Sun | Aug 25, 2019

Let's Get Physical | Canes and candy canes - Christmas can be fun for PWDs too!

Published:Wednesday | December 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Christmas is dear to us all. It is the time of year when we reflect on all the great things we have done and focus on the great time we will have. There is absolutely nothing better than fruitcake and sorrel season in Jamaica. I have waited all year to celebrate Christmas in my style, with all the glitz and glam that Christmastime brings.

For some, Christmas is a time to become insta-famous and take on a whole new identity as the New Year peeks over the celebratory horizon. As I reminisce on the summer that has ended, I recall the beach trips and the outings to incredible eateries on the north coast - Ochi and Negril. I recall Christmas when I was a child, and a very warm and fuzzy feeling comes over me. I remember Grand Market and my mother's race with time to finish baking all the Christmas cakes so we could share with all our family, and ensure that we had the specially prepared cakes ready for the garbage-collection truck that always serviced our community. I could never forget my first trip to Grand Market in Montego Bay as a child.

I remember the smell of popcorn, cotton candy and every other devilish delight that my little heart could dream of. I remember looking ahead as far as my pretty little eyes could see, and there were bright, shining lights that framed the streets. There were toys, cars, kites and every pretty, shiny thing children would go bananas over. As I stood there frozen holding daddy's hand, my eye caught just what my little heart desired. It was the perfect combination of Christmas excitement and childhood desire that would give my parents sleepless nights and secure my future in the Red Cross when I got older. The shimmer of its bells caught my eye, accompanied by the red flashing lights and the loud siren. It was a wind-up mini ambulance that created havoc as it drove. I just had to have it, so I gave my daddy the signature, "Daddy, I want it" look and it was mine. I was so excited to get my special toy that I started playing with it in the car.

 

Sipping some 'special juice'

 

Christmas is a very special time of year, a time for not just receiving but giving. As a person with disabilities (PWD), celebrating Christmas comes with its fair share of excitement and challenges. As I reflect on the candy canes, gingerbread houses, Jamaican-style fruitcake and sorrel, accompanied by the ham roasting in the oven, I remember how my brother and I would sneak a cherry or two from the kitchen; not to mention sneaking a sip of 'special juice' from grandpa's special mug. I remember the hours of steel pan practice and the customary tuning of our voices in the youth choir for Christmas Sunday.

I also remember our church youth group preparing for the four Sundays of Advent. I remember one magical Christmas when I happened to be using a wheelchair and I was still able to participate in my usual dramatic way. I will never forget how good my friends and family made me feel. This is exactly what an inclusive Jamaica needs to look like. We will be a society that celebrates all our differences together without boundaries. Whether it is summertime, the Christmas season, Heroes weekend or even Easter holidays, being a PWD during a celebratory period is very challenging and requires planning and support that makes for an enjoyable experience for all. So I suggest all PWDs draw out that Mariah Carey Christmas album and my all-time favourite Jamaican Christmas songs and get busy in the kitchen, and ensure you are certified glamorous for Christmas 2018.

 

Here's how to make a great Christmas dinner on a thrifty budget

 

Be open to trying new recipes. Ensure you collect the Gleaner Christmas Cookbook, as this creates a diverse spread for your table, definitely within budget.

Remember to mix things up a bit. Instead of standard Christmas ham, you can do a Christmas ham with a sorrel glaze. I personally tried this last year and my family enjoyed it. I also had traditional gungo rice and peas, curried mutton, roasted stuffed chicken, curried shrimp, etc. Cooking is fun. As PWDs, I know we know how to have an awesome time, so turn up the heat in the kitchen this Christmas.

I enjoy the cooking part immensely as I have a passion for creating gastronomical delights. Remember to be careful in the kitchen as we (PWDs) may be more vulnerable to burns and cuts in there. I prefer to work from a kitchen that has the conveniences I need, but if I don't have that type of kitchen available, I either make some temporary changes and/or ask for help.

Take a potluck approach to Christmas. Invite not just family, but all the friends you can and have them bring a dish for the table. This helps cut down your cooking time and ensures that everyone feels like they have contributed in some way.

When shopping, be extra careful and if possible, reach out to the store you usually shop with and let them know you may need some assistance if you need some help.

Always shop with a list, this way you will stick within budget.

 

What PWDs will need for an awesome day out during Christmas

 

Make an effective plan. One that includes events and stores are easily accessed based on your disability and that will cater to your special needs.

Ensure that all the persons who you are going out with know the plan and are able to meet at the required time at the specific location.

PWDs will need to have the best support group present on the day, i.e., a good mix of company so that you may access places that are not disability-friendly and also that you don't exclude your friends/family who are not disabled.

 

What PWDs will need for an awesome night out with friends

 

- Substantial amount of money to fund the trip

A designated driver, as we will also want to turn up at parties and restaurants, and we need to ensure that we get home safely, whether we are driving or not.

Ensure that you dress fashion forward and comfortable at the same time. There are awesome trends out there that never grow old, e.g. classic jeans with a pair of heels to dress things up a bit, followed by semi-formal top, shades, boyfriend watch and a matching clutch. Make sure to throw a splash of Christmas flair in the mix. You could add candy cane/mini Christmas tree earrings to this outfit to get that Christmas flavour.

- Ensure your venue(s) cater to PWDs

Create diversity of venues; having a disability does not mean you should live a limited life. I like spots that offer a VIP section as this gives you access to an environment that is more laid back and comfy. I also go for non-VIP sections. Explore and ensure that you have diverse experiences planned for the night out. Life is just for living. Let's live, not just exist

Send comments to yourhealth@gleanerjm.com or mickaelgraham@hotmail.com