Cerebral Palsy

A Step Forward: A Crutches Update

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

-Philippians 4:13

I have an update about my goal of using crutches at graduation! I’m so excited to be able to share this with you!

Last night, I did some major thinking and praying before I fell asleep. To be honest with you, with school starting back I haven’t had time to practice with my crutches the way I should be. So far, all I’d done was walk with someone holding my shoulders. I hadn’t done anything on my own. But last night, as I prayed, I decided that I needed to take the next step. I wanted to try to take a few steps on my own, without any assistance.

So today, as I practiced with them during my adaptive PE, I told the paraprofessional who’s helping me what I wanted to do. He was skeptical; he said he didn’t think I was ready for that yet. “No,” I told him. “I want to try.”

He moved in front of me, holding my shoulders while I put the crutches in a place where I felt comfortable standing on my own. Once I was sure I could balance, he let go of me. I waited for about ten seconds, making sure I had my balance, before I attempted to take a step. With determination flooding through my veins, I moved my crutch forward, and then took a step with the opposite foot. I nearly lost my balance, but the parapro caught me before I could begin to fall. The most incredible feelings of freedomand independenceovertook me, and instead of being overcome with fear, the flame of determination burned even more bright. I did it twice more, and eventually was able to take three steps before losing my balance.

It’s moments like that when I feel like I’ve overcome my disability, when I feel like I’ve won the battle and my cerebral palsy doesn’t control me. I still have a ways way to go to be able to walk across the graduation stage independently, but today showed me that perhaps that road isn’t as long as I thought.

My Writing

They Stand Ready: A Poem

Angels are around you,

You are not alone

They stand ready

To protect you when storms come,

They stand ready

To wrap you in their wings when you come undone

They carry a shield of light,

And as you walk up a mountain,

With you they’ll climb

You think you’re in the midst of an impossible battle

What you don’t know is

You’re not alone in the fight

They stand ready

To protect you

To hold you

To love you

They stand ready

They’re always on guard

They surround you on all sides

And are always in your heart

Cerebral Palsy · My Writing

The Reality of Cerebral Palsy

I wrote this yesterday, and I've debated on whether or not to share this ever since. It's not quite as positive or uplifting as some of my other posts, but it's real. This is honesty and vulnerability in its purest form, and while my goal is to be positive and encouraging, I want to be honest and truly show what having a disability is like. I penned this after I had to do something in a different way than everyone else, and I was embarrassed because of it. The stares that came my way made me feel vulnerable in a painful way, and the gratitude I felt when a friend of mine unknowingly made that pain disappear. Please let me know what you think in the comments!

Something changes in the moments when I feel defined by my disability.

Knots form in my stomach, and self consciousness tightens my muscles, making an already difficult task even harder. I become acutely aware of every single sound, every single movement, every single voice in the room as I struggle to breathe through the pain that has overtaken me: Please don't stare at me. Please don't think any differently of me. Please understand. Please. Please.

I'm cloaked in uncomfort and drowning in embarrassment. I'm sorry I can't do this on my own. I'm sorry this is so difficult. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

I'm crying out, but the pain is so intense I can't say a thing. I can't even make my lips form a prayer to call on the one person who could possibly ease my nerves. Look into my eyes. Don't you see how this affects me? Can't you tell that I don't want to do this?

I long to be normal. I long to be able to complete every day tasks with ease, to be able to live without being bound by ropes that were tied without my permission. In this moment, trapped by an ocean of pain, I can't even remember that I was dealt this deck of cards for a reason. I can't do anything, other than try to soothe the monster that won't be tamed.

But just as it becomes too much, just as the ocean overtakes me, you reach in and pull me out. Your smile is my raft; I float upon your kindness. Please keep talking. Please make this go away.

Your voice untangles my ropes, and I'm able to rub the redness from my wrists. As our words flow, the monster disappears and I become Robyn again. Your stories are the dam that stops the rushing adrenaline, your laughter is the salve that relaxes my clenched muscles. You comfort me, you calm me, you revive me. Without knowing it, you've put me back together, and all at once, I can breathe again.

