Fitbit Freedom

Disclaimer: The opinions I share on this blog are just that–opinions. I am in no way qualified to give health or medical advice, and I do not intend to with my words. I only hope that my experiences may resonate with others in some way. I am, however, qualified for you to sit on my couch and problem solve your struggles–just not physical health ones–so have at that if you wish!

Those who know me well know that finding fitness has exponentially increased my quality of life. Finding an accepting gym and a true family of people, twice might I add (I am one lucky woman!), has been a Godsend in so many ways I could write a series just on this. That is not why I find myself front of the keyboard tonight though. Tonight the tone is a little different.

Those who know me well also know that, despite my love of the gym, I am the most anti-diet culture person you may ever come across. Over the past year, I have seen countless friends, acquaintances, and people I might only know through six degrees of separation, fall victim to the latest “wellness” craze: low carb, Gluten-free, shakes, plant-based, Keto, gut health regimens, the list could go on and on.

Now before any of my friends who sell, partake, or are believers in any of these things try to jump on here and tell me why I’m wrong, you can save your energy.

I am no cynic. I understand and believe that there is a time and a place for any of the aforementioned ways of eating, I just don’t feel they are a necessity to be pitted up against one another and I don’t believe they are for anyone to advise on without knowing a person’s complete background.

With each scroll of my Facebook feed over the past few months, I have become increasingly saddened by the frequency with which I see these posts. I have become saddened for the women reading them thinking that they are lesser and need to do this to make a change.

I felt saddened and angry for all of them, but never myself. Until today. Until the moment I was in the middle of a group fitness class and realized that I have fallen victim to the “wellness industry”, too. My experience was not one focused around food, rather focused around the other F word: Fitbit.

I began wearing a Fitbit about three years ago. Prior to that I had worn a heart rate monitor when taking classes. My motives were innocent. I wanted to see just how much energy it took for me to do things. I grew up with parents who always told me that it took me more energy to do the basic tasks that Neurotypical individuals may do due to my Cerebral Palsy diagnosis. I never really could quantify that, and was always looking for a way to do so. What started out as an interesting way to track my heart rate and energy expenditure as a person with Cerebral Palsy, slowly evolved into a game of chasing benchmarks.

For years I have joked that I never have to worry about what I eat because I burn more calories just by existing. Friends have coined the term Calorie Power for CP instead of Cerebral Palsy. But once I begin wearing a Fitbit, the game changed, and Slowly so did my thinking. There would be nights when I would leave the gym completely exhausted from the work out but then looked down at my Fitbit to only see that I had burned half the calories as I did the last time I took that class. I would immediately judge myself for the difference, thinking that I must’ve done something wrong, but I wasn’t strong enough tonight, that I was being lazy. Some nights the judgment wasn’t as overt. I would see the numbers flash on my screen without necessarily paying attention to them. The reality of it was though I was paying attention to them I just wasn’t saying those thoughts out loud. In those moments the judgment, the feeling of inadequacy, and the need to be more and do more would seep into my psyche without my noticing. Instead of saying to myself, “nice job for moving your body tonight after a long day of work when you were injured and already tired before you left the house”, I would find myself feeling defeated that I only got 3,852 steps instead of my goal of 4,000. For the record this in and of itself was a completely asinine thought since, for what Fitbit makes up in accuracy versus other trackers it lacks in accessibility. Because I hold onto a walker all day long not all of my steps are counted since my arms aren’t moving. So, those nights that I went to bed feeling like I was a failure? Completely unjustified.

Let me be clear: this is not an attack on the makers of fitness trackers. This is me sharing my story, and asking others to think about theirs.

We are walking around wearing tracking devices. Let that sink in for a second. we are walking around wearing the same type of a device, albeit with a different purpose, That someone who committed a potential heinous crime would have to wear. They would have to wear one. We are choosing to. Why? We already live in a world where we are connected to everyone around us with the swipe of a finger or the press of a thumbprint, and now we are wearing a device with the potential to track everything down to our feminine health cycles, leaving the door wide open for judgement, comparison, and the chance that we may now be susceptible to now joining in on all the diet-culture laden messages thrown in our faces based on those readings.

I know you’re probably saying to yourself alright Molly get to the point. Let me step down off my soapbox and bring this back full circle to this morning. Let me tell you why this is so important to me now and how it came to be.

I’ve gone through three Fitbits in just as many years. While I wore one every day and their price point wasn’t that expensive compared to others, when my last one broke I decided I had more important things to spend $150 on at the time. In the midst of all of this I was still battling pain and injury and trying to figure out how I was going to get back to my love of the gym in a way that felt safe but rewarding to me still. A few weeks ago I reached a breaking point and turned to my physical therapist to ask him if I was just supposed to accept this pain, if this was my new normal. What followed was a conversation that I wasn’t necessarily ready to have. In reality though are we ever really ready for the tough conversations? We discussed my achievements both in and outside of the gym. They were commendable and no one could take that away from me, but they came with a price. Years of spending 2+ hours to complete a 5k race, repeatedly choosing to walk because I thought that was the measure of success over using another assistive device to conserve energy, taking spin classes because I wished so badly I could ride a road bike without a care in the world for the wreckage I was doing to my alignment, doing every single life task by myself without asking for any help, because I told myself that’s what everyone did, and I needed to do that too.

It was during that conversation that everything began to light up faster than the alphabet wall in Stranger Things. Quality over quantity. I could go to the gym for three hours, I could do everything myself, and I could be in excruciating pain on the couch for three days, Or I could go to the gym for an hour and a half and give 100% of myself, and still feel okay to go the grocery store and to my niece’s sporting events. Quality over quantity. As I looked down at my wrist today, naked but for the Fitbit tan time that still exists but will soon be gone, I realized the freedom I felt. The freedom I gave myself by simply not purchasing another Fitbit. My measure of success today was through the way I felt when I could tell a different and perhaps new muscle group was firing, through the sweat that for sure left it’s visible mark, and through the strength that was built my adding a bit more weight to my bar.

That success had nothing to do with bacteria, or gluten, or calories, or steps. It was not tracked. It was felt. And it has left a lasting mark that will stay with me far longer than any numbers.

Just something to think about the next time you look down at your wrist. For now, back to my ice cream…

Age is just a number

I looked down at the bracelet placed on my wrist after the assistant asked me to recite my birthday at least five times. 11/29/1988. 30 years.

This was yesterday, November 30, the day after my 30th birthday. Before you lose all faith in this post, no, I’m not going to sit here and lament my age or entering a new decade of life. In fact, I have been ready and waiting to turn 30 for a few years now, but the fact that I have turned 30 is what brought me to write this post.

Yesterday I sat in a doctor’s office. It was new and clean. It had comfy chairs and super friendly office staff. It also had an interactive video game on the wall, butterflies on the ceiling, and that really old cool bead moving game we all remember from our childhood. Fresh into year 30, I found myself sitting in the Yale Pediatrics Orthopedic office.

This office, though new to me in location, really was not. My life is marked in my memory by characteristics of trips to my orthopedic doctor growing up:

  • The cast man, Tony, who always knew how to make me smile, even though I was so scared the cast cutter was going to slice my leg open.
  • How I thought it was so cool that they had a scale big enough that I could step on it still in my walker. (Clearly before I learned most people avoid those things like the plague.)
  • My amazing pediatric doctor, Dr. Brian Smith, who never made me feel like a broken kid, despite the multitude of bones he broke intentionally in my body to increase the quality of my life. A doctor who always took what I said, I what I wanted, into consideration above anyone else, even though I was “just a kid”.

I did not spend my whole life in hospitals, but I did visit them regularly, and we do ourselves great disservice if we don’t acknowledge how all parts of our life have shaped our life.

For the past three months, I have been working through some unnamed injury and pain. Actually, it’s something more like seven months, but you know–the first four you ignore and don’t mention to anyone don’t typically count. As I do with most aches and pains, I chalked it up to the gym thinking “okay, maybe that sled push with 85 lbs on it wasn’t the world’s greatest idea”, and rested knowing I’d be back to feeling good in a few days.

Except I did not. The pain continued. It worsened. In the quiet of my life behind closed doors, my daily functioning diminished so much that I began to not recognize myself. I still got up, got dressed, and went to work, but the pain was excruciating most days and I prayed with every step that my arms would be strong enough to hold me because my legs could not. There has been no going to the gym. There has been no doing much of anything. By the time the day was done at 4:30pm, I mentally and physically felt like a had run 12 marathons.

