Welcome to my first Blog!    Please allow me to introduce myself.   My name is Debbie Melnick, I own a small business, I am a new mom, and I have Multiple Sclerosis.    As you might suspect, all three have their challenges but all three also have their rewards.   Each makes me laugh, cry, scream, smile, think, wonder, and most importantly ADAPT.

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Photo credit, Theresa Keil

Why am I writing this blog?  The answer is simple.   Events that occur in my life are so extreme, comical, unbelievable and even bizarre, that I find myself using the phrase “You just can’t write this stuff!” on nearly a daily basis.   So, as one who enjoys a challenge, I have decided to “write this stuff”.   For example:    I cannot simply bump into a wall or a desk.   When I do, I take out 10 feet of molding, or knock the leg out of the desk at work, sending the printer, the computer, our product samples, my staff’s coffee, (I guess you get the idea by now) soaring across the room.  Some people have car trouble along the road, my sliding door of my wheelchair van tends to hit the ramp and fly off the track, leaving me sitting beside a van with a 5 foot door hanging off the side.  See what I mean?  Seriously, you can’t write this stuff!

Love drives me to make lemonade from lemons. Day after day, in this wheelchair, fighting this torturous disease, I find myself adapting and evolving to move forward in a positive , happy direction for those around me that I love and for my own sanity and an incessant need to be independent. In those moments when it is difficult to move forward, I reach for Adaptolutions.

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Photo credit, Theresa Keil

This brings me to my theory of Adaptolution.  What is Adaptolution?  When I began my company, I had a vision of making and providing the tools for people to “Create the World Around Them.”   At that time, I had images of kids of all ages using my markers, paints, pens, pencils… to decorate their space.   I wanted them to use my items to create their identity through design, color, and other decorations, to make a place for them that is uniquely their own.    As my illness progressed, I realized that I needed to create my own world around me, but it was not to create pretty decorations, but to function in a world that is not set up for successful, driven, and yes, handicapped people.    The world I had to create needed to enable me do the things that everyone else does without thinking and most of importantly, allow me to preserve my identity against an illness that is trying to take it away.

I know, I still have not answered the question  “What is Adaptolution?”    When I got diagnosed with MS, I made the decision that I was not going to give up.   I wanted to work, travel, exercise, live my life, love my life, start a family and find peace and happiness.    As the disease progressed, work got tougher, travel became incredibly difficult, exercise was painful, life became hard and worst of all, I was told I could not have children.   That was the world I was thrown into.  But that was not ok with me, so I started to create my new world.

The madness of MS is that you never know what will work and what will not day to day as the disease changes daily. I went through the emotional roller coaster of how far I needed to go to  adapt my surroundings to  me to function. Some days I could walk, some days I needed crutches, some days I could get around with a walker and yet, other days, I found myself in a wheelchair. Let me ask you, at what point does getting a wheelchair ramp offer freedom rather than a reminder of your physical limitations?

It was my Godmother’s wisdom that got me past this hurdle. She gave me a piece of advice that resonates in me to this day. She said,” if you have to use crutches, honey, you might as well get them cherry red!”  What she was saying was that I had the chance to try and hide my condition and pretend it wasn’t there, or I could accept that MS is part of who I am and do it with style!

First I had to Adapt my surroundings to an environment that allowed me to function. I got a wheelchair van, and yes, it is red.  As much as I wanted that Porsche, the minivan with the wheelchair ramp became my savior.   I didn’t realize it when I broke down crying at the dealership, but that van, was my liberation from the physical constraints of the disease .  Furthermore, I am blessed to have been able to have one.  I put ramps in the house, got some in home care, and hired some folks to help me run the company.   I call these my Adapt Solutions.   And the bruises I have when I run into things in my home are my Adapt Contusions.   Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

But the process for me did not stop by merely adapting my surroundings.  I had to change my world and accept that there were things I could not control.  I had to do more than just adapt, I needed solutions. So I refer to the solutions needed to adapt to your surroundings Adaptolutions.

My hope is to bring attentions and awareness to those creative souls who develop ways to make their own and other’s lives better with Adaptolutions. There are people who train ponies to help the blind walk. Others create new types of shopping carts so their disabled child can enjoy being out in the grocery store just like anyone else.  I am inspired by those people who have the courage to face their challenges head on by creatively coming up with solutions to continue living, and it is to them, I dedicate this blog.

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Photo credit, Theresa Keil