Search

The Soldier and the Squirrel introduces children to the Purple Heart

through a loving story of a friendship between a newly wounded soldier

and Rocky the squirrel with his backyard friends. This story began as a

blog during my first year in bed after my incident. With much

encouragement, it is now a book and has been placed in the

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Please watch the video

on the About page to learn for the Soldier & Rocky are changing children's

lives.

 

ORDER NOW

 

 

Glorious Rejoice Dots Glitter

JOIN THE

FRIED NERVES AND JAM

PODCAST!

 


Subscribe to the Fried Nerves and Jam Podcast!

Socializing

Entries by Fried Nerves and Jam (291)

Wednesday
Feb152017

How To Train A Puppy

I know, wow is this a twist of conversation! However, this is how this brain works. Give a girl a cookie and she turns it to a dog treat! 

 

My friend just got a puppy for her family. A precious Golden Doodle oodling cuteness through its pores. However the reality of owning a puppy has hit hard and fast and having trained numerous pups of our own, including my service dog, I have learned a few tips along the way. 
Enduring a puppy is SO hard. You are not alone! I swear the first time I experienced taming this beast I realized why God made them so darn irresistible we can't imagine looking at them the wrong way. But believe me, it does pass! But only if you truly got a pup with the intention of reserving six to nine months of your life to dedicate a part of your soul to molding him into the family member he's meant to be. Begin by tethering him to your side. I literally had to do this with my service animal, Blue Belle. It took ten months, she almost ran me into oncoming traffic twice, but how I wouldn't trade those curveballs now for anything in this world. 
Take him EVERYWHERE you can. Expose him constantly. Take him out on the grass every 40 minutes and praise him when he goes. 
Blue was the most untrainable dog EVER. I mean it. The fact that we could not leash train her is the very reason she works for me as a service animal because she pulls me everywhere I go. But she had to learn everything else , every single move I make - opening doors etc. but no great effort was really needed, it just happened naturally with time and repetition. Over time, she sensed what she was supposed to do. I just had to be willing to commit myself to be a Siamese twin for as long as it took for her to become my world. It took 10 months, but we did it! She's still learning every day. But if a dog isn't fully immersed in YOUR routine, not one you are trying to create for HIM, he will naturally fall in line, but it's going to take time. 
If you can't take him with you, put him in a crate. They actually don't mind it. A little blanket, bone and water and they're off to dreamland. Also, they are averse to soiling their own quarters so will at least try not to pee. 
Keep a bone around 100% of the time. He's teething constantly and it's painful so if he chews it's the one thing that helps. This is when our pups are so often disciplined as being a bad dog, when actually they are only doing what comes naturally and don't know another way. Of course nip his nose and say no to your things, but then replace it right away with the bone or toy and praise his cute little nose. 
When he's around 8 - 12 weeks old and has had his appropriate shots, start taking him to the dog park at least twice a week. Go into the small dog pen and let him run around and smell and socialize with other dogs. The larger dogs are not a problem, it's more that their size can be a bit of a challenge for small pups to be around. If you try to attend a "Puppy Hour" at your local pet store, remember, there are a hundred pound six month old puppies too, so don't be surprised if you find yourself a bit shocked when a Great Dane used your Fido as a soccer ball. 
Socializing outdoors is a way for him to adventure but also discovering you as a protector and pack leader. He'll start following behind you and hiding behind your legs. It's ok and so important he's exposed to other dogs with you as his teammate. Keeping him away from other dogs is one of the worst things to do. It's also a way to get his energies out by playing, he will also sleep better at home and not use his unspent energy tearing up his own home!
Sometimes a play pen is a good idea! 
Keep the pee pads out but start moving them closer to the door where he's going out to pee. 
Get a baby gate so he doesn't wander upstairs and pee on the carpet and in bedrooms. 
Remove all carpets or rugs from downstairs if you can until he's trained. It saves a ton of stress and carpets too. 
The less area he has to wander free, the less damage he can do. 
Open your front door and place a baby gate in the doorway. I use a nice fire guard that is easy to put up or move. I like fire guards that sit flush to the ground because I can choose a pretty barrier to the entrance of our home and it will keep him from squeezing through underneath to get out. However our dogs are grown and trained so a guard acts as a deterrent. For pups, I'd recommend a secure baby gate. (It'll get your neighbors talking, too.) He will learn that when people come to the door it's a good thing. As he watches outside through the gate he'll see other dogs and kids and cars and become familiar with the sounds and visuals that often make dogs nervous or react. 
In regard to food, never leave a full bowl out to graze. Feed him once in the morning and once at night at the same time each day. If you're going to give him a snack. Please make it a healthy piece of chicken or meat. So many foods, even fruits, can be bad for him and his tummy. Can't get mad if he poops green aliens out of his bum because you decided a celery stick would be a good substitute for a bone. 
Leave fresh water out all of the time, especially in the crate. 
But most of all try to be patient. A dog is truly only as good as the effort put forth by its owner. He came into your life for a reason, it's up to you what that lesson is meant to be. 

My friend just got a puppy for her family. A precious Golden Doodle oodling cuteness through its pores. However the reality of owning a puppy has hit hard and fast and having trained numerous pups of our own, including my service dog, I have learned a few tips along the way. 
Enduring a puppy is SO hard. You are not alone! I swear the first time I experienced taming this beast I realized why God made them so darn irresistible we can't imagine looking at them the wrong way. But believe me, it does pass! But only if you truly got a pup with the intention of reserving six to nine months of your life to dedicate a part of your soul to molding him into the family member he's meant to be. Begin by tethering him to your side. I literally had to do this with my service animal, Blue Belle. It took ten months, she almost ran me into oncoming traffic twice, but how I wouldn't trade those curveballs now for anything in this world. Take him EVERYWHERE you can. Expose him constantly. Take him out on the grass every 40 minutes and praise him when he goes. Blue was the most untrainable dog EVER. I mean it. The fact that we could not leash train her is the very reason she works for me as a service animal because she pulls me everywhere I go. But she had to learn everything else , every single move I make - opening doors etc. but no great effort was really needed, it just happened naturally with time and repetition. Over time, she sensed what she was supposed to do. I just had to be willing to commit myself to be a Siamese twin for as long as it took for her to become my world. It took 10 months, but we did it! She's still learning every day. But if a dog isn't fully immersed in YOUR routine, not one you are trying to create for HIM, he will naturally fall in line, but it's going to take time. If you can't take him with you, put him in a crate. They actually don't mind it. A little blanket, bone and water and they're off to dreamland. Also, they are averse to soiling their own quarters so will at least try not to pee. 
Keep a bone around 100% of the time. He's teething constantly and it's painful so if he chews it's the one thing that helps. This is when our pups are so often disciplined as being a bad dog, when actually they are only doing what comes naturally and don't know another way. Of course nip his nose and say no to your things, but then replace it right away with the bone or toy and praise his cute little nose. 
When he's around 8 - 12 weeks old and has had his appropriate shots, start taking him to the dog park at least twice a week. Go into the small dog pen and let him run around and smell and socialize with other dogs. The larger dogs are not a problem, it's more that their size can be a bit of a challenge for small pups to be around. If you try to attend a "Puppy Hour" at your local pet store, remember, there are a hundred pound six month old puppies too, so don't be surprised if you find yourself a bit shocked when a Great Dane used your Fido as a soccer ball. Socializing outdoors is a way for him to adventure but also discovering you as a protector and pack leader. He'll start following behind you and hiding behind your legs. It's ok and so important he's exposed to other dogs with you as his teammate. Keeping him away from other dogs is one of the worst things to do. It's also a way to get his energies out by playing, he will also sleep better at home and not use his unspent energy tearing up his own home!Sometimes a play pen is a good idea! Keep the pee pads out but start moving them closer to the door where he's going out to pee. Get a baby gate so he doesn't wander upstairs and pee on the carpet and in bedrooms. Remove all carpets or rugs from downstairs if you can until he's trained. It saves a ton of stress and carpets too. The less area he has to wander free, the less damage he can do. Open your front door and place a baby gate in the doorway. I use a nice fire guard that is easy to put up or move. I like fire guards that sit flush to the ground because I can choose a pretty barrier to the entrance of our home and it will keep him from squeezing through underneath to get out. However our dogs are grown and trained so a guard acts as a deterrent. For pups, I'd recommend a secure baby gate. (It'll get your neighbors talking, too.) He will learn that when people come to the door it's a good thing. As he watches outside through the gate he'll see other dogs and kids and cars and become familiar with the sounds and visuals that often make dogs nervous or react. In regard to food, never leave a full bowl out to graze. Feed him once in the morning and once at night at the same time each day. If you're going to give him a snack. Please make it a healthy piece of chicken or meat. So many foods, even fruits, can be bad for him and his tummy. Can't get mad if he poops green aliens out of his bum because you decided a celery stick would be a good substitute for a bone. Leave fresh water out all of the time, especially in the crate. But most of all try to be patient. A dog is truly only as good as the effort put forth by its owner. He came into your life for a reason, it's up to you what that lesson is meant to be. 

