Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Way to Live

To me, being paralyzed does not mean the end. It can be difficult and challenging at times but I'm able to handle whatever comes my way. I believe my accident happened for a reason. Throughout this journey so far I've met some amazing people and learned new things. My paralysis hasn't limited me or stopped me from pursuing my dreams. There are many things I can do, I just do them differently. I'm not in a stage of depression and don't in any way feel sorry for myself.

I know that there are people in my situation out there who do not have the same feelings. I realize that everybody handles and deals with things in different ways. What may be easy for some may be extremely difficult for another. I'm writing this for those who feel their life is not worth living because of their situation or experiences. I'd like to offer my help in any way possible because I truly believe that things happen for a reason. My goal is to inspire others to live on through change in their life.

Jenni

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Celebrating With Joy

Merry Christmas!

Last night we had family over for Christmas Eve. I love when everyone gets together to celebrate. We ate shrimp and ham for dinner and then opened presents. This morning we unwrapped our presents to each other and soon we're going to have more family over. Dinner tonight will be turkey and mashed potatoes (just like we do on Thanksgiving).

It does get overwhelming around the holidays and I get burned out quickly. Entertaining people can be exhausting at times, especially if I'm doing a lot of talking. But I do enjoy the time I can spend with family. A few years ago I wrote this post about Christmas and what it's really about. I thought I'd share it again for all my new readers since then.

The last couple of Christmases, I've kind of been bah humbug about the whole thing. Not because I don't like Christmas, but because I don't like what it has become. I have learned over the years what Christmas is and is not about. It's not about how many gifts you give or receive. It's not about trying to top last year's gift. It's not about the decorations and the flashy wrapping paper. It's not about Santa Claus and his reindeer landing on the top of the house, him coming down the chimney in the middle of the night, eating the cookies left out, and leaving loads of presents behind. I know it is fun to receive and give and decorate and wrap and believe in magic. But it's about the real meaning of Christmas. It's about family and getting together and celebrating the birth of Jesus. It's about the love and passion and the praise that we give and receive on this one day. It has a special meaning to everyone and I think more people need to find their meaning. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope this year you all can find the true meaning of Christmas in your hearts.

Jenni

Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter Break

I've been studying all week and took my final for my class today. I think I did pretty well on it and am confident I'll get a good grade in the class. Now I'm finally on winter break and don't have to worry about school for almost a month.

I signed up for two classes for Spring semester. The first one is a logic class that I'll be taking at Normandale. The second one is introduction to short stories and it's online. I know it will be a tougher semester for me because of the homework load and reading but I'm up for the challenge.

Now that I have a goal set to graduate fall 2012 with my associates in communications I'm excited to get through and finish up.

Jenni

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Standing up Again

The other day I went in my Easystand Stander for the first time in a couple months. I hadn't been doing it because of the pain in my shoulder. It's been feeling a little bit better so I thought I'd try it. I was able to get up to 60° for 10 min., which was more than I expected. I did go up to 70° but after about a minute my blood pressure dropped dramatically and I had to sit back down.

My goal is to start standing twice a week for an hour again. I know it's going to be challenging building up tolerance, but I'm up for it. The benefits that I get are worth the hard work and effort it will take me.

Jenni

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Yesterday my boyfriend Blake took me to see Cirque Dreams Holidaze at Mystic Lake Casino. It was so much fun to see all the acts and people dressed up in costume. I have seen Cirque Dreams before but never the holiday one. I've also gone to a few Cirque du Soleil performances over the years. Those are amazing to see as well. If you haven't seen any video of either of these you should definitely check them out on YouTube. Here's the trailer for the one we went to. It's very similar to this only they had different people and a few different acts.



Jenni

Monday, November 28, 2011

MRI Follow-Up

I went to the orthopedist office today and found out the results of my MRI. Turns out I don't have frozen shoulder which is very good news because that could take up to a year to heal. I do have bursitis in my shoulder, which is basically inflammation of the fluid filled sac (bursa) that lies between the tendon and bone. The doctor gave me a cortisone shot (just like planned) and it's already feeling a little better. She said it could take up to 72 hours for the full affect. I'm happy that it wasn't anything more serious. I had bursitis in my left hip a few years ago and I got a cortisone shot for that. The pain went away and it healed up nicely so I didn't have to get another shot. Hopefully this will just do the same.

Jenni

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful to be alive and here today celebrating life! I'm also thankful for all the wonderful people in my life who have supported me and been with me throughout. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Jenni

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Feeling of Pain

For about the past eight weeks I've been experiencing some pain in my right shoulder. It hurts in the back near the rotator cuff. For a while it only hurt when someone was moving my arm but these past couple weeks it's been hurting constantly. Even with all my therapy, range of motion and pain medications; nothing seems to help it.

Last Wednesday I went to an orthopedic specialist to see if I could figure out what was wrong. It was funny because she kept on moving it all these different directions asking if it hurt each time. I was like yeah it hurts every time you move it. Even though I have limited feeling in my body, I can still feel pain. My body can also tell when something is hurting because when it does I spasm.

She made a pre-diagnosis of frozen shoulder (technical name is adhesive capsulitis). I had no idea what that meant, but apparently it's when the shoulder is painful and loses motion because of inflammation. I'm in the pain stage now; my shoulder hasn't lost too much motion yet, only the fact that whichever way it's moved hurts so I try not to. She said that in order to tell for sure I would need an MRI done.

Today I got the MRI of my shoulder. I never had one before this. I heard stories about how loud and claustrophobic it is, but I wasn't nervous going in. It was just a bigger ordeal because I'm a quad on a vent with a C1 to C3 spinal fusion and a baclofen pump. We had to make sure that everything was cleared before being sucked into a big magnet.

My fusion was okay because it's been 8 1/2 years since I've had it. I was worried though about the baclofen pump at first. Then I read that they are okay in an MRI but they may temporarily stop working while in it. I had to get a doctor's order for someone at the hospital to read it before and afterwards to make sure it was working properly. Then as far as my vent goes, they just switched me to one of theirs which was MRI safe.

Before going in they put a headset on me with music of my choice. I am claustrophobic in certain situations, but while inside I just shut my eyes and tried to relax. There was a lot of beeping and clanking going on during. Every so often I would hear a voice in my ear asking me if I was doing okay (wasn't too happy about the interruption of my songs…lol). Overall it went well and I came out with a smile on my face so the people there were happy about that.

I'm going in to the orthopedist office on Monday where I'll get the results. If it is frozen shoulder they will do a cortisone shot to bring down the inflammation and help with the pain. Then I'll be able to have physical therapy work on getting proper movement in it. I might have to go back six weeks after to get another shot if the pain starts up again. Other than that it just needs lots of time for it to heal.

I'll keep you updated as I know more.

Jenni

Monday, November 21, 2011

School

I can't believe there's snow on the ground and winter is coming soon! This year has gone by so fast.

School has been going well. I only have a few weeks left before winter break. I've been looking into classes to take in the spring but haven't decided yet. I set up an appointment to meet with a counselor at the school for academic planning so I can figure out what I have left to take. I really like school, but I'll definitely be glad when I'm done and start focusing my time on a career.

Jenni

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Snow!

I can't believe winter is just around the corner. It's been snowing outside all day and it's the first snowfall we've had. That's my favorite because it's so pretty and clean looking. The worst is towards the end of winter when the white is gone and everything is dirty. Throughout the day I've been watching the different animals that come around in my backyard. Then I just wrote this poem about it.

