Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Best Laid Plans

This post is another that I'm almost writing as a reminder to myself... but I figure that if it's something that I'm going through, it's something that other people are probably dealing with (or have dealt with), too.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how to deal when you're overwhelmed... which is basically how I've been feeling ever since I wrote that post. Work deadlines, school deadlines, things going on in my personal life - sometimes everything just comes at you all at the same time. And while I've been following my advice as much as I can (basically, just take things one step at a time - don't look too far ahead!), I still have basically felt that I can't quite get out of the hole I'm in. Every time I think that I'm seeing the light at the tunnel, something else comes up that delays things a little bit more, or adds one more thing to my to-do list.

I can be a bit of a control freak, so I don't exactly love it when this happens. While I work really well with deadlines, I work with them so well because I hate leaving things until the very last second. If I have a goal/deadline in mind, I like to be able to check things off at least 24 hours before that, especially if it's work-related. But when things come up last minute, that's not always possible. No amount of list-making at that point is going to let you go back in time and anticipate this happening proactively. Sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches. Stressing out over things not going as expected, and what that will do to your life will just make you more stressed, and it becomes a vicious cycle really quickly.

I think it's especially hard for me because I know how crucial balance is. I'm not someone who can pull an all-nighter anymore - or even survive on 3-4 hours of sleep. That has a serious affect on me physically - being tired just makes every single thing so much harder. And less time sleeping means less time on my feeding tube, which means less calories for me overnight. These are all things I have to be aware of, and careful of. But if I focus on them too much, I go down that rabbit hole of stressing about being stressed - definitely not productive.

So this is just a reminder to me, and to you - things will not always go as planned! It's really important to remember that things will still be ok when that happens, and to not let yourself spiral - because that does not help make things feel like they're more under control at all.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

When Sidewalks are your Streets

I've been writing a lot lately about how excited I am for spring - and I haven't been lying, I really am so happy for winter to be over. But there is one part of spring (other than the rain) that I don't love - and that's the sidewalks here in Pittsburgh.

If you drive at all in Pittsburgh, you know how bad the potholes in the streets get by the end of winter. The city has a "blitz" every year once the weather starts to warm up, where they try to fill as many as possible as quickly as possible. It makes for a much smoother drive around the city.

There's no equivalent blitz, though, for the sidewalks. Just like cracks in the roads get worse over winter, so do cracks on the sidewalks. It's probably not something that you pay much attention to, unless there's a piece so uneven that it makes you trip. But the "smaller" cracks are things your probably don't notice at all. However - I notice. I notice a lot! It's something that I actually have to pay constant attention to. Think about that noise that your car makes when you go over a pothole too quickly - it's basically the same for me in my chair going over cracks and holes in the sidewalk. Not only could it damage my chair (which can take a while to repair, and leaves me quite literally stuck while it's out of commission), but I could actually get hurt if I wasn't careful! I could fall forward, or sideways... or really any direction - I could really get thrown by a big enough bump if I was going too quickly. My wheelchair has shocks, but they can only do so much. A lot of up-and-down bumping and jumping over cracks really starts to wear on me, physically, after a while. It's actually tiring, too!

So I'm constantly looking down while I drive around. I have to move around and swerve constantly to find the least-cracked part of any given sidewalk that I'm on. I think I probably look like I'm drunk and can't stay on a straight path - and I'm sure it makes it more difficult for people to walk around me! But if I don't, I have to go so super slowly on each and every crack that it would take me forever to get anywhere. I even have specific paths memorized, and will go out of my way a little bit if it makes an easier, smoother drive. (Unrelated to spring - cobblestones are THE WORST. Those, I will avoid at all costs. They are always the most bumpy, uncomfortable ride.)

I know this whole post is basically a long, extended rant about how bad sidewalks can be for people who use wheelchairs, but I think that's not the most important takeaway. When people think of accessibility, they think of ramps and elevators, maybe Braille or sign language. They don't tend to think of sidewalk conditions. But sidewalks actually affect my day-to-day life a lot! Accessibility touches on so many different things that you wouldn't necessarily think about - and unless you actually talk to, or listen to, someone with a disability, it's likely that you'll never realize it and nothing will ever change.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Stripes for Spring

I'm not usually someone who wears a lot of bright colors, but lately I've been drawn to really bold, bright hues. I'm not sure what it is - maybe I'm just excited that the blah dull grey skies of winter are coming to an end? Whatever the reason, I feel like I've been fully in the spring spirit lately and dressing to match.

I've also been really loving stripes, especially if they're combined with something bright. I'm not really a floral person - I feel like it always makes me look really young - so stripes are the perfect amount of pattern for me. It gives my outfit a little bit of a pop, and makes it more interesting than the solid-colored skirt that I usually gravitate towards.
I picked up this skirt during J. Crew's 40% off sale (which is happening again through the end of today!!), and I love it - it's so good that my sister wanted to buy it after she saw me wearing it, and we're almost never into the same things! I love the length and the colors. It's actually made of wool, but it's super soft and comfy (elastic waistband!), which is something I always pay really close attention to, especially because I'm sitting all day. It's long enough that the wind doesn't completely blow it up while the weather is still a little bit all over the place, but light enough that it doesn't feel like a heavy, winter skirt. Everything about it is just perfect for spring!

I wore this skirt to Easter brunch/my sister's birthday brunch at Spirits and Tales at The Oaklander Hotel. I'm so bummed I didn't take any pictures of the restaurant or the food - everything was so good! I feel like sometimes hotel restaurants can be just okay, but this one felt like a standalone restaurant - the menu was inventive, but not so far out that there you can't find something you like. Plus, the restaurant is up on the 10th floor, and has floor-to-ceiling windows - the views are really stunning! They also have a cute little terrace that I'm definitely excited to check out this summer.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Catching Up

I'm back! I didn't intend to take such an extended break - or any break at all, really - but life just got a little too busy for me to keep up with everything. The semester came to an end, which is really exciting, but I had a few things due all at the same time. When you add on work deadlines plus other things going on in my life, there just wasn't enough time! So I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a catch up on what's been going on.

I mentioned that my semester came to an end - I'm getting closer and closer to finishing my MPH! It looks like I only have one class left, plus my essay and practicum. It feels like I've been in grad school for as long as I can remember, so every time I can check something off the list of requirements, graduation seems just a little bit more real.
Everything else going on has mostly been just other fun, personal things! I went to go see the musical Come From Away at the Benedum, which was so incredible. I had heard that it was really good, but didn't really know what to expect, and was so blown away. It tells the story of 9/11, but it focuses on the people who were flying that day and had to be diverted to Canada since no planes were allowed to enter the US airspace. If you get the chance to see it, I really recommend you do. There's one more show left in my series subscription - Dear Evan Hansen, which I've been looking forward to since they announced it was coming over a year ago. It's been such a treat to see so many amazing shows this year.
I also got to see Jonathan Van Ness's Road to Beijing tour, which was a mix of gymnastics and comedy - I guess my new goal should be to see all of Queer Eye's Fab Five - and I went back to CMU to see a student-run performance of Mamma Mia! Lots of cultural events, all of which were really fun.
I also went to a cousin's baby shower, and went out to brunch for Easter. It was great to catch up with family and to celebrate the holiday, too. We brunched at Spirits and Tales, the restaurant in the new hotel in Oakland - The Oaklander. I've been watching the construction happen every day at work, so it only seemed fitting that I go to check it out. I actually haven't been going to too many restaurants lately (although I did make it back to Or, The Whale), so I was very appreciative of the great meal! There are a few other places that I have been meaning to check out, and I'm hoping to make that happen sooner rather than later.

I'm really looking forward to summer, and to things hopefully slowing down a little... or at least being busy in a different way. Summer is always my favorite season - the perfect mix of travel and relacing weekends at home. It finally seems like it's close, and I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Style Revamp: What's on my Wishlist

I cleaned out my closet a few months ago, and it helped me be better for a while about not wearing the same things over and over again, but I think it's just about time for another clean out. I don't know if any of you get this way, but sometimes I just feel like there's nothing in my closet that I like! I think it's partially because I'm tired of wearing the same old winter clothes, but I think it's also partially that I'm refining my style.
I'm definitely not one of those capsule/minimalist wardrobe people - I do not want to narrow down my closet to a small selection that I have to creatively pair and re-pair to find new outfits. It's just not me! But I do like the idea of having a "style" that sort of defines me, and it's starting to come to me more naturally without me even trying. I just gravitate to a certain style - in the winter, it's a lot of leather leggings and jewel tone sweaters (cashmere is my favorite), and in the summer it's a lot of simple maxi dresses or other sundresses. I also love leopard print anytime, anywhere!

I tend to go for more classic things, but I like to have a little bit of edge (aka leather), too. I'm trying to add more color into my wardrobe, and some more interesting pieces - a fun pattern (but not floral), different material or style - something unique.

I'm trying to avoid doing too much online shopping to get me out of my clothing rut, but I am doing a lot of browsing. So you can scroll below to check out some of my picks!

This post contains affiliate links; I may earn a commission for any purchases you make.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Dealing When You're Overwhelmed

I think I'm basically writing this post as a reminder to myself, but I figured it was something that might be useful for you guys, too. These next few weeks are going to be a little bit crazy for me - a paper and a group project still stands between me and the end of the semester, there are lots of deadlines looming at work, and I have fun things going on, too! It's a lot, and when I start to think about it all, it starts to feel really overwhelming really quickly.
And when things get so overwhelming, it can get really hard to even know where to start. There's too much, and it can be really easy to not do anything at all instead. It's a vicious cycle - the more you don't do, the more you feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start!

I think I got better about dealing with this level of stress from my time at CMU - I basically felt like that all the time. So I've devised a sort of (very simple) system for moments like these. I make lists, and then I do my very best to not think about the bigger picture. I focus on each things on the list, one at a time. Doing one thing always seems doable... and then cross off the next, and the next, and the next. It sounds obvious, and I guess it kind of is, but it really helps me. Things start to feel a little bit less overwhelming when you can feel yourself making progress; chipping away little by little at the things that you need to get done.

The other important thing is to schedule in breaks, too, or you'll get burned out, really quickly. None of these things will get rid of stress entirely, but it does help me not get overwhelmed when I'm dealing with it. Which means this weekend, I may or may not have finished all of season two of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It's all about balance, right?!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Friday Favorites

This week has been a bit of a blur... nothing crazy going on, just the usual work/school/etc. The end of the semester is coming up soon, which makes things a bit more stressful! I really have to plan ahead and make sure I'm using my time wisely so that I leave enough time to work on papers and group projects. Which is exactly why after a fun dinner tonight to celebrate a friend's birthday, I'm quarantining myself to get some serious work done.

Read on for this Friday's favorites!
ONE - Theranos Drama
Have you been following all of the stories and scandals about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos? I had read the stories when they were in the news, but I decided to watch the HBO documetary and was really sucked in. I'm listening to the ABC podcast The Dropout now - loved both. I can't want to read the book next!

TWO - Your Eyes from Rent
How incredible is this performance?? Her voice is so strong and powerful - I wanted to watch this a million times.
THREE - My Interview with teli
I did an interview with the early learning institute (teli) - they were the organization that my parents worked with for me to receive my very first "intervention" services right after I was diagnosed! I was too young to remember, obviously, but it was fun to talk to them and to hear how things have changed. 

FOUR - Casting for To All the Boys Sequel
As if I wasn't already excited for the sequel for To All The Boys I've Loved Before, now I'm looking forward to it even more! Jordan Fisher was (in my mind) the breakout star from Grease Live, and he's been making big moves since. So excited to see him in this!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Branching Out

This past year has been a year of tremendous change for me. In some ways, sometimes it feels like things are the same, but in many ways, I can't believe how many things are different. And I don't mean change in terms of just things that I'm involved in, but I mean it in terms of personal growth.
I don't know how effortless it may appear here (or on social media), but I promise you that it is anything but effortless. This year has been so much change, and so much pushing myself outside my comfort zone! I am an introvert by nature - it's not that I hate talking to people, but I definitely need my alone time to recharge. I've also never been particularly outgoing. This year has definitely challenged that perception! Being Ms. Wheelchair USA, starting Accessible YOUniverse, even blogging - all of those require talking to LOTS of people. I still may not be the most outgoing person in a room, but I've become so much more comfortable talking to strangers, whether it's in a group setting or one-on-one. I'm really proud of that progress!

This year has also taught me the importance of just TRYING things. I touched on this a bit in my post about hearing no (here), but I have spent this year saying yes to as many opportunities as I possibly can. Sometimes, these are things that are being pitched to me, but often, they're ideas that I've reached out to pitch to other people! Not only does this mean I have to be okay hearing no, it also means that I have to push myself to write that e-mail and share my idea. It can be hard to imagine where an opportunity will take you - sometimes a little thing can lead to bigger things, or can connect you with someone who can help share your story.

These changes haven't been easy - I have really pushed myself to grow, to keep trying something a little bit different more and more. It has not been comfortable, but I am so happy with where I have ended up.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Current Favorites

I thought about sharing my March favorites, since we're just into April, but I realized that my favorites weren't all from the month of March. Instead, I thought I'd round up some of my favorites from 2019 so far. I may have mentioned some of these before, but I thought it might be helpful to have them all in one place!
Drunk Elephant Products
I've been using the TLC Framboos exfoliant, the C-Firma serum, and the B-Hydra serum every single day, and I still really like them. My skin has been looking great, and I haven't had any breakouts or other reactions. The only thing that has changed is that I've started using the C-Firma at night instead of the morning, because it was making my skin too oily.

Ember Coffee Mug
I think this would probably make a yearly favorites post if I decided to write one! It has saved me many coffee reheats, and I love that my drink is always the perfect temperature.

Everlane Sweaters
Yes, I'm still wearing these sweaters at least once a week. Yes, I still can't get over how well they fit, and how nice the quality is. No, I will not stop talking about them. I just really, really highly recommend!

Trader Joe's Pancake Bread
Have any of you tried this yet?! I feel like it might become one of Trader Joe's cult favorites, like Cookie Butter or Everything but the Bagel seasoning. It's sweet, but not too sugary, and nails the pancake flavor. Delicious!

Cashmere Wrap
This is a great purchase for spring, when you sometimes just need a little something extra that you can take off if the sun gets too warm. This one is lightweight but not too thin, and goes with everything.
Mascara Primer

Naturalizer Heels
It's hard for me to find a pair of heels that fit comfortably. My ankles are really weak and tend to turn in really easily, so any heel that is too high becomes really painful really quickly. These Naturalizers have a small heel, which is the perfect height for me, and also come in a size 4! I love them so much I bought them in both black and silver.

(This post contains affiliate links; I may earn a small commission from any purchases you make.)

Monday, April 1, 2019

Inclusive Innovation Summit 2019 Recap

What a weekend! This year's Inclusive Innovation Summit was a huge success, and I'm so glad that I got to be a part of it for the second year in a row.
I mentioned in this post from earlier this month that there would be another Silent Disco as part of the Summit. Just like last year, this was a huge success and so much fun. It really means a lot to me that this event has continued for the second year, and that everyone attending seems to really love it as much as I do! When we were planning it last year, we really wanted to focus on inclusiveness, and to highlight the disability community here in Pittsburgh in a "fun" light. So much of advocacy is challenging the status quo, and it can make people really uncomfortable. That doesn't bother me - change is never easy or smooth - but I think it's also important to show that inclusion doesn't always have to be difficult, and that's what the silent disco symbolizes to me.

This year, the silent disco was at the Children's Museum. We had the whole first floor, so we really had room to spread out! Each DJ station had their own stage, so that the vibrations on the stage matched the beats of the music. There were delicious (free!) tacos, and room to sit/stand and chat if you needed a break from dancing. It was such a great night!
I also had the opportunity to present one of the Saturday sessions during the Summit in an "official" capacity, representing Accessible YOUniverse. I guess it's a little bit of imposter syndrome, but it's still sometimes surprising to me that I have the authority to (co)lead a session, and that people trust and value what I have to say. I realize it might come off a little bit strange admitting that here, considering that you come here to see what I have to say (and considering that I have no problems sharing my opinions, ever), but it's the truth! The session focused on inclusion beyond the ADA, and how to plan with that in mind. The audience seemed interested and invested, and we had some great questions and discussions, which definitely helped to make me feel more confident. Public speaking is something that I've grown to actually enjoy - I've come to view it as another version of storytelling, just like this blog but in another form!

The best part of Inclusive Innovation, I think, is the conversations that it brings about. The concept of inclusion is vital, but it's also so broad that any conversation around it becomes almost too trite, and just includes the most obvious sorts of inclusion. But in my experience, this Summit aims to be as real as possible about inclusion. It makes me even more proud to be a part of such an important event.