Florida Gators

Callaway Out for Season Opener

Late in the afternoon on August 13th, Florida head coach Jim McElwain announced that seven Gators will be sidelined for Florida's season opener against Michigan, most notably junior wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

Last season, he started eleven games for the Gators and became the first Florida player since 1996 to score a rushing, receiving, punt return, passing, and kick off return touchdown. He's obviously talented, but lately it seems more talk has been about his life off the field than on, most recently his involvement with credit card fraud. Perhaps it was this latest incident, the news of which broke yesterday, that led McElwain to suspend him.

What It Means
A daunting task just became a little more daunting. However, on a more positive note, it gives other guys a chance to step up and shine. With Callaway out, another wide receiver has the chance to gain valuable experience, show Coach Mac-and all of Gator Nation-what he's made of and how he can play, something that will only make him-and the entire team-better in the long run.

My Thoughts
I think this was the right decision. This suspension shows Callaway that there are consequences to your actions, an important and invaluable lesson. Obviously, we want to leave Arlington with a win under our belt, but what's more important is helping him learn from his mistakes and grow as an individual. Winning is important, but it isn't everything. I think we also need to remember that Antonio Callaway is one guy, and one guy does not make a team. Yes, losing him hurts, but we have other playmakers and other stars who will carry his weight and (hopefully) lead us to a win.

What are your thoughts on Callaway's suspension? How do you think this will affect us?

Note- The six other players suspended are James Houston, Kadeem Telfort, Keivonnis Davis, Jourdan Smith, Ventrell Miller, and Richard Desir-Jones.

All stats taken from FloridaGators.com

Faith · Florida Gators · thoughts

Blind Faith

Since I was six years old, it's been my dream to go to the University of Florida. I've always wanted to live in Gainesville-my favorite place on this planet- and truly be able to say, "I'm a Gator." But now that the time has come to start applying to schools, I'm not sure if I even want to submit an application.

You see, despite the fact that I've taken the ACT twice and the SAT once, my score isn't that great. It's not terrible, but it's not amazing, either. And since I made my first B last semester, my unweighted GPA is no longer a 4.0. Knowing that the chances of my getting into UF are slim, I haven't looked up when their application is due or what all they want in it. I don't want to get my hopes up just to have them shot down.

I want to make something clear: I'm not afraid to fail. That's not it at all. I don't want to set myself up for heartbreak. Because if I apply and then I find a letter in my mailbox that says, "Thank you for applying. However, we unfortunately cannot accept you at this time" my heart will shatter. I'll be crushed. If that happens, that means I'll have to sit there and watch my dream slip from my fingertips.

Yet I can't help but think God's put passion for the Gators in my heart for a reason. I can't help but think there's a reason I love Florida the way I do and Gainesville feels like home. There are no accidents. He does what He does for a reason, and He's got a plan that is good and perfect. There's a reason applying to UF has come up twice in as many days. There's a reason a little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering, "What if? What if it works?" In the words of one of my favorite Rascal Flatts songs, "I've seen You make miracles, and hopeless dreams come true/ You made the heavens and the stars/Everything/Come on, how hard would it be…" If He created this beautiful Earth, He can help me get into a college… Right?

Somehow, just writing this has helped calm the tumultuous wave of emotion I've been feeling. I'm not sure if I'll get in, but there's only one thing for me to do: Try. Take a breath and trust God. Sometimes, you have to take a leap of blind faith.

Florida Gators

My Take on Florida’s QB Battle

It's an annual storyline: Florida searching for quarterback as they prepare for upcoming season. It's been that way ever since Jim McElwain took over, and quite frankly, I'd say since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season. Since his departure, we've been looking for another playmaker who can take the Gators to the heights he did.

Hopefully, this year will end our search. With six quarterbacks on the roster, you'd think we'd be able to find someone who can make plays down the field, move the chains when we need to, and be successful in the red zone. We've got the talent to bring home that elusive SEC title- now we need someone to spearhead the offense and lead the charge.

Malik Zaire is a senior who recently transferred from Notre Dame. Prior to his injury, he threw for 428 yards and four TDs in 2015. * He brings maturity and leadership to the table, and he's already known for his positivity and leadership in the locker room. Those qualities could be key to starting our season with a win against Michigan on September 2nd.

Luke del Rio led the Gators to a 5-1 start last season before being sidelined due to injury. While I was impressed with his playmaking abilities at times, he didn't have that it factor to me-the thing that sets him above the rest and will push Florida to greatness. This fantastic article changed my perspective on him a little, but not enough that I foresee him being our starter.

Felipe Franks is a redshirt freshman who watched from the sidelines last year as Luke del Rio and Austin Appleby led the offense last year. I was impressed by his arm in the spring game and the way he quickly released the ball. Florida has not been known for its passing game as of late, and Franks could change that. Plus, there's no doubt he soaked in valuable knowledge during his time on the sidelines.

Like Franks, Kyle Trask is a redshirt freshman who also watched from the bench last season. If I'm being completely honest, I don't see him as our answer. He didn't look as comfortable under center during the spring game as Franks did, and there are passes he couldn't complete that have to be caught if we want to compete with a Tennessee or a Georgia or even an Alabama. That being said, he could have drastically improved since that Friday night in the Swamp. Who knows?

Freshman Jake Allen, while not a contender to be this year's starter, has the potential to be something special, if you ask me. I've watched highlights from his days at Saint Thomas Aquinas, and I was thoroughly impressed by his accuracy and strength as a passer. (I'm ready to see some passing, if you can't tell.) He's not afraid or intimidated by the competition, and I love how much he loves Florida. You can hear his passion for UF and Gainesville in his words, and that passion could turn into something on the field. Obviously, you can't foresee someone's ability by the way he talks, but I've got a good feeling about him.

Did Kadarius Toney remind anyone else of Tim Tebow? Because when I watched him scramble and rush in the spring game, I was having flashbacks of those four years when he was our signal caller. I also got a Jalen Hurts vibe from him. He's practicing as a wide receiver now, but I could see him being used in a Wildcat package.

My Overall Thoughts
To me, Franks and Zaire are our front runners right now, and I'd give Zaire the edge, simply because of his experience. But, if Zaire and Franks truly are as even as McElwain says they are, I say play then both, at least for a couple drives until you see who is gelling better with the offense. Obviously, Michigan is not a team you can play around with. But there's a benefit to playing two for a while, if only because it makes Michigan prepare for two quarterbacks.

What about you? Who do you think will be starting for the Gators come September 2nd?

*Statistics for Malik Zaire taken from Fox Sports.

My Writing

A New Writing Project

I posted Friday about the first day of my senior year, and yesterday, I decided that a goal of mine this year will be to work on and complete a story I just began by the day I graduate.

I might’ve mentioned it, but for a few years now I’ve been working on a novel, whose storyline and characters are near and dear to my heart. In fact, I’ve worked with them for so long and poured so much of my life into their story that they’ve become a part of me. Even as I embark on this new writing journey and begin the process of getting to know my new characters, I’ll continue working with them. I need to tell their story like I need air to breathe and water to survive.

But at the same time, I need new themes. There are aspects of my life that need to be laid in ink, and they won’t fit into my book. Independence and strength are two of my major focuses right now, and I want-I need– to write something with those two things as the focal points. My goal this school year is to grow and become stronger, and I need to do those things as a writer, too. This story will allow me to do that, as it’s so different from anything else I’ve written before.

I love the thrill of a new beginning. I love the fire that a new idea brings, and I’m excited to learn about these characters and get to know them. I can’t wait to see how my life will seep onto its pages and into its characters, because it always does. It’s inevitable, and often, the aspects from my life shape what my stories become.

I can’t wait to delve into this project and get to watch my characters grow and develop, and I’m beyond excited to share this journey with you.