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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, Same Me

Of all of the holidays, I would have to say that I dislike New Year's Day the most. My feelings towards the holiday were formed in childhood. New Year's Day was traditionally the last day of our school vacation and it was difficult to celebrate returning to the classroom, especially after the excitement of Christmas!

Before I met Scott, I used to fantasize about my New Year's Eve celebrations. I envisioned elaborate black tie affairs where beautiful people were waltzing until midnight. I don't know how to waltz. I used to be able to do the "Achy Breaky Heart" dance, but I don't remember the steps and I'm pretty sure I'd fall and get hurt. Not only have I never been to such a party, I am struggling to recall ringing in the New Year wearing anything but my pajamas.

I used to become depressed on New Year's Eve, embarrassed by my lame social life. I have come to realize that I am in the majority and that the extravagant parties are productions of Hollywood and the media. At least, that is what I tell myself when I see them play out on the television while I am licking powdered cheese from my fingers and sipping a root beer.

New Year's Eve, while revelers are shown whooping it up in Time Square and at parties around the world, I can be found in bed. It is difficult for me to stay up until midnight. I learned a long time ago that nothing really happens when the ball reaches the bottom of the tower. If you ask me, it is a tad anticlimactic.

Now that I am an adult, I have continued to dislike New Years. I hate that we are bombarded by the media to create resolutions to make drastic life changes. It is hard enough for me to remember to change the date on checks that I write. This year we mark a decade change, necessitating that I change not one but two digits. I think it is unfair to also expect that I change major aspects of my life as well!

Resolutions made and broken remain the topic of conversation until the middle of January. Seemingly everybody inquires about what resolutions I have made for the upcoming year. I am a relatively benign, boring person. I don't have that many vices that need to be changed!

Commercials after Christmas immediately change from "Merry Christmas-have a Pillsbury cookie" to "You're fat from too many cookies-- join Jenny Craig." New Year, New You. Television becomes depressing because I feel inundated with self-help messages, touting everything that is "wrong" with me. Cookie commercials are more fun!

If I could, I would go to sleep on December 30th and wake up on January 2nd. I would avoid every "You're not good enough the way that you are" message. For me, "New Year, New You" should be "New Year, Be Happy with Yourself." I guess that isn't as catchy!

Please don't ask me if I've made any resolutions, or what I hope to accomplish in the upcoming year. I have trouble planning for next week, asking me to devise a plan for the next 12 months is both daunting and unrealistic. If you have any resolutions you've made that you would like to share, feel free. I would be happy to support you in your self-improvement quests. Just know that the offer stands throughout the year, not just because we are switching calendars.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Sad Entry

I am writing this blog with a heavy heart. When I first began this venture, I vowed that my blog would be a vehicle for my uncensored emotions and experiences. I have always striven to put a voice to my feelings and experiences knowing that others could relate to my situation. Sometimes just knowing that I am not the only Mommy to have experienced a situation helps to remove the isolation that often accompanies being an amputee parent.

To date, I have never held back from discussing my feelings about a situation I deem "blog worthy." I am proud that I have tackled some difficult and sometimes embarrassing issues, often trying to blend information with humor. Unfortunately, this is the first time I find that I am not free to openly discuss a topic I feel requires exploration.

It seems that the holiday season brings out not only the best, but also the worst in families. Family politics are difficult to navigate during the most relaxed of times. During the holidays, when increased stress levels prevail, maneuvering through family expectations and perceived obligations becomes increasingly difficult.

I have written a blog to be published today. At the request of some loved ones, I have opted to hold off on publishing my entry. Stress levels remain high, and emotions are raw. Perhaps, with time, the issues can be addressed.

I love my family, and I would never want to hurt them. For the time being, I suppose the "elephant will remain in the room." I am not sure that ignoring an issue is ever a viable solution. Perhaps time will heal some wounds and a composed, civil conversation can occur.

I want the readers of my blog to finish reading my entries feeling informed or entertained (ideally, a combination of both). I would never want somebody to be angry or to provide ammunition for future conflicts. Because of these reasons, I am opting to censor myself.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Things To Do...

Scott is beginning his second week of Christmas vacation. He was scheduled only to have off during this week. The snow we had a week ago caused his school to close, affording him an extra week off. We have resolved to make the most of his time off by tackling our "to do" list.

This morning I woke up excited to start our projects. We have painting to finish, Christmas decorations to be removed and packed away, carpets to be cleaned and the list continues. Since I don't have a priority for the projects, I gave the list to Scott and asked him to choose what he would like to do.

After perusing the list for several minutes he asked for the computer. Confident that he had decided upon a project and was researching instructions, I decided to not ask any questions. I got Robby dressed and made breakfast.

With the breakfast dishes done and the kitchen semi-cleaned up, Scott finally emerged from in front of the laptop. He was dressed (unusual during school breaks) and was putting on his coat. Car keys in hand, he asked Robby if he wanted to come. Robby and I put our coats on and followed to the car.

We have an overflowing list of things to do, and we were united in our resolve to tackle the list. Or so I thought. We didn't go to Sherwin Williams for paint. Nor did we go to Lowes for cleaning supplies. We didn't go to Target for plastic storage containers.

Where did we go?

We went to an ice rink, about 30 minutes away, to watch the Washington Capital's hockey team practice. Scott was giddy with excitement as he was holding Robby against the Plexiglas, watching the team skate and shoot the puck. He referred to the players by name which impressed me because they were not wearing their numbered shirts. Robby referred to the players as a "hockey man." I was getting scolded because I was taking pictures of the wrong players or because I was missing photo opportunities.

This is a picture of Alexander Ovechkin. He is Scott's favorite player. My husband became giddy when he skated by us. Ovechkin looked towards the "squealing" noises coming from our direction. Scott tried to blame Robby. I know better, and I'm pretty sure Ovechkin did too!

I have rarely seen Scott awe struck. This was the case this morning. We were not able to get any autographs. Apparently we were not the only family to have this idea today.

Not to worry though. Scott made sure that the address was saved in the GPS. It has already been "requested" that Robby and I return, during the week when the schools are back in session, to hopefully secure some autographs.

Scott thinks it would be "really cool" if the players signed my leg. I am not keen on the idea of taking my leg off and handing it off to somebody on the ice. Nor do I particularly want to walk around with autographs all over my leg until I need a new socket. It is not the type of fashion statement I would like to make. I think I'll splurge and buy a shirt or photograph.

We have returned from the ice rink. The "to do" list is on the kitchen counter. Scott is back in bed, ready for a nap. His back now hurts from holding Robby at the rink. In order to thwart any frustrations during this vacation, I am officially giving up. I am going to put the list back into the kitchen drawer where it will remain until Spring Break.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Santa Came!

I remember being a child on Christmas morning. I was in awe of the presents that Santa left under the tree. The anticipation of what Santa was going to bring was almost as much fun as unwrapping the presents to reveal my new treasures. I used to think that nothing could surpass being young on Christmas morning.

Then I became a Mommy, and I discovered the joy of watching my little boy experience the magic of Christmas. Robby feeds off of my excitement. Christmas Eve I managed to work him into a near frenzy. The anticipation of Santa's visit was palpable in our house on Christmas eve.

The cookies were baked, the reindeer food was prepared and sprinkled outside. Per our neighbor's request, I doctored the reindeer food recipe. Apparently field mice like oats, which is a main ingredient in "reindeer food." Last year the field mice came out onto the street, happily munching away on their "Christmas feast" that we sprinkled to attract the reindeer. The hawks then took advantage of the opportunity, swooped down and feasted upon the mice. Hopefully no animals were harmed because of our festivities this year!

Robby and I tracked Santa Claus all day on NORAD's website. We sang Santa Claus is Coming to Town all day. When the sun finally set, we were dressed in our Christmas pajamas. All we had to do was sleep and wait for Santa.

I was surprised at how quickly Robby fell asleep. One explanation of "Santa won't come until you are asleep" prompted him to run into his room, pull the covers over his head and begin to fake snore. I wish every night bedtime could be that easy!

Unfortunately sleep did not come that easy for me. I felt silly, but I was excited about Santa coming to visit. I was feeling nostalgic for my childhood Christmases. I was anxious for Robby's reaction in the morning. Scott and I were both eager for him to discover Santa's surprises.

His presents were carefully wrapped in specially selected Thomas the Train wrapping paper. They were neatly arranged underneath the tree. I made sure all of the toys had batteries and that the fasteners were removed. It took me nearly 3 hours to get everything ready. The bows were bright and shiny. Everything looked perfect!

I was worried that Robby would try to sneak out of his room in the middle of the night, so I opted to sleep in his room. I made the correct assumption. He woke up three times in the middle of the night wanting to see if Santa came to visit yet. I became something short of a jail warden, trying to keep him captive inside his bedroom until the sun came up. This was no easy task.

Finally, when the sun came up, I released my prisoner. He practically pulled his Daddy out of bed before running into the living room. Robby stopped dead in his tracks halfway into the living room.

Santa came!

Robby was finished unwrapping his gifts in 15 minutes. It would have only taken him 10 minutes, but we managed to convince him to stop to sing "Jingle Bells." By the time he was finished my carefully selected wrapping paper was shredded and discarded around the living room. My beautiful bows were stuck to the floor, to the table, to the couch and a red one was stuck to Scott's rear.

