Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Meeting Neil...Again! (or....That's Not My Name)

Sorry to have been AWOL for so long. I had a MRSA infection in October and that ate up my semester, added to grad school applications and school in general. Things have been good: I took a new Sigma little sister, and my friends are wonderful, but it's been rough.

Popping back in here for a follow up to here. You see, I live go to school in Atlanta, and Decatur is on the outskirts of that. In Decatur is Little Shop of Stories, and Little Shop of Stories won the Graveyard book contest to bring in Neil Gaiman. (Note: Did not go to party. Wanted to. Sorority annual party on same night. Roommate with car would not ditch)

Since in Dublin I got Katie's book signed, we absolutely had to go together. Obviously. Even if Mom wanted me to go home Sunday. Psh. It's Neil. So, we both called for tickets. I was on my way to the doctor's (again), she was at work. Having missed the first ticket day being home for Thanksgiving, we were semi-frantic. I got my ticket in the cab on the way to the doctor; I got her text saying she had her ticket about half-an-hour later. She got overflow. I had a "golden ticket"!

We left school around three, first attempted to park by Little Shop, which was fail, because Agnes Scott is passed the questionable Dairy Queen. Decided to move the car (gimp girl's face walking back to it? :-( ) We ended up parked not far from Presser Hall where the event was being held.

We had to separate then for seating. I entertained myself until six, people watching. Neil draws quite a diverse crowd. He spoke, which was excellent as always, and read from Odd and the Frost Giants, which I had seen, but not purchased and was really pleased with. Kid with a Crutch, woo! He also read from The Graveyard Book, which was a bit like having my audiobook come to life.

Then, signing. Having been at the 500+ people event at Chapters with him and Amanda, I wasn't surprised per say by how long it took. Also very pleased that they got the families with children out early, very forward thinking. I was frustrated, a tad, because my other friend had Christmas Party Plans and I kept having to text with the "almost, but it's going to be a while news". Also, with Katie in overflow, to even make it I had to arrange to be picked up. This is a point where I have to point out that it would have made a tad more sense to be able to get two tickets. I understand the why of the "no" there, but for Pete's sake, she had the car.

Then I got to meet Neil. He recognized me from Dublin, we chatted a bit. I gave him Neverwhere to sign because (oh, don't you know?) I have an INTERNSHIP IN LONDON for the summer!! Still working on funding, but so excited! Also, Blueberry Girl as a gift.

And, this is a negative that's purely personal,... My name is spelled wrong. It's the Post-It that they gave you to personalize's fault, and mine for not checking it, not Neil's. Still, my name is not "Chelesy" it is "Chelsey". So tad disappointing there. And I gave it to Roomie to take back through the line, but she must not have said anything. I wanted to take it back up, but I hated to hold up anyone else's night. No doubt I'll see him again.

Still, feels a bit like the latte cup that says Chesley.

At any rate, it was lovely lovely lovely seeing Neil again, and props to Little Shop for a wonderful night! Missed Amanda Palmer, of course, but she's in Boston doing Amanda-y things.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Review: That Summer

The inundation of book reviews and lack of real entries? That's because I'm doing nothing but reading and studying for the GRE....

that summer

That Summer has the hallmarks I love and find unique about Sarah Dessen's books. Her protagonists aren't extraordinary, and the world does not shift with their movements. Indeed, Haven's life during That Summer is not too different from any teenager's life during a particularly difficult summer. She does not fall in love, have tragedy occur or encounter significant loss or disease. Indeed, this changes in Dessen's later books, so I enjoyed it here. Her writing style is also evident in this first novel, with a tendency to revel the past in long explanation, which though possibly frowned upon, I sort of like.

The thing is, I can definitely pin this as a first novel. Some plot points could use definite revision. For instance, Haven's revelation about her sister's ex-boyfriend was not a revelation to me. As soon as the second girl, the sister's friend, was introduced I knew that something had happened between them. Having this girl be a member of her sister's friends-group before the boyfriend might have made things a little bit more mysterious. Really, I wouldn't have minded a relationship between Haven and Sumner. Nice and scandalous that, but I guess it doesn't happen in real life....

On a side note, it was fun reading this thirteen years after its publication. No cellphones, no internet. Kids lazily wandering the neighborhood on a summer's day, not engrossed by Gameboys. Oh how we change...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Review: Shadow of the Giant


I read Shadow of the Giant in one day, after ordering it from my Amazon wishlist. As opposed to Shadow Puppets which I grabbed as soon as it came out I forgot about this one for a long time, though I did want to know what happened to Petra, Bean and their babies. I have to say that I was a little disappointed. The overall story is good, but I felt there was too much focus on the third-party characters who do not mean as much to the reader. Also, and though I have noticed in Card's books before it was more here, there are huge chunks of plot-revealing dialogue that just get old. I also feel that sending Bean out to space just as he did Ender was a bit of a cop-out, though the one-missing child arc is interesting. I also predicted the Peter and Petra ending during the first chapter of the book. I feel like Card is stretching these out unnecessarily, to be honest, as a fan of the Ender's Game/Shadow books since I was fourteen I kind of wish he would stop and leave us with the glory that is the first few books.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mobility vs. Independence

I've decided that this is something that you may only think about when your mobility is hindered and you are already also mindful of disability in general. Perhaps not, but I know my view is skewed by both.

Today the doctor rebandaged my leg, complete with splint. After a Must Get it Off panic attack last night left me hating the splint I was not pleased. I'm moving around pretty well, can get up and down the stairs, but cannot be my bouncy self and I do NOT like it. Part of my dislike may initiate from my knowledge that I am potentially messing up my gait with the heavy limp, combined with my dislike of the inherent reliance woven into the use of a wheelchair by a girl with weak upper-body muscles.

This duality has got me thinking. My predicament should only last another week at most; I should have the stitches out before I return to school, but it gives me a different view on a question I've often pondered. Wheelchair use by those who could have limited mobility with mobility-aids. To me the question used to be a no-brainer. Use the most easily-wielded aid to gain independence and avoid the difficulties of the life of a chair-user.

