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Cowashing Confessional

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By ajbray · July 24, 2014

I <span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">have a confession to make: I don't shampoo my hair. Haven't done for over a year.

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">Sounds pretty gross, eh? It probably sounds more like a confession that might come from the mouth of a dreadlocked vegan with furry underarms and a strong adoration for patchouli, than one from a hyper-groomed fashionista who considers her collection of Christian Louboutin stilettos her "investment portfolio." But, alas, you'd be wrong in that assumption. I don't shampoo my hair anymore.

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">Instead, I'm one of the gazillion Cowash Converts. We seem to be everywhere these days. On the subway, in the mall, at the salon; it's getting hard to go anywhere without overhearing some gal with a gleaming head of hair proclaim offhandedly, "Oh, I only cowash. I swear to god, it has Changed. My. Life."

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">Now, unless she's a hair model and literally makes her living off her locks, we all know that's a pretty big stretch to make, even for a card-carrying fashionista comme moi, but still. Ignore the linguistic hyperbole that has saturated our daily language * and think about it. I'm sure you know someone in your IRL-versions of Google+ Circles (Work, Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Botox Buddies, Fellow Wheelers, etc) who has spurned the suds in favour of squishing around "cleansing conditioner" in their hair.

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">Like most "trends," there's a long list of people who have already been doing this for years and years. All those Early Adopters are now sighing and rolling their eyes deeply and making sure to tell every single person within a fifty-yard radius that they've "been doing this for yeeeeears. I mean, seriously, I stopped shampooing back in the 90's." Meanwhile, when not scoffing at how people have just "discovered" what they've been doing for decades, they're scrabbling to scoop up the epic new array of cleansing conditioners now available at every drugstore in their neighbourhoods. (I know this pattern personally – when the Atkins "trend" popped up in the mid 2000's, I did the same thing. Of course, all the true early adopters who have been forsaking carbs since before I was born looked at me the exact same way. Isn't the Circle of Modes just beautiful? *sniff*)

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">To them – the Foremothers of Frizz Free-dom – I say "thank you." Thank you for forging and clearing this path that my tresses and I have been travelling well over a year. Thank you for sharing your secret so that others could embark on the same hair-improving journey. Thank you for showing us that "clean" hair does not mean "oil-free" hair; nor is "cleaning" your hair the same as "washing" it. Thank you for pointing out to us that perhaps our frangible strands of hair require a more delicate process than, say, muddy SUVs and dirt-streaked towels.

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">I started out using the EverStrong (EverSleek? EverSomething – I dunno…it was a gold-coloured bottle) "gentle lathering" stuff by L'Oreal. It was a good way to ease myself into the notion. After all, it still does lather. It's like Cowash Lite. For my fine, colour-treated hair, it was too heavy, though. Perhaps it would work now that I have repaired so much of the damage done by frequent colouring, heat styling, products, torturing it into bizarre styles, and lathering it into a daily, squeaky-clean state. At any rate, it wasn't right for me just then. Next, I came across a delightful product at Walmart of all places, and it was love at first shower. I used it exclusively until I stumbled upon the AsIAm Coconut Cowash at Sally's on sale. I used them both interchangeably until I could no longer find the stuff I loved at Walmart. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Just like so many wonderful, delightful, perfect products, it seems to have been discontinued. Now I use the Coconut Cowash exclusively, but I'm currently struggling a bit.

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">This summer has been almost unbearably hot, humid, and sticky, so my hair has been more limp than usual. Coupled with my new, gruelling workout regimen, my wonderfully thick, luxurious go-to product seems like it might be a bit too…well, luxurious. Plus, I've learnt to stop cleansing my hair every day, opting instead to make use of the myriad of dry shampoos and hair powders available everywhere and at every price point. The results are dramatic; I have long, soft, thick hair like I've never had in my life. Even as a child I had fine, limp, almost sparse tresses, but not anymore. Now, my main problem seems to be that I have too much hair, that it's too thick. Never thought I'd face this dilemma, but hey – it's still an issue.

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">I just purchased Coconut Water Conditioner from OGX (formerly Organix) Products. I'm planning on using it next time I cleanse my hair. I've also filled a squirty bottle with plain old white vinegar and I'm going to squeeze some onto my hair before cowashing. I'm hoping it'll strip away some of the layers of product build-up. I doubt I'll use the vinegar each time I cleanse my hair – keeping some natural oils on the scalp is one of the keys to my voluminous new 'do – but if it works as well I think it will, I'll definitely squirt some on after special events that demand a special look. Because we all know that "special looks" are usually accomplished with special amounts of super-special gooey things, super-special sprays, and certainly super-special mousses. (For a similar list of piled-on products and bizarre, searing-hot tools, see also: The Natural Look)

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">I looked over the list of ingredients in the Coconut Water Conditioner and I have an enormous amount of faith. Over the years, I've learnt a lot about which ingredient does what, which ingredients are heavy, which are light, and which are just there to take up space and/or keep the product fresh well into the next Ice Age. It's a trick I recommend to anyone who's serious about hair care. I'd make a list here, but I'll save that for another day; right now it's time to take a shower.

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">Wish me luck!

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="2" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: medium;">*("OMG, I could literally die for that Chanel bag! Like, literally kill for it!" Really? What good will a purse do you if you're either A) a corpse, or B) serving a life sentence for murder? But I digress…)

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="4" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">QUESTION TO READERS: Have you ever tried cowashing? Do you use a cleansing conditioner or something else? If you've never tried it, are you considering it? Or does it just sound too gross and slimy to contemplate? (Oddly enough, I used to be in that exact same camp. Now look at me…what a sell-out.) I want to hear your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences!

<span color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size="3" style="color: #aa2258; font-family: palatino; font-size: large;">On your mark...get set...COMMENT!

Long Tables & Short Agendas

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By ajbray · April 29, 2014

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=5>T</font><font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>he other day I was hopping about the Internet, looking for interesting tidbits related to human rights, as is my wont, and I came across an article in the Sydney Morning Herald from back in November 2013. The piece was called, "Violence against handicapped women: Imagine - serially raped or, in a wheelchair, driven in the back of a ute". I will address the content, nature, and revolting incidents discussed therein, along with a ton of other really, really scary statistics that will make any wheelie-chick see my point of view when I launch into my "Judith Leiber Needs to Design an 'Evening Mace/Pepper-spray' Collection" rant at a later date.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>But, today I will discuss one of the comments I read in that article from the Sydney Morning Herald. A commenter, a "Hans von Schlappenplanker," first quoted from the article:
"'…yet this disadvantaged group is often not consulted on this issue, or on structural changes in service systems to stop this violence.'"

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>He then went on to point out what I've been ranting about all month, "I find the bureaucrat-lawyer approach somewhat hilarious and removed from the real world.
"Let's have a forum! Let's have a symposium! Let's have structures in place! Let's consult! Let's compile a report! Let's have better systems, comrade!"

