Category Archives: Tips

Got Too Much Stuff? Donate it– UNlimiters Style!

imagesA few weeks ago my husband and I got a new couch. Well, it wasn’t really new, but it was “new to us.” Unlike our many other pieces of “new to us” furniture, this was very gently used. I love it. Of course, since I use the furniture and the walls to get around my house, we had to make sure that everything was positioned just so; but now that everything has been arranged it looks lovely.However, there is one small problem, and by one I mean two, and by small I mean rather large.

See, despite the fact that our trash company had agreed to take the old couches away for $10 a piece, they are still sitting in my basement, along with the two couches we were using before them. That’s right; I now have four used couches in my basement. Why? Well, that’s a logical question, and if I had an answer there would not be four couches in my basement. I cannot move the couches, so my husband has to do it, and he says that he cannot move them because he needs someone to help him. To date, he has not asked anyone and no one has spontaneously volunteered.

This is seriously enough to drive a woman insane. Fortunately, I have found a way in which I can get rid of some of the other stuff that seems to accumulate when you are a home owner, without needing my husband to help. Donate Stuff is an organization that accepts donations of gently used clothing and household items. The best part? They will pick them up for you on a scheduled date and time. The items you donate will go to a local charity and the pick-up is absolutely free. In my area, the items picked up by Donate Stuff goes to my local Purple Heart, a charity that supports military veterans and their families. It is really easy to schedule a pick – up, you just go to www.donatestuff.com and enter your zip code, then follow the instructions. If pickup is not available in your area, Donate Stuff will send you pre-paid UPS bags to mail in your clothing donations, for free.

Unfortunately for me and my couch situation, Donate Stuff does not pick up large items; they only take items that can be moved by a single person. But they will take clothing, small furniture, small appliances and other household items, which make them a great resource when you clean out your closet at the end of the season, buy a new coffee maker or your child suddenly decides that trains are for babies. You can donate these items knowing that they will be going to new families instead of filling up a landfill or your basement.

So when I look at those four couches sitting in my basement, I remember to be grateful that it is only couches, and not the hundreds of other items I have been able to donate to a good cause. I just keep hoping that someday soon a magic fairy, or a very large man, might come and take them a way.

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

Home Alone? Tips on Staying Safe and Sane.

My husband is an avid outdoorsman. He likes to hunt, fish, camp, and go for long walks in the woods. A few times a year, he goes on what I call a “man-cation.” I call it this because, generally, women are not welcome on these trips. Not that I want to be invited. Spending a few days cooped up in a cabin with no access to running water and sleeping in close proximity to a bunch of snoring men does not sound like my idea of a good time.

He really enjoys these trips; getting some time away from the daily grind in good for him. However, this also means that I lose my primary source of transportation while he is gone; which means we have to plan for what I will do while he is away.

Generally, I try to plan my own trip, or have a friend come stay with me while my husband is away. This is as much for boredom as it is for peace of mind. But if the timing doesn’t work out and I do have to spend a chunk of time alone, I always make sure that my family knows when he is leaving and when he will return. My Mom and in-laws are just minutes away in case of an emergency. Additionally, I like to set up a “check –in” schedule with them; this way we can check in with each other once a day, and if I cannot be reached they come over to the house. This might seem like a silly thing for an adult to do, but because I don’t use an aid, this is very important in case of a bad fall or something similar.

Besides making sure that I have someone on hand in case of an emergency, I also like to stock up on easy meals. Spending half an hour to an hour cooking for one just seems silly to me. I like to buy frozen skillet meals, because they taste better than the microwavable ones and I usually end up with left-overs. Also they are really simple to cook, with no chopping or measuring; just put in the pan for seven minutes and you are good to go.

The last thing I do when facing a week alone is make sure that I have a project and a nice long book to keep me entertained. I have just started the Game of Thrones series which I heard from a friend is “epically long.” Of course, I love Stephen King, but his novels tend to not be the best when home alone, though some of his less scary work would be a good choice. My favorites include Heart of Atlantis, The Green Mile and The Long Walk. My project of choice is of course sewing, but being without my husband for a few days is also a great reason to get some organizing done, or trying a DIY project seen on Pinterest. The best part? No one is around to her you swear.

 

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

Finding a Job that Works for You

Growing up is a little scary for everyone. The idea of being on your own, having a job, a career, owning a house and starting a family of your own can be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. If you have a disability, gaining the independence that comes along with adulthood has its own set of unique challenges. How will you manage your care? What will you do for transportation? What kind of work can you do and who will hire you? That last question is one that I heard a lot while working for people with disabilities; and one that I heard in my own head after I was laid off from my job of seven and a half years in April.

I am not going to lie, finding a job in today’s economy is hard work. I applied for at least one hundred jobs while I was out of work and got exactly three interviews; two of which never got past the initial phone interview stage. Finding a job might have been a bit easier if I did nott have a disability to consider; not only did I have to find a job that I had the skills for, but I also had to consider my transportation options, as well as whether or not the job would be able to accommodate my disability.

At first, I tried working from home, figuring that that would be the easiest solution. I had some success in that. I found a few writing gigs that I enjoyed, (ODesk is a great site if you have writing, editing, graphic design, or translation skills.) but they were not enough to pay the bills. Additionally, my attempts to sell on etsy did not yield much in the way of income either.

Ultimately, I was able to find a job that was perfect for me. I was not able to work from home, but I was able to work part time. My experience searching for a job was enlightening and I learned a few valuable lessons I would like to share.

  • Don’t waste your time applying for jobs that you know won’t meet your needs. Sure, you want to apply to as many jobs as possible, but applying for jobs you know you can’t get to, or preform, is a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Don’t get too caught up in what people might think about your disability. Once you land an interview, it is easy to get worked up over how you might explain away your disability. The simple answer is don’t. You got the interview based on your skills. Skills that have nothing to do with your disability. Your interview is less about you and more about what you can do for the company, focus on that and you’ll be fine.
  • Take rejection in stride. Just because you didn’t land one job, does not mean that you are hopelessly unemployable. Keep trying, learn from those failures and eventually you will find something that works for you.
  • Use the services offered to you. There are several ways to get help during your employment search, and most of them are free. These services can help you write a resume, identify your skills and even help you figure out what your limitations are and how to accommodate them. Contact your local Center for Independent Living, or unemployment office to find out the types of resources available.

By keeping the above points in mind, the search for a job should seem less daunting and overwhelming. Just remember that everyone has obstacles to overcome when applying for jobs, regardless of their abilities.

Smart Train Travel

Traveling is stressful for everyone, but when you have the added complications that come with a disability, it can be even more of a headache. I travel a lot. Because I cannot yet drive, and I am terrified of airplanes, I do most of my traveling by train. Over the years I have taken dozens of trips by myself; most to Illinois and Indiana, but also all the way to Colorado. Over time I have learned how to make my trips as painless as possible; below is a list of things that I have found helpful when traveling by train.

  •  Book your tickets online, if possible. I know this seems backwards. Wouldn’t you want to talk to a real person so you can make sure necessary accommodations will be made? In theory, that makes perfect sense. In reality, humans make mistakes. I cannot tell you how many times I have booked an accessible ticket over the phone, only to get to the station and have the people at the counter scrambling because my reservation didn’t state that I used a wheelchair and needed the lift. Ever since Amtrak has implemented a way for passengers with disabilities to book online, this is no longer an issue because I am personally checking all the boxes, not relying on someone else to do it for me.
  • Get there early. This is crucial. If you want to have a successful trip, you should always plan for the worst and hope for the best. I always get to the train station about a half an hour early, minimal. I let the employees know that I have arrived, that I will need the lift as well as staff assistance when the train comes in. The staff at the train station will be incredibly busy when that train rolls in, so establishing your needs early ensures you don’t get lost in the shuffle.
  • Bring your own drinks and snacks. Long distance trains often have snack cars that sell drinks and snacks to passengers, but you are much better off bringing your own. This is true for two reasons. First, you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a soda; and second, although the snack car should technically be accessible for you, the aisles on a train are just big enough for a wheelchair. This makes it awkward when you have people trying to get back to their seats. The conductor will sometimes stop by and ask if you need anything, but that doesn’t happen very often. If you bring your own snacks, you can avoid a traffic jam and a growling stomach.

These are just a few things I do to make traveling easier. Obviously, you will want to be sure that the form of transport you chose can accommodate your needs. Accessibility information for these services can be found on their webpages. Amtrak is a great service, they offer many accommodations and even discounted ticket prices to passengers with disabilities, but not every station is accessible, so make sure to do some research before you book your trip.

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