Wednesday, December 7, 2016

6 Easy and Realistic Home Exercises for People With a Physical Disability


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Thanks to The Mighty for publishing the following article on their website today. I thought I'd share it here on my blog as well.


Many years ago, in the days before my chronic health issues began, exercise and sports were a regular, much-enjoyed part of my life. There was nothing quite like racing down a field with a soccer ball at my feet, or clambering into a freezing lake with water skis strapped on, or standing at the top of a mountain I’d just hiked, looking out at what felt like the entire, beautiful world.

When health issues put an end to those sports I most loved, I still found a way to be active through long walks beside the little creek a few blocks from my home. It wasn’t the same, and I always felt the loss of the sports I loved, but at the same time, there was nothing quite like a jaunt through nature to get my heart pumping and set my world right. Many a night, after a hard stressful day, I’d slip on my sneakers and head down the front stairs, allowing the crisp Canadian air to fill my lungs and calm my soul as I walked around my neighborhood.

Then, suddenly, 11 months ago, I lost the ability to walk independently and had to accept a wheelchair into my life. (After several months, I’m at the point where I can use a walker inside my home now and a wheelchair elsewhere.) Gone were the long walks I loved so much; it created a cavernous hole in my life and heart.

After some moping, I decided enough was enough. Exercise has always been important to me, and if I had to be creative in how I exercised, so be it. The first thing I did was search the internet for ideas, but to my surprise it was hard to find ideas that worked for my specific situation. Many websites recommended exercises that were too intense for me. One showed a video of veteran soldiers doing heavy weightlifting in a gym and swinging on trapeze bars. Many others recommended playing wheelchair basketball, which I assume requires the ability to self-propel one’s wheelchair and handle fast wheelchair movements, both of which I cannot do. Other websites suggested going to a pool, but at this point in my life I am unable to drive on my own or to get my wheelchair out of my house without a strong adult taking me out, so that too was nixed.

Having been a physical therapist many years ago, I decided the best course of action would be to creatively design exercises that worked for my situation and my body. After a bit of trial and error, I came up with several exercises I love to do, all of which I do safely in a supported sitting position. A big key for me has been to listen to the messages my body sends me. My personality likes to push beyond my limits, but that not only leaves me discouraged, it risks injury. By working at my own pace, I am acting lovingly towards my body.

I thought I’d share some of my ideas here on The Mighty for others looking for exercise suggestions and tips.

Please note: always ask your physician or physical therapist prior to beginning any exercise program, and never push beyond what you can safely do for any exercises.

1. Dancing to music. I get my body supported in the way it needs to be comfortable, crank up the tunes (I recently discovered early rock-and-roll greats such as Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, which have a good beat) and start flailing my good leg, swinging my arms, and moving my back to the music. As an added benefit, the songs get stuck in my head, bringing a smile to my face throughout the day.

2. Exercise resistance bands. I ordered a few stretchy bands off the internet and it is amazing how versatile they are, allowing me to exercise everything from my toe muscles all the way up to my shoulders (and lots in between.) They allow me to work at my own pace.

3. Ball bouncing/ kicking. Bouncing the ball beside you is a good way to work on coordination. However, after a few times of the ball bouncing away on me, I discovered this exercise works best in a confined space.

4. Arm cycle. This piece of equipment is like a bicycle for the arms and sits on my dining room table. It allows some valuable cardio activity that gets my heart rate up.

5. Taekwondo punching: My son takes taekwondo lessons through a local special needs program, and I’ve had him show me the proper form for punching forward into the air. Several of these in a row can get my heart working! They also make me feel a little bit powerful, which is something that went by the wayside during all my years of physical health issues and disabilities.

6. Range of motion with or without light weights. When I first began exercising, my arms only had the strength to lift themselves through their range of motion (i.e. shoulders going in circles, elbows bending up and down.) After a few weeks, I was strong enough to begin with small 1 pound dumbbell weights. Every month or two I’ve been able to increase to a heavier weight, and now on good days I can use 3 or 4 pound weights

Friday, November 25, 2016

NOT going! (I went)

2013 Family trip to Festival of Trees


About a week ago I adamantly declared to Eric that I was NOT going to attend this year's Festival of Trees, an annual Christmas event my family and I attend each year.

The pronouncement caused Eric's moustachioed face to take on a look of vast bewilderment; he knows how much I love this festival.  Not only have I attended nearly every year since the age of 9 and look forward to it all year, but to my family this event heralds the beginning of the Christmas season.
Little Sammy's first FOT, 2010        

But, hardening my heart a little, I decided that if the only way I could go to the festival this year was in my wheelchair....well then I simply wasn't going to go. 

  It wasn't just that my wheelchair hurts so much to sit in that for a few days after a trip out in it i become best pals with an icepack, it was more like I wanted to keep this one event sacred from the mobility challenges I've lived with for all of 2016. Or to put it less delicately, it was a way to sulk.

My mobility challenges have impacted so many of the regular family activities that have long been a part of the fabric of our life:

 * Easter found me near tears, when I discovered last minute that when one can't easily walk/ stand for very long, it is completely unrealistic to think one will be able to race around the kitchen gathering ingredients to make adorable devilled eggs in the shape of baby chicks, while simultaneously running to the door to greet 18 guests, while also attempting to set a pretty ribbon-laced table that looked like one I once saw in a home decorating magazine.

* This summer was the first time we didn't go on a family vacation, or even take a day trip to the lake.

* When fall rolled around, I still was having trouble with sitting for long vehicle rides- the annual trip to the pumpkin farm I love was nixed.  So too went the autumn walks in golden leaves against vividly blue sky, a staple of life I long cherished but took for granted I would always be able to do.


