Photo by Layna Hendrich of PhotographyLayn

Monday, November 30, 2015

Adaptive Hunting Equipment

With Christmas right around the corner, I wanted to give you some ideas for the hunter in your life that is living with a disability. At times, it may feel like the obstacles to getting outdoors pile up around you, but adaptive equipment like the following items can push through those barriers and open up adventures you never dreamed possible. These are a few of my favorite things- so let's go shopping!

I love seeing the look on people's faces when I tell them Wyoming Disabled Hunters has a hunt specifically for hunters that are either blind or have visual impairments.  I always get the same question- "You take blind people hunting?" We do! And thanks to amazing adaptive equipment like the Nite Site Viper, we have a very high harvest rate year after year.

What the Viper does is take the scope of a rifle or bow and enlarge it on a screen mounted above the scope. This allows the hunter's spotter to see what would be visualized through the scope and assist the hunter with his or her aim. Through communication decided upon prior to the hunt, the spotter can tell the hunter how to adjust their firearm and when to fire. It sounds complicated, but with the Nite Site Viper, the hunter has a much higher chance of harvesting an animal. And you can hook up your camera to the unit and record what is happening through the scope- how cool is that? Here is the Nite Site model we use:

I love my crossbow.  Although it's not strongly marketed towards hunters with disabilities, it really should be! I have trouble pulling back the string on a normal crossbow, and the Concorde allows me to be completely independent with the push of a button. This is the only automatic cocking crossbow on the market- pushing a button on the butt of the stock pulls back the string in about 2 seconds. Thanks to a quiet CO2 canister powered mechanism, this crossbow makes archery hunting fun and accessible for the hunter with a disability. Here is a picture from my mule deer hunt in 2012- successful harvest thanks to my Parker!

The only negative thing about my crossbow is that with a full CO2 canister, it is quite heavy. Which is why this next gift idea is so essential- the Bog Pod Tripod. This model is heavy duty but lightweight, and the best part is the spread and adjustability of the legs. You can shrink things down to use with a rifle or crossbow when you are prone on the ground, or stretch things out to fit over the top of a power wheelchair. It is difficult to find tripods that will give you the kind of specific setup you need to adapt in the field, and the Bog Pod does just that. Here it is on this year's antelope hunt:

I have several pieces of equipment to mention on this one, because Be Adaptive makes so many amazing adaptive hunting products! Let's start with their shooting mounts. These mechanisms allow a hunter to position their rifle, pistol, or bow if they have difficulty holding it. With the equipment mounted to their wheelchair or shooting seat, it opens up hunting to people who may have thought it wasn't possible. How great is that?

Be adaptive also makes several different products to help with pulling the trigger. Whether you need a suction or bite trigger, and an adapted finger control or wrist support, Be Adaptive has you covered! They also produce products for adapted fishing, so check them out!
I am ending this Christmas shopping list with my favorite hunting product- the Action Track Chair! This all terrain wheelchair works great with all of the above mentioned products, and it can do so much more! If you are looking for the ultimate adaptive equipment to enjoy the outdoors, this is it. This chair can get you safely into places you never dreamed possible, and it's so much fun to drive!

I use my Action Track Chair for much more than hunting- skeet shooting, fly fishing, hiking, camping, the possibilities are endless! Its standing feature is what truly sets it apart from other all terrain wheelchairs, and I know that it will change the way you explore the outdoors.

Like any specialty equipment, some of these items are quite expensive. If you are interested in grants and other ways to receive financial assistance for adapted hunting equipment, check out these pages:

Happy hunting- and shopping!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Choose an Accessible Four-wheeler

When Russ and I were dating, one of our favorite things to do was go four-wheeling. It was something we could enjoy together outdoors, and I wasn't limited at all by my paralysis, whether I was driving or riding. We were able to see places I wouldn't have been able to get to in my manual wheelchair, and we always had a great time exploring the mountains together.

I was fortunate that Russ already had a four-wheeler when we met, and for the most part, it works well for me when I ride or drive. But if I was in the market for a new one, these are the things I would keep in mind...

  • Hand Controls
Look for an automatic transmission with all of the controls and buttons on the handlebars. Seems like a simple thing, but sometimes you think everything is on the handlebars, and you realize there is a foot brake that has to be engaged in order to shift into high gear or reverse. Sneaky little foot brakes. And then you have to lift your leg with your hand and push your shoe down on the brake and then shift. Not cool.
  • Covers
Look at any parts on the four-wheeler that produce heat or actually get hot themselves. When you are on a four-wheeler, the last thing you need to worry about is constantly checking your legs to make sure they aren't getting burned in any way. If the four-wheeler has exposed parts that aren't covered by heat resistant material, consider wearing shin pads turned to the inside of your leg, or have a strap that holds your legs away from any direct heat.

If you burn your legs on a hot spot of the four-wheeler, it kind of looks like a paper plate thrown in a camp fire. And the hair on your legs will no longer grow in the burnt area. Don't ask me how I know this. And please don't ask my Mom.
  • Back
Depending on your level of injury, you may want to invest in some kind of adjustable backrest. Whether you are driving or riding, these come in handy to not only store things (food, medical supplies, blankets, etc.), but also they provide support so you can relax and enjoy the ride without the fear of falling or getting unnecessarily sore. Make sure your four-wheeler has the space and ability to attach a back rest, and always carry extra bungees and extra padding if needed.
  • Adaptibility
Depending on your needs, there may not be a four-wheeler that comes from the factory that won't need major modifications in order to make it work for you. Plan your modifications and make sure the four-wheeler you purchase can be modified to meet your needs.

Case in point- I introduced you all to my buddy Jake Winlow in a past post. Jake lives with a C6/7 SCI, and he has one of the coolest four-wheeler set ups I've ever seen. I will post pictures below to show you what Jake and his parents have come up with to allow Jake to drive independently, which is always the goal if possible. Check it out!

Loop for the gear shift

Key keeper

Ignition/key extension

Movable/adjustable seat back

Harness on seat

Back of seat

In forward position for driving
In back position for riding

Throttle extension

As you can see- Jake and his parents did an amazing job modifying this four-wheeler. If you have any questions about specifics, please let me know and I can forward them on to Jake.

No matter the setback, get outdoors! Happy four-wheeler shopping!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Update

I have been getting a lot of questions about my book and the release date, so I wanted to take a few minutes and update everyone. I have learned so much about the writing and publishing process throughout this journey, so I will give you a timeline of what has been happening since January:

  • The first draft of the manuscript goes to the editor
  • Several months of back and forth between the writer and the editor until the manuscript is complete
  • The manuscript goes to a graphic designer for internal layout, in addition to the front and back covers and spine of the book
  • The completed project goes to a proof reader for one final edit
  • Final look from the editor
  • The book is sent to the printer and copies are available
 To say the process of having a copy of your book in your hands is quite an undertaking is definitely something I never fully understood before.  Now that I have experienced it, I will know better for the next book what kind of a time frame is reasonable.

All of that aside, the book is currently with my designer, so we are very close to print. I am crossing my fingers for a launch date before Thanksgiving, but we will see! I want the finished product to be the best it can be, so I am trying to be patient and not rush the process. As soon as I have a definite date that copies will be made available, I will let you all know.

Thank you all for your patience and support through this year. I am looking forward to sharing this labor of love with you all very soon!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Learning To Push Forward

This past Sunday, August 2nd, was the sixteen year anniversary of my ranching accident. There were times in those first few days, weeks, and months after my pitchfork moment where I refused to believe that God had a plan, especially through such a horrible experience.

This week has brought about some amazing and exciting developments in my professional life that are a direct result of that accident sixteen years ago. Looking back, I can see God's hands on every aspect of my journey, even when I thought He had abandoned me.

I recently had a VHS converted to DVD that was filmed in the days following my accident and rehabilitation in Billings, MT. I can't help but laugh as I watch it. I am skin and bones, slowly pushing an archaic tilt chair, barely able to lift the weight of my own, bandage wrapped legs, and still struggling to breath and cough without pain from my surgeries and respiratory problems. I can't believe how far I have come.

I see so many old friends who were instrumental in my recovery.  Knowing I wasn't alone through the whole process was such a blessing. The staff at St. Vincent was also amazing. They went above and beyond on a daily basis to make me and my family feel loved and cared for.

I feel other emotions as I watch the footage. Sadness over changed relationships, thankfulness for the love and support I was shown, grief for other families who are going through similar circumstances. I honestly don't know who needs to see this video clip, but I feel the need to share it. Maybe it will encourage someone else to never give up, to trust that there is a plan bigger than yourself, and to realize that there is an amazing life waiting for you if you can just find the courage to learn to adapt and push forward.

Here is the video:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

An Adapted Life

Sixteen years ago today, I thought my life was over. One moment changed everything, and I truly believed that I was doomed to a dismal, bleak future.

I am so thankful that I have never been so wrong.

Today, to remember the last sixteen years, and to look back and celebrate how far my journey has taken me, I thought I would stand up. And go fly fishing.

Thankful for so many things, but today I am very much in love with my family, Wyoming, and adaptive equipment- three things that make my life so richly blessed.

Enjoy a short video here:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Camping From a Wheelchair

One of the highlights of our summers here in Wyoming is camping. We love the outdoors and any chance we get to be up in the mountains. As a wheelchair user, I wondered at first how this would work, but we have made some minor modifications to our cargo trailer to make it accessible and comfortable for us, and it works great!

While there are accessible RVs and campers on the market, they usually come with a huge price tag. Or they aren't quite as accessible as advertised. What we like about our trailer/toy hauler is that it works for camping, but it can be quickly swapped out to haul items as well. The ramp is great for access, and we have box springs and mattresses in the back for sleeping. I have a portable/bedside commode for Addison and I to use, and we have a table set up for our kitchen area. It wouldn't work for everyone, but it is perfect for us.

We usually take our kayaks, fly fishing rods, and/or four wheelers when we go camping. I recorded a short clip of our trailer setup as well as a few minutes of four-wheeling. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Make Some Bubbles- Para Scuba Adventure

Ever since my accident in 1999, I have loved being in the water. There is something very freeing about moving around without boundaries or barriers. Over the last 15 years, I have spent tons of time in different pools, and I have even snorkeled in Maui, but I had always assumed that scuba diving was out of the question. Until I spent some time in the Therapeutic Recreation Department at Craig Hospital. They have teamed up with A-1 Scuba & Travel Aquatics Center to offer adaptive scuba adventures for Craig patients and alumni.

After my last appointment at Craig on Friday afternoon, I headed towards A-1. The owner, Scott, used to be a physical therapist at Craig, and he is passionate about their disabled diver program. I went down the elevator and met the staff before going into the classroom to learn about the equipment I would be using. My main instructor was Joanne, and she (and the rest of the staff) was absolutely amazing.

We used a lift to get me into the pool, and once I was in, we started putting on the equipment. I had been worried about getting in to the wetsuit, but once we were in the water, it wasn't bad at all. We also put on water shoes and knee pads to protect my skin from the floor and walls of the pool. I strapped in to the BC (buoyancy compensator) and air tank before locating my regulator.

We spent the next several minutes adjusting my mask, learning the hand motions we would use to communicate under water, going over the steps to clear your mask when it gets water in it, how to safely descend and surface, etc. before getting accustomed to breathing underwater in the shallow end. Once I was comfortable with these skills, we headed in to the deep end of the pool, and that's when the real fun began. They also have underwater speakers throughout the pool, so it is an awesome sensory experience.

I really can't fully explain what an amazing experience this was, so I am hoping the video helps you to better understand how much fun I had. If you are a person living with a disability, regardless of your level of injury, I encourage you to look into adaptive scuba diving- it will change your life!

Click here to see the video on my YouTube channel, and please subscribe while you are there!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Build A Room Campaign

As many of you know, I had a life-changing experience at Craig Hospital in April. I am so excited to announce that I have teamed up with Craig to promote the "Build A Room" fundraising campaign for the month of July. We will be raising funds to build a private consultation room in the new Outpatient Clinic, and each dollar will be matched up to $50,000, thanks to an anonymous donor who also benefited from Craig's Outpatient Clinic. Please consider supporting this amazing project- every little bit helps and your donation will be doubled! If you or someone you know has been affected by a SCI or TBI, this is the project for you to rally behind and share with your friends and family.
Check out the video we made for the campaign at the link below. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Crockpot Freezer Meals

Some time ago, I came across a website touting the idea of crockpot freezer meals. I was intrigued by the concept for several reasons, but mostly for the thought it planted that it would be a great way to help out a new Mom.

I don't know about other ladies, but when I had Addison, I was too busy trying to learn how to be a good Mom to even attempt to remember how to be a good wife. Thankfully, folks from our church brought by meals, and although I (and especially Russ) was incredibly grateful, I was recovering from a C-section and sleep deprivation, and it was quite some time before I was up for making meals again.

Also, most of the meals provided were brought ready-to-go during the first week, and once they were gone, the real work started and I was on my own again. We made due after that, but I started thinking about better ways to be a bigger blessing to new Moms that would last longer and be more effective.

Enter the crockpot freezer meals. These meals can be used whenever most needed by the new parents, they last for months, and they are fool-proof, which means Dad can make dinner and even clean up by himself without catching the house on fire or further stressing out the new Mama.

Although the following meals are tailored for new Moms (i.e. nothing spicy or too many onions),  there are hundreds of recipes online to choose from. The list below will make 14 meals plus several cookie rolls, and each recipe is for 4-6 servings, depending on the recipe. You can pick and choose which recipes you want to try, or go all out and really bless someone with 2 whole weeks of meals, plus some great leftovers, depending on the size of their family.

Obviously, this idea isn't just for new parents. You could do it for someone recovering from an illness or surgery, or even just for your own family for days when you don't have time to prepare a meal. I can make all 14 meals plus the cookies in about 4 hours, but it will vary for everyone. Besides cooking the ground beef, it mostly involves chopping, opening cans, and tossing raw meat in a bag. Very simple stuff.

Here is the list I print and send with each batch of meals. I laminate it so it can stay nice and clean for the duration of however long it takes to consume the meals. I deliver the meals frozen with this list and any of the dry ingredients (rice, bow tie pasta, egg noodles, etc.) you want to include. I also include a few boxes of crockpot liners for easy cleanup.

Freezer Meals
Directions: Thaw meal in the fridge the night before.
Add liner. Cook in the crock pot on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Serving Suggestions:
Chicken & Gravy
Serve over rice
Apple Sauce BBQ Chicken
Serve with veggies/salad
Pepper Steak
Serve over rice
Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos
Serve with tortillas and taco garnishes
Beef Stew
Serve with bread
Beef Stroganoff
Serve over egg noodles
Teriyaki Chicken
Serve over rice
Marinara Chicken & Vegetables
Serve over bowtie pasta
BBQ Pork Ribs
Serve with veggies/salad
Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches
Serve on buns with Provolone cheese and chips
Scalloped Potatoes & Ham
Serve with salad
Maple Dijon Chicken Thighs
Serve with veggies/salad
Cheesy Cowboy Casserole
Melt cheddar cheese over each serving; serve with salad
Orange Chicken
Serve over rice
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Slice and bake @350 for 8-10 minutes

Here are the links to each of the meals above. I researched each of these off of different websites, and I do not take credit for any of the recipes linked below.

Recipe Links: 

  • The Beef Stew is my recipe- I just do stew meat, potato cubes, carrots, green beans, and V-8/spicy V-8.
  •  Make sure you get good quality freezer bags so they don’t leak while they are initially freezing- putting them flat on a cookie sheet or large baking dish will prevent messes in your freezer if anything does leak.
  •  I use a large glass bowl and put the freezer bag in it. The bowl will hold the bag while you fill it with ingredients. Seal the bag with no air and you can just mix it in the bag- saves on clean up!

Let me know if you make any of these and how it goes, or if you have your own crockpot freezer recipes you want to share. Enjoy!