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Recognizing your triggers

I had a whole plan for this week’s blog post. I was going to show you all the products I use on a regular basis that make my life easier. I had a list with pictures and links…it was going to be great. But that needs to wait because I had a real life moment today and I feel like the best way to let it go is to put it here. 

In case you haven’t heard, (Now ex) NFL star Henry Ruggs III was involved in a fatal DUI car crash this week that took the lives of an innocent woman and her dog. Ruggs was going 156 mph while his blood alcohol level was double the legal limit when he rear ended an SUV, setting it ablaze and trapping the driver and her dog inside to burn alive. I took to my Facebook to let out my frustrations with the situation, stating that I didn’t believe that any car on regular roads should have the capabilities of going that fast. I was met with comments from several people telling me why I was wrong for feeling that way. I was given comparisons of people in their town to drive their race cars because they cannot afford two cars. I was also given a comparison of guns and cars not being to blame for killing people, but that the people operating them were. Of course, when being used responsibly, cars will never reach speeds of 156 mph. And yes, I know that the driver is the one to bring it to that speed. But this does not change the way I feel. There’s a reason I have this belief and it is rooted in over two decades of living with the consequences of a regular driver going well over 100 mph on a residential street.

I have extremely weird views of the world. I am pro gun, but also pro gun control. I am a Christian and do not see a situation where I would get an abortion, but I am pro-choice for all women in this world. I know that not everybody is bad and we can’t all be forced to pay for others mistakes, but when it comes to speeding and driving irresponsibly, that is definitely a touchy subject for me. 

When I begin to read all the other comments that were posted on my Facebook page not agreeing with my views, it was a huge trigger for me. I’m not expecting everyone to change their beliefs or how they feel about something, but what really disheartened me was that so many of my friends and family were willing to disregard why I feel this way so they could tell me why I was wrong. I started crying and was so frustrated. I began mourning the future and experiences that I never got to have because a car with the capabilities of going over 150 mph was made available to someone who had no business driving at such a high rate of speed. I began to envision getting up out of my chair and laying on the couch with my dog. I thought of what it would have been like to crouch down and hug my kids when they were small. As much as I love my family and the life we’ve built, there will always be parts of it that are missing because of my limitations. I will always wonder what kind of wife and mother I would be if I didn’t have to rely on my family every day for the smallest tasks.

As soon as I recognized that this was a trigger for me, I deleted my post. That was also very empowering for me. To know that I didn’t have to take these opinions of people who have never dealt with the consequences of speeding and reckless driving and that I could just remove them from my conversation was so helpful to me. Pretty much all of us use social media and we post all sorts of opinions and views on how we see the world. We have all experienced different things, making us unable to see why others feel the way they do. As frustrating as that is, it is also a beautiful thing. We are all free to have our own opinions on things and that is the way it should be. But we all also need to be aware of our triggers and remember that we do not need to engage in conversations that are not good for us. There are some situations where we should be willing to listen to opposing viewpoints because we do not have the experiences that others have. But when we do have those experiences, it is up to us to have our stance and stay strong where we are. It is also important that we do not allow others to diminish our feelings on things we have been through to appease them.

So, I will stand strong on my view that we have no need on regular streets for vehicles that can go over 150 mph. Racing cars is a fun and exciting hobby that, in my opinion, should be done on closed courses where nobody else has to live with the consequences of your mistakes. That is my belief after more than 20 years of experiencing those consequences first-hand.

Recognizing our triggers and not engaging in conversations that are not good for our mental health are extremely important parts of moving forward after trauma. Your feelings are valid and you have no obligation to change them for anyone else.

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I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

Parenting. I’ve been doing it for 13 years and I still have absolutely no clue if I’m doing it right. My son Carter is officially a teenager today, so I thought it would be fitting to share how I’ve managed as a parent with a disability and the effect its had on my children.

Let’s start at the beginning. October 29, 2008. I had spent the last 10 days in the hospital because my water was leaking and I needed to be monitored. That morning, the doctor checked to see if I was dilated, said we were good to go, and I sent my husband off to work. Less than an hour later, I began feeling really weird. My blood pressure spiked and before I could tell the nurses how bad my head was hurting, I began seizing. Everything after that is a blank for me.

I woke up in a recovery room with a horrific headache, not knowing that I had given birth. My husband and mom had to explain what happened several times before it clicked in my head. My labor had progressed so fast, and because of my paralysis, I couldn’t feel exactly what was wrong. I mean, don’t twist my words, I was in excruciating pain, but I had no idea what was going on. By body experienced Autonomic Dysreflexia (please don’t make me explain what that is. I don’t have that kind of time on my hands. Google it.) which caused my blood pressure to reach what should have a been fatal level; and I had my first and only seizure. Carter John was born 8 weeks, 5 days early. He weighed 3 pounds, 14 ounces. And I’m lucky I lived to meet him.

The weeks ahead were spent traveling to and from the NICU. My body had been through the wringer and I wasn’t really able to slow down. 14 days later, I brought my baby home. That’s where the real challenge began…a challenge that I still accept every day. 

Being a first time parent is hard, but doing it with a disability is an entire dumpster fire. Not only did I have no clue what I was doing, but I knew nobody who had experienced what I was going through. I was literally winging it. Pushing a wheelchair while holding a baby was a skill that took me forever to master. Just going from the living room to the kitchen table to change diapers (yep, I changed my baby on the very table I served dinner to my guests on.) was a literal balancing act. But I did it. Carter and I learned how to navigate life together. That’s a bond we still have today.

Just over a year later, I found out I was pregnant again. I was terrified of having another nightmare delivery. I ended up getting a bad UTI in my 3rd trimester which required a PICC line for antibiotics, but other than that, everything went pretty smoothly. I had Brooklyn Rose at 37 weeks via c-section. She was 5 pounds, 5 ounces…and sassy from the minute she took her first breath.

Why am I telling you this? Because as people with disabilities, life is scary and unpredictable. Things that are a breeze for able-bodied people can cause us so much stress and despair. But we must move forward. We can’t let our circumstances control our dreams. All I ever wanted in life is to be a mom with her hands amazingly full. When I was in my car accident, I promised myself I would not give up on that. And even after a horrific delivery the first time, I trusted my doctors who said they would do everything they could to keep me safe so I could complete my family. 13 years later, I am living the life I always wanted. It may look a little different than I dreamed when I was a little girl playing “mommy” with my dolls, but that’s ok. Everything I’ve been through has made me the parent I am today. And even though I still have no clue what’s going on half the time, my children are kind, accepting, loving little people, so I must be doing something right. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

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Maybe you’re just a teensy bit ableist.

This is a term that some of you may not have heard before. In case you haven’t, the definition of ableism is “discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.” Even the definition online seems a bit discriminatory. It doesn’t even cover the tip of the iceberg. There are many forms of ableism, but this post is strictly about the kind wheelchair users deal with from day to day. I wanted to do a blog post with some of the things that I have personally heard that have made an impact on me. This isn’t even close to scratching the surface on the kind of ableist language I’ve experienced, but these are probably the most common. I’m not doing this because I want to call people out, because I truly think a lot of the people who say these things just don’t realize the weight of their words. This post is a list of things not to say…and why.

