First wheeled trial

Last week was big for me: I did my first jury trial in a wheelchair.  It’s crazy that I’ve been in a wheelchair for 2.5 years and it was my first one.  I say it’s because I am really good at pleading out cases (which is true).  But, I’ve also been hesitant.  The ones that I knew for sure were going to trial I was kind of pushing off.  And then the ones that I wanted to go to trial sooner ended up getting pushed for reasons beyond my control.  Such is the chaos that is the legal profession.

But last week, a case was ready, and away we went.  I was nervous.  Not for the case.  I felt as prepared as possible for that.  I had a whole other set of worries.  Would the jury be preoccupied with my wheelchair to listen to my arguments?  How was I going to take notes and address them at the same time?  I can’t use the podium because they’re wooden and set to a standing person’s height.  Not very wheelchair user friendly.  And things like standing as a way to show respect to the judge or jury.  Those were out the window.  Would they understand that I was still trying to be respectful?  Before my so called wheeled life, I would stand every time I addressed the judge.  And I would stand when asking questions.  It was professional.

But, I pushed all that aside so I wouldn’t be distracted from the main goal: winning.  The jury didn’t seem to react outwardly to my wheelchair.  They seemed to be focusing on the facts, which is exactly right.  Though, in my closing arguments, my investigator said a few of them were watching intrigued as I put my pointer and whatnot in my cup holder (I call it my “holster”).  Apparently they thought that was clever.  I hope they’re as amused by my arguments as they were by my cup holder.

Overall, it wasn’t that different from when I was walking.

Negatives:

-Couldn’t stand for the jury or judge

-Couldn’t use the podium

-Couldn’t bring in my normal wheelie bag to carry all my stuff, so I was limited on what I could bring in.  I have some big cases coming up with way more files.  I’m going to have to figure something else out.

Positives:

I love my job and I’m doing it.  Nothing can stop me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the positives win.  Now I go back to waiting for my jury to return a verdict.

P.S. Shout out to the hubs who taught me the difference between an ax and a hatchet.  There was one involved in this case and that was actually a pretty big difference.  I was able to educate the judge and DA.  So, thanks hubs!

Wheelchair Gardening

I was never huge into gardening, even before I became paralyzed.  It was fun, but not something I would choose to do on my own.  As a kid, one of my chores was to prune the rose bushes.  That was fun because I got to make a bouquet and brightly colored, pretty smelling flowers.  It was positive reinforcement for my duties.  That lasted until I was about 13 and we moved.  Then I took a gardening hiatus until the hubs and I started dating.  He lived in a condo which had a patio with a few potted plants and a couple of trees.  About once a month we would tend to the plants.  The potted plants were my designated duty and he pruned the trees.  We would pick oranges off the tree and make fresh squeezed orange juice.  (Side story:  we once had so many oranges that we thought we could juice them and freeze them for later use.  Good idea, right?  We juiced them and poured them into bags and placed them in the slots on the door.  Oh.  Wait.  Frozen liquid freezes in the shape it’s in.  So if you put it in a door that has a little space on the bottom and the bag with liquid squeezes into crevices, it will freeze that way.  We found that out when we went to thaw the juice.  It was rock hard stuck in the freezer door.  We had to pour hot water and use blow dryers to get the juice out.  By that point we were so pissed that we threw it away.)

When we moved into our new house, it had the perfect area for a garden.  There is a slight slope on one side of the house where we built a small decorative wall to reinforce the hill.  Then we filled it in with more dirt to level out the remaining space.  Our gardener put in sprinklers.  And, voila!  A garden.  This past weekend we picked up a few plants: strawberry, tomato, parsley, cilantro and a couple variations of jalapeno.  (Yes, I have visions of salsa in 50-70 days running through my head!)

Where we planted those plants is next to dirt.  No path.  That part of the backyard has been off limits to my wheelchair since we moved here 2.5 years ago.  We thought about having our concrete guy come back to pour a path.  But, at the Abilities Expo 2 weeks ago, I picked up a FreeWheel.  This turns my wheelchair into a tripod by lifting the 2 small caster wheels. Those 2 small wheels are the ones that get stuck on the dirt and other small things in the way.  The FreeWheel is amazing!  It opened up my backyard to me!  I was able to go over to the garden area and actually plant the strawberries and cilantro at the sprinklers which were closest to the wall.  Those are my plants!  The hubs still had to plant the rest of the plants, but he loves any kind of outdoor activity like that.  While I didn’t really love gardening before, the ability to do it now when I didn’t think I would be able to, makes me so happy.  And very protective of my little baby plants.

gardening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abilities Expo 2016 (Los Angeles)

This past weekend was the Abilities Expo at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles.  This was my first year going, though to be fair, I’m not really sure if there were any before.  I’m assuming there were by the way people were talking.  But either way, it was my first time going.  I’m glad I did.

