Happy Spring!

Here in the South, spring has sprung. I’m not really referring to it, although it REALLY IS the first day of Spring; nor do I mean when the crocus press through frozen earth or peek through a late snow. I’m talking about the two weeks when pollen shifts over EVERYTHING! Pollen 2Rolling over its yellow stickiness, my chariot leaves tracks, and transports its tracks, all over my house.

Yes, yellow is in my top five fav colors, but this is taking it too far. Although, I find cleaning up spilled turmeric leaves l-o-n-g-e-r-l-a-s-t-i-n-g yellow stains on my finger nails! It looks like nicotine stain…on all ten! My solution: I’m wearing fingernail polish until my nails grow out…for the second time!

My consolation that Spring has sprung in her mellow yellowness: my drive-through shower.

Happy spring!

(For more creative every day solutions to managing life from a wheelchair, check out my book Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity http://booklocker.com/books/6235.html )

The Power of SCI

What is cooperation?

Merriam-Webster.com says “cooperation” is: “(a) a situation in which people work together to do something, (b) the actions of someone who is being helpful by doing what is wanted or asked for.”

I hear disheartening reports of unmotivated SCIs, bitter about their circumstances, making life miserable for their families/caregivers. Not only are they unwilling and uncooperative to “work together” to get with the program—exercise, dressing, bowel and bladder, etc.—they resentfully and begrudgingly battle self-improvement, as well.

Because this character quality is lacking in so many able-bodied and disabled adults, I began explaining, talking about, and demonstrating lessons in cooperation to my grandniece when she was three years old. Teaching her skills for successful relationships is part of my contribution to her personal growth.

How is it that man is born with the reasoning capacity and capability for concerted cooperation, but it’s most often witnessed in the animal kingdom? It makes no sense; unlike the band of three bottlenose dolphins around Savannah, Georgia who work as a tactical unit.

The dolphin’s operation is to swim into the shallow tidal marshes. With their bodies, they patiently and strategically flush the herded fish onto shore. It’s life-threatening if one were to become marooned, but they risk it for food. They not only feed themselves, but also the egrets and gulls who have learned to rely on the dolphins.

From this example, I’m comparing the ministry of caregivers who daily sacrifice their health for ours to that of the dolphin’s risk, and how we SCIs benefit from caregiving, to the egrets and gulls reliance on the dolphins.

Come on, SCIs. Let’s get with the program! Yes, it’s tough to lose physical independence. It’s the biggest bummer I know! No matter how hard you try to deny it, close your eyes to your needs, and barricade your heart from the disappointment, the situation remains. It’s time to accept the new reality of being dependent on others for things we took for granted prior to disability.

It doesn’t mean you’ve lost control of your life! (Look for the upcoming series on how to increase the power in your life for the New Year.) It just means that others may have to serve as your backbone, legs, and hands. You have control over the energy in the room, negative or positive.

For everyone’s health and happiness, make the decision to cooperate, “to work together to do something” beneficial for all. Become an enthusiastic member of the loving team working toward your rehabilitation and well-being. It’s within your power.

Christmas Gift Rush and Crazy’s Prediction

After each Christmas, I always say, “Spring will be here before we know it.” Then, when the first hot spring day summons summer, I predict, “Christmas will be here before we know it.” It happens with 100% accuracy. I’m a regular Jean Dixon!

Again, it’s that time. Stores have already announced that their manic rush-to-buy-Christmas-gifts-midnight-madness sales will begin this year after Thanksgiving dinner! The traditional Thanksgiving overindulgences followed with horizontal bemoaning of over-stuffed bellies has been sold out to bemoaning over-crowded stores, rude people, and traffic, traffic, traffic.

Yes, “crazy” has fulfilled itself again: doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results…which drives me crazy. And, I know people consider me crazy because I already have Christmas planned and gifts purchased, as well as for Christmas of 2014. Let me explain:

Considering the wear-and-tear of years living with SCI and the difficulty of outings, I host an internationally-themed Christmas Eve meal each year for my family in my home. I celebrate Christmas and exchange gifts with them here. (These pictures show a little from last year’s trip to The North Pole.)

blurry Elf tree

blurry Elf tree

HO! HO! HO!

HO! HO! HO!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Christmas Day, they host their own in their homes and/or with in-laws. I enjoy their exchanges via videos and pictures. (You can vicariously enjoy my past celebrations, or get ideas for your own, in the chapter, “Homemade Memories” of Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity http://booklocker.com/books/6235.html purchased right here off my website, the perfect Christmas gift!)

favorite candy served as "name card" for seating

favorite candy served as “name card” for seating

I choose a country (or heritage), research its populous, geography, outstanding characteristics, famous people, and holiday menus. I decorate my home accordingly, and give gifts from that country or symbolic of the country. This all takes time and thought, not to mention being disabled, and a non-driver. But, it can be done with ease, excitement, and joyful anticipation of the season if you don’t wait. The only thing left for me to do is prepare, purchase or cater the meal. I can peace out.

What I’m saying is: You still have time. Save yourself the stress. Stop the crazy holiday madness. Everything can be done on-line or over-the-phone. No hassles, anxiety- and annoyance-free. And, if you’re disabled, disability is no excuse.

I’m predicting that a handful of you will get it, yet the majority will prove, again, that c-ra-zy is its own prediction!

FYI: Going with my “prediction” theme, the persimmon kernel is revealing 2013’s winter forecast.

When a persimmon seed is cut into, the inside of the kernel will be spoon-shaped forecasting heavy snow (spoon equals shovel), fork-shaped for light snow and a mild winter, or knife-shaped for “cut”-ting, icy winds.

This one is indicative of heavy snow—another reason not to procrastinate!

And, if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, “Chariot Notes,” you’re missing out on some wonderful health tips and gift suggestions. December is the most fun yet! (After signing up, you’ll need to confirm that it’s you in an email I send you.)

 

 

“The Fifth Element”-Love’s Surrender, Will Power, and SCI

Today, I’m correlating the similarity of a fictitious character’s hesitation to change to those of us living with a disability, disease, or illness who do the same.

In “The Fifth Element,” a sci-fi movie set in the 23rd century, in order to defeat a great evil, there were four stones and a sarcophagus, containing a ‘fifth element,’ left for safe-keeping in an Egyptian temple. This fifth element was DNA representing the “Divine Light.” The stones represented the four elements—earth, wind, fire, and water.

The DNA is turned into the “state” lab where it is transformed into human form, Leeloo. She escapes, is rescued by Dallas, a former special forces Major who is now a taxicab driver. Soon, he presents her to a priest who recognizes her as earth’s savior. The battle to save earth ensues.

After battling the opposing evils to confiscate the stones, Dallas, Leeloo, and the priest return to the Egyptian temple to arrange the captured stones and release Leeloo’s ’Divine Light.’ When their efforts to unite the elements appear hopeless and Leeloo is slipping away from discouragement, a confession of love from Dallas causes Leeloo to surrender her love to him. As she yields, the power of ‘The Light’ melds with the other elements, explodes, and destroys the Great Evil.

Like-kind, how often do we, living with a disability, resist change, something new or unfamiliar, due to fear and discouragement? Whether it’s the uncertain territory of SCI or a life interruption that has overwhelmed you; being uprooted for a job promotion to face the unknown; a financial decision or business investment that could lead you into economic ruin; even the uncertainty of commitment to a new relationship. Fear can hold us back, blinding us to the light of opportunity, robbing us of purpose and fulfillment.

I try to stay positive and open-minded to change. “Flexibility” is my middle name. Both my books espouse the benefits of embracing change. But, I also have a “Someday” wish/fear. It’s an entrepreneurial venture that, ever so often, peaks its scary face into my consciousness.

I’m not inexperienced in business. I’ve been invested in several. But, this “wish/fear” is a larger-than-my-past-business-venture budgets. It’s a BIG BUT-get!

But, I will get it! The chapter, “Facing Fears,” in Views From My Chariot http://booklocker.com/books/6235.html is about facing three of my past fears, all ramifications of my SCI. I’m forthright about other fears and failures in HOW TO BE THE BEST YOU http://booklocker.com/books/6811.html . I totally understand using denial and rationalizations to avoid the unpredictable. In time, after using these excuses over and over and over, they’re stretched so thinly that I can finally see through them to the ‘Divine light of possibility.’

