Cerebral Palsy · Faith · thoughts

The Two Sides to Cerebral Palsy

I came to the realization the other day that there are two sides to cerebral palsy: the side that is beautiful, and then the side that’s ugly.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been living in the ugly side- the side that’s filled with anger and frustration and tears and pain. So often lately, I find myself wishing I could snap my fingers and change all of this. I’d get rid of the walker, fix my bent knees, and be able to live independently, without any assistance whatsoever. So often, I try to do something myself and am overcome by anger and frustration. I’m angry at myself for not being able to do it, and frustrated for the same reason. I feel like my disability is a chain that’s confining me and holding me back, and I hate it. I hate that things are so hard and frustrating, and I hate that I have to jump so many extra hoops to be able to go away to college. So often, I’ve found myself questioning God’s plan and wondering why I have to go through all of this. That’s the side I try to hide; I push it in and hide it behind smiles and encouragement.

But then, there’s the beautiful side of my CP, the side that gives me a platform to be an inspiration and make a difference. I saw that side last Sunday, when I gave a sermon about my sweet friend Kate. People came up to me and thanked me for sharing her story, which reminded me that this is about something bigger than myself. It’s the side I see whenever I’m with Tim Tebow, because he always makes me feel so special. I talk about him all the time-all the time- and I realized the other day that that’s why: because he and his foundation put the beautiful part of my disability at the forefront of my mind instead of its outskirts. And it’s what I was reminded of today, when I watched the amazing video of a boy with CP score a touchdown. He reminded me that no matter how hard or frustrating it gets or how much I hate it, God’s got a purpose for me and my CP. He’s going to use it for good; He’s going to use me to spread His light and love, which is all I want to do. I want to shine for Him. I want to be His Hands and feet. So when the tears flow and the frustration is overwhelming, I have to take a deep breath, say a prayer, and remember that God is in control… always.

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thoughts

Countdown to Taylor Swift’s “reputation”: “Red”

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this on here, but I love Taylor Swift. Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the way she is unafraid to say exactly how she feels about a situation. A lot of people criticize her for writing about relationships, but for me, those songs have been a source of comfort on multiple occasions. I’ve never gone on a date or had a boyfriend, but her songs are written in a way that I can apply them to my life, even if I haven’t gone through exactly the same thing she has. I’m beyond excited for the release of reputation, so I thought that in honor of its release, I’d do a blog series about each album and what it means to me, with each post coinciding with the release date of that particular album.

I was twelve when Red came out. Not long before the album’s release date, I went through something which hurt me in a way I’d never experienced before. “Red” felt like a hug in the form of an album, and listening to Taylor sing made me feel as though I wasn’t alone. “I Knew You Were Trouble” was especially comforting, as I felt as though I should have seen what was coming and blamed myself for what happened. The album and its personal and raw lyrics brought me comfort in a way nothing else did, and for that, it will always have a special place in my heart.

Top Three Favorite Tracks

Originally, I was only going to pick my favorite track off of each album, but I love every song of Taylor’s, (to me, there’s no such thing as a bad Taylor Swift song) so I decided to pick my top three instead.

“Starlight”

I LOVE this song. I love how narrative it is, and the way Taylor’s imagery is so descriptive and vivid that I can easily picture what’s happening in the song. “Don’t you dream impossible dreams?” is my favorite line, because I think we all have dreams that are crazy and wild, but we dare to dream them anyway.

“The Moment I Knew”

This song is heartbreaking and beautiful and raw and incredible. As with Starlight, Taylor writes in such a way that I feel as though I’m at her birthday party with her, experiencing what she’s experiencing. And I think it takes a lot of courage to be as honest as she is in this track. Songs like this one have inspired me to also be raw and vulnerable in my writing. Taylor’s helped me grow in leaps and bounds as a writer, and that’s another reason why I love her.

“Stay Stay Stay”

While much of this album is emotionally heavy, “Stay Stay Stay” is a tune that always makes me smile. I love the line, “That’s when you came in wearing a football helmet/And said, “Okay, let’s talk.” How adorable is that? That’s the kind of relationship I want to have one day: a love that is real, and even after fights and disagreements and the craziness that is life, he stays by my side, no matter what happens.

Honorable Mention: “Begin Again”

I could have easily put “All Too Well” here (because who doesn’t love “All Too Well”?) but I fell in love with “Begin Again” the first time I heard it. It’s a sweet melody that tells an even sweeter story, and I think it’s the perfect way to end the album with its message of hope and optimism. “You pull my chair out and help me in/And you don’t know how nice that is/but I do” is one of my favorite lines on the record. Once, when a friend of mine took me to lunch, I about fell out of my chair as he pushed me in. He’d already sat down when my fear of falling began to overtake me, and without hesitation, he got up and helped me so that I didn’t fall. He didn’t know how nice that was, but I did.

What do you love about “Red”?

What’s your favorite track(s)? Lyrics?

Let me know in the comments!