The hubs, the little mister and I went.  This was the first time taking the baby on any sort of road trip and excursion.  He did well, which was a huge plus!  Parking at the convention center was a nightmare.  There was a designated lot for the Abilities Expo.  However, there weren’t any additional handicapped parking spaces.  Doesn’t it seem like common sense to increase the number of wheelchair spaces when there is a convention aimed at people in wheelchairs?  We were lucky enough to find a space on the opposite end of the elevator that was next to another empty space.  So, at least I was able to get out of the car OK.

The other downside was that the configuration needed a little work.  Checking in, there were long tables and two rows on the pre-registered side and three rows on the on-site registration side.  The tables were next to each other.  The entrances were on the opposite ends of the tables.  So, if you were on any of the inside rows, you had to backtrack and cut through the lines of people.  This was super hectic for us, with me being in a wheelchair and the hubs pushing the stroller.  And, given that a majority of the people were in wheelchairs or with wheelchairs, it was hectic.  The aisles inside the convention were fairly narrow too.  For a normal convention, I’m sure they were fine.  But, again, factor in the amount of wheelchairs, and it was jammed.  There were tons of traffic jams on the inside.

Ok, those were the negatives.  Now for the positives.  It was amazing to see so many people in wheelchairs in one place.  All ages and walks of life.  All different levels of functionality.  It was pretty cool.  I overheard people who were friends on Facebook meeting in real life.  That was pretty cool, and a testament to the benefit that the community groups on Facebook provides.

I had gone looking to talk to a representative of Tilite, the wheelchair company that I currently use, as I want to order a new wheelchair.  But, then I met a representative from Colours, another wheelchair maker.  I’d heard of them, but didn’t know much about their chairs.  Within seconds of my going up there, the man identified the 3 main things that I hate about my wheelchair and told me how they would fix it on a new wheelchair.  An added benefit is that they are manufactured about 45 minutes from my house, so I can go there to get measured and have it repaired if it gets fixed.  So, that was a huge benefit of going to the Abilities Expo!  Opened my horizons, for sure!

I picked up a FreeWheel, which I’d been thinking about for quite a while.  I’d already bought the Dragonfly wheelchair attachment, which turns my wheelchair into a handcycle.  That was a pretty great investment!  If a person is looking for a great way to exercise, I recommend this!  I’d been looking to add the FreeWheel to my collection which will be amazing for my trips to Wyoming.  It’s going to open up more outdoor areas: grass, dirt roads, etc.  And I’m looking to use it in my own backyard so I can finally start a garden!  I was stoked that they were selling these at the Abilities Expo and can’t wait to try it out!

The coolest part of the Abilities Expo may have been the bikes.  There was an exhibitor showcasing their bikes which had been specifically designed for people with disabilities.  The pedals were held up in the front, which is huge for a person with drop foot, like myself.  (In the video, you can see at the end how my feet are inclined to point down.)  The bikes had a handle on the back so an able bodied person can help give you a push if needed, or a stop, I suppose if you’re picking up too much speed.  The bikes are custom made in Canada, and built to the individual’s specifications.  They told me to jump on, but I was reluctant.  After the hubs gave me some encouragement, I decided to give it a try.  I am so glad that I did!  I actually pedaled two small laps!  Being an incomplete paraplegic, I do have some functionality in my legs.  My hips have managed to come back pretty strong, which allows for the pedaling.  My left quads are fairly strong (not like pre-paralysis strong, but compared to no movement, they’re strong) which allowed my left leg to pedal pretty well.  My right quads are kind of there but not as strong.  The problem was with bringing the leg back up and around.  So, I just use my hand to help my right leg along and was able to go!  It was exhilarating!!  I always say that not being able to ride my bike anymore is the biggest hardship from being paralyzed.  This gave me that joy back.  And sweat.  It gave me a lot of sweat.  I’m not sure that I will pick one up, as it was on the pricey side, and I live in a hilly area.  If I lived in the flat lands, I would pay for it without even second guessing!  But for now I have the video of my adventure.

 

I am so glad that I went to the Abilities Expo!  I didn’t attend any of the workshops or panels.  And I didn’t see the dancing girls or participate in the world’s largest wheelchair painting.  But I made the most of the exhibits that I did want to see.  I got better access to my backyard by purchasing my FreeWheel.  And I can’t wait to make use of it in Wyoming!  And I found my new wheelchair, which I hope to get in the works in the next few days.  And I got to experience the joy of riding a bike again.  I would consider all of that a win!

Welcome baby boy

Holy crap, I’m a mom!  That was my initial thought when we were on our way to the hospital.  Well, it was actually “Hubs, what did we do?!”  He told me it was a little late for that.  From what I’ve heard from my friends who are parents, most new parents think the same thing.  I’m glad to know I wasn’t alone there.  But still.

Surromom called us to say she was in labor around 8:30 on Tuesday night.  The hubs and I drove the nearly 2 hour drive to the hospital to meet her.  The length of the drive gave me plenty of time to freak out.  We got to the hospital after receiving a few “hurry, they’re going to break my water soon” texts and calls.  My mom was there, so I felt better.  But I didn’t want to miss his birth.  (Well, to be fair, I thought that wouldn’t have been the exact worst thing in my mind due to my hatred and fear hospitals and all things medical after all my time spent in them.  Special shout out and thanks to my medical history.)  The hubs drove like the wind, as best we could on a night where it seemed like every cop was on the freeway, thwarting our attempts!

We go to the hospital just in time!  Well… just in time to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  And not sleep.  And wait.  We got to the hospital at 10:30pm.  They broke her water the next morning at 10:00am.  The baby was born at 12:54pm.  So, in retrospect, we could have stayed home and gotten one more good night’s sleep, had a hearty breakfast, pet the dogs a little longer for their last one-on-one time and taken a shower.  All of those things sounded wonderful at 4am when we were still awake!

Sleepiness in the hospital hallway at 2:35am

Sleepiness in the hospital hallway at 2:35am

My parents stayed at the hospital all night with us (something they’re used to do, thanks again to my wonderful medical past), though my dad did abandon ship and go to sleep in his car.  But my mom, the dependable trooper, stayed with us.

Funny side story: around 3:30am we tried to go down to the lobby where they had loveseat couches to sleep.  We all chose a couch and laid down.  The security guard immediately came over and told my mom and the hubs they couldn’t put their feet up, but that I was ok.  Hey wheelchair, you finally paid off!  I get to lounge while the others have to be upright!  Score!  Screw you equality, I’m using this to my advantage.  Well, about 10 minutes later, another guard came over and said to put my feet down.  “But, the other guys said it was OK!”  I said, in more of a sleepy stammer than my normal Italian bluster.  “Put them down.” He repeated.  I was too tired to argue.  But security guard 1 then shouted across the room that it was OK.  Not wanting to cause a scene in a hospital lobby,  and sensing that my mom was getting riled up to protect my right to lounge, I I just said it was OK.  It was loud and cold anyway, and not like I was sleeping.  We gave up and went back up the room.

Another side story: Around 12:20, our surromom’s nurse went on lunch break and there was a replacement nurse tending to her.  She noticed a weird noise from the monitors which we had all been annoyed by but at this point, had become background noise.  The nurse called IT to fix the problem.  At the same time, the anesthesiologist had come to check on her epidural.  The IT guy disconnected the monitor to replace the unit, when Surromom announced that she felt pressure and that the baby was coming.  You’ve never seen an IT guy move so quickly installing equipment before, as I’m sure witnessing the miracle of life was way outside of his paygrade!  The anesthesiologist told Surromom that he didn’t want to give her more medication if she was about to deliver, which he should know better than to tell a woman who has been in labor for over 14 hours.  Suffice it to say, she got her meds and he escaped with his life.  I was texting my mom to hurry, as she had been down in the cafeteria to get some rest and give us some space.  At about 12:50, the nurse was back, the doctor was there.  The nurse made room for me and my wheelchair (which felt huge and awkward and space consuming at that time) next to the incubator.  It was go time.  And I started crying.  Holy crap, I’m about to become a mom!

And then he was here.  All 8 pounds 2 ounces of him.  And they placed his tiny, goopy body on me.  And there were no more tears.  It was just this overwhelming sense of “I’ve got this, little man.”  Well, I had that feeling until the first time he tried to move his head and I shrieked to the nurse “What do I do?!”  And she showed me how to hold him and that he wasn’t all that fragile (something I’ve heard but didn’t quite believe).  Then, the calm came back over me.  The wheelchair disappeared.  My fear disappeared.  And I realized, that I do have this.  Little Mister and I will figure this out together.  He’s never been a baby before and I’ve never been a mom.  So we will figure this out together!  Plus, it helps that the hubs is such a naturally amazing dad.  So, what I can’t do, or what is hard, he is there to help with.  (I’m mostly saying this now because last night I was exhausting and he took 2 of the 3 night feedings and got up with him this morning so I could get more sleep.  Such a good dad and a great hubs!)

