Civil War reenacting with a disability

Posted by Jessica Jewett 3 Comments »

I’m going through my storage bins of Civil War reenacting stuff because I’m going to the Battle of Resaca in May. I haven’t done this in several years due to bad health and a relapse of my anxiety disorder. But this year, I plan to start getting back into it.

As I was going through my storage bins, I realized some of my stuff is different because I’m a quadriplegic. So I wanted to write about it a little bit, maybe hoping that other disabled people might see that it’s possible to do something like reenacting too. And reenacting is not completely like theater or even cosplay if you think about it. We invest a lot of time, energy, materials, and resources into our Civil War personas the way those in the theater or in cosplay do. So if I can do it from a wheelchair, you can too.

This is 2014 me:


And this is 1863 me:



It’s not easy to discern my quadriplegia when I sit for glass plate photographs, right? It’s not accidental. Wherever possible, like any great actress, I do what I can to convince the viewer of the part I play. For photo sittings like these, I transfer from my wheelchair to a regular antique chair the photographer has in his or her period correct studio. A 21st century wheelchair would destroy the historical illusion.

Also, I hide the deformities of my hands by wrapping myself in a shawl. Both the dress and the shawl I’m wearing in these photos are from the mid-19th century. Normally, I would never advise anyone to wear real antique clothing because they’re fragile. Once you rip these things or get them dirty, you can’t fix them. I happen to be as small as the average woman in 1860 (five feet and less than a hundred pounds), so these old clothes tend to fit like they were made for me. I don’t walk around either. I’m like a sitting mannequin. So for these pictures, I decided to wear the real thing instead of my usual reproductions. The black wool shawl dates to 1860 and the purple and green dress dates to 1865, I believe. It was altered numerous times over the decades.

But I can’t sit in regular chairs all the time. They’re painful, otherwise I wouldn’t need a wheelchair. My wheelchair doesn’t exactly fit the 1861-1865 period. And this is where, if you have modern adaptive equipment like this, you’re going to run into some trouble. There are hardcore groups that won’t admit women at all, let alone a quadriplegic woman. In the 19th century, my mother and I would have died in childbirth. If I had survived, I would be shipped off to an institution and never, ever seen on or near a battlefield. So there will be reenacting groups that will reject you based on both your gender and your disability if they strictly adhere to history. Don’t bother fighting it because they’ll never change. There are plenty of reenacting groups who will welcome you with open arms into their civilian detachments.

If you can afford one, this is a wheelchair correct for the 1860s:



I’ve never seen one go for less than $3,000 though. One of my old wheelchair dealers (yes, it’s kind of like a car showroom) had one on display and I used to die over it. If you have a handy person in your life, you could improvise one from a wicker chair or another chair that looks authentic to the period. I’ve seen museum pieces that look like people just slapped wheels on a dining chair for an invalid relative. That can be costly too but not like buying an antique.

However, if your disability is rather severe like mine, this is not an area that can be compromised. I can’t sit in regular chairs very long unless they recline. So I use my own wheelchair and I’m not the only one. You won’t be in the minority of disabled reenactors if you use your own adaptive equipment because period correct adaptive equipment is rare and expensive.

Here is said wheelchair:


Never fear, reenactors! I come bearing suggestions for disguising your modern wheelchair. The quickest, easiest solution is to throw an old-fashioned quilt over the wheelchair before you get into it. That works pretty well if you’re in a manual chair but some types of chairs require access to a hand box for driving. So what you can do is take a quilt that you don’t need anymore and get someone who’s good with a needle to sew a fitted slip cover over the chair. That way you can customize it so it won’t drag the ground or get caught up in the wheels, yet still covers the modernness of the equipment. Cut a hole and sew a proper seam around it where you need access to the driving stick or any other buttons you need. At the very least, you can have slipcovers sewn of 19th century appropriate fabrics to put over your seat pieces. It makes you look like you’re sitting on 19th century cushions.

This is a modern example obviously, but think of slipcovers along these lines made from 19th century appropriate fabrics to conceal your modern wheelchair parts:


If you use a cane or a walker and you reenact enough, it might be worth the investment of getting someone handy to build a replica of your modern equipment out of wood. Or get an extra cane or walker and cover it with sticky fake wood, which will conceal much of the modern colors and materials used for these things. I know some people who have gotten antique walking sticks to use in place of their regular canes at reenactments. While walkers were not used in the mid-19th century, creating replicas of modern adaptive equipment out of 19th century materials helps create the historical illusion.

Victorian canes:


Do you wear glasses? You can find antique or reproduction glasses frames and have your prescription lenses put into them. And there you can still see what’s going on but you still continue the illusion of stepping out of the Civil War period.

Victorian glasses:


For women, Civil War clothing can be restrictive and uncomfortable on whatever disability may be present. There are ways to get around adaptations while still being as accurate to the period as possible.

The corset is the most difficult thing to make work when your body is bent in different places like mine. A lot of female reenactors without disabilities choose to forego corsets altogether even though the corset was a vital piece to the 1860s silhouette. You simply won’t get the correct body shape and your clothing won’t sit right on your body without the corset to provide bodily stability and support the weight of so many layers.

This is the last time I tried on my corset when I was making new clothes in 2010:


Ignore the bright orange t-shirt. I wasn’t dressing out or anything. I just put the corset on to make sure the new clothes were fitting right as they were being made. That’s the other thing. If you choose to have an 1860s corset, never give a seamstress your real body measurements or your dresses won’t fit right. Always do your measurements while wearing the corset. That’s true whether you’re disabled or not.