It took me two and a half months of waiting to see the doctor I met yesterday. A time filled with PT and pain management through Pop Tart consumption and tears or laughs (depending on the day) with good friends just to try and stay afloat.

After x-rays, and vitals, and barely avoiding the urge to play with the cool bead moving game, a doctor walked into the room. He was young–probably not much older than me–with his team of PT, OT, and my physiatrist trailing behind him. He shook my hand and said, “so I hear you’re like the hulk or something”. In one instant, my anxiety broke and the emotional wreckage of feeling unfixable for months started to fade.

He and his team stayed, talking and problem-solving for an hour. They answered all my insane, anxiety-ridden worst case scenario questions, making sure to make fun of me thoroughly while doing so. The doctor spoke in a way that made sure I understood every word, without undermining my intelligence and knowledge of my own body.

Though we might not yet have answers, we have a plan, multiple plans really with multiple steps, in case any which one path does not quite work the way they see it in their minds. My favorite part of said plan, of course, is being able to head back to the gym with zero restrictions. Well, except no added weight for squats or lunges, but I’ve never done that anyway. Everyone in the room was in agreement that any dynamic movement is better than no movement at all we long as it doesn’t cause pain. Better for my body, and definitely better for my spirit. This is something I have known and believed for 12 years, even when other health care professionals have tried to tell me otherwise.

But how does this all relate back to my being 30? You see, peppered throughout the diagnostic pieces of this appointment were side conversations. Real and raw and honest between a new doctor and a new patient.

Conversations about how I am the 15th patient he’s seen in six months with similar issues, not because I am breaking down or have done something wrong, but because I live, I work, and I use my body in all its strong and amazing glory–a type of body that has not been researched enough yet to understand the effects of the aging process.

Conversations about the downfall of a healthcare system that continues to believe that Cerebral Palsy is only a pediatric condition, that someone we children don’t grown up to become contributing members of a society with needs not unlike our peers without disabilities.

Conversations about women with disabilities in the healthcare system, and their lack of access to quality, comfortable feminine health practitioners who understand that their bodies are different and have the patience to work with them anyway.

Conversations about health, fitness, my service dog, and tattoo meanings; and why each of those things play a role in how and why I was in front of him asking for help to get back on my feet, literally.

All of these conversations were between a 30 year old patient and a doctor who typically treats patients with an average age of eight. All of these conversations were possible because a young doctor made a conscious choice not to just pick a field and cut to cure, but instead see a need and do what he can to try to fill it. One 30 year old patient in need at a time.

As I walked out of that doctor’s office yesterday, the day after my 30th birthday, still limping, but smiling and filled with hope, I understood fully why people say age is just a number.

Gate A11

“I need to travel somewhere alone. I need to know I can do it.”

I don’t exactly remember the full context of the text I sent at near 11pm one night a few months ago. I know I was having a tough time. Feeling, as I often do, overwhelmed by the amount of things I struggle with some days–the amount of things I believe for one reason or another, I cannot do because of Cerebral Palsy, because of my walker, because, because, because…

I do remember it was near 8pm on theWest  Coast and I waited for the wisdom of a friend to guide me as those grey iMessage bubbles transformed into a message:

“Come visit me!”

Jocelyn and I have been friends since her freshman year in college. Our friendship is one of the most God-gifted I have ever experienced and we understand each other on levels that some never even experience, most importantly the significance of Grey’s Anatomy in day-to-day life. You know. The really important stuff.

When I first read the text I laughed. Then I smiled. Then I thought. A lot. Because thinking is what I do. It’s my thing. I thought okay, yeah, this would be fun. We haven’t seen each other in too long and I’m  really overdue for a vacation. I could probably do that.

Notice the super not strong sense on convinction in that statement. Could. Probably. We rarely pay attention to how much our words impact our judgement. 

As time moved closer to September 15th, my doubts grew bigger. Yes, I’ve flown alone before, but that was to Florida or Baltimore. Single flights. No connections. Certainly not 6+ hours of travel. I didn’t book my ticket until three weeks before. Partly because sometimes paychecks don’t come as often as we’d like, but more  because I was nervous. I believed, somewhere within me, I couldn’t do it.

The anxiety of travel has always felt massive to me. The ins and outs of security lines (literally), the three times AT LEAST  you have to explain to TSA that no, you can’t walk through the medal detector. No, sorry, not even if you give me that drug store plastic cane you have sitting in the corner, but thank you for your optimism.

