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What Once Was

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Former. Alumni. Has-been. Prior. Emeritus.

You know, there are a lot of words out there to describe something you “once” did. Words that try to describe the occurrence of a particular moment in your personal history. Maybe it’s a college you attended, a job-title you held, or whatever else makes up the story of “you.”

Naturally, I’m an alumni of Hortonville High School, Class of 2010. Yea, we just had our 5-year class reunion and even saying that makes me feel a little old. I’m an alumni of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities after graduating with my degree in 2013. But now (as of a week ago), I can add another one of those “once” events to my life story–I’m a former Ms. Wheelchair America.

Yep, I have officially handed off what was once “my” title in Des Moines, IA to another very deserving woman as she enters into a year that is bound to be a pretty crazy adventure.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kumiyama
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kumiyama

Can you believe that? Its been a year since I was crowned (in my mind, shockingly) Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 and started off my year with a lot of nerves. Well, nerves and self-doubt. I mean seriously, who was I to travel around and advocate for the countless individuals who live in our country with a disability when I had only just recently become so passionate and intimately apart of this community?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Irony

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I’ve decided the world is a highly ironic place.

At least my world is a highly ironic place.

In my walking form, I was one of those tall lanky ladies that you see and instantly assume plays sports. Yet, if you got to know me you would realize I was just 6 feet of awkward with no idea where in the world one of my limbs ended and the next one started. Sure, I played basketball in middle school but I spent most of my court time literally on the floor–I’ve always been pretty scrappy (I think that has something to do with my middle child syndrome). I also somehow managed to miss getting the “I’m-really-good-at-volleyball” gene that I swear every female (but me) gets. My role in volleyball games in gym class was like a strange form of a volleyball lightning rod. I’m pretty sure no matter where I was, I’d get smacked in the head by that stupid ball. In summary: Walking Sam = not sporty.

That seems to understate things, walking Sam = not sporty at all.
I still don’t think that’s quite right. Walking Sam = less than not sporty at all.

Yea, I think that’s about as good as it’s gonna get but I hope you get my point. Balls, bats, athletics are basically not my cup of tea. I mean I got into running in college as a stress reliever from all of my nerd classes and the fact there were not balls or bats required (or even found anywhere in the vicinity). I’m a bit on the anti-getting-hit-in-the-head-with-stuff bandwagon, I think middle school gym class traumatized me…

Yet here I sit, quote unquote disabled, having returned from my second year at a National Wheelchair Sports Camp. I wrote about my first year here, so if you want to “flashback friday” or whatever the cool kids are calling it, check the link out!

Excuse me for a second while I muse at the irony of the above situation.

Wheelchair. Handicapped. Disabled. National Sports Camp.
Which of these is not like the other?

But hold on a second. You know how sometimes you just naturally assume something is a certain way for your entire life? You assume that sardines are the nastiest things on the planet, but have never actually tried them. You assume that some person you work with is really mean but have never stopped to actually talk and learn about their life. You assume that people in wheelchairs can’t play sports or be athletic, and if they do play sports they must be really lame sports like bean bag toss.

I’m totally guilty of that last one (and the first one, but I don’t plan on ever trying a sardine…) and maybe bean bag toss isn’t a good example of a lame sport. I played bean bag toss for the first time last week and just for the record, it’s way harder than it looks and I’m remarkably terrible at it (maybe even worse than volleyball terrible…).


But getting a little serious again, you know I grew up with all these assumptions. Assumptions that I just formed without even realizing it. I mean, it’s not like someone ever came up to me and was all, “people in wheelchairs can’t play sports or be athletes.” I just assumed they didn’t or couldn’t. But man, after spending a week doing some pretty cool things and playing/watching some pretty intense events including paintball (that was a “I’m just going to watch this…”) and softball games where more people fell out of their wheelchairs than I bothered to count, it’s pretty obvious how wrong those old assumptions were and it’s awesome to be reminded of it. There’s a really cool video of the week that you should watch to experience just a tiny part of camp (check it out here!)

PicMonkey Collage

It was a great week, a really tiring week, but a great one. But of course it didn’t just end there…Now I mentioned earlier that running was the one sport I sort of did/started in college. I know I’ve talked once about actually getting started running again  and then my first official race in other posts and I guess both of those kind of lead themselves to this, well, goal I’ve had. Read the rest of this entry »

Uno. Dos.

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Doesn’t take that long to count to two does it? I guess you could even say it’s a bit anti-climatic.

Well, today marks the 2nd anniversary of my spinal cord injury, so I’ve got the number two on the brain. Yea, maybe counting to two is anti-climatic, but in my mind this number 2 mile marker has been everything but anti-climatic.

Injury anniversaries are always strange things. After all, I clearly know all about them because I’ve had so many (computers really need a sarcasm font). An injury anniversary is such a defining mark between the “what was” and the “what is” in a person’s life. Whether you want to or not, you can’t stop yourself from pausing and thinking back to the good ole days. Back to the days when curbs were just, well, there and you had a lot more bathroom stall options when you were out and about.

I’m sure everyone approaches those normal thoughts and reflections with a different attitude. We’re all unique individuals and our injuries affect our families and our own self in different ways. I guess it’d be pretty nuts to think everyone would feel the same about any number year of an injury anniversary. At the same time, I think those attitudes change and progress as the years do. Maybe certain experiences, certain people, certain whatever it may be during that year causes a shift in thinking.

My second year of spinal cord injury life has encompassed quite the experiences. Experiences, I can very honestly say I never imagined having in my life, let alone all in one year. Some experiences were awesome, others well, not so awesome. But that’s life right? Moments of excitement, moments of fear, moments of triumph, moments of failure–just a lotta lotta moments.

Moments like receiving a grant to purchase a racing chair and start training and learning from an epic paralympian (July).
Moments like being crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 after a week of competition in Long Beach, California (August).
Moments like learning how to drive again and purchasing my own vehicle–the famous hatch back with sliding doors (October) then taking my drivers test and passing on the first shot (January).
Moments like traveling out to South Dakota to go cross country and down hill skiing and then coming home and having to wait in security and wonder if I managed to get my mother arrested in the airport thanks to an epic souvenir (January).

Moments like those… Read the rest of this entry »


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How ‘bout that, it’s May already! That’s a bit nuts right? But I’m certainly not complaining. After all, I’ll be the first to say I’m a cold weather wuss and snow/ice and I are only friends on Christmas and the days I don’t need to go anywhere. But here we are, sunshine and blue skies. I’ve even got tan lines already! Granted, they’re pretty dumb looking tan lines, but they’re totally there.

My tan lines are thanks to the time I spent in Louisiana at the end of March at an International Wheelchair Tennis Tournament---they're seriously diagonal from my sleeves. But on a cooler note, the awesome dude with me is one of the coaches for the Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis Team
My tan lines are thanks to the time I spent in Louisiana at the end of March at an International Wheelchair Tennis Tournament—they’re seriously diagonal from my sleeves. But on a cooler note, the awesome dude with me is one of the coaches for the Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis Team

It’s kinda funny how transitions work. I guess it’s another one of those things I never stopped to think about before. Each day there are these tiny little adjustments, tiny modifications, tiny adaptations; so tiny you don’t really even realize they’re happening. Then all of a sudden, you actually pause to look around at the world around you and see buds on the trees, green grass, and highway construction crews (I’m pretty sure the last one is the most indicative of springtime in Wisconsin). Just like, BOOM! You’ve transitioned to a different life phase!

I feel like some aspects of a spinal cord injury transition are very similar.

Yea, I’m certainly still in my “learning” phase and I’m certainly still considered an SCI “newbie.” I don’t really know how long I can claim the “newbie” label, but I’m pretty sure I still can now. Anyway, I guess I’m really talking about one particular aspect of the walking to wheeling transition. It was one of the things I was really afraid of experiencing during my transition. It was a fear that I never could stifle. I scrolled back through some of my early posts and goodness, I even blogged about it ( Change(verb) ). So that fear… Read the rest of this entry »

Aisle 7

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Confession: I’m one of those weird people that loves office supplies.

Don’t ask me why, but I get a crazy amount of joy from looking at all of the notebooks or post-it notes in stores. With some women its shoes, other women its toilet paper (yea, you know who I’m talking about), but I’m pretty content just browsing through the countless colorful options that encompass contemporary office supplies. Of course, I’m such a frugal thing that I’d much rather just look than buy, but that’s beside the point…20150315_182839

You know, I think I’ve always had a particular fondness for office supplies. I was even one of those strange kids that looked forward to school supplies shopping. Sure, maybe that was partly because I loved learning, but I’m thinking it had a lot to do with that prospect of having a crisp stack of college-ruled notebooks and a perfectly assembled army of unbroken crayons.

When you get all these awesome new school supplies, you have to write your name on every single thing to protect your precious stockpile of “learning materials.” I know I looked forward to staking my claim on those new items every year, and yes, I realize that’s probably strange. Read the rest of this entry »

Pure Epic

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I have a really epic family.

I’m serious when I say that. Each and every one of them is seriously epic, especially considering all we’ve been through together both before and since my injury. My Dad is the go-to fix it man who even prior to me coming home went around our house and measured the door frames to make sure I would fit through in my chair (little did he know now we have to worry about my big head fitting through…). You have all heard about Mom who puts up with way more razzing than any human being should ever have to (but to be honest, I think she secretly enjoys it:D). Then of course there’s my two lovely sisters, sisters I wouldn’t trade for the world and we still get into just as much trouble as we always did.

So when people used to make comments about being “like a family,” all I could do was chuckle to myself. Chuckle and think, “Yea, you probably don’t go to Costco enough to be apart of my family.” Let’s just say I didn’t think I, as a rather boisterous and proud “girl in a wheelchair,” would ever find another group of individuals so inclusive and comforting and open and fun and well, real as those 4 other people I share DNA with.

It’s funny how God puts us into crazy situations that force us to open our minds and challenge our current ways of thinking.

So what was my crazy situation?

Skiing. Downhill and cross country skiing with a bunch of people I had never met in a state I’ve never even visited before. A crazy situation very fondly talked about by people across the country and even around the world, known as the regional Black Hills Ski for Light in Deadwood, South Dakota. As a part of my Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 reign, I was invited to attend and participate in this amazing week filled with laughter, snow, really good food, and I guess a bit of skiing.

Ski for Light is a fascinating organization to say the least. It was founded to teach the basics of cross country skiing to visually impaired participants but has expanded to include individuals with mobility impairments as well as activities like downhill skiing, snow shoeing, and even snowmobile rides. Now I cross country skied once the winter before my injury and I loved it. I have not, however, done any sort of downhill snow-related escapade. So this week was going to be a first in many ways.

Photo Jan 26, 12 52 08 PM
Post cross country skiing success.

When you go to events, regardless of who you are, you never quite know what to expect. You think you have an idea, but you really have no idea until you actually get there. My introduction to Ski for Light began in the Minneapolis Airport where I met another participant from Chicago on his way to the same destination. This very entertaining gentleman had a visual impairment and we got to talking about a cruise he recently went on. Read the rest of this entry »

Real life #tbt

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In case you aren’t super into current pop culture, I’m gonna start us off with a bit of a lesson in said topic.

There’s this thing called a hashtag that looks something like this, #. Yep, that’s a hashtag. It looks an awful lot like a number sign and that would be because it IS a number sign, but now I guess it’s also a hashtag. So hashtags are used as a way to basically group similar posts or topics in social media, like #gopackgo would be posts/pictures about the awesomeness of the Packers. Sometimes these crazy trends start and everyone will use a particular hashtag on a particular day of the week. For example #mcm is “man crush Monday” and people post pictures of their “man crush.” Don’t worry, I don’t use that hashtag because I would just post a picture of Oscar (our dog). And well, to put it in a non-offensive way, he isn’t technically a man (and I’m not talking about the fact he has four legs….) One of the other big hashtags is #tbt which is “throwback Thursday” and everyone posts pictures of them being cute and tiny or when they were in the womb (well, that second one might be a stretch). Here, I’ll give you a #tbt example…


Awe, look how cute everyone is…and how distracted I am. Unsurprisingly, that picture is a pretty accurate representation of our childhood…but I digress.

Yesterday, being Thursday, I did a #tbt on steroids meaning I lived my “throwback.” Yea, I may take the phrase “go big or go home” to the extreme. Read the rest of this entry »