Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Work Out

As I sit here trying to figure out how these swimmers at the US Olympic Trials can shake and jiggle their triceps like they do, a McDonalds commercial comes on and at the end it says “Official Restaurant of the Olympic Games”. Does that sound like a huge contradiction to anyone else but me?

For some odd reason I do not think these world-class athletes are hitting up Mickey D’s every chance they get, and if they are…I’m jealous. Not because of the food, but how they are in tip-top shape.

I, myself, am not in tip-top shape, but I am trying hard to get back there! Sports and working out was a huge part of my life pre-accident, but unfortunately I have let my workout regiment slide a bit over the last year or so. Of course I have still been doing things, but not to the extent I was. This is all changing though! I am determined to get back in the swing of working out every night and so far it has been a success – 7.5 miles on my leg bike yesterday and I pushed a half-mile tonight.

I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better after I have worked out…I am able to get out a little frustration, clear my head, and even though I may be exhausted when I finish, I still feel like I have more energy. I just feel better all around.

Now, I may never become an Olympian or be able to shake my triceps like one, but I will still continue to work at my goals…just as they are! Now, who’s up for a Big Mac?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Words of Wisdom

In my last post Eastbound and Down, I mentioned that I had a chance to listen to David Westbrook share his story at the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum. I was so impressed with his story, his resilience, and his advice for the high school students that I wanted to share some of his words and advice.

Like I said previously, David lost his sight at the age of 17 due to juvenile glaucoma. He spoke of his college years and learning to adjust with his disability – he was extremely active, participating in many extracurricular activities, and was a spectacular student. He told that once he gradated, he was excited and eager to start his career, but after numerous interviews and someone asking him how he was going to open his mail and read it every day, he looked back to someone he knew. He asked a favor of the Dean of his alma mater. A phone call was made and Westbrook interviewed for a PR position at the Shawnee Mission school district. The superintendent, a World War II veteran and amputee, gave him a chance. That was the beginning of his highly successful career in Public Relations. He now is the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

In his speech, he listed six things that has helped him to get where he is today and I think it is helpful advice for anyone and everyone! Westbrook’s words of wisdom includes: 

1) Be real and realistic – It is extremely important to be who you are and say what you want. Embrace your capabilities because they will be your greatest strengths in life and most of all be passionate about the things that you like and care about. Do not do things half-way.

2) Embrace change and learn how to adapt – Change is the one constant thing in life. The only way to succeed in life is to learn to adapt to the situation, so welcome change because it is inevitable.

3) Be empathetic – practice patience and tolerance and most of all be compassionate. Know that compassion is enabled by empathy so do not judge and try to understand others as much as possible.

4) Understand adversity – Adversity is defined as difficulties; misfortune. Take adversity in stride and deal with setbacks. You do not know what kind of opportunity will be presented from your experiences.

5) Know the importance of giving and receiving – you, yourself, have been given a gift, but do not be selfish and not share it with others. Give others the opportunities that you have been given whenever you can.

6) Know the importance of love – love is more than four little letters and be affectionate to your partner. Be a loving person – one who is caring and considerate.

I wish you could have all been there to hear him, but hopefully you’ll still get something from his six things!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eastbound and Down

I am so glad it’s the weekend…it’s been such a busy week that I am needing a few days to recoup! Mom and I made the trip up to Kansas City Tuesday evening as I had plans for Wednesday morning.

Almost two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak and participate in Ability Quest. I was so impressed with the event and the cause that I wanted to learn more and so I reached out to Tara and took her up on her offer to tour the facilities of the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City (RIKC). RIKC is a hidden gem in midtown Kansas City that offers numerous services, such as, adult and pediatric/adolescent medical rehabilitation, an amputee program, a driving evaluation and training program, senior services, employment services, etc. The list goes on and on, which amazes me all in itself.
Tara met me at the door and we proceeded to walk around, visiting their main gym for adults, the occupational therapy kitchen, a pseudo apartment, and numerous offices.  One of my biggest memories from my “stint” at TIRR in Houston was the OT kitchen; I vividly remember cutting up bananas and strawberries for smoothies and making chocolate chip cookies. I would always tell my mom and any other visitors to never eat what we made…not that it might be bad, but there was a lot of hands that touched everything and who knew else what might have gone in there!!

