One Third.

Memorial Day — it’s already here. Or maybe, depending upon your perspective, it’s finally here. If you identify as a service member of the US military, my heartfelt thanks and prayers to you and your family. I can only imagine the sacrifices made by both you and those you hold dear, let alone the experiences you’ve had and memories that likely cross your mind today (and everyday) as a result of that service. I would guess today carries a lot more meaning to you than the “average” individual. A date viewed as the “unofficial” start of summer and an excuse to grill excessive amounts of brats and burgers shifts to poignant memories of decisions made and people you spent many long and difficult hours with. I can’t and won’t pretend to know what today must feel like for you, but know I (and so many others) are especially grateful for all you have done and continue to go through.

I think days to pause and remember are good things. A time to reflect, process, and let go of some difficult memories or maybe revisit and laugh at others. This Memorial Day is a uniquely special one to me as it lands on May 25 — the seven year anniversary of my injury. I was injured at age 21, so as of today, I have officially lived in this “wheeling existence” for a third of the length of time I lived walking. Such a, dare I say, accomplishment may not seem like a mark worth noting, but thinking back to a time when living seven days as a wheeler seemed impossible…. well, making it and thriving (generally) for seven years is a beautiful thing.

Unsurprisingly, this anniversary feels quite a bit different than the previous six. Sure, perhaps some of that is the result of the classic “older and wiser” adage, but I’m pretty sure I can give a large nod to the state of the world and our country as we’re forced to contend with the unknown of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m experiencing this anniversary some 200 miles away from my family as I continue to “shelter in place” in IL, social distancing from friends, and spending more time with my cat than is probably healthy (though I don’t think she minds anymore…). I’ve had anniversaries away from my family before, all of which could be attributed to the grind and commitments of a dual degree training program, but this, “you probably shouldn’t be at home right now” is obviously a bit different. It feels strange to not be able to laugh side-by-side with my sisters, shake my head at some ridiculous remark made by my Dad, or give my Mom a huge hug and tease her about her “convict” ways when I was in the rehab hospital and she would “steal” forks and mayo packets from the cafeteria so we could make egg and/or chicken salad in my hospital room (true story). I guess I just didn’t expect this to be the way this anniversary would go down. And you know, I’m pretty sure I’m in the same boat as the majority of the US when I say I didn’t ever expect something like this to happen.

That’s the funny thing about life and expectations, right?
They rarely align.

While I don’t intend or want to minimize the implications and impact of a global pandemic, I can’t help but notice the parallels that exist between the experience of now and what I went through seven years ago. A world seemingly turned upside down. Questions of if things will ever feel normal again. Wondering how and what it will look like to return to work or school. Having to adjust and adapt on a daily if not hourly basis as you learn more, enter a new environment, or want to perform a different task. Having to maneuver and go out into the world with some additional physical items (though I promise you, masks are much cheaper and easier to manage than wheelchairs…even if they consistently fog up your glasses).

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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

Uno. Dos.

One.
Two.

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… Continue reading

Pure Epic

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. Continue reading

It’s Over?

Alright, so before I officially start I have some news I need to get off my chest. News that if you aren’t a local and have been following my lovely little blog here, you will certainly be able to appreciate. But first, a back story…

I grew up in a house different than the one I currently reside. It was across the road from our farm with the milking cow herd and all the sheds that housed goodness knows what kind of necessary farm machinery. We moved out and our old farm house was burned down and that land has since been an empty piece of “prairie.” It appears it may no longer sit empty.

They want to put a Costco there.
Yep, I’ll just let that sink in for a little while.

They’re going to put a COSTCO where MY MOTHER used to LIVE. Wow….If you don’t believe me, you can read this article in the Post Crescent. I’m telling you, God seriously has a sense of humor.

Alright, back to the goods….(That is, if I can stop chuckling to myself. I mean just think how much gas we’re going to save not having to run to Green Bay! But I digress…)

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and your celebrations were warm and wonderful. I know, that feels like so long ago doesn’t it? At least it sure does to me. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and no, not because of the food. Awe, who am I kidding, that’s one of the reasons it’s my favorite. I just really love the atmosphere that surrounds Thanksgiving. I’ve always been a big “atmosphere” kind of person. I love soaking in my surroundings, like the warm cozy feeling of a coffee shop on a cold winter day with your hands wrapped around a warm mug of some delicious beverage. Sigh.

Tgiving

The atmosphere of Thanksgiving is simply intoxicating. The warmth of a home from all the cooking and the delicious scents meandering through the air (yea, okay, food is totally apart of it). The gentle buzz of familiar conversation and the rustling of Black Friday advertisements. That beautiful feeling of love and thankfulness. Continue reading

Dream a Little Dream

So I’ve come off of my “I’m-a-princess-Mom-so-there” high which is probably a good thing–for everyone. I’m speaking to some high school students this week which is exciting and I already have a collection of other “events” in the works which is pretty cool. Gotta keep myself busy right? So I’ve been trying to figure out where I wanted to keep my crown when I wasn’t wearing it (Dad told me if I wore it to bed the tiara fairy might come and steal it) I think I found the perfect place on my dresser…

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That little dude is a stuffed microbe. More specifically, he’s E coli:D I got him from some friends and he makes my life. I also think he looks pretty good in a crown. Man, am I strange, how many Miss Wheelchair’s can say they keep their crown on top of their stuffed microbe…

You know what else is strange? Dreams. Dreams are strange things, both the sleep related dreams and the what-in-the-world-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life dreams.  This post is about both kinds. Continue reading

Did you want fries with that?

So before I officially get started, just a little side note…

Some awesome friends filmed and edited a video of me and my parents that tells my story. It’s out and published and you can see it by clicking on the “Benefit” tab at the top of the page. There’s a big ole “click HERE” link that’ll direct you to the online fundraising page with the video right there to watch. So check it out:) There are some other updates on that tab too…like an awesome sheep made outta Costco toilet paper. Yea, I’m serious and yea, there’s a picture….

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Have you ever noticed how things almost always come as units? I mean, it’s rarely if ever just a burger. Instead, it’s a whole combo meal. When you buy a car, it’s not just the car. It’s the car, the insurance policy, the oil changes, the gas, and on and on. Spinal cord injuries are kinda like that car. It looks like one thing on the outside, and not until you’re in the midst of it all do you really realize what it all entails. Not until you’re back at the mechanic for the umpteenth time because your transmission dropped, your spark plugs went hay wire, or goodness know what else happened does it finally click.

Yea, spinal cord injuries are like that.

I learned early on that the whole “not walking” part of a spinal cord injury was and is the easy part of all of this. No really, the “using a wheelchair to get around” was and is the least of my worries. It’s all that other crap that comes with this that challenges everything I am and stand for. It’s the rest of the package deal that makes this as difficult as it is somedays. Continue reading

With age comes __________

So this post is brought to you by a year older Sam. Yep, I turned 22 on the 14th. Hence why my favorite number is 14 and this year rocks (granted, if we’re speaking in relative terms, it doesn’t have to do a heck of a lot to beat 2013) But anyways…I think we’ve all heard the phrase “with age comes wisdom” at some point in time. I always used to simply take that at face value. I felt as though the people older then me sure seemed to have more wisdom than I did, even the Costco toilet paper obsessed ones. And heck, I still feel that way. But I don’t think “with age comes wisdom” is entirely true. I’m sitting here, as I always am (ha, sorry…bad joke) an entire year older, not feeling like I’ve gained very much wisdom.

However,  I have gained something else—life experiences.

If you would have asked 21-year-old Sam the things she expected to experience before she became 22-year-old Sam, she would have been pretty confident in her answer. She would have said things like, she expected to graduate college with her degree, she expected to get married, she expected to start vet school, she expected to be happily residing in an apartment in MN with her new husband. Obviously my last year of life experiences was drastically different than I had expected, it sure is funny how life turns out… Continue reading

185 Days of Lessons

It's all about perspective

It’s all about perspective

It always amazes me how much can happen in a short period of time, but I’m actually speechless at how much has happened in the past 6 months of my life alone. There’s no easy way to summarize the events that have lead me to where I’m sitting now. No way to describe the laughs that fill my home or the jokes that so quickly consume my conversations. No way to quantify the number of tears I’ve cried or the times I just wanted to wake up from this terrible dream. No way to express my gratitude and thanksgiving for the challenges I’ve already encountered and will continue to face. I guess the best way to try is by reflecting on a few of the lessons God has decided to begin teaching me since I was injured 6 months ago today.
Continue reading