  1. “I don’t see you as disabled.” – This is the exact same thing as saying “I don’t see color.” You may think you’re doing the right thing by overlooking what makes someone different than you, especially a marginalized group, but you are not. You’re basically saying that you don’t see the “unfavorable” thing about someone and you’re willing to ignore it. Please see it. Please recognize it.
  2. “Can I pray for you?” – One time, I was with my three-year-old daughter loading up my car in a Walmart parking lot. We were not in our hometown, so my anxiety was already off the chain worrying about our safety. Out of nowhere, a man walked up to me, and said “can I pray for you?” And I agreed, because I was honestly afraid of the stranger and what he would do to us, so I clutched onto my little girl while he put his hand on my shoulder and prayed for my “healing“. I don’t really need to tell you why this was creepy. But, even in a setting where it is safe, asking a disabled person if you can pray for their healing is very hurtful. We are doing the best we can to live our lives in normalcy. You would not walk up to a random person and ask to pray for them, so you don’t need to do it for us either. If you are someone who prays, and you feel compelled to do so, that is between you and God. I always appreciate prayer in all aspects of my life, but I do not need to know that a stranger felt that my disability made them uncomfortable enough to drop what they’re doing and put their hands on me to pray. I do not think the people who do this mean harm, but just…don’t.
  3. “What’s wrong with you?“ or “What happened to you?” – I always thought that I would much rather have someone ask me about my disability then stare at me and wonder what happened. Then I realized, those shouldn’t be my only two options. Having a physical disability, I understand that I look different than everyone else. That is some thing I wake up with and live with every single day. I do not need complete strangers who have absolutely no ties to my life asking me what happened. Here’s the answer to that one, that took me a very long time to be OK saying. “Mind your own business.“
  4. “You’re too pretty to be in a wheelchair.” – This is another one that I’ve heard several times and I can’t even begin to tell you how ableist this is. Again, you are saying that my disability is something that is so unfavorable that it would diminish my physical beauty. 
  5. “Better slow down or you’ll get a speeding ticket!” – I don’t even really have anything to say about this one. We all just hate it and I’m speaking for every single person that is in a wheelchair. Stop it.
  6. “Have you tried physical therapy so you can walk again?” – This is another one that can be very hurtful. When a person starts out with a disability, or when they are young if they are born with it, they are generally given some type of physical therapy to gauge where their abilities are and if anything further can be done. Unfortunately, physical therapy is not an end all, be all. Eventually, we all get to a point where we have maxed out what we can do. And we work very hard to get there. To ask someone if they can go to physical therapy or telling them that if they try hard enough, they’ll regain movement; is the same as saying you don’t think we have given it our best, otherwise we would not be where we are right now. That is simply not the case.
  7. “I was in a wheelchair once, so I know how you feel.” – Being in a wheelchair for one week because you broke your ankle is not at all the same as having a permanent physical disability. I’m sure it was hard for you not being able to go anywhere for a short period of time, but the discrimination and inaccessibility people with long-term disabilities deal with is something and that should not be downplayed. To me, this is like telling a parent who is dealing with the death of a child that you know how they feel because your kid spent a week with grandma one summer. I’m not saying that these scenarios are the same, but it is equally as crazy to think that either one of these situations would be even close to one another.
  8. Please brace yourselves for this next one. It’s a doozy. Because I know many of you have probably said it before. It’s OK. We’ll get through this together…
    “You’re such an inspiration.” – When you say this to someone, what are they inspirational for? Getting out of bed? Going to the grocery store to buy food for their family? Going to work? Didn’t you do all those things today? It’s not an inspiration to simply have a disability and to move on with life. We are not pitiful creatures that trudge through our days. Most of us just average people doing average things.

This goes far beyond just telling someone that they are inspiring to you for doing absolutely nothing. This is an entire genre of media…and this one has a name, you guys. It’s called “inspiration porn“. No, I’m not kidding. It’s one of those things that is rooted in good intentions, but is so ridiculously ableist and extremely harmful. And I’m going to guess that you have never even noticed it…until now.

https://m.thebl.com/inspired-stories/teen-football-player-asks-disabled-girl-to-prom-and-makes-her-queen-for-the-night.html/amp

https://999ktdy.com/disabled-guy-fulfills-his-dream-to-ride-inside-a-lamborghini-video/

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/ups-driver-delivers-wish-for-boy-with-disability

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-57734299.amp

These are just some of the hundreds of news stories we see every day where able-bodied people do something kind for someone with a disability and it becomes a “feel good story” that demeans the disabled community and creates very harmful stereotypes. This type of objectification sends the message that society has lowered expectations right from the start. Disabled people are seen as being less or needing someone who is able-bodied to come in and save them or make their life worth living.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do nice things for people. But it does not need to be exploited. If you want to help a visually impaired person across the street because they have asked you for help, do so. If you want to vote for the girl in your grade who uses a wheelchair as prom queen because she’s super awesome and her hair always looks perfect, you should. If you want to buy me a new Louis Vuitton bag, I would not turn it away. But it doesn’t always need to be a publicized, feel-good story that makes the person with a disability look like they need saving. Because we don’t.

OK. We got through it. That wasn’t so bad, right? Right?? It’s OK if you’ve done some or even all of these things. We are learning together. What is most important is that we move forward with this knowledge and how our words can be harmful to an entire community that is already dealing with discrimination in such big ways. 

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The problem with trauma.

May 26th 1999. I was a junior in high school. We had been let out of school early and I decided to take a ride with a classmate. An hour later, I was hanging upside down from my seat belt just trying to stay alive. The months ahead were uncertain, scary, and painful. I had to relearn how to live life sitting down. The things that were once easy for me, like brushing my teeth, were things I had to psych myself up for, just to get the energy to do. My legs no longer worked. My fine motor movement was completely gone. At first, I didn’t even know how I would make it to the next day.

 After awhile, my body healed the best that it could. I gained the stamina to be able to get up in the morning, brush my own teeth and hair, do my own makeup, and go to school. I taught myself how to grab onto things between my palms, in lieu of my non-existent ability to grip. I tried my best to move on with my life in this unwanted and different, but new way. 

 Fast forward 22 years. I have adapted to life in a wheelchair and I do many things independently. I run a household, I raise children, I work, I go to school, and I engage in my community. But one thing will always be staring over my shoulder, reminding me of the fact that I haven’t overcome everything. My trauma.

 Every time I get into my car and pull onto to the road, the intrusive thoughts hit me like a Mack truck. “What if someone doesn’t see me and T-bones me?” “What if my brake lines don’t work when I try to stop?” “What if the hand controls fall off the steering wheel and I can’t control the car?” I am completely aware that these things are extremely unlikely, but they will pop into my head at the most random times. I don’t think I have had a drive without worrying that I could die since my car accident 22 years ago. 

And it doesn’t just end with me. My trauma reminds me often that this could happen to any of the people I love. If I know my mom has to work, I worry that she’ll go off the road into a ditch and nobody will see her. Or that she will get robbed walking to her car in the dark. If my husband is even 5 minutes late from work, I’m calling him to make sure he didn’t get into an accident. If my kids ride the bus to a sporting event, I’m a nervous wreck until they’re back with me. 

For the longest time, I didn’t understand why I did this. It took my therapist explaining everything to me before it all clicked. Trauma is one of the few things the human body doesn’t heal from. So, even though I get in my car every day and get to the places I need to go, my brain will always have that memory of the time I didn’t return home safely. And of the thousands of times the driving was uneventful, that one time will always continue to come back up.

This is so common with people who obtained their disabilities in traumatic ways. We may seem like we have moved forward and gotten on with life, which for the most part we have, but that trauma will always be a part of us. The intrusive thoughts are a normal thing for people with disabilities because we have seen the worst and felt the worst… And every day, we try to get through it without going back there. In my case, exposure therapy has been scary but also helpful. At my last session, I was told to start doing things while driving that I generally attempt to avoid. For example, instead of pulling left on to a busy road, I will turn right and go out of my way until I get to a light where I can safely turn. Sometimes, it makes me late to where I’m going, but I have avoided being uncomfortable, so it’s just something that I do now. As of this week, I have officially started to try doing those things that make me nervous. I assess whether or not doing these things are safe, then I do them, even if I am scared. I had a small victory yesterday when I pulled left out of the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot instead of going right like I always do. There were no cars in sight, which usually does not deter me from avoiding anyway, but I knew I would be OK, so I went ahead and I made myself a little uncomfortable. I think eventually this will help me to confront my trauma and overcome some of the things that scare me about what has happened to me in the past.

If you are a trauma survivor and you constantly find yourself worrying in otherwise safe situations about all the bad things that can happen, this is completely normal. Our brains and bodies do not forget this type of thing. I urge you to talk to someone about what you’re feeling because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We live with the disabilities our trauma has left behind, but that does not mean that we need to be subconsciously reminded of it every day. We can take control. 

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My anxiety has anxiety.

I was born without a care in the world. I mean, technically, we all were…but I brought that with me throughout my childhood and adolescence. At least until my injury. That’s when anxiety hit me like a Mack truck. I’ll never forget it.

Picture it. (If you don’t get this Golden Girls reference, please stop reading immediately and head to your nearest streaming service.) 12th grade. I was about 4 months post injury. I was still figuring out how to deal with the whispering and staring I got from strangers when they saw me in my wheelchair. I had always been an athlete, so in lieu of soccer in the fall, I decided to join the cheerleading squad. It was our first home game and we were playing our rival. As I was sitting on the sideline, I overheard some of the opposing players talking to the boy who was driving the car in the crash that paralyzed me. “Look at what you did to her.” I don’t know if they meant for me to hear them…and I know they were just trying to get into our teams’ head, but something about being that…noticed…just took all the breath from my body. I began to hyperventilate. I actually thought I was dying. My mom saw all the cheerleaders surrounding me and rushed over to remove me from the situation. I didn’t return for that game. 

Why am I telling you this? Not because I enjoy reliving my first panic attack. But because this is far from where it ended. Anxiety is something that went from a feeling I didn’t recognize enough to be able to decipher it from actual imminent death, to something I prepare for almost every time I leave my house. I’m not alone here. Many people with disabilities are very familiar with the things I feel when I’m getting ready for a concert, or a football game, or even a trip to the grocery store. We have to run down our checklists of what could go wrong and what we can do to try to prevent it. “Will there be parking?” “Does the building have stairs? Uneven doorways? Are entrances wide enough? What happens if someone doesn’t see me and falls on me? Are shelving units too high to reach? What if the handicapped bathroom stalls aren’t big enough?” I could go on forever, but I’ll spare you the hours and hours of yapping I can do about what makes me not want to leave the comfort off my weighted blanket. 

This shouldn’t be a thing. It is 2021. We just sent Jeff Bezos and a bunch of randos into outer effing space. But here I am, peeing in the alleyway outside the bar on a Saturday night because I had 3 beers and just have to break seal; but the bar doesn’t have accessible bathrooms. (I wish I was making that up…that’s a true story.) There are buildings that are exempt from being ADA compliant because they are considered “historical buildings”. Anyone who runs a business out of these buildings is not legally required to be accessible to people with disabilities in any way. I dunno, you guys….seems suspish. And super discriminatory. But it’s completely legal. This is a just another reason people with disabilities are anxious any time they’re planning on going somewhere new. Everything that could go wrong is always at the forefront of our minds.

This may see like something that’s bigger than us. And it kind of is. But there are ways you can help. First off all, write to your local, state and federal officials. We elected these people to make changes in our communities. Hold them to it. Second, if you are in an establishment that isn’t accessible, say something. Eventually, the right people will realize the importance of being available to everyone. And finally, don’t be a dingleberry when you’re out. If you see someone’s struggling, ask if they need help. (If they’re minding their own business and doing fine with their tasks, for the love of Harry Styles please do not bother them.) Watch where you’re going when you’re walking. We’re short, but if you stay at least a teeny bit aware of your surroundings, you won’t walk into our chairs or trip on us. Don’t whisper or point. If you have kids, let them ask us questions. If you’re just a nosey adult, remember that it costs $0 to mind your own business about how total strangers ended up with disabilities. You can be a part of creating a more comfortable world for us to live in so we can be as independent as possible.

If you’re living with anxiety due to your disability, you aren’t alone. Reach out and ask for help. Don’t suffer in silence just because you feel like a burden.  You are worthy and we’ll get through this.

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…And There Will Be Bad Days.

When I was first injured, people used to tell me “there will be good days, and there will be bad days.”

Some days, a huge fight with my husband can set off a bad day. Other times, it can be bad hair or a zit on my chin that makes me cry for hours. I never know when and where it’s going to come from, but a bad day always seems to creep in on me.  Those are the days where I question everything. My worth, the intentions of the people around me, my purpose in being here…and the worst place to be during one of my bad days is inside my head.

I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was 17 years old. I’ll never forget the first anxiety attack I ever had. I was cheering at a high school football game, when all of a sudden I felt like my chest was caving in. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was dying.  More recently, within the last year I was in and out of the emergency room. I was convinced I was having a heart attack or that there was something wrong with me. After the doctors gave me my results of my EKG and all the other test they ran and told me I was physically fine, I realized my anxiety had made its very dramatic return. They weren’t huge stresses in my life that were causing it to set off. It was just a bunch of small things that I let pile up with nowhere to go. It took a bit, but I worked through everything and it got better.

I’ve always been really good at coping with things on my own. “Cry it out. Dry it up. Put on your big girl panties and move on.”  I envision myself running into Harry Styles at my local Target with puffy red eyes, ruining the photo op of my lifetime. That would be a tragedy. But in all seriousness, I don’t know when I got so good at not talking to people when I’m struggling. Part of me thinks it’s because I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems, but another part of me thinks I don’t want people to see the non-perfect parts of my life.

I’m constantly being told what an inspiration I am or how great it is that I’m always smiling. But there are days when I’m a mess and those smiles are not as easy to come by. This morning, as a matter of fact, I sat at the mirror and cried because my face is as oily as a garlic pizza. Maybe there are other issues that got me to that point, but that’s all it took to push me over the edge. Not exactly the picture of perfection some people see when they think of me.

I always tell myself that it’s just a bad day and I get another chance tomorrow. It’s ok to have bad days and it’s ok to talk about it. I think this blog post is my way of doing that…letting it out so I can start the process of picking myself back up and getting to the next good day. It’ll never be easy, but it’ll always be worth it. If any of you are struggling, please remember that.

Now, who has a good remedy for oily skin??

 

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Here I go again…

I really hate getting into political or religious views on here, but I find myself hoping I can use this platform as a way to explain (or apologize for) the actions of a handful of people and create a different view for anyone who is unsure of Christianity because all they hear are the negative stories of people who aren’t exactly living their lives the way the Bible has taught us to. So, I give to you…yet another post about religion. Buckle up and keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times.

(DISCLAIMER: My beliefs are my beliefs. If you don’t share them, that’s ok. The world is full of all kinds of people and I accept/respect them all…as long as you’re not an a-hole.)

I think a lot of times these days, Christians as a whole get a bad name because of what they believe are “sins”. The Bible is pretty clear…and we’ve all read it from a young age. It might shock you to hear this, but I believe every single word in the Bible. I do not pick and choose which sins are good and which are bad based on my lifestyle. I believe that on my day of judgement, standing before God while He judges me for sinning even though I knew full well what I was doing will likely be one of the most unbearable pains I’ve ever experienced. My husband and I lived together for 4 years before we were married. Clearly, the premarital sex didn’t go unnoticed. And my language…well, go ahead and check the box next to Commandment #3 on the list of things I’ll be judged for. Heck, while you’re there, check #4…and #s 8-10. Yeahhhhh…I know.

But guess what will happen after I stand before God for all the sins I committed? Get ready for this…He will forgive me.

No matter how we disappoint Him, we’ve been promised that we are forgiven and loved. God isn’t going to bring us up there and put us on different levels based on our sins. He isn’t going to say “Sorry…your sin was bigger than the rest. You can’t sit with us.” If we love Him and we confess our sins to Him, we are forgiven.

So why do so many people choose to judge and persecute others for their sins? That isn’t a right that God has given us. As a matter of fact, 1 Peter 4:8 says “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” ABOVE ALL. As in, MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE.

I recently discovered that someone I care about is a lot less loving of their fellow humans than I thought. It’s a struggle to know how to deal with this. Do I just wash my hands of this person and the relationship we’ve built over many years? Or do I give them the same love and acceptance that God has given me through all my sins? I am an extremely open-minded individual…I literally just try my best to love everyone, regardless of the things they do that are considered sins in the eyes of God. Because God told me to do that. I trust that He will sort us all out when our time comes…and that it’s not my job to attempt to do it now. And to be honest, the moment I realized that was the moment the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. This is what God wants for us. Love, happiness, and to spread it everywhere we can to show others what He is really all about. We don’t have to do His job…we just have to do ours. Above all.

So, if you’re unsure about Christians because of the actions of a few…please know that God didn’t set us out to hate or judge anyone. And the people who do will have to stand before Him one day and confess all of that. Know that you are loved and that if you need to feel that, so many wonderful people are ready to show you.

