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Life Arts    H3'ed 3/16/14

Meet Michelle Friedman: Always on the Lookout for New Challenges

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As a kid, I had to do what my parents told me to do so I had the surgeries and went to the doctors. I can't say willingly or happily, but I went and did what I was supposed to do. Later, I got a bit more difficult. I was angry a lot and in those teenage days did ask that awful question: "Why me?" When I was about 17, I did refuse any more surgery, which was a whole other story. I was just tired of all of it, especially the shots, because I had become very needle phobic.

I really owe my parents a lifetime worth of apologies for being such a pain and for being so angry so much of the time. I've since redeemed myself. I'm the perfect daughter now - well, almost. But I definitely had some angry, resentful years in there.

JB: One nice thing is you haven't lost your sense of humor. I bet it's served you well over the years. What was your social life like as a kid? How did your eye problems affect making friends?

MF: My sense of humor has served me very well over the years.

To answer that question I have to give you a little context. I went to a small parochial school where we all pretty much knew each other: our parents were friends, we went to the same synagogues, and most of us were in school together from nursery school all the way through high school. We didn't have terms like special needs back then. I was the only kid in the school who was "different' and the only student who needed special accommodations, even though they didn't use that word then, either. I missed a lot of school between doctor appointments, surgeries, etc.

I did have special needs. There were times I needed to sit practically on top of the [black]board. I needed to use magnifying glasses in class sometimes. I needed tutoring and there were even times I was brought up in front of the class and the teacher had everyone wish me good luck before surgery. To this day, all that attention as a child who just wanted to be like everyone else makes me cringe.

So, did I have friends? Sometimes, my friends were better to me than other times. Kids will be kids and even my friends got into the picture if there was some teasing or kid shenanigans going on. But for the most part, I had friends and I can't say I was ever excluded from things.

I was very aware of my differences. I certainly didn't want to be treated differently or special or have the spotlight on me for my differences. I knew there was possible teasing lurking around a corner, so I think, in an effort to protect myself, I put some distance between myself and my friends. I really don't think I let people get as close to me as other kids did because I felt like there was potential for danger in that.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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