Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guest Blogger: Chandra Hendricks

We are less than 60 days from the 2014 Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant! I will continue to introduce the contestants as we get closer, and I am very proud and excited today to share with you all about Ms. Wheelchair Wyoming 2014-2015, Chandra Hendricks! Chandra is a Mom, and she just happens to be from the best state in the country! She is a shining example of someone who has learned from her mistakes and wants to use those life lessons to inspire and help others. Meet Chandra!

  • Tell us a little about yourself?

I am 31years old. I am a single mother to a beautiful 6 almost 7 yr. old who is my world. I am a stay-at-home mom and I home-school my daughter. I was home-schooled from 3rd grade on.  I come from a larger family; I have three brothers and three sisters. I love taking pictures of everything from my daughter and my family, to the outdoors-flowers, animals, sunrises, sunsets, and clouds.

  • Tell us about your disability?

On June 15th, 2003, I was in a car accident that involved three other people and left me paralyzed from the chest down.  We were drinking and decided it was time to go home, so we headed down the mountain. We had all been drinking alcohol. The driver began going too fast on the gravel road and lost control of the car. I had buckled my seat belt seconds before we began losing control, and that is what saved my life. The other three people were thrown from the car and died. I was the only one remaining in the vehicle. Due to my injuries, I am a C-6/7 incomplete quadriplegic.   

  • What is your platform/motto in life?

My platform is about drinking and driving and the choices that come with it. I am always positive and look for the silver lining in every bad situation. I believe that our attitude truly does shape our outlook on life. I also believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we will never know those reasons, but God does and He knows what He is doing, whether we can see it, agree with it, or even like it. All we can do is keep on pushing on, keep our heads up and continue to stay strong. We are our own worst enemy when it comes to playing the “what ifs” and “whys.”

  • What are your favorite activities?

I love photography, baking, cooking, and hanging out with my daughter, family and friends. 

  • What is something we might not know about you? 
I absolutely hate mushrooms, and I want to go skydiving for my 32nd birthday.
  • What are your future plans?
I want to learn how to drive and get a van that allows me to drive me and my daughter around. I would also like to finish my schooling (once I figure out what I want to do). I would like to move into my own home. And I hope to meet a nice man and get married someday.
  • What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome?

I would say that one of the biggest obstacles I have had to overcome was learning to live with such a life changing event. I had no choice but to make the best out of the situation. Also, it was difficult to learn how to write left handed, due to my left had being stronger than my right.

  • What is the best advice you would give to someone with a recent injury/diagnosis?
Make the best out of your situation and don’t live with the “what ifs” or the “whys” because they are things you will never know or understand and they could/would drive you crazy. You’re stronger than you believe that you are, you will be ok, and life can still go on.
  • Anything else you would like to share?
I am a very easy going person, and I enjoy being around people; however, I am somewhat shy at first. I am very excited and nervous for the national competition, and I am very excited to meet all the other women. I have never done anything like this in my life, and I believe that it will be a life changing experience.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wheeling Fashion

When my accident happened, I don’t think I understood just how much every aspect of my life would change. Some of the differences in life via wheelchair were obvious, but others sneaked up on me unexpectedly. One such change was fashion. I didn’t lose my sense of fashion- not that I had one to begin with- but the fit and look of clothing in general was altered. This was problematic, because I am slightly obsessed with shopping for clothes, shoes, and accessories, as my closet (and husband) can attest. Luckily, over the years, I’ve learned what works for me. For instance…

I am tall. I honestly don’t ever remember not battling shrinking hemlines and jeans that looked more like cropped pants. Now add the fact that I am sitting constantly, and things get even shorter. Another issue with pants is the fit and height in the back. Have you ever tried to put on a pair of pants while sitting down and not using your legs for assistance? You should really try it sometime. Like right now. Unless you’re in public- then wait until you get home.

My point is- it’s difficult. And forget it if the pants are even the least bit form fitting or low-rise. You might as well put a blanket on your lap now or wear a LONG shirt or jacket, because if you attempt to shift in your wheelchair or bend over to pick something up off of the ground, the entire room will suddenly wonder if you’ve changed your profession to plumbing. 

Finding jeans and dress pants in the proper length can be extremely challenging, as well as finding cute jeans in a higher rise, so let me share with you a few places that I have come to love for any other tall wheeling (or non-wheeling) gals out there.

  • New York and Co.: I love their dress pants. They have just the right amount of stretch in the fabric, and they offer them in a TALL length. Super cute, super long, and great prices and quality- especially when they are running a sale!
  • Cruel Girl Jeans: These are my new go-to jeans. The performance rise is higher in the back, and these babies are LONG if you order the XLong or XXlong lengths. And they even have an awesome kick-pleat for your boots in some of the styles- my favorite are the Georgia Relaxed. Love!
  • Maurices: Our local store has a surprisingly great selection of long length dress pants (LONG & X-LONG) for when I can’t get to a NY&Co. And I am obsessed with their items in the next category...

I have a never-ending phobia that I am constantly flashing the entire world when I wear shorter skirts. Russ and I have a routine when I get out of the car at church when I am wearing a shorter skirt. 

Me: “Can you see anything?”

Russ: “No.”

Me: “Are you sure?”

Russ: “I would have to lay on the ground to see up your skirt. Let me try.”

Me: “Don’t even think about it.”

Most of the time my paranoia prevents me from even wearing shorter skirts that leave me more than adequately covered, so praise the Lord for the influx of maxi dresses and maxi skirts! I would always rather err on the side of caution than to be known as the girl in the wheelchair who is very proud of her undergarments and wants to share them with the world. And don’t get me started about being up on stage in something short…

As for dresses, I usually don’t wear anything form fitting because it always bunches in the wrong spot. This was never more evident than when I went shopping for my prom dresses and wedding dress. Needless to say, I ended up having my dresses made. Fortunately I had a friend who is an amazing seamstress, and she did a beautiful job. I was able to find my pageant dress at David’s Bridal. I tried on some long dresses in satin and taffeta, and it was a hilarious nightmare. Finally, the nice attendant brought me a dress in a flowy chiffon material, and the fabric was much easier to work with. It’s usually just a trial and error experience, so take your patience and plenty of time. Accessible dressing rooms help as well!

The only shirts I tend to avoid are button-up tops. Since I use a manual chair, and I am constantly using my arms to propel myself, I find button-ups too constraining. Plus- they have a tendency to gap in inconvenient places as I am wheeling myself. I also avoid coats unless I will be out in cold weather for an extended period of time. My chair is a tight, custom fit, and the extra material is bulky and unwieldy. I prefer cute ponchos. They double as my shirt, but still keep my warm. Much more fashionable than my Snuggie as well.

This one actually changed for the good. I was never good on heels, and I was already taller than most of the boys I knew, so after my accident, when I realized my ankles would no longer support spiky heels, it didn’t break my heart. I do love my wedges, flats, and sandals though.

And my shoes always look brand new! I do have to deal with swelling, but I’ve found ways around that. I just buy bigger shoes! It’s not like I have to worry about walking out of them… And I can still wear my boots. I just head down to Wayne’s Boot Shop in downtown Cody and Russ’ Uncle Kevin either stretches the ankle curve for me or puts in zippers, depending on the boot and fit. ‘Cause you know I couldn’t handle not rocking my boots! I have a pair of Old Gringos and another pair of Corral boots that I am currently OBSESSED with.

Those are just a few examples of how fashion changes when you add in a wheelchair. Obviously, depending on your disability, this will be different for everyone. And yes, I’ve been on several websites that specialize in clothing designed for people in wheelchairs- I’ve just never been too keen on the designs or prices.

So what brands work for you? Any tips or tricks for others learning about wheeling fashion?

Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated for mentioning any of the above brands. I just wanted to share with you some of my personal favorites!