Then there’s my walker. I refuse to admit the amount of times I’ve had panic attacks over whether or not gate check really means it’s coming back to me ASAP or the times I’ve grabbed my friends next to me to ask ARE YOU SURE YOU PHYSICALLY WATCHED THEM PUT IT ON THE PLANE?!

But all of that had to be cast aside this time. I wanted to do this. I wanted to show myself I could do this. 

So I walked. All alone, carry on hanging off my walker to Gate A11 this past Friday. I boarded a United flight, a feat in and of itself for a girl who swears by Southwest, and I showed the flight crew (an amazing flight crew by the way!) how to fold my walker. I caught myself exhaling as I turned to use someone’s arm to get to my seat, leaving my walker on the platform. I laughed to myself as I thought, “well if it doesn’t make it I guess you could just stop faking it”, a joke between friends when people tell me I don’t look like I need a walker, handicapped spot, etc. What does that look like anyway? 

I landed in Chicago. My “legs” landed with me and someone came with a wheelchair as my connecting gate was on the other side of East Bumble. It was smooth and flawless and I was at my next gate with plenty of time to grab a second coffee. Five hours and $5 for two movies later, I touched down in Seattle. Another smooth transition and I was hugging my friend on the curb of arrivals, ready to see the Pacific North West and catch up on each other’s lives. 

I caught myself exhaling again. It was brief. I almost didn’t feel the air escape until it was gone. I had done the thing that I thought I could not do. I was standing on the other side. Literally of the country. Unscathed and proud. It didn’t matter what took place over the next four days. It didn’t matter if I got stranded in an airport on the way home (I didn’t!). This journey mattered. 

I read a quote recently from a CP Facebook page and it is so true:

“So here’s the thing about travel – it enables us to push the boundaries of our comfort zones, reminds us of what we are capable of and opens the mind to new experiences.

But accessible travel isn’t always easy, it requires a lot of extra planning and sometimes there are surprises along the way. For me, that makes the beach sunsets, the rooftop city views, and the countryside landscapes even more beautiful.”

There are moments in my travels (though they’ve been few so far), where I find myself stopping even for the slightest moment. Sometimes it’s while I’m getting ready, others while I’m waiting for a friend to bring the car around, sometimes it’s an indescript moment. Stopping to take it all in, to acknowledge the path it took me to get there, and marvel at all the beauty that comes from that. 

This trip it was at 605ft in the air, atop the space needle. I looked at the sun setting almost even with my gaze, I looked over at my dear friend standing next to me, and this time I took a deep breath and took in all the pride and belief that had been waiting for me on the other side. 

The art of not waiting for the other shoe to drop

These words have been waiting to reach the page for about a week. It isn’t the fear of putting them out there anymore, but rather the timing of life and adulthood, that often prevents me from sharing them.

As I write this post, it is well past 10pm. I’m still in sweaty gym clothes and my latest Netflix binge, The Keepers, is providing a backdrop of sound against my fingers on the keyboard. I may regret staying up a little later when my alarm goes off in the morning, but the freedom of being able to share my words will always be worth any lack of sleep

Life for me over the past few months has been framed by an ongoing struggle of balance between body and soul. As strange or even cliche as that may sound, that is truly what it has been. My soul, my heart, being full steam ahead day in and day out, while my body struggles to keep up and process the demands being placed on it.

The short story is this: for close to a year and a half I have struggled with chronic foot and leg pain that seemingly showed up out of the blue. I brushed it off, as all strong-willed (read: stubborn) people do, for a few months until one day I quite literally could not walk and therefore could not ignore. It was unclear to me whether this pain directly correlated to my Cerebral Palsy diagnosis or if it was simply a byproduct of living a very active lifestyle, or maybe both.

Many doctor’s visits, physical therapy appointments, and recommended surgical interventions later, I have built a team of trustworthy providers around me who respect my desire to stay as active as possible, with the most conservative interventions possible.

A year and a half later, I am in a place of peace and of pain-free living. This space feels uncomfortable. It does not feel like home. I have rested here for approximately three weeks, and compared to a year and a half of the space I’ve been in, three weeks seems like a millisecond. But this space and this uncomfortable feeling is precisely why I knew it was time to write again.

We spend a lot of our days waiting. And in the waiting, we so often miss the joy. As I sat in a follow up appointment with one of my doctors last Friday, his tone got a bit quieter and his facial expressions a little bit softer as I shared that I’d “only” been feeling good for about two weeks now. He spent the better part of ten minutes sharing with me the road we’ve been on, and the plan that is now in fact working. In that moment, what I heard him say was not medical facts, but rather reassurance–as if he was saying “you’re okay, you’re going to be okay”. It might not have been in those words, but it was in his gestures, in the slow and methodical explanations.

In the past five days, I have stopped using the word only to describe my timetable. It tells me that where I am at this moment is not enough. That who I am is inadequate.

In the past five days, I have slowly started to become more active, more alive, the person I know to be me.

In the past five days, I have started to regain a partnership with not just my legs, but my soul again. To not feel damaged or broken.

In the past five days, I have been reminded of the beauty of grace and begun to learn what it feels like when you are not weighed down by waiting for the other shoe to drop, when you begin to believe that you are okay. 

There is no more powerful feeling.

Welcome Ahead…

No, you read that correctly. Not welcome back. Welcome ahead. I am here. On the blog where I first found my voice. Writing to all of you, whoever you may be. I toyed with starting over on this blog, but there was a tug of these words and of this sacred space that could not give them up. A tug that could not just start anew because there is too much growth and love in these words I’ve written.

So here I am, welcoming you. Welcoming the flow of words. Welcoming what lies ahead…

My Thoughts on 80 Years…

I don’t do endings well.

I hold on to things past their prime. Milk with the expiration date of three days ago, clothes that no longer fit, gym memberships (and their accompanying key chain scan tags), friendships–I hold on to all of it. If you ask me why, I couldn’t give you clean answer. Nostalgia maybe, or a dislike of change, or some combination of things.

I have a love of the feelings, of the memories jogged up by going in the closet to get a pair of jeans and stumbling upon that tie-dye purple shirt made in Kindergarten and remembering everything about that day. The green buckets we used to dip the shirts in, handing them out to dry outside the classroom door, and the excitement of coming in the next day to see the cool designs we’d created. It’s as if some part of my memories will disintegrate if I let go of the piece itself.

I don’t do endings well.

For the past four months, when I learned my family was selling the restaurant to retire after 80 years in business all I could think about was an ending that I would have to acknowledge. For the past four months, my mind as been wandering in and out of every Cypress memory I could find, hoping to keep them a little brighter, a little stronger, so I could be sure they would not fade.

In the midst of thinking about endings, I found myself thinking of beginnings. My first Cypress memory did not actually occur within the walls of the restaurant, but again in my Kindergarten classroom. There is a pond behind the restaurant that was home to many ducks (and also snapping turtles, but I digress), and they would have babies every year when we were younger. My dad brought some of those babies in to my classroom for show and tell. My best friend and I named one Lucky Peeper and some of my favorite pictures are of us sitting on her kitchen floor playing with this tiny little duck getting ready to begin his life. So many beginnings centered around Cypress for me. My first “job” given to me by my Auntie Helen, sitting at the register at probably age 9 or 10, on days the bus would drop me off there after school, ringing people out when they were done with their meals.

Learning how to count back change and handle money the proper way taught me so much more. It taught me kindness and customer service, but more importantly that job–this place–has taught me connection. What it truly means to be connected to other people and place value on that connection. Connection is more that just smiling and saying “how are you?” when someone walks through the door, it is saying those words, meaning them, and sticking around long enough to listen to the answers.

For 28 years I have watched connections build and built my own connections within those walls.

When I was younger, I would love hanging out after school with the waitresses, learning to thoroughly enjoy dipping potato chips in vanilla ice cream as a snack before dinner.

Throughout high school and college, it was a place I could go for the day to sprawl out my books in the booth in the corner of the bar and study while all the customer voices echoed as my study music. I would never get annoyed with someone coming up to talk to me about my latest ventures, but rather welcomed it, because their pride in my accomplishments was just as strong as that of my parents. Each day someone would joke that I would open up my private practice right there in that booth and they would be my first customer. IT always made me smile, and never once got old.

As an adult, my time spent at Cypress became less as I was working a full time job and creating my own connections out in the world. The feeling every time I have walked through those doors the past few years, however, has never changed. “I’m home” I would think to myself and would fall into conversation with whoever was there about the latest goings on, never rushing through my answers. Cypress has been the place I would choose to go “out” to on many weekend nights when getting together with friends, because I hoped they’d feel at home too.

I can’t hold on to this one for much longer. I can’t put the restaurant in my closet in the hopes that I will catch a glimpse of it when I go get a pair of jeans. Not everything in life works that way and I’m still trying to wrap my head around that idea at 28. What I can do is hold on to the duck book ends I found in a closet and look at them each day. I can make art of a piece of the Cypress wood paneling. More than anything I can hold tight to those connections made, to those people who have been my biggest cheerleaders and protectors for 28 years, and never let them go. The memories of Cypress, of my grandmother, of Auntie Helen, of all of them, will live on through each of them. Thank you for that.

I don’t do endings well.

But what I’ve come to see in four months is that this is not my ending to take credit for. It is my dad’s and my uncle’s beginning of a phase of life that they have worked so hard to achieve. A phase where they can enjoy a day without counting down the hours until they have to return, when it seems like they just got home. A phase where they can go on a vacation without constantly worrying about what’s going on back at Cypress. A phase where they can enjoy their wives, children, and grandchildren. Where they can set out to fly fish and kayak, and enjoy themselves. I could not be happier to watch them take this journey.



Why I’m…

…becoming a Zumba Fitness Instructor!! 

That’s right, you read that correctly! I’m excited to announce that I will be adding to my certifications with Zumba Basic 1 Instructor Training on October 4th.  I wanted to make this my first post back from hiatus mainly because I’m so excited about it!! But also to have a platform to express my thoughts and answer the question I know some might to have: why?

Now, I don’t blame the puzzled reactions to my next certification choice.  Trust me. I never in a million, billion, trillion years thought I would even LIKE Zumba, let alone like it enough to consider teaching it, but sometimes things just happen, right?!

I have always loved dance in any form.  I love the expression, the beauty and mostly the freedom it provides individuals in both mind and body. Given my lack of bodily freedom, dance in it’s pure and true form was never something I was able to be a part of.  There are few things that get me “down” in life, but my inability to dance and experience that feeling has always been one of them.  I have found other ways of feeding my soul and feeling free, but that just never seemed to go away.

When I started taking Zumba classes about a year ago, I loved everything about them. I loved that it was FUN, no pressure. I loved the mix of people and personalities in each class I took. I loved that it was both fitness and dance, which meant I could make up for my lack of dance in the more fitness-y ways! But I will be honest, I just looked at it as another class on my schedule, another way to squeeze an hour of work in.

I can tell you the exact moment that it became something more than that for me.  The day I looked in the mirror and saw myself dancing, not just moving, not confined by my walker, though it was still definitely there and definitely getting in the way! I kept up with the choreography. I knew what it was doing and doing it with confidence.  That was when it changed.

The thought of “Hey, maybe I can teach this.” has been in the back of my head for quite some time. As always, it is an internal (and let’s be honest, financial) struggle to figure out if a certification is “worth it” and if I’m actually going to be able to teach a certain program given my limitations.  Yes, even though I like it ignore them most of the time, they are still there. I have been going back and forth for months, knowing that I would need to start thinking about CEUs, between Spinning and Zumba. While Spinning is and always will be my first love in the fitness world, it raised some issues for me.  I still am unable to get on and off the bike without assistance and I want to feel empowered when teaching, not limited.  I also wanted to make sure to add something that would coincide nicely with my program and getting an adaptive or modified spin program started is not something I feel I can conquer right now.

I am a firm believer of signs (as you all know) and I have had many over the past few months pointing me in this direction…a few months ago while roaming YouTube for class ideas, I stumbled upon a girl who teaches Zumba from her wheelchair and has an amazing story! We’ve been in contact a lot and she has really shown me that we can od this.  My friends were able to meet her at Zumba Convention this year and I cannot wait to have the same opportunity next year! There have been many other personal signs for me lately, but the last one came this week when I saw that the ZES (Zumba Edication Specialist) for the training was Jani Roberts.  All last week while at the convention, I was getting texts from a friend talking about how amazing and bad ass she was and I knew this was the last sign I needed.  I signed up without a second thought.

