Category Archives: Tiffiny Carlson

No More Flying Pizzas

pizza2I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to putting off purchases. My Great Grandma Morancey’s thrifty side must have somehow ingrained itself inside of me, even though I only knew her until the age of 16 and never went shopping with her once. Maybe it’s because I’m on a limited income, but I really dislike spending cash on anything that isn’t a bill.

While this can be good in some respects – you get to save your money for the important things – you go without important things and that can leave you in a dangerous situation when you have a disability. Case in point: How I put off buying a backseat net for my van these past six years. I finally purchased one the other day – and holy cow has it made stashing away things easier.

But I think this is the nature of a lot of people with disabilities – we try to do things the hard way for as long as possible so we don’t have to use anything ” special.” But, when we finally get that item that everyone said would blow our minds, and it does, we’re always left going, “Why did I wait so long??”

And it is in that moment where most of us begin to realize these helpful gadgets aren’t so bad after all. This notion is quite fresh in my mind because I just knocked an item off my “To-Buy” list buying an backseat net from Highland. Buying this took seven years in the making. I didn’t think I needed it, despite what my occupational therapist said.

In hindsight, oh man I wish I would have listened. If I had only purchased that darned net when I got my van 7 years ago. Oh how much stress I would have saved myself. Remember – it’s always smart to listen to anyone with experience in the disability world. What this net does is keep everything on my backseat – my regular purse, my catheter bag, bags of things I have bought and yes, even pizza – in spite of jerky gas and brake motions.

There’s some things you can’t plan completely for in life, like a car in front of you slamming on its brakes, which of course will send everything flying onto the ground, including that hot pizza you just picked up. I’ve only had the net installed in my van for a few days now, but it’s already saved me from a handful of unnecessary spills.

Because of this, despite my happiness at finally getting this net, I’ve been thinking – no chiding myself – for my ridiculous procrastination when it comes to buying anything adapted. I never want to go there, but I’m changing my tune after this net fiasco.

I’ve seen the light. If something can make my life easier, I’m going try it with no delay.

Have you put off buying adapted tools?

Products mentioned

Highland Black Hammock-Style Storage Net

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

Buy a Fondue Pot and Win at Life

fondueMuch like stirring in a figure eight is the secret to keeping cheese melted in a fondue pot, the fondue pot itself is the secret to making life awesome.

There’s something that brings out the child in you when you fondue, and that feeling is something too many of us let slip away. This is why I am here to tell each and every one of you to go and buy a fondue pot right now.

The fondue pot has many purposes, keeping you slim, happy and entertained, but first, the fondue pot I use – the Trudaeu 3-in-1 Cheese Fondue pot – a slick medium-sized red ceramic pot on a wire stand, and it’s heated up by gel lighter fluid.

There are a few different fondue pots out there fyi – cheese, hot oil or hot wine and chocolate – but my favorite by far is doing cheese fondue. There are just so many more healthy options when you use a cheese fondue pot. You can dip any kind of vegetable, fruits, breads, meat, oh my.

You can make it incredibly low-cal too, and as a wheelchair-user this is always a good thing. What’s great about fondue to help you lose weight as well – it’s paces you, making it impossible to overeat since you have to rely on tiny forks for all of your eating.

This can be annoying, but the struggle can pay off. A lot of clever dieters will actually use smaller plates to not eat as much, and small fondue forks work just the same. After you secure a cheese fondue pot in your life, your next goal is to practice using it.

My fondue pot requires a gel-filled lighter fluid package to pop into the flame area so it can be lit. They also sell fondue pots that actually plug-in, but I love the live-flame so I have never gone the electric route. I do not trust myself to light my fondue pot however, so I always make sure I fondue when I have people over.

This brings me to my next point of why the fondue pot is so awesome – it just makes you happy, kind of like that Pharrell song. Stupidly happy even, which by default makes it a great entertaining food, especially if you have the right dippers. Summer sausage, French baguette, green apple, steamed red potatoes, brussel sprouts and carrots, and that is just my first round.

It’s also a super romantic way to eat. I made this for a new guy I’m dating and it was super fun. We cooked and ate together; mega-bonding ensued. Yup, the fondue pot can even help in the love department.

Fondue also forces you to eat non-processed foods, and that is where it may win the biggest. It’s easy setting up all the foods you need for a fondue feast, and they are all whole foods – no cooking required. Just buy them and set them on the table. It’s easy as that, and so good for you.

And if you’ve never done a cheese fondue before, here are my pointers: Always use two different cheeses (a Gruyere and a cheddar or swiss is best), start it on the stove first and then put the cheese in your fondue pot, always use flour or cornstarch to help melt the cheese and last, make sure to add an acid (some white wine or lemon juice) to help your cheese blend smoothly.

It may seem like a lot of work, but believe me cheese fondue is more than worth it. I think more than anything fondue puts a smile on my face. In a life where a disability can really bring on some difficult days, a silly little thing like this can have a surprisingly powerful effect on me, and I’m so glad – flameage and all – I discovered how influential it can be.

Do you fondue?

Products Mentioned

– Trudeau Cheese Fondue Pot

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

How I Get Beautiful Hair Solo Without Water (or a Colorist)

When you’re me, you can run into two different barriers when trying to get your hair done up right. The first is the universal barrier all women face – roots coming in. We all know how annoying that is. The second barrier is one only faced if you’re paralyzed or equally disabled – washing your hair.

I can’t wash my hair when the mood suits me. Unfortunately, I need someone’s help with most of it. Because of this, I’ve developed this insane weekly schedule that I’ve followed religiously for years that dictates my entire hair-washing schedule.

It went like this: Wash my hair Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I couldn’t wash my hair every day; it just took way too long, but the terrible side effect was that I suffered through greasy hair on my off-days. Oh the joys of being a dirty blonde.

And I thought there was no way out of my hair-fate unless someone developed an easier way to wash hair. Then the clouds parted, and I discovered a product that changed the entire way I thought hair could ever be washed – baby powder; the oil-absorbing, hair-cleaning agent that can be applied directly to dirty hair and cleans it.

That’s right; sprinkle a bit on your head, rub it in a little bit and your hair will become clean. Holy cow did my life instantly change for better with this discovery. I now had an independent way to clean my hair when no PCA was around. I think my happiness level at least went up by two points.

And since that day, I’ve discovered even more products for cleaning my hair without water, as well as other hair products that enhance my hair color temporarily in between colorings. The market is experiencing a hair-cleaning renaissance right now, and I’m totally taking advantage of it.

Here are a few other products I’ve discovered, as well as a bit more on baby powder, that help keep my hair clean and colored on even my greasiest, most root-exposing days.

Baby Powder

Now labeled a “powder dry shampoo” among hair people, your average bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby powder will do the trick. Try their cornstarch option instead however; it’s better for your lungs if you accidentally breathe it in. Also, check out their scents like Magnolia Blossom or Cooling Cucumber so you smell awesome, and not like a baby.

To apply solo, I put some in my brush then brush my hair.

Aerosol Dry Shampoo

Another way to wash your hair that’s huge right now is the aerosol dry shampoo. Dove’s Dry Shampoo is without question the most popular one on the market (Batiste and got2b are good too); it smells great and is like $3.50. You can’t go wrong. To apply, you lift your roots and spray. I can’t do this motion that well, so I prefer baby powder, but each works great; it’s all about your preference.

Root Concealer Aerosol Spray

If your roots are coming in and you can’t get them colored for a few weeks – money, waiting on an appointment, your disability, whatever – Rita Hazan’s Root Concealer (in various colors) will blow your mind. It did mine, and it’s worth every dollar (all 25 of them). This stuff was originally developed to cover-up grey, but it works on roots just as well, and it will stay in until your next shampoo.

Colored Hair Powder

My latest discovery is colored hair powder, closely giving both Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Rita Hazan’s cover-up a run for its money, as it’s both of these things in one. It’s called Finley hair powder, and holy cow is it awesome. It comes in four different colors – blonde, brown, white and black – and it too will sufficiently cover your roots until your next shampoo. Clean hair and colored hair; this may be the perfect hair product.

What I love most about these easy breezy hair-cleaners is that I no longer have to wash my hair in the sink in a pinch, desperately trying to score clean hair, and getting water all over my face and neck in the process. You gotta love living in the future. They’re constantly coming up with so many cool new hair products, making our lives infinitely better. Thank you so much ingenious hair product inventors of the world.

Which dry shampoos do you love?

Products mentioned

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
Dove Dry Shampoo
Rita Hazan’s Root Concealer
Finley Hair Powder

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

A Wheelchair-User’s Obsession: Shoes, Glorious Shoes

36431_442860467867_3795794_nI have a friend who’s a comedian who thought it’d be funny if he asked me one day why wheelchair-users wear shoes. He thought he was clever with that one, “Well, we don’t walk so what’s the need,” he joshed, but I have to admit I’ve found his joke dumb.

Shoes are much more function, they’re about the fashion; making a statement wherever we go, telling the world a little bit about who we are wherever we roll to.  And anyways, we may not be walking, but we need to protect our feet too. I mean come on, how often have you accidentally ran into something as a wheelchair-user? Your feet would get pretty busted up without shoes.

And over the years I’ve fallen in love with shoes. Accessories are such a great way to add a little panache to your look as a wheelchair-user, and shoes are my all-time favorite accessory. But not every pair of shoes will work if you use a wheelchair.  Heels can be worn don’t get me wrong, but the style of heel matters big time.

If you’re a wheelchair user and are wanting to look for new shoe options, here are my all-time favorite shoes styles.

Button-Down Boots

When I was 21 years old, I decided I finally wanted to try to wear boots as a wheelchair-user, but I bought the wrong kind. I bought a pair without any buttons or a side-zipper, making them nearly impossible to put on.  Those boots were returned mighty quick, and I returned home with a pair that had a zipper. With the zipper, you can fold down the length of the boot to make it easier to slide your foot in.  When you have paralyzed feet, this is a must.

Mary Jane Heels

While I love all styles of high heels, I have to be practical about the kind that I attempt to wear.  Many styles of heels will simply fall off my feet the second I lift my foot up from the foot plate, leaving me without a shoe on and looking rather ridiculous. To avoid this, I now only where Mary Jane high heels; the style of shoe that has a strap that goes over the foot. These heels can be hard to find, so I tend to go online to find them.


While all styles of athletic shoes work ok as a wheelchair-user, I found Puma athletic shoes are some of the best. Their fashionable, comfortable on the feet and go well with a lot of different looks.They also have several pairs that come with Velcro straps, making them easy to put on and take off.

Moccasin Booties

Booties, an ankle-length version of a boot, are a great style of shoe to wear as a wheelchair-user, however my all time favorite booties are moccasins, beautiful leather shoes that are soft and easy to put on. You can go the expensive route and get a pair from Minnetonka moccasins, otherwise you can buy moccasin booties at most department stores.

For a lot of wheelchair-users shoes just aren’t a fun thing, but with a little bit of thinking and experimenting with different shoe styles, chances are you can wear more styles than you thought.  I can tell you one thing, I never in a million years thought I could a rock a pair of heels sitting down, but boy was I wrong. It’s one of the most empowering feeling I’ve had sitting down.

What kind of shoes do you prefer as a wheelchair-user?

Products mentioned

Minnetonka Moccasin Classic Fringe Ankle Boot

– Puma Athletic Shoes

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