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!!

Paraple-pancake

Today I almost became a paraple-pancake in the Target shopping center near my house.  (I hope that you’re picturing Wile E. Coyote after the large boulder meant for the road runner lands on him and he walks away like a smooshed pancake on legs. Cause that’s what could have happened!!)  Let me set the scene.  I had gone into Target to get some things, like a toy to donate to a 6 year old boy through my church.  (And some ugly Christmas sweaters and nail polish, but the toy makes me sound way more angelic which makes almost getting run over even sadder!  People would probably care more about the Pope being hit by a car than Kim K.)  The way the Target parking lot is set up there is a row closest to the entrance that has about 10 disabled spaces.  And there’s a slight decline away from the store.

So there I was, rolling toward my car with one hand on my wheel and one hand holding the basket with all my newly purchased wares.  I passed a couple parked cars.  Then all of a sudden, this dbag in an SUV throws his car into reverse and hits the gas without even looking.  I was seriously INCHES from his bumper.  I always watch for reverse lights because I never trust that people will see me.  There was seriously no pause between light coming in and car backing out at a very fast speed!  I immediately yank on the wheel, but since I only had 1 hand on my wheel, it throws my chair into a gnarly 360 spin.  My other hand is clutching the basket which is about to go spilling.  The spin I do in my chair causes me to go out of control and nearly hit the car next to the dbag in the SUV.  He looks at me like “Whoops, sorry” and points to the car I almost splattered against to see if that’s where I am going.  He’s lucky that my hands were on my wheels and basket or else I would have been pointing with a very specific finger!  So he stops and I keep going behind him to my car, which was parked on the other side of him.  His girlfriend is staring at me with this look of complete amusement on her face.  I nearly LOST IT!  I’m hoping they were lip readers, because while my hands were occupied, my mouth was spewing some very colorful and choice words which I will not repeat, lest I lose my “PG” rating on this blog.  I called the hubs, but he was working and couldn’t answer.  So then I called my mom, because after you’re nearly smooshed into the pavement, you have to call someone!  And, do you know how hard it is to edit the colorful language out of a story when half of it involves directing said language toward a person?  Just like on this blog, I try to not cuss around my parents.  But, I think I used the word dbag like 50 times in the retelling of the story to her.  I said I tried to clean up the language, not that I was able.

The burn of it is that this JERK was parked in a disabled space too.  So either he’s the most selfish dbag on the planet who can’t watch out for anyone else.  Or, he’s not really supposed to be parking there.  I find that most handicapped people tend to be a little more cautious because we know how scary it can be to not be seen as easily by people.  At least, I know that’s how I drive.  When I back out of a space, I turn my head in true Exorcist fashion 25 times to make sure no one is behind me.  And I watch my mirrors and back up camera.  It might seem extreme, but I never want to be like the dbag in the SUV today.

The moral of the story ladies and gents: please, please, please be cautious in parking lots.  Not just in the handicapped area, but everywhere.  There’s always a chance that you may miss seeing a kid or a wheelchair.  And if it weren’t for my cat like reflexes and the a couple guardian angels, I could be all kinds of hurt right now! (But, my wheelchair would be OK, cause it’s titanium and that beyotch is indestructible!)

Thanks for nothing, Walmart!

I try to not be too negative about things in life. I know that my life is different because I am in a wheelchair.  I know that some things I took for granted pre-paralysis are now off limits to me.  But, for the most part, I’m still able to do most everything.  I’m pretty clever when it comes to figuring out adaptations.

But today I had a major slap in the face and I’m pissed!  My husband had asked me to stop by the store on the way home from court to pick something up for him.  On a whim, I decided to not go to my normal Target and try the neighboring Walmart.  It had opened within the past year and I hadn’t been there.  So I parked and went in.  There were no hand baskets by the door.  I went by every checkout stand.  None.  Then I went to the other entrance and couldn’t locate any there either.  I asked an employee if he knew where they were.  He replied that the store decided to stop using them because they kept getting stolen.

“So, how is someone like me supposed to shop?” I asked.

“That’s a good question.” He said.  He had nothing else to add after that.

So, I decided to find a manager to ask them what happened to the baskets.  After waiting a really long time, and watching the head store manager walk away, an assistant manager came over.  I asked her about the baskets.  She called in on the radio to ask if anyone had seen a basket “floating around the back somewhere.”  I’m guessing the reply was “no” because another employee nearby said “We don’t have those no more.”  (I stifled my inner grammar police as I was focused on the bigger picture.)

The lady offered a paltry sorry as I rolled away.  I was so angry and upset that I felt like I could be reduced to tears at any moment.  That may seem like an unusual thing to be upset about, but it’s just another slap in the face.  I should be able to spend my money the same way as everyone else, but apparently I can’t.  It’s always the little things that break the proverbial camel’s back.  And I am one emotional camel with a very weak and messed up back.  I called Walmart customer service and the lady on the other line, while polite, also couldn’t care less.  So, I packed it up and went down the block to Target where they had baskets and gladly accepted my patronage.

Fight on!

So, there are a few perks to being in a wheelchair.  I know that may seem weird, but there are.  One can almost always find a silver lining in any given situation if they look.  (I say “almost always” because I don’t want to get into a debate where someone tries to bring me down by proving sad situations.  So, if you disagree with me and you’re in a situation where there is no silver lining then all I can say is that I hope you feel better and I’ll pray for you.  Now, back to my silver lining moment…)

My family is a HUGE USC Trojan fanatic family.  Everyone but me (hello, Rebel!) went to school there.  Mom, dad, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins.  I did not.  But, that does not take away from my fanatic response to Trojan football!  Well, not necessarily to the team itself.  I like football within reason.  Though, I am more into the pageantry of the home games: the band, the tail gating, Traveler the horse.

My dad is really into USC football.  In my family, we don’t necessarily root for a professional team.  USC is our football.  So, this year and last, my dad got a suite at the Coliseum.  The suites are on the field, which is awesome.  What’s even more awesome (*insert eye roll here*) is that the Coliseum is so old that there is nothing but steps to the field.

Nothing, except for the tunnel that is!!  Yes, I get to go down the tunnel.  The same way the players enter the field.  The same way the band enters the field.  The same way Traveler enters the field.  That’s now the way I enter the field!!

The tunel

That’s my dad walking next to me.  And our guards.  Ok, not really.  The LAPD were not there to protect me from the paparazzi.  But, I did have 2 USC security guards escorting me.  The weekend before I had 4.  And they made a really big deal about getting people out of my way.  Which made me feel like a really big deal.  (Or people thought the chick in the wheelchair was being unruly, causing trouble and getting kicked out.  Either way…)  This time, my mom and the hubs were there too.  The weekend before my brother and his lady were with us.  They missed out this time.

The suite is on the opposite side of the field which means that we had to roll all the way across the field.  It wasn’t so bad this week as we went down early.

On the field

Last week, we ended up coming out with the band (SQUEAL!!) and had to go all the way around the field.  That was awkward cause it meant more people were staring.  I’m way more comfortable in the background than in the forefront.  I am not complaining, I’m just saying I preferred going down when not as many people would be looking.  But if I could always march out with the band and/or Traveler, I would!

So, yes, there are silver linings- being on the field at the infamous Coliseum is one of them!  Fight on!!