Thursday, October 19, 2017

How to Interact with Someone in a Wheelchair

Today's post is a little tongue-in-cheek, but is also based on real-life experiences that I've had, many times. Even though I don't think that being in a wheelchair defines me, often it's the first - and only - think people say when they meet me for the first time, or even when they're passing me in the street. So today, I want to share some guidelines for how to interact with me, or with anyone else in a wheelchair!

  • Talk directly to me
    You might not think that I'd need to spell this one out, but believe me, I do. When my sister and I are anywhere together, the comments we are most likely to get include: "Aww, how sweet!" "Are they twins?" and weirdly "How old are they?" Never are these questions directed at us - they're usually directed at my mom, but people will ask our friend/cousin/whoever is there. Usually, I will answer so that people know I can, in fact, hear them, and can talk. But even if I couldn't - start by directly addressing me, not whoever I'm with. And while we're at it... you don't need to know how old I am! If you wouldn't make the comment to someone not in a wheelchair, don't make it to me.
  • It's okay to hold the door open for me
    I think automatic door buttons are great - they let me open doors! I'm in no way opposed to them. But if I'm heading towards a door, and you get there before me - it's really more than okay to open the door and hold it open for me. I promise that I will not be mad. I definitely feel awkward otherwise, while you stare at me, waiting for me to get to the button and press it to open the door. Which brings me to...
  • Stop staring at me
    Please stop staring at me! I can tell when you're doing it, and I will stare back until you realize what you're doing. If you want to actually engage with me and have a conversation - great! I am open to genuine curiosity. But don't just stare at me.
  • If I'm behind you on the sidewalk, you don't need to leap out of the way
    I have been driving a wheelchair since I was three years old. While there are certainly dented walls all over my house from my early years, I've had it down for a while now. If I'm behind you on the sidewalk, I'm not going to accidentally accelerate and run you down. If you want to politely move over a little so I can get past, thanks - I really appreciate it. But you don't need to jump to the side and leave me a five foot berth between us. Basically...
  • Treat me like a human being
    Extend me common courtesies like you would anyone else, but please try to still treat me like a person. I am a woman that uses a wheelchair, but I am still a woman! Remember that every person who uses a wheelchair is just a person.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    Major Sale at ASOS

    ASOS is one of my favorite places to shop online. Even though it's a UK-based brand, they ship incredibly quickly to the US, have free shipping over $40, and free returns. They also offer a great variety of styles - clothes for both work and weekend - in many different sizes.

    The best part about ASOS, for me, is their petite sizing. At some stores, even online, the petite section is considerable smaller than the non-petite. At ASOS, however, they have so many options in petite sizes! Since I am so small that I can wear kids sized clothing sometimes, this is a huge plus for me.

    You've definitely seen me is ASOS before - this dress below, for example, is from ASOS, and it definitely got a lot of wear this summer! I love it so much, I even bought it in multiple colors

    ASOS is having a great sale right now that ends today. They have items up to 70% off, plus an extra 10% off if you use the code "EXTRASALE". I'm not being paid to tell you any of this - but I got some great deals on things that I can wear into the fall, and was so excited that I wanted to share it with you, too! You can check out my favorites from the sale below, or you can find your own favorites on their website here!

    (This post uses affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission from clicks/purchases you make.)

    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Personal Perspective, Part 2

    Each Tuesday in October, Katie is taking over my blog to talk about her experience with breast cancer. You can read week one here.

    When I first heard that I had breast cancer, there were 3 things that flashed through my mind. 1 - Was I going to survive this. 2 - I was going to lose my hair, my eyelashes, and my eyebrows. and 3 - Was I going to be able to have kids, and when would I be able to. Today's post is going to be about my third worry.

    When I told my oncologist that I didn't have kids yet and that I did want them, she said the first thing I'd have to do, before any treatment began, is reserve eggs or embryos. Because I was receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy - chemotherapy before therapy, as a lot of younger women do - I had to go through fertility preservation treatment first, or else the chemotherapy could attack my egg cells and might put me into early-onset menopause. And we had to start NOW, so that my chemotherapy could be started immediately after. Because she wanted it done so quickly, she sent me to Cleveland, as Pittsburgh was known to take longer.

    I was really relieved that my oncologist brought up fertility, and gave me hope that having kids would be possible in my future, but I was also devastated at the same time. I knew that we weren't ready for kids yet, but it was something that we were starting to talk about, and it kind of felt like the rug got pulled out from under us.