A Day in My Backyard

Snow falling to the ground
Turning white all around

Deer grazing in the woods
Searching for different goods

Squirrels scattering in the yard
Finding little scraps is hard

Bluejays in a cheerful mood
Looking to the sidewalk for food

Ducks splashing in the pond
It's my backyard that I am fond

Jenni

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Speeches Galore

Last Friday I spoke to three separate classes in a row at Armstrong high school. Each of them had about 15 to 20 students; it was a class called AVID which focuses on college and career goals. They needed a speaker directed towards motivation. I got some video this time and once I figure out how to edit it I will post it. I'm also going to be speaking tomorrow to three other classes at the same high school so maybe I'll get some more too.

It is difficult to speak to more than one class in a row. My voice gets hoarse by the last one. The good thing is I can see my improvement over the three. Then I know what things I should include and what I can leave out. It helps when they ask questions also because then I can figure out what they want to know.

I'm part of a program called BestPrep which has a bunch of different volunteer speakers. Here's a little info about it:

"BestPrep, a Minnesota nonprofit, engages 60,000 students in grades 4-12 each year in business, career and financial literacy education. More than 3,000 professional volunteers help BestPrep collaborate with educators to bridge classroom curriculum and the world of business outside of the classroom, enriching the teaching and learning experience.

BestPrep offers six experiential programs: Classroom Plus, eMentors, Financial Matters, Minnesota Business Venture, The Stock Market Game, and the Technology Integration Workshop.

BestPrep is a statewide, nonprofit organization with a mission to best prepare Minnesota students with business, career and financial literacy skills through experiences that inspire success in work and life."

I am part of the classroom plus program. Basically when a teacher needs a speaker, they will contact BestPrep and tell them what topic they need one for. The bureau will then look through their list of speakers and find one that fits that need then contact them. This is how I get most of my speaking engagements at local high schools.

I've been a part of it for about six years now. I think it's a very good way to get out there and gain experience. Now that I am Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011 I've been speaking as that everywhere I go. I like using the title to help motivate kids to get out there and achieve their goals.

I'm hoping to get involved in many more events and speaking engagements throughout the rest of my reign. If you know of any or would like me to speak somewhere, let me know.

Jenni

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

True Friendships

I've been thinking lately about friendships. It is very important to have people in your life you can count on to be there for you; people that would do anything for you no matter what. Not the people that you are "friends" with on Facebook or the people that you occasionally text message saying a quick "hello how are you?" I'm talking about true friends.

When my accident happened, I really found out who my friends were. Some have dissipated throughout the years and there were a bunch that I lost touch with directly after. Although many stuck around and have been by my side since. For that, I am very grateful because without having people in my life that care and love me for who I am, it would be difficult.

Throughout this journey though, I've met a lot of amazing people with whom I've become friends with. I like being able to develop and create new friendships with others. Especially when I get the chance to help those in my situation just by being there and being a true friend to them.

Thanks to all the friends in my life who have been there for me!

Jenni

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Anniversary Day

November 1 was the nine year anniversary of my accident. It would be easy for me to be sad or angry about it; to be bitter and live life depressed; to have regrets and think about the what if's. But instead every year I take that day to celebrate life. I've always felt that there was a reason why the accident happened and I survived. Maybe it was to help people in my situation or open someone's eyes to what it's like living with a disability. Whatever it may be, I'm glad that I did and happy to be here. Don't take things for granted, you never know what can happen.

Jenni

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Birthday Month

October seems to be the month for birthdays. A lot of my family and friends have birthdays this month. There are several on my moms side, so every year since I could remember we've had a celebration for everyone that we call October birthdays. It's great when we all can get together and see each other.

My birthday was October 19 and I turned 25. It feels weird to say I'm a quarter of a century old. It's definitely gone by fast. On my birthday my boyfriend, Blake, took me out to lunch at Punch pizza. Then we went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I hadn't been there since grade school. I forgot how much fun it is to look at art from different places and centuries. We only made it around the third floor; there is so much art it would be hard to see all in one day.

Blake's birthday was October 14 so on the 22nd we had a combined birthday party at my house with all of our friends and some family. We've been together about two months so it was a good way for everyone to meet each other. We got Subway sandwiches and had a bonfire out back. (Of course I removed my oxygen from my wheelchair so I didn't blow up.) I had an awesome time and it was so much fun! I'm grateful to have met someone like him. He's amazing and a great guy; I'm so happy. :-)

Blake and I at our birthday party

Jenni

Monday, October 24, 2011

Listen

Have you ever stopped what you were doing and listened to silence? Have you ever slowed your life down just enough to catch a breath? Have you ever taken the time to watch the sunset? Life's little moments may be passing you by.

Ever since my accident I've learned not to take things for granted because you never know what can happen. It's amazing how much people miss because they're too busy and don't slow down to see what's going on around them. No matter how big or small, life's moments are precious.

Jenni

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Time

Imagine for a moment that there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400.

It carries over no balance from day to day.

Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use
during the day. What would you do? Draw out ALL OF IT, of course!!

Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds.
Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to
invest to good purpose.

It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft.

Each day it opens a new account for you.
Each night it burns the remains of the day.
If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours.

There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow."
You must live in the present on today's deposits. Invest it so as to get
from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success!
The clock is running. Make the most of today.

To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.

To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a
premature baby.

To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to
meet.

To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.


To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an
accident.

To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver
medal in the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you
shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time.

And remember that time waits for no one.
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present!!!

-Anonymous

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Good Feeling

I was at school the other day heading to my class when a guy stopped me in the hallway. He told me he remembered me from a speaking engagement I did three years ago. It was a 15 min. speech after a mock car crash to about 1200 students and faculty at Eastview high school. He was one of them.

I was kind of taken aback because I didn't expect it. He said that I inspired him that day. He also told me to keep speaking and sharing my story; that I'm amazing and inspirational. It felt really good to hear and know that I had touched somebody.

This reminds me of a similar story that happened a couple of years ago. I had spoken to a group of about 80 sixth-graders at Glen Lake elementary school. One of the students in particular had gone home that day and talked to his parents about my speech. He told them about me speaking and my story.

A couple of days after I had spoke, I received an e-mail from the boy's father. He told me that his son had come home talking about me. Then he said I don't know if you remember me, but I was one of the firemen that helped pull you out of the car that night. I came and visited you in the hospital afterwards.

Chills went through as I read those words over and over. I did remember him; he brought me a St. Christopher medal. He also said in the e-mail that him and his department still talk about that night. It's amazing the connections that we have in the world throughout life. I'm thankful every day that I'm alive and able to help others just by being me. I hope to have many more stories like this to share.

Jenni

That's exactly the reason why I do what I do and love it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October Update

Hey everyone!

Hope your October is going well. The weather is so beautiful here in Minnesota. The sun is shining and the temperatures have been in the 80s. Although the leaves are still turning colors and falling fast. I think we might have a cold winter this year.

I've been busy as usual. School has been good so far, but definitely harder than I thought. That seems to happen most semesters. At the beginning of this semester I had signed up for two classes but unfortunately had to drop one. Now I'm just taking Introduction to Kinesiology. It's a little difficult because I'm not going to pursue a degree in exercise science, I just need to meet the goal for this area. But I'm still getting through it.

Thursday, October 6 I was the keynote speaker at MAMES (Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services) fall conference. I spoke for about 30 min. and then had question and answer after that. I told my story, talked about staying positive, Ms. wheelchair Minnesota, nationals, and also what I want from medical equipment suppliers. It went awesome and I got a standing ovation afterwards! It's great to be able to speak to others and advocate for people with his abilities. I'm definitely looking forward to many more speeches.

MAMES (Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services) President, Julie Weidemann presents me with a certificate of appreciation for my participation as the keynote speaker

I will be plenty busy the rest of of the month (including my 25th birthday October 19) so I will keep you updated.

Jenni

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MOA Experience



The other day my sister and I went to the Mall of America to shop. It's the biggest Mall in the United States and the second biggest in the world (first biggest is in Canada). Although we only live 30 min. from it, I don't go there very often. It's always an interesting place to be at, full of different cultures and experiences. People come from all over the world to see the mall that's so close to me.

When we first got there, we looked around a couple stores on the main level and then decided to go up a level to another store. On our way to the elevator we stopped at a kiosk that had hermit crabs. We were just watching them, when the guy that worked there came up and started talking to my sister. He was asking her some questions and she was telling him how we've had hermit crabs before. Then I chimed in to the conversation and said to him that I had them but they'd all died. He got this surprised look on his face, looked at my sister and then straight to me and said, "Whoa, you can talk?"
I was like, "yeah!"
Then he said "good for you," and shook his head up and down a couple times. I didn't say anything to him afterwards; we left right away. Frankly I was a little in shock and kind of confused. Realizing afterwards that basically he had assumed that I was unable to talk because of my situation, I wish I would've said something else. I chuckle about it now, being that it was so unbelievably frightening at where assuming things in a situation gets you. I actually think this might happen a lot with people; it's just no one's said it out loud to me before.
After that, my sister and I kept going to our next destination. We went up the elevator a floor to the store we had planned on going to. When I first entered, there was a woman in front of me staring down at a rack of clothes. She looked up at me briefly and then turned to my nurse and said "I like the shirt she's wearing."
I just looked at her dumbfounded and said kind of sarcastically "thanks!" At that point I was a little annoyed but also disappointed in people. Felt kind of sheltered and in my own little world; like there was nobody around to help or defend. I moved to another spot in the store and went on with shopping despite my feelings. Sometimes when things like that happen I just have to take it as a learning experience and move on I guess. These certain situations are the exact reason why I want to get out there and educate others about people with disabilities.
It's important that people understand that just because someone is in a wheelchair, doesn't mean they can't talk or don't have abilities. My main goal is to help eliminate this stereotype and put fresh thoughts in people's minds. If everyone makes a conscious effort to help out with this, I think a lot of people could be reached and benefit.
Thanks for reading my blog and feel free to leave comments or questions. I look forward to them!
Jenni

Friday, September 30, 2011

Taking Pics

When I was at the Walk and Roll at the Mall of America Sunday I handed out pictures of me with my crown and sash on. I already had professional photos done a while back, but I wanted some different ones printed. So last Friday I got all dressed up and went outside. I had my sister, Kristen, take a bunch of pictures of me (78 to be exact). It was so much fun! Although by the time we were done my cheeks hurt and my eyes were bugging out from the flash. Other than that I think they turned out extremely well.

I picked the one I thought was the best and then fixed it up a little with highlighting, filling and shadowing. Then Kristen took them in and got 200 copies made. I definitely think that it looks professionally done; she did a great job! I told her that she should go into photography. I'm lucky to have a sis like her. She's been great through all of this and very helpful. I appreciate everything she does for me. Thanks Kris! I posted the pic below.


She also printed 300 business cards for me to hand out. I think they turned out really well. I love getting my information out there for people to see what I'm up to and contact me.

Jenni

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Walk and Roll


I had a great time today at the Walk and Roll at the Mall of America. It was put on by Midwest Special Services. I sat in front of two huge lights for most of the time taking pictures with everyone and giving out signed photos. Next to me was Miss Minnesota 2011 and Miss Minnesota Collegiate 2012 also taking pictures. There was also an Elvis impersonator singing while people did a lap around the mall.

I really enjoy attending events and using my title to help others. I'm glad that I have a chance to do opportunities that arise like this. It's really exciting and a great experience to be a part of so many amazing things and meet new people.

If you know of an event or speaking engagement that you would like me to attend, please contact me.

Jenni

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feelings Written, Feelings Heard

Sometimes I find myself drifting away, staring at the wall, thinking of things that I know I have no control over and that I cannot change. It's difficult to be in a situation where you're so vulnerable to others and in which your privacy is gone; where the only place that feels safe and comfortable is inside yourself. At times I feel like letting go and giving up everything to the unbearable grasp that is holding me down. Then again I have to remind myself that things happen for a reason and that you either live life or leave it. I choose to live and that is what keeps me together. My struggle with the feelings I have cannot continue to bind me anymore than it already has. I want to be as strong as possible and not look back because doing so puts me at a crossroad in which I do not know where to turn. It pains me to feel this way and to let others know the side that hurts most; the side that may need help; the side that struggles to keep it together. These feelings are not often shared even to the closest of people in my life. Why I choose to write them now will never be known even by me. I know that I will find peace. I'm a very strong person and I also know that I'm helping others just by being me. I'm only human and I hope that these words only bring you closer to understanding some of the things I go through. The quote below has helped me tremendously to deal with the overflow of emotions that creep up from time to time. I hope it resonates with you.

Jenni

"Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. Think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greatest achievements of the future. Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. Live in the faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you!"
-Christian D. Larson

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Some Amazing Women!

Below I have compiled a list of some amazing women with blogs. They all have a disability but strive to showcase their abilities. It's amazing to me how many people are out there making a difference and helping others. I feel honored to know and talk to empowering women like this. Visit their blogs to see what they're all about:

Colleen has muscular dystrophy. She's been through a lot in her life but pushes to move forward despite.

Heather is a quadriplegic, but doesn't let that stop her. She believes things happen for a reason and is happy in her life.

Cheryl has cerebral palsy. She is a strong woman and activist for people with disabilities.

Ruth is a quadriplegic, who is determined to empower others using her blog.

Tiffany is also a quadriplegic. She is a freelance writer and advocate for others with disabilities.

Chrissy blogs on her life and struggles as a quadriplegic. She also shares info about spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

Katy writes about her journey through recovery as a quadriplegic.

If you know of other amazing women with blogs, let me know and I'll add them to the list!

Jenni

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ode to Nurses

I'm very fortunate to have the nursing help that I do. Although I don't always want nurses around and no matter how independent I'd like to be, I need every hour with them that I can get. They are my hands; they are here to help me do the things I cannot do for myself. They're there for me during the times I need them most, and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it easier for me. I'm grateful that I have a full staff of nurses because I know there are many others out there in similar situations who do not have the adequate care or nursing that they need. Thank you to all the nurses out there who help people live life to their fullest potential.

Jenni

"Nursing care comes in many forms. Sometimes it is the ability to make someone feel physically comfortable by various means. Other times it is the ability to improve the body's ability to achieve or maintain health. But often it is an uncanny yet well honed knack to see beyond the obvious and address, in some way, the deeper needs of the human soul."
~Donna Wilk Cardillo, A Daybook for Beginning Nurses

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Remembered

When 9/11 happened 10 years ago today, I was 14 and in eighth grade. I remember sitting in English class and there being a big stir going on in the hallways. All of a sudden they announced over the intercom for everyone to turn the TVs on to a certain channel.