In mere minutes Scott and I found ourselves knee high in a post-Christmas tornado of boxes and trash. When asked about a favorite gift, Robby simply says that he got a "big big big pile of presents." He seemed most impressed that Santa ate the cookies that were left by the fireplace.

After the fury of the present opening finished, I managed to pull Robby away from his toys long enough to eat a Santa shaped pancake. Scott and I exchanged a high-five in the kitchen. We managed to execute the perfect Christmas morning for our little boy.

Driving to my Mom's that afternoon, Scott and I reflected upon Robby's reactions to the morning events. Pure joy shone on his face when he saw Santa's surprises. Our little boy was delighted and nearly giddy with happiness.

We both agree. The only thing better than being a little one on Christmas morning is being the parent of a young child on Christmas morning. Seeing him on Christmas morning, tearing into his presents and giggling, was the best gift I could have received. The memories will last me a lifetime, even though my special wrapping paper and meticulous presentation was destroyed within moments.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Excitement Gone Wrong...

This morning, at about 4 AM I heard Robby sneak out of his bedroom. I thought he was going to come to our room, which has been his usual pattern. When he didn't make the turn into our room, I listened harder to try to determine what he was doing. I assumed that the cookies were in danger!

I heard him start to cry. I immediately put on my leg and went running towards the sobbing. I found Robby lying under the Christmas tree, nearly inconsolable.

In the "Santa Excitement" Robby became confused with the time line of events. He thought that Santa was supposed to come last night. Through his tears he kept saying that he was a "good boy" and that Santa "forgot him."

It absolutely broke my heart. I scooped him up, gave him a cup of milk and tried to explain that Santa doesn't come until tonight. We need to go through an entire day, and when the sun goes to sleep and the moon comes out to play with the stars, Santa will come.

With his cheeks red and tear marked, he smiled and said, "Oh yeah. Santa come tonight. Promise Momom? Promise?" With my explanation accepted, Robby immediately walked back to his room and is now sound asleep.

I have been awake, thinking about my sweet little boy. I hope that I will be able to soothe all of his pain with a few words and a simple explanation. I think I'll take advantage of the quiet and wrap some gifts.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Attention Television Executives...

Robby has been delighted with the Christmas season. To him, the "abracadabra" lights decorating buildings and yards are simply magical. He loves baking cookies and decorating his tree. One of his favorite holiday perks has been his later bedtime.

I tend to be strict when it comes to Robby's bedtime. I like to put him in bed between 8:00 and 8:15. By the time 8:00 rolls around, I am exhausted and ready for a reprieve. Unfortunately, the executives at the major television networks must have later bedtimes for their children. The Christmas classic cartoons are not shown until 8:00.

By the time the "classic cartoon" is shown, I am exhausted. All I want to do is take my leg off, crawl into bed and relax. Now I am forced to contend with a toddler who is antsy because he is tired but excited to be allowed up past his bedtime.

We have all of the classics on DVD, and Robby has been watching them constantly. I suppose there is something special about cartoon being shown on television. In reality, it is more nostalgia for me. I remember the excitement as the holiday cartoons started to be shown on television. It was a very big deal in our family!

I can't be a Grinch. I have to let him stay awake to watch the show. I certainly don't want to deprive him of the childhood rite of passage! So we pop our popcorn, curl into bed and watch the cartoon.

I am a little worried that Robby is getting used to the later bedtime. Hopefully this is a habit I can undo after the holidays are over. In the meantime, I have been indulging in an extra cup of coffee (or two) in the morning. After all, I am in my 30's, but I admit I still get excited when Charlie Brown's Christmas is on television!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Amputee Airport Travel

I just wanted to write a quick note to inform my fellow amputees about a new step implemented by TSA in "major" airports.

Since my amputation I have learned that extra time is always required for me to maneuver through the security obstacles. Sometimes I breeze through security with little delay. More often than not, I encounter a delay usually because an employee is unfamiliar with the procedures concerning amputees.

I was traveling with my family during the past week. We arrived to the airport with ample time to get through security. If we had been running late, I am certain that the newest security procedure would have caused me to miss my plane.

In addition to all of the usual screening procedures (the wand, pat down and explosives test) I was directed to a machine located in the corner of the check point area. Apparently, at many major airports amputees are now having their prosthetics x-rayed. I had a total of six pictures taken (one on each side, one on the top of the foot and one on the bottom of the foot). The x-rays allow the screeners to see through the prosthetic to look for contraband materials.

I don't have an issue with the x-rays. I realize that, in today's fearful world, it is better to be cautious. However, the implementation of this technology certainly does require time. If you are an amputee and are traveling through a major airport (I encountered the machine at the Baltimore airport but not at the Columbus airport) be sure to leave plenty of time to clear security!

A Christmas I'll Never Forget...

Since Robby was born, the focus of Christmas has shifted in our family. Scott and I are now devoted to making the holiday memorable and happy for Robby. Yes, Santa will bring some pretty cool presents (if I do say so myself), but I have also flooded his days with crafts and holiday projects. Buying presents for each other is no longer a priority. Scott should be particularly grateful for the shift in focus!

Scott has many wonderful attributes. Picking out gifts is not one of his talents. I love him, but he has the romantic inclination of a slug.

I can't help but recall Christmas 2003. Much to Scott's chagrin, this holiday will never be forgotten. The events of this Christmas have been retold and have already been incorporated into the folklore of our family and friends.

2003 was a difficult year for me. It was the year of my amputation. By the time Christmas came around, I was physically recovered from the limb loss, but emotionally fragile. I desperately needed reassurance that, although I was missing my leg, I was still loved and desired.

Scott and I had been dating for three years. We had discussed marriage but mutually agreed that I should be recovered from the amputation before moving forward with our relationship. By December 2003 I had been walking for 6 weeks. I was getting stronger everyday. I needed something to look forward to. I was ready to get engaged.

We spent Christmas Day apart that year. I was at my mom's house and he was in Ohio. Scott and I exchanged gifts before he left, but per his request we each kept one gift back. He explained that he had a "special" gift that he wanted to give to me in Ohio in front of his family.

My mom, my cousins and I speculated all day about my ring. Surely I was going to receive a proposal the following day. We were all excited, and I was over the moon. For the first time since my amputation, I was seeing a ray of happiness. I was still loved and he still wanted to marry me despite my amputation.

I woke up early the next morning to fly to Ohio. After struggling through the airport with a painful residual limb, I was thrilled to see Scott waiting for me at baggage claim. After attending the obligatory family luncheon, I finally arrived at his mom's house. After exchanging pleasantries and holiday presents, it was time for our "special" gift exchange.

Scott emerged from the back bedroom carrying a small square box. It was wrapped with a red bow. I remember every detail of the presentation. After all, this was "my moment."

Scott was beaming as he handed me the box. My heart began to beat quickly, and I was pretty sure it could be heard across the room. My hands were shaking as I nervously unwrapped the paper...

A pedometer.

Yes, he bought me a pedometer--for someone who just had an amputation and was feeling fat and ugly. And he bought me a walking-oriented weight loss device. To this day, Scott is quick to point out that it was a very cool pedometer which could be hooked up to the internet so that my information could be uploaded. Only being in the presence of his mother kept me from telling him where to upload his pedometer!

Scott didn't realize that by giving me that pedometer he was actually providing a gift for all of my family and friends. Now, whenever someone receives a present that is deemed "inadequate" or "thoughtless," the giver can simply shrug and say, "Well, at least it isn't a pedometer."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Okay, I'm Talking About Sex

I would like to provide a disclaimer for the readers of this particular blog post. This post deals with a sensitive issue. I am writing about sex after an amputation. I want to be honest without being graphic.

After much debate and a discussion with Scott, I have decided that this needs to be openly addressed. I have received numerous emails from individuals who are struggling with the issue after their amputation. Many others are fearful of how their upcoming amputation may affect their sex life.

I am certainly no expert on the subject. I can, however, speak frankly about my experiences. Sometimes, merely validating fears can go a long way towards eliminating them. I thought I was the only amputee worried about intimacy. It wasn't until I started reaching out to help other "new"amputees that I discovered my fears about sex were universal for the amputee and his or her partner(s).

I was worried about how my amputation was going to impact my sex life before my amputation. Because it is a sensitive and personal issue, I did not feel comfortable broaching the topic with amputee mentors. I was left to deal with my fears and emotions on my own, which probably made my adjustment more difficult.

Before my amputation I assumed that I would wear my prosthetic during intercourse. I figured that I would feel more comfortable wearing the leg. I never envisioned that I would want to be intimate without a foot. I quickly changed my mind after I received my prosthetic and discovered how awkward and heavy the device is, especially when I am lying down.

It took nearly six months until I was "ready" after my amputation. This extended time was due to the infection in my stump but, in retrospect, was also because I was feeling ugly. I simply wasn't eager to be seen. For partners of the amputee, patience is imperative!

After my amputation it was difficult for me to look at my body. I assumed that it was difficult for Scott to look at me as well, but I have since learned otherwise. He loved me unconditionally and wasn't "turned off" because I happened to be missing a foot. The problem was, I turned myself off.