    Everything started to happen really fast. As it turned out, I had an art festival in the Cleveland area, and the doctor there was able to work with with my schedule and fit me in while I was there. It was a whirlwind - I had to decide right then and there if I wanted to freeze my eggs or embryos. Because embryos are usually more successfully frozen, my husband Terry and I chose to do that. Choosing embryos meant that Terry and I both had to send our bloodwork out to a lab for birth defect genetic testing - happily, I can report that the only thing I was a carrier for was a biotin deficiency! We also had to decide, legally, what would happen to the embryos if we got divorced, or if either of us died - it was surreal to make this decision in such a business-like way. Terry had to donate his sperm, so that the eggs I would be harvesting could be fertilized, and we talked through the egg harvesting process.

    Every day, I had to inject multiple drugs into my body to boost egg production so that they could be sure to harvest just the right amount. The nurse demonstrated how to do the injections, had me practice, gave me the drugs that they had on hand, and gave me a prescription to take to the pharmacy for the rest. I had to have an ultrasound and bloodwork done every other day (back home in Pittsburgh) to look at the follicles of my ovaries and check my progress. I took a little bit longer than they expected, so I had to be sent additional medications - the Livestrong Foundation sent them to my house, on dry ice, and it looked like I lived in a mad scientist's lab! After about two weeks,  my eggs were ready to be harvested. I had to give myself one last trigger shot - triggering the release of the eggs - and had to take a pregnancy test to make sure that the triggering worked. The next day, I was back up in Cleveland to do the actual harvesting. It's a surgical procedure - they put me under, and the doctor aspirated my ovaries and got all of the eggs out, and then I went home!

    Initially, they told me that I had 12 eggs and eight embryos. Seven of those divided successfully and were healthy enough to be frozen. Those embryos are still in storage right now in Ohio. It may turn out that I don't need them, and I am able to conceive naturally, but they're waiting for us if that isn't the case. My oncologist told me right off the bat that I'd have to wait at least a year (preferably two, but I pushed her on it!) after finishing treatment to start trying to have kids. The recurrence risk is highest in the first two years, and if I were to try to conceive naturally, I'd need to wait because no one knows the effect that chemotherapy has on egg cells.

    I mentioned the Livestrong Foundation earlier. They were involved because these kinds of fertility treatments can be astronomically expensive. The Foundations helps cover the costs for young women with cancer, so that they have to pay much less for these treatments. I feel very fortunate that this Foundation was there to help make things easier for me in such a stressful time.

    Once the fertility treatment was finished, chemotherapy could begin, which I'll talk about in next week's post.

    Monday, October 16, 2017

    My Favorite Pajamas

    I have a busy weekend coming up with a trip to DC, and I just took a midterm exam in one of my classes, so I tried to take it easy this weekend. For me, taking it easy over the weekend means a lot of time spent in my pajamas. I'm one of those people who comes home from work and immediately changes into my PJs - it just makes me feel so much more relaxed!

    One: Here
    Two: Here
    Three: Here (my personal favorites!)
    Four: Here
    Five: Here

    I've clearly spent a lot of my time in pajamas, and I've definitely found some favorites. My absolute favorites are from Target. They're reasonably priced, and so, so soft and comfortable! Target's Gilligan & O'Malley brand makes lots of different pajama sets - I usually go with the tank top and shorts sets, but they also make button up shirt sets, tank top nightgowns, and long-sleeved nightgowns - so many different options!

    All of these pajamas are under $30, and feel like they cost a lot more than that. They look a little more put together than sleeping in an old t-shirt, and make me feel like a real adult for having actual pajama sets! Now that I started wearing them, I haven't gone back, and think they'd make a great addition to anyone's sleeping wardrobe.

    (This post uses affiliate links, which means I may make a commission on any clicks/purchases you make.)

    Friday, October 13, 2017

    Currently Watching, 10/13/17

    The temperatures have dropped a bit in Pittsburgh, and it actually feels like fall now. I'm not a big fan of summer ending, but I do love that fall means that all my favorite TV shows are coming back. I realize that I've been sharing a lot of TV on my Friday posts... but I really do love TV, and I love telling all of you about shows that I think are great. This week, two amazing shows came back that I want to share.

    The first is Riverdale. I used to love the CW (I watched way back when it was still the WB!) - I watched Smallville, I loved Gossip Girl, and I still am obsessed with Gilmore Girls. There was a while, though, where there wasn't anything on the CW that I was into. I had heard about Riverdale earlier, this year, but the previews didn't sell me, and the premise - that it was based on Archie comics characters - definitely didn't convince me, either. I say all of this so that you know I wasn't on board from the first day I heard about it, in case you feel the same way.