Just as Leeloo’s surrender to Dallas’ love released the power to defeat The Great Evil, conquering “the great evil” of whatever fear (disability-related, or not) is causing you worry, anxiety, and trepidation will release your power, as well.

 

Worth, Value, and Nostalgia

Disability aside, have you ever hitched a ride or picked up a hitchhiker? Whether for a single mile to get gas for your/their empty tank or for a thrilling cross-country trek, you know a bad ride.

And, if you have ever been the host ride for the tenacious cockle burr, you know the aggravation and pain of these small ½-inch long, brown burred seeds with sharp, hooked spines. They are hitchhikers from hell, traveling the world by stealthily sticking to your clothing and/or your pet’s fur! My bloody fingers have felt like pin cushions after unwinding my Irish Setter’s long silky hair from their snare.

What made me think of hitchhiking? A math compass from a drafting course I took in the 1800s (a little before my SCI) that has mysteriously found its way to my keyboard tray. How is it that some things stick with us after high school and college graduations through multiple storages, transfers, uproots, marriage, and divorce?

What greater worth does a 6-inch metal math compass have over a luxuriously overstuffed, expensive upholstered chair that I left in one of my moves! For that matter, a couch in another? Nostalgia.

Before living with a disability, I used to love browsing through hardware stores. Yes, small town hardware stores! They reek of yesteryear. I loved the feel and smell of suede gloves, the fantasy of an overstuffed and oft’ used tool belt, puzzling assortments of hammers with every length and shape of nail, drawers of miscellaneous pulls and knobs, every type of rake and hoe…which brings me to Goldie.

Goldie was an avid gardener. She nurtured fields of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. She canned, pickled, and/or froze the produce, even pressed and dried her flowers. But, what most impressed me was her hoe. Yes, her garden hoe.

It was the only hoe she had ever used, was almost as old as she was, and boasted a filed down 2-inch blade, compared to its initial 3 1/4-inch depth! To maintain its best hoeing self, she sharpened it after each season’s use.

I grew up on a farm and we always had a garden; but, I had never known anyone like Goldie who took such care of their hoe. I thought her attention to its excellence was as extreme as my dad’s cleaning of his firearms after each hunt. The seed was sown. I wanted a hoe to cherish. I wanted to wield it for as long as Goldie had. Goldie was the inspiration for my first organic garden.

At twenty-six, I prepared, composted, hoed, planted, groomed, irrigated, and cultivated that garden. Its greatest yield was two dozen pints of hot chow-chow/relish. (My dad called it “pea ruiner.”) Disappointingly, bugs got the Brussels sprouts and broccoli; my Irish Setter got the cantaloupes and watermelons. When they were mere hardball size, he picked them for lone games of toss and catch!

As destiny would have it, I experienced a SCI before the next planting. My hoe blade was never sharpened. But, my metal math compass has inexplicably made its way to my keyboard tray. For a finger function substitute, I use its sharp point as a flip-top opener for sodas and juices. That’s its helpful function.

With every pro, there’s a con. The “con” of its sharp point: piercing one of these tin cans! The carbonated contents of a Sierra Mist spewed four feet onto the nearest wall—showering its ant attracting sugar across papers, files, books, and bills—until the liquid level fell below the can’s pierce. I finally wised up midway through its geyser and tilted the can away from the wall to lower the liquid’s level and stop its display.

No matter. It’s my little nostalgic hitchhiker treasure of bygone days. It’s not a sharpened hoe blade, but it makes its point.

SCI Bonus Serendipities

In the SCI community, we’re familiar with most professional’s prognosis for expected return: Whatever return you’re going to have, you’ll have by the second year. Anything else is a bonus. “Bonus” is the optional—left to personal choice—word.

For many, this is a disappointing truth. But for a large majority, serendipitous bonuses continue to surprise us for many years post injury!

Until I joined Apparelyzed http://www.apparelyzed.com/disability-directory/disability-forums-chat/, I had no idea of the number of happy, productive wheelchair warriors there were like me. I’m a young whippersnapper of 37 years post-injury compared to some 45, 50, and 60+ years post-injury; most of them, still happily and positively contributing to society.

