The Language of Disability

The Language of Disability

I’m thrilled (and honored) that links to my blog have been shared and people I haven’t (yet) met in person are following. Perhaps now is an appropriate point to share a few words about the blog title. I am often described as sensitive, occasionally as stubborn, and perhaps never as sassy. And calling myself Gimpy Girl sounds, well, a bit sassy.

Last September I actually registered two website names. I began with Honoring The Graces (, that sounds so much like a name I would choose. Yet after sitting with that a while, I went back a registered this second site, Gimpy Girl Goes Birding. It sounded bolder. It clearly conveyed what I was about to do during this birding ‘big year’. And in many ways, it marked a transition for me. Even though I had lived a long time with one foot in the able-bodied world and the other foot in the disabled world, it still felt all too sudden when I found I was out of options to seamlessly fit into our mostly nondisabled world. For example, sheer determination and concentration were no longer enough to step up even the lowest step or curb without a railing. And getting up from ground level without assistance (whether the trip down was planned or unplanned 😉 ) was no longer possible.

Although this transition brought sadness and frustration, it eventually led to some sense of relief (then even later to determination and adventure). I could let go of trying with all my might to be something I’m not and never could be (a fully able-bodied person). This deeper level of acceptance led me to find new ways to move through this wonderful and often challenging world, reclaiming the energy previously expended attempting to keep up an able-bodied appearance and rediscovering sources of joy (such as a ‘hike’ through the mud!! 😀 )


I believe the language used to describe disability is deeply personal (since ability and limitation are profoundly unique and personal experiences for each of us, I believe we should each have the freedom to choose language that feels most comfortable to describe our own circumstances at any given point)… and at this point in my journey, in choosing Gimpy Girl to name my own experience and transition, I credit the influence of writer Nancy Mairs who rejected the terms ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped’ and instead chose to describe herself as ‘crippled’ – not only because of the term’s starkness and precision but also for it’s honesty and because she wished to be viewed as “one tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses [had] not been kind, but who [faced] the brutal truth of … existence squarely” (Plaintext, p. 9-10). Therefore, I chose the words Gimpy Girl (for myself, never for others) with the hope that I might move forward boldly, honestly facing this experience of changing ability, and keeping a sense of humor throughout it all. 🙂

And now on to some exciting bird discoveries…

As each birder begins a ‘big year’ he or she likely has a bird or two they most hope to see during the year – often a rare bird. My hope was more modest – not a rare species, yet one I had never seen (which would make it a ‘life’ bird) and a woodpecker found in the mid-Atlantic that I’ve never spotted on our property. The Red-headed Woodpecker. On Memorial Day, two new friends from the Frederick Bird Club set out with me with the hope of spotting one of these breathtakingly beautiful birds. And we were successful! Bird #145 of 2017.


On that same outing we spotted a Bobolink


A Grasshopper Sparrow



As well as a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (another one you’ll need to look up, as I didn’t have my camera close by at the time).

I’ve also been seeing lots of beautiful Great Crested Flycatchers – seen here preening at the end of the day.



With gratitude and blessings,

Deb xoxo

Oh, the places I’ll go!

Oh, the places I’ll go!

Borrowing a few words from Dr. Seuss (with a few edits)…


Today is the day.
I’m off to Great Places!
I’m off and away!

I can steer myself
any direction I choose…

On Monday of this week I became the grateful owner of a minivan. With apologies to anyone reading who loves driving a minivan (I know you’re out there… I’ve spoken with a few of you) – I came to these wheels reluctantly. I considered all alternatives, and eventually accepted a minivan was the solution that would offer independence and a greater ability to get out and about.


The line “Oh, the places you’ll go” had been repeating in my head, and now “oh, the places I’m going” is my new reality 🙂

Thinking a bit of positive reinforcement might help my transition to a minivan, I drove straight from picking up the van to Pinecliff Park in Frederick. This Solitary Sandpiper (a new bird, #136 of the year) greeted me in the parking lot. A lovely gift from the universe.

And as I zipped around the park on my scooter (amazed at what I was suddenly doing without embarrassment when the rewards – independence and birds – were great enough), I discovered two additional new birds of the year:

a Gray-cheeked Thrush (an uncommon bird to spot)

as well as a Black-throated Blue Warbler (you’ll have to look this one up, as my pictures didn’t turn out well).

This van (a Honda Odyssey with a BraunAbility power fold-out ramp, that really is quite lovely) is already offering the independence and mobility I hoped for. I can now pick up and go at any time, without having to evaluate how much walking I’m up for, and without needing to ask others to load and unload the scooter. I’m feeling very blessed to be in a position where these mobility options are available to me. I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement and support from my parents that made this option a reality. I’m also grateful to have discovered a wonderful local mobility services company – the team at Total Mobility Services in Frederick ( was great to work with… thanks Anne, Blaine, Dana, and Nancy 🙂

And the blessings continued with even more new birds…

During an early morning walk at the Fred Archibald Audubon Sanctuary in New Market, MD I spotted this handsome Scarlet Tanager



and during the Global Big Day on May 13th, I was able to see 57 bird species within Frederick County, including several Eastern Kingbirds (sorry about the lack of focus in the picture)



an Indigo BuntingDSCN7905

as well as a another less common bird, a Swainson’s Thrush





Vultures and visitors

Vultures and visitors

…they shall mount up with wings like [vultures],

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31)

I enjoyed a slow ride through local (Montgomery County, MD) back roads recently, and as I drove around a bend in the road I came across this black vulture and a few of her friends hanging out on an old log. I admit I surprised myself as I admired her beauty and peaceful presence. Yet stop and admire I did, for quite some time.

Over the winter I read an interesting book by Debbie Blue titled Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible. In her chapter on vultures, Blue shares that references to eagles in English translations of the Bible quite likely would be more appropriately translated as references to vultures. Blue also describes an ancient Egyptian belief of the vulture as a protective mother-god “whose enormous wingspan could encompass and enfold everything.” A “Mother of Mothers who existed from the beginning, and gave birth to all that is.” (p.69) Equally important and timely, Blue encourages readers to consider (and reconsider) our own and our culture’s “narrow definition of what is beautiful” (p.79), perhaps seeing “beauty in places other than where we’ve been programmed to see it.” (p.79)

Here is a portion of Margaret Atwood’s poem Vultures, Blue includes in her book:

Frowzy old saint, bald-
headed and musty, scrawny-
necked recluse on your pillar
of blazing air which is not
heaven: what do you make
of death, which you do not
cause, which you eat daily?

I make life, which is prayer.
I make clean bones.
I make a gray zinc noise
which to me is a song.
Well, heart, out of all this
carnage, could you do better?

And if you’ve kept reading this far, hooray for you! Here are a few additional pictures from the week…

A Green Heron from that same drive


The yard was filled with Rose-breasted Grosbeaks this past weekend. Here are two of the males

and here is a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeder with the smaller female Purple Finch


And lastly, our suet feeders were incredibly popular with the male woodpeckers this weekend- lots of Downies and Hairies, as well as Red-bellied (the first to check out the new larger suet feeder) and a Pileated who returned repeatedly over the weekend. Although I’ve seen two Pileated in our front trees, this was the first I’ve ever seen one visit a feeder. Since most of the frenzied activity was with the males, I’m hoping they were stopping by for some ‘fast food’ to bring home to the females and little ones! 😉




With love and blessings,



Easter surprises and the joys of regular visitors…

Easter surprises and the joys of regular visitors…

The first hummingbird returned last Thursday. What a wonderful surprise! No signs yet of a female.


And although the picture below doesn’t look like much, it is of my Solomon’s Seal – what I’ve come to consider an Easter gift. It is one of the few plants remaining from my herb gardens that, despite being (unintentionally) dug up and cut down several times, is a resilient plant that continues to thrive against all odds. Each Spring I hold out hope for this Solomon’s Seal. Where no parts of the plant were visible early last week, there were eleven healthy stems on Holy Thursday.


All of my birding the last week and a half has been at Saving Grace. Although the hummingbird has been the only bird added to the 2017 list, I have so enjoyed the regular visitors.

This Brown Thrasher decided to come out from the brush long enough to for several great views and a few good pictures. Look at those eyes! and that bill!!


And two more regulars allowed me to enjoy their company on a lovely Spring day…




Deb xoxo

A silent weekend in Faulkner, MD and frequent yard visitors…

A silent weekend in Faulkner, MD and frequent yard visitors…

I spent a wonderful weekend at the Loyola Retreat House in Faulkner, MD, one of my favorite places to visit. The silence, rest, and community were wonderful, and I returned home feeling restored physically and spiritually. The picture above, and the one below, are of Saturday’s sunset over the Potomac River.


I kept watch for birds throughout the weekend and spotted the following:

Bald eagles; osprey (species #113 for 2017!); cardinals; chipping sparrows; robins; turkey vultures; mockingbirds; white-throated sparrows; gulls of all sorts; carolina wrens; crows; juncos; blue jays; double-crested cormorants; brown thrashers; a red-bellied woodpecker; bluebirds; and 35+ bufflehead.

Much to my delight, I discovered an old yet useable scope in one of the retreat house rooms that enabled me to identify the bufflehead ducks. One species I couldn’t identify were the small black birds gliding low over the water. I look forward to talking with birding friends, to learn the type of birds they might have been.

There have also been wonderful yard birds in recent weeks. In particular, the Purple Finches (NH State Bird!!) have been stunning. I’ve previously seen one or two in with the house finches, however this year there have been days I’ve looked out to see a dozen or more at once. The males are beautiful to look at — Roger Tory Peterson is said to have described these birds as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” My eye has also been drawn to the females — plain color, yet a bold eye stripe and lovely streaked underparts. The bold stripe above the eye initially had me thinking these might be female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, however they are Purple Finches.


The Chipping Sparrows and Goldfinches have also been abundant, cheerful visitors


And lastly, I’ve been enjoying the “drink your tea” song of the Eastern Towhee (that I still think of as the Rufous-Sided Towhee), and this male came out from cover long enough for me to capture a few pictures yesterday. So handsome!

I put up the hummingbird feeders last week, and each time I pass by the windows I look for signs of their arrival…


Black-crowned Night Herons – Baker Park, Frederick MD

Black-crowned Night Herons – Baker Park, Frederick MD

I almost didn’t go birding today, however late afternoon I dug deep for some energy, gathered my walker, binoculars, and camera and headed to Baker Park in Frederick, MD. I was rewarded with some wonderful views of two Black-crowned Night Herons on the nest and gathering nest materials. Breathtaking!


I also enjoyed this Mallard couple, especially the male keeping watch 🙂


Many thanks for the extra encouragement and support this week. You’ve made all the difference. Love, Deb xoxo

Fox Sparrows…

Fox Sparrows…

Thanks so much for following! I hadn’t planned on such a long delay after my initial post, however life threw us a few curves (ice, snow, flu,…). Sometime soon I’ll go back and catch up on January, February, and the beginning of March (the birds were great!). For now, I’ll share just a few recent pictures of the Fox Sparrows who have been visiting our property the last two weeks, along with the peaceful little White-throated Sparrow staying out of the fray (and wondering when the Fox Sparrows will leave…). The Fox Sparrow is a new bird species for me, species #108 of 2017, and they’ve been great fun to watch.

Note: if you double click on the pictures below, they should display a bit larger.


Happy birding, and with much love,