Category Archives: Life in a wheelchair

I was frustrated and full of doubt….until Dr Leigh

I remember calling and setting up a meeting with Dr. Leigh Browning, the director of broadcasting at West Texas A&M University . I didn’t know that day, but I found out later, The day I met with her was a day in the middle of June and she was in the middle of running the Guy P Yates Speech and Theater camp. More on that later. She was literally wearing a visor, shorts, and had a tan. I was beaten down at that point and discouraged by most of my Community College experience. I explained to her that I had just spent 3 years at at the school that shall not be named. I told her, “I understand that I can’t be on the air. I can’t …..” This was basically a 45 melodramatic monologue from me. She let me go on and on, loathing in self-pity. All of this with my mother sitting next to me. The whole time Dr Leigh had this look on her face

I’m Listening but I really don’t have tine for this

When I was done she leaned over her desk, looked me in the eye and said “You will be on my air. You will be on my staff, and you will graduate from here.” Within a week of my starting there in the fall, I was on the air. Their studio wasn’t as advanced as the The place that shall not be named, but it worked better for me and my chair. I had to take 2 television classes where you had to pick up a camera and learn to shoot video. When I got to those classes, I would go to her and ask her what I should do. She assigned an assistant for me to carry the camera. There was nothing that she let me “get out” of because of my wheelchair. I did everything that everyone else did.

My first day, she walked into the class and said, “I’ll tell you right now, there isn’t anyone tougher on students than I am, but if you can get through this class, you can make it anywhere.” It was the complete opposite of my other experience.
Up to that point, nobody had ever really had the balls to tell me when I had made a mistake. Dr Leigh knew how to yell if you messed up she told you about it, loudly most of time. She was not afraid to yell at me the only difference was she often started with the phrase, “I know I’m going to go to hell for saying this…but…”
She was a tough lady, and I owe so much to her.

The 45 minute melodrama never happened again. When I would go into her office, she would have me tell her what was my issue, she would give me a solution, and she would tell me to go. She was busy. She was more like a boss than a college teacher, and this was perfect for me.
There have been times when I stepped out of line and said something I shouldn’t have. There were a lot of days that I didn’t like her, and we didn’t get along. She would tell me that I am just like everyone else, and I can’t talk to other people like I’m the boss. She’s the only one who gets to do that. I have nothing but respect for her.

She helped me fill out my vote for the awards ceremony for the radio station. “Most Improved On Air Personality”. I told her I wanted to put myself. She said, “You can’t put yourself. You were good when you came here.” She gave me confidence in what I was doing.

She kept us busy. It was the closest thing to a real job I’ve ever had. We always had a project, or we were doing some kind of community service when we were not in the studio doing the fun broadcasting stuff.

Community service was a requirement, not an option. if you weren’t willing to do community service, then you shouldn’t be in her program. That’s how she thought. Mass comm and speech communications students ran a camp every summer together for gifted high school kids who were interested in improving their skills in speech and theater. It was “working” Camp. This kids came to get better at what they did, not sit around the campfire.

We helped out with Christmas stuff for the needy, coats for kids. We would work on Saturdays and Sundays sometimes, whatever was needed. If you are a Mass COM student and you had a lot of downtime you were doing it wrong.

I’ll never forget the final project for one of Dr. Leigh’s favorite classes. It was called the Canyon Weekly, named after the town the school was in. Canyon, TX. We were a news team. Every single week your job would change. Everyone in the class would. work together put together a newscast like you see on TV. The final exam for this particular class was that the last show for that semester had to be perfect before she would let us go. Perfect means just what it sounds like. If the news anchors for that week missed one single word, or someone ran a commercial early we started over. This happened until we did it right She did this on a Saturday morning at 4am. My dad drove me to school that particular day, “Why in this on a Saturday? ” The whole time, my dad would argue that she can’t require you to is this happening on a Saturday? You are paying to go to school here, they can’t require this of you. She must understand you’re in a wheelchair and it’s a hardship on us to get you here” finally as we pulled into the parking lot i looked at my dad and said “Do YOU want to go to her office and tell her there’s a problem? Because I don’t!”

There’s no question. All of the podcasts and things that I have, my job in Second Life, I wouldn’t have any of that if it wasn’t for this program. She taught us to adapt. Everything that I am came from that experience. There were days I thought Dr. Leigh was a wack-job. A nutter. A crazy. It wasn’t until we got to be better friends after I graduated that we could really talk about her reasoning behind things. I can’t say that I rose to the point of being her “equal”, because she will always be my teacher and I give her that respect, but after graduating I did notice that after I graduated I moved up the ranks a bit, allowing me more freedom to voice my opinions and such. Dr. Leigh passed away recently. it was not unexpected and she was very young. I was very sad when I found out because she had some idea of the projects I was working on, and that I was trying very hard to be one of her success story’s to be honest, I’m hoping this website becomes a huge success because I’m having to use every skill she gave me to make it happen. I wanted her to see me go from being a guy in wheelchair, who lived with his parents, to a guy in a wheelchair helping millions of people using the skills she gave me. If the site goes big I’ll feel like I have lived up to the expectations she had of me.

Comunity College

When I was a senior in high school, I was recruited by the radio and TV program at the local community college. They guy who ran it came and told me he wanted me to be part of his program. I went to see this studio and see what they had. I’ll never forget that day. They were in the process of remodeling the studio. The studio was being redone, and they were putting up state of the art equipment, newer computer technology and doing away with CDs. When I went to see the studio, the guy asked me “What do you think you are going to need here?” I told him “Just give me a stack of CDs and a mic, and I’ll be the best you’ve got.” He looked at me and said, “You’re not a DJ, you’re an entertainer.” I’ll never forget his words as long as I live. It’s stayed with me even to this day. I may have talent and I may be a disc jockey, but I’m more of an entertainer and a radio personality.
When I started to take classes, I discovered that their rule was that freshman involved in the program weren’t allowed to be on air or touch any of the radio equipment. I wasn’t pleased with this rule. The guy running the program would put me on the air when he thought nobody was paying attention. The board did find out, and didn’t like that I was a freshman who was getting air time. They had just redone the studio, and the new setup was tall. I couldn’t reach anything. The screens were all touch screen, but I couldn’t reach any of them because they were set up so high. In radio, there are two types of consoles. At this Community College, they built the console so that the talent would stand, which gives the voice more support.

As a college freshman, I didn’t know I could choose my own classes. I went to a counselor and got a class schedule like everyone else, but I didn’t realize some of the same classes were offered at different times. I had an 8am history class that I was late to every day. If you’ve ever tried to sneak into the back of a room for anything…it doesn’t matter if it’s a church, a classroom, you’re going to make noise. It doesn’t matter how quiet you try to be. There was one day I rolled in 10 or 15 minutes late. He saw me and said, “Mr. Jordan, why are you late for my class”. I replied, “To be honest sir, I was chasing a girl.” He asked me, “Did you catch her?” I replied, “No sir, the battery died and she got away.” Everyone laughed. After the class was over I went up to apologize for being late, but the professor told me I could be late every day if I wanted as long as I came in with a good one-liner to wake up the class. It was my first regular stand-up (sit-down) comedy gig! He let me sit in on classes that I wasn’t enrolled for just because it changed the dynamic of the classroom and kept the students more awake to learn.

I was told at one point, after about a year that I needed to choose another degree, because I had to wait for technology to catch up with me. I didn’t take that well. I said “no” and continued doing what I was doing. When they figured out that I wasn’t going to stop taking the communications classes and pursuing that degree. They substituted a lot of classes so that I could get my associates degree. I was very upset about that. My dad even started to doubt my abilities to do the job after graduating.

I have a friend named Deena E. who is disabled was is a local DJ here in town. I shadowed her during my first semester in college. That is one of the assignments that we had, to choose a radio personality, contact them and shadow them.

At one low point, after a year or so of struggle I told Deena that I was considering quitting, because it was just so hard. Deena pretty much said that if I quit, she’s going to kick my ass. She told me that it’s not about my not being able to reach things in the studio, it’s not about my having a drunken-sounding voice because of my condition, you can do this job. Se reassured me that I could do it. Deena it about 4 feet tall and 90 lbs. They make burritos bigger than Deena. Seeing that she could do this job helped me to see that there would be a future for me. She advised me to go to a the local university when my time at community college was done. I did just that

Despite my struggles at the Community college. I met many good people there that helped me make it through. Just like my previous years in school. They were there when I needed them most. Two in particular are the man in the story above, who goes by the name of Brian Farmer. You always told me I would be great like Horatio Alger rags to riches all because I knew how to make people laugh. Another is Margie Vitale. Margie did a lot of work to get me through classes very similar to what someone like Liz did for me in my earlier years. Without her I most certainly would have failed. A quick search of the Internet tells me that both of these people are still working today. Maybe if this blog Is successful, I should pay them both a visit. I wonder yes they would remember me? Because of people like these it took about three years but I got that Associates degree.

And then there was Dr Leigh

Amusement parks and Wheel chair envy

I love amusement parks. Really, I’m just a big kid. I love the rides, the food, I love it all. If you ever see me at an amusement park. I’ll be the guy riding the roller coaster with his hair on fire, and a huge smile on his face. Part of the reason I enjoy it so much, is that I rarely have to wait in line. To this day if my brother is going to an amusement park he calls me and begs me to go so he can get the good parking and not have to wait in line, did I mention we are in our 30s? yeah, we have no shame

Driving Mr. Jordan

I don’t drive I never have. Cerebral palsy makes it so that I don’t have the reflexes for it. This means someone has to drive me everywhere I go. I can’t just decide that I’m going to the movies on Monday night and make it happen. Everything had to be planned for most of my life. That is until I got a personal assistant named Jane a few months back. This has completely changed my life. I still have to plan more than the average person to go somewhere, but now I have someone at my disposal that’s willing to drive me wherever I would like to go

It may not seem like much, but imagine not being able to do the simplest thing, like going to get a drink from the convenience store without imposing on somebody else. Most of you will never have to experience this but for some of you who are in situations similar to mine, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Having Jane has given me the freedom that I’ve wanted all my life. You may not be lucky enough to have a personal assistant yet. The key word there is is yet. I spent many days being frustrated because I didn’t have the freedom that I wanted. I knew at some point things would change and eventually they did. All it took was having persistence to look for that person who was willing to offer me that freedom. As I said earlier in a previous post. Persistence is key, figure out what you want or need and work toward making it happen every day until it does. The video below was shot at my office after having lunch with Jane. I just decided I needed a change of scenery. It happened for me, and it can happen for you

Jamie Jordan goes to grade school

Let’s go back to the 1980’s and talk about me going to school. There are a few memories I have of going to school. I rode on the short bus. Everyone knows what the short bus is. You all probably know lots of jokes about this short bus. It’s not all that funny when you’re on it. It’s pretty much like the long bus, just shorter. I also remember having a lot of “resource classes”. You may not know what resource classes are, but in jokes it’s called the “special class”. Yes, I was a very “special” boy. I had a special chair, special teachers, a special room, and extra-special friends. Of course, in our culture everyone is special. Barney even says so in his song “You Are Special” …everyone in his or her own way, or so the song says.
Despite all of this “special-ness” someone eventually figured out that, for lack of better phrasing, my brain worked. I was in the “special” classes until the end of the 4th grade. Over that summer, I had to learn how to stop drooling and coerce with intelligent peers. I’ve always been a good speaker, or at least I have always had a big mouth and have been ready to use it whenever given the chance. At the end of the 4th grade, my teachers decided to give me a chance to use my brain, and I was an integrated student the rest of my primary school years, until I graduated high school in 1998.

Movin on up

Girls Worth losing a wheel over

When I was about 14 years old, I lived near a city pool. I would always go to this pool because there were girls there. I didn’t swim, obviously….guy in a wheelchair. I just went there to be around the girls. That sounds a lot worse than it was. It was a good way to hang out with girls, since there was little else to do in my neighborhood. And it was about the only way they were going to take off their clothes for me. Come on now…every 14 year old boy was thinking the same thing.

City Pool

Let’s get back to our story…

It was a fairly uneventful activity for me to go to the pool and then go home. But this particular day was different.

Something didn’t seem quite right with my chair-mobile that day. It was making some strange noises. Of course, like most drivers I just kept driving anyway, hoping that the noises were just normal “chair noises”.

Look Cool Chair

Luckily, I got to hang out with the lifeguard and the girls and have my daily dose of socialization mixed with hormonally driven girl-watching.

On the way back home, the chair was still making the funny noise…

And then the wheel fell off.

This was in the 90’s. I didn’t carry a cellphone in that decade. As far as I know, there is no roadside assistance or “on-star” for people in wheelchairs. Someone should really look into that.

Luckily, when the wheel came off, the chair landed in such a way that I was still sitting up, but my wheel was gone.

Think of every redneck show you’ve ever seen that has cars in the yard with no wheels, and that’s what I looked like. At least that’s what I felt like. Suddenly, I hoped the girls I came to look at would not be looking at me. I couldn’t bend down to get the wheel, because if I did the chair would tip over and I would be on the ground…in the parking lot. A crippled guy laying on the July Texas asphalt burning to death while girls in bikinis watched. No, I think I’ll just sit here, thanks.

People thought I was just chilling out in the parking lot, and were waving as they drove by, as if nothing was wrong. I know what you’re thinking…didn’t they notice my peril? Maybe Jamie’s happy-face is really similar to his “OMG my wheel fell off face”?

Is this part of his condition? Maybe Jamie’s “hello” wave is really similar to a frantic “please help me I’m dying” wave? How could this be? Maybe we should make one of those facial-expression emotion charts and tape it to his wheelchair?

Faces

There’s a good reason why people thought I was just chilling, and it’s none of the things you were probably thinking.

I was sort of smiling…happily. And I was hoping no one would notice the missing wheel.

You see, I didn’t want anyone to tell my parents about my wheel problem in a distraught way. I needed someone who could relay the message as if it was no biggie. Because if they sensed that my coming to the pool to look at girls was dangerous, well… I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore! So, to continue my evil summer plan to hang out with naked girls, I had to break this wheel thing to my parents in the best way possible. So I smiled and waved to unknown passerby and acted as if nothing was wrong.

Nothings Wrong

Eventually a friend from the neighborhood came by that knew me and came close enough for me to point out my situation quietly and I finally got some help with my wheel. Overall, it was great day.

There are a few things you could take from this situation. One is that like most everything else in life, wheelchairs are unpredictable. And stuff just happens. And they don’t make ‘em like they used to.

The second thing you should take from this story, and it’s a point that I’ve made in this book before; Wheelchair or not, I’m just a guy. And my thoughts were about the same as any other boy’s at 14 years old.