All posts by Melissa Mcpherson

Melissa is a 31-year-old creative writer, quilter and photographer with Cerebral Palsy. She received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Grand Valley State University in 2005. When she is not pursuing her creative endeavors, Melissa works as a part time Administrative Assistant at the University of Michigan. Melissa spent eight years working at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, where she developed and taught inclusive creative arts and writing classes for people with and without disabilities. She continues to mentor and advocate for people with disabilities through her blog: Disability and I do. She lives with her husband in Michigan.

Love for 3eLove

When I was growing up, I never heard of disability pride. Disability was not something to be celebrated, but something to be fixed or hidden away. Thankfully, I had amazing parents who never let me believe that just because I had a disability, I was any less capable than everyone else. Even with their support, however, I felt alone; I didn’t have anyone like me to look up too and I often hated my disability.

Fortunately, I eventually learned to embrace my disability; even better, society is beginning to change. Children today have a lot of positive role models when it comes to living life with a disability. People like Josh Blue, who used his disability to carve his own niche in stand-up comedy; or Abbey Curran, who challenged conventional ideals of beauty by being the first woman with CP to compete in and place in the Miss USA pageant. They are showing people with disabilities, and the world, that living with a disability is no longer something to be ashamed of, but something to be embraced and celebrated. But it isn’t just individuals who are changing society’s outlook on disabilities; companies like 3eLove are also making a huge impact.

3eLove was started in 2007 by Chicago natives, Annie and Stevie Hopkins, as a way of promoting their unique symbol of acceptance. The wheelchair heart logo, as well as their social model of disability, encourages others to embrace diversity, educate society, and empower one another to love life. 3eLove may have started as a small Chicago clothing company, but it is now and international movement.

I discovered 3eLove a few years ago when I saw a wheelchair heart car decal on the mini-van driving in front of me. I thought it was neat and made a mental note to try to find out more about them. Later, when I googled “wheelchair heart,” I found 3eLove’s website pretty quickly and discovered that it was more than just bumper stickers.  They had everything, from key chains and water bottles to tank tops and backpacks. The logo alone had me wanting to buy right away, but the more I read about the mission behind the logo, I knew it was something I had to be a part of.

I started with a Proud© shirt for myself, then I bought one for my husband so that we could wear them in our one year anniversary photos. Then I bought one for each of my close friends and family for Christmas. Now, I have a whole proud army. This year, they even came out with dog collars so my dog could join the ranks.

I love 3eLove. It makes me so happy when I go on their Facebook page and I see a 5 or 6 year old smiling in their wheelchair sporting their 3eLove gear. I wish that kid could have been me; but I am glad, at least, that future generations have the opportunity to grow up embracing their disabilities, proud of whom they are and loving life.

Coffee Anyone?

Sometimes you discover the solution to some of your most annoying problems when and where you least expect it. The other day, for instance, my husband and I were watching a show called Mountain Men. It is one of those “reality shows” that depicts the life of men who live in remote areas and survive off the land. It is ridiculously staged, it drives me crazy, but my husband likes it and sometimes a girl has to make sacrifices. Anyway, during one episode, this guy’s wife brought him a cup of coffee in this mug with a wide base and a narrow opening at the top. I immediately shouted, “That coffee mug is CP proof! I must have one.”

Because of my CP, I spill things a lot. I prefer to drink out of bottles or cups with straws in order to avoid unnecessary spills. Finding a solution to avoid spilling hot beverages has been hard; travel mugs keep my coffee too hot for too long, and you have to wait forever to drink it. Normally, I just take my chances with a traditional mug by trying to leave a little space at the top. Despite my efforts, I still manage to spill my coffee at least once a week. I thought the narrow mouth mug would be the perfect solution to the problem, if I could find one.

The next day, I was out shopping with my Mom and her boyfriend and I told them about the mug. My mom had never seen one, but her boyfriend had, he said he would keep his eyes open. We were at the Salvation Army when he found this little gem.

It is not exactly like the mug I saw on the show, the mouth is a little wider, and it is more angular, but it is still awesome. It is exactly the solution I hoped it would be.

This mug allows my coffee to cool at a normal rate, and the tall narrow mouth keeps me from spilling anything. It also has a slip proof bottom and a good sized handle, which I like. It doesn’t look like it, but it holds a full eight ounces of coffee.

Of course now that I have one, I would like to get a few more; perhaps one for work, and a few for my friends with similar disabilities when they come to visit. I know I probably won’t get as lucky as I did the other day, so I have been looking online and I found several that were almost exactly like the one I saw on TV. This one is for home use and this one even has a lid so you can take it with you!

In what unexpected places have you found a solution to an everyday problem?

Taking Care of Our Furry Friends

I have a confession to make: I am a crazy cat lady. Actually, I am a crazy dog lady too, if you want to get technical. I am that pet owner everyone makes jokes about. I talk to my dog Taden and my four cats as if they were human beings, I use baby voices and give them ridiculous nicknames, I spoil them with gifts and treats and I was thisclose to buying them Halloween costumes last October. Yes, it is safe to say I love my pets, but taking care of them can sometimes be a challenge.

I got my dog Taden from a family friend when she was already about a year old. Although she was a good dog overall, I found that taking care of an excitable, 90 pound lab was a little more than I bargained for. In fact, I almost gave up at least once, but this was a living, breathing creature and I couldn’t just give up on her.

The first order of business was to figure out how I could walk her. She is a Black Lab Golden Retriever mix, and has that boundless energy that is typical of her breed. She needed the exercise not only for her health and happiness, but also for my own sanity. Unfortunately, the previous owner had not leash trained her. The first time I tried to walk her she yanked me out my front door so fast that I fell over, lost the leash and she took off running around the front yard like it was Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July.

I tried classes, but the other dogs distracted her. I tried the choke collar, but she didn’t seem to mind choking, and I absolutely refused to use a shock collar. I finally found a collar called the GentleLeader.  It fits gently over her head and nose, keeps her from pulling. Instantly, she was a completely different dog.she walked calmly next to me. Now walking her is no longer dangerous, and we both enjoy it.

The cats presented their own problems, most notably their poop. Cleaning a litter box is no one’s favorite chore, but getting on the floor to change the litter was not only obnoxious, but also painful for me. Sometimes, I even got stuck. Getting stuck on your hands and knees with your face over a litter box is not an experience you want to have, I assure you.

There are about a million different products out there to help people with a litter box problem. I know many people that swear by those automatic litter boxes, but having four cats, I have be skeptical about whether they could handle the (for lack of a better word) load.

For me, the best solution ended up being the simplest and cheapest.  A scoop with a long handle allows me to quickly clean out the cat boxes without getting down on the ground; which is awesome because needing to be rescued from getting a face full of cat litter sucks.

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

The Mobility Device That I Couldn’t Live Without

As a person with Cerebral Palsy, I think I have used every type of mobility device in existence. In my 31 years I have utilized everything from a power wheelchair to a cane for getting around. I have even been known to use non-traditional means of mobility, including, but not limited to: a trashcan, a laundry basket, my sisters’ children and a rake; but that, my friends, is a post for another day. Today, I want to talk about a mobility device that changed my life, one that I have been using for over 15 years; The Hurri-cane Crutch.

I got my first pair of Hurri-cane Crutches when I was 15 years old. Until that point I had been using a pair of traditional, lofstrand forearm crutches as my primary means of mobility. I had the usual complaints. My hands were callused and blistered from the handles, they often slid out from under me causing me to fall, and they were next to impossible to adjust.

Compared to the traditional lofstrand forearm crutch, the Hurri-cane Crutch has a number of things going for it:

  • They have ergonomic handles, which decreases the amount of pressure on your hands. I haven’t had a callus or a blister in years
  • The flexible tips are made so that the bottom makes full contact with the ground each time you take a step. Although they can still slip on certain surfaces, this has greatly reduced my number of falls.
  • To make an adjustment on the Hurri-cane Crutch, you remove a screw with the supplied allen wrench (which is conveniently located in the handle) and then adjust the pin. Because the pin is not exposed, it does not rust or get stuck, making adjustments super easy.
  • The arm cuff rotates in a circle instead of up and down. If you reach for something, (or have to scratch your nose) they are less likely to fall off your arm.
  • The Hurri-cane Crutch is made of lightweight aluminum, but it has a square design, making it super strong.
  • The Hurri-cane Crutch comes in a variety of colors, and the paint job lasts longer than it did on my old crutches.
  • The Hurri-cane Crutch can be used as a crutch or a cane.

Once I started using the Hurri-cane Crutch, I couldn’t see myself using anything else. My first pair lasted me over ten years, through most of high school, all of college and the first few years after. They saw sand, water (oceans, lakes and pools), and plenty of snow. They took quite a beating and were replaced only after the grip was gouged by something sharp and started to get uncomfortable. Fortunately, the Hurri-cane Crutch comes with a life time warranty and my crutches were replaced for free! I quickly got my second pair and I love them just as much as the first pair.

 

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

 

Slow-Cookers: Cooking Safely and Easily with a Disability

Cooking is a huge part of living independently, and it is something that nearly every young adult struggles with in the beginning. For people with disabilities, cooking is about more than learning recipes; it is a physical challenge, one that can sometimes be dangerous. As a person with Cerebral Palsy, I deal with things like poor fine motor skills, a startle reflex, muscle spasms and balance issues that aren’t exactly compatible with hot surfaces, boiling water or sizzling oil.

For a long time I resorted to cooking prepackaged meals. I ate a lot of frozen and instant foods, and when I was feeling really adventurous, I would make Hamburger Helper. This wasn’t exactly healthy or appetizing. When my husband and I bought our first house, complete with a large and spacious kitchen, I decided to get serious about cooking.

For months I would spend hours in the kitchen after work, trying to put together the meals I saw on the cooking channel. It looked so easy; but by the time the meal was complete, my feet hurt, my back hurt, I was sweating profusely, and I usually had at least one minor injury. My food tasted okay, but I knew there had to be an easier way.

My Mother-in-Law was the one who suggested a slow-cooker. She bought me a programmable Crockpot and suggested I give it a try. I was skeptical. My own mother had never used a slow-cooker, and the only things I had ever seen come out of one were chili and those little cocktail wieners they have at graduation parties. Since, I didn’t have a better idea; I decided to give it a try.

I quickly discovered that the slow-cooker was the answer I’d been searching for. It cut the time and effort I spent in kitchen in half; and it was safer than the stove or the oven. I also discovered that there are literally thousands of recipes that can be made in a slow-cooker from classics like pot roast and macaroni and cheese, to desserts and even drinks. Hundreds of books and websites are dedicated to slow-cooker recipes. My favorites include Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes and allrecipes.com

Of course, the down-side to slow-cookers is that they are slow. In order to be successful, dinners must be prepped in the morning so they can cook all day; and let’s be honest, most of us don’t like getting up earlier than we have too. Perhaps the best discovery I’ve made is that slow-cookers can cook foods that are frozen. This means that you can prep a week’s worth of meals ahead of time and then freeze them, cutting out the daily prep altogether. One of my favorite resources for freezer recipes is this ebook: From Your Freezer to Your Family: Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes.

Of course, I don’t use my slow-cooker every day, but it has made life in my kitchen a whole lot easier; and I think it is safe to say, my husband doesn’t miss the hamburger helper.

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

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