A Poem for those who Stare


I see you staring.

Yes, you.
I see you.

I have eyes,
my eyes have I
and we see you,
seeing me,
see you.

I see you, so stop staring,
and start seeing me.

I see you.
Using those eyes,
to draw conclusions
that construct a narrative
grounded only

in your truth that lies
in your narrow mindedness.

I see you.
Whispering to your kids.
Putting two and two together
to get five
reasons why I may have, should have, could have,
turned out this way.

I see you
convincing yourself to believe some ridiculous religious explanation.
I hear you,
trying to say its God,
or the devil
trying to punish me, prepare me, pity me.
Pity full.
Just full…of yourself.
Full of your selfish need to make my body make sense to you.

Full of shhhhh..

SHUT UP those wide eyes, gaping stares,
and even wider disbelief
that she can have one arm and be


The growth of my heart was not stunted with that of my body.
The limits of my flesh don’t bear root in my soul,
and will never cast shadows on spirit.

I see you.
So, really try to see me.
or see that I don’t fuckin play.


*Ze and Zir are gender neutral pronouns. The I AMputee Blog prides itself on maintaining an inclusive environment. Thank you  🙂



Please DON’T Ask


Don't Ask image

The fact that before anyone ever asks me my name they want to know what happened to me is absurd.  This would ,in fact, be empowering if they wanted to know my story, my journey. However, what really happens when my amputation is the forefront of our conversation is that you begin to compartmentalize aspects of my identity by your standards.  You deny me agency in establishing the very basic foundation of who I AM.  In a way, you are trivializing the value of me as an entire human being, with her own name, thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

So before asking me what happened, please just ask me my name, or about how I’m doing, where I’m from– anything that make me feel like a person instead of a little cute nub attached to a person.

Then, we can talk about whatever.

Layers to This



There’s levels to this s#!t.”-Meek Mill

When people see me, they see my physical difference first.  Then, they see my skin color. Then my gender. Then hopefully my humanity.

In the book I’m reading, Sister Citizen, there’s a quote that says,

“If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have had to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”

So basically, once Black women are free from oppression, it would mean that all other groups of people would have had to have been freed first. To say that that quote resonated within my soul would be an understatement. Being a Black woman is an incredibly complicated, rewarding, and emotionally taxing responsibility. However, being a woman of Color facing a physical difference adds an entire layer of complexity to the battle I am fighting.

Not only do I have to face the real life sociocultural issues of the world as a woman and Person of Color, but I also have to learn to constantly embrace the real life limitations of my body as a Person facing a Physical Challenge.  I have to make peace with the times that my body reminds me of the extent its true capabilities.

Every day my life is new, exciting, fun, and complicated. Not always sad, but sometimes. Sometimes lonely, but never really alone. Processing the layers of my identity is difficult. It’s deep.

Raising a One Armed Bandit: The Power of Family


“Think of it this way, God gave you so many things; beauty, intelligence, cute shape, a beautiful voice to sing, creativity to paint-shoot everything really!  If he would’ve given you two arms too, you probably would’ve been a B-word. Too much for the world to handle, Pretty Girl.”

– La Shone Smith to 16 year-old Amber

People ask me all the time how I came to be so comfortable with being an amputee.  Honestly, one of the first things that I mention is my family. I was raised in a family that had no forewarning that I would be born facing a physical challenge was comfortable with taking on the challenge of raising an AMputee. They have always been open-minded enough to let me explore, to help me find the resources I needed, and of course, to make a couple of jokes along the way. Though there have been times when our words may have not been the best indicators of our love. When it matters most, our actions have never fallen short.  These integral moments with my family have been instrumental in solidifying the way I see myself today.

There is something beautiful in the way that we love each other.

I’ll never forget when I was five years old and came home from school crying about being bullied.  My daddy sat me on his knee, wiped my tears, and told me that God made me perfectly, little arm and all. He also made sure to teach my sister, my brother, and me the “JabJabHook“; a mean punch combo for us to give bullies a run for their money.  I also remember when I decided that I wanted to start playing softball for Redan Park just like my big sister.  My daddy didn’t question me once. He didn’t ask why or how. Instead he took me to buy a glove and then to the park, where together he worked with me to create a catching combo that allowed me to scoop balls from the outfield and throw it in to the bases so fast that even after years of playing people still couldn’t figure out how I could get the ball around so quickly.

But, the moment I’ll truly never forget was when I was six and played softball for the Redan Ravens. I had just started getting comfortable batting without the assistance of a batting post. The bases were loaded and I was the last batter of the game.  When coach of the other team saw that I had one arm he called all of his players to the infield.

He told his players, “Come on in! It won’t take too much to stop her!”

The parents from my team were furious (Especially my Mama).

But, my daddy calmed everybody down, came over to me at the plate, got down on knees and told me, “Don’t you worry about any of them. Don’t worry about what they say or what they’re doing. You got this baby girl. You’re gonna hit this ball and run just as fast as you can.”

I did.  And, we won!  Before I could even make it to second base my daddy scooped me up with hugs and kisses, and the coach of the other team was in our dugout offering his apologies.   Today, as a young woman, I can see clearly how my Daddy’s words of encouragement and willingness to learn just how to accomplish things with me inspired in me the mindset of an over comer. In fact, his loving work with me taught me to trust in myself undoubtedly in the midst of disparaging circumstances, and each time that I have done so, I have always proved triumphant.


There is something beautiful in the way that we uplift each other.

mama and me

Since I was young, my mama has spent so much time helping me grow to be an independent, confident woman.  I remember the times that my mama would look into the mirror work with me side-by-side to help me learn to acknowledge that every last bit of me is beautiful.  She used to tell me to be sure to hold my head up and would be careful to make sure that I never stood in the slightest way that would hide my little arm.  She would always-and still does- call me her pretty girl. She also used to leave little inspirational notes on the bathroom mirror to let me know that she, my daddy, my brother, my sister, and Jesus love me just the way I am. Now that she can text, she sends the cutest messages every day just to remind me how important, beautiful, and smart I am to her.  My mama is beautiful.  Physically, emotionally, and mentally she is amazing. Not because she always gets it right, or that she always has all the answers, but because no matter what she never stops trying. She is one of the strongest, most creative, funny hilarious, sensitive, sassy-Lord knows she is sassy, sweet, most resilient people I know.  She’s thoughtful and kind.  When it came to learning to tie my Barney shoes or cleaning up the bathroom after I painted my nails when I was two, my mama has been there to literally help me make a way.  Even in the times when I am so freaking difficult, my mama never stops trying and she never for a second lets me think that I’m alone in my journey for self acceptance.


There is something beautiful in the way that we take care of each other.

Since the days of walking to the candy lady for Now and Laters and Laffy Taffys, my brother and my sister have been my biggest defenders.  I honestly feel like all the times my mama made us sit in that one chair together as punishment for arguing helped us develop such a strong bond and respect for one another that we won’t stand for anyone mistreating any of us.  I’m not sure if they know it or not, but I’ve seen my brother and sister go 0 to 100 real quick, especially if they feel like someone is disrespecting me about being an amputee.  And while it’s nice to see them defending me, I find it even more empowering to witness how they speak to others about me facing my physical challenges.  I’ve witnessed them both not only explain to children and adults that I was born like this, but also carefully make it a point to let people know that I am completely capable.   Ashley and Aaron have two of the biggest and best hearts that I know.  Aaron is always open and willing to listen when I need to talk and is good to call and tell me that he loves me and is proud. Ashley, or Nash as I call her, has always been there to hold for the times I crawled into her bed to cry in the middle of the night or to drop random words of wisdom that leave me thinking, really thinking about how to pursue my dreams.  Together, they make me feel safe and comfortable in my most vulnerable moments.  As two of the funniest people I know, they make me laugh harder and longer when I need it most.  When we’re all together, whether it’s on the phone or in person, they always remind me that I am and always have been a complete, multifaceted human being.

Honestly, I think that I have one of the best families in the world.  Not because we are the best at communicating our feelings, or  because we don’t make mistakes, but because every day we wake up and try to love each other even more we did the night before. And, even though sometimes we might fall short, we never actually stop trying.  My family has been so impactful in helping me to become the woman that I am in so many different ways, that I don’t think that they realize just how instrumental their actions have been in my individual development as an amputee. I could write a book about all of the memories that helped make me the “One Armed Bandit” I am today, and one day I just might.  But for now I would just like my family, immediate and extended, to know that their actions have worked together to inspire in me such a positive sense of self that I never could have developed on my own.

Thank you.

The Secret to Standing Still


Don’t wander too far trying to find yourself. You might get lost in the thrill.

– Said by me at 22

Feet are funny things.  At any given moment, they’re either moving or standing still. There’s no in between. Either is beneficial, but both can be detrimental in the event that the movement or the stillness isn’t happening at the right time.  What I learned this summer, while sitting in my cube working a job that I absolutely hate, is that standing still to take time and figure things out is normal and human, but standing still out of fear of the unknown or unaccepted is crippling to your emotional and personal growth.

Ever since I was a little girl, I was conditioned to be twice as talented, twice as smart, and twice as tough, just so that I can be viewed as a worthy and equal contender to full limbed people.  In my life experiences, I have very rarely been in a situation where I haven’t had to prove my humanity.  Whether it’s a game of softball or intellectual competition, the public sees a person facing a physical challenge and automatically assumes that we are fragile, weak. And, I, was determined to dispel those thoughts about me before they could find solid footing in the minds of anyone I encountered.

When you’re living with any physical difference it feels like proving your full humanity is a full-time job with no days off and very little time to process in between such constant interactions.  Since I was young, people have always told me how strong I was; how resilient I was.  While I know that I am strong and resilient, for me, those things were actually grounded in my fear of accepting my own vulnerability. I was afraid and, to be clear, vulnerability isn’t what scared me.  It’s the association of vulnerability with weakness. I was terrified to really let myself fall apart, to really feel, to ask for help.  Even in my growth as an amputee, I am still afraid to be dependent on anybody or anything because I don’t want to be characterized as weak or lacking in any way.  In fact, I’ve spent so much of my life trying to prove to the world that I’m strong, invincible even, that I had never truly learned how to allow time for myself to process my emotions honestly.

After taking time for myself, I realized real strength lies in three basic practices:

  • First: Acknowledging the pain of our experiences.


  • Second: Finding the trigger for that pain; the past action, memory (however vivid or distant), or recurring negative thought.


  • Third: Recognizing that any emotional distress you feel stems from you believing something about yourself that is rooted in misunderstanding and, consequently, is completely untrue.

Being strong is about being willing to search for the answers to your emotional struggles within yourself.  Being resilient is allowing yourself to be engulfed in the dark depths of your pain so you can gather the true nitty-gritty details of your emotional discomfort, because you can only honestly solve your grievances if you know the true extent of the problems you’re facing.

In my time away, I’ve also learned that you can’t allow the people around you to make your reality for you. You’ll never be happy.

When I graduated from college this past May, I was determined to pursue I AMputee fulltime. But, as time passed I began to worry about the way the world would interpret what I was doing.  I started to doubt my aspirations and my ideas. I was scared that by pursuing my project, I wasn’t going to be able to make money to support myself. Then I realized that these weren’t even my fears!  These were the thoughts of people around me.  I never cared about any of that stuff. I just wanted to write and to create something that inspired a conversation a movement for self acceptance for amputees and allies. But, by listening to everything except my own voice, I lost sight of that.

Most of the time, we count ourselves out not because of the extent of our capabilities, but because of insecurities that were carelessly planted in our lives by the closed minds of those that we encounter.  Where I come from, people don’t pursue their dreams. Unless, of course, they’ve always dreamed of using Instagram to sell bundles of virgin hair weave or they’re pursuing music because it seems like just about EVERYONE from my community is selling hair, in the studio, or both.  But when it comes to pursuing more significantly challenging projects, it seems like these dream chasers are harder to find than ever.

Last week, my mama told me that people don’t like their careers. She said when you graduate college, you get an office or teaching job that pays, then you can be stable and happy.  It was the saddest thing I’ve ever been told.  Don’t get me wrong, my mama always tells me pursue my dreams, and is one of my biggest supporters, but her motto has always been: “Don’t let your emotions drive your actions.”  I love my Mama dearly and respect her experiences, but I don’t believe any of it.  That doesn’t make any sense to me.  If you don’t let your emotions drive you, how are you truly alive? Why are you truly alive? You work hard in school to get good grades, to go to a good school, only to work a job that you don’t even like? In making these decisions without consulting your inner spirit, you are sacrificing the opportunity to make yourself truly happy.  Now, I’m not here to tell anyone to up and quit their jobs today, but instead my goal is to help you begin to live your life in the most fulfilling way possible.

So, ask yourself, “What are the things that drive me? What is that one thing that I’d love to do, but think is too crazy, too impossible to try?”

As long as your goals are grounded in good intentions, you should at least attempt them. Do it. Do it today. Do a little at a time if you have to, but start making steps today, because you have a right to be happy and fulfilled.

When I started writing this blog last year, I was inspired, but I needed to take time for myself. I needed to rebuild my spirit.  During my time away from the blog, I went through counseling that saved my spirit, graduated from college, watched my mentor (and second mom) beat Cancer, moved to DC with my big sister, and tried to work a job that I knew wasn’t meant for me. I was stuck standing still. But, once my feet started hurting from stunted opportunities for growth, my heart aching to do the things that I love, and my stomach hungry for significant change, I knew that it was time. I realized I needed to take action. Now, I am back. And, I am ready.

Invisible Scars Part 2: Past Pain Recognized


A friend told me,

“We hate when other people limit us, but we always limit ourselves.”

The danger is not in what people say, it’s when it invades our spirits and we begin to believe them.  I know I’m not a failure. I know it’s not true, but the emotional implications of my past experiences sometimes sneak their way out of my subconscious and present themselves as my conscious doubts, fears, and feelings of inadequacy.

I’ve searched my extensive vocabulary and still can’t find any other terms that could more accurately encompass what exactly I was dealing with. All these years I had been carrying around all this heavy ass shit! All these words, simple sentences spoken to me throughout my adolescence made any little challenge that I faced an internal struggle with my sense of self worth. All in all, my past was spoiling my present.

This heavy-ass, heartbreaking, soul wrenching, demeaning shit that I thought I’d left in the past has been hiding in the cracks and corners of my life. These thoughts creep into my bedroom at times when my friends, my family, anyone who could intervene on my behalf are out of reach. In the wee hours of the morning, as I deal with the stress of a paper or building my project, they sneak into my room.  Well orchestrated thieves, they wait until I am alone and vulnerable. These thoughts come to rob me of my positive sense of self. And I, like a childhood reflex, cup the hands of my heart around the ears of my soul in an effort to protect my inner most self. Unfortunately, memories of past pain unrealized seem to sift through. I am transformed into my fourteen year old self and everything runs together.

Stupid Girl.You were probably somewhere being fast with some boys, huh? Frisky. Stripper. Prostitute. Fast-Tailed. Whore. Bitch. Nobody wants you anyway. Not your mother or your father. Nobody, remember that. Get your ass out my house and never bring your ass back! Why are you studying all the time? You aren’t going anywhere. Straighten your hair, be a good representation of the race. Always telling the truth. Always got so much to say? Your husband’s gonna beat the shit out of you when he finds out how many men you slept with. I prayed you wouldn’t get into that school. You’re only good enough to be a mother in the projects. Always crying, don’t be so sensitive! You think you know everything. Are you sad because you have one arm? Are you depressed because you don’t have any friends because you have one arm? You would be pretty if…smart if….perfect if….But you have one arm so you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t!”

The people that I love the most almost ruined me. While the moments of love that we share are sweet, the moments of rejection are so much more alienating. These were the same individuals that told me to hold my head up high, be proud of who I was and where I come from. And I was, but I was also so conflicted. I come from a family of people who love hard, but hurt even harder.  I come from a long line of beautiful, smart, loving, and painfully complicated people.  I love my family, but their refusal to take responsibility for the role they play in wounding the spirits of the ones that they love is the hardest thing I’ve had to cope with.

I’ve moved past my anger, so I don’t expect apologies.  I only hope for personal growth.  I long for the Sorry, Not Sorry‘s’ to be done away with. For the, I apologize if you took it that way’ to finally be put to rest.  The It happened, but not like that’ to be silenced.   And the infamous.  I’m sorry for some things I may have said, but honestly it’s your fault too because…’

Stop it!  Just stop. Wrong is wrong.  Momentary anger and frustration do not serve as justification to say spiritually damaging things. We must stop blaming the ones we hurt for our own wrong doings.  Hurt people, hurt people.  If we search within ourselves for the reasons behind why we lash out toward others, why we sometimes tear people down, then we can really address the root of our own personal suffering and progress.

No one of us is perfect; no one of us is wholly and completely innocent. My goal in writing this is not to assign blame, but instead to acknowledge the fact that there is power in acknowledging the pain of your past. As I look back on my experiences in high school, I realize that at any given moment I could’ve strayed from my path, retreated into myself, and become everything I was told that I was. But I didn’t.  I had people around me who believed in me when I couldn’t myself.  I had people who fought for me, who held my hand and held my secrets. And, I had myself.

The people that I love the most almost ruined me. They almost ruined me because I loved them, respected them, and trusted them with my happiness.  But, happiness is homemade, and once I realized that I had all the ingredients, I was one step further to becoming the amazing woman I want to be.

Bathophobia: n. a fear of falling from a high place.


Last week, I attended an AMputee support group at Spaulding Rehab in Boston.  During  the meeting, the group’s facilitator described how a previous member, who was a lower limb amputee, would do an exercise with new members in which he would physically fall down onto  the floor to show the group different techniques to get back up to a secure position.  She went on to explain that participating in these guided falling exercises, helped restore a sense of resiliency, confidence, and independence to new Amputees who were encountering challenges in readjusting to their lives outside of the hospital.

Though I have my lower limbs, something inside me shifted as I listened to this discussion of the fear of falling.  As days passed, I found myself thinking of the times in which I’ve fallen, the trouble I faced trying to get back on my feet, and my struggle in finding meaning in each journey.

Fall- Noun. failure, insufficiency; inability to reach

I started college a confident, bright eyed young woman eager to be immersed in all my university had to offer, but soon I realized my experiences would not be exactly what I’d hoped.      At home in Atlanta, I was a Homecoming Queen, Valedictorian, an artist, a counselor, a daughter, a sister…a human being.  As I entered a place where being politically correct supersedes normal human interactions, I became generically labeled by a term that I had always worked to reject: disabled. At Wesleyan, I was transformed into a woman with a handicapped identity. No amount of “PC” could limit the awkward glances at my arm or the discomfort some had when speaking to me.  After a while, I grew tired of the awkwardness and developed a system:

1.Explain what happened.

2.Make a joke to clear the air.

3. Chuckle.

4. Exchange awkward goodbyes.

5. Repeat with someone new.

For the first time in my life, I actually felt disabled. I grew tired of people acknowledging my amputation before they asked my name. I was over the shuffling, the stares, and especially that one girl that screamed at the sight of my arm.   I had always considered myself a strong woman, but after a year’s worth of awkward conversations and no true progress I was tired and vulnerable. I was immersed into an environment that failed to satisfy my needs as an individual facing a physical challenge, and I found myself losing touch with my sense of self. I found myself starting to actually believe that I was disabled.

Fall- noun. brief moments of uncertainty

When I was 14 years old, I met a young man named Kentavius .  Over the years that our friendship blossomed, Tae taught me life lessons in love and resilience.  Time after time, I watched him face adversity, and to this very day, I’ve never seen someone get knocked down so much, and still manage to get up each time with a smile greater than the last.  At Wesleyan, I was completely lost in trying to maintain this image of a capable, collected young woman for the sake of family and friends, but, Tae kept me grounded. Fortunately, I’d found a confidant who loved and accepted me for the entirety of who I was. I was lucky to have a gatekeeper of my secret sorrows that used the tools of unconditional love and acceptance to help me remedy my wounded spirit. He provided me with needed reassurance that I was unequivocally, unmistakably, beautifully, imperfectly human. He made falling not only easy, but also essential in embracing the beauty of the peaks and valleys of my self-acceptance.   Tae celebrated everything about me, at a time I when couldn’t even accept everything about myself. He truly loved me simply for the sake of love and I loved him. When he died, I fell again-except this time I didn’t know how to get back up.

Fall- verb. to drop or descend under the force of gravity, as to a lower place through loss or lack of support.

When someone realizes they’ve fallen, one of their first reactions is to look up in an attempt to see if the distance of their descent is as great as they feel it is.   If others are present as witnesses they may discredit their pain, say that they were overreacting, and rush them onto their feet.    They may say things like:

“You have to be strong.”

“Don’t be so sensitive!”

“It could always be worse.”

I can’t even begin to describe how  debilitating statements like these are. When we say these things (I say we, because I am also guilty) , we rob people of their self advocacy. We make it increasingly harder for them to assume a position of power in initiating their own personal healing. We also cause people to negatively view the time it takes for them to overcome challenges..In doing so, we have some beautiful heart being subjected to a botched, rushed healing process that is infected with negative self talk and criticism.  As a result, you end up with a someone who is incredibly self critical, astonishingly guarded, and unceasingly hesitant in trusting others with their emotions.

After two years at Wesleyan and burying my best friend, that someone was me.  Over and over again, I’d lost myself; again and again I was told that I had to be strong.  And I was…until I got tired and lonely.  Most importantly, I got tired of hiding my emotions.  I got sick of letting my body and my experiences be subjected to the criticism of society. Over time, I began to open up to my loved ones about what exactly I was feeling as a one-armed woman grieving the loss of my identity and my dear friend.

I’ve learned a few important things through my “falls”. First, I hate when people tell you that you should hide your emotions stay guarded. For a long time, I was down, and because I was down for so long, I began to view my vulnerability with contempt.  However as time progressed, I realized that was only because I mistook my vulnerability for weakness.  It is essential to experiencing the most beautiful things in life.  Unlike weakness, human vulnerability is the result of a conscious decision to be open enough to receive life’s gifts despite the risk of being hurt .  In embracing our vulnerability, we not only make ourselves available to learn life’s most essential lessons, but we also allow room for ourselves to truly learn the intricacies of the power we posses in coming into entirety of our capabilities.

By giving in to the depth of our falls, we are able to not only conquer them, but also assume new heights and acquire new triumphs.

In loving memory of Kentavius Thomas Allison.