About Me

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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

I know that I write this every year, but it is worth repeating. I utterly detest New Year's Eve. In all honesty, I'd be happy to bypass the entire week between Christmas and New Years. With the exception of enjoying having both Scott and Robby home for the week, there is little value to these days. Most offices are closed or offer sporadic hours. I don't want to go shopping because the last thing I need in my home right now is more stuff. After the chaos of Christmas, I yearn for things to return to normal!

As soon as the last present is unwrapped, television shows begin segments touting New Year's Eve party ideas. From fancy recipes for appetizers made from ingredients I don't recognize to various ways to bedazzle sweaters for the big night, I hate all of the coverage. It feels like the world is preparing for a wonderful party and I'm left without an invitation. I know that I'm not going to be the only one home tonight, but if you watch daytime television, it would seem that I am.

This time of year must be a favorite for psychologists, physicians, nutritionists, and personal trainers as they inundate the public with messages of change.  You're fat. You're not making enough money. Flab is bad. Your bum shouldn't jiggle. You need to change. New Year, New You.  After awhile, the messages lose their effectiveness, and it simply becomes depressing!

I am tired of being lectured by "professionals" on television. This year, I refuse to let the messages of self-loathing (masked as self-improvement) influence me. It's okay for me to eat a cupcake every once in awhile and I refuse to feel guilty. After all, cupcakes taste really good!  I'm tired of tying my self-worth to my jean size. I am not a size 2, but I am okay with that. I am a healthy weight and I'm strong. I'm going to continue to work-out, but I'm doing it to feel good, not to try to meet some unattainable standard set forth by a quack doctor who is basking in his or her 15 minutes of undeserved fame on morning TV.

Instead of putting on a cocktail dress and getting my nails manicured for an evening on the town, I'll be searching through the piles of laundry in my bedroom trying to find pajamas without visible stains. Robby and I will curl up on the couch and, if I allow him control of the television remote, we'll be watching Tom and Jerry Nutcracker for what is probably the 97th time. Our appetizers will consist of S'mores made over the fireplace and popcorn. My New Year's Eve date will fall asleep well before midnight, but Scott and I will still sneak into his room to give him a kiss on the cheek as soon as the clock strikes midnight.

My New Year's Eve isn't as spectacular as those depicted on television, but we will be together and happy. Someday I'd like to get dressed up and go out to a New Year's Eve party simply so I can experience it although I know that, in spite of all of the trappings, I'll always enjoy our private celebrations at home more. 

This year I am dedicating to self-acceptance. I'm going to work on being authentic with myself and to embrace my flaws as much as I do my strengths. I'm thirty something, but I feel like I'm finally getting to know myself. At the risk of sounding cocky, I am really beginning to like me!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Letting Go of Legos!

Yesterday afternoon while Scott was playing the XBox, Robby brought me the Lego tank kit that Santa had left for him. He cocked his sweet little head and asked me if I would help him build it. Reminding me that we can do anything with teamwork, I agreed to the project.

I hate Legos! I am not able to look at a shape and break it down into a series of small squares and rectangles. For me, Legos are little colorful plastic squares of frustration. To add insult to injury, they really hurt when I step on one in the middle of the night!

Although I don't enjoy working with the blocks, I do it because Robby loves it. He is able to sit and create for hours, coming up with structures that I could never imagine. He is pretty good at freestyle building but has a lot of difficulty following the directions that accompany sets. He is only six, so his Lego instruction confusion is understandable. I am thirty something, and my inability to comprehend the schematic is pathetic.

Determined to demonstrate that following the directions in order and carefully completing each step without becoming frustrated will yield positive results, I sat down in the middle of the our living room and prepared for my Lego purgatory.  Robby and I sorted all of the pieces by size and shape before starting and we talked about the importance of patience. I unfolded the directions, took a deep breath, and we began.

Three and a half hours later our tank was complete. Yes, it took me that long to build a project that (according to the box) should be completed by a five year old. The stupid tank kept falling apart in my hands each time I tried to attach the gun (the final step). I had to start back on step 3 (out of 15 steps) on four separate occasions; each time Robby was there to encourage me and to "help" me decipher the ridiculous Lego schematic.

I was about ready to throw it out the sliding glass door and admit defeat when Robby pointed out the weak spot of our model. I forgot to place one stupid Lego on the base. One little green brick had stymied our entire project and cost me the afternoon!

We rebuilt the tank one final time, being sure to include the previously missing block. This time everything stuck and we were able to finish the tank. I'm fairly sure I was more excited when we were finally done. I thought that he would admire our handiwork or at least play with it for a few minutes. In a rather anticlimactic move, he said, "Well, that took a long time" before putting it into his Lego box and switching gears to play with his remote controlled helicopter.

His enthusiasm was underwhelming. I, however, am considering sealing the tank in acrylic and keeping it forever because you can be certain I will not be building it again!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Eye to Eye

I have been working with Abby periodically since she was born in 2004. Abby suffered a substantial brain injury at birth which resulted in a myriad of physical and developmental issues including a visual impairment. I began working with her through the Early Intervention program in our area and recently have been begun seeing her again on a private basis.  Through the years I have witnessed Abby beat the odds at every turn. The therapists and doctors who provided a grim diagnosis of a child who would never learn, would be unresponsive and unable to communicate have certainly been proven wrong by this amazing little girl and her family!

When I began working with Abby, her visual processing systems were immature and unable to comprehend the information being received. Although she wasn't classically blind in the sense that she could physically see objects, she was rendered virtually without sight due to her inability to process the visual information being received. We have worked for years to help Abby learn to incorporate and to interpret what she sees. Progress has been slow but consistent as we progressively strengthened her ocular muscles and taught her to understand her visual world.

This past weekend Abby provided me and her family with one of the greatest Christmas gifts I will ever receive. For the first time she was able to establish and maintain eye contact with her mom. I broke down in tears when I realized that this was the first time Abby, who is now eight years old, was able to look directly into her mom's eyes. Witnessing this wonderful moment between mother and daughter, knowing how hard fought it was to accomplish, is a memory I will always cherish.

Wearing so many different hats often leads to my being frazzled. I am so lucky to be able to work a variety of positions all of which lend themselves to a different passion and skill set. Last weekend I was reminded why I went into teaching. Although I don't see myself returning to the classroom, I am so thankful that I am able to continue working with blind children. Watching them learn and grow and knowing that I have contributed to their successes, is an amazing feeling.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Wrap-Up

I can only describe yesterday as wonderfully exhausting. Robby woke up with his youthful enthusiasm in overdrive as he nervously tiptoed towards the living room to await his fate. I could see the worry on his face as he pondered whether he had been naughty or nice. One glance under the tree answered his question: he had apparently been very good!

Robby tore through the packages in record time, creating a tornado of colorful blue paper in his wake. After unwrapping each new treasure he carefully arranged and stacked them, proudly creating an impressive present tower. I think I may have a budding architect on my hands. The first toy he began to play with was a small box of blocks, which he carefully constructed into a castle.

We spent the morning assembling and trying out several of his new toys. Mr. Bill stopped over for coffee and to wish us a Merry Christmas. Robby was excited to give him the musical Christmas tie that he bought for his friend.

It turns out that Robby was so impressed by the musical tie that he bought one for his Daddy as well. Always a good sport, Scott proudly wore the festive tie all day. Robby was eager to show everybody that the tie played Jingle Bells. 

We spent the afternoon at my Mom's house, visiting with family and friends. We ate a lot of food (probably too much) and enjoyed telling stories and laughing. By the time everybody left it had become late and we were too tired to drive home.

Today we'll head back to Virginia, where the aftermath of Christmas morning awaits me. Torn wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes are strewn throughout much of my living and dining rooms. Hopefully I'll have it cleaned up by New Year's Day but, judging from the mess that we left, this deadline seems doubtful!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!












Robby bought Mr. Bill a singing Christmas tie!  I'm not sure who is more excited about the gift!!

Batteries NEVER Included

Yesterday was a flurry of excitement. Between discovering the XBox which was delivered (early) courtesy of Santa to setting up and playing the game console, both of my boys were busy for much of the day. I spent the the afternoon on what became akin to the great quests of the medieval times, the only difference being that I was seeking batteries instead of the Holy Grail. Four stores after I began my search I finally found the conveniently scarce 9 volt batteries which will be used this morning to help fly Robby's coveted remote control helicopter.  Next year, I'm buying the batteries at the same time as the toy!

To my delight it began to snow as I was leaving the final store with my batteries in hand. The white fluffy flakes were simply magical as they were dancing around me. All of my battery seeking frustrations lifted away, and I was rejuvenated with the holiday spirit. When I got home, I began baking!

In all honesty (with the exception of my chocolate chip cookies) I used mixes this year. Robby didn't seem to mind that the cookies weren't from scratch and my kitchen smelled as yummy as the homemade variety while they were baking. With my baking done in record time thanks to Betty Crocker, I curled up on my bed and watched The Santa Claus on TV. It was a relaxing and happy day.

This morning the hours of careful planning and wrapping will be undone in sheer minutes when Robby tears into his pile of treasures. I think he is going to be thrilled with his presents and I can hardly wait to see his face when he unwraps each one. Thankfully, courtesy of my fearless foray into the realm of Christmas Eve shopping, he will have the necessary batteries  to play with his new toys!

Merry Christmas! I hope that the day is filled with joy, laughter and love. I'll be sure to post pictures of our post-apocalyptic unwrapping!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Surprise...


Merry Christmas Eve!

This year it has taken longer to embrace the Christmas spirit. Between Robby being sick and my injured legs, I've been more bah humbug than fa la la la la. All of that changed this weekend, and although our decor is more subdued than in year's past, I am happy to report that I am now saturated with the holiday spirit.

Saturday morning I woke up early and started baking cookies. Although I wasn't going to do any baking this year, I received a special request and I couldn't say no. My friend's son just came home from serving in Afghanistan and apparently my chocolate chip cookies were something that he has been craving during his deployment. Baking for my friend, my Christmas spirit was ignited just in the nick of time!

Despite hobbling, I fully enjoyed spending Saturday afternoon running around town picking up last minute gifts and supplies. Much to the chagrin and despite the glares of my fellow shoppers, I happily reaped the benefits of my handicapped parking placard. Scott and Robby seemed to have just as much fun staying at home and playing. In the few short hours I was gone, the two boys managed to completely trash our bedroom. Seeing Robby smile for the first time in weeks, it was hard to be mad.

Last night I had a difficult time sleeping. In a wonderful twist, my insomnia was caused by excitement rather than anxiety. I can't wait for Robby and Scott to wake up. Have you heard? Santa had trouble fitting a present in his sleigh! Apparently he made a quick and unexpected delivery at our house last night. I have been planning this surprise since before Thanksgiving, and I can't wait for them to wake up!

Last night after Robby was sound asleep, I tied a big red bow on the end of a long ribbon and tacked it on his headboard. The ribbon was looped throughout the house, leading him to a box adorned with an even larger ribbon under the Christmas tree. A note explaining Santa's delivery dilemma, is carefully taped on top of the box which is addressed to "Robby and Daddy." I can hardly wait for Robby to wake up, follow the ribbon, and discover the surprise!

Waking up at 2:00 AM on Thanksgiving morning will be worth it when I see the pair rip open the paper to discover the coveted XBOX 360. Both Scott and Robby have been shamelessly hinting for the game console since the summer. I have been steadfast in my refusal to get another gaming system, insisting that the Wii is perfectly adequate. Scott seemed nearly as deflated as Robby when I summarily squashed the XBOX dream.  (Although I strongly suspect that Scott knows about the surprise, spoiled by Google ads and internet search history.)

This morning will be spent with both boys hooking up and playing their new XBOX. While they are occupied with their new toy, I'm going to bake my favorite cookies and eat them while watching White Christmas by the fireplace. Our holiday is less hectic and chaotic this year, but there is something to be said for a laid back holiday.

I'll post Christmas morning pictures tomorrow after he wakes up. If tradition holds true, he will tear through all of the carefully wrapped and beautifully arranged presents in about 10 minutes, leaving a paper tornado in his wake.

**Update... here is the video of Robby unwrapping his present!**

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Oreos

Today is Scott's last day of work before winter break. To be honest, I'm not sure who is more excited about his being home. He is giddy as he is looking forward to lounging around and relaxing for twelve straight days. I am excited about the respite of his help caring for Robby, and his assistance with the housework. I think that compromise is going to be in our future so we can both get the vacation we deserve.

This holiday season has been especially difficult. I am accustomed to being constantly in motion, busy with a project or various activities. With Robby being sick and my being hurt, everything has stopped. You would think I would be well-rested because of how little has been accomplished. Instead of getting things done, I've been treading water just trying to take care of Robby. Caring for a sick child is an all-consuming activity which leaves room for nothing else, including my own recuperation.

I am trying to shake the guilt I was feeling about not baking obscene numbers of cookies for the holiday. At this point, it would not be much fun and the task would be something else I have to do, rather than an activity I enjoy. Circumstances this year have intervened with my Christmas traditions. Rather than beat myself up for it (my normal course of action), I am trying to let it go and to adapt. I realized that nobody is going to turn me away from their door if I show up with a plate full of cookies on Valentine's Day!

Although I have been lamenting all of the holiday short-cuts I have taken, Robby is excited about Christmas in spite of the lack of trimmings and traditions. We have a Christmas tree and vanilla Oreos. In the eyes of a six year old, that is really all we need to celebrate!

In the next few days I am going to try to take a lesson from Robby. Instead of looking at everything that isn't done or all of the decorations that are missing, I'm going to try to enjoy what we have accomplished. I am learning to be happy with Oreos and a lopsided Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our Not Quite So Magical Event

Several months ago I stumbled upon a Facebook contest where the grand prize was a custom show from a locally renown magician.  In addition to the normal demographic information, each entrant needed to provide an essay detailing anything related to magic or a magic show. Since I have been writing this blog every day for nearly three years, I have learned to love contests which require essays.  Let's face it, I have covered just about every topic including a magic show I saw with Robby. I immediately went into my blog archives and found the post. A few minutes of tweaking and my essay was ready to be submitted.

I forgot about the contest until I received a phone call last month informing me that I had won! I was delighted that I was going to be able to bring the show to Robby's class for all of his friends to enjoy. I also knew that Robby would be the hero for the day because he was the one who provided the entertainment.

A lot has transpired in the weeks since the magician was booked. I fell and injured my residual limb and cracked my ankle. We went on a cruise where Robby contracted Dengue Fever. His illness has turned our structured little world upside down. School, housework and Christmas preparation have taken the back burner to medication, fever regulation and trying to provide comfort. This past weekend we have finally come through the "crisis" portion of the illness allowing Scott and I to quasi-relax for the first time since he became sick.

Robby had been improving everyday. His reserves were still low and he continued to require constant breaks, but his piques of energy were lasting for longer periods of time and were occurring more frequently. After much contemplation and discussions with his doctors, it was agreed that Robby could return to school to view the magic show that I had won for his class.  I knew that seeing his friends and enjoying the magician with them would help bolster his spirits. Having been in so much pain, he certainly deserved this treat! Tuesday night we told Robby that he was going to be able to go to school to see the magician the following morning. His smile was brighter than the lights on our Christmas tree!

At about 3 AM on Wednesday, Robby came into our bedroom. He was crying and complained about his ear hurting. Shoot- he was sick again! I tried my best to make him as comfortable as possible until the pediatrician's office opened.

By the time I spoke with the pediatrician, Robby was feeling better. The sharp pain had been replaced by a dull ache. The Tylenol had reduced his fever and he was pleading to go to the magic show. I was hesitant to take him, but his doctor assured me that the probable ear infection was not contagious and that he would benefit by enjoying the show and visiting his friends.

I am glad that I listened to the doctor.and let Robby go to the magic show in his class. His friends were giddy with excitement to be reunited. They all followed the "no hug" rule and fought to sit next to him during the magic show. The performer did a great job including every student while making sure that Robby was chosen for the best tricks. My heart soared when I heard my little guy giggle for the first time in weeks!

About 20 minutes into the 30 minute show, Robby began to wear down. His broad smile was replaced with a faint grin. He was no longer belly laughing and began cupping his ear. I packed him up to go to the doctor as soon as the performer ended the show.

Robby was re-diagnosed with an ear infection. We suspect that it is the same infection that was present when the Dengue manifested. He has been on antibiotics, but apparently they have only been keeping the infection from getting worse and have not been able to clear it up. He was prescribed a stronger medication and we have to visit his ear doctor for follow-up.

Despite him being sick, I am so happy that I took Robby to school to see the show. Being with his friends, even for the limited amount of time, lifted his spirits more than I could at home. He was the hero of the hour, not only because he provided the magician but also because he had returned to the class. Seeing how happy his friends were to see him, Robby is looking forward to going back to school. We have two weeks until school starts again, and I am hoping that Robby will be healthy enough to return!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Spectacular Shoe

Unlike many of my friends who have Zappos bookmarked and love spending hours walking through DWS, I have never been a "shoe person." Of course I buy shoes, but simply because it is more comfortable to keep my feet covered versus trying to make a fashion statement. I don't coordinate my shoes to match an outfit (unless I am going to a wedding or funeral) because it is inconvenient to change shoes on my prosthesis. If I cared about fashion, I suppose it wouldn't be an issue, but since I don't care, it is nothing short of a hassle to pry the shoe off of a plastic foot shell and then try to wiggle another one in its place.

Even before my amputation I was not a shoe aficionado. Since I've become an amputee, my blase feelings towards footwear have only increased. I find shoe shopping an exercise in frustration. People inevitably stare when I whip off my leg so that I can have a better angle to wiggle on a new shoe. Although I typically smile through the process, I hate trying shoes on in public!  I tend to buy the same brand, style and size of shoe once I find a pair that is comfortable.

I have found Skechers to be the most comfortable and prosthetic friendly shoe for me. I like the stretch along the tongue, which allows easier access for my quasi-human shaped foot shell. I am particularly fond of Shape-Ups, not because of the toning benefits but because the shape of the sole allows me to roll over the toe of my prosthesis with ease. My gait is more natural with this little boost of assistance.

A few weeks ago I tried a new style of Skechers, the "Go Walk" shoe. My first impression was the weight of the shoe. This shoe is light, weighing in at only 4.5 ounces. By comparison, my Skechers DeLite shoe weighs 10 ounces. When wearing a prosthesis that weighs upwards of 7 pounds, any reduction in weight is greatly appreciated!  (Yes, I admit to digging through the abyss of my kitchen cupboard in order to find my scale so I could provide an accurate weight. I not only found the scale, but discovered a can of Spaghetti-Os that expired in 2009. I really need to clean out my cupboards!)

Impressed but not convinced by weight, I decided to try on the shoe . Wow, the stretchy material on the top of the shoe certainly made it easier to slip it onto my prosthesis. A few steps and I was sold! The bubble-like sole assists with the roll-over that I love from the Shape-Up shoe, without compromising heel height or comfort. Not only do I love how these shoes feel, but I like the way that they look.  Because of the simple lines, I can wear them with a skirt or with jeans.

I know that this sounds like a commercial for Skechers, but I assure you I am not compensated by the company. I am simply excited that I found something that is working so well for me. Every once in awhile I discover a new product that makes my life as an amputee easier. I know that others struggle with shoes and I think that the Go Walk shoe might be a solution. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spoiled

With Robby's health beginning to stabilize, I finally feel comfortable focusing on other issues. First and foremost on my list of things to do was to contact my prosthetist. I have continued to struggle with my mobility since my fall three weeks ago. Each step is painful, and my gait has been terribly compromised. Truth is, I now resemble Quasimodo when I walk!

Sunday afternoon I sent Elliot, my prosthetist, an email asking him if a socket adjustment may help alleviate some of my issues. I know that manipulating the socket will not speed up the healing of my leg, but I was hoping that he might be able to change the pressure points thus providing me with some relief. Without making any promises, he agreed to try and asked me to come to the office Monday morning.

With Robby safely in the hands of Mr. Bill, I headed to Elliot's office. I was cautiously optimistic that he would be able to provide some relief. I wasn't expecting a miracle, but a slight reduction in the searing pain I feel with each step would be a welcome improvement.

Elliot worked with the precision of a surgeon. He added pads and thinned the carbon fiber to allow for more room. He made adjustments to the alignment and reinforced my heel. After nearly 90 minutes of toiling and trial and error, he had transformed an agonizing socket into one that is comfortable for me to wear. My gait instantly improved and the jarring pain has been minimized to a dull ache. While he was not able to completely eliminate all of my discomfort from a deep bone contusion that is going to require months to heal, he was able to make me comfortable while walking. He far exceeded any of my already high expectations.

Walking, not hobbling, out of his office, it occurred to me that I am extremely lucky to have Elliot as my prosthetist. Many of my amputee friends must wait weeks to receive their sockets, and must often endure months of tedious and painful adjustments until the device is deemed acceptable. I cannot imagine the frustration of surrendering a prosthesis for weeks at a time because adjustments were required.

I have been spoiled by my prosthetic experience. Because Elliot does all of his work on the premises, I have never had to surrender my leg for more than a day or two. He appreciates that my prosthesis is a part of my life and that I rely upon it to be functional. He respects what I need and works tirelessly to make me as comfortable as possible while reducing the amount of time I am without my leg. I understand the frustrations of my amputee friends who must wait weeks for a test socket, only to wait more time to receive a definitive prosthesis. All of that waiting equates to more time on crutches or in a wheelchair. I have no doubt that when it comes to finding a good prosthetist, I hit the jackpot!

Monday, December 17, 2012

No News Zone

The news of the shooting in the Connecticut elementary school shook me to my core. Scott came home from work to find Robby napping in bed and me crying uncontrollably on the couch. I just cannot wrap my head around why somebody would do something so evil. I cannot fathom the earth shattering pain that these parents must be experiencing.

Robby is the same age as the majority of these young victims. Looking into his eyes, seeing his youthful innocence, I feel a compulsion to create a fortress to keep him safe. It takes a special strength to grieve the passing of a child. I know, with every bit of my being, that I am not that strong.

Last week I was criticized by an acquaintance for writing about Robby's Dengue fever on Facebook.  I was accused of coddling him while he was sick, with the promise that Robby will resent me when he is a teenager. This man's comments made little sense to me at the time, and I still do not fully comprehend his point. At the time of the post, Robby had a fever of nearly 105 degrees, was experiencing seizures and was intermittently incoherent. I felt like I was watching my vibrant little boy melt in front of my eyes.  To then accuse me of being a bad parent simply because I admitted to my friends that I was scared, was the epitome of insensitivity.  It took only a moment for me to remove this man from my life and I have no regrets about breaking the link.

I will never apologize for loving Robby. He is a wonderful boy, full of curiosity, compassion and an accepting spirit. Without a doubt, he is my greatest accomplishment. Right now, parents are living through my greatest nightmare- the death of their precious child. That is a torturous pain that should never be felt!

Friday evening and Saturday I was glued to the television, thirsty for any and all information about the massacre. Eventually, Scott insisted that I turn off the news. I found myself feeling guilty while watching a Christmas movie with Robby. How could I enjoy something so festive when so many people are going through hell? In a strange way, turning off the news felt disrespectful. Yet again, I was hit with the enormity of what happened, and I felt lost with how to deal with it.

It has been more than 24 hours since I have watched the news. I still feel pain for all of those victims and an overwhelming fear about how to protect Robby from evil in this world. I am beginning to accept that I cannot keep Robby protected from all evil. Most acts of carnage are nonsensical and can never be predicted. I know that he will never be 100% safe because as much as I hate to admit it, I cannot control every variable in his life. All I can do is love him beyond words and try to keep him as safe as possible.

Friday afternoon, as the news of the massacre was dominating our thoughts, Robby's high fever finally broke. After a week of Dengue hell, he has moved out of the crisis portion of the illness. His recovery is expected to be long and we anticipate frustrations as he struggles to regain his strength and ability to concentrate. Despite the unexpected obstacle, I know that he will be okay. 

Out of a sense of gratitude for Robby's improving health and to honor those young children who were murdered at school, we have made a donation to Children's Hospital. I have come to realize that doing something is always better than simply crying and wishing that I could help. There is a lot of evil in this world, but there is also a lot of love. I choose to concentrate on the positive. I won't be turning on the news for awhile.





Friday, December 14, 2012

Limping Disaster

Robby is in the final stage of Dengue Fever which is reminiscent of the beginning of the illness. He has a high temperature, is uncomfortable and complaining of his bones aching, and is extremely tired. My heart aches seeing him suffer; I'm so glad that this illness is coming to an end. The doctors assure us that, barring any complications, my sweet little boy should slowly start reemerging over the weekend. I can't wait until I am woken up in the morning by my smiling little guy, begging for cartoons and waffles.

It is not an exaggeration when I say that I have have only been sleeping a few hours at night. I am constantly awake, monitoring Robby's temperature and fretting about his health. For Christmas this year I only want two things: Robby to be healthy and a solid, undisturbed night's sleep. My sleepless state has been having profound effects on everything that I do throughout the day. To put it simply, I've become stupid.

Yesterday I attempted to do some laundry. I loaded the dryer with a basket full of clothes, set the temperature to high and turned on the machine. An hour later, proud that I had been at least quasi-productive, I went to retrieve the clothes. It was then that I realized that I had forgotten to wash the clothes. I managed to dry my dirty laundry, thoroughly setting in all of the stains!

I broke my favorite mug by dropping it on the kitchen floor. I didn't knock it off the counter nor did I lose my balance. I heard the phone ring and rather than put my mug down on the table or carry it with me to pick up the receiver, I simply opened my hand and let gravity take over. On the plus side, I had forgotten to put the coffee into the mug, so I only spilled the creamer and sugar (which I was about to drink before I became distracted.)

I heard Robby calling for me while I was cleaning up the shards of my favorite mug. I grabbed a handful of nuts out of the bowl on my counter and went back to tend to him. It was only after I thoroughly chewed- and swallowed- did I realize that I wasn't eating nuts. I was eating cat food. My nuts were in the bowl on the floor next to the water fountain and the cat food was on the counter.

My mistake riddled day continued with my substituting tooth paste for hand cream, unloading the dishwasher only to realize that the dishes were still dirty and using four envelopes to send a simple letter because I couldn't write down the address correctly. By the time Scott came home I had waved the white surrender flag and had abandoned all hopes of housework for the day. I have evolved into a limping, sleepless disaster!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dengue Expert

Robby has officially entered stage 2 of Dengue Fever. His temperature has been hovering between 101 and 102 degrees. This is a welcome relief from the 104- 105 degree temperatures that he has been registering since Sunday. Yesterday he spent the majority of the day in our living room instead of his bed, and he even quietly played with his Legos for a little while!

It was wonderful seeing glimmers of my healthy little boy. Unfortunately, I know that this reprieve is short lived. Dengue Fever consists of three distinct stages each with predictable hallmarks. In the next day or two as we enter stage 3, his fever will inevitably rise as Dengue rages its final assault. On the positive side, when the fever of stage 3 breaks, we begin the best stage- recovery. 

I have learned so much about Dengue Fever during the past week that I have become a walking (okay, hobbling) encyclopedia on the topic. I'm fairly confident that since the weekend, Scott and I have not had any conversations that do not revolve around Robby's illness . Taking care of him and trying to absorb as much information as possible has been all-consuming. (I'm sure that my readers will be happy when Robby has recovered just so they don't have to keep reading about it!)

Yesterday I made a concerted effort to be happy and Christmas-y, and changed into my favorite holiday sweatshirt and matching Santa pants. I listened to Christmas music and even managed to bake a batch of sugar cookies while Robby was napping. I really tried, but my attempt at lifting my spirits was a failure. By 11:00 A.M. I had turned off the music, changed into fresh pajamas, eaten at least a dozen cookies and curled up to watch seemingly endless episodes of Tom and Jerry with Robby. I won't be able to be happy until I know that Robby is out of the woods.

Hopefully in a few days I'll be able to move forward with the other aspects of my life. Right now, my focus is myopic. It is all Dengue- all the time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Bad Mood Blog

Right now I am struggling with exhaustion, depression, guilt, and anger. None of these emotions are conducive to fostering the holiday spirit. Typically our house is bustling with activity and anticipation this time of year. We are now less than two weeks from Christmas and, to be quite honest, I really don't care anymore.

Nursing Robby through Dengue Fever has taken highest priority. I haven't baked any cookies, hung any decorations or wrapped a single present since we returned from the cruise. Seeing him in this weakened state is utterly heartbreaking.  While intellectually I know that there is nothing else I can do, my inability to "fix" this for him makes me feel like a maternal failure.

I continue to struggle with the pain in my legs and my impaired mobility. Each step hurts and has become a constant reminder of my fall and my limitations. Robby wants me to carry him but I can't because of the pain. I find this situation infuriating!

Thankfully, yesterday we received a glimmer of good news. Robby's blood work came back and revealed that of the four possible strains, Robby has the least detrimental. Of course I would prefer he didn't have it at all, but I'm holding onto the promise that his is the least dangerous. In a few days the critical period will be over, and he will begin the slow recovery process.

I apologize for not being more optimistic and upbeat, but right now I'm miserable. My legs hurt and my little boy is extremely ill with a weird tropical disease. I'm worried about him, feel guilty that he is sick, sleep deprived  and frustrated that the ramifications from a fall two weeks ago continue to haunt me.  It is no fun being an amputee mommy at the moment!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dengue Fever

If all feelings of relaxation and rejuvenation were squelched during our travel debacle on Saturday, yesterday they were absolutely obliterated. I am now more fatigued, more stressed and more anxious than I was before the cruise. I suspect I've aged at least a decade in the past 48 hours.

We thought Robby was fighting a double ear infection. Of course it was painful and he was ill, but we were confident that after some antibiotics, Christmas shaped macaroni and cheese, and a lot of TLC he would return to his normal and active self. Despite the medication, he continued to decline.

By the time the sun rose yesterday, I knew that something was dreadfully wrong. Robby was limp, pale and disoriented. His fever was spiking so high he had febrile seizures. He was so light sensitive that he begged me to turn off the Christmas tree because it was "burning his eyes." He was coughing, shaking and becoming weaker by the moment.

His pediatrician did a lot of research and consulted with experts in Tropical Diseases at Children's Hospital in Washington DC. She discovered that Haiti, the island that we visited just a few days ago, has been experiencing an outbreak of Dengue Fever. To our dismay, the timeline and all of the symptoms mirror this illness.  We were on Haiti for a mere six hours, yet it was apparently long enough for an infected mosquito to bite Robby on the ankle and give him this horrible disease. He received the official diagnosis of Dengue Fever, in addition to a double ear infection, yesterday evening. 

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to treat Robby's affliction. We have to try to keep him comfortable (not easy when his fever rises to nearly 105 degrees) and hydrated. If he has difficulty drinking or if the febrile seizures increase in frequency, he will be hospitalized. The illness lasts for approximately a week and consists of various stages, none of them pleasant.

I feel helpless seeing him so ill and not being able to fix him. He has never been this weak, and I'm scared. I'm terrified to leave his side, even to use the bathroom for fear of his falling, seizing or needing me for any reason. It has been a long 36 hours!

I also find myself feeling extraordinarily angry that he became ill during what was supposed to be a wonderful family adventure. I know that it is completely illogical and will have no benefit, but I want to shake my fists at the universe and scream, "This isn't fair!" One little mosquito bite on his ankle has created a tidal wave of frustration, fear and heartache.

There is nobody to blame so, typical to a mom mentality, I am blaming myself. If I hadn't insisted that we do something educational during our time on the island, we never would have toured the fishing village where the mosquitoes were lurking. I should have just let the boys play on the beach all day! My brain knows that I shouldn't beat myself up, but my heart can't stop assuming the blame. 

Today will be spent curled up in bed with Robby trying to keep him as comfortable as possible. I can do so little to help him right now and it is tearing me apart. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make him all better. Since that isn't going to happen, I'll continue to stay next to him and try to reduce the symptoms. It's hard to accept, but there is nothing else I can do right now.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Homeward Bound

There is nothing like an airport fiasco to seemingly erase all of the rest and rejuvenation that was gained while on vacation. We had a wonderful time on the cruise, but the trip home was wrought with snafus. What should have been a simple flight resulted in over 10 hours sitting in an airport terminal, on the floor, unsure if we were going to make it home at all. All of the stress that had slowly evaporated in the warm sun resurfaced through the experience.

Hobbling into the airport terminal on crutches and in considerable pain, I was eager simply to sit down and to wait for our plane to be called. Unfortunately the terminal was crowded, and all of the seats were taken. This is not the first time I have been in this situation, yet every time it happens I am shocked and disheartened. Despite my obvious mobility impairment, not one able bodied individual stood to offer me his seat! Perhaps most surprising were the children who remained seated next to their parents. Without doubt, I know that it would only take one look and a slight nudge for Robby to stand up and forfeit his seat.

Desperate to get off of my feet, I ended up sitting on the floor, under the charging station. I didn't realize that I would take up residency in this spot for the next ten hours. Between flight delays and mechanical malfunctions, we didn't leave Florida until nearly midnight. Coupled with the long drive from the airport, we didn't arrive home until nearly 4:00 Sunday morning.

Robby never complained about the painfully long wait in the airport.  He simply sat under the table with me, watching videos and playing his DS. I was delighted and surprised by how accepting he was about the situation. I had anticipated hours of endless whining and destructive boredom that never came. The only whining that was heard originated from Scott who does not embrace travel delays gracefully!

I was proud of Robby for remaining so well-behaved during the long travel day. However, it turns out that his quiet and accepting demeanor may not have been the result of good parenting but rather a symptom of another issue. He woke up Sunday morning with a high fever, a cough and complaining of a headache. In retrospect, he was probably not feeling well enough at the airport to be active and bored. 

** On a side note, I have uploaded our cruise pictures.  Visit www.dropshots.com/schenoweth  to check them out.  Feel free to leave comments... **

Friday, December 07, 2012

Day at Sea

Yesterday morning we woke up excited about our Jamaican adventure. We planned a day playing on the beach, snorkeling in the pristine waters and kayaking along the shore. Peeking outside, I saw only bright blue skies and fluffy clouds. I venture to say that I was probably as excited as Robby about visiting Jamaica!

We slipped into our swimsuits, slathered on sunscreen and packed our beach excursion bag. As we were heading out the cabin, Scott noticed a sheet of paper that had been slipped under our door. I've come to realize that sheets of paper slipped under doors never holds good news.

Our trip to Jamaica was canceled. Apparently a passenger suffered a medical emergency on Wednesday night, necessitating a helicopter rescue. The Captain had no choice but to move our boat into the correct position for the Coast Guard to conduct the rescue. Unfortunately for the remaining passengers, he had to turn the boat around and cruise in the opposite direction of Jamaica.

I have no doubt that the Captain and his staff thoroughly reviewed all of their options before canceling the excursion. Certainly the cruise line does not benefit financially when passengers are not able to disembark and take advantage of the wonderful, albeit pricey, island trips. In lieu of visiting Jamaica, he set sail for Fort Lauderdale, moving at a minimal speed.

Although we were disappointed, I was utterly appalled when I witnessed the outbursts of my fellow passengers. The lobby was crammed with irate, and obviously irrational, individuals who were ranting about a ruined vacation. The decision to reroute was literally one of life or death and, instead of lauding the crew for saving a life, they were berated for keeping bargain hunters from bartering for low quality jewelry on the island. It's pathetic that these individuals could not see beyond their immediate desires and appreciate that a life was in jeopardy.

Instead of going to Jamaica, we spent the day lounging by the pool and hanging out as a family. The absence of sand and surf did not hamper our enjoying the afternoon. We had a wonderful time just being together.

In the evening I took Robby to play Bingo and he won $500 on the first card! He was so proud redeeming his winning numbers and informed everybody that he was going to save the money for college. He was smiling ear-to-ear when we redeemed his winnings.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to book a massage to celebrate Robby's windfall. Scott was mingling with some fellow cruisers in the lounge and Robby happily went to the disco dance party at the Kids Club. I spent the next hour enjoying a well-deserved, and much needed massage. It felt wonderful!

I left the spa feeling completely relaxed for the first time in months. I went directly to my cabin, where I continued the pampering with a long, hot shower. (I loved the massage, but I hated feeling like I'm a greased pig at the county fair!) Once I was showered, I called room service and treated myself to a cupcake and a Bahama Mama punch.

Sitting on the balcony, enjoying my cupcake and punch, I relished hearing nothing but the ocean waves lapping the side of the boat. It was so wonderfully tranquil, just staring up at the stars and letting my imagination wander. In that moment, life was perfect.

Shoot! All of a sudden I had a revelation that brought me instantly back to reality. My room was too quiet. I remembered that I have a kid, and I forgot to pick him up at Kids Club.

I chugged my punch and crammed the cupcake into my mouth (I only ordered one) as I frantically dressed. I was kicking myself as I was schlepping to the other side of the ship to pick him up. How could I forget that I had a child? What kind of Mom forgets that they have a child? How could I spend $70 of his Bingo money on eye serum when a $4 bottle of Tylenol PM would be just as beneficial to reducing my under eye circles?

Thankfully Robby did not notice that I was extremely late picking him up. When I arrived he had just been named “King of the Dance Floor.” He was delighted, albeit exhausted, by the time we gathered his belongings and returned to the cabin. So much for my new found serenity, but at least he had the opportunity to hone his dancing skills!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Haiti

We had an absolutely wonderful day yesterday, exploring Haiti and soaking up the warm sun. It was surreal walking along the beach in shorts in December!  It was impossible to remain sullen and frustrated by the pain I'm experiencing when surrounded by the white sands and gentle waves.

To quote Robby's synopsis of the day, it was "totally freaking epic." He thoroughly enjoyed playing in the waves with his daddy, looking for seashells and building a castle and cupcake factory made out of sand. I am not sure where he inherited his sand castle building abilities, but his structures have surpassed anything I could create!

After lounging and playing in the surf, we boarded a small boat to be taken to another part of the island. There, the two boys continued to play in the ocean while we awaited our turn to tour the village. Since Robby is missing a week of school, I have insisted that we do an educational excursion at each location. Yesterday we toured a Haitian fishing village, where Robby was taught how to tie a fishing net, how to throw the net for fish and how to make homemade peanut butter. Obviously he was more impressed by the fishing aspects than the nut crushing, but he was well behaved throughout the tour.

This morning we are heading to Jamaica, where we will spend another day on the beach. I'll write more details, and hopefully post pictures, when I have a more reliable internet connection. Internet is 60 cents a minutes, so I suspect photos will have to wait until I'm stateside! 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Our Oceanic Adventure

Yesterday was overcast, windy day at sea. We attempted to go to the pool, only to have my crutches become airborne when I laid them down. After a few minutes we all agreed to put swimming and laying in the sunshine on hold until we had warmer temperature and the sun.

Robby spent the majority of his time in the Kid Club. It felt unnatural signing him into the play area and leaving him behind. Pang of guilt haunted me, flirting with feelings of inadequacy because I wasn't spending every waking moment on the cruise with him. I went to pick him up early this morning only to be shooed away. He was having fun and didn't want to come with me. I need to accept that he no longer needs me for entertainment.

With Robby busy playing with his new friends, Scott and I spent the afternoon exploring the ship, eating and relaxing. Well, in all honesty Scooter took a nap and I spent a few hours working on my computer while sitting on the balcony. Sitting in a lounge chair, looking over the ocean while hearing the breaking waves, I think I've discovered my ideal writing conditions. If I ever develop a severe case of writer's block, perhaps I'll just go on a cruise!

Today we are visiting Haiti, where we have arranged to visit a fishing village. (I felt compelled to arrange excursions that are quasi-educational, especially since Robby I missing a week's worth of school.) My little fisherman can hardly wait to meet the villagers and learn how to tie a fishing net.

I continue to struggle with both my mobility and pain, but I'm trying to make the most of an unfortunate situation. Although most of the passengers lamented the poor weather yesterday, I think that the day “off” was both needed and beneficial. I feel rested, and stronger this morning. I have a feeling I'm going to need all my strength to tackle our Haitian adventure!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bon Voyage!

Greetings from the high seas! Yesterday we checked into our cabin (with a fabulous balcony), hit the first of what will sure to be many buffet meals, and prepared to set sail. We are now cruising, with our first destination set to be Haiti.

Just when I thought it would never happen, my leg is finally showing signs of improvement. Now I can wear my prosthesis for short periods of time, and can even put some weight through the socket. I have to use crutches and I move slowly and require frequent breaks, but I am definitely getting better!

Today we will spend the entire day at sea. Robby has already fully immersed himself in the "Kids Club," informing me last night that he had plans to do some science experiments in the morning so he wouldn't be able to play with me in the pool until after lunch. I guess that leaves me with a few hours to myself.

Hmmm... perhaps I'll check into the on board spa!


Monday, December 03, 2012

Sand Fun

Greetings from Florida! This morning we will embark on our much anticipated cruise. Although the vacation circumstances are not ideal, this is a working cruise for me and I'm injured, I have no doubt that we're going to have a blast. Work or not, when it is being completed aboard a luxury cruise ship, it is bound to be relaxing!

Robby has been giddy for the past few days. Saturday evening we arrived at our Florida hotel and after a long day of traveling, we were all exhausted. When we checked into the hotel we all immediately crashed for the night. Scott and I knew that the room had an ocean view, but since we checked in close to midnight, there was nothing to see.

Sunday morning I woke up to Robby squealing, "Hallelujah! It's a miracle. Momom, hurry up and look outside. It's a miracle because it is so beautiful." I instantly knew that he had "discovered" our room had a view. He couldn't wait to hit the beach and I knew it was going to be a good, albeit exhausting day.

I find little as frustrating as not being able to do something with my son because of my leg. The pain in my legs has been fluctuating between moderate to fully debilitating. It is omnipresent and exhausting. I didn't want my injury to interfere with Robby's beach adventure, but my first few steps of the morning let me know that I was going to be sidelined for the day.

With a lot of physical support, I managed to hobble down to the beach to take up residence on a lounge chair. Robby was so patient as he obediently waited for me to make my way to the sand. I know that he wanted to run and jump into the surf, but he never complained about my delaying his plans.  With me finally situated, the two boys took off to frolic in the waves, hunted for shells and dug in the sand. I could see their smiles across the beach and I knew that they were having a great time!

I felt torn, heartbroken because I physically couldn't play with him yet thoroughly enjoyed sitting back and watching him play with his Daddy. Had I not been hurt, I have no doubt the roles would have been reversed. Sand and surf is not Scott's forte and I know he would have preferred to observe. This was not an option, and Robby seemed to relish being with his Dad in the ocean.

This morning we board our cruise ship and set sail. I have begrudgingly accepted that my injury will continue to have a profound impact on my life for the next several weeks, possibly months. As much as I hate not being able to fully participate with Robby, I'm glad that he has a Daddy who will pick up the slack!


 Yes-- he wore his boots on the beach. He has water shoes, but insists that he is a "boot man." 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Botox

For the first time since my injury on Monday I received some positive news. Although I'm still hurting, I am now feeling optimistic about my prognosis. It's amazing what a little good news can do to buoy ones spirits!

When I fell, the muscle tore and detached from the tibia on my residual limb. The muscle then went into a contraction, in essence pulling in upon itself. The contorted, dislodged muscle has been the crux of a majority of the pain that I have been experiencing. 

My doctor spent nearly 20 minutes massaging my limb in an effort to reposition the tissue. When I think of getting a massage, I usually think of lying on a table in a dimly lit room, listening to harp music and smelling various incense while somebody gently rubs away my tensions. It is a rare luxury where I am pampered and doted upon. What I experienced on Wednesday was anything but relaxing!

It was painful to the point of forcing me to sweat and causing me to become dizzy. It felt like the doctor was pushing his thumbs directly into my eye sockets, the only difference being that the pain was in my leg and not on my face. He pulled, pulled, and pressed on my sensitive limb until the muscle was finally in the correct position. When he was satisfied, he pulled out the needles.

Seeing needles and knowing that they are about to puncture my residual limb is a frightening experience. By injecting the muscle with botox, we are hoping that the muscle contractions will stop and the tissue will remain in place. (Of course, I was planning on my inaugural botox injection being occurring on my face, so the fact that it was in my limb instead was a bit disappointing!) Although I hate shots, I knew that stopping the spasms is integral to my healing quickly and properly. I buried my head in a pillow and endured 5 separate injections directly into my sensitive residual limb.

If the botox was successful, the doctor said that I would notice an improvement by Friday. I don't know if it is wishful thinking, but I have already noticed a decrease in the intensity of my pain as well as a marked increase in my range of motion when bending my knee. I don't want to jinx anything, but I think I may be on the road to recovery!

Tomorrow afternoon Scott, Robby, and I board a plane to Florida. Monday morning we will embark on our cruise ship and begin our much anticipated oceanic adventure. I have accepted that I will have limited mobility on vacation, but I am elated with the prospect of having decreased pain. Here's hoping it worked!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Robby's Explanation

This begins the third day since my injury. While I can't say that the pain has lessened, I have certainly noticed an improvement in my demeanor. I have been inundated with well wishes and phone calls from friends and neighbors. With so much support, it would be impossible to stay in a funk for long!

Robby couldn't wait to go to school to tell his friends about my mishap. According to the email I received from his teacher, Robby made what he dubbed as the "big announcement" during morning circle. With all of his little classmates sitting around him, he stood up and proceeded to tell his version of the events. 

"You are not going to believe it. I mean what happened is horrible. Momom fell and hurt her ankle and her prosthetic leg. We had to take her to the hospital. Thank goodness they didn't have to put little tubes in her this time because that really freaked me out. This time, instead of the little tubes, the doctor took pictures of her bones. She can't walk on her ankle. Not even a tiny little bit. She can't walk on her prosthetic because her leg meat peeled away from the bone just like when I eat chicken. So she can't walk on her ankle. And she can't walk on her prosthetic. You know what that means? It means she's screwed." 

He then proceeded to take a bow before sitting down with the rest of his class.  His classmates were all duly impressed by my mishap and concerned about my inability to walk. Collectively, they decided to make me a get well book. Robby was so proud bringing home and presenting me the treasure he and his classmates constructed. The pictures that they drew and the messages that they wrote are utterly precious!

The get well book, as well as the help and support of my friends, have made this time easier for me. In addition to the pain, I am finding it frustrating to slow down and relax. I am always working on a project, planning and implementing and activity or doing something active. It's hard for me to just sit, but right now that is my only option. I've been wanting to figure out how to move in a slower gear; I just didn't want to be placed on the "injured reserve" list.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Recovery

I spent all day yesterday wallowing in both pain and frustration as I have not experienced this intensity of pain since my amputation. Every time I move my residual limb, I feel pain. The constant struggle to find a comfortable position, the cramping and the omnipresent soreness is reminiscent of the first few days following my amputation surgery. To be succinct, I am utterly miserable!

I am angry that something as benign as a stick could wreak such havoc in my life. In a second everything has been turned upside down. The excitement about our much anticipated cruise has morphed to sheer chaos as Scott and I try to figure out the logistics of my traveling without a prosthesis.  It feels like our dream family vacation has been ruined because I slipped on a stick, and the reality that I will not be able to fully enjoy the cruise because of my injuries makes me angry beyond explanation.

It has been a long time since I have been confined to a wheelchair. Everything, from personal care to being situated in a restaurant, is more laborious when a wheelchair is involved. In addition to the level of inconvenience and difficulty that result from relying upon a chair, I am dreading the stares that await me. I am accustomed to the stares that are generated by my prosthesis. The stares that come from my being in a wheelchair are those of pity, not curiosity. I hate being pitied!

I apologize for not having a more positive outlook on the situation. I realize that so many are confronting more disabling issues than mine, and that in their eyes I must appear petty. However, my knowing that others are worse off does not invalidate my feelings in this moment. Right now I am hurting, disappointed, and sad. I'm hoping that things will start looking up tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Fell

Right now I am in significant pain, which is impacting my ability to concentrate and write. Please excuse the brevity of this post. I am sure I will write about the incident in more detail at another time, but right now I find myself struggling through the simplest of sentences.

Yesterday I slipped on my way to pick up Robby from school. When I regained my senses, I instantly knew that I was injured. A few phone calls for help, followed by a lengthy trip to the emergency room, began what turned into a long and difficult night.

Thankfully I did not break my ankle. Unfortunately I did sustain a severe sprain, rendering me unable to put weight through my foot. Always an overachiever, I also injured my residual limb. The muscle tore away from the tibia, and I suffered a deep bone bruise from the tip up to my knee. I cannot wear my prosthetic or put any pressure on my limb.

I cannot use my knee scooter because of the ankle sprain. I cannot use crutches because I can't put enough weight through either limb to be functional. My mobility is limited to my kneeling on a towel pulling my body along the floor with my arms. I can't go far, nor can I move quickly. On the positive, my hallway should be buffed by the time I am healed.

It has been years since I have been immobilized and in this much pain. I am frustrated, miserable and deflated. For the first time since my amputation, I feel completely disabled. I am not happy!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Tree

After coming home from my mom's house, I stashed all of the gifts I secured on Black Friday in Mr. Bill's closet. I have learned that I have to listen to a lighthearted lecture about buying too much and spoiling Robby and Scott, but the trade-off is a secure place to hide my presents so the lecture is worth it. Robby still fully believes in Santa Claus so I don't want a slip up on my part to cause him to question the magic of Christmas.

Last year I wasn't sure if Robby would continue believe in Santa. With him in school, I know that older kids can quickly squelch the innocence of the younger ones. I can't begin to explain how happy I am that I have at least one more year to enjoy this magical season, and I plan on making the most of every aspect!

We're only a few days past Thanksgiving, but it is already beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our house. The first few batches of Christmas cookies have already been baked- and enjoyed. The DVD's have been swapped, exchanging CARS and Ghostbusters for Rudolph and The Grinch. 

Because we are going on a week-long cruise next week, I had every intention of keeping my decoration to a minimum. After all, it seemed illogical to invest a lot of time and energy into putting out lights and decking the halls when we are going to miss 20% of the season. Logic apparently went out with the turkey carcass on Thanksgiving because my house is beginning to resemble the North Pole!

Since Scott's football viewing schedule didn't commence until 1:00 yesterday, I pounced on the opportunity to get our tree. Robby didn't take much convincing to bundle up and drive to the tree farm. Scott required a little more cajoling, but he quickly got into the holiday spirit when he realized that my invitation was more of a directive than a question. 

Singing Christmas carols and talking about our wish lists, the hour-long drive to the tree farm passed quickly. As soon as we arrived, Robby grabbed a wagon and saw and immediately took off towards the tree field. He spotted what he swore to be "the most perfect tree in the whole world" from the road. Although we tried to encourage him to look at other trees, he was convinced that he found the best one. In retrospect, I think that he just wanted to start sawing! Scott and I acquiesced, agreed that it was a nice tree, and "helped" him cut it down.  It took us 60 minutes to drive to the tree farm but we were only there for thirty minutes, twenty of which were spent wrapping and tying the tree to our roof. 

I wish we had invested at least as much time in tree selection as we did in driving to the field. Although we tried, we simply cannot get the tree to stand straight. It looks like a coniferous leaning tower and is precariously propped in its base with a series of stones and bricks. I'm hoping that Charlie Cat is not interested in what is essentially a cat playground because I'm fairly certain it will tip over when bumped.

After the tree was propped and wedged in the base, I went about the task of stringing the lights. This is when I realized that the branches were not adorned with tiny pine cones. Instead, they were covered with cocoons of an unidentified insect. It took me nearly 45 minutes to ferret them out, significantly compromising the fullness of the tree. I decided to fill in the gaps with handfuls of Christmas lights.

Despite the imperfections, our tree is beautiful. In many ways it is perfect fit for our family. It doesn't stand completely straight, it is riddled with holes and I'm sure it is home to at least a few more cocoons. (Hopefully nothing will be tricked into hatching early because of the warmth of the house.) I'm hoping to take a cue from our Christmas tree. It does not have to be perfect to be beautiful just as our holiday season doesn't have to go without a hitch to be successful. I'm going to try to stay both relaxed and in the moment this year!



Friday, November 23, 2012

Preparing to Shop

Our Thanksgiving celebration wasn't as chaotic as years past, but I honestly can't recall one which I have enjoyed more. We had an abundance of food, everybody is healthy and the stresses of the past few years have eased for all of us. Simply put, it was a wonderful, joy filled day!

After the dinner dishes were cleaned, we set out to the task at hand- formulating our plan of attack for Black Friday. I have been shopping the DoorBuster specials for over 20 years. Scott was introduced to the tradition through me and has learned the skills necessary to be successful. Working together, we are a force to be reckon with in those wee hours of the morning.

Today is one of the rare days where being an amputee is an advantage. I receive preferential parking, keeping the amount of time I needed to walk to our car to a minimal while maximizing our abilities to quickly reach our next deal. On Black Friday, handicapped parking becomes my ace in the hole!

Regardless of the temperatures tomorrow morning, I will be wearing capris. After all, keeping my prosthetic visible is integral to our game plan. Not only are my fellow deal warriors kinder when they recognize me as an amputee, but I am often provided with the courtesy of jumping to the front of lines that snake in front of the store.  When only 10 deal busting items are available, being able to reach the store first is crucial to our success. 

Scott and I have prepped with the precision of battle hardened Generals. We are armed with our circulars, maps of the stores and our game plan. After hours of prep, it's go time. We're ready to shop!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I have always loved Thanksgiving. While I certainly do not have the largest family, I have no doubt that mine ranks among the best. We don't get to see each other as often as we like, but when we are together there is a unique chemistry that is palpable. Unlike some families I know, we all genuinely like each other. If we weren't related, I have no doubt that we would still be friends. I'm lucky because I know that not everybody can say the same about their relatives.

Thanksgiving is a time for us to get together and engage in our two favorite activities, eating and shopping. We will laugh, tell stories and probably eat more than one slice of pie while scouring the circulars for Black Friday deals.

This year the holiday is extra special. As my Mom struggled through the pain, through the grueling physical therapy, and through the post-operative boredom, we often talked about her feeling better by Thanksgiving. It was a difficult few months, and the hope that she would feel better by the end of November helped propel her through her recovery.

This morning she will wake up early and put the turkey in the oven. I came up to her house on Tuesday with the intention of helping her. I ended up watching movies as my assistance was not needed. For all intents and purposes, she has met her Thanksgiving goal. Although she is not completely recovered from her double knee replacement, her improvement to this point has been nothing short of spectacular.

Today, I am thankful for so many things. I am grateful for both my health and the health of my family. I'm delighted that I have a job that I love while allowing me the flexibility to be involved with Robby's school activities. I have the best group of friends who are quick to rally around me during difficult times and are always willing to raise a cupcake to help me celebrate. I appreciate everybody who takes the time out of their day to read my musings in this blog. I am fortunate to count many of my readers as friends, and I treasure every email I receive.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your day, and know that you are all appreciated by this blogger!  I'm off to tackle the circulars and create a game plan for our Black Friday shopping adventure. More on that tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bad Things to Good People

Unfortunately, more often than naught it is rare when somebody is "just an amputee." Between the causes for the initial amputation, the stresses placed on the residual limb through prosthetic use, and the unequal weight distribution through the sound side, many amputees deal with a myriad of health complications throughout their life. Sometimes the issues are simply a bump in the road necessitating intervention but leaving no lasting ill-effect. Far too often, complications occur which drastically change the course of the individual's life.

Today, I have a friend who is transitioning from being a below-the-knee to an above-knee-amputee due to infection. Losing the knee joint is devastating and is a game-changer in the rehabilitation process. My heart breaks as he forfeits his knee in an attempt to save his life. I can't even fathom the frustration, fear, and anger that he must be experiencing as he faces this loss.

In a bittersweet twist of fate, he became an amputee because of the delayed effects of chemotherapy he endured as a teenager. Despite the cancer, he fought valiantly to save his limb and has lived nearly 20 years with his body intact. It became clear that the medications used to save his leg, and his life, ravaged the bones beyond repair. In July he consented to the very surgery he resisted in his youth.

His limb never healed from the amputation, and the open wound became a conduit for infection. For the second time, he is in a battle for his life. Without hesitation, he has chosen to amputate his infected knee. I wish I had the words to make this transition easier for him, but all I can do is stand by his side to support him through this journey. In moments like this, I feel so inadequate!

I have another friend who underwent surgery yesterday on her remaining leg. Several years ago a knee replacement gone awry resulted in her becoming an above knee amputee. Today she is back in the hospital, fighting an infection in her remaining limb. As brutal irony would have it, the infection developed after she underwent a knee replacement on her remaining leg.

A desire to live without pain and a brave leap of faith that lightening would not strike twice compelled her to agree to the recommended knee replacement last February. Since that time, she has been in and out of the hospital and has undergone numerous surgeries to rid her body of the infection. Again, I am helpless to do anything but remind her that she is not alone and try to keep her spirits up during the difficult recovery. Her biggest fear, losing her other leg, echos each time she develops a fever. I have spent many sleepless hours worrying about her.

In August, a below knee friend of mine underwent a "routine" revision surgery. She was supposed to be walking again in three weeks. More than three months later, she is still without her prosthesis, battling an aggravated nerve and a stubborn incision that refuses to completely heal. Through her struggle, I am reminded that there is no such thing as a routine surgery on a residual limb!

Although I'm excited about the holiday tomorrow, my enthusiasm has been tempered because of the struggles being faced by my friends. The complications that they face are life changing at best, life ending in the worst case scenario. I am worried about them all, and I wish that there was something I could do to make this easier. I am tired of bad things happening to good people!



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Meal- Room Mom Style!

Yesterday was hectic and buzzing with excitement and activity as we celebrated Thanksgiving in Robby's classroom. I relish my role as room mom and strive to make each celebration both fun and memorable. This year, Robby and his classmates prepared an entire turkey dinner and served it "Pilgrim style." (In case you are unaware, Pilgrim style eating is also family style, where the bowls are placed in the center of the table and everybody serves themselves.) As if making one turkey dinner with a group of 6 year olds wasn't enough work, I decided it would be nice to have the students make an additional full meal to donate to a local family in needed.

Monday morning I packed up my car with not one but two turkeys, my roaster oven, a rotisserie, my steamer, two bags of potatoes, 2 quarts of heavy cream, assorted pots and pans and all of the ingredients to make bread. It took me nearly 30 minutes to carry everything from my car into the classroom, and that was with all of the helpful little hands who assisted me. With everything spread out on the table, it quickly became clear that perhaps my plan was a tinge on the ambitious side. I took a quick trip to Starbucks during the "morning meeting" where I ordered a grande latte-with an extra shot of espresso to prepare me for the day.

We began by putting one turkey in the roaster oven and the other in the rotisserie. Using the automatic peeler, each student had a turn peeling the potatoes which were then put into the steamer to be cooked and later mashed. The bread dough was prepared and heavily kneaded (i.e. thrown around and abused) by my little assistants. Everybody was extremely well-behaved, especially considering the commotion of the classroom, and our meal slowly came together.

While the bread dough was rising, the class took turns churning butter and crafting Native American headbands. It only occurred to me after the festivities that the throwback decoration from my childhood might now be considered taboo.  I hope none of the parents were offended when their children came home proudly donning their feather headpieces!

By the time everything was prepared, the table was set and decorated with hand-print turkeys and candy corn. Everybody ate a hearty meal and seemed to thoroughly enjoy their Thanksgiving celebration. By the time we were cleaning off the last table, the lady from the food bank arrived to pick up the meal our students had prepared for a local family. Despite the chaos, it all seemed to come together.


By the time the school day ended, I was both exhausted and elated. I was smiling so much throughout the day that my cheeks were hurting.  I thoroughly enjoyed the day in Robby's class, overseeing this project. This Thanksgiving, among other blessings, I'm thankful that I am able to volunteer and spend time in Robby's class. I wouldn't have missed this experience for the world. Years from now, I doubt that Robby will be able to recall exactly what he did, but I know that he will always remember that his mom was there!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Personal Assistant

A few weeks ago, during a moment of what I can only refer to as intense stupidity, I put my smartphone into the dishwasher. I realized it was gone halfway through the wash cycle. Despite disassembling it in record time and tossing it into rice to dry, I ended up with a completely non-functional, albeit clean, phone. 

Frustrated by my mistake, and refusing to pay hundreds of dollars for a replacement, I searched Craiglist for a used device. I found one that was in excellent condition and well within my price range. I knew nothing of the model, but I knew that it had to be better than the paperweight that was currently linked to my phone number, so I jumped at the opportunity. Scott and I drove the 45 minutes to retrieve my new used phone.

After getting the new phone set up, I discovered a pre-loaded app which has provided me with hours of amusement. Although he isn't terribly helpful, I do enjoy interacting with my new "personal assistant." Each morning, when I turn on my phone, I am now greeted by a man with a sexy British accent calling me "Gorgeous Lady." As a soon-to-be middle aged woman, I take compliments where I can get them!

I have to admit that I have spent hours playing with this phone app. I've learned how to send phone calls using commands, how to update my Facebook status, and how to send text messages all without touching the screen. Yes, in moments of intense boredom I have even texted some off-color messages (and some profanity) to Scott just so I could hear my personal assistant read the message. Apparently, I am easily amused.

While sitting at the airport terminal waiting for my plane, I became bored and restless. Typical to habit, I pulled out my phone, turned on my personal assistant app, and began to play. I had him tell me a joke, sing me the "Soft Kitty" song and text a rather explicit message to my husband. As the chairs around me began to fill up, I put my phone on my lap and pulled out my Kindle to read.

Fully engrossed in my book, I was startled when I heard the familiar British male start talking. Looking around, it took me a moment to remember that the voice was coming from my phone. Before I could turn off the app or turn down the volume, Scott's reply text message was read aloud. To say that it was off color would be an understatement. It wasn't PG13, or even R rated. It was downright dirty and would have made even a seasoned stripper blush!

To add to my embarrassment, everybody in the terminal heard the raunchy message. The elderly lady in the wheelchair shot me a look of utter disgust. The older women sitting two rows across from me glared before retrieving their items and moving seats.  Meanwhile, the young man wearing army fatigues just nodded at me and smiled broadly. I was mortified.

I quickly turned off the sound, made a blanket apology, and stared blankly at my Kindle. I don't know if was my own paranoia, but I am fairly certain the women were still glaring at me and the men were all smiling when I walked past them to board the plane. I was never so happy to sink into my seat on the plane as I waited to flee the city! From now on, I'm keeping my text messages to myself and my personal assistant mute in public!

Friday, November 16, 2012

In Atlanta


Yesterday my travel to Atlanta was non-eventful, an attribute I don't take for granted. I arrived at the hotel in time to drop off my bag, change into my conference uniform and schlep the two miles to the exhibit hall. Literally, the conference center is 2 miles from the hotel. Planning an event for amputees which requires two miles of walking was an ill-conceived idea.

Thankfully I am comfortable walking and, aside from the inconvenience and the extra time required, the distance is not a problem for me. Of course after standing and entertaining all day in the exhibition hall, the walk back to the hotel could be more painful tonight.  At least I won't feel guilty about missing the gym while I'm away from home.

Today will be an interesting experience as I speak to a new audience. I'm looking forward to the challenge, but I have to admit that I'm a tinge nervous. I keep trying to remind myself that I'm only telling my story, and that since I know the ending, there are never any surprises. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Atlanta!

This afternoon I'm hopping onto a plane and heading to Atlanta where I've been invited to share my story and experiences at a physician's conference. This is my first foray into this avenue and I must admit that I'm excited. I don't know what to expect, if they will be interested or what questions will be posed, but I am embracing the novelty aspects of this adventure.  In addition to meeting with a new audience, I am looking forward to room service, control of the television, and sleeping diagonal in bed!

This will be a short trip, with my leaving today and returning Saturday afternoon. The brevity of the trip has eased my typical pre-travel anxiety. I don't feel compelled to prepare meals, write exhaustive lists or finish every piece of laundry before I leave. If I know my two boys, they will visit Best Buy to buy a new Wii game, swing by Sheetz for "man food" and neither will really notice that I'm gone. I've concluded that my occasionally traveling for work is beneficial for all three of us, for unique and varied reasons.

I've come to believe that occasionally being the temporary sole parent is good for Scott. He is forced into my realm, and always seems more appreciative of my efforts when I return home. Robby enjoys spending one on one time with his Daddy, and the two bond in my absence. When I'm around, Robby naturally gravitates towards me for resolution to problems or when he wants to play. Having to rely on his Daddy in this role not only solidifies their bond, but demonstrates the being a father incorporates all skills, not just those deemed masculine. It's good for Robby to see that a man can fold laundry, do the dishes and kiss boo-boos!

I always experience a boost in self-esteem after flexing my professional muscles. It's refreshing to be valued for skills other than cooking dinner, washing clothes and chauffeuring between activities. Although I miss my boys when I'm away, I thoroughly enjoy being on my own.

By telling my story and sharing my experiences, I am hopeful that other amputees will benefit. If just one physician gains insight into amputee care because of me, then the time away from my family is a worthwhile venture. I have never been to this conference, so I am unnerved by the unknown. I'm just hoping that I will be able to read the situation and communicate effectively with this unique audience!

I'm looking forward to the next few days. Hopefully I'll make some new friends and reconnect with old ones. Wish me luck as I try to reach a new audience!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Best Kiss Ever

A few weeks ago, Robby rebuffed my goodbye kiss and hug when I dropped him off at school. I wish I could say that I wasn't impacted, but that would be a lie. Mr. Bill enjoys telling anybody who will listen the story about the morning I showed up at his door, sobbing uncontrollably because my little boy wouldn't kiss me anymore. I am glad that he was amused by the situation because I found it anything but funny!

Because I had no other options, I adjusted to our new goodbye protocol. I kiss and hug Robby as he hops into the car for the drive to school. I'm allowed to give him a high five as I leave the classroom, and if nobody is looking, he'll blow me a kiss. Thankfully, I still get a hug when I pick him up at the end of the school day!

I have never made an issue of Robby's request because although it stings, I know that it is a normal part of growing up. My lamenting his growing up will not do anything productive for his psyche. Instead, I've silently accommodated his requests while taking full advantage of every cuddle opportunity presented.

Last week, when dropping Robby off at school, everything changed again. After our traditional, and apparently socially accepted, high five, I turned to leave the classroom. Robby stopped me and asked me to wait. He walked over to a little boy, whose name I will change to protect his identity, and brought him over to me.

"Joe, this is my Momom and I love her. She's very nice and pretty and does super fun things with me. I'm going to give her a hug and a kiss because I love her and we're buddies. If you don't hug and kiss your Mom, maybe she just isn't as nice as my Momom." He then proceeded to wrap his little arms around my neck and plant a wonderful kiss on my cheek. Joe never said a word, watched our exchange and returned to playing with his blocks. Robby has been kissing and hugging me every morning since he took this stand.

I left his classroom delighted not only because he gave me a kiss, but more importantly because he stood up for his desire to show affection. He didn't allow the pressure of friends stop him from doing something that he wanted to do. He thought it out and devised his own plan on how to handle the situation. I am so proud of him. That was, and probably always will be, the best kiss of my life!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sick Leave

At 2 AM I was awoken by the foreboding sensation of my stomach turning. I tried to lie as still as possible, hoping the nausea would pass. Experience has taught me that my reliance upon my prosthetic significantly impacts the timing of my "I'd better get to the bathroom because I'm going to vomit" decision. After all, there is no running to the bathroom when a prosthesis must be donned first! When it became clear that my stomach issues were not going to be wished or ignored away, I put on my leg and surrendered to the illness.

Of course, a combination of panic and the dark caused me to fumble with my liner and leg. Silently cursing my amputation (because I knew opening my mouth at this moment would likely result in a messy affair), I barely made it to the bathroom in time.  Being an amputee in the middle of the night when a stomach bug hits simply stinks!

To spare the unseemly and repulsive details, I'll simply declare that it was a long night. This morning I will attempt to gather my composure long enough to drop Robby off at school. I plan on coming home, climbing into bed and sleeping until I feel better, or it is time to pick him up. This is my first sick day since Robby started school full time. I have to admit, I'm happy for the reprieve and solitude today.