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>After countless meetings, on countless committees, boards, councils, commissions, panels, groups, round-tables, and every other bureaucratic grouping known to humanity, I've officially had my fill. That isn't to say that I won't stay on them and keep trying, keep fighting the good fight (and every other fight I can), but the futility of all of it has had me reeling lately. And it isn't even one particular group or panel, but unfortunately a conglomeration of all of them. In all the hours I've logged in while sitting around really long tables, I can't say that I've seen that many actual accomplishments transpire either at the tables, or as a result of one of those really long tables.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>I have seen "system changes," funding sources, innumerable amendments to by-laws, the creation of dozens and dozens of ad hoc committees, reorganizations, reports, approvals or refusals of years of minutes, votes, motions, motions being seconded, and motions being tabled…but the one thing I have yet to see is any actual motion. Disturbingly, I have gotten fingers waggled in my face because I accomplished something in my personal time that led to positive changes or actions. One group once went so far as to tell me that I couldn't advocate in my personal time. (HA!) It got a bit confusing after the initial ludicrousness; some people agreed because if I do something on my own, my involvement with the group might be brought up (and clearly, no one got to vote on anyone daring to do anything), and the other half also agreed with trying to curtail my independent actions, but they expressed outrage that the group might not get credit for the work I did on my own.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Another group I worked with was in love with voting. Each monthly meeting was little more than a group of people sitting around a really long table and voting on concepts that would never, ever, for any reason see any activity or come to fruition. During the New Business segment of the meetings, I would bring up a problem I discovered, relate an incident that occurred, or share an issue that was brought to my attention by a citizen. My contribution would be hashed out for two or three minutes – maximum – then the Chairman would segue into something completely off-topic and irrelevant to the infraction (usually about something that happened several decades ago). Then someone else would bring up some sort of "Housekeeping" issue – whether or not we would get dedicated email addresses, if we should all sign up for free email addresses that would be more standardized, when we would be setting up schedules to be available for phone or walk-in meetings, or where we should have our dedicated office – that issue would then be put to vote, and before the Chairman could finish asking if anyone would like to second it, the same guy would always yell, "Seconded!" Every. Single. Time. It became this whole thing. My family knew about it. My friends all knew about it. Everyone who picked me up and drove me home knew about it, and on the ride home, I would inevitably be asked, "So, how many times did he get to second stuff?" It would've been more laughable if we hadn't been mocking a group meant to help people.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>The worse thing I ever encountered in all of my "group" life was The Vote-to-Vote-to-Vote-to-Vote-to-Vote-to-Vote-to-Vote. Other than "seconding" things, that group was the very picture of Bureaucratic Inefficiency. We had a pristine record: We never accomplished anything while I sat at that particular long table. It was summed up perfectly when, according to the By-Laws, it came time to vote for Officers. So, the Chairman made some long-winded speech about the importance of voting with longevity and tradition in the group, and NOT based on "popularity," "flash-in-the-pan" actions done by one person, or because of "perceived notoriety." (He constantly thought I was after "his Chair." Even after a group-member nominated me [Mr Second seconded it], and I gratefully and demurely declined the nomination – with copious thanks and an assurance that I would be better prepared for the role at the next election – then explained that I felt I was too new to do justice to the greater good, he still kept glaring at me and making comments. I wasn't after a title…I was there to help the community.) When he finally had to draw breath, a motion was made that we would, in fact, vote. Mr Second seconded it, and it passed unanimously.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>At the following meeting, a fellow member moved that we would all decide on a date for the vote at the next meeting. Mr Second did his job, motion approved. At the following meeting we all decided that we would finalize the nominations for Offices at the next meeting, and the vote would occur at the meeting after that. Seconded (naturally) and passed. At the next meeting, everyone nominated each other for offices. (I ended up getting talked into accepting Vice Chair…they all used my words against me and said it was "best for the community.") A fellow member moved to vote at the next meeting, unless quorum was not established. Seconded, approved. Unfortunately, by the next meeting, the weather had taken an unpleasant turn (remember: these meetings were held monthly, so you can imagine how dragged-out this felt by now), and only a couple of us showed up. A Make-Up meeting was decided on, and we all went home to wait for the replacement meeting. At the Make-Up Meeting, the Chairman decided that we shouldn't hold elections on an irregularly scheduled meeting, his best friend in the group made the motion, and Mr Second seconded it (he later told me he thought we should've just voted then and there…perhaps it was a reflexive tic?), and it passed by a scant margin.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>At the following meeting, it was said that everything was too confusing (despite the fact that we all had several weeks to stare at the Agenda), so the group voted to definitely have the vote at the next regularly scheduled meeting, whenever that was. Sure enough, the next month brought about a warm snap (it was now spring) and finally, finally…a vote. After over half a year spent voting on voting, the vote itself seemed anticlimactic. It took all of five minutes to write our choices on little scraps of paper from the notebook I always dragged with me (just in case we ever, you know, did anything), tally up the results, have them double-checked, and declare the final outcome.

</font><font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Mission Accomplished.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Unfortunately, that was about all we ever accomplished. That winter, people stopped showing up, and we had to officially declare a "hiatus," which was a really nice way of saying, "Almost everyone stopped bothering because it was a huge waste of time." I still keep trying, though – the idea behind the group was actually really quite nice.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Not all groups are like this, of course; many groups that fight for much-needed rights and assistance are wonderful. I'm currently sitting on several, in fact. The problem is that so many of these so-called advocacy groups are really nothing more than a way for a bunch of people to get together as little as often, get themselves a title, slap another line on their political résumé, and pat themselves on the back. Many of these groups are centred around "helping" any one of the social pantheon of underserved communities, or even a combination thereof. Unfortunately, those of us who really need assistance never get to see the inner workings of the groups we go to for help. As a woman in a wheelchair in the LGBTQIA community who comes from a non-European cultural background and who is a religious minority, I need all the support I can get. Without being able to suss out which groups are genuinely there to provide service to their target communities, it's very easy to put your trust into a council or committee who have never achieved more than voting on rubber band widths, standardized ink colours, or possibly on voting to vote to vote. By putting your fate into the hands of people who really just want to "look good" and be able to wax politically correct about their "passion" for "volunteerism" at job interviews, it could cost you your home, your job or benefits, your health, your independence, or in extreme cases, could cost you your independence or even life.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>I wish there was infinitely more transparency in these groups and organizations. If citizens could see what was (or was not) being accomplished and carried out in meetings, they would be better informed when deciding where to take their case to be heard. Some groups do have a level of transparency; if you're looking to an organization for assistance, don't just take the openness at face value – read as much as you can from the meetings. Go over minutes, Google the individual members, and, if possible, look over what the members post on social media. If they spend their time reposting off-colour cartoons, bragging about their long-past Golden Days – or nothing much at all – be wary. You don't necessarily need (or even want) members who only focus on one topic, either – even if it's the topic you need. Look for a rich, well-rounded group of people with genuine interest in the matter at hand. If they tend to post and write about subjects other than the one from the organization(s) to which they belong, there's a better chance that they're being completely open and honest about their lives on social media, and as such you can get a good grasp on what they really think and feel.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3> Do they post racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, or xenophobic "jokes"? Do their interests show a propensity for bigotry? Or, are they so guarded with everything that you can't tell what they believe? About how many people in the group seem to show genuine interest in the topic of the organization? Not everyone has to post constantly about, say, disability news, but it's good if more than one person does. Use your own knowledge of the community to help decide if these people can assist you. If only one person seems to show genuine interest, don't be afraid to write them directly and make contact. You may find them to be a good advocate individually…or at least make new friend and possibly someone to lend moral support.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Whenever politics is discussed, bureaucracy is inevitably mentioned, however most people don't realize that all organizations/boards/panels, etc. all have their own internal politics. Or, if they're aware, it doesn't always leap to mind. Whether the organization is governmental, non-profit, volunteer, grass roots, or what have you, do your homework before putting all your eggs in one basket. Or better yet, spread your eggs around and seek the advice from more than one group. If they're remotely reputable, they'll be fine with that idea, and perhaps may even welcome the opportunity to network and work together. (I've always loved it when I've worked with other agencies to provide the best service possible.)

