Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Vans Down by the River

 It is with a heavy heart that I pronounce my beloved Yo Gabba Gabba Slip-On Vans officially…*sniffle*…DEAD.  They have suffered the woes of wear and finally cannot go on.

The carnage. My cat, Selina looks away, blinking away his tears.
Of course I'm being dramatic.  But I really am quite upset over this. These shoes have served me in ways that nothing else has. These shoes have been with me through a lot, and always came through when I needed them.
Not kidding.
I bought these shoes 4 years ago, just 3 weeks before my stroke.  We had been out shopping for a new pair of shoes for my son when I noticed these on sale.  Why on earth would I look at shoes at Journeys Kidz? Because I stand 4 feet 10 ¾ inches  tall, and my shoe size is 3 in Little Kids.  Finding shoes is a nightmare.  I avoid shoe shopping because it invokes in me a passionate fury.  When I saw these, I thought “oh they’re so cute! I wonder if they’ll fit!” And they did. *cue angels singing*  I worked in a corporate office back then.  I already had a reputation for being a little eccentric so of course I wore them to work.  I mean, of course.   How could I not show these off? 

My beloved Vans, brand spankin' new.
I wore them to work on June 8, 2011.  I remember that day because that was the last day I ever went to work.  That day, I had an ischemic stroke in my left brain stem.  I didn’t understand what was happening but I knew something was wrong.  My co-worker urged me to call my husband to come pick me up.  While we didn’t know it was a stroke, it was clear I shouldn’t attempt to drive home.  I ended up in an ambulance later that day headed for the ER.  Over the next 3 days I lost all use of the right side of my body.  The Neurologist explained it was an evolving stroke.  It didn’t just strike and leave; it struck and didn’t stop.  By the third day I had total paralysis on the right side, save for my face.  I didn’t get to wear shoes much for the next week while I remained in the ICU, so my Vans – my fun, colorful, conversation-starting Vans – stayed tucked away in that big plastic hospital bag marked “PATIENT BELONGINGS.”  Those stupid bags.  I hate them.  I’ve never been to prison but I imagine that’s what it feels like.  Forced to strip naked and all of your possessions reduced to a damn plastic bag.  I couldn’t even keep my bra on!  Holy mom boobs, Batman have you people no mercy?

Whole world. Right here. And they NEVER write your name on it. Fascists!

After 8 days or so they shipped me and my bulging plastic bag of all that remained of civilization to inpatient rehab.  At this point, I was wheelchair-bound but not able to push myself or get in or out of it in my own.  This is where I would learn to do that, and eventually to walk again.  So I got to wear my Vans. 

Me, wheelin' to the cafeteria, desperately hoping they'll let us have salt today.

Four years later, I still suffer from “drop foot.”  This means that even though I can walk with a walker or a cane, my right ankle still hasn’t learned to move again.  My foot just hangs there.  Try putting on a pair of shoes without using your ankle.  Try it.  HA!  It sucks balls, doesn’t it?  Not only can I not put on certain shoes, very few shoes will even stay on while I walk.  I’m a California native.  I’m fairly certain there’s a state law declaring flip-flops our state shoe.  I mourned the day I threw my collection (yes, collection) away because I could no longer wear them.  I did try wearing Converse and other lace-up sneakers but my right hand and fingers have a hell of a time getting those on.  If I’m in a hurry or already too fatigued for the day, that’s just not a fight I’m up for.

My Vans were slip-ons.  Masterfully designed to stretch and conform to the foot and not need any stupid laces.  And they stayed on.  And…AND they were a perfect SIZE 3.  Oh sure there are other Vans out there.  But they’re not MY Vans.  They didn’t hold me in place when I rose from my hospital bed for the very first time to try to stand.  They didn’t help my good foot push my wheelchair all around the rehab place fighting to reclaim some independence, or help me hold my toddler’s hand to take a walk around our building for the first time.  These filthy broken shoes look like they should be tossed in the river and forgotten.  But I can’t let them go yet.  These Vans, the ones broken in to my tiny swollen feet, walked this road to recovery with me.  

Friday, March 13, 2015


There is one thing most grown-ups can all agree to join hands and hate together: the motherfucking laundry.  No, this isn’t another mommy blog post about hating on laundry.  I get it.  You guys get it.  Laundry blows.  And it never ends.  But I have a confession to make: I’m having a new love affair with laundry.

I'm not a traitor.  Hear me out.

Laundry hook-ups were at the top of our MUST HAVE list while looking for a new place to live.  As the searching got harder, we started to compromise until of course, we ended up in a place with no laundry hook-ups.  There is a laundry room here, but it’s a bit of a walk to get to.  That might work if I wasn’t disabled, but there is no way I can haul several loads of laundry on foot across the complex.  I did try once.  Partly to humor myself (and probably the neighbors) and partly to see how far I could push my body.  We don’t need to work for NASA to take an educated guess as to how that went.  There was a lot of pain, tripping over cracks on sidewalks, dropped items, and weeping on the couch.  But hey, the laundry was clean.

I noticed a few Laundromats not too far from home.  Most were creepy looking, and the thought of driving our whole family’s filthy threads across town was just no.  NO.  But over the past few months the sign over one kept making me giggle.


When I first sat down to write this, I thought it was a made-up Spanglish word.  I didn’t know it’s an actual word.  Well, it is a made-up Spanglish word but it was made up back in 1930s Texas and the word caught on so now it’s a word.  So there. Wiki hath spoken.  It makes me giggle nonetheless like the time my mother and I encountered an old Hispanic woman cleaning a public restroom, and she said we had to wait.  Her reason: “Estoy vacuumando.”  She just invented a word using an English noun and a Spanish conjugation and figured that we, being Hispanic, would know what she was talking about.  We did. 

My first trip to the Washateria was alright.  The place is impeccably clean, which I admit I didn’t expect considering it is in a creepier part of the neighborhood.  The washers were huge and the dryers were free!  I got more done in half the time and saved money.  I was sore, but not knocked on my ass. 

This is totally a word, guys.

I went back the following week.  This time I had a game plan.  I knew when and how to swoop in on one of those coveted baskets with the wheels on it.  Those things are like gold.  I learned to stake my claim on one before the old ladies swiped them all.  I had my coin purse.  I had my coffee.  This time, I noticed the smell of bacon.  People often bring food along to eat while they’re waiting for their clothes so I didn’t think much of it.  Over an hour went by, and the smell hadn’t diminished.  Then I noticed a little snack bar in the back where they sell popsicles, fruit juices and apparently, BACON.

Does your laundry room do that?  I think not!  If you do laundry in the comfort of your home, you have to cook bacon yourself! Or worse! You have to suck up to someone else, probably your husband or wife or asshole brother, and get them to cook it for you.  Not at the Washateria. 

This is where the magic happens.

When the family hears, “I have to go do laundry,” they run for the fucking hills.  And I pretend to be disappointed.  I guess I’ll have to sit alone, with my Kindle, reading in peace, eating bacon, unbothered because my family isn’t there. 

The Washateria is the most unlikely of all happy places, which is precisely why it is awesome.  Shh…our families don’t need to know that.

***Update:  MY COVER’S BEEN BLOWN!  Shortly after writing this, my husband decided he should go with me, you know, to be helpful on account of me being crippled and all.  And you won’t believe this – yeah, yeah, he was super helpful blah blah blah – but they didn’t have any bacon on that day!  I swear this is a true story.  He did have the decency to bring his tablet so we could ignore each other like decent people.  But still.  Operation: This Is My Side This Is Your Side in full effect.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

That Time You Died.

It’s been over 3 years since my stroke.  My son was just shy of his 2nd birthday when it happened.  It was difficult at the time, for all of us.  I had to live in a rehabilitation facility for a couple of weeks, in addition to the 8 days I was in ICU.  That’s a long time to not be with your toddler.  My husband and my mom took turns bringing him for visits, but it wasn’t every day.  People had jobs and errands and life to worry about aside from driving all the way out to where I was to visit.  The longest I had to go without seeing my boy was 4 days.  I’ll never forget the look on his face when he walked into my room and saw me.  He hesitated before he smiled and ran to my bed.  He had to pause and stare at me, to make sure it was really me.  It breaks me every time I think of that confused little face.

Fast-forward a few years.  He just started Kindergarten.  I’m no longer in a wheelchair, and my walker is just a normal accessory like my purse and sunglasses.  My kid has adjusted to a disabled mom because it’s all he knows.  One morning when we arrived at his school, he heard me mutter “damn it” under my breath, and asked me what was wrong. I explained, “I forgot my cane, but it’s ok.  It’s a short walk.  I’ll make it.”  And without missing a beat my kid replied, “It’s ok, mom. None of the other kids’ moms have canes either.”  My observant kid didn’t want me to feel left out.

I don’t think it’s fair to take credit for his strong sense of empathy.  He is his own little person.  I think what he’s had to live with so far has helped shape his already existing personality.  What I wasn’t sure about until recently, was whether or not he even remembers those 3 weeks we were separated from each other.  He wasn’t even 2 yet, so it’s quite possible he has forgotten.  One evening I was at the kitchen table with my laptop, and he noticed my eyes were watery.  Then this conversation happened:

G:  Why are you sad, mama?
Me:  Well, my friend’s mom died and I feel sad for her. I’m alright, just a little sad for my friend.
G:  I remember that time you died.
*knife, meet heart*
Me:  No, silly. If I died I wouldn’t be here. Remember we talked about how when people die they aren’t here anymore? What do you mean that I died?
G:  I remember that you died.  You went away for a really long time because you were dead.  And then you came back.  And now you’re here!
(I could insert a Jesus joke here, but I won’t.)

     We had a talk about death and illness.  I explained that I’ve never died, I just got really sick and had to stay at a place where they could help me get strong enough to come back home to him and Daddy.  Since the stroke, I can’t control my tears.  I just can’t.  The left side of the brain is where all your filters are.  It helps you control how you display your emotions.  It’s difficult when discussing serious things with small children, because I want to be frank and matter-of-fact so he isn’t scared, but that is hard to do with tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. 

The thing about being a mom is you’re constantly second-guessing yourself.  Add an extra layer of physical disability to that and there’s this whole other hot mess of “well that works great for other parents and maybe that would work for us, but I can’t even do that because literally, I can’t do that.”  Then I look at my kid, and even with all his temper and sarcasm – which we’ll just blame on dad since he doesn’t read my blog – and I see an incredibly well-adjusted, emphatic kid.  Maybe I’m figuring out this whole mom thing after all.  Or maybe I’m failing miserably, but he’s only 5 so there’s plenty of time to save up for his therapy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Brain Farts and Afterthoughts

It’s been 2 years since my stroke. The anniversary was actually 4 days ago, but I’ve been so busy, I’m just now writing about it. Two years is a long time. I spent the first year expecting big things to happen: get out of the wheelchair, ditch the walker, go back to work…Then the first year came and went and not all of those things happened.

I’m still not able to work and I admit that for a long time that was a massive source of stress and anxiety. Women in their early 30s are either career-oriented or embracing their domestic prowess and kicking ass on the home front. I have never considered myself a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM,) nor have I considered myself cut out for it. Now that I’m disabled it’s a bit of a stretch for me to identify as a SAHM. So what the hell am I?

I’ve spent all this time waking up with nowhere to be, no schedule to follow and it has taken a toll. When you’re working you fantasize about that sort of thing, but it’s a bit shocking when you get it. After my 1st year anniversary I realized that I wasn’t going to ever not be disabled and if I don’t find something to do with myself, I’m going to lose my damn mind and drag my poor family down with me. So I decided to go back to school.

WAIT. Hold up. I’m not actually going to school. School is coming to me through the magical powers of the interwebz! I decided to take two classes online through a local community college, just to see how it goes. I’m happy to report I’m kicking ass. You know the best part? No, it’s not the glimmer of redemption in my college professor father’s eyes or the “Excellent work!” comments from my teachers (OK yeah it kind of is those things) but the really super-duper bestest part of the whole deal is that I get to wake up in the morning and say,


It’s a glorious feeling! Oh, you’re too busy to have lunch with me? Well that’s fine because I have a paper to write. BOOM! You know how fucking good that feels? I have deadlines now! I have rules to follow and bureaucrats to roll my eyes at! Oh sweet heavens, I have a purpose!

It’s incredibly liberating to know that I’m studying what I want and not what will get me a job. This is for ME. I’m getting a Liberal Arts degree with an emphasis in Sociology because I want to understand people, so that I can write about them. Actually, I want to understand people because in turn, I’ll better understand myself. There are so many facets to who I am: Mom, Disabled, Atheist, Multi-ethnic, Woman, 30-something, child of an immigrant…the list goes on. Understanding these elements from a sociological perspective will equip me to reach out to others like me. And holy fuckballs will I have loads to write about!

So that’s what I’ve been working on. That is why I’ve been so busy. The day of my 2-year stroke anniversary, June 8th, I was studying for finals and finishing up a term paper. I was so busy I didn’t realize what day it was. I had a total brain fart about it. Later that evening when I finally remembered, I couldn’t help but feel comforted that June 8th was an afterthought. That day changed my life but it hasn’t defined me. I don’t have it marked on any calendars, and I sure as hell didn’t sit and brood over it all day. It’s worth mentioning, but that’s about it.