Adapting a corset for a disability is fairly easy. Buy one off the rack and wear it periodically for a few days (not 24/7 obviously). Don’t lace it too tightly, especially if you’re not used to wearing one. Pay attention to pressure points on your body throughout the day. Are you feeling pain in the corset? Are there abnormal red spots or bruises forming? These things need attention right away and were never normal, even back then. It’s a myth that 1860s women were tight lacing to the point of regularly breaking bones. That didn’t come until the end of the century. Worn properly, an 1860s corset can be quite comfortable and offer good spine support.

My pressure spots in my corset had to do with my ribs being misshapen due to my disability. The left side of my ribs jut forward while the right side of my ribs sink inward, causing breathing problems if I’m not careful. I didn’t think I could make a corset work safely but I wore it on and off for a few days to test it and I realized the pressure points were directly along the bones of the corset.

Corset surgery was required.

I cut the bottom seam enough to yank out the offending bone and presto. No more pain. Technically this is cheating because all bones should stay put but taking out a bone that fights your disability is a matter of survival. It won’t change the shape of your clothes much even if you take out two or even three bones. Good corsets retain at least some shape whether chock full of bones or not. Nobody notices I have a bone missing from my corset. Also, try cotton or moleskin padding between you and your corset for extra squish. It feels great.

Above all: do not tight lace if you are disabled. Your body will tell you when to stop. Don’t ignore it or you could really hurt yourself. Just lace it tight enough to keep it secure, like lacing up your shoes.

This was the first day I wore my current corset, before I took out the offending bone. You can see it didn’t fit right because the bones were fighting my body. I very nearly passed out. After removing the bone, I never felt discomfort again. Listen to your body!


Women portraying poor farmers or laundresses could get away with not wearing corsets but don’t expect to have a fancy ballgown either. If you portray the poorer class, you can’t just make yourself a gorgeous ballgown or fabulous silk walking dress too. Your clothing has to reflect the type of person you portray.

Fabric is another issue for me. Thin, slippery fabrics like various types of silk or organdy are hazardous because, to be blunt, my butt slides right off my wheelchair seat. I could pop right out on the ground on all that slippery fabric, so I use it sparingly. Only ballgowns, which are situations where I park in one spot and watch people dance and flirt with men who come to me. No moving around, and therefore, no popping out on slippery fabric.

However, limiting my use of silk to ballgowns presents a historical problem. Cotton (a more stable fabric) dresses were mainly used for work clothes like these that I made with my mother several years ago.



These are more or less correct to the period, though the collars are a little fancy for work dresses. The collars were my great grandmother’s though, so I just won’t budge on that.

I should also note that my sleeves look shorter than normal, not because I have three-quarter length or anything, but because my upper body is not proportioned quite right. The sleeves are short because my arms are short. My skirt widths are narrower than what is period correct in order to work with my wheelchair. I’ll get into that later. Again, customizing your attire around your disability is very important.

Now, these two dresses are a bit fancier. They look period correct to the naked eye but they’re not (I’m not too proud to admit that). Can you see why they’re not correct?



These dresses are considered day dresses. In other words, a woman would not be working in them. Really, they should be made of richer fabrics like silk, wool, or some blend of various things like that. Not cotton. However, the richer fabrics tend to be slippery, so I can’t use anything hazardous for me if I’m going to be rolling around all over creation. This is a situation where I have to adapt for my own safety even if it means not quite being accurate. (Also: the blue skirt not being all floral like the bodice isn’t accurate either but I ran out of fabric.)

People who have been reenacting longer may stop you and inquire about your choice of fabric if you avoid slippery things like I do for non-work dresses. It’s okay. They’re just trying to be helpful. Explain your reasons for making certain choices for the sake of your disability. Some may even know of more appropriate fabrics that are safe. Don’t be afraid to listen and learn.

The width of a skirt is an issue for disabilities as well. The Civil War was a period of ridiculously wide hoopskirts that are not at all conducive for those of us on wheels, crutches, or walkers. For work dresses, it’s not a problem because no sane woman of that period would work around a fire all day with a huge fire hazard around her legs. If you see a woman walking around a reenactment in a work dress with huge hoops, she ain’t gonna make it. She’d probably go up in flames back then. At the very least, working like that would be a huge pain. It’s just not correct.

This is the alternative:


It’s a corded petticoat. It provides some fashionable width but it’s made of flexible material. This will save your persona if you’re in a wheelchair, using crutches, or using a walker. Again, we come to a crossroads of fashion vs. functionality because the nicer dresses, especially ballgowns, are supposed to require enormous hoops. Some of us just can’t do that. So people who roll their eyes at a lack of hoops or call you farby (slang for inaccurate) will have to suck it up.

If you can stand more width than corded petticoats provide but you need flexibility, do what they did before caged crinolines were invented. Layer your regular cotton petticoats underneath and on top of the corded petticoat. It gets heavy though, so experiment until you find the best solution for you.

Shoes can be very difficult if you have orthopedic issues like I do. I have clubfeet and I can’t wear more shoes than I can. It’s kind of a pain in the 21st century let alone the 19th century. Women’s everyday shoes in the Civil War were typically black boots that buttoned or laced up the side rather than buttoned or laced up the front. There was a bit of a heel as well, which I cannot do. In either case, I usually can’t wear boots in my correct size. My feet don’t bend and I just can’t get them into boots like these unless they’re two or three sizes too big.



Reproduction boots for Civil War women often look something like this:


The reproduction boots are not as hard on my feet because they can be found without a heel and the loop thing makes it easier to pull it on my foot. As long as I order them too big, it works. The other trick is if you try it out in bigger sizes, you can create extra padding around your foot by putting on thick wool socks. Women wore cotton, linen, or wool stockings up to the thigh back in those days but nobody’s going to see it if you put on wool socks for padding over your stockings.

Another option if you really can’t get your feet into boots is to try the dancing slippers. These kinds of shoes were worn for formal evening occasions but they are softer and more forgiving than boots. This may be an area where you have to choose between survival and historical accuracy. Slippers in this style might be more comfortable for you.


If you have to cheat and wear modern shoes, it’s not that bad. Your dress is going to cover your feet anyway. I last a lot longer out there if I wear modern shoes with more padding and a better fit. My advice is to go someplace like Walmart or Target and look for something very plain and preferably black. Avoid tennis shoes if it’s at all possible.

Getting around with a disability in a natural terrain can be difficult too. I strongly advise that you never go anywhere by yourself unless there are paved sidewalks, and there are almost never any kinds of pavement anywhere at these events. Sometimes there are gravel or dirt paths, which I stick to if I can. Safety is the most important thing, so don’t be too proud to recognize your own limitations. Don’t avoid your medications. I keep mine in an old pillbox to keep up the Civil War illusion. I have a canteen for water too so I can stay hydrated without carrying around plastic water bottles.

Most of the time I don’t stay overnight unless I bring my own quilts and stuff because sleeping on the ground is really tough on my body. When I do stay overnight, it has to be plenty warm and I build a bit of a nest out of quilts for some padding between me and the ground. Some people bring an air mattress and cover it over with old-fashioned bedding to disguise it. These people do get eyerolls (reenactors will deny eyerolling but I’ve seen it happen) for being farby sometimes, but if you have a disability, they’re not going to eyeroll at you. A third option is to stay overnight in a nearby motel. These people are known as the Motel Brigade among some. I keep up the historical impression by not watching TV and sleeping in Civil War underthings.

The majority of reenactors are very kind and helpful. I highly doubt I’d ever wander around an event unescorted even if I wanted to because the soldiers especially will walk with me wherever I go. This is probably because of my wheelchair but it’s actually historically appropriate. Women almost always had male escorts out in public.

My point is, this is very helpful when you’re trying to negotiate rough terrain in a wheelchair. I do not recommend going to a reenactment alone. You need to attend with family or friends who know how to look after your needs. Lucky for me, I get my companions into it and they end up becoming reenactors too. My mom does the persona of a nurse, which fits our situation quite well.

Getting around rough terrain. If I can get up to the 20th Maine monument on Little Round Top in my wheelchair, you can handle rough terrain at reenactments too.


The terrain is not as scary as it looks. If you have a wheelchair with six wheels or the large wheels up front, you’ve got an advantage. When you’re wandering a reenactment, pay very close attention to the ground in front of you. Wheelchair accidents happen because people go too fast or they’re not watching the ground. Just accept that you’ll have to go slower than walking pace but you will get there! Little wheels up front make you less stable in dirt or grass or gravel, but there are some tricks.

  • Have someone grab the front of your wheelchair and lift it up a bit to get over rougher spots.
  • Take shallow holes or minor drops in the terrain on an angle instead of head on.
  • Take deeper holes or drops in the terrain backwards (i.e. always use the bigger, dominant wheels when you need more stability).
  • Park in central locations and stay put whenever possible. People will come to you.
  • Avoid mud. It’s slippery. It’s bad. I once slid on mud, hit a boulder, and broke my knee. Fun times.
  • Rule of thumb: it’s better to tip over backwards than it is to tip over forwards. If a hill looks steeper than you like, never fear. You can do it. Go down backwards with somebody behind you. I have never, ever had an accident that way.
  • Do not load stuff on your upper chair. It makes you top heavy and increases your risk of sliding or tipping over. Bottom heavy wheelchairs are much more stable.
  • Find a guy with a lantern or flashlight if you’re headed out at night. NEVER attempt wandering rough terrain in the dark.

I hope these tips have been helpful! Please do not hesitate to ask if you need advice on things I forgot to cover. I can usually invent a way to deal with any difficult situation.

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When your psychic abilities fail

Posted by Jessica Jewett 11 Comments »

Pills This has been the dilemma in my life for so many years that it’s gotten to be a running joke in my family. I used to care but I take a pill for that now.

Most of you have probably noticed an absence of blogs and good information on reincarnation or psychic abilities from me in the last year. The explanation is quite simple: my personal abilities and barriers have been continuously failing since a few of my medications were changed last year. I was taking several things that don’t need to be named (not everyone needs to know about every health problem I have) but two of them were for chronic vertigo and also a drug for anxiety and depression. Last year, my insurance stopped paying for my anxiety drug and I endured cold turkey withdrawals before my doctor found an alternative drug. I was off my medication for a few months and I sank to the bottom again. It got really bad and I don’t really want to talk about it in detail. Needless to say, I started a new drug that ended up working better than the old one but I was so bad off that we decided to double my dose. Add the doubled dose of an SSRI drug to taking something else for chronic vertigo and you have two drugs messing with my brain.

In other words, you mess with my brain and you mess with my intuitive abilities. You mess with my intuitive abilities and you mess with my ability to keep up protective barriers around myself and my home.

Jessica Jewett

I first noticed things were off last spring when an inability to do readings became more and more consistent. It’s normal to have bad days where things just don’t click for the intuitive. It’s no big deal. If you come back to it in a day or two, it usually works just fine. But the bad days started outnumbering the good days to the point where I’d stare at a person and see nothing at all. For a lifelong intuitive, that’s frightening. It’s a loss of one of the senses that we always had, almost like going completely blind or deaf in just a couple of months. It’s a shock to the system. People depend on me to provide guidance and not having enough good days to keep up with the demand left me phobic of even touching my email. Roughly 10,000 emails accumulated in six months. I still haven’t gotten through all of it.

Simultaneously in this period, I noticed a blindness to my regular household spirit activity. Other people in my home went on noticing things like my mother, my grandmother, and my home health lady, but it was like I went virtually blind and deaf to it. Yet a few months ago, I had a dream about an inhuman helpful entity joining my household for protection because I’m clearly unable to do it myself. I did some research the next day and my best guess is that it’s something called a brownie. It was the night of November 23rd into the 24th.

brownie In the dream, I let a stray black cat into my house to feed him. The cat slowly turned into a little leprechaun-ish looking creature. He said every day he was going to come back and I was to leave him offerings of sweets. There were no threats though. It was just like you will do this thing. So I looked around because the dream was so vivid that it couldn’t have been just my brain spitting out things I’d seen that day. It seems I witnessed a brownie. It’s a household spirit legend of the Scottish and northern English peoples. They’re a kind of faerie, I think. They are said to live in unused portions of the house and help the homeowners with taking care of the home. They like gifts of sweets and if you call it a payment or misuse them, they’ll become offended and leave.

My English ancestry comes from the Midlands and northern England, so I found it interesting. If I did encounter a brownie – apparently showing themselves is rare – then maybe he was attracted to my ancestry. Or maybe I attracted him because I’m disabled and I often need help with looking after my household. I have no idea how he found me or why. It was so vivid that I could have done an illustration of how he looked. He was about three feet tall or so, fair haired (white?), exaggerated wide face, very large eyes, large wide nose, and a long smile like a troll doll. He had a blue jacket that was kind of faded and ratty, and tan trousers. He didn’t scare me at all. He looked scary but he wasn’t scary himself. In my dream state, it didn’t even startle me like this little guy was totally normal being let into my house.

Other than that, nothing much happened to me since my medication changed. It has hurt me emotionally and mentally because I carry around a lot of guilt. People like me are not as common as one might think and I feel like such a failure if I’m not able to help as much as I have in the past. My choice appears to be good mental and physical health through medication or excellent intuitive abilities but severe anxiety, depression, and bad physical health without medication. Do I sacrifice myself for others or do I take care of myself and hope this problem reroutes itself around the medicated brain? You see why I feel guilty and like a failure this past year. I wouldn’t be having these problems if I could keep my health under control – as if I could control that!

Daisy, Beagle There’s a problem with all of this though. It appears that the barriers around myself and my home to keep out unwanted entities or energies are not working like they should because nothing else in me is working right now. That’s why I’m writing this blog and trying to figure out what to do. I don’t feel safe in my home at night lately. Night before last, my dog was being rather fidgety and my cats were suddenly being rather violent toward one another. I didn’t think anything of it at first until my dog broke open the door and ran upstairs, which is something she’s never done in the past. She refused to come back to bed with me and instead slept with my mother. I settled down again and, while lying on my back, I heard whispering between two things around me. It was so clear, yet so secretive that I couldn’t make out any words. I know my normal reactions and the fear I felt wasn’t normal. I felt threatened. I felt dread.

Last night, the whispering turned into a louder voice. I got grabbed. It yanked my foot like it was trying to pull me off the bed. I thought it was my granny and I turned around to tell her to stop but nothing was there. My regulars know not to bother my feet because it hurts me a lot. This is not one of my regulars. Today, my dog still refuses to spend much time in this room with me. That’s the pattern. Right before something bad happens, my dog runs and breaks open doors to get away.

I’m so used to explaining to other people how to deal with unwanted entities. I’m unnerved that I have one because I thought my barriers were pretty solid. This is another symptom of a bigger problem. My abilities and barriers have been failing for almost a year. I’m so out of sorts. I’m sure some of you have noticed.

I have been reading about other intuitives, mediums, and psychics who lose their abilities after taking certain medications and I truthfully want to cry sometimes. I have to start over like redoing 32 years of work. There’s no other way to get it back without stopping the medication. Not to be morbid but stopping medication for me leads to suicidal tendencies within six months. I can’t do that. I thought it would reroute and come back on its own but it’s been almost a year with just an occasional trickle coming through. It’s not going to come back on its own with the combination of medications I take. I have to train myself like I’m my own student, it seems.

I’m terrified but this phase of my life must be happening for a reason.

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NKOTB cruise 2013, OR coming home again

Posted by Jessica Jewett 23 Comments »

NKOTB cruise 2013Being on the NKOTB cruise this year was not supposed to be in the cards for me. I certainly didn’t have the money, but the bigger reason was that my health has really deteriorated since last fall.

Let me give you some back story first. A lot of people will read this blog who don’t know me and it’s important to understand why this cruise was a major turning point in my year. I have a congenital disability known as Arthrogryposis, which means I’m completely dependent on a wheelchair. This past December, January, and February, I was repeatedly knocked down by bronchitis, strep throat, and the severe strain of flu that was killing people. My immune system has been compromised for many years, so relatively simple illnesses like bronchitis or strep throat can turn fatal for me if I’m not careful. In January, my family had to call 911 and I was hospitalized because the pile of illnesses was suppressing my respiratory system. It took about six weeks to recover.

Being so ill for so long aggravated my anxiety disorder as well. The lack of control over my life and being completely dependent on other people for survival, as well as trauma from sexual, physical, and mental abuse at different times in my life have made me extremely prone to panic attacks for about fifteen or twenty years. Generally, I have a handle on it. The last six months have been extremely hard on me, though, and I relapsed into the worst of my depression and anxiety before I sought treatment. It was getting to the point around my birthday (February) where I was honestly questioning why I was alive at all, not that I told anyone.

One day this winter, my friend, Wendy, texted my other friend, Sissy, and me to tell us that we were all going on the cruise together. I was stunned and thought it was too much, but I also knew Wendy was not going to take no for an answer. To be truthful, I had a hard time finding motivation to even get excited about it because I was just so worn down by my health. There were times when I had to give myself pep talks like, “You haven’t seen Jon since 2011. If you don’t go, he will forget you. You don’t know when you’ll get another chance to see him. He always makes you feel better. Come on, get it together for him.” Get it together for Jon became my mantra in the six weeks before the cruise. Aside from my friends, he was my motivation.

NKOTB cruise 2013I got into Miami with Wendy the day before we were to board the ship, and Sissy arrived later that night. Getting in with time to spare gave me a chance to spend the day with my brother and his girlfriend, who also live in south Florida, since I hadn’t seen them in a few years. Being out and doing things in the hot Florida sun was a bit tough for me after spending months at home convalescing, but I pushed myself to do it because I knew it was for my own good. I needed to be around people who loved me. My brother took us out to lunch and dinner. He took me to Walmart to buy the things I needed. That’s how he is – he almost takes on a fatherly role with me sometimes because he doesn’t trust other people to properly take care of me.

The next day when we boarded the ship, we found that we were technically put into a wheelchair accessible cabin but the cabin was so badly designed that I couldn’t get anywhere. You open the door and you were faced with the bed and television only inches apart, so you couldn’t pull a wheelchair into the room enough to even close the door. Then the bathroom door wouldn’t open more than a few feet because it banged the end of the bed. So I couldn’t even get into my own bathroom. Wendy took charge and rearranged the cabin herself so I could at least get inside, but there wasn’t enough room for a third bed because of how badly the cabin was designed, and Sissy had to fold and unfold her bed on the floor whenever she wanted to sleep. Rose Tours was wonderful this year with disabled passengers and I have absolutely no complaints about them, but Carnival is progressively becoming worse and worse each time I cruise with them. Even the quality of Carnival’s food is on the decline. The ship smelled moldy, my mattress was slumped way down in the middle, and there were little bitty ants in my shower.

Luckily, NKOTB cruisers don’t spend a lot of time in their cabins! I was not willing to let a shoddy cabin ruin my cruise!

The first afternoon of the cruise was tough for me because crowds are one of my panic triggers. When you are as small as I am and you’ve had a leg broken before because of fangirls trampling you to get to Jordan Knight (true story), crowds will make you uneasy. Everybody usually mobs the buffet before the sail away party and we had to feed the pregnant lady (Sissy), so I ended up in a confined, crowded dining room. Something in my brain went, “You have no way out. There is no escape away from these strangers and this ship.” Boom. Instant panic attack at the lunch table. There’s very little logic with anxiety disorders and I knew I was going to struggle more this time than my last cruise in 2011, but I was still very disappointed in myself for not controlling it better.

NKOTB cruise 2013I figured out fairly quickly that being outside on the lido deck was easier for me to tolerate. I didn’t feel so confined and trapped as I did inside the ship, so my best times on this cruise were when I could be outside enjoying the guys, the weather, and the music. They put the disabled section next to the stage in a place where we would be guarded by security but we could still participate in everything the guys did with the cruisers. This setup was the best of all cruises. On the first cruise, disabled passengers had absolutely no safe place to go, so I’m giving Rose Tours a lot of love for listening to us about what we need to be safe and included.

My first encounters with the guys happened at the sail away party as we were leaving port. They came out on the upper deck like usual and then they came out on a stage built over the elevated pool. Donnie spotted me first and made a dash off the stage to hand out kisses, hugs, and pictures to everyone in the disabled section. For a man who has to make himself available to as many people as possible, he really does try to remember everyone and love them even when he’s exhausted. He deserves a lot of credit for that. Somebody got video when Donnie greeted me at this party. I think I come in about halfway through the clip. I’m a brunette with glasses and I’m wearing a turquoise and white striped halter top. You’ll see him stop in the row in front of me. What he did was pull down his sunglasses and wink at me before hugging another lady. Then when he got to me, he kissed me, asked how I was doing, cupped my face in his hands, etc. The lady filming it pulled her camera away before we were done but he told me he loves me, he misses me, etc. I do love this man very much.