 

 

Tuesday
Feb142017

The Canvas - A Reflection on What Happened to Me

"Yes, yes yes!!! Oh my goodness memories!!! 🤗"
This was my initial reply to my childhood tia who shared childhood memories, then asked what happened to me. It had been years. So much to say that I have never said. How can a Universe fit into the tip of a pen. 
I rarely go into the "how". It seems every life challenge has similar obstacles and phases we go through, much like accepting death. So the why is just a means to the journey we have found ourselves on. 
That said, I am always honored when someone asks me what happened, especially children. It is a day and age when finding connection with others on a deeper lever is rarely found. 
I am a wife and a mother of four two-legged people and three four-legged people and used to be a photographer. I was blessed with a career photographing weddings around the world. My success was mostly based on a fluke - I happened to shoot my very first wedding on a Saturday that had a celebrity attached who happened to ask me to send a few favorites to him that night which he liked and happened to be going on Martha Stewart Living on Tuesday. Big breath. Who then showed my images on air and talked about them too. That's a fluke. I came. I shot. I was conquered. 
On October 28th, 2011 I was unloading groceries from the back of my Ford Flex and pushed the button for the door to close which was inside of the interior of the trunk, bent down to pick up my last bag of groceries, stood up swiftly but just as I always had and at no more than a quarter of the way up with bent knees, the corner of the electric powered tailgate jammed into my left temple and stopped it in its tracks. ER. Tylenol. Home. As time went by I kept expecting to heal, but the pain only worsened with every conservative treatment I tried. A surgeon then showed us on X-ray that the natural curvature of my neck was literally inverted. Ten surgeries and twenty and counting procedures, I have been also diagnosed with RSD/CRPS of the spine. With time I developed paralysis of the left leg and endure chronic pain which really needs a better name, like Hell on Earth, or something else lighthearted like that. The greatest blessing is there are windows between the flares. Some occur every 10-20 minutes like clockwork around the clock. It begins with a simmering haze of flame that stirs in my middle spine. You know it's starting so brace you brace into the chair until your fingers turn red and blue. The flame begins to expand and swirl throughout your thorax like a warm bath your mother would make but just a bit too hot. It's then a steel bar unscrews its way from inside the vertebral bones, twisting like a vice - a pressure from inside out as though someone's trying to split a log. Cue the blow torch. A blast turned to high but takes its time to make it from low to medium with style. It's then the child's head begins to crown between my discs. I flash to my legs welcoming our child, 10mm, we're almost there. An all too familiar Hell but then an angel waiting at the end. I feel its shoulders breech through my cord, my body flails  from the bed to get away from this body I'm in. An out of body wale announces my humanity. A fetal position is all I can bare. As the child breathes in its first air, the butcher knives slowly and carefully grind into my thighs, shoving in the grain of bone removing all evidence I was there. My legs shake like a hummingbird's wings not knowing which flower to drink. I cannot move. Paralyzed. My good leg became a weapon lost in battle. I shudder from the outside breathing in my mantra every time, "It's got to stop. It's got to stop, it's got to stop." Three minutes I delved into a place so dark it lies between the light. And soon it will begin again. 
I'm just gradually rising from a chain of flares that lasted six months long. For now I sit in wait. A move to the wrong right can send me down the rabbit hole again. 
This is my reality. 
But it is not who I am. 
I am not the fire. I am not the lazer edged butcher knife that burns through my femur bones. I am not the metal vice that wrench my cord. I am not the pain. I am not that kind of flame. I am solid white. Not because I am pure. It's my sins that want me here. I am a canvas for everything I have to learn and never knew I was. I have discovered the power of our very human spirit. It's thirst for life so strong it could run the rivers dry. I work with those injured in service and thought I understood. I hang my head in shame at the mere thought of assuming what is pain. 
So that's pretty much it. I got hit. It hurt. Then it hurt more. Got into a wheelchair. Then I reflected. A lot. 
Someone asked me how I stay so positive. I really don't. Every day there's something that makes me question life or God. And I feel guilty every time. But there are also  blessings revealed each day that remind me there's a reason and meaning in it all. I am a canvas, strong and stretched to hold firm all I'm yet to be. And one day it will be framed and set on an easel as mourners pass. I wonder will I have left a picture others find meaning in. A life that wanted so badly to fly but God she earned her wings. So it's ok it's me. It has to be someone. A child. An innocent. I hope I'm in their place. So yes some days I am sad but It's thoughts like these that bring meaning to what I have. 
I'll thank her for writing me and answer her so. These words had to come out at some point and time. I'm glad it has been with her. 