I didn't feel attractive and any sense of sensuality seemed to have evaporated. It took months before I could look in a mirror without tearing up. Scott knew that the lights were going to be off, and that any touching below my knee was NOT going to happen. I didn't want anything to remind me that I was now an amputee.

No, I didn't wear my prosthetic. I did wear my liner. I worried that my sensitive stump would get bumped somehow. The liner just made me feel more comfortable and safer. I suppose I felt more comfortable keeping my residual limb covered. We never discussed removing the liner. It was never an issue.

As my stump healed and my self-esteem recovered, I no longer needed to keep my stump covered. It was a natural and slow progression. I don't need to wear the liner anymore. If the liner is on, it is because of the spontaneity of the act versus my desire to keep my stump concealed.

People are often curious about how an amputee has sex. All I can say is that I have learned that a foot is not necessary for intercourse. An active and adventurous sex life after an amputation is possible, but every position may not be feasible. For example, sex in the shower has been completely eliminated. I have enough trouble balancing to wash my hair!

Keeping an open dialogue is paramount. I realized that it was up to me to let Scott know when I was feeling discomfort. He certainly doesn't want to hurt me. He was equally as nervous about causing me pain.

I have learned that laughter can go a long way to ease a tense situation. Scott and I laugh a lot, including when we are being intimate. After an amputation, some positions just don't "work" anymore. However our inability to recreate positions from our youthful escapades is probably due to our increasing age and decreasing flexibility as much as it is because of my amputation!

You really won't know until you try. Sometimes my stump hurts or gets pinched, so we simply change position. We have a lot of pillows to provide extra padding for my residual limb (and to reduce friction abrasions). And when a specific position doesn't work, instead of getting upset or frustrated, we just laugh it off.

Patience, love and open communication are the tools we needed to rebuild our sex life after my amputation. Just as my body changed for me, it has also changed for Scott. He admits that some positions feel "different." Because of my amputation, we laugh a lot more, and we talk more. Both of these are good things.

A brief note: My Mom, a retired English teacher, reads my blogs before they publish to fix my punctuation etc.. I was worried that she would feel uncomfortable reading a blog about such an intimate topic. Her reaction when I voiced my concerns? "Peggy, it may have been a long time ago, but I have performed the act. And I am constantly getting screwed." Love ya Mom!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Livestrong... and Science

I have written in the past about my admiration for professional cyclist Lance Armstrong. Having survived cancer myself, I tend to look to fellow survivors for role models. I have a Livestrong band around my prosthetic and my yellow rubber bracelet is never off my wrist.

When people are diagnosed with cancer, they are often met with a barrage of "keep the faith" or "stay strong" or other well meaning mantras. Yes, it is important to keep a positive attitude. However, it is important to remember that a positive attitude is not the only variable when battling this horrible disease.

Surgeries, medication and other pharmaceutical interventions are usually necessary components when battling this illness. Personal fortitude and strength enable the patient to withstand the devastating treatments and certainly makes it easier for family and friends to support the individual through the disease.

When somebody says that an individual merely needs to stay strong and think positive, I shudder. Statements such as these, although well intended, unintentionally condemn those who did not survive. It is implied that the deceased were weak or somehow lacking faith. An individual with the strength of an army can still succumb to the disease.

15 years ago today, one of the strongest women I have ever known passed away from cancer. My cousin, Louise Ann, battled cancer in various forms since she was in her early 20's. According to the experts of the day, she was to die within a year. She not only survived, she continued to live a life full of love.

Louise Ann gave birth to a son (Dan), whom she adored. The bond between Dan and his Mom surpassed that of mother and child. Knowing that her time on earth to be his mother would be limited, she truly epitomized making every moment count.

As cancer continued to take parts of her body, she became more determined to fortify her son with the values, love and memories that usually evolve over decades. When Dan wanted to take karate, she took the lessons with him. She participated in all of his Boy Scout activities; they were always late to the Memorial Day picnic because he was folding the flag.

They went on vacations which, as a child, filled us with jealousy and wonder. I remember the summer they went to a Dude Ranch. We went to the Jersey Shore. Honestly, there was no comparison.

As Louise Ann's cancer progressed and moved into her bones, her physical strength began to weaken. She became emaciated and was in constant pain. She knew that her time with her beloved son was coming to an end. She was not only leaving her son but also her family and her circle of friends.

Surely she was angry. I never heard her complain. The strength and grace which she demonstrated was nothing short of epic. Her focus remained her child.

If attitude and strength were the only factors necessary for destroying cancer cells, Louise Ann would have been victorious. But she died. The will to live by itself cannot beat the disease because attitude only helps and supports the living.

I know individuals who were negative, angry and mournful during their cancer treatment and who are now survivors. I have also known friends and family members who, despite a seemingly endless reserve of strength and will power, ultimately died because of the disease. Advances in science made it possible for Louise to live twenty years past the initial prognosis; attitude and will made that extra time on earth a blessing to all who knew her.

Dan lost his Mom when he was a teenager, but he has memories to last a lifetime. He is going to be a father in April, and was over the moon when he learned that they are expecting a little girl. Louise Ann will never have the opportunity to hold her granddaughter, but I know that the child will know her love.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Have Ham, Will Fly.

On your mark. Get set. Travel! Watch out airport, the Chenoweth family is traveling again.

We are going to see Scott's family in Ohio for the weekend. Robby is excited to go and can hardly wait to get on the plane. When we told him that we are going to Grandma's house he immediately retrieved his Go Diego Go backpack and started filling it with toys and binkies. Stuffed to its limits, he told me he was ready to "go go go."

I have written about this before, but it bears repeating. After my amputation I have learned to hate flying. I don't mind the plane ride itself. I resent the hoops I have to maneuver through airport security.

I dug through my dresser and found my "flying" undergarments. A sports bra without any metal clasps or underwires keeps the detector wand from being triggered thus eliminating the necessity for the "frontal" pat down. Anytime I can keep a stranger's hands off my breasts, I consider it to be a good thing.

I carefully choose my wardrobe when flying. I steer away from any garment that contains metal, including rivets and zippers. Keeping my prosthetic somewhat exposed helps me go through security with minimal hassle. The screeners often need to wand the prosthetic for explosives. and keeping it exposed helps them gain access. I have also discovered that weary travelers and frustrated employees tend to be a little more considerate and accommodating when they can see a physical disability. When traveling with a toddler we need every consideration possible!

I am immediately ushered into the Plexiglas "special screening area" by TSA. Scott and Robby are left to fend for themselves. Typically this involves Scott trying to restrain Robby to keep him from following me. Robby is often screaming and crying and very wiggly. Scott is forced to hold him as he walks through the metal detector.

I would like to say that I feel guilty leaving Scott in this situation, but to be honest, part of me enjoys watching the scene unfold. Maintaining control of Robby and keeping everything in order remains my responsibility for the majority of the time, so it is refreshing to see the tables turned. One inner voice is saying "oh no.. poor Scott." The other inner voice, slightly louder, is saying "Ha ha."

Within one of our carry-on bags this year will be a large frozen ham. We are making a holiday dinner for Scott's brother's family and for my mother in law. Since our Christmas budget was spent on plane tickets, we are trying to save money by bringing the meat from our well stocked freezer. I am a little concerned that the frozen pork will spark increased scrutiny of our luggage and my prosthetic.

I am not having visions of sugar plums dancing when I sleep. Lately I've been having nightmares of maneuvering airport security. In particular, my dreams focus on security dogs. I imagine the drug seeking canines violently ripping through our luggage, snarling and drooling as they seek out the coveted Honey Ham. But I digress.

Every year you see horror stories on television featuring passengers stranded on planes and within the terminal. This year we are prepared. In addition to the extra diapers and Desitin, we will be fully stocked with marshmallows, lollipops, cheese crackers and, of course, a spiral sliced ham! We are off and ready to Go, Go, Go!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Last Poop Blog (fingers crossed...)

Since Thanksgiving I have been held hostage by the pooping habits of my three year old. Robby's "withholding" has affected every aspect of my day. I haven't been able to leave the house for more than an hour at a time for fear of "leakage" burning his sore and raw bum. We have both been miserable.

I have conducted countless hours of research on the internet trying to find a remedy. After a discussion with other Mommies, I opted to try the "mineral oil" treatment. The oil is supposed to lubricate the bowel movement, making it painless when passing. Theoretically, after a few pain free bowel movements, Robby's fear of poop was to subside, and life was to return to normal.

The first day Robby was on the oil yielded limited success. He pooped in the bathtub. At the time I was elated. The entire family erupted into the "poopy dance." In retrospect, the poop was probably due to his screaming and his inability to control his muscles while throwing a tantrum.

The second day of the oil treatment produced no movements. Robby continued to withhold and his diaper rash continued to worsen. More research led me to slightly increase the oil dosage.

Yesterday Robby began to poop. As soon as he pooped without screaming he was rewarded with a trip to the bakery. There he picked out a giant Christmas tree cookie, smothered in green frosting. Yes, I am not above bribery, especially when desperate!

Scott and I thought that we had conquered the "withholding" issue. We decided to continue a maintenance dose of the oil to keep things "running smoothly." Poop talk in our house has become both natural and matter of fact.

Today I woke up determined to resurrect my dwindling Christmas spirit. I put on a brand new bright red cable knit sweater. Robby, dressed in red pants and his Santa Claus shirt, looked adorable. I must admit, we were quite the festive looking pair! We set out for the mall so that Robby could meet Santa.

I was delighted when, after some coaxing, Robby approached Santa. He was eager to sit on Santa's lap as soon as he saw the basket of lollipops next to Jolly St. Nick. Again, he is still at an age where he is easily and cheaply bribed. I got a wonderful picture of him with Santa.

Robby began complaining of a tummy ache almost as soon as we got home. He told me that he needed a new diaper. I no sooner took off his diaper when I received the surprise of a lifetime.

I've experienced projectile vomiting before. I didn't know that projectile diarrhea was a possibility--until today. Before I could seek cover, I was being sprayed with bright green liquid feces.

Nothing was safe from the wrath being produced from his bottom. Bright green (yes, Christmas tree cookie green) odoriferous fecal matter was spraying in 180 degrees for at least 10 feet. Diarrhea covered my brand new Christmas sweater, my hair and my face. The white carpet in my bedroom was splattered with little smelly green dots. My sweet little white cat also received a direct hit. She was not happy!

The rest of my afternoon was spent cleaning up after his anal explosion. With everything properly disinfected and cleaned, the smell is beginning to dissipate. Looking on the positive, Robby is no longer withholding. I have clean sheets on my bed and my carpet is clean. After seeing the damage inflicted on my sweater, red and green will forever have a different connotation.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the cat.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Twelve Days of Christmas

Our holiday season has been hijacked by a withholding toddler. Robby has become fearful of pooping, and apparently has decided he will never do it again. To date, nothing has been successful in reversing his decision. He is nothing if not stubborn.

All of our family conversations lately have revolved around poop. Scott no longer asks how I am doing, instead he immediately begins discussing Robby's lack of bowel movements. I have become frustrated with the limited range of topics in our family.

As I was lathering up Robby's red bottom with more Desitin and Vaseline I began to hum the Christmas songs. The humming began as my way of blocking out his screaming, which is more out of habit than pain at this point.

By the time I had his bum lathered I had rewritten the first few lines to the Twelve Days of Christmas. I suppose this song is a reflection of how my holiday season is progressing. It made me smile to write it out, and I think that many Mommies will be able to relate.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my Family Gave to Me:

Twelve days of poop talk,

eleven cartoons playing,

ten toddler tantrums,

nine dozen cookies,

eight dirty diapers,

seven loads of laundry, six stumps a-hurtin',

Five sleepless nights,

Four bags of trash,

three cookie men,

two pinch cut sores

and some Desitin mixed with Vaseline.

I have never liked that song.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts on Rudolph

Of all of the classic Christmas cartoons, I would have to say that Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is his favorite. We have the show on DVD and recorded on the DVR. If Robby knew how to operate the remote controls, I am certain that Rudolph would be playing on a continual loop in our home.

I have always found Rudolph to be an adorable Christmas symbol. The story is charming and always makes me smile. I have Rudolph ornaments that we hang from the chandelier every year. Robby and I have matching Rudolph shirts, and yes, the noses actually blink. My car is easy to locate in the crowded mall parking lot: it is the only SUV with antlers sticking up from the windows and a red nose on the grill!

That being said, I have always had issues with the cartoon classic. Even as a child I was haunted by some of the discrepancies brought to light in the show. I must have been an analytical child!

My main issue with the cartoon was Santa's behavior towards Rudolph. Santa, who is supposed to be loving and nice, was downright rude to Rudolph simply because he was different. Even as a youngster I knew that Santa was wrong, and part of me wondered if he disliked disabled children as well. I also knew from a very young age that, had I been Rudolph, I would have told Santa to grab a flashlight and pull his own sleigh! After all, Santa only "accepted" the nasally challenged deer when he needed something. Rudolph was being used.

I never completely "bought" the notion of the island of misfit toys. If Santa knew when I was being good or brushing my teeth, how did he not know that these toys existed? I assumed he went to rescue the toys because he was guilted into acting by Rudolph. I was also fairly certain that the toys were going to be distributed to "economically disadvantaged" children.

I could accept that the other reindeer were mean to Rudolph. I had certainly witnessed enough playground teasing to know that kids were cruel. I never understood how Rudolph's father could be so unaccepting of his son. Daddies are supposed to protect their children. Donner was ashamed of his son and was mean to him. It was just wrong.

Robby and I have watched Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer at least 25 times this year. I have had a lot of opportunities to analyze and dissect the cartoon. I suppose that being "politically correct" did not exist when the cartoon was created.

My issues aside, I like Rudolph. I wouldn't miss watching the cartoon every Christmas season. He makes me smile, and I am glad that he agreed to pull the sleigh for Santa. He is a better deer than me!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Phantom Pain

I am having a bad morning. Actually, my bad morning is merely a carry-over from my bad night. I am miserable today and, unfortunately, I don't see the situation changing anytime soon.

Last night I had a difficult time falling asleep because of phantom pain in my limb. I hate the term "phantom pains" because I don't feel that it is an apt description for what I feel. The pain I was experiencing is anything but phantom!

I know that every amputee experiences phantom pains differently. For some, they actually feel pain in the limb that has been amputated. This has happened to me on a few occasions, but the occurrences are rare. I consider myself lucky that I don't suffer from this type of pain.

My phantom pains are strictly nerve based. My residual limb feels as if it is being stung by hornets. I feel extremely sharp small pains all over my stump, causing my leg to involuntarily kick. On nights when the stinging is severe, I feel as if I should have been a Rockette.

The stinging and kicking combine to make me miserable. Pain medications are ineffective and merely leave me groggy the next day. I am forced to try to find a comfortable position in bed and hope that it goes away.

When the stinging is only moderate, sometimes massage and compression prove to be a useful treatment. I tried my massage pillow last night but it was not effective. In fact, it made the stinging worse. I was in misery.

I struggled to find a position that would quiet the stinging. Finally, I settled on lying on my stomach with my knee bent and pulled up towards my chest. I put a long pillow underneath my knee to provide more support and a little elevation. Relief! The stinging lessened and the kicking subsided.

If I moved from this awkward position the stinging immediately resumed, waking me from my sleep. I was forced by my residual limb to stay in this contorted position. I was able to get a few hours sleep, but my body is paying the price this morning.

Apparently I threw my lower back out by sleeping is such an extreme position. I am having a difficult time walking and slight movements cause shooting pain down both legs. And I'm not sure how I managed to hurt my left shoulder, but I did that, too! I can barely move my left arm without pain radiating down the arm.

I struggled to put my leg on this morning and limped to the coffee pot. It took me a few minutes, but I managed to get to the kitchen to retrieve Robby's milk. I stopped by the hallway closet and pulled out two heating pads.

It took me about 15 minutes to carefully arrange all of our pillows to support my aching body. I finally managed to find a semi-upright position which was quasi-comfortable. I arranged the heating pads under my back and shoulder. I also put my massage pillow under my stump, hopeful that massaging now would thwart similar pains tonight.

I put Blue's Clues on the television for Robby and prepared to have my pain soothed away by the heating pads. I turned on both heating pads and was pleased with their placement. I then turned on my massage pillow.

Poof! Everything turned off. Robby started crying because the television was off and he was helping Steve find the next clue. I wanted to cry, because I knew that I had blown a fuse. This is not going to be a good day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

All Aboard the Cookie Train

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, cookie baking season has begun. We went to Costco for our annual "baking trip." My pantry is overflowing with 50 pounds of flour, 20 pounds of sugar, 6 dozen eggs and 10 pounds of butter. I was a bit overzealous last year, and I am still working my way through the 7 pounds of baking powder we bought last Christmas.

Robby and I have been looking through many of the cookie magazines that pop up in the grocery store this time of year. In addition to our traditional staples, we are going to be experimenting with some new recipes this year. And, of course our holiday baking wouldn't be complete without Robby's gingerbread train.

Anybody who knows me knows that I love to bake. When Robby was born, I was devastated because I was certain I was having a baby girl. I feared that a little boy wouldn't enjoy baking with his Mom. Scott promised that, in the unlikely event that our new baby wouldn't enjoy making cookies, he would bribe Robby. I stopped crying in the delivery room and began to make plans for "boy themed" cookies.

I have been baking with Robby since he was born. I used to wear him on my chest as I whipped up batches of cookies and cakes. He has grown into quite a talented baker. He can now crack an egg better than his Daddy. Okay, that comparison really doesn't give Robby's talents a lot of credence, but trust me, he does a great job!

I have a five gallon plastic tub overflowing with colored sugars, sprinkles and small candy shapes. Robby's face lights up when I bring out the "sugar tub." He scrambles to retrieve his learning tower and begins his chattering of "Opey up Opey up" (open up, open up.)

Robby is methodical when decorating his cookies and it takes him a very long time to complete a cookie sheet. I typically put on a Christmas DVD (lately he has been partial to Thomas the Train Christmas) and let him have fun. Although he is very particular when working with his cookie decorations, he is anything but neat. He doesn't mean to be messy, but he is three, and it goes with the territory.

Typically, I try not to stress about the mess that is being created with the sugar that is landing on the floor instead of on the cookies. Messes are par for the course when baking and can be easily cleaned. My kitchen floor tends to be a little crunchy during the holidays from the sugars and candies that are "decorating" the tiles.

Last holiday season I became stressed out. I often spent an hour cleaning up after baking with Robby. I was trying desperately to keep a "Martha Stewart" image of what a holiday kitchen should look like: a kitchen filled with baked goods and spotless countertops and floor. This year, I vow that things will be different for me. Our kitchen, especially during the holidays, is a place that fosters happiness and fun. Much of the joy comes from crystal sugar. The sugar, by design, tends to land on the counters and floors almost as much as the cookies and some of it may remain there longer than I would like, but so be it. It will be cleaned--eventually.

Robby and I have been making cookies, and we are having fun. So, if you happen to visit my house, please enjoy some cookies. They will be expertly decorated and are guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit. Just please excuse the crunching sounds that you might encounter as you walk through my kitchen. If walking on sugar and candies offends you, try closing your eyes and imagining that you are walking through a field of freshly fallen snow. Only our "snow" is more colorful and slightly stickier.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Robby's Haircut.

I took Robby for a haircut. This is usually a mundane chore for many mommys, and would probably not be "blog worthy." I have learned, however, that Robby has the ability to turn the most boring and ordinary tasks into a drama of monumental proportions.

Robby has not earned a good reputation when it comes to getting his hair cut. In the past, he has been very loud and vocal about his "dislike" for the barber. I was hoping that this time would be different.

This time, instead of springing the hair cut on him, I decided to prep him. I reasoned that he would feel as if he was in more control if he knew that we were going to the barber. Perhaps his outbursts in the past stemmed from feeling l and scared. I set out to remedy the situation!

I started to prepare him for the trip to the barber several days ago. We talked about going to the barber. We watched Max on Max and Ruby (one of his favorite cartoons) go to the barber. We read books about going to the barber. And, what perhaps made the strongest impression, he learned that he would receive a lollipop from the barber.

I decided to up the ante a little. I promised him two lollipops if he didn't cry. Sure that my prep work would yield success or that the bribery would be effective, I set out for the barber.

Robby and I chatted about visiting the barber during the drive. I talked about being nice and saying hello. I talked about being a good boy and staying still. He talked about getting two lollipops.

I was optimistic when I parked the car. Robby unlatched his seat belt and did not put up a struggle entering the barber shop. Eureka, I had tackled the barber issue! I was a diligent Mommy, I had prepared my child, and he had now conquered his fear. I was feeling quite successful and proud as we entered the barber shop.

After Robby greeted the barber, he immediately asked for his lollipop. The barber informed him that he needed to get his hair cut first. At this moment I felt the blood begin to drain from my face. My pride vanished. I prepped Robby to visit the barber. I had failed to mention that, while he was at the barber, he would be getting his haircut.

Robby began to sob, pleading "No haircut Mr. Barber. No cut Robby hair Mr. Barber." I assumed my position on the barber chair, and held Robby on my lap. With him in a bear hug, the barber began to cut his hair.

To say that Robby screamed would be an understatement. I held him tightly, and he was still wiggling away from the scissors. Two other barbers came to assist in restraining Robby Rotten. He voiced his displeasure. He screamed with each snip and became louder with time.

To my horror, two police officers came running into the barber shop! They heard Robby screaming and they thought that something was wrong. I had to explain that he was fine, just angry about getting his haircut.

So there I sat on a barber chair, covered with black smock, holding a screaming toddler. I had a barber on each side of me, each trying to restrain my son. Two police officers were standing in front of me trying to console Robby. They were not successful.

All of the hair that was cut was stuck to his face and arms. He looked like a hairy red werewolf.
When the haircut was finished, Robby hopped out of my arms. He asked for his lollipop, gave the Police Officers each a fist bump, and said "Bye-bye Mr. Barber."

I gave the barber a $20 bill for a $12 haircut. I took my now happy little boy, sucking on his lollipop, out to the car and strapped him into his car seat. I reached into the glove compartment and found my Tylenol bottle. I made a mental note that we needed to find a new Barber Shop. My only solace was that his hair was short, and I knew that we wouldn't have to repeat this spectacle for another 5 or 6 months.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


We had our first official snow of the year. Robby woke up and the neighborhood was covered with white. He was thrilled. He reaction this year was so different than how he reacted last year. Last year when he saw snow for the first time, he began to sob uncontrollably because everything turned white. This year, he knows that the white is snow, and that snow equates fun.

He didn't afford me the courtesy of slurping down my first (and only) cup of coffee before he began to plead his case to play outside. He ran through his repertoire of "please" and "Robby good boy" and finally beat me down with the "I love you Momom." Yes, that one gets me every time.

After 20 minutes of dressing him for his wonderland adventure, we were finally able to go outside. I pulled a pair of Scott's sweatpants over top of my comfy pink pajama bottoms, put my coat on, grabbed my hat and gloves and was ready to go. Winter, here we come!

Robby was delighted with the snow falling. He ran around the yard trying to eat the snowflakes. Whenever he caught one on his tongue he told me that it "needed sugar." It wasn't until that afternoon, when we were watching Charlie Brown Christmas for probably the 200th time, that I realized he was copying the cartoon.

Robby and I made a snowman. Actually, Robby pushed the snowball down the hill. I had to carry them back up the hill so that he could push them down again, making them bigger. Snowballs get heavy, either that or I'm getting old. I'd like to think that the snow is just weighing more because of global warming. I managed to convince Robby that the snowman should be short
because Frosty is afraid of heights.

I loved watching him run around and play. That is where my enjoyment of the snow ended. I was struggling to stay erect because I couldn't find my ice walker attachments for my shoes. Balancing on snow and ice when on a prosthetic is difficult.

If I have a complaint about my prosthetic, it would be that I can't wear a snow boot. Actually, I probably could wear a boot if I bought the left one several sizes larger. I would have to be willing to invest the time to put the boot onto the prosthetic before going outside and removing it when I came back into the house. Because it is difficult to put on a boot when you are lacking ankle movements, it would be an investment of at least 30 minutes. 30 minutes when you have a toddler eager to go outside is an eternity!

After my amputation I bought a pair of "ice walkers" on the Internet. They are metal treads that slip on your shoes with plastic bands. Simple and effective. Effective, that is, when you remember where they are and have them attached to your shoes. Mine are stashed away in a box somewhere, probably in the back of a closet behind all my leg lamp paraphernalia. They aren't nearly as effective when you can't find them!

After several hours of snow play, Robby was finally convinced to come inside. To be honest, it took the promise of cookies and hot chocolate to lure him away from the snow. I made "my boys" hot chocolate and put our wet clothes in the dryer. While Robby was busy with his snack, I took the opportunity to look for my ice walkers.

They weren't in the closet. I looked in all of the "logical" locations. They were no where to find. In retrospect, I would have to agree with Scott. I was getting frustrated and grumpy. I was just about to give up, and then I had an idea. I found them where I find everything that seems to disappear. They were in the drawer of Robby's train table.

I realized I was tired and cold. My back was also hurting, probably from pulling the sled with a 40 pound toddler weight in the back, up our hill at least 20 times. I took ibuprofen. I made myself another cup of coffee.

I sat down in front of our Christmas tree to enjoy my coffee. What a beautiful scene, the twinkling tree with the falling snow in the background. Three sips into my steaming hot cup of wonderful caffeine, Robby found me. He immediately began asking to go back outside. "Please Momom.... Puullllllleease.... "

Monday, December 07, 2009

My Morning Conversation...

Yes, he is still "withholding." Per doctor's instructions, I had to have this conversation. I found myself kneeling down to talk with Robby this morning. I never thought I would utter these words...

"Robby, Mommy knows that you are in charge of your own poopy. Mommy can poop whenever she wants. Mommy likes to poop in the potty because the potty makes the poopy happy. You can poop if you want to, or you can keep it in. I can see that keeping it in is hurting you. You might feel better if you poop, but it is up to you. Mommy can't make you poop because the poop belongs to you."

Ah... the glamorous side of motherhood. I wonder if Hallmark makes a "Gee Mom, thanks for helping me poop" card.

My only solace right now? The fact that Scott has to have the exact same conversation with him tonight, only he needs to take the "man to man" approach.

The Leg Lamp...

I absolutely love the Christmas season. As a matter of fact, frequent nightmares this time of year generally involve my somehow "sleeping through" or missing the holiday. I was disappointed when my surgery was postponed until after the holidays, but slightly gleeful because I would be healthy for the holidays.

This year I have decided to make Christmas as special as possible for Robby. He is at the age where he openly accepts and believes everything his Mommy tells him. For him the lights, sights, smells and wonders of the season are nothing short of magical. I love seeing him looking around and absorbing everything he sees.

I don't mind the crowded stores or the long lines. Truth be told, I completed the majority of my shopping in the fall when I thought I would be recovering from surgery during December. I take the increased road traffic in stride, and try to view it as an opportunity to sing more carols with Robby. Unfortunately Robby has begun to ask me to quit singing. This request makes me sad.

Yes, my kitchen is a mess from the seemingly endless supply of cookies coming from the ovens. I have colored sugar and sprinkles absolutely everywhere. Robby's new favorite "special treat" is cookie sprinkles in a small cup. Unfortunately, he is three and tends to spill things. There is not a room in my house that is devoid of cookie sprinkles at the moment. I was taking a shower yesterday and "found" three candy holly leaves stuck to my rear!

There remains, however, one aspect of the Christmas season that I dislike. It started out as a little joke in a delightful movie. Over the years it has grown in scope and is becoming a distorted symbol of the holiday season.

Yes, I'm talking about the leg lamp from The Christmas Story.

Every year I receive several cards which prominently feature the leg lamp along with a witty note about "making some extra money with extra legs" or "have you ever thought of doing this?" I know that my friends (and family) who send the cards mean well. They are trying to be funny.

I suppose I never found the lamp humorous before my amputation. I always took the lamp to be a minor subplot in the movie and never gave it much thought. Now this strange Christmas icon seems to remind everybody of me, or at least of my amputation.

Since my amputation the leg lamp has come to symbolize something which I feel is the antithesis of the Christmas season. For me, the lamp reminds me of devotees. For those of you who don't know, devotees are individuals who are sexually attracted to amputees, primarily the female amputee. Devotees have stalked, harassed and taken unsolicited pictures of me.

Every time I receive a leg lamp card or gift, I imagine a devotee sitting in a dark corner of his bedroom, looking at (and acting upon) the same image, experiencing a different type of Christmas cheer. The leg lamp now represents the sexual perversion of devotees. It certainly puts the image in a different perspective, doesn't it?

The leg lamp is a harmless and funny Christmas reference for most Americans. It is permeating popular Christmas culture. Leg lamp Christmas lights, night lights, cards, ornaments and assorted decorations are now becoming increasingly popular. I can't go to a drugstore without seeing a string of 18 legs hanging overhead! And yes, my mind immediately imagines the pervert in a sleeveless t-shirt sitting on a mattress in the corner of his mother's dank basement, staring lustfully at his set of twinkly leg lights strung among the rafters.

Over the years I have received sundry assorted leg lamp referenced Christmas decorations. Tucked away in the back of my closet I have at least 3 strands of lights, 2 night lights, several ornaments and one very odd leg themed shower curtain. I am certain that other amputees have similar collections.

Please, do not send me anything leg lamp related. For me, the iconic leg lamp does not evoke the spirit of Christmas. I would much rather receive a hearty "Merry Christmas" and avoid all references to what, to me, symbolizes true perversion. Ick.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Amputee Vs. The Individual With an Amputation

I thoroughly enjoy meeting and talking with other amputees. There is an instant camaraderie among individuals who have experienced and are living with limb loss. It is a reality that one can truly relate to only if it has been experienced first hand.

It is difficult to explain how miserable an ill fitting socket can feel and how it can negatively impact an entire day. There is something comforting in knowing that I don't have to explain these issues to another amputee. It is something which we all understand. Phantom pains, liner woes, socket adjustments and emotions are all common topics among amputees.

Because I enjoy talking with other amputees, it is often assumed that I am actively involved in a support group or program. As I have explained in a previous blog, this is not the case. Although I enjoy relaying my experiences and helping others, my amputation does not define who I am.

I have a theory. I have concluded that there is a difference between the "amputee" and the "individual with an amputation." I often interchange these terms, but I believe that they have two separate connotations.

The "amputee" is somebody who identifies him or herself through the limb loss. The amputation or their "status" as amputee is the sole source of conversation. It has become the individual's defining feature. In a sense, the individual has been lost, or at least masked, by the loss.

I think that most individuals who have experienced limb loss go through the "amputee" phase. After all, the loss of a body part is traumatic, regardless of the circumstances. Speaking from experience, I know emotional struggles and the ensuing identity crisis make it difficult, if not impossible, to see beyond the loss.

Eventually, I evolved from being an "amputee" into the "individual with an amputation." I cannot deny that I have an amputation. It is physically obvious. The changes affected by my amputation have been global, not just physical. I am MORE than my limb loss.

I am a mommy. I am a wife. I am a friend. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am an intelligent woman with a lot of opinions (too many if you ask my husband). I am a cancer survivor. I am also living a full life after an amputation. All of these roles contribute to who I am.

Although I can only speak to the groups that I have attended, I have found the attendees to be "stuck" on their loss. Many of the individuals have been amputees for many years (over 10) and are still lamenting their loss. They have not moved into the next phase of acceptance, towards redefining themselves with a limb loss, but not solely by the amputation.

I do not mean to disparage support groups or the need for the groups. I was disappointed in the groups that I attended because there was no emphasis on moving beyond the loss. Perhaps had I sought and found an appropriate group for me, my recovery would have been easier.

Okay, I will now step off of my soap box.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Yes, I'm talking about Poop

It has been a difficult few days in our home. I have been struggling to infuse our home with holiday spirit, but I feel that my efforts are in vain. Our family has been commandeered and is being controlled by the colon of a three year old! Honestly, I can say that I haven't been loving the whole "mommy thing."

Robby has been suffering from bowel issues. In essence, and to spare you all of the unflattering details, he has been "withholding." He apparently had a painful bowel movement a few weeks ago, and was psychologically scarred. He is now fearful of pooping. He doesn't fear spiders, or worms or even snakes. My little guy has to be afraid of poop.

Whenever the urge hits him, Robby runs and hides behind his Elmo kitchen. I see and hear him struggling with cramps and his efforts to fight to urge to poop. I must say, he has the sphincter muscle of a champion because he has been successful.

In addition with being constipated, Robby has developed a horrible diaper rash. His little bum is raw, making it difficult to convince him that pooping is a good thing. As far as he is concerned, pooping equals wipes, and wipes equal pain. He doesn't want anything to do with poop. The cycle continues.

I have been trying without success to break the poop cycle. Per doctor instructions, I have started Robby on a daily regimen of Milk of Magnesia. Again, I must give props to his anal control because after three doses, little has been produced!

Scott and I have blown our Christmas budget on creams, ointments, sprays and gels to help heal his sore bum. My bedside table resembles that of an old woman in a nursing home, covered with laxatives and creams. I never thought I would be spending all of my free time researching diaper rash treatments.

We have tried positive reinforcement to encourage Robby to poop. Scott and I have both evacuated in front of him, following our "achievement" with a rousing rendition of the "Poop Poop Dance" and a sticker. Our sticker charts are bursting at the seams whereas Robby's column remains empty. This side of motherhood was never featured in Good Housekeeping!

My heart breaks as Robby cowers behind the Elmo oven, crying "poopy go away...poopy go away." I have tried to reason with him. Reasoning with a three year old is pointless, especially when it concerns poop.

Our topics of conversation lately have been all bowel related. Robby says that he does not want the poop to come out of his bum. I tell him that I want it to come out. We go around and around, making no progress. I am sure that any flies on our walls have fled for less "fecal focused" conversation.

We have been extremely blessed in our family. This is our first health issue with Robby, and he is three and a half. It is heartbreaking watching him struggle. His bum is beginning to heal with the help of the arsenal of ointments I have been lathering on him. As for the withholding issue, I know that "This too will pass." At least, it will pass with the help of Milk of Magnesia.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Supermarket Sweep!

One of my favorite television shows used to be Supermarket Sweep. This game show was set in a grocery store, and after contestants played a variety of grocery themed games, they were afforded the opportunity to run through a supermarket to grab as much as they could within a designated time. I loved this show. Secretly, competing on this show was an ambition of mine. Although the show has been canceled, my dream survives.

Scott and I enjoy grocery shopping. We pour over coupons and sales circulars from a variety of stores in the quest for the best deal. We are not happy unless we leave the store with at least a savings of 50%. Our favorite bargains lie in the meat aisle. Yes, it is accurate to say that shopping for expiring meat has brought us closer.

Our grocery store offers deep discounts on meat which is getting ready to expire. Because we have a spare freezer, we are able to exploit these opportunities. Our freezer is stuffed with a variety of meat which has been deeply discounted. Yes, we are ready should a pandemic arise and we are forced to remain inside for several months!

Our meat sales have become a sense of pride for our little family. In particular, Scott relishes bragging to guests about how little the dinner cost to prepare. The Thanksgiving turkey my Mom prepared last week was from our freezer and cost only $3.20. Now that's a bargain!

The extreme discounts on meat products are indicated by the coveted "SPECIAL" sticker. This bright yellow sticker is our beacon, calling us to the sale. Robby has been indoctrinated into our bargain hunting ways. He becomes excited when he sees the "SPECIAL" sticker and enjoys putting the food into our cart.

Scott and I went to the grocery store the other day. We carefully examined the "sell by" dates on turkeys and turkey breasts. We marked the sell by date on our calendar and knew that the poultry would be marked down.

Robby was the first to see the yellow "SPECIAL" sticker. He spotted the stickers from four aisles away, and took off like a flash towards the meat case. By the time I reached him, he was happily pointing to the sale meat and jumping up and down. He began singing "Robby found the sticker... Robby found the sticker... Robby found the sticker... Robby found cheap meat hooray!"

Scott was tailing behind me, pushing the cart. After the traditional victory dance with Robby, I took note of the price. The turkeys were 19 cents a pound. My excitement got the best of me because I temporarily lost all sense of social decorum.

I yelled to Scott... This turkey breast is only $1.20. Scott froze and shouted back from across the island within the meat department, toss it here. And that is when it happened.

Instantly I went into my Supermarket Sweep mode. I tossed the bird to Scott who dropped it into the cart. He shouted, "How many are there?" I responded by telling him that there were seven, and tossed another turkey. Robby was jumping up and down screaming, "Yea... cheap boc boc turkey..."

I had thrown six turkeys before we noticed the commotion we had caused. Yes, people were stopped behind their carts, watching as a crazed one-legged woman with an excited toddler in tow was throwing poultry to her husband. We were caught up in the moment. We found a great sale.

Embarrassed by our demonstration, I opted to leave one turkey in the case. As Robby and I walked away, I saw one of our spectators claim the turkey. Robby continued to sing about finding cheap meat and stopped his song only to thank the butcher (who is familiar with our family) for the cheap food.

Unlike the contestants on Supermarket Sweep, we had to pay for our groceries. Six turkeys cost us only $8.90 and we felt victorious. We packed up our "cheap meat" and went home with our booty.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I was raised in a diverse family. My mother is Lutheran and my father is Jewish. My brother is adopted and is of Korean descent. I have openly gay relatives who have been involved in a stable, loving relationship since before I was born. I had a cousin who, through her struggles against cancer, lost her breasts, her hair and much of her body mass to the disease. We were taught to look for similarities instead of focusing on the differences among people.

Scott and I are striving to raise Robby with the all encompassing acceptance which was instilled within us. Robby has been interacting with amputees and individuals with other disabilities since he was born. He has been to Walter Reed several times, and I even volunteered him as a "practice baby" so that soldiers without hands could learn to change a diaper. Robby has a healthy curiosity, but he is not fearful of physical differences among people.

I firmly believe that discrimination, in any form, is a caustic force within human nature. Race, gender, disability, religion and sexual orientation are merely differences among us. I am disappointed to learn that discrimination biases are alive and active within the members of my small family.

When somebody verbalizes a dislike for a particular aspect of human nature, albeit race, disability, sexual orientation or religion, I immediately become angry. I have learned that debating an individual with these views is useless as the chance of changing such thought is improbable. I find it infuriating when religion becomes the reason behind intolerance.

I accept that everybody has the responsibility to develop his own views, and I will not attempt to influence them. I believe that everybody has the right to develop his own thoughts and to utilize his individual moral compass. Our "compass needles" may lead our hearts in different directions, but family ties will always remain.

Often times, those who discriminate have never felt the effects of such negativity personally. Perhaps if they felt the wrath of their words, a different perspective might be gained. Unfortunately, I have witnessed the pain caused by discrimination throughout my life.

My brother was not only the only Korean in our neighborhood, but also the only non-Caucasian. There was another child, a girl, in his class who was also of Asian descent. My brother was paired with her at every school assembly, square dance and recital. It was natural to pair the two "Asian" children together. The possibility of my brother dancing with a white classmate in the first grade Christmas program probably never entered the mind of the teacher. At such a young age, the difference between my brother and his classmates was being amplified.

Since the advent of my disability I have had the displeasure of experiencing discrimination on several occasions. I was strongly encouraged to wear a cosmetic cover on my prosthetic when I was working. I suppose I am stubborn because I refused. I was forced to confront this bigotry at the same time I was trying to survive a difficult pregnancy.

Scott and I laugh because we customarily cannot receive assistance in stores. We went shopping for a new stove and stood patiently for a salesperson to help. Another couple entered the store, and a salesman practically ran out of the back room and vaulted over me to help the couple. We were left standing, with no one to answer our questions or make the sale. The only difference between the couple being helped and us was my disability. It is difficult not to conclude that discrimination played a role in that situation.

When I know that somebody actively discriminates against another person, regardless of the rational, I have a difficult time. I muse that the individual's feelings towards those with a disability may also be negative. After all, how would I really know if I am held in a lesser regard merely because I am disabled?

My heart is saddened by the discrimination voiced within my family. Many relatives on my father's side survived the holocaust. Growing up, I was surrounded by stories about the atrocities committed as well as the heroic acts offered by strangers. My Grandfather believed that the events of World War 2 divided human nature into two categories: those who would offer safety within an attic, and those who would turn you in. I know into which category I fall.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cookie Man!

Robby is beginning to notice that his Mommy is different. He is becoming more aware of my prosthetic and of my stump. He knows that I need to wear my prosthetic to walk, and helps retrieve my liner and leg for me in the morning. He has started referring to my residual limb as "Mommy's little leg."

I was at the grocery store last week where we saw another amputee. Seeing another amputee in the community is a relative rare occurrence. There is an unspoken respect among amputees. We typically exchange the discrete "knowing nod" and continue without interacting.

Of course, Robby doesn't understand the concept of "discrete." He saw the prosthetic, and became ecstatic. I tried to quietly talk with Robby about his "discovery" without drawing unnecessary attention. He began to frantically scream, "Momom, Momom, man with special leg like Mommy." He drew the attention of everybody in the produce section, including the amputee.

I knew that Robby was not going to be quiet until we met the man. I quickly tried to devise my introduction on the walk from the sweet potatoes to the lettuce section. It turns out, introductions were not necessary. After all, I had Robby!

He ran right up the man and pulled up my pant leg. "See... See... Momom has special leg too... See... See..." Robby was very proud that he had "found" another amputee just like his Mom. I knew a smile was coming over my flushing face and I couldn't help but laugh. Luckily the man did not mind the intrusion and was kind enough to talk with Robby. My little boy chattered about the other special leg the rest of the shopping trip. He even said good-bye and hollered, "Bye-bye special leg" when we saw him leaving the store.

Today Robby asked for a cookie. We have been making Christmas cookies and he is particularly fond of the "cookie man." This morning he was playing with his cookie man on the table, having him "walk" to the sippy cup for milk. After carefully examining the cookie he proceeded to bite off one leg. He then smiled at me, with cookie crumbs falling out of his mouth, and showed me the cookie. "Look Momom, look. Cookie man has little leg like Mommy."
Maybe he'll grow up to be a surgeon...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everybody has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Scott and I already hit K Mart this morning, in preparation for our annual Black Friday shopping spree tomorrow. Somebody was already camped out in front of Best Buy and there was a line of at least 400 people at a local department store at 7:00 am.

We are expecting approximately 18-20 people today for Thanksgiving dinner. Robby is in his prime, helping his Nana set the table and cook. His favorite thing so far? Helping Nana make the stuffing. He got to crack nearly a dozen eggs.

Robby has been chatting about eating popcorn and toast for dinner. He apparently takes his "holiday cues" from Charlie Brown. I am fairly confident that his Nana will have a small bowl of popcorn on the table, which will thrill my little boy. Thanksgiving love to everybody!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Blessings...

Next to Christmas, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love every aspect of the day. From the hustling around to prepare the house for company to cooking for the masses, Thanksgiving just makes me feel happy.

The entire family converges at my mom's house for the holiday. I think our family is unique. Although we often see each other only for holidays, we remain in close contact. Between the telephone, email and Facebook, we all remain active in each other's lives. We honestly like each other.

We celebrate our victories and grieve when someone in our family is hurt. The cavalry unites behind any family member who has been wronged. We remain united despite the obstacles. I love that when we all get together, we laugh.

By many standards our family is small in size. We are often morphed in numbers at weddings and funerals. We have a saying that we repeat when we are outnumbered. "We may be small, but we are mighty." I believe that phrase best describes my family.

I am thankful for so many things this year; paramount among them is my family. I know that I am never alone. I know that support and encouragement is only a call or an email away, regardless of where we live.

Many family relationships crumble under the strain of a disability, but the challenge of my amputation has only brought us closer. I have met numerous amputees who have had their relationships disintegrate because of the limb loss. I am thankful that we have been able to tackle the obstacles together.

Scott and I are truly blessed that Robby is healthy and curious. I am so very lucky to be able to stay home with him during these formative years. Being his Mommy is one of my greatest joys. I wouldn't trade being home with him for anything, and he is worth every sacrifice we have made to make this possible.

My family has struggled through heartache during the past year. Substance abuse seemingly destroys the souls of the users. It is often difficult to differentiate between the disease and the person. Drugs affect the entire family, not just the addict. I am thankful that we have all survived. Recovery is an arduous journey. I know that the loved ones are not alone, and we all continue to pray that sobriety will continue.

My sister has three children. Both of my nephews have been diagnosed with seizure disorders. The boys are on seizure medication which appears to be working. My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer and faced her chemotherapy treatments with the tenacity of a soldier. She is now cancer free.

Through a miracle, Jakey has survived being struck by an SUV. His broken bones will heal and he will be recovered by the new year. For that, I could not be more thankful.

My mom is enjoying her retirement and remains busy with friends and her grandchildren. She is planning a much deserved cruise in January. Robby has been able to forge a bond with her which is reminiscent to the bond I held with my Nan and Pop. Seeing him play with her makes my heart happy.

Robby and I have been busy with Thanksgiving crafts. I asked him what he is thankful for. After thinking (a process which involves him tapping his pointer finger on the side of his head and repeating "think think think") he told me his answer, in this order. Robby is thankful for Mommy, Daddy, Nana, getting mail and sugar.

It is so easy to get bogged down with life's little dramas. I love Thanksgiving because it provides a platform to reflect on all of our blessings. Sometimes, when I count all my blessings, the struggles I am experiencing do not seem insurmountable.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Snoring Trouble...

I am tired today. I'm hoping that Robby will take a nap and grant me a reprieve from my fatigue, but the chances of that happening are slim. He is full of energy. After all, he seems to have received all the sleep a three year old needs.

I suppose the problem with my slumber last night began a few minutes after Scott turned off the television. He has always snored. When we first got together, it was a cute little snore. As time has passed, his snore has morphed into a disturbing loud snorting sound. It is reminiscent of the sounds the walruses made when I went to the Philadelphia Zoo as a little girl.

I've tried piling pillows between us to block the sound. Using my elbow for encouragement, I have positioned his body on his side, facing away from me. I have even resorted to putting the pillows on top of him to thwart the horrendous sound. Nothing seems to work.

Finally, about 1:30 AM I drifted off to sleep. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I had dreamt that I was on a fishing boat being led to shore by the fog horns. I suppose I just incorporated the snoring into my dream.

At 3:00 I was awoken by Robby. Apparently monsters had invaded his room again. I put on my leg and escorted him back to his room.

After thoroughly examining his bedroom, including under the bed and in the closet, it was determined that the monsters had left. Just to be sure we sprayed "monster spray" on his bed. Robby crawled back into his race car bed and I tucked him in. He asked me to stay because he was still "ascared."

My heart actually skipped a beat when he asked me to sleep in his room. His room would be quiet! My little guy had provided his Mommy with the perfect excuse to escape the sound pollution permeating my bedroom.

I took the cushions off the sofa in Robby's room and pulled out the bed. I took off my leg. Unfortunately I realized that I had left my pillow on the other side of the room.

I debated whether or not I should put on my leg. I opted to keep it off. For whatever reason, I really detest putting on my prosthetic after I have taken it off for the night. Logically, I know that putting my leg on is the wiser choice. It takes only a few seconds to slip into it. I suppose I just resent having to do it, so I opt to hop.

Hopping was a mistake. With my first hop my foot landed directly on top of Robby's Thomas the Train Engine. Ouch! I took a small step to relieve the pain and landed on top of the cushions that I had just removed from the couch. I came crashing down with half of me landing on the cushions and my shoulders landing on the "hood" of the race car bed.

After convincing Robby that the commotion was NOT caused by monsters, I retrieved my pillow. I crawled over to the sofa bed and rubbed my sore shoulder. I was mad at myself for not putting on my leg. I was tired. Finally, I would be able to sleep.

Then I realized I had forgotten to turn off the light. Robby has started using his Christmas tree as his nightlight, but it is brighter than I realized. In reality, it resembles the northern lights. If I were going to sleep, I needed to cut the illumination.

Again, I debated whether or not I should put on my leg. Hopping was quickly eliminated as a possibility. I devised a solution. I grabbed my leg and took aim. With one well calculated sweeping motion, I managed to reach the light switch to turn off the tree. I put the leg down, pulled up the covers and closed my eyes.

I was just drifting off to sleep when it started. At first it was a soft noise, nothing too offensive. With time, the volume began to increase. I discovered that, just like his Daddy, Robby snores!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Play Doh Mayhem!

I have tried to delay it, but those efforts proved futile. I knew that once it started, my house would forever be changed. Robby has discovered the joys of Play Doh.

Apparently Play Doh is one of the most magical things in the world for a three year old. Robby is enthralled by the soft clay, and it now occupies him for hours. He pulls out his Play Doh box several times a day and is eager to open the cans and start creating.

I am not sure which aspect of Play Doh is the attraction for Robby. I initially suspected the bright colors. However, the colors only lasted for an hour or two. After multiple extrusions through the toys, all of his colors blended into an unattractive baby poop brown. I find the shade disconcerting, but he doesn't seem phased.

Robby can spend hours making "hair." He loves pushing the clay through the various extruders, and seems just as surprised and excited by the creation of strands as he was on his first exposure. Lately his Play Doh hair strands have been morphing into snakes that attack Mommy. This is very funny for a three year old.

I am happy that Robby has found another activity that he enjoys. Play Doh has become a creative outlet for his active imagination. I don't mind being chased by clay snakes, nor am I bothered by continually "eating" his spaghetti and meatballs.

So then, what is my gripe with Play Doh?

Included in his Play Doh playset was the "chip" maker. This is another extruder toy. Robby twists the top of the hand-held wand, causing the clay to be pushed out of the bottom. A small cutter is constantly swinging along the bottom of the extruder, cutting Play Doh "chips."

Robby loves the chip maker. He eager grabs the toy and begins loading it with the baby poop clay. He then smiles and says, "chippies fly in Mommy's kitchen, high high up." Half inch ugly brown clay strips begin to rain down in the kitchen.

The Doh bits become stuck onto the bottom of shoes and socks, and are transferred onto the carpet. To add insult, I know that I am the culprit in the clay transfer. Robby has started to take off his shoes when he is done with the Play Doh because he wants the clay cleaned from the bottom. It is cumbersome to remove the shoe on my prosthetic, so I usually don't bother.

I have tried to put the chip maker away, out of his sight. Robby asks for it. I have tried to tell him that the chip maker went on "vacation." He then asks to go on vacation, and grabs his suitcase for "Bobby's house." (We went to my cousin Bobby's house this past summer when we went on vacation. It has made quite the impression.) I suppose I could draw a hard line and simply remove the chip maker, but I don't have the heart to do this.

I will continue to try to divert his Play Doh creativity to less aerial creations. I am going to have to take the time to clean the bottom of my shoe after playing because this is the easiest solution. In the meantime, does anybody know how to get ground in baby poop brown Play Doh out of white carpet?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Walking... Or Can You Do More.

Although I hate to admit it, exercising is good for everyone. Staying fit helps the body recover from injury and to thwart disease. Being overweight can negatively impact all of the body processes. For the amputee, maintaining a healthy weight is imperative.

I have been both an obese amputee and an amputee with a healthy weight. Through experience, I can attest that, as an obese amputee, every task is more difficult. My stump was forced to bear more weight resulting in tissue break down and increased pain. Every task was laborious.

As I began to drop the weight, my energy level began to increase. My leg became more comfortable, so I was more apt to walk and participate in life. As I became more active, I became a happier and healthier person. Strange how that cycle works.

At the seminar in Houston, a discrepancy concerning amputees became glaringly evident. For the "normal limbed" population, time and motivation are the two necessary components to begin a weight loss journey. I am certainly not negating the effort required, merely the noting "specialized" equipment requirements of an amputee. If an amputee wishes to exercise and become fit, a new prosthetic is often required. Depending upon the individual's insurance, the request may or may not be approved.

I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with some talented and cutting edge prosthetists. They were bragging about the specialty limbs they had built for various patients and were showing photos of their handiwork. In many ways, their boasting was reminiscent of a grandparent bragging about a grandchild.

These prosthetists have the right to brag. What they are able to build truly changes the lives of their patients. The amputees are able to engage in activities that were loved before the amputation. As I was sitting there, listening and oohing and ahhing, I became uncomfortable. I realized that I was jealous.

It seems that the opportunities afforded to the amputee are directly related to the willingness of their insurance carrier. Sport participation is not something the amputee can simply begin without any prep work. For example, to begin running, the amputee doesn't need just a pair of sneakers and thick socks. The amputee also requires a specialized limb designed to withstand the impact and shock absorption of the activity.

I have wanted to add running to my exercise routine for over one year. To date, this activity is not feasible. My insurance adjuster has flatly refused my request for a running leg, deeming the activity "unnecessary."

Because I have not received any specialized prosthetics, I have been limited to just a few exercises. My ability to participate in sports has been limited, affecting not only my fitness level but also negatively impacting my ability to socialize and forge friendships. My handicap has been inflated by the insurance carrier who, through denials, continue to create barriers.

As is typically the case for me, my jealousy quickly morphed into anger. I am not angry that another amputee is able to realize his/her physical goals. I am angry that I and thousands of other amputees continue to have their handicaps enforced because of the financial bottom line of their insurance company.

The amputee is at the mercy of their insurance; good insurance affords increased opportunities. Mediocre or poor insurance leaves the amputee with limited prosthetic choice. The lack of the specialized leg keeps the amputee from realizing their pre-amputation dreams and potentials and often a healthy lifestyle.

All amputees are not equal. With improving technology, the opportunities for cutting edge prosthetics are increasing at an astounding rate. Unfortunately, those advances are only ascertainable by a few. Insurance companies, blind to the individual, decide who among us gets to fully participate in life and who has to settle for "just walking."