As this post comes to a close, I will say that my number one reason for going Zumba is that it is not the easy road. Don’t get me wrong, in no way would Spinning be easy either, but Zumba is outside of my comfort zone.  It pushes me to go beyond the physical strength I know I possess at this point and step into a world of fun and confidence and a whole new set of learning and skills and choreography. Even just typing that world excites and terrifies me, but I am beyond ready to jump in to something new and become even more of the person I am learning I was meant to be!!

Stay strong, stay confident, and see you on the dance floor…


Welcome Back!

A quick post to welcome myself (and all of you!) back to my blog! It’s been quite a while, and boy has life been moving! You’ll see in the upcoming posts glimpses of that, but before I get there I just wanted to say hi and thanks for continuing to stick by me and my writing, even when it’s not the most consistent.

A few quick updates:

-The last post I wrote about the quest for walker wheels: thankfully, Kaye Products was GREAT at getting back to me and I have been using a newer, stronger set of wheels they are piloting for a few months now, which are proving to be a near perfect match!

-I’m officially done with Grad School!! Happy dance!! I have my Masters in Professional and Rehabilitation Counseling and am a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.  Now comes the job search…

-I am still teaching the Fitness Rehab Movement and LOVING it!! I have about 8 people in class weekly who are so dedicated and truly love the doors the program is opening for them. That’s what it’s all about right? I also subbed my first group cycle class this week (on some very short notice) and it went amazing! Truly an inexplicable connection between mind, body and bike for me. I love the way my fitness instructor career is shaping up…it is a blessing to consider it a career, no matter how small right now, and I cannot wait to keep adding to it! But more on that soon… 😉

A Letter to Kaye Products: The Quest for a Better Walker

Below is a letter that I have written to the assistive device and therapeutic equipment company, Kaye Products.  I have recently discovered some issues with their Posterior Walker that do not meet my mobility needs as a person with a disability who leads a very active lifestyle and also as a group ex instructor.  After seeing the success that 16 year old Matthew Walzer had after writing to Nike to ask them to make him a shoe that he could put on independently, I decided to post my letter to this blog in the hopes that it might catch someone’s eye.  Please read my letter below and feel free to share if you are so moved.  There are so many people out there besides myself that could benefit from these small adjustments.

May 14, 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Molly Carta. I am 24 years old, have Cerebral Palsy and have been a customer of Kaye Products since I was a toddler.  My parents and therapists have purchased many products from your company to assist me throughout daily life.  As an adult, I still use the Posterior Walker for daily mobility.  While this product has been useful and critical to my mobility for years, I am writing to you with a recent concern and request about the walker.

Despite having CP and difficulties with motor control and balance, I am a very active person. I have always understood the importance of staying in motion and taking control of my body and my health, so that I can live the life I want to live and not let my disability hold me back from anything.  This mindset shifted even more when I started working out at a gym after my insurance company stopped covering physical therapy.  In an effort to maintain the hard work and progress I had put into my life thus far, I began taking spinning classes while in college.  I had always wanted to ride a bike, but my balance issues prevented me from doing so.  A stationary bike that kept your feet on the pedals seemed like a perfect fit.  Even though this was challenging for me, I was so proud and excited to be taking part in a fitness class so mainstream that those feelings outweighed the difficulty.

Over the years, I began to take more classes and try new things.  There were few classes on our weekly gym schedule that I didn’t try at least once and my passion for health and fitness grew by the day. This past September, I decided to take this passion to an even greater level when I signed up for a Group Exercise Instructor Certification course through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. I didn’t only want to take classes, I wanted to teach them.  I knew that this was going to be a mental and physical challenge for me, but that had never stopped me before.  About a month ago, I began teaching a class geared toward people with disabilities and other limitations.  The class is taught from a chair and focuses on general strength and low impact cardio.  However, I would eventually like to expand the class to be a fully functioning group fitness class.

I am writing to you in the hopes that Kaye Products will be able to provide me with some assistance with the difficulties I have noticed with my Posterior Walker.  One of my main concerns I have been struggling with is the ineffectiveness of the rear brake system.  I currently use silent rear wheels with internal brakes.  Not only do these wheels seem to wear out very quickly (the last pair I had lasted not even a full year), but the brakes do not seem to work on many surfaces.  When I am taking and teaching classes, my walker is constantly sliding backwards both while I am holding on and if I do have to let go for any reason.  You can imagine how difficult this is, and the additional energy it takes, to always make sure I’m not going to slide.  My balance is effected greatly by my CP, and my walker is supposed to aide in me feeling more secure.  Instead, I am constantly worried I am going to fall while standing due to the brakes not working.  This seriously impedes my ability to adequately progress when taking or teaching classes.  I was hoping that Kaye Products might be able to come up with some sort of add-on or block for the brakes in order to keep the walker a safe and secure assistive device. I know that Kaye Products manufactures All-Terrain wheels, but I am concerned that these wheels are too large and would also not address my needs.

In addition to this, the Kaye Products walker frame and setup is not the most easily maneuverable and agile. I understand the need to create a walker out of durable and sturdy material, but with that also comes a very heavy product.  I find it very difficult to fold my walker and lift it in and out of my car when driving. It is also very bulky and gets in the way when I am trying to complete certain exercises or demonstrate them for my class participants.  I am well aware that my needs and concerns are not that of a “typical” person with CP or another disability, if there is such a thing.  However, it is clear that there is no other market for assistive devices or people with disabilities who might be more active or need special modifications in addition to those provided.

Having been a longtime Kaye Products customer, I have always been pleased with your company’s products, customer service, and responsiveness.  It is my hope that you might be able to help me in at least coming up with a solution to the rear wheel brakes so that I may feel more secure when standing briefly.  I also hope that you will be compelled to think of ways to improve your product for those of us who live more active lifestyles.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you to discuss these issues further.


Molly Carta

BADD 2013: It Starts With Us

It’s Blogging Against Disabilism Day 2013! A day dedicated to speaking out against disability discrimination of any kind, life obstacles of those with disabilities, etc.

I have been absolutely devouring the amazing posts that are flowing through today; there are some great writers with great thoughts and ideas out there in the Blogosphere. I encourage you to check out Dairy of a Goldfish, where all the posts will be listed, or the BADD Facebook Page.

This is my third year participating in the day. Two years ago, I wrote about intelligence and interacting with people with disabilities. Last year, I missed the actual BADD day, but my post about the dance of Cerebral Palsy brought you into my world of living with a disability, if only for a moment.

This year? Well, buckle up. I don’t really know how the idea for this post came to me or how it’s going to work into the theme of this day, but here we go. Knowing that BADD was coming up, I’d been jogging my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to put out in the world as a person with a disability.  My one small voice.

It’s taken me the better part of 24 years to be “okay” with having a disability.   I think some of this is because I tended to live life with blinders on and not even pay attention to it.  I had great friends and family who helped make it a non-factor in my life and, while this was a blessing, it also was a little bit of a curse.  Full disclosure: I hate that cliche, but I couldn’t think of anything else to write.

But then…life hits you. People are often rude or ignorant, situations aren’t ideal, you’re forced to be independent at times when you’d been used to relying on someone by your side. You can no longer wear those blinders, because this is real life. It’s not going to stop while you adjust.

There comes a point in your life when you have to recognize your situation and your limitations.  Being an adult now (arguably anyway-my sisters will tell you I’m still the baby), that point has come hard and fast over the past few years.  Now, trust me. I’m not, in any way, at all, ever, ever, ever (got it?!) saying that you should be defined by your limitations or let them control your life.  Quite the opposite actually. Recognize and understand them so that you can live your life for you and move beyond them, if that is the path you choose.

How does this fit into BADD?! Hold your breath, because some of you might not like what you’re about to read…

If you don’t want to be discriminated against, start by not discriminating against yourself.   

Simple as that, right? No. I’m not naive. I know it’s not that simple, but it’s the initial step on a long journey. Think logically for a second, and this goes for anyone whether you have a physical disability or other obstacle in your life, if you don’t want someone else to judge you, limit you, or assume something about you, why would you do those things to yourself? You tell your best friend that they can do anything they want, but then you tell yourself that you can’t? That doesn’t sound right to me.

I’ve learned something very valuable on my journey, and even more so now being a fitness instructor of a class for people with various limitations, and that is that we as people with disabilities are the role models of how other people with disabilities should be perceived and treated.  Whether we want to be or not.

Want people to believe in you, to give you a chance?

Believe in yourself.

Want people to treat you with respect and dignity?

Respect yourself.

Want people to understand just how strong you are, that you are not to be pitied?

Show your strength, do not pity yourself. 

Want to be heard, to leave something in this world?

Speak up and don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable. Let people in.