At Least

Everyone has habits.

I20151204_135433‘ve got a really bad coffee habit (or a really good one depending on your perspective). If I have a question to ask, I’ll raise my hand without even thinking as if you were my second grade teacher. When I set alarms, they rarely ever end in a 0 or a 5 — instead my radio alarm starts playing at 5:01am or my phone goes off at 5:06am (alright alright, that’s just on work mornings, I normally sleep in a bit later than that…)

I also have this habit where if someone’s walking towards me and we make eye contact, I smile at them and continue on my way. Nothing wrong with a smile right? Sometimes situations allow the exchange of a few words, like in an elevator or something.  You know, those times when you use one of those simple inquiry phrases that show someone you see them and you wish them well in whatever path their life is on.

A few weeks back I had engaged in one of those “simple word exchanges” that I guess was really anything but simple.

ME
“Talk about a great weather huh! How’s your day going today?”

           RANDOM STRANGER:
“Yea. Uh, it’s alright.”  — Pause—
“You know, I’ve got problems, but at least I’m not in a wheelchair.”   — Pause—
“Oh, I don’t mean that in a rude way.”

You know, you hear about moments or situations where people get the wind knocked out of them. Someone got tackled in football, a dude fell over backwards on the ice, all these obvious situations that result in the literal wind being taken from your sails.  Yes, I’ve had said “wind knocking” happen to me in a physical sense during my life but I had never realized how similar the sensation would be as the result of a verbal statement.

At least I’m not in a wheelchair.

It’s amazing how much time has passed since I heard that short statement and how those words from someone I don’t even know still sting. You know, I’ve been trying to think of a way to relate that statement and its impact to “normal person” life and all I can come up with is “I may have problems, but at least I don’t have to walk everywhere.” It sounds ridiculous and that’s probably because it is.

Today marks three years since my injury.
Three years since the dead tree fell.
Three years since I became someone”in a wheelchair.”

I’ve come to learn a lot during those 1,095 days, although I know I still have plenty more learning to do. I’ve cried over loss — loss of movement, independence, relationships. I’ve celebrated “firsts” — first time dressing myself, first time driving myself to Starbucks, first time finishing a marathon. I’ve journeyed to physical and emotional places I’ve never been and this is just year three of hopefully many many more.

You know, the disabled population is a remarkably unique group. It’s filled with extraordinary diversity, even within a “sub-type” like a spinal cord injury. It’s a minority group that unlike skin color or race, any person could find themselves a part of (often suddenly) at any stage or moment in their life.

If someone would have pointed out that remarkably true fact to me as a 21-year old, I probably would have responded in a similar tune as that random stranger. The tune that self-confidently hums all the undertones of stereotypes, negative perceptions, and inadequacies of a person with a disability. At least I’m not in a wheelchair.

At three years out, I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am that I have the opportunity to still be here, sitting in this (very cool looking) wheelchair. I’m not “confined” or “bound,” I’m free to live, work,  volunteer, travel, apply to medical school, and do so many other amazing things.

It’s not the present I planned for myself, but my wheelchair reality  is one I’m grateful for on so many levels. Levels of new adventures and life experiences. Levels of everlasting friendships and challenging goals. Levels of dealing with challenges and obstacles I didn’t realize can and do exist in people’s lives.

I’m in a wheelchair     ….   and it’s a cool one.
I’m in a wheelchair    ….   and it has taken me places I never would have gone walking.
I’m in a wheelchair    ….    and I’m proud of it.

Mom-ing Glory

As you likely know, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. If you didn’t realize that, your welcome in advance.

You know, I appreciate holidays that urge you to appreciate or be thankful for something. Thanksgiving has always been on the top of my “favorite holiday” list but there is simply SO MUCH to be thankful for  that it’s nice that certain things get their own mini-holidays.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you have certainly met (in a sense) my Mom. There was this time when my sisters and I planned a surprise wedding anniversary party for her and Dad, or this time when I almost got her arrested at the airport, or this time when I talked about my Mom’s obsession with Costco toilet paper (which also happened here and here and I’m sure a bajillion other places…) Needless to say, Mom makes a lot of blogging appearances.

Yet, I know I’ve never “dedicated” an entire blog post to her and I think now would be the perfect time. Okay Mom, I know you’re rolling your eyes going “oh great” and you would be correct, it is great:D Now stop rolling your eyes.

hallo

My family has always been pretty close to one another and that can certainly be seen in almost any picture from my childhood. Mom took on what I’m convinced to be the hardest job on the planet and was/is a stay-at-home mom for us three girls. That meant she was there and involved in every and all aspects of our very busy lives. Whether it was 4-H related activities, karate lessons, or coming up with and helping to make ridiculously impressive Halloween costumes, Mom was there.

Fast forward to all of us in high school where she supported each and every one of the ridiculous endeavors we involved ourselves with. Jazz Band, Show Choir, the school musicals, the high school plays, planning an after prom and after graduation party (complete with a cash cube…you know, monopoly/real money flying all around in the air that you have to catch) and then the epic parties. At my graduation party, not only were my sheep present but there was a bounce house and dunk tank. Seriously. I mean, what kind of mom does that? Well, mine does.

grad1

Fast forward through college (again, supporting us whether we’re 20 minutes from home or 4 hours) and then we get to wheeling land. Mom was there and has been there through it all. From the day I “came to” at Craig Hospital in Colorado to the the months of struggling to find acceptance to finally finding my independence again, she was there in all her Mom-ing glory. Continue reading

Dear Legs

I’m a journaler.

Woah, I guess according to spell check, journaler isn’t actually a word. Oh well, today’s a live on the edge kind of day.

Pausing to reflect and write down my thoughts (or  about my most recent crush which was an embarrassingly common occurrence during my teenage years) is something I’ve been doing on and off since high school. I recently pulled out one of my first journals and man, reading some of that stuff was a whole new level of funny, but moving on…

journal

I tend to live the majority of my days at a much faster pace than I probably should. I guess I’ve come to realize that when I take the time to stop and really consider those little moments (or those big moments) by journaling, it helps. It helps me process. It helps me to calm down and work through tough situations. It helps me to keep things in perspective. It’s also super quaint and picturesque to sit with a cup of coffee, pen and paper and just write (You know, that thing you were taught to do back in elementary school).

My journal “entries” don’t usually have any sort of format. They’re more of a stream of consciousness, rambling about whatever comes into my head sentence conglomeration. Recently, a blog of a friend of mine posted about this self-love journal letter challenge. In essence, you write a letter each day to a particular entity. For example, dear younger me, dear first love, dear hunger, dear mornings…you  know, that kind of thing. Continue reading

#Adulting

Have you ever realized that life seems to have a certain “expected progression” of events? You know, things that should happen to you or that you should do just because that’s what everyone does?

In my mind, this is the expected life progression: birth → go to school → get a job → maybe do the “fall in love and have kids” song and dance → retire. Of course there are a lot of other things that happen in life that actually make it meaningful, but the broad strokes seem to follow the “educate →work→retire” pathway.

When you have a spinal cord injury, that pathway is basically obliterated. No matter where you’re standing on it, you won’t be anymore because 1) you can’t stand and 2) everything in your once well-constructed and well-planned life is and will be different.

My injury happened when I was in the “go to school” phase of my path and essentially, that’s where I still am as I now begin the application process to attend medical school. It’s actually a year long process (meaning I’m applying for the entering class of 2017), which is a long time to just  sit and wait.

I’m good at sitting, not so good at waiting…. Continue reading

Spit it Out

Language is such a complex topic — the way we talk, the words we choose to portray a particular thought, the countless grammar rules one must be aware of to sound like a pseudo-educated human being. It’s a lot to have in a person’s head all for the sake of communication, whether it be conversational or your own internal “self-talk.”

I’m not one of those people who is really good with language. All those rules and parts of speech and spelling and punctuation? Yuck, not really my cup of tea (or coffee). The only reason I can tell you when you should use a semicolon instead of a colon is because I just googled it (and I’ll probably forget within the next hour and do it incorrectly anyway).  Yet,  I will admit to having a certain love of all the ridiculous idioms and well known phrases we use in the English language.

That’s a piece of cake. Why don’t you just spill the beans? Well now he’s gotten a taste of his own medicine.

You know, phrases like that. Yet, I never really realized how many of those phrases cause a bit of “literal dissonance” for a person in my shoes… uh, wheels.

I do have some pretty cool shoes though…

I just want to get my foot in the door. She’s trying to climb the corporate ladder. They were paralyzed with fear. Continue reading

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