Yes yes yes!!! Oh my goodness memories!!! 🤗
This was my initial reply to my childhood tia who shared childhood memories, then asked what happened to me. It had been years. So much to say that I have never said. How can a Universe fit into the tip of a pen. 
I rarely go into the "how". It seems every life challenge has similar obstacles and phases we go through, much like accepting death. So the why is just a means to the journey we have found ourselves on. 
That said, I am always honored when someone asks me what happened, especially children. It is a day and age when finding connection with others on a deeper lever is rarely found. 
I am a wife and a mother of four two-legged people and three four-legged people and used to be a photographer. I was blessed with a career photographing weddings around the world. My success was mostly based on a fluke - I happened to shoot my very first wedding on a Saturday that had a celebrity attached who happened to ask me to send a few favorites to him that night which he liked and happened to be going on Martha Stewart Living on Tuesday. Big breath. Who then showed my images on air and talked about them too. That's a fluke. I came. I shot. I was conquered. On October 28th, 2011 I was unloading groceries from the back of my Ford Flex and pushed the button for the door to close which was inside of the interior of the trunk, bent down to pick up my last bag of groceries, stood up swiftly but just as I always had and at no more than a quarter of the way up with bent knees, the corner of the electric powered tailgate jammed into my left temple and stopped it in its tracks. ER. Tylenol. Home. As time went by I kept expecting to heal, but the pain only worsened with every conservative treatment I tried. A surgeon then showed us on X-ray that the natural curvature of my neck was literally inverted. Ten surgeries and twenty and counting procedures, I have been also diagnosed with RSD/CRPS of the spine. With time I developed paralysis of the left leg and endure chronic pain which really needs a better name, like Hell on Earth, or something else lighthearted like that. The greatest blessing is there are windows between the flares. Some occur every 10-20 minutes like clockwork around the clock. It begins with a simmering haze of flame that stirs in my middle spine. You know it's starting so brace you brace into the chair until your fingers turn red and blue. The flame begins to expand and swirl throughout your thorax like a warm bath your mother would make but just a bit too hot. It's then a steel bar unscrews its way from inside the vertebral bones, twisting like a vice - a pressure from inside out as though someone's trying to split a log. Cue the blow torch. A blast turned to high but takes its time to make it from low to medium with style. It's then the child's head begins to crown between my discs. I flash to my legs welcoming our child, 10mm, we're almost there. An all too familiar Hell but then an angel waiting at the end. I feel its shoulders breech through my cord, my body flails  from the bed to get away from this body I'm in. An out of body wale announces my humanity. A fetal position is all I can bare. As the child breathes in its first air, the butcher knives slowly and carefully grind into my thighs, shoving in the grain of bone removing all evidence I was there. My legs shake like a hummingbird's wings not knowing which flower to drink. I cannot move. Paralyzed. My good leg became a weapon lost in battle. I shudder from the outside breathing in my mantra every time, "It's got to stop. It's got to stop, it's got to stop." Three minutes I delved into a place so dark it lies between the light. And soon it will begin again. I'm just gradually rising from a chain of flares that lasted six months long. For now I sit in wait. A move to the wrong right can send me down the rabbit hole again. 
This is my reality. 
But it is not who I am. 
I am not the fire. I am not the lazer edged butcher knife that burns through my femur bones. I am not the metal vice that wrench my cord. I am not the pain. I am not that kind of flame. I am solid white. Not because I am pure. It's my sins that want me here. I am a canvas for everything I have to learn and never knew I was. I have discovered the power of our very human spirit. It's thirst for life so strong it could run the rivers dry. I work with those injured in service and thought I understood. I hang my head in shame at the mere thought of assuming what is pain. 
So that's pretty much it. I got hit. It hurt. Then it hurt more. Got into a wheelchair. Then I reflected. A lot. 
Someone asked me how I stay so positive. I really don't. Every day there's something that makes me question life or God. And I feel guilty every time. But there are also  blessings revealed each day that remind me there's a reason and meaning in it all. I am a canvas, strong and stretched to hold firm all I'm yet to be. And one day it will be framed and set on an easel as mourners pass. I wonder will I have left a picture others find meaning in. A life that wanted so badly to fly but God she earned her wings. So it's ok it's me. It has to be someone. A child. An innocent. I hope I'm in their place. So yes some days I am sad but It's thoughts like these that bring meaning to what I have. 
I'll thank her for writing me and answer her so. These words had to come out at some point and time. I'm glad it has been with her. 

Tuesday
Dec132016

Broken As Clooney

It's true. We all can't wait to turn on the news to see which politician did something hypocritical. What preacher disobeyed God's teachings. What officer broke the law. Which parent broke his child. 

My daughter came to me with an issue. A professor said something unkind to her in front of the class. A professional she was taught to defer to, to respect, to follow. Her world was shattered for that time before we spoke - when I sat her down and reminded her how many wonderful and loving things had been said before, how could she let one person negate all the good? Isn't this the time to stop the madness and realize the imbalance of power a thousand good words has over one that hurts? 
But sadly, it's all too true - that kind words are powerful, but unkind words are atomic. 
So it is with our society today. In our media-riddled world of seeking the darkest in others. That the entire news broadcast is about the bad, with one good one at the end to "perk us up". The good doesn't bring in the ratings, otherwise it would be the other way around.  
Everyone is human. I know, this is tough to admit. We all want to imagine that Clooney is a god (although I can feel my DNA shift along with your own as I consider its validity) but that's because he never lets his guard down. And we never want him to. It would ruin the mood. 
We elect our politicians because they have the better ads, nicer look, most power to get things done, and then we wonder how they could possibly do anything so stupid as send a selfie of a snake. 
Why should the words from one human have weight over the words of another? 
Perhaps a key is to live your life knowing in your heart your own level of broken. I know, how depressing is that! We are taught to love our own magnificence. That we are each too good to treated poorly by others. This is true. But how can we deal with the hurtful times if we cannot empathize with the world view of the other who is unable to see the world as you do?
My daughter is a strong, A-type creative, opinionated young woman. Her professor is an  A-type, commanding personality.  No words even needed to be spoken to see these two would not be having tea. Yet this interaction stunned her to her core. Her world-view was shattered. The unexpected was almost worse than the altercation itself. The lesson from this? Pedestals should be for plants. 
Yes, there is protocol and decorum. But they are not law and can be broken at any time. The protection is to enter life knowing that no matter how high an office, how important an individual may be in your daily life, everyone is at first and foremost a flawed human being with a certain number of tools with which to deal with us other flawed human beings. Sometimes one has a dirty bomb, while the other has a hammer. And sometimes, all you have is the nail. 
In the end, we all belong here. Because we are here to learn, to look at our selves and discover our tools. Who knows, you might even lend one out to a friend. But none of us is perfect. However I may need to go back to that Clooney reference, just to make sure. 

 

Thursday
Oct132016

The Story Behind The Soldier and the Squirrel

Friday
Aug072015

My Night with Trump

It was 1994. I was pregnant with our oldest child (she's now 22). My husband wiped the evening's meal off of Donald Trump’s limo. My morning sickness was terrible at night - Which somehow helped me blend in with the 2am bar patrons, unlike when our group entered Madison Square Garden for the KISS concert earlier in the evening. We did not blend in then, on a summer night in New York City, twenty years ago. Needless to say, we had a feeling this was going to be an interesting evening.


I was star struck as we drove through the city, but it wasn't The Donald that held my attention. Or his hair. It was the buildings. I couldn’t help it, I was young, but the good kind of young with an innocence that carried my up and through the sunroof of his limo. I stood with the warm summer air patting at my cheeks. Trump and his wife sat at my feet, my husband chalking up my odd behavior to howmones.  It was a brief escape for my square peg through that round hole of New York's elite. It’s hard enough to feel like you belong anywhere when you are in your twenties, still trying desperately to discover who you really are and what you really want. The other wives were coiffed with designer clothes. Their hair was Blonde. The men were silver. The driver was anxious.

I was six months along. The top of my swollen belly pressed against the sunroof frame. Something about pregnancy makes you bold - brave enough anyway to allow Donald Trump to witness my swollen ankles like elephant feet cut off at the knees; the kind they make coffee tables out of. 

We arrived at Madison Square Garden. As we entered the building, the audience began to stir like bees in a hive. Word travels fast in a sea of New Yorkers. They must have seen the hair. As we walked to our seats, the crowd grew louder, and louder.

Then he did it. The Donald raised his hand to the air - like Hitler with a toupee. The king of New York had addressed his subjects. (Remember, this was twenty years ago.)

The Garden rumbled. I turned to The Donald with a question mark. He shrugged his shoulders to the girl from the sunroof. He was used to all of this. The buzzing. The Garden. Girls thrusting through his sun roof. in that moment 80,000 swarming bees began to notice their king bee entering the hive as they waited for the KISS concert to begin. I envied people who were used to such things. It meant they belonged to something larger than themselves.

Then the chanting began. Dah-nuld! Dah-nuld! Dah-nuld! 
We followed him through The Garden like baby bees. Then they got louder. Dah-nuld! Dah-nuld! I had never seen anything like it in my life, Nonetheless been stared at by so many people at once. Of course, they weren’t looking at me, but still, the sense of visual invasion was so overwhelming I wanted to suck my head so deep into my neck that it would lodge in my ribcage. But Dah-nuld? He loved it.

Trump is Trump. Love to hate him or hate to love him. Either way, it spurs a response. Sometimes a nauseating one. I tried to chalk that up to morning sickness, at night.

We finally made it to our seats. And I made it through the concert without throwing up. Until we went to dinner afterwards. And got back in his limo. A piercing stab in the corners of my jaw stung my bones. Gentle waves of nausea lapped at the back of my throat. My skin clammed and faintness overtook my jovial mood. Pull over, we had to pull over. I couldn’t do this in his limo. Lord knows what ever else happened in Dah-nuld's limo, but it sure wasn't going to mix with the precious juices of my pregnancy. My husband rang the alarm. She’s gonna blow! The limo came to a stop against the curb, I scuttled to the opened door overlooking the gutter, my head just barely reaching the moist wall of humid summer air. And it happened. I threw up all over Donald Trump’s limo. 

I don’t think he ever knew I did that as he went home after dinner in another car. In twenty years I don’t think I have ever even mentioned it to his wife, so why not just blog about it, I said to myself. I mean how many people get to blog about the night they strolled into a garden amidst a sea of bees and christen the limo of a king? And so, I did. 

Thursday
Mar052015

Communication for Couples During a Life Challenge 

Bensko Speaking to LA Army Battalion - Click to Play

Wednesday
Feb182015

FreeWheeling

The holidays certainly have a way of wrangling one's life into splattered mess of glitter and bows - but what a glorious mess it can be. And it was. One of the greatest gifts of my life was given to me by my parents. They did give me life once, so no surprise for it to happen again. Their gift was the FreeWheel. Imagine a sports stroller concept. That third wheel in the front and triangular base foundation is perfect for off-roaring with those lil buggers. Let's just say I now feel like a lil bugger. The FreeWheel attaches to the front foot-bar of my regular chair. In doing so, the  front casters are lifted off the ground and out of the way of ground cover. It's a bit pricey, but if someone told you they could give you freedom from confinement for the cost of a family's day at Disneyland, chances are you'd take it. 

