Monday, September 30, 2013

Love Birds

Over the greater part of a year I've had the privilege watching mallard ducks in our ponds. 

Last winter, they made roosts in the weeds. Spring, the ducklings hatched. Mommy eventually left and they grew until they all flew away. Summer, ducks came and went.

Autumn, and they're pairing. Dana called it "couples skate" on the pond this morning. 

Now I understand how the great ecologists got hooked. So much beauty and so much to understand from watching these beautiful creatures. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Day After My First CrossFit Games

I am sore this morning.
The good kind of sore.
The you-feel-it-the-second-you-wake-up sore.
The proud kind of sore.

I felt every leg muscle move as I stumbled to the coffee maker, smiling.

Yesterday, I competed in my very first CrossFit Games, at the box that's changed my life, Fentress Crossfit.

I started going in April, when they offered a Groupon.
I was hooked quickly.
And with the support of my family, awesome coaches and my CrossFit peers, I've kept it up.
It's now a line item in our monthly budget.

I've lost 30 pounds, two clothing sizes, and this crazy thing has happened.
I've become this girl who likes to work out!
It's insane.
When I miss it for a few days, I miss it.

Yesterday, I finished near the bottom.
But - I accomplished my two declared goals:
1. Don't get hurt.
2. Don't embarrass yourself.

Six months ago, I couldn't have done this.
A year ago - I would have thought the current version of myself had lost her mind.

I lifted 30 pounds more than I thought I could lift yesterday. I learned that it's time to start pushing myself even harder. I also really want to work on my running (truth: lack thereof).

I feel high.
Again - I was at the bottom of the finishers.
And yet, I can't stop looking at the pictures. I can't believe I did this.
This is just the beginning for me. I'm still new at CrossFit.
I can't wait to get stronger and leaner and faster and move up in the world!
I'm so thankful that I'm surrounded by people who are so supportive and we all cheer each other on, no matter our fitness levels.

Also - I'm super thankful I got to experience this yesterday, alongside this guy:
I actually haven't had anyone ask or say to me that Michael must be my inspiration - because he can't do this stuff, and I can think of him and push harder. Michael asked me if I had.

Actually, it's not like that. I have tried thinking of him when I'm pushing through a workout... and I don't find inspiration in thinking of what he can't do. I wish it did, but it doesn't work for me like that.

But - hearing him counting my reps and yelling "yeah" and posting proud pictures to Facebook - that does make me push harder. And now that he's been there (how fun is it to have things that you love collide?) I feel like I can share CrossFit stuff with him on a whole new level and he will get it. He LOVED being there. He was PUMPED UP.

So, he does inspire me. Just not in the cliche' way. In the real teammate kind of way.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Knew Something Was Wrong

I want to talk about sharing a bed. Not in the intimate sense, but in the literal sense. I know a lot of wives in my situation who don't get to share a bed with their husband, or they sleep in a bed pulled up right beside their husband's bed. It's up to everyone to figure out what works for them.

Thankfully, we get to sleep together.
Sleeping in the same bed was an adjustment for both of us.

When we first got married, Michael had to get used to sleeping flat, and not in a hospital bed. I had to get used to waking up to turn him in the middle of the night. He adjusted and generally no longer needs me to roll him over. I got used to the occasional muscle spasm. It wakes me up for half a second. I lay still to feel it out and see if it happens again. Usually, it doesn't, and I go back to sleep. Or, if it does, I wake Michael up and ask him, "Are you okay?," he grunts and we both go back to sleep.

Not today.
I felt a strange feeling. It didn't feel like normal muscle spasms or puggle snoring.
I asked Michael, "Are you okay?"
"No," he says.

I shoot out of the bed, with an instant jolt of adrenalin, way stronger and more instant than a pot of coffee. Boom! I'm here to fix your problem, my love. Anything you need, I'll get it. He says he has a fever, and chills. I'm worried. I knew he didn't look right this morning. He said he was exhausted, but I could see it in his eyes, pain.

I work an overnight shift. I'm familiar with exhausted. That look in his eyes this morning was not exhaustion. But, I tend to be a freaker, so I gave him a couple of Ibuprofen, threw him in the bed, and we called it a day.

Until this afternoon, when the shaking woke me up. He was not well. He looked near tears and his body was shaking.