So in sum, holy crap, I’m a mom!  I will get through this.  And I look forward to sharing tips and stories of what it’s like to be a mom in a wheelchair!

mom in a wheelchair

Stop it!

Stop. Stop it.  Seriously.  Stop.  I’m talking to you.  And you.  You’re ok.  But you.  You stop!  Stop being offended by EVERYTHING!  I can’t handle the overly sensitive mentality of people these days.  It’s like people wake up in the morning wondering what they can be offended by today.  Then they spew their hatred all over social media and if you don’t agree with them, you’re the moron.  Why don’t we put on our big gender-neutral pants and agree that you can’t please everyone, so just worry about yourself.  And don’t be a sensitive ninny.  (Oh great, I just made enemies of the sensitive ninny population.)

My rant is directed at the new “ableism” campaign.  Apparently if you can walk then you’re a big jerk for pointing out that all of us cripples can’t.  I think that’s the basic gist.  People are all up in arms over Kylie Jenner and her Interview magazine photo shoot in which she posed with a gold wheelchair.  I saw the pictures and my first thought was “solid gold or gold-plated and either way I wonder if my insurance will cover one of those bad boys for me?”  It didn’t even cross my mind to be offended because she’s in a wheelchair.  But she can walk.  Wait a minute!  If she can walk, then she doesn’t need a wheelchair.  But she’s in a wheelchair.  Please excuse me while my head explodes over this.

Ok, I’m back, head in tact.  I seriously don’t see the issue.  I tried to see it from the point of view of the people who were all butt-hurt over it.  (Oh great, now I’ve gone and offended those people without butts.)  But (pun intended) as I looked at them, I still don’t see it.  She’s a model.  She’s in a wheelchair.  It’s a picture.  Her job is taking pictures.  She looks amazing.  The photographer didn’t make it blurry.  The clothes fit.  Good job by all people whose jobs were involved in the shoot.  Where’s the issue?

In reading stories on the matter as further research (oh man, now I’ve gone and pissed off the anti-researchers and the illiterate) it seems to me that the issue is that the photographer could have used a wheelchair-user in the photos.  There’s like a million (uh oh, there goes my readers who can’t count) handicapped people who are all saying they could have been in the picture instead.  So, it stems from selfish motivations.  (I’m not worried about losing the selfish crowd cause they’re too self-absorbed to realize I’m talking about them.  They’re perfect- not overly compensating in awarding themselves self-worth.)  They wish they were in the photo.  But, unless you actually are Kylie Jenner, YOU AREN’T KYLIE JENNER!  If you want to be in that photo, go buy some latex and take a picture yourself.  The world, and Interview magazine, doesn’t owe you anything.  If you want to do something, go do it.  If you want to be a model in a wheelchair, then go pitch yourself to an agency and show them why they need you.  How do you think Kylie Jenner, or any of the Jenners/Kardashians made it?  They made the world think that we couldn’t survive if their names and images weren’t plastered on everything everywhere.  SO go do that!  Don’t sit back and whine that you aren’t in that photo.  Go make your own.

I read some tweet from some wheelchair user saying that people can’t even look her in the eye but Kylie Jenner gets to model in a wheelchair.  And something about her not being able to wheel around her town or take pictures in her wheelchair.  That sounds like a her problem.  Not a world problem.  Gangs, prison overcrowding, ISIS, too many animals in shelters and kids in foster care…those are world problems.  Those are things we should be discussing en masse.  Not some person who doesn’t use a wheelchair posing for a picture in a wheelchair.  Does that mean that blondes everywhere should be offended because Khloe Kardashian has blonde hair now and if she’s in a picture, that means they should have been in the picture instead?  (I know that was a major rambling sentence, which probably made me lose my grammar police crowd.  And if the sentence didn’t, the grammar police comment probably did.  But, you get my point.)  One person doing something benign like posing for a picture in a wheelchair does not negate all the people who are in wheelchairs for real.

How does Kylie Jenner’s photo affect me?  It doesn’t!  (Other than the fact that I think it’s a pretty picture.)  At the end of the day, I am a badass chick.  I am an attorney who holds her own in the courtroom.  I uphold the constitution and helps people on a daily basis.  I am a wife who does really amazing things for her husband like make a special trip to the grocery store to make sure he has the type of egg nog which our normal store doesn’t have.  But it’s his favorite, so I do that for him.  I am a fur baby mom (and soon to be human baby mom) who would do anything for her little ones.  I am a person who can talk herself out of doing terrible things like dieting or working out.  So I ask again: how does Kylie Jenner taking a picture in a wheelchair affect me and my life?  It doesn’t.  And I implore the rest of you to realize that it doesn’t have an impact on your life either.  GET OVER IT!!

