Thursday, April 25, 2013

Catalyst Group For This Adventure

I was so excited about this event: Friendship Tea at the Ogallah Christian Church.  I was with this group of ladies when the concept for my platform began to take shape.  We all heard the same talk by Ann Voscamp about her book 1000 Gifts.  So, it was amazing to sit down with some of these same women and share how had impacted my life and helped create the concept of my platform, "Maintaining An Attitude of Gratitude" that I will get to share around the state.

I really struggled with what title to give this:  Friendship Tea just didn't seem to express enough.  I'm still not sure if the title says it all, but it's close.  Catalyst means "one that precipitates a process or event."  While this group of ladies can't claim full responsibility for this year, we did hear the same talk together that led to my formation of a platform that I felt compelled to share with as many people as possible.  So, I choose to call them a "catalyst."  What do you think?  Is this the right title or is there a better way to word this?  I'm sure there is, but I can't think of it right now.

The group was smaller than normal, but there were competing events happening at the same time--like Daddy/Daughter Prom.  This didn't directly impact the women of this group, but if they had other children than the daughter that was at Prom with her Dad, they were home with those kiddos.  I hope those that weren't able to make it can catch up with me at another appearance.

I was thrilled that this group was the first to see my PowerPoint Presentation.  They were so kind as I worked out the technical difficulties and hopefully it will all work out smoothly from now on.  :)  I got to share how our time together hearing Ann Voscamp speak helped form my platform before I began the PowerPoint.   My favorite part is always going to be the question/answer time I think.  My life is an open book and I'm thrilled that this experience allows people to ask questions they have not felt comfortable asking before.  Just so you all know, if you have any questions about life in a wheelchair or the accident that led to my life in a wheelchair, just ask.  Don't be afraid to offend me.  I will not be offended and will gladly share.  My life is an open book. 

Thankful thoughts for today:
Donations from unexpected places
Finding "Mama Zooms"
Daughter willing to ask questions about tough subject
Exemplary score on assessment test
Feeling caught up and on track
Finding formal wear for the dog for the crowning ceremony
Cup holders
Storage under front seat

"Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice.  I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.  It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.  I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness.  I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly."                                                       --Henri J. M. Nouwen

Monday, April 22, 2013

Set Up For Success

I was privileged to get to spend time at a Special Olympics Young Athletes program in Colby.  There were athletes and families from all over Northwest Kansas.  I was so excited to get the opportunity to speak to this group.  When my son was younger, he participated in a Young Athlete's event and talks about it to this day.  He really wanted to come with me, but chose to go turkey hunting instead.  It's a hard choice when events happen on the weekend Dad and Grandpa are going hunting
I didn't talk for very long because the athletes didn't come to listen to me, they came to play.  Plus, Young Athletes means ages 3-7.  At that age, even a crown and service dog can't begin to compete with all the fun sports equipment set up all over the gym.  What a great opportunity to get to work on motor skills and eye-hand coordination while just having a great time.  My favorite part was watching their minds work and figure out new and unexpected ways to use the equipment.  One boy chose to pick up the bar with its supports meant as a "step over" in the obstacle course and use it as pretend bar bells.  It was so much fun to watch them having such a great time.  They all had family members there cheering them on and helping them succeed.  One family all had matching t-shirts to support their athlete.  These athletes are definitely being helped to succeed big time in life.

For those who don't know, Special Olympics was started with a purpose.: "Participation develops each individual's self-esteem and self-confidence while enhancing the social, psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of an individual's life." We all need that. We all need to find something in our lives to develop those five areas: social, psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual. These athletes are well on their way.

One of my favorite parts of any event is getting to talk with the staff and families present.  I had such a great time doing just that.  And, I got to use my thankful journal for the very first time and got some entries.  What a day to bring out the thankfulness in everyone.

My service dog was the star of the show again.
Everyone wanted a moment with him,
even in the five minutes I was speaking.  :)
"Gratitude shouldn't be an occasional incident but a continuing attitude."--Selected
Thankful thoughts for the day:
Windows that don't leak
Rain at just the right moments
Fun with friends
Joyful singing
Weather predictor dog and children
Prepping to stay in tomorrow if needed

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trego County Commissioners

Here it is--my very first meeting with elected officials.  I had a meeting with the Trego County Commissioners.  We got to spend time talking about the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas program, what being Ms. Wheelchair Kansas will mean to me, what events I already have scheduled, and what contacts I have already made or should make in Trego County.

We also discussed my fundraising efforts and what has already been done.  We discussed my continued need and how the County Commissioners may be able to help.

I was excited to spend time talking about what areas the County Commissioners were responsible for versus the city or the fair board.  I offered to be available if they ever need to discuss accessibility issues.  It was a very positive and pleasant meeting and I left with their encouragement to get in touch with the city.  That is on my list!!!  Hopefully it can happen soon.

Thankful thoughts for the day:
Ninja blender/food processor
Staying out of the weather
Bursts of inspiration

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.


UPDATE:  8/12/2013

I had another meeting with the County Commissioners today.  I thanked them in person for supporting me and helping me get to Ms. Wheelchair America.  We talked about my week in Houston, what all I had learned and the connections formed.  I told them I had come back "on fire" and was currently working with the City Council to help with accessibility needs in the city and would like to do the same with them for the County.  I thanked them for any part they played in getting grab bars for the accessible stall in the commercial building at the fairgrounds.    I am excited to work with this group as we seek to make Trego County more accessible for all.

I was especially pleased with their graciousness today.  I was late to my appointment because I had a mix-up on time, but they worked me in anyway.  Thanks for putting up with my Traumatic Brain Injury moments.  I'm just thankful I haven't had more of them yet this year.  :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

5K for Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation

It was time for the 5K for Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.  For those who don't know about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, just check out some information from the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Foundation website:  Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a rare disease.  The information I found said that incidences occur in 1.5 to 2 people per million each year.  This makes the fact that I personally know two Stevens-Johnson Syndrome patients quite rare indeed.  There are not a million people in our small town, but there are two that have Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.  One happens to be the girl who inspired this 5K.  The other happens to be my husband.
I fortunately have never lived through an outbreak with him.  I've had it explained to me that Stevens-Johnson syndrome is an allergic reaction to your bodies' own immune system kicking in  OR to the medications necessary to fight off your illness.  The long term effects of living with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome include avoiding tons of different medications, including some over-the-counter.   Illness takes a bit longer for my husband to overcome and canker sores are a pretty common side effect of all illnesses.  We do our best to just keep everyone healthy.
The 5K itself was awesome.  It was a chilly, breezy morning.  Perhaps the runners appreciated the cool weather.  It was probably better than running in 100 degree Kansas weather.  The participants all started together, but quickly broke into 4 groups:  The bikers, the runners, me in my power chair, and the walkers.    Our route took us back past the starting/finish point at a midpoint through the 5K.  It was a bit disheartening to pass the midpoint as some ahead were already reaching the finish.  But, I pressed on to the end. 
I'm thankful there were a couple of participants close enough ahead of me that I could watch and follow them throughout the entire 5K.  I couldn't remember all the route instructions and although  there were signs along the route to keep us heading in the right direction, I didn't trust they would still be standing with the wind.  I'm thankful that they were and I'm thankful I had someone to follow.  And, I'm thankful those ahead of me did not lead me in the wrong direction.
My 5K time:  48 min 36 sec.

Thankful thoughts for today:
A day with no where to go
Cinnamon Almonds
Clean House
Calendar filling up

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.
Denis Waitley

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude Is Not Always Easy

OK . . .It's true confession time.  Yesterday was not such an easy day to maintain an attitude of gratitude.  Friday's Kansas wind concerned me since I knew I was scheduled for a 5K Saturday morning and with the wind Friday, there was no way that could happen.  So, I was extremely thankful to wake up Saturday morning and find the wind wasn't quite as bad.  I got ready, put my crown and sash on, and headed out the door.  I didn't get to the end of the driveway before I turned around and headed back inside.  The wind was whipping my sash enough that I decided rather than fight with it during the 5K, I would just leave it at home.

Well, I was taking my power chair on this 5K so I was just going to take it to the starting point.  I tried to get my dog to use the bathroom before we left home, but no luck.  We were only a block from home when he started indicating we needed to make a stop.  I made a detour on our route to take us somewhere there was a trash can close by.  He got that taken care of and I got it picked up and disposed of and we were headed on the road again.  I had to take off my gloves during this process and was nearly freezing waiting.  Barely a block down the road, my power chair wheels slipped off the sidewalk and I was stuck.  I've done this before, so I learned from experience how to successfully get myself unstuck.  At this point, I was ready to call it quits and head back home.

But, I remembered my platform and decided to start giving thanks.  I was thankful for things like:
  • the wind was calmer than yesterday
  • I had gloves and a coat
  • I had found a portable scooper that I could use alone from my wheelchair
  • I knew where the city trash cans were along my route
  • I hadn't been fighting my sash through all of this
  • I had learned from experience and hadn't remained stuck
  • I had my cell phone in case of an emergency
  • The sun was shining
By the time we got to the starting point of the 5K, I was in a much better mood and able to honestly put a smile on my face.  I had a great experience and will tell all of you about it soon.  So, I can speak from experience yet once again that being thankful really does change your mood and outlook.  Your heart doesn't have room for negative feelings when it's full of thanks.  Why do I always forget that is true?

Thanksgiving for the day:
Accomplishing goals
Purple roses
"Chapstick Prayer"

""The thankful heart sees the best part of every situation. It sees problems and weaknesses as opportunities, struggle as refining tools, and sinners as saints in progress."
Francis Frangipane

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Taking Care of Each Other

These signs are on the signpost in the middle of main street

I am so thankful to live in a community that takes care of its own.  This benefit breakfast was not for someone who currently lives in town, but whose Mom went to school here.  The benefit was for an 8 year old boy who just had a heart transplant.  When this benefit was first scheduled he was waiting for a heart, but had received his new heart by the time the benefit rolled around.  That changed the mood of the day--it was more of a celebration, helping someone during the healing phase instead of the waiting phase.   The room was filled with laughter, smiles, and good old fashioned teasing as the community all came together to help this family.

I had the privilege of running the donation table, so I got to interact with all who entered the room. 
There was a steady stream of people from the beginning until the Easter Egg hunt across the street on the courthouse lawn and then again after the Hunt.  A big thank you to Curtis for being kind enough to let me leave for awhile and go watch my kiddos during the egg hunt. 

It was an excellent example of taking care of each other and I'm glad I got to be a part of it.
READY . . .

Easter Egg Hunt

Getting ready for the day

Johannes A. Gaertner
"To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven"

Thanksgiving for today
Willingness to give to others
Learning from mistakes
Community who pulls together
Crossing items off my list
Full calendar

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Princess and the Puppy

One of the very first responsibilities of Ms. Wheelchair Kansas is to get out there and make yourself known.  I needed to gather sponsors to help with my trip to Ms. Wheelchair America this summer as well as help out with expenses involved in traveling the state and sharing my platform.  And, I need to schedule presentations.  In order to do all this, I needed to make myself known.  I thought especially in Western Kansas people might not be aware of the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas program.  Just sending a letter was not going to do it.  So, I got my letters written, crown and sash on, and headed out to hand deliver letters.

Our first stop was Hays since we were trying to beat the snow forecast.  Here are some pics from my Hays stops.

The snow did not arrive as forecast (well at least it waited until I got some letters delivered), so I was able to attend the Spring Kick Off for home based businesses at the WaKeeney Fair Grounds.

The snow melted and it was super cold, but we still braved at least part of WaKeeney.  I'm glad warmer weather is just around the corner.

What an amazing experience!  As I learned on my trip to Oz, the crown and sash make you more approachable.  Lots of people asked what Ms. Wheelchair was all about and not just those who were receiving the letters.  I realized I have something with me that draws the crowd.  My service dog is by my side and just having him there makes people want to talk with me.  More than once, I heard a child say, "Look Mommy, there's a princess and she has a puppy."  So, maybe that's what we'll be titled this year:  The Princess and the Puppy.  Works for me.  What do you think?

Thanks to those out there who took the time to listen to me and learn more about the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas program.  Thanks also to those who have decided to sponsor me either through cash donations or with goods and services.  Thanks for partnering with me through this year.

Thanksgiving for today:
Negative test results
Willing volunteers
Having a hospital and lab in town
Nurses who alleviate fears of kiddos
Figuring out a routine

"Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart"