Monday, December 9, 2013

Ms Wheelchair Tennessee 2014

The Ms Wheelchair Tennessee organization is searching for the next 

Ms Wheelchair Tennessee!!  

It could be you or someone you know!!

Are you

1) a U. S. Citizen?

2) a woman between the ages of 21-60? (Junior MWTN ages 13-20, Little MWTN ages 6-12)

3) a wheelchair user for 100% of activities performed outside your home?

4) a resident of Tennessee for the last six months before the competition?

5) able to travel throughout Tennessee and to the national Ms Wheelchair America Pageant?

If you answered yes to those 5 questions then we need YOU!!  That's right, YOU!!  

Don't waste anytime, start on your application TODAY!  Just follow this link and you will be on your way to possibly being the next Ms Wheelchair Tennessee

Do you know someone that is qualified to be the next Ms Wheelchair Tennessee? Then we need you to nominate them!!  Follow this link to nominate someone for the pageant.  Nominate a Contestant.

The 2014 Pageant will be March 22, 2014 

in Knoxville, Tennessee 

at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. 

Deadline to sign up is January 15, 2014.   

There is a $300 entire fee which covers the contestant's hotel stay, parking, and lunch for them and a companion.  You are encouraged to obtain sponsorship from friends and family or businesses for your entry fee.  (I raised my $300 in less than 4 hours by one little post on Facebook!)

Even though contestants are showcased in a pageant format, the Ms Wheelchair Tennessee pageant is not a beauty contest.  It is a competition to choose the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for people with disabilities across Tennessee.

Each contestant will take part in a day long event which includes workshops and several rounds of interviews by a panel of judges.  The day concludes with a ceremony to feature each contestant and to crown the new Ms Wheelchair Tennessee, Junior Miss Wheelchair Tennessee and Little Miss Wheelchair Tennessee
I promise whether you leave with or without a crown, this experience is one you will carry with you forever.  And, if you don't leave with a crown you can come back and compete again!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by email at  I have throughly enjoyed my time as Ms Wheelchair Tennessee and will forever be apart of the Ms Wheelchair Tennessee organization.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What It's All About

Since returning home from the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant this summer, I have stayed in contact with one very special lady who lead several workshops during the week long pageant.  Ann Eubanks lives in Nashville, TN and works with Users First (A program of United Spinal Association).

In just a few short months, Ann has helped me with several issues.  The most important one was putting me in touch with someone at Permobil who could assist with modifications to allow me to be more independent in my new power chair.

After retuning home from the pageant, Ann wrote a beautiful blog about the pageant.  I encourage you to take a few moments to read it.  Ann was really able to put into words what this pageant is really all about.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

East Hamilton Welcomes MWA Jenny Adams

I found out in October that MWA Jenny Adams was going to be in Huntsville, AL the first week of November. I immediately wanted to plan something for her to do in my hometown. She couldn't be this close to Chattanooga and not come for a visit. 

I instantly thought that my sister could help. She is a teacher at East Hamilton Middle/High School, the largest school in Hamilton county. Michelle arranged for Jenny to speak to the ENTIRE middle school. We are talking one thousand plus students. What an awesome opportunity!!

The week before Jenny was to arrive, she called me in a panic. There was an issue with her transportation to Chattanooga and she now had no way to get here!! I have been working with Jeromy at Mobility Works in Chattanooga about  acquiring my own transportation. I knew if anyone could help last minute, Jeromy could. 

I called Jeromy and explained the situation to him. Without hesitation, he said no problem I will send my driver Steve to pick her up in Huntsville and bring her to Chattanooga....and all at NO CHARGE!!!  I was so excited I could have done cartwheels across the floor (well, not really, but you get the point).

Just as promised Steve picked Jenny and Carmen up this morning in Huntsville and dropped them off at East Hamilton. 

We started off with a tour of the school given by three high school students. East Hamilton is HUGE and super nice. We toured the middle and high school, looked in on the media center (it was called the library back in my day) and the band room and stopped to chat with the choir class. 

We finished up back at Michelle's room for lunch. Her and Margay fixed all kinds of homemade yummies for us. Michelle thought of everything. The table was decorated in red, white, and blue for Ms Wheelchair America. Michelle tried to get some rhododendrons (Washington's state flower) for the table but since they weren't in season, Margay was out late one night with a flashlight gathering pine cones.  Jenny and Carmen went home with a bag of Moonpies since they are made locally here in Chattanooga.  There was also a pic of Jenny and me from the MWA pageant. Jenny and Carmen really enjoyed our southern hospitality.  (I told you Michelle thought of everything!!)

After lunch, Jenny went downstairs for a special visit with the CDC kids. They thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Jenny. Michelle and I headed to the gym to finalize all the details for Jenny's speech with the middle school students. 

At one o'clock, the kids began pouring into the gym. They kept coming and coming!!  I was so proud of my home town and my sister and her school for so graciously hosting MWA. I knew what a positive impact Jenny would have on these kids. I was blown away when the PTA president came in with a gift and a donation check for Jenny and the Ms Wheelchair America organization. So thoughtful!!

Jenny's presentation was absolutely wonderful! She shared her life story with the students and told about all the struggles and triumphs she has endured along the way. Jenny spoke about what a great experience elementary school was for her. She also shared that the same was not true for her middle and high school years. Other kids picked on her and spoke unkind words to her. As hard as these years were for her, she has had much better years since high school. College was a fabulous experience where the other students embraced and encouraged her. 

Jenny told the students at East Hamilton that words have power. I hope each student was able to walk away from today knowing that their words could build someone up or tear someone down. I think Jenny made them realize the right choice is to use your words to build someone up.  After the program, everyone wanted to have their picture made with Ms Wheelchair America.  

Thank you so much East Hamilton for welcoming my friend Jenny Adams, Ms Wheelchair America!!  Thank you Jenny for coming back to Chattanooga!!  Thank you my sweet sister, Michelle Bettis for making today happen!!  Thank you Margay McGee for helping with all the details today!!  Thank you so much Jeromy and Steve from Mobility Works for getting Jenny from Huntsville to Chattanooga and back to Huntsville!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Three Crowns Come Together

Chattanooga had the honor of a visit from the reigning Ms. Wheelchair America, Jenny Adams on Wednesday, October 9th.  It was wonderful to spend some time with Jenny, Ann Eubanks (Users First), and Jean-Marie Lawrence (MWTN 2012).

Jean-Marie wrote a great blog that was placed on the Users First sight about our day together.  Follow the link below to check it out.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mirror, Mirror

While in Houston at the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant this summer, I was asked to be apart of a show that is filmed locally called 'Mirror, Mirror'.   I just watched the episode again.   It is so good!!  I promise it is well worth the 8 minutes it takes to watch the video.  In those few minutes, you will learn so much about each contestant and how they over come their disability everyday.  I encourage you to take a few moments to watch the episode and learn about some of the Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 contestants.  Click on the link below to view Mirror, Mirror.  I promise you won't be disappointed.  :-)

Mirror, Mirror: Ms. Wheelchair America 2014

Monday, October 28, 2013


As a way to close out disability awareness month, student Martin Davis hosted a diversability forum for UTC students.  The forum was designed as a way for UTC students and faculty to learn more about individuals with disabilities and their daily life. I was invited to be a part of the panel and discuss my disability, limb girdle muscular dystrophy.

Host Martin Davis started the evening by sharing his dream of how the forum came to be. It was easy to see how much this evening meant Martin.

Martin educated the audience about a condition he was born with called spina bifida.  He bravely shared intimate details of his childhood.  Elementary and middle school days were the hardest for Martin. Children can be so cruel at that age and it's hard to fit in if you have a disability. As I looked out into the audience I knew that Martin did not have to worry about his current classmates being cruel to him.  I instantly knew which audience members were Martin's friends. They beamed with pride and a few of them were even filming his performance, which was absolutely fabulous. I learned so much thanks to Martin being willing to share his story.

Next on the panel was Preston. Preston shared his story of living with autism.  It was all thanks to an article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press about autism that led Preston to his diagnosis.  He educated the audience about the autism spectrum.  Preston spoke about different body mannerisms that people with autism can show. He also spoke very highly of the Mosaic program that the Disability Resource Center at UTC
designed to help students with autism.

Allie was the first female on the panel and spoke about dwarfism. Instead of discussing the medical side of dwarfism, Allie spoke about the social issues that come along with having a disability.  She not only spoke about how cruel children could be but how insensitive adults could be as well.  Allie said that random strangers try to sneak photos of her all the time because she is a 'little person'.  Standing 4 feet 5 inches tall, Allie is a determined young lady who wants to be seen for the person she is and not for the disability that she has.

I was the final person on the panel. I immediately had to apologize to the audience because I knew I was not going to be nearly as funny as Allie had been. As time was quickly running out, I briefly told my story about being diagnosed with limb girdle muscular dystrophy. I talked about all the things that I have done in spite of living with a disability. I shared a little about the wonderful Ms Wheelchair Tennessee organization. Since educating children about individuals with disabilities has been such a huge part of my platform, I shared a brief summary of my school visits with the audience. The audience and panel members all agreed that educating our children about individuals with disabilities is something that needs to be done.

I was honored to be a part of tonight's forum. I want to thank Martin Davis for allowing me to be a part of this. I hope this becomes an annual event at UTC that grows each year.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Even though I have been exceptionally quiet on social media the last couple of months, I have still been doing several Ms Wheelchair Tennessee appearances. I will be doing brief updates of them so you will be all caught up. 

I must admit I've been preoccupied with several personal matters.  It seems as though every few years I go through an adjustment period.  There are changes in my life that I must deal with, some are pleasant and others are not.  Regardless, changes must be made so I can continue to move forward with my life.  

The most important personal matter I have been dealing with was planning my daughter's second birthday. It amazes me at how quickly time has past since she was born.  I spent the better part of September reflecting on the memories of the past year and just how much my baby has grown, not only in size but also in her abilities.  As bittersweet as watching your baby grow is, I promise this was the more pleasant change I was referring to.          

One of the other personal matters I was referring to was my ability to drive.  Driving has always been an important part of my life.  I must admit I inherited the love of cars and I couldnt wait to drive.  I was at the DVM the day I turned 15 to get my learners permit and the day I turned 16 to get my drivers license.  Being able to drive has always been a large piece of my independence.  I love being able to come and go as I please. 

Since 2010 I have been driving a Yukon XL with an adaptive drivers seat and a wheelchair lift in the back.  The front seat would turn, come out of the car and lower to 18 inches off the ground.  I was able to transfer from my wheelchair to the front seat and then remotely drive my wheelchair back to the lift.  It was AMAZING (and not a minivan).when it worked.  On Thursday May 23, there was a malfunction with the seat.  I was unable to drive until the seat could be repaired.   Unfortunately, this repair was not complete until August. 

After almost three months of not driving I wondered if I would still have the strength I needed to safely operate a vehicle.  I drove to work and back twice after the seat was fixed.  It felt wonderful to be behind the wheel of a car again.  I had really missed not being able to drive!!  Those two short trips to work and back allowed me to realize something else, if someone were to slam on their brakes in front of me, I wasn’t 100% sure that I would be able to keep from hitting them. 

The time had come that I needed to look into driving with hand controls.  Since August, I have been consumed with regaining by ability to drive.  I am now one step closer to (but still several weeks away) being behind the wheel again.    

I will do my best to fill you in on everything that has been going on during the last couple of months.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Adaptive Bicycling

Stay with me....I promise I will get to the bicycling.  :-)

Some people would say boating is a luxury. With that said, water skiing could be considered an extreme sport/activity. In order to water ski, you need a lot of things to happen. First, you need a body of water. Living in the Chattanooga area, that is not an issue. I live only a couple minutes from the lake and work at a marina. Next, you must have a boat. This is a huge expense that not everyone can afford. (I have access to boats but do not own a boat.) Even with water and a boat, you still can't ski!!  You must have the necessary equipment in order to ski. Honestly, I'm not even sure what all that entails. I know you need a life jacket, ski, ski rope, and some harness (or something) to attach the rope to the boat. Surely, I'm leaving something out. 

I tell you all this because SPARC provides all these things (and more) for individuals with disabilities in the Chattanooga area. SPARC allowed me to participate in an extreme activity that I thought I would never be able to do again. I want you to know that I I had a blast water skiing and I don't want what I say next to take away from that. 

My family used to enjoy many different lake activities over the years.  As my LGMD2B progressed, letting go of these lake activities was pretty easy because I realized what a luxury it was. I was fortunate to have those old memories and experiences tucked away in my mind. It's not so hard to let go of something that most Americas have never participated in. 

What is hard, is to letting go of something that almost everyone has experienced....riding a bike. I have wonderful childhood memories of riding my bike all over our neighborhood. And taking my bike with us when we would go camping as a family. I rode my bike everywhere!! To let go of something that was such a large part of your childhood, something that you will never be able to do with your child, now that's hard, but I made peace with that fact some time ago. 

Last Monday, SPARC once again preformed a miracle (in my opinion). I rode a bike, with my husband and our daughter!!  I don't have the words to tell you how absolutely amazing it was to share that experience with my family. Bike riding with my daughter was just another activity I thought I would have to miss out on. How wrong I was!!  Thanks to the outstanding people who are apart of the SPARC program, my family can now be like so many others and enjoy a long lived American family tradition, bicycling. 

The greatest thing about SPARC is the volunteers!  Everyone there wants to help and they really do!! I always worry about Jeremy having to pick me up. I worry about his back. I don't want him to hurt himself when he is helping me. Last Monday, I didn't have worry about that at all because two of the volunteers transferred me from my wheelchair to the bike. I know Jeremy doesn't mind having to help me but I'm so glad he got a break, even if it was only for a few hours. 

I was placed on a two person bike where you sit side by side. Both bikers can pedal, brake, and steer. Talk about sharing control!! I first rode with Jerry (he and his wife Debbie are in charge of SPARC) and another volunteer followed us to make sure we didn't have any problems. Jerry is such a sweetheart!!  He wanted to make sure I was doing okay the whole time. We had to stop and adjust my seat a couple of times because I was having a hard time trying to pedal. Once I started getting the hang of it, Jeremy took over for Jerry. 
By this point I was getting fairly good at pedaling. After so many years, being back on a bike was exhilarating.  Granted, I wasn't doing it by myself, it was team work. And really, isn't that what life is all about? Working together with others for a positive outcome? 

My bike ride last Monday wasn't how I remembered riding a bike as a child, it was so much better because I was able to do it with my husband and our daughter. We giggled together as a family. We made new memories on that bike. A week later and I'm still smiling because this is an activity we can do together every other Monday with our new SPARC family. 
Both the adaptive water skiing and adaptive bicycling were truly an unforgettable experience because of the volunteers at SPARC. The time that they volunteer really does make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in the Chattanooga area. Thank you seems so insufficient for all the hard work they give to strangers for no pay.  SPARC is a nonprofit organization we should all support anyway we can.  They have allowed this girl to enjoy an extreme sport and an American family tradition.  Thank you so much for these fabulous experiences!!  We are over the moon to be a new part of the SPARC family. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Food City Race Nights (Part Two)

Thursday, August 22 we took our time getting ready at the hotel in Knoxville.  There were a couple of special shops that I wanted to check out when they opened at 10:00 and then the plan was to meet Jeremy for lunch.

Mom, Brooke, and I strolled over to Market Square.  We made our first stop at the Bliss store....that's right there is a Bliss store in Knoxville.  It is a cute little gift shop with unique little gifts.  When you come in the store, the sales girls always say 'Welcome to Bliss'.  My mom and Brooke, of course, had to tell them that I was Bliss.  Lol!!  I love having such an unusual, pretty name.  We all left will a little something special from the Bliss store.

The next stop was across the plaza into the Bliss Home store.  Two Bliss stores in one know we were in a cool part of town.  Lol!!  This was almost a repeat from the previous store as we were greeted with a 'Welcome to Bliss Home' and again, my mom and Brooke informed the cashier that I was Bliss.  We are so silly, I know.  Jeremy surprised us in the Bliss Home store.  It was lunch time already!

We headed down to Soccer Taco for some yummy Mexican food.  It is very hard for me to EVER pass up Mexican food.  After lunch it was time to hit the road, we had an event in Bristol to make it to!!

One more pit stop along the way to the Reese Group headquarters in Kingsport, Tennessee.  Brooke and I met all the wonderful people my mom works with.  It's always nice to put a name with a smiling face.  Most of the girls in the office even follow my Facebook page.  I  love knowing there are 'fans' all over the state!!

We arrived at Bristol and a Food City volunteer showed us to our table.  This event was much different and larger than the event in Knoxville.  It was outside on State Street.  One side of the street is in Tennessee and the other side of the street is in Virginia, so you can literally be in two states at once!!  The autograph tables where placed at different points along the sidewalk and not all together like in Knoxville.  When we saw our table was all alone on the sidewalk, we pulled the map out to find our friend Chris Lafferty.

Chris and his band instantly welcomed us.  I asked if we could hang out with them and they loved the idea.  We had a great time talking with the band and all the fans.  I even got to test out the most awesome pink guitar.  I always say real men can wear pink, now I need to add that real men can play a pink guitar, too.

I was even asked to do TWO different interviews with a couple of local news channels.  What a great way to spread the word about the Ms Wheelchair Tennessee organization.

As the time for our autograph session came to a close, we stopped by the hospitality room before we hit the road.  Talk about perfect timing!!  I was able to meet one of racings greatest, Rusty Wallace.  I got his autograph and had my picture made with him.

When we thought it couldn't get much better than that, in walked Jeff Gordan!!  I got another autograph and my picture made with an all star driver.  I even told him that we had a mutual friend.  Who would have ever thought I could say that, but it's true!!

Mom, Brooke, and I left on cloud nine.  It was another super successful Ms Wheelchair Tennessee event.  Thanks Food City for letting me be a part of it.  :-)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This & That Interview With Sarah Jennings

If you missed This & That today on News Channel 9, I have posted the interview on You Tube.

I hope you enjoy and share, share, share!!

Annabelle has been walking around the house all night saying,

"Mommy's on TV!!"

She's too sweet!!

Food City Race Nights (Part One)

Wednesday, August 21 was the first day of Food City's annual customer appreciation event.  My mom works for Reese Food Group and arranged for me to be apart of Food City Race Night. I was going to be signing autographs alongside race car drivers.  How cool is that?

My mom and Brooke (BFF) left the house around 11:30 to head to Knoxville. We didn't make it far before our first stop. In Cleveland, mom needed to run in a grocery store to check on something for work and she wanted to stop by Kohl's to look at luggage for Annabelle and Lila. No worries, I found cute shoes for Annabelle and me while we were there. After a stop by Chick-fil-a we were north bound on I-75. 

We arrived at the Knoxville Expo and parked in the back with the trucks and trailers that hauled the cars in. I, of course, wanted to have my picture made with a few of them. 

We made our way inside to the hospitality room for a little snack. Jeremy was off work and hooked up with us at that point. With our bellies full we were ready to explore. All four of us oohed and awwed over all the cars and mingled with everyone at the booths. 

I meet a super sweet lady at the Dixie Stampede booth. This is a Dolly Parton owed attraction.  I really want to connect with Dolly Parton to see if she could add a couple of books to Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.  This is a program that is free to sign up for.  After signing up, your child receives one free book a month for the first 5 years of their life.  It is a truly wonderful program.  I would love to see a couple of the books that I read when I visit elementary schools added to the list.  What a great way for children to learn about disabilities.  I was given a name and number of someone that could be a good contact for Dolly!!

As the time neared for the autograph sessions, we made our way to the tables.  To my surprise, Food City had a sign with MY name on it!!  They were treating me just like the drivers!!

I was seated next to the nicest guy, Chris Lafferty.  He was so easy to chat with and very down to earth, oh and he's easy on the eyes too!!  As the fans came through the line I began to realize that he was a pretty busy and popular guy!  Chris races the #89 Ford F-150 in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.  He also has a television show that airs from his garage in Concord, NC called Chris Lafferty's Motorsports TV.  Oh and in his spare time, he has a band called '89 Reasons'.  WOW!! WOW!! and WOW!!  I would have never known all these facts if the fans hadn't been mentioning them as they came down the line.  I must say I am now a life long Chris Lafferty fan.

We met drivers young and old.  One of the gentleman was a driver in the last beach race.  I didn't even realize there was such a thing.  This is such a wonderful event that Food City puts on for its customers.  I would love to come back year after year.  :-)

At the opposite end of the autograph line was Knoxville's own Trevor Bayne.  Trevor is best known for being the youngest driver to win the Dayton 500 in 2011 at the mere age of 20.  An awesome lady that works with Food City arranged for me to meet Trevor after the autograph session was over.  Ladies, I must admit he's awfully young but he's cute!!  

All and all it was a fabulous day!