This is why I can’t have nice things!

One of the most unfortunate things about being in a wheelchair is that my beautiful, beautiful, beautiful clothes take a thrashing on the wheels.  I have wheel guards, which are plastic barriers between me and the wheels.  However, with the constant moving of my arms, shirts, sweaters and jackets come out from the barrier and rub on the wheels.  No matter how many times I tuck the errant shirt down, it inevitably comes out and rubs on the wheel.  Most of my clothes end up having smudges and streaks on the bottoms.  Sometimes they end up on the back which takes a bit of pondering to figure out how that comes about!

One of the options could be to wear only form fitting clothes which wouldn’t hang far from the body and drag upon the wheels.  But, with the whole “weight gain” combined with “para belly” [read: weak core = weak belly muscles = organs and what not dropping into the lower belly when seated] makes tight clothes not the best option.  (Though as my mom points out, if I lost weight then I wouldn’t have as much that would hang out.)  So then if becomes battle of narcissism and vanity versus ruined clothing.  That’s a tough one!

There’s also some things that can’t be tight: like my suit coats.  When I wear a suit to court, the jacket always comes out and rubs on the wheels.  Those aren’t tight.  I don’t even button them.  They have to hang open.  So then I’m back to square one with having marks on my clothes and hoping people are more oblivious and less judgmental about it than I am.

This may seem petty and very first world problemy.  And I acknowledge that there are WAY bigger things to worry about (like, getting back to that whole para belly thing with slipping organs and whatnot).  But, when you’re forced into a situation that you don’t have much control over, sometimes it’s the small things that you remember from your previous life that cause the biggest issues.  Having non-streaked clothes are something that shouldn’t be an issue but are sometimes unavoidable.  And sometimes a girl just wants to wear a white sweater without completely destroying it!

white sweater

Refinishing life

When I first became paralyzed, I thought my life would never be the same.  I was in tears when my physical therapists or occupational therapists would tell me to sit on the edge of the bed.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I had no faith in my body or what it would ever begin to do again.  Slowly, as time went on, my recovery progressed.  And I had a newly discovered faith in what I could do.  And what I could try to do.  I’ve always tended to be a cautious person, not one to really go out on a limb trying new things.  So when my body traitored on me, I was worried about pushing it too hard.  When I would sit there crying about sitting on the edge of the bed, some people would look at me, then the floor, then back at me again and try to figure out why a two foot fall would scare the living daylights out of me.  But when you’re injured and vulnerable, it can all be overwhelming.

So cut to today when I was out in the garage refinishing some dressers which my mom gave to me to use in the baby’s nursery.  They were her parents dressers, which then became hers which she then used for my brother.  They sat unused for a bunch of years and became chipped and cracked.  The hubs spent yesterday fixing the cracks with wood glue and clamps.  He then planned on stripping away the varnish, sanding and staining in the next few weeks.  I decided that since he does so much already, I’d surprise him with stripping the varnish and sanding myself.  It was half because I wanted to surprise him and half because I didn’t want to tell him in case I couldn’t actually do it all myself.  And since today was a court holiday but not a school holiday, I actually had some time to get to this project.

I was able to get all of the drawers out of the dresser (which for those of you who are able-bodied, this is actually somewhat challenging to a person who doesn’t have complete core strength), take all of the hardware off, paint the stripper on then sand it off.  By the time I was done, I was a sweaty, dusty mess.  But, I did it!  I couldn’t get to the front of the dresser because it was facing a wall and I couldn’t get in front of it.  And, when I tried to move the dresser, I was worried that I would re-split some of the sides which the hubs fixed yesterday.  Plus, a solid wood dresser is heavy and my spine is finicky.  So I left that to do when he’s home to help.  While I can do a lot of stuff, I have to be honest and know that I can’t do it all by myself.

sanding drawers

I took that picture and sent it to the hubs so he could see what I was up to.  And to get the proper amount of accolades, of course!  He was super surprised and excited.  And worried about the mess I left and whether there was still room on his side of the garage for his car when he gets home from work.  I tend to not clean up after my projects so well.  But, part of the surprise was that I actually did clean up after myself.  Yes, I’m very thoughtful.

So, it’s kind of fun to think that the snively scaredy-cat who was afraid to sit on the edge of the bed is now pushing limits and attacking projects that I never even did before I was paralyzed!  If I could go back to that cry baby in the hospital I would tell her that life rolls on and that she will adapt.  It’s amazing what we can do when we have no other choices!