Experience This

I find airports to be fascinating places.

Just think about it, when else in life are you likely to interact with or encounter the myriad of individuals you run into or walk past as you rush from terminal to terminal? People from different countries, from cities you’ve never heard of, or from walks of life you’ve probably never even thought about before. So many “life experiences” all located in one geographical conglomerate.

Kind of cool right?

I was in an airport last week (first time since April 2015 — I guess its been a little while) when Mom and I headed out to Deadwood, South Dakota to participate in Black Hills Regional Ski for Light. If you’ve been following me for some time, this event may ring a bell. It was something I had the opportunity to participate in during my reign as Ms. Wheelchair America and had an amazing time (I wrote about it, so here it is if you want a reminder). Naturally, having left the TSA agents in Rapid City with a nice little memory thanks to an awesome souvenir they didn’t find as awesome as I did (Side note: don’t put painted red dowels taped together with an obviously fake fuse from the Crazy Horse blast crew in your your Mom’s checked bag) I thought maybe we should do a “take two” and see how it would go this year.

I have to say, going back as a “commoner” was a whole lot of fun. For starters, I had such a great time last year that I invited some of my wheeling buddies along. I had gotten a selfie stick for Christmas and they were less than thrilled with my plan to take a selfie together. Granted, I roll my eyes at those stupid sticks too but man, when it comes to fitting three wheelchairs in a picture, it worked pretty slick. Although the dude on the right in the picture will tell you I’m terrible at using the thing (and he wouldn’t be wrong).

IMG_20160125_193135We would all ski during the day, either downhill or cross-country, and then hit up the saloons at night. I actually played at a blackjack table this year and did smashingly well. Meaning, I came out on the plus side of the $20 I put in. My winnings are pictured below… Continue reading

Whatyda Expect?

Expectations are funny creatures.

The presence of an expectation implies a plan, goal, or at least some kind of thought about a future event or activity. In my mind, plans and goals are good things; they’re things to work towards or look ahead to. So naturally, by some sort of transitive property that should mean expectations are good things too…but I don’t know if that’s always true.

I’m sure you’ve heard of people saying they don’t let themselves have expectations so they don’t have the opportunity to be disappointed. Makes sense to me, but whether its actually possible to not develop those little “creatures of expectation” is certainly up for debate.

Don’t ask me why, but I keep personifying “expectations” into these little minion like creatures…minion

They’re a little bit strange too, so I think it fits…

Why the mental perusing through the zoo of expectation? Well, today officially marks my survival through another year of life. I can officially “check the box” on Sam’s life, year 23 and move on to Sam’s life, year 24.

Now I’m not one to go “all out” when it comes to birthdays. In my mind, once you hit 21, a birthday just becomes the day that you double check your math and re-figure out how old you ACTUALLY are. The thought of celebrating a “birthday week” seriously gives me anxiety – I’m much happier with a low key approach. Continue reading

For Science

The other week I realized I have remained in the same state for a whole three months.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Wisconsin, but three months in one state is a long time. At least after last year when I felt like I was on a plane almost every other week. Relatively speaking — three months IS a long time.

So when I got a random message courtesy of the “Contact Me” tab at the top of this page from a random dude at Michigan Technological University who was doing research related to wheelchair users asking me to spend a couple days up there, I naturally jumped on the opportunity and said “A-OKAY!”

I realize now looking at that paragraph in hindsight, that whole sequence of events would probably be on the list of things parents tell there kids to never do. However in my defense, I did google him and when the person you google has alphabet soup behind their name for their degrees and have had 23 publications since 2007, they’re probably legit. Plus, google doesn’t lie.  (Goodness, there are so many reasons I’m not ready to be a parent…)

1Not to mention Houghton, Michigan is gorgeous….

The research itself was fascinating and something I was all into since the study was looking at a new piece of exercise equipment and the possible benefits it could have in the rehabilitation of individuals with mobility impairments and possibly even athletic performance. Continue reading

Two-sided

You know how sometimes in life, things just hit you?

Well, not literally. I mean, at least I hope not literally. Granted I guess I’m living proof that literal “get hit by stuff” happens, but I digress…I’m talking about that moment where A is just walking along, minding it’s own business and all of a sudden B comes barreling in out of nowhere and BOOM. You know? Yea, moments like that.

I had one of those moments recently and it was after that A and B collision where I felt like I deserved to do a literal face palm, sigh audibly, and just lean all the way forward till my head landed on my desk. The physical response wasn’t because I was upset with my A and B collision, just more like shocked and embarrassed it took so long for it to happen.

This is probably making zero sense.

On occasion I look back at my past blogs and read/skim through some of the memories. It’s fun to see the pictures and be reminded of all the stories. I’ve noticed that in almost all of my blog posts, I seem to come to some sort of new conclusion or life lesson. I guess that’s just what happens when you take the time to pause and reflect on moments of life. You know, when you’re writing a blog post, It’s like you live and re-live those moments in your head as the words flow out of your fingers and onto the computer screen. You see and notice details of that time you’re reflecting on that would have likely been lost without the replay. Naturally, that lends itself to learning some lessons and recognizing values that were probably overlooked on “first experience.”

I talk about the excitement of moving forward, but not forgetting what once was.
I talk about really being thankful for each day I’m blessed with.
I talk about actually living in the moment, being content slowing down to experience each day.

I talk about a lot of things and goodness, looking at just 3 of those things, all I can do is shake my head back and forth at my own hypocrisy. I’m terrible at just being content – I’m a perpetual perfectionist. I’m even worse at slowing down (ask any of the employees at Walmart). Continue reading

Ready

If you’ve read almost any of my past posts you’ve probably realized that on occasion, I like to give my Mom a hard time. She has this remarkable obsession with Costco toilet paper that I find simply hilarious–in our extended family, she’s like the tooth fairy but with toilet paper. I also may or may not have almost gotten her arrested in the airport this one time. I’m also convinced that she doesn’t actually know I’m paralyzed because of some of the things she says and does (Example #1: Tapping my leg to get my attention–yea, that doesn’t work).

With all that being said, my Mom is an extremely perceptive individual. She’s good at planning things and she can read between the lines better than most people can actually read. Needless to say, there isn’t much that gets past Mom (excluding the fact that I’m paralyzed and use a wheelchair–that hasn’t sunk in).

What am I getting at? Well October 18th was my Mom and Dad’s 30th Wedding Anniversary and my sisters and I decided to plan them a surprise anniversary party. The last time someone tried to pull off some sort of “surprise party” on Mom was her 40th birthday (I can say she’s over 40 right?)  and if I recall correctly, that wasn’t the most appreciated celebration. Granted, that could have been because of the whole turning 40 thing but I digress…

The day of the party Dad knew what was going on (it was the only way to get him there and out of the fields from harvest), but Mom was still clueless. Meaning Mom had no idea that she had a place that she needed to be at at a very particular time. Fittingly, it was my job to get her there.

That was an experience in itself where I convinced Mom we just HAD to go to the Farmer’s Market so I could get my last egg roll of the season and we could walk the ave just one more time. There may have been snow flurries that morning which made convincing a bit of a challenge. Thankfully I have a pretty convincing pout face. We slowly strolled the market,  I distracted Mom at a local coffee shop by teaching her how to use Instagram on her cell phone, and then made an excuse to go to the mall and get some tea.

instaMom’s first ever instagram post — a selfie

We get to the mall, I go the bathroom and am gone for maybe 5 minutes. I go back to mother dearest and find out that she had called the older sister to talk to her about something or other. Naturally, Danielle was well in the middle of preparing the hall–decorating and all that jazz –and Mom had decided to call her. Seriously, I left her alone for 5 minutes. Lesson learned: no potty breaks when you’re on Mom duty. From that moment on, I followed her around like a shadow. She may have commented after the fact how annoying she thought I was that morning… Oh well, I don’t think that’s too far gone from how annoying I can be on a normal day. Continue reading

A Realization

I realized something the other day.

I realized that for the first time in over 2 years, I can actually consider my life “normal.” I know that sounds a bit strange but let me flashback for a second and explain…

May 2013: Sam has a spinal cord injury
There is clearly nothing normal about going from walking one moment to not being able to feel your toes the next. I spent that summer first between critical care in a hospital in North Dakota and then off to a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado.

September 2013: Sam goes home
I get discharged from the hospital and head home to a world that a person would consider “normal” but now no longer looked like the “normal” I used to know. I mean literally, I was now seeing the world at a height of 4.5 feet instead of 6 feet. But emotionally and physically everything was new, the way I moved around in the house, the way I got ready in the morning–all of that takes time to adjust and figure out. Everyone takes a different amount of time to “figure” things out, but just for grins lets say 6 months later I’m reasonably adjusted. (Side note: You still have plenty of things to learn after 6 months of being out of the hospital–I mean I’m STILL learning stuff, but I feel like the big things are figured out by then)

March 2013: Sam has a crazy idea (thanks to Google)pic2
Six months later puts us at the start of March and thanks to some Google-ing I came across the Ms. Wheelchair America Organization. I competed and was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin and began to travel across the state advocating for persons with disabilities while also preparing for the national pageant in Long Beach, CA in August.

August 2014: Sam almost falls out of her wheelchair when she is crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2015
This startling and exciting event started a whole year of adventures I could have never imagined as I began traveling and flying more places in my wheeling form than I ever did in my walking form. Aright, so fast forward through this “not normal” year
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Pepperoni Please

I mentioned in my last post that I had two big things happen to make my end of a summer a busy one.
Post 1: The older sis is no longer a Miss
Post 2: Anesthesia sucks and so does not being able to eat for 10 days

Yea, I know…that’s not nearly as clever and cute as “the older sis is no longer a Miss,” but  it’s a statement that is pretty (meaning completely) accurate.

Big thing number 2 was that I had surgery down at UW-Madison at the end of August (yep, I went to the “big guns”). Now, I just want to put it out there that I don’t plan on talking about the specifics of my surgery. In my mind, I don’t feel like a blog is a good place to do that. I will however say that said surgery had absolutely nothing to do with my mobility–meaning I didn’t go “under the knife” to walk again.

You know, I’ve never experienced a surgery before that I actually remember. The only surgery I had prior to this one was to stabilize my spinal cord the day after my injury; a surgery I have zero recollection of until a month-ish later. Well, I remember this surgery perfectly fine and considering how I felt when I woke up after having anesthesia, I’m honestly not convinced walking would be worth it. That probably sounds terribly crass, but I get around pretty well in my chair and the thought of another dose of anesthesia and then goodness knows how much recovery time–I really don’t know if I’d find it worth it (but that’s material for reflection on another day…)

Having a “planned” surgery is quite the event. You prepare yourself mentally (I’m so grateful I can find so much comfort in an awesome God) and then you have to prepare yourself physically. Generally speaking, that’s some less-than-ideal diet meaning “Sam, you can only drink clear liquids for 3 days before surgery. Then you have surgery and can’t drink anything for 4 days afterwards and will be sustained by IV fluids. If all goes well,  then we’ll get you back on liquids for a day or two, and maybe then food.” Continue reading

Sharin’ is Carin’

The end of summer is supposed to be busy right? Well, if not…mine sure has been.

I guess I’ve been a part of two pretty big “life moments” within the past two weeks. Granted, they were very different kinds of life events so they’re going to be talked about in separate blog posts. You’ll understand why they should be kept separate once I post them (and that’s all I’m going to say about that:D)

Event Number 1: My older sis is no longer a Miss.

Yep, I commented about my older sister getting married in my last post and now that event is a thing of the past. No longer is she getting married, but she IS married.

IMG_20150814_141316

I’m one of three girls, the middle child to be exact and this was the first official marriage of the family. Lindsey (the younger sis) and I were both co-maids of honors so we did a bit of a childhood flashback when we donned our “twin outfits” and stood up in the wedding. Side note, I never realized how often “standing” or other walking related jargon is used to mean something in the English language until it wasn’t apart of my daily activities. It doesn’t bother me, I just find it comical. For example, high-fives from me are more like chest-fives, but that sounds a bit awkward so I’m just gonna stick with high five… Continue reading

What Once Was

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?

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The Irony

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?

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