I’d like to introduce you to Christine. I’m lucky to have met Christine during this summer’s Nubability Athletics camp. (I snagged her for a selfie – she’s notorious about avoiding photography.) She attended the summer camp as an adult mentor. Before meeting her in person, she has offered fantastic insight on the Born Just Right Facebook page and right here in this website’s comments section. We had some really great conversations this summer and I asked her to offer some insight on growing up with a limb difference. I know as a parent, I’ve instinctively felt the need to prevent Jordan from hiding her little arm in public. I worried it was because she felt bad about herself. Christine offers insight that helps me (and hopefully you) better understand. -Jen

I can remember my first day at summer camp as clearly as if it were only a few weeks ago (rather than over two and a half decades ago!). From the excitement of finally being old enough to attend a week long overnight summer camp to the prospect of sleeping in a cabin to the thrill of being with my best friend, Heather, I was on cloud nine… All except for the fear of what the girls in my cabin would say when they noticed my hand, my heart anticipating a slew of seemingly endless questions.

As vividly as if it were yesterday, I remember putting my hand in my pocket and managing to keep anyone from noticing it until after dinner when one of the girls saw my hand as I opened my ice cream sandwich and the questions began. While the questions didn’t do anything to hinder my love for summer camp (I attended and later worked at least one camp every summer for more than a decade) and the friends that I made there, they are still a poignant memory from my childhood, a reminder of the attention that my hand draws.

To most two handed people, my hand is an oddity, an obscurity and a limitation. For me, it’s just part of who I am.

I was born missing the majority of my left hand. My hand consists of a small palm and a surgically created, non-opposable thumb (my whole hand fits in a toddler mitten).  Much of my childhood was spent at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Plastic Surgery Hand Clinic where my hand and my story were on display for every medical student and resident as six hand surgeries molded and shaped my hand for more functionality.

Somewhere between being a teaching tool for up and coming surgeons and hearing the questions and teasing of my peers, I began hiding my hand to avoid attention. I grew tired of explaining that I was born that way, hated the teasing and started to detest being a living medical example (sorry to the medical professionals out there!). I just wanted to be a kid.

I wanted to be noticed for normal kid stuff, like my grades or my talents. I didn’t want to be singled out or special and, most of all, didn’t want the pity that so often followed the questions. I just wanted to be myself and, in my mind as a child, that was best accomplished when I hid my hand.  Even now, my “little” hand is often in my pocket (though that is partly because it gets cold more easily than my other hand), under my arm, behind an object that I’m carrying, etc. After several decades, it’s an ingrained coping mechanism, a subconscious habit.

I don’t want my hand to define me, but it has definitely shaped me. It’s not my whole story, but it is a running theme throughout the chapters of my life. For me, it is a badge of honor, my greatest struggle and one of the things that makes me who I am. It’s taught me much about perseverance when those around you think you can’t do something, accepting those with differences and the joy that can be found in simple victories (finding a vegetable peeler that I can actually hold, finally learning to open my office door while holding a cup of coffee, etc.). I’m not ashamed of my hand or of its mark on my life because I don’t know who I would be without it. I simply don’t always want to share it with strangers (kind of an ironic statement considering this is a post on the internet!) because it seems like a personal thing to me.

To some, my response of hiding my hand may seem to be a sign that I’m ashamed of it or have a lack of confidence. I’m not sure that anything I say will sway their opinion on the matter, but my hand has never stopped me from attempting anything. I’m not ashamed of my hand. If I was, I wouldn’t use it every day, I wouldn’t talk about it with my friends and family and I certainly wouldn’t take jobs where I constantly interact with people, but these things are all true about me. I may do what I can to minimize the stares, but I haven’t avoided life and I would never recommend that anyone else do so either.

I want to be known for more than my hand, to be noticed for more than merely my missing digits, the one characteristic that, at times in my life, has overshadowed everything else about me. I’m all grown up now, but I still just want to be normal.

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I had mentioned earlier this week that Jordan was jumping into cross country. She jumped into all kinds of running events in the last year and wants to join in on kid triathlons next year. I’m really excited for her because she’s turning into a great runner and cross country is a fun way to get more involved. What took me off guard was her nervousness during our first evening practice. I don’t know why I am not more prepared. (She started off with some nervousness when she tried basketball for the first time earlier this year.)

When we got to practice, there were kids and parents sitting around listening to the coach speak about the season. Jordan looked all around and realized she didn’t know a single kid in the group. She often relies on friends to back her up when she deals with a ton of questions all at once. It is most certainly her confidence safety zone. Sending her off to her first run with the group led to her asking me to tell the coach she was nervous… And of course, the coach knew everything would be fine. Jordan just felt better having me speak up. My super independent kid still needs a little mom back-up. I appreciate that.

By the end of the first practice, Jordan says she made one friend who knows someone else with a limb difference and another girl who “might be a friend soon.” She’s opening up to a whole new circle of kids. It’s pretty awesome.

How do you overcome feeling nervous. Do you think you have tips that can help other kids and adults? I’d love to hear what others do to break out of the norm.

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How to respond to difficult questions

August 27, 2014

A physical difference is noticeable… and many cultures around the world struggle with accepting differences. Even if we live in a culture that doesn’t make it easy to live with a physical difference, I focus on helping Jordan grow up with confidence and the knowledge that she can try it all with one hand. A [...]

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Cross country season and other new changes

August 26, 2014

Today kicks off a brand new season of activities for the kids. Jordan has decided that she wants to start working toward her goal of participating in triathlons by joining our town’s youth cross country program. She and I started running together last year and she’s really taken to it. I’m excited she’s willing to [...]

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How Winter the Dolphin inspires Jordan

August 25, 2014

One month after the movie, Dolphin Tale, was released, our family had a special gift of visiting Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. October 2011 will forever be a special memory for us. But it also changed the way we view prosthetics in our household.  When Jordan was a baby and we started using prosthetics, [...]

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Celebrating the new school year while Mom is away

August 19, 2014

I have an amazing opportunity to speak at a TEDx event at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida today. I’s a huge honor but it also means I’m missing the kids’ first day of school. I know there are a lot of parents who are never able to send their kids off on the [...]

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Back to school planning before third grade

August 18, 2014

Jordan heads back to elementary school this week. She’s kicking off third grade with a lot of excitement. She tells me she is looking forward to everything… Even the homework! Earlier this summer, she told me she felt like third grade was a good time to stop creating yearly class books that tell her story. [...]

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An Under Armour thank you

August 15, 2014

Zippers are not impossible with an upper limb difference, but it can be something that takes a little extra time. Jordan learned how to zip at Camp No Limits many years ago. But when Under Armour announced last year it was producing MagZip clothing for the 2014 fall season, I couldn’t wait. When I noticed [...]

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The gift of friendship near and far

August 15, 2014

It’s pretty amazing how many connections we have made from the limb difference world thanks to Born Just Right. This summer, our travel gave us opportunities to meet many new adults and children in the limb difference world. A combination of Camp No Limits, Nubability Camp and a trip to California where we held two [...]

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VIDEO: Trying Under Armour’s MagZip for the first time

August 12, 2014

It finally arrived, an Under Armour MagZip jacket that I wrote about last fall. Almost the moment Jordan got out of bed this morning, I had her try it for the first time. I didn’t explain how it worked, I just challenged her to give it a try. I think she likes it. The base [...]

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Making a sparkle friend at Hallmark

August 11, 2014

When my friends see an adult with a limb difference, many tend to almost immediately speak to that person and mention Born Just Right. If they see an article or story about an adult with a limb difference, they make sure I see it. These little moments and stories often give me an opportunity to [...]

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Learning to play from limb different coaches

August 8, 2014

This summer was jam-packed with a combination of family and work trips. It’s a bit overwhelming to think all of the adventures we’ve enjoyed in between the times I’ve focused on my teleworking job. Since we are so busy every summer, I wasn’t able to schedule Nubability Athletics‘ summer camp. Until this year! Jordan has focused [...]

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The conversations we didn’t have at BlogHer’s Special Needs Mini-Con

August 6, 2014

I am honored to be a part of the special needs world. This blog’s focus has given me opportunities to help moderate and foster conversations for a number of different BlogHer special needs events through the years. I have met remarkable people. I learned so many things. I’m honored the BlogHer staff has consistently trusted [...]

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Exploring San Francisco while dancing

August 4, 2014

I am a Life360 ambassador which means I help contribute to the site’s blog and sometimes I share updates about the app. I was not paid to write this post, but Life360 shared a hotel room, two meals and transportation around San Francisco during our stay. I’m lucky to a part of a small community [...]

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Learning to ride a bike with one hand

August 1, 2014

This summer has included so many special moments. But one of our biggest highlights focuses in on a bike. I couldn’t stop taking pictures and shooting video. After months and months of attempts and periodic moments where I was sure it could happen, Jordan finally started riding her bike. How did it happen? Well, it’s [...]

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