NKOTB cruise 2013Sissy got this picture of us that floated around the internet before I even got home. I saw some people speaking of me in disbelief or even disdain because the angle makes it look like Donnie’s trying to kiss me on the mouth but I turned away, as if everyone is obligated to kiss him on the mouth if he wants it.

I would like to be clear that Donnie has never kissed me in an inappropriate manner. Donnie has excellent intuition and he knows which women want to flirt and which women do not. I’m personally very old-fashioned and I never kiss men with whom I’m not in a relationship – even the mighty Donnie Wahlberg. It took me two or three years of knowing Jon to even want to kiss him, not that he would, but it just takes me a while to get there with anyone. (Hint, hint, Jon.) My friends are well aware of my “Victorian sensibilities” as they call it, so it never occurs to them that outsiders might react weirdly about it.

Donnie has always treated me tenderly with respect like a true lady, and when we kiss, it’s on the cheek or the forehead. I’ve never had to ask him to respect my personal boundaries. He just knows on an intuitive level. So no, I didn’t reject the mighty Berg like the rumors say. I’ve never had to reject him because he makes me feel absolutely loved, secure, respected, and necessary. We kissed cheeks in this picture as you can see in the video too. No rejection. Just love.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013Joe came through my section a little while after Donnie did. I have an interesting relationship with him even though we haven’t interacted quite as much as Jon or Donnie. He’s been trying to get my attention for years, although I don’t quite know why he’s so interested in me, and I feel bad because he’s called me out on paying more attention to Jon than him. A few years ago, Jon and I were talking and I didn’t realize Joe was standing right there waiting for an opening until he piped out, “Hey, I know you love Jon but can’t I at least say hi?!” He has said before that he tries to sing to me on stage too but I never seem to see him doing it. I always feel bad because missing Joe seems to be a repetitive thing I do without realizing it.

So this time, Joe was simply not going to be ignored. He worked hard to hold my attention, beginning here with the sail away party. We talked a little bit, kissed cheeks, had a cuddle, and as he was moving on to the next person, I said something like, “I don’t think Jon knows I’m cruising, so could you let him know?” He nodded and said he would but I couldn’t see all of his face. Sissy said it looked like I crushed his little heart by asking for Jon. In my defense, it was an impulse after I gave him lots of attention and he was on his way out. I didn’t mean to make his little face fall. I do love Joe!

Sigh. One day I will understand Joe’s needs and get better at meeting them. He wasn’t done with me yet though, as I found out at my concert a few nights later.

NKOTB cruise 2013

It wasn’t long after that when Jon hopped down from the stage to give hugs and pictures with the disabled section too. I thought he had seen me earlier because he looked right over me. I thought he was at least vaguely aware of my presence. Not so. He had no idea. The man has such serious tunnel vision that he was in the row in front of me – we’re talking like five feet away – when he looked up at me and realized I was there. I wish I had a picture of his reaction because it was hilarious. His jaw hit the deck and his eyes got huge, and then he hopped up and down like an excited toddler. The closest thing I have his his reaction to Sissy next to me, which was after he plowed over a bunch of fans to maul me with cuddles (I’m sorry to the people he plowed over but he tends to have a very one track mind when he wants something).

NKOTB cruise 2013

I really didn’t even have time to say hello because he came at me so fast. He mauled me with this full-on starfish hug like we hadn’t seen each other in years, and then I remembered it has been a long time. He mentally added up how long it had been since we last saw each other. He kept caressing my face, my arms, and cupping my cheeks in his hands while we were talking. Honestly, his eyes looked rather emotional and he didn’t say much at first. He was just touching me a lot like I can’t believe you’re here. Then he’d wander off to socialize with other fans and he’d bounce back to me to tell me about this or that fan. Honestly, I didn’t expect him to have such a big reaction. I thought he’d be like oh cool you’re here too, because, you know, who am I really? Nobody of importance. There was no denying how happy he was to see me though, and he was rather excited to see Sissy and interrogate her about her pregnancy.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

This is probably one of the best moments of my life. The unexpected moments usually are. I will never forget his face when he saw me. I felt like I really did matter to him for the last five years that we’ve known each other. It’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle where NKOTB is concerned because everyone wants their attention. It has been such a long time since I saw them last that I didn’t really think they would care or remember me. They all seemed thrilled that I was there though, and given my problems this year, I really needed that healing experience of being loved without demands or expectations. I felt wanted in their lives that day. It gave me courage to keep pushing forward with my life because people really would miss me if I wasn’t here anymore.

That night was the game show. I have to say how respectful, again, Rose Tours employees are with making sure the disabled passengers are seated in good places. I had second row on the right side in the theater with Sissy and Wendy, which was amazing. We kind of made friends with the sign language interpreters and I’m pretty sure Donnie had a crush on the blonde one! Game show night is always one of my favorite nights because I laugh until my face wants to fall apart. Jon was a little inebriated, so his mouth just had no filter. Very few people can make me laugh as much as these guys do.

I think the next day was Half Moon Cay if I remember right. Sissy being pregnant and me being in not-so-great health, we decided to go to bed early rather than go to the retro red carpet party. My body just can’t tolerate partying all night long and then going to the beach all day the next day. I was in the blue group, so we were the first people with the silver group that had to catch the tender out to the beach that morning, so sleep was important.

This is what beach day looked like.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

There were games on the beach hosted by NKOTB. I think they had fans run an obstacle course a few times and Donnie was out in the ocean with a microphone, which scared Joe a lot. He was convinced Donnie was going to either ruin the microphone or electrocute himself out there while he was schmoozing with fans. Then they played tug-of-war with fans. The only level part of the beach was right in front of me, so Victor (the bodyguard) sort of threw himself between Donnie and me because if his side lost, he was going to be flung directly into my lap. So this was my view for that game.

NKOTB cruise 2013

I love looking at the ocean even though getting me into it is a bit like trying to get a cat into a bathtub (I’m not above clawing people either). Beach day was tough for me because I had another panic attack. The choice for wheelchairs was to either sit on the pirate ship or under a tent on the beach, so I opted for the tent because the breeze was better there. I had a front row seat for the games led by the guys, and that was awesome, but I overheated. Sitting in a wheelchair is a bit like wearing a coat when it’s 90 degrees. It’s no cake walk. Sometimes panic attacks are not triggered by fear but biological reactions. When I overheated, I got dizzy, and I sort of freaked out because I thought something was really wrong. Blah, blah, blah, I had a panic attack that went on for a half hour and I guess the guys could tell something was going on because Sissy said Joe and Jon in particular were looking in the tent trying to figure out what was happening without being obvious.

I felt guilty. I didn’t want to be in the way or irritate other people around me on their beach day. I still feel guilty about how much care I need just to survive a day and I struggle with feeling my worth as a person with value to those in my life.

When I was feeling better, I saw that Donnie came trudging across the beach right at me and his face was rather grave. It kind of scared me because he looked worried and I’m not used to people being worried like that except my closest friends. He discreetly asked me how I was or if I was okay (I don’t remember the wording – panic attacks affect my memory) and I knew I had to tell the truth. I tried to make light of it and said I overheated and had a panic attack. His reaction was to immediately hold his cold drink to my face. He rubbed the drink up my cheek and across my forehead, and then I felt him smoothing back my hair. I thanked him but I still felt guilty for showing that I’m not as strong and healthy as everybody else. He told his security to go get Jon for me, which they obeyed right away, and I was grateful for that because I needed to get back to the ship and rest in silence.

Jon came along a few minutes later and he simply sat down next to me for a while without really talking. He was simply a calm presence there with me, which helped a lot, although I again tried to play off my panic attack as nothing. I know he was exhausted and I was grateful that I didn’t really need to try and be witty in conversation, although we did talk about the games and stuff that day.

There were pictures of Donnie and me, and Jon and me from beach day but I don’t have them yet. I’ll update the blog when I get them.

That night was pajama and movie night on the lido deck. After a long nap, Sissy, Wendy, and I went out there to watch everything. We were late for the cruise DVD but luckily we all got copies, so I can watch it later when I have time. The deck parties are pretty well documented by now. I don’t need to go into a lot of detail about them but I’ll post a few pictures from pajama night.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

The day we docked at Nassau was easy. We decided not to go ashore because, really, if you’ve seen Nassau once, you’ve seen it all for every visit after the fact. Not having scheduled events for most of the day meant that we had freedom to roam the ship, go to the pool, etc. We went up to a certain deck to see Codie and Abbie at their cabins. They weren’t there but we ran into Jon’s and Jordan’s sisters instead, so we talked for a while. Jon was still sleeping and we had a giggle about him wanting to be up by a certain time but he probably wouldn’t make it (he was really exhausted).

At lunch in the buffet dining room later on, Jon happened to show up in the food line. I was eating at a table with Sissy and Wendy. He saw me across the room and his face lit up as he waved at me. I smiled back and returned to my food thinking he was just passing through. Not so! He dragged his security across the dining room and came over to talk to us for a few minutes.

I got to spend some wonderful relaxed time with my friends and they talked me into getting in the pool again. I’m afraid of water because I can’t swim but on the 2011 cruise, I did get in the pool. Donnie happened to walk by at that point and he was completely shocked to see me in the water, so he hung out for a little while. He told Jon all about it later, and that night he told me how proud he was that I did it. So this year, Jon pointed at the pool at the sail away party and asked if I was going swimming again. Getting in the pool on NKOTB cruises has become a bit of a tradition for me, I suppose.

This time, it was Abbie, Wendy, Codie, Sissy, and a new friend, Amy, who were all there and promised nothing bad would happen. Amy just happened to be at the pool and I don’t think I knew her before, but she volunteered to help out. Presto – a new friend. Why? NKOTB fans do actually help each other despite the craziness sometimes. As it turns out, Amy lives in Savannah and I live in Atlanta, so we will see each other again at the Atlanta show.

Check it out, y’all. As Codie said, we were mermaids for the afternoon.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

That night was my group’s concert (group B). I think I was probably more excited about the concert than anything else because there was a good shot I’d get to hear Jon sing one or both of his solos. Singing solo is incredibly difficult for him though, as we all know, and I hoped that he would see a calm familiar face like mine in the crowd and feel safer about doing it. Everybody’s anxiety is different, but I tend to do better if the people around me are calm and supportive. Sometimes I wonder if people going nuts the minute he opens his mouth makes it harder for him, so I made an effort not to yell until after he did his parts.

Jon’s solos were early in the show. I could tell when he was going to have to sing because he has very physical reactions to his anxiety. He pushed his way through it like a champ though and he sounded wonderful. I suspect he sounded better than he thinks of himself. We made eye contact during his solos from what I could tell (he was on the other side of the stage so I’m not 100% sure) but I sang with him and tried to nod at him as if to say, “You’re doing great. Keep going.” I want to be of help to him because I have some idea of what he goes through. As much as he pushes me by example to work through my anxieties, I try to return the favor for him, although I’m not sure that I’m any inspiration to him. I’m just some woman in Atlanta. I care about him a lot though. In my heart, I like to believe I can help him push through it and sing, because he really does have a beautiful voice. He carried off We Own Tonight beautifully and although Survive You clearly scared him more, he got most of it out, if not all of it, and we gave him a standing ovation. He also belted out step five. I never heard him sing so much and I was never so proud of him.

NKOTB cruise 2013

Remember when I said earlier that Joe wasn’t going to be ignored anymore?


So we’re having a good time at the show and everybody is singing along, dancing, etc. They get to Single and toward the bridge, I think, I see Joe moving toward me on the stage. Inside, I was thinking, “Oh Lord, here we go…” and before I know it, he’s standing in front of me on stage singing his part to me. I thought it was nice. I mean, what lady doesn’t want to be serenaded? Suddenly, Joe leaped off the stage and bounced off the couch right in front of me. Wendy yelled, “Oh shit!” because she was sure the ship was going to lurch and Joe was going to fall on me or pregnant Sissy. He leaned over the couch, got right in my face, and sang to me while caressing my cheek. I remember smiling but I think I was in shock because I was aware of a spotlight on us and I knew the whole theater was looking at me. I made a conscious effort to keep Joe’s eyes because if I became too aware of being stared at, I would have frozen.

In another instant, he gazelle leaped over Wendy and went a few rows back to serenade another lady. I gave Jon a guilty smile as soon as Joe was gone because I realized Jon watched the whole thing like a hawk. His reaction? He looked at me with a little smirk and wagged his finger at me like, “No you didn’t just mess with another man!” I wish that was caught on video because we busted out laughing, but most of Joe singing to me is in this video.

Yeah. I think Joe is pretty awesome. Something has changed in him since the last time we saw each other. He used to be full of bravado and comedy, but he seems much more attentive, compassionate, and gentle now. Don’t get me wrong – the bravado and comedy is still there – but I feel something shifted in his energy since we last saw each other. I don’t know Joe very well, so I don’t want to speculate about why he has changed, but he’s behaving toward me with much of the tenderness Donnie gives me and I like it. Joe almost never walked by me on the ship without stopping for a cuddle or touching me somehow with a sweet smile.

I don’t know who did it, but after the show was over, we were waiting for the theater to clear out and somebody appeared with the set list that was taped to the stage floor behind the guys. I think that’s where it was anyway. The person gave it to me! So now I have the set list that was used for the shows on the cruise. I think I ought to frame it or something! I thought it was bad luck or just not done to give away set lists, so I was pretty shocked that I ended up with it.

NKOTB cruise 2013

The last day was the photo op, which I don’t have yet. As soon as I came in the room, Joe looked at Jon and said something like, “And that’s the one I serenaded last night.” Does Joe not know my name?! So I wore my hair down for the first time the entire cruise and Donnie had a fixation with it (my hair is very long). After the photos, security was trying to kick us out but Jon wanted a kiss and Donnie’s hands were in my hair. I thought it was Jordan at first until I heard Donnie cooing about how soft and beautiful it was. It was either obey security and leave with Donnie’s hands in my hair or wait until he was done. I’m sure the pictures look funny because we were all exhausted and laughing too.

All in all, my cruise experience was amazing. I think it was my best yet, even though I didn’t have the correct pain pills (I forgot them) and even though my anxiety was a struggle this time. I did my best to be friendly and cheerful for everyone. It’s hard for me sometimes though and I have been accused of being cold and aloof more than once. I never intend to come across that way.

Miami is a clusterfuck of evil though. Wendy and I waited five hours for a wheelchair taxi to the airport and we missed both of our flights. Even the hotel people were yelling at the city about the horrible service. Luckily, Southwest is a fantastic airline that bumped us to the next flight and we eventually got home. Miami’s transportation system is the worst in the country though. I’ve been to a lot of places and I’ve never had so many headaches as I do in that city. If you don’t rent a car, you might as well throw yourself at their mercy. And don’t get me started on how people drive there!

I’m so grateful to Wendy and Sissy in particular for looking after me and giving me the opportunity to see everybody again. I’m grateful for beautiful friends like Abbie, Codie, Amy, etc., for accepting me as I am and including me in their lives.

Being grateful to NKOTB is an understatement. Every time I’m with them, they give me more love than I could ever realistically expect. Jon, Donnie, and Joe in particular go out of their way to make me feel wanted and a necessary part of their own experiences as human beings and performers. I will never forget the things they’ve done for me. This cruise was very much a healing experience for me and it helped me remember that I do have value as a person and there are people who want me to stay here. My life is difficult on a good day but people like them give me things to look forward to and encouragement to keep going no matter how many times my body tries to fail me. These experiences of coming together and celebrating life are important to people like me who tend to get lost and struggle.

I’m beyond grateful to be able to say that I know NKOTB enough that they’ve gotten to know me over the years and look forward to seeing me too. I honestly do love them as human beings. Jon in particular is a bright spot in my life. I just hope they know how much they’ve helped people like me over the years.

See y’all at the Atlanta show.

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