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, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day Excitement

The excitement is palpable in our home this morning. Today is Robby's last day of school. As if that wasn't enough cause for celebration, my little guy is looking forward to Mother's Day on Sunday. I'm not sure which event has him more excited!

This is the first year that Robby has grasped the concept of Mother's Day. I can only assume that they have been prepping him for "Momom's big day" at school because he certainly isn't catching his enthusiasm from his Dad.  My husband does wonderful things for me throughout the year, but he resents celebrating what he dubs to be mandatory and obligatory holidays. Ironically, Mother's Day falls into this category but Father's Day does not?

Scott made what he refers to as a Mother's Day gift "investment" five years ago. He commissioned a large banner that reads "World's Best Mother." Every year he hangs the banner from the deck. (Incidentally it stays up until I take it down several weeks later.) Last year he invited me to "make whatever I wanted for dinner." I don't think he'll made that mistake again! Needless to say, Mother's Day has typically been a rather anti-climactic event in our household.

This year though, I think it is going to be different. Robby seems to have a definitive plan, and he is insistent that he is not going to tell me his secrets. In the past 24 hours he has told me "I bet you are going to love the handprint card that I made you in school, but it's a surprise" and  "I think that you'll think the secret bowl I made in school is beautiful." I just smile and act like nothing has been revealed.

Per Robby's request, bacon and eggs were added to the weekly grocery list. I heard him ask Scott if he knew how to make bacon "the yummy and crispy way." Apparently his Daddy's response failed to instill a lot of confidence. Later that day Robby asked me to help him find a YouTube video showing how to cook bacon.

I have to admit that I'm looking forward to Mother's Day this year. While I appreciate Scott's banner, knowing how Robby is excited to make me feel special means the world to me. I know I will love the handprint card and the bowl (that I don't know about) and enjoy the bacon and eggs that he learned to cook by watching YouTube. Happy Mother's Day! (As always, I'll post pictures on Sunday.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bye Bye Kindergarten!!

It is nearly impossible to fathom that tomorrow is Robby's last day of Kindergarten. I remember feeling nearly suffocating anxiety as the dreaded "K" word day approached. I was nervous for him and sad because I knew I was going to miss him while he was gone. I so vividly remember dropping him off on that first day and sobbing until I went to pick him up. In that moment I seriously began to consider homeschooling simply to avoid the angst of the separation!

Robby quickly assimilated to the new routine. He is extremely popular with his peers and is excelling academically. (Did I mention he was April's Student of the Month for his entire school?) He has demonstrated a strength of character by standing up for his peers who are being teased or ridiculed, an attribute of which I could not be prouder.

My adjustment to his being in school has not been as seamless, but my progress has been steady. For much of September I felt lost during those three hours everyday. I was so used to having him with me that the silence in the house was disconcerting. I simply didn't know what to do with myself or how to fill the time.

By the time the holidays came around, my work responsibilities increased drastically. I had no problem filling the time while he was gone. Unfortunately I felt guilty for not giving him all of my attention when he came home from school so I was forced to stay up late and wake up early to finish my projects.

Through the winter months I was running on empty, constantly exhausted and feeling inadequate. I knew that I wasn't being kind to myself and that I needed to make a change. I started to allow Robby to watch a few cartoons when he came home from school, buying me time to finish my work and chores. I discovered that he seemed to relish the time to decompress and didn't need me to constantly engage him. I wish I had figured that out in September; it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights!

This spring I decided to start taking better care of myself. I joined a gym and made my health and emotional well-being a priority. At first I felt selfish taking the time to take care of myself, but I quickly learned that I am a better and happier person because of my efforts.

It has taken me a year to figure out how to be a mom to a Kindergartner. In a few months he will be in the First grade and yes, the thought does make me tear up. It is so hard to grasp that he is old enough to be in the first grade. I know that the new school year enrolled in a full day program will be another transition. I'm only hoping that it is as smooth for both of us as it was for him this year.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

My Superwoman Moment

We have tree trimmers from various companies come by our house soliciting work several times a year. Typically I accept their estimates, take their business cards, and tell them that we'll be in touch if we decide to get any work done. The paperwork is dutifully filed in my junk drawer only to be thrown out a year later.

Several weeks ago we had a tree fall down in our side yard, narrowly missing our garage. The fallen tree has shaken up more than our yard. Since the event, Scott and I have been panicked about trees and large limbs falling on our house. We were lucky that the large oak didn't hit any structures, but that is not something I want to leave to chance. Instead of being inconvenienced when a tree trimmer knocked on my door last week, I was delighted.

We have been particularly concerned about a towering oak that had branches over Robby's bedroom. If one of those enormous branches fell, not only would the roof sustain damage but also we were fearful that Robby would be injured. The tree was obviously dying, and we didn't want to risk waiting for it to fall by itself. 

I was negotiating with the tree trimmer when Mr. Bill, our neighbor, came over. He knows that I feel uncomfortable negotiating and he took it upon himself to strike a deal. I'm glad that he came over; his bargaining skills brought the price down by 2/3!

Yesterday the tree trimmers came to remove the worrisome oak. The tree was cut down and the trunk was cut into fireplace lengths. The men even carved a little seat in the remaining stump so that Robby could have a "throne."

Working together Scott and I managed to move about 25 tree logs out of the center of our yard last night. We estimate that each segment weighs at least 180 pounds, but I tend to believe that they are much heavier. Robby was helpful as always, cheering us on and playing foreman by pointing out where he wanted each log moved.

We each pushed on a side of a log and slowly rolled it into position. My special contribution was wedging my prosthetic foot under the log to prevent it from rolling onto us whenever we needed to rest. This was one situation where having a carbon fiber foot came in quite handy.  I didn't have to worry about broken toes!

I doubt that I would have been able to move the logs before I started training at the gym.  My arms and back are sore, and my foot shell is flattened, but I was able to help! I am proud of myself and, although I have decided to train at a different facility when my present gym contract expires, I am not going to give up on my goal of becoming stronger.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

CNN Article

Several weeks ago I was approached by a reporter for CNN who was writing an article on prosthetics, specifically socket art, and wanted to understand my perspective. I was thrilled about the chance to participate and the opportunity to tell my story.

Amputees have a limited voice in our society, and I strive to make the most of every opportunity to portray those with limb loss in a positive light. I always try to remember myself as I was preparing for my amputation before I begin answering an interview. Unsure about what to expect, I scoured the internet for information about amputees who were living happy and productive lives. Every story I saw, regardless of how mundane, gave me hope. If my participating and sharing my stories helps just one person who is struggling and afraid, I'm willing to deal with my jittery nerves that always accompany an interview. (Of course Scott might disagree slightly as I'm told repeatedly that I become grumpy and irritable before each event or interview.)

I realize that I am my own worst critic, always quick to point out my mistakes or flaws, I have a difficult time watching myself on video or reading my quotes in articles so I often second guess my word choice to the point of becoming quasi-neurotic. When the link to the article arrived in my inbox a few days ago, my heart began to beat quickly as I prepared for the worst.

I was expecting to feel embarrassed or unsuccessful--my two most prominent reactions to reading my quotes. I was surprised when I finished reading the article and felt nothing but happiness and pride. It is rare for me to acknowledge, but I really like this piece and my contribution to the topic. I wanted to share the article with all of you. I hope you like it!

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Invisible Disability

After I stopped teaching in the public schools, I lost touch with most of my "work friends." After years of cultivating relationships and sharing the joys and tragedies of life, I  maintain contact with only two people. I suppose that's normal. After all, it was difficult to get together and, when our schedules did mesh, the conversations felt strained and uncomfortable. Apparently the only thing we really all had in common was work. 

My friendship with Bonnie is one that has survived all of the transitions in life. When we taught together, I would have been hard pressed to find a stronger ally. She was a strong instructor and a great source of information, ideas, and advice. Work and her eclectic hobbies consumed her life. She was a gifted weaver, beekeeper, sculptor, teacher of the blind, wood carver, and quilter. She had such a fascinating perspective on the world and such interesting stories.

Several years ago Bonnie was in a horrific automobile accident. Although she survived, the person that I knew was gone forever. Bonnie suffered a traumatic brain injury.

In a moment her entire life changed. She used to be able to look at a piece of wood and imagine the artistic possibilities. Now she becomes lost in the grocery store. Bonnie could device and implement intricate and beautiful weaving patterns. She now becomes confused handling money and is not able to maintain a checkbook. Although she can read the words in a cookbook, Bonnie cannot organize her thoughts enough to prepare a simple meal. She has gone from being fiercely independent and the person whom everybody relied upon to living in an assisted living facility and dependent upon others to help with the most mundane tasks.

Bonnie called on Saturday and asked me if I could come to visit. When I stopped by her apartment on Sunday, she had tears in her eyes and was shaking uncontrollably. She was struggling to talk and I knew she was overwhelmed and scared. I gave her a hug and reassured her that it was going to be okay.

During that embrace I think I finally accepted that my independent, quick-witted, and talented friend was gone. The woman that I was hugging looked like my friend, but that is where the resemblance ended. I felt a wave of sadness overtake me, but I tried not to let it show.  I owe it to my friend to help her in anyway possible. I have no doubt that she would have done the same for me!

Sitting at her kitchen table I saw piles of note cards throughout the room. She explained that her Brain Injury therapist has recommended writing down everything, and that the technique has been helpful.  She is trying so hard, and I know that this must be so difficult for her. She is aware of everything that she has lost and can explain her limitations. It is heartbreaking to see the grief in her eyes, but she hasn't given up. I'm so proud of my friend.

I have always believed that everybody has something "wrong" with them. Mine is extremely visible and people can identify me as an amputee immediately. Bonnie looks normal and most who see her wouldn't know that she is struggling. She is suffering from an invisible disability which is occurring in her mind, not in her physical body. My physical disability is a walk in the park compared to what Bonnie endures everyday. Traumatic Brain Injuries are one of the cruelest disabilities, leaving the individual with memories of their previous life but rendering them without the ability to return to the same passions and joys. There is little I can do for my friend except to help in completing daily activity tasks such as grocery shopping and continue to be a presence in her life offering care and support.