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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.

 

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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:

Wednesday
Aug272014

Taken And Stirred

So close and yet so far...Ah, it seems nomatter where I wish to park nowadays, whether it be my wheels or my tush it's never boring. But Monday took the cake. I was just a gal trying to make a doctor's appointment and attempting to park her car. Sounds easy enough, right? Instead of simply writing a blog about it, I decided it was time to be proactive, instead of wallowing in my Starbucks cup over over-infalted coffee beans. The following letter may have remained private if this was not a pattern in this company's operation. A post-script is that when I told my doctor what happened (I was a blubbering mess when I entered her office so it was pretty hard to hide. Mind you, I'm a pretty tough girl at this point. They say it's a death by a thousand cuts, and perhaps this last cut was mine.) My doctor looked at me with empathy and said she parked in that lot for 18 years. The people that ran it were absolutely lovely - so kind. They always greeted her with a smile, treated everyone like family, and left such a impression on her life. Then, two years ago the current company purchased this lot and things have never been the same. The abuse she experienced by these attendants was bad enough that she no longer parks there - right behind her building - and would rather walk than be subjected to their business practices.

Here you go:

To: Quality Parking Services
Re: Parking Lot at Le Conte & Broxton
wwwValetParking.com

Dear Mr. Ghaed, Mr. Akbary and Mr. Iravani,


I am writing regarding an incident at your lot on Le Conte and Broxton. To preface, I am disabled and use a wheelchair, requiring handicapped parking to enter and exit my vehicle.
On Monday, August 24th, 2014 I entered your parking lot around 1:30pm as I had a 2pm appointment in the office building adjacent to it on Westwood Blvd. As usual, I looked to the left as I entered the lot to use the handicapped spot. Although it was available, a large white truck was parked in its blue protective area to be used for the disabled person’s entry and exit of the vehicle. I tapped my horn for the attendant’s attention. He approached my vehicle and I asked him if he could kindly move the white truck so I could use the open handicapped spot. He said, he couldn’t because he doesn’t have the keys. I said, no one is supposed to park in the blue area as it belongs to the handicapped spot. I mentioned he must have seen the man park, because you have to pay before you leave, and the spot is directly down the front aisle from the valet stand. His response was curt and stern. He said this lot was privately owned and “did not have to obey city rules.” I was surprised by this response, as well as the animosity he displayed toward me, a woman with a wheelchair in my front seat (or any potential client for that matter). I asked him again to please try to accommodate me, as businesses are supposed to offer something for the disabled. I would understand if the handicapped spot was already taken, but the one available wasn’t even being used for its intended purpose.
I drove around to an open able-bodied spot to see if I could exit my vehicle with my chair. I could not. I then found two spots and parked in the middle. I thought perhaps I could then create my own “handicapped spot” seeing as nothing else was even offered. The attendant approached my car, whipped out his pad and said, That will be $25.” The usual fee at that hour is $9.50. My jaw dropped. Again, I asked if he “had any humanity in him, to please simply allow me to use the two spaces for the regular price. I have to add that the lot was almost completely open. There were probably fifty spots available. Surely he could offer two for an hour. He began to raise his voice, as I started to cry I knew I had to find something as the clock was ticking and I had to get to my appointment and it takes me time to exit my car and get from A to B. I drove around the lot trying space after space several times to see if something would work. I was beside myself, extremely distraught and tears were flowing. Living a life with a disability is difficult enough. I try every single day to hold my head high and never say woe is me. Yet here I was being treated like a criminal for asking for an accommodation for my needs.
as I made my way to the front of the lot, the attendant again approached my car. I asked for his name. He said Francisco. It is at this time I noted the name of your company and knew I had to notify you.
It was then I remembered that I had parked in your lot last fall, when I first began to go out in public with my chair. I noticed a car was parked in that same handicapped spot without a placard. I had asked the attendant to please not park cars in that spot who don’t need it. He responded with the same answer Francisco did, so it is clear that this must be the protocol for your company.
I am asking that you please abide by the city laws and allow for disabled parking. I would even ask if you could please offer at least two disabled spots so we can utilize your services. With UCLA Medical Center I can only assume this would enhance your business model.
That day, I ended up having to park on the second floor underground of the UCLA Hospital and hand-wheel my way to my appointment. I was exhausted, dehumanized, and humiliated.

Please consider not only the request for the disabled community, but also the suggestion to instruct your sensitize your employees on how to treat customers of diversity and educate your company to the Americans with Disabilities Act.


 ADA guidelines specifies that access aisles for car and van parking spaces, must be measured from the centerline of the marking. However, if the parking space or the access aisles is not adjacent to another parking, measurement could be made including the full width of the line.
Designed van parking spaces shall be a minimum 132 inches wideand must contain an access aisle. If it is a car parking space it shall be 96 inches width. However, van parking spaces could be 96 inches wide only if the access aisle is 96 inch wide.
Access aisles shall be adjacent to an accessible route, connecting parking spaces to entrances. Two parking spaces shall be permitted to share a common access aisle. Avoid using accessible routes behind parked vehicles. If the accessible route crosses traffic lanes, it shall be visibly marked enhancing pedestrian safety.
Access aisles shall be 60 inches wide minimum and should extend the full length of the parking space being served. Remember to mark access aisles to prevent vehicles from parking over the aisles.
The aisles must be marked clearly; however, the method and color of marking are specified by State or local laws. Aisles shall be allowed to be marked on either side of the parking space. Hint: Van aisles are recommended to be placed on the passenger side of the van space.
Aisles shall be at the same level as the parking space they are serving. Level changes are not allowed, and constitute a violation of ADA Design standards. Aisles slopes not steeper than 1:48 shall be permitted.
Access aisles should be leveled in all directions. Built-up curb ramps are not permitted to project into access aisles and parking spaces because they would create slopes greater than 1:48.
Parking space identification must include the International Symbol of Accessibility. ADA Design standards request that signs identifying van parking spaces shall contain the “van accessible” sign. Signs should be installed at least 60 inches above finish floor.
It is important to prevent vehicles or vans to obstruct the required clear width of accessible route. Parking spaces for vans and access aisles and vehicular routes serving them shall provide a minimum vertical clearance of 98 inches
In regard to the number of handicapped spaces you currently provide, this should help:
State law requires the following number of spaces, based upon the total spaces in a given lot available to the public:
• Between 16 and 25 spaces: one handicapped space
• Between 26 and 40 spaces: five percent of such spaces but not less than two
• Between 41 and 100 spaces: four percent of such spaces but not less than three
• Between 101 and 200 spaces: three percent of such spaces but not less than four
• Between 201 and 500 spaces: two percent of such spaces but not less than six
          
According to California Law, The ADA says that each separate lot or garage has to be compliant with their minimum parking space requirements.
If one has 20 spaces, the ADA would only require one space to be accessible (and it would have to be a van-accessible spot). If the other lot has 100 spaces, there would be four total handicapped spaces required (including one that’s van-accessible). You are clearly offering less that the spaces required by law. And yes, as a private company doing business with the public, you are NOT immune to these rules and regulations. They were actually created just with you in mind.

I look forward to your response.

Thank you for you consideration,

Micaela Bensko





Micaela Bensko
www.RebuildingAmericasWarriors.org
310-990-8389

Blog www.MoanaVida.com

Sunday
Aug242014

The Handicapped Stall

I really wish I could have been more patient yesterday.

The rest room used to be a place of retreat. Even in the mall. A restaurant. A store. The buffering echo of the stalls somehow insulated me from the mania outside. But not so much anymore.

I've mentioned briefly before about frustration when the handicapped stall is occupied by someone who bounces about. The first thing I look for under the door is anything with wheels (I'm a sucker for moms with strollers. It's the roller derby girls that get to me.) I even went so far as to ask one lady who pranced out of the stall to please, please leave these stalls for people who need them? She paused. Looked up. Then down at me. I'm quite short nowadays. It was one arc short of an eye-roll. With one eyebrow raised, she replied in a confrontational tone, "I got a bad ankle."

'You must have one large ankle.", I thought to myself.

So now, every time I roll up to a stall with the little man in a chair, it's like a crap-roll in Vegas. No pun intended. I never know what's going to pop out of there. Yesterday, I rolled up to one. It was locked. I could see no wheels, hear no baby. I waited. And waited. A slight flapping of the toilet paper role echoed beyond the door. My time was near. But by this time, I was brewed inside, like a day-old pot of coffee that lost its perk.

The toilet flushed to a tussling of pants and a zip. Then a shuffle. A long shuffle. As though she wore a rack of petticoats donned one by one. Then she began to emerge. Black orthopaedic shoes peeked through the bottom of the door as it creaked open, like blind dogs sniffing for a plate of food. Her face coiled around to mine. Betty White's body double.

Then it hit me. The handles. She needed the handles. The silver bars around the toilet to keep her steady. Wheels had nothing to do with it. The other three-hundred stalls did not have safety handles.

Man did I feel like, well, you know.

I left wondering how I began to think this way? Expecting the worst, rather than the best? No matter how difficult these past three years have been, the one thing I never want to lose is my faith in the goodness of others. But it's so hard when sprung back out into a world where my reality is not the norm. It's not realistic to expect others to understand how deeply it cuts when able-bodied people pop out of our stalls. There will always be women with bad ankles. But I have to remember that not every woman ahead of me, is one of them.

I went home, did some Googling and found an interesting post online: "

"Sorry to inform you that in California it is a finable offense to use a handicapped-designated restroom stall if you're able-bodied. The fine for the first offense is $271. I was riding my bicycle on the state beach at Huntington Beach and was arrested and given a ticket, which the court has upheld."

I Googled some more.

"...there is no law, just rude people."

This was getting serious.

My heart asks this of ye olde public. If you walk into a bathroom and there are any available able-bodied stalls, please do not use the disabled stall. Even if you don't see anyone disabled at the moment, we could rear our heads at any moment. If all of the able-bodied stalls are used, and the handicapped is open, just think about it for a moment, how you would feel if you opened the door and I was waiting for you. With drool running down my chin and head spinning with green vomit spewing from my ears. OK, I digress.

So, I don't believe it is illegal to use 'the stall', but is it worth it? If you really have "to go", I'd understand, but please, please, I beg of you, for the love and God and all that is holy and on sale at Marshall's, please leave the handicapped stall to those who need it. This also means for people who need the extra space because they need to change a colostomy bag. I'm learning so much as I journey through this challenge. It just goes to show that even those of us that need 'the stall', are learning, too. And I promise, the next time I start to brew, I'll remind myself we are all so often handicapped, simply by being human.

 


 

 

Sunday
Aug172014

Tool Chest

It's been a while since I posted here.  I think one reason I'd never make a professional blogger is I'd let too many people down. Blogging just to blog has never been my intention. Only when inspired am I able to pour it all out onto the screen. With these past few years, blogging has become one of the greatest tools in my chest for recovery. A friend broke my heart this summer, telling me she could no longer be friends with me as she could not understand how I could be so public with my challenge. It's funny how hundreds if not thousands of words of support can lift, and it takes just one to tear you down. I was torn down, but only for a night. I know in my heart, and from the thoughtful and brave responses I have received from others enduring the same, that in connecting with others comes a most powerful healing. We are all going through a challenge of one kind or another. Some are physical, others emotional, some are from the pain from watching our loved ones hurt. But either way, it is a weight so heavy it would be impossible to carry alone. I hope with all of my heart that by sharing my story, it has helped to lift the burdens of challenges other than my own.

This summer has gone by much too quickly. Ketamine infusions kicked it off, so that erased a nice part of it. Otherwise it was one of growth. Physical Therapy and core-strengthening have been my primary focus. Unfortunately, as my core grew stronger, so did the pain levels. It's a mixed bag that's for sure. I am now in the wheelchair full-time, with no recto-flexor function in my left leg. But I'm trying to make the best of it every single day. 

Another surgery lurks in the wings like an understudy drooling in wait for the lead to fail. Looks like I will be having a pain pump implanted within the next month. A lovely little gas tank imbedded in my trunk that spews medicine upon my spine for a smoother, more enjoyable ride. 

The summer also brought with it moments of reflection. The memorial for my dearest friend, her presence seen as a butterfly from heaven landed in front of us with other-worldly hues in its wings that could only be painted by God. Deep purples and blues I have never seen before, nonetheless on an insect. Although some insects are magnificent, especially those in National Geographic, her colors went beyond Nature's pallet. She fluttered up into the air and back down to our feet - then up again as though asking everyone to look at the glory that life still holds.

So, as much as things have changed, much is still the same. The blur of summer is clearing now, leaving time to return to what feeds me most: connecting with those I love.

 

In my efforts to strengthen, I discovered painting. It began by perusing Pinterest, discovering chalk paint, and watching endless videos on refinishing techniques. I can hardly sit for lengths of time at all, so how in the world I was going to make this happen was beyond me. But the pull was so strong that I ordered the paint, the supplies (shopping is still a feat that leaves me bedridden some days so Amazon is my new best friend, much to my husband's chegrin ;) Then I sat propped on pillows, or in my chair, or literally laying on my side, and began to paint my great-grandmother's 200 year old dresser in our foyer. It was a solid brown with handles so old and worn, removing them would result in splitting of the wood. I was so nervous. Would I ruin it forever? Would I have enough energy to finish it? What was I getting myself in to?

What should have taken an hour, took a day. But it was an interesting day. Every move I made was an exercise in strengthening. I straightened my spine, tightened my stomach, and with every brush of the stroke, envisioned my body getting stronger. Blood flowed through areas of my body that have been stagnant for three years. I broke into a sweat. And for a moment, I felt like my old self again.

Today I am on my bed, pain has returned and I am paying for my efforts this week. I have found something creative, and productive, that is also a form of therapy that is but another tool in my chest of possibilities.

 

 

Saturday
Jul052014

Final Essay Of My Book

I began writing this blog as a practice in deciphering the stages of grief. Because that is what we feel we are experiencing. Don and I are gradually becoming more and more aware that who I was, is slowly drifting out to sea. Who we were, is passing us by like a movie in slow motion. Images of the day we met. Our first kiss. The birth of our children. All a magical phase of innocence. Fading. Into the distance. 
But in searching for "the stages of grief", I came upon the "stages of birth". Which made me wonder if what I am experiencing could perhaps be something new, rather than the death of what once was. 
The labor phase is done. First there is "lightening". This is when the baby drops. A sudden change in the normalcy of a pregnancy. When God decides it is time for something new. 
"The Bloody Show". A sign that life is about to change. When the protection of the womb is irradicated and anything is possible. Even infection. Perhaps a fear sets in. 
"Ruptured membranes". When others are now aware that you are turning inside out. When friends stand frozen wanting to support, but waiting for you to tell them what you need. 
"Contractions". The pain. The blinding, excruciating pain you cannot describe to anyone who has never had a child. It is a blending of worlds you've lived and the one you are about to lead. 
There are three stages to labor. 
The first, the latent phase, is the longest and least intense. During this phase, contractions become more frequent, helping the new life begin its journey to the light. 
During the active phase,  you experience a pressure in your back or abdomen during each contraction. But you are not ready yet for what is to come. Tears stream down your cheeks in silent anticipation of what will be. 
Then transition strikes. A wave of unfathomable agony when you suddenly know too much - that life can change in an instant from joy to paralyzing fear. 
But just when it seems too difficult to go on, others tell you that you must push through. Push as though your life depends on it. Because it does. If you don't you will die. And the life inside that is aching to get out will die too. And everything you ever dreamed your life could ever be, will be gone. 
So you push. And at the end is a life. Not a death. Even though you may have grieved the ending of what was. Even if you cried excruciating tears along the way. It is still a life to hold inside your hands to show off to the world and proclaim it as your own. 
I am holding this life in my hands. Because it is the end of my book. My arms weakened by their gradual collapse, I sense a closure to what was. I did not write this book with an ending in mind. I sensed the time would come and I would know the time to push. And something would be born. 
I roll over to my husband.  Breathing in his scent. Our life before my eyes. Our first site. The first kiss. The first time he held my hand and did not let go. I see him crawling on the sand with my children on his back. The first time he laid his heart on mine. I see him kneeling as he proposed the life we were to lead. And he did. He led our life to something so beautiful and profound it is something only God can see. And after all that we have done. The family we have made. Yes, our life has had to change. We still make time to grieve. 
 I will bare into the challenge. Birth is never clean. But without the challenge of the birth, new life would never be. Without change there is no growth, the purpose of living would be lost. So I have shared my challenge with you, so you might know you are not alone in pain. 
There is no easy way to tidy up a birth. But when you finally get to look into the eyes of a life you will now have to lead, you just might see a bit of God staring back at you. 
I say goodbye to who I was. It is time to tend to who I will become. And now I say good night. And for the first time I see myself. And I believe. 



Micaela Bensko
VP www.RebuildingAmericasWarriors.org
310-990-8389
Blog www.MoanaVida.com

 

Friday
Jul042014

Three A.M.

The apple's juices opened up inside my mouth, mixing with my tears. Three a.m. is rarely kind to me. It's when thoughts rise from the deepest sleep and toss the heart into a spin. Somehow the sweetness reminds me of life's innocence. I haven't written in a while. Perhaps an experiment with denial. But like any river, once dammed,a pressure builds, and the release can leave one startled in its wake. I woke to the book on tape still murmuring in my earbud. The rhythmic breath of my husband. The gentle nudge of Reggie's paw stretching into my thigh. The burn inside my spine from my trying too hard to be free. I'm learning, and adapting, to life in a chair. But sometimes when lost in a whirlwind of growth, life becomes blurred and feelings are forced beneath the skin. Until three a.m.It just hit me, that only months ago I could shuffle my feet to cross a room. Now my body caves likes a tree that's broken in a wind, my chest edging to the floor as my spine collapses in its fold. My face is to the floor within seconds of searching for hope, that maybe this will be the step when life will turn. So now my life is from the chair. Albeit it is a pretty cool looking little chair. A woman at the doctor's office told me so, but in a way that was all too real. As though now it was a part of me. Like a dress, or pair of shoes. The color of my hair. I am now also my chair.  My husband released his hold on me, he's learned to wait each storm - quietly bracing me to his chest until the calm.  When the storm slows down and branches are cradled by the wind. In the stillness once again, at three a.m. 

Carolyn Jordan How fragile we are, and so many of us pop out of bed in the morning not quite understanding the blessing in that. I was driving the other day and it popped in my head that the worst thing in my mind to happen to me would be to go blind, and I panicked at the thought. I wrote a college essay on how in our 20's our bodies are the enemy - not thin enough, whatever, but as we age, we learn to respect our bodies, that they are our trusted vessel and yet can also give us unimaginable pain.The adjustment you are having to make is huge, but don't stop believing that you will rise again!!!
Unlike ·  2 · Delete · Today at 6:24am
 
Louise Micaela I love you ladies so. We all have our "chair". Whether it has wheels or not. 
Meg , there's comfort in knowing we're not alone. I certainly don't like focussing on the negative, but as Bobbie says, there's a beauty within the darkness. We can only see that when life is still, and the tears subside. Especially when there's that soft glow around our eyes where tears leave droplets on our lids. I still always search for hope. I still find joy in every day. But it's only human to slip into the night when thoughts take us to that place where we are meant to be - in order to shed our skin and ready ourselves for the next turn in the road, wherever it may lead.  
Like ·  2 · More · Today at 6:29am
 
Bobbie Kogok You are right, and part of a grieving process, it's healthy.
Unlike ·  1 · Delete · Today at 6:32am
 
Louise Micaela Carolyn , sweet girl, your thoughts reminded me of this post from a while ago xoxo :

I SHOULD BE ASHAMED - FOR MY SELF

For the times I looked you in the mirror and asked why you weren't 'her'
When I turned to see my backside just to asses its girth
When I should have gently thanked you for getting me through the day
When all I should have done was love you
I should be ashamed

For the days I drove the kids to school because my brain was tired 
Perhaps the weather wasn't right or the streets could have been dryer 
For all the times I parked too close and wished I had a plaque
The only thing I wish for now is that I could take it back

I see this now because today I looked at you
And didn't wish you were someone else I just felt gratitude
For carrying my spirit
And the burdens in my heart
For staying strong when all I saw was a life falling apart
I love you more than ever before because before I could not see
Everything you are that I was ashamed to be

A miracle of God that is mine for while I'm here
On this often winding journey
Protecting me from fear
You are my link to God and all I have to do
So why should I have been ashamed of you with all you have to do?

I am sorry to my body for the time's I've been unkind
For all I've seen because of you how could I be so blind
For all that you have given me, my family and my name
I only have one thing to say
I should be ashamed

http://www.moanavida.com/imported-20120303161751/2013/5/17/i-should-be-ashamed-for-my-self.html
Like ·  2 · More · Today at 6:33am

 

 

 

 

 

Friday
Jun062014

The Shade

An email tonight from my mother left me in tears.  I love her so much. Her love reminds me when I get down, that the future doesn't matter when all you can do is live for each moment. 
I don't know what the morning will bring. How good or bad it will be. So I can't look forward to it. Looking back on what happened and why, does me no good. I used to bang my head against the wall (so to speak) dying to know how and why this happened. I drove my pain psychologist nuts. It did not matter how, or why. All that mattered was how am I today. How will I get through the now. Tomorrow is not mine to control. I can control my choice to react. 
The pain is the beast that controls my choices, and that is my biggest struggle. The only tool I've found to fight this, is to see how close my crashing sense of mortality brings me to God. When I flare, nothing else matters but God. He is all I have. All I live for. I know this sounds odd as a wife and mother of four, not to mention a daughter with incredible patents and a sister to a brother I adore. But without any effort, when my pain questions the meaning of life and why must I go on, it is my faith that this challenge is not selfishly for me to learn or grow. One's trial is a tool for God to help others witness their own mortality, to help others pause in reflection of their own lives. 
I never thought I'd be in a wheelchair. Nor that my greatest feat of a day would be learning how to load my chair into my car by myself by watching various YouTube videos by people like me. Folks who are young enough to drive a jeep,old enough to need an SUV, and secure enough to expose their vulnerabilities on a site where gimp-stalkers unite. 
I've accepted I am now a gimply one. We made it home from a rare dinner out that left my bones collapsing like pixie sticks. I transferred from my wheelchair to my stairlift and road it to the top, then waited for Don to bring my chair to the top landing. Then someone knocked on the front door. I can do this, I said. I held onto the banister and held my weight up to assist my steps to our bedroom. With each step my chest lowered closer and closer to the ground. By the time I reached our doorway, my trunk was parallel to the ground. My legs weighed a hundred pounds. And I needed my chair. Needed. Not wanted. Needed. 
I have come so far with my pain management, as long as I don't try to step, or walk, or sit for long periods of time. 
Tonight I realized I am now officially 95% wheelchair bound. 
I will not stop here. My latest stimulator surgery still needs time to seal in with scar tissue. Then I will dive into more therapy, and see if we can rebuild what muscle and brain connection to muscles can be rebuilt. 
So much has happened since my accident. So many turns, procedures and surgeries that have culminated in a life I never thought I would lead. What I do know, is that as horrible as I may feel at times about my new ability to memorize the paint pimples on the ceiling, when I pull my very own fully-blinged pitty-party card, I keep coming back to the fact that I know there is a plan. There has to be a plan. Or I will throw all of my blinged pitty party cards off my balcony to be shredded by various varmints overtaking this season's petunia patch. 
My faith in God, is my faith that the only thing that matters is what is in front of me, right now, in this moment, and how the loved ones in my life are faring due to present blessings or conflicts. When your life is broken down to making it through a day without tears,and looking for ways to make each moment one that may linger in others' minds, it's pretty simple to let go of the rat race I used to run with a heart so desperate to win, I never noticed the trees with shade along the way. 
My life now is all about shade. Not just for me, but for any one who wishes to get away from the race that no one wins. My friends stop by now and put their phone on silent. My home will be quiet as we visit during school hours, candles are lit and soft music will play. Things I never did before my life would dare slow down to be the silence we all need just to 'be'.  
My lesson of late is to share with my friends a reminder that life thrives when it is still. To turn off the phone while we hold hands. To look into each other's eyes when discussing a broken heart and knowing that heartache is seen by someone other than themselves. 
My gift this month is knowing that my doctors have altered my life. Pain levels, though complicated, are becoming more manageable if only I do not walk. When I lay flat or only use my chair, I can smile again -something I thought was lost for ever. I feel guilt and embarrassment that last fall my therapists got me to walk with poles and toes tied to my shins. I tried so hard to keep it up, only for my neck and spine to collapse in anguish, pummeling my optimism into the chair. The ego is a powerful foe when fighting to believe in your self. The irony is the ID can be your greatest fault when trying to find who you are once you've lost everything you've been. 
So, for now I am trying to accept different types of joy. The joy of teaching myself to load my chair into the car all by myself. The pride in dismantling my chair to bring it piece by piece upstairs on my lift to say to myself is be okay if I were alone. I find peace in smiling back at waiters who think my chair is kind of cool, or my kids friends who think my service dog is the celebrity of the school. 
So until we know if my new normal will all ever go away, it's my obligation to share the gifts I've found in the darkness of the shade. 
Micaela Bensko
Vice President www.RebuildingAmericasWarriors.org
PO Box 1931
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
c 310-990-8389 
Blog: www.MoanaVida.com 
Site: www.ReggieUp.com

On Jun 6, 2014, at 10:12 PM, InfoforRAW@aol.com wrote:

Honey, I just left your blog, Who is this Lady, really is so beautiful, and so true for all of us. In a way you are lucky to be able to stop and know yourself, the rest of us race through life from one moment to the next, never stopping to figure out why.  I love you so much for helping me see life as it really is, full of such meaning, depth, reason, and questioning.  There are answers we will never know, days we will always wonder, but one thing I know, God is with you and I hope myself.  The reason for all of this will be revealed at some point of our life, or afterlife.
 
I know he gave me this absolutely beautiful daughter who challenged life both mentally and physically for 40+ years, and then an accident happened, one so difficult that it challenged her every thought and took apart every cell in her body.  She had to start reassembling herself all over again.  And she did it, not the same as before, but better in so many ways.  I love you honey, you are the beat of my heart and I thank God every night for having blessed me with you.
Mom

 

Tuesday
Jun032014

Purple Heart Home Reconstruction Project has invited you to like their Facebook Page

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All Bryan Anderson wants for the loss of his three limbs, is a house for his fellow Purple Heart recipient that works. 67 likes · 0 talking about this

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