Since joining mobileWOMEN.org, I
have had the great pleasure of interviewing some amazing women for the website.
My journey has included athletes, a designer, a photographer who is a friend of
mine, and the hilarious comedian Shannon Devido. But having the opportunity to
interview comedian Maysoon Zayid has been a dream of mine for some time. First learning of her from her TED Talk in
2013 entitled, “I got 99 problems…palsy is just one,” I have been a fan ever
since. And Ms. Zayid is not just a comedian, but an actress and activist who is
changing the world with every laugh she creates.
Born with Cerebral
Palsy, in the great state of New Jersey where she still resides today, Ms.
Zayid explained in her TEDTalk that she learned to walk as a child by placing her heels on her father’s feet. Ms. Zayid, whose Palestinian parents immigrated to the
United States, is the youngest of four girls. Her father was a traveling salesman and her
mother is Chief of Lab at a large New Jersey Hospital. Ms. Zayid states that it
was her grandmothers and aunts who were a very big influence in her life: “I spent summers with them in Palestine with
no TV. That is definitely where I learned comedy. They would gossip about other villagers and
it was hilarious.”
My mother lived with breast cancer for 14 years through two mastectomies and
repeated chemotherapy and radiation. When I found my lump I was stunned,
though I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was immobilized.
It took me several days before I told my partner who had to push me into
action. I got the referral from my doctor and scheduled a
mammogram. The radiology practice fit me into their schedule that same
week but I still had several days to sit with the unknown.
Finally the day of the appointment came. I am waiting in the reception
area for an hour when finally the x-ray technician calls my name. As I
follow her in my usual sporty wheelchair to the exam room, she is chatty and
asks, “How did you get here today?” I respond, “I took the thruway to
exit 133. The office was easy to find.” Now she is wide eyed and
exclaims, “You mean you drove yourself here? How can you drive?” Used to
these questions, I answer politely about cars with hand controls.
As the chill in the air
envelopes us, we dream of warm destinations where we can relax and enjoy the
warmth of the sun. I think back to my travels to Barbados. My first visit to the
magical island was remarkable, as I felt like a princess! The people were so
warm and welcoming! I remember having a cooking demonstration with a local
woman who wanted me to see how she made curry! The best part of Barbados is the
people… continuously smiling!
I am happy to say that
Barbados understands wheelchair accessibility, and as mobileWOMEN, access is a
priority. Barbados has made vacationing easy by creating an initiative that
places them in the lead for ‘inclusive’ vacations for anyone with a mobility
Recently I had the honor of interviewing Ann Marie Geiger,
an avid bird watcher and photographer who is a Renaissance woman in her own
right. Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a bone condition that causes people to experience a few to as many as
a hundred fractures, usually occurs before adolescence. Ms. Geiger is short-statured,
uses a wheelchair for mobility and has experienced around 70 fractures in her
lifetime, but she doesn’t let the pain of those years hold her back from living
life and doing what she loves. Now in
her mid-50’s, Ms. Geiger lives in an impressive in-law suite located in a Montgomery
County suburb of Philadelphia PA, connected to her sister’s house which they
built together, her part made accessible for her personal needs. Her portion of the house includes 3 bedrooms,
2 baths which are wheelchair accessible, a sunroom, a living room and a
spacious kitchen with low countertops, stove and oven. In addition, her little
family includes 2 dwarf rabbits, Popcorn and Bunson, a yellow Parakeet named
ChiChi and Smuckers, a Cockatiel who has a keen knack for picking up words and
voices that will make you laugh and scare you all in the same moment. Smuckers’ vocabulary includes “pretty bird”; “come
here”; “what a pretty bird you are”; and “I’m a pretty little bad bird” a
phrase one won’t soon forget!
As mobileWOMEN, often we find ourselves in situations where needing help can be a humbling experience. But there are other times when needing help can leave us with a feeling of humiliation! It can be frustrating to be in the position of being dependent upon others when often, inside, we feel fiercely independent and would do anything not to have to ask for help. At first, we might think, “I’ll go without," or "I’ll just skip … “ whatever the need may be. But over time, we may come to realize that needing help is a reality we cannot avoid and making peace with that is all part of the battle. But here are important questions to ask: Is this way of thinking beneficial to us? Is it really worth suffering or obsessing? Are we afraid that someone will be upset with us if we ask? Perhaps that is the case in some situations, but not always.
What if we looked at the circumstances with a different perspective? Maybe we are missing an opportunity to share an experience with another human being--a snapshot in time where two people can connect, an honest, positive exchange of the human spirit. At times, people may want to help, but feelings of uncertainty of how to do so can arise. Other times, people may become concerned that their actions could offend someone. Helping another human being can be extremely rewarding, so why not push your pride aside and allow that person into your world for a small moment in time? You may just make that person’s day, which could have otherwise been another hectic, meaningless one.