At Ease

My blog posting habits are (noticeably) pretty random. I don’t have any kind of schedule or “I must post every other week or once a month” kind of goal. Maybe it would be a good idea, but meh….

I write when inspiration strikes. I write when I have an experience that surprises, shocks, and/or confuses me. I write after I wake up at 2 in the morning with a “Oh goodness, I should spend some time thinking about that….” topic that popped into my mind. After all, I write because I enjoy it, not because I have to.

Now I say all of that, but I guess there is an exception. I have posted a blog on May 25th for every May 25th this blog has existed and I find it doubtful that will change anytime in the near future. I’m assuming you’ve connected the dots as to why that would be, but if not, May 25 is the anniversary of my spinal cord injury.

Some people make a pretty big deal out of that one day each year and I’m not saying that’s wrong, I’m just stating that as a fact. Some even have a special name for it like “My Life Celebration Day” or something similar. I mean, we’re all unique individuals and I certainly don’t think there is a right or wrong way to approach that one day out of the year where your injury will likely take a bit more of a front seat than it usually does.

Certainly some of the differences in the “approach” of such an anniversary are due to differences in personality. But now, coming from someone who is celebrating 4 years post-injury, I think a good amount of the difference in approach has to do with where you as an individual, where you as a member of a family, where you as an employee, and even where you as a friend “are.”

You know, I spent some time going back to read all of my past “May 25th” posts (if you’re curious, here are the links — 1: Press Pause 2: Uno. Dos. 3: At Least). It was an interesting thing to do, to almost “re-experience” some of those emotions and the places I’ve been on May 25th’s since passed. I will admit, the post from my one year anniversary struck a chord and imagining myself back at the moment… it was a bit of a melancholy reflection where I really just wanted to give my younger self a hug. As I progressed through those posts, there’s a noticeable change. Was it a confidence? A maturity? A better understanding? Maybe a more realistic and practical acceptance? I have no idea — but it’s definitely there.

lateSo I sit here today, looking around at where I am in all those previously mentioned categories — family, friends, work, life. I have no special name for today. I have no special plans or celebrations (besides getting a delicious latte and likely some sort of delicious carb to devour) for this “Year Number Four” anniversary. And you know, I am indescribably content.

At four years out, while I assuredly am by no means “a pro” at wheeling life, I’ve transitioned, matured, and grown through stages of life with an injury that I didn’t know even existed (yea, I realize that probably means there are still many more to go through…). I’ve reached a level of “seated normalcy” that the thought of being my full height in public and not receiving those fairly frequent “curiosity stares” would, in all likelihood, be unnerving. Continue reading

New Blooms

I’ve decided spring in Chicago is way more enjoyable than winter in Chicago. Then again, spring anywhere is probably more enjoyable than the cold and wet calamities of winter. I appreciate winter (and by extension snow) for the first few weeks and when it suits my desire to cross country ski, but beyond that… let’s just say I’m more than okay with today being April 29 and not January 29.

My phone’s photo gallery has quickly been filling up with springtime views of blooming flowers down Michigan Ave, reading along the lakeshore, and various coffee shops I couldn’t help but try. I seem to have developed this tendency to use my weekends to explore some of the countless Chicago neighborhoods resulting in even MORE photographs being added to the already substantial collection.

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Then again, today would be Saturday and I have zero plans or desire to leave my cozy apartment. The gloomy looking skies and the “consistent soaking rain that will persist throughout the afternoon and into the evening” forecast (the weatherman’s words, not mine) begs for a more subdued kind of day.

People have asked what I do, as a wheeler, when it rains. I mean, obviously I can’t really hold an umbrella and push. My answer: push really fast. I’m sure there’s some sort of dorky umbrella holder attachment for a chair, but I’m convinced that it would be more
hassle than it’s worth and I’d look like a complete moron since I would likely manage to unknowingly detach it and get it stuck in my wheels or goodness knows what else.

IMG_4114One of my cousin’s asked what I did with the rain living it such a pedestrian friendly city with my own pedestrian escapades and upon hearing my answer took it upon himself to help and found the attractive solution seen on the left (Note: enthusiastic model not included with purchase). Maybe “help” is a poor choice of words…

Long story short, I simply try to minimize my rain time or just push fast. Sure, I’ll undoubtedly get stopped at various crosswalks waiting for lights to change, but sometimes sweet little old ladies share their umbrellas with me and we have a lovely conversation. Literally – that happened and it made my day. So I manage – after all, as my Mom says, “You won’t melt” and thus far, she’s been right. Thanks Mom. Continue reading

Cross It Off

It’s official. I can cross something else off my bucket list. It’s not a big thing, but then again…it IS a big thing.

The now completed item: I have lived in my own apartment (not a sublet), on my lonesome (it’s just me and my butler Leonard — the roomba), for longer than a week without something traumatic and life altering (like a spinal cord injury) happening.

Yes, I know, that even being an item on the list probably says something about the quality and adventurousness (which is actually a word, I checked…) of said bucket list. Oh well, I’m not ashamed.

Sure I’ve been “independent” for quite some time since my injury, but after returning home from my inpatient rehab hospital stay in 2013, it didn’t make much sense logically to move out of the family home once and then shortly have to move again when I was accepted and ready to start medical school. PLUS, it gave me more time that I could spend making memories with (read: bothering) Mom, Dad, and the siblings.

It’s been exciting being “off on my own,” finally doing what I have worked so hard to even be able to think about doing. I think I’ve mostly adjusted to my current state of affairs. I’m not shocked when I open my eyes in the morning and no longer have to remind myself where in the world I am. Yea, it probably took me longer to get to that point than it should have…

You know, when you start something new, there are always so many little things to learn. So many little things one has to work through and figure out and integrate into your “normal.” And well in my world, there happen to be a couple extra things to work through relative to the average person. Continue reading

On Faith

I have a couple of “go to” spots that I tend to gravitate towards when I get around to writing a blog.
1. My bedroom at a desk/table situated by a window that looks out at the side of my neighbor’s house.
2. A random coffee shop located somewhere in the Fox Valley made complete by a caffeinated beverage close at hand.
3. The patio table on the back porch with the fluffy white four-legged canines sunning themselves at my wheels. Of course this one is only when it’s actually warm outside because I’m a bit of a cold weather wuss…

Today I’m at none of those spots because I’m 3+ hours away from all of them.

20170304_103552.jpgI’m 3+ hours away, looking out the window of my very own studio apartment on the 51st floor (of a 52 story building) overlooking the hustling and bustling Windy City. Yep, this one is coming to you from my “new digs” in Chicago, IL – my home for the next eight or so years as I attend medical/graduate school and work towards receiving a dual MD PhD degree. I start in a lab this Thursday, as in March 9th… so yea. Those 3 months went a little bit faster than I thought they were going to.

I made the “official” move a little less then a week ago which involved a lot of help from a pretty amazing moving crew.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 1.36.24 PM.pngIt’s impressive (and frightening) how much stuff one accumulates within three years (the time since I moved home post-injury to now). Let me just say, If you think you don’t have a lot of stuff buried in hidden places in your bedroom that just seems to appear as you look under and behind things that haven’t been moved for an embarrassingly long time, I promise you — you’re severely mistaken. Continue reading

Back Again

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
Ingonyama
Siyo nqoba

After attempting to read that you’ve likely come to a few different conclusions.
A) I’ve officially lost it
B) I fell asleep at my keyboard and forgot to correct all my typo’s
C) I have some sort of point concerning what appears to be the gibberish written above
D) I’ve always wondered what they’re actually saying at the beginning of The Lion King‘s “Circle of Life” song and finally decided to google it

I guess in reality, the answer would be a portion of all of the above. Well, except B. I’m shockingly wide awake after a delicious cup of coffee, workout in my racing chair, and am sitting outside in this ridiculously marvelous 55° and sunny weather that makes being indoors feel like a crime. Pretty sure I couldn’t fall asleep right now if I tried — but that’s beside the point.

“Circle of Life” is one of those everybody knows kind of songs. After all, with music composed by Elton John and those well known lyrics by Tim Rice, it’s hard to NOT belt into song when that chorus arrives. It’s a great song in an even greater movie, but I tend to just let things stop there and never found a reason to get all philosophical over lyrics to a classic children’s movie (Note: I say children’s movie, but I may have just watched Pocahontas last night so… yea). I guess I really should say I never found a reason until a good friend of mine recently made a pretty profound comment that caused me to take pause.

You see, last week I headed out to Denver, Colorado for what is called an outpatient re-evaluation at Craig Hospital (where I did my 2-month inpatient stay after my spinal cord injury in 2013). A re-evaluation is basically a chance to meet and work with therapists, doctors, etc who really know and understand spinal cord injuries. After all, it’s a pretty complex injury affecting so much more than simply the ability to walk. With that in mind, having the opportunity to work out any kinks in health, refine techniques, and even check out seating posture/equipment is a good one.

20170211_154242I ended up flying out to Denver by way of Minneapolis (flights were remarkably cheaper out of the cities) so was able to spend a bit of time in my ole’ college stomping grounds at a coffee shop with some friends. We recounted some of our most recent life adventures and talked about our various futures ranging from the journey of a new marriage, to making a tough decision over which school to attend, to actually joining the workforce as a large animal veterinarian. Not gonna lie, my immediate future of heading to Craig the following day was feeling a bit more like looking backwards than looking forward. Continue reading

Free to Be

Freedom.

It’s a loaded word. Those simple seven letters are charged with so many meanings and packed with countless implications that we often don’t recognize. For example, thanks to various current events in the United States, the mention of that seven letter word may have you thinking this is going to be a political post…. don’t worry, it’s not.

Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with something being loaded – it’s just the way it is. I mean, I sure love me a good loaded baked potato. After all, is there really any other way to eat a potato? I think not.

So if I’m gonna talk about freedom but not in the environment of politics, what environment is this little contemplation going to reside? Well, a pretty cold one. With a lot of reasonably soft, fluffy, white snow.

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Yea, an environment like that.

Over the last week I was off traveling (again), and this time instead of going to a warmer climate like Florida, I was in the much snowier climate of South Dakota. See, I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to spend the next few months “playing” before I had to actually grow up, become more of an adult, and start medical school.

Why South Dakota? An amazing event called Black Hills Ski for Light (you can check out their website/program here). It’s an event I was introduced to during my year as Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 and I had such an amazing time that I attended the following year (2016) and since I loved it just as much (if not more) I went back for even more fun this past week.  Continue reading

First Quarter

A day is a day is a day. After all, they’re 24 hours long regardless of if it’s December 1st or June 1st. Yet, some days seem to pass faster than others. Some days are good days and some are less than good. Some days we fear (Friday the 13th anyone?) and some we celebrate for any number of reasons.

In my world, today happens to be of the “celebratory” kind since I am now another year older. Yea, there certainly is some truth to the “time sure flies when you’re having fun” phrase. I have officially survived a whole quarter of a century and have reached one of the last big “now you can” milestones — that milestone being… now you can rent a car. Yippee.

You know, it’s kind of interesting how as you get older it becomes less of the norm to say how old you are. It’s almost as if you should be embarrassed by the fact that you’ve actually experienced the world, that you’re not as naive as you once were, and that you’ve made mistakes and managed to survive them. At 25 years old, I have no issue sharing my age, but I wonder if that’ll ever change.

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My epic race crew. 

I was in Orlando, Florida last week with my little sister and Mom (Dad had no interest in joining us and my older sister was busy pretending to be a grown-up. Read: She was working). We went to the warm climate of Florida so I could cross off one of my “Impossible List” items (which is basically a bucket list). Said item to cross off – participate in a race in Disney World. I was all signed up and ready to race in the 20th Anniversary Half Marathon and go figure, there was a thunderstorm that day and the race got cancelled for safety reasons because of the lightning. Whoops.

It was a bit less than ideal, but I definitely appreciate the decision to keep so many people safe. I say “so many” because there were 17,000+ people that participated in the marathon race the following day. Yea….talk about the need for a lot of deodorant. But seriously, even though it was disappointing, I had plenty of other things to do and see that it truly wasn’t that big of a deal.  Continue reading

Remember how?

I’m an individual who has heaps of hobbies.

Don’t laugh too hard, I bet you know a “hobby heap-er” or are one yourself… You know, one of those people who seems to dabble in a little bit of everything. Those people who tell you they’re going to a quilter’s convention, then two weeks later you go on facebook and see pictures of them at a yoga retreat, and the following week when you  visit their house they offer you a glass of their home brewed beer (that’s one of my, “I-want-to-have-that-as-a-hobby” hobbies….brewing beer. I’m convinced that is a great idea).

I don’t think being a “hobby heap-er” is anything to be ashamed of. I mean, if you think about it, it often makes conversations with complete strangers exponentially easier because you’re bound to find something you can both relate to. On top of that, it can be fascinating to hear that an individual is interested in or has some particular hobby – like rug weaving or model train – when you least expect it.

Maybe you know this or maybe you don’t — but one of my hobbies is knitting. It’s something I’ve been doing since kindergarten and that isn’t an exaggeration. My Mom actually taught me when she was teaching my older sister Danielle. Well, maybe I should say trying to teach my older sister Danielle… You see, I can kind of be a pain in the butt and at some point in time Danielle threw in her needles and called it quits in the knitting world and stubborn me plodded on. Maybe knitting just wasn’t her thing, or maybe the fact that her little sister was now joining in on her lessons was enough for her to loose interest.

wool.pngNow don’t jump to any conclusions, knitting IS cool. I’ve made some pretty sweet projects and have even been able to travel simply because of my knitting. I knit a little black dress once (although since 6 foot tall me was wearing it, it was everything but little as seen in the picture on the right) for the WI Make it With Wool Competition that I won and then competed at the national level in Nashville, Tennessee. No I didn’t win at nationals, but I did come in 2nd runner up which is pretty cool 😀

I haven’t made any massive time consuming projects like that in quite some time. Most of my recent knitting projects have been of the baby-hats-to-donate-to-the-hospital variety. Nothing overly laborious, and honestly, they’re things I can practically knit with my eyes closed.

I guess in some ways, knitting is kind of like riding a bike. Or like driving. It takes a bit of time to learn how to do it – a few times face planting on the side walk, a few (or more) jerky stop and go’s – but once you have it figured out, well you have it figured out and you’re good to go. Continue reading

You’re Missing It

Most people recognize the quote by Jerry Seinfeld in reference to fear of public speaking and death. It goes something along the lines of with public speaking being fear #1 and death fear #2, logic supposes that at a funeral one would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. I certainly know people who can relate to that conclusion, but I am not one of those people.

The development of any kind of public speaking fear was rapidly obliterated during my childhood thanks to a wonderful mother who encouraged a very active participation in any and everything 4-H. Now I’m not being facetious with the comment about my wonderful mother. 4-H is and was a great experience, but it’s also a lot of work and responsibility of which an undeniable amount falls to the individual with a driver’s license in order to attend various events and gather supplies for fair projects. From demonstrations, to public speaking contests, to face-to-face judging, talking in front of people was unavoidable.

music1Fast forward to high school where some of my many extra-curriculars included forensics and debate where you are, in essence, scored on your ability to public speak. Then of course there were the more “fun” public speaking activities like spring play and fall musical. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush that comes from performing for a live audience just like there is nothing quite like some of the ridiculous costumes I found myself in. I guess even after high school and college I still continued to public speak in one form or another as Ms. Wheelchair WI 2014 and then Ms. Wheelchair America 2015. Long story short, I talk… a lot… and sometimes people other than my mother find themselves in a situation where it’s only polite to listen.

I don’t “perform” like I used to (at least not in a structured sense…) but I do still find myself with the occasional public speaking gig. Normally it isn’t anything too intense – talking to a nursing class about my experiences in healthcare, trying to challenge perceptions during diversity week at a college campus, sharing my faith journey as it progressed before, during, and after my injury – you know, that kind of stuff. I guess public speaking has become something I (generally) enjoy. It’s exciting to be able to share experiences and knowledge, I mean, that’s basically the reason I decided to blog. The ability to educate, to start conversations, to catalyze thinking, to spread ideas – it’s an often unrealized power we all have so no, I don’t fear public speaking.

Continue reading

It’s a thing

Word aversions — they’re totally a thing.

You know…those words that saying or hearing make you shudder (and I’m not talking about swear words). Maybe you don’t think you have them, but if you think about it long enough I bet you’ll come up with a few.

Some people despise the word “moist.” Don’t ask me why, I’m not one of those people. I don’t like saying the word “cookie.” I love what said word ultimately stands for, but there’s something about saying it that makes me mentally grimace. I think it’s the two hard “kuh” sounds in such a short timeframe, but who knows.

Then there are words that you don’t like because of an implied meaning that you maybe don’t want implied. For example, when people ask me about what my “accident” was or when my “accident” happened, I’ll respond by talking about my injury or when I was injured. It’s not that I take issue with calling what happened to me an accident, I just feel that “injury” fits better. Another example, if you go to Starbucks and order a medium latte, the barista is supposed to respond by clarifying that you want a grande latte since that’s the “lingo of Starbucks.” I probably shouldn’t admit that I know that…Yes, it’s the exact same size and thing, so does it make a difference? Probably not. Yet, as likely everyone has experienced, words are powerful things.

What’s another one of my strange “meaning-is-implied-in-not-quite-the-right-way” word aversions?
Busy. The word busy.

How are you? Good, I’ve been pretty busy.
Do you want to grab a cup of coffee? I can’t, I’m busy.
What has so-and-so been up to? I don’t know, they’re always so busy.

When you ask Google for the definition of busy, it’s about as simple as it gets.
Busy (adj) having a great deal to do.
Busy (verb) keeping occupied.

It’s a simple 4-letter word, and yet so often, so much is implied and assumed with its use — that implication that someone has too much going on and is simply too busy to be bothered by you. That’s sad right? Especially because that isn’t always what’s meant when someone says they’re busy. Continue reading