Category Archives: Adapted tricks

Waiting for the Right Trend

I am not much for trends. But every once and a while a trend will come along that I like and I will quickly jump on board. Usually I stay long after everyone else has jumped ship; my Blackberry is a great example of this. However, I do not do trendy things for the sake of the trend. I think oversized glasses are silly and I had enough of eighties fashion in the eighties. That being said, I love when a trend works in my favor.

For years I couldn’t find a cute purse to save my life. This was because I wanted [needed] a long strap to wear cross-body, and long straps on purses were just not the “in thing” when I entered the purse needing phase of my life. I usually had two options: old lady style bags or giant messenger bags. Then the style Gods smiled upon me and suddenly cross-body bags became all the rage. Now I have a cute purse in almost every color. Later, the same thing happened with shoes. For years I was forced to wear sneakers year round because Mary Jane style shoes were the only summer/dress type shoe I could keep on my foot. Then, one day, everyone loved the Mary Jane style so much that the “z strap” was invented. Oh happy day!

The latest trend to come around is spill proof glassware for adults. I gotta say, this one was a long time coming. I have spent many years asking for a straw for my beer, crushing red solo cups into unrecognizable shapes and listening friends joke that I might need a sippy cup. Now, there are plenty of fun and stylish cups that come with lids and straws for (almost spill proof) drinking. I have many of these items and I use them for both recreational drinking and plain old daily hydration. But my favorite is the Mason jar. Being from country, drinking out of a Mason jar is no big thing, my sister even uses them as wine glasses; but someone decided to take it to another level by leaving on the lid and adding a straw.

These glasses are super cute, great for kids and adults, and an adorable idea for barbeques and weddings. If you’re like me, you might be thinking, why would I spent money on another mason jar when I have so many at home already? Fear not, there are lots of online tutorials that will show you how you can convert your mason jars into one of these cute glasses.

So yes, most trends I let pass by without a second thought, but others I wait years for. Sometimes you’re just so cool you have to wait for everyone else to catch up.

 

I Bought a Beard Trimmer, and It Wasn’t for my Husband!

Living within one’s means is a tough thing to do; whether it is the inability to work, or the inability to find adequate work, many people struggle to keep their bills paid and their fridges full. This causes stress. For me, the best thing for stress is to take up a hobby. Something that you love to do that takes enough brainpower to distract you, but not so much that you get frustrated. Preferably you will enjoy a cheaper hobby like coloring or writing, but if your hobby is expensive like mine, you may need to get creative in order to enjoy your hobby without creating any additional stress.

Most people I know love to quilt. What most people don’t know is that quilting can be quite expensive. Even if you decide that all your quilts will be made from scraps and you buy a second hand machine; you will be appalled at the prices of scissors, thread, needles, mats, rulers, rotatory cutters, blades and even patterns. So in order to quilt on a budget you need to learn to cut corners. Where is the first place you should go to learn about how to save money on this hobby? Other quilters of course

Quilting boards and blogs on the internet have been a great places for me to find ways to save money. I now know which shops offer free or discount shipping and that Harbor Freight has blades that fit my rotatory cutter for a fraction of the price. My most recent discovery was my most exciting to date, and it’s one that can benefit other quilters like me with a disability.

The quilting world loves its gadgets; there are machines that cut for you, natural light lamps, and hundreds of rulers that guarantee accurate cuts, all of which come with a hefty price tag. My most recent find in the sewing gadget world seemed like a dream come true. An automatic seam ripper? Sure, it seems ridiculous, until you find yourself hours into taking apart forty blocks with one corner sewn in backwards. But the price stopped me in my tracks. This $20 dollar gadget looked a lot like a beard trimmer to me.

Sure enough, I found that the modal number for the gadget toting itself as an automatic seam ripper was really just this beard trimmer wearing a clever sticker and a heftier prices tag. I know what you’re thinking, “you did not buy a beard trimmer to quilt with!” But I did, and you know what? It works! Will I use it every day? No. Will it save me from the pain and wasted time when I make a really big mistake? Yep!

Making your favorite hobby affordable may take some investigation. It may also take doing things that seem a little crazy sometimes. But in the end you will be glad you took the time to find a more affordable option, that way you can enjoy your hobby without feeling guilty.

What’s the weirdest gadget you have ever bought to save time?

Wheelchair Cosplay Ain’t Nothing But a Thing

coolIt seems suddenly my ultra-geeky hobby has become mainstream, and no, I’m not talking about my obsession with online virtual reality games (that’s for another length post imho).

I’m referring to my well-known obsession with costuming from a wheelchair, a.k.a. cosplay if the dressing up is done in a geeky setting. Yes cosplay, a term you may have heard of before (Hereos of Cosplay anyone?).

Everywhere you go these days you’ll see references to classic superheroes – Batman, Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America., Superman – on cars, on clothing, in our media. They’re everywhere. The public just can’t get enough of DC and Marvel, which is exactly why cosplay has exploded.

Combine all the superhero movies being made in the last decade-plus with all of the young creative liberals out there, and many that have disabilities, and you have a recipe for the rebirth of cosplay in the disability world.

I am personally thrilled to see cosplay exploding the way it is, even if admittedly there are a lot of young, much-more-attractive-people than me now attending these conventions in costumes that are simply amazing (and making stuff way better than anything I’ve put together).

That’s right, cosplay competitions are strictly focused on pieces of the costume you’ve made, which is why I don’t enter. Because I can’t move my hands, anything crafty is quite difficult. I like to have fun and not stress about making my costume perfect, which is what you kinda have to do when you enter. I do however put a lot of thought into the overall look, and love to accessorize.

I started wheelchair cosplaying seven years ago, and for my first costume I went as a member of the Steve Zissou Society from the Life Aquatic. My friend and I were able to create our costumes by going by online and also hiring a friend to sew Zissou patches on our shirts. Our costumes were relatively simple, but everyone loved them. I was hooked.

The following year I decided to do even more costumes, adding She-Ra, Six from Battlestar Galactica to my line-up, and holy cow were both costumes a great idea. I call costumes like these “crowd pleasers” because they’re so recognizable and sexy, and the best part was that my wheelchair was never an issue. I did hear through the grapevine however that people who didn’t know me would refer to me as the “She-Ra in a wheelchair” or “Six in a wheelchair.”

And next week, after a several year hiatus, I’m delving straight back into the cosplay scene. I feel a bit rusty, but I can blame my cosplay-hatin’ ex-boyfriend on that. I’ve decided this is the year I’m going to do Oracle from Birds of Prey/Batman – the famous paralyzed comic book character formally known as Batgirl, shot and paralyzed by the Joker way back in an issue from 1989.

She has since been miraculously healed by the comic’s writers, much to the anger of readers with disabilities who feel her healing wasn’t realistic (it wasn’t), but I will still be dressing up as Oracle. So much love for the character. I’m also going as a star fleet officer from Star Trek (red dress, braided bun and all) and a feminized version of Chewbacca, all while in my wheelchair.

Just remember, if you want to cosplay, working your wheelchair into each costume isn’t always required. It doesn’t always have to be part of it, it can be just background noise and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Also, when putting on that costume in your chair, also remember – Gorilla tape is your friend.

As the saying goes, “Cosplay is for everyone,” and it couldn’t be more true for cosplayers with disabilities. If you have any doubts, simply ask “Misa on Wheels,” one of the the most amazing wheelchair cosplayers in the world.

– Check her out: Misa on Wheels

Amazing wheelchair cosplayers compiled by the Nerdist

Have you cosplayed before, and what was your costume?

Simple Switches

There is an old county song by Alabama that reminds me of my husband. You have probably heard it, even if you don’t listen to country. The chorus goes something like this “I’m in a hurry to get things done. I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.” My husband is always early, and he is always in a rush; which I find humorous considering that I am one of the slowest people I know. This difference of pace can sometimes lead to mutual frustration, especially first thing in the morning and around dinner time, when we both seem to be at our crankiest.

In an effort to keep our morning and evening hours as zen as possible, I have adopted many time saving switches that speed us up, plus keep him from pacing while trying not to stress about the clock. Today I am talking specifically about time saving switches for your kitchen; after all, the kitchen if full of time suckers.

The number one time sucking and frustration inducing object in my kitchen are those stupid twist ties they put on bread bags. Not only are the infuriating, they are dangerous for small animals. So I have replaced them with these nifty little clips. The green ones are the perfect size for bread bags or for closing little bags of snacks for lunches. They are reusable and much less likely to show up in a litter box if you misplace them.

The second switch not only saves you time, but also space. When cooking, I never use nestled measuring cups and spoons. Instead, I use a 4 cup measuring cup and a mini measure. These make cooking much easier for me since they require less fine motor control to avoid spills, which allows me to move faster. They also speed up the cleaning process because you are only washing one cup!

My final switch might seem hard to justify for some because of its price, but for me, it is worth it. Cooking vegetables is a huge time sucker; part of this is because my stove takes quite a while to heat up, and microwaving them tends to leave veggies a little mushy. So instead, I spring for the veggies that you can steam in their bag. They always come out perfect and can go from the microwave to the plate! But what about the delicious fresh veggies I am growing my garden? These Zip and Steam bags work perfectly for those too!

These time saving switches really make the kitchen run much smoother. They may seem like small things, but a minute or two here and there can feel like an eternity when you are late for work, tired from a long day at work or just plain old HUNGRY!

10 Awesome DIYs for Adaptive Tools

ballWhen in doubt, broke or if the adapted tool you want hasn’t been made yet, do what a lot of people with disabilities do and turn to DIY. Granted, it takes a handy, creative individual to make things go from just an idea to actually existing, but a lot of people with disabilities have his capacity.

And if they don’t, many have gotten good at asking for help (raises hand). I would’ve been lost without my Dad all these years; the veritable Leave It To Beaver handyman everyone dreams of knowing. He can build ramps, make my shower accessible; he is the one who I’ve always called whenever I’m at a loss.

But sometimes even my Dad can’t help me. Sometimes it takes a highly clever individual to illuminate us to a solution that even our peerless fathers haven’t thought of, like using a pizza box to create a laptop stand (it totally works, just make sure the grease stains are wiped off).

If you ever find yourself in this position, think DIY. There are some exciting DIY solutions for adapted tools out there. Check out my 10 current favorites below.

10. Wire Hanger Reacher

An adapted tool almost anyone can make is a reacher made from a wire hanger. All you need is a wire hanger and a good grip (quads, you’ll likely have to recruit help with this one). All you do is unfurl the wire hanger completely so it’s stick straight, then bend one end into a hook shape, so you can reach things easier and pull them to you.

9. Tube Sock Elbow Protector

If you have skin issues around your elbow area and really don’t want pay for elbow protectors, you can make your own using a tube sock. All you need to do is cut the end off so you can pull it up to your elbow, and voila – instant elbow protector. It may not be pretty, but you can’t get any cheaper or easier than this.

diy8. Grip Shelf Liner-Widened Utensils

For anyone with limited hand function, grabbing and holding utensils can seem like the hardest thing in world and most end up buying expensive utensil holders. You can however make any utensil easier to hold by wrapping the handle in grip shelf liner.This may be one of my favorites tips because it’s so easy and works awesomely.

7. Tennis Ball Jar Opener

Another great DIY for people with limited grip is a jar opener using a tennis ball, and this is a fast one. All you need is a tennis ball and an X-Acto knife. Simply cut along the seam completely so the tennis ball splits in two, and there you have it – two instant jar openers. To use these babies, just stretch one over a jar and twist.

6. Lego Card Holdercard

If you love a good card game but holding your deck is a whole other story, this Lego card holder is the ultimate solution; it’s both awesome and cheap. Yes folks, a crystal clear win-win situation. As you can see, this holder is mainly comprised of longer brick Legos, and they’re stacked to mimic those expensive playing card holders you can buy online.

cell5. Sugru Cell Phone Handle

A putty you can buy that will mold to almost anything you want it to, Sugru is taking the DIY world by storm, and it’s an especially big favorite amongst people with disabilities. For a person with limited hand function who had trouble using their smartphone, they used Sugru, along with some Velcro and a bit of a wire hanger to create this handle for their phone.

