Monday, January 30, 2012

media monday - the awesomeness that is josh sundquist

Confession: Josh Sundquist has so many great videos that I had a really hard time picking just one. I mean, they're all so different! He has videos on everything from his motivational speeches to the animated version of his bestselling book Just Don't Fall (which is an awesome read, if you'd like to look it up in the Amazon search box to the right of this page) to funny song parodies to cool vlogs. So once you're done viewing this video, I suggest you go to his YouTube page  and watch some more.

Oh, and have I told you about the time I met him on a random street in New York? Yeah, it was pretty sweet. Though I've met my fair share of celebrities, I have to say that I was most starstruck when I met Josh. I was just leaving work for my lunch hour when I ran into him crossing the street. He was super nice and let me take a picture with him (I'll spare you the sight of that, since I looked horrendous that day.) Anyway, I was so stunned and out of it that when I reached the front of the line at Starbucks and the barista asked me what I wanted, I just blurted out "nothing" and then awkwardly walked out when he asked me why I'd been on line in the first place. Said barista spent that whole summer thinking I was a crazy person (I know this because he told me.) In the end, of course, that horribly embarrassing moment was totally worth it.

Why are you still reading this? Go watch his videos!!!

Caitlin :) 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

interview with ryan niemiller

 Hey there! A lot has happened this week, the highlight being that my boyfriend Chris started a new job in New York. I'm super proud of him, and I know that he'll do amazingly well there. He's very interested in the work he's doing, which is the key to any great career. This, of course, got me thinking about my own future career and jobs in general. While I've never experienced discrimination because of my disability (I work as a writing tutor and as an intern for NBCUniversal), I know that it's a very real possibility for many people.  So to get a better perspective on the matter, I decided to interview Indiana-based comedian Ryan Niemiller. Here's what he had to say (I color-coordinated it for you because I'm thoughtful like that):

Me: Has your disability ever been the reason why you didn't get hired for a job you applied to?

RN: Certainly. It comes with the territory. People see me and since I have a fairly obvious disability, it's much easier to assume I can't do something without giving me a shot than it is to give me the opportunity and see what I can do. I used to get really mad about it, but it's a natural human defense mechanism for some. But really, as frustrating as it is, do I really want to work for a place that assumes I'm incapable?

Me: I understand that you're a professional comedian. Do you view your disability as an advantage or disadvantage in your stand-up career?

RN: I'd say it's 80/20 advantage to disadvantage. My arms make me unique. I can guarantee there are no other comedians just like me in the world. I'm not just a late 20's single white guy comic. I have something that helps me stand out, a hook if you will (pun intended). I have something I can immediately bring the audience in on. At the same time, there's the fear of me being a comic who ONLY talks about his arms. Plus, a lot of times I have to over prove I am actually funny and not just a gimmick. There's certain bookings I probably don't get because people assume I'm a novelty act. Luckily, it doesn't happen often.

Me: I know that you work as a barista at Starbucks. What's the strangest reaction a customer has had to your arms?

RN: A little girl screamed in terror once, which was fantastic for my self esteem. But really, there's not a lot of strange reactions. Most people just stare at most. I'll get the occasional, "Wow, you're such an inspiration!" line, which is irritating, but really, most people just want their damn lattes. :)

Me: Would you say that your co-workers treat you differently because of your arms?

RN: Not at all. Anyone who gets to know me and sees me operate doesn't worry about my arms anymore. Once I am given the chance to prove myself, I take care of business and it's a non-issue.

Me: So let's say you were born with two "normal" arms. Would you still be in the profession you are now?

RN: I'd like to say yes, but honestly, I doubt it. I developed a sense of humor as a defense mechanism - I'd make all the jokes before anyone else had a chance to. If I was "normal," I doubt that would have ever developed the way it did. I'd probably be an accountant or something equally lame. Ha ha.

Me: Let's take that question a step further: how do you think your life would be different if you had "normal" hands?

RN: I'd probably be happier, as unpopular of an answer as I'm sure that is. Not that I'm necessarily miserable right now or anything, but my arms do lead to a lot of issues that I wouldn't have to deal with otherwise. Getting jobs wouldn't be as difficult, it would be easier to find someone to date, etc. But really, that's just speculation. There's no real way of knowing. Maybe I'd be even worse off.

Me: How do you respond when someone asks you about your hands?

RN: It depends on tone. If it's a child, I try to be patient, because as irritating as it is, they don't know any better. If it's an adult who I don't know well, usually with annoyance. Because I rarely get asked simple questions about it. I know some people are just curious so I try to be patient, but I'm almost 30 years old - I am a little tired from answering questions.

Me: What's the best way to own your disability? By that, I mean: what do you do to feel confident when the world gets you down?

RN: I make money off it. I travel the country telling jokes about it, and then they hand me a check afterward. For me, it's hard to get much better than that. And recently, I've just started cutting out a lot of the negative energy in my life. So if you're not with me, you're against me. That's how I own it.

Me: Now I'm about to go all college-application-interview on you: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

RN: Not a damn clue, and that's half the fun. :)

   Thanks so much to Ryan for his time and honest answers. 

   If you've got comments or thoughts or ideas or anything else you feel like sharing, comment below! 

Caitlin :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

media monday - april lockhart's different

  I was sooo excited when I found this video a few days ago because this is the first time I've seen another one-armed girl playing guitar! And she's sooo good! This just goes to show that if you really want to do something, you just need to put in the work and do it. A disability is not the end of the world nor is it a deterrent to your dreams.

  On another note, I really want a guitar prosthetic like hers. It's way cooler than duct-taping a pick to your little arm.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

out with the old

  Hi there and happy Saturday! I've just finished my first week back to school after a too-short winter break, and I can't say I was looking forward to abandoning my comfortable bed for rainy days filled with reading syllabi. Also, I foolishly wore suede boots the first day that don't do well when wet, so I probably looked a bit crazy walking in weird patterns in an effort to avoid puddles. Anyway, the point of this post is not my poor fashion judgment or my attempt to discreetly text friends during boring lectures. Instead, I'd like to talk about something my boyfriend Chris and I decided to do a few days ago. 

  We were sitting on my living room couch reminiscing about the past year. After a while, though, the feelings changed from nostalgia to bitterness and regret. We both felt that we were still carrying a lot of our past hurts and fears around with us. And that would NOT do. So we decided to write all the bad things on small strips of paper. We jotted down everything that was bothering us. I bought a candle and found some matches and, together, we burned all the memories of everything that had ever hurt us. 

  Of course, I thought a lot about my arm. It wasn't that being one-handed is so awful. But a lot of bad experiences related to my disability have taken a toll on my confidence. 

  There was the time in middle school when I had just lost a race at a swimming meet and was pretty upset about it. My mother, trying to comfort me, told me that it was okay because I was the "inspiration" of the team. That stung. I wanted to win, not inspire. And it was my own mother throwing me the surprise pity party. 

  There was also the time when my dad ranted about how I should just stop trying to be athletic because I would never be good at sports due to my lack of an arm. As if my slow running speed was somehow the direct result of my missing hand. 

 Oh, and the time when my fourth grade crush freaked out when he saw my short arm. That was fun. (Not.)

  Anyway, the point is that human beings often carry the hurts of the past in their back pockets and allow them to ruin their futures. I refuse to let that happen to me. I'm done toting along ugly memories and insecurities that just weigh me down. I want to be able to walk around in public without the fake arm and still feel okay. I want to be comfortable with my accomplishments and not feel like I always need to prove myself to everyone. I want to enjoy all the good things in my life.

  So, with Chris, I watched the flames destroy the burdens we'd been holding onto. And it was such a relief to see those little pieces of paper, the symbols of all our past hurts, disappear. We almost burned down my house with our little bonfire (the smoke alarms did not take well to what we were doing), but the feeling that we are not defined by the past and are more than what has happened to us was worth it.  

  I'm not saying that every issue I've ever had faded with that night; life's a process and I'm not perfect. But I did learn to separate myself from the labels other people have given me. I am not "Inspirational" Caitlin or "Bad at Sports" Caitlin. I'm Caitlin, the girl who has a wonderful life and a beautiful future ahead of her. And no one is going to take that away from me. 


Caitlin :)

(image found on 


Sunday, January 8, 2012


  See that adorable little boy? That's my baby cousin Luke. He's a precocious and hyper two-and-a-half-year-old who never fails to make everyone around him smile. He is super huggable and always manages to bring out my inner child. What does this have to do with my disability, you ask? Well, a whole lot. As a one-handed girl, I find people staring at me ALL THE TIME. While I'm certainly used to random strangers gawking at me (I've had twenty years to get accustomed to it, after all), I'm still not completely comfortable with it. I know that the staring's inevitable, but it's no fun being the center of attention for a negative reason. Anyway, I remember being super nervous when Luke was born. I wondered what he would think of my little arm when he grew older. I knew he would one day realize that his older cousin was different from everyone else. Fortunately, though, I've learned that I wasn't giving little kids enough credit. 

  Now that he's a toddler, Luke can speak in full sentences and get his ideas across. He's becoming more and more aware of the world and the people around him. Just the other day, I was babysitting him when something really funny happened. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Luke perched on my lap and with my computer in front of us. (Luke is a little obsessed with Mac Photo Booth, so we spend quite a bit of time taking silly pictures together). Anyway, I was typing on the keyboard with my right hand and my little arm when Luke noticed that something was off. He grabbed my right hand and then touched my little arm, as if wondering why they were so different. Pointing to my short arm, he asked, "What's that?" I told him it was my "special arm" and hoped I wouldn't have to explain further. (After all, how could I expect a kid to understand congenital amputation?) Instead of freaking out, though, Luke accepted my answer. He started asking the same "what's this" question of my right hand, my nose, my eyes, my hair, etc. Basically, he turned his curiosity and my willingness to respond into a game. Pretty smart for a toddler, huh? And you know what I've come to realize? He's not the only kid who accepts my disability as completely normal.

  I was recently at a family party where my cousin had invited her husband's family too. They're all in their 30s and 40s, so you can bet there were plenty of cutiepie babies and children running around. Since I was wearing a festive sleeveless dress, my prosthetic arm was obvious to anyone with eyes. One small boy (I'd say he was around 4 or 5 years old) came up to me and asked about my hand. Now that I'm a pro at making my handicap sound cool to little kids, I said that it was my bionic arm and that I'm part robot. The boy's eyes immediately grew huge and a shocked expression took over his adorable little face. Oh great, I thought to myself. He's super scared now; I'm going to give this poor kid nightmares for the next week or so... But then he surprised me. He yelled out, "Wow, that's awesome! I wish I had that! I don't even have that at home." He looked sad for all of five seconds and then pulled me by the hand (yes, the fake one) into the video game room. Just like that, I was suddenly his best friend and video game opponent of choice.

  So there you have it, folks. Kids are not the little monsters I thought I had to be afraid of. They're not the judgmental and pitying people I once thought they were (nope, that's adults). And they're not even pint-sized bullies who treat you like you're inferior (again, that's adults). They're just these wise little beings willing to accept and love you despite your having one and a half arms. 


Caitlin :)

Monday, January 2, 2012


  Hello again, friends. Before we do anything else, let me just ask you this question: what's the first thing you notice about the above picture? Is it the lovely dress (which I bought on sale at Macy's for $15, no joke!)? The guitar in the background? The fact that I'm wearing sunglasses indoors? Or maybe that I look quite a bit heavier than I do now (that's what I'm noticing, at least)? You might even note that I'm wearing long black opera gloves, which I like to think makes me look elegant and oh-so-sophisticated. I highly doubt, however, that the first thing you notice is my lack of a left arm. And of course, that's no coincidence. 

  Ever since I was a preteen, I've tried my best to hide my limb deficiency from the world. Jackets, blazers, and long-sleeved shirts became the staples of my wardrobe. I wanted to completely eradicate people's awkward stares and ignore the fact that I had one arm. I wore a variety of trendy sweaters on casual days and (like the picture shows) long gloves for more formal occasions. I was so good at hiding it, in fact, that my boyfriend Chris didn't even realize I was missing a limb when we first met. This was a personal victory for me because I so badly wanted to be seen as normal. It wasn't until recently that I finally felt the need to break free of all that. 

  Chris actually helped me a lot in that department. He's very supportive and assures me that my arm doesn't bother him at all. When we first started dating, I refused to take off my prosthetic arm (which is Myoelectric and freaking awesome, but I'll get to that in another post) for him. I remember swearing that I would never let him see my short arm, not even if we got married. Looking back, I now see how comically ridiculous I was being. It took me a while, but I eventually warmed up to the idea. So I went for it and removed the prosthesis for the first time, fully expecting him to break up with me immediately afterwards. It's funny the way life works sometimes, though. It turns out that he thought I was breaking up with him. He was so nervous because he thought that I wanted to end things. I couldn't believe it. I thought he would freak out when he saw what I really looked like. Instead, he smiled at me and spoke the two words that would make any girl deliriously happy: "You're beautiful." 

  Now before I allow this post to get obnoxiously sugar-sweet and mushy, I should mention that I didn't just drop all my insecurities and suddenly become a hundred percent comfortable with myself. That's a process, and I'm not totally there yet. But I did start to realize that trying to cover up a part of myself was not working for me. I'm now at the point where I can deal with the stares and the questions, but I can't deal with being dishonest and ashamed of how I look. And just like a friend put it when I wondered out loud if the average Joe on the street could be attracted to a one-armed girl, at least I don't weigh 300 pounds. (Okay, I'm aware that that's not very politically correct at all, but it's a comforting thought. Fat people, feel free to console yourselves with the fact that at least you have two arms. Whatever works.) Anyway, I'm now well on my way to shedding the remnants of my cocoon to become a butterfly. (In this silly metaphor, the cocoon is the cumbersome fake limb and the butterfly is my perfectly asymmetrical self). One of my New Year's resolutions, actually, is to finally be able to walk around without the prosthesis and without a care in the world about it. So yeah, I'm looking forward to shedding those unnecessary 10 pounds of metal and plastic this year. Can't wait to show off that new figure when I get there.

Peace out,


Sunday, January 1, 2012

emerson lee

  I know we've only been friends for one blog post at this point, but I wanted to introduce you to someone (or something, rather) very special to me. See that beauty in the above photo? That's my guitar, which I've named Emerson Lee. I bought him on a whim two years ago when I was 18. My parents were skeptical and didn't believe that their limb-lacking daughter could learn to play, so I ended up just getting a cheap 80-dollar model from Amazon. com. Since no one in my family has ever played guitar and I didn't want to go for lessons because I was scared they wouldn't take me seriously, I bought several   books and instruction manuals to learn on my own. So began my journey of teaching myself how to play the lovely and complicated instrument. 

  I bet you're wondering right about now: why guitar? Why not something you can play with one hand, like a trumpet or a harmonica? To be honest, I don't exactly know. I have some theories, though. Part of me has always strived to prove myself and make sure everyone knows how capable I am. Another reason probably had to do with some pent-up anger at a "joke" I overheard a high school classmate say. She thought it would be funny to pose the question "how does Caitlin play Guitar Hero?" to her friends. The thing that bothered me about that was not that she was making light of my half-arm situation (I mean, I joke about it all the time). I was more insulted by the fact that she was assuming my inability to perform a task I could actually do pretty well. As a stubborn and slightly crazy woman, I resolved to prove to myself that I could not only play a virtual guitar but I could also play a real one. That whole incident certainly played a big part in motivating me to learn guitar. 

  But the biggest reason I took up playing that oh-so-wonderful six-string, if you want me to be truthful, had to do with laziness. It's no secret that I'm a huge procrastinator. I tend to avoid doing any sort of homework until five minutes before it's due. It's horrible of me, I know, but old habits die hard. Anyway, guitar served as a nice diversion during midterm and finals week. I perused every guitar book I bought and watched all the instructional YouTube videos I found. And before long, I was strumming that guitar like I was Taylor Swift. 

  How exactly do I play, you ask? Well, I hope the picture on top gives you a good idea of it. I use a left-handed guitar and basically tape a pick to my short arm so that I can strum. It's pretty simple, actually. And now that I'm a guitar girl, I can't even imagine how I spent so many years of my life without playing. The feeling I get when I play is the most amazing feeling in the world. I feel strong. I'm not the pitiable little cripple that some people consider me. I play an instrument that even someone with twice as many hands would find difficult to teach him/herself. I am strong. Regardless of what anyone says or thinks about me, I have my music and all it represents to back me up.

Peace out,

P.S. In case you were wondering, the handsome man in the photo above is my awesome-beyond-words boyfriend Chris  :)


  Hi there. Welcome to my newest blog, Stream of Caitlinness (kinda clever, huh?). On this first day of 2012, I'd like to A) wish everyone a Happy New Year and B) announce that maintaining this blog happens to be my New Year's resolution. Considering my past record of abandoning half-written blogs, I'm not sure how well I'll do with this. But hey, it's worth a try. Especially since I've decided to make this particular blog my most personal one yet. That means that instead of trying to stick to one overly specific topic, I'll focus on whatever comes to mind when I sit down to write. And trust me, my mind is a very random and scary and interesting place. Of course, this stream of consciousness idea won't be completely without direction.

  One thing I'd really like to explore and open up about is my disability. I've never been one hundred percent comfortable discussing it in a public setting (mostly out of the fear that I'll be judged). But I'm 20 now, and I think it's about time I get over my insecurities and start to live my life on my own terms. For anyone who doesn't know, I'm a one-armed girl. I was born without a left forearm, though I'm quick to point out that it doesn't really limit me in all the ways you would think. I get along just fine. Of course, I'm not saying that it's always an easy thing to deal with. I don't think I need to mention that I'm just a normal girl and have my share of insecurities. But my half-arm is a part of me, and I want to be able to embrace that. Hence, this blog has come into existence.

  So there you have it. If you're reading this, thanks for embarking on this challenging journey with me.

Happy blogging!