URL http://youtu.be/7gozw760gl8


One of my favorite activities in the world is camping and being out in Nature. To wake to a dozen different birds and debating with your husband as to whether the Woodpecker can really peck that hard. Inhaling smoke from cedar logs and coughing up last night's s'mores. Using a portable toilet inside your tent and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I did order the PeePo. Yes, this is a thing. It is a proportionally shaped "funnel" for us gals so we can tWinkle in the woods like boys. It's pink. I got it from Amazon Prime two-day shipping. It had to be good. Until I realized I couldn't stand. Or squat. So hubby ran to the Sport Chalet before we left and nabbed up the granddaddy of all porcelaine gods. The portable princess and the pee-pot. 

Maine of the most devastating things about losing mobility, was the mourning process of losing the ability to be that bear in the woods. This holiday, however, I have learned that although I may need to approach the woods differently, they are no less glorious, rich, calming and awe-inspiring because I view it from my chair  it's just that now that I have my attachment, I can enter those woods, roll through the leaves, race my kids on trails and leave my hub in the dust feeling only slightly guilty that he has to walk.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct072014

Disabled At The Hollywood Bowl

I don't ever blog about an ADA violation to whine. Honest. But there comes a time in a "new normal" when one's world can get turned upside down, and you realize that others just like you face nights like this every day of their lives.  When seeing a Blake Shelton concert at The Hollywood Bowl for your husband's 50th birthday brings tears to your eyes - and not the good and sappy kind. Just because others simply don't understand how difficult disability can be. 

I never knew a police officer could stand in front of orange cones with an empty lot and tell a woman her husband would have to get her wheelchair out of their car in the middle of Highland Avenue traffic on a Saturday night. That no, a disabled person could not be left off at the top of the hill near the entrance, because those darned orange cones are just too heavy to lift. He must have a busted back. Oh, wait. That's me.
I had no clue what the Hollywood sky looked like at night from a 45 degree slope, listening to a sweet man say it's all okay as sweat dripped from his brow to his coat. On his 50th birthday. A night he'd never forget. Because his wife planned it that way. When she never, ever, goes out because of the pain. 
We arrived at the top of the never ending hill to where a flashlight would lead to our Our specially - selected, gotta get this right - so our night will be perfect - seats. The flashlight shed light that we had to take an elevator to the next level up. No problem. And off we went. 
Trek and push. Push and trek. Ding. Level Two. Another flashlight. A hem and a haw. Another flashlight came over. They danced on our tickets light fireflies in a mating ritual. "I'm sorry, Sir. You're on the wrong level. These are the next level up." 
We are used to this game. My husband now resembles a seal that's been pulled from the gut of a whale. (I know, whales don't eat seals. Just go with it.) Still telling me 'it'll all be okay'.
Push and treck. Ding. New flashlights, mumbles and firefly sex. Then one of them asks for the boss firefly to come over, while the other one pulls out her cigaret. 
This can't be good. 
The woman in the chair (that would be me) finally speaks, "Excuse me, is there a problem? We have disabled seats. It can't be this hard to get to disabled seats. Right?"
"Ma'am, yes, these tickets are for disabled seats. But they are another level up, and then, well, you kind of have to go down steps to get to them."
I felt the earth crumble within my core. I've been through things like this before. But never. Ever. Like This. My eyes swelled with painful tears. The kind of tears that come from a place so deep they are heated before they rise. My husband's hands wrapped around my shoulders as they began to heave. 
I looked up at a girl who knew little of this world and asked her how this could possibly be? She said, "Your seats are for disabled, but for the kind of people who have a broken leg or something like that." 
Something like that. I'd like something like that. That would be nice. 
A man named Steve came out from a door - a pop of light in the night. His eyes understood. He handed us a special note that would us to a special row. To the front in Garden Box seats. 
In a box to the right of the stage we sat with room for all that come with me. We sat in awe of how fortunate were we. Blake Shelton was in primo form as he sang our song, Honey Bee. It truly had become a night we would always remember. And before we knew it, it was time to leave. 
"One sec to the Ladies Room", I rolled to the stalls. The handicapped opened. A young woman in boots and a cowboy hat shot out. She looked down. I looked up. That was all. I was too tired to care. That was nothing compared to the night that had been so far. I finished and flushed and washed and dried. Then something incredulous caught my eye. The second handicapped stall. I had to look twice. My chin hit the floor. It was being used as a storage locker. A woman rustled with garbage bags stacked around the john.  A poetic bookend to our evening, I suppose, when fireflies shed a light on The Hollywood Bowl. 

 

 

Sunday
Sep142014

Teeny Bean

On October 28th, 2014, it will have been 3 years since my accident when my life changed in a moment. Being in a chair has been a challenge, but one that has also opened a whole new world of interests for me.

A few months ago, one of my doctors suggested learning a new skill to add to my treasure chest of pain-management tools. So began my mission to oil the gears of my mental machine.

I started out by attending Stanford. Kind-of. There's this big little app called iTunes U - a massive archive of thousands of audio and video courses from universities around the world. I also attended Harvard, but I'm a West Coast girl at heart. Plus I can't stand the cold.

That's the goal. Turn down the volume.

Learning new things helped to keep my mind from my condition. I had forgotten how wonderful moments of "AHAH!" could be! I couldn't learn enough! Academic courses lead to creative ones, which led to artistic ones. Having been a working photographer prior to my accident, this fed a need I thought was lost. The desire to create.

Although I have always been a right-brained creative, I never really thought of myself as a crafty person. The scrapbooking aisle brought on an apoplectic twitch. Too many fantastic little sparkly options at once left my mind in a spin.

Painting. I'll try painting. But what to paint? Looking at a canvas gave me performance anxiety. So I started with a desk. I was in bed for a week.

Finally, it happened. A sparkle. The kind I could handle. In my quest through YouTube How-To's for something to shield my brain from pain, I came across a video on how to make a necklace. I was clasped. Not only was making jewelry fun, it was something I could share with our children. The following Saturday, my office looked like Michael's after a 6.8. Tiny crystals peeked through the ridges in the floor - everywhere. I could lay back and create a mini masterpiece. Even if it was a flop. Then I realized what my doctor was talking about. It wasn't so much about finding a new hobby, more than a new passion. I had mourned losing the ability to photograph weddings. But it was also about losing an identity.

In creating Teeny Bean Fine Jewelry, I am able to begin a new life of productivity and passion with something I love. During the making of each piece, I fall into a zone of "feeling" the life within the stones and the process. In those moments, pain and disability do not exist and all there is, is light. It is my hope that when someone wears my line, they feel the same way about life.


Friday
Sep052014

The Doctor And Joan

"She really was an amazing woman." Dr. (Norman) Leaf continued on about Joan Rivers as he battled the Friday traffic to a much deserved weekend. He'd kill me if I said this within ear-shot, but he truly is the plastic surgeon to the stars. The only C-list in his office is on the breast implants inside.

It was the first quiet moment he had to truly soak in the fact that she was gone. Dr. Leaf had heard about the new video segment released from Joan and Melissa's reality show where they sit in a waiting room just prior to one of Ms. River's final surgeries. This one in particular would be on her neck, and Dr. Leaf would be her surgeon - just as he was thirty-five years ago when she first hit it big and needed a little nip, or was it a tuck. He would never tell, and never did. I've known Dr. Leaf since I was 17. This was the first I had heard that she was one of his patients. Dr. Leaf is also the medical director on our R.A.W. board and is totally dedicated to changing the lives of our wounded.

The bulk of her surgeries during her later years were done by someone else, but it wasn't her stardom that left its mark on him. It was her spunk.

I had watched the reality show and so was perplexed as to how I could have missed him on it. It was because he never filmed to air. What struck him today was how moving the re-released segment was, that her conversation with her daughter happened right outside his door, and yet he never even knew it existed.

Surgeries do something to some of us, if not all. They scare us into submission - into admitting we are human and may not exist someday. I say may, because it is a thought too large to completely comprehend nonetheless own.

As I face another surgery, I am reminded how fragile life can be. How important it is to have such conversations with our loved ones prior to releasing control over our vitals to someone with a knife. This segment touched many people today. But it was wonderful to hear from a surgeon himself how the passing of a patient made him reflect on the enormity of their life and the effect it had on the world.

 

The next night Dr. Leaf was on CBS News as word got out that it was his office Joan and Melissa were in. Here is the segment: