Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Pied Piper of Rheumatoid Arthritis

I met our next RA warrior six years ago when I had to teach her how to start a commercial dishwasher. Ginger and I started the freak parade soon after, an informal rag tag mix of people with auto immune disease and other challenges. The woman holds a Bachelors in Music Education and is a district music teacher in addition to private cello teacher. Both a daughter of a woman with RA and RA patient herself, Ginger is one of very few people I am proud to call best friend.

Favorite thing to do:

I really like to sleep. But other than that, I enjoy hanging out with my friends/fellow teachers. We have a great time together.

Favorite pick up line:

Yeah man is NOT a pick up line that works. I just want that to be clear.

How would you classify your disability?

Physical/medical I guess. JRA affects life in different ways on different days. For example, the fact that my immune system is supressed makes my job difficult because I am exposed to so many germs and because my job with kids is so hands-on (if I didn't go move their fingers, they would sound even more like dying cats than they already do). So in that respect I guess it's medical. I have been on so many antibiotics in the last year that I've grown to hate them. Also, my kids think I'm a germaphobe because I have a rule in my classroom that "if it goes in your mouth, it goes in the trash" and I make kids wash their hands every time they cough or sneeze. Also, I constantly smell like hand sanitizer, never touch my face, and wash my hands after every single class (at least).

In the physical respect...if the arthritis happens to be flaring (which could be any time my body feels like it, any time the weather gets cold, etc.) then it's hard for me to perform normal everyday tasks like getting dressed, driving, cooking, writing, playing instruments (this is a big one in my job). Since my job entails traveling to up to four different schools a day and I don't have a classroom, it's much more of a physically demanding job than it is for most teachers. I have to be outside in the cold; I have to set up and tear down rooms by moving furniture and setting up chairs and stands; I have to carry my materials with me to every class, either from my office or from my car; I spend a fair amount of time repairing instruments and transporting them (basses are heavy, folks); and I play up to five different instruments in a day. So, that makes work hard. I also live upstairs above my landlord's garage, so in the event that I'm having a really bad flare I have Papa John's, Jimmy John's, and the Chinese place on speed dial (also, did you know that Dillon's will deliver groceries and Walgreens will deliver prescriptions? And your gay boyfriend will often deliver dinner as well? Handy things to know about). I also have a toilet seat extender handy for days like that and keep miultiple heating pads in my house and office. If I feel that I absolutely have to go to school during a flare I conduct/teach from a stool rather than stand.

Plenty of days, though, I feel just fine and am more than capable of say, reupholstering furniture, putting up Christmas decorations, going camping, or just generally kicking ass.

Does your school/boss/job administration help you to achieve your goals at work/school?

Yes-in education, they actually force planning and goals down your throat. However, despite many requests to do something about my lack of classroom (which has a more far-reaching impact than just my own physical health-namely, the educational well-being of my students) I still don't have one. With budget cuts, I'll be lucky to have a job next year so for now I'm willing to put up with this.

Is your disability on file at your job/school? If so, how did you break the news? If not, do you plan to do so?

Not officially. But I teach in a relatively small community that is very tight-knit, and everyone knows everything about everyone else. My colleagues all know about my arthritis and are actually very sensitive and helpful, and my administration knows because I've had to call in arthritic a few times. I don't know that I ever officially broke the news; I interviewed with a brace on my left wrist and have always been pretty open about it.

Would you classify yourself as in the closet about your disability?

No. I joke about it a lot, even with my kids. When my elementary kids whine about standing for half an hour it's easy for me to get them to stop by saying "hey, my body is eating my knees as we speak and I'm still standing. You'll live." Also, when I play or lead them in stretching things pop a lot and it sometimes freaks them out-I have to say something like, "sorry, my body is make of rice krispies, it snaps crackles and pops." It's also a good teaching moment for the kids-people with physical disabilities/diseases can do really cool things. And I am the coolest.

What are your professional/study plans for the future?

I'd eventually like to go back for my master's. I don't know how long I'll stay in this job before deciding to teach somewhere else where I don't have to travel between so many schools and do so much physical labor, but I've put so much in and built the program so much that I think another two years at least in my current job are warranted.

If you were to give advice to a young person with a disability, what would you say

Do what you love, even if people tell you it's a bad idea. Life is too short not to do what you love.

Ginger's "Five things you want to do before you die".

1. Attend the entire Burning Man Festival.
2. Climb Tikaboo Peak in Nevada and watch the Area 51 runway lights come on.
3. Get married and have kids.
4. Run for and serve in at least one political office.
5. Travel all of Route 66.

I hope she destroys all the evidence before she runs for office

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We are your friends,your neighbors, your ...toy reviewers

Introduction: In an effort to show the human face of disability in the workforce, here is the first edition. I am extremely pumped to share the courage and beauty of my friends, coworkers, and comrades. I hope you enjoy their essence as much I do.

