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Portrait of a Hero - Michele

I met Michele on a blog hop and was so impressed with her attitude and ability to use her gifts and talents in helping others...she became an immediate hero of mine.  Michele has graciously consented to answer a few questions for us about herself. I hope you enjoy the read and visit her blog to read more!

1. What is the handicap you are dealing with? T-5 paraplegia (spinal cord injured) as the result of an accident when I was almost 20 years old. I'm paralyzed, originally from my chest down, but now I can move down to my hips and have feeling all the way to my toes. Every spinal cord injury is different so you never know what you'll be left with, or end up with. I cannot stand up, or obviously, cannot walk.

2. How long have you had this? 24 years.

3. Where do you get your desire to Rise Above you limits? Perfection is not part of the human experience, and the ability to overcome challenges is crucial for both a successful and HAPPY life. When I became spinal cord injured, I could have become angry, or sad, or have taken on a bad attitude about it all, but none of those things would have changed my reality, so I decided early on that I might just as well be happy and have a positive attitude, since I was going to be this way least this way other people won't have to endure being around a miserable person, they can just endure being around someone who makes bad jokes too often! :)

4. What are you doing now that you never thought you would be able to do? Swimming, doing marathons on my handcycle, public speaking...

I used to love to swim but the thought seemed overwhelming without being in control of my body after my accident, so I didn't do it for a lot of years. When I married my husband, he encouraged me to try it, promising me he would not let me drown (I made sure to tell him I had awful life insurance, barely enough to bury me, if I were to drown -- haha!) anyway, I realized that instead of feeling out of control, I realized that the lightness I experienced in a pool was actually freeing and allowed me to move about easier than I'd thought possible.
The handcycling started out as a "just for fun" thing and before I knew it, I was cycling 20 miles at a time and then some...
Public speaking is something I've wanted to do for many years, but was never quite sure where to start and exactly who would want to hear what I had to say...again, just like getting into the water for the first time, speaking for the first time made me realize how easy it was once I'd let go of fear. Now I feel relaxed in front of a large group of people, and I know I have something worthwhile to say to all walks of life.

5. Have there been certain people that have helped you along the way? What was it you appreciated the most from them? My husband. He has been someone who'd always encouraged me to fly, while quietly assuring me that he'd be there with a safety net underneath me, just in case. I love him and appreciate him for his unconditional love he's given to me for the last 14 years.

6. How do you handle situations that are beyond your control, such as people and their ignorance to your situation? In my personal experience I have found more people to be "curious" than actually, outright "rude" when it comes to my disability. I've generally seen 2 schools of thought when it comes to how people with disabilities deal with stares, rude questions, and people who are uncomfortable around us.

a. ignore them or act ignorant back to them.
b. try to put them at ease and/or educate them.

I am a firm believer in b. -- trying to put them at ease and/or education them. Does it take me time? Sure it does, but in my opinion, it's totally worth it.


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