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, November 19, 2010

Riding the Rails

There is no better feeling in the world than Robby wrapping his arms and legs around me after I return from a trip. I was only away for two nights, but I missed my little buddy. Although he had fun with his Nana, it's nice to know that he missed me.

When I was asked to travel to New York City I began to compare traveling by train versus plane. Looking at my options it became clear that the total travel time would be less if I went by Amtrak. When I realized that my hotel was directly across from Penn Station, my travel plans were sealed.

I haven't been on an Amtrak train since I was in elementary school. Before this trip I tried to find information about the passenger security screening procedures. I couldn't find any information. I now know why my queries yielded no results: there is no screening for the train.

When I was leaving New York City out of Penn Station I saw no fewer than a dozen fatigued military personnel armed with stun guns. They were certainly an imposing presence. While they were intimidating, I did not witness any passengers being screened, patted down or searched. If it occurred, the general public was not involved. Traveling by train, at least for this amputee, was a breeze! It appears that traveling by train is not as much of a perceived security risk, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience without scanners, scopes, and molestation--whoops, I mean pat downs.

Although the travel time was 3.5 hours, I enjoyed the quiet that the train afforded me. Many times, when I am traveling by plane, my residual limb is sore by the time I disembark. On the train I was provided more leg room and wasn't cramped into a space designed for a malnourished Pygmy. I was able to stretch out, kick off my leg and put my foot up. It was a relaxing trip, and I felt refreshed by the time I reached my destination. The electric outlets by each seat were another unexpected perk!

I had a wonderful time exploring the city and meeting with various publication representatives. Sometimes it's nice to be in a professional environment for awhile. As an unexpected bonus perk of my trip, Robby now thinks that I am "super duper cool" because I went on a train! I have to admit, however, that I am thrilled to be back in my pink flannel pajamas, watching Billy the Exterminator with Robby.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Horizons

This has been my first trip to New York City in nearly 15 years. It is hard to believe that it has been that long, and I was immediately struck by how much younger the residents seem. As much as I fight it, I suspect that I am just older.

Exploring cities is not as much fun as it was in my youth. I am more cautious now, aware of potential dangers. When I was younger I would think nothing of walking around Time Square at midnight. Last night my hand was cramped from clutching the cell phone as I tried to make it back to my room before dark.

Part of my anxiety stemmed from my sense of vulnerability. Since I lost my leg I feel as if I have become an ideal target for crime. I can't run as fast, and, if I fall, it takes me longer to stand up. If I were a criminal, I would choose me. I despise and resent feeling weak!

Yesterday was spent shuffling between meetings throughout the city. I recounted my story to various outlets, varying the focus depending upon the audience. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I am still trying to process.

I was nervous but tried to exude confidence to the best of my ability. (I do know that I looked assured in my new outfit.) I spoke with the reporters as if I were talking to a friend. When questions were posed, I answered them as if I were talking with somebody who reads this blog or with a novice amputee. I didn't say or do anything offensive, so I'm considering the meetings a success.

I did realize that I have come a long way since I was injured in 1998. I don't think that I really took stock of my accomplishments until I was forced to recount them. During those meetings it occurred to me that I am a lot stronger than I credit myself.

I have gone from feeling apprehensive to feeling strong within 24 hours. This has certainly been a roller coaster. That being said, I'm loving this ride.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mommy On The Go

I am currently in New York City trying to gear up to meet with reporters. I was told to wear clothes indicative of "Mommy on the Go," but I was immediately confused because my "Mommy on the Go" wardrobe means that I put on sweatpants in lieu of pajama bottoms when I go to the grocery store. I knew I was going to need help.

This past weekend I called my friend Vicki who, in addition to having an impeccable sense of style, is an avid fan of the Style Network. I knew that I was in good hands with her as my stylist! Despite being confident in her abilities, it become glaringly clear that I am lacking any sense of design or style in my wardrobe.

Her criteria for a nice outfit are more discriminating. I classify any garment as being "nice" if it is cute, pink, and lacks tears and obvious stains. After being a stay-at-home Mommy for the past four years, it has become clear that I have an extremely limited selection of "nice" clothes. I now have two trendy outfits, although uncomfortable, sure to make me the envy of trendy and modern "Mommies on the go" everywhere!

Last night I arrived in New York City. Thankfully my hotel is across the street from the train station because I became disoriented by the noises and commotion almost as soon as I walked off the train.

I found my way to the hotel and checked in. Feeling brave and determined not to be a recluse and hide, (my immediate tendency) I set out to explore. Observing a Michael Jackson impersonator moonwalk down the street for seemingly no reason was certainly unexpected and caught me off guard. I wanted to take a picture but I didn't know if it would cost me or offend him, so I decided to keep walking, quietly humming "Thriller."

After 15 minutes of walking with my best cosmopolitan strut and trying to feign urban sophistication, I became pathetically lost. I spent so much mental energy trying to fit in and look natural that I ended up just following a hoard of people instead of paying attention to where I was going. Somehow I had walked through Time Square without noticing.

I hate becoming lost especially when I am alone in a large city. Unfortunately, it is a rather common occurrence for me. Despite being trained to teach blind people how to use canes and travel, I have the personal orienteering skills of a drunk hamster. The irony has not been lost on me.

I was thrilled to get back to my hotel room, shed my "Mommy on the Go" clothes and crawl into my pajamas. While I love traveling, I've come to the conclusion it just isn't as much fun when I am by myself. The honking horns from the taxi cabs below my hotel window make me miss my drafty, leaky home in Virginia!

In all honesty, I am nervous about today. I'm decked out in my new clothes preparing for this adventure. Since I'm a horrible actress, I think it is best if I'm just myself. That will have to be enough! I am just hopeful that somebody will escort me between appointments and I won't have to rely upon my pathetic sense of direction. If the latter is the case I may end up somewhere in New Jersey, but I'll look great!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's About Safety

I have become a nervous passenger. While I've never been particularly comfortable with the flying experience, I have noticed that my anxiety level increases during the days leading up to another trip. I'm not anxious about being on a plane; I am nervous about dealing with TSA. (Click here to see why.)

I have written about my frustrations with TSA in the past. I have had both good and nightmarish interactions with agents since I became an amputee. Since I never know what to expect, I have learned to prepare myself for the worst.

I was informed last week, as I prepared to fly out of Dulles to Atlanta, that the pat down procedures have changed. Hearing that procedures have "changed" puts me on notice. This is the same jargon that was utilized by thug agents in the past. Immediately my pulse began to rise.

Keeping a smile on my face, I tried to be as polite as possible with the TSA agent. When I was informed that the pat down would be "thorough," I did not know what to expect. At the risk of sounding crass, this agent felt more of my body than Scott ever did after we had been dating for six weeks! Calling the screening a "pat down" is not an apt description. Might I suggest that they simply say, "I am now going to feel you up."

I was offered a private screening which I declined. (After experiencing the new "thorough" pat down in a public setting, I am a little frightened about what might happen to me without a terminal full of witnesses.) I always decline the private room. I feel that my fellow passengers deserve to see their transportation security taxes in action!

Having experienced the "thorough pat down" procedures on my flight to Atlanta, I was prepared for my molestation on my return flight. The TSA agent again explained the new procedure and proceeded to cop the necessary feels. I was then taken for my Cast Scope X-Rays. I hate it when TSA has a new toy!

After standing in a variety of positions for the necessary six x-rays, I was hopeful another TSA screening would come to an end. Unfortunately the agents were not able to interpret my images. I was asked to decipher the x-ray images for them!

I am not against the extra screening procedures for amputees. I have always been kind and respectful. I am compliant when the Cast Scope machine is utilized although I am annoyed by the doses of radiation to which I am subjected versus the amount endured by my fellow passengers. Truth be told, I am perhaps one of the most easy going amputees to pass through airport security.

I become frustrated and angry when, after being subjected to six doses of "safe" radiation, I am required to interpret the images. Yes, I know what the images are showing. Looking at the images, I think that my prosthetic components are easy to comprehend.

Perhaps it is more important that the individuals with the badges, the people placed in charge of keeping us safe on the plane, know what they are seeing! Does it seem wise to ask the passenger and then to rely upon their answers to determine safety? By demonstrating that the agents are unable to decipher the images from their own equipment, it became clear that these individuals are woefully under trained.

I am making a stand and I encourage my fellow amputees to stand with me. I am no longer interpreting my own Cast Scope images. TSA: Take the pictures if you must, but do not rely upon me to educate you about what you are seeing. Please TSA, I am imploring you to show the amputee community some respect by learning to utilize your own instruments.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I have had a busy few days. Looking at the calendar, it seems that I'll be able to relax the weekend after Thanksgiving. Until then, I am a Mommy on the go!

Last week I spent a few days in Atlanta. I was the Proprio product model at a bionic training for prosthetists and physical therapists. I've done several of these events and was finally becoming comfortable with the event and with my role. Of course, just as I was becoming comfortable, the entire course was changed. Have I mentioned how much I hate change?

Instead of speaking and completing a few demonstrations, I found myself lying on a table being manipulated by a physical therapist. I was put through the same evaluation as soldiers who are returning from combat. Let me assure you, I am a busy Mommy and I am trying to stay fit, but I do not have the strength or the stamina of an active military soldier!

I was comfortable lying flat on the table. I've lost a lot of weight in the past month and was feeling trim and thin. It wasn't until I was told to turn towards the therapist, thus turning my rear towards the crowd, that I became self-conscious. Showing a room full of people the sheer vastness of my bum was not in the course description!

During the demonstration there was an emphasis on "core" muscles. I learned that I have a weak core. Not wanting to disappoint my colleagues, I pushed through cramping pain and continued the demonstration with a smile as I struggled to control my panting. I am still having trouble bending after completing an exercise called "the hundred" which involves, you guessed it, one hundred crunches. Ouch!

I was encouraged to utilize the muscles within my socket. Now my stump hurts. I'm not sure what the physical therapist did to the back of my legs but those muscles are sore as well. I thought that my increased exercise routine had improved my fitness. I was shown in one afternoon that I was wrong.

I'm going to continue to work on my core muscles for two reasons. I know that it is good for me and the possibility of having a flatter stomach is enticing. Perhaps more motivating is the knowledge that I am going to be doing the demonstration again and I don't want to be left in this much pain. I really hate exercising, but I love my heated mattress pad. It's like a body size heating pad, which is precisely what I need right now!