My first reaction was awestruck. I couldn't believe what was unfolding in front of me. I think we were all glued to the television for at least a couple of hours. I can't remember the whole day, but I know that they stopped teaching so that we could see what was going on.

To everyone who was affected by this tragic event, I am praying for you.

Jenni

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Change of Pace

My article in the Sun Sailor came out yesterday. Being Ms. wheelchair Minnesota has been a great experience so far, and I'm excited for everything that's to come. It's such an honor to represent all of the amazing people with disabilities. I'm happy that I have the chance to educate others and be a "roll model". To read the article click here.

Since my trip to Michigan, I have changed a lot. Because the schedule was so crazy, it forced me to get up earlier in my wheelchair and get back in bed later than usual. I found that I actually slept better because I was doing things that required all of my energy. I learned my limits but also how far I can push myself. Since I've been back my whole routine has changed. My schedule is more flexible and I'm not so stuck in my original ways.

I've been getting out more, especially in the evenings, and have been staying in my wheelchair a couple of hours later than I had before. I would normally transfer back into bed around 5 PM. After doing range of motion I would sit up, eat dinner and either watch TV or go on my computer until 10:30 PM. This is all changed. I no longer get back into bed at any certain time, only when I feel like it. Some nights it's later some nights not.

The only reason I had the routine I did, was because in my mind I thought I could only stay up in my wheelchair 7 to 8 hours. I realized after Michigan, that my body can tolerate being up much longer and do more activities. I'm extremely glad that I went on the trip and figured this out because if I hadn't I probably wouldn't have realized that I could do things differently.

It's all about opening your mind to new things, and I've definitely done that!

Jenni

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another Interview

I had an interview with a guy from the Sun Sailor (a local newspaper) today. They're going to run a story on me about Ms. wheelchair Minnesota and the Ms. wheelchair America pageant. It's great to have another article written about the things I've been doing. I'm really just so honored to be featured so that everyone can see the amazing abilities of people with disabilities. I will post the link as soon as it's published!

Jenni

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sitting in a Chair

I am a C-1 C-2 quad paralyzed from the neck down and I can sit in a chair without the support of someone else. This is a pretty amazing feat for someone in my situation. I was told by my physical therapist that not many people like me would be able to hold themselves up and have somebody take their hands away. I'm also able to sit up on the edge of my bed in a similar fashion without support.


I have physical therapy three days a week and manual therapy and massage therapy once a week. Therapy is one of the most important things in my life today. Some of the benefits I get from it are pain management, movement, relaxation of muscles, and building stamina. It's important for people to know that I wouldn't have the ability to do some of the things I do without it. Just being in my wheelchair for 8 to 10 hours a day would be difficult without managing the pain I have and building up stamina so that my body can tolerate it. Also through physical therapy, I've learned how to tighten and move muscles that I probably otherwise wouldn't have.

When I sit in a chair, my physical therapist first holds on to me for a little bit so I can get in the right position. Then when she lets go, it's up to me to use my abdominal and back muscles to keep myself sitting straight. If I start to lean a little one way, I have to tighten the muscles on the opposite side to bring myself straight again. That goes for forward, back, left and right. I work very hard during these sessions and it does wear me out afterwards, but it is definitely worth it. Although it may look easy from the pictures, the strength and energy it takes for me to do this can be compared to running a marathon.


I'm very proud of myself for accomplishing such great things. It would be easy for me (as it is for many) to just say "no thanks, I don't need therapy" but I know different and so does my body. I hope that others see how important physical therapy is and that it can bring about a better quality of life for people.

Jenni

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Starting School Again…

Classes for fall semester at Normandale community college start next week. I'm excited because then I'll have something to do but on the other hand I'm still enjoying my break. I signed up for Introduction to Kinesiology (exercise science) at Normandale and World Religions (philosophy) online. I went to the school today to pick up my books and find out where my one class was.

Intro to Kinesiology (the study of movement) is the only lecture exercise science class they have. My other choices were Canoeing, Exercise Walking, Swimming etc. I thought about taking one of the above or something like it and just tell the teacher that "I'll try my best but not sure how much I'll be able to do" and maybe they would give me an "A" for effort. Ha ha don't know how that would've gone over. I guess if not, just to see the look on the teacher's face if I rolled into Exercise Walking!

I'm taking World Religions because it meets two goals that I have to complete for my Associates. I also think it will be an interesting class because I like to learn stuff like that. I did take Psychology of Religion a couple semesters ago but was told that they were completely different classes. I'll be able to check it out online starting tomorrow so we'll see.

Hope everything goes well this semester! I only have a couple more to go before I'm finished; then I'll have to decide what to do after that.

Jenni

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Flight to Michigan


The trip to Michigan was my first flight since my accident. We had to do a lot of planning and arranging things ahead of time to make sure everything went smoothly. After booking my ticket, I called the airline to let them know that I was traveling. I told them that I was on a vent and would have batteries with me. They put all that information in the computer under my ticket.

Traveling with me on the flight out was my sister, mom, two nurses and physical therapist. In the middle of the week (Thursday), the nurses that were with me flew home and two more flew in. Luckily, we were able to get most of the tickets covered by donations, frequent flyer miles from big companies, and through Delta.

It took a lot of time to pack all of my supplies. I think I had at least eight carry-ons which included my backpack with nursing chart and Doctors orders, a portable oxygen concentrator, backup ventilator with extra tubing, medications, emergency bag, suction machine etc. I also had a few bags that I checked with more supplies and my clothes. That doesn't include my entourage's personal luggage. Then I was all set to make the journey.


One minor detail about the plane that was flying on. It was the smallest plane they had, which I didn't know when I was booking the tickets. As it got closer to the time I was leaving, I was contacted by someone at Delta regarding my wheelchair and the plane. I gave him the dimensions and he told me that my wheelchair wouldn't fit down below because of the size of the plane. He wanted to switch me to a different flight where the plane would be larger, but none of the other times worked for me. The only other option was to go to the airport in a manual wheelchair and fly my power wheelchair out at a different time. That's what I decided to do. Key medical, the supply company where I got my chair from, came to my house the afternoon before, dropped off a manual chair, picked up my power chair and brought it to the airport for me. It went out on the 6 PM flight that night.

When I got to the airport I was met by a woman I had been in contact with from human resources at Delta. She helped escort us through the check-in, baggage claim, security checkpoint and then finally to our gate. This made the process go a little quicker which was good considering that we got to the airport a little later than expected and only had a short amount of time to get to the plane. I did hold it up a little but I think it went okay for the first time.

Once at the gate, I went down towards the plane and then my therapist, Nicole, and my mom transferred me to an aisle chair which was just big enough for my butt to fit on. Then they wheeled me onto the plane and to the bulkhead (the first seat on the plane) and transferred me over. We put my vent on the floor in front of me the where it remained the whole flight.


It was extremely important to have my therapist with me. She was able to teach us how to do the transfer which made things go a lot easier, both on me and everybody else. She also stretched me during the flight and while I was in Michigan. This helped keep my spasms, muscle tension and pain down to a tolerable level. I can't stress enough the benefits of physical therapy and how much it assisted in me being able to do all the things I did.

On the way back we had the same type of plane so I went to the airport in the manual wheelchair again and my power chair flew out at 6 AM the next day. I did get to the airport a lot earlier and so things went a little bit smoother. I learned a lot through this whole experience and I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to do it. I would definitely take another trip in the future and this only reassured me that I can actually pull it off. The one thing I would do differently next time would be able all the luggage!

Jenni

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ms. Wheelchair America Contest 2012

I got home from Grand Rapids Michigan on Sunday where I was competing in the Ms. Wheelchair America contest. It was a very long and exhausting week but definitely worth it. I learned my limits but also how far I can push myself. The days were packed with activities and workshops along with judging sessions and speeches. Here are a few highlights from the week. I arrived on Monday after a first ever plane ride since my accident. We got to the hotel and all settled in then had dinner that night. I met a lot of the contestants and learned about my upcoming week.

Tuesday was a fun day. Although it started off a little rocky for me. The power went out in the whole city at 5 AM that morning. I hadn't quite prepared for something like that. Because of it, I didn't get a chance to meet with everyone else at the Ford Museum for a tour. I did catch up with everybody during a scavenger hunt of the city. Unfortunately, there was a heat index warning and I got heat exhaustion afterwards. That was also the time that there was a picnic lunch outside the museum. We were supposed to have swing dancing on the town that evening but it ended up raining so it was canceled.

All ready for the day in my MWA T-shirt!
Lining up on the bridge over Grand River for a group photo

The judging began on Wednesday. Workshops also started and in between that there were five-minute question and answer sessions. Dinner was on the town that night and then we went to a concert in the middle of the city.

At the Blues on the Town concert in the middle of Grand Rapids, Michigan

Great music!

On Thursday the workshops and judging continued. The sessions were twice as long with twice as many questions. That night we all watched the documentary "Defining Beauty" which was about the Ms. Wheelchair America contest in 2010.

Judging resumes

We had judging and workshops again on Friday. It was the day of my third and final interview session with the judges. That night we all gave our speeches on our platform and ate dinner together.


All done up on speech night with my sister, Kristen

Saturday was the big crowning. We had a break from activities during the day and were able to just hang out. In the afternoon I slipped into my gown and then got my hair and makeup done. That evening we all lined up on the stage and waited for them to call the top five. I was very excited when I heard my name called to be in it! We each answered two questions from a judge (one serious and one lighthearted) and then they tallied up the votes. I ended up getting fourth runner up! That means I was number 5/26 contestants; a huge accomplishment in my book. I was so excited and proud.

Getting beautified

Me and Ms. Wheelchair America 2011, Alex

The top five! From left to right: third runner-up-Monica, Ms. Wheelchair Maine 2011; second runner-up-Luticha, Ms. Wheelchair New York 2011; winner-Josie, Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2011; first runner-up-Sharina, Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2011; fifth runner-up-Jenni, Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011

We had a farewell breakfast Sunday morning and then said our goodbyes. We left Grand Rapids and I was very relieved once we landed. It definitely felt good to be home.

I've been spending the last couple of days adjusting. I will write more posts about individual activities and things along with some good stories. Just wanted to give you a lowdown of my amazing week. Even though I didn't come home with the title, I still have the rest of my reign as Ms. wheelchair Minnesota. I promise I will do my state proud!

If you have questions, please comment and ask them. I would love to answer them.

Jenni

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ready to Go!

I've been packing stuff all day long. I'm ready to leave early tomorrow morning; very excited but nervous as well. Along with the trip comes a little anxiety.

The pageant will be streaming live online Saturday, August 6 at 5 PM central time. Just click on the link below. All you have to do is sign up and then you can watch!

http://www.allamericanrollmodels.com/

Jenni

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Posts on the EasyStand Blog

I've done a couple of posts in the last month on the EasyStand blog about my trip. Here are the links if you'd like to read them.

Becoming Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011
Preparing to Win!
Jenni

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Getting My Tan on


Me outside in my new shades! (I'm not sunburned, just red from the heat ;-)
This whole summer I've been devoting my time to going outside and getting a tan. The weather has been so nice lately (despite a week of high humidity and temperatures). Every time I go out I put sunscreen on because I have a tendency to burn easily. A couple months ago I got major tan lines from missing the sunscreen in spots. I think they're almost all evened out now, but some are still a little noticeable.

I am so sensitive from all the medications I take. Whenever I'm in direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time my skin gets really hot and turns red. The good thing is that it usually goes away within a half an hour of being back in air-conditioning. Also, since my body has a hard time regulating its temperature it usually gets higher the longer I'm out. Sometimes I take it it just see where I'm at. The other day I was 100.6 F, and that was after being in the car for 15 min. with air blowing on me. I definitely have to be careful not to overheat!

A little over six years ago I wanted to get tan really bad. So for several days in a row I sat outside in direct sunlight with no sunscreen. I got so burned my friend Steph was peeling sheets of skin off my face. That was one of the worst experiences I had with the sun and I've definitely learned my lesson since then. It's better to use the proper precautions and gradually tan as to avoid burning. (Getting smarter in my older age!)

Jenni

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Week Of Soreness

Last Saturday night I got a pill stuck in my throat and it broke open when I was trying to get it down. It burned really bad when the medicine spilled out. The next morning when I was swallowing my pills the same pill got stuck. It broke open again and burned, but this time I couldn't get it down. I tried everything all morning and then eventually all day. I really thought that because the pain was so bad the pill was still stuck, but it turns out that it was long gone. Although my throat hurt so bad it was difficult to swallow food let alone drink water.

When I woke up Monday morning the pain was even worse. I was struggling to get food down. It was like a sore throat only way worse. I pushed through it the rest of the day and Tuesday, but Wednesday I decided it was time to see what was going on. My mom took me to the ER to get it checked out. After waiting over two hours, I finally was able to see the doctor. To figure out if it was my throat or the muscles they made me drink this cocktail mixed with Maalox and lidocaine (very disgusting tasting and made me gag). Apparently since it numbed the pain she determined it was coming from my throat. She said that it would be difficult to tell if something was wrong without getting a camera down there to see. So I was going to have to come back the next day to do an endoscopy.

By this time I wasn't even eating solid foods. Everything was going into my G-tube including ensure and water. Because the procedure required me to be semi-sedated, I couldn't eat or drink anything after midnight, which wasn't really a problem. They called me in the morning and scheduled an appointment for a 12:30 PM check-in and 1 PM procedure.

When I showed up to the hospital I had to wait a while before I went in. When the nurse came out to get me, she had a surprised look on her face. She told me that there must have been some miscommunication because the ER doc didn't tell them that I was a quadriplegic on a ventilator. Very key information if you're going to do an endoscopy on someone. It wouldn't be such a simple thing anymore. They would have had to actually put me under anesthesia instead of just sedate me which is a big difference.

When the doctor came in she asked me where my pain was and I told her it was in my throat. Then she told me that they couldn't do the procedure. Not only because they weren't prepared for me to do it safely, but also because an endoscopy looks at the esophagus and stomach. She said that they wouldn't even be able to tell if anything happened to my throat. She also stated that what I should've seen as an ear, nose and throat doctor. I never would've figured out the mistake made.

Wish they would've told me that in the ER before they scheduled the appointment and had me go without nourishment for so long. The doctor said that when the pill broke open it likely burned my throat so she gave me a prescription for the same cocktail I had gotten the day before. I tried it and it did work most of the time, but only for 5 or 10 minutes, just enough for me to get a few bites down without pain. I only did it for a few days.