4. Ace Bandage Thigh Strap (for dresses)

For the ladies out there who love wearing dresses or skirts but can’t keep their legs together (and I’m not talking for that reason lol), an Ace Bandage is your skin-friendly modesty protector to the rescue. You can use this to wrap under and over your thighs, pulling your legs together so they don’t splay open at your niece’s graduation, or wherever you may be. Wouldn’t be prudent, no siree.

3. PVC Pipe Universal Cup Handle

Sometimes you can’t always find a cup with a handle; sometimes you need a separate solution. Case in point – a PVC pipe universal cup handle that helps people with limited hand function use any cup. You can set almost any cup in the handle’s base, allowing you to finally be able to hold any cup with complete ease.

cup2. Tin Can Cup Holder

Adequate cup holders meanwhile are one of the most difficult things to find, which is why this DIY tin can cup holder is amazeballs (and you don’t have to spend more than $5 in case it breaks. All you need is a 14.9 oz tin can, a plastic clamp, a short screw and some super glue.

Once you have your supplies, choose a location on your chair, punch the middle of that can with the screw, then screw halfways into the clamp. Next, put the clamp on your chair, then super glue the can to the clamp. Get a full how-to here

1. Stretchy Fleece Universal Cuff

Universal cuffs are traditionally made of hard plastic, sometimes cloth, but very rarely do people make these at home. Some clever OT students however have turned to stretchy fleece as the ideal fabric for DIY universal cuffs, as you can see with this one made especially for electric scissors. All it takes is some stretchy fleece, Velcro and a thread and needle to bring it all altogether.

While a DIY power wheelchair or adapted van should make you wheel like a crazy person in the opposite direction (not safe; not safe at all), smaller adapted devices can go the DIY route, and by all means should do so. Not only will you save money, you may even improve upon the device, and that would be a pretty a mighty sweet bonus.

What are your favorite adapted DIYs?

Products Mentioned

Sugru

Velcro

X-Acto Knife

Legos

Ace Bandage w/ Velcro closure

Grip Shelf Liner

Peace of Mind: The Bedside Emergency Bag

bagMaybe it’s The Walking Dead’s fault or maybe it’s all the apocalyptic shows on the History channel, but end-of-the-world scenarios are on my mind more than ever before (thank you cable, I love too). Now that I’m so paranoid, I decided to employ the bedside emergency bag. If you like playing intellectual games, visit this site.

Why? Well, this is the line of thought that goes through your head when you rely on others to get out of your bed, and live alone: What if we were invaded in the middle of the night and I was stuck in bed? Who would get me up then? Or on the more realistic side of things: What if I need such and such in the middle of the night? I can’t very well get up to reach it. What then?

This and so much more is why I now have my bedside emergency bag. It’s full of everything critical – things I absolutely need to be ok without having to call for help. You just never know what may happen in the middle of the night, or what your PCA may forget to give you before leaving.

Be smart like me. Here’s what you should always keep next to you in bed, stored safely in a bag, just in case.

Tums

If have a sensitive stomach to pills, having Tums in your bag is a must. They’re so effective I just can’t get over it. If say you took a pill at midnight and started feeling queasy, chew a Tums and in a matter of seconds, almost all nausea you may be experiencing will be gone. My personal favorite is their tropical flavor. Goes down easy when the last thing you want is to eat something.

Check it out: Tums Extra Tropical

Advil

Another must for your bedside bag is your favorite painkiller. I prefer Advil, but if you’re Tylenol, Alleve or Bayer fan, that of course is just as good. You’ll just be glad you had this nearby if you need in the middle of the night. Trust me I’ve been there. It may start to feel like you’re bedside bag is becoming a mini-pharmacy, but if you can’t get out of your bed to get these things, it’s worth it.

Check it out: Advil

Extra Water

Water is another essential item to have. Make sure it’s bottled water so it can be in there for awhile without worry of it going bad. You can’t usually can’t fit a ton of water in your emergency bag, but having one bottle in there is always a smart idea.

Non-perishable Snack

Having some kind of food item in your bag that can’t go bad is also hugely important. This can mean candy bars, a small bag of crackers, even some almonds; anything that can last for several months. Sometimes food is the only way to get rid of nausea or even lightheadedness, which is why it’s always smart to have some in your bag.

Extra Catheter

A hugely important item if you use catheters is to always have an extra one.  If you’re like me, you also have a few in your catheter bag, but if you run out of those it’s nice to know you have an extra one just nearby waiting for you in your emergency bag.

Alcohol Swabs

If you do use catheters, it’s also a good idea to have a few spare alcohol swabs in your bag too. These are great for cleaning a catheter in a pincj if you need to reuse one and ran out in bed (been there). These can disinfect the tip of a catheter fairly well.

Zinc Cough Drops

And lastly, my cold prevention go-to: Lemon zinc cough drops. If I ever feel a cold coming on in bed, I pop in one of these and let the magic happen. I haven’t gotten one cold this whole winter thanks to these babies.

Check them out: Zand Lemon Zinc Lozenges

While this list above covers a lot, there are loads of other things you can include in your bedside emergency bag. A flashlight, a book, even a spare battery for your cell phone; anything you can think of that you know you’ll absolutely need if you need it. It may take a little bit of work to set all of this up, but it’s worth it in the end when you need Advil and cracker in the middle of the night and it’s right there waiting for you.

What’s in your bedside emergency bag?

Rediscovering A Blast From My Past

Because I acquired my disability shortly after birth, I have spent my life using adaptive equipment and assistive technology. Some of these items I still use today, like my crutches and my bath chair. Other items, like my leg braces and adaptive writing utensils, I no longer use at all. Every once in a while though, one of those long ago items will become useful again and I then wonder why I ever stopped using it in the first place.

Recently, I have been struggling with things that slip; like my feet on the kitchen floor, the cutting board on the counter, my ruler on my cutting matt, my butt on the chair in my sewing room. All of these things are frustrating at the very least, and have the potential to be very dangerous. I’ve tried to come up with various solutions that didn’t involve spending a small fortune on non-slip rugs and rubber coated kitchen supplies. I have put blue tape on my ruler and my cutting board. I even considered the possibility of rubber cementing the bottoms of my most used kitchen supplies to see if that would help. Then I had a flashback to my first grade classroom, where my teacher, Ms. Hart used to put prices of blue rubber sheeting under my paper so it wouldn’t slip when I wrote.

All it took was one quick post to a CP forum I am part of to discover an item called dycem; big plus side is that it is available online. Dycem is great; it is tacky on both sides and will stick to nearly everything. It can be cut to any size so I can use it on the floor under my feet, on my chair under my butt, under my cutting mat and ever under my ruler when I am cutting fabric. I can even use it under fabric when I need to trace a template. But that’s not all, dycem is not only good at preventing all manners of slippage, is also great for adding grip to items. It can be used to open jars and bottles, or strips can be added to handles, pens or even a toothbrush to supply a better grip.

Dycem has a million possible uses. And it is not just for people with disabilities. Dycem can be useful to anyone who is sick of having their stuff slide around; I can even see it being a great tool for mothers with young children. Dycem is also reusable and washable, so one small roll can last quite a long time and be used for several different applications. If you find you are regularly putting Dycem under certain items regularly, it can be permanently adhered to any surface with a little superglue. I think I might glue some to the back of a clipboard so that I can finally carry papers around the office without them sliding off my lap. What do/would you use dycem for?

The Assistive Technology it Took Me 30 Years to Purchase

Sometimes, I have to laugh when I tell people that I write for a company that sells adaptive equipment. You see, despite having a disability and despite the wide variety of items in existence that help people just like me, I don’t usually buy these items. Sure I have a wheelchair, a pair of crutches and grab bars in my shower, but beyond that, my house is pretty much void of any disability- specific items.

See, I was raised in a household where if you could do it, you should do it, even if it is hard. This prevented me from getting a wheelchair until tenth grade; even as in adult it has kept me from purchasing certain items that would make daily tasks easier. I tell myself, “you don’t need that, you can do it the way you always have.” This is silly, especially since I have purchase plenty of non-disability specific items over the years that make things easier. The decision to NOT purchase certain items was subconscious, and it wasn’t until I got my new job that I even realized I was doing it.

When my job asked me if I need anything in the office to accommodate my disability, the only thing I mentioned was needing enough space for my chair. Then, one day after starting my job, I dropped a number of things and had to keep asking my boss to pick them up. After the sixth time of interrupting him to retrieve a dropped item, I realized that a reacher might be in order.

A reacher is one of those items I have never considered before, despite the fact that I drop things rather frequently. I drop things so often; in fact, I trained my dog to pick them up. However, I don’t bring my dog to work, so I requested a reacher. It was waiting on my desk when I returned the next day and within minutes I realized how completely silly it was that I had never bought one before.

Now that I have used a reacher at work, I decided I will purchase one for my home, There are plenty of things I drop at home that my dog cannot, or will not, retrieve; such as pins, blocks for my quilts, and silverware. A reacher would mean that I don’t have to get down onto my hands and knees or wait for my husband to help.

If there are any of you, like me, who have spent years actively avoiding purchasing adaptive equipment, whether it is because you are ashamed, convinced you do just fine without it, or any other reason, I urge you to reconsider. I am all about independence and keeping the mobility you have, but I’ve realized I have been wasting a lot of time and energy for no reason. Using a reacher, or any other assistive device, is not a failure, it does not make me less independent or self-reliant. In fact, it increases my independence.

So go ahead and try that item. Whether it is a reacher, a cane, an adapted cup or any other item that might help you in your day to day tasks, it won’t hurt to see how many new doors will open with your new found level of independence.

Learning to Ride a Bike

My Dad has always been a huge supporter of me living an “unlimited life”. He never wanted me to be left out of anything because of my disability. When I was little he would help me climb into trees and forts, he took me ice skating and sledding, He and Mom bought me a swing for the backyard play set, and helped my climb a rock wall at fifth grade camp. He has put me on a horse and a Harley – Davidson; he even tried to take me on a helicopter, but mom put the kibosh on that one.

The thing that sticks out the most in my memory, however, was Dad’s campaign to get me on a bike. This campaign lasted well through high school, but it started when we were four and my twin sister and I got big wheels for Christmas. In case you didn’t know, twins always get the same Christmas gifts, it’s in the twin handbook. So even though there seemed to be no physical way for me to ride a big wheel, my dad saw this as a challenge, instead of a hindrance. When my feet kept slipping off the pedals he simply screwed a pair of my tiny shoes to the bike; which solved the slipping issue, but not the coordination issue.

Next, Dad tried a go-cart. He took the wheels off my big sister’s Radio Flyer wagon, a fact she is still slightly perturbed about, and made the body out of wood. He painted the whole thing bubblegum pink, strapped me in using an old belt and sent me off down a hill. It took me approximately six seconds crash into the curb. Turns out, I couldn’t steer, and Dad forgot to add brakes.

When I was 11 or 12 years old, my Mom found an old adult tricycle with a motor and gifted it to me. The motor was shot, but we put some Velcro straps on the pedals, and we found that I could propel myself if I was given a push to get started. That summer, my sister and I spent a lot of time on that bike; we would walk around the block with it, and when we got to the big hill at the top, she would jump in the basket and we would go flying down the hill. I never used the brakes, but I didn’t hit any curbs either. I grew stronger, but I still had trouble with the hills and inclines, so we rigged a pulley system that would help in pulling my legs up, which was where I was having trouble.

It is funny now to look back on these memories; nowadays they have all sorts of adapted cycles for those with and without disabilities. I can just imagine my dad saying to himself, why didn’t I think of that? But his efforts were not in vain; it is from him that I learned how a little creativity and hard work goes a long way, and that as long as you keep trying, you’re bound to get it right eventually.

A Gift of UNlimited Quilting

I have been known to use almost anything at my disposal in order to complete a task on my own. The words stubborn and determined are often used to describe me.  I like my independence and I will do almost anything to keep it; including carrying objects in my mouth, using my crutches to reach for things or using anything from a stool to a trashcan as a walker when mine is out of reach.

This drive for independence is strongest when I am working on my quilts. Quilting is another passion that I discovered just recently.  Three years ago, I never would have believed that I could sew a single seam let alone make an entire quilt from start to finish on my own; but my Mother-in-Law did believe. It is because of her gift of a sewing machine that I discovered a whole new way  I could create beautiful works of art I could share with my family and friends.

In the three years I have been sewing, I have made about 30 quilts, and most of them have been given away to family and friends. I love to give quilts to people. Giving someone a unique gift they will have forever gives me a sense of happiness.

For all the joy it brings me, quilting isn’t something that comes easy. I have had to come up with my own way of doing things in order to make quilting work for me. One of these is learning how to cut fabric on the floor. I didn’t have a a table that was big enough for me to cut on in my sewing room, so I had to cut the pieces for every quilt on the floor. When I had a quilt with a lot of pieces I often got fatigue in my arms and hips, so I started using a laundry basket for support.

cutting

This Christmas, my Mother-In-Law once again surprised me with a generous gift. A quilting table! She knew I would need something really sturdy, because I need to lean on the table for support; and she also knows from being a quilter herself that I might want to move the table around.  She bought me a sturdy table with locking wheels so I can move it where I need to and still lean on it for support.

IMG_00000369

I have had the table for a few days now, and already, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. Though it is a sewing table I think it could be used for a number other crafts or applications. I could see it being used by others in a laundry room for folding clothes or any room where you might need an easily moveable and sturdy surface at which to work.

It took my husband almost 4 hour hours to put together, but the effort was totally worth it. I can now make my quilts completely unlimited by pain or fatigue. I am also finding unexpected uses for my new table every day,

Making the Long Tedious Mornings a Little Bit Better

coffeeWhen you’re paralyzed, getting up in the morning isn’tt the fastest thing in the world. In fact, it can be a downright nightmare, sometimes taking 2-3 hours to get everything done, and I’ve been doing my routine for a really long time.

Some would say I’m even an expert at it. But I will admit, it’s still tedious. I’ve figured out however how to make my routine much more pleasant. Secret tip – a little pampering can go a long way. Here are a handful of things that really truly make my mornings better.

Clay mask: There are a lot of reasons you should be using a clay mask a few times a week in the morning when getting up. Clay and mud masks pull impurities from the skin, which is a big deal if you’re paralyzed. We don’t sweat as much, which means bad things stay in our skin and never leave.

I like to put on a clay mask right before taking a shower. I just slather it on, let it dry for a couple of minutes, then rinse it off in the shower. Since my face is so sensitive sensation-wise, pampering my skin where I can still feel gives a huge boost to my overall happiness, especially during my morning routine. Any clay or mud mask is good. I use this one: Boots Botanics Complexion Refining Clay Mask

Banana coffee: Another thing to really make your mornings something you look forward to rather than the opposite is to make yourself a delicious beverage, and in my case that would be banana-flavored coffee. I just discovered this coffee a couple of months ago and it’s transformed my world.

I love anything banana-flavored and warm drinks soothe me so much now that I’m paralyzed, and I’m a big believer that anything delicious can almost make all negativity disappear. I love this stuff and as it turns out, it’s made from California. Very cool. Check it out: Life is Good Banana Bread Bliss Coffee

Multi-setting shower head: One of the best ways to pamper yourself after the dreaded bowl routine is to have an amazing hot shower, and even better than a hot shower is having a shower head with awesome settings. I just got a new one a couple months ago. Resting your head forward and letting the water massage your neck and shoulders is the best.

In fact, I’ll often have my caregiver turn on a couple of different settings during the entirety of my shower. Nothing can beat the feeling of pulsating water, especially on sore joints, and then changing it to the soak setting. Oh,so good; you may even forget about your disability for a moment or two. My brand new hand-held shower head: Delta 9-Spray ActivTouch Adjustable Shower Head

Personal wet/dry shaver: If you’re a gal or guy who cares about personal grooming, a personal wet/dry shaver is a must.  But if you have a disability and have troubles moving your legs and arms, using any old personal saver won’t do. My long-handled personal shaver from Remington has the longest body I’ve ever seen on a personal shaver, so it’s easy to hold.

It has a trimmer, a close-shaver and an exfoliator head. A great razor for sure, even if the battery isn’t rechargeable. While in my shower chair, I can reach everything I need to in order to shave independently. Check it out: Remington Smooth & Silky Body Grooming Kit

It can be easy forgetting all the happy, pampering things in life when medical tasks get in the picture, but don’t ever let go of the good things in life. A little bit of pampering can have a huge effect on your disposition. We are all still deserving of some fabulous guilt-free personal TLC.

How do you pamper yourself in the morning?

Having Both an OCD Cleaning Streak and Quadriplegia

You’re either born with the cleaning gene or you’re not. In my case, I definitely was, and I got it from my mother.  There’s no doubt about that out.  My father is definitely not known for his peerless cleaning skills; that so much is sure.

And so as a kid, every weekend I helped my mom clean the house. I began to love the methodical nature of it.  The smells, seeing instant results from your hard work; cleaning became a very satisfying experience in my world.  I absolutely loved it.  My grandparents even used to tease me for my incessant patio sweeping.

So when my spinal cord injury occurred and I went home, it began to dawn on me how much I wouldn’t be able to do anymore, and cleaning was one of those things that seemed impossible to do from a wheelchair.  It made me so sad too. I thought I’d never be able to clean independently anymore.

This is what I thought when I first became disabled.  It came so hard though, just sitting there…looking at messes, and even worse – not being able to do anything about them. I had to do something. I had to figure out a way to still be able to clean a little.  And so after some creative thinking, I found I could still clean. Maybe not like a hired housekeeper anymore, but I did find there were a handful of things I could still do.

One of the first things I discovered I could do was surfaces. Sure, that’s the easy part of cleaning, but when you can only move your biceps and parts of your wrists, just wiping surfaces can be tricky. Try reaching the end of the counter when you’re triceps don’t work. Not easy. But after some trial and error, I discovered that with a sturdy washcloth under my hand and some homemade cleaning spray (a half and half mixture of liquid dish soap and white vinegar; love this cleaner), it was more than possible.

Pulling back on the nozzle to spray cleaner however is not easy to do.  When you don’t have any finger movement you have to get creative.  You can either open the bottle and pour some on the washcloth, or you can do what I do (because you like the “spray” effect) is to hold the cleaner in your mouth and I use your hand/fist to pull it back.  It’s certainly not pretty but it works.  You definitely have to take your ego out of it when cleaning as a quad.

Another cleaning chore I found I could still do was vacuuming. How glamorous heh. But I gotta say – figuring out this one made me giddy.  Since a vacuum was too heavy to use anymore, I bought a Dust Buster and that my friends was the ultimate vacuum-roadblock solution.  Sure, you can’t use a Dust Buster to vacuum your entire place, but being able to vacuum up “something” if I spill anything is awesome.

It can be hard to hold it firmly, but I can use it for a minute or so and get the job done.  It’s always a good idea to get a Dust Buster with a longer handle if you have dexterity problems, if you can find one that is.  I really like anything from Black & Decker.

Dusting is another cleaning activity I’ve figured out how to do. I use Swiffer Sweeper Dusters – that plastic handheld dusting device you insert dusting “cloths” into. The reason I love this little thingamajiger so much is because the handles are easy to hold for people with closed hands like me – skinny and sturdy.  You can just push the handle into your fist and it’ll stay. Every week I go around my condo dusting without any issues thanks to these.

It’s funny. Who would’ve thought cleaning would bring so much joy to quadriplegic?   It’s the little things my friends….the little things. Now, time to get your creative cleaning on.  And remember, think outside the box as much as you can.

What cleaning products and tricks have you found that work good awesomely in spite of limited mobility?

Products Recommended

– Black & Decker Dust Buster

– Swiffer Sweeper Dusters

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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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