I didn’t know the importance of SCI like-mindedness: the nonjudgmental acceptance of normal depression, grief, and denial following a life trauma; an understanding sounding board to rant—to cleanse the emotions in a safe environment; to learn from others’ similar or like experiences, and how-to cope with such.

I didn’t know the importance of annual evaluations by my spinal cord injury and rehabilitation doctor, or even wheelchair and cushion evaluations from a SCI-specialized PT.

Late in the game, I’ve learned a lot from those contributing on this forum. I’ve learned that many others have also earned bonuses of increased muscular strength, movement, and sensation (my sensation continues to improve after this long!); urinary and bowel control or a maintenance program; having children and grandchildren; achieving professional/financial success; living a wonderful life.

No matter the circumstance, the best medicine for long-lasting mental and physical health, as well as productivity is: having an empathetic and understanding ear to talk to, a sunny outlook, a full calendar, and faithful maintenance of our body and lifestyle.

We’re not the creators of our bodies, but I believe the more we know about them, understand their hints and hitches, envision and profess our hopes for them/our future, and optimistically work toward their fulfillment, the greater our bonuses!

Yes. In time, we will face one or more repercussions of SCI. Meantime, what we do with our abilities—imagination, determination, hope, and faith—assuredly makes a difference.

I wish a long life of serendipitous bonuses to you all!

Would you like to share a few of yours?

http://booklocker.com/books/6235.html (Views From My Chariot) 

http://booklocker.com/books/6811.html (HOW TO BE THE BEST YOU)

Do You Know…

Living with a disability, disease, or illness, have you ever felt like life was out of your control? Do you feel alone, forgotten, robbed of purpose and worth? Don’t fall for it! It’s far from the truth.

Beneath His wings

Beneath His wings

Sometimes, circumstances scream “Powerless!” at us. If you believe it, you are. If you don’t, herein lies your true power.

Remember the Christmas classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life?” George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is a frustrated businessman with compromised dreams from personal sacrifices. Finding himself in a desperate financial strait, thoughts of his unworthiness, thoughts that he should have never been born, drive him to consider suicide. Then his guardian angel, Clarence, shows him how his nonexistence would have negatively affected the residents of Bedford Falls. This movie is a vivid reminder of the malevolence of self-doubt.

We can all suffer from its destructive, indoctrinating effects if we listen to its lies, which brings me to “What The Bleep Do You Know!?” www.whatthebleep.com  (Bookmark this to watch when you’re seriously ready for an awakening.)

It’s part documentary, part story, and part visual effects illustrating how science and religion merge, explaining the interconnectedness of all things.

As Amanda’s (Academy award winner Marlee Matlin, also living with a disability: deafness) uninspired life unravels from relationship woes, she’s thrown into a revelatory wormhole challenging her thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. Her epiphany is that she is the master of her thoughts, actions, and destiny.  http://www.whatthebleep.com/bleep/synopsis/

It’s true that you’re human, living an earthly existence, and possibly combating the influences of disability. But, you needn’t succumb to its rule over you. Challenge the status quo. Rise above those fatalistic thoughts concerning circumstances you’re finding difficult…and your abilities to rise above them? All things are possible.

There are times that I, too, feel forgotten, homebound, and shut-in. That’s when I need a hug. I shared the following experience in my memoir, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity

That’s exactly what I said one day: “God, I need a hug.”

In my mind, I heard, “Come outside.”

It was a sunny, early fall morning. My home is wrapped with woods on three sides, and there was stillness all around, a palpable quietness. Silhouetted trees and dappled sunlight highlighted the blanket of fallen autumn leaves. I took in a deep breath of tranquility. Instantly, I heard rustlings to my right.

I looked over and up to see the top of a lone tree begin a dervish whirl, waving its branches and clapping its leaves off in twirling descents. For the longest time, I beheld the dance. Then I closed my eyes and joined in until the song was over.

It was better than a hug….

You know, you can remain in whatever dire straits you find yourself (a loved one’s death, disability, disease) or you can lift yourself up and out. You can rise above them with your attitude and confession. You are the creative force in your life. Don’t resign yourself from it.

You’re special. You’re one of-a-kind, unique as your fingerprint. God intimately fashioned you in His image, with the same creative power as Himself.

Do you know that He knows your name? When is the last time you called on His?

SCI and The Law of Possibility

At one time or another, most of us have used a crutch or have used something as a ‘crutch.’ Whether as a prop or for support, I think when our lives are newly interrupted by disability, denial is as good a crutch as a crutch.

In the beginning—the first ten years—I used it (denial) to my advantage. I wasn’t going to be in a wheelchair the rest of my life and tried to live as if I were still able-bodied; but, obviously, needed help because of my disability. Others telling me how I inspired them wasn’t a help. My wake-up call, out of denial’s slumber, was realizing my pride and stubbornness.

Yes, I charged back into work, and being independent, but I look back at the foolishness of thinking I was more capable than I was, putting myself, and others, at risk.

There were several falls: a back flip off the toilet, a nose-plant onto my pantry floor, a “…tilt me over and pour me out” in my carport, and a semi-twirl off my back porch. The law of universal gravitation is especially cruel to those of us with effected muscular function/responses. Dead weight falls hard. Why hasn’t someone invented an ‘Iron Man’-like rocket boost for wheelchairs?

Anyway, the most dangerous denial was ignoring signs of autonomic dysreflexia (also known as hyperreflexia). http://calder.med.miami.edu/pointis/automatic.html

Autonomic dysreflexia in the SCI has numerous stimuli but most commonly results from an extended bladder or UTI (urinary tract infection), over-exposure in hot weather, constipation, and pain. I would ignore symptoms until a rocketing blood pressure-induced migraine escalated into distorted s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n speech, always requiring emergency assistance. If not treated, stroke, coma, and death can result.

Time, experience, and gained confidence work out the need for ‘crutches,’ but facing the truth on the wings of hope deals with denial.

Whether we improve physically or not, emotionally we can get better, day by day. If you lean on a crutch in the transition, that’s okay. If you’re honestly seeking to fit the puzzle pieces together for adjustment, this fellow SCI even recommends it. A little propping up, a little assistive support, goes a long way on the flight of optimism.

After all these years, those initial ailments have either changed or improved. More importantly, I’ve become wiser dealing with new ones.

I’ve learned: that opportunities are peeking out from under every weight of limitation, and that some things are “in our head:” Possibilities.

“The Law of Possibility:” the unaffected space of weightlessness in the aerodynamic mind where possibilities abound, and gravity has no influence!

 

 

 

Proportional Relationships

You’ve all heard of, know someone who has, or have experienced sleep walking antics (in my dreams!), even the Ambien-induced zombie driving, cooking, eating, or whatever activity undertaken during/after the drug’s kick-in. Well, pathetically, I have no excuse. I was awake!

It had been a l-o-n-g day in my wheelchair: my back hurt, my boo-tā needed relief, my feet felt like stuffed sausages, and my face screamed, “Nourish me!” If a CSI quadriplegic can hurry, I was trying to!

Whether or not you’re living with a life interruption (my coined expression for SCI, a prolonged illness, injury, or disease), you know the urgency of a getting horizontal reprieve. It’s more expedient than a need; more urgent than a must; more demanding than a have-to. It’s an emergency!

In the throes of discomfort, after tending to the boys, turning back my sheets, preparing my bed with my nightly supplies (if you’re SCI, you know what I mean), and turning off all slumber-robbing lights and electronics, I remembered seeing a white tube of face cream next to my stash of Young Living’s medicinal, therapeutic essential oils on my kitchen table.

Okay, I’m on that side of sixty. Get a grip! You’ll be there in the blink of an eye.

Anyway, assuming it to be my anti-wrinkle-undo-sun-damage-of-my-youth cream, I squeezed its emulsion into my palm, and slathered it generously upon my face—around my lips, cheeks, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, and forehead.

Instantly, I was distracted from its odd, but vaguely familiar, scent. OMG, did it burn!

Still in the dark, I wheeled to the bathroom to administer a soothing gel. After a couple of minutes of no soothing, I smeared on a hefty portion of hydrating lotion. Still, no relief. Hmmm.

I reasoned that my face was extra sensitive after washing my hair, head down, in the sink, rather than in the shower. I figured, “Oh, well; overnight, my skin’s pH will balance.”

In the night, I had a rememory of something work-related I had forgotten to do. In the morning, in spite of a tight, itchy face, my feet hit the floor running (in a manner of speaking) to my office. After a while, a growling stomach reminded me I hadn’t eaten.

Back to the kitchen table in daylight, I noticed the writing on the tube of “face cream:” Sally Hansen® Crème Hair Remover for face. OH, NO!

YES, I do have facial hair…it’s peach fuzz…and is only noticeable in sunlight…if you’re using a magnifying glass…sort of.

In horror, envisioning the hikimayu practice—shaved eyebrows, I skidded to a screeching halt in front of my bathroom mirror to see if I still had eyebrows, or eyelashes. Disability is one thing but a bald face is another.

Amidst scattered red splotches and snake skin scales were two brows. Below, circling both eyes, there were lashes.

Through extreme gratitude, I can’t explain why those hairs defied removal, but it did explain the pain! Oh, and yeah, “…the vaguely familiar scent.”

I believe my oft’ recurring missteps are directly proportional to the air in my wheelchair tires, not to the air in my head.

Are there any mathematical geniuses out there that would agree?

(“In pre-modern Japan, hikimayu was the practice of removing the natural eyebrows and painting smudge-like eyebrows on the forehead. Hiki means “pull” and mayu means “eyebrows.” -Wikipedia.org)

 

SCI and Holes of Inadequacy

In the “Excuses” chapter of HOW TO BE THE BEST YOU, I told you the story of beginning a weeknight toddy habit with my mother, and how I was coerced into giving it up. It was after the fact that I realized its significance.

The initial teetotaler stage was hard; it got my attention. I wondered if I could have become an alcoholic if I hadn’t cut it out. I’d never been a “dependent” personality (even during my first couple of years of disability, I was working toward independence), but it made me ponder my feelings on the matter.

In order to get to my point…Some will say that I’m a little weird…maybe alotta’ weird, with what, when, how little, and how often I eat. I may eat lunch for breakfast then, lunch at 10:30am and again at 1:00 or 2:00pm, and even breakfast for dinner—which can be between 4:00 and 6:00pm.

I eat when I’m hungry which is pretty often; but I eat small portions because I feel satiated very quickly—another reason people think I’m weird: I don’t gorge. I detest that uncomfortable feeling!

The twain meet here. My toddy had to be around 4:00 or 5:00 while preparing dinner or waiting for its delivery. Once I eat, that’s it. Nada. Unless it’s water.

The significance of continuing our toddy habit after Mother passed away was my attempt to fill a social void. Mother was gone. After years of disability many friends have fallen by the wayside; those that have endured have families of their own and businesses to run. It was my “happy hour.”

The effect of SCI affects us differently. Whether it’s a loss of movement, a loss of freedom, or a loss of spontaneity, we’re dealing with the common denominator of loss.

Know this: the feeling of powerlessness can initiate addiction.

In the moment you feel something is out of your control, what do you gravitate toward—think about, want to do, or physically need? That longing is an emotional, even physical, craving for worthiness. Subconsciously, we are trying to adjust to something that has slipped from our grasp.

Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul, says you can stop the cycle of addiction by feeling your pain, lack, or loss. Each time you challenge your inadequacy—own it, face up to it, readjust, seek help—you get your control back, little by little.

It doesn’t have to be SCI loss. It can be habits of gossip, jealousy, anger, sex, alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping, gambling, loneliness…whatever. The situation you are trying to change may never change, but you can take control to change your thoughts and responses to them!

Be brave enough to ask yourself: When I…what hole of inadequacy am I trying to fill? What am I longing for?

Whatever unhealthy thing you’re doing to feel like you’re getting your power back is a smoke screen and a procrastination of truly taking back your control? Every temptation is an opportunity for a dress rehearsal for a life change OR a repeat of consequences. Make a responsible choice.

You’re worth it.

YOU CAN!