By Debbie Johnson
I remember jumping rope, including
double jumps and 'hot peppers' at recess when I was in elementary
school. I can still feel the exhilaration of jumping the longest or
the fastest, and the occasional embarrassment at tripping over my own
I remember running track when I was in junior
high. I was never fast, but I was very persistent. I still recall the
feeling of satisfaction the first afternoon I ran five miles.
remember square dancing in the high school gym. There were dances
held there with the lights turned down after the chilly autumn
football games. I remember the anticipation while waiting for someone
to ask me to dance, and the closeness of our feet during our awkward
adolescent years. We would try so hard not to kick each other as we
moved our feet, but it would almost always happen.
my first camping and hiking trip. There was a feeling of conquest at
climbing down and back up the riverbank. Many of our family vacations
when my son was young were camping and hiking trips. We would do a
little fishing, and a lot of fishing him out of the water when he
accidentally, or not so accidentally, fell in the lake. We always
sought out shallow places to fish due to his propensity for becoming
I remember hearing the leaves crunch under my feet
in the fall, and feeling the uneven ground of the trails when I
stopped at the park for a peaceful walk with nature on my way home
I remember the sand between my toes the first time
I walked by the ocean, and how the little shells poked the soles of
my feet. There was such a squishy feel to the sand as the waves came
in, wetting the beach along my path.
I remember when my son
was six and I took him roller skating for the first time. I was
twenty-four. We fell down so many times during the first six months.
Then, we seemed to grow 'skating legs'. We both joined roller hockey
teams, and both won national championship medals. The best skating,
though, was gliding gracefully and effortlessly around the oval
skating backwards doing dance steps. As I skated longer and longer,
my body could feel the thrill of flowing endorphins. We would often
skate until midnight and be back when the rink opened the next
morning. This went on for ten years until the only local rink closed
when the owners, well into their seventies, retired.
remember when I could walk effortlessly, something I never thought to
appreciate. My small feet and slender ankles looked great in high
heels. There was the occasional blister from wearing such shoes, but
it seemed worth it.
I remember when everything suddenly
changed. I woke up in the hospital and was told I had shattered my
thigh bone. Two years and twelve surgeries later, my left leg was
I remember learning that I would never walk again.
I spent months struggling with this fact, angry and bitter. I felt
broken, both mentally and physically. As I worked my way through the
stages of grief, these feelings began to resolve.
when I finally quit fighting, accepting this was God's plan for me. I
realized things would never be the same again, but I was still
capable of living a full and satisfying life.
figuring out that my role in life was to advocate for those with
disabilities, and that I could make a difference in the lives of
others. When I finished my first advocacy paper, I had a feeling of
I remember many good times from the
past. Now, instead of gliding around the skating rink, I glide on
paper with pen. Rather than hitting the hockey puck, I tap the keys
on my keyboard. Now unable to walk while crunching leaves, I crumple
paper as I write draft after draft, working toward a completed poem
or short story. Instead of dancing in the gymnasium, I strive to make
my words dance on the page. I am climbing the walls of stigma and
discrimination rather than a riverbank. Today, I am happy as I create
the memories of my future.
Debbie Johnson was disabled in a
car/semi accident in 2004. She writes as both therapy and to advocate
for the disabled. She has written two books, “The Disability
Experience” and “The Disability Experience II”. Her website,
blog, and guest blog can be found at
She is currently completing a book for young children to educate them
and increase acceptance of the disabled. Called “Debbie’s
Friends”, it will be released soon with plans to distribute it to
schools, libraries and churches in copy-ready form free of charge. In
addition, she is compiling an anthology of poetry written by the
disabled about their disabilities.