ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 3)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

Day 5 – Belize Mayan Ruins

5 AM on Thursday … As the alarm clock started ringing Aaron and I groggily looked over on each other debating whether we should go explore some Mayan ruins in Belize or take the day to sleep. Cruises can be exhausting if you are always on the hop with different shore excursions. However, you must keep in mind that this was my first real vacation in 8 years without any of my family or caregivers. So, while we might’ve squeezed a few too many adventures into our 7 days, Aaron popped out of bed and made quick work of getting me ready to go explore thousands of years of history!

We arrived in Belize City early that morning, but were anchored offshore. We were anchored at what is called a tendered port. Essentially, you have to take small little dinghies seating anywhere between 50 to 80 people from the cruise ship over to the port of Belize. These little tendered ports are not for the faint of heart, especially in a wheelchair, because with the rocking ocean and trying to lift my manual chair onto this little boat presented its own unique set of challenges. Fortunately, the weather was quite calm so we were able to physically leave the ship, but there are days when they will not allow a wheelchair to maneuver onto the small vessels.

Ligia, our concierge attendant on Royal Caribbean, escorted us to the tendered boat as we skipped all the lines 🙂 I was decked out in sneakers, sports cloths, my manual chair, and ready to get bounced around! It took us about 30 minutes of rocking around on this boat, but we made it to the dock. I’d been to Belize nearly 10 years ago and from what I had recalled, which turned out to be exactly correct, Belize City is no joke from a dangerous perspective. It is not a city you want to go roaming around in alone as a tourist … and certainly not with an expensive wheelchair! It has a very high crime rate, poor infrastructure due to a hurricane hitting the city years prior, and not a very friendly crowd. When we arrived at the docks there was a small little area for tourists and tour guides to meet up with one another, make haste of getting into a van, and getting the heck out of the city!

Since I hired a private accessible tour company who partners with local tour companies who claim to be handicap accessible, and who would be able to show us the Belize Zoo in addition to some Mayan Ruins – I was pretty excited! We did have quite a bit of bother trying to find our tour guide due to many miscommunications, but we did eventually find him.  We were running behind schedule though. I wasn’t quite sure how far away our excursions were, but we literally had to be back to the boat in five hours.

Our tour guide, Ricky from Roam Belize Tour Company, greeted us with a smile and proceeded to show us the way to our “accessible” handicap van. Well, there was a van, and there was a ramp that you had to take out of the van to attach to the rear of the vehicle to push me up. I would say it was accessible, but not particularly accessible friendly if you know what I mean 🙂 Once I was loaded into the back of the van I was looking for straps to lock in my wheelchair. Ricky informed us that there were no straps as they were a tour company that was just getting up and running with providing accessible tours to folks in wheelchairs. The way the van seats were laid out, unless I was a paraplegic and could transfer my own, was not going to work to transfer me onto an actual van seat because Aaron could not lift me up with a height of the van.

I did call the company to confirm and I filled out many forms saying that I was paralyzed from the chest down, and that needed to stay in my wheelchair, but being a foreign country things get lost in translation sometimes. No big deal we thought!

We decided to just keep me in my chair and sit next to Aaron. What I did not realize was that the roads in Belize were half paved at best. The moment we started driving down the road my chair fell backward and I thought I was going over. Fortunately, Aaron caught me and we figured for the rest of the way to the ruins he was going to have to weave his legs inside my wheelchair and hold on to me for dear life. We bounced around like two yo-yos for the better part of an hour and learned that it would take an hour to get to the ruins, then another hour to get to the Belize zoo, and then yet. another hour to get back to the port of Belize. Thinking critically about our time constraints we decided to give up the Belize Zoo and see the Mayan ruins in a relaxed manner, and stop somewhere locally for lunch.

One challenge with cruise ship excursions is that you can’t venture off too far in order to make it back to the ship on time. In Belize, the best ruins are at least 3 to 4 hours into the jungle, which was not particularly feasible in our case. So, we were only able to go see the smaller of the Mayan ruins, but thousands of years of history was awaiting us none-the-less. When we arrived we could see multiple buses from the cruise ships pulling in to the ruins as well.  We decided to hurry so we would beat the crowds as we had a private tour with our own tour guide. Aaron had never been to any kind of ancient Mayan Ruin before as I had on my previous trip to Belize 10 years ago. I knew what was in store for us, but the look on his face of pure joy and excitement when he saw these magnificent structures was absolutely priceless – perhaps the most memorable moment on the entire trip!

As we roamed around the ruins and took some pictures I could see Aaron anxiously waiting to climb the ruins as Ricky was giving us some history lessons on the Ancient Mayans who thrived roughly around 200 A.D. or so.  Many of these ruins had been hidden away by nature with mounds of sand, dirt, and time covering them. .In the late 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s many archaeologists started to excavate this part of the country to unearth the incredible civilization of the Mayans. One notable advance the Mayans made, and they were many, was a contribution to astronomy. High up in the tall ruins many of the higher society scientists would gaze at the stars for years on end and estimated the days of the year down to the fourth decimal place! It is completely mind blowing to think about. I could write an entire blog on the numerous facts we learned about the Mayan culture, but I will leave it to your curiosity to poke around Google!

There was only one specific location you were technically allowed to climb up, but Aaron threw out the rulebook and started climbing like a monkey. When Ricky turned his head Aaron was practically halfway up the side of the Mayan Ruin. He told me that was illegal, but I told him to relax a little bit and look the other way … I do not think Aaron was harming anything with these large stone structures. While the other tourists were huffing and puffing up the side of the ruin, Aaron was running circles around them 🙂

When we were done with our adventure we still had several hours before we had to be back to the ship. We asked Ricky to take us to his favorite local spot to eat and then pull off on the side of the road somewhere so we could have a little bit of a picnic. He told us he knew this beautiful waterway that we could pull off to and we were pretty keen to check this out.

Unbeknownst to us, what Ricky meant by beautiful waterway was a tiny dirt patch of land next to some water off the highway. While slightly disappointing, it was all about the company and we were fascinated to get to investigate Ricky’s life story a little bit more. Ricky did tell us that this was the “Make out Spot” for young kids in Belize in order to evade detection from their parents 🙂 Anyway, we had a lovely time eating local chicken, beans and rice, and plantains. I always find it more interesting to get to know a little bit more about the local culture of places I travel to.

On our way back to Belize City Ricky offered to drop us off into the city to walk around, but Aaron and I looked at each other cautiously, and kindly turned down his offer to likely get mugged in the middle of the city and miss our ship departure!

While the day presented us with some challenges we got to experience some lovely people, learn about ancient culture, and get off the ship for a few hours. As you might expect we were completely knackered by the end of the day, but we mustered up some strength to get changed, and find some food on the ship. We generally kept going to the cafeteria area, called the Windjammer, that was open most of the day where they served an over the top buffet daily. It was relaxed, not rushed, and we had the chance to speak with some of our fellow cruise mates until about 8 PM when we retired for our next day’s adventure.

Day 6 – Costa Maya, Mexico

Friday was our last excursion day before having one more day on the ship and then ending our cruise. We decided not to plan any excursions as we were not quite sure how we would feel by the end of the week. We were quite pleased with this decision as we were teetering on sheer exhaustion by this point. We were told by Ligia that Costa Maya was not actually a specific destination in Mexico. I was curious because I had looked up this location online and couldn’t find anything on this area in Mexico. As it turns out, and I had been aware of this, many cruise ship lines get together and purchase a piece of land or an island, especially in the Caribbean + Bahamas, and construct what I can only describe as a giant tourist island theme park of sorts.

I grew up in Cat Island, Bahamas, which is a very out island in the Bahamas with many dirt roads. A tiny island to the right of us about a 30 minute boat ride away was always a favorite camping spot of mine when I grew up. About 10 years ago I took one of my friends by boat to go check out this little island and I was completely flabbergasted to find cruise ships on this teeny tiny little island with all kinds of outdoor activities. I had learned the cruise ship lines had purchased this island, and, unfortunately, completely destroyed it.

So, once I heard the story from Ligia that the cruise ships had made this little tourist theme park I was well aware of what we were in for. I told Aaron about them and told him to be prepared to have a completely corny tourist day, which made for some pretty fabulous photo ops. I’m pretty sure many of the passengers had no idea what was going on, but we were able to pull right up to the port, right into this “fantasy like” island tourist theme park, and play a game of how many tourist activities we could participate in in just a few hours! Honestly, it provided Mucho entertainment 🙂

“Giant pool bar, piña colada’s, ceviche, and strike a pose!”

$20 ceviche… Coming right up :-)”

“Bargaining like a Tourist”

 

There were Mexicans flying through the air, swimming with dolphins, a fake snorkeling pool, restaurants galore, real and fake (Chinese made) Mexican trinkets to bargain for on every corner, a giant pool bar, and a treehouse bird sanctuary to name a few. I’ve included some pictures below which should require no explanation. Suffice to say… We were two giant children in a playground sipping piña colada’s and going from venue to venue!

“Behind us is a tree house type bird sanctuary and a dolphin swimming pool”

“Look… We found a shark!”

“Of course I had to take a picture with the giant fake fish”

“Flamingos… Naturally”

We were set to depart mid-afternoon back to Tampa Florida. We had the entire day on Saturday to roam the ship on our cruise day back.

Day 6 – Cruise Day

Honestly, I don’t think I took any pictures that day, we slept in a little bit, roamed around the ship some more, took a nap, took a shower, and packed up the room for an early departure at 8:30 AM the next morning. Most folks were packed in by the pool and soaking up in their last day. I actually found it quite chilly on the ships, so I was unable to really bask in the sun with the wind. We had to pack all of our luggage and put it outside the door the night before, and Ligia would meet us the very next morning to personally escort us off the ship!

We did manage to sneak in a beautiful specialty dinner at their Steak restaurant where Aaron ordered Rack of lamb with mint jelly, and I ordered a mediocre salmon. I have to admit Aaron’s rack of lamb was pretty much close to perfection!

Again, an early night for us as our adventures were about to come to an end!

Day 7 – Goodbye

We were up bright and early and, as promised, Ligia escorted us off the ship, through customs, through the thousands of people trying to scurry to find their luggage, and directly to our van parked a few blocks away. If that is not one-on-one service I don’t know what is!

If you don’t have some sort of VIP service or you are not in a wheelchair, you may want to think very carefully if you are claustrophobic about taking a cruise 🙂 The waves of people pushing one another, cutting lines, trying to be polite, but impatient at the same time, as they tried to debark the ship to perhaps make a flight was not the best representation of humanity I’ve ever seen!

Now, I’ve got one more blog to go to sum up my overall experience with taking a cruise in a wheelchair, so stay tuned for my Lessons Learned Next Week 🙂

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 2)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

We spent the first night, Sunday night, on the ship a little later than we planned dancing the night away. On Monday morning we docked in Key West, Florida for our first day’s adventure.

DAY 2 – Key West, Florida

We docked right in the center of the city of the island of Key West. For those of you not familiar with Key West, it is the coolest little funky island, and is the farthest South Island on the chain of the Florida Keys. It takes about 3 ½ hours to drive there on one road from Miami, Florida. It is filled with eclectic bars, unique restaurants with their own personalities, 1 million little shops with fabulous trinkets, and a group of folks who are so unbelievably laid-back. Most of the locals on Key West are the kind of people you just want to hang out with with the beer by the water, and hear their life adventures.

“The Port of Key West”

I’ve been to Key West many times before as I previously lived in Miami for about 10 years. On one of my adventures down to Key West with one of my great friends from college we ventured down to the island for something called Fantasy Fest. Fantasy Fest is kind of like a Mardi Gras down in the keys. Thousands of folks drive down, dress up in the most wonderfully outrageous costumes, walk the streets, and party the night away. When I was 21 we headed down to Key West, but we forgot to book a hotel. So, we took my sisters truck and decided we would find a parking lot, and sleep in the back cab.

I was unbelievably surprised at the copious amounts of folks strolling around in giant penis costumes, body paint, and a ridiculous amount of other fun filled costumes. Of course we got ourselves into all kinds of devious trouble, met cute boys, partied the night away, and by 3 AM in the morning we ventured back to a church parking lot where we paid $70 to park our car for the night. When we woke up in the morning we were sleeping in the back of the pickup truck with our little feet hanging out the back side. We woke up to some strange folks tickling our feet… I’m not kidding. It was disturbing and hilarious all at the same time.

Anyway, I had the opportunity to take my power chair off the ship as Key West is relatively accessible. There is this one fabulous restaurant I’d remembered from years prior called Blue Heaven that was wildly eclectic with the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten, and a laid-back atmosphere that made you want to just sit in a hammock with the Corona, and drink the day away. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to dive into Key West, so I had to make a strict itinerary so we could see a few things before we headed back to the ship. We met one of Aaron’s long-term family friends who had retired in Key West for lunch at Blue Heaven. We laughed, drank, ate delicious food, and then strolled around the little eclectic streets of Key West for hours. Key West doesn’t have many hotels, but rather these old colonial Bed & Breakfasts, which are just precious historical gems I would recommend if you head down that way. Now, they are not particularly handicap accessible, but if you’ve a strong man who can carry you up the stairs … Go for it!

“This sign display had been up for the last 15 years… I had been dying to take a picture and pay someone to watch them shower for a while ;-)”

 

We ended the afternoon at a Tiki hut bar, my absolute favorite, right on the ocean with some reggae music watching the boats sail by, and enjoying the 80° weather while sipping on some lovely alcoholic beverages.

As the day ended we boarded our ship and we were met by our fabulous concierge, Ligia. Continue reading

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (PART 1)

Sorry for the hiatus in my blog writing over the last several weeks, but, as many of you know, I was off on an international adventure with my boyfriend on a Royal Caribbean seven-day cruise to the Western Caribbean. My boyfriend and I have been together for about two years now and we wanted to do something exciting with just the two of us to see how we would be able to handle 10 days alone with no help.

I did a copious amount of research on accessible vacations and I decided on taking a cruise as I read so much about how cruise ships are accessible. We decided on a seven-day cruise leaving out of the Port of Tampa, Florida going to Key West, then to Cozumel, Mexico, then to Belize, and then to Costa Maya, Mexico. I have so many stories so I will split this adventure up into several blogs, so you don’t have to read a novel all at once!

Needless-to-say I was pretty nervous at the prospect of going alone with one person on a vacation who would be responsible for all of my care. I wanted to plan a trip where I could stay in one location and take mini adventures from day-to-day. I’m going to save my conclusions of my overall experience after I dive into all of the exciting, challenging, and fun excursions we embarked on for the last blog.

I prepared for this trip for weeks. I created a document with an extensive packing list for everything I might need in case I got stuck in a foreign country for whatever reason. Considering I’m mildly neurotic about making sure I don’t forget anything, I think I packed the kitchen sink, and then some. As the old saying goes “I rather have it and not need it, then need it and not have it!” Most of my suitcases were dedicated to medical supplies and just a few items to clothing. I also decided to bring a big egg crate because I have the most sensitive skin in the world, and I was unsure of the mattress surfaces on the ship beds.  I also brought along my manual chair for excursions in foreign countries as I was fairly confident a power wheelchair would not get me far in countries where ADA compliance is not quite as strict.

Our cruise was set to depart on Sunday, April 15 from Tampa, Florida. We decided to leave on that Friday and drive 9 ½ hours from Raleigh to Tampa in order to have a day exploring downtown Tampa, and meeting up with a longtime friend whom I had not seen in about four years. I’m sure I could’ve flown down to Tampa had it not been for not with the ridiculous amount of gear we were carrying with us. The drive went pretty smoothly and we checked into a hotel in downtown Tampa. Before meeting up with a friend for the afternoon to go play, drink, and frolic about we first needed to give me a shower, and wash my hair before heading onto the ship. This was quite an endeavor because at home I usually do a type of bed bath and then stick my head in the sink to wash my hair. This was clearly not an option, and while we did get a roll in shower I did not bring a shower chair with me because I just couldn’t fit anymore gear into the car.

In the typical roll-in showers in hotels they usually have a small pulldown shower seat, which is quite dangerous, but it is all we had to work with at the time. Aaron put many towels on the shower seat for padding, picked me up like a princess, and strategically sat me down on the shower bench while I held on for dear life. He got in the shower with me while I wrapped my arms around his body as he washed my hair and body. It was dangerously comical, but we made it work. I definitely don’t suggest this method unless you have a very strong man who can lift you up and make sure you don’t fall flat on the floor 🙂 We were testing out this shower method as the ship had a similar set up for a roll-in shower, and I needed to make sure we were capable of getting me semi-clean every few days on the ship.

When we headed to downtown Tampa to meet up with one of my great friends Jill. We absolutely fell in love with the town. We went to a famous area called Ybor city that has a Cuban influence where we watched cigars being rolled, smoked cigars, bounced around from one cool Cuban spot to another, and reminisced the night away with Jill. We decided that Tampa was worth a trip in and of itself one day as there are so many little gems the city has to offer in addition to the entire West Coast of Florida. I spent over 12 years in Miami, but somehow never managed to get out West.

On Sunday morning we packed up our gear at 5 AM in the morning in order to arrive down to the port of Tampa to board our Royal Caribbean ship, Rhapsody of Seas. Continue reading

Moving Mountains Paralyzed: An Insurance Battle to Remember!

When I think of Moving Mountains Paralyzed Insurance Companies the analogy of a Goat herder comes to mind. The Goatherder will watch out for its flock as long as it produces enough fur for the season for the goat herder to line his financial pockets. The moment the goat gets out of line or stops growing fur, the herder will slaughter the goat, and eat it for dinner.

Similarly to insurance companies … As long as you pay your premium and don’t step out of line an insurance company will offer you basic protection. However, if you start creating a commotion, appealing everything, and asking for more — insurance companies will find some way to slap you with financial bills that seem unimaginable.
Since my accident 7 ½ years ago I’ve been a goat that has been slaughtered by insurance companies and I have also been a goat that has managed to break free. Navigating the waters of insurance companies to get what you need, especially when you are paralyzed, requires voracious tenacity, extreme dedication, a lot of hard work, patience, and knowledge of how to work within grey areas.

Read the rest on Push living magazine at:

https://pushliving.com/moving-mountains-paralyzed-quirky-quad-guide-winning-w-insurance/

SEX & MEDITATION

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I will preface this blog by saying for family and friends who do not want to know too much about my intimate sexual life you may want to skip the second half of this blog 😉

However, considering my blog is about Sex, sass and Spinal Cord Injury Adventures … I would be remiss not stay true to topic!

A majority of folks who sustain a spinal cord injury suffer from extreme chronic pain in many forms after their accident. Before I broke my neck I would look at somebody in a wheelchair and wonder what they felt? … I thought they couldn’t feel their legs or their stomach, etc. Boy was I wrong on so many accounts!

Many of us suffer from something called Neuropathic Pain. Essentially, it is nerve pain that manifests itself in different ways throughout the body 24/7. It’s almost like a cruel joke to be paralyzed and feel pain from the inside out. Regardless, this pain can result in feelings of pins and needles, burning fire, glass cutting you from the inside out, etc. It is different for every person.

Regardless, this chronic pain never goes away and can affect our daily lives with respect to productivity, quality of life, focus, and so much more. I find being paralyzed quite easy at this point in my SCI career, but you never quite get used to the chronic pain.

Personally, I suffer from 4 serious chronic pains at the same time, which can completely throw me off my game on certain days.

  1. Neuropathic Pain from the chest down and in my arms – feels like burning pins and needles day and night
  2. Hypersensitivity on my hands and forearms – feels like little shards of glass cutting me at all times
  3. Neck Pain – from multiple surgeries I have scar tissue damage that prevents me from sitting up in my chair too long, and feels like someone is slowly cutting me with a butter knife on the back of my neck
  4. Shoulder Pain – I suppose due to overuse it is a combination of nerve damage, musculoskeletal damage, myofascial pain, and soft tissue damage

Since my accident 7 ½ years ago I have always been on the mission to reduce my pain as opposed to finding a cure with respect to stem cell therapy for walking. I have tried so many techniques, of which two I find to be the most successful. However, the pain is always with me no matter what I do – although pain is just a signal from the brain, so I am convinced that if I keep trying I will be able to reduce it greatly on a permanent level one day!

I have tried:

  1. Opioids – definitely not recommended as opioids just make you drown out life and they don’t actually work on the right receptors in the brain for nerve pain
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Electrical Stimulation Acupuncture
  4. Neural Muscular Massage
  5. Meditation/Hypnosis
  6. Physical Therapy
  7. Lithium Protocol – this one nearly killed me as it can be very dangerous
  8. Sex
  9. Distraction
  10. Cold Laser Therapy

I’m sure there are few more I am forgetting, but I’m constantly trying to find new ways to reduce pain. The two most successful methods I’ve found in my life are Meditation/Hypnosis and Sex. I will dive into these two a little bit further.

 

MEDITATION / HYPNOSIS

Considering pain is just a signal from the brain hypnosis and meditation can be very effective, but only if you practice regularly, and are disciplined in your efforts.

I worked with a hypnosis instructor who helped me for over a year creating guided visualizations for me to listen to at 30 minute increments. Meditation is more challenging for me because when I sit quietly all of the feelings of pain are in the forefront of my mind. With hypnosis I find with gentle music in the background and guided instructions I use my mind to enter a world I created to reduce pain. It is kind of like a special room where enter through a red door and inside that room is a beautiful lake and ocean with clouds, beaches, and floaty toys.  I’ve taught myself to look down at my body and leave my pain floating above. I know it sounds peculiar, but with years of practice it really helps reduce the pain on the days where the pain just seems unbearable.

Admittedly, I should practice every day, which I don’t do religiously anymore, but it is one of my 2018 resolutions to continue to rigorously get back into it.

I go into a dark closet, tilt my chair back, and listen to the recording. The burning feeling of pins and needles changes to a cool and relaxing feeling. It is hard to describe unless you practice this on your own, and it may be hard to believe that this actually works.

In the beginning I could barely sit still for five minutes, but that’s how you have to start. Try meditation or hypnosis for one minute, then work up to two, then three, etc. There are so many recordings online that you can download for free, and you have to find a voice that is soothing to you, which can relax you.

 

SEXUAL INTERCOURSE

The second most effective technique for reducing my pain, if you can believe it, is
SEX.  Sex is a natural pain reliever — Sex causes increased production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone.” Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones.

When you are paralyzed from the chest down the feeling of sex is quite different than what used to be … It is not “Normal” in the sense of the way things feel. While I cannot orgasm in the traditional sense I still have my own type of feeling from sexual intercourse. Continue reading

“SCI” SUPER MOM’S – An Endangered Species!

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A little over 10 years ago BBC produced a television mini-series called “Planet Earth.” They spent five years filming unique exotic environments, plants, and animals all over the world. There was one episode where the film crew spent months in subzero Himalayan temperatures trying to film the endangered snow leopard. After many failed attempts they finally caught the snow leopard on camera for the first time. These leopards are so unique and not many exist, that we know of, in the world today.

An “SCI” (Spinal Cord Injury) Mom is an endangered species of human being, like that of the snow leopard, that are far and few between throughout the world. In general, the bond between a mother and child is so unique and unbreakable. When a child has a severe injury, such as breaking their neck, a mom goes into protection mode in order to provide the safest, best, and happiest environment for their child. However, not all moms are cut out to be SCI moms.

An SCI mom goes above and beyond, dedicates her life to her child, puts their needs above their own life, and puts up with more heartache than perhaps even the child going through the injury themselves. Generally a child starts fleeing the nest in their 20’s, starts their own life, and the parents move on to other adventures in their life because while their job is never done, the daily nitty-gritty caring aspect for their child is complete. With a spinal cord injury the reverse happens.

   

A dedicated and loving family member puts their life on hold once again to care for their injured child as if they were a baby, but it never ends. Continue reading

“HOW I (Unexpectedly) FELL in LOVE — The REAL VERSION”

 
My Online Dating Mission:

… Sleep with as many guys as I could in order to explore my spinal cord injury sexuality before it might be too late. A simple mission you may say … A ridiculously irresponsible mission others may comment … A wildly insane mission yet others may respond. To me, it was the most fun, wild and exciting thing I could think to do before I went under the knife once again for a seventh time in six years….

… My now boyfriend was one of these gentlemen callers. I really did like him and thought he had a lot to offer, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask a guy I met 4 to 6 weeks prior to hang around with a C6 quadriplegic who was going in for major surgery, who was going to be laid up in bed for God knows how long, and with hundreds and hundreds of staples in my ass. I simply didn’t think this was fair to ask, nor did I want any man I had been sexual with to see me in the ICU….

… As the months rolled on we really started to build a bond with one another and it was a completely new and unexpected feeling for me in life. Forget the wheelchair for a second … Apparently I had never learned how to be in a proper relationship. I had dated guys for years in the past, but I always made sure I had 1 foot out the door as a defense mechanism. My boyfriend completely turn this around for me, and, essentially, taught me how to love….

Read my new column on Push Living Magazine: http://pushliving.com/spinal-cord-injury-sexuality-how-i-unexpectedly-fell-in-love/

Forget About Setting Goals – Reducing Psychological Paralysis

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A few weeks ago I had a psychological epiphany with respect to my life over the last 7 years since my accident, and probably way before that too. I was reading an article by one of my favorite authors who focuses on writing about behavioral psychology, James Clear (www.jamesclear.com). He writes on subjects such as habits, performance, and just generally on topics regarding self-improvement based on proven scientific research. He had a very interesting article on letting go of your goals and focusing on process instead.

When I first started reading this article I thought to myself “I’ve always lived my life by setting specific goals and trying to achieve them.” However, what I did not realize throughout the course of my life, and especially since my accident, is that goals have actually been hindering my progress and reducing my current happiness.

Don’t misunderstand me, having  general goals are important as they keep you focused towards trying to achieve something very specific. What I did not think critically about was that when you are working towards a specific goal you are essentially saying “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.” The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”

The wheels in my head started turning to where I took a day off work to think critically about what he meant. Throughout my life I’ve always been taught to work hard, think critically, create a specific goal, work my ass off until I achieve that goal, and success will follow. So, clearly I had defined success to equal happiness in my life. Interestingly the exact opposite has happened to me over the last 7 years of my life since I broke my neck.

Continue reading

How I Vacation as a C6 Quadriplegic

Check out my new column on Push Living Magazine:  http://pushliving.com/how-i-vacation-as-a-c6-quadriplegic/

 

… Taking a vacation as an able-bodied person takes planning, but as a quadriplegic, well, it is way more complicated! …

I wasn’t quite sure where to start. In the past I would just find a cheap plane ticket, a cheap hotel, pack a bag and be on my way. Clearly life is not so easy anymore with respect to planning after you break your neck. There are so many things to consider, such as:

  • Who is going to take care of you when you’re down there
  • How accessible are the rooms? Can you get in the bathroom? Is the bed too high
  • Is the city handicap accessible
  • How on earth are you going to fit so many supplies in your suitcase for emergency
  • How am I going to get on a plane or fit everything in the car?

http://pushliving.com/how-i-vacation-as-a-c6-quadriplegic/

 

Lessons Learned after First Vacation in 7 years

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I took my first adventure vacation after 7 years over the last three weeks to my old stomping grounds in Miami to visit friends, family, and just generally embark on a mission to play. I had not taken a vacation for years as I was dealing with one medical disaster after another year after year. To be honest, I had forgotten what it was like to have fun for more than a few hours on the weekend.

I planned this trip last year, but due to caregiving challenges the trip kept getting postponed and postponed. I started to lose hope that I would ever take this trip when I finally decided to bite the bullet and go for it in September. I was slightly anxious because I did not know how things would go with respect to sleeping on a new mattress, running into further medical issues away from home, planning who would go down with me to take care of me, how my body would handle being up for more than 12 hours a day, the list goes on and on.

I worked myself up into a frenzy four weeks before the trip and to top it off I ran into further caregiving issues, which left me with my mom and boyfriend to accompany me down to paradise. I was unsure how the dynamics of my mom & boyfriend taking care of me would work as it was the first time in seven years I would not be taking a caregiver with me. To top it off, while my mom is the most young & fit 71-year-old I know, I was concerned it may be too much for her. The list of anxieties that ran through my head prior to the trip was overwhelming. Most people go on a vacation to unwind, but prior to my trip I just could not see how I was going to do this.

I had not realized over the last seven years how much anxiety and fear had built up within me on a daily basis with respect to thinking about 1,000 things that could go wrong being paralyzed on a daily basis. Many of my other quadriplegic friends deal with similar struggles as I do, but many of them seem to just go with the flow. My body is particularly sensitive with respect to pressure sores, broken bones, etc. that had literally forgotten how to unwind. I am generally so focused on surviving life that I forget to live it sometimes.

Day 2 in South Beach… Soaking in the reality of where we were

When I arrived in Miami it took me several days to kick back and start enjoying life.

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