Category Archives: Spinal Cord Injury

No One Sees My Wheelchair In the Urban Jungle

jungleI don’t care what someone with a spinal cord injury would like you to believe, you never get used to people staring at you. When you become suddenly disabled, the learning curve is pretty tough, and one of the biggest challenges is learning to be ok with being stared at when you go out in public

It can take years to get used to being seen as a person with a disability, if ever, and that’s entirely ok. Who likes to be stared at? Celebrities certainly like the idea, but most everyone else does not.

I on the other hand have been at this lifestyle for 20 years now, and although their stares don’t hurt me as much as they did than when I was 14 (thank god), I always notice them, and it always always bugs me.

I grew up in a small suburb of St. Paul and it only has 28,000 people. It definitely had that small town vibe, and this town was….*drum roll*… White Bear Lake. It was the lake where I was injured too, and the people here are very one note – all white, Christian and able-bodied. After my injury, all everyone saw was my wheelchair, and I slowly began to hate this place.

Since I couldn’t move far far away as on my own, I moved to Minneapolis; a place where no one knew my injury story at least and all the ghastly details. I wanted to be anonymous again, and I also wanted to be treated as if I was able-bodied, but that will never happen.

But it (sorta) worked! After moving to Minneapolis, people rarely stared at me. There are a lot more interesting things out on the streets usually to stare at, from people asking for money and busking to new construction going up. And as their stares lessened, my disability suddenly didn’t bug me as much.

It felt SO quite weird at the beginning of my injury to have so many people to stare me. “So this is what it must be like to be a celebrity,” I though, but it quickly lost its interest. The staring of course was something I wasn’t used to. I was born and raised an able-bodied girl. If anyone was staring at me, it definitely wasn’t a positive thing.

I just wish more people used the “empowered stare,” and realized they’re lucky for everything they have and not just missing the days when they could walk by a group of people and not have one of them notice them. You can still have these days mind you, they’re just really difficult to snag in non-urban areas.

The ultimate dream – to live in a place when you’re not constantly stared at – and I’m sorry to say but moving may be part of the equation if you’re bugged out as much as I am when people stare. Or maybe you don’t mind the stares and you like everyone knowing your story.

Sure, moving may be a giant hassle, but if you can find a place to live where you’re as anonymous as the next guy, the headache of moving is inconsequential. Nothing can beat the feeling of just feeling “like everyone else.”

Would you move to feel less like a pariah?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Hate Being Called Inspirational Too?

stellaThere are a lot of smart women in the world, and then there’s Stella Young, a comedian and disability advocate from Australia who sets the smart bar even higher.

She can see the world in a way most people cannot, especially when it comes to how people with disabilities are treated, and she has an immeasurable talent at describing what she sees. Stella can make the most uninterested person perk up and take a listen. It’s very rare when a person like Stella comes along.

What she tends to focus most on in her comedy is the objectification of people disabilities, which can lead to one of the biggest pet peeves of people with disabilities – being treated as overly inspirational. She gave a TEDx Talks speech in Melbourne last year on this very topic, titled “Inspiration porn,” and it’s changing millions of people’s views around the world.

Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Stella has never known life other than being disabled so to her she is perfect the way she is and never pines for something outside of her life. She also works as an editor for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ramp Up disability news site. Yes, Stella only sees ability.

Her TEDx speech however is one of the best TED speeches I’ve ever seen. You should definitely take a listen if you’ve ever been irked at being called inspirational. In her speech she talks about how neighborhood leaders wanted to nominate her when she was a teenager with some kind of inspirational award, but she declined because she knew she wasn’t worthy (“All I do was watch Buffy as a kid,” she says).

Her memorable line, “Just because I’m sitting doesn’t make me inspirational,” is so very true, and it’s worth more than gold. I can totally relate to Stella’s experiences. After my injury I was constantly called inspirational for just getting up and leaving the house. As Stella eloquently describes in her speech, this is particularly quite offensive.