He asked me to roll him over, I did. I took his temperature: 101. Gave him some Azo and more Ibuprofen, and I held him until he stopped shivering. I stroked his hair and his chest - up high - where he could feel it.

He fell asleep.
I googled on my phone, laying there beside him - back to back.
I knew what he was experiencing was Autonomic Dysreflexia, because I'm a CFN (that's Certified Fake Nurse).

My plan was to keep an eye on his blood pressure and his headache and make sure to keep filling his water bottle up.

Another UTI.
He gets them often, but this one is bad. Never seen him like this in the 4 years since we got married, and I never saw him like this in the two years before that - even though I know he's had a thousand UTIs in that time.

It's after midnight now - and I'm in the living room with Brokaw, while he's back asleep after half a sandwich, an episode of 20/20 and a little cuddle time with his nurse lady.

Autonomic Dysreflexia is a scary, powerful thing.
When you have a spinal cord injury, it's like the phone lines from your body to your brain have been cut off. Your tummy or your feet can't tell your brain, "I hurt," so, they scream out in other ways - spasms, blood pressure spikes and drops, it can be really dangerous.

Isn't it amazing, though, that his body still manages to get its message through? Look at how hard it works to communicate. Sometimes it's subtle. Sometimes it's screaming. But if you pay attention - even though it's below the level where it's easy to understand, if you listen, you can find out what's wrong.

I'd say we could all learn from that kind of committed communication.

I hate UTIs. I feel like if you're going to be paralyzed, you should be handed an immunity card on the day of your injury. Like, okay, so you're going to spend the life in a wheelchair - so it's only fair that you have this "get out of any other illness or injury" card.

Too bad it doesn't happen like that.
There's nothing worse than seeing him suffer. I'm glad that (other than the whole paralysis thing) he is generally a very healthy, low maintenance quadriplegic. I'm grateful he doesn't deal with pain or other medical issues on a daily basis, because we know some people who do, and I can only imagine how difficult that is.

I want him to just rest. I'll do anything and everything I can, being a CFN and all.

I'm staying up, in case he needs anything. This too shall pass. I don't want to worry either of our mothers by posting about this! I just like to keep it real, so there you go.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

On Traveling, and Perspective

For Ben, and Robin. We love you.

Traveling isn't easy.
It's pretty exhausting, actually.

This is how it usually goes down for us:
I make three lists.
D, M, and 3.
D = all of my stuff
M = all of Michael's stuff
3 = all of the stuff we must take with us to manage anything and everything related to Michael's disability.

I pack for all three of us.
I load the van. Which, honestly, it's a good thing we have a van that has no middle seats, because even when we go away for a short weekend trip, we take A LOT of stuff. When we left yesterday for the cabin, we had seven bags, plus a cooler. These are not big bags. But still, seven of them, for two people, for two nights away from home.

Then, I load Michael into the van, and tie him down (not as mean and/or crazy as it sounds) and get his seat belt on and make sure he's all comfortable.

Then, I'm in, find a place for my purse, crank the A/C, and we're off!

Michael gets bonus husband points this weekend for wearing a hoodie so that I could comfortably crank the A/C, guilt free.

I drive, obviously.
Then, we arrive.

Michael and I were able to successfully pack mule all seven of our bags plus the cooler up the ramp to the cabin in one trip, and he didn't fall backwards, so that's a win.

This is the point where I ran out of patience.
Note: My patience used to run out when I was packing the van, so this is actually an improvement!

When we get to the destination, I unpack everything and make sure it's in its place. Because I'm the psycho who believes everything has a place - even on vacation - even in a cabin we're only staying in for two nights. I also believe everything's place is as close as possible to where that place would be at home. Hey, I like my routines, what can I say?

While I'm doing this, Michael brushes his teeth and takes his pills.
I turn down the bed.
He tries to go back to the van to get a cord to plug his phone in. He is unsuccessful at getting the cord, but successful in cutting his knee open, so now it's bleeding. Luckily, there are band-aids in one of his bags from a trip long ago.

I'm about to cry. I feel it coming.
But, I don't. I take a deep breath, I think of my friend Robin.

Robin was a quad wife like me. Robin took care of all of this stuff, and more, for/with her husband Ben for years. With a smile on her face, an encouraging word for others, and her "Proud Wife" shirt. But Tuesday, unexpectedly and suddenly, at the young age of 52, Ben passed away. Everything changes for Robin now.

I don't want to look back at all this stuff I've written one day and hate myself for complaining about driving and patching up busted knees and feeling like a failure because I didn't remember the gait belt even though the home health aide packed Michael's bag and it was his responsibility and her responsibility and not my responsibility.

One day, I will be alone.
I hope it's not for a very, very long time.
But when that day comes, I don't want to have a life full of memories of feeling overwhelmed, and stressed out and alone.

We have lots of sweet memories of being a team and being a young couple in love and road trips and vacations that are awesome. I want to remember those.

So, I need to write about those.

See, that's the danger in your writing being your "free therapy." Because do you go to therapy to sit on a couch and talk to someone about how much you love your life? No. You go because you're burned out, or sad, or angry, or confused, or all of the above.

Michael raided the entire three bedroom cabin and stole all the pillows off all the beds (except the top bunk bed, slacker) and I got him all snuggled in the bed. We used the belt from his pants in place of the gait belt (I strap his legs together while he sleeps so they don't frog out) and I cleaned the cut on his knee and put a band-aid on it.

Caregiver responsibilities were over, so then I snuggled up beside him, laid my head on his right shoulder - a.k.a - my favorite place in the world, and he was snoring in no time, and I'm positive I wasn't far behind him.

I slept for eight hours, laid in bed for two more thinking about getting up. I got up an hour ago, and as soon as I'm done with this thought, and two more sips of my coffee which is now room temperature, I'll do it again, in reverse order.

I'll do it gladly.
Because there's nothing more precious than my husband.
I'll take good care of him.
Better care than anyone else would, no matter their advanced nursing degrees.
Better care than I take of myself.
And I only pray that I have the chance to do this until we are both very old people.
Life is but a vapor, y'all.

After going years and years without going to a funeral, I've lost four friends out of nowhere this year.
Monday, we will go to celebrate Ben's life.
We'll hug sweet, sweet Robin, who loved him with all of herself.

Shocking loss changes you.
But, only if you let it.
Or so, I'm learning.

Galatians 6:19: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

Saturday Morning Post: Black Coffee

It's 3:20 a.m, Saturday.
I'm alone in the living room of a cabin at Shenandoah Crossing. I'm surrounded by beautiful woodwork, and a rug that reminds me of the Reagan Ranch. Michael is going to be sleeping for the next 40 minutes, so this is my time.

I have a nice, big mug of black Breakfast Blend, hot. I'm so glad they don't have those small hotel-mugs. I need a real cup of coffee. And, since I've started eating mainly Paleo a few months ago, and now I drink my coffee black - all the time - I wonder how and why I ever didn't.

Black coffee is so real, so pure, so exactly perfect.

I'm so glad we are here at this cabin. It's going to rain today, which means no excursions to local wineries or hiking in the National Park or shopping (without money shopping is no fun anyway) in Downtown Charlottesville.

I'm glad it's going to rain.
Because I just want to wear yoga pants all day and drink black coffee, and write.

There is SO much in my head, in my heart, that I'm a spaz at home. I don't have much time for exhaling, and when I do, it's like there is so much built up, an hour of time like this can go by, and I have nothing actually written to show for it.

I have several freelance writing opportunities there for the taking, waiting for me to have/make time. I have two pages of blog post ideas, but nothing to show for it.

Writing is such an exercise for me.
I must warm up.
Then work out.
Then, I like to cool down.
Then, I feel amazing.

It's emotional. It's raw. I have to strip away all 47 of my to do lists and close all my social media, and quiet my mind, then the words pour out.
And there's no greater feeling than the words pouring out.

Because when I have to make the words up, it isn't good. It isn't real, it feels forced, and fake and like coffee with Splenda and skim milk. Which used to be good, but now it's not good.

I'd rather have it black, thank you very much.

We're having friends over for lunch today, and I'm very much looking forward to that. But I want to spend the rest of this time clearing out my mind, so that I am back at that place where I have something to write, something to give.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Family Time on the Back Porch

It's rare that we all get out and just enjoy our back porch. 

Sadly, the whole overnight schedule doesn't let us just chill in the daylight hours.

Even Brokaw relaxed a bit. 

No anxiety. Just chill.

Now to hurry and finish this book. 

Friday, September 13, 2013