Nonetheless, back to the RIKC tour…after visiting most of the adult services, we ventured over to where the kids were. We walked through where they were having camp and then proceeded into their more traditional therapy room. Not dissing any rehab that I have participated in, but the pediatric therapy unit and facility at RIKC looked like a heck of a lot more fun that what I’ve been subject too =)

We finished our tour by heading into the lower level where RIKC has sheltered workshops where adults with disabilities can gain experience that may help them transition into other community job opportunities and develop good working habits, behaviors, and skills.

RIKC is an amazing facility with so many wonderful services. I am so glad I had the opportunity to visit and I hope to make it back soon…plus I cannot wait for Bacon Fest…another RIKC fundraiser that stresses the 3 B’s – Beer, Bands, and Bacon!

After touring RIKC, we made our way to KU Med where I had a successful appointment and then we ventured out to do a little bit of shopping…I forgot my book at home and was desperately needing to get one!

Wednesday evening, Mom and I spent some time with two of my favorite people – Kenny and my Aunt Nancy. We didn’t venture too far out from our hotel for supper, stopping in at the Westport Flea Market Bar and Grill. Although known for some of the best burgers in town (I agree), I learned that the Westport Flea Market was once the stomping grounds for serial killer Bob Berdella. Before a young man jumped from Bob's two-story house wearing nothing but a dog collar, and before he was arrested, Bob made his living by running his booth, Bob’s Baazare Bazaar, inside the Westport Flea Market. 

Thursday morning, we headed west along I-70, to Washburn University for the Kansas Youth Leadership Forum (KSYLF) Mentor Luncheon. I was honored to be able to dine with the chosen delegates, their mentors, and the staff and volunteers at KSYLF. After eating a delicious meal and chatting with all those at our table, we had the privilege to hear David Westbrook, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Innovation at Children’s Mercy Hospital, speak of his testimony and his sound words of wisdom. 
David Westbrook speaking
Westbrook lost his sight at the age of 17 due to juvenile glaucoma, but has not let it hold him back one bit in his life. He has broken through numerous boundaries throughout the course of his life and credits part of his success to knowing the right people when he got out of college in the 1970s. His story was more than inspiring and he gave the students, as well as the entire room, some great advice for life.
KSYLF Luncheon
Our table
After the luncheon, we headed home…I was sure glad to see Bucklin on the horizon around 8 o'clock and was even more happy when I laid down in my bed last night. Nothing is better than sleeping in your own bed after a few days in a hotel and I think that is where I am headed as we speak.

Have a great weekend everyone!!   

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

50 Shades of What?

Random fact #1 about yours truly – I love to read. I am a huge book nerd and have been since I can remember. Ever since I was old enough to read chapter books, I have stayed up all night promising to just to finish the next page, which turned into the next chapter, and soon I had the book finished and I hadn’t slept a wink. I still do this to this day.

I’m up for reading just about any genre of books (except trashy romance novels), but my all time favorite types are history and mystery/thrillers. I love a good war story and it amazes me how much emotion one author can provoke…I wish I could write like Laura Hildebrand, Hampton Sides, or Gregory Freeman, just to name a few.

For my last couple of books, I have stepped out of my usual reading material and have gone for some romance that has been all over the best sellers lists. However, I must say the 50 Shades trilogy isn’t your normal romance novel. I will not go into specific detail, but these books, themselves, were explicit.

