Friday, March 29, 2013

My Visit to Oz


Here are some pics of my very first appearance as Ms. Wheelchair 2013--a stereotypical Kansas event.  I am a huge Wizard of Oz fan.  I have loved the movie for most of my life and remember making a huge deal out of watching it once a year when it was on TV.  I am old enough that we didn't have a home library of movies we could just watch whenever you want.  My kiddos will never understand the excitement of waiting once a year to see a movie on TV.  We own the DVD and can watch the movie whenever we want.  Speaking of that, I think I'll go put it in soon.  :)  One of my most vivid memories of the movie is the scary flying monkeys.  What is your most vivid memory?
So, my very first appearance as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2013 was at the Oz Museum in
Wamego.  This was on my plan to do after the Crowning Ceremony anyway.  Since we were this close, the Oz Museum was on our agenda for the trip home anyway.    I decided this was a perfect appearance for Ms Wheelchair Kansas.  I learned some valuable information at this appearance.  The crown and sash open doors, start conversations and make me far more approachable to strangers.  I got to talk to some other visitors and had a great conversation with the employees.  This program is not well known everywhere so it is an amazing opportunity to get to tell others all about it.  I hope to spend this year not only sharing my platform, but sharing about the amazing opportunities of the Ms.
Wheelchair Kansas program.
My favorite character.  "If I Only Had a Brain"
is even the ring tone on my phone.
Who is your favorite character?

Have you seen the new Oz movie?  Oz: The Great and Powerful  Check out my review of this movie at  Just prepare yourself when you see it.  Those flying monkeys are even more terrifying this time around.
Check out what I just had to buy as I left the museum.  Eric blames it on the judges.  :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Should Be a Way of Life

My platform is "Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude."  This is something that took me time to learn, but I have really been trying to live this since I heard Ann Voscamp speak about her book 1000 Gifts this past fall.  I have been intentionally trying to look for the "gifts" all around me ever since that time.  This is something I have been doing off and on for the past several years, but I had never made it an intentional, daily habit.  There are some days that it is still really difficult and at first glance it doesn't look like there is anything to be thankful for.  But, if you stop and change your focus from the negative to the "gifts" all around us, it changes your perspective.

This fall I went back and identified all the gifts in my life at the time of the car accident.  Some would say looking back is easier.  Hindsight is 20/20 after all.  I would disagree.  When you face a trauma in life it is pretty typical to shove all the memories from that time into the back of your memory and shut the door.  When you open that door, even to identify "gifts," it's like opening the floodgates.  But, I did it and managed to identify and give thanks for gifts like:

Ÿ  An off-duty paramedic came upon our accident before the ambulance
Ÿ  Eric had presence of mind to call friends and family and call our daughter's babysitter to tell them
 not to come down their road
Ÿ  Eric being able to get my CD's out of the CD changer in our totaled car

Ÿ  The NICU nurses who loved our son so much they took great care of him and even came up to visit his mom
Ÿ  The NICU nurses and my mother-in-law preparing a gift from our son to me in the hospital
Ÿ  The Ronald McDonald House that took such good care of my family
Ÿ  Friends and family who took time out of their own lives to come help see me and take care of my family
Ÿ  Family taking such good care of our daughter to help keep her 2 ½ year old life as normal as possible
Ÿ  Eric refusing to allow anyone to take our daughter to the zoo because that was a special mom/daughter activity
Ÿ  Hand hugs
Ÿ  That the clothes I was wearing were maternity clothes, so I didn’t miss them when they had to be cut off
Ÿ  Good friends took special care of my wedding rings that first night and then my mom cared for them for 3 months
Ÿ  My parents came as soon as they were called and made it safely to Tulsa, my Dad time and time again
Ÿ  My mom for spending the summer in the hospital with me
Ÿ  My aunt and grandma for spending time with me when Mom went back to work
Ÿ  My sister for making time to come see me between her trip to Africa (where she was when the accident occurred) and her wedding that fall
Ÿ  That our son and I were able to make the trip to Indiana to be in my sister's wedding
Ÿ  Music playing constantly in my hospital room
Ÿ  Laughter in the midst of everything
Ÿ  The hospital helping arrange a special 9th anniversary celebration for Eric and I (including Red Lobster)
Ÿ  Thickening liquid and swallow therapy that allowed me to get back to eating whatever I wanted (like Red Lobster)
Ÿ  Getting rid of thickening liquid so I could enjoy Dr. Pepper again
Ÿ  Losing my baby weight without hard work while in the hospital
Ÿ  My family being willing to take me to some special spots in Tulsa before heading home (Red Lobster, the scrap booking store and to get my ears re pierced.)
Ÿ  Therapists that came to my home in Oklahoma
Ÿ  A speech therapist who believed my speech could improve and used some special tools to massage my vocal cords to help wake them up
Ÿ  Ending up back in Kansas where I could have superior traumatic brain injury rehabilitation
Ÿ  Care attendants, friends, and family members who help me become more and more independent
Ÿ  Finding great friends and a disability community through Ms. Wheelchair Kansas
Ÿ  God healing my voice so that I can be understood when I speak

 That is only the beginning of what I have to be thankful for, but this blog post is already way too long as it is.  What are some of your thankful thoughts?  I'd love for you to share them with me.

Check out my review of the book 1000 Gifts

I will be posting my blessings or "gifts."  Join me on this journey. Let's make thanksgiving a part of our daily lives. :)

Thanksgiving for today
People willing to make seating adjustments
Word of mouth
Well-behaved dog even when people are not
Successful search
Knowing your size
Friendly cashier and grocery carry out
Opportunities to Share
Cell phones
Weather warm enough to not "need" a jacket

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Big Day

The day we've all been waiting for arrives.  And, with it arrive nerves.  I wake up already counting down the hours.  By 4:00pm this will all be over--at least that's what I keep telling myself.  Of course, I told my care attendant last week as I was preparing for the weekend, "Just think, by next week this will all be over."  She answered, "No it won't.  It's only just beginning."  How right she was.  But, on this day, it helps me steady my nerves by counting down until 4:00.  I can manage anything for a few hours, right?

The day begins with an optional church service and breakfast that helped to calm my soul.  We then get to practice what the Crowning Ceremony will be like.  That is so much help for AJ as he learns exactly where to go and what is expected of him.  Come ceremony time, he behaves like a professional doing exactly what he is supposed to and allowing me to focus on my own "stuff" for the day.  He was so well-behaved throughout the entire weekend.  I am very proud of him.  A big thank you to Tony for being an excellent escort.  He suggested doing a run through so AJ would know exactly what to expect from him and did an amazing job of holding my speech and flowers and getting them to me at just the right moment.  I didn't have to think about a thing. It was all taken care of.  Thank you.
One of the best parts of this day is always getting pampered.  What girl doesn't love to have their hair and make-up done? Not only was I pampered, but my wishes were respected and they tried their hardest to make me look how I imagined it.  Thanks to Lana and Maria for making me look so beautiful.  The Silent Auction is always a fun part of the event and I'm so glad I got to check it out before hand and tell Eric what to bid on.  Things were a little bit on the crazy side afterward.


Waiting for the excitement to begin

Then the fun begins.  Thank you for arranging things the way they are.  Once we entered the room, the wait to do our speeches and questions was only a matter of minutes.  Then, I could breathe again.  My responsibility was over.  I felt good about showing my authentic self and my authentic plan for the future.  Now, it was up to the judges.  Was my authentic self what they wanted to represent Ms Wheelchair Kansas in 2013?  It was wait and see and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.


Waiting and enjoying the rest of the Ceremony
Notice the green jewelry.  It is St. Patrick's Day
Where is your green?

Now the announcment comes.  Then the pesky tears arrive.  They just can't seem to stay hidden.  Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2013 is Mrs. Angel Shaver.  That is me!  Now that the weekend is over, the real adventure begins.  The nerves are gone, but excitement arrives.  Sleep is interrupted because my mind is spinning with all the next year holds in store.  My care attendant was right: It's only just begun.  I can't wait to experience all the adventure and open doors this year.  Join me on this journey.

My family
Friends who came all the way from WaKeeney to suprise me!
It worked!!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Preparing the "Army"

Saturday arrives--the day of advocacy, education, and judging.   This is a day some expect me to barely survive.  It could be a day of exhaustion and nervousness after all.  That is not at all the case for me.  It is the day I most look forward to every year.  The day that is full of learning and growing and connecting with amazing, strong women who happen to use wheelchairs.  Every year I am impressed, yet once again, at the "army" (thanks Stephanie) of women I know and have grown to love.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they will be there for me whenever I need them.  Each time I'm with them, I am excited to learn just a little bit more from their amazing wisdom. 
We had amazing sessions together.  We got to pick the brain of Ms Wheelchair Kansas 2012,
Emily Evans and see what insight she could give us about the year ahead.  I am so thankful Emily brought her display board she made for Ms. Wheelchair America.  It had a map of Kansas on it, so I could show everyone just exactly where WaKeeney is located.  It is in Northwest Kansas on I-70 halfway between Kansas City and Denver for those who don't know.

The rest of the day was filled with sessions practicing our platform and then the fun part of going out into the hotel to share it with random strangers.  That was so much fun and I met some amazing people.  One group gave me a pamphlet to peruse at my later convenience.  One woman and I had differences of opinion on some issues, but managed to discuss them with kindness and respect.  It must have made an impression, because she waved big as I wheeled by the breakfast area the next morning.  I did invite her to the Crowning Ceremony.  I didn't see her there, but I was slightly preoccupied.  :)  If that is an indication of what is to come, this year is going to be amazing.  We also had sessions on communication and advocacy, things we will definitely be needing to help our voices be heard.  The great news is, I know for sure which individuals to call on when I need help in those areas.  And, I will probably be needing help.  So, Julia and Stephanie, be expecting a phone call.  :)
Of course, Saturday also involved our first meeting of the judges.  My mom asked me if I was nervous and my response was that I was so excited about that day, I could manage anything for a few minutes.  Fortunately, it was not an uncomfortable or unpleasant experience.  I did leave feeling challenged, but it was a good feeling.  I was always treated with kindness and respect and overall had a positive experience.
We ended our sessions with a Zumba session.  Now I have done Zumba before and was totally lost.  So, I only did it once and never again.  But, having it specifically taught for those in wheelchairs, by someone in a wheelchair was an awesome experience.  Thank you JoAnne!!  My arms were tired by the end of the hour, but I had a great time.  Now, if I could only kidnap you to come to Western Kansas and do a class once a week or so.  The good news is I could move my arems thenext day to get ready for the Crowning Ceremony.  :)
The night ended with a time of relaxation, fun, and laughter.  We had a good old fashioned pj party.  Well not everyone was in their pjs, so maybe we should just call it a pizza party.  I can't remember the last time I was in a room with so much laughter.  That should be a requirement for every week of my life.  :) 
Eric found other stuff to do all day.  There was just a little too much estrogen in the room for him, I think.  Good thing the Expo Center was having a motorcycle show next door.
I think I need a sidecar for my wheelchair

Since Eric wasn't around to take photos, here is the powerpoint put together for the Crowning Ceremony with pics taken by Stacy Greenwood.

This has been an amazing day with very little nerves for me.  They will show up tomorrow. . .
To Be Continued . . .

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Weekend Arrives

Capital Plaza Hotel

 The weekend begins at the beautiful Capital Plaza Hotel.  Both contestants arrive even before expected.  I guess that's what driving from the other side of the state will do for you.  You learn to give yourself plenty of time in case of trouble and when no trouble comes that means you arrive early.  I for one would rather arrive early any day.  So thankful there was no trouble for either of us.  :)

The weekend begins with amazing gift bags as always.  Mine is now and forever my Ms. Wheelchair bag with everything in it I will need to represent Ms. Wheelchair Kansas (I hope).  And, it is a bright green so I shouldn't lose it.  (I hope)  :)  We had amazing tie blankets in our bags which kept me so warm as I cuddled up with it that night.  I had to be sure and thank the maker.  It has become my couch blanket and what I cuddle up with for a nap in the afternoons.  What a great idea!!!
My Ms Wheelchair Bag
Other side of the blanket
My new cuddle blanket

