When an American celebrates Thanksgiving in Europe

Happy Thanksgiving from Europe

A Tribute to Jimmy Fallon

Thank you Europe, for teaching me there are so many different ways key cards can fail to turn on unfamiliar light switches.

Thank you Europe, for showing me such colorful styles of driving, swerving stopping and speeding on all your autobahns, side streets, coasts and bridges.

Thank you Europe, for making sure I’m always aware when I don’t have my Passport to fill out a form at the bank or pay for a travel ticket.
Thank you Europe, for teaching me how to say “backed up tummy” in six different languages.

Thank you Europe, for all your delicious, bitter, full, sweet and sometimes noxious ways to consume alcohol, where it’s for a festival, dinner, breakfast, after dinner, before heading out in the snow, coming in from the snow, going out to the beach, at the beach, meeting a new person, traveling in (x) city, coming from church, at a farm, at a lake, when it’s Monday, when it’s Friday…

Thank you Europe, for closing every grocery store, shop, gas station and restaurant to remind me it’s Sunday.

Thank you Europe, for phone services that go into international “roaming” mode when traveling just a few hours away.

Thank you Europe, for schedules that close businesses in the middle of the day, but only on certain days of the week and those days change week to week and sometimes just close for a week altogether.

Thank you Europe, for trains, buses and planes that allow me to meet all sorts of colorful characters who each have very interesting smells.

Thank you Europe, for the shared bathrooms in hostels to make sure standards stay flexible when it comes to cleanliness and personal space.

Thank you Europe, for all the interesting ways to cook and sometimes not cook sausage and potatoes.

Thank you Europe, for wine. Nothing more to be said.

Thank you Europe, for each country that boasts having the BEST chocolate, wine, beer, dancing, cheese, leather, nightlife, parks, meat dishes, shoes, pasta…


And now the real thanks

Thank you Europe, for showing me more sides of humanity that I could have known, that people respect, accept and welcome a girl in a wheelchair no matter the country, language or cultural differences. Thank you Europe, for showing me that love is the true universal language and is accepted everywhere. Thank you Europe, for the travel and learning that has allowed me to grow from a disabled girl learning how to live in an able bodied world to a disabled woman, proud and capable of conquering life no matter where.

So.. What should we Talk about?

The natural progression of conversation for Dusty and I seems similar to what many couples experience growing from dating to marriage and going through hardships. There’s the intoxicating infatuated whispers and phone calls that last for hours, then the sobering talks of truth and shared hope for your futures, the first exciting proclamations of doing real “life” things together and the doubt-filled disagreements that inevitably follow.

 

Recently, we found ourselves disagreeing almost constantly. There wasn’t an aspect of life maintenance that we weren’t talking about, however we never felt further apart. As I wrote about in a post on arguing in marriage, it’s ok to have conflict when you’re trying to do complicated things together. There’s nothing uncomplicated or simple about trying to live with a new disability, especially when it’s two people trying to do it together. But when began to do nothing but disagree, we talked about what could be going wrong. And disagreed some more.

 

Norway

Norway

Then it clicked. When we weren’t talking about where the military was moving us next or if he was able to get that leave for our next holiday or whatever paraplegic what was bothering my where, we weren’t talking at all.

 

It’s a common trap and the reason that we’ve seen many of our friends’ parents become divorced; after years of just talking about work, house, kids or cars, when couples are once again faced with alone time they realize they have nothing more to talk about. I even remember thinking “yes, but what Dusty and I have is so incredibly special and it’s totally true love and God wants us together so laws of the universe don’t even apply to us, so there”. And then I would bounce off with my Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand.

 

No matter the strength of the love or uniqueness of the couple, sometimes conversations take effort. That’s not an indication that something is wrong, it’s an indication that the two people are trying. I’d rather have effort over ease any day, it means that we’re both invested in our marriage. For better or for worse.

 

We truly do have plenty to talk about. I’m *fingers crossed* getting a Great Dane service dog in a few months, we’ve experienced countless weirdness in just as many countries, we have friends that are getting married/popping out kids/moving to the unknown… but we had gotten so comfortable in our groove of only talking about the things we needed to talk about before the next day and hadn’t made time for anything else. It’s like this one sweater I have from college that has permanent coffee and Nutella spills.. while comfortable, this is not a place to stay.

 

So now we have a rule. Unless there’s something pressing, we wait awhile to talk about life things when we get home at the end of the day. For at least the first two hours in the evening, topics like our upcoming purchase of a car or where we’re planning on renting in Missouri when we temporarily move there in the spring all off limits. Instead, I tell him about the super happy big ol’ dog I met and he tells me about weird news he read (that’s why we decided to go to Iceland in January, after he read about the guy he took a GoPro down into the erupting volcano). We’re not the most productive couple by making this change, but who cares. We have more important Internet GIFS to make us laugh together.

Bergen, Norway

Bergen, Norway

Navigating Flying

 

Flying with a physical disability may be a daunting part of traveling and even more so when nothing is in your primary language, but never fear. The universality of disabilities has allowed people in chairs to fly around the world for decades now with relative ease. I began flying independent of my husband less than a year from my accident and now have flown internationally without accompaniment. Accessible traveling is in the air!

  • First and foremost, let the airline know that you want/need assistance when you book your ticket. They need to know you’re coming so that they can have all the moving pieces of boarding you onto the plane in place for your flight. This site has some GREAT information about your rights as a disabled passenger and what to understand about luggage, seating, etc. When you call the airline, they will ask for specs of your wheelchair; know the weight and dimensions in the metric system conversion. Ask for an aisle seat to make for an easier transfer and if possible, a seat closer to the front. The people of friendshipcircle.org have a great pre-flight checklist that has more universal tips for all types of special needs.
  •  Some of the assistance available to a person with a disability is help carrying your bags, an escort through security and to the gate, and assurance always be in a comfortable environment. Physically disabled passengers go through a separate security check, so you won’t have to wait in the line! Make sure you have bagged and pulled out any medical supplies as well, so that there won’t be any confusion going through security.
  • Once you get to the gate, your airline will have already been informed that you’ll be flying by the people who helped you through security. They will be boarding you first, before everyone else, and you’ll be the last to leave. If you use a chair, you’ll have to transfer to the very skinny, not so comfortable airline chair when you board the plane and your wheelchair will be stowed underneath (so make sure there’s nothing attached to it you’ll need!). Take your seat cushion or it will come back filthy. After the flight, you’ll be escorted again to your next departure location.
  • **NOTE: This whole process takes extra time. You must be at your gate no later than 45 minutes before they board other passengers and expect to arrive at checked bags at least a half hour after everyone else has left the plane when you land.

Don’t fear the budget airlines! Germanwings and Ryanair have been absolutely accommodating and as comfortable of an experience as expected with a budget airline. For Germanwings, they have barrier-frei accommodations that can be booked online. Every airline, no matter the price of their tickets, has a call line and a way to make their flight accommodating for a person in a chair. And that’s what’s important.

 

FreeWheel! Wheelchair Attachments for Easier Travel

Some of the best investments to be made for mobility disabilities for travel are in attachments and accessories. FreeWheel is a wheelchair attachment; a third wheel to lift those casters off the cobblestones that fits on the footplate and can be carried behind the back plate when not in use. It’s a lifesaver and this video was made as a shout-out.