Meet Essin'Em

I met Essin' Em at hippie school in 5th grade. A pioneer since grade school, she has never backed down for a challenge. A 16 year old graduate of high school, she now holds a BA in sociology and German as well as a M.Ed in Human Sexuality Education. Essin ' Em is now making important inroads into the very taboo area of disability and sexuality as writer, publicist and sex educator.

Favorite thing to do: Cuddling with my kitties (and partner) in bed with a good book and cuppa tea.

Favorite pick up line: So, um...I have some sex toys I need to review. Want to help me try them out?

How would you classify your disability? (visual, emotional, medical, physical etc): Frustrating. Snarkiness aside, physical.

Are you doing what you planned to do in school? Yes and no. I don't make 100% of my living from sexuality education, but am getting to do it.

7. Does your school/boss/job administration help you to achieve your goals at work/school? If not, please explain how they could help you better. I don't have a boss right now, as I do freelance and consultant work. However, my school definitely did not help - I was a bit of the black sheep, as instead of sex therapy or working at Planned Parenthood, I wanted work with "alternative" communities with sexuality; the dis/ability community, the queer community, the kink community, the poly-community, etc.

Are you doing something you like? If not, what would be your ideal job/study? Yes, although not full time. My ideal job would be teaching in regards to sexuality all the time, whether through a university, or being able to consult full time.

Would you classify yourself as in the closet about your disability? Why or why are you not? Definitely not in the closet. I feel that by showing that people with different ability levels are just as competent as traditionally able bodied people is the only way to change opinions. Also, I use a handicapped placard often, and walk with a cane some of the time, which automatically outs me.

Do you think disability discrimination exists and if so in what capacity/way? It definitely does. From having to argue with corporate in order to have a chair at a front desk position to the amount of difficulty in getting a handicap placard or getting approved to get disability assistance, there is definitely still discrimination against those with different abilities.

If there were one thing you could change in your native country regarding disability and employment what would it be: Require that all public transportation be publicly accessible, all sidewalks have ramp access, and have handicap placards transfer state to state.

Have you worked/studied/lived abroad? If so, how does this compare to your home country: Yes. Germany was much more accessible, both physically and as far as government benefits/access than the US is.

List five things you want to do before you die:

Live abroad again (this time, with my partner)
Get my doctorate
Own a house
Become a household name synonymous with Sexuality Education
Establish my own company

I want to end with Essin'Em's advice to young people.
Don't be afraid to claim your dis/ability as part of your identity. There is no shame in being who you are. On the same note, don't become your dis/ability - it's only PART of who you are.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ive got a Big Butt and I Cannot Lie

Since my hip replacement surgery , my left derierre has grown to what seems to me to be Star Jones proportions. Indeed, my left side is a full two sizes bigger than my right side. While some friends and admirers find my new girth pleasing,I have not been able to find a pair of jeans that fit/don`t hurt since April.

Does anyone have any suggestions or experience in fitting a lop-sided touchus?

Post Script- Keep your eyes open for the next addition of working with a disability.I

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fight Club Peru Style

In Leon, Mexico there have long been rumores that wealthy ladies go to this particular plastic surgeon to get their booty fat taken out and made into soap ala Fight Club.

Apparently Peru has got the same idea. At least the states and Mexico find the fat after its sucked out.

The Link is Below


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buscando Jobs En Mexico- Part Two

Every Friday after work, I reward myself to a beer, as per family tradition. My favorite, Bohemia, is always two for one at Oxxo, or as it is now known, 'La oferta de La Coja' (in English, La Coja Friday Special). When I sit down in the middle of Plaza de la Paz with my Bohemias on my Friday afternoons, I ponder suggesting this practice to St. Peter someday.

Yesterday however, turn out a bit differently. As I was looking for a place to sit, I came upon a man who is blind sitting in my usual spot. Navigating any place, no less the alleys, buses and dead ends of Guanajuato, is no easy task. When I see a person with little to no sight making his or her way around the city often leaves me staring in amazement. With a little liquid confidence in me, I offered him my other Bohemia. The man took my hands into his and thought for a moment. "Young lady you have arthritis dont you...." He might be a witch or perhaps a conman, but either way I had to find out who this man was.

Miguel Ramirez sits outside Plaza de la Paz everyday from 1 to 6 pm. A double sided, dual language laminated sign adorns his neck with the following message. "I am blind and cannot work. I am glad to give you any type of candy I have for your help. Thank you and God Bless You, Miguel". Mr Miguel is very upfront about his disability. He is proud, and rightfully so, of his abilities to get what he needs on his own.

He began working in the mines of Guanajuato and those on the border from an early age. He acquired his disability eleven years ago when a rock fell on right side of his head. Upon asking for his government disability pension, he was offered pain pills and nothing more. Lacking support from the government, he went looking for work--any kind of work, but found nothing. According to Mr. Miguel, the current governmental culture in Guanajuato is such that if one has a disability, the possibility of employment is nil.

Mr Miguel however is quick to point out that although the current government does not dedicate many resources to people with disabilities, empowerment in Guanajuato does indeed exist. His childhood friend, the former governor Carlos Romero Hicks, found him a fairly accessible house. Several local surgeons have helped to form a local blind coalition, Nueva Luz. Nueva Luz has no monetary funds but it rich in human resources. At the local Casa de la Cultura, experienced blind people teach other blind citizens how to navigate life. The coalition looks to empower its people with classes on cooking, taking the buses, braille, and ones civil rights.

What endears me most to Mr. Miguel is his ability to relate. He gave me directions to new more accessible routes to my house and to shopping. He asked me how I climb the bus, manage to stay on and eventually step off. Perhaps the comment that will stay with me forever though is " Juntos si podemos senorita. " (If we stick together, we can do it young lady). Mr. Miguel, I couldn't have said it better.

Post Script- Bohemia really is the best beer in Mexico.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Needs to get a Jobby Job- A Meditation on the job search with a Disability Part 1

As I search for a job, I am reminded daily of one of my most irritating/endearing memories of my Gramps. Every time I would try to sleep in, he would burst in singing the Silhouettes' hit 'Get a Job' with my cousin singing back up.

Let's be honest. Searching for a job just plain sucks. To me, its like going on an arranged marriage interview. Everything from your intelligence to your appearance to your fidelity will be at least subconsciously excruciatingly critiqued. In the last eighteen months, 65% of my friends who are not students have been laid off and/or underemployed at some point. While many in my generation are daydreaming about that fancy engagement ring to a country with benefits, it seems most of us will be old maids for the time being.

However tough it is for the general population of my age group to find a decent job, people with chronic diseases/disabilities face more of a job battle than a search. The rate of employment for people with disabilities as of 2000 is a shameful 55.8%. While I cannot find reliable statistics for the same population in Mexico, it is even more dismal.

The next series of post will focus on the employment market, job search, unique opportunities and differences between the US and Mexico.

'Preaching and a cryin, tell me that I'm lyin bout a job that I could never find...Get a Job'

Post Script- Please pardon the lack of posting in the last couple of weeks. Life Happens occasionally.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Finding Solutions

The slick haired men with Mexico City plates looking for una party have left. The hippies have moved on to better and higher experiences. The man in the giant condom suit has pulled up stakes to continue spreading his gospel elsewhere. Ladies and Gentleman, the 37th Festival Internacional Cervantino has come to an end.

What is a Cervantino? El Cervantino is a textile of all the beautiful Mexican arts combined with the traditions of the foreign guests of honor. Although its origins have been attributed to the writer Miguel de Cervantes, it is very Guanajuatense in nature. Started in the cradle of Universidad de Guanajuato thought, the festival is the only time of year the city stops gossiping and instead converts its energy into a large three week fiesta. When the over 2,300 artists of all kinds converge with the 500,000 tourists, Guanajuato explodes with color. Music, opera, danza, theatre, and academic activities flood the city along with its pilgrims that camp in its parks.

However, for me the festivities are more limited. Although it has been said I am an enthusiast of the occasional drink with friends, my venues were more contained this year. As I try to get off buses that will not stop for the slow footed or try to climb the impressive amount of stairs at the University, I think about these difficulties. I think about how I will get my friends with physical disabilities through restaurant doors, my house, a club. The entire month of October, I have looked for solutions. Indeed accessible transportation, hotels, restaurants and parking do exist. Unfortunately, they are not many.

I do not mean to say that this city is oppressive or unwilling to accept the disabled into the fold. Guanajuato is a city is full of life and learning. However open it may be to change, the change will not come until people with disabilities start to demand it. That is why I invite all of you to visit. Let's make ourselves visible.

For more video/pictures refer to "Adventures of La Coja" Facebook page.

For more information and images, visit http://festivalcervantino.gob.mx/fic09/bienvenidos

Thursday, October 29, 2009

10 Ways to Know If You Have Spent Too Much Time In Mexico

You Know You Are a Long Term Mexican Resident When:

1. Your cousin/friend is named Chuy and you dont think 'as in Bacca, right?'

2. You follow the smartest neighborhood dog to cross the street

3. You genuflect not only at Mass, but outside churches and in theaters on instinct

4. You think the local things tourists find as 'quirky and quiant' slightly annoying

5. You are no longer scared to ride in the car with Mateo Cunao

6. It does not bother you that a policeman is holding a rifle and is texting at the same time

7. You know the words to horrible Banda songs...and even worse, it has some relevance to your life.

8. You see a "Day of Dead" altar with Coke and think 'they could be mine'.

9. You find nothing out of the normal with taking the kids to the graveyard for lunch

10. You stop noticing when someone parks a donkey in your parking space

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Faces of Pre Existing Conditions

After a series of minor crises south of the border (including a small incident at the Oxxo, another round of insurance battles and La Osa's dog eating 10 of my diuretics) I am bit tired today.

However I suggest you visit a fabulous new blog. Not just because my mug is up there but because we are the faces of the consequences of political action or lack thereof.


Waving from Mexico,
La Coja

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Swine Flu--Is It Time to Pull a Suzie?

Mexico has declared a "National Alert". Israel has called it the 'Mexican Flu'. Indeed when my Mom starts investing in Sam's Club amounts of masks, Lysol, and sanitary gel, I begin to think there might be something up.

From what I have observed in the last month, the Mexican government has done an excellent job of containing what could have been a spectacular death toll. When epidemiology reports in Mexico City showed an exponential multiplication of the virus in April, the government made a courageous decision to shut down the schools and government for two weeks. The government has also launched a major campaign involving adorable fliers, sanitary gel in all public places, and supposed fever detectors in the airports. However, despite all the effort, the numbers of suspected cases have more than doubled since August.

Given I am far from a public health official but this is what I have observed. When I became sick with the swine flu, I had excellent, if overbearing, care. My American rheumatologist immediately pulled me off my drugs and I was able to afford the Tamiflu prescribed by Doctor Kansas City. However, it must be an uphill battle for lower class immuno suppressed people for several reasons

1. The city and regional buses are hotels for germs. We are packed in there so tightly you can feel the next person cough. Only students, my family and the poor ride them.

2. Upper class people have sewers and/or maids, the rest have trash cans .

3. Medicine, especially non generic, can be most or all of your paycheck.

4. Many lower income people work outdoors and live in drafty houses.

It may be a "national emergency" for Obama but for the Mexican poor and immuno suppressed, its just another day.

For more information, take a look at Mexico's Secretaria de Salud Report

Friday, October 23, 2009

What You Gonna do When They Come for You?

The Cervantino has come to town. While it is a fabulous event for tourists, the "situation" here has become worse for the rest of us. Although there is very little violence in the capital here, the government has nonetheless pulled out all the uniforms/disguises out of storage. All the streets to the capital are cut off with police check points, yet the backroads, oddly enough, are not.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Tree of Hope, Remain Strong

As an American business woman with a disability living in a Mexico, I am strange fruit. As I go about my day, writing, translating and creating, not only am I challenged but I am in love with what I do. However this does not mean that this joy is seen as normal or even conceivable.

People from both sides of the border have seen my gait and questioned my ’common sense’. Some people in my family wonder if at the end of the day, I will be rendered dependent in some way. Even my Mexican cousins and friends brag about me as if my situation was one of a kind.

I am becoming somewhat of an urban legend in my little town in the Bajio of Mexico and it is simply just that---an urban legend. At least one strong, creative, woman with a disability came before.

Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 in a suburb of Mexico City. According to several sources, Kahlo had two disabilities. At age six, her ability to walk became difficult when she contracted polio. Then in 1925, she was in a Mexico City trolley accident that broke her spinal column, collarbone, ribs, pelvis, right leg and foot. Although she would eventually regain her ability to walk, she would go through more than thirty five operations and spend months bedridden.

Kahlo took disability and made it into an art. Her art focused mainly on self portraits because, as she pithily commented “it is the subject I know best”. Exploring self-image is a tough task for anyone especially in an ableist society, yet Kahlo navigated it with honesty and color.

In almost all of her paintings, she wears bright and richly made skirts. It has been suggested that she wore these skirts to cover her scars and develop a sense of self. It also seems she become more comfortable with an identity as a woman with a disability as time progressed. Self Portrait with Loose Hair lets the world see her physical fragility while also managing to express her strength. Self Portrait with Dr. Farrill even illustrates Kahlo painting in a wheelchair.

Several of her paintings portrayed her disability in all its pain, challenge and glory. The painting Retablo depicts her trolley car accident and the fear that accompanied it in an almost religious quality. Her self portrait, Broken Column expresses her excruciating physical pain with an Ionic column through her back and nails driven through her head. Perhaps her most striking painting is Tree of Hope, Remain Strong. In this self portrait, Kahlo sketches two reflections of herself. The Frida on the left is a Frida recently rolled out of the operating room. She is bedridden, maimed and cut in half in more than a literal way. The Frida on the right however, is a confident woman triumphantly holding the surgical corset in her hand. Tree of Hope, Remain Strong hangs on my desk as it reminds me daily that I have several parts to my disabled self. Through painting her self image Kahlo gave, if not a name, a place in historical memory for disability.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Today I am Fat Elvis

I try to have a strict no-complain policy regarding my disability. However, I am violating that policy because I believe today is one of those days we can all relate to. Today is a 'no move' day. That means my body is refusing to climb any stairs, take a shower or change clothes. My left leg in all its metal grandeur told me and my desires where to stick it today.

What is causing the pain could have several causes. Among them - the metal reproduction of 'The Last Supper' that hit my left leg, trying to keep up with 'normal' people, and effects of riding on a city bus driven by a fourteen year old.

As most people who identify as having a chronic illness and/or disability do, I have 'no move' days every so often. This has led to the parting of self. On days when I feel that I can take on the world and even do laundry, I am Hot Elvis--the Elvis of the 50s that charmed people, danced, and made movies. On 'no-move' days, I am the 300 lbs Elvis of prescription drugs, the Elvis they found dead on the can in the 70's.

La Coja

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dodging Airport Jackasses- Art or Sport?

Although I look like the Ghost of Christmas Past, I am proud to report that I am now back in Mexico. If you have ever traveled via airplane or even watched the local news reports during holiday seasons, you are then familiar with certain characters that tend to populate our travels. The following I tend to attract on my travels although this is by no means a through nor complete listing. Please feel free to add your very own jackass to the list.

1. The Talker
As Harry always says " Do I have a sign on my forehead that says 'Please crazy man, talk to me about your delusions'". This particular airport creature likes to show pictures of his kids, dogs, non existent girlfriend and occasionally shots of his surgery.

2. By Low, Sell High
This inhabitant is a product of the 1980s. Entering his early forties, he loves to talk loudly on his Iphone until takeoff, peppering his conversation with 'risk' 'take off the hedge' and 'buddy'. He dresses in his casual to travel selecting expensive jeans his girlfriend bought him, black patent leathers, and usually a pink or paisley shirt. Sitting with this man takes extra skill. Must decide early on to pet his ego or put laxative in his Coke.

3. The Bluetooth Pervert
This man, unlike the others, has no interest in talking to his seatmate. Usually utterly good-looking and well-dressed, he whispers into his bluetooth until takeoff. When we have reached altitude, he reaches for his phone to text some very inventive things to some lady friends on the ground.

4. The Screaming Toddler

She is the only traveler I understand. Sometimes you just have to scream and punch the person ahead of you.

Feel free to add

Friday, October 9, 2009

She's Getting 'The Treatment'

In an effort to not explain immunobiology, pathology and microbiology in five minute sound bites, when I have to go for 'The Treatment' once a month a leave it at that. However, now that I have my own virtual soapbox and presumably no reader is eating lunch, I have thus deemed this a perfect time to explain the procedure.

Once a month, if I do not have an infection/fever or upcoming major procedure, i get 'The Treatment' or better known by our friends at Bristol-Myers-Squibb as Orencia.

The rheumatologist office is now like my very own Cheers, yes its where everybody knows my name. I usually end up sitting next to the man in his 60s who tells me his rectal and work history or the embittered recently diagnosed middle aged woman.

Once the nurse calls me, i take off my shoes, sweater, socks and earrings to make sure the scale is not off. I get the usual interview by both nurse and doctor before things proceed. Any infection, fever. new medication, good times had? I get my temp, pulse and blood pressure taken then labs are ordered. Every liquid is drained from me. From urine to blood, they want it and I give it.

My nurses are pros at getting my veins and while they are jabbing me we talk about their ex husbands, my dogs or their grandkids.

If I'm lucky I get seated next to a philosophical old lady who enjoys watching the weather channel or reading US weekly with me. After the labs are sent, the ladies mix up the three bottles into a saline solution bag. Once I am sent up, it doesnt take more than an hour to suck it up. At this point I either read or send out massive texts indicating that I am experiencing boredom.

I adore my nurses and I think my particular rheumatologist has saved me from being wheelchair bound. Furthermore, it can also be used as an excuse for a get together. Over the years, friends/ family have brought in everything from Cosmopolitan Magazines, to 12 packs of Diet Coke to a particular gentleman bringing in a bottle of Tequila.

La Coja

La Coja 1- Porky 0

" How's my Crip? Pigs got you down?"

No, my hilarious friend Igo, I am proud to report this Coja is not in fact down and will be return to Mexico on Wednesday.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In Memory of a True Rheumatoid Warrior

A Mentor of mine, Kathy Jensen, passed away last week. As I sit here and reflect on the little bit of time I knew her, I don't think she'd want me drone on about who preceded her in death or about a beloved chihuahua named Bruno.

I know that even the little I knew her cannot be summed up in a blog post or a couple paragraphs. However, I want to say her energetic efforts as Vice President of Programs at the Denver office of the Arthritis Foundation without a doubt improved the lives of many people. Her numerous outreach programs, advocacy for funding and work for access to health care for people with arthritis was nothing short of amazing. Kathy went out of her way to help people, whether it be buying soda for a weekly support group or buying me pizza to talk about my future. Before and after my hip replacement, she was incredibly supportive while fighting her own disease. No one can take her place.

Due to her extensive work with people with disabilities/arthritis, Kathy watched many people without access to medical care suffer and become needlessly disfigured. It is truly a shame she did not live to see a different reality. Perhaps her life and death should be a mediation on how we as a community, as a nation, can lessen this suffering.

Kathy, this Orencia is for you!

Reyna- Queen of Hugs

I remember the first day I met Miss Reyna at Casa Ayuda, a foster home in San Miguel. She ran up to me and suddenly stopped. She began to scan me methodically and put her face so closely to mine I knew what she had for lunch. Suddenly, she smiled and embraced me like a long lost cousin. Su Casa became Mi Casa and Mi camera became Su camera. Later on that night, she sat directly in between my dad and my sister. While the rest of the kids continued their nightly chaos bartering their food, Reyna started intently the entire time, focusing a bit on my Dad and then on La Hermana. When it became time to clear the table, Reyna had yet to eat a bite and had quite the confused look on her face. She consequently decided to end the confusion. In a loud whisper she turns to me in confidence to inquire who takes care of the old man (my Dad) when La Hermana and I work during the day. Many things can be said about Reyna, unobservant is not one of them.

Reyna was born outside San Miguel in Viborillas, a place with really just a tiny store, a plastic table set outside of it, surrounded by the shacks the locals call home. Reyna's mother died and her father left for El Norte soon after. As a consequence, she was raised by her older siblings, many of whom are not much older than she is.

Reyna's educational history up until recently has been sparse at best. Although most children in the Mexican countryside do no have access to anything beyond 8th grade, Reyna only attended kindergarden. After one year of school, it was made clear to her family that her needs could not be accommodated beyond kindergarden.

Although Reyna has not been formally diagnosed with any condition or disability, she has not followed the 'normal' path of development. Reyna is developmentally delayed, has crossed eyes, and is legally blind. Nobody will say for sure what she has, but the collective best guess among several doctors and non profit people is that she has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Reyna's journey to the foster home Casa Ayuda began in February of 2006, when her sister, a teenager herself decided she could not care for her any longer. When the young teenage Reyna arrived at Casa Ayuda, it was evident that social services had failed her and her family. She did not brush her hair, did not know how to bathe, and her speech was grammatically/cognitively discombobulated. Her education consisted of well, nothing. Even the knowledge of shoe tying, letters and numbers had not been passed on to her.

After three years plus years of living at Casa Ayuda, her social skills and education have improved immensely. She has worked with a certified teacher five days a week and has learned letters, handwritten, numbers, colors and has far improved her grammar. She has also learned basic living skills and has even excelled at them. Each morning she takes a shower, makes her bed, dresses,and does her hair and makeup before breakfast. She takes pride in the responsibility of cleaning her room and keeping up the living room.

When it comes to the issue of Reyna's future and her ability to be independent, the general attitude is as La Hermana states concisely "focus on survival instead of independence'. Although several people believe that Reyna can reach higher personal/educational goals, the director of the foster home would like to have Reyna focus on more practical goals such as cleaning houses. Regarding Reyna's living situation, she will likely live at Casa Ayuda for the foreseeable future.

I suppose in an area where non disabled people struggle for daily survival, its hard, especially as a foreigner, to argue for more self determination and education of people with disabilities. But as I am looking at this pretty, well-put-together and polite young woman before me, I cannot help but wonder what other potential she has yet to reveal

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Parade of the Rabos Verdes

I'm still not 100% from the Porcine Virus so enjoy this pithy essay from La Hermana before she met The Rabbit

I’ve started keeping track of all of the creepy/socially inept Mexican men that have taken an interest in me over the past year. It is quite a list.

Creepy guy who is friends with some friends of my sister. Wanted to date me. Turns out he has a long term (3 years) girlfriend. I stopped talking to him, so he started calling me and then hanging up. These calls all happened after 2 am. He was at the party and came back to the house with us for the "after party". He was drunk. He spent the entire day, from 4am till 1pm, saying my name and then turning away. He also tried to make jokes that didn't work and at one point called me a bitch. He also pressed me for why I don't want to date him and then he passed out on the couch.

Doctor Kansas City's Friend

This is a new one. This man, I have no idea what his name is, only that he is a friend of the family. He got pretty drunk and wanted to dance with me. I obliged and it was alright for a while. He then started following me around. In Mexico, during parties, sometimes people come to take and sell photos. They will take your photo, print it, put it in a frame and then sell it to you. Well, this old man wanted me to take a photo with him. I did. He then bought it. Then he informed me that he was going to place it on his desk at work, for all to see. He then wanted me to sign it and dedicate it to him.


A guy in San Miguel who wanted to date me, told me he was single, and I then found out he was “dating” another American woman, long term. Every time I see him in the center, he asks me out and wonders why I have not been calling him. Also, he found my sister on Hi5, friended her, and sent me a message asking me if I was jealous.


Guy who gave me a ride to the border. Really strange man. Mexican, married an American woman, then got divorced. He called me “Betty” and said I was a princess. He then proceeded to hit on me in the car on the way to Laredo, Texas. Did I mention he’s about 40?


Another friend of friends of my sister. Nice guy, completely unskilled socially. Called me 15 times in 1 day.


A guy that Hannah, Amina, Grace and I met at the movies. He was there alone and approached us. Said he was from Queretaro and only like to hang out with Americans. To be nice, Hannah and I invited him out with us to a bar. He arrived and started hitting on me a lot. He said I had beautiful eyes (like I haven't heard that before) and that I was a unique woman, he could tell (this is after spending maybe 10 mins with me). I recieved a phone call from my mom, went outside and he followed me and listened to the conversation (FYI: he speaks English). I pretended to stay on the phone with her while walking back into the bar, he stopped me, asked me to come back outside and then wanted to talk. He told me that he loves his mom very much and was happy that I had a good relationship with my mom. He then wanted to hold my hand and kiss.

Sebas’ Uncle

One of the kids uncles came to visit and started hitting on me (this is in front of his nephew and most of the kids). He says he is going to come back regularly so I can be his teacher. Sebas now calls me Tia.

Neighborhood Guy

Just in case you were wondering, I have been instructed not to be afraid of this guy. He doesn’t bite. He also wants to take me to the movies. He's 19 and wears sunglasses without lenses.

Yellow Shoes Guy

This guy has been bugging me since 2006. He works for and drives one of the trolley buses in town. He once offered me a ride home on the trolley. He also caught me developing photos of my semester in Mexico and promptly took a photo of me with him. One time he insisted on carrying my bread for me and then told me about how he was a licensed massage therapist in Puerto Vallarta. He can apparently work wonders for me.

So, do I have a magnet for this type of guy?

Am I sending out some sort of “I love and need creepy/socially inept Mexican men” vibe?

I hope not.

But the list keeps getting longer...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Post Surgery Hip Surgery

Great Friends


I have had a few requests to tell more about myself. Thus, while in the pig flu jail, I wrote up a brief autobiography which is as follows.

"Irish Mexican American female, age 26. Likes pinochle, family guy,studying politics, a good martini and walks on the beach."

However, my 'editors' (thanks Harry) have told that the fore mentioned sounds more like a desperate Craig's list personal than a brief personal background. Here is my second go at it.

I grew up in Denver, the City of. I was fairly healthy until 1995 when I got Rheumatic Fever, the first of many third world disease i would contract to my friend Lola's great amusement . In 1997, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and honestly struggled through the Denver Public School system. I graduated a year early from high school to attended the Community College of Denver, a more disability friendly system.

In 2002, I received a scholarship to the University of Kansas and spent five glorious/challenging years a Jayhawk. I have lived 20 years in Denver, 2 in Mexico and 4 in Kansas. And yes I do count Kansas as a third country.

I have been a loyal consumer of rheumatic drugs and treatments since the mid 1990s. My JRA resume is as follows

Pharmacology 1995- to Present
-Has extensive experience with the following: Celebrex, Methotrexate, Prednisone, Enbrel, Humira, Remicade.
- Currently works closely with Orenica

Treatments 1996- to Present
-IVIG 1996 and 1997
-Plasmapheresis 1997 and 1999
-Double Tendon Release Surgery 1999
-Total Left Hip Replacement 2009

My family has been clinically described as 'one of the most functional dysfunctional families' in the practice and I love most of them to death. The family God has let me choice, a.k.a. my friends, are a big source of love, laughter, stories and strength. I am a major nerd and love to read/study random subjects. I won the local branch of the library's Renter of the Month twice.
Along with my large extended family, I grew up with dogs. My Springer Spaniels along with my Nana Macky wiping my nose from the tissues stuffed in her bra is about all i really remember from childhood.

Our current dogs, Charley (3/4 Springer, 1/4 Lab) and Paco (100% Black Lab) absolutely fill me daily with joy.

I run my own translation business (Richmond Bustamante International), tutor English, and volunteer with disability organizations both in the US and Mexico. As for my future, Id love to go into Public Health to increase the chances of disabled people to lead dignified and full lives.

I'd also like to get a guinea pig.

Con Abrazos,

La Coja

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pig Flu

I am unfortunately down, and have been for 10 days, with the swine flu. I guess that is what I get for going out with pigs.

I will hopefully be back up to fighting weight shortly. In the meantime, enjoy the H1N1 Rap.


Friday, September 18, 2009

This Is How We Do It (Alternative Version)

One of the things I face daily as an immuno suppressed person is fighting off disease. I don't know how the rest of you feel about a bunch of kids baptizing a playground with their various drips but it makes me want to wear a bio hazard suit. One of my little cousins gave me a cold and so it has required me to go into militar mode. Call me a germaphobe, paranoid, Howard Hughes esque, but years of experience/hospitalizations have taught me that microbes are smarter than I am.

So here are my new Ten Commandments of Immunosuppresion Abroad

1. Thou Shalt wear masks on any/all public transportation
2. Thou Shalt stay away from all sick people and their bathrooms
3. Thou Shalt take a taxi when sick/in arthritic flare and not complain about the money
4. Thou Shalt placate a mother of a gooey child with compliments from afar instead
5. Thou Shalt carry hand sanitizer
6. Thou Shalt go to Tio Kansas City for RX
7. Thou Shalt budget for medicine more than Diet Coke
8. Thou Shalt sleep, even though thou is young and wants to do everything everyone else dos
9. Thou Shalt eat
10. Thou Shalt ask for help walking/carrying things, even when it kills thou to

Please feel free to add your own commandments

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Auto Motel- For Quickies or your Family?

Well Friends....Let's categorize this as my first cultural mistake

Two girlfriends and I went on an overnight trip near here last weekend. We pulled into an auto motel thinking it was cheap, safe and clean. With a name like Auto Motel Santa Noche, you cant go wrong.....right?

The motel keeper, a young man just crossing the bridge of adolescence, greeted us with a greedy smile..We paid him $20, he gave as the keys and directed us to a Wizard of Oz type curtain to which we could park behind. Tired, we stumbled up the stairs to a beautiful, clean room with a giant bed, tv and ...........three huge mirrors, one on all sides and the ceiling. It was not Motel 8.

As Eddie and Adan described to me later, sick from laughing at me , an auto motel is 'un lugar donde llevas a tu pareja en carro, entran y hacen cosas malas pero ricas. Pagas por pasar el ratito'

Or in other words an auto motel is a place for a quickie.

La Coja

Post Script

The video is now up
Post Script- The Rabbit did not make the last bus from San Miguel de Allende and ended up come back on the back of pick up truck full of hay

Sugar Daddy

The Rabbit and I went to go visit La Hermana in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato which is about 2hrs by chicken bus, 1 hr 20 minutes by bus with seat rests, and 1 hr by hitchhicking. Although the Rabbit his friend went 'de ride', (see above picture) I went on the chicken bus.

San Miguel is a tasty mix of old foreign hippies, wealthy sunburned Texan women who dress their husbands, Americans looking for a 'patable/charming' Mexico, vacationing people from Mexico City, middle class natives and....... poverty in which La Hermana lives.

There are so many things to comment on about San Miguel and Miguelenos that one could make an entire blog about it alone.

I particularly find the gender/class/cultural relations fascinating. In this video, an ex pat in his late 60s drive by us in La Hermana's Barrio with his Mexican girlfriend in her late twenties.
Make of it what you will

La Coja

Monday, September 14, 2009

Carlos and I

Mr Carlos Slim and I are apparently not getting along

* For those of you who dont know of Mr. Slim here is a wikipedia entry about him.

Mr. Slim owns the cell phone monopoly in Mexico and in my opinion makes the process of getting a Mexican cell phone like getting stuff covered by your HMO. According to official rules and reasoning, one must now register with passport number/birth certificate .However, La Sabia and the Rabbit have advised me not to play Mr. Slim's game. If the phone gets stolen and used for extortion, it would be under my name. However this dilemma is solved and I am now happily again texting pendejadas.

La Coja

Cast of Characters Part 3

La Mortera and Harry
Sex in the City advice on love, friendship, and death

Ginger and Lola
Good Friends, Traveling Companions and Donkey Enthuses

Eddie and Adan
My buddies. Mexico's answer to Bert and Ernie

La Hermana
My sister who lives in an orphanage not to far from here. I am hoping Brangelina will adopt her
La Psicologa
What I would have liked to have been ten years ago. La Psicologa silently observes from afar.

Cast of Characters Part Two

Doctor Kansas City
My internist in Mexico. Doctor KC plays an integral part in working with me to stay healthy here. Serves up medicine with a side of pun

The Celebrity
Mateo's former source of transportation and court battles. RIP

La Osa

A fabulous, gassy and blunt celista, La Osa is a great friend and one of kind.

Cast of Characters Part One

Senora Sabia
Guanajuato's own Heloise-- adviser on life, love, santos and the occasional laundry advice

Mateo Cunao
Has never met an instrument nor coupon he has not liked. 130 pounds of wit. Companion of La Osa

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The Rabbit
I met him when he was carrying a pigeon in a newspaper. Plays well with animals and is a fountain of good advice

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Our Sponsor

Adventure of La Coja is proudly under the protection and advocacy of St Vitus, Patron Saint of Comedians, Bad Dancers and People with Disabilities

Dear Vitus, the one thing we are certain about is that you died a martyr's death. In early times, churches were dedicated to you in important places. In the Middle Ages, your intercession obtained cures from epilepsy so that this disease came to be called "Saint Vitus' Dance". Inspire comedians to make people dance with laughter and so bear goodwill toward one another. Amen