Category Archives: Summer

The Mother of Invention

This weekend I got to spend some time with my twin. I have not seen her in quite a while because she lives in another state and has a large family, which makes it hard to travel. The distance sucks, but we talk a lot, and even when we don’t there is a bond that no one can touch. I think it would be awesome if every disabled person in the world had a twin. Unfortunately that is not something we can market on the UNlimiters’ website.

My twin has been an invaluable part of my UNlimited life. When we were young she was my constant companion and I would work hard trying to keep up with her. In turn, she would adapt her play for me or help me do something. We were always conniving, her and I. I remember when we had a bunk bed as kids. We both really wanted me on the top bunk, so she pushed and I pulled and somehow we got me to the top bunk. We were thrilled; but then, of course, we couldn’t get down from the top bunk.Then there was the time she tied my trike to her bike and tried to tow me along behind her. It worked for about 5 seconds before I tipped over and was almost hit by a car.

She wasn’t always nice, though. We may have been twins but we were still sisters, and sisters can be mean sometimes. She didn’t always enjoy having me tag along. Sometimes our parents forced her to take me with her in the wagon or my stroller; on these occasions she would take me far enough that I was out of sight and earshot of the house, then leave me stranded while she went to play. She also liked to make me pee my pants when she was feeling extra mean.

These days, she has given up on most of her mean tricks. She is still my best partner when it comes to adaptability, though; she is always helping me come up with new ideas. Even though she doesn’t have CP, my sister seems to understand the way my body works in a way that other people don’t. This makes her a good person to brainstorm with. For example, this last weekend we were at a party at our other sister’s house. A bunch of us were sitting on a blanket playing with my baby niece; but I had to lie down on the blanket because I cannot sit up independently on the ground.

I could have easily sat in a chair, but I wanted to feel included. As I was holding myself up, my twin thought that the wrap she uses to hold her baby hands free could be tied around me in a way that would support my back and allow me to sit up independently. There was a lot of giggling, my oldest niece and my mother thought we had gone crazy, but after some thinking and a few strategically placed knots we came up with this:

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It worked, but after fifteen minutes my neck started to hurt, so the design needs some tweaking. Of course, after we posted the picture of Facebook, my ever practical college roommate suggested that this stadium chair might be an easier solution. I will have to try it; if it works I might be a little sad. My twin and I were sure that we had struck gold with this particular idea.

You Can’t Get AC Everywhere: How I Stay Cool

Staying cool is crazy hard when you can’t sweat. Not being able to sweat of course is a side-effect of living with paralysis. One of the worst, actually, but this entry isn’t a pity party entry. Not today, my friends. This entry is all about finding solutions. The solution-finder. That should be my middle name.

I don’t care where you’re at – in your van, car, stuck in bed with a broke AC unit,maybe you’re outside at a music festival and shade is no where to be found. Here are my favorite ways to stay cool.

Sun shade

Southern belles had the right idea when they, and the ladies before them for centuries on back, used a sun umbrella to keep their fair skin as white as snow. That gave me an idea after visiting the local Renaissance fair, and my sun shade has been my last ditch go-to cooling method when finding shade is otherwise impossible. And gosh do they work quite well.

– Sun Parasols

Of course snagging one is a light color is a good idea. Mine is red and works good, but white would be much better. As for holding the darn thing while driving; that isn’t always easy. If you have a hard time holding a sun shade as you drive or push your chair, here’s a cool wheelchair umbrella-holder to consider

– Paraplis Umbrella Holder for Wheelchairs

Battery-powered fan w/ mister

Manually fanning yourself is so pre-Edison. Embrace electricity in the shape of a battery-power personal misting fan. I can’t fan myself too long without getting a tired arm and last year after the AC in my van broke, I turned to one of these as a way to keep myself cool upon arrival to my destination (setting it up to spray/mist me as I drive is still something I’d still love to figure out).

This product is one of the most fabulous cooling devices to be invented in recent years. As you know, sweat helps the body cool by coming into contact with air, and this mister pretty much does exactly that. Of course the batteries need to get replaced frequently if you use it a lot, but the thing works good. Every person out there with sweating issues should get one of these in their first-aid kit, stat.

– O2 Cool

Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist

I first came upon this magical stuff a couple years ago when I was in Denver, CO on a road trip. I was all blistery red from the extreme sun exposure which is common in high-elevation cities (learned the hard way!) and my sunscreen had run out. So I was in Target for a pit-stop, and I found Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist SPF 70.

The “cooling mist” intrigued me and boy was I pleasantly surprised. This stuff cooled my skin the second I sprayed it on, and it lingers. It really is a great thing to have if you’ve been burned and need a quick way to cool off.

– Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist SPF70

Gatorade

I know some people may think Gatorade is reserved for the athletes and the wanna-be Michael Jordan’s of the world, but there is healing power in them there electrolytes, and you can only get them in liquid form with Gatorade, well easily at least. Electrolytes are what your body needs if it’s overheating and needs to rehydrate asap, which btw is kinda essential to staying cool.

There are a million Gatorade flavors out there, but beware – not all of them are great; not by a long shot. But my favorites are Ice Blue, Grape and Strawberry. When summer hits, I make sure to keep a thing of Gatorade both in my fridge and in my van at all times. You just can’t be too safe. Messing around with possible heat strokes is no joke.

– Gatorade

The intense hot days look like they’re here to stay, which means your “stay cool” arsenal is just as important as your zombie and end-of-the-world arsenals. Be safe this summer, kids. I had a few close calls last summer and it was so scary stuff. Oh and remember when in a pinch, a cup of cold water over the head does the trick too.

How do you stay cool?

Photo courtesy of G. Briem

Goodbye Bikini, Hello One Piece

After I became a quadriplegic, the one thing that feared me the most was becoming ugly. Fat, unattractive, out of style…I was worried that somehow my wheelchair would magically make me a troll.

I know, I know shallow vanity at its finest, but I was 14 and this line of thought was inevitable. After a couple rough years, I finally found a style groove, realized it was possible to still work it sitting down, which boosted my confidence. And by the time I was 19 I had amassed a collection of swimsuits.

See, when you live in a state where you suffer 9 months of cold for three brilliant months of summer, it’s easy to go overboard when you finally get the chance to buy summertime stuff. It’s just so darn fun. It’s like being 8 years old again and your dad just gave you a $10 bill to blow in the candy aisle.

Ever winter I would dream of all the aquatic scenarios emy swimsuits would get into- laying in the sun on my balcony, out at my mom’s patch of beach on a lake they live by, on the pontoon trying to hold on for dear life, even in the hot tub in my building. I couldn’t walk anymore, but these swimsuits gave me a sense of reclaiming of my AB life. I was still holding that torch of my personality tall and high.

But now, as I’ve gotten older, I’m beginning to look at my swimsuit collection a little differently. I have about 15 bikinis, 2 monokinis and 2 one-pieces, and most of those bikinis haven’t been worn in years. Are my 30+ years finally changing me clothing preferences?? Hrm. I thought I was immune to that.

After putting on bikinis in the past years, my body is starting to bug me. I see bones here and there, a quad guts that’s not bad, but bugs me nonetheless. I want perfection, but I know it’s not possible, so now I’ve decided to amp up my collection of one-piece swimsuits; the retro look that is making a comeback. And the good news – they’re not for older ladies anymore. One-pieces are super sexy now days.

Finally, a clothing trend works in my favor. The last time that happened was the long tank top trend and before that, tear-away athletic pants. Oh my PCA’s loved those. So now I’m having fun shopping around for one-pieces. Victoria’s Secret has a few great options, such as this RuchedHalter One-Piece. Still sexy in the important places, but a bit more coverage. I would even wear a pareo or flowy skirt with this too since I absolutely hate my thighs.

Otherwise, you can even buy a one-piece now that has a mini-short built into it, like this Romy Romper from Victoria’s Secret as well. And avoid strapless if you have a hard time pulling your tops back up.

And remember to always put on your sunscreen when going out in the sun this summer. The sun is getting stronger each year, and skin cancer is growing sadly. We all want to look cute, and skin cancer is so not cute. One of my favorite styles of sunscreen is the aerosol style, which is SUPER easy to put on if you have limited hand movement. My favorite is Neutrogena CoolingSpray with Sunblock. A great way to cool off if you have problems in that area too.

Where do you shop for swimsuits? What style do you think works best in a seated position?

Traveling with a Disability? Some Simple Tips.

Traveling with a disability can be a daunting experience, especially for the novice traveler. However, a little preparation and some knowledge can make the experience of getting to your vacation destination easier and less stressful.

For those who are traveling by air this vacation season, be aware that TSA has increased their security screening procedures. It is recommended that the passenger with a disability arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before departure to accommodate for additional screening should it be deemed necessary. Keep in mind that TSA procedures vary by airport, but below is a list of general expectations when going through the security process.

1. Many airports utilize full body scanners. Being cleared through the use of this device deems additional screening, including the pat down, unnecessary.

2. If the airport does not have a full body scanner, the traveler can expect a pat down and swab screening. The pat down has become more thorough in the past few months which has caused both anxiety and embarrassment for some travelers. Private screenings are always available, and if you are uncomfortable it is okay to request one. (It should also be noted that you have the right to have a friend or family member accompany you to the private screening area.) The agent may take a piece of cloth and rub braces, crutches, wheelchairs, prosthetics and your hands for explosive residue.

3. Prosthetic wearer, please know that you do NOT have to remove your prosthesis (or the shoe on your prosthetic) to be cleared by TSA. If the request is made, you may ask to speak with the supervisor and politely point out the concern.

Packing an appropriate carry-on bag can eliminate a lot of stress and potential obstacles for the traveler. It is recommended that the following items be included in the carry-on bag:

1. For amputees, pack additional socks of various ply (keep in mind that changes in altitude can cause the volume fluctuations)

2. Prescription medications and over the counter pain medication

3. Lotion (these handy bottles assure that you are always within the size restrictions allowed by TSA)

4. Hand sanitizer to facilitate donning your prosthesis (again, be sure to keep the bottle small and within the one ounce limits)

5. All adapted equipment which may not be easy to locate at your destination should your luggage become lost

6. Name and phone number of your pharmacy and physicians, should you require refills or information on your trip

7. Handicapped parking hang tag (so that it can utilized while at your destination) Packing some simple amenities can make staying away from home more comfortable and accessible.

You might want to consider bringing a suction cup grab bar and folding shower stool. Although most hotels provide a shower chair upon request, the requests are honored on a first come/ first serve basis and there is often no guarantee that one will be available when you check in. In my experience, sanitation of the shower chairs provided by some hotels has been questionable and I simply feel more comfortable bringing my own compact version.

Taking some extra time to prepare can help thwart a vacation catastrophe. Most importantly, have a great time and don’t let your disability keep you from enjoying the adventures of live. Instead of being limited, strive to become an Unlimiter! Do you have a vacation tip that you’d like to share? Email me or post it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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