Now it was nearly Christmas and the Festival of Trees was upon us once again. And somehow, I wanted to keep this festival sacred.  If I couldn't go whole and moving on my own two feet... well... I'd just pout and skip the whole entire event. If my family wished to go they could go and have a fun time without me. So there!

Feeling like a martyr, I told one of my dear friends about my plan not to attend. Through tears, I tried to explain how nothing has been the same this past year and this way by not going, I could at least be in control of not having to face another event where everything was so different than before. My friend was unimpressed.

 What followed was a chastisement unlike one I've had had in a long time, and yet one I truly deserved.  Telling me to stop my complaining, she firmly yet compassionately reminded me I had a choice in front of me, the same choice each of us has before oneself. I could chose to be a force for joy in my family and to those around me, or a force of misery.


 In other words, I could stay home and be morose, or I could buck up, put a smile on my face... and celebrate with my family at this cherished family event. It could be an opportunity to show them that while so much has changed... nothing that is truly important has changed.

I might have to go to the festival in a fashion I never dreamed I'd go in, but I still had the opportunity to go with a thankful heart for having the opportunity to attend an event I have long loved with the people I most love.

So tonight- I went.  I'm glad I did.  I didn't have the stamina to stay too long- but it was long enough to enjoy the lights and colours, marvel at the many creatively decorated trees, and most of all see the delight on my family member's faces as
Festival of Trees, 2016
we shared this special time together.

Maybe next year I will walk in to the festival, maybe I won't.  Only God knows the future.  But I hope that no matter what, I will go in with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.


I'm learning a powerful lesson through my situation about what life really is all about, including what it means to live with true joy even when significant challenges are present.

I no longer think that living with true joy means always having a smile on my face.  I went through a state of grieving for a period this autumn where my smiles were less than frequent. But, now as I (metaphorically) walk forward out of that time of grief, I can clearly see that living with genuine joy means living with authenticity.


It means not letting how we think things ought to be stop us from living life as fully as we can. It means never giving up when things are tough, but seeking to find creative solutions to the problems that present in our lives. And it means choosing togetherness and connection with those we love, no matter what.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Is God always good?





“God is good. All the time.” This phrase, which I've heard many Christians say over the years, has been rolling around my soul lately. It's been a time when I've had more questions than answers. 

The connotation of the phrase is that whether in times of prosperity or in times of personal hardship, God remains good. 



I've had the phrase said frequently to me by compassionate 
Christian friends when they've looked at my health situation, prayed to God for healing- and then seen that nonetheless I'm still in a wheelchair/ walker,  still struggling with mobility,  still desperately trying to regain the ability to walk.  What else really can one say in a situation like this but that God's goodness remains unchanged?

But it's caused my soul to reflect: Is God really good even when we face significant struggle, pain, or loss?  When our lives seem to be falling apart? When it feels like more darkness than light is present?

 Is God always good when a harsh autumn wind pummels leaves off the trees, leaves that took all spring and summer to grow? Is he good even when winter comes and in the midst of a frozen, dark world warmth feels far away? 

For me, it was easier to glibly believe God is good when my world was bright and happy and easy. But, I know pain intimately. I’ve lived for many years, almost all my adult life in fact, with a condition that causes severe physical pain and disability. It caused me to relinquish the career I put ten years into building and really loved.  In addition to my mobility challenges, for the past three years it's caused me to use assistive voice technologies at times to communicate. Can I still truly, honestly say “God is always good”? 
 
I wish I could say that I can easily separate my physical circumstances from my acceptance of God’s goodness, but if I am completely open, sometimes it is really hard. 


However, I’m learning that that separation is exactly what is needed. When we look beyond the jagged boundaries of our lives- both our losses and the blessings - we discover that God’s goodness is not dependent on how our lives are going. It’s not dependent on us, in fact is completely separate from our circumstances.



God is good because He is Good. His nature is goodness: he is light and love. And that is something to be celebrated. And so I can say: God is Good. All the Time.





















Is God always good?





“God is good. All the time.” This phrase, which I've heard many Christians say over the years, has been rolling around my soul lately. It's been a time when I've had more questions than answers. 

The connotation of the phrase is that whether in times of prosperity or in times of personal hardship, God remains good. 



I've had the phrase said frequently to me by compassionate 
Christian friends when they've looked at my health situation, prayed to God for healing- and then seen that nonetheless I'm still in a wheelchair/ walker,  still struggling with mobility,  still desperately trying to regain the ability to walk.  What else really can one say in a situation like this but that God's goodness remains unchanged?

But it's caused my soul to reflect: Is God really good even when we face significant struggle, pain, or loss?  When our lives seem to be falling apart? When it feels like more darkness than light is present?

 Is God always good when a harsh autumn wind pummels leaves off the trees, leaves that took all spring and summer to grow? Is he good even when winter comes and in the midst of a frozen, dark world warmth feels far away? 

For me, it was easier to glibly believe God is good when my world was bright and happy and easy. But, I know pain intimately. I’ve lived for many years, almost all my adult life in fact, with a condition that causes severe physical pain and disability. It caused me to relinquish the career I put ten years into building and really loved.  In addition to my mobility challenges, for the past three years it's caused me to use assistive voice technologies at times to communicate. Can I still truly, honestly say “God is always good”? 
 
I wish I could say that I can easily separate my physical circumstances from my acceptance of God’s goodness, but if I am completely open, sometimes it is really hard. 


However, I’m learning that that separation is exactly what is needed. When we look beyond the jagged boundaries of our lives- both our losses and the blessings we discover that God’s goodness is not dependent on how our lives are going. It’s not dependent on us, in fact is completely separate from our circumstances.



God is good because He is Good. His nature is goodness: he is light and love. And that is something to be celebrated. And so I can say: God is Good. All the Time.