The words "30 days of thanks" in cursive writing on a green square.

A Week After 30 Days

It has been just over a week since my last 30 Days of Thanks post. As I do after each blogging challenge, I have been reflecting on this experience and trying to gather my thoughts into something worth posting. Although this is my third time completing this challenge, there are still lessons I am learning along the way.

1. Guests are Great!

This was the first year I asked others to consider taking part in my 30 Days of Thanks. I’ll be honest and admit I did this for selfish reasons. Guest posts meant less content I had to create myself. I am taking a memoir writing course this year, and the daily writing required for the course takes up time I would have otherwise used for my blog posts.

Thankfully, several of my friends took me up on my invitation to write, granting me the privilege of sharing their amazing work to my loyal readers. Reading their work also caused me to stop and think about their writing, how they crafted their messages, what devices they used effectively and how I might try to incorporate these in my future writing. I am grateful for their generosity, but embarrassed to admit…

2. I Left Out a Post.

Early in my blogging life, I connected with a delightful writer, Lily. This year, Lily branched out and started writing about daily random acts of kindness on a new blog. I asked her if she would be willing to write a piece for my 30 Days of Thanks. Lily wrote a very insightful piece, thanking a man who broke her heart. I was honored she offered it to me and scheduled it (I thought) to appear in late November. Then, two days before it was to post, I realized it was not in my list of posts. What’s more, I couldn’t find the email and file containing the post. I panicked. I searched late one night then went to bed, promising to do it first thing in the morning. Only, I didn’t do it because work, Personal Assistant illness, life – you pick it. I forgot. I forgot to fix my mistake, and I never ran Lily’s post. I have apologized to Lily, and I hope she will forgive me and let me make it up to her. Now I’m owning up to all of you, because I feel like I’ve let Lily down and I dislike being the cause of anyone’s disappointment.

3. “Not All Rock Stars Play Guitar.”

Prior to last month, I averaged 50 blog visitors per post. The largest number of visitors to DeeScribes in one day occurred in September 2015 when I wrote the post, I Never Said He Wasn’t Being Kind. Two hundred seventy six visitors read that post, a record which held until November 22 when I wrote this post about my friend Mike. Within two hours of posting, I had 50 visitors. The post was shared by multiple people and then Mike shared it. After eight hours, it had been seen by over 200 people. I knew before I went to bed that night it had broken my prior “daily record” and was approaching 290.

I can never predict what will resonate with readers, and what will appeal to a large number of people. I am convinced if you put a photo of an attractive man in uniform with your post, your blog stats will improve for the day. I told Mike I planned to use his photo with a random post just to test my theory sometime. He’s the one who gave me the quote at the start of this section, as well as the story for an amazing day on my blog. Thanks again Mike. You and the other officers are definitely getting cookies this year.

4. People Like to be Surprised with a Thank You Note.

Before I write and share my 30 Days of Thanks posts, I always ask the subjects of my posts if they will permit me to share my thank you note to them on my blog. Only one person has ever refused, and of course I honored her wishes. This year, for the first time, I wrote posts about each of my sisters without telling them in advance I planned to feature them individually. Once the first post about Sandy went live, Donna, Susan and Caroline knew their own posts would be coming. But, I did not share my posts with them in advance. They all responded to the memories I shared, and sent me delightful notes or comments in return. I’m glad I took the time to write separate posts for all of them as gifts for all they do for me.

Thank you to everyone who supported me and my guest bloggers through my 30 Days of Thanks challenge. I am grateful for your comments and shares. I hope you will continue to practice daily gratitude for the people and blessings in your life. And if you have time, send someone a thank you note. It will make their day.

Future or Present?

Today, December 3, is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD), a day designated by the United Nations to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities. The theme for this year is Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want.”  The theme relates to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which were recently adopted by the United Nations. Of particular note, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international treaty not yet ratified by my country but embraced by many other countries around the world.

While I think it is important to consider how we can work to incorporate people of all abilities into our plans for the future, I am too mired in what it means to live as a disabled person in the present to get excited over this year’s IDPWD theme. Personally, I spend too much time ensuring my basic needs are met here and now to think about what will happen next week, next month, next year.

Of course, I do worry about the future. I am concerned about what will happen if Medicaid, the federal government program which funds long term support services such as home care for most people with disabilities, is turned into a block grant program. I am concerned about how people with pre-existing conditions will access healthcare if the new administration is successful at it’s pledge to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. I hear stories like this NPR story about a 7 year wait to access services in Kansas, and I shiver, knowing I would be dead if I lost my services and had to wait 7 years for them to be reinstated.

But even though I worry about the future, I recognize the changes made in my lifetime which afford me access to the community in which I live. I was lucky enough to have been born in the United States at a time when education laws requiring free and appropriate education for all children were changing. As a result, I was “mainstreamed” and completed my education in the public community school alongside my nondisabled peers. I started college a year after the Americans With Disabilities Act, a crucial piece of civil rights legislation, was signed. I had access to paratransit transportation which allowed me to complete required internships and student teaching experiences. Throughout my professional life, I have had the right to request and receive reasonable accommodations which allow me to maintain employment. All of the sidewalks in my town have curb cuts, giving me freedom to explore and access my community without fear of not being able to cross the street.

Does discrimination still happen? Of course. I know there are times when I walk into a room of strangers and people notice the shiny red wheelchair attached to my butt, making assumptions about me based on that first visual impression of the wheelchair rather than me as an individual. At least once a month, someone tells me they would rather die than live as a disabled person, dependent on someone else to complete everyday personal tasks.

Are there still barriers to full participation? Of course. Yesterday I had to go to a local shopping mall and I was not able to leave when I wanted to because some idiot parked illegally in the access aisle next to my van, preventing me from deploying my van ramp and entering my vehicle. Lucky me, they were still parked there when the police arrived to issue a ticket. I hope the driver appreciates my holiday gift which comes with a $125 fine. ‘Tis the season for giving, after all.

Even though there are laws requiring places of public accommodation to meet accessibility standards, does that mean I can go anywhere I want? No, as I discovered last night when I stopped at a local business to pick up company gifts for my employer’s holiday party only to be greeted by steps. Granted, the staff were nice enough to bring the items out to me, but they won’t be receiving any more business from me or the company I represent. Money talks, and I refuse to give any of it to businesses which are not accessible to me.

Things are changing for people with disabilities, no doubt. Social media and technology make it easier for people with disabilities to share their own stories, in their own voices. I actually started today by helping to share tweets from Australian advocates when I woke at 5:15 AM my time and found the #criparmy and #pissonpity hashtags in several IDPWD posts. I debated writing my own post in recognition of IDPWD and ultimately decided I had to practice what I preach and use my own blog to signal boost the day.

I hope my regular readers will take some time this weekend to search the #IDPWD hashtag and read what disabled writers are sharing. There is also a Disability Blogger Linkup over at my friend Andrew’s blog, Disability Thinking. Listen to my friend Emily’s podcast, The Accessible Stall where she and Kyle tackle issues important to many in the disability community.

Why should you care about the issues we raise? Why do our advocacy efforts matter to you? Because everyone will either be a temporary or permanent member of the disability community at some point in life. And shouldn’t we all be concerned with basic human rights for everyone, regardless of ability?

30 Days of Thanks Day 30 – The Pool Gang

I have never been a fan of exercise. This is partly because it is difficult for me to physically move my body, and exercise requires movement to be effective. It is also partly because I have never experienced the endorphin rush that is described by others who enjoy exercise. I don’t feel good when I exercise. I just feel fatigued and tired.

The only form of exercise I can do is aquatic therapy in a therapeutic pool. There are three accessible therapeutic pools in my area, and each one is at least a half hour drive from where I live. So, getting to the pool is a four hour commitment – 40 minutes to drive there, time to get undressed and transfer to a pool chair to go in, an hour in the pool, an hour to shower and get dressed, and 40 minutes to get back home. Add the fact that I need another person to accompany me for any of this to happen, and I don’t get to the pool that often.

Or rather, I didn’t get to the pool that often before May. But now that I am still trying to get stronger and recover from my femur fracture? I have become a regular at the Sunnyview Hospital therapeutic pool on Mondays and Wednesdays for the 7 AM open swim.

Today I give thanks for the other regulars at the pool. Jose, Chip, Dominick, Alberto, Susan, Tom, Sister Joan, Sue, The Doctor and his wife (I still don’t know their names after 6 months), Will, Debbie, and the others who sometimes cycle through welcomed me and my Personal Assistant Tina with open arms. They offer support and encouragement to everyone in the pool. When someone is absent, they worry. If someone has good news, they celebrate.

I still haven’t turned into a person who loves to exercise. But I look forward to spending time with my morning friends in the pool. The comraderie between us is positive and uplifting. As Tina put it when I read her a draft of this post driving to the pool this morning, it’s like we’re one big family.

Recovering from an illness or injury is difficult and requires determination and stamina. Having a peer support group keeps me focused. I know they will question me if I start to slack off. Last week when I walked for the first time while submerged in the pool they gave me kudos.

Thank you to my morning friends who greet me each Monday and Wednesday. I appreciate you welcoming me into the fold. There’s no better way to start the day.

30 Days of Thanks Day 29 – Donna

I share many traits and have many similarities to my five older sisters. People tell us we look alike, sound alike and talk alike. We all played musical instruments and were active in school music groups. And we all love to read.

My sister Donna is one of my regular reading buddies. Donna is fourteen years older than me, and I’m certain she is one of the reasons I love to lose myself in a good book. I often joke that my older sisters taught me to read at a young age because they were tired of reading to me. Donna would come home from college and I would pounce on her, begging her to play with me or read to me. Often, playing involved Donna curling my long hair, partaking in a tea party, and then reading as many books as I could convince her to read.

Donna and I regularly swap book and audiobook recommendations. Donna understands that a good book can be a valuable escape, and I have done my best to escape a great deal this past year. I told her about Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants, which I listened to during my stay at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital. She told me about a Jack Reacher mystery. We discussed Daniel Silva’s characters on the phone while I was recuperating at home. She mailed a copy of a book about a group of friends who start a cookie swap.

Donna lives in Florida, so I see her about once a year. Our visits are never long enough, but Donna does a wonderful job of staying in touch because Donna is the best card giver in the world. I don’t know how she does it, or how much time she must spend looking through the racks of greeting cards to find the perfect card. But, she always manages to get cards which are just right for every occasion.

This year, Donna sent me funny cards when I was in the hospital and needed a laugh. Then, one day when I was particularly low, a note of encouragement showed up with her return address on it. Sometimes Donna’s cards contain newspaper articles she has read which remind her of me. She surprised me with a clipping about a friend of mine, a former Ms. Wheelchair Florida, who lives about an hour away from her home. The penguin bookmark she sent me is inside a book next to my bed.

Five years ago, Donna flew up for my nephew’s wedding in Ticonderoga, NY. After a beautiful fall day on the shores of Lake George in the Adirondack mountains, I followed Donna and our sister Sandy into town where we had reservations at a local hotel. What followed was an adventure that still cracks us up – involving a convenience store restroom, men dressed in British Redcoats a la the American Revolution, the three of us sharing a king size bed at a Super 8 Motel, and getting lost in the village. We still laugh until we cry when we talk about the night we spent a weekend in Ticonderoga. I bet you she’s laughing right now after reading this.

Donna always makes me laugh. She brings so much humor into my life, making me realize there is always a reason to smile even when facing difficulties and obstacles.

Thank you Donna, for being a bright spot so frequently this year. I love our book discussions, even though my “to read” list grows every time we talk. Your little gifts make me think of you, bringing you closer to me even though you live far away. I am grateful you are not just my sister, but one of my dearest friends. I do my best to emulate your generosity and compassion for others. I just wish I had time and patience to find perfect cards for you. This post will have to do for now.

A woman seated in a wheelchair wearing a long pink dress and a pink shawl sits next to a woman wearing a black dress. The woman in the wheelchair has brown hair and is wearing glasses. She has a camera on her lap. The woman standing next to her is holding a glass and a blue shawl.

30 Days of Thanks Day 28 – Guest Post by Via Mari

My final guest for this month is Via Mari. We “met” through an online writing group and learned we shared a love of travel. I enjoy learning about Via’s research process, and the importance of keen observation when it comes to getting the details right when describing a location in writing. I am excited to share her gratitude post as we near the end of 30 Days of Thanks. You can read more of her work, including descriptions of her books and insights as to how she researches her writing, over at her blog.

Thankful for Memories

When I think of thankfulness so many things come to mind, but as I ponder what I am really thankful for this year it has to be my memories.

As a young girl, I recall waking up in England and following the scent of mom’s baked goods down the stairs to the kitchen below. The large walnut crank- out table was the place we gathered to eat the sweet, flaky pastries and drink the robust black tea which mom always cooled slightly for me with a little milk and sugar.

As a teenager, I recall shopping with mom for special occasion dresses. It’s the laughter and the fact that I could tell her anything that I remember so vividly. We would spend hours talking through all life’s little troubles as we went from boutique to boutique. Together we would search until we found the perfect dresses. The little frilly red and white ones for holidays and pictures with family, a long pale yellow formal for my first dance, and a flowing midnight blue sparkly strapless for prom and another short, more sophisticated black strappy dress with sequins for the young woman who was about to graduate. Then it was the wedding dress, the ultimate pursuit. Bridal shows, boutique after boutique, day after day of laughter and talking until we found the simple, classic white dress I would be married in.

As a young woman, I recall my children enjoying the same holiday customs I experienced as a child. My mother’s traditions of baking Gramma’s homemade yeast rolls from scratch, the sausage and apple stuffing which would be lovingly prepared to accompany the turkey, and engaging them in the laughter and conversation that was always so much a part of the day.

As a woman today, I sit quietly watching my mom interact with our extended family. I am thankful for all the memories we are making and that I will have the ability to look back and remember every extraordinary thing about my mom today.

30 Days of Thanks Day 27 – Christy and Mike

Twenty six years ago, my high school friend Vicki moved to the city I now call home for a new job. I met her roommate, Christy, when Vicki, Stephanie and I helped plan our friend Allison’s bridal shower. We held the shower in the community room of my apartment complex. A few months later, I saw Christy and Vicki again at Allison’s wedding where we danced and laughed all afternoon.

Two years ago, I saw someone who looked like Christy walking across the parking lot in front of my apartment. I thought about the fun times we had the summer of Allison’s wedding, and told myself I should do a better job of keeping in touch with long lost friends. I didn’t think about it again until I got a Facebook message from Christy a few days later.

Hey – do you still live in Strawberry Ridge? I think we’re neighbors!

Sure enough, Christy and her husband Mike had moved into an apartment in the building across the parking lot from my old apartment. Since I’m always looking for new people to add to my local support network, I was excited to have another friend close by.

Christy and Mike were great neighbors. They helped clean my car off when it snowed if nobody else had gotten to it. A few mornings when I was stuck without a Personal Assistant, Christy came over to help me get out of bed. The three of us spent a lively day at Saratoga Race Course a delightful young-at-heart friend of theirs. They kept a spare set of my car keys in case of an emergency while I was in Australia.

When I fell in January, I sent a message to Christy asking her to keep an eye on things while I was in the hospital. Christy and Mike came to visit me, bringing cheer and positive energy on a night when I was not happy with the prospect of an extended stay in rehabilitation.

Whatever you need when you get home, just let us know.

This past summer, Christy and Mike volunteered to help me move. They spent a Saturday packing box after box, taping and labeling at top speed. Seriously, those two are pros and had my living room and kitchen packed in no time!

Living down in town means I have more freedom to take part in town activities. In September, I was able to walk down to the harbor to meet Christy and Mike for the annual Tug Boat Round-Up. We walked along the canal, snapping photos of the tugs, talking while Mike (a former Navy sailor) toured the boats.

Thank you Christy and Mike for being great neighbors and loyal friends. I appreciate your willingness to help me and I’m grateful you were willing to join my circle of support. We’ll have to plan something fun together this winter, and I promise it won’t involve packing tape!

30 Days of Thanks Day 26 – Mary Jane

Today is the annual DiNoto Cookie Bake, a day my family gathers to start our holiday baking. I have written about our annual tradition before in this post. The day started in 1990, while I was living in Australia as an exchange student. My mom was missing “her baby,” so my sisters Donna and Caroline suggested they join her for a day of baking cookies. Twenty-six years later, we still gather on the Saturday after Thanksgiving at my sister Caroline’s house.

My late sister Mary Jane loved baking with her sisters. When we gathered together each year Mary Jane made the Russian Tea Cakes, pecan shortcake balls rolled in confectioner’s sugar, and the chocolate thumbprints, a recipe from our Grandma DiNoto. Mary Jane’s Russian Tea Cakes were perfection – buttery goodness that melted in your mouth.

Mary Jane joined us for the last time at cookie bake five years ago. She arrived with her youngest daughter Karen that Saturday morning, shortly after Mom had finished the first tray of her oil cookies. Before Karen even had even removed her coat, Mary Jane had her apron out and was asking Karen to tie it behind her back. A few minutes later, Mary Jane’s oldest daughter Sara surprised us when she arrived with her family.

That last year Mary Jane, who never ate cookies during our annual cookie bake, tested each and every type of cookie we made, smiling her enjoyment with each mouthful. She rolled the Russian teacakes in sugar, put mini chocolate chips in the chocolate thumbprints, and gave directions to Karen when Karen helped fill the kolachki cookies. Other family members stopped in throughout the day and many photos were taken. It was the last time all six DiNoto girls were together as Mary Jane died one month later.

Cookie Bake 2012, the first year we baked without Mary Jane, was emotional. More than once, we had to take a break to shed a tear or offer each other a hug. But, that year was also full of joyfull moments like watching Emily, Mary Jane’s granddaughter, having a tea party with her Noni, my mom, or laughing when Mom put an apron on Sara’s husband Will. We did our best to soldier on as Mary Jane would have wanted us to, knowing the day has never really been about the cookies. It wasn’t until after lunch that we realized nobody had made Russian teacakes or chocolate thumbrints, the recipes Mary Jane had always been responsible for at our annual Cookie Bake.

Mary Jane was admitted to inpatient hospice a month after Cookie Bake. I spent several hours at her bedside each day for the week she was a patient. As I helped her eat soup the second night, she told me she had always wanted to write a book about her sisters. I sat with tears streaming down my face, her strong hand clasped in my weak grip, listening to her talk about her writing dreams. Then she asked me to make her a promise.

You have to do it for me. You have to write it. Promise me you’ll write the book. And stop crying!

It took me a couple of years to work up the courage, but this year – a year of one challenge after another – I am finding refuge in writing. I have an outline, and I am spending time each day writing some of our sister stories. I hear Mary Jane’s quiet voice in my head encouraging me to write, and I’m doing my best to honor her spirit and the promise I made.

Thank you Mary Jane, for helping me find a purpose for my writing. I hope I tell our sister stories in a way which would please you. I am grateful for the chance to share memories which keep us connected. Although many of them cause me to cry at my keyboard, they also make me smile. We all miss you so much every day, but especially today – a day you always enjoyed when we were together.

Today, as we measure flour, sugar and butter, we remember we are surrounded by that which can never truly be measured. Love and support from family and sisters mean more than the confections we create as a group. We carry on with traditions, relishing memories while welcoming new bakers into the fold. Mary Jane’s son and daughter-in-law are joining us today for their first Cookie Bake, reminding us part of our dear sister is still with us whenever we gather as a group.

Mary Jane and Denise - Photo of the author, a woman in a wheelchair, and her sister. Both women are wearing green Santa hats and holiday aprons over red shirts.
Mary Jane and I, matching and sporting aprons made for us by our sister Donna. Photo courtesy of S. DiNoto.

30 Days of Thanks Day 25 – Stephanie

I wrote about my bestest best friend, Stephanie, in 2014 when I first did the 30 Days of Thanks challenge on my blog. As I have explained for most of my life, Stephanie is the sister I got to pick for myself. She is what the author Lucy Maud Montgomery described in Anne of Green Gables as a bosom friend, “a kindred spirit to whom I can confide my innermost soul.”

When I fell in January, I made two phone calls while waiting for the ambulance. I called my sister Caroline, and then I called Stephanie. I always call Stephanie whenever I am at the end of my rope. And she always answers.

Stephanie lives three hours away, and does not like to drive in snow. I did not expect her to come visit me in the hospital because a trip to see me in January or February would most likely involve snow. So, when she walked through my door on the first Sunday I was at Sunnyview Rehabiltation Hospital, I almost started to cry.

Hello there Niecie!

Stephanie is one of five people who can get away with calling me that, a nickname her mom used to use. Stephanie, along with her husband, youngest son Brad, and mother-in-law, made me laugh, offered repeