A Look At My 24th Year


Hey blog world! On Sunday, November 20th, I had another Birthday! I turned 25 years old! Each Birthday is always a big deal for me because it reminds me how strong and amazing that I am. When I was born, my doctors were shocked to find out that I had no corpus callosum (the wide band of fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain and transmits motor information between the two sides). This was the first case of Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum that they had seen. They knew nothing about it and didn’t know if I would walk, talk, live for very long. Here I am now, 25 years later, happy, successful, unable to shut up, lol! Sure, my A.C.C and other diagnosis (I also have Autism and Dyscalculia (a math disability)) cause me to struggle in certain areas, like writing with a pen/pencil, mental math and tying laces, but, as the Beatles say “I get by with a little help from my friends!”

This has been another amazing and super busy year for me, which is why you haven’t heard from me here as much lately. An apology to my theatre friends who have been expecting reviews of their shows! Know that I thought each one I’ve seen this year was absolutely incredible and I loved every minute! I will try in the new year to be more consistent with reviews and other postings on this blog!

I saw many incredible musicals this year! The best one, no question, was “Sidewalk Dandelion” a musical written for Shallaway Youth Choir’s Lauda ensemble by Kyle McDavid of Best Kind Productions. Lauda is a neurodiverse choir. Neurodiverse means having a brain that developed and functions differently than a neurotypical (“normal”) person. The members of this choir have intellectual disabilities. As examples, some are like me and are on the Autism spectrum and there is one member with Down Syndrome. This show was about acceptance and inclusion of those with special needs and the message was conveyed through the story of a young girl named Emily who tended to the creatures in her magical garden. The show was funny, heartwarming and all around beautiful! I loved every minute of it! Daffyd the Aphid was my favorite! I left the theatre humming his song and it was stuck in my head for weeks after!

I got to see some fantastic concerts this year too. My best friend Peter and I got to see James Taylor together for the second time! We went the first time he came here in 2017 and when we heard he was coming back, we had to go again! It was such a wonderful show! James’s voice is so soothing and his music is just lovely. It makes my heart feel happy. I also got to see The Wiggles in September!!! I know I said that I just turned 25, but I don’t care! Yes their target demographic is 2 years old and up, but I say you’re never too old to rock a bye your bear, do the Propellor or play Simon Says! I had the best afternoon of my life at their concert! I had a blast singing and dancing along with every song! I think my favorite part was singing “Quack Quack Cock A Doodle Doo” with Captain Feathersword! I also had a total fangirl moment when Dorothy the Dinosaur came onstage! She is my favorite of their friends and I nearly hit the ceiling with excitement when I saw her in person!

Along with watching lots of great theatre on stage, I got to be part of it several times this year! I was cast in 3/4 shows that I auditioned for!!! Yay! Even though I missed out on one of them (a musical theatre production of “Scrooge” happening in St. John’s), I’ll still chalk that audition up as a win anyway because I made the judges smile and laugh and at the end they said I was fantastic! That was the result I was hoping for!

The first show that I got to do this year was Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow” with Theatre CBS. I was cast as W.P.C (Woman’s Police Chief) Penney. I was second hand to Inspector Colqhoun, helping to solve the murder of womanizing Dr. John Cristow. It was a darkly humorous whodunit that was a lot of fun to be involved in!

In October, I was cast in Terry Nova Production’s inaugural show, “Playlude To Terra Nova” which was a part of the St. John’s Short Plays Festival. This play was a post apocalyptic sci-fi set on a Newfoundland based starship. Basically, the best way I can describe it is Star Trek, but everyone’s a Newfoundlander. That one was HUGE for me because not only was it my first ever PAID acting gig, but, it was at the LSPU Hall! So many of my idols have performed on that stage! Kara Noftall, John Williams, Peter Halley, Shelley Neville! Now, it was my turn! I couldn’t believe I was standing where they once stood! Another super cool thing about Playlude was that it was written by a fellow Autistic person and the main character was on the spectrum! I loved that this play brought awareness of people like us! My character was Artemis Keats, the partridgeberry jam loving computer engineer on the N.S.S Thorburn.

I am a firm believer in the saying “everything happens for a reason”. I believe that not being cast in the St. John’s “Scrooge” was God’s way of saying “Hold on, there’s something better coming.” because a month or so after the audition, it was announced that Theatre CBS would be doing their own version of “A Christmas Carol”, a live radio play version! I was elated to hear that news! CBS is my hometown, so if I were to get cast, it would be a lot closer to home which, with the cost of gas these days, would be so much easier on my parents. I auditioned for the show was was cast! I was so excited that I would get to tell the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge after all!

That show is really unlike anything I’ve done yet and I love that! As I said, this is a live radio play version of “A Christmas Carol”! We are going to do it in the style of a 1940’s radio program like “The Shadow” or “The Lone Ranger”. We’ll dress up in period clothes and read the story as if we were employees of that station putting on a radio drama! There is even a live foley (sound effects) artist! I get to play several different roles. I am Belinda Cratchet (Bob’s youngest daughter), Belle (Scrooge’s ex), Mrs. Dilber (a pickpocket), one of the storytellers and a guest at Scrooge’s nephew Fred’s Christmas party! One thing I’ve been liking with this show is getting to play with different voices. For one character, I speak in a British accent! That isn’t easy, but I think its coming along pretty great! The show is happening December 9th – 10th at the Worsley Park 50+ club in CBS! Get tickets here!

This year has been another big one for my businesses! In February, I became involved with the Youth Ventures program through Empower: The Disability Resource Centre. For those of you who don’t know, Youth Ventures is a fantastic program offered throughout Newfoundland that helps young people age 12 – 29 start and run their own business! My co-ordinator, Sherri Tucker, was awesome. We met once a week via Zoom and would talk about how things are going and if there were areas where I needed some help. She gave me lots of great advice on pricing and marketing and many other things! She also got me connected with Becky at The Hub, who I still go to when I need things printed off.

Also through Youth Ventures, I’ve had the opportunity to do craft fairs again! I went to a few of them a number of years ago, but stopped because I was barely making any money and was getting very discouraged. When Sherri said that Mothers of Avalon was having a craft fair and they had a table for us, I was honestly a bit skeptical about giving it another go, but, the table was free so I had nothing to lose, I thought I may as well give it a second try! I’m glad I did. I had so much fun interacting with the customers as they came to the table, got my face painted like a unicorn for free and I made over $100! That was the best I’d ever done at any craft fair ever! I’ve kept up craft fairs since, attending the Kiwanis Club of CBS’s Sunday Market every second Sunday. Its something I always look forward to!

Back in March, the Empower branch of Youth Ventures had a business pitch competition! It was just like “Dragon’s Den” (or “Shark Tank” if you’re in the U.S). Competitors had to pitch their business to a panel of investors. Whoever had the best pitch would be named business of the year. I decided, out of all my businesses (Loops By Leah, Neurodiverse Nummies, Spirit Art and Movers & Shakers Dance Fitness), I would pitch Neurodiverse Nummies because that is my most successful business venture. I came out in third place in the competition. I think its pretty cool that I am the third best business owned by a person with a disability! What I was especially proud of was that along with my third place title, I was also given a Customer Engagement award! The judges gave me this special award in recognition of my inclusive line of treats. Along with all my regular goodies, I can adapt my recipes to make treats that are gluten, dairy, lactose and/or sugar free!

One of the coolest things with my businesses this year is I’ve had several local celebrity customers! My dear friends at Spirit of Newfoundland allowed me to have a table set up in the lobby of Holy Heart during their 25th anniveresary gala back in June and the stars were out those two nights! I sold gingersnaps to Dana Parsons (a jazz singer and actress who also is the afternoon radio host on Coast 101.1), gluten, dairy and sugar free raisin tea buns to Peter Halley (an actor, singer, piano player and writer who is the president and artistic director of Spirit of Newfoundland) and chocolate chip cookies to Michael Coady (an actor who has had roles on many television shows including “Republic of Doyle”, “Murdoch Mysteries” and “1000 Ways To Die”). Last month, I even sold one of my original drawings to Christa Borden (a singer and actress who was on the Canadian music competition show “Popstars” back in the early 2000s)!

To further my artistic skills so I can continuously improve upon my Spirit Art greeting cards, I began taking art lessons from my friend Darrin Martin, who is a very talented visual artist from Torbay! I have been having so much fun in our lessons and learning a lot from him! Here is one of the drawings that I created in one of our lessons, “Sheltered From The Storm”

I had another great summer this year with Special Olympics. On Monday nights, I played softball. I’m not the best at it, my batting skills really need improving, but I have a lot of fun trying and that’s what matters! The highlight of the softball season for me was for sure the celebrity tournament we had at the end of the summer! It was us, the CBS Bright Stars, against the Coast 101.1 All Stars! Now, I’m not gonna lie, I was intimidated at the start. There were pro wrestlers on the opposing team! These dudes are super tough looking behemoths! Yikes! Also playing against us were some women’s hockey players (including Tina Thistle from last season of “Big Brother Canada”), the announcer of the Growler’s hockey games and Dana Parsons, a jazz singer and actress who also is the afternoon radio host on Coast 101.

Dana is a glitter obsessed ray of sunshine! One of my teammates was struggling to get a hit at bat, she yelled out to stop the game, pulled a Ziploc baggie of glitter from out of her jacket and showered him with it! I loved that! A few of us got glitter bombed by Dana that day and it was the best! I was still wearing her glitter for at least a week after the game! LOL! Lalalalalaloves her!

On Thursdays, I played bocce, which is an outdoor game that is sort of like a mix of curling and bowling. You roll your ball down the court and the aim is to get it close to a little white ball called the polina. Whoever is closest to the polina gets a point. Its one of my favorite summertime games. We didn’t get to have provincials this year due to Covid, BUT we did get to have a competition against each other! I played doubles this year and my partner was my friend Michael Lamond. We did amazingly well! We won 2/3 of our games! I was so proud of us! At the medal ceremony/pizza party a few weeks later, I thought for sure we were shoo-ins for a silver medal, but was very pleasantly surprised when our names were called for gold!!

During the fall, I usually do rhythmic gymnastics with Special Olympics, but my coach is still on maternity leave. I still wanted to be involved with Special O, so I had to pick a different sport. I thought I’d challenge myself and join the track and field team. I have really been enjoying it. It honestly makes me feel like I’m 8 years old again in elementary school gym class! We toss bean bags and javelins, run relay races, play Skip-It (anyone else remember that old school toy you wore around your ankle with a big plastic ball on a rope you had to jump over?! We have our own version of that! A plastic ring on a giant lasso that the coach swings by our feet and we jump over.), sometimes we warm up by playing with a parachute and at the end of each night we play soccer baseball!!!

One thing I love to do is help my community however I can. Back in October, I did my second annual Trick or Treat for the Food Bank. I dressed up in my Halloween costume and went door to door collecting non perishables for the CBS Community Food Bank. This year, I dressed up as Julia from “Sesame Street” (one of the newer characters, she debuted in 2017. She’s a little 5 year old Muppet girl who is Autistic just like me!) I went around in St. John’s and CBS collecting non perishables to give to the food bank. When I dropped them off a few days later, the lady running the food bank said that I had collected more than last year and I would be able to feed 5 or 6 families with everything I had collected! That made my heart feel so happy!

I recently began a new job. I am still going to be with Kent, this new job is just a temporary Christmas season gig. I have been re-hired as a Christmas temp at Canada Post! I had that job last year and really enjoyed it and was thrilled when I got the call asking me to do it again! I work in the big plant in St. John’s. As a Christmas temp (or, as I love to call myself, a “Mail elf”!) I sort all the letters and packages and make sure they get to where they need to go. Its a big job, I’m on my feet for most of the shift and there’s a lot of heavy lifting, but I enjoy what I’m doing. Sorting things is fun! The hours are not what I’m used to (11pm until 7am!) but I like what I do and its extra money for Christmas! I’ll take it!

I got a new adventure buddy this year too. Stuffy’s nephew, Piff (for those who don’t know, Stuffy is my dragon friend that I take with me everywhere. He helps me to calm down whenever I am anxious or experiencing sensory overload.) Piff has been with us since July.He is named after Piff the Magic Dragon, the runner up on season 10 of America’s Got Talent. Piff loves “Dragon Tales” reruns, magic (he wants to be just like his namesake someday) and Tim Horton’s hot chocolate! Piff, Stuffy and I have had lots of great adventures together this year visiting the horses at The Dr’s House in Green’s Harbor, seeing a Buddy Holly tribute concert, even meeting drag queen Eda Kumquat at Bridie Molloy’s!

That has been my year in a nutshell! I am so looking forward to what 2023 will bring! Some of my hopes for my future are to finally get my driver’s license and to open a bakery and create job opportunities for people like myself with special needs!

Leah

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