It's been about a week since this incident happened and my throat still hurts when I swallow. Now my neck muscles are extremely sore, and the pain has traveled to my jaw and behind my ear. It wasn't as bad during the day today so I think it is going away, but very slowly. I believe that along with the burn from the medicine that I strained the muscles in my neck. That's probably what's causing me the most pain.

I might end up calling a doc tomorrow just to get another opinion. I'm hoping it will go away before my trip a week from tomorrow. I need to be able to eat whatever I want and what I want it!

Jenni

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Donations

Hi! I am still in need of donations for my trip to Michigan. The money will go towards plane tickets, hotel, food and the event itself. I hope you can help me reach my destination and eventually win the crown!

Checks can be made payable to:
Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota

Checks can be sent to:
2400 Lorien St.
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Thank you so much for your support!

Jenni

Monday, July 18, 2011

In the Newspaper Today…

The Star Tribune printed an article on me in the newspaper today. I'm so excited to share my story with everyone! Glad to know I'm helping so many people. A special thanks to all of you who have supported me and been by my side over the years.

Jenni

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Going Blue

In order to have privacy, I use a headset to talk on the phone. I also use a separate one that plugs into my computer in order to dictate using speech recognition software. I do have a cell phone that I use occasionally to make quick phone calls, but never got a headset for it. I had been really curious lately about Bluetooth headsets; if they worked well, if they were affordable, and if they fit comfortably. I've often seen people wear the earpiece for their cell phone, but hadn't ever looked into it.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new set of cordless phones. One for my room, one for the living room and one for upstairs in the kitchen. I realized after I opened them that they didn't have a plug-in for a headset but they did have Bluetooth capabilities. I decided that was a perfect time to try using a Bluetooth headset.

I had my "computer guy" buy one and bring it over for me to try. He hooked it up and I've been using it ever since. I have to say it's so much better than any other headset I've had. Loved it so much I had him get two more for me, one for my cell phone and one for my computer. Now I can actually use my cell phone to talk on. It didn't work out quite so well with my computer, still can't figure out how to keep it connected with my speech recognition. So for that I've been using my old one until I can get it.

I'm hoping to find other technological things to make my life a little bit easier. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Jenni

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Look Well to This Day

Look well to this day,
For it and it alone is life.
In its brief course
Lie all the essence of your existence:

The Glory of Growth
The Satisfaction of Achievement
The Splendor of Beauty

For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is but a vision.
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

-Anonymous, 50 BC

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th

It's been hot, but nice out the past few days. I've been working on my tan for the Ms. wheelchair America contest. So far coming along pretty good (except for a few good tan lines that I need to get rid of). I'm just hanging out watching fireworks on TV, lame I know but going out to watch them isn't really an option. It's hard for me to stay in my wheelchair more than about eight or nine hours. After that I start getting really spastic and usually have an increase in pain.

I hope one day that changes so I'm able to do more things in the evening. Right now I've been getting up in my wheelchair around 9 AM and getting back in bed around 5 PM. Although I don't go to sleep until 10 or 11 PM. This schedule isn't the most ideal for going out many places. If I have something going on at night that I want to be at or attend I will get back into bed around 2 or 3 PM and do range of motion and then get back up an hour later.

I think I'm going to have to start getting up earlier and staying up later in my wheelchair though. This would be to get my body used to being in my wheelchair for long hours. It looks like I'm going to have a pretty full schedule when I'm in Michigan the first week of August for nationals. Everything starts at 9 AM and doesn't end until 9 PM.

I've been doing a lot of planning for my trip. So far all of the tickets and hotel rooms are booked. That was the most stressful. Now that that's finished, my next project is to make lists of all the equipment and supplies I need to bring. Long process but definitely worth it in the long run. I'm so excited I can't wait.

Jenni

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Update on Government Shutdown

It is highly unlikely that an agreement will happen before July 1. I saw on the Internet that they weren't even going to be discussing anything today. Yesterday the judge came to a decision on where most of the state funding will go during the government shutdown. She decided to keep funding for medical assistance programs. This is big news! The woman who called me to let me know manages Key Medical, the supply company that I got my wheelchair from. She was in the courtroom that day that I was there. She thanked me for going because she said just by showing up that I made a difference. That felt really good to know that I could help in that way and that I made an impact. Hopefully the shutdown won't last very long because it will definitely affect a lot of people.

Jenni

Monday, June 27, 2011

Government Shutdown in Minnesota

Minnesota is preparing for a government shutdown if a budget deal isn't made by the end of the month. Thousands of employees would be laid off and many services that depend on state funding would be cut starting July 1 if a decision isn't made between Gov. Dayton and the Republican Party.

I attended a hearing on July 23 at the Ramsey County Courthouse where a judge would rule on motions made to keep certain parts of the government funded should there be a shutdown. Mike Hatch, an attorney called me last week to see if I would make an appearance at the hearing. He filed a motion to intervene under my name, which would be heard in court. It was basically saying for the judge to consider keeping funding for medical assistance open during the government shutdown. I received a letter two weeks ago that said that my medical assistance would possibly be cut in the case of a shutdown. I was there to represent the hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities in Minnesota who also received a letter and rely on the state to pay for medical assistants.

After the motion was read to the judge I left, and the hearing went on the rest of the day. I found out after the hearing that the courtroom was filled with lawyers, lobbyists, and news reporters and that I was the only public figure. Supposedly I made a huge impact because so many people were wondering why and what I was doing there. I don't believe that they're going to cut medical services but there are tons of other services and programs that will be. This includes state parks and boards such as nursing, physical therapy and pharmacy.

I really hope that if the government shutdown does happen here in Minnesota starting July 1, that it doesn't last very long. It would be a $5 billion deficit and a very big upset throughout.

Jenni

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Standing up

Lately I have only been getting in my Easystand stander about once or twice a week. It's been proving to be more difficult than before because my blood pressure has been dropping quicker. Because of this, I haven't been able to get up as high as I used to or for as long. Since I've been unable to get up to 90° it isn't always an enjoyable experience to me. I used to have fun and play games while standing, but now I just struggle to stay focused. I'm at a loss of what to do to make it better. I still do it when I can because I know it's good for me, but it's hard to enjoy it when I'm fighting my body to stay in there. I hope it gets better soon. I know the more I do it the easier it will get and over time my body should adjust again; I just have to be patience. I'm hanging in there though, and praying that everything works out.

Jenni

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seeing Me Around

I often wonder what people think when they see me out in public. I've done posts before about others staring at me and whispering amongst each other. I have talked about people being afraid of the unknown; afraid of things they don't understand. I've also said how I feel when situations of curiosity come about. Along with witnessing these encounters and events, I want to know what people are actually thinking. Are they confused about how I'm driving? Do they wonder why I'm in a wheelchair?

The other day I was at target checking out. My nurse was directly in front of the cashier and I was back a little ways. The woman was looking at me and then looking down and then looking at me and looking down. She must've done it about four or five times before she leaned over to my nurse and very quietly said "was she in…" Then she stopped midsentence and looked over at me again. She then looked back at my nurse and said again, "was she in…" Before she could get the rest of her sentence out I said, "I was in a car accident." She softly nodded her head up and down, and then said "oh okay, that's what I thought." I explained a few more things and she listened and then she told me that she hopes everything goes well and that I have a nice day.

It was very interesting. She was very curious and wanted to know what happened but was afraid to ask me. That's the opposite of what I want. I want people, especially children, to be able to come up and ask their questions to me directly. That would be much better than staring, whispering, or asking someone else. I know not everyone in a wheelchair prefers someone to ask them what happened or how they got where they are, but I do. It's not annoying or a nuisance or rude to me; it's just curiosity that's talking and I'm happy to answer anything.

Jenni

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Keeping You Updated…

I've been a little short on posts lately. The past couple weeks I've spent a lot of time outside and a lot of time thinking. I've also been planning for my trip to nationals in Grand Rapids, Michigan this August. It's proving to semi-difficult and lots of work; it's many little things that all have to be put together. I didn't realize I would become a planner/coordinator/fundraiser, etc. Despite the time it takes in the hard work, I'm enjoying being Ms. wheelchair Minnesota.

This coming Saturday, there is an event put on by AccessAbility called the Walk and Roll-A-Thon. I will be at the finish line (or participating, depends on the weather). Tomorrow I'm going to be on KARE 11 news at 4 PM helping to promote the event. It's nothing big and I won't be saying anything, but I'll definitely be there.

Jenni

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One Day at a Time

Finish every day and be done with
it. You have done what you
could. Some blunders and
absurdities no doubt crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day; begin it
well and serenely and with too high
a spirit to be cumbered with your
old nonsense. This day is all that
is good and fair. It is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations, to
waste a moment on yesterdays.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, May 27, 2011

Speaking of…

Today I spoke to about 75 third-graders at Glen Lake elementary school. During my speech, I told them my story and talked to them about staying positive no matter what. I also told them that it was okay to befriend someone with a disability and ask questions if need be. Then I shared with them about my title and me being Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota. After about a half an hour into it, I opened it up for questions. About two thirds of the kids eagerly raised their hand in curiosity. I spent another half an hour answering all sorts of questions from "how do you eat" to "can you feel or move anything" to "were you wearing your seatbelt" to "how many people were in the car."

At one point I was explaining my disability and that I'm paralyzed and that I'm just like everyone else only I do things differently. I was also talking about how there are many things that I can't do due to my disability. Usually I follow that with sharing all the things I am able to do. Before I got to that I called on a brave little girl in front of the group who asked my favorite question of the day which was "so, what can you do?" I was surprised that she got to it before I did but I was happy to answer.

This was my fourth time speaking at Glen Lake and I really enjoy doing it. I went there when I was younger from second to sixth grade. Even a few of the same teachers are still there. When I was done and waiting for my ride it was lunch time so there were many kids were passing me. Two years ago I spoke there to third-graders and a year before that I spoke to first-graders. The third-graders are now in fifth grade and the first-graders are now in fourth grade. It was very interesting because a lot of them remembered me and stopped to say hi, which I thought was really cool.

The school wants me to come back in the fall to speak again. I would also love to go to other elementary schools to talk to and educate children about people with disabilities. I get so much joy out of teaching them and it feels good to know that I am making a difference. This is something I wanted to for as long as I'm able.

If you have any place or event you know of that I could either make an appearance or speak at (as Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota) please share with me! I'm willing to go anywhere within the Twin Cities area. I look forward to your comments.

Jenni

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Little Bit of This and That…

School is over now for this semester. I received an A in both my stress management class and in my intercultural communications class. They were pretty good classes and I learned a lot, especially when it came to managing my stress. Soon I'm going to sign up for a class or two for the fall semester but I'm not sure what I'm going to take yet.

In the last couple days the weather here has been extremely nice. I've been going outside trying to get a tan before nationals. It feels good to get some fresh air and vitamin D. It just makes me a happier person after being out and about enjoying the sun.

Speaking of nationals, I'm trying to get all my information together so I can send in the first two packets of three by May 24. We have enough money to cover the first half of the entry fee (also due the 24th) but that still leaves us with a large amount that were trying to get donated. I need to book the tickets ASAP before the prices start raising even more. I've got a few confirmations from people and companies who can make some bigger donations, but I haven't seen too much money yet. Hopefully everything will fall together smoothly.

My sister will be in AmeriCorps until July 23, which is exactly one week before I leave for Michigan. I'm so excited that she will be able to come with me since she's missed a lot of events and activities already. Recently her group started a project on a nature reserve/Park in Bonners ferry, Idaho. I looked it up online and I saw all the stunning scenery. I'm so jealous!

Everything else is going good. I kind of feel like I should be more productive but I guess you could say I'm "taking it easy" for a couple weeks. I need some rest before all my events of the summer as my reign of Ms. wheelchair Minnesota 2011 continue.

Jenni

Friday, May 13, 2011

Please Help Support

As many of you know on April 11, 2011 I was crowned Ms. wheelchair Minnesota. This is a huge honor and I am happy to be an advocate for people with disabilities. I'm very excited for this role and eager to get started with my events. This includes going to nationals and competing in the Ms. wheelchair America contest in Michigan August 1 through August 7.

I'm trying to raise money so that I can get to nationals this fall and represent the great state of Minnesota. We have estimated that it will probably cost around $8000. This would include hotel, flight, food, events etc. for me, three nurses and family. This is a big expense and the sooner we can come up with the money the better.

Please help me by donating whatever you can to my cause, no matter how big or small. If you have a company that would like to donate their name will be put on the sponsors list in the packet at nationals. Ms. wheelchair Minnesota is a nonprofit organization so all donations can be used as a tax write off. (If you wish to do so, please indicate and a letter will be sent to you).

Checks can be made out to:
Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota

Checks can be sent to:
2400 Lorien St.
Minnetonka, MN 55305
or…
9720 Humboldt Ave S
Bloomington, MN 55431

We're also planning on holding a fundraiser mid-June. The money for this will be used not only for nationals but also for all events during my year-long reign as Ms. wheelchair Minnesota. If anyone has anything they would like to donate for a silent auction let me know. Also, if anyone has any suggestions or knows of anyone who can help with this please let me know as well.

Thanks for your support!

Jenni

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happiness with a SCI

Ever wonder why some people are happier than others? Do you think to yourself how someone could live their life with content given their circumstances? Have you ever noticed someone in a worse off situation that's happier than you? It's a common misconception that the more money or power or beauty or fame you have makes you a happier person. In fact, studies have shown that there isn't a strong correlation between these things and happiness. I believe it's all in how you look at things, how you view life and the things around you, and what you value most.

People often tell me that I "look so happy" and that I am a very "positive person" given my circumstances. I usually just smile and say thank you, because I really don't know what else to say to that. Some people actually seem shocked that I even give them a smile back. Yes, my situation is challenging. I'm a C-1 C-2 quadriplegic on a ventilator paralyzed from the neck down and require 24/7 nursing to do almost everything for me. When you word it that way it does sound a little depressing. But despite all of this, I do live my life to the fullest and I'm proud to say that I am a "happy and positive person."

What kind of life would I be living if I went around being mad all the time for what happened to me? How do you think I would feel inside if I spent my days dwelling on the past instead of looking at the present and future? If I kept spinning questions around in my head like why me? What did I do to deserve this? Who would do such a thing? Why would anyone want to put this on another? Or if I were to question my own judgment by going through the scenario of that night and asking all the what if's. What if I had decided to stay home that night? What if I hadn't gotten in the car? What if I had chosen to sit in a different seat? To me, it seems so silly and pointless to ask these questions, given that it doesn't do any good and I never get any answers; the only thing it does do is make me go crazy inside.

Of course, I know that there are many people out there in similar situations who have not accepted what's happened to them and do question things constantly. They wonder why they made the choices they did or how this could happen to them. To those people I say good luck in finding the answers and let me know if you do. In my mind, it is a waste of time to be mad or question choices made in life.

I choose happiness because I want my life to be worth something; I want meaning and purpose in my life. I want to be able to live with what happened to me and not die with regret, unforgiveness, frustration, bitterness, or anger.

Jenni

Sunday, May 1, 2011

45 Lessons in Life

Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written.


My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2.. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch..

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26.. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life..

28. Forgive everyone for everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life.. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40.. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come....

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day at the Capitol

Yesterday I went to the state capital to introduce myself to a group of medical suppliers and lobbyists that were having a meeting there. It was put on by MAMES (Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services). They wanted to meet Ms. wheelchair Minnesota and say their congratulations.

Last Saturday my sister came to the door and surprised me. She had flown home from California (she's in AmeriCorps) for six days and didn't tell me. I was very shocked to see her, especially because she had been telling me all week that her and some of her teammates were going to the beach. She even texted me a picture of the beach saying she was there, but it was really from one of her teammates. Very clever!

She ended up driving me to the capital. When I got there, I went into the meeting room and introduced myself. Then I was introduced to everyone else in the room, who were all from different supply companies. Then I spoke telling everyone a little bit more about myself, my situation and what my plan is as Ms. wheelchair Minnesota. They were all very pleased to meet me.

After the meeting, my sister, nurse and I went on an hour long tour of the state capital. I had never been there before and thought it was really interesting. The tour guide took us all sorts of places and explained the architecture, artwork and designs. He even talked about all the different marbles that were used to build it.

During the meeting, I was told that all of the funding has been taken care of for me to go to nationals in Grand Rapids, Michigan the first week in August. This is great news! Also, there were many requests for my appearance and speaking. This included Duluth, Minnesota in May or June and Nashville, Tennessee in September. I'm not quite sure about the latter yet; I still have to figure out how to get to Michigan. Duluth might be interesting to stay there overnight because it would be like a trial run before I spent five days in another state. I don't know yet, we'll see.

Also when I was there my coordinator, Anne, received an e-mail from a local newspaper saying that they want to do an interview with me. It is the Lakeshore weekly of Minnetonka. They e-mailed me 10 questions that I'm to answer and send back by tomorrow and they will put it in the paper next week along with my picture. This is the first news coverage that I've gotten since being crowned April 11. We're hoping to get lots more!

Other than that, schools been going well. I'm looking forward to the end of the semester in the middle of May. After that it will be mostly doing things for Ms. wheelchair Minnesota, like making appearances at different events and speaking to different organizations. I know I keep saying it but I'm so excited for this opportunity and ready to dive right in. I'm sure this summer will go by very fast.

Jenni

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Like It"

I developed a page on Facebook called Ms. wheelchair Minnesota 2011. It is there that I'll post all of the events that I'll be attending and places I'll be speaking at. I will also post pictures from places that I've gone to. If you have a Facebook and want to keep up with my schedule click here to visit my page and click "like".

Jenni

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

50 K

Just wanted to inform everyone that my blog has now had over 50,000 visitors since I started it October of 2008. That's so amazing! Every day I think about the thousands of people that are impacted by me or what I've written. It makes me feel good to know that I can help and educate others.

Thanks again everyone!
Jenni

Upcoming Events

I've taken the last week to recover a little bit from all the excitement. Other than doing some assignments for school, I've just been relaxing as much as I can. This whole thing has been very overwhelming for me, not to mention stressful. However, I'm grateful to be in this position and ready to get started.

My first order of business is to make an appearance at the state capital next Wednesday, April 27. There will be politicians and legislators there that I will be able to meet and get a chance to talk to. This is a great opportunity to represent people with disabilities.

At the end of May I will be talking to a group of 75 third-graders about disability awareness. Then in June I will be appearing at a walk/roll a thon. There's many other things I'll be doing in between all these but they haven't been planned quite yet.

If anyone in the area has a place they want me to come visit or speak at just e-mail me or leave me a comment.

Jenni

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Big Day

I'm now officially Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011!

Here's how my day went:

5:00 AM-woke up
8:00 AM-washed my hair and got dressed
9:00 AM-massage therapy
10:15 AM-got into my wheelchair
10:30 AM-blowdried and styled hair
11:15 AM-ate lunch
12:15 PM-got back into bed to rest and do range of motion
1:00 PM-got back into my wheelchair
1:15 PM-put my final outfit on
1:30 PM-professional makeup artist came
2:15 PM-finish makeup session
3:15 PM-left my house
4:00 PM-arrived at Running Aces Harness Park
5:05 PM-private interview with judges
5:20 PM-finish interview
5:30 PM-ate dinner
6:00 PM-doors opened
6:15 PM-gave two-minute speech to the audience
6:35 PM-comedian
6:50 PM-live local band Machine 22
7:15 PM-first runner-up announced
7:20 PM-winner announced (that's me!)
7:21 PM-billion photos taken and socializing
8:15 PM-leave
9:00 PM-arrive home
9:20 PM-get back into bed
10:00 PM-remove makeup
11:00 PM-fall asleep

As you can see I had an extremely busy day. It was also out of my routine. I usually get up in my wheelchair between 9 and 10 AM and get back into bed around 5 PM. That day I had to get back into bed for 45 min. in the middle of the day to stretch because of the long night ahead of me.

The professional makeup artist who came was a friend of my therapist, Nicole. I don't wear makeup very much but I think she did a great job. It took about 45 min. to do but she made it look really natural. I'll definitely have to get my makeup done again soon.

It took about 45 min. for us to get the place. My 15 min. question and answer with the judges was supposed to start at 4:30 PM, but one of the judges (Mrs. Minnesota) was a half an hour late. I didn't end up doing it until a little after five. Then I had just under an hour to cath and eat dinner. Right when I got into position at the table they started announcing so I cut it pretty close.

I was the first one to give my two-minute speech to the audience. Four people followed me and then it was time for the judges deliberate. The interview was 70% and the speech was 30%. While the judges talked amongst themselves, there was a comedian and a band to keep us entertained. After that they announced the first runner-up and in the winner.

I was so excited to hear my name being called. When I went up there tons of people swarmed in front of me with their cameras. By the end of the night I couldn't see straight from all the flashes. Mrs. Minnesota put a sash around me and then crowned me. After the initial shock and congratulations, I mingled a little bit with everyone who was there while being photographed.

I had a long drive home and even though I usually fall asleep when riding in vehicles, I couldn't because I was so anxious and excited. When I finally got home all I wanted to do was get back into bed to relieve my back pain. At that point, the neighbors and my aunt Sandy came in my room to congratulate me. Once I laid down I did range of motion because I was extremely tight and my spasticity was high due to the day. I was exhausted and delirious also.

I had a lot of fun though and am happy. I'm grateful for this opportunity to educate people and be an advocate for others with disabilities. Now I'm going to be very busy for the next year doing appearances and speaking all over. Also, I get to go to nationals in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Ms. wheelchair America contest is the first week in August. This will be my first time on a plane since my accident. I'm excited to take a trip but a little nervous because I don't know how it will go. They said they wouldn't affect me if they could get me on a plane so I trust them completely.

Below are some photos of the event.


The band
One of my fan tables with my friends and dad

Me and the judges

 If you want to view the professional photos that were taken you can click here.

Jenni