same ever again.

I present, the first wheelchair double back flip:

Miss You Can Do It

Last month’s coronation of Miss Iowa, Nicole Kelly, was very exciting as Kelly will be the first one-armed contestant for Miss USA.

Kelly, however, cannot claim the title of first disabled contestant on Miss USA. That title goes to Abbey Curran, the 2008 Miss Iowa.

Miss Iowa Abbey Curran at Miss USA

You read that right. I triple checked; they were both crowned in IOWA. There is something very special in the state of the wild rose.

Abbey Curran has a mild case of Cerebral Palsy and has some trouble with muscle coordination required for walking. A high-school teacher told Curran that she could not compete in beauty pageants because of her disability, and that was motivation enough to prove them wrong!

In her royal wake, Curran founded a non-profit which allows girls ages 5-25 to compete in a special pageant: Miss You Can Do It. This year marks the 10th annual pageant for disabled women built upon Curran’s belief that you can accomplish great things when you try.

And boy is Curran an example of that! She was told that disabled girls cannot participate in beauty pageants and she turned that idea on it’s head!

Miss You Can Do It - Big Dreams, Little Wishes, Major Triumphs

This incredible pageant and it’s beautiful founder are featured in an HBO documentary airing this summer. Here’s their summary:

Miss You Can Do It highlights the extraordinary work Curran is doing with the pageant she founded. Curran and a team of enthusiastic volunteers give participants a chance to be celebrated for all they are inside, not just defined by what the world sees on the outside. For one special weekend the young girls, along with family and friends, some who have traveled far distances, spend time in an oasis of fun, femininity and celebration.

No one leaves the pageant empty-handed, with each girl receiving a special award. The real winners of the pageant might be the families and friends, who proudly cheer them on from the audience.

Watch Abbey Curran’s interview with Ellen Degeneres to get a glimpse of how awesome she is and all things she touches. I introduce the original Miss You Can Do It!!

Starstruck: Tom Dempsey

If you haven’t heard of Tom Dempsey… Imagine a disability. Pick the one thing that should be the hardest to accomplish for a person with that disability. Watch them become the best in the world at it. Now you’ve heard of Tom Dempsey.

Tom Dempsey kickerTom Dempsey was born without fingers on his right hand or toes on his right foot. Surely this would be discouraging for an aspiring athlete. But it turns out that even with those disadvantages, he not only kicked for the NFL in the 70’s, he tore it up!!

Dempsey is probably most known for his 63-yard game winning field goal in 1970. In the past 42 years, no one has been able to beat this record! (To be fair, a few have matched it).

It seems like every successful disabled athlete out there has to endure criticism that their disability or their equipment gives them unfair advantages over their peers. As is the custom, Dempsey, too, endured this obligatory scrutiny.

Even though ESPN Sport Science found that Dempsey’s modified shoe gave him no advantage and likely a disadvantage, the NFL decided to add the “Tom Dempsey Rule”. It stated: “any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe”.

But kicking isn’t Dempsey’s true pride and passion. He loved hitting. He’d tackle anyone; he was absolutely fearless. Unfortunately, after 3 confirmed concussions, 66 year old Dempsey is now learning to deal with a new disability: dementia.

In January of this year, Dempsey shared his condition publicly. He met Dr. Amen (I can’t imagine a more trustworthy sounding name for a doctor. Dr. Amen: the answer to your prayers. Yeah, I just came up with that, no biggie 😛 ) who was doing a study on former football players with brain disorders. He described Dempsey’s condition as ‘an emergency’ upon seeing his brain scans. Dempsey has 3 holes in his brain and is now taking steps to slow down it’s progression.

What an inspiration–going after your dreams with brain-clobbering passion!

Read this great article featuring an interview with Dempsey and his wife about his career and his struggle with dementia. 

A human’s guide to winning

Kenyan runner gives disabled peer water

An elite Kenyan runner was in good position to win a race and the $10,000 prize. While she had her eye on the prize; that was not the only thing she had her eye on. When passing a dehydrated disabled runner, she not only noticed, but she sacrificed winning the race to give him some of her water. She came in second place, but she was the winner in my book.

There so much think about every day. What should I wear? What am I going to make for dinner?

Going to the grocery store, you repeat your list in your mind so you don’t forget anything, religiously checking the time. You dig through your pockets to get the exact change. And you have tunnel vision the entire time – or an acute case of focus and concentration.

Meanwhile, while your checking your phone, counting your change, and rattling off your list… you miss the neighbor who was waving at you. You are completely oblivious when you pass a homeless person in need. You miss the mom in the parking lot who dropped her bag as her children run in front of cars.

It’s so easy to tune out what is around you even to complete mundane everyday tasks. But let’s say that you’ve been dreaming and working towards a goal for years! After all that effort and dedication, not much can get between you and your goal.

That is what makes this story so heroic.

This runner demonstrates the true meaning of winning. Her grace and generosity is a reminder to us all that no matter what struggles you face today, there are always good people out there lending a helping hand. And you can be one of them.

Happy Friday and have a wonderful weekend!

Theory of relativity

When you go out in the world, you can find some pretty awful people, and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. To one extreme, there are all sorts of criminals who coldly hurt others in as many ways as there are laws. To another, children are pretty mean; they will shamelessly tell you the most cruel truths, without tact or compassion to soften the blow.

But, in my experience, every single conversation I’ve had with a person with disabilities has only ever been delightful. It’s as if in the game of life, the dealer said I’m sorry, you are going to have this disability, and… an incredible personality! (the guy who pulls the strings up there sounds a lot like the guy from “Price is Right”).

It makes the saying “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person” feel almost like a cruel joke.

But the fact of the matter is that disability teaches compassion. The way we glorify “humanity” would make it seem that compassion is part of the human condition. But I don’t believe this is true; I don’t believe human beings are inherently compassionate. I believe that compassion is learned (–that’s why children don’t have it down very well).  It is learned from personal pain and suffering. You can’t teach pain, you can only experience it. So, those who experience the most pain become the pinnacle of the “human condition”. Isn’t it kind of funny that injury or illness can help you realize your “humanity” more fully than if you were healthy?

But it turns out it’s way more true than I ever believed before! And I have proof:

  • People who are hard of hearing learn to read lips. That is not to say any other seeing human being aren’t capable of doing this. Instead, lip readers realize a greater potential for themselves.
    This calls into question, for me, which person is disabled. Hearing isn’t a choice, but lip reading is. Put those two people in a loud room: one can communicate easily and the other has to yell and scream over the noise before communicating something vaguely related to the message they wanted to relay. 
  • Some blind people have learned a sort of echo-location skill. By making a clicking noise, they are able to accurately identify obstacles and can even be able to walk unescorted.
    This skill is not unique to the blind; again, this is a skill any hearing person can learn. Yet, only a few of the blind do. Now, in some dire circumstances — blackouts for example — the non-echolocating people become disabled and the echolocating become abled.

I think this all goes to show that disability is all relative. Being disabled is about what you CAN do as much as it is about what you can’t. Even more. Disability might just be a reason to more fully realize your potential.

Finally, to start your Monday morning off right, I will leave you with this video. It’s super funny and shows just how hard lip reading is! If you like it, there’s more where that came from. Check out the YouTube channel dedicated to bad lip reading.

Related Article: www.dismantlingdisabilities.com