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Summer…break?

Summer is upon us. The kids are out of school and surprisingly, it’s been an entire week and they haven’t murdered each other in cold blood. As for me, I am in the middle of preparing my petition for the entire human race to stop referring to it as Summer “Break”. The only thing breaking around here is my sanity.

What does a disabled, working mother of 2 do to keep her kids busy over the summer?

I wish I had all the answers for you. It’s not like I can just throw on my 2-piece and head to the pool for a day’s worth of cannon balls and sunbathing. Public pools are not what we would call “accessible in any way”. So here are the few things I have found to keep the kiddos busy this summer.

1. Pokémon Go. 

I know it sounds ridiculous, but we all play. Literally, the entire family. We drive or walk around looking for those adorable little critters for HOURS. We’re a pretty competitive family, so it gets intense. So far, we’ve refrained from any pushing, shoving, or hair pulling. Great success.

2. Splash pad

Our local pool has a splash pad that the kids can run around in. The good thing is they love it and I don’t have to worry about them drowning in front of me. So, we save the pool for grandma and beat the heat on solid ground.

3. Local concerts and festivals

We are lucky enough to have a fully accessible concert venue one town over. They do free concerts each week and during the summer, something is always going on there. Check your local community calendar and make some phone calls inquiring about wheelchair accessibility.

4. Sporting events

Luckily, most stadiums/arenas these days are wheelchair accessible. My advice to you is don’t buy your tickets online. Many places hold accessible tickets so they aren’t purchased by people who don’t need them. Call the venue and see what their policy is on exchanging regular tickets for accessible ones. Generally, you can purchase any ticket and bring it to the box office on the day of your event to swap it for the seating you need.  Be careful  though…there is usually a limit on how many people in your group can swap tickets.

Hopefully, this list gave you a few ideas of how to keep your littles busy before they decide to rebel and tie you to a chair with duct tape over your mouth. Don’t forget about arts & crafts…and maybe some child labor. Most kids will do anything for $5. That includes laundry.

Bribery is a mother’s best friend. You’re welcome and may the odds be ever in your favor. 

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Best of the Best 2018

I often get asked what items I use to help me get things done. As a disabled wife, mother, and professional, things aren’t always easy. I made a promise to myself that I would not let my disability stop me from living the most normal life possible.

This year, I had a lot of help. Here are the items that made 2018 a lot easier for me.

     1.  iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum – $299 iRobot.com

This is by far, the most helpful item I received this year. Vacuuming from a wheelchair is very difficult. You get tangled in the cords and most units are very heavy. Cordless vacuums are high maintenance and generally don’t have the power to pick up large amounts of dog hair. I used to dread vacuuming and would put it off as long as I could. Now, it’s as easy as saying “Alexa, tell Roomba to clean.” The Roomba 675 is Bluetooth enabled and can be controlled from your Alexa or smartphone. Even if you aren’t in a chair, I highly recommend this vacuum. It has absolutely changed my life.

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     2.  Amazon Echo Plus – $149.99 amazon.com

As a family, this has really helped us all. But me, especially. From being able to tell it what to add to my grocery list (instead of having to find somewhere to write it down) to using it as an intercom to let my husband know I need his help from the next room, it really has been so important. It’s also nice to incorporate with light bulbs that I can’t reach to turn on…and I can control my Roomba with it, as well. We have Amazon Echos in every room of our house and it was such a great investment.

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     3.  Apple Watch (Series 3) – $279 apple.com

I previously had the Series 2 Apple Watch and I honestly barely used it. I ended up selling it after letting it sit on my dresser for months. With the release of the Series 3 Apple Watch, Apple finally incorporated features for individuals in wheelchairs. Instead of a daily “step” or “stand” goal like most activity trackers have, the Apple Watch has a “move” and “roll” goal. It lets me know when it’s time to push myself around and it keeps track of all my activity. I don’t have to guess if I’m on track. Also, the Series 3 (as well as the new Series 4) Apple Watch has cellular capabilities so I don’t have to worry about bringing my phone if I’m going somewhere where I may drop it or my lap/hands are already full. I am glad I decided to give this watch another try because it’s quickly become something I can’t go without.

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     4.  PopSockets and Car Mount – $15 and $10 popsockets.com

I absolutely can’t live without a PopSocket on my phone. I have very limited finger dexterity and my iPhone XS Max is very heavy. I like knowing I have a good grip on my phone with texting and, of course…taking selfies. The mount is a must-have for the car. I can see my maps without having to take my eyes off the road.

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     5. Universal Wheelchair Cup Holder – $14.99 amazon.com

I swore I would never be that lame-o who put a cup holder on their wheelchair…until I was. What a life I was missing! I used to have to ask someone to hold my coffee or try to hold it between my legs, which generally ended in me somehow burning myself and, worse yet, wasting a $4 latte. I bought 2 of these bad boys…in case one ever breaks. Because there’s absolutely no way I’ll ever go another day without it.

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2018 was a year full of new things for me and I’m thankful I am able to share the items that made life a lot easier for me. I’m excited to see what 2019 brings and how I will navigate my way through it! Thank you all for coming along for the ride! Happy new year!!

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So I’m an Activist Now

I have always said I will never be an activist. I just wanted to be one of the quiet ones…happy in my little corner of the world, pretending problems don’t exist. That is my jam.

If only the a-holes of the world would learn how to park.

Our local police department made a Facebook post the other day showing a photo of a motorcycle parked in some hash marks next to a parking space. This is when I realized that 1) Everyone around me is an idiot. And 2) I may not want to be an activist, but I am one now.

Most of the people making comments on the post we’re actually defending the biker. I know. Crazy, right? They say that many people don’t like when motorcycles are in regular parking spaces because it’s taking up a whole space when they only need a tiny bit of room. So, I guess the only obvious solution to them is to use spaces that are meant for individuals in wheelchairs so they can do every day activities just like everyone else. Do I want to go to the grocery store? No. Do I enjoy going to Walmart and rubbing elbows with women in flesh colored leggings and wondering “Is that pants or is she naked?” Definitely no. But I must. I’m a wife and mother. Sometimes we need stuff.

Back to my story. I went on a commenting rampage telling everyone who defended this man how utterly stupid they were. I also said he was lucky he hadn’t parked next to me because I would’ve absolutely hit his bike with my door. Gator don’t play that shit. (Will Ferrell reference. You’re welcome.) Now, I get it. The general public is unaware of the struggles of being disabled. Some aren’t familiar with the laws. Also, many of them are idiots. But the police department’s response was what really made my head spin and puke come out of every hole in my face.

Ummm…what??

 Did I just have to school a police department on the law? Am I Elle Woods? It’s a good thing I commemorated the occasion with a screen shot, because they deleted their comment shortly after. We are officially living in a world where even law enforcement doesn’t see the rights of people with disabilities as a matter of importance. At least we have each other, right?

Wrong.

 Two days later, I took a solo trip to Target to buy things I didn’t need while forgetting everything on my shopping list. I parked like a normal human being and went in to shop. As soon as I hit the doorway on the way out, I saw it. I knew before I even got near my car that someone had parked too close. I thought to myself, “Another able-bodied moron parked in a spot he doesn’t need.” Nope. The vehicle had a handicapped tag and a veteran license plate. They should’ve known better.

img_2872img_2874I had no idea if my door would hit their car and I absolutely did not care. I pressed the button and let ‘er rip. They must’ve been touched by an angel because I could have barely fit my pinky between my door and their mirror. Then, I squeezed myself onto the platform, not caring if my chair scraped on the way. I was able to get in…and I was pissed. Pissed enough to decide that I can’t be quiet anymore. These things are preventable and easy to avoid unless you’re a selfish asshat. Then, you need a ticket…or at the very least, a giant door ding.

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I know I can’t rely on law enforcement to take this issue seriously, so I had to come up with an alternative way of informing people that they park like idiots. Using only my printer, a few boxes of Dollar Store crayons, and my world famous sarcasm, I came up with a wonderful activity for all future offenders.

Activism. My new jam.