Brook McCall has us charmed! She is a woman in the SCI/D community working hard to make policy changes for people with disabilities – like woah! Right? Brook is also a funny, witty, foodie living in the Pacific Northwest – you have to get to know her!
Occupation: Grassroots Advocacy Manager for the United Spinal Association
Level of Injury: C4 complete. On September 25th, 2002, I locked myself out and pretty much broke my neck trying to break into my own house.
Children? Thanks, but no thanks.
Hometown: San Luis Obispo, CA
Current Residence: Portland, OR
Education: High school in SLO, started undergrad at University of California at Santa Barbara, had my injury, finished things up at University of California at San Diego, Masters in Public Health at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a postgrad fellowship at Oregon Health and Science University.
What is something you are proud of? When I was initially injured, I was struck by all of the inadequacies of our society when it comes to understanding and accommodating people with access the world differently. Right away, I was spurred to use my voice to speak up and make sure that the right people were hearing from our community. Advocating and helping others get involved in a way that makes the process seem less daunting feels rewarding. I get to help others speak up for themselves while speaking up for our entire community.
Do you have a mentor? I believe I have many. One of my larger joys of the last few years has been all of the amazing SCI/D folks I have been able to connect with and now consider true friends, both locally and across the country. While I’m constantly reminded how parallel many of our non-SCI lives are, it is likely we may not have met without our similar life circumstances. I feel gratitude for the unique pool of personalities and insights they bring into my life. I learn something new from one of them most days.
Favorite music? I’m a big indie rock girl, some folksiness, big 90s thug nostalgia, chill out stuff, maybe a small amount of yelling, old grandpa style country and western. I don’t know, if it gives me pleasure in the moment a dude playing a bucket works just fine.
Films? I took all of the interesting film classes as electives in college, so I like a lot of obscure cult stuff or things others may find bizarre. I like a well-done documentary too. When I’m feeling down, I can always watch Amelie or Moonrise Kingdom and remember that deep down, I am a romantic in all the right awkward and whimsical ways.
Books? I love a travel story or nonfiction anthropological study of an alternative culture that I can live vicariously through. I’m disappointed that I take less time to read than I have in the past, reading on the computer is not the same as the intimacy of holding a book. Still, I love a little magical realism, and try to keep up with new things from authors like Miranda July, Murakami, Kazuo Ishigiro or Neil Gaiman.
Last vacation? I need a good vacation vacation, but this year has been more long weekend trips to places like Crater Lake and Olympic National Park or work trips to DC for advocacy.
Do you have a pet? I do, his name is Boone. He is a black and tan lab and basset hound mix. He’s a great snuggler.
Do you do any adaptive sports? I’ve been brainstorming a new adaptive sport to dominate utilizing my sweet side-to-side wiggle, but I haven’t yet found one. I’m open to ideas. Beyond that, this year has been exciting as I now have an off-road chair and with the help of a brave and rugged friend, we have done over 75 miles of off-road trails here in the Pacific Northwest. I have surfed, rafted, kayaked, and want to hit the mountain for the first time this winter.
Activities/Hobbies? I volunteer for a few local advisory boards/task forces related to public health and accessibility improvements. I go to tons of live shows, eat too much good food, take a lot of long drives, and occasionally I write creatively. I think my favorite hobby is other people, I both admire and am motivated by other’s effort and thoughtfulness. Oh, and I make questionable jokes like it’s my job.
Important karaoke song selection? Nobody wants me to sing. But, if it was life or death, I would 99.9% of the time pick something melodramatic and semi-ridiculous from the late 80s or early 90s like Careless Whisper or Total Eclipse of the Heart.
What takes up the majority of your time? I’m all about balance between work, general life enjoyment, and honestly, I probably spend too much time staring at screens. Still, a lot of that is keeping in touch with others and learning, so it’s not all bad.
What do you do in your free time? Mostly I daydream about dream vacations and teleportation. Actually, my favorite thing to do is spend quality time with friends. I love a fun conversation and I am fascinated by others. Here in Portland, a lot of those friends have SCI’s, and I think it’s wonderful. For me, one of the most generous things a person can do is to show up or send an invitation offering the gift of their time. I take pleasure reciprocating. And then otherwise, more nature and good food and drinks. Are you sensing a pattern?
Short-term goal? This one is not fun, but I have had an emergent pain issue the last few months that I am actively trying to squash. It has been taking away from all the fun stuff we have been talking about here, and I can’t have that. I am going to the gym for additional stretching, massage, trying different PT therapies, and acupuncture.
Long-term goal? I would really love to get together with others to spearhead a quality of life enhancing initiative and have it introduced to the state legislator as a bill. Obviously, I would like it to pass and improve the lives of Oregonians with disabilities.
Anything else you want to tell us? I have had no movement except for a mighty but relatively useless shoulder shrug for going on 16 years now. Somehow, through my weakness, I have also found new strength. My life is a team effort and one that takes patience, but it’s worth it. I have high standards for myself and I do not like to be underestimated. Because of this, I am massively thankful for those who support and encourage my success. Especially, the ones that make me laugh while doing so.
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