Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I had posted a list back in October of things I will probably never do because of my stroke. When I posted my Can’t Do list, a friend of mine said she couldn’t wait to see the list of new things I could do because of my disability. It struck me: have I – can I – acquire a whole new realm of awesomeness?

It’s been 4 months since that comment was made. I had planned to come up with a list in a follow-up post to Breakin’, but I wasn’t quite feeling it. My list just wasn’t that awesome. Until now!

I’ve never been very domestic. I can’t cook, I suck at cleaning, and my inferiority in both realms had led me to despise both almost equally. Last week marked 8 months since my stroke. It’s finally sinking in that my life is in my hands. It’s time to grab it by the balls and make some serious changes. My first big change is being more active. It’s finally getting through my thick skull that “active” doesn’t have to mean the gym. It doesn’t have to mean aerobics, Tae Bo, Zumba or any other workout craze (although random shaking of one’s ass and punching imaginary people in the face is always highly encouraged.)

I’ve always been a shitty housekeeper, so I decided that since moving around the house is exhausting, I should do it more often. Twisted, isn’t it? I figure if doing things around the house leaves me short of breath, then it’s raising my heart rate, and isn’t that what exercise is? And maybe, just maybe, I’ll do something useful. It’s win-win.

I’m doing well so far. I used to be able to wash a few dishes at a time. Now I can clean the whole kitchen. I still suck at cleaning the floor but everything else is coming along. (And by “everything else” I mean the kitchen; please don’t look at the rest of the house.)

The other big change, that I always knew had to happen, is my choice in food. We used to eat out all the time. I never really learned to cook and I also worked a stressful full-time job, so most of our dinners consisted of take-out. When I was especially tired or lazy, we’d have it delivered. Shortly after we were married, our microwave blew up (possibly from overuse?) and we panicked because surely we would starve.

It’s been easy for me to say, “Look at my blood work. Everything checked out. How did I have a damn stroke?” It is true that whatever created the blood clot that got stuck in my brain stem is unknown, but I can’t act like I didn’t set myself up for this.

I’m doing so well with the kitchen that for the first time in my life, I’m learning to cook.  Thanks to the Internet, there’s no excuse for not knowing how. I have an amazing circle of online mommy friends, a few awesome recipe websites, and YouTube for when those mommies and websites use cooking terms like “Dutch oven” and “winter squash” that I’m not familiar with. Learning to cook always seemed like a daunting task before my stroke. You can imagine what it’s like learning for the first time and being disabled.

Today I had my first real injury. I burned the crap out of the index finger on my bad hand. It hurt like hell which is weird because I don’t have much feeling there. The weird thing about injuring a paralyzed part of the body is not knowing how bad it is. I sat there staring at it as if it belonged to someone else who couldn’t tell me what was wrong. It’s like when a baby is hurt but you have no idea how bad so you watch closely and cross your fingers that nothing turns purple or falls off. (So far no bubbling and it hasn’t fallen off so I think I’m good.)

I just embarked on this whole cooking thing a few weeks ago. I haven’t poisoned anyone (yet) and surprisingly haven’t had many complaints. I stumble around quite a bit and occasionally need help stirring but my left hand is picking up the slack better than I thought it could. Here are a few of my triumphs so far:

Arroz con Pollo - nothing used from a box or can. Even the leftovers didn't stand a chance.

Chicken Enchiladas with Mexican Rice. Don't be fooled, it's healthy. The only cheese used was a little on top.

Pulled BBQ Chicken. HUGE hit in this house.

Broccoli n' Cheese stuffed Chicken Breast with Homemade Fries. (Healthier than it looks.)
One of those "Winter Squash" things. Yup. I roasted one!

Not bad, huh? It takes me about 2 hours to make a 30-minute meal. My blood sugar usually drops somewhere in the middle and I stumble a lot, but swearing helps.

This journey into domestic prowess has inspired me to complete the list I set out to make a few months ago. This isn’t about things I’ve relearned, it’s about brand spankin’ new things that I would have never learned had I not been disabled. Here it is. My list of other newly acquired wicked awesome skillz (spelled with a “z” to emphasize level of awesomeness:)

  1. I can put on my socks with one hand. I’m learning to use my right hand again, but for the first few months my right side was too paralyzed to be of any use. I had to learn how to pick up my paralyzed leg and set that foot on my “good” knee then use my left hand to open the sock and slide it onto and up my foot. Oh and yes, I’m right-handed so this was loads of fun to learn. The nurses usually gave me some alone time for sweating and cursing during this part of my morning routine.

  1. Handicapped Parking. Boo-yah! I got a PERMANENT handicapped placard. OK that’s not a skill, especially since I can’t drive yet, but it’s an awesome perk and it’s mine! Forever!

  1. Wrangle a toddler one-handed. This is tricky but needs little explanation. I somehow get superhuman strength in my left arm and hand when my kid becomes unruly and needs physical intervention. If this were a professional sport, I’d hold a World Champion title.

  1. I can put on all my make-up with my left hand. It takes time, but I can do it all – eyeliner, shadow, brows, foundation, blush – with my left hand. Sounds like no big deal? Try holding the hand you write with behind your back and then get ready for a fancy party. Tell me how easy it is.

  1. Organize my kitchen so it makes sense. I never spent much time in there (aside from reheating take-out in the microwave of course) so I’m taking pride in this.

  1. Cook from scratch! No boxes! No cans!

What’s the matter? You think I cheated by adding #5-6 when I just made you read an entire post about #5-6, don’t you? Well tough. They’re the biggest accomplishments I’ve made, possibly ever in my adult life so I’m stating them again. I honestly feel more proud about taking on cooking than I do about learning to walk again. After all, I’ve walked before. This cooking thing is completely new territory. And I’m doing it!

Why yes, as a matter of fact I am yelling with my mouth full – full of deliciousness from my own kitchen. BAM!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Showdown

My toddler has figured out how to strategically position himself on our king size bed so that I cannot possibly reach him. I’m only 4ft 11in tall so my arms don’t have much reach. I can’t run so if I hobble quickly to gain an advantage on one side, he quickly scurries to the opposite end. He finds this hilarious. I’ve been tempted to climb on the bed and scurry after him, but I can’t crawl, and walking on a bed is a hell-no with my crippled leg. I won’t risk getting us both hurt. So here we are. A boy, naked and crouching against the wall, dead center at one end of the bed; a mother seething with frustration, clutching footsie pajamas in her one good hand and panting from the chase, both staring each other down trying to anticipate the other’s next move. Clint Eastwood’s got nothing on this kid.

My son is only 2 ½ so he doesn’t know what “disabled” means. Even if he did, he wouldn’t care. I’m his mom, and whatever I can and can’t do is normal to him. We have our own way of doing things out of necessity, including bathing, nap times and even discipline. There are steps I take to ensure our safety and minimize drama, and sometimes these steps take much longer than an able-bodied parent’s methods.

I manage to give my son a bath in the evenings. It takes a lot out of me to do this. Once he’s bathed, he gets a good half hour to play with his action figures in the bath regardless of how late it is. While he plays, I get a chance to rest my body and catch my breath. I sit next to him and we talk and sing songs. Meanwhile, I’m psyching myself up to manage pulling him out of the tub. Getting him out of the bath is tricky. It’s much like a choreographed fight. We know the routine, who’s going to win, but we go through the motions none-the-less.

Are you ready to get out?
Are you sure?
Mom, you get towel?
OK. Here’s your towel. Let’s get out.
No. I don’t want it.
You said you were…
I DON’T want it!!
Alright then.
*wait 5 min*
Are you ready to get out?
(We may have this conversation 1 time or 3 times. I believe the current record is 4 times respectively.)

Some would say this is ridiculous. We dilly-dally too long. Well what you can’t see is my toes curled up so bad inside my socks from paralysis and spasticity, that it takes great effort to stand on it. You can’t see the excruciating knife-stabbing pain in my shoulder leaving me barely able to move my arm because I just put everything I had into washing his hair. You probably wouldn’t notice how hard it was for me to not fall into the bath with him because my vertigo started to kick in as I bent down to grab the soap. And you may be wondering why the hell I don’t ask for help. Why the hell do I put myself through all that every night?

The easy answer is because I’m a mom and that’s what we do. But it’s more than that. My doctors and therapists have taught me that the path to normalcy is being normal. I have learned to bathe my son because I made myself do it. I take 5 times longer to do it than my husband does. So what! This is our normal. I do that song and dance of getting him out of the bath every night because I am not physically able to just reach down and pluck him out of the water. Have you ever grabbed a naked, wet, squirming toddler? It’s like catching a greased piglet! So no, I won’t “put my foot down” as some folks have been so condescending to call it. I’ll do the song and dance and get him out with some level of cooperation because it’s the safe, nurturing, drama-free way to deal with my kid.

I think people look at me like I’m nuts because I choose to pick my battles, as if I coddle my son. It’s not coddling, it’s parenting in a way that keeps me sane and effective. He’s an intelligent strong-willed boy and I’m proud of that. I’m not catering to his whims. I’m teaching him the virtues of cooperation and negotiating. And here’s the best part: it’s all therapy for my body. It is truly incredible what my body can do today, which it couldn’t do a month ago. And THAT is why I do it.

As for the showdown on the bed, you may be wondering who drew first. I did. I’m mom. My weapon of choice? His beloved Brobee. No one is allowed to hold Brobee, not even me. I resorted to holding his beloved hostage in exchange for him getting off the damn bed and putting on his pajamas. Just because I’m patient doesn’t mean I won’t play dirty every now and then.

Final Score: Mommy 23 Toddler 6

Not cool, mom. Messin' with a boy's Brobee like that.