Curious? Ask!

I’ve noticed something funny lately.  I broke my knee [that’s not the funny part] and my doctor has had me wear this huge, bulky knee stabilizing brace. We’re trying to avoid surgery and a full cast would make my life insanely more difficult than it already it.  [Still not the funny part.]  Since I’ve had the brace on for the past five weeks, people are constantly asking me what happened.  Typical conversation:

Person: What happened to your knee?

Me: Oh, I broke it.

Person: [shocked face] How?!

Me: You know, I have no idea.

Person: …..

Me: ……

Person: ….

Me: [awkwardly laughing] It’s really OK!  We’re hoping it will heal.

Person: So you’re in the chair until it heals?

Me: [looking at the completely tore up, scuffed paint nature of my overly expensive customized wheelchair] ….No…. I was already a paraplegic.

Person: Oh….

 

So here’s why this is funny to me.  People never asked why I was in the wheelchair before.  Well, that’s not true.  Some times people did but they were generally older (like 80’s, 90’s with no inner monologue or filter) or kids (who asked what was wrong with me).  The conversations were fewer and far between than they are now.

This leads me to my new conclusions: something about a more common brace is comforting to people. They have seen braces throughout their lives, probably used one at some point or know someone who has.  Wheelchairs are not as common or comfortable for people.  They are curious and probably want to know why I’m in the chair, but don’t know how to ask.  We have become such a PC world that people are uncomfortable asking questions anymore.  And how does that do anything to assist communication?  Understanding?  Bridging gaps?  It doesn’t!  On one of the first days of school for my kid, a totally beautiful young hipster mom saw me getting into my car.  She rushed over and said “Is it offensive if I ask you if you need help?”  The answer is “no!”  Don’t ever feel like you’re offending me if you offer assistance.  I think it’s so nice.  (But, don’t keep persisting if I say I’m OK and don’t need help.)

The point of this rambling mess is: ask questions!  If you want to know why I’m in the chair, ask.  If you want to know how I drive, ask.  If you want to know what I struggle with, ask.  If you want to know how it feels when I can’t go places because of inaccessibility, ask.  Trust me when I say that if it’s something too personal, I’ll let you know and won’t answer.  But for the most part, I’m an open book [hence the blog!] and want to answer your questions.

I think in this day and age we need more conversations, not less.

On his level

Sometimes it’s hard to think of positives about being in a wheelchair.  There’s clearly all the old jokes (i.e. the good parking, not having to stand in long lines, etc.).  But real positives, it’s hard.  I don’t fall nearly as often, so that’s definitely a big positive.  My knees send me a Christmas card every year since I became paralyzed as a show of gratitude.

But this morning, it hit me.  I’m on the same level as my kid.  Literally.  (Sometimes figuratively too cause I have a really juvenile sense of humor and a weird obsession with PeeWee’s Playhouse.)  Because I am about 3 feet tall when I’m in my chair, I’m much closer to toddler height than all the other adults in his life.  It’s easier for him to see some of the things that I am doing than it is for him to observe other adults.  This morning he was watching as I brushed my teeth and he grabbed his own toothbrush and started brushing too.  (His brushing is really just putting his toothbrush in his mouth for 3 seconds and then clapping jubilantly over what a good boy thing he did.)  But when he stopped, he still watched as I brushed.  So I exaggeratingly showed him how to brush all the teeth.  He was enthralled.  The hubs was brushing his teeth at the same time, but the hubs is 3 feet taller than Little Mister.  It’s not as easy to see what dad is doing as what mom is doing.

When I talk to him or try to teach him something, I don’t have to bend over or crouch down.  I’m literally on his level.  I think that’s a really cool thing now that his baby mind is learning nonstop.

So there you go: a way in which being a parent in a wheelchair is not a terrible thing!

Screw You, Justin Timberlake!

Throughout my life I have successfully managed to not become a Justin Timberlake fan.  Sometimes it was difficult, but I persisted in my determination.  When NSync first came out and were mega-popular, I was safe in my wannabe punk phase.  Yeah, no thanks NSync and JT with your curly hair, I’m crushing on Tim Armstrong in all his Rancidy, tattooey hotness!  When JT and Britney broke up I was Team Brit, #obviously.  I learned all about Girl Power from the Spice Girls (OK, so maybe I wasn’t super secure in my punk phase) and sided with her, of course!   There were some times when I was tempted to become a Timbergroupie.  Some of the movies he did were pretty funny.  I mean, he was in Shrek the Third.  (I realize that I keep losing punkness with each line I type.)  You’d have to have no soul to not appreciate the acting in the Shrek franchise.  And the skits on SNL.  D*%k in a Box?!  So, maybe he’s not terrible, but I’m still too cool to say that I’m a fan of his.  I was trying to remain steadfast in my non-boy-band-groupie status.  Or former boy band status.  He brought sexy back (or so he claimed) and I was able to snicker that sexy never left and who the heck did this guy think he was.  My friends would laugh.  [Confession: I somehow know all the words to the song so *maybe* I listened to it once or twice secretly and ashamedly.]  And when he started dating Jessica Biel, I realized I hated him more because she is so cool and so beautiful and this former boy-bander is going to ruin her!  I went to high school with a girl who played soccer with Ms. Biel and would actually say how cool she was.  (I definitely did not watch 7th Heaven, though I think that was because it conflicted with a show I did watch- Maybe Gilmore Girls? I don’t recall- and [insert old person voice here] back in my day we didn’t have DVR.  We made the tough choices of choosing one show over another and being loyal!)  But I still thought she was too cool for him.  And then they got married and maybe he isn’t that bad if she’s sticking it out with him.  And more SNL skits came out which I had to admit were funny.  “Give it on up to Homelessville!” So eventually I became more neutral about him.  But, I refused to be on the bandwagon.

Cut to last week.  And I bought a pair of jeans without looking at the label.  And now I have to admit that my biggest fear has come true: I am a Justin Timberlake fan!  Isn’t that terrible?  Decades of avoiding it, but it happened anyway.  But William Rast (his label for those of you who are less JT-ey than I am) has created a stupidly dumb (read: awesome) product.  I love cute jeans.  But, in my constantly seated life, they’re usually lost on me.  Most designers focus on making butts look good and putting detailing on the pockets.  That does me about negative 17% good.  So when I saw these jeans on line with the narrow ankle that wouldn’t make my paralyzed legs look awful and detailing on the side of the leg I was eager.  When I tried them on, they had the perfect amount of stretch to fit nicely on my awkward body.  And they weren’t low rise.  I like to actually pull my pants up and not have perma-plumbers-crack since I’m always sitting.

I got a million and three compliments on them when I wore them over the weekend.

So screw you, Justin Timberlake and your glorious William Rast brand.  I’m now a self-proclaimed Timberlaker.

Flamenco dancing

I’m never going to Flamenco dance*. I had that realization yesterday as I was driving down the street.  I was listening to Rusted Root on the radio, which somehow made me think about the time I saw Ozomatli play a free show, which then led me to thinking about Spanish guitar, which led to flamenco.  This thought process took maybe 45 seconds start to finish.

And that’s when it hit me.  I’ll never flamenco dance.  Now, before you start wondering if I was big on that PP (pre-paralysis) (also, are you wondering why I used an abbreviation, when I immediately wrote it out?  I’m wondering that myself….), the answer is: not really.  It’s not like I had a huge bucket list and flamenco dancing was on it. I’ve always appreciated the beautiful dance.  It’s strong and powerful and seductive without being an outright sexy (read: gyrating) style.  It’s beautiful and poetic.  And I’ll never do it.

To answer another burning question, I’ve never really been a good dancer in general.  I probably should have gotten into line dancing when I had the chance, because that was about my ability level.  I’m good at memorization, slightly lacking in rhythm.  Most of my dancing occurred in my apartment when I was single, and consisted of twirling to 70’s greats like Joni Mitchell or Janis Joplin.  Twirling just seemed to fit the la-de-da, la-de-da-da’s of Me and Bobbyb McGee.  I was also known to mosh around to Rancid.  But something with technique and skill?  That was not in my wheelhouse.

But now I’ll never be able to try.

And before you get all “Stop being a Debbie Downer” on me, realize that I’m overly positive about my situation.  There is so much I can do.  And there is so much that I do do [12 year old sense of humor break: excuse me while I laugh at that for a few seconds].  And I’m grateful for all of that.

It’s just a sad and shocking realization when something is irrevocably taken off the table.

 

While writing this, my snooping husband looked over my shoulder and asked “What’s Flamerco dancing?”  I responded “Um, you mean flamenco?”  He replied “You’re far away, I couldn’t read it.  What is flamenco dancing?”  So, I realized that maybe not everyone knows what flamenco dancing is.  You know, people who have been living under a rock.  So I’ve added a video of a beautiful dance.  You’re welcome.

Hell on Wheels

I have a friend who is a fellow defense attorney [I know, I know…”friend” and “attorney” don’t usually belong in the same sentence. But he’s actually pretty cool.]  who has restarted a group email list for all of the defense attorneys in the area. The purpose is to support each other through problems and through victories. My friend, let’s call him Snappy Dresser (because he is always very impeccably dressed) puts a ton of work into his emails. When someone has a victory, he doesnt just say “so and so won such and such case.” The emails involve a superhero-esque name and backstory which turn into the saga of what great feat was accomplished. Yes, he could probably use a hobby or a dog, but I actually enjoy reading his emails.

So, the reason for my blog. I had a small victory in court recently where I got a case dismissed. Nothing huge, but he wanted to write it up. He told me to choose my Nickname and sent me a list of really great heroic names. I liked “Black widow”. I liked “the Assassin” [mostly because it says “ass” twice and I have the humor of a 12 year old boy.] I liked “Rogue” mostly because it’s applicable. But none screamed “ME!”

I sent him a text. “Can I add a new one? Hell on Wheels.” I received a text back. “Hell on Wheels. Seriously?” Of course I was serious! I appreciate a good, strong wheelchair reference or joke whenever possible! He called me. He was worried people would think he came up with it and give him a hard time. I convinced him it was a good idea. He said he was forwarding any emails to me to handle if people gave him a hard time about it.

The email went out with my new nickname solidified in black and white, and with the caveat that I chose the name. And I am so okay with all of that! Personally, I think it’s a strong, fierce name. And as people who really know me well would agree, it’s pretty fitting!

 

Fear, fear, go away

I’m not sure if I’ve admitted this on here before but I have a confession: I used to be afraid of my kid.  Before the Little Mister was born, I was wrapped up in how exciting it was going to be to have a kid.  I pictured all the fun adventures we would go on.  I pictured having a little mini-me who would play games and laugh at my jokes.  I pictured the little guy who I’d get to dress in super cute clothes and who would justify my Ninja Turtle obsession.  Life was going to be good with the little dude.

And then, after our long journey, he was here.  Before I knew it, this slimey little guy was in my arms and I didn’t know what to do.  I’d barely ever held a baby before that moment.  And now, in a matter of seconds, the nurses took this kid and put him in my arms and said “Congratulations” before packing it up and leaving the room.  OK, it wasn’t quite like that, but it felt like that.  After all the waiting, he was in my arms and I was now responsible for a human life.

I had no idea the amount of love I would feel for this dude the instant he was born.  Or the amount of fear.  When we got home from the hospital the hubs was only home for a few days before he went back to work.  And then it was just me and him for a large part of the day.  We had (still have) an awesome nanny who helped in the mornings.  She helped take care of him, did his laundry, changed his bed, did so much every day.  But then in the afternoons, it was me and the Little Mister.  And that scared the living daylights out of me. I wanted to do as much as possible with him because I wanted him to get used to having a mom in a wheelchair.  That was hard, of course.  I had all the normal concerns of a new mom, but also a few extras which apply to mom’s with mobility disabilities: holding him while moving being a main one.

There are several things which would hurt my feelings.  When he was real young, he liked to be held while a person was standing when he was crying.  That obviously couldn’t happen with me.  It broke my heart when I couldn’t get him to stop crying and his dad, nanny or grandma would grab him and walk around and he was suddenly content.  Or, sometimes when I was home alone with him and I had to transfer from my wheelchair to the sofa, and I set him down on the sofa to wait while I transferred and he would just look at me and cry like I was abandoning.  I tried to explain to him that I can’t hold him and just stand up like other people can.  But he was stubborn a baby and didn’t understand.  He just felt severe separation anxiety in that 45 seconds of being alone.

It got to the point where I was literally scared to be home alone with him.  It was hard.  It was exhausting.  It was emotionally draining.

But then things began to change.  As he got older, he started to understand a little more.  I would wake him up from his nap and bring him out to the family room for a post-nap drink and snack.  I would put him down in the chair so I could transfer.  Until about 14 or 15 months he would cry when I set him down.  But then, I started making a game of it.  And after a few times of “throwing him” into the chair (I would lift him in a high arc from my lap to the chair and make a falling sound) he thought it was hilarious.  No more tears.  And now that he’s walking, I can put him on the ground where he waits by the chair for me to transfer.  After I transfer into a chair in the family room, he raises his arms for me to pick him up because he knows it’s milk and snack time on my lap.  No more tears [from either of us].

He’s also gotten so good at going out in public with me.  I was so scared to go places alone with him.  It’s easy to drown in the “what ifs”.  What if he won’t sit still?  What if he has a diaper accident and there’s not an accessible bathroom?  What if people look at us funny?  But I guess you can’t really give in to all the doubt and fear.  Today, Little Mister and I had an awesome adventure.  We had an entire morning to ourselves as his nanny had the day off and the Hubs was in meetings.  So Little Mister and I went to Hobby Lobby where we spent an hour just looking at everything.  He was loving the bead aisle, with all the colorful, shiny things to look at and different textures to feel.  Then we went to the mall where he played in the soft foam play area.  His idea of playing in public is often just standing there watching all the other kids run around.  He’s a people watcher, like his mama.  When he was done, he walked to the exit and tried to leave.  I tried to usher him back in several times, but he was done.  He sits on my lap so nicely that I didn’t even wrap him while we rolled around the store.  It wasn’t until we were exiting to the parking lot that I tied him back to me.

I don’t think there will ever be a time that parenting from a chair will be easy for me.  I think the obstacles will just change.  But I am learning that he and I will both adapt.  We are learning how to get through this all together.  I’m just so lucky that Little Mister is such a great kid and so willing to learn.  He’s too young to really get it yet.  He just knows that I’m his mama and this is our normal.  And I’m glad that I don’t let the fear overwhelm me.  Because he is my mini-me who loves to play games and laughs at my jokes.  And I’m glad because we had such a fun adventure today and I look forward to all the fun mom-son adventures to come!

Trainers are evil

I had a major revelation today when I was at the gym: trainers are really evil.  OK, I’ll walk you through my revelation.

  1. Most people have jobs that make other people’s life easier.  I’m an attorney.  My job is to help people figure out their legal troubles and fix problems for them.  I’m a fixer.  My brother is an accountant.  He job is to help people understand the million page tax code.  The hubs is a teacher.  He’s there to help kids understand Theatre and Woodshop in school.  Chefs make eating easier by cooking for you.  Mechanics make driving easier by fixing your car so you don’t have to.  Doctors fix your medical problems so you have a happier, healthier life.  All these jobs have that thread of commonality between them.
  2. Trainers go through their own programs to learn the body: how it works, how the muscles move and react, how it all goes together.  They learn (mine at least did- not sure if it’s true of all, but I’m assuming it is) nutrition and how foods can boost your power, strength and energy.  They are well versed in how to help people lose weight and get in shape.
  3. Trainers then use their knowledge to make you hurt.  They take something that starts easy and make it harder.  Oh, you can lift that weight?  Give me 20 more at a heavier weight. They are pleased when you are hurting.  They yearn for you to sweat, groan, collapse in sheer agony.  They’re not happy when you’re doing well.  They try to make you suffer and aren’t satisfied until you do.  They’re job is literally to make things harder for you.

And that, my dear friends, proves my point.  Trainers are evil.