Our first event for the weekend was an orientation and project that jump started our brains for the entire weekend.  We spent time decorating a paper crown to represent how we foresee wearing the crown this year.   This really got me thinking about why I have become dedicated to the Ms. Wheelchair Program and what I really would do with the crown and what I would do anyway, if I didn't come home with it.
We ended the evening giving back.  We fixed dinner for the Ronald McDonald House and ate supper with the families.  What an amazing way to give back.  I am so thankful that my family got to use the Ronald McDonald House during my hospital stay because the accident led to the early birth of our son and he got to spend time in the NICU.  What an amazing gift to families with enough worries with a child in the NICU.  How special to be able to share a success story from personal experience and help shine a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.  Seeing my 8 year old now, no one would guess the trauma at the beginning of his life.  I'm glad I could be part of sharing hope and stories from the other side after having been through very similar circumstances.  There is hope even when you can't see it and there is a reason to give thanks even when it's hard to find.  When your child is in NICU and you are at Ronald McDonald House, you can give thanks for: the NICU, doctors and nurses with the knowledge your child needs and the love and care they give, people who are patient with you as you learn through this trauma, the Ronald McDonald house, volunteers, a safe place to sleep, great meals to eat, an amazing family room to help you unwind.  laundry facilities.  I'm sure you can think of many more.  Even when things seem at their worst, there is always something to be thankful for.
Too many cooks in the kitchen?  I don't know, but have you
ever seen so many wheelchairs in one kitchen?

Our photographer for the weekend.  :)

 Thank goodness there was a good night's sleep to the end of this exhausting day.  (I'm sure my new blanket helped.)  :) 

To Be Continued . . .

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Third TImes the Charm

As we begin this journey together I thought I'd tell all of you a little of my background (even though most of you who read this will already know it) 

On, June 7, 2004 my husband and I dropped our daughter off at the babysitter and headed off toward Lamaze class.  As we came up over a hill on a gravel road we saw a stop sign at the bottom of the hill.  We tried to stop, but we were on gravel.  So, we slid through the stop sign and out onto Route 66 and were t-boned by a suburban coming down the highway at highway speeds.   Needless to say, our little Ford Taurus was no match for the Suburban.  I was the only one involved in the accident with serious injuries.  I'd try to list them all, but I would most certainly forget something.  I had a TBI (traumatic brain injury), nerve damage, broken and displaced pelvis, and multiple other injuries.  This led to the emergency c-section of our son 10 1/2 weeks early, 3 months in the hospital in Tulsa, OK, and beginning a new life with a wheelchair.
My side of the car

Our miracle baby
So thankful she wan't in the car

Heading Home to Begin My"New Normal"

In 2006, I first learned about Ms. Wheelchair Kansas and decided to compete.  At this point, I had met no strong, positive women in wheelchairs and was excited to find a community to help me adjust to my "new normal."    Well, I had such a great time and met all these amazing women that I wanted to stay involved.  Living in Western Kansas, I didn't think the steering committee was a possibility for me.  So, in 2007, I competed again and came back to see all these amazing women again.  The competition was not the part that grabbed my heart and I decided I did not need a crown to be a role model and advocate in my community.  The women had been telling me that all along, but now I finally got it.  So, I went home and did my best to be a positive role model and example for all I met, I just happen to do it from my wheelchair.  I had finally figured out my wheelchair did not define who I was, it just happened to be how I got around.  I stayed involved with the Ms. Wheelchair Program and looked forward to helping out with the Crowning Ceremony every year.

Well, this year, I felt compelled to compete yet once again.  A crown is not necessary to be a role model and advocate.  But, it is recognized and I thought it would give me credibility and open doors.  Will my commitment and dedication to Ms. Wheelchair Kansas change after this weekend.  NO!!  No matter the outcome, I would still think this is an amazing program and still put the Crowning Ceremony on my calendar every year.  The outcome of the weekend would not change my feelings about Ms. Wheelchair Kansas.  The crown on my head will only increase my personal activity for this program.  The crown is my attempt to make my voice louder.  It is my way of finding my voice.

The weekend proved the adage, "Third Times the Charm."  I knew it would either prove that or "Three Strikes And You're Out."   :)   I am thrilled to find out what the year ahead will hold.  Join me on this journey.