Yet, with the advent of more user-friendly electric chairs I often see those who have mobility opting for the chair. This is a different level from the dependence that the traditional chair implies; there is more mobility involved with the electric chair as well, but there is still a certain degree of dependence that even a walker or crutches do not lead to.

It's all up to personal choice, of course. Crutches vs. Walker vs. Chair, and what one's body can tolerate for any period of time. I've certainly opted for chair instead of cane a few times this weekend, but I have healing to take into consideration and stitches that must be out before the 20th August. Still, for one who has always prized both mobility and independence to have both limited is eye-opening.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Presenting Myself

I was going to update immediately after my surgery,  but there was not much to say except "doing better than expected "and "ow". This weekend, though, my friend Sarah and I drove over to Ft Walton where Mom's conference was. I was presenting the "this is what happens when a child is mainstreamed" story and Sarah was my helper, pushing the wheelchair and such. Having her tagging along with me made me realize some things about perspective.

For her it was the first time hearing some of my story, including the difficulty I was going through when we first became friends. She was one of the first people from high school who I remember really asking for help after the eye surgery and leg infection that categorized my junior year. We had just become friends over the few days of the Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa and she just happened to be near me in a crowd when I really needed an arm to hold onto. The rest is kind of history. She went to boarding school and we just kept in touch. We see each other every Thanksgiving, Christmas and summer and I've gone up to NYU to visit her a few times.

My point is this: she's never known me not needing a little help, or cared, which is why it made it easier this weekend when she was helping with the chair. If I need it at school in a few weeks it might be harder because they've never really seen the worst. Perspective.

My leg seems to be doing pretty well. A little painful in places, with a massive splint, but he should reassess and hopefully bandage it more loosely on Monday. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Growing up I used to say that if I could write a book like Ella Enchanted I would be happy. Now I still love the book and audiobook, but I don't write fantasy. The goal is there, to be able to craft language in that way, but the world building isn't me. It's funny when you look at my bookshelves; I read so much fantasy and historical fiction, but I write neither.

Rereading I Capture The Castle, I think my goal has shifted. To write with the elegant grasp on prose that Dodie Smith grasps in a timeless novel that way.... well it would be amazing. I'm not sure I will ever get there, nor be able to create a scene like that magical Midsummer's Eve that Cassandra spends with Simon, but it would be amazing.

I spent this morning lying in bed reading the book; not unlike the first time I read it lying in the hotel room at the Hilton Orly in Paris. Now the book is coupled with a longing for London that every glimpse of the city in media gives me, but also a longing for love. Though Cassandra does not end up in the happily married way of Eliza Bennett, she gets love, and magic, and beauty. This summer, when so much is on the cusp, even the yellow light of my bedroom against the pink of my quilt seemed anticipatory. Funny how that can be in a moment of doing nothing.

Well, time to go get lunch. I think we're getting sushi, last-meal style before tomorrow's surgery. This moment is odd.... Today I can move freely and tomorrow I won't be able to. Still, a month from now a lot will as  be better. Or, hopefully.

I'm fighting pessimism a little, because it is rare that things go just as planned, and my mother's worries seep into my conscious. The hope of youth, though, is everlasting and...

After the surgery on my right foot at a later date there will be boots and Converse hightops calling my name!!!!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Charting the Course

Today my mother and I set off for Ft. Walton. I had knitting in hand, so I was set, right?

Except I didn't have my chart. Quite the conundrum. Do you assume that you know it well enough to just keep going? A sleeve with three repeats done says you do. But is it worth the frogging if you mess it up?

In the end, I knit for a little ways, just as far as I was sure and then read. I'm rereading I Capture The Castle, because it's not summer if I don't.

In disability news, I'm having surgery Wednesday to do something about the excess skin on my ankles. Just the left this time, but the right at either Christmas or next summer. I am SO excited. This means high-tops and boots which I have not been able to wear since the lymph-node injuring accident of 2000. Then I was eleven and not interested in such paragons of fashion. I am scared, a tad, because I always am about surgery, but hopefully all will be well.

I think I may attempt Blog a Day in September. Not that I have, you know, scholarships to apply for or recruitment to deal with....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Youth Leadership Forun

This past weekend I went to the Able Trust Youth Leadership Forum in Tallahassee. It's an annual event which just celebrated its tenth anniversary. I went in 2005 as a delegate, 2006 as a delegate and then travelled for two years. This year I cam back as a facilitator and part of the adult staff.

It was one of the best experiences I have had in a long time. I was slow to understand that I had a part in the disability community, because I was never raised thinking that disability was one or even two on the list of identifiers I had mentally. My friends with disabilities were the same way, so even in my first two years at YLF I did not really see that not everyone was that way.

In the traveling I have done and the exploring of my own place in the world of disability my eyes have been opened. I felt almost like a delegate again this year, It was truly amazing. I saw the delegates learn about services that they had not known about, but which gave them hope for lives away from their parents and living as independently as possible. As for me, I just try and impart my firm believe that you should dream with your creativity first and be pragmatical with your disability later or when your mother makes you....

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Little Things

Sometimes it really is the little things that make you happy. Recently I purchased two things that have made my life happy. The first was a set of necklace clasps that attach to your lobster claw necklaces and make them magnetic. No more fiddly clasps that I can't do, and it opens up WORLDS! And gives me time to struggle with make up and earrings....

Also, I got a cute little desk mate coffee mug that is shaped like a cup, with a handle, but still 16oz. Easier to hold, and green. (well... okay, it's plastic bust still)

Little happinesses.

Friday, July 10, 2009

surgery and stuff

I'm having surgery next month to remove some excess skin from my left leg. Both legs need it, but with two big commitments within weeks of each other and classes starting I can't afford the downtime to do both at once. It's a balancing act.

It's taking care of body stuff as well as real stuff. It's knowing how much help to as for to succeed well on your own. It's ten minutes spent bandaging and ten on hair and make-up.

And it's trying to figure out how much of you it makes up.

Someone at a meeting for a governmental disability funding issue asked me this week "how" my career choice was based on my disability. And, it isn't.

Except, if I wasn't disabled would I be aspiring to be... a travel writer? An actress? Would it be different?

Well, yeah. Because I'd be different. I wouldn't have been sick as much as a kid, so maybe I wouldn't have read as much. Maybe I'd be more socially awkward, because I could have disappeared more easily. Maybe I'd be less self-conscious.

But maybe not. This is what i have, this is what I'm working with. So no, my career choice is not based on my disability. But it plays a part, because it's a part of me.

Not the whole. And I hope it never is the whole because then I have failed
Disability is a balancing act. It's knowing how much to ask for, help wise, to make you able to succeed on your own. It's taking care of bod

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Just So You Know

I'm applying for a Rhodes scholarship. It's kind of a lark, because I have not dewormed cats in the Congo so would never get it, but I'm still a tad hopeful that I'll get an interview.

My problem, while obsessively writing and rewriting my personal statement, has been the fact that the Rhodes has a specification that applicants be "able to lead the vigorous life" that will lead to being an asset to the international community.

Did I mention that my line of narrative for my statement has to do with disability disclosure?

Reasonably I know that i have already shown the ability to handle a vigorous lifestyle with the backpacking and the refusual to let my disabiltiy get in the way. Part of me wishes though that I was still acting under the "tell them later" philosophy instead of writing a statement about why I no longer do that.

Then, if my disability is a reason for my not being considered it just shows what I am traveling to demonstrate and writing against anyway.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

All Moved In

I decided to move everything here so that I only have one blog to update, in the hopes that I'll do i more. We'll see.

I'm still working on the cabled tote knitting wise, and have moved onto the Dickinson pulloever from Interweave a while back. I'm liking so far but only into the first sleeve.

Reading Jude the Obscure, which is taking longer than I planned, still better than giving up like I did on David Copperfield. Also watching a lot of Grey's Anatomy and working on graduate school applications. I end up disclosing disability in nearly all of my statements. If it prejudices people that is their problem and I would not want to geo there anyway. For some schools, their Disability Services inspired me to look closer at the program and I hope  that they see that as unique rather than daunting.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I finished something!

I have been working on the freaking cabled tote from Interweave for six months. It doesn't want to be finished. It is felted. The cables have been needle-felt outlined.

But it still needs to be lined. And I have to order the handles.

So it's not finished.

But these arePhoto 16

Monday, June 22, 2009

Oxford and London Again

I flew into Heathrow, took my bags to Gatwick, stored them and then got the bus to Oxford to pick up my suitcases. Stepping out onto George Street was like going home. i went to my favourite coffee shop, Combibo's, after getting my laptop from WISC. Then I had dinner with a friend to sleep on her floor. When I told her about all the insanity that had befallen me over a month she concluded that in a previous life my name was "Adolph H."

The next morning i went to Blackwell's one last time then got my suitcases and headed back to Gatwick. Due to timing of a concert ticket, I had to store my suitcases and go into the city for the night. Or I just needed an excuse to get back to my city.


I stayed at the Palmer Lodge again, this time up on the third floor, the attics where servants would once sleep. I loved it. I think the difference in me could be seen as I had to climb stairs to get to my room and I did not care. Staying with people on all floors of flats without lifts taught me a lot. I can do more than I thought.

The first night I went to the Apple Store. I lost my iPod on the plane, you see, and I knew I could not make it through the next days without one. You will soon see why.

That night I enjoyed the hostel, enjoyed having my laptop and relaxed. The next day I wandered around Piccadilly Circus and went book shopping. Then? I saw Taylor Swift at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire where i had a month and change before seen Lily Allen.

She was wonderful, although I missed the country songs of her US set. Partially why I got my friend Taylor Swift tickets in Atlanta for her birthday. (Concert addict, me?)


After the concert I did the tube-tube-train dash to pick up my stored laptop and get to Gatwick on the second-to-last Gatwick Express out of Victoria. I had researched on sleepinginairports.com, but I knew better. I don't sleep well with lights and people around.

So I watched Grey's Anatomy on my laptop.

The next morning I change into my Taylor Swift concert shirt, pushed my bags on a trolley that veered left and boarded a plane for Atlanta.

There were misadventures involving credit cards, wheelchair pushers who did not help me organize my things after security, the realization that it would have cost LESS to ship my bags, and a delayed flight into Pensacola, but eventually I made it home, in one piece.

And I'm ready to go again.

Istanbul (Was Constantinople)

I went to Istanbul on a similar mission as Athens: to see a friend. My friend Holly likes to point out that I go places for one reason. She's right. Because then if you get that one thing done, you're happy and everything else is an amazing bonus.

My friend Nesli and I met in Avignon two summers ago. We were on a youth exchange program to go to the Avignon International Theater Festival. It was the trip that sparked my travel bug and I was so happy to get to reconnect with someone that I had met there.

The stop ended up being the one in which I learned the most about a different culture and way of life. I was glad to be with people I knew there, Nesli and her boyfriend Ozon mostly, because they led the way and helped me on the uneven streets and busy roads. In turn, I got to better absorb the atmosphere without worry.

Istanbul is people. It is tonnes of people. It is also, in my opinion, where can see the most interesting fusions of culture. The European designer store right next to the ancient mosque. It's fascinating.

The Cistern

We also went to the Blue Mosque and Galata Tower


But the best part of Istanbul for me was just sitting drinking coffee with my friends and discussing difference. Perhaps I was just still ill from Athens, but I'm not sure. I think I just liked the casual chats. You get to know a place through its people.

The last night, we went to a gig where Nesli's brother's band was playing. They sang English covers alot, but towards the end of the night (morning...the gig didn't start until midnight), they sang Turkish songs and her friends tried to teach me Turkish dancing. It was an experience I will not soon forget.


The next morning I got on a plane. The stewardesses had English accents. I have never been so glad to hear accents that were definitively London.

Athens aka The Weirdest Week of my Life

I awoke in Vienna at eight in the morning to find that I could not find my contacts. The case just plain wasn't there. And then my locker, which opened with a keycard, wouldn't open. So I trekked blind, and I really mean blind, down to the reception desk to ask about it.

Push the door shut, they said. It'll open.

Well, it did. I got my glasses. The two Asian girls in my room were told to please keep an eye out for my contact case. One of them discovered... the contact. No case. I KNOW i did not just take out my contact and put it on a table, for Pete's sake. But no case.

I then made my way to the trainstation to get the airport bus. I went to take out cash at the ATM where.... I had no debit card. I spent my bus ride on the phone with capitalone. They had to reset my pin, so halfway though the identity questions the call gets dropped. Whatever, I thought, my phone is halfway dead, I'll take care of it in Athens.

I got to the hostel, having not eaten to preserve cash for the taxi to Athens Backpackers. I hand my card over to the very nice guy behind the desk and.... "Sweetheart, this was declined."

Back on the phone with Capitolone, I had my things all spread out on the lobby floor as I read my bank account number off from the checkbook I very luckily travelled with. Finally CapitolOne accepted that I did not steal my identity and I rambled my story off to the wonderful guys at AB who were much amused.

But it got better. The next day I went to Western Union to pick up my Visa 911 Cash. I felt achey, tired and a little weak, but that's traveling for you, right? I wandered around the Museum, got some coffee.


Had a very nice chat with a Greek man who had studied at the University of Chicago. He told me about Byron coming to Athens and directed me to his street.


At the hostel i chatted for a while with the guys downstairs, called my roommate (who was studying there) and made plans to meet in two days and went to bed. My side hurt, a lot, but I figured I had strained it with my bag.

Now, Katie told me Athens was not "Chelsey Friendly" but I assumed she meant the uneven roads, zoom zoom guys on scooters and the stairs.

Fast-forward to two in the morning. I sat in the hall with the night receptionist and a pediatrician who happened to be staying at the hostel. One of my roommates got them when I woke up crying in pain all through my abdomen. The doctor told me what I already knew: It could be my appendix. I tried to sleep again, dithered a little, but when the pain centralized in my side I knew. I had to go to the ER.

Cue the lassiez-faire Greek ambulance drivers, a doctor who was very impatient, a tech who did not understand "it works better without a tourniquet... and a surgeon who said it was not surgical. I was eventually diagnosed with a "viral infection" and given antibiotics, so I'm pretty sure it was a "bacterial infection".

I had to get a security guard's help to get a cab, and he was not too happy about it. I got back to the hostel to ask directions for a hostel and then gradually get my strength up to get up off the couch and get my prescription filled. Gareth, behind the desk, ordered me to get food. I did, then went upstairs and slept all day.

The next day, I spent mostly at the hostel. It hurt to breathe, which is not conducive to exploring. That night I got to see Katie, my roomie and best friend in the world. It made me happy and feel better, though she says I was not a feeling good Chelsey.


I planned to see the Acropolis the next day. I mean, I was staying at the foot of it. But... the next day was May Day. Athens basically closes on May Day. So for how my day really went, I give you this exchange:

"Gareth?" I need my key back. I left my phone in my room." Gareth laughed. i replied, "The best part? I realized it when i went to call Orbitz. My Olympic air flight has been cancelled and you're booked so I need to get on Turkish air tonight."

That crisis, at least, was solved and I spent another day in the hostel lobby watching the guys who work there goof off and be awesome. They finally put me, Bad Karma Girl, in a cab that night and I went off to continue my adventure in Istanbul.


I arrived in Vienna at nine or ten in the morning (love night trains) and got my stuff to the hostel. I was determined to explore because I had a tour booked the next day in Salzburg.


I made it to an internet cafe to print tickets for the last week of my travels and then wandered into a park. I sat by the fountain for a while and just watched people. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and I have to admit that I did not go into any of the museums for which Vienna is famous. I wandered around the park and then went in search for a bookstore.

I found The Pickwick a nice little cafe and bookshop with a DVD store at the bottom. I stayed for a while and read, chatted with the guy working and just enjoyed it. Then I went down and walked by a tributary (i think) of the Danube.

It was very nice, and I fell in love with Vienna. If only i liked German.

The next day, I overslept. I had booked... The Sound of Music Tour. And I almost didn't go. Because, really. Was I that much of a tourist dork?

Except that I paid for it. Cue the mad dash for the train that got me there five minutes before the tour left. And I saw some of the most beautiful scenery i have ever seen in my life.  Never mind that I knew most of the trivia from my Anniversary Edition DVD. The mountains and the lakes were so breath-taking. I am not exaggerating at all, and I am normally not one for scenery.


The guide was pretty adorable too.


The next day was my trip to Athens which began the weirdest week of my life.


My main goal in going to Zurich was this: See Ingrid Michaelson. I saw that she was doing a European tour while I'd be traveling and so I booked a ticket.

I carried said ticket around with me for three weeks.

I arrived in Zurich around nine or ten in the morning, got lost in the station and met up with my host, Christina. We had a really lovely breakfast at her adorable flat. I showered. Got the bus and then the tram to a shop to by Swiss Army Knives (MINE IS PINK) Ate dinner and got to the venue.

And my ticket was gone.

I went up to the guy at the door who, thankgod, spoke good English babbling about buying online and I COULD LOOK IT UP ON GMAIL FOR YOU OKAYS?

And he got on his walkie talkie and explained the situation. A few minutes later he nods. "We have you in our records. And he said to tell you that Oxford is a long way to come."

No kidding.

The show was amazing; I was this close to the stage in the tiny club:


And Ingrid and Allie were both looking gorgeous.



Ingrid was fantabulous as usual and RECOGNIZED ME from when I saw in Atlanta. And not even in October at the Hotel Cafe Tour because I had to be rescued when my ride abandoned me then and didn't get to say hello. From two years ago when I went to see her open for Matt Nathanson.