Trust me when I say they are not for everyone, but I could not put them down. E L James is one heck of an author and knows how to write a page-turner. I’ve heard numerous whispers about this book and have been asked why I liked it so much. Well, here goes my reason…it is the connection between Christian and Ana. I think everyone craves a relationship with that much mutual care, respect, and not to mention passion (maybe just not their kind of passion though). It was somewhat endearing.

Nonetheless, I think I’ll journey back into my normal type of reads…Flyboys by James Bradley is next on my list – I love the movie and no matter what anyone says, the book is always better.

Happy Reading All!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Best Day at Summer Camp...Ever!

When I was young, I vividly remember going to numerous summer camps - 4-H camp...volleyball camp…and even cheerleading camp. No matter where I went, I had a blast. It was always a fun-filled week away from home where you met people from all over. I have memories from camp in which I will never forget, but today I have added the most memorable day to my list of summer camp experiences.

This morning I had the opportunity to visit the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Summer Camp at Tall Oakes Conference Center in Linwood, KS. Walking into organized chaos, I was greeted by a ton of smiles. Monica helped me get my presentation set up and after only a small amount of orange duct tape, I was ready to rock!

I had a chance to talk to the girl campers about how it is okay to be unique and how important it is to not let others tell you who you are as a person. Every girl that I know has had issues of self-confidence and trying to fit in at some point in their lifetime. It is a huge problem and can be extremely confusing when society is telling us that we have to be one person and it's not even close to who you are and/or who you want to be. We must remember that we are responsible for who we are as people and have the ability to control how certain situations and other people' thoughts affect us. 

After my presentation we had a little bit of time before lunch, so the girls took me over to one of their favorite activities – arts and crafts. You can definitely tell that it is a popular camp pastime because as soon as you walk in there is one long table packed with everything the kids have made so far. I got to hang out for a bit and see what everyone was making – it ranged from headbands to airplanes and there was plenty of painting all around.

After art and crafts, we made our way to the dining hall for some grilled cheese sandwiches and salad, and then made our way over to the cabins for their rest period. 
While eating lunch, it really hit me how special this place was. The kids, counselors, and all of the staff are completely amazing.

MDA Camp provides kids with muscular dystrophy, ages 6-17, a chance to have the summer camp experience like any able-bodied person. There was a total of 78 campers this year and each camper has a one-on-one counselor who helps them with anything and everything. All week long, they are able to participate in activities such as horseback riding, arts and crafts, swimming, dances, zip lining, sidecar rides, and so much more. This week is something the campers look forward to every year…and the same goes for the counselors.

I cannot say enough about how great the kids were, but I must talk about and give a shout out to the counselors. They are absolutely amazing! Most volunteer their first year because they know someone with MD, but come back year after year because it is such a great experience for the campers and them, as well. The counselors and staff are the ones who make it possible for the campers to experience everything they do.

It was such an amazing experience to visit camp today and I truly wish everyone could have a chance to see just how amazing it is for themselves. I highly suggest everyone to check out the MDA and look into volunteering for such an event – you will definitely not regret it! I can only hope that I will have the chance to go back next year!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hot Flashes

Ever since my accident, I am cold about 95% of the time. Very rarely am I hot and the concept of me sweating is practically extinct. Due to my spinal cord injury, I cannot control my body temperature like most people…which means little to no sweating. However on the rare occasion that I do sweat – it is only on the left side of my head and shoulder…not my armpit, not my legs, nothing on my right side, just the left side of my head and shoulder.

This morning was one of those rare occasions - as soon as I got situated at my desk, I got hot and I began sweating. I looked around to make sure my feet weren’t pinched up against something or anything else that could possibly cause discomfort (another cause of sweating), but much to my dismay, I couldn’t find anything.

I turned off my heater right away, thinking that was the problem, but not too long after I did so I felt a chill roll up my right arm and the goosebumps appeared. How can this be? I am literally hot and sweating on one side of my body and am cold and have goosebumps on the other. The only conclusion I can come to is that it's inexplainable - our bodies do some weird things!