    But over the summer, I was looking for something new to watch on Netflix, and Riverdale was suggested. Since it was only on it's first season, it didn't seem like too big of an investment, and I gave it a try. I watched one episode and was hooked! It's such a fun, high school drama, evening soap opera show, and actually reminds me of Gossip Girl a little bit. Plus, it has bonus Luke Perry, aka Dylan McKay from the original Beverly Hills, 90210 - never a bad thing. Check out one of the season 2 trailers below:

    The other show I've been anxiously awaiting the return of is also on the CW - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The name is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, just like the rest of the show. It's a musical show, but not like Glee was - the songs are all part of the narrative of the show, not just side performances. The show is hilarious, and witty, and sarcastic, and smart.

    The best part is the songs - they're not the standard songs you'd expect about love and heartbreak. They have song titles like "Friendtopia," "I'm So Good at Yoga," and the classic "The Sexy Getting Ready Song." The lyrics are so clever, and all of the performers are fantastic. Listen to "The Sexy Getting Ready Song" below, and then start with Season 1 and watch the show from the beginning; I think it's one of the best shows currently on the air!

    What shows are you most excited about?

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    Formal Fashion

    I'm traveling to DC later this month for a friend's Knights of Malta event, and as part of that, I'll be attending a ball. This meant I needed a formal gown, plus all of the accessories - bag, jewelry, the works! I've been spending a lot of time online shopping to find options, and I've found some really cute things I wanted to share!

    First up are the dresses. I'm always drawn to sparkles, beads, or sequins on dresses - I love fun embellishment. Or, I tend to go in the complete opposite direction, with simple, classic styles and silhouettes. Every so often, though, there will be a pattern or two that catches my eye. I tried to pick a good variety of those to share with you - check out what I like below!

    Having some sort of purse/clutch/evening bag is so important, but it's not something that tends to get a lot of use, outside of formal events. Because of this, I try not to spend too much on a clutch - I know it'll only get used occasionally. Luckily, there are lots of cute options that are budget friendly! You can see what I found here.

    The dress I picked for my event in DC is beaded, so I didn't want to go overboard with jewelry. A necklace would be too much and would compete with the dress, but a pair of sparkly, statement earrings was just enough shine and glam. There are so many beautiful statement earrings out right now - I had trouble narrowing this down to six! Even if you don't have a formal event coming up, any of these would make a great addition to your jewelry collection.

    (This post uses affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission for any clicks/purchases you make.)

    Wednesday, October 11, 2017


    These past few months have been forcing me to think a lot about balance. I've been thinking about balance because my calendar has really been filling up. I mentioned in this post what I have going on, and while they're all things I'm excited about, and happy to be a part of, they're also commitments that take time! Plus, I started my semester with a trip to NYC, and have a trip to DC coming up... and I know when I get back from that, there will be school deadlines looming, and then the holidays. I don't want to get overwhelmed thinking about and planning out my schedule, but I still have to make sure I'm staying on top of everything.

    So to stay sane, I'm trying to think of balance in fluid terms. Not splitting my time evenly between work and fun every day - some days are going to be busier than others. I don't think anyone's life is ever perfectly balanced - that's not achievable, and not what I'm trying to strive for! But I want to make sure I'm not totally neglecting one part of my life, whether it's work, school, my social life, or this blog.

    The first step to making sure I stay relatively balanced is making sure I'm on top of my calendar. It really helps me feel calmer and more relaxed when I know what I have going on, and any deadlines or events that are coming up. That way, when I want to add something to my calendar, I know whether or not I should say yes!

    I'm also trying to be better about getting the sleep I know I need each night. As much as I love sleep, it's so easy to spend 30 more minutes each night finishing up a blog post, or finishing up a TV show, or working on an assignment. But I know, personally, that getting more sleep helps me feel happier and more productive. So I'm trying hard not to let sleep be the first thing I let go when I'm trying to find my balance!

    I also am trying to remember that I need "me time." I really need 30 minutes before sleep every night not doing anything, just relaxing and winding down. I also need some weekends without plans! I've been hearing about so many fun events, and love sharing them here - but I also really love weekends without plans, so that I can relax and enjoy my time off.

     Clearly, this is still a work in progress for me, but I think it's something a lot of people struggle with, so I wanted to share my thoughts and would love to hear yours!