in the kitchen

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One thing no one warned me about when I was looking for an apartment to move out on my own is this: you’re going to need to learn how to cook. Frozen meals and takeout, while convenient, are not permanent solutions because A) they’re not the healthiest options in the world and B) they can get expensive. So for the first time in my life, it was just me versus the stove. And to give you some perspective on my level of cooking experience, my skills in the kitchen were essentially limited to pouring milk into my cereal bowl and burning toast. I was also very good at warming up leftovers my mom had made, and the microwave was my best friend. That’s about it. So I had a lot of catching up to do when I started living on my own last month.

To be clear, my lack of cooking skills had nothing to do with my limb difference. It had everything to do with laziness and the fact that my mother made all the family’s meals while I was growing up. So I didn’t need to learn how to boil rice or whip up an omelet. Now I no longer have an excuse or an easy way out, so I’ve learned to love the process of preparing food for myself (and sometimes for my family and my boyfriend.) No one who’s eaten my food has gotten sick or died yet, so I’m assuming that means I’m a decent chef.

Check out some of the dishes I’ve made:

Anyway, I’m aware that having a limb difference can seem like a challenge in the kitchen. But I can assure you that cooking awesome and delicious meals is totally doable with a few minor adjustments. I’ve spent the past month trying new dinner recipes and baking like a maniac (making sweets and treats is a WONDERFUL antidote for anxiety, trust me), so I’ve learned a few tricks that have helped me out immensely as a one-handed chef. Check them out below.

One-handed cooking problems (and solutions): 

Knives – One thing I learned the hard way is that you should never buy cheap cookware and kitchen gadgets. The plastic spatula I bought at WalMart melted the first time I used it, and my Ikea knife broke in half a week after I bought it. Lower quality knives are more difficult to use because they’re typically not as sharp. So I bought a set of very good and very sharp knives that allow me to easily slice through any food with one hand.

IMG_2140Salt and pepper grinders – These things are the WORST. I hate when I eat out at restaurants and they leave grinders on the table like they expect me to figure them out. (I usually end up either asking for help or just eating a bland meal.) Silly restaurants – salt and pepper shakers are so much more convenient! Seriously. BUT if you absolutely need grinders in your kitchen, then there are options. Several cookware companies now offer grinder designs that don’t require two hands to use. I bought a really cute bunny-shaped magnetized set from Chef’n.

Cracking eggs – Okay, this one wasn’t an issue for me. I actually found out just a few days ago that most people use two hands to crack an egg. Really?! Why would you use twice as much energy and effort when it’s so simple to do it with one? I guess I’ve had a bit of practice with this. I can recall plenty of times when I was a kid and helping my mother bake cupcakes for school, eagerly cracking the eggs over the bowl and hoping that one of them would contain a baby chick that I could keep as a pet. Anyway, click the image below to see how I crack eggs just in case you were wondering:

How to crack an egg with one hand #cooking #eggs #food #onehanded

Cutting steak/chicken/etc. – This one’s not really related to cooking, but it’s something I’ve always struggled with. I suck at using knives to cut up my food when I’m eating dinner. I mostly just use the side of my fork to slowly cut through whatever I’m eating until the piece comes off. But recently, my cousin gave me a set of Knorks that have made the process easier. Knorks (knife/fork, get it?) are basically forks whose sides can double as knives to help cut through food. The company makes a variety of flatware, but the forks are the ones I find to be the most useful. The utensils are heavy as heck too, so prepared to grow some muscles. See? They even have fitness benefits.

So those are my super-secret one-handed cooking tricks, for now. As I continue to try more recipes and projects, I may run into different issues specific to my one-handedness. And hopefully I’ll be able to find solutions and alternatives in those cases. But if anything else comes up, I’ll be sure to let you know.

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

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aerial yoga = mission accomplished

Hello! I hope everyone is having a great week so far. I apologize for not having written much lately; I’ve been hard at work on my senior thesis, which is due in May. (I’m writing a book of short stories, which will NOT be published.) Anyway, I wanted to share an update about the bucket list I made for myself. I can now officially cross off “take yoga classes” because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing as of a couple weeks ago.

Two Thursdays ago, I took my first aerial yoga class in a small studio in NYC. Sacred Sounds Yoga is only a few blocks from my office, so I swung by for my first session after work. Let me just mention this before I continue: I am far from a yoga pro. The last time I remember taking a yoga class was in high school at least 5 years ago. But this new studio promised a relaxing hour-and-a-half of soothing yoga and meditation, so I gave it a shot. Armed with my pink floral-patterned yoga mat (which had been sitting in my closet, unused, since the day I bought it) and clad in yoga pants and a fitted tee, I was ready to be rid of the stresses from that day.

I can’t say I was nervous about the class itself, but I kept wondering whether I should wear my prosthetic hand or take it off for the session. I wanted  to feel completely comfortable, so I ultimately decided to leave it in a nearby cubbyhole with the rest of my things. That worked perfectly well for all the aerial exercises we were taught, but I struggled a bit with some of the floor poses. Next time, I’m definitely going to have to keep the prosthesis on hand (ah, bad pun, sorry!) so I can distribute my weight evenly on both arms and not rely solely on my right side. Jen from Born Just Right suggested that I try using a yoga block next time to elongate my left arm without the prosthetic. I’m going to do that this week when I go again.

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For a one-armed person, Downward-Facing Dog can be a real bitch (yes, there’s another terrible pun)

Besides the hand-or-no-hand situation, aerial yoga was pretty awesome. It’s a surprisingly relaxing experience to be hanging upside down from the ceiling with nothing but a silk hammock holding you in place. I’m being dramatic, though; the aerial poses really weren’t tough at all, and I think anyone with average flexibility would do just fine. And in case you’re considering taking up this style of yoga, here are a few tips I picked up in my limited experience with the practice:

– If you have an obvious physical disability, clear it with the studio before you schedule a session. I emailed the receptionist a few days before I went in order to make sure the teachers would be okay with a one-armed student taking their classes. I like to warn people that I’m a little different and reassure them that I’ll be fine with what the class requires of me physically. This prepares them with enough time so they don’t freak out about how to handle the situation when they see me.

– If you have long hair, tie it back (unless you want to sweep the floor under your hammock).

– Wear fitted clothing. I almost wore an oversized t-shirt to the session but wisely changed my mind at the last minute. If I would have worn my original choice, I definitely would have flashed everyone when attempting the upside-down poses.

– Get a pedicure the night before. This was me being purely self-conscious, but I kept thinking about how my toes probably looked ugly with the mostly-chipped red polish I’d left on after my last pedicure. You’re barefoot during the session, so make sure your feet look presentable.

– Clear your mind and leave all your nagging thoughts at the door. Seriously, yoga is SUPER relaxing. I was calm and mellow for several days after the session.

Those are all the tips I have for now. I’ll update you if any helpful advice pops up later. For now, I’m happy knowing that I can already cross my first goal off this year’s bucket list:

 goals 2

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

 

 

(First two images found on Pinterest)

 

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growing up one-armed

Last week as I was reading a post on Born Just Right (a great blog where Jen Lee Reeves writes about her young daughter, Jordan, who was born with a little arm), I came across a line that stuck with me for a while. Jen wrote: I keep fretting about the future and how Jordan may lose hope and confidence.” Sure, any mother could have written or spoken those words; parental concern is completely normal. But Jen was specifically referring to the way Jordan would feel about her difference. While I’m not yet a mom, I can’t imagine the emotional toll that raising a child with special needs would have on someone. Most (if not all) parents have anxiety and fear about their kids’ future, and I’m sure that having a child with a disability magnifies those worries. So as a young woman who has grown up with 1.5 arms, I thought I’d dedicate a post to offering some advice and insight I’ve learned from my own experience. Here’s what I would tell anyone who is raising a son or daughter with a limb difference (or any disability, for that matter):


– The first thing you should know is that your child is completely capable of having a normal and happy life. I know you must hear that a lot, but here’s living proof. I, for one, am your average 20-year-old girl who loves her family and friends, has a wonderful boyfriend (we’ve been dating for one and a half years now), and gets nearly perfect grades in school. I’m currently starting my senior year of college and working full-time as Social Media Coordinator for the Oxygen Network. In sum, I’m living the good life. While I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I’m doing okay. And you know what? Your kid will be just fine too. 

– Be supportive and encourage your child to try new things. Ugh, that sentence sounds so generic and cookie-cutter, doesn’t it? But here’s what I mean. Make sure he or she knows that you’re proud of him/her. I remember my dad telling me some years back that he and my mom didn’t put me in piano lessons because of my arm. I was pretty upset after hearing that because it made me feel like they didn’t trust my ability to adapt to the situation. It felt like they were shielding me from things they didn’t think I would be able to do. Essentially, they were defining my limits before I could even try. As soon as I turned 18, I bought a left-handed guitar and sat in my room for hours until I could spite my parents with proof that I could play an instrument. Don’t get me wrong – I love playing guitar. But I’ll admit that proving myself and gaining my parents’ affirmation was a good motivator. 

– Don’t treat the limb difference like it’s a bad thing. This is crucial. The way you react to the difference influences the way your child will view him/herself. When I was younger, my grandparents taught me to hide my little arm inside a prosthetic and long sleeves (and yes, jackets in the summertime.) I spent years after that covering myself up and wearing sweaters during sweltering summers. Now that I’m older, I can see how the effects that those sorts of unfortunate moments with people I love have morphed into insecurities about my arm and my general appearance. My boyfriend had a similar experience. When he was little, someone told him that he could get surgery to separate his webbed toes (which I love, by the way, because they’re part of him and they look pretty darn cool.) He had never even considered them to be an issue until that person suggested surgery and made him self-conscious about them. So my advice: don’t focus on masking or hiding your child’s “flaws.” Allow them to be themselves and let them know that missing a limb is not something you should feel upset or ashamed about. 

– Push your child but don’t be pushy. What I mean is that you should want your child to strive for his/her best. But at the same time, you don’t want them to feel like they need to overcompensate for their disability. Growing up, people used to tell me that they were so impressed by whatever ordinary thing I did well because I did it with only one arm. Newsflash to the whole world: calling me (or anyone with a disability, for that matter) “inspirational” because I just accomplished a mundane task that any other person could do with their eyes closed is NOT a compliment. It’s actually very condescending. So make sure you congratulate your son or daughter on his/her REAL accomplishments (read: anything you would congratulate a non-disabled child on.) That way, he/she won’t feel like he/she is being patronized by his/her own parents. 

– Insecurity is inevitable. It’s human to feel insecure about yourself sometimes, especially during your adolescent years. And someone with a disability is not immune to that. I can almost guarantee you that your child will have bouts of low self esteem and insecurity at one time or another, mainly because I’ve never met a person who made it through his or her teen years 100 percent confident in him/herself. But before you worry yourself sick, let me say that you can minimize the impact of these low points starting 3…2…1…NOW. I’ve read a lot on this topic (yep, I’m a psychology minor), and psychologists say that parents have a huge impact on their children’s self esteem. Tell your daughter she’s beautiful and tell your son that he’s capable and strong. Remember to also focus on qualities like kindness or creativity, not just on appearance or ability. And don’t forget to convey to him/her that he/she is loved WITH the difference and not in spite of it.

  So there you have it. I hope that you’ve found this helpful and maybe even interesting. If you have a limb difference yourself, what else would you tell someone raising a child with a limb difference? If you’re the parent of a limb different child, know that everything will be okay. Raising a child with one arm is not really any different than raising a child with two (so I’ve learned from my parents, as they basically treat my sister and me the same.) For now, just enjoy these moments of their youth because they’ll be all grown up before you know it. 


Peace,
Caitlin 🙂
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