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>It hurts that my search for one offensive, repulsive thing led to finding other terrible, offensive, repulsive things, and then finally led to me sadly agreeing with a comment that basically undermines to so much of what I dedicate my life. I live for advocacy, volunteering, and all that is political. Yes, I love politics. I love working with local, provincial, state, federal, international – hell, intergalactic – organizations, boards, councils, panels, committees, commissions, and groups to help people. And I don't care what titles I do or don't get; I'm not looking to inflate any particular CV or résumé, or even pad out my Dinner Party Bio. I'm more interested in getting in the trenches and fulfilling the Mission Statements of the amazing agencies, boards, councils, commissions, and committees on which I currently sit. I don't care if I get some flashy title as an officer; in fact, I probably have more ability to work with individual cases if I'm not bogged down by extraneous duties of executive titles. That's why I've turned down opportunities to take a place at the head of those long wooden tables. Let me stay where I can spend my time worrying more about addressing city accessibility violations, or the backlash against a gay business owner, than whether or not I'm hobnobbing with the right politicos.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>After all, you can't get your hands dirty in the trenches if you're too busy patting yourself on the back.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Source: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/violence-against-handicapped-women-imagine...

What's Wrong with Me?!

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By ajbray · April 17, 2014

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=5>I</font> <font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>was reading a hilarious Buzzfeed article about the "10 Stupidest Things You Never Say to a Wheelchair User," and found it absolutely hysterical.. and sadly one-hundred percent accurate. Item #1 is, "Do you know [insert name here]? They're in a wheelchair, too." From there, the idiotic hypothetical questions and/or statements get more ridiculous... and, unfortunately, more accurate. The list is as follows:

  1. "Do you know [insert name here]? They're in a wheelchair, too."
  2. "When are you gonna walk again?"
  3. "But you don't look sick?"
  4. "The wheelchair accessible room is just up those stairs."
  5. "If your.. [gestures to legs].. are there what are you doing in one of those [gestures to wheelchair]?"
  6. "We don't get many people 'like you', so we didn't think we'd need to bother with any disabled access."
  7. "If I were you, I'd kill myself."
  8. "You just don't understand how uncomfortable your disability makes other people."
  9. "People like you should be in homes, it's not fair that the rest of us have to deal with your problems."
  10. "What's wrong with you?"

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Along with the comically... and disturbingly... accurate quotes, there are corresponding gifs gulped right from the mug of steaming pop culture that punctuate each abrasive quote. (I was honestly going to use a more accurate different metaphor to largely describe mass media; one that also revolved around a "steaming" pile of something... but I'm attempting to be nice today.) I'm not going to try to describe the hilarious gifs that accompany each thing that should never be uttered. For one, if a picture really is worth a thousand words, then some mathematician out there needs to come up with a formula that will help writers to accurately calculate how lengthily to wax when describing one of these new-fangled photos that move. Something like:

<p>
<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=2>x = 1000 * y(A/B)

Where x = the total number of creative words Writer needs to come up with to describe the 'moving picture,' a.k.a., "gif";

and y = number of actual seconds of the gif without looping (even if the "gif" is super-cute and/or contains kittens);

and A = approximate number of frames rendered in said "gif" (minus any über-lame "intro" frames that totally ruin the cuteness/humour/shock value ... I mean, WTF?! Those, like, totally suck, peeps...)

and B = the year of the original show/movie from which the "gif" was generated (Not the year you created your lame-o gif, loser *superdeepsighextremeeyerollandanothersigh*)


<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Anyway, since I don't feel like computing how many words I should write for each gif, just go look at the darned things at the link provided above. They're amusingly pertinent and don't require me to do any math-y things.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>I'm sure I'll come back to this list and kvetch about how yet another moron has attempted to check off the whole list four seconds after accosting me in the mall, but today, I'm focussing on #10. One contributor, a girl named Michelle Lynne, who was ostensibly born in 1985, replied with this ludicrousness:

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>I wouldnt even think most of that shit let alone say it..except the last one..ive asked before what happened or what was wrong..I dont think its very offensive. Obviously the person is in a wheel chair..and ur not pointing it out like if u ignore it its not really true..but thats just me and im not in a wheelchair but I believe I wouldn't feel bad if anyone asked what was wrong


<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>I had to respond... I had to respond. It was obligatory. I'm sure you understand. So, as a rejoinder, I ignored the fact that her drivel was almost completely incoherent/unintelligible, and instead I explained that while she might not mind being asked "What's wrong," it can actually be very annoying — and, yes offensive — to us. (Here, I asserted that I'm in a wheelchair.) At this point I also made it 100% clear that I do not speak for all disabled people; this is only my experience. Some people with disabilities might think it's just great and dandy for all I know!

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>To start, I asked her to imagine being asked that question on a constant basis once you leave the safety of your home. Everywhere you go, people want a recount of your medical history… as if it's actually their business. Naturally, the only people who NEED (or have a right) to know ANYONE's medical history are 1) the person afflicted, and 2) their physician. That's it. So, when trying to go out and spend a pleasant afternoon shopping at the mall, suddenly you get bothered by any number of nosy strangers who (for absolutely no discernible reason) want to know why you're in a wheelchair. I've been annoyed by such people so many times in one shopping trip that I actually lost count. For me, it's a total nuisance! I didn't do anything to make it seem like I want to be bothered, I didn't do anything to encourage these complete strangers to come and hound me for grisly details about my medical history. I just went shopping. I have absolutely NO idea why people think it's their right to prise into a total stranger's personal life with no provocation whatsoever.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>And, here's another thing…most some people are in wheelchairs due to something unpleasant. Usually an injury or illness. Does she really think we want to talk about and rehash the details of what is (most likely) the least pleasant moment of our lives? Do I really want to spend my day at the mall explaining to people I will never, ever see again about my many painful surgeries throughout my life? About the pain of growing up with autoimmune diseases and congenital deformities in my lower extremities? Or about the time I broke my neck and had to have it completely reconstructed?!? While trying to buy a cute new skirt??? NO. No I do not. In fact, I hate talking about it at this point… yet people are relentless.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>
Then, on days I simply cannot take it anymore, and I tell them I'd rather not discuss it, they get all offended and hostile.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>
I don't need that.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Here's one more thing I asked her to consider: at the most basic -- and TOTALLY obvious -- level, the answer is, <font size=4>"Absolutely NOTHING."</font><font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3> There is nothing "wrong" with me… and by asking that question, she is insinuating there is something "wrong" with people who have disabilities. There's nothing wrong with being disabled… but there is a lot wrong with infringing on the privacy, time, and enjoyment of others simply to feed morbid curiosity.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>I finished up by saying that I hoped I cleared up why #10 was featured so prominently on the list, and that I hoped that, as a result of the explanations I listed, "Michelle Lynne" (purportedly born in 1985) would never again be tempted to bug perfect strangers about what was so "wrong" with them that they required a wheelchair for ambulation. Or, at the very least, I hoped that she would feel sufficiently stupid for asking such a moronic question in the first place, and that she would learn when to keep her big mouth shut and learn to deal with not being completely omniscient. (I'm sure that idea was a hard pill to swallow for one so wise... /sarcasm/)

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Perhaps needless to say, "Michelle Lynne" hasn't responded -- nor asked what the hell is "wrong" with me...

Pedicures for Perception

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By ajbray · April 12, 2014

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=5>A</font> <font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>friend of mine, Maggie (www.baclofenbabe.com), posted a great entry on 5 possible reasons AB (Able-Bodied) people react to her they way they do to her when she goes out. She has Cerebral Palsy and it's visible in her gait, but like Yours Truly, she gets around just fine anyway, loves going out, is totally independent, and just lives a normal, active life. Oh, and she's smart as a whip.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>She made a post on her blog about five possible reasons AB people act strangely toward her (and other people with an affected gait), and as usual, the things she deals with are the same that I do (or at least very, very close). Ambulatory disabilities are all pretty similar out in the 'real world,' and at the end of the day, it doesn't seem to matter if you were born with CP, have MS, were born with a rare deformity, or got hit by a bus; we're all viewed the same way by people whose gait is relatively unaffected... like we're total imbeciles.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>In response, I reminded her that it's not just CPsters that get the pitying looks, stares, incredibly unhelpful help, or the saccharine, patronizing tones...it's anyone with a slightly different method of ambulation. I've come to realize that anything that causes a person to get from Point A to Point B with anything other than a 'normal' stride (morbid obesity notwithstanding) somehow instantly rings a bell in the AB mind, and equates to, "mentally incompetent, socially awkward, and most likely a drooling hazard."

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>I've come to decide that it must be the way we move about, because people missing an arm don't seem to get that same treatment (that I've seen). Let's take 2 national U.S. commercials: Swiffer and PETCO. I was in the same room with AB people when both commercials were aired and I watched their various responses. In the Swiffer advert featuring a man who lost his arm, people murmured how "cool" he was (I thought he acted like a bit of a douche, but nonetheless...), how "funny" the commercial was, and several people commented that they thought he was "totally hot, actually." (His "hotness" was, of course surprising to them, and HAD to be commented on, because, you know, his...ummm *motion to his lack of arm*.)  Everyone seemed to think this commercial was awesome, and yes, sadly "inspiring," but no one seemed to discount his mental faculties.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>Now, let's take the PETCO ad. For one brief second, a young man in a wheelchair is seen being pulled by his trusty Service Dog. First of all, when this image flashed onto the screen, most people instantly swivelled to look at me with shining eyes and dopey grins. (I guess they all thought I knew him.) Then, almost everyone started cooing and awwwww-ing in baby-talk voices. I watched this transformation with a great deal of interest and a touch of disgust. Some people gushed in their best falsettos about the "ickle-wickle puppy!" while others cooed about the "pretty doggy, good doggy!" Most people just squealed and aww-ed about how "cute" they were -- except me. I watched the same commercial and said, "Good idea if he's tired, but I hope that harness is equipped for that so he doesn't hurt the Service Dog. Maybe he should get a power wheelchair?" I didn't find a single reason to lapse into baby-talk.

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>The sudden transformation from a room full of (somewhat) mature, intelligent adults into a gaggle of giggling, doe-eyed morons tells me what mindset these people were in as soon as they saw the man and his dog. Conversely, when a group the same size (and some of the same people) saw the amputee, they stayed their usual mental age, and even considered him sexually viable. The man with the dog is just as attractive (if you're into guys), but when I said as much to the AB peeps to test their reactions, they all gawked at me with shock and horror as if I had just said the same thing while watching those Toddlers and their Tiaras. Of course, then they all glanced at my 'chair and nodded knowingly, as if to say, "Oh, okay, yes...you can think that. He would probably be a good match for you." If, you know, I wasn't married to an Able-Bodied person... but that rant is for another day. ("It's so awesome that you stayed with her after, you know..." No, we don't know. Enlighten us, please. Do you mean "birth"? Most people do get married after birth, so...)

<font color="#aa2258" face="palatino" size=3>One of these days someone with a phD in something incredibly, wonderfully science-y will hopefully figure out why on earth 99.9% of society equates walking 'normally' (gag) with IQ and capability. If the tie between the two functions was really as strong as people make it out to be, then a double BTK amputee would be totally brain dead. Losing a toe would be more devastating than any stroke. Clipping one's toe nails would result in memory lapses... while dolling up your little piggies with a fresh coat of nail polish would guarantee a surge in knowledge that would ensure even the dimmest employee a big, fat promotion. And, if all these people were right, and how we walk is intrinsically linked to our brains' functions, then pedicure-oblivious rocket scientists would probably be cleaning toilets, and the world's Think Tanks would be filled with leggy super models, all fashionably stomping it out to cure cancer, end hunger, and finally, finally pen the perfect sitcom.

Wigging Out!

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By ajbray · October 18, 2012

So, my recent obsession seems a little off the wall, but it all started off so innocently...

I'm going to be publishing my next book, a romantic novel, but want a model on the cover that will look like my main female character. However, not that many models have the perfect head of messy red curls, and the ones that do charge a premium for that specialty.

But, I got a thought buzzing around my brain, and I couldn't get it out until I hit the appropriate store. Without any real hope, and without knowing the store I found would even have the exact model I needed, I ventured into my first wig store.

Twenty minutes later, I emerged, triumphant, and clutching a fun, curly red wig.

When I got home, I put up my hair, donned the wonky fishnet under-wig-hairnet-thing, and officially wigged out.

An hour after that, I was obsessively and jubilantly posting selka photos to my FaceBook album entitled, "Wonky Hair." I piled it up in a messy top-knot, plaited it into adorable pigtails (letting me live out my childhood Anne of Green Gables moments), pulled back the top into a clip, and even tried on all of my favourite hairbands and sparkly adornments. I then took it step further and clipped in some curled hot-pink extensions, then integrated them seamlessly.

As a final touch, I indulged in some OTT-ridiculousness, and donned the crowns I've won in beauty pageants. Yep, I broke out my tiaras and slapped 'em on...just like that!

The most interesting thing came when I checked my FaceBook later that night. My new photos were plastered with countless comments and scads of "Likes."  Most interestingly, everyone thought that it was natural and that I'd made a bold, exciting decision to become a ginger, and everyone was behind me on the choice.

AJ as a Red-Head

After that, I was officially hooked.

I went back to the shop where I first bought "Big Red," (also now known as "The Gateway Drug" in our house) and let the wigs take me on a trip down Memory Lane.

You see, back in the day, Miss A.J., local upstanding politician, Board of Directors member, Council member, Committee Chair, and all around über-chic Power-Suit Enthusiast, was once a black, matte card-carrying Goth Girl. Yup. And, along with my Goth Girl status came exp-hair-iments galore! Black with red stripes, which then morphed into one big red chunk on one side, then both. Purple hair (at the request of my mother, who convinced me that the red made me look entirely too ruddy), blue braids, and even a nasty run-in with a colour that paralleled the famous Ghostbusters' Ectoplasm in the jar, and once applied and soaked into my tresses made me closely resemble an extra from "The Walking Dead."  Those were not my desired results.  That was also the first day I learnt about soaking the hair with oil to leech out the dye, then vigorously washing with Dawn to attempt to strip out the dreadful, dreadful mistake.

Skip forward to present day: I still have Sisters of Mercy and Switchblade Symphony on my iPad, iPod Touch, and engraved iPod Nano, but I also have classical, Jazz, Frou Frou, Bitter:Sweet, and more worldly (and dance-y!) tunes from the likes of Bigbang, Jay Chou, and lots of other music in non-English. And a stylish, brunette hairstyle with long, sweeping bangs, razed layers that build volume, and are carved out to frame my face.

Very professional, eh?

Well, the little Goth Girl inside me never died, she just got quiet and waited, lurking in the shadows, anxious for the day when she could again adorn my head in bright, colourful excitement.  And she got it:

Red and Black Hotness!

After that, I became the proud owner of a long, sleek dark bob, shot through with delicious burgundy highlights and the awesome bangs I can never bring myself to let my stylist cut:

Black and Burgundy Bob

Just for kicks, I also bought an asymmetrical Pixie-Cut with a swath of chin-length, deep brown (almost black, really) human hair. It's beyond adorable, easy to throw on when company is knocking at my front door, and not so different from a sweet little beanie. Warm enough to wear in the winter, but well-ventilated for summer, it's perfect in more ways than one. And it's realistic enough that it freaks people out when I show up one day in my Pixie, then my natural hair the next.

Amusingly, I was accused of getting extensions with my natural hair down; my short wig looks that natural on me! (I also sold three while admiring my reflection in it in the store. LOL)

Once I got the "Fun-ness" out of my system, I decided to take it one step further and buy a looooong wig in dark brown, and a wig in off-black, but almost my exact style. Why, you ask? Why bother buying a wig that looks just like my own hair?

Because, my friends, I have officially wigged out.

I'm hooked. The ease, the beauty, the speed, and in winter, my wigs are going to keep me warm like a secret hat. I call my basic one my, "Emergency Hair," and it has already come in handy. Running late for work? Throw on a wig. Don't feel like washing your hair? Wig it. Arthritis acting up? Uhhhhh...WIG! Go in for a trim and end up with a horrendous mullet-chop? Yup. Wigs. And there's no such thing as a "Bad Hair Day" when you can just pick which "Hair Day" you want, and it's instantly perfect.

The only real products required to keep your little beauties looking like new are: an inexpensive wig brush (available where you buy your faux hair -- expect to spend about $2.50), hair nets to keep them safe, and a bottle of wig conditioner. I use Control Wig, 3-in-1 Conditioner, and bought my bottle for about $2.00.

Control Wig 3-in-1 Spray

Back in the day, in my mom's generation, actually, women wore wigs all the time. Her sisters all wore wigs, as did her mother. Department stores had entire Wig Sections.

Go back a few years, and wigs, or "periwigs," as they were known in the 17th Century, and they've been a staple of almost every class to come from the 16th Century on, but before that, the ancient Egyptians wore them to protect their heads from the blistering sun. Numerous ancient cultures wore them, actually, and they were obviously thought of as pretty darned attractive, because the Japanese Geisha and Korean Kisaeng wore them to woo and entrance their clients. If you ask me, that's a ringing historical endorsement if there ever was one.

Nowadays, we mostly see them as parts of costumes. Long, black wigs with bouffants are a must with every Elvira costume. Afro wigs come standard with "Disco Baby" sets, and everyone from little girls in 60's-inspired "Go-Go Diva" Halloween costumes, to strippers and streetwalkers (remember "Pretty Woman"?) don brightly-hued novelty wigs. And with the overdose of toddlers in crowns parading around in pageants, falls and pre-curled wiglets are slowly becoming more acceptable.

But full-on wigs? Tucking up all your hair in a weird little skullcap and tugging on a whole new hairdo? Well, I can tell you that I've been doing it, and not only have I gotten nothing but effusive praise and compliments galore, but in public, everyone thinks they're real.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I attended Boutique Show as part of Buffalo Fashion Week, and they couldn't stop talking about burgundy. I found out the next day that I was invited to a VIP event, but too late to glam up my hair, so I decided to take a chance, and throw on my black and burgundy baby for a test-drive through the fashionista set.

Ummm...can you say, "Overwhelming Success"???

No one could tell! Not only that, but I had women begging me to know where I got my hair done, commenting on how shiny it was, and asking what products I used, and if I get glossing treatments. My $19 wig made me feel like a million bucks...and in a room full of VIP fashionistas, no less!

So, ladies, I think it may be time to consider buying a few wiggies, if only for "Emergency Hair," or even special events. Because, let's face it, not everyone has a Blowout Budget, or room in their wallets to have stylists on call for every Holiday Party (and you know Party Season is right around the corner, Ladies!). Or, if you're like me and have joint pain that can make holding styling tools excruciating, it's a fantastic way to still look and feel pretty, often for under $30. (My most expensive one is real human hair, and it's the black and bright red one above. She was $29.99, whereas my other beauties have been about $19 or $20 before tax.)

And, if you're also like me and share my love of shaking things up with a new 'do or colour, wigs are your damage-and-commitment-free solution! They're also a fantastic way of test-driving a drastic new cut or shade before you take the plunge. (Take my little Pixie for example! Or how about bangs?! On me, these looks are much better as a temporary move, while others might try on a Pixie-cut or something else daring, only to find they've fallen head-over-heels in love!)

As an added bonus, you can spice things up with your Significant Other(s) with a new wig, too! I mean, helloooooo variety! *wink*

If any of you decide to wig out with me, I'd love to hear your feedback! If you have any questions, issues, or need help finding a store in your area, I may be of use, so feel free to leave a comment below.

In the meantime, I think my husband has a date with a red-hot red-head tonight... ;)

Sweet and Low...in Calories & Carbs (But Not in Fun!)

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By ajbray · October 10, 2012
<p>

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;">Cocktail fads come and go, from the Manhattan, to Bond 007 Martinis, to pitchers of sangria and punches, to the 80's Merlot Craze. Then skip ahead to the Almighty Cosmo, made über-famous by a little show called "Sex and the City." For years, the Cosmopolitan cornered the market on Girls' Nights  -- either Out or In.

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;"> However, just as all fads wax and wane, so too did the Cosmo succumb to the fickleness of trend. Suddenly, the only gals spotted with martini glasses of the ruby-hued cocktail were looked down upon by the fashionistas at the bar. The "hipper-than-thou" chicks would point clandestinely and giggle ruthlessly at the poor women getting mocked for no other reason than their decision to imbibe a delicious drink.

Hell, even the franchise that catapulted the Cosmo into the stratosphere of coolness abandoned it in favour of, basically anything but a Cosmo, including weak Champagne cocktails. In the first SATC film, the query is posited, "These are delicious! Why did we stop drinking these?" to which the response was, "Because everybody else started to!" A typical hipster answer if there ever was one. (Man, I love that movie, though! *sigh*)

But, ho! HaHA! Just as printed suits à la 1970's have made it back to the runway from Miu Miu and full-on Prada, the Cosmo has returned to orbit. And thanks to everything from the new barrage of ready-made cocktails (many aimed at us chicks on perpetual diets...I'm sorry...lifestyles) to, well, the fact that it's a damned good cocktail, those smirking chic-sters are now smirking at girls not drinking them.

I love the fact that low-calorie, low-carb Cosmos are now available ready-made in bottles, and are so easy to find, but I like to personalize drinks to individual tastes -- I, for one, like more citrus than most, and far less sticky sweetness. So I prefer the old-fashioned method.

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;">That, and, well, I feel freakin' cool winging around a retro stainless steel cocktail shaker.

So, I recently came across a recipe that is not just low-cal, low-carb, delicious, but also completely customizable...and, to be honest, a heck of a lot cheaper than those pre-made bottles I mentioned, even if you're using Top Shelf vodka and brand-name pomegranate juice. Here's the recipe:

 


<span style="color: #ec1299;"><span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium;">
INGREDIENTS

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;">2 1"x 1/2" strips of lemon zest

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;">2 1"x 1/2" strips of orange zest

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;">1 packet Sweet'N Low granulated sugar substitute (or another brand, such as Splenda or Truvia)

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;">0.5 oz. unsweetened pomegranate juice

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;">1.5 oz. vodka (plain, citrus, pomegranate, raspberry, or cranberry flavoured)

<span face="Palatino" style="font-family: Palatino; font-size: medium; color: #ec1299;">DIRECTIONS

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lemon and orange zest with the Sweet'N Low. Add the pomegranate juice and vodka. Fill the shaker halfway with cracked ice, then shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled, stemmed glass. (The preferred choice is a martini glass, but you can get creative if you have some wicked fun Margarita glasses, or even coup-style Champagne glasses -- especially since you should NEVER use those for sparkling wine, anyway. Flutes people, please!)

</span>

Garnish with a twist of zest, if you like, and enjoy!

PER SERVING

100 Calories, 0 g Fat, 2 g Carbs, 0 g Protein, 0 g Dietary Fibre, 0 mg Sodium


 

After trying this recipe with both my hubby and some of my girls, I have received 100% positive feedback. That's a heck of a lot more than I can say about wines; even as a certified sommelier, I've learnt that there's no way to please everyone with wine. What I like is too dry for most of my gal-pals, and my hubby's palate isn't always in the same mood as mine, so sometimes wines are hit-or-miss. And the recipe must be pretty darned good to get a dude to admit he likes a Cosmopolitan. Granted, he's a much more open-minded guy than I've ever met before (hence I married him), but, still...it's a...a...Cosmo.

With Party Season fast upon us, I couldn't keep this little gem to myself. Delicious, versatile, inexpensive, customizable, and easy on the waistline, this should just be called the Sweet & Low Cosmo!

Curl it up!

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By ajbray · May 23, 2012

Yesterday (22 May, 2012) was Wear Your Hair Curly Day, and as a gal with naturally stick straight, pin-thin hair, I love any excuse to wear it wild and crazy!

So, I happily set my hair in old-school foam rollers and even let it frizz up in the humidity...it's SO liberating to let the wild side of my personality manifest externally, and I don't think my natural hair format truly expresses that.  Well, that's why they make so many delightful products that can transform straight into curly, curly into straight, frizzy into smooth, and everything in between.

AJ with curly hair!

However, those of us with varying disabilities, pain issues, or mobility problems can find it difficult to make the magic happen. Personally, I utilize a whole arsenal of products, gadgets, tools, and methods to take my blank canvas hair and transform it to match my the occasion, my outfits, or usually... my moods.

One of my favourite hair gizmos is the Infinity by Conair 2" Spin Air Brush. This this has literally transformed how I think about home hair styling -- and saved my hands on many a gloomy, arthritic day. Before I bought one of these, I used to have to bust out a round brush, the hair dryer, the concentrator attachment, and my third arm, just to get a silky, bouncy blowdry. (Or, ask for help, which I detest doing, especially when it comes to grooming. What can I say? I'm a Taurus.) With the Spin Air Brush, I get easy-to-depress buttons to change the rotation, Cool, Medium, or High settings, plus a Cooling Shot button for setting styles and adding shine.

Sometimes, I don't even use it to dry my hair, per se -- I'll be lazy and let my mane air-dry, then use the Spin Air Brush to quickly style it. Without fail, I get smooth ends, lift and volume at the root, and can even add waves and curl to the ends. Essentially, it polishes, styles, and saves the day...all with the press of a button (well, two, actually...one to rotate left, one for right). I can flip the ends up, curl them under, or iron them straight without the rotation function.

Conair Infinity Spin Air Brush

This product has been so liberating, so fantastic for my arthritis, that I literally cannot recommend it enough. Whether you have joint pain, strength issues (it's quite lightweight), or just want to make it easier and more foolproof for an aide or attendant to coif your mane, this is the product to get. Pun intended: it will put a whole new spin on your morning routine!

Another product I can no longer survive without is dry shampoo. What was once considered a kitschy reminder of days gone by: when women would want to stretch the life of their beehive hairdos... is now a staple in many a medicine cabinet. Mine included. More importantly, gone are the days when it looked like you dumped a box of cornstarch on your head (because, well, effectively they did). Dry shampoo now comes in a range of prices, formulas, and even colours. And, with summer here, sopping up the excess oil is imperative for staying clean and sexy-looking, even on the hottest days!

As for tinted or coloured sprays/powders, I simply adore Bumble and bumble Brown Hair Powder Spray (available at Sephora). It's a total multi-tasker. Need more volume at the roots, even on clean hair? Got it. Need more traction for a fab up-do? Done. Don't have time to touch up your roots and cover a few grey hairs? No sweat. Have super-fine hair and want to fill in the gaps where your scalp glares through? Look no further. This stuff is wondrous, comes in multiple shades, and even in spray or shakable powder format for greater control. It's also fragrance-free, so those of your with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity won't be plagued by headaches from heavy perfumes.

If you'd rather just have clean-looking hair, don't mind a light fragrance, but don't want any chalky, aging residue at the roots, check out Marc Anthony's 2nd Day Clear Dry Shampoo. It doesn't seem to have the lift that some other brands do, but for eleven bucks and change at my favourite Shoppers Drug Mart, you can't go wrong. Other invisible dry shampoos can go for easily three times that price, AND be much harder to find.

And, for the gal on a strict budget, I'd recommend Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo Spray. It's inexpensive, comes in both a spray for Normal/Oily, a foam for Curly/Thick, and even a light Dry Spray Conditioner to polish up the ends. It can leave a slight whitish residue at the roots, so I either use my fingers and palms to massage it in really well, or concentrate it around the back and undersides of my hair, then finish off the top, crown, and sides with either the Invisible or the Brown (from above). I have found, though, that the Suave is fantastic as a back-combing aide, so if you're just itching to pouf your crown up a bit, hold the hair vertically, spray the underside, let dry, tease, smooth back down, and spray into place. Abracadabra! Instant inches to your 'do!

Of course, these are just a few of the products that make my life easier as a woman with a disability, but I hope you'll get out and try some new styles to heat up your summer and bring out your wild side! Because: Nothing says, "Confident Woman!" like hair with chutzpah!

Stay Sassy, Ladies!

Luv, A.J. Bray

Glamour Magazine 2012 Glambassador

A Regina in Rotis

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By ajbray · January 13, 2012

Fellow Wheeled Queens and Kings,

This is an official proclamation to declare our liberation from the ambulatory constraints, and point out all the ways we're awesome in our own ways...

(Of course, this is nothing against our Standing Brethren, but, as every minority group has before us, we must, at some point, establish some identity of our own.  No hard feelings, Ambis...)

I just did something that no right-minded Ambi (Ambulatory Person) can, or should, do... I tattooed the bottom of my foot.

Why? you ask...because, well, because I can.

How many Ambis can say they'll be off their foot for long enough to keep out infection, dirt, and cat hair?  How many women can proudly state that they can go round their daily activities with a wee, bleeding, gaping, inked-in heart on the sole of her foot without fear of covering it with calluses, destruction by improper aftercare, or wear and tear from cramped shoes?

We few, we proud, we wheeled...that's who!

My baby-soft feet are often confounding for those who have never encountered a Regina (or Rex) in Rotis, as our walking counterparts struggle with bunions, calluses, and fallen arches.  We get to roll through life with beautiful, soft feet, and get marked where and when we want.  We don't fret over the exact sizing of a shoe, nor worry how a five-inch stiletto will feel after an 8 hour work day.

Instead, we cover up for cold days to keep our inert knees and shins safe from the cold and, if you're a para, potential frostbite.  Or if you're like me and have a myriad of issues, including internal metal hardware and Reynauds...well, frostbite.  We have little blankies that we quickly shed and try to hide as soon as we cross the Holt's or Bloomie's thresholds, and stock up on those disposable "Hot Hands" packets every time they go on sale.  We try to hide our frailness and, if you're anything like me, tuck the ugly-but-soooo-warm Tractor Supply suede gloves behind you before anyone can see how the yucky brown utilitarianism clashes with her mink jacket.

But, once inside, I have the distinction of gliding silently through the halls, stopping only when a pretty item catches my eye, and dodging through low, tiny holes in crowds.

This past New Year's Eve, I was in Niagara Falls, Ontario (of course), watching O.L.P. and Simple Plan to ring in the New Year, and while with my hubby and Eliza, I had to school them a bit.

"As you always state, my darling, one cannot go faster than the person in front of them," my husband, Cheyn said calmly, as I prepared to pass a slow-moving family.

"Au contraire, mon amour," I countered, as we attempted to negotiate through the ridiculous crowd.  "That rule only applies to cars on the street and mere mortals.  I'm a Regina in rotis.  I can 'bob and weave.'"

"Bob and Weave."  I have lived by those words in crowds for as long as I remember being on wheels.

So, we bobbed and we wove, and by the end, the three of us got a quite acceptable vantage point (with the aid of a few constables), and all kissed in the New Year happily.  And, thanks to the storage room in my chair, we were able to toast it in with respectable bubbly, too, though officially it was "non alcoholic."  (If the cops were interested in busting anyone at all, they would've gone after the, oh, thousand or few peeps sparking up doobs -- that *I* could see/smell -- for the Ball Drop.  I'm just saying...)

Since then, in less than a fortnight, so many things have happened to reinforce my role as a Disability Rights Advocate and public person that I can't even consider hiding behind my writing anymore, as I once did when I first started out as a wee author...I wasn't even legal to drink in the US when I toasted my first publication in America.

I'm in the current People Magazine, I was just on Entertainment Tonight Canada, and my husband is being exhibited in Niagara Falls as a prominent "Local African-American Artist."  I was recently named to the head editorial staff of the upcoming DisabilityNews.Net, I'm the Chairwoman of the Public Policy and Outreach Committee for ILNC, and the Vice Chair of the Niagara Falls Human Rights Commission.  I have an amazing husband who has joined our movement, the world's greatest Personal Assistant (recently hired after years of her consistent help), and the most supportive parents in the history of queer, disabled, zany history.  And I couldn't be prouder of my team...they're combining to allow me to not only write, but go into business for myself...

oh, and get a tattoo on the bottom of my foot.

To my dear Bothers and Sister on Wheels...smile.  How fortunate are we?  We can make jokes, always have our own seating, and never need strange, expensive insoles in our shoes.  We can either be footloose and fancy/shoe free, or strap into the sexiest shoes ever without fear of wearing them out or spraining an ankle using the loo.  We can't fall on wet floors, and when we dance, not only is it a thing of graceful, rolling beauty, but a thing of public "inspiration," and wonder.

So, to my beautiful, wondrous Brothers and Sisters in Wheelage...own it.

You're in it for life, so you might as well LIVE.

The Price of Being "liberbal": Amusing Hate Mail!

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By ajbray · June 23, 2011
<p>

I like FaceBook.  I really, really do, but sometimes, well... sometimes I get some of the craziest messages.  Each week, my inbox gets stuffed with everything from nice, normal, "Hi, how ya doing, A.J.?!" notes (which I love, BTW), to marriage proposals (interesting and flattering, but impossible), to sexual propositions (eeew), to spam, and finally, to crazy hate mail.  For instance, I just read THE most ridiculously offensive hate mail from someone who *requested* to be on my "Friends List." Please, allow me to re-post this bigoted, small-minded diatribe, and let us all get a good laugh from the illiterate drivel! LOL


From Justin Engel**** in B.C.
30 May

"A.J.
Hey A.J. I understand you are very liberbal but why must you consume foods from foriegn countries too prove your political correctness. I understand you are in a wheel chair but you also need to understand some of us american kids with disabilities have adopted a more Eurpean method of living despite the fact that we were products of Ronald Reagan and his electronic money like credit cards, and electronic cash. Reagan understood people like myself.
"


Then, several weeks later, after I ignored him, he sent this into the void:


19 June
"Married to a black guy hey. I'm sorry did your parents discriminate against black folk. I am glad I wasn't raised that way and maintain my cultural identity as a christian who dates other chritians. Thats the new fetish with you women "You are VERY LIBERAL, and date a black guy that is straight out of GREEN MILE". On a proving ground that you are liberal and free thinking. Let me know if he knocks you up and leaves you with the kids."

Since I have no desire to write directly to this loser right now, I thought it would be better to respond to the world: after all, I have nothing to hide.

Let's hit this point for point:

1)  "why must you consume foods from foriegn countries too prove your political correctness"  Ummm...wha-?  I'm not sure how eating yummy things and trying various foods to expand my grazing repertoire proves anything other than I like to eat.  How does stuffing my face with awesomeness make me "liberbal"???  LOL

2)  "I understand you are in a wheel chair but you also need to understand some of us american kids with disabilities have adopted a more Eurpean method of living despite the fact that we were products of Ronald Reagan..."  *sigh*  All right... PLEASE can SOMEONE tell me how ANY of this sounds "Eurpean"???  The last time I checked -- and maybe I'm wrong here -- Europe is comprised of many countries of varying and diverse cuisines and foodstuffs...things like ummmm.... snails, offal, and raw meat.  LOL  I'm just sayin'.  ;)

3)  "...despite the fact that we were products of Ronald Reagan and his electronic money like credit cards, and electronic cash. Reagan understood people like myself"  Really?  Did President Reagan really understand completely incomprehensible morons??  It's such a shame that there aren't more people like President Reagan to translate for people like me.  What a tragedy.  (BTW: what does "electronic cash" have ANYthing to do with food, "liberbal"ism, or disability?!?!?  LMAO)

4)  "I'm sorry did your parents discriminate against black folk."  Is this a question, statement, apology, interrogative, or what??? I almost want to write to this dude and ask, but yeah, I think that wouldn't go too well.  LOL  Anyway, the answer (I think) is a resounding NO, and that's why I decide how feel about people based on things like, ummmmm, personality, intelligence, skills, interests, humour, and all that silly stuff, rather than the really important things like race, race, race, and RACE!  LMAO  And, P.S. I don't think it's OK to refer to persons of African descent as, "black folk," any longer.  As an additional FYI, they are also now allowed to use the same water fountain as you, Justin.  Darn that Civil Rights Movement! ;) (/EXTREME sarcasm)

5)  "I am glad I wasn't raised that way and maintain my cultural identity as a christian who dates other chritians."  First thing: "Cultural Identity" = White Supremacist = Neo-Nazi = Nut  Second thing: I'm pretty sure there are African American Christians, or "chritians," as you put it.  Third thing: Neither of us are Christian, so that's moot.  Fourth thing: I'm guessing you're one of those "people" (read: nuts) who believes that interracial marriage is against the Bible.  Thank you.  Seriously, from all of us who are working for full marriage equality for same-sex couples, THANK YOU!  Because, for years same-sex marriage opponents have been stating that the gay marriage debate is TOTALLY different from the interracial marriage debate because, according to them (now), in the Bible, nothing is said about mixed-race marriage, whereas sexual diversity is expressly forbidden.  Well, you sir, have just given our side even more credence.  Thanks!  (NB: Contrary to the current rewriting of history, religion was used in the case against interracial marriage.  Check out the book, Almighty God Created the Races by Fay Botham.)

6)  "Thats the new fetish with you women"  Love?  Umm, yeah, I guess we women have gotten kinda turned on by that whole wacky, "love who makes your heart happy," thing, and have totally fetishized it.  That, and kissing other girls.  ;)

7)  "'You are VERY LIBERAL, and date a black guy that is straight out of GREEN MILE".'  First thing: How is this a direct quote?  Does Justin E., originally of Washington State, know what quotation marks are?  Or how and why they're used?  I'm sorry to say it, but South Delta Secondary School needs to audit their English department.  Immediately.  Anyway...  Second thing: I wasn't aware I was dating any guys; perhaps I should tell my husband of 11 years that I'm dating some guy.  He'll probably be pretty hurt.  Third thing:  "GREEN MILE"???  Really?  Wow, I know he's cute and all, but do you REALLY think my hubby looks like Tom Hanks, Justin E.???  It's funny, but I never noticed the resemblance before now...

8)  "On a proving ground that you are liberal and free thinking. Let me know if he knocks you up and leaves you with the kids."  Actually, I don't need to *prove* I'm liberal or free thinking, simply because I don't write racist, Neo-Nazi drivel like this.  And, for the record, we have no children.  We're proudly a Child-Free household, and will always stay that way.  It is medically impossible for us to conceive, and I don't think one can "accidentally" adopt a child after a crazy night of drinking too much Champagne, so I don't foresee that ever changing.  We do, however, have a cat that we rescued, but I think if we ever got divorced, I'd demand full custody of the cat.  And alimony, Cat Care (versus Child Care), the house, and a lifetime supply of foreign foods to prove my political correctness.

Oh, and some of that "electronic cash."  ;)

 

Sincerely,


A.J.

"liberbal" Extraordinaire


Purse Safety: A Tip for Wheelie Chicks

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By ajbray · May 12, 2011

Good evening, fellow be-wheeled fashionistas!  I have a question for all of you: has anyone else wondered how to integrate all the cute little handbags popping up in stores with our somewhat, shall we say...unusual situation?  Well, I have an even more unusual solution to keep those purses safely in our laps, and maybe even help to carry shopping bags home from the mall!

But, I'll warn you, ladies...it's not for the faint of heart...

Once upon a time, I was given a set of "love cuffs" by a friend as a gag gift.  Naturally, as open-minded as I am, I was highly amused and not even a little bit offended, but I'm not exactly what some might call a, 'submissive,' kind of girl.  So, a perfectly nice pair of purple neoprene wrist restraints sat, gathering dust, until one day I finally figured out a more practical use for them.

I had been out earlier that night, dancing and having a few cocktails with some girlfriends, when I hit a bump and my *adorable* sequined clutch slid off my lap and popped open on the ground.  Lipstick, a compact, my ID, and cash all went flying.  Rather than looking savvy and independent with my chic little purse, I suddenly found myself scrabbling to find all my night-out necessities, with random helpful strangers bending to come to my rescue.  So not sexy.

As I got ready for bed that night, I found myself ruminating over my handbag faux pas, and wondering what, if anything, could be done to keep it from happening ever, ever again.  I examined the purse; there was a short chain handle that could be detached, so I began experimenting with places where I could hook it on my chair.  After a few unsuccessful, albeit innovative, attempts, I realized the chain was simply too short.  I considered the notion of buying a longer chain at the local hardware store and attaching it to the bar across the back, but the metal chain would eventually chip the paint and scuff it.  Not acceptable.  Luckily, my eyes slid over to my dresser and to where the love cuffs still sat in their box.  Perfect!

***

Step 1. Purchase (or repurpose *winkwink*) a pair of neoprene 'love cuffs' with adjustable Velcro fasteners.  If you're too timid to visit your local 'Adult Toy Store,' visit some places online, such as BetterSex.com, for more clandestine delivery.

 

Step 2. Wrap one end of a cuff around the back bar of your favourite chair and adjust according to the length you want.  (This is when these particular cuffs come in handy -- they're secure at almost any length thanks to the strong hook-and-loop closures.)  If you have a mini-backpack on your chair, as I do, be sure to wrap the cuff around the strap to keep it safe, too.

 

 

Step 3. If you find you need a little extra length, or you know you're going to want to carry other bags at the same time, add in a few additional carabiners.  (Available everywhere from cutesy accessories stores at the mall and sporting goods shops, to true camping and outdoors superstores.)  I got one to match the snazzy purple, but I've even seen them glittery, crusted with rhinestones, or emblazoned with your own name.  When you want to carry other bags, such as grocery sacks, just clip them into the carabiner

 

 

 


Step 4. Link the other cuff around your purse strap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5. Place your purse in your lap, make any final adjustments, and enjoy feeling safer and more secure while still rocking your sassy style!

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