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.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Talk, but Don't Touch

I am thrilled to report that Robby has gone a full seven days without diapers. He has not had any accidents and proudly assumes his position on the potty when the need arises. He continues to insist on an audience for his potty performance. While I'm not thrilled about being a spectator and narrator of the "event," it is a giant improvement over diapers. To celebrate the diaper free week, and as an attempt to escape from the sudden heat wave, I surprised my perfect pooper with a trip to the House of Bounce.

Our bouncing experience began normally. Robby and I kicked off our shoes and began to play. Since it is not as much fun to slide by yourself I put on my best "fun Mommy" face and considered it my aerobic exercise for the day. After 45 minutes other kids began to arrive. Hot, sweaty and with brush burns on both elbows from the giant slide, I thankfully accepted the much needed break.

Apparently the only thing more fun than sliding and bouncing with me is playing with a group of new friends and Mommy. I was ushered into the giant birthday cake moon bounce by a group of 5 happy preschoolers with my son as the ring leader. Unwilling to acquiesce my status "super cool fun Mommy" I shimmied my way through the child size opening and began to bounce.

Instantly I noticed a little girl as she stopped bouncing and simply stared. Quickly her little friends followed suit until Robby and I were the only two bouncing. I stopped and smiled at the little curious bouncers.

The leader of the group was obvious as she was pushed forward by her friends. She timidly asked me about my leg. This happens so frequently that I have my responses memorized.

"I was in a very bad accident a few years ago. The doctors tried to fix my leg but they couldn't so they gave me a new one. Isn't it cool? I can run and walk and play and bounce just like everybody else. But I can take it off when I get home."

Typically this satisfies kids and they move on. This particular group of children was ultra-inquisitive. I spent the next 30 minutes sitting on a cake shaped bouncer, being peppered with detailed questions. They wanted to know the details about the accident, if I got to hold my old foot and if it was fed to tigers at the zoo.

I patiently answered all of their questions as I scanned the lounge for their parents. I was hoping to establish eye contact with a parent so that they could redirect their offspring. I don't mind the questions from kids, but this was turning into a full blown cross-examination. I didn't want to spend our entire bounce time satisfying their curiosities. I wanted to play with Robby.

That is when I realized that I was missing Robby. He does not view my leg as a novelty and apparently became bored with the conversation. I took his escape from the cake bouncer as my opportunity to leave. I said goodbye, and I slid out of the non-figure friendly hole of the bouncer.

I found Robby climbing through the inflatable obstacle course. With the little inquisitors on my tail, I tried to hurry up the steps to meet him at the top of the slide. My foot got caught and I fell. That is when I realized that one of the little buggers was holding onto my prosthetic and was trying to pull it off.

Surprised and horrified I sternly said, "Do not pull off my leg." That statement got the attention of the mother. She put down her cell phone and coffee and came over--to defend the actions of her children! She reprimanded me for not being "open and honest" about my disability.

I calmly informed her that I have spent over 30 minutes educating her children, answering their questions and even letting them hold my leg, and that now I wanted to play with my son. I also mentioned that it is both inappropriate and dangerous for her children to try to pull a prosthetic off of an amputee.

She began to apologize, explaining that she didn't realize that I had spent so much time answering her children's questions. I kept smiling and, although it was difficult, I bit my tongue from saying anything witty. She gathered up her brood and went home.

Robby became animated when he saw his little bounce mates pack up to leave. As soon as the door closed behind them, he shouted "hooray" and gave me a high five. I asked him if he was happy that the other kids left. "Yes, Mommy. I want to bounce. I don't want to talk about your leg. Your leg is not fun. Bouncing is fun. Let's bounce." I have to agree with Robby- my leg is not a lot of fun!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

America's Funniest Video-- maybe!

Yesterday morning I was jittery, although Scott would say irritable, with nervous energy. I worked around the house, cleaning and re-cleaning the living areas of my house. Robby followed along "helping" whenever possible. I then had to double back and clean up his attempts at cleaning.

When the camera crew arrived, Robby and my mom (who graciously drove 5 hours round trip to help me out for the afternoon) went for a walk. The two ended up at our neighbor's house. Mr. Bill is in his 70's and has quickly become one of Robby's best friends. Mr. Bill loves nothing more than digging in the dirt, hammering nails and gnawing on blocks of cheese while sitting on the tailgate of the pick-up truck. Sharing common interests, their friendship was inevitable.

With Robby safely tucked out of the way, I had only to focus on the task at hand. The crew consisted of five people and four trucks of equipment. It took 30 minutes to set up the lights and soundboards for the 20 minute interview. To my surprise, I felt calm and composed when the cameras began to roll.

After relaying my story and answering questions, the producer wrapped the interview. Thinking that the taping was over, I invited everybody inside for brownies. It was then that I learned that they were planning on filming me while I ran.

I don't think I could be more clear when I say that I am not a runner. I participated in a race, but I am not fast. I have been known, on occasion, to move through the neighborhood in a motion that somewhat resembles a jog. My movements are neither fluid nor graceful. Before my amputation, my running style was once described by my softball coach as looking "deformed." Losing my leg has not improved my form.

Despite my pleas that I am not a pretty runner, the Producers were determined to get the video. They felt that it would contribute to the film in a positive manner, and would help the lay public view amputees as being both competent and capable. I conceded and agreed to run on film.

I changed into the cutest running shorts I own. Because I was not allowed to wear my Livestrong and Nike work-out shirts due to copyright issues, I was forced to scavenge the bedroom to try to find an appropriate garment. After frantically searching, I was resigned to wearing one of Scott's gray undershirts.

My inner voice was pleading with me to fake a sprained ankle. I even toyed with the notion of falling on the nuts in the driveway, forcing the film to wrap without the much sought footage. Ultimately I decided to smile broadly, keep my head high and put on the best running demonstration I could muster.

I am hoping that their expectations of the running video sequence are not ill-conceived when the film is released. They are confident that showing me running will advance the positive perception of amputees. I, however, am fairly confident that I will end up looking like an lame duck waddling slowly in her husband's underwear but quickly flapping her wings in an enthusiastic manner. I guess we'll know for sure when the documentary airs this spring.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lights, Camera...

After several days of frantically scurrying around to get the house and yard in order, Wednesday is upon me. In retrospect I am glad that I was provided with little notice to prepare for the interview. I've been so busy getting the house and yard prepared that I haven't had the time to become anxious. That is, until now.

I am flattered that the National Geographic producers want to interview me for their documentary, but the pessimist that lingers deep inside wonders if I really have anything to contribute. I am fully aware that I am "only" a below knee amputee. On the severity scale, I am on the lowest rung. There are hoards of people, many of whom have become friends, who deal with obstacles and issues far greater than mine.

This morning I find myself apprehensive. Saying that I am nervous would not be an apt description. Rather, I find myself struggling with feelings of self-doubt. I worry that I will somehow fail to communicate my story effectively and that I will botch relaying the amputee experience and perspective. I don't want to embarrass myself, but, more importantly, I do not want to disappoint anybody.

Regardless of how I feel, the commitment has been made and the camera crew will be arriving in a few short hours. The house is clean, the yard is presentable and my hair has been freshly dyed. Everything seems to be ready, except of course for me.

I'll put on my best "game face" for the camera and hope to speak cohesive thoughts. I'm scared, but hoping for the best. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Going Nutty!

I love the change of seasons. After the oppressive heat from the summer, waking up to cool air in the morning makes me feel invigorated. Robby and I can play outside all day in shorts and t-shirts without breaking a sweat. The days are becoming shorter, which means that I can slip into my pajamas after dinner and not feel guilty. Yes, autumn might be my favorite season.

Of course fall poses certain risks for the amputee. I had to fall only once to develop a deep respect for wet leaves on the pavement. We live in the woods surrounded by huge trees. In addition to shedding leaves every autumn, we discovered that trees also drop nuts.

We have had a huge nut issue this year. Our house sounds as if it is being firebombed when the slightest breeze passes. The nuts hitting the skylight at night is enough to jolt both of us from a deep sleep. Various nuts are littering our porch, driveway, walkway and street. Needless to say, I predict we are going to be seeing a lot of fat squirrels come spring.

I hate that the nuts have impacted my ability to play outside with Robby. Because of my prosthetic, I need to be cognizant of every step so that I don't lose my footing. Despite his constant protests, I have refused to race him. If I were to race Robby, it would be prudent for us to sprint towards the hospital because that would probably be my end destination.

I resent my amputation most when it interferes with everyday tasks. Right now, I find myself cursing both the nuts and my prosthetic when I am walking outside. I am having significant trouble walking without losing my footing and it just plain stinks!

Yesterday, Robby asked me if we could go outside to gather nuts for the squirrels. The weather was beautiful and, despite my hatred of the unstable nut field which used to be our yard, I didn't want to be inside. We gathered our buckets and headed out.

Robby was happily running through the yard picking up acorns and hickory nuts. If you have never seen a hickory nut, they are only slightly smaller than a baseball. The nuts fall from high branches on the tree, with our trees being about 70 feet tall. The nuts hit with a thud that causes the outer husk to break away.

When I was outside, looking down to avoid slipping and falling on the blasted nuts, a small hickory nut fell directly onto the top of my head. Slipping and falling on nuts is a danger, but I failed to appreciate the possibility of being clunked in the head. The pain was numbing and I immediately began to see stars.

Robby, upon seeing me get clunked in the head with a nut, broke into peals of laughter. Apparently, he saw something similar happen on a Backyardigans cartoon. I doubt that the little blue penguin from the cartoon was left with a pounding headache.

From now until all of the leaves and nuts have been shed from the trees, I am sure I will be the talk of the neighborhood. Staying inside is not going to be an option as Robby loves playing outside more than anything. Robby will be running ahead of me, wearing his bicycle helmet. I will be gingerly trudging along behind him, sporting the bright yellow Bob the Builder hardhat. Have I mentioned that I hate nuts?

In case you are not fluent in "Robby" yet, he is singing a song of his own creation titled "Big Fat Nuts are Falling Down"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clean Sweep

Last week I received a telephone call from a producer at the National Geographic Television channel. They are currently working on a documentary for their Explorer series and learned about me because of a blog reader. The show is going to explore the phantom pain phenomena, specifically how the brain responds when these sensations are perceived.

I spoke with the producer for about 45 minutes about my experiences since becoming an amputee, my adjustment to the limb loss and my philosophy about living with a disability. We discussed the phantom and nerve sensations that I occasionally feel, and how I cope with the pain. At the conclusion of our conversation I was asked if I would be willing to be interviewed on camera for the documentary.

Of course I agreed to the interview. If this show can bring awareness about the issue and perhaps spark research interest and funding, I am happy to lend my time and relay my experiences. The camera crew is scheduled to come to my house on Wednesday.

At first I was thrilled with the prospect of being filmed for the National Geographic Channel. As I was relaying the discussion to my Mom on the phone, I began to survey my living room. Wow! I quickly realized that in a few short days a camera crew was going to be in my house and that I had a lot of work ahead of me.

Robby's toys had somehow spread to every corner of my house. Marbles were under the couch, dinosaurs had taken residence in my kitchen, plastic bugs were parading down the hallway and my living room floor had been transformed into a parking lot for small cars and trucks. Ironically, the toy boxes were nearly empty.

Robby apparently inherited his organizational skills from his Daddy. Scott's toys were also strewn around the house. Extraneous computer cords and components were littering the kitchen counters, the mantle in the living room and the coffee table. I am still wondering what an optical computer mouse and two flash drives were doing in the bathroom!

I spent the weekend scrubbing floors and walls, washing windows, and organizing.. Robby's toys have been sorted and put away. Much to his chagrin, a small mountain of toys that he outgrew was systematically moved downstairs to be sold on Craigslist. Some of Scott's "treasures" were put into boxes to be sold while others were placed on his computer chair in "the man cave."

Scott's interest in cleaning quickly waned with the kick-off of the first football game. He realized he was safer staying quiet and tucked away in the bedroom or he would find a rag and a bottle of cleanser in his hands. Robby, being a great little helper, spent nearly an hour washing the same window in the living room. He used an entire bottle of Windex, but the window (or at least the half of the window that he could reach) is clean.

After working for countless hours, the house is clean. Okay, the entire house isn't clean, but the areas that might be on film are spotless. I am hoping to make enough money selling all of the toys and extraneous items I collected during my marathon housework to pay a cleaning service to finish the rest.