Sunday, October 7, 2012

moving

Hi, all!


I just wanted to let you know that my blog is moving! I now have a custom domain, and all future posts will be published at http://streamofcaitlinness.com/  

:) 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

style



You know what they say: another day (or week in this case), another discovery. And this week's discovery was more of a reawakening than a realization. In addition to working on Oxygen's upcoming fashion-based shows, I've been styling my friends and helping them shop for the outfits that I know will make them look best. I've always loved shopping and clothes and all that fun stuff that comes with being a girl living 20 minutes from New York. So it's not like my boyfriend Chris had to twist my arm to get me to help him buy new clothes for the Fall. It's become a relationship routine of sorts; with every major change in weather, we head to the mall and I pick out some basic pieces and cool accessories to supplement his seasonal wardrobe. He ends up looking quite put-together and handsome, if I do say so myself. This autumn I was going for a sleek look with button-downs, sweaters, and vests (think Justin Timberlake circa 2007), so I was running around the store looking for the clothes and then running back to his dressing room to deliver the next piece for him to try on. Then just a few days later, I hit the mall with my friend Lyss to find her new outfits for Fall. And yes, I must say I enjoyed these shopping outings immensely, especially since I believe that what a person wears says soooo much about him or her.

One glove only
Don't get me wrong - I don't love fashion for the reasons that non-fashionistas (is there even a term for people who aren't into clothes?) may think. I'm not shallow or all that materialistic, and I certainly don't judge people solely on appearance. But whether or not you're pretty/plain/rich/poor/disabled/all of the above, you have the freedom to choose exactly how to decorate and present your body to the world. And how awesome is that? As a writer/creative/media professional/artist/20-something/whatever you want to call me, I'm really into personalizing everything. From the background photo of my baby cousins on my iPhone to my hot pink and zebra print bedroom (rawr), it's all about self-expression. And what better canvas than the body that takes me through every moment and every action to showcase who I am?

Now let's get one thing straight: I don't buy into the "ideal figures only" approach to fashion. Having a disability doesn't preclude me from celebrating the way I look and wearing the clothes I want to wear. And over the past few years I've found a handful (haha, I love puns) of ways to highlight and prettify my asymmetrical figure. Sadly, though, the computer that was home to the majority of my photos crashed a while back. So I hope you don't mind if I post pictures I found on Google or store websites instead of pics of me in the completed looks. Anyway, I type too much. So without further ado:



1) One-Shoulder Tops/Dresses - I LOVE asymmetrical necklines because they mirror the unevenness of my arms and make the statement that strange or different proportions are beautiful. There's a lot of talk in the science world about beauty and symmetry being synonymous, but this look proves that it's the unique and the off-kilter that strikes the eye and holds attention.












Subtle but lovely




2) Upper Arm Bracelets/Cuffs - When I'm not wearing my prosthetic hand, I don't have a wrist on my left arm to wear a bracelet. But I think that arm deserves to wear pretty accessories too, so upper arm cuffs work particularly well. Plus, it'll go just as great with a party dress as it will with casual jeans and a tank top. If Cleopatra could pull it off waaaaay back when, then I say why not?














3) Opera Gloves - Yes, they look super fancy shmancy over the prosthetic and paired with a cocktail dress, but I think it's also pretty cool to wear just one on any given day. (Note: For me, it started for practical reasons rather than as a fashion statement. The "skin" on the prosthetic was easily stained by ink on newspapers and books, and I hated how it looked "dirty" so I just wore the glove over it.)






4) Grecian/Roman Goddess-Inspired - The famous Venus de Milo statue has long served as a standard of beauty for all women, in spite of AND due to her lack of arms. So it's always fun to channel this icon with a Greek/Roman-inspired piece or full outfit.















So there you go - just a few ideas on how I like to use clothes and style to my advantage. I hope this has been an interesting post. And I promise I'll start taking more pics of what I wear so I can post them on this blog. Do you want to see more style/fashion content on this blog? Let me know what you think.

Peace,
Caitlin :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

little ones




My family's been doing a lot of growing lately. And I don't just mean we're getting older; there are a couple new additions in the form of little Emma (who is almost 3 months old) and Natalia (who just celebrated her first month.) My two cousins gave birth to beautiful baby girls this summer. Now I don't know if it's just because I'm female, but I looooove babies. They're so cute and tiny and innocent. And the way they trust you so completely is so sweet.

Other people's kids are adorable. But when your relatives have babies, it's like those little cutiepies are yours too. So I'm over their houses as often as I can be, changing diapers and pushing strollers and dressing them in the latest baby fashions. I just can't get enough of these newborns though, of course, Emma's older brother Luke will always be my first baby. 

Speaking of Luke (whom I blogged about a while ago), he's just discovered the fact that the reason my left arm looks different than most people's is because I don't have a hand. Here's a brief transcript of our conversation a few weeks ago:

Emma in her ballerina tutu

Luke (matter-of-factly): "KT, you have only one arm. "

Me: "Yes, Luke, I do."

Luke (grabbing my right hand, which I do have): "Everybody, I want to hold KT's hand because she has one arm."

Me (not quite understanding his 3-year-old's logic): "Okay."

Luke: "KT, can I have your phone so I can play a game?"

Me (making sure my iPhone is sealed within an indestructible Luke-proof case): "Sure. I just bought some new games for you."

Luke: "Aw, shucks! Thanks, KT! Can you help me beat them?"



What I love about this exchange is that he realized the whole one-hand situation but still took for granted that I could help him win the games like anyone else. That's the kind of attitude I wish more adults would adopt. Note to everyone: take a hint from this adorable 3-year-old and just assume that I can take care of myself. In fact, you should assume that of all people with physical differences and at least pretend not to be shocked when they tell you about how they play guitar with one hand or run their own company or were formerly married to a Beatle (ever heard of Heather Mills?). Luke acknowledged the difference, but he didn't make it a huge deal or change the way he acts towards me.

Princess Natalia the daydreamer
Anyway, that's my little Luke for you. He's a happy-go-lucky boy who's a bit precocious and way too smart for his age. I love him with all my heart, even when he openly admits that he loves my boyfriend Chris more than he loves me. Chris is really good with Luke, playing along in his many imaginative epic sword-fighting and gun-shooting adventures. He also loves kids and has no problem looking silly if it means getting a smile out of a toddler.

One night after playing with Luke, Chris and I stopped for coffee when I felt the need to tell him something that had just struck me as extremely important. I blurted out to him that my disability is not genetic and that my children would be completely unaffected. He seemed surprised. "Oh, okay," was all he said. Wait....I thought. He hadn't known this? Curious and somewhat confused, I asked him why he had stayed in a serious relationship with me if he thought that his future babies could be born with a missing limb. I have to say, his answer was a pretty damn good one:

"Because I love you and I don't care. And I know they would be fine, like you."


Peace,
Caitlin :)


Sunday, September 16, 2012

still beautiful


When I was little, I wanted to be a Disney princess and look like Britney Spears. I know, I know - what was I thinking, right? Britney? Really??? Well, in my defense, late 90s/early 00s Britney was like Selena Gomez/Victoria Justice/whoever else (I feel so old right now) is currently famous in the tween world. Everyone wanted her style and her dance moves and her seemingly perfect relationship with Justin Timberlake. And what 90s girl didn't want to don a ball gown and marry a handsome prince like a Disney princess? They were the standard of beauty that every tween wanted to look and be like: Britney, any Disney princess, and the infamous Barbie Doll. But Britney Spears and the Disney princesses and even Barbie were thin and beautiful and had all four limbs intact. So who was a chubby kid with a limb difference supposed to look up to for reassurance that she was beautiful? 
Fortunately, times are a little different now. There's much more diversity in youth culture (with everything from the first African American Disney princess to Glee character Artie (and Quinn, briefly) who uses a wheelchair), but what many people don't realize is that the need to see others who look like you in the media doesn't end in childhood or even tweenhood. Recently, while doing research on the fashion industry since my company is working on a new show about models (you can follow The Face here, actually), I've discovered several women with limb differences who work in the media. And a part  of me can't help but wish I had strong and successful people like them to look up to during my formative years when I was feeling ugly and believed it was impossible to be beautiful or sexy with only one hand. 
Just a few weeks ago, a young filmmaker named Jana emailed me and asked if she could interview me for a project she's working on about women with disabilities and the idea of sexiness. I'll be the first to admit that it took me a looooong time to think of myself as sexy or pretty. There were definitely moments when I looked in the mirror and knew I looked good, but there was always the nagging thought that I would never be desirable because I looked so different. As much as I'd starve myself and exercise like a maniac (although that's a whole other issue you'll find out about in a future post), I never had the "perfect body." I'd pick on my flaws and cake on my makeup to compensate for my perceived ugliness. But that wasn't working for me. And in addition to finally letting myself see myself as a human being who obviously isn't going to be perfect, I've realized that I need to stop defining myself by individual parts of me. I may have one hand, but that's not all I am. Yes, I have athletic legs and Taylor Swift curls. But that's not all I am either. That's not what makes me sexy and it's not why my boyfriend is with me. It may be cliche, but I think sexiness comes from knowing your true value. If you take care of yourself and carry yourself like you KNOW and feel that you're awesome, then that's sexy. You don't need to have Barbie's impossible proportions to know that.
Of course, I understand how hard it is to just say "Hey, I'm sexy" and really believe it, especially with the media's focus on who's hot or not and how much baby weight celebs have put on. So it always helps me to see others who have limb differences in the spotlight. Watching them take on the world and own their look really inspires me to do the same. So just in case you're insecure about your body or limb difference specifically, since I've seen a lot of bloggers whose young daughters have hands similar to mine, here are some role models who have made it and who just so happen to be missing one or more limbs. 

Tanja Kiewitz
Tanja Kiewitz was relatively unknown until she posed in this advertisement for disability awareness. The ad is a copy of an older Wonderbra ad featuring model Eva Herzigova. The tagline, which reads "Look me in the eyes...I said the eyes," is the same on both images. And although I am not in any way condoning or encouraging young girls to put on a bra and pose half-nude, whether or not they have a limb difference, I still think it's pretty cool that they portrayed her as sexy with a limb difference instead of ignoring her body and just showing a pretty face. And if I dare say so, I think Tanja is much prettier than the other model (whose facial features are rather strange-looking.)



Shaholly Ayers
Shaholly Ayers is so gorgeous that you may have missed the fact that her right arm is actually a prosthetic. To be honest, I don't know a lot about her. But there are times that I wish I could be as confident and comfortable as she is with her congenital limb difference. She poses both with and without a prosthetic. And there are several photos in which she doesn't even attempt to hide her arm, which I find very bold and inspiring in a profession that puts so much emphasis on perfect appearances. 
Shaholly again













Aviva Drescher






Aviva Drescher is currently one of the stars on the hit television show Real Housewives of New York. If the last name sounds familiar, that's because her husband's cousin is actress Fran Drescher. Aviva lost her leg in an accident when she was a young girl and, like so many others, she's made a happy life for herself. She's married with four children and starring on a Bravo show. Although the show does not always reveal her best qualities, Aviva has mentioned that she doesn't mind what critics say about the show as long as she brings awareness to amputees. 




Kelly Knox






Kelly Knox was the winner on BBC's modeling competition show Britain's Missing Top Model. Like me, she was born without a left arm past the elbow. She's appeared in magazines like Marie Claire and in ads for VO5. She also doesn't wear a prosthetic and is much more comfortable without one. 
















So there you go: 4 strong and beautiful women to look to for inspiration and motivation whenever you feel down about being different. Even when I feel like absolute crap about the way I look, it's helpful to know that there others in the world who understand. And it's also very encouraging that with their "flaws" and differences, they (and I) are still beautiful.


Peace,
Caitlin :)




Monday, September 3, 2012

media monday - beauty/fashion hauler vanessa


Happy Labor Day, all! To celebrate, here's a video I found of a YouTube beauty/fashion hauler who was born without hands and feet. Vanessa from Australia gives awesome style tips and has really great taste in fashion (she loves Alexander McQueen, my favorite designer!). In a world where people with disabilities are depicted as abnormal and "different," Vanessa proves that a girl's gonna be a girl (and a perfectly normal one at that). At the end of the day, regardless of how many limbs I have, I'm still into clothes and accessories and I LOVE a good shopping trip. Enjoy the video above and check out all the other vids on her YouTube channel.

Have a stylish week!

Peace,
Caitlin :) 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

help


I'll be the first to admit this: having a disability is not easy. I'm not referring to the limitations of it (which for me have been few, if any) but rather the perceptions of it. Most people seem to view disability as an inherently bad thing and thus focus on the negative aspects, emphasizing the "dis" part instead of the ability. With people constantly staring with sad expressions and extending their pity, it's easy for someone with a physical difference to fall into a sympathy spell of his or her own creation once in a while. I've fallen into this trap quite a few times, throwing myself mini pity parties and forcing my boyfriend and closest friends to attend. They're all party poopers, though, and are always unwilling to indulge me. My boyfriend Chris is quick to roll his eyes at me and remind me of what I can do. He refuses to see me as weak or incapable in any way.

Sorting out baby clothes
I hope no one misunderstands me; I'm not saying that going out and finding a significant other is going to fix all your problems and make you think 100% positively all the time. I had to face my issues on my own, long before I was in any relationship. Having a great support system in my friends and family and boyfriend is a real blessing, but it's not a panacea. In my 20 years as a one-handed girl, I've had plenty of time to figure out ways to find the strength and acceptance in myself. And there's one particular way that changed my view of myself immensely.

The title of this post is not meant to be taken as a noun (as in "I need help"), but as a verb ("Go help"). When I was 18, I went on a weeklong service retreat in upstate New York. It was before I began dating Chris, so he wasn't even in the picture at the time. It'd been a tough year and I was still adjusting to all the new changes. I was a college girl who was no longer forced to wear ugly uniforms and who went to a coed school (I had gone to an all-girls high school), and I was about to spend a week of my time volunteering at several new locations and explaining to a whole new group of people what was "wrong" with my arm. In short, I was nervous. More than nervous, really. I was freaking out, particularly about the thought that people might give me a lighter load or not let me work because of my hand. I was determined to prove myself, though.

It's funny because I don't recall a moment that week when anyone questioned my ability to do something. On the first day of the retreat, I was painting the interior of a replica building of St. John Bosco's childhood home in Italy. By the time I got back to my dorm room, I couldn't move or feel several parts of my body. My clothes were covered in dust and dirt, and there was a huge paint stain across my cheek that wouldn't wash off for nearly two weeks. I didn't want to leave my bed and I even doubted my ability to make it through the week. But in spite of the exhaustion and pain, I was extremely grateful that I was able to do the dirty work (literally) without anyone mentioning my arm.

The rest of the week went just as smoothly. I did what the other volunteers did. We served at a food pantry, lugging heavy boxes of canned food down to the storage area. We helped out at a safe haven for abandoned and/or unwed pregnant women, where one mother asked me to hold her beautiful 2-week-old infant Elijah. We repainted and remodeled a park in a poor neighborhood. And at the end of it all, with my tired limbs and sore muscles, I felt great.

At the risk of sounding cliche, I really believe that that retreat changed my worldview. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was strong and so unworthy of anyone's pity. It allowed me to take the focus off worrying about what people were thinking about my hand and to concentrate on helping others with immediate needs that I could meet. Who cares if you have a minor physical disability if there are people who are crippled by poverty, abandonment, and fear? Sometimes it's our "flaws" and perceived brokenness that allow us to relate and get through to another person. In the end, all we can do is embrace everything we are and try our best to help.

Peace,
Caitlin :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

perspective


   As I mentioned in my last post, I'm currently taking a really cool photography class. I never gave photography more than a passing thought for most of my life (excepting Instagram here), but I needed the credits and I liked the idea of walking around the City taking pictures during my lunch breaks. Anyway, this week's assignment was about perspective and how the photographer is in control of making the viewer see his or her artistic vision. Photographers play with different angles and techniques in order to get the perfect shot. The very essence of the art is making people see a certain object or person in a new light (often literally.) It's funny, though, because even though the students' assignments were all exactly the same, none of our photos looked a bit alike. Everyone had drastically different views and ideas that they captured in their pictures. And the even funnier thing is that that's a pretty good metaphor for life in general. Everyone has ideas and thoughts and stories, and they don't always align with what others think and do and feel.

NYC Windows
When I was a teenager and my aunt drove me to my high school, I used to spend the half-hour trip reading in the front seat. My cousin always conveniently left her fashion magazines in the car, and I loved flipping through them. A lot of the magazines featured real women writing short memoir-like pieces about a particular aspect of their life. One day, I found one about a woman with a disability and her experiences with dating. I don't recall the specifics, but the woman had something along the lines of a lopsided back and misshapen legs. She wrote about how she would hide in dark corners at swanky bars so that attractive young bachelors would not notice her "flaws."

I distinctly remember feeling a shred of pity for the poor woman who, I believed, had it much worse than I did. After all, I've always had a decent figure and shapely legs that I consider to be my best feature. But as I continued scanning the story, I read something to the effect of "It could be worse: I could be an amputee...." Yup. While I was rejoicing that I wasn't shaped like her, she was thanking her lucky stars she was not missing a limb like me.  

NYC Street
It was a pretty insightful lesson I learned from that fashion magazine. People have different ideas about EVERYTHING. There's no objective hierarchy in terms of whose disability is worse or better to have, just like there are people who prefer blondes to brunettes and people who are willing to hurt each other just to prove that their ideology is more correct. There are people who will consider a disability a deterrent to a relationship and those who will love someone with a limb difference, not in spite of, but WITH the disability. It really depends on the person's perspective.

NYC Art
So there you have my thoughts on this. I'll leave you now with this short anecdote: My boyfriend and I were at his parents' house last week when his mom started talking about a new adoption show I'm working on (I'm Having Their Baby on Oxygen, if you want to check it out.) I casually mentioned that I'd like to adopt a special needs child someday. Her response was not what I'd hoped for; she said it would be very. difficult to raise a child with special needs.

"Well, I turned out okay,"I said sheepishly.

"Oh Caitlin," she laughed. "But you're not Special Needs!"

I have no idea what "Special Needs" means to her, but it's nice knowing that the picture of me in her head is one that doesn't fit the category I've been placed in all my life.

Monday, July 30, 2012

back on track

Hellooooo! This is my first blog post in quite a while, and I do apologize for the hiatus. My life's been pretty crazy lately. Here's an update about what I've been up to: In May, I started working full-time as the Social Media Coordinator for the Oxygen Network.
Meet Baby Emma!

I've decided to finish the remainder of the credits I need to get my college degree via online classes, so I've been taking both a photography class and a music class. Oh, and my cousin just had a baby! So now I have a new little cousin and another one on the way (my other cousin is due next month.) So for all these reasons, I just haven't found the time to sit down and write a blog post. 
But now I'm getting back on track, so here I am! I vow to write more often and to not be a stranger for practically the whole summer. I have sooo many ideas for new posts, so thanks for reading and I  hope you enjoy the next few weeks' adventures.


Peace,
Caitlin :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

weekend adventures


Chris and Chewy being cute (as usual):
Hi there! Before I say anything else, I just want to wish everyone a happy summer! I know it hasn't technically begun, but the weather is warm and my schoolbooks are away. So as far as I'm concerned, it's summer! And with summer days, of course, come fabulous moments spent with family and friends. This past weekend was a pretty awesome way to ring in the high temperatures and the fun. On Saturday, my boyfriend Chris and I took his little brother and his family's dog to their grandparents' house for an indoor picnic (since it was kind of rainy.) I should probably admit here that I've always been nervous about how his family would react to my limb difference. I want to seem like a model girlfriend who is perfect for their Chris, and an obvious physical disability seems to be the antithesis of perfection. So suffice it to say that I was pretty nervous at the start of the day.

                                                                                    Chewy wanted to drive:
Like all great adventures, of course, our journey involved a few pitstops. We headed to Home Depot first to pick up some supplies for my house (since my parents are remodeling some rooms.) Already anxious and therefore more aware of my arm than usual, I did the only thing that would relieve the tension and help my mood a bit: I offered to carry the dog, Chewy. I placed him securely in my oversized handbag a la Paris Hilton and navigated the aisles of the store with the boys. I quickly discovered that carrying an adorable toy poodle around actually drew more attention to me. But it was different this time because people were smiling and interacting with Chewy rather than staring at my hand and feeling sorry for me. So that was my first realization of the day: a cute dog really does lift spirits - and not just my own! Although my dad is not a fan of puppies, I plan to get one the second I get my own place. After all, the two cutest things in the entire world are puppies and babies.

Speaking of babies, Chris's toddler cousins also happened to be visiting their grandparents that day. The four-year-old boy, bright and energetic, ran around the yard hoping I would try to catch him. After a dozen or so rounds of Tag, he approached me and asked about my prosthetic hand. I told him that it was my "special hand." Being a kid, he begged me to try it out for himself. He even tried to pry it off so that he could play with it. I found this incredibly endearing and pretty funny. It's interesting how something most people see as a huge flaw that should be ignored becomes an intriguing potential toy to a toddler. Second realization of my Saturday: kids will be kids and won't necessarily care about the things the world expects you to be self-conscious about. They're blunt, curious, and innocent - and that's the most refreshing and organic reaction anyone can hope for.

Brandon, the coolest 11-year-old on the planet: 
And this reaction isn't just limited to toddlers. By the end of the day when Chris was driving us back to my house, the temperature had risen and the air felt unbearably hot. It was definitely way too hot to be wearing a heavy artificial arm. So I pulled it off and left it in my handbag (We left Chewy with Chris's sister, so he wasn't in the handbag anymore by this point.) To my surprise, Chris's 11-year-old brother Brandon said absolutely nothing about my lack of a hand. He had never seen me without the fake arm before, so I was expecting him to say something or at least ask about the little arm. But he never did. He just acted the same way he normally does.

When I mentioned my unease to Chris afterwards, he just smiled. "You see?" he said. "Like I've always told you, there are lots of people out there who are not going to care about your arm at all. It's not even going to register to them because it's so minor and because they get to know you for who you are. Brandon asked me about it once over a year ago when you and I started dating. So now he knows and it doesn't matter to him." So yeah, there's realization number 3: To most people, something as minor as a limb difference isn't going to matter. Note to self: stop being so paranoid!



Peace,
Caitlin :)



Sunday, May 13, 2012

growing up one-armed



  Last week as I was reading a post on Born Just Right (a great blog where Jen Lee Reeves writes about her young daughter, Jordan, who was born with a little arm), I came across a line that stuck with me for a while. Jen wrote: "I keep fretting about the future and how Jordan may lose hope and confidence." Sure, any mother could have written or spoken those words; parental concern is completely normal. But Jen was specifically referring to the way Jordan would feel about her difference. While I'm not yet a mom, I can't imagine the emotional toll that raising a child with special needs would have on someone. Most (if not all) parents have anxiety and fear about their kids' future, and I'm sure that having a child with a disability magnifies those worries. So as a young woman who has grown up with 1.5 arms, I thought I'd dedicate a post to offering some advice and insight I've learned from my own experience. Here's what I would tell anyone who is raising a son or daughter with a limb difference (or any disability, for that matter):

- The first thing you should know is that your child is completely capable of having a normal and happy life. I know you must hear that a lot, but here's living proof. I, for one, am your average 20-year-old girl who loves her family and friends, has a wonderful boyfriend (we've been dating for one and a half years now), and gets nearly perfect grades in school. I'm currently starting my senior year of college and working full-time as Social Media Coordinator for the Oxygen Network. In sum, I'm living the good life. While I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I'm doing okay. And you know what? Your kid will be just fine too. 

- Be supportive and encourage your child to try new things. Ugh, that sentence sounds so generic and cookie-cutter, doesn't it? But here's what I mean. Make sure he or she knows that you're proud of him/her. I remember my dad telling me some years back that he and my mom didn't put me in piano lessons because of my arm. I was pretty upset after hearing that because it made me feel like they didn't trust my ability to adapt to the situation. It felt like they were shielding me from things they didn't think I would be able to do. Essentially, they were defining my limits before I could even try. As soon as I turned 18, I bought a left-handed guitar and sat in my room for hours until I could spite my parents with proof that I could play an instrument. Don't get me wrong - I love playing guitar. But I'll admit that proving myself and gaining my parents' affirmation was a good motivator. 

- Don't treat the limb difference like it's a bad thing. This is crucial. The way you react to the difference influences the way your child will view him/herself. When I was younger, my grandparents taught me to hide my little arm inside a prosthetic and long sleeves (and yes, jackets in the summertime.) I spent years after that covering myself up and wearing sweaters during sweltering summers. Now that I'm older, I can see how the effects that those sorts of unfortunate moments with people I love have morphed into insecurities about my arm and my general appearance. My boyfriend had a similar experience. When he was little, someone told him that he could get surgery to separate his webbed toes (which I love, by the way, because they're part of him and they look pretty darn cool.) He had never even considered them to be an issue until that person suggested surgery and made him self-conscious about them. So my advice: don't focus on masking or hiding your child's "flaws." Allow them to be themselves and let them know that missing a limb is not something you should feel upset or ashamed about. 

- Push your child but don't be pushy. What I mean is that you should want your child to strive for his/her best. But at the same time, you don't want them to feel like they need to overcompensate for their disability. Growing up, people used to tell me that they were so impressed by whatever ordinary thing I did well because I did it with only one arm. Newsflash to the whole world: calling me (or anyone with a disability, for that matter) "inspirational" because I just accomplished a mundane task that any other person could do with their eyes closed is NOT a compliment. It's actually very condescending. So make sure you congratulate your son or daughter on his/her REAL accomplishments (read: anything you would congratulate a non-disabled child on.) That way, he/she won't feel like he/she is being patronized by his/her own parents. 

- Insecurity is inevitable. It's human to feel insecure about yourself sometimes, especially during your adolescent years. And someone with a disability is not immune to that. I can almost guarantee you that your child will have bouts of low self esteem and insecurity at one time or another, mainly because I've never met a person who made it through his or her teen years 100 percent confident in him/herself. But before you worry yourself sick, let me say that you can minimize the impact of these low points starting 3...2...1...NOW. I've read a lot on this topic (yep, I'm a psychology minor), and psychologists say that parents have a huge impact on their children's self esteem. Tell your daughter she's beautiful and tell your son that he's capable and strong. Remember to also focus on qualities like kindness or creativity, not just on appearance or ability. And don't forget to convey to him/her that he/she is loved WITH the difference and not in spite of it.

  So there you have it. I hope that you've found this helpful and maybe even interesting. If you have a limb difference yourself, what else would you tell someone raising a child with a limb difference? If you're the parent of a limb different child, know that everything will be okay. Raising a child with one arm is not really any different than raising a child with two (so I've learned from my parents, as they basically treat my sister and me the same.) For now, just enjoy these moments of their youth because they'll be all grown up before you know it. 


Peace,
Caitlin :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

overachiever



  You see that word in the title of this blog post? Yeah, I hate it. It's just such an arrogant and obnoxious word. And it's got such negative connotations. I mean, achievement is great. But overdoing anything is not good. Who wants to be defined by their tendency to approach every accomplishment with an exaggerated desire for greatness? Not me. Unfortunately, though, I must admit that I was something of an overachiever growing up. It's not something I'm proud of, but I do believe my disability played a big part in it.
                                                                                                               Winning first place in a choir competition
  As many people know, there are two main types of overachievers: those who focus on becoming exceptionally good at one thing and those who try to be good at everything. I fell into the latter category. I was at the top of my class academically, edited the school newspaper, served as captain of the school volleyball team, and sang in about three different choirs - all by the time I graduated eighth grade. In high school, I continued my quest for perfection by getting involved in as many extracurricular activities as I could, from acting in drama club productions to singing in the choir at Carnegie Hall. Please don't get me wrong - I'm not bragging here. Along with these achievements (if you will), I struggled with severe anxiety and depression as well as an eating disorder. In my case, I didn't try to overachieve in order to better myself or reach my full potential; rather, I needed to prove myself a worthy and capable individual. That's the problem with overachieving: the motivation behind it is never pure or good. The reason behind that unnatural yearning for perfection is always fear. 

   My high school graduation
  While I don't blame my missing arm for my years of needing to be "perfect," I know that many of my fears stemmed from insecurities related to it. I was so afraid of appearing weak or inadequate to people because of my arm that I did everything in my power to look capable and put-together. I wanted it to seem as though I was completely flawless in every way except for my lack of an arm. That would be the only thing anyone could hold against me, and even then it was only an accident of nature that I had no control over. But that's just it - no one's perfect; it's not possible. So my vain attempts at becoming flawless eventually took their toll on me. I hated that I couldn't be perfect and I blamed myself.


  As I've grown older and (I like to think) wiser, I've stopped focusing so much on proving myself to others. More importantly, I no longer feel the need to prove myself tomyself. I know what I'm capable of and I have enough self-confidence to accept that I have limitations too. I'm not afraid to try and fail because, one arm or two, everyone has the right to pursue what they want and give their dreams a try. So with that, I'd like to challenge myself to live by this one word: vulnerable. Yes, I need to allow myself the chance to fail and to let others see me own those failures. I have to let my guard down and forget about trying to impress people with how much I can do with one arm. I'm human, and I have the right to cry/laugh/hurt/love just like anyone else. I don't need to be amazing at everything; I just need to focus on the people I love and the things I love because they make me happy. And at the end of the day, that happiness is what counts.




Peace,
Caitlin :)


Monday, April 23, 2012

inspirational quotes



Dear lovely readers,

  I'm sorry I haven't written much lately, but it's finals week and I need to be studying my butt off and writing a million papers right now. Know that I'll get back to writing regularly as soon as I finish up the semester. In the meantime, enjoy this board of wonderfully inspirational quotes.

Peace,
Caitlin :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

media/meme monday - aimee mullins on adversity




 Model/actress/Paralympian Aimee Mullins does it all. Check out what she has to say about adversity and what it means to be "disabled."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

the stream of caitlinness shop is now open


  Yep, you read that correctly! I designed some shirts via Skreened.com specifically for those with limb differences. I LOVE quirky t-shirts with witty sayings, but I noticed there's a lack of funny shirts for those of us who lack an arm. So I made some. Please feel free to click here and check out the designs. You can buy them right from the website. And don't forget to let me know what you think of them in the comments below!

Peace,
Caitlin :)


Monday, April 2, 2012

media/meme monday - $#*! people say to amputees


  Yes, it's another Josh Sundquist video! It's just too funny not to share. He made this during the "$#*! People Say" video craze, and it's brilliant. The best part is that it features things people have actually said to him. I guess most folks just don't know what to say when they meet someone with a limb difference. I mean, we deal with stares and awkward comments on a daily basis. So why not have a little fun with it? Here are some of the funniest (and weirdest) comments and questions I've gotten:

"Do you sink to one side when you swim?"- random lady at swimming pool

"You're a cyborg! Do you know how many dates you can get at a sci-fi convention?" - my lovely and hilarious friend Liz

"Hey, weren't you wearing that ring on your other hand yesterday?" - my boyfriend Chris (to be fair, he had been running on very little sleep when he said it)

"Do you wear it while you're sleeping?" -random person (in reference to my prosthetic)

"Can I touch it?" - creepy strangers

Here's hoping that you enjoy Josh's video and that no weirdos you meet today invade your personal space!

Peace,
Caitlin :)




Thursday, March 29, 2012

the coolest prosthetics ever



  Okay, so there's something I need to confess: I have an obsession with Pinterest.com. It's got such a wealth of cool ideas and a super simple organization system. What's not to love?!

  So here I am with another board I put together specifically for this blog. As a one-handed girl, I've had my share of experiences with prosthetics (I got my first one when I was only a few months old.) My parents thought it would be a good idea for me to wear one to create a semblance of normality and to make me feel just like every other happy-go-lucky little kid. Back then (and this was twenty years ago),  prosthetics were all about function. In addition to grasping small objects (yes, I even had the awful harness arm with the over-the-shoulder strap that cut painfully into my skin), the artificial arms of the time were known for trying to look like flesh-and-blood limbs. Of course, most of them failed at this attempt. Despite the skin covers with the almost-lifelike hair follicles and the French manicures, the arms' many screws and rubber texture betrayed what they really were. Honestly, I think I would have gotten fewer stares if I had just walked around without the artificial hand. 
  Nowadays, fortunately, the paradigm for prosthetics has changed significantly. People are starting to view artificial limbs as both functional AND fashionable. Gone are the days when a limb deficient person had to try his or her best to hide the lack of an appendage. In this age of constantly advancing science and technology, prosthetics are considered cool. This means that prosthetists are taking liberties in how they design these artificial limbs. You can now find anything from tentacles (see picture on right) to mermaid tails to legs with detachable heels. Pretty awesome, huh?

  So in celebration and appreciation of how far prosthetics have come in the last few decades, check out this Pinterest board featuring some of the coolest artificial limbs available today. If you're anything like me, you're already planning outfits you can pair with each of the prosthetic arms....But then again, that might just be my Pinterest addiction talking. 

Peace,
Caitlin :)


Saturday, March 24, 2012

happy birthday to this guy right here


  On this lovely day, my wonderful boyfriend Chris turns 23. Yep, 23. He's getting to be an old man! (Okay, I'm being hyperbolic.) Anyway, the handsome man you see here happens to be the most amazing human being I've ever met. He's sweet, funny, smart, loving, and a zillion other great qualities that cannot be confined to a short and simple blog post. To sum it up, he's my Prince Charming. I've never been one to believe in fairytale romance, but this is the real thing. Chris just gets me. He loves me on my good days and my bad days (and trust me - you don't want to see me on a bad day.) He's seen me go from deliriously happy to angry to sad to practically insane, often all within the span of an hour. He appreciates my strangeness, my nerdiness, and even my moodiness. 

Being silly


  And in case you were wondering, he has been absolutely 100 percent supportive about my arm. He's the one who's given me the courage to stop wearing my prosthetic all the time, telling me that he finds me prettier when I'm comfortable. And you know what? He's made me believe it too. I do feel a lot happier and more confident without it. I look like myself. And according to Chris, that's a pretty good thing.

  So yes, I really hit the jackpot in terms of finding my other half. And now, I get to celebrate another year of his life, another beautiful year we're together. I'm off to go eat some yummy cake now, but I'll leave you here with a quote by an author I really admire (because if anyone knows anything about love, it's him):





Peace,
Caitlin :)


Thursday, March 22, 2012

the coolest people with limb differences


 Good morning, everyone! I thought today might be a good day for some inspiration. Check out this Pinterest board I put together of people who've beaten the odds and accomplished incredible things. Read their stories here and tell me what you think!


Peace,
Caitlin :)



Monday, March 19, 2012

media/meme monday - the cutest thing on three legs


  This cartoon has been going around the web for a while now, so I thought I'd share it here. I just love the way the puppy doesn't let the boy indulge in self-pity. What do you think? 




Wednesday, March 14, 2012

the irresistible charm of one-legged young men


  Hi again! I'm so sorry for the hiatus; I was crazy-busy with midterms and work and all that other fun stuff. Anyway, I am now on Spring break. And it actually feels like Spring! The weather is glorious and classes don't start again until Monday, which means that I have more time and energy to invest in my absolute favorite pastime - reading! For those of you who don't know, I'm a HUGE bookworm. If it were up to this English major, I would spend every day at home in my pajamas devouring all the books on my ever-growing To-Read list. Of course, I don't get to choose which ones I read for school. And while I love the classics and the odd/obscure novels the professors pick, I also like to give my brain a rest and indulge in some literature geared towards young adults. Speaking of YA fiction, has anyone else noticed the recent trend in teen books? Two YA novels currently on the bestsellers list feature love interests who happen to have one leg.

Trailer for The Hunger Games movie, which hits theaters March 23rd

  Okay, so maybe the word "trend" is a bit strong. It's still too early to tell whether or not it will take off with other authors. But judging from the huge fandoms dedicated to these two books and the upcoming movies based on them, bipedal boyfriends might just become a thing of the past (unless, of course, their second leg is a prosthetic.) In case you haven't heard about these dreamboats (do we even use that term to describe hotties anymore, or is that just my mom's influence rubbing off on me?), allow me to enlighten you. In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins creates a post-apocalyptic society that holds an annual competition where randomly selected people (all under the age of 18) must fight to the death in a specified arena; the sole survivor is then pronounced the winner. The protagonist is Katniss Everdeen, a teenaged girl who starts to fall for Peeta Mellark, her former neighbor and biggest threat in the Games. Now I'm sorry if this spoils a part of the story for anyone, but Peeta eventually loses his leg to a bad infection. So for the next two books (yes, The Hunger Games is a series!), he wears an artificial leg. And now oodles of young girls are in love with his baker-next-door charm and boyish good looks. If you don't believe me, check Tumblr.com and run a search for his name. While you're at it, you can also look up "Augustus Waters."

Book trailer for The Fault in Our Stars

  Let me start off this next book description by saying this: The Fault in Our Stars is my favorite book. Ever. MY FAVORITE BOOK. Did you get that part? It's pretty rare for a bibliophile to single out just one book as a favorite, especially if said book has only been available in stores (and online) for less than three months. That should be a testament to the awesomeness that is the author John Green. I'll be honest - I have a huge literary crush on the man. After all, he created Augustus Waters, the smart and thoughtful boy who lost his leg to cancer and knows how to make a girl swoon. If someone can make you fall hopelessly in love with a fictional character, he/she has mastered the art of writing fiction. Sorry if I sound sort of pathetic, but I closed the book with a sigh and a tear and a wish that Augustus were a real person. I also made my boyfriend and my best friend read it, and I'm pleased to announce that they were equally impressed by it. So if that's enough of an incentive to read the novel, go for it! I highly suggest you do. Plus, Green manages to infuse so many deep insights and literary allusions into the novel that you might even discover a new truth about your life. Ah, the transformative power of literature! But I digress....I just get really excited about books like these!!!

This pic includes the whole Hunger Games series AND The Fault in Our Stars!

  And you know the best part about The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars? They don't focus so much on the characters' disability. Instead, Peeta and Augustus are depicted as whole and attractive young men with the same human thoughts, desires, emotions, and weaknesses as anyone else. Their one-leggedness has nothing to do with the way they win over their girlfriends and essentially save the day. How cool and revolutionary is that - characters whose disabilities are really just part of them and don't define them or symbolically represent a deeper issue in their personalities? It's a big step up from The Odyssey's blind seer Tiresias or A Christmas Carol's pitiable Tiny Tim. I mean, Peeta and Augustus take the old disability trope of the poor little cripple and flip it on its head. And now, millions of readers around the world are falling in love with their genuine personalities and general hotness, regardless of how many limbs they possess. So if anyone reading this post just happens to be an established or aspiring YA fiction writer, take note of this: giving a character a disability is NOT going to make him or her any less awesome or relatable. If the success of The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars is any indication, your book might even end up on the bestsellers list.

Peace,
Caitlin :)

Note: If you'd like to check out The Hunger Games and/or The Fault in Our Stars, I've listed them (with links) under the "books i recommend" page on this blog.




All images found on either Tumblr or Google Images

Monday, February 27, 2012

media/meme monday - how to hold twins one-handed



  I have an announcement to make! Drumroll please...

  Two of my cousins are expecting babies! Yay! Babies are my favorite thing in the world! And they're both due this summer! Okay, now before I get carried away in all the excitement, I should probably admit that I'm a bit nervous about babysitting not one but TWO newborns. I mean, I've had plenty of experience with infants (remember my little cousin Luke, who will now be a big brother?), but I've only ever had to care for one at a time. How will I even hold both babies with one-and-a-half arms? 

  Thankfully, Ryan Haack from Living One-Handed made a video specifically on this topic. Watch and learn how he single-handedly (yes, I make really lame puns) holds two beautiful twin babies! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

cool things for one-handers



 

Check out my Pinterest board of my favorite products for one-handed folks! 




Peace,
Caitlin :)