Finally after about an hour or so of having the heater on my right side and wiping the sweat off my left brow, I have returned to my normal temperature of being semi-cold with no sweats involved.

If I’m experiencing these flashes already at the age of 25, I don’t want think about what 40 might bring me!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ability Quest

I’m not really a morning person, especially when it comes to the weekend…just ask my mother. I am usually a bit grumpy until I shower and get a cup of coffee in my system. However, today was different. I woke up early and was ready to get going even without coffee…who knew it was possible?

I was ready to rock’n’roll this morning, all because Ability Quest. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, Ability Quest is a 2-mile run/1-mile walk that is dedicated to help the patients and program participants of the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City (RIKC) celebrate milestones in their lives. All proceeds from the event go back to RIKC, helping fund medical rehabilitation and employment services for children and adults who have had a serious illness or injury.

For those of you who know me, my therapy and rehabilitation has been a huge part of the last six years of my life. I would not be where I am in life, doing what I do, without my physical and occupational therapy.  Today I had the opportunity to share a little bit about my rehab experiences over the past few years and tell how important I think PT and OT are.

The event took place at the Berkley Riverfront Park in downtown Kansas City and after we jammed to some great tunes provided by the DJ and I addressed the crowd, the run was ready to begin. The 2 milers started out first, followed by us 1-mile walkers. I have to admit, I did not push the entire mile, but I was too busy catching up with my good friends Ashley and Brodie, who joined me in supporting such a great cause.

I didn’t catch our time when we crossed the finish line, but that was just fine for me. We received some beads and a little trophy and then we were able to mingle a little bit with some of the other participants and get a few pictures.

I had an amazing time today, both participating and speaking at the event, but on top of that I really enjoyed getting to know about the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City. It sounds like a great facility and I cannot wait to check it out!

I must send a huge thank you to Ashley, Brodie, and my Aunt Nancy who came out to participate and help support RIKC. I really appreciate it and was surprised to see you guys bright and early this morning!!

Aunt Nancy and myself
Ashley, Brodie, and I
     Oh, also, on our way home we stopped by the mall in Wichita to look for a gown for Nationals…let me say that however many feet in the mile I missed this morning, I made up    
                               for this afternoon strolling from store to store!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Tomorrow morning I will be participating in Ability Quest, a 2-mile run/1-mile walk that is dedicated to help the patients and program participants of the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City (RIKC) celebrate milestones in their lives. All proceeds from the event go back to RIKC, helping fund medical rehabilitation and employment services for children and adults who have had a serious illness or injury.

As I have been telling my friends and family about this event, I have been asked, “you think you can push a mile?”  Do I look that weak or what?  Of course I think I can push a mile! Nonetheless, I made my way down to the track a few times recently to “train” and work on my endurance and truthfully, I thought I did a pretty decent job. Now, I may not be as fast as the Price girls, but hey I think I can hold my own…we’ll see tomorrow anyway!

While training at the track, my mind reverted back to my therapy sessions in Detroit. In the midst of the medical complex, there was a little park called Brush Mall with a lot of trees and pathways that connected all of the hospitals. At least once a week, my therapist Chris would take me out there to push – building up strength and endurance. 

Brush Mall (1)
Brush Mall (2)
Chris would always time my laps, which of course made me push even harder – I wanted a PR every time we went out. It didn’t always happen, but I can say that overall I cut down my time dramatically. I always enjoyed the days we would go outside and thinking about it makes me realize how much I miss Detroit and the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery.

Brush Mall (3)
Brush Mall (4)
I haven’t made it back to Detroit for two summers now, but I hope that my training and performance tomorrow will still make Chris proud. No matter what my time is though, I can’t think of a better cause to push for – I’m definitely looking forward to Ability Quest!

Chris and I working out
Stay tuned for all the details of tomorrow - I'll write as soon as I can!