A Bag Made For Crutches

Crutches, Walkers, Canes all share a few things in common: bags carried on them flop and bang against them, swing wildly impacting balance, and break just about anything. Enter the Advantage Crutch Bag. A bit steep in price, but a design and durability that has proven resilient enough to handle my gorilla capabilities. It allows me to go anywhere I want without the burden of managing a purse or leaving things behind. Many people that are disabled find themselves frequently waiting patiently for family and friends. For various reasons, I often find myself pushing everyone to go on ahead of me and experience the things that I can’t. “I’ll be fine,” I say, “I’m happy to sit and read!” That is why this is a game changer for me, I can now take along a puzzle, magazine, book, or whatever else by slipping it in alongside my wallet. The weight distribution is noticeably different without the pendulum affect, and I don’t find myself off-balance when walking. The leverage also makes the items being hauled seem lighter, because they are stilled and attached securely.

I have the largest size and it is not as bulky as I had anticipated. There are two smaller sizes, however, to fit the need of the walker or crutches. (I even attach this to my scooter.)

*Please remember when considering for yourself or a loved one:

a) Ashly is an amputee at nearly the hip level of her right leg;
b) Ashly is on crutches or in a scooter 100% of the time;
c) Ashly has been an amputee for thirty years;
d) Ashly is still young and active in her thirties;
e) The crutches that Ashly uses are forearm crutches;
f) What works for Ashy may not work for you;
g) Ashly receives no incentives, gifts, or compensation for reviews, advice, or mention of any product or company in these features.

*Product, person, and organization endorsements and reviews are not compensated, neither are they to be interpreted or considered as professional, legal, or medical advice. Neither Crutchprints.com nor Ashly Ash has interests, holdings, political affiliations or other ties with persons, corporations, or other entities referenced. Neither Crutchprints.com nor Ashly Ash has received free product(s), sample(s), or compensation(s), or service(s) for postings unless otherwise disclosed.
**All recommendations and advice that are posted on Crutchprints.com will be based strictly on personal experience and opinion and should not be taken or interpreted as legal or medical advisement under any circumstances.

Book Review: The Fall and Redemption of Shadowmere by Matt Bohlman

Bohlman lays out a parable that is brief, to the point, and filled with mysteries and treasures of God’s love. The commentary he provides for more than half of the book is designed to allow the reader an opportunity to fully digest the principles that are laid out within the story. What was the cross really about? What is God’s love, really? Overall, I liked the idea of this book more than the actual book. I had a difficult time matching the principles provided in the commentary to the story. This book should be treated as a personal devotional and approached with care, contemplation, and a mind set on reflection with research. I’ve no doubt that given a second reading in the right environment and the right commitment that this book could easily become one of my favorites.

A Smidgen of a Hopeful ‘Maybe’

Many of you have seen my recent video where I share about my friend Kara. She sent me a package of left shoes, and in the second box stuffed some purses, self care items, and books she was finished with. It touched me so deeply and made me feel loved and cared for. The thing that no one knew about this shipment, however, was that it had some slippers. I needed new slippers – or rather I wanted new slippers, one can hardly call something like slippers a need. Rather than buy a new pair I had mentioned it in passing to the Lord. Not even in a prayer, really, just an acknowledgement as I went about my day and shared things with him. I don’t recall even asking. No one else knew this because it was such a small thing, and Kara’s exact text to me was “I have some slippers…”. All the way from the midwest, she felt I may be interested in slippers. I praised the Lord for his speaking to/through Kara and moved on.

Another thing that I have been trying to do this year is to play the piano in public. More specifically, I attended a hymn sing and enjoyed it so much that I am trying to smooth my skill enough to be an accompaniment. I’ve also searched for an Enya song but it has been sold out for so long I stopped looking. I’m not nearly as brave as I should be as far as playing in public due to some rejections and now I seem to fumble every time I know someone else is even in the room. Last week, I was wrestling with this problem: should I give up my goal? Should I stop trying to be something I’m not? I was undecided when another box showed up from Kara. It was a box of piano music. Two days after praying I had this box of music in front of me and it hit me…hard. I mean the whole nine yards of goosebumps and tears stinging my eyes kind of hard.

The only connection I have with Kara is having served on a board of directors together. I’ve met her once in person and attended a handful of video conferences with her. For some reason, she has wedged in and been a true friend to me across the distance of several states. Kara emanates joy and radiates the love of Jesus. She seems to know some of the pain in my heart without me sharing the details. I accredit this to God’s merciful kindness being displayed to me through her rather than telepathy. If she were closer, she would be just the person I would have a blast meeting for coffee then hitting up some bargain shops!

I used to think that I could sense Lord nudging me in certain directions and I felt he used me to bring joy to others the way Kara was doing for me. I used to feel so confident in the fact that even if I was wrong Jesus would see my heart and correct my path. Up until 2017, I never doubted in my ability to hear clearly and walk in the way of the Lord. It never occurred to me that if I messed up, I could hurt others in the process. After all, God knew my heart’s intentions and he would make those paths straight, right? Then, we began to foster children at what I felt so strongly was the Lord’s leading. It was something we considered for years but decided to act on in what I believed was God’s timing. 

The kids we fostered were in a place of abuse so horrid that they didn’t know how to use a spoon or take a bath. They knew one language: physical dominance. No amount of reasoning, love, kindness, seemed to get through. And that was ok, I was sure that my love and God’s strength would outlast the hate placed in them. “I can do all things in Christ,” was my motto. Week after week, month after month, I started to physically wear down from the violent, physical attacks and abuse. I wasn’t angry – it wasn’t the fault of those children. I needed to hang in tight, outlast their pain until love could penetrate the tough exteriors. 

It didn’t happen soon enough. My body was weaker than my mind and I realized that one day the amount of danger I was really in. I realized that one day I would not be on-guard and the attempt to push me down the steps would work and maybe kill me or disable me further. I realized one day I wouldn’t be stronger than him or faster than him, maybe after a night of no sleep. Each night as I locked my bedroom door so I could lay my head down safely, I felt at risk: had I locked it? Was I safe? Did he know where I kept the spare key? How many knives, scissors, pencils or other items used as weapons could I possibly hide under lock and key? Each day I became more tired and weaker. My husband changed from his night shift job to try to accommodate me and help a bit more, but it was too late. Crisis intervention interceded and after 5 days crunching my disabled body in a chair to sleep in the ICU with the child, he was hoisted off for high level, specialized care. I had failed.

Now, before you respond, I know what you are going to say. “Ashly, the short year you were there saved their lives. You made an impact that no one else could. The seeds were sown. Who knows what God has in store for those children? You gave them love and a home when no one else did. You can’t say you failed.” I know that I didn’t fail, I know all of these things. But you know what else? I still feel like I failed. Even though I trust God completely and my faith has never wavered in belief, I wonder constantly if I misheard him and perhaps launched myself into a foster care system without God’s will behind me. Maybe my mistake messed up the lives of two children because I was not physically strong enough to outlast the evil, causing them more trauma which resulted in the State placing them elsewhere. Would God intentionally let them be hurt like that? It is hard to say yes or no, the easier answer is that I didn’t hear correctly and I made a mistake.

The pain of all of that is very real, and I thought it would subside, but it hasn’t. Three years later and I am back to square one in regards to having no children to enjoy/invest in or legacy to pass down. Several friends are envious and point out the peace, quiet, and freedom that we have here without children. But the grass is always greener, right? Yes, we do have and appreciate a slower pace of life centered on ourselves, but Christmas morning it doesn’t feel peaceful it feels downright empty. My husband and I are left grappling with what life looks like for two people that have no children and wanted them badly. We are now in our mid-thirties, and cancer stole that from me (and him) too. Who was I to think that I could hear from the Lord? Who was I to think that I could pray and ask and then actually deserve to receive children?

Of course, none of this has wavered my faith in the Lord. It doesn’t make me resentful or jealous of those that do have kids. Why would I be sad to see children born into loving families after our firsthand knowledge of how many children are born into homes shrouded in evil? No, I celebrate children, pregnancies, and growing families. My desire for a family would never begrudge another of fulfillment of this, that is an ugly jealousy that I am thankful has not pierced my heart. But this experience of emptiness has altered my faith in myself, I now have none. Maybe that is where the problem was to begin with, maybe I should never have believed in my own ability. Ever since 2017, this has made me feel distant and while my daily life has not changed, my prayers stay consistent, I somehow feel disconnected. Unworthy of a calling or a purpose. Unsure of him ever using me. Discarded. No amount of ‘action’ or ‘doing’ seems to fix it.

So opening the box from Kara and seeing all the piano music, I stood with my mouth agape. Kara’s sensitivity and ability to send along something on a whim that was so very clearly a whisper placed in her from the Holy Spirit, was beautiful. I used to be like that. Why not now? If Kara can hear and feel the Lord from the Midwest concerning my life, albeit unintentionally, why do I doubt my own ability to follow Jesus still? These two packages have been a small, tiny, candle at the end of this vast tunnel. Maybe, just maybe, I won’t have answers for my pain, maybe I will never know if I made a mistake fostering. Maybe I will never understand why I can’t have kids but abusive women can. But maybe I will still get past this someday and find purpose outside of procreation. Maybe, just maybe, I will one day be a useful vessel. All I can do is trust and hope and wait. 

Book Review: Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes

In this fantastic demonstration of female strength and dedication, Larkin returns from Afghanistan with severe PTSD and depression after losing her best friend. Charged with clearing out her friend’s storage, she finds a diary from a soldier in the civil war. What makes this soldier unusual, however, is the fact that she was forced to operate under disguise due to her gender. Be prepared to fall in love with Emily and other female soldiers based on actual historical figures. Learn the hardships and the reality of coming home from the front lines. Present-day character development needs some work and several loose ends are unsatisfactorily abandoned. The sudden ending does remind me a bit of PTSD and the reality that it is not simply healed and one doesn’t ‘arrive’ but rather it is a journey. A November 2019 choice for Once Upon A Book Club, the gifts that accompanied this book were appropriate, adorable, and yummy!

Your Last 24

Graphics courtesy of Kendall R. Keeler

Featured in the Chester County Press and on my recent book review of Kendall Keeler’s debut I was blessed to have a conversation with the author himself. Kendall agreed to sit down with all of us here on Crutchprints in the Sand and talk a little more about the first book in his Legacy Journal Series, Your Last 24 and the unique message it carries. Kendall has generously offered his book as a free download when signing up for his mailing list. You can find this here: kendallkeeler.com. Trust me, even if you read the electronic version like I did, you will want a paperback in your hands for quick reference! More on this later.

Nothing quite rearranges your priorities like the possibility of death. Amputees and cancer survivors are just two groups of people that have been forced by life’s circumstances to face the possibility and reality of death. We have pondered its meaning, our existence, and answered hard questions in search of peace. If we are fortunate to survive we often walk away from death and all its reminders – hoping to escape its grip and pain forever. This book blew my existing resolutions out of the water and allowed me to take another look at mortality without the baggage of pain I thought I would carry. I hope through this interview and your subsequent reading of this book that you will find the message also enriches your life and relationships.

Crutchprints: What made you pick this topic and does this mean? 

My experience at age 25, when the death of a close friend shocked me into asking myself the question, “What if today was my last 24 hours?”  Over the years I’ve discovered the benefits of courageously facing my own inevitable death.  I believe that others will benefit if they do the same. 

First, it’s important for me to talk about the value of questions. In my book, I explain this in more detail, but the concise version is this: the person who is the voice in your head, asking you the questions that you are attempting to answer in the way you live your life, is the person who is ultimately controlling your motivations, your actions, and ultimately controlling your life. In Your Last 24: Preparing for the Inevitable, I invite my readers to develop a personally scripted Last 24 question. By this I mean, if you want to take control of your own destiny, you need to control the questions in your mind. Developing a Last 24 question is an important step toward preparing yourself for your last 24 hours, whenever they might come.

Crutchprints: Are last 24 hours questions just a matter of what a person finds valuable?

A Last 24 question is not just about recognizing what a person values, it is about consciously creating a sense of urgency for living those values. We often have wonderful intentions but instead of doing the difficult work of living our values, we procrastinate. The Last 24 question is intended to create an internal alert to daily live our values and ultimately to minimize end-of-life regrets.

Crutchprints: A lot of us here on Crutchprints are disabled people that have faced death, support persons, and people who are chronically ill. What would you hope that we take away from this book?

The intention of this book is not an attempt to comfort those who are currently facing death, these people are already thinking about death – probably daily.  Other authors have already written excellent books to provide comfort for the grieving.  This book is intended to be an alarm for those who are thinking and acting like they don’t need to think about their own death.  It is an opportunity to courageously and deliberately walk into the dark valley of the shadow of death, then attempt to turn on the lights.  I hope that some in the Crutchprints audience will have the courage to join me on this journey.

Crutchprints: In Hour 6 you state, “Truth be told, most people who are asking why questions are not really looking for answers to their spoken questions. They are usually asking a core unspoken question behind the spoken questions. Typically, this core question is a question of trust.”  How does trust impact an outlook on death?

When we experience the tragedy of death the most natural response is to ask “Why?” That question is, for most people, directed at God. If the person asking the question believes God to be worthy of trust, then that person is more likely to have hope and is more capable of looking beyond the tragedy of death.  Trusting God allows a person to believe there is something good on the other side of their pain. 

Crutchprints: You discuss the gift of pain in the first few chapters. Yet we live in a culture and society where remaining free of pain and suffering is often associated with success or moral achievement.

Let me clarify that I am not proposing that pain should be some kind of goal or achievement in itself. Freedom from pain and suffering is something we all desire and should desire. But the path to pain-free living is discovered through the valley of pain.  Freedom from suffering is on the other side of the suffering we are experiencing.  In my book, I illustrate this principle through the analogy of a physical injury.  The only way to experience healing from that wound’s pain is by pushing through the extreme pain of surgery or stitching or cleaning.  

Crutchprints: I love how in Hour 9 you address the forbidden fruit and the one argument I’ve heard frequently, “God made a mistake when he gave humans free will.” Is free will a bad thing?

That is an interesting statement “God made a mistake when he gave humans free will”, because I think the person making that statement is probably not referring to their own free will, but rather to the free will of others – especially people who do hurtful things.  That person has probably experienced pain through the foolish free will choices of another.  But as I mention in Your Last 24: Preparing for the Inevitable most people are inconsistent in their views of justice.  We want God to punish others for their wrong choices, but we resist God when he disciplines us.  I have yet to meet a person who truly wants to be a robot – without any freedom of personal choice.  But I meet people all the time who want others to be robots.  We can’t have it both ways.

Crutchprints: A journal prompt in Hour 11 says, “What is dangerous about viewing death as an enemy?”. How would you answer that?

When I view death as my enemy it causes me to believe that death needs to be conquered rather than accepted. Since the very beginning of God’s relationship with his people, substitutionary sacrifice (death), has been an essential element of worship: God’s invitation for Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Israel’s annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb, Jesus laying down his life for us, etc. But there is also an irony introduced in scripture. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:26 calls death an enemy that will some day be destroyed by Jesus.  There will be a day when death is no longer necessary.  But in our current circumstances, until Jesus ultimately ends this reign of death (Revelation 20:14), death is necessary.   Jesus’ physical death was required to conquer our spiritual death.  Our physical death is necessary to enter the place where we will experience eternal life.  As the pilgrim Christian discovered in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress “You must go through, or you cannot come at the gate (of the Celestial City)”. 

Crutchprints: This book is your debut, but we are informed there is a sequel coming up!

The second book in this Legacy Journal Series is titled Remember Me: Living a Life that Lasts.  That book will consider the human longing to be remembered and provide eternal principles for ensuring that we can live a life that will last…forever.

Crutchprints: If I am correct, your wife Barbra was key in the development of this book.

I did 98% of the writing, but Barbra was my first and primary editor.  She loves words and grammar.  She is one of the few people I know who enjoy diagramming sentences! She also reflected back to me how the material was communicating.  She helped me discover areas in the manuscript when my communication wasn’t clear.  In addition, I also had several friends who gave helpful feedback throughout the process of my writing and editing.  

Most of the material in this book represents topics that Barbra and I have discussed for the past 25 years, so nothing in this book was a surprise to her.  Additionally, I have made the personal commitment that I want to be living a principle before I attempt to encourage someone else to apply that principle to their own life.  Personally, I’ve been asking my Last 24 question for over 20 years.

Crutchprints: You ask a lot of “what if” questions in this book that you seem to already have the answers for. Why take this approach?

The key word in your question is “seem”…that I “seem to already have the answers”.  I took this approach because I want to approach these subjects as a learner and invite my readers to also be approaching the topics as learners.  I am still on a journey of discovery.  I believe in absolute truth, but I learned a long time ago that my human weaknesses can blur my perception of absolute truth.  I don’t want to communicate as if I have all the answers, but rather invite the reader to walk through this journey along with me.  Let’s discover truth together.

A special thanks to Kendall Keeler for taking the time to sit with us at Crutchprints! To hear more from Kendall you can view these links to his blog and social media, or an article in Chester County Press. To purchase a copy of Kendall’s book Your Last 24, click here.

Hats Off!

Carrying an umbrella is an impossibility for someone on crutches. Making the dash from the house to the car has not always produced safe results for me, and there are some days I simply want my hair and face to stay dry. Must I explain? Anyway, I’ve experimented with several alternatives over the years, starting with the granny-style clear plastic kerchiefs that tie under the chin but drawing the line at headband-umbrellas (you’re welcome). I found this hat two years ago and it has saved my hair from matching a matted dog, kept drops off my glasses, and saved fluid mascara many times. The sides come down so if you plan on looking up a lot you won’t get a great view, but why would you look up in the rain? The wind at our Pennsylvania home is cyclonic on a good day and I have not had this baby go sailing across our neighbor’s yard with me hopping after it yet. It may slightly skew hairstyles because it is a hat, and humidity does that anyway. Affordable at under $20 (though it is now more than it was when I originally purchased) and available in more than one color, this hat will do you a solid.

You can find this hat here on Amazon.

*Please remember when considering these recommendations for yourself or a loved one:

a) Ashly is an amputee at nearly the hip level of her right leg;
b) Ashly is on crutches or in a scooter 100% of the time;
c) Ashly has been an amputee for thirty years;
d) Ashly is still young and active in her thirties;
e) The crutches that Ashly uses are forearm crutches;
f) What works for Ashy may not work for you;
g) Ashly receives no incentives, gifts, or compensation for reviews, advice, or mention of any product or company in these features.

*Product, person, and organization endorsements and reviews are not compensated, neither are they to be interpreted or considered as professional, legal, or medical advice. Neither Crutchprints.com nor Ashly Ash has interests, holdings, political affiliations or other ties with persons, corporations, or other entities referenced. Neither Crutchprints.com nor Ashly Ash has received free product(s), sample(s), or compensation(s), or service(s) for postings unless otherwise disclosed.
**All recommendations and advice that are posted on Crutchprints.com will be based strictly on personal experience and opinion and should not be taken or interpreted as legal or medical advisement under any circumstances.

Book Reviews: Wild Land by Rebecca Hodges

This was a truly heart-stopping page turner of a book, just like the cover promises! The characters are beautifully developed and incredibly realistic. Kat finds herself alone on retreat to contemplate end of life decisions when she has children and two dogs suddenly dumped in her lap. So much for the quiet she needed! When a wildfire cuts her and the children off from the parents and safety, Kat is forced to flee on foot with kids and dogs in tow. Based on the description I expected our main character, Kat, to be selfish and whine a lot when faced with the invasion of personal space. But Kat ended up being a lovely and genuine person willing to sacrifice herself bravely for others. Right up to the end this will be a heartwarming story that will take only a few days to work through. April 2020 brought his book to me as part of the Once Upon a Book Club box (Crutchprints Facebook for unboxing video). The gifts matched the book and included a red straw hat, hiker’s backpack, bracelets, and more. I’ll be using those items for a long time and thinking of Kat each time I do.

Book Review: A Thousand Roads Home by Carmel Harrington

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.” In this heartwarming novel Carmel Harrington captures the essence of this featured line in a way that sticks with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Ruth calls herself an ‘aspie’ as she and her son make their way into emergency housing for the homeless. Tom is a rough-sleeping homeless man in Dublin with a mysterious past bound to cross that of Ruth and her son. As the plot unfolds we see how intertwined these lives are and how very different paths can be united first with friendship, then into family. “Everyone has a story if you take the time to listen,” will bring new depth and meaning to a vastly misunderstood niche of living. This book was the Once Upon a Book Club’s September 2019 feature and accompanied with gifts to open at different points within the story. While the gifts are rated as average in this box, the book itself remains the shining star.

Book Review: Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown in typical style brings forth a beautiful and chaotic mess that we call real life put forth in a way that encourages us to embrace all of it. Brown challenges our mindsets and behaviors in ways that allows us to step back and see the striving and performing for what it really is. Not having felt this would be applicable to me, I found myself cast into the reality of my own shortcomings and scrambling to embrace them (or more accurately justify my responses to them). Ultimately, this book is a critical component for those on a journey of self-compassion. The beginning is profound as principles are established and hard words are delivered, but about halfway through Brown changes her focus and gives many practical examples and applications that we can heartily embrace.

To Unmask = Sin and Poor Witnessing? I think not.

During this time of Covid-19, I’ve read many things by well-meaning Christians that seem to imply certain behaviors carry the weight of sin behind them. Specifically, I am speaking of compliance or noncompliance to governmental/business guidelines of social distancing, wearing masks, etc. I’ve read articles in newspapers, emails, and viewed social media postings that accuse Christians choosing to not comply with certain standards as committing sin or being poor witnesses.

I am considered high risk during this pandemic and have my own beliefs and responses to the guidelines. But let’s back up a moment, friends. The bible is clear to us about living with love and respect for one another and for our authorities. It does not, however, say that if you don’t wear a mask you are not living in love. It doesn’t say opening your business to feed your family when the government tells you not to will make you a poor witness. If that were the case, no soldier in the American Revolution could be considered a good witness or loving christian for defying their authorities and acting in accordance with war.

Placing a moral burden on behaviors that are not consistent with our own personal beliefs is dangerous territory. Sometimes behaviors are not good or bad, sometimes they simply ‘are’. Trauma survivors of severe abuse may have a difficult time wearing masks due to the particulars of abuse they’ve suffered. Does that mean they do not ‘love’ appropriately? A recovering alcoholic may resist the urge to drink by leaving his home on quarantine and buying paint to have a project. Does that mean leaving his house was nonessential? If someone falls in front of you, are you to cross more than six feet away to avoid helping in the name of love? 

Again, general blanket statements about behavior are not wise and should not be taken seriously. Remember, God sees the heart, God is in control, God is bigger than Covid-19. This is not to say we should not respect the space and desires of others or that we should be unwise in our own behavior. But let’s remember that the bible was written with the notion of freedom in Christ. Invoking scripture to support a personal belief or blanket statement is an inappropriate use of scripture. 

So, within your own heart, through prayer and your relationship with Jesus Christ, act in accordance with the way the Holy Spirit is guiding you in each moment.