My Writing · thoughts

Why I Write

In honor of today being National Writing Day, I thought I’d share why I write.

I write because I have to. For me, writing is as necessary as breathing. It’s how I process life; it’s how I handle the crazy, wild emotions that come with being a teenager. When I’m able to lay my thoughts and feelings on a page, the weight they once laid on my shoulders disintegrates. Writing allows me to breathe and gives me a way to heal.

I write because the characters within me deserve a voice. Since I was little, I’ve had characters and storylines dancing in my head, and when I was six years old I decided it was time to set them free. I wrote my first story about the friendship between two horses (I was little) and I haven’t looked back. For a time, I wrote stories using the characters from my favorite books, but now, my characters are all my own. Often, they- and the storylines I pen- are based off of my own life, and to me, there’s nothing better than turning a fragment of my life into fiction. Usually the inspiration comes from a situation I’ve been through or a person who has touched my heart, and on the occasions when it’s the former, I feel like I’ve put a message in a bottle: “You thought nothing of this, but I did. I appreciated it. I was touched. It meant more to me than you know, and I wanted to tell you that.”

I write to tell my story. In the past few years, I’ve realized just how powerful sharing my story can be, and if I’m ever asked to speak, I write out what I want to say. I feel like I make more sense when I write than when I talk, and I think I can leave a bigger impact on an audience if I’ve been able to write out what I’m saying beforehand. Sharing my story is a big part of why I’ve started blogging: because I want to show what life with cerebral palsy is really like, and also to show that while I may have a disability, I experience life the same way everyone else does.

I write to say things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to say otherwise. I can’t count how many times words have burned in the back of my throat, but fear has kept them in. To fight that fear, I pick up a pen and write every word I wish I could say in person. Then, I can say what I need to say without fear of what the other person will think, and more than once, doing that has given me the courage to actually say the words in person.

I write to overcome my limitations. When I write, I can walk, I can run, I can play sports, I can dance. When I write, anything my disability prevents me from doing is possible. I write to be free, and that freedom is unlike anything else.

 

Tell me: why do you write?

Cerebral Palsy · thoughts

Counting Descent: A Book, an Author, and A Story

For the last week and a half, my AP Literature class has been reading Counting Descent, a collection of poetry by Clint Smith. Mr.Smith is originally from New Orleans, and much of the poetry details growing up as an African American, and how it’s affected him and altered his viewpoint on the world. He doesn’t shy away from topics such as racism and police brutality, but discusses them in a way that is both respectful and eloquent. Several of his poems made me stop and think, and he made me change the way I view certain things.

I fell in love with his writing from the first poem I read. It was beautiful, it was eloquent, and I loved the way he took something so ordinary and turned it into something that was deep and meaningful and thought-provoking. I can’t count how many times I would finish a poem and then just stop, because I was so touched and moved by what I had just read. I loved every poem in the book, and I highly recommend it to all of you.

Not only did we get to read his poetry, but this morning, we were able to Skype with him. He was awesome. Talking to him felt like talking to one of my teachers, (which makes sense, he used to be a high school English teacher) and more than once, our whole class cracked up at something he said. He was funny, he was real, and he was honest, too. I loved getting insight into a few of my favorite poems and into his writing process. Of course, being the writing geek I am, I asked him what advice he has for aspiring writers and poets. “Read,” he answered. “Read everything. Novels, poetry, nonfiction, short stories- read it all. And,” he added, “allow yourself to be bored every once in awhile.” He said that every once in awhile we need to put our phones down, let our thoughts flow uninterruptedly, and simply take in the world around us, because inspiration can be found everywhere. I loved that advice, because I feel like so often we’re so engrossed in a text message or Taylor Swift’s new Instagram post or the latest SportsCenter update that we miss out on what’s going on around us. And oftentimes, the little things are the most important.

As much as I enjoyed getting to ask him that question and receive his advice, my favorite part of the video chat came at the very beginning. A friend asked him how he got into poetry and spoken word, and his answer nearly brought tears to my eyes. He told us a story about how, not long after he moved to New York City, he heard a woman with cerebral palsy give a spoken word poem. He said at the time, he didn’t know much about CP, and listening to her not only changed his perspective on it, but it made him want to do spoken word, too.

He heard a woman with cerebral palsy. A woman’s poem about her CP changed his perspective on the disability and made him want to do spoken word. A woman with cerebral palsy.

I was overcome with emotion because the woman he heard did with her poem exactly what I want to do with my writing: impacted his life and showed him what life with cerebral palsy is like. She’s a living example of the power sharing your story has, and hearing Mr. Smith’s story only made my desire to publish my book grow stronger.

The thing is, while my book is labeled as fiction, much of it is reality. My characters are based off of the people I love, and while I’m not yet strong enough to walk with crutches on my own, a lot of what my protagonist experiences are things that I go through. Because of that, some scenes aren’t easy to write. I’ve cried, I’ve written with knots in my stomach, and I can’t count how many times a voice in the back of my head has whispered, “No one will read this. It’s nowhere near good enough to be published. Why would anyone want to read about your experiences in the first place?”

But I write through that self doubt and I write the scenes that hurt because somewhere within me I know that one day, those scenes will be the scenes that touch someone. Those scenes will be the scenes that inspire someone else to keep fighting whatever battle it is they’re fighting. Those scenes make my book real, and I think that reality will (hopefully) impact, inspire, and touch thousands of people.

Hearing Mr. Smith’s story about the woman with CP reaffirmed that hope. Though I’ve never met her, she inspired me to keep writing and sharing my story, because she’s living proof of how that can affect someone. I’m glad she shared her story, because Clint Smith’s slam poetry (and all of his poetry) is incredible. It was amazing to talk to him, and if you haven’t read CountingDescent, you should. It’s beautiful, and will quickly become one of your favorite books.

thoughts

My Thoughts on “Look What You Made Me Do”

At first, I didn’t understand the song.

I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams.”

I’ve got a list of names and yours is dark red underlined.”

And the real kicker:

I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t pick up the phone right now.

Why?

Oh… Cause she’s dead.”

Wait- what?

Is she saying the Taylor who wears sparkly dresses and is obsessed with cats and the number 13- the Taylor we all love- doesn’t exist anymore? And in her place is this girl filled with darkness and thirsting for revenge?

That’s what I originally thought. I was confused and honestly, questioning whether I’d buy her new album, entitled “Reputation”. Which is a lot coming from me- everyone who knows me can tell you I love Taylor and her music. I thought the song was repetitive and irritating. But as I laid in bed, “ooh, look what you made me do, look what you made me do” kept repeating itself in my head. And I think that’s a testament to how good of a songwriter she is-despite the fact that I thought the song was irritating and I’d just about decided I would never listen to it again, Taylor had created something I found stuck in my head. And because it was stuck in my head, I listened to it again. And again. And I arrived at a second, totally opposite-end-of-the-spectrum conclusion.

This song is genius.

Not because of its sound or lyrics, but because of what I think she’s trying to accomplish with it.

I think this song is her way of fighting back.

I think she’s tired of being hurt and the target of a media hurricane. I think maybe she feels like her hands are tied behind her back, and “Look What You Made Me Do” is the knife she cut the ropes with. She didn’t release this to give us a melody and lyrics we were in awe of. She wasn’t trying to be deep or blow our minds with lyrics that touched our hearts and souls. She was trying to be her own voice. Quite frankly, I don’t think she cares one bit about what people will think or say about this single.

I also think she’s playing into the hands of her haters: “You call me crazy and psycho, I’ll go crazy and psycho.” It’s like a Blank Space 2.0, only with a (much) darker and less teasing sound.

It’s dripping with vengeance, anger, and pain, but underneath that coat I hear strength and empowerment: “I got stronger…. in the nick of time; I rose up from the dead I do it all the time.” No matter how many times she’s been knocked down, she finds a way to get back up and keep going. Maybe she’s trying to say that no matter how angry or hurt you are, there’s still a light inside of you, and traveling through this cave of darkness will only make that light shine more brightly.

To be honest, I still don’t entirely understand the track, and it’s far from my favorite of hers. It’s just a little too dark and repetitive and electronic for me. But confidence and strength? I can be behind those two things 100% of the time, and I admire her ability to be both irritating and catchy at the same time. That’s a rare level of creativity, one I hope to reach one day. What will the rest of “Reputation” sound like? We’ll just have to wait and see.

What do you think of “Look What You Made Me Do”? Do you love it? Hate it? Tell me in the comments!

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.

thoughts

If You Have A Dream, Chase It- An Update

Last week, I wrote a post about my dream of helping kids with cancer. Thanks to The Truth 365, that dream has come true.

A few days after I published the post, I got a response from The Truth 365, which, of you didn't catch my first post, is an organization that raises awareness for pediatric cancer and advocates for more funding. The woman who emailed me back was incredibly kind, and she told me that what I could do was write a guest post for their Facebook page and we'd see what kind of response we'd get. I was elated, and immediately went to work writing my post, despite the fact that I'd seen the email after midnight. (People always say you write the best pieces late at night- I'm inclined to agree.)

The post was published the next day, and the response was overwhelming. There were so many kind, thoughtful comments, but the best part was that a mom wrote in to The Truth 365 and said she would love it if I would write to her little girl! I was so excited. I have a card that I'm going to send her, and I hope and pray the Lord will use my words to make her smile and lift her up. She has already inspired and encouraged me so much, and I'm so blessed to be a small part of her courageous battle.

Please keep her in your prayers, and never be afraid to follow your heart and chase your dreams. Amazing things happen when you have the courage to step out in faith and reach towards them.

Here's the link to the guest post I wrote, in case any of you want to read it😊:
https://goo.gl/ka3Q1c