More than anything, Stella’s speech really shows that most able-bodied people must think living with a disability is incredibly difficult, which is how inspiration porn came about in the first place. The secret however is that our life is truly not bad as it seems.

Sure, there’s a lot of stuff we can’t do, but love, family and purpose, those are the things that pull us through. We’re definitely not here to be your private inspiration-makers.

– Watch: TEDx by Stella Young – Inspiration Porn and the Objectification of Disability

How do you feel about being called inspirational?

 

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Confessions of a Disabled Adult Candy Addict

candyI’m honestly not sure whether or not I would have been a candy addict had my injury not occurred. It’s really tough to say.

I was obsessed with sugar as a kid – birthday cakes, great-grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, gummi worms, Sprees, Skor bars – but we all know our childhood “likes” don’t always carry over into our adulthood (I liked what?!). I’m still shocked I liked jam on my garlic bread.

I just wish I knew if my injury had something to do with my continued sugar addiction.

I do know one thing – no matter the cause, I am too old to be this way. Usually by my age the obsession with candy is long gone, but for me…not even close. Part of me is concerned why I am like this, trying to analyze how this developed, but then I always get sidelined by something more important (candy usually).

While most 34 year olds are elated over a great cup of coffee or a perfectly done steak, I will squee to kingdom come if a candy buffet appears at a party; that’s how serious my addiction is. It’s like it activates a happy serum in my brain, pouring in the second my eyes lay upon the sweets. It’s really quite ridiculous. I get like Pavlov’s dog over a Snicker’s.

It’s gotten so bad that I always have to have candy in the house, and any new man I’m dating always knows I like candy right away and will woo me with it (always a safe bet). And even worse, my candy bowl always has a spoon in to to make it easy to shove candy right into my mouth (this technique is quite effective if you’re a low quad, and it’s great for candies like M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces).

I do have one theory I’d like to share about my candy addiction in relation to my injury – whatever age your injury occurs, you’re always that age partly for the rest of your life, no matter how old you get. It’s a strange notion I’ve realized, but I believe it’s a coping mechanism for the brain. Maybe this is why I love candy so much.

I was injured at 14 and I still like so many of the things I liked at that age, food/candy x infinity and music/SWV, EnVouge. It feels strange sometimes, but it’s also very comforting. If my guy I’m testing for example can’t find me a package of Bubblicious bubble gum in grape flavor, I may just have serious doubts about our future. And if he’s not a “big candy fan,” I’m absolutely sure; we aren’t a match.

The palette is the last reason I know I’m obsessed with candy. The palette is one of the few parts of my body that was never affected by my spinal cord injury, so this is a fun thing to relish in. I absolutely love that everything still tastes the same as before my injury, and in the world of spinal cord injuries, anything “staying the same” is a very rare thing.

The candy aisle at Target checking with the seasonal candy and the latest items offered by the candy companies; those my two ultimate happy places. And even moreso, I’m not changing who I am no matter how old I get, especially since it’s so effective on the days I’d like to tell my disability to shove it (hey at least I know what works).

Which candy could you not live without? And where have all the bulk candy stores gone?

Secret Rehab Buddy Marriage Pact: We Will Not Die Alone

3609054839_d44354ff41_mThe idea of spending the later part of your life alone, a time when you’re the most vulnerable and need someone in your life, is most people’s worst nightmare. Sadly when you have a disability, this can be pretty common.

It’s easy finding sex. The hard part, and the point of this post, is finding someone that will be there when all of this unpleasantness starts happening; someone who’s genuinely in it for the long haul. For many of us with disabilities, the unpleasantness is happening right now.

It can be tough finding people to overlook this, and we can’t very well force people to marry us. So here’s what I’ve decided to make sure I’m not alone when I eventually grow old – I will marry my friend Abe, a fellow quadriplegic whom I met in rehab 16 years ago. He’s also about 10 years older than me. And although there has always been mild flirting, it never went past that.

Abe too has been a wheelchair-user for a long time. While hanging out by a river back on the 4th of July, he fell off a cliff and broke his neck. That was in 1996, and being that he’s a born and raised North Dakotan from Bismarck, North Dakota, that’s exactly where he went after his rehab was over.

Although I wasn’t romantically in love with him, this was a huge bummer. His moving away meant I would rarely, if ever seen him again. At the time I couldn’t drive and he wasn’t able to drive either. Bismark was at least a 6 hour drive from Minneapolis (where I was) and neither of us had lots of money for chauffeurs.

He was like one of the girls when we hung out in rehab. That is why he was so endearing. We initially met in a larger group of disabled friends, and he was always the guy who had something funny to say. He would listen to my problems, offer advice, tease (one of his favorite things). He was and still is one of the nicest guys I’ve meet.

And I was totally right about rarely seeing him after he was discharged from rehab and moved back home. It’s been 16 years now, and I’ve only been able to see him a couple of times. But despite that length of time, we have pledged one of the most intimate things to one another – the pledge of marriage by the age of 50, as corny as that sounds.

We have promised to marry one another if by the time we’re up on our years we’re still single. This is a practical idea, as well as one that only friends could dream of and I absolutely love it. While I made this pledge when I was 19, I never thought I would still be single at my age. But hey that’s life.

If we do end up getting married it’s not like we’re going to fall in love and start being physically intimate. That may never come. What’s important is that we won’t be alone when one of us gets cancer, pneumonia, whenever, and that’s irreplaceable.

My question to all of you is – why not consider a friend-based marriage pact as the years inch up on you? It may sound a bit ridiculous, bum when 50 is looming and you’re still single, you may be glad the pact is waiting in the wings.

Have you committed to a marriage pact? Would you?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

How I Stave-Off Wheelchair Back Pain

Gravity may keep our world together, but it’s no friend to wheelchair-users. Year after year, gravity slowly takes its toll on our backs, grinding away at our vertebrae and pulling them together, causing major pain.

Preventing back pain is almost a no-win when you can’t stand or walk. You may not be able to do it completely, but you can still help the situation. When I broke my neck, my back was perfectly straight, but I also had three more inches to grow. As I sat between the ages of 14 to 17, it sadly became pretty darn crooked.

When my growth-spurt finally ended, I realized how crooked my back had become. It transformed from a straight line into an elongated letter “S” and the only way to fix it, we were told, was with braces or surgery, but neither ended up a good solution.

In the end because of my scoliosis, back pain is now something I must live with on a daily basis. My grandpa was always lying on his back on his living room floor watching TV whenever I came to visit because of his back pain (slowly caused by degenerating discs), and now I know what that feels like.

I’m not in hellish pain everyday mind you, but it’s far from pleasant. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few ways to help out the frustrating situation of back pain. Here’s a peek at some of my favorites below.

Extra Lumbar Support

I know a quadriplegic last month who finally have some awaited lumbar support added to his wheelchair backrest, and it has totally transformed his world. Having support in this area of your back can relieve pain and help you feel more stable. Everyone who uses a wheelchair should take this seriously and strive for it whenever possible.

Forward Bend

When back pain is too much to bear, one of the few things that really helps is yoga; specifically the lean forward stretch. This stretch can be done in your wheelchair or in bed; wherever you can get the most balance. I’ve learned how to do this in rehab too, but my yoga classes perfected it, teaching all the small things you only get from yoga, like better breathing and a more clear of mind feeling.

Spinal Twist

For another back stretch that can really alleviate back pain, look no further than the classic Spinal Twist pose. This yoga pose has you twist to the left and again to the right, using your upper body as the central turning point. Think of your organs as being “wrung-out” as you do it too. It helps your mind feel unbelievably clear.

Sit as Straight as You Can

I’ve also found that slouching in my wheelchair is one of the worst things I can do to my back (oh man does it hurt). I fortunately have a custom-made backrest that literally forces me to sit straight. Although it would be nice at the end of the day, I do not have tilt on my power chair, which means I have no choice but to sit straight all day long.

While my methods above may not be perfect when it comes to “true” back care, it works for me, and that’s all that really matters. You should all do the same for yourself as well. Living each day to of the fullest will make you the happiest, and if you can manage that you’re set.

How do you take care of back pain?

Products Mentioned

– Lumbar support for a wheelchair

Custom wheelchair backrest

Photo courtesy of Blah Blah Blah

“TLCing” the Body for the Future

6583616433_50981b88c3When they said aging with a disability was a serious business, they weren’t joking. I’m only 34 and I’m already feeling some massive aging issues. If this is what I have to look forward to for the next 30 or so years, I’ve decided to take some serious action.

It all started a couple of years ago when I drove for 6 hours straight. After the drive, my wrist felt like it had fallen asleep. No big deal, right? But it was much more serious than that. Little did I know I had strained my wrist muscles to the point of overuse, and getting them back to normal would be an almost impossible task.

When you get a strained joint or muscle as someone with a mobility disability and you have limited movement in other areas, preserving what you have is critical. In fact, this is key throughout our entire lives. We need to be obsessed with joint and muscle preservation and begin thinking of our bodies as precious works of art.

I’ve decided to employ a few different strategies to make sure I do whatever I can to treat my body with TLC and get as much use out of it as I can. The first thing is monitoring my movement for the day and making sure I don’t over-exert myself. This means not typing 8 hours straight and then cooking a huge meal. Partitioning of your chores will protect your body.

I also make sure I get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise and drink plenty of water; all the important things we should all be doing anyways, disabled or not. It’s easy however to neglect your body when you have a disability and are alone often, which is the case for me, as no one is here to stop me from doing something stupid.

I’ve also had another age-related injury in the last year – burstitis of the shoulder. Joy of joys. This strange sounding condition is one athletes usually get, fluid on the shoulder limiting mobility, but since people disabilities strain their joints in some cases almost as much as athletes, we too are susceptible to this condition. Stretching and cortisone shots can help.

Isometric weight training however is another thing I’m doing and is one of the biggest things people disabilities should learn how to do. This specialized weight training makes sure to never over-exert your muscles, and instead has you apply pressure to small areas of the muscle, slowly building up strength without tuckering your poor muscles out.

And the last thing I’ve decided to do for the time being – see a massage therapist on a regular basis. Giant knots in the muscles we use are inevitable, but if we don’t get them rubbed out, they will just get worse until the muscles shorten, making it hard to move.

It is pretty scary thinking about what may happen in the future when it comes to our bodies. Aging is the one thing we all fear. However by planning and preserving, we can give ourselves of a bit peace of mind, and that can help tremendously.

How do you give your body TLC for the long run?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

When I’m In Bed at Night, That’s When the Dark Thoughts Come

We all are susceptible to being visited by our personal demons in bed at night. Lying there, wide awake before sleep comes, thinking about everything in our lives; it’s easy. Since I broke my neck when I was 14, going to sleep at night has never been the same.

When I’m lying there, there is one thought that overtakes my mind more than any other – Eric Hesk – the boy who was at the lake when I was injured; the one who told me the water was deep enough as a joke to see what would happen. This was what he did my entire life since we grew up together – let’s trick Tiffiny into doing something stupid and laugh.

See my brother and Eric and his brothers were like the big group of crazy guys as kids. They were always up to doing something insane, whether it was building a tree house on private property or playing in flooded out ditches after a rainstorm. I would tag along, hoping they’d eventually would see my worth as a part of the group, but that never happened.

What did end up happening a lot was that my naiveté got in the way. “Hey Tiffiny, drive your bike over here into the flooded ditch and see what happens,” and they would all laugh as my bike flipped forward when I hit a submerged drain pipe. It was all fun and games, and I was even sure that Eric liked me secretly, but he had no idea the seriousness of the prank he was about to pull.

As I lay awake in bed at night nowdays, I see Eric in the water below looking up at me telling me, “Go Tiffiny, jump,” as the line behind me got impatient (there were eight of us all hanging out). And then I see myself right afterwards, lying in the water face down, floating helplessly and unable to move anything. For some reason despite it being 20 years after my injury, I now think of this more than ever.

Perhaps I’m finally realizing that my injury is very likely never going to get better. I’ve always held out hope, and still someone do, that a cure for spinal cord injury will happen in my lifetime, but now that it’s been two full decades, I’m not so sure a cure is as close as they would like us to think. They can still barely get rats to walk, let alone humans.

While on a road trip, I met a man who was newly injured and he asked me if the longer you’re injured, the easier it becomes. If he would’ve asked me this 10 years ago, I would’ve said absolutely it gets easier, but he asked me this three years ago, so I hold him the truth – no it doesn’t. Do you ever get used to something so sad? It’s impossible.

I’m so happy when sleep finally comes; sometimes I’ll take melatonin to help too. Ad when I wake up – all of those dark thoughts are nowhere to be found. It’s so strange, but they only seem to come out at night. In the morning, I’m all “forget the past and move forward” and I’m grateful for it. I couldn’t live in a dark place morning and night. That is one thing I refuse to do.

How do you stop dark thoughts from invading your mind?

Product mentioned

– Nature Made Melatonin

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Single-Handed Cooking: A Few Tips

4817475546_b9f4e4b0ab_zStrangely, despite not being able to move my fingers I’ve grown to love cooking.  I’m slow at it, the kitchen looks like an explosion everytime I cook and I’ve burnt myself countless times, but despite all of that I still cook on a near-daily basis.

Not many quadriplegics do it, but I can’t help myself.  It’s in my genes. My mom is one of the best cooks I know. I grew up always envisioning I’d be a fabulous cook like my mom, and I’m dead set on making that dream a reality.

I will admit it’s not easy. A lot of considerations need to be made in order to cook without too much of a struggle. Good thing is that I have some experience under my belt, and I’m here to help. Check out my single-handed (and no finger-movement) cooking tips below.

Make Sure You’ve Got Your Balance

Safety in the kitchen is paramount and making sure you have your balance is huge when you’re cooking.  If you have balance issues, this is the first thing you need to resolve in order to start cooking. I do the “quad-hook” to keep my balance, but other people prefer to use chest straps.  Whenever you end up using, make sure it’s something you can count on.

Use an Apron; Cut Off the Ties

Since I can only use one hand very well while cooking, you can call me the spill queen. I don’t care what I’m cooking, some of it will end up on my lap (flour by the way is one of my arch enemies). Because of this – I love to wear aprons, but they’re not the easiest to put on when you can’t stand up. I cut the ties off my aprons since they’re not necessary (as I’m not standing). Easing, accessible solution.

Prep Everything Before Turning On the Heat

A really important thing you need to do before turning on the burners is to prep everything you’re cooking with first.  It can take longer to do things when you’re arms and hands are compromised, so make sure you have everything poured, measured out, chopped, whatever, and put to the side just like a cooking show. This will make sure you don’t burn anything while taking too long to prep food.

Know Your Limits

Don’t get too cocky and try to make something that you can’t cook on your own safely, say a pot roast in the oven and pulling it out when it’s done, and ending up spilling it on you. The best thing you can do is accept what you can’t do in the kitchen, be ok with it, and instead try to get really good at what you can cook.

Buy Pre-Cut Foods When Possible

To make things easier, look for pre-cut foods is they’re available. Pre-cut vegetables, meats, cheese, potatoes; if it eliminates one extra step from your cooking process it’s a good thing. And don’t feel like it’s cheating either. You have a great excuse; you don’t want to overuse the strength in your arms over the years as you use them.

Get a Sharp Knife

To help your arms along the way as well, a sharp knife will do you good big time. If and when you do have to cut things, an extremely sharp knife at least will make the job a lot easier physically. A lightweight knife is good as well, such as a ceramic knife by a Cusinart.

Maybe you don’t like cooking and that’s cool, but if you do, don’t ever let your disability stop you. I’ve even seen a high injured quadriplegic stir a soup using a very long stir spoon in his mouth; that’s the commitment I’ve seen to the love of cooking.

With a little bit of planning, smart thinking and a few self-imposed restrictions, becoming a decent cook is possible. I’m living proof (and you should try my bread pudding).

What cooking tips do you have?

Products mentioned

– Ceramic knife by Cuisnart

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?

Wheelchair Kitty Care: Taking Care of My Daphners

Almost ten years ago my mom gifted me with my feline companion Daphne. She’s a swell kitty. She loves deli turkey slices, sunshine and sleep, and she doesn’t jump on anything except my bed, which she knows is her spot. Nearly the perfect cat.

I’ve always knew a cat was the way to go for me. With not being able to walk plus having arm and hand issues, the prospect of owning a dog was overwhelming. I live in a condo, see. I’d have to walk my dog outside to take them to the bathroom, and then pick up after them. Try doing that sitting down with no finger movement. Daily frustration I tell you what.

When I received my kitty from my mom I wasn’t sure how it’d go. I was freshly single and my cat wasn’t coming out from the bathroom. I had no one around to help wrestle her out, so there she sat for days until finally she acclimated to my place and began exploring. That was the first hurdle, but figuring out how to care for her that…that was much harder.

Here are some of the things that help me take care of my awesome kitty, Daphne du Maurier, aka Daphner (yes, she’s named after the famous British author).

Authority Senior Cat Food

When my cat officially became a “senior” in 2008 (anything past seven years old considered senior in the cat world), she began to throw up a lot more. I know, gross. Ug. So I googled her problem, trying to figure out what was the cause, and I discovered old age can be the culprit. My cat simply has a sensitive gut, and it wasn’t about to change.

Everyone online of course had their own remedies, but the most popular answer by far was to try senior cat food for your cat. Senior cat food is already partially broken down, so less digestion is required. After trying this food about a year ago, I noticed a big difference right away. She went to throwing up daily to only once in awhile, and that’s what I call winning.

Check it out: Authority Senior Cat Food

Dried Catnip

Sometimes even cats need to chill out, and one of the best ways to relax your cat is with the old standby – catnip. I love getting catnip in a plastic, re-sealable bag, and I store it on the door of my refrigerator (where I keep all of my condiments) for easy access. I love to sprinkle dried catnip directly on my cat’s head or back, or I’ll pour a tiny little pile of it onto the floor by her food bowls.

Check it out: Fresh Catnip Resealable Pouch

Covered Litter Box

Dealing with the litter situation is never easy. A covered litter box however is awesome. You can get them anywhere and they’re a great way to keep out the smell and unsightly sights, but make sure to clean it daily. I would love one of those magical litter boxes that that cleans itself, but those are a bit pricey and require a plumbing hook-up.

Check it out: Catty Corner Covered Litter Box

Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance Litter

When it comes to litter itself, I’m a big fan of non-clumping clay litter, with Tidy Cats still my favorite brand after all these years.  My caregivers help with cleaning the litter box, and each weed we add fresh litter.

Check it out: Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance

When it comes to grooming, I can’t forget my newest tip – dedicating an old hair brush you can hold to grooming your cat. I use a Conair paddle brush with a round jelly handle, and using my old brush has been one of my smarted cat-care moves. With it I can truly brush her and it’s a great brush on short-hair cats.

What cat care items are on your must-have list?

Products mentioned

– Authority Senior Cat food

– Fresh Catnip Resealable Pouch

 Catty Corner Covered Litter Box

Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance

DVR, Where Have You Been All My Life?

We are all busy people. We have family and friend obligations, we have jobs to go to – full-time, part-time or freelance – and if you don’t work, if you have a disability you’re likely still busy or feel so at least. Having a disability can do that to you.

We have appointments galore. Doctor’s appointments, therapist appointments, wheelchair appointments and don’t get me started on having to stick to a daily PCA schedule, which you mine as well call an appointment too.

Our days go just as fast as yours, and many of us don’t even have kids. My disability is like an insolent child I must constantly tend to anyways. Having an actual kid would certainly do me in. It really would.

My days can be rough. There are good days and bad, this is why I’ve fallen in love with my new friend. She tells me fabulous stories and keeps me entertained and she’s there whenever I need her; like a true best friend should be. Only problem, my new friend doesn’t have a voice or ears to listen with, but no matter, as long as she’s there everything is peachy.

I’m speaking of course of my DVR; my Directv + DVR receiver to be specific that has totally changed my world, well at the very least changed the way I consume media. Everyone seems to be going crazy for Hulu lately, cutting off their cable ties for good, but DVR to me could never be replaced by something like Hulu. TV has blossomed in the last 6 years and I’m all about it. On my TV and yes, even the commercials (some of them).

Each morning when I wake up or at night after work, I’ll check my DVR to see the list of what it’s recently recorded. It’s like a present to unwrap each time you hit the “Guide” button. It’s awesome, and I won’t lie – I’m all about simple pleasures in life. Who isn’t? Cheap entertainment. I can’t remember the last time I went to the movies. That is how much my little living room DVR machine has changed my world.

My shows set to record of course run on the feminine side of things: Fashion Police, Chopped, Project Runway, Downtown Abbey, Reign, Long Island Medium, House Hunters, Millionaire Matchmaker. But they’re also loved by all sexes too: Treehouse Masters, Pawn Stars, Comic Book Men, The Walking Dead, The Haunting of…, Oddities, The Dead Files and even (guilty cringe) Duck Dynasty.

What can I say? TV has become exponentially better. Maybe it’s because people my age are finally making the content decisions at the networks I adore (eh-hem Vikings on the History channel = brilliant). There is just so much good to watch. If you were to get really sick with a long-term illness that required lots of bedrest, right now would be the time. Helloooo DVR in bed.

Of course all of this DVR talk makes me sound dreadfully boring, and maybe my life isn’t as exciting as it once was (getting older will do that to you), but I’m ok with that. Again, another likely sign I’m getting older. What’s my DVR recording again?

I think the beauty of the DVR as a person with a disability is simply how it records everything you love, taking the stress out of live viewing, which can be so hard when you have a disability. Who has time to think about this kind of stuff anymore? No, we need our TVs to remember this for us.

Just know, if you’ve been deathly curious of DVR for years but have never made the switch, now is the time. I rent my DVR receiver for only an additional $10/month and it’s worth every penny; every hay penny even. Screw handguns; you’ll have to pry my DVR from my cold, dead hands.

Are you a DVR fan or could you care less?

Links in the post

Directv + DVR

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Guilty Pleasures to Keep My Happy Up

When you have a disability, it’s easy to have more bad days than good. Maybe I’m speaking for myself, but that seems to be the case for a number of us at least. More things can go bad when you’re dependent on more things, from wheelchairs and van ramps breaking to PCAs not showing up.

I’ve found when I have those bad days, those really really bad days when I wish my disability to go away forever (hey we’ve all had those days), I’ve found nothing helps more than doing something off my “guilty pleasures” list. Yes that’s right, I have a list dedicated to my guilty pleasures and it’s helped me through a lot of bad moments.

When you’re alone and have no one to talk to, or just think you don’t, doing a simple thing that makes you immensely happy – a guilty pleasure – can be more effective than taking a pill; believe me. There’s something so soothing about a guilty pleasure…even more than you might realize.

Maybe you already know this and employ it often, but if you don’t and aren’t sure what your guilty pleasures are, perhaps my list will help. Check out a few of my favorite items from my guilty pleasures list that helps keep my happy up.

Chocolate Glazed Donuts

They may be a trend right now, but I’ve always loved donuts, ever since my church would put out simple glazed doughnuts after service as a kid. And after my injury, donuts strangely began had an especially healing effect on me. Maybe it was because they reminded me of happier days, and my favorite donut by far – chocolate glazed.

These two things – chocolate AND glaze – are the best worlds of yumminess in a single donut, and surprisingly Market Pantry (Target’s off-brand) is one of the best out there. You can get 6 of these delicious bad-day melters for only a $1.50, which makes them one of the cheapest most tasty guilty pleasures ever. These unfortunately however are only available in-store, but they’re worth it.

Check them out: Find the Target nearest you

Silk Scarves

When you have limited sensation in your lower extremities, pampering your upper extremities is hugely important to keep your sanity, and nothing feels better than a little bit of silk on the skin. When you have quadriplegia, this means wrapping your neck and shoulders in silk; aka just put on a silk scarf goshdarnit.

I have had several silk scarves in my day, for the best one I’ve had by far is one I recently bought from MommaGoddess on Etsy, dyed in beautiful rainbow colors. It is so soft and feels so wonderful it helps me forget the crazy world outside everytime I wear it. Plus, the bright colors make me feel like I’m Rainbow Brite. Winning.

Check it out: Hand-Dyed Over the Rainbow Silk Scarf

Caramel Rolls

Another pastry that calls my name on a bad day are the quintessential caramel rolls. Warm and soft sweet rolls drizzled with caramel and stuffed inside and out with pecans; how can anything be more delicious? Having one in front of me ready to be devoured is a visual pleasure trumps any flat tire or memory of a rude stare.

And the greatest thing about caramel rolls, it’s really easy to eat just one because many places only sell them singularly, and one of my favorite places to get one is Cinnabon; the high school haunt of my youth that I’m darn glad is still around today.  They’re giant, warm pastries of amazingness and they’re worth every dollar, which will set you back about four of them these days. #worthit

Check them out: Caramel Pecanbons

Dove Dry Shampoo

If you’re a girl, chances are feeling pretty is a guilty pleasure too. Getting your nails done, your hair foiled or maybe just buying something pretty can help you feel worlds better. In my world, nothing makes me feel prettier than sexy hair, and Dove’s Dry Shampoo – a product that was released a few years ago  – makes my hair look amazing with just a quick squirt.

It’s infused with powder that cleans your hair in an instant and it smells just like Dove soap, one of my favorite smells in the world. No longer do I need a PCA to look fabulous, and that feels better than anything.

Check it out: Dove Refresh+Care Dry Shampoo

Strawberry Milk Straws

I’m not sure why, but I really like artificial strawberry flavoring; another vestige of my youth no doubt. Making my own strawberry milk on the fly however is not easy when you have paralyzed fingers. I could buy it already mixed of course, but the strawberry milk straws from Magic Milk, that flavor your milk as you drink it, is so much more fun.

These inadvertently are the perfect thing for people with upper-body disabilities. Tiny sliver crystals jam-packed into the straw that once moistened by the milk, they release their awesome flavor. No spoons, mixing or anything else required. And they come in other tasty flavors too – chocolate, cookies ‘n cream, vanilla and strawberry banana.

Check them out: Magic Milk Straws

The moral of my story: Utilize your guilty pleasures for a higher purpose when you have a disability. Get smart, recognize what makes you happy and use those things as your bad-day arsenal when needed. Trust me, it really works.

What guilty pleasures help you after a bad day?

Products mentioned

Hand-Dyed Over the Rainbow Silk Scarf

Caramel Pecanbons

Dove Refresh+Care Dry Shampoo

Magic Milk Straws

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