And I got back to my host's flat, without getting lost. Does. Not. Happen.

The next day we explored Zurich, which is very pretty, although I was mostly impressed with their transport. With the exception of older buses and trams with stairs it was all very accessible.

Zurich pic:


I got the train really late that night, and I've got to say the Zurich mainstation at night is kind of creepy. In fact, I honestly have to say I saw the most creep in Zurich as opposed to anywhere else. In the concert line there was a guy on crutches begging. In the country that's supposed to have amazing public aid. I don't know what to think about that.

The mountains were beautiful though.


When I left Ottignies I was rather grateful to be on my own again. I stayed at the Flying Pig Downtown Hostel where everyone was really sweet.

The first day, I did a touristy boat tour, going to the museums and major sites. The Anne Frank museum touched me in a way that I did not think it would. I went up every narrow flight of stairs thinking that were something like this to happen now, I would not make it, really .

But I was also proud that I made it up those stairs, even as I empathized with the older couples being shown to the emergency exits when they couldn't climb.

I also read The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time while i was there, which I had not read before. I think I connected much more with Anne than I would have were I younger, and her voice embedded itself in my mind for a while. Such a normal teenager in such horrible circumstances, and then I read another book that focused on the stories of six women who encountered Anne in the camps. What a horrible awakening to horror for the girl...


What also made an impression in Amsterdam was the Rijksmuseum. I love Dutch art, particularly Ver Meer and some of his more famous works were on loan from Washington so that made the visit even more special. (Picture taken just before I got told off for taking it)

.The one picture I took at the museum before I got told off

The second day I had to go to a doctor to get a bruise on my foot looked at, so I decided to change my night train booking and stay an extra day. I probably should not have booked all my trains in advance, really. The doctor's visit went well, as did the adventure to find a pharmacy.

Added bonus? It was free cone day at Ben&Jerry's, and though I usually do that with my friends in Atlanta it was awesome to be able to do it in Amsterdam!

The third day I went to some bookstores and the flower market.


The market was not what I expected, I really expected open air.

I really loved Amsterdam, for the water and the architecture. It reminded me a little bit of Kensington, to be honest which i loved. I also found some nice graffiti!


That night I set off for Zurich.

Another important thing for me about this leg happened that night. There was a young family sharing my compartment who had not booked a lower bunk. They had a child, a little boy of two or three who sang to himself happily. They wanted to switch, but I could not. The conductor made them wait as each stop boarded to see if the holder of the second bottom bunk boarded until eventually they set the child up in the top bunk with his father. All went well, but I felt guilty for not being the twenty-something who could happily sacrifice a bottom bunk and also glad that i had stayed in Amsterdam a day. My ticket for the day before had been a middle bunk, and I realized it would not have been as easy to change as the ticket agent had said...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Can I please just point out-- and after six trains in Belgium, I know-- that Belgian trains have ridiculously high steps? And it's not just me, when I returned home a friend of mine and I were discussing Belgium and he agreed. Epically high, a stranger pulling you up, nearly dropping your cane steps. It also does not make things better when you take the wrong train. Sorry if I expect the train on my platform five minutes before mine leaves actually goes where I need to go...

But that's beside the point. I went to Belgium to meet Maude, another young woman with Dermatosparaxis. I stayed with a woman who had once been her tutor. At her house I got to know her very nice daughter and two granddaughters, as well as her study abroad student from France. I also got to talk with several people about disability attitudes and such.

Maude and I had very different upbringings. I am very lucky to have parents who see my disability as just another part of me, and let me live my life as ordinarily as possible-- just with added bandages. Maude's parents were more careful, and justifiably so. It's a scary thing when the merest bump could lead to a long battle with infection.

But, I also learned how grateful I should be for American school inclusion and for my friends who never saw me as different.

One day while I was there my host and her exchange student took me to Bruges, an adorable city outside of Brussels. I used a wheelchair that day so that we could see as many sights as possible. They were very helpful, but I have to admit I cannot imagine being a wheelchair user on all of those cobbles!

I don't have a lot of commentary on Brussels itself, we only went for one day. I can say that the Cathedral of Saint Michel is GORGEOUS and so much more awe-inspiring in person. Also, it has a handicapped bathroom, fun fact.

Travelling, though, is more than seeing he sights. It's about cultural exchange. I got to speak French in my three days there, and that was so encouraging, to see that I could really manage. I also hope I got to inspire some thoughts about what a disability does and does not have to mean. I think that was part of my motivation for traveling in the first place....

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I was met in Copenhagen by Frederick, the boy I was couchsurfing with. I had flown in, been seen to the train by Wheelchair!lady and arrived in the Central Station on my own. He escourted me to his abode. It was a house converted into a sort of communal living place, ten people sharing kitchen and bathrooms. I can't say it would be my ideal living situation as an adult, but he liked it.

Changing, I found the first roadblock in my trip. I had scraped my shoulder. Royally. Bloodily. Call my mom and freak-outily. But I managed to bandage it and hope that it would be okay for lugging my bags just two days later. I then went in search of the Little Mermaid Statue.

I wandered that freaking park for hOURS before I found her, perched on the rocks on the edge of the sea. I wandered through the little neighborhood at the top of the park, around and out. I had had such a tiring day of travel, and I thought about giving up, but I just could not do it. I had come to Copenhagen for the fairy tale elements and I wanted to see her. So I wandered.

Once i found her and found my way out of the park I seriously considered taking a cab back to Frederick's. But I didn't. I got on the train, then the metro, then the bus and found my way back. And aching feet and all, I was proud.

Copenhagen's metro was tiny compared to what I was used to. Two lines, that connected with above ground trains. It was strangely sterile and automated with no friendly, if bored, voice telling me to 'mind the gap'.

But it had lifts. Elevators. Little boxes that took me, my cane, women with prams, old men and bicycles up to ground level. What a thought!

My next few days were spent wandering the city with one of Fredrick's friends, and then it was off to Brussels!


Monday, May 11, 2009

Writing in Retrospect

Well, I'm home now, but I have decided to write this blog about my trip in retrospect. I just did not have enough computer access while travelling to write, so I'll take it from here.

The last place I updated from was Edinburgh where I spent four days. Edinburgh is not really a city in which being mobility impaired is an easy thing. Lots of hills, and stairs. But you know what? Whenever I climbed a massive staircase or made it up a hill I was proud. Proud that I did something I should not have been 'able' to do. What that says, I am not exactly sure, but it's the fact of it.

From there I went to Glasgow, where I saw P!nk in concert. Most of my time there was downtime, but for the concert. In the super-long walkway between the venue and the train a very drunk woman came up to me and asked if I was 'doing okay' and to tell her if I needed help. A very nice offer, but she looked as though she needed the cane more than I did at that point.

The next day I had to get up early for my train journey between Glasgow and Stansted, because I am an idiot who did not realize that Glasgow has an airport. Anyway, at my last change, from Peterbourgh to Stansted I noticed a sign next to the stairs at the station. "If you require assistance, please inquire at customer services inside". I smirked at it as I hauled myself up the stairs, across the bridge, down the stairs. I had eight minutes to change trains. If I had needed assistance there is little way that I would have made it. Asking for help is not adequate replacement for a lift in this case.

Next up: Copenhagen

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Slow and Steady

Today I am proud of myself. I am in Edinburgh and I went to to the castle with my friend Lauren. We walked all around it, up the massive hill, saw the Scottish Honours (crown jewels) and aftwards I went to the Writer's Museum. When I made my way back to the flat erhere I am couchsurfing I realized that I did nmot feel dead, or like I could not take another step

It felt very different from trips when i was younger and with my family when I was always dragging. I have seen a lot here and on my travels thjus far, but doing it at my own pace has helped a lot. I am really proud at how much I can do and see, maybe slower than others and with more buses, but I am having a great adventure.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Rift is Open

Well, not really, but I am in Cardiff!

I got my stuff to the train this morning without use of a cab, of which I am proud. It took looking at the tube map and taking the train down to westminster because they had a lift-interchange instead of switching at the stair heavy Baker Street, but I did it!

The train and everything was uneventful, so that's nice. I spent my last day in London at the British Library and got to see the handwriting of some of the world's greatest authors. Inspiring, perhaps? We'll see!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

London Eye and Other Things

I love London. Let that be said.

Today I slept late, later than I wanted either because I forgot that Daylight Savings Time started. I went to the sushi restaurant next to the underground for lucnh and it was as good as it was overpriced. Then I went into Kensington Gardens and saw the Peter Pan statue. I had wanted to sit out there and read, and did for a while, but it was cold, so I got back on the underground to go to the cafe Nero I love. Goodge Street was closed this week too, which was annoying, but I sat in there for a while.

Then I decided to take the tube to Embankment and walk the pier. The day had turned clear and pretty, with only a few grey clouds. The pier was great, happing musicians competing with their drum heavy music. I decided spur of the moment to do the Eye (thought of you sevarina ) and it was LOVELY.

Oh but then. I got lost trying to find Waterloo. It should not be this hard. I went allll the way around through the car park, tired and dragging. I eventually found it, got dinner at Burger King and went to get on the Jubilee to go my merry way home.

BUT WAIT the reason that it was hard to find Waterloo is because construction was going on around Jubliee. There was no service.

Insert epic tube journey here.

Right. Sleep now.

And guys, no pictures for a while. I has not my cord. Sorry

Monday, March 16, 2009

Whirlwind Weekend

Two in the morning on Friday (well, Saturday) and I was trekking back from the end of term party, which was at a club that is a mile away from my place. The fact that my feet were dying then did not bode well for a weekend that would be pretty walking heavy; yet, I'm back from it and alive!

I got up on Saturday a tad later than planned, got breakfast at the News Cafe then got on a train to Paddington. Going the wrong way on the District Line got me on a train to Brighton at three, but soon enough I was threading through the Lanes on my way to meet Marcus, who I was staying with. Technically, I was surfing with Marcus's flatmate Aubrey, but he was working nearly the whole time. We met at the pier then went back to his flat for a while before getting dinner at a pub in the South Lanes.

Brighton is wonderful if you like to be able to walk everywhere (as I do) but can't walk much (as I can't). I'm slow, so it took me about forty minutes to make the trek that Googlemaps assures me should take fifteen from station to pier, but I love the sights you see along the way. The sound of the seagulls I miss so much led me to the seaside; shops totting coffee, ice cream, tattoos, jewellery and loads of other things that are quintessential to Brighton. Starbucks existing (somewhat) peacefully near local cafés; it's all great.

The gig I was going to was Emiliana Torrini, who is absolutely wonderful. She's really precious on stage, although I wish she had done a meet and greet. I really appreciate Amanda Palmer more for always doing so. I chatted with the two ladies next to me about music and gigs and such. Emiliana opened with Heartstopper, one of my favourites. There is something absolutely amazing about hearing the music that has permeated my life being sung by the person who created it. At a gig, the music absolutely surrounds you and it is wonderful.
Marcus picked me up from the church where the gig was and we spent the evening sharing a bottle of red and trading music and watching youtube videos. In the morning we went to a café and ate breakfast outside. Marcus gallantly walked with me to the station and I hoped on the train for London that left five minutes later (BritRail pass for the win!!!)

In London I drug myself onto the tube, I was rather tired by this point, to Goodge Street to go to my favourite Caffe Nero for a coffee and to nip into the Paperchase that it is above. The tube station was closed on Goodge though, so I had to go to Warren Street and walk up, then walk down to Tottenham Court when I was done. Ugh. Worth it though.
Then to the O2 for Snow Patrol and to meet my LJ friend to whom I was giving the 'companion' ticket that ticketmaster gave me. We got a coffee and chatted before the doors opened. I have to say, initially i was not sure about this whole arena show thing. I like my gigs standing two inches from the stage, thanks much, and there's no way I would fight an arena crowd for that. However, it ended up being amazing. The support was loud and screamy which was sad, but during the actual show-- God-- lights and video were amazing, and when the entire crowd stood and sang "If I just lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world?" I wanted to forget the world.

However, I could not forget the long-haired guy and his MUM (it looked like) next to us. Nor the security man apparently showing a lost kid back to his seat. I love people watching.

We crammed ourselves onto the tube and I thought I would have to get the bus back to Oxford and be out ten pounds, but then I checked the time I had written down and saw that the last train was at 11:47 not 10:45 and went to Paddington. A guy at Costa made my night by not making me pay for my juice and giving me back the quid I put in the tip cup. Gimp pity or not, that was sweet. The train got in at one in the morning so no buses and the rest of the train grabbed all the cabs. I walked towards the center with a group about my age, The were lugging instruments and they got a cab near George Street, along with two girls who had either not changed trains at Reading or gotten on the wrong train and wanted Worchester. The hostel was shut for the night, so the group I was with took them to sleep on their floor and I got back to St Michael's Street to treat myself to a cookie and milk before bed.

Lovely, lovely weekend.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Neil

Roomie got her present today. She's the one for whom I had Neil sign a second book. I can, therefore, post the picture.


Friday, March 6, 2009

The Waiting Game

Not to turn this blog into a Disability manifesto, but I got to thinking yesterday about just how much waiting is involved in being disabled. Overall going to and from a tutorial I think I spent an hour waiting for the bus (got a lot of reading done) to go one stop either way. A normal person could have walked it. Truth be told, I could have walked it, but I knew it would be pointless strain on my body. That and I always overestimate the time it takes me to walk places. If I had started walking to the tute when I got to the bus stop and saw ‘15 minutes’ on the digital readout I could have made it. But I fear bad things happening so I didn’t.

But this goes beyond waiting for a bus. What about the cabs that the disabled without cars take in cities where there aren’t just cabs on the street and they have to be called in advance? What about those (as I am at this moment) on a waiting list for services? Parents, like the ones my mother works with, waiting on a diagnosis for their child. Waiting for medications to take effect.

Now most of these things can’t be solved. But we also wait for the world to realize how much acceptance is needed. Sometimes we wait for the accommodation to be in place before we attempt something. So here’s the thing (and we watch as I get to the point of this blog), accommodation will not be made if people do not realize that it is necessary. And they won’t if the disabled (and I’m not accusing, I’m guilty of it) wait on the steps of the pool dipping our toes in and hope that the water gets warmer. You have to dive in and test the waters.

So that’s what I’m doing.


Um.... Hi.

So I haven’t updated this in a long while.

See.... It’s not good.

I haven’t been knitting. I haven’t knit a stitch in weeks, actually. I went to stitch and bitch three times and then-- then Oxford ate me.

No really.

Somehow in the past seven weeks i have written thirteen and a half papers, been to London three times, Dublin once and drank many coffees.

Most of my adventures are up at www.carlyandchelsey.wordpress.com and there will be knitting once term is over. Promise. And maybe some book reviews and other fun.

I am still alive though!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lovely London

Saturday was my twentieth birthday. I spent it in London getting a new computer. I started off the day at the café down the street for my Saturday mocha and croissant and then got the 10:37 train to Paddington. There were no express trains so the ride took a while.

I got a sushi lunch at Whole Foods on Kensington High Street which is absolutely gorgeous on a pretty day.

P1010308P1010315nd got my mac and since macbooks are incredibly light I lugged it on the tube and to Regent's Park to relax before coming home and getting dinner with a flatmate. It was a very good day. Said flatmate bought me balloons and another got me candy. 


I miss my friends and family, more so now that the cards from my parents came, but it was probably the simplest and happiest birthday I've had in a while. Simple pleasures and all that. Also, iPhoto '09 is AMAZING


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oxford to Dublin: An Experience in Three Acts (Act Three)

Not many pictures this time because my camera was buried under copious clothes and books (five Neil and one CS Lewis I picked up at a shop Dani and I stopped into waiting for the restauran to open for lunch).

Scene: Dublin Bus Stop, eight in the morning, February eighteenth

I am waiting for the bus outside Nodis's, watching people head to work, a couple with a baby-in-pushchair going down the street. Just, having lives. Airport to wheelchair to cart. The guy let me off at my gate then said 'there's some time before your flight and a cafe down there'. I wonder if  'I NEED a coffee was written on my face'...?

The airport is really nice but I think Stansted wins as far as wheelchair. They didn't take me to the plane there, for instance, and I boarded last but my seat was reserved. All-in-all wheelchair worked okay with Ryanair despite Statler's warnings. I read and slept on the plane then got to Stansted about an hour and a half before my coach. The coach station had internet so I sent in my tutorial paper. Hee hee.

On the platform (Outside the station I guess) I saw a boy (about my age) in a orange messanger hat looking very European with a French/English dictionrary he was reading. "Francais?" I asked. He nodded but that's all. i wish he'd continued, I felt too rude to ask questions but other people always seem to have experiences where they meet people and have long conversations in these situations.

The bus was not as bad this time, though it felt interminable. It took longer than the ticket said and I don't know why. Traffic wasn't bad, we didn't stay long at stops... who knows. Back in Oxford the sun was setting under a light drizzle and I felt at home. I dashed into Boots to get bandages to put myself back together. I am determined to care well for these injuries and not let them ruin my last weeks here. i am also going to focus on Oxford. London and Dublin were amazing but expect Oxford posts for a while.

Unpacked remnants:

My books are stacked on my fireplace, and I have this:


And go to Dublin if you can!

Act One

Act Two

Oxford to Dublin: An Experience in Three Acts (Act Two)

Scene: Interior Chapters Bookstore, four-thirty February 17th

I have a seat. I have bought the equivalent of my plane ticket in Neil Gaiman books (all of which are justified even though it was later announced he'd only sign one). And I decide to go to the toilet beforehand so I don't, you know, have to in the middle. Because that's awkward. So I leave Fawkes-the-Cane at my spot and wander. Lack of cane is important, because walking by a shelf it's not there to tell me that I am walking behind an info desk and there is a STEP. So I toppled over the step. I don't know why. Maybe my day was too perfect up to then.... maybe it was a take-the-cane lesson or maybe it was an accident. The injury count last night when I removed make-shift bandages was two bruised knees (danger--I am praying for no infections), one cut wrist and one cut finger. All hurt. Sigh

But that's okay. I had some sticky gauze pads in my backpack, so I fixed best I could went down the street (really...) to the restroom and had to get staff to help me regain my seat. Look, people, I came from Oxford for this.
Neil and Amanda were amazing. He read from the Book-N0t-Yet-Available (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?) and she played the uke. I love that she played 'Dear Old House That I Grew Up In'  because I understand it well, feeling much the same about Mom and Daddy moving. It's weird....
The line was long but we were pretty far to the front (I heard people were there until ten or so) and in line I met a woman from Ravelry who had seen my post about the event! So cool! She had crochet Neil a bee, which is adorable.

I thought about giving the ' I came from Oxford, had my laptop and phone stolen Saturday, fell two hours ago, turn twenty on Saturday and have to lug all these back' ramble to get stuff signed but the rational part of me knew that to be horribly unfair and also nearly too much to be believed (and yet all true). Instead I got Fragile Things signed, because of how much I adore "The Problem of Susan"  and did ramble a little for something else that is secret until someone gets it. Neil said I'm mad for coming, he should meet Mom. I also got to tell him about the time Katie and I decided he was a god. If there were world enough and time I would have also rambled on about how the short story books kept me company whenever I was lonely in London this summer. How reading Neverwhere this fall made me long to be back in London and how I won't get to see Coraline in theatres because it's out now at home and in May here :(
Amanda was lovely as always and signed my postcard and took a picture even though that took far too long. It was an amazing moment.  I hate devoting so much space to Neil and less to her because she's such an amazing person, but my rambling to her has mostly happened at other events :D
Dani and I got food at a nice little place with almond croissants and then I took a cab to my couchsurfing host Nodis's house. She was so sweet, with a nice little flat and an air mattress. She told me about moving to Ireland from Germany and burnt me Terry Prachett audiobooks! I zonked out by eleven, though. I probably should have slept before the coach Monday evening. Oh well.

All-in-all an amazing, amazing day that I wouldn't trade for the world. But maybe would cut part out of.

Good night, Dublin

Next: Coming back

Act One

Oxford to Dublin: An Experience in Three Acts (Act One)

Scene: Oxford High Street. One in the moring on February 17th.

I stand on the kerb with Holly and Devine (sp?) two of my flatmates who walked me up to the bus stop because one in the moring is sketchy in Oxford. The bus proceeds to be three very long hours of an uncomfortable seat and me being that American listening to Taylor Swift. (If you wish to mock me, go listen to Best Day then come back and argue).

My bag is not my large can-hold-books backpack because it had not arrived from home (still hasn't). So my clothes are very tightly packed to make room for Neil Gaiman books. I went to Dublin to see him, you see. Bobby Bear wanted to go but knew he might get abandoned for books:


At Stansted airport I was amazed yet again by the disorganization of airports+getting a wheelchair. Once you have one you are perfect, but to get one, in this case, you get checked in and then take a paper back down the zones to Mitie who runs the chair show (army of chairs outside the window was amusing). Then you wait for a guy with a chair. And you don't get to hang out in the airport lounge or get a freaking coffee.... But I digress.

Wheelchair guy brought along a friend-- a bloke who I gathered was new to the airport--WG was about fifty and his partner had kids, probably in his thirties. I spent much of the plane ride trying to think of a suitable name for their awesomeness. I think Statler and Fozzie works well, but doesn't quite catch it.  Statler let me know all about what airlines to take (not Ryanair, which I was on), and advised Fozzie on buying a house in that--way of the working class older brit. It sounds like stereotyping but it's here, promise.

They took me down to pre-board the plane. On the plane, I slept. Apparently Ryanair charges alot for food. You don't need food if you pack copious Nutrigrain bars. Ask me how i know. Cane on plane:


Dublin airport, wheelchair to cash machine, purchased postcards and got on the bus. I took the local bus per my host's advice and saw the advertisement that shows that Burger King adapts! (Was there a Bush version of this? Obama? Brown?):


Also Gaelic on the signs which I hadn't realized happened:


There was a woman on the bus who was obviously mentally handicapped. She had bright red irish hair and I could picture her in the 1860s, a weak relation... Unable to immigrate.... I think in stories.

Off the bus I went to meet Dani, my couchsurfing host's friend who was also going to the signing. Dublin is so pretty. There are lovely buildings, and a river right in the centre, with several nice bridges.


P1010247 Water

We met at the Library Bar which is GORGEOUS and has good coffee.


I made my way there with my map and got there early (!) so I wrote to Laura. Then we had sushi. Good sushi. With eel. I am in love. The restaurant (Yamamori) was really sunny and light.

We sat and chatted for ages about language, being sick a lot, travel and I don't know what else. She was such a nice girl and I love hearing people's stories. We then went to the ampitheatre. I perched on top, perhaps having a premoniton, perhaps not wanting to chance fate and topple down stone stairs. Nevertheless, it was beautiful. The slightly cloudy sky excentuated the grey stone and it felt incredibly peaceful. After that, we went to this little place called the Queen of Tarts for hot chocolate. I love little shops on side streets. It really makes a city for me if there are precious cafes in hidden spots.

P1010261 Dani at the amphitheatre

P1010263 Queen of Tarts menu

It also makes me glad that I got to go around with a local instead of a tourist book. I got a feel for walking around Dublin that morning. It's much less rushed than London, and everyone seems more...calm. I don't like that it runs on buses because when you're unsure where you're going that's confusing, but it also shows how walkable the city is.

Oh, Oglekids:


Next act: Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer!