Thanks for nothing, Walmart!

I try to not be too negative about things in life. I know that my life is different because I am in a wheelchair.  I know that some things I took for granted pre-paralysis are now off limits to me.  But, for the most part, I’m still able to do most everything.  I’m pretty clever when it comes to figuring out adaptations.

But today I had a major slap in the face and I’m pissed!  My husband had asked me to stop by the store on the way home from court to pick something up for him.  On a whim, I decided to not go to my normal Target and try the neighboring Walmart.  It had opened within the past year and I hadn’t been there.  So I parked and went in.  There were no hand baskets by the door.  I went by every checkout stand.  None.  Then I went to the other entrance and couldn’t locate any there either.  I asked an employee if he knew where they were.  He replied that the store decided to stop using them because they kept getting stolen.

“So, how is someone like me supposed to shop?” I asked.

“That’s a good question.” He said.  He had nothing else to add after that.

So, I decided to find a manager to ask them what happened to the baskets.  After waiting a really long time, and watching the head store manager walk away, an assistant manager came over.  I asked her about the baskets.  She called in on the radio to ask if anyone had seen a basket “floating around the back somewhere.”  I’m guessing the reply was “no” because another employee nearby said “We don’t have those no more.”  (I stifled my inner grammar police as I was focused on the bigger picture.)

The lady offered a paltry sorry as I rolled away.  I was so angry and upset that I felt like I could be reduced to tears at any moment.  That may seem like an unusual thing to be upset about, but it’s just another slap in the face.  I should be able to spend my money the same way as everyone else, but apparently I can’t.  It’s always the little things that break the proverbial camel’s back.  And I am one emotional camel with a very weak and messed up back.  I called Walmart customer service and the lady on the other line, while polite, also couldn’t care less.  So, I packed it up and went down the block to Target where they had baskets and gladly accepted my patronage.

Refinishing life

When I first became paralyzed, I thought my life would never be the same.  I was in tears when my physical therapists or occupational therapists would tell me to sit on the edge of the bed.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I had no faith in my body or what it would ever begin to do again.  Slowly, as time went on, my recovery progressed.  And I had a newly discovered faith in what I could do.  And what I could try to do.  I’ve always tended to be a cautious person, not one to really go out on a limb trying new things.  So when my body traitored on me, I was worried about pushing it too hard.  When I would sit there crying about sitting on the edge of the bed, some people would look at me, then the floor, then back at me again and try to figure out why a two foot fall would scare the living daylights out of me.  But when you’re injured and vulnerable, it can all be overwhelming.

So cut to today when I was out in the garage refinishing some dressers which my mom gave to me to use in the baby’s nursery.  They were her parents dressers, which then became hers which she then used for my brother.  They sat unused for a bunch of years and became chipped and cracked.  The hubs spent yesterday fixing the cracks with wood glue and clamps.  He then planned on stripping away the varnish, sanding and staining in the next few weeks.  I decided that since he does so much already, I’d surprise him with stripping the varnish and sanding myself.  It was half because I wanted to surprise him and half because I didn’t want to tell him in case I couldn’t actually do it all myself.  And since today was a court holiday but not a school holiday, I actually had some time to get to this project.

I was able to get all of the drawers out of the dresser (which for those of you who are able-bodied, this is actually somewhat challenging to a person who doesn’t have complete core strength), take all of the hardware off, paint the stripper on then sand it off.  By the time I was done, I was a sweaty, dusty mess.  But, I did it!  I couldn’t get to the front of the dresser because it was facing a wall and I couldn’t get in front of it.  And, when I tried to move the dresser, I was worried that I would re-split some of the sides which the hubs fixed yesterday.  Plus, a solid wood dresser is heavy and my spine is finicky.  So I left that to do when he’s home to help.  While I can do a lot of stuff, I have to be honest and know that I can’t do it all by myself.

sanding drawers

I took that picture and sent it to the hubs so he could see what I was up to.  And to get the proper amount of accolades, of course!  He was super surprised and excited.  And worried about the mess I left and whether there was still room on his side of the garage for his car when he gets home from work.  I tend to not clean up after my projects so well.  But, part of the surprise was that I actually did clean up after myself.  Yes, I’m very thoughtful.

So, it’s kind of fun to think that the snively scaredy-cat who was afraid to sit on the edge of the bed is now pushing limits and attacking projects that I never even did before I was paralyzed!  If I could go back to that cry baby in the hospital I would tell her that life rolls on and that she will adapt.  It’s amazing what we can do when we have no other choices!

An ode to my dogs

When I was in the hospital, one of the hardest things was the fact that I couldn’t see my dogs.  6 weeks of no dogs was like an added level of torture.  My dogs are pampered, to say the least.  They’re my little buddies.  My constant companions, if you will.  So to live without them for so long was awful!

This was the day I got home after 6 weeks in the hospital.

This was the day I got home after 6 weeks in the hospital.

Ever since I’ve been home, they’ve been glued to me.  Well, my boy dog more than my girl dog.  If my boy dog could permanently attach himself to me, he would.   (Even now as I type this my little guy is on my lap.  I have the tan fur on black pants to prove it.)  He seems to not be comfortable unless he’s sleeping on my lap.  This is sweet until you consider that living in a place where the average summer heat is 110 degrees plus, that gets a little toasty.  But, I don’t even mind.  His little face is so content when he sleeps on my lap that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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What’s funny though, is that before all of this, I never really understood the importance of a service dog.  I mean, yes, I know that they can really help people retrieve things or alert to certain medical issues before they occur so the person can prepare.  I guess I just never thought about it beyond the obvious.  Beyond the superficial outer layers.

But I’ve come to an even deeper understanding.  The other night I was having a really hard time sleeping.  I couldn’t get comfortable.  Then my mind was racing with worries about being in one position too long and the fact that I am scared to death of getting pressure sores, because the treatment of those are awful!  And it would require lengthy bed rest.  So now I’m super freaked out about them.  So there I was trying to get comfortable and tossing and turning.  (To fully understand the impact of this let me explain: Say I’m on my right side.  I have to turn my body so I am on my back.  Then I have to sit up to uncross my legs.  I have to take off the sheet which has likely become tangled by this point.  Then I lay back down and turn my body to the left.  Then I grab my right leg and drag it over to be on top of my left leg.  And then I again try to untangle the sheet because somehow in my sleepiness, I always get too wrapped up.)  So tossing and turning and getting comfortable is not very easy.  And it get frustrating.  My girl dog will sometimes put up with a toss, but is gone before the turn.  But my boy will put up with it and stay in the same spot.  So on this particular night, when I was especially uncomfortable and frustrated, after I rolled and was still not comfortable, he came over and stretched out against my back.  It was so comforting and calming that I almost immediately calmed down and fell asleep.

So now I completely understand on a whole new level the importance of service animals.  I don’t trust mine to fetch me food as I know it would be eaten in seconds.  And I don’t trust them to not bark at birds or other dogs in public.  And I’m not going to tote them around in a giant purse in places like the movies.  I am lucky in my disability that I don’t need a service animal like that.  But I am so glad that I have my little pups in my life to help me in situations when I don’t even realize how badly I need them.  That is the amazingly beautiful thing about dogs, whether they’re formally trained or just naturally intuitive.

Fight on!

So, there are a few perks to being in a wheelchair.  I know that may seem weird, but there are.  One can almost always find a silver lining in any given situation if they look.  (I say “almost always” because I don’t want to get into a debate where someone tries to bring me down by proving sad situations.  So, if you disagree with me and you’re in a situation where there is no silver lining then all I can say is that I hope you feel better and I’ll pray for you.  Now, back to my silver lining moment…)

My family is a HUGE USC Trojan fanatic family.  Everyone but me (hello, Rebel!) went to school there.  Mom, dad, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins.  I did not.  But, that does not take away from my fanatic response to Trojan football!  Well, not necessarily to the team itself.  I like football within reason.  Though, I am more into the pageantry of the home games: the band, the tail gating, Traveler the horse.

My dad is really into USC football.  In my family, we don’t necessarily root for a professional team.  USC is our football.  So, this year and last, my dad got a suite at the Coliseum.  The suites are on the field, which is awesome.  What’s even more awesome (*insert eye roll here*) is that the Coliseum is so old that there is nothing but steps to the field.

Nothing, except for the tunnel that is!!  Yes, I get to go down the tunnel.  The same way the players enter the field.  The same way the band enters the field.  The same way Traveler enters the field.  That’s now the way I enter the field!!

The tunel

That’s my dad walking next to me.  And our guards.  Ok, not really.  The LAPD were not there to protect me from the paparazzi.  But, I did have 2 USC security guards escorting me.  The weekend before I had 4.  And they made a really big deal about getting people out of my way.  Which made me feel like a really big deal.  (Or people thought the chick in the wheelchair was being unruly, causing trouble and getting kicked out.  Either way…)  This time, my mom and the hubs were there too.  The weekend before my brother and his lady were with us.  They missed out this time.

The suite is on the opposite side of the field which means that we had to roll all the way across the field.  It wasn’t so bad this week as we went down early.

On the field

Last week, we ended up coming out with the band (SQUEAL!!) and had to go all the way around the field.  That was awkward cause it meant more people were staring.  I’m way more comfortable in the background than in the forefront.  I am not complaining, I’m just saying I preferred going down when not as many people would be looking.  But if I could always march out with the band and/or Traveler, I would!

So, yes, there are silver linings- being on the field at the infamous Coliseum is one of them!  Fight on!!

Two years later…

Yesterday was my two year anniversary of being in the wheelchair. Two years ago today I was miserable in the hospital, spaced out on pain killers. Trying to make sense of the fact that my legs weren’t working. This year’s anniversary has hit me a lot harder than last years. Last year I was high on the hope that I still had a chance for recovery. That this was all a major inconvenience and someday I’d laugh about what I went through as I tried to remember what it was like to be in a wheelchair. But this year’s anniversary it’s hit me that this is all permanent. That’s a hard pill to swallow. I have to be realistic now and know that no matter how hard I try, there’s nothing I can do to get my nerves back to work. It’s not a muscle you can rehabilitate or something you can train back into working. It’s something you just deal with.

That’s tough.

This is my life now. Running out to the store involves having to load and unload my wheelchair. Taking a flight involves me having to transfer onto a narrow little aisle chair and strapped in like a belligerent inmate. Being invited to a party involves me having to ask friends if there are obstacles like a step or high threshold and asking them to measure their doorways. “Now, the bathroom doorway is 28 inches including the door or the door clears that?” Having a baby means I have to figure out how I can get the little bundle of poopy joy in and out of a crib. Being asked to go to the park with a friend means I have to tell them that grass isn’t so easy with a wheelchair.

I’m not sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I’m normally very upbeat and positive about everything. But, this year is just hard. I just need a couple of days to think about how much this sucks and then I’ll be fine. I guess I’m just overly emotional. Like, I can’t think about my bike without tearing up. I remember when my parents got me my adult tricycle a couple years ago and how stoked I was. I rode it from the bike store to my house, which was several miles. The hubs followed behind me like a nervous dad because he was worried I’d fall off. He said I had the hugest smile on my face the entire time! From that moment on, I rode it almost every day. Sometimes a couple times a day. It made me so happy. And now I can’t do that. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have my bike attachment for my wheelchair, but it’s so not the same. I miss my bike and it breaks my heart seeing it sitting in my garage collecting dust.

my bike

(This picture was the day I got my bike.  See the smile??)

Maybe I am whining. But I’m confident I will feel better soon. I’m already feeling better than I was yesterday. It was a rough day yesterday. A couple days of sadness doesn’t mean I’m giving up on life. I know that I’m lucky in so many ways. And I know that I can still do so much these days. And in some ways I can do more than I did before. So please excuse me while I wrap up my pity party and I promise to be back to my normal, optimistic self in the next couple of days.

And then there were three….

The hubs and I are embarking on a new adventure: we’re having a baby!  After thinking long and hard, we decided to hire a surrogate for this journey.  My neurosurgeon said that I would be able to carry a baby and that I should use a surrogate as a last resort.  However, he also thought my surgery would be routine and I woke up paralyzed.  Please note that I mention this not because I don’t trust his opinion, because I 100% think he’s an amazing doctor.  It’s that I don’t trust my spine!  It’s been messed with so many times that there’s just no predicting what it will do.  And I’m lucky to have complete control of my bladder and bowels (TMI??) and I worry about the unexpected from carrying a baby and what it would do to those functions.

In prepping for the baby, the hubs and I have been doing a ton of research and have come to realize that there isn’t a bunch out there.  Many people who put themselves out there are doing it more as a marketing ploy for making money.  I don’t fault them for this, but it’s not exactly helpful.  I found a few videos here and there, but again, not a ton of stuff.

So, I am adding a page to my blog where I can talk about my struggles and *hopefully* solutions to problems that are certain to come up through this process.  I’m also welcoming feedback from people who have been there, done that.  I’m definitely of the mindset that it takes a village.  And I’m hoping that I’ll have a large, large village to help!