Saturday, June 30, 2012

Best date.

My first date with Jeff was not only romantic but fun. To think I almost didn't speak to him at all because of spam. The famous saying goes once you stop trying to meet the right guy, he shows up so unexpectedly. This was true in my case.

I decided to stop dating for awhile. I was just enjoying being single and being a mommy. I thought in a few months I would start again.

But then Jeff wrote me an email on MySpace saying that I was cute and should talk sometime. I almost deleted it because it sounded like spam. However, I just ignored it and a few days later, something told me to write back. I did. Then we started talking on yahoo messenger.

I found Jeff to be very interesting, unique,and outgoing. He is not a do nothing guy and not lazy. I am very active and did not want any laziness. I laughed to myself because he was 29 and I was 33. I never dated a guy more than a few months younger than me let alone years!

Jeff was in the same state of mind that I was in. He was very clear that he was sick of fake relationships and wanted the real deal. I hardly ever call a guy but at the end of a long conversation online for some crazy reason, I told him I wanted to call him right then. And I did!!

Calling people is one of my things I dread. Even being Ms. Wheelchair PA, I could deliver speeches but hated phone calls. My speech isn't terrible but I fear and anticipate being judged on my speech. Jeff did fine understanding me and finds my speech endearing.

Jeff asked me out on a date but for the following week. I'll never live down that I suggested to meet sooner so we knew if we liked each other in person. I didn't want to really like him or vice versa and meet and find out it wasn't going to work. He says I just wanted to get rid of him sooner.

Our first date was about 4 days after we first spoke. My friend babysat Laura and I was so nervous. I knew I was in trouble because I already enjoyed talking to him, finding his emails and just knowing him. He made me smile.

We met at the Iron Hill Restaurant. I could feel my heart beating and my hands were cold. He was there - right on time waiting for me outside. It was an unseasonably warm but cloudy November day. I didn't even wear a jacket.

As I drove up the ramp to the restaurant, I saw him and was pleasantly surprised how cute he was. His picture didn't do him justice. Jeff asked me beforehand about feeding me and what I needed done at the restaurant. Things went so smooth. Conversation flowed and we were both smiling and laughing.

Having a guy feed you on the first date is hard. Jeff helped make it comfortable. When all was done, he walked me to my van and asked if he could hug me. With little resistance, I agreed happily. I still remember how it felt.

Six months later, he proposed......

My worst date

As a disability advocate and woman with cerebral palsy, the most common questions that I receive are about relationships. Where do I find guys? What are the most memorable dates? How do I handle dating with CP? These are just a few questions and I'd thought I'd start by the most funny one: What were the worst dates I've been on?

Probably the worst date I've been on happened right before I met Jeff. I talked to this guy online for two weeks. He was in his forties, had a son, divorced. He wasn't exactly what I was looking for but we had interesting conversations and he was funny. I also liked how he spoke about his son and fatherhood. He asked me out to dinner.

I got all ready, my friend babysat. I thought even if I didn't hit it off romantically - we could relate as friends. We never really discussed cerebral palsy a whole lot but he knew enough not to be shocked.

So another friend dropped me off at the restaurant. I looked in the mirror and saw I thought I looked good. I went inside and he was seated. I sat across from him. He never offered to take my jacket. He smiled but I knew he was strangely uncomfortable.

He ordered and I ordered a drink. I could tell he was in no way ready to feed me and I didn't want him too. He sat there and didn't say a word. The food came. He ate and his hands shook when asking to just put a straw in my cup. I tried asking questions and trying to have conversation. Nothing.

It was the longest hour. Then he quickly paid the bill, said goodbye and didn't even ask if my ride was there.

I was so happy to get in my van, laugh at the situation and hope for better dates in the future.

Reading Phillies

Last night we went to the Reading Phillies game. We had a great time two years ago so we went again this year. The Reading Phillies is the minor league baseball team to the Philadelphia Phillies. My dad, sister, nephew were going to join the three of us but then the heat set in.

It soared up to 97 degrees yesterday. My dad canceled because of the heat, but my sister and nephew still went. Earlier that day, we went to breakfast and then while Jeff mowed the lawn, Laura and I played in the sprinkler (trying to keep my wheelchair controllers dry) and pulled weeds. I admit that it was feeling toasty.

We met my family at the park. We all wore cool clothes and prepared for heat. Ironically all the handicapped parking spaces were filled, but we were the only ones in handicapped seating!! Absolutely shameful and ridiculous. We had to walk a distance which isn't terrible but not the safest in a large hot group, a wheelchair and a 5 year old.

I took my tray for the buffet. For $12 a person, you can get an all you can eat buffet from 6-8:30. I had a hard time eating due to heat, but everyone else ate lots. The handicapped seating was excellent. We were almost on the field. Seeing was no problem.

My nephew is 9 and Laura is 5. They get along great. Laura made signs for the game out of construction paper,tape and sticks. She made one for everyone and liked cheering the team on. The Reading Phillies won!!

I like looking at fireworks but jump at the bang. Cerebral palsy makes your body react to sounds more than someone else. I was concerned that the post game fireworks would be too much for me. Jeff has a belief in me that I can't explain. He crumpled up napkins and put them in my ears.

To my surprise, it worked! The fireworks were beautiful and right overhead. I jumped a little bit but mainly just enjoyed them. Laura loved them too.

After the fireworks, my sister and nephew went home but we stayed fora Dave Matthews Tribute Band. It sure beat fighting through hundreds of people and sitting in traffic. Laura loved it and danced with us! We had a ball.

My suggestions:
- get to the stadium early for handicap parking
- drink lots
- bring bug repellent - lots of gnats until stadium lights go on
- they do have family bathrooms
- have fun

Friday, June 15, 2012

How disability friendly is Dutch Wonderland?

I remember going to Dutch Wonderland when I was 8. For some reason, it was just me and my parents. I'm guessing Andy and Julie were at school or out with friends. I had fun but remember being carried on every ride. My Dad was sure tired that day!

Jeff and I took Laura when she was 3. Dutch Wonderland is an amusement park that focuses on ages 3-10, in my opinion. My nephew just turned 9 and he may get one more year. When Laura was 3, unfortunately it was over 90 degrees. The seats were burning. She didn't quite like being sprayed with water so the water park wasn't that great either.

I felt very disappointed to see that the only accessibility improvement was they added one family restroom. Really? Now that was 2 years ago and nothing has changed!!!

On Wednesday, I went with my Dad, Laura and nephew. I wasn't really into going because I knew all I'd be doing is sitting and watching in the heat. However, my daughter gave me the look (like the boy in Real Steal) and said, "When I'm on a ride, imagine sitting with me and having fun!" She hugged me and melted me. She's only 5 once so I need to enjoy it.

They made us pay full price even though I could not do anything. Even if my Dad transferred me into a ride, there were about 5-30 steps to even get close to transfer. The train could easily have a accessible car but didn't. It was probably the most inaccessible park I ever been to.

Now I don't want them to close by any means. Laura had a blast. The weather was beautiful, no crowds and no lines. They went on some rides up to 10 times. We were there for 9 hours!

Seeing pure joy on my daughter's face was worth being hot, crampy from sitting in my chair for 12 hours, and dehydrated because I can't use the bathroom myself. It really was.

I'd like Dutch Wonderland to spend a bit of money each year to make a ride a year more accessible. Also if someone is severely disabled, they shouldn't have to pay full price. I know it's tricky because people fake it but there has to be some way around it.

Join me and write or call Dutch Wonderland to make it more accessible for children and parents with disabilities. 
Dutch Wonderland
2249 Lincoln Highway East
Lancaster, PA 17602

1-866-FUNatDW (386-2839)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jessica's coupon tips

Before I used coupons, I had outrageous grocery bills and used generic items that weren't really that great. Then I really wanted to save money, so I started using coupons. Shortly after I started using coupons, the show came out Extreme Couponing and motivated me and taught me more how to save more.

I impress myself how much my bank account has at the end of the month when it used to have nothing. On average, I have 50-70 percent savings at the end of the shopping trip.

My strategy:
- Get coupons by the newspaper and online.
- Organize coupons in a binder divided by category and few stores. Keeping coupons organized is imperative or you will be lost. Once a week, I go through my binder to take out the expired and restock.
- Look at the ads in the flyers and match up your coupon to the deals. For example, if something is on sale for $1.50 and you have a fifty cent off coupon for it and the store doubles, you can get it for fifty cents!!!
- Most grocery stores double up to a dollar. Check your store policy prior to shopping.
- Make a plan. Check the ads and get your coupons ready for that store.
- If you can live without it for a week, don't buy something for full price.
- Have fun. Think about it as a game and think how happy you will be when it says how much you saved at the end. 
In addition to cutting coupons, get the Saving Star App and once you save $5, you can get it put into your checking account, paypal account or as an Amazon coupon. 

Summer is about change

Laura has graduated from pre school and will be entering Kindergarten in August. Little milestones like these are important to a parent as well as a child. It's been a world full of changes the last two months. But I guess that is all part life we are guaranteed - change.

The weeks between school being out and camp were busy. We did lots of art projects, reading, teaching reading, baking, playing, going to the library and swimming. Yesterday was her first day of camp at the YMCA kinder camp. It's all day between 9-4.

I'm getting used to it slowly but I have to say that I'm not a huge fan. For five years, I have devoted my life around Laura. Now she's gone during most of the day, I feel lost and worried about her. It's a new phase. Part of the reason why I let Laura to go to camp, so we can get used to her being gone all day.

So my plan is to be the best writer I can be, volunteer somewhere, look for a job, volunteer at Vacation Bible School and practice hockey. I wish she could text and just let me know how she's doing. But I need to trust I give her all the tools that she needs to be successful and happy.

How society views people who have cerebral palsy

Have you ever had a day when you forget that you have cerebral palsy? You simply wake up, do your normal routine and don't even think ab...