It takes a lot to leave me speechless. It takes a lot for me to not be able to find something to say (I mean, just ask my family). But I’m sitting here, trying to figure out where in the world to even start. Where to start to describe the events of August 4-10th….
August 4-10th was the National Ms. Wheelchair America (MWA) 2015 competition held in Long Beach, California. So we (Mom, Dad, and I) packed our bags and headed out there. I guess I shouldn’t make it sound so easy. We had an early flight to catch so we (plus Danielle, our driver) spent the night in Milwaulkee to be ready in time. Now THAT was an experience. We happened to stay in a hotel that was booked out for the Midwest Latin Dance Festival. Sounds all well and good right? Well, as the walls rumbled at midnight from a live band, we started to get a bit concerned. A call to the front desk informed us the band was on till 3am. 3am rolls around and the band stops only for a DJ to start. Needless to say, I was a bit concerned how the rest of the trip was going to go.
Thankfully things turned around the following day when we had the greatest flight attendants. I wore my Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin sash on the plane and the attendant wanted to know where my crown was. I informed him only Ms. Wheelchair America wore her crown during the competition, but he thought that just wouldn’t do. He disappeared around the corner and a few minutes later produced my very own South West style crown.
TAH DAHHH! Peanuts and stir sticks. How cool is that? I told him he wasn’t getting paid enough…
We arrived in gorgeous Long Beach safe and sound and once at the Hilton (where the pageant was held) I was instantly overwhelmed. There were so many wheelers to meet, an awesome agenda of workshops and interviews with judges, all while my body was still trying to adjust to the time change! But before I get too far into the week I have a story I’m pretty sure I’m required to share…
The first full day of MWA was a “fun day” where we went to the Aquarium of the Pacific. We were all given these awesome MWA T-shirts at check-in in plastic bags and told to wear the following day. Fine and dandy, I can do that right? I set all my clothes out the night before on my raised toilet seat that was in the very corner of the bathroom, away from everything just to make sure nothing WOULD happen to said required clothing. It couldn’t fall in the toilet and it couldn’t get wet on the ground from my inability to keep water from the shower IN the shower. That night I had this crazy dream, well nightmare, where my T-shirt somehow managed to fall in the toilet. I woke up the next morning thinking, “phew, thank goodness that was a dream.” At that very moment, I hear Mom walk out of the bathroom and whisper to Dad, “Uh-oh, Sam is gonna kill me.” Oh no….why am I gonna kill her…”Why?” Dad inquires. “Because I totally just dropped her shirt in the toilet.”
“YOU DID WHAT!”
I totally wish I had a picture of the look on her face when I threw the covers off of my head and just stared at her in shock and exasperation. Thank God for plastic bags and small miracles. Needless to say, Mom was “fired” from my payroll we joke about her being on (but she got rehired because she’s a pretty good chauffeur) I guess you don’t need enemies when you have a mother like mine (I’m just kidding Mom, I still love you bunches!).
But back to the week…
It’s rare as a wheeler to find yourself in the majority. Even more rare is being in the majority as both a wheeler AND a female. Before this week I had yet to be in a situation where there are more women wheelers than men wheelers. Rehabilitation-I was the only female in most if not all of my classes, sports camp-pretty male dominated (granted, I guess that many males running around sure has it’s perks:D) but here, I was surrounded by some amazing women, each with their own story to tell.
It was truly an amazing week where I learned so much about myself and the world I’m now proud to be apart of. It was also a pretty life changing week for multiple reasons, one of them being I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2015.
So with this honor to hold such a powerful title as an advocate, I will be spending my year traveling throughout the country, spreading word about this amazing organization (http://www.mswheelchairamerica.org/) and educating others about the needs, accomplishments, and abilities of individuals living with disabilities. Oh! If you’re a facebook person and want to follow my reign, check out and like my page here!
You know, I rolled into the competition not viewing it as a place to win or lose, but instead as a place to grow and learn. I had a feeling I would be the newest to living life with a disability and I wasn’t wrong. But I think that was one of the greatest blessings about my week at MWA. The beautiful and intelligent women who were selected to represent their state each taught me a unique lesson, often times without even knowing they were doing so.
I was in awe at the courage of each and every one of my new MWA sisters, unwilling to take “no” for an answer while still gracefully educating the world around them.
During that week, I came to realize all that is beautiful about being different.
The beauty of not blending in and instead
standing sitting up for what you believe in.