All posts by Peggy Chenoweth

I am a soon-to-be middle aged below knee amputee. I am also the Mommy to a very active little boy, and expecting my second child. I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. I've lost my leg, but certainly not my courage and love of life!

Enjoying Soda- UNlimiter Style

Generally speaking, I live a relatively UNlimited life.  I suppose that living with my disability for more than a decade has allowed me ample time to adapt without much thought.  Many of my accommodations for my limb loss occur so naturally that I must make a concerted effort to recognize the adaptations.  Living a life with limb loss has become my norm.

Although I’m comfortable with living as an amputee, I have come to recognize that I have made adjustments to just about every aspect of my life. From the obvious, such as installing permanent grab bars to my bathroom, to the discrete, I am constantly tweaking and searching for easier ways. Each change, in its own way, has helped to simplify my life.

My family, especially my husband, consumes an obscene amount of soda. We used to have 2 liter bottles lined across the back of my kitchen counters, and mountains of cans stacked in the corner. Although I hated the aesthetic aspects that soda storage caused, I despised lugging everything from the car more!

Carrying heavy and cumbersome objects is something that I will never ever fully embrace. I don’t feel safe when I can’t use the handrail when  going up or down the stairs. Balancing heavy loads makes me feel precarious, especially when I can’t see my prosthesis to confirm proper step placement.  Schlepping heavy boxes of soda cans, or bags overflowing with 2 liter bottles, was a chore which I avoided whenever possible.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Soda Stream must have been invented to make the lives easier of those with disabilities. Gone are the days of carrying heavy and awkward cans and bottles from the car to the kitchen. I no longer have 1/3 bottles of flat soda lined up on my countertop, and the soda can fort is gone from the corner of my dining room.

I admit that I was skeptical of the Soda Stream the first dozen times I saw the store display. Would the soda taste good? Did the machine work as advertised? Was the convenience worth the initial investment? Would this machine actually end us saving us money?  After finally breaking down and giving it a try, I have to say that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes!

My husband and I have different tastes when it comes to soda, and we are now able to easily accommodate both of our preferences. Instead of pushing around the large bottles, we now have a variety of syrups which store discretely in our cabinet. At the push of a button we can make any soda desired and we don’t have to worry about the excess going flat. We only make what we can drink, assuring that we always have the proper carbonation.

Although my husband loves the variety of flavors, I appreciate the fact that we no longer have to wrestle with moving heavy cans and bottles. This machine has completely eliminated a situation which used to render me uncomfortable and unsafe. In another small way, the Soda Stream has helped me to continue my UNlimiter status!

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Cat Duty–UNlimited

I have always loved animals. Growing up we had both cats and dogs and, although I loved both, I have come to accept that I am more of a cat person. I have nothing against dogs, but I appreciate the self-reliance and simplicity of being a cat parent.

Dogs, at least those that I have grown up with, tend to jump and knock me off balance. They grab dishrags, remote controls and cell phones and take of scurrying through the house, creating an ill-advised version of canine tag.  Regardless of the weather or the state of my limb, a dog would have to be walked. For all of these reasons, I prefer feline companionship. Of course, these experiences are also an indication of our total inability to competently teach our canine companions.

Cats, at least the two in our house, are low maintenance friends. They curl on my lap to get warm, play and entertain my little boy, and use a litter box independently. I appreciate all of those attributes. Both cats are full-fledged family members who know their roles and responsibilities.  They don’t trip me up when I walk, catch a rogue mouse occasionally and accept doting and love.  All things considered, being a cat in our household is a pretty good gig.

The only part of cat ownership I don’t relish is the litter box. Of course, it certainly beats the alternative of pooper scooping outside in all weather.  However, digging around in feline excrement is not my idea of entertainment.  I’ve quickly discovered that a primary benefit of this pregnancy is the “no litter box” rule dictated by my OB/GYN.

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I have been coveting the Litter Maid automated cat box for years and was ecstatic when he came home with it one day. After filling it with litter and plugging it in, we anxiously waited for the cats to visit so that we could watch the machine in action.  The prospect of not having to squat and precariously balance over a dirt filled, smelly and unhygienic box was almost too exciting to bear!

I have to admit that I am surprised with how well this little machine works. In one movement it sweeps the dirty litter into a self-contained receptacle. The dirty litter container has a lid which helps to control odor and mess.  Knowing that our house will again be wreaking with unsavory baby smells, any odor control barriers are greatly appreciated!

Although I can’t change the dirty litter container when it becomes full, I have no doubt that the task will be both easy and quick. I am excited that I’ll no longer be squatting over the litter box, trying to balance while digging through a pan of cat excrement.  The fact that I won’t have to be intimate with the cat box makes the prospect of my reassuming this responsibility acceptable.  The Littermaid Automatic Litterbox is just another product which has helped me to become an UNlimiter!

Cupcake Mom

I venture to guess that only a handful of my son’s classmates actually know my name. Instead of sticking with formalities, they have begun to refer to me as the “cupcake Mom.” I smile every time I hear the reference and I have made no attempts to correct them. After all, it is a title which I have worked hard to earn.

I remember being a child and feeling the rush of excitement when a Mom was spotted in the hallway, ready to deliver cupcakes. Since my little guy started school, I have made a point of delivering treats to his class on a regular, but unscheduled, basis. Of course I always check with his teacher, but the students (including my son) rarely know when I will show up at the door.

Because I have made so many cupcake deliveries over the years, I have become something of an expert in the packing and transporting of baked goods. For awhile I used to just line the treats up in a baking pan. I quickly learned that the cupcakes either tipped over or were difficult to remove from the tray. Nobody likes it when somebody’s finger goes into the icing as they try to pick it up out of the pan.

I’ve tried a variety of cupcake carriers over the years, but all posed various flaws. Many lack a sturdy handle, necessitating me to use both arms to carry the treats into the school. Because of balance issues, I feel more comfortable and I am more stable if I have at least one hand free at all times. Trust me, losing your balance and dropping the entire tray of cupcakes in front of the excited class of first graders creates a sense of disappointment which is nearly impossible to convey.

Most cupcake carriers which feature a handle only have room for two dozen cupcakes. I consistently need to carry at least 30 cupcakes. Not wanting to have to squish the treats together to make them fit, I kept looking.

Finally I have found a cupcake holder which meets all of my needs. It features a sturdy handle, allowing me to keep my balance at all times. I can carry the treat box at my side, allowing me to see where I am going and to avoid tripping up with my prosthesis. The holder has room for 3 dozen cupcake wells, providing each treat with a designated spot to avoid tipping and falling onto each other. As an added bonus, the carrier is clear. This was not a requisite but has certainly enhanced the excitement that my treats garner when I walk into the room.

Being a Mom is my greatest joy. I love when I discover a product that makes things just a little easier. It may seem like a small thing to so many, but the fact that I don’t feel unstable while delivering treats to my son’s class is important.  This cupcake holder is just another product which has helped me to become an UNlimiter.

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Journaling in the New Year

For weeks we have been inundated with commercials tempting us to eat the extra cookies, forgo the diet and indulge. It felt like it was almost scrooge-like to deny yourself.  After all, it was the holidays!

As soon as the countdown begins for the New Year, the messaging changes. Television commercials switch from “go ahead and eat the cookie” to “you’re fat because you ate too many cookies. You need a diet.” If we aren’t being told that we are fat, we are out-of-shape, disorganized or downright dirty.  Watching television this time of years feels like an exercise in masochism.  Personally, I prefer the pre-holiday commercials. At least when I turned off the television I was happily munching on a cookie instead of feeling like an overweight, out of shape, messy failure!

Every year I have fallen into the New Year/New You marketing trap. This year is different. I am working too much, too busy with my family and I am pregnant. I don’t have time to beat myself up. This year, I have resolved to grant myself holistic acceptance. Maybe it is because I am turning 40 this year, but if I want to make a change in my life it will not be because celebrities on television tell me I’m overweight and need to buy their diet plans.

Acceptance is turning into the greatest gift. Instead of starting the New Year feeling badly, I find myself feeling optimistic and happy. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t opened the door to improvement, but it does mean that I will make changes on my timeline, not based upon the changing of a calendar. Between managing my work, family and pregnancy, I am simply too overwhelmed to embark on any radical personal projects.

With acceptance comes personal reflection. With my mind freed from self-punishing dialogs, I have rediscovered a sense of enthusiasm which has missing for some time.  It is amazing the optimism that comes from switching the internal dialog from “you’re not good enough” to “what makes you happy.”  Lately I have been so overwhelmed with ideas and dreams that I needed a place to write them all down.

I suppose I could easily write my ideas into a Word document, but I spend so much of my professional life on the computer that I wanted something special. I have decided to go start an old-fashioned, pen and paper journal. I have discovered that there is something special about handwriting on paper. It takes more time, but it also allows me more of an opportunity to reflect and escape. In an effort to affirm that my thoughts, dreams and goals have value, I picked a journal which reflected my newly granted acceptance.  Writing, just for myself, has helped to UNlimit my potential.

Change is always difficult and is only successful when implemented on a personal timeline. Hanging a new a calendar, and being bombarded with negative messages is not the motivation most people need. This year, I encourage everybody to embrace acceptance instead of falling into the pattern of forced change. I truly believe that self-improvement will be a natural extension of acceptance, and that the changes will be lasting. For me, writing in a journal is my first step towards self-discovery.

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Happy New Year. May 2014 be the year of acceptance (and the journal!)

Stepping Higher

Ten years ago, when I began my new life as an amputee, I devised a lengthy list of things to avoid. Creating this list, although probably not the healthiest approach to rehabilitation, kept me occupied during the painful recovery. As the surgical and emotional pain waned and I mastered living life with a prosthesis, the majority of my self-imposed limitations were quickly eradicated. I learned that living an UNlimited life with a disability was possible.

One of the self-imposed limitations involved ladders. The prospect of climbing a ladder, not my favorite task with two sound feet, became petrifying when I became an amputee.  Climbing high, relying upon foot placement while lacking proprioception, made me feel vulnerable. I detest feeling vulnerable!

Unfortunately, being a homeowner and a Mom was not conducive to a ban on heights. Light bulbs need to be changed, cabinet tops need to be dusted (granted not all that often) and toys need to be stowed out of reach. Perhaps more than feeling vulnerable, I despise feeling dependent. Having to wait for my husband to come home from work each time a simple height restricting chore needed to be done became frustrating. I knew that I had to figure out a way to complete these tasks unassisted, so one day I headed to our local home improvement store.

Traditional ladders, with narrow or rounded rungs, were immediately eliminated due to my phobic safety concerns. I wanted something with wide steps, but I needed it to be lightweight and easy to handle. Minimal storage space was appreciated but was not a high priority.

After looking through my options, I was delighted to find this Rubbermaid 3-Step folding step stool. The extra large steps eliminate the Imageworry about the position of my prosthesis. The step stool is sturdy and is highly portable. I was delighted to discover that its compact storage size allows me to keep it between my refrigerator and the wall!

This step-stool, although not nearly as high as a traditional ladder, allows me to safely and comfortably reach all light fixtures, cabinets and closet shelves. I love not having to ask for help to change a light bulb, and my husband appreciates having something removed from his honey-do list. This step stool is another tool which has helped me to become an UNlimiter!

Santa Magic (and a recipe for Reindeer Food)

The next few days will be busy as I desperately try to remember every aspect of elf magic. My son is seven and, although he is still young, I fear that he is now has a few doubts about Santa Claus. My mission from now until Christmas morning is to fully infuse our daily routines with as much “magic” as possible, a task which will no doubt become exhausting!

Today I am hosting his class party and one of our activities is making Reindeer Food. Sure, you can buy little packets of the magical feed at gift shops and holiday stores. But at a cost of $4 a bag I quickly decided it was more economical, and considerably more fun, to make the treat at home. After all, reindeer prefer homemade over store bought and processed food.

Reindeer food is easy to make, and is my first line in the “please still believe” defense. We mix one cup of plain oats, 2 Tablespoons of colorful cookie sugar (any bright color will suffice), 1 Tablespoon of silver glitter (so that it sparkles in the moonlight and is easy for the reindeer to locate), and one crushed sugar cookie. Mix it all in a plastic bag and spread on the yard Christmas Eve to herald the reindeer to your house.  (Just a quick note of experience, avoid spreading the oatmeal concoction on the road or pavement. Our first year we liberally piled the reindeer food all over the road, which resulted attracting mice (who no doubt thought they were being surprised with a wonderful gift). Unfortunately, the hawks also reaped a Christmas meal as they stalked the mice who were happily munching on the road.

In our home, Santa has made a yearly tradition of leaving one gift on Christmas Eve. Apparently his sleigh is heavy with all the toys for the good girls and boys, so he has to lighten the load. Santa makes the delivery in learning mode, because the gift is never in the same place and often it is hidden from sight.  Thankfully the Jolly Elf leaves a ribbon pointing in the direction of the present. It usually takes us an hour to locate the lost present. Last year we also found a jingle bell in our yard, apparently the casualty of a difficult sleigh landing!

After my little guy goes to bed on Christmas Eve, my husband and I will arrange all of his presents under the tree. I will munch on the cookies and slurp down the hot chocolate. While Scott fills the stocking I’ll turn my attention to making powdered sugar boot prints from the fireplace to the tree. You really would think Santa wouldn’t be so messy!

All of the work, the hours of preparation and planning, will be dismantled in sheer minutes as Robby tears through the brightly covered packages. Right now he credits Santa for all of the magic, but someday I know he will appreciate our efforts to make this season special and fun. Until then, I plan on continuing to go overboard with the holiday magic.

On Thursday my thoughts will turn from Christmas to reclaiming my home. I am not one for having the tree and decorations looming into January. Everything will be ornamentfully dismantled and stowed by New Years, so that I can start 2014 with a clean and uncluttered (and unglittered) home. Several years ago I discovered the Rubbermaid Large Ornament Storage Box. It has made the unfavorable task of stowing the ornaments a breeze! I have come to expect that every cherished ornament will survive the storage year unscathed because it is fully protected within its own compartment in this sturdy storage box. The fact that I no longer have to fumble with wrapping and stacking my treasures between tissue paper is wonderful! I would highly recommend ordering this storage box now so that you have it at the ready when the time comes to take down the tree.

I would like to wish everybody a joyful and happy holiday season. May the magic of the holidays find a way into your home, and may you create memories which will last a lifetime.

My New Favorite Leg Lotion

Perhaps my favorite part of working prosthetic conferences, with the exception of room service, is the ability to see all of the new prosthetic products available. I am constantly amazed at the rapid advances that are being made. While the focus is often on the computerized, sexier prosthetics, some of the most life enhancing products are often unsung and taken for granted.

During my breaks I enjoy walking through the exhibition hall, talking with vendors and learning about new products. Okay, I also admit that I’m a sucker for samples and freebies. What can I say, conference swag makes me smile! I often come home from the conferences with an extra suitcase stuffed with samples, brochures and trinkets.

Yesterday morning I was hurting. The skin on my limb was beginning to chafe, and a small blister on the side had still not healed. I reached for my go-to tub of Eucerin creme when I remembered that I had picked up a sample of a new product at a conference several months ago. In warmer weather I don’t encounter the chapping and chafing issues that often occur in the winter, so I have never had a chance to try the product. Touted as a solution to a chafing residual limb, I decided to put the claim to the test.

As soon as the lotion was applied, I knew that it was special. It absorbed quickly, leaving my skin soft and smooth. Donning my liner was easy, and I didn’t feel the nagging skin tugging that I was experiencing when rolling on my liner. I stepped into my leg and took a few cautious steps. I never would have imagined that a simple lotion would have such a profound impact. My discomfort was completely gone! Needless to say, I was amazed.

It turns out that my skin has been pulling against my liner. The constant tugging has been causing friction burns that resemble Imagechapping. I assure you I am not a spokesperson for the company, but I couldn’t make this lotion discovery and not share my experience.

After one day I am sold on this product, and I was delighted when I realized that it could be ordered directly by the consumer. (Anytime I don’t have to go through my doctor or prosthetist for a product I am a happy camper!)  If you are having skin breakdown, or feel like you might be tugging within your liner, give Alps Prosthetic Skin Lotion a try. I was shocked that it yielded such profound results for me. Sometimes the simplest products can yield the most profound results!

Comfort Pregnancy Pillow

This May I will be turning 40. Although I never envisioned myself living with a disability (after all, who really expects the accident to happen to them), I can say that I am happier with my life than I ever imagined. I have a wonderful job which affords me the opportunity to help and to interact with amazing people every day. My family fills my life with love, happiness and laughter.  I am truly blessed.

Although I have so many wonderful blessings, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the prospect of turning 40 had been hitting me hard. I simply don’t feel middle aged! Instead of focusing on the looming number, I decided that I wanted to do something utterly amazing to mark the milestone.  Changes are always easier to swallow when you are celebrating with an adventure.

My best friend, who will also turn 40 this year, and I have been talking about several options. We thought about going on a cruise, but something that extravagant is simply cost prohibitive for both of us. I wanted to go zip-lining, but her fear of heights kept us grounded. In the middle of our adventure negotiations I received news which changed the entire dynamic.

Instead of going on a wild adventure on my 40th birthday, I will be in the hospital.  Embarking on one of the greatest (albeit unexpected) adventures of my life, I am delighted to announce that I am due to give birth to my second child on my 40th birthday! I was utterly floored by the news, but we couldn’t be happier to be adding to our family.

As I am embarking on this wonderful adventure at 40 I can’t help but notice the differences between how my body is reacting to this pregnancy.  Firmly in the middle of my second trimester, I am beginning to show. My prosthesis is becoming snug in the mornings, an issue that didn’t occur until the third semester when I was pregnant the first time. My back is achy in the morning and my baby bump was making it difficult for me to become comfortable, especially when sleeping.  In short, my pregnancy at 40 is considerably more uncomfortable than my experience 8 years ago.

My husband, recognizing my growing discomfort, gave me an early Christmas gift last week. I wasn’t sure what to think when I opened the box to discover a large, cumbersome looking pillow. I knew that he meant well, but the practical side of me knew that the immense and awkward pillow was not going to fit on our bed. If I did make it fit, there was no way it was going to be comfortable.

Because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings I felt obligated to give the Comfort Pregnancy Pillow a try. It took me awhile to get it into position, but when I did I immediately felt supported and comfortable. For the first time in 2 months I slept soundly, and when I woke my back didn’t hurt! This pillow may be big, but it is certainly up for the task of supporting both my burgeoning baby bump and my residual limb.

I have been converted, and I am now a huge proponent of the Comfort Pregnancy Pillow. Not only is it great for pregnancy women (the individuals for whom it was designed) but I think it would be great for anybody who suffers from lower back pain or has experienced limb loss. The support provided along the back, and by elevating my residual limb to bring it into alignment with my hip and pelvis, makes this a worthwhile product for any lower extremity amputee.  If you are having trouble becoming comfortable, or find yourself stacking pillows to find the “sweet spot” of comfort, you might want to give this pillow a try.  Like me, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised!

Gift Ideas

Shopping, especially for holiday gifts, can be an exercise in frustration. Frequently I am asked to provide gift suggestions for an amputee. Purchasing both meaningful and functional gifts has become a necessity in today’s economy.  Because of the frequent inquiries, I have compiled a list of functional and fun gifts for an amputee friend or family member. Although many of these items are available at a variety of retail stores, we have included links to amazon.com purely out of convenience.

Fuzzy and warm socks are often a welcome gift. The residual limb becomes cold on winter nights so sleeping with a cozy and soft sock over the limb can make the individual more comfortable. I used to sleep wearing my husband’s tube socks over my limb until I splurged and bought a dedicated soft pair for myself. Sometimes the simplest gift will be the most appreciated.

The residual limb often benefits from a deep massage, especially when the muscles are sore. This Homedics Massaging Pillow provides a comforting massage that can be personalized according to an individual’s preferences. Many amputees have reported that their use of this massage pillow has lessened the frequency and intensity of phantom sensations. For me, the massage pillow has eased the phantom pain enough for me to rest without narcotics.

Many lower extremity amputees who rely upon a prosthetic frequently struggle to put shoes onto their prosthesis. A shoe horn is a simple stocking stuffer than can alleviate their shoe donning frustrations. Although a simple and low tech gift, I know from experience that I can never have too many. I can never seem to find one when I need it!

Walking in snow and ice is difficult for those with both limbs. When the individual is an amputee, it can become a terrifying feat. These removable cleats easily slip onto a variety of shoes, increasing traction and safety while walking on slippery surfaces.

For the amputee gamer on your list, you might want to consider the Wii Active Personal Trainer system. This program can be easily adapted to accommodate for limitations due to limb loss. It is also a great way to learn how to put equal weight through the prosthesis, decreasing the chances of developing osteoporosis!

Traveling presents unique obstacles for the amputee. This portable grab-bar is simple to apply and can make any shower accessible. It is compact and fits into the corner of a suitcase. If the amputee utilizes a bionic prosthesis, they may appreciate receiving a power strip to use when traveling. The amputee traveler often must rotate between charging their cell phone, computer and prosthesis due to limited electric outlets in hotel rooms.

If he or she doesn’t travel far from home, they might appreciate a handicapped tag holder. This holder keeps the placard both protected and in a central location, allowing it to be easily accessible. I don’t know about you, but mine is always slipping between the seats or ends up piled under a mountain of “treasures” on the floor.

Slipping on a cold silicone liner can be miserable way to start the morning, especially during the winter. For a “luxurious” gift, consider a towel warmer. The liner can be placed into the heated box to be warmed before it is donned. There is little that feels better than slipping into a warm liner on a cold winter morning!

Although this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope that it has provided some helpful ideas to make shopping a little easier. Do you have additional gift suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

Kitchen Prep Fatigue– MINIMIZED

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving week is here. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was shopping for lunchboxes and backpacks for the start of a new school year? After all, I still have bowls of Halloween candy on my kitchen counter.

Although I hate how quickly time seems to pass, I have to admit that I absolutely adore Thanksgiving. Christmas is special because I get to relive the childhood magic through my son. But left to my own recourse, Thanksgiving may be my very favorite holiday.  Gathering with family and friends, just laughing and eating, we are all relaxed and happy. The pressure of gift giving, looming bills and other holiday stresses have not yet crept into our psyche. Instead, we are all simply happy to be together.

I spend a lot of time cooking for Thanksgiving. Despite the fact that we’ll be visiting my Mom for the holiday, I will still be making three complete dinners. One is heading across the street to my neighbor’s house, one is going to be delivered to a friend who is recovering from surgery and the third will be eaten by a hoard of hungry elementary students in Robby’s class.

Needless to say I will be spending the majority of my waking hours this weekend in the kitchen, prepping and cooking the meals.  Holiday movies will be streaming on my little TV and my house will smell wonderful. I am also aware that my newly cleaned kitchen will quickly morph into a full-fledged disaster area. I’m a good cook, but I am not a clean one!

With so much cooking to be done, I know that I’ll be spending a lot of time on my feet.  For many prosthetic wearers, standing results in more fatigue and pain than long distance walking. I love cooking, but I do not relish the back and limb pain that result from my standing on my hard tile floor for hours on end!

Kitchen throw rugs are not advantageous for individuals with mobility problems. Although they provide a nice cushion, they often become dislodged and move. Having a throw rug shift from underneath a crutch almost always results in a painful fall.  The fleeting comfort that the cushioning provides is simply not worth the risk of injury.

Last Christmas my husband stumbled upon a perfect solution. I was a bit surprised when I unwrapped the Chef’s Mat because he knew my issues with throw rugs. He urged me to give it a chance and I begrudgingly agreed.

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This gel filled Chef’s Mat was different than every other floor covering I have tried.  First, it has a sticky backing, allowing it to firmly grip every surface. I have had it for one year and it has never slid, even when I have been on crutches! The mat is filled with gel, not fluff, which provides a firm yet cushy feel. The pressure from standing on the hard floor is minimized and relegated to an inconvenience when I’m standing on top of the Chef’s Mat.

I fully expect to be exhausted by the end of my three dinner prep, but I have confidence that I will not have the pain in my legs and lower back that have haunted me over the years. The Chef’s Mat works wonders to reduce the pressure from the hard tile, allowing me to enjoy being in the kitchen.

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I hope that everybody has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, overflowing with happiness, laughter and love!

Decorating- Simplified!

In our family, October marks the beginning of the outdoor decorating season. I have to admit that I have a weakness for those wind-blown inflatable sculptures that reside on the top shelves of all the home improvement and warehouse stores this time of year. From pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween through the white rabbit holding a basket of eggs for Easter, something is always inflated in my yard during the cold months.

I justify my affinity for the blow-up figures through my son. He thoroughly enjoys watching them blow up each morning, and smiles when we spot them from our road. Although he is easy to blame, the truth is I had a size-able collection of the yard decorations before he was born. What can I say, they make me happy!

Not only do I smile when I see the large and jovial decorations, but they are surprisingly easy to set up. Compared to his peers, my husband has it easy when it comes to decorating for the holidays.  We have perfecting staking and placing the inflatables, finishing the task in record time.  Because our yard I strewn with a seemingly endless rotation of festive figures, we don’t bother hanging outdoor lights or other, more traditional, decorations.

Our only complaint with the inflatable decorations involved the cumbersome power requirements.  For some reason, the original builders of our house failed to install any external power outlets. (Obviously a woman was not consulted before this decision was made!) Because of this flaw, all of our outdoor decorations must be plugged into an outlet inside our garage.

Needless to say, walking downstairs, running across the driveway (in the cold night air) to turn off the decorations each night became a huge inconvenience. Timers were cumbersome, difficult to program and (for whatever reason) often blew the circuit. After a few years of performing the midnight dash to turn off the decorations, we discovered a perfect solution.

We now plug the extension cord into a remote controlled power switch. From the comfort of our home, I can turn the decorations both on and off with the click of a simple button on the wireless remote.  We have been using the remote controlled power switch for several years and it has yet to trip our fuse box. To be honest, the only issue we have ever encountered has been our son “misplacing” the remote.

I find it fascinating how a small thing, such as the ability to control lights with a remote control, can have such a profound impact. Because we no longer have to run in the cold, dark night to turn them off, we are both more apt to embrace holiday decorating. I love that we have found a simple solution to an issue which had become a source of frustration. It may sound odd, but the remote controlled power switch has helped our entire family become UNlimiters!

Knee Cart

Somewhere deep in the dark abyss also known as my basement I have a collection of medical equipment piled in the corner. From bandages to crutches, wheelchairs to portable grab bars, I have certainly acquired a lot of assistive devices over the years. Although I haven’t had to use much of the equipment for years, I hesitate to part with anything. I know all too well that my mobility needs can change quickly. When and if that happens, it is comforting to know that all we have to do is move the boxes out of the way and dust it off.

I have saved one special item from the basement, opting instead to keep it in a location which is easier to reach should the need arise. My knee cart (commonly referred to as a knee scooter) has come to my rescue more times than I care to acknowledge. During times when I cannot wear my prosthesis because of injury, or even when I am simply too lazy to don it (like in the middle of the night) I can hop on my cart and get around safely and efficiently.

I suppose I could use crutches, but I am not nearly as swift. Besides, my son’s army men and Legos have become a minefield of plastic obstacles on my floor. Ever crutch step on a Lego in the middle of the night? Trust me, it isn’t pleasant!

Although it can look intimidating, the cart is brilliant in its simplicity. I simply place my knee (on my amputated side) on the padded cushion and push with my sound side foot. It is as simple to maneuver as a child’s scooter. As a matter of fact, my little boy often tools around the house on it for fun.

I highly recommend the cart to all below knee amputees, or individuals who have a foot and/or ankle problem. My mother-in-law had bunion surgery last year. She is a slight woman (probably weighs 100 pounds if she is carrying a basket of wet towels) and did not have the strength to utilize crutches. Upon my recommendation she rented a cart from her local medical supply company for two weeks.

Despite compromised strength, she was able to maneuver around her home and her community on the cart. She wasn’t limited by her inability to walk because she was able to push herself around. Maintaining her independence during her recovery helped not only physically but also psychologically. The cart helped her so much that she ended up extending the rental for 2 months. By the time she paid the fees she could have purchased it and saved money.

From below-knee amputees to the elderly recovering from foot surgery, the knee cart has proven an invaluable tool in our family. While I hate being without my prosthesis, I know that I’ll be able to get around without compromising my safety or health. With the help of my knee cart, I continue to be an UNlimiter, even when I can’t utilize my prosthesis.

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