People are not potatoes

People are not potatoes. Just in case you have no concept of taxonomy, or even rudimentary biology, I’m going to say it one more time. People are not potatoes. People are people and potatoes are potatoes.


So a couple of weeks ago I made mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. Is it just me or does anyone else enjoy peeling potatoes? I like peeling carrots, too. And yams. I imagine I would also be fond of peeling parsnips but I’ve never actually tried it so I can’t be sure. The point is that I like peeling vegetables, although my interest in root vegetable peeling is not imperative to the actual point of this post. For the record, I do not like peeling apples, but that’s not important either.


Are you still with me? I promise if you keep reading we will end up at a point-worthy point.

Anyway, there I was in the kitchen peeling the potatoes, and I was making sure to strip away all the dark spots and blemishes so that they wouldn’t end up sullying the mashed potatoes. Had you been in my kitchen it would have been very easy to tell the difference between the potatoes and me because, as I said, people are not potatoes. See?


Tell me you can see the difference.

But as I sat there peeling away, I found myself kind of wishing that I was a potato.

Think about it, if we were all potatoes living potato lives then everything we didn’t like and every problem we came across could be easily peeled away. No more blemishes. No more bumps. No more scars. And not just on the outside, on the inside, too.

I mean I’m sure we’d all love to take a potato peeler to our physical appearances now and again. Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to easily just smooth out that cellulite or do away with that muffin top? Maybe turn a cankle into an ankle or a Pinocchio nose into the nose of someone who had never told a lie? If we were potatoes we could do all of those things.

(Safety warning: you are a person, not a potato, so please do not attempt to change your appearance with a potato peeler. Finding My Miracle is not responsible for any medical costs should you choose to ignore this warning.)

But it’s not just outside changes; imagine if we could peel away the parts of our personalities that we didn’t like. The spots, defects, and scars, the lasting effects of everything we’ve been through and every time we’ve fallen to the ground, all of them would be removed. From there, all the bumps and lumps, the things that make us stand out and feel like we don’t fit in, all of them would be smoothed out. And eventually, if we kept peeling, all of our weaknesses, faults and insecurities would be stripped away.

We would be these perfect potatoes living perfect potato lives.

And then I realized that we would also be boring.

Do you know what happens when you peel a potato until it is perfect? A lot of it gets wasted. In the pursuit of that smooth and spot-free spud, perfectly good potato gets unnecessarily peeled away. And just like potatoes, when we as people try to be perfect, pieces of who we are get lost. We end up smaller. We miss out on opportunities and adventures. And we all start to look the same.

So thank goodness we are not potatoes. Thank goodness we can’t just get rid of the parts of ourselves that we don’t like and the things that make us unique. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round. All kinds of people and their all kinds of personalities and everything that makes them who they are. Short tempers, stubbornness, self-doubt, social anxiety and everything else. Even the cankles and big noses.

We can’t change how we are built. We can’t change what we’ve been through. We can’t change who we are. And we can’t change how other people are built, what they’ve been through or who they are.

We are people and people are imperfect, but that’s what makes life interesting. That’s also what allows us to grow and change and become better people. Not perfect, just better. It’s what allows us to try new things and learn from our experiences. It’s what allows us to make connections with each other. It’s why we get to be individuals.

Don’t give that up. Don’t let yourself become smaller. There are plenty of potatoes in the world but there is only one you.

So put down the potato peeler.

And go be imperfect. Go be awesome. Go be you.


Seven years and the whole truth

I’ve been sick for seven years today (well yesterday, but I didn’t get around to editing and posting this until today).

I was one month into my first semester of university when it all started. I had just survived my first round of midterms, calculus, biology and physics all in one week, my chemistry midterm just around the corner. I was fairly certain I had bombed my physics exam. In fact, I did do rather horribly on that test, but I did less horribly than a lot of other students and so despite how it felt when I walked out of that exam room, it ended up not being the end of the world.

The end of the world, well, the end of my world, was two days away.

My transition from high school to university, from child to adult, and my transition from healthy to sick happened at the same time and so my entire adult life thus far has been lived with illness. Still, it wasn’t always like this. Once I was sick, there were other transitions to make. Sick to more sick, school to medical withdrawal, employed to unemployed, outpatient to inpatient.

The end of my world was going to come around again and again.

I’ve been sick for seven years today.

And I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it. I feel like I’ve been doing this forever…and like I’m still getting used to it. I feel like I’m on top of things…and like I have no idea what I’m doing.

Two years ago I marked this day by writing a post about five positives that had come from being sick. Those positives are all still true and that list has grown. And then last year I marked this day with one of my favourite posts about how I would rather have a dragon than be a dragon, how I wouldn’t give up everything about me and my life to not be sick anymore. That is also still true.

But none of that is the whole truth.

I could write another list of things I’m grateful for or lessons I’ve learned. It would be a long list, I know, because instead of writing that list I’m living it. I’m delighting in that list every day. On the flip side, I could also write a list of things I’m unhappy about and the dead end roads I’ve been sent down. I would never choose to write it out, but I know it exists because I live that list, too.

The whole truth includes both. And so much more.

The whole truth is that I feel a lot of things all at the same time. And how I feel is always changing.

So this year I’m going to mark this day by writing about how I feel today. Right now.

I feel grateful, because even though I’m not where I want to be with my health I know that things could be, and have been, worse. I feel hopeful, because I have purpose and I have things to look forward to. I feel lucky, because I’m loved and supported. I feel excited, because there are so many things I want to learn more about and I have the resources to do so. And I feel content, because life is good.

But I also feel stuck, because my health could still be so much better and I don’t know where to go from here. I feel discouraged, because there is no end in sight. I feel left out, because I can’t keep up with the people around me. I feel worn down from being sick every day. And I feel tired, because life is hard.

And today I also feel worried, because I have another infection around my brand new central line. I feel helpless because I don’t know why this keeps happening and I don’t know how to prevent it. I feel vulnerable, because this line that is saving my life is also making my life a lot more difficult. And I feel uneasy, because this is my fifth tunneled line in less than two years and the scars on my chest have turned into a game of connect the dots that is moving too fast for my liking.


That’s the whole truth. The good and the bad, the gratitude and the exhaustion, the hope and the fear. I’ve come to realize the importance of acknowledging the whole truth, because that acknowledgement is what allows me to accept it, and that acceptance is what allows me to choose how to deal with it. It is a choice, and I choose to face it. I choose to take that whole truth and do my best to make the best of it.

And that’s always changing, too. Doing my best and making the best of things looks different every day.

Today it probably looks quite strange. Today I’m genuinely a little in awe of the staph bacteria that won’t leave me alone. I admire its resilience, because despite the many thousands of milligrams of antibiotics that have been thrown its way, it keeps coming back. That’s pretty impressive! And the bacteria isn’t inherently evil, it’s just doing what it’s biologically programmed to do. Survive. Sure I wish the staph wasn’t thriving at my expense, but at least one of us is thriving? I’ve also spent some time learning more about the process of culturing bacteria and testing sensitivities in the lab and the nerd in me is pleased.

So anyway, that’s what today looks like. Some good stuff but then also some bad stuff, and some nerdy empathizing with bacteria stuff, because feeling impressed is better than feeling helpless, and learning new things is better than worrying about things I can’t change.

In another year how I’m feeling and how I’m dealing will probably look very different, but the one thing that won’t change is that I will still be choosing to do my best. Whatever that looks like.

Just hopefully next year no bacteria are involved!



Let’s make it personal

Being that it’s Invisible Illness Awareness Week, I want to talk about a situation that a lot of people with invisible illnesses and disabilities face.

Accessible parking permits. To use or not to use?

I’ve read way too many stories about people being verbally harassed or finding nasty notes on their car doubting their right to an accessible parking permit. Thankfully this has never happened to me, but stories like these are the reason I sometimes avoid using my permit even when I need it.

Last week, on my way home from a doctor’s appointment I had to stop and run a quick errand. I was having a shaky day and the large parking lot was very busy so when I found a designated disability spot I pulled in, parked and placed my permit on my rear-view mirror. As I got out of my car and walked into the store I received some very dirty and doubtful looks from two men also walking in.  I will never know for certain the reasons behind their dirty looks, but I do know for certain that this is not the first time I have been on the receiving end of questionable stares when an able-appearing me parked in an accessible spot and walked away from my car.

The people who give dirty looks, leave nasty notes and confront permit users about their permit “misuse” think they are doing so, white hat in place, in defence of people with “actual” disabilities everywhere. However, those intentions are misguided and in many situations very hurtful.

I know it’s really frustrating when you see someone parking in a designated disability spot without a permit. It’s annoying when you follow the rules and don’t park there even though you’d like the convenience, and it’s annoying when you need that spot and are unable to do what you need to do because it’s not available. But this isn’t about that.

I also know it’s really frustrating to think of people misusing permits, using their family member’s permit that just happens to be hanging in the car and taking a close parking spot even if that permit holder isn’t getting out of the car or present at all. Does this happen sometimes? Probably.

But here’s the tricky part. How can we know for sure that the person using the permit isn’t legitimately entitled to it? We can’t. Disability does not have one look, and lots of the time it doesn’t have any identifying look at all. Without talking to that person, we have no idea what circumstances in their life have led them to decide to use that permit on that day. And that person does not owe anyone an explanation of those circumstances.

This is when we need to give other people the benefit of the doubt.

I find it’s always easier to give someone else the benefit of the doubt if you have a personal connection to the situation. It’s easier to understand another person’s struggles if someone you know has struggled in a similar way, or if you yourself have been in that position. Compassion and understanding come a lot more freely if your sister or uncle or cousin or neighbour or friend has been there.

So let’s make it personal.

Chances are that between your family and friends you probably know someone with an invisible illness or disability. And if not, well you know me. Unless, of course, this is the first time you’ve ever read anything I’ve written. Either way, you’re about to get to know me a little better.

  1. img_7594I’m a pretty terrible singer because I’m pretty much tone deaf. I also can’t whistle even though I’ve been trying to learn my entire life.
  2. I love stuffed animals. I always have and I probably always will.
  3. I was kind of an orthodontic nightmare. I wore headgear for a while (only at night, phew!) and I had braces for three full years.
  4. The first concert I ever went to was Britney Spears. I was probably way too young to be at a Britney Spears concert, but my friend’s dad got free tickets through work. I wore a knee-length velour skirt.
  5. As a toddler, I once ate part of a slug. I know, right? Ew!
  6. I’m terrified of earthquakes, I think because I live near a major fault line and my entire life people have been talking about the overdue “Big One.”
  7. I used to also be really scared of bears and had nightmares about them, but now they are (from afar) my favourite animal.
  8. I played the saxophone for three years in my high school band. Instead of having a pair of the girls’ uniform pants for band performances, I had a pair of hand-me-

    Cory and Topanga: the first wedding I ever attended!

    downs from my brother, which means they were pleated at the waist and tapered at the ankle. I hated them with a passion, but I must confess that they were very comfortable.

  9. I failed the first level of swimming lessons because I refused to put my head under water.
  10. TGIF (tell me you remember TGIF) was a very big deal in our house and when Cory and Topanga got married we dressed up and did our own re-enactment. That said, Sabrina the Teenage Witch was my personal favourite of the line-up.

There you go. There are ten things about me that you (probably) didn’t already know. We’re practically besties, now.  And now you know someone who doesn’t always look sick or disabled even though they are. So next time you see an able-bodied looking person using a disability permit, remember your headgear-wearing, slug-eating, saxophone-playing, swimming-lesson-failing bestie.

Remember that what you can see with your eyes is never the entire picture.

And remember that we’re all just doing our best to make it through the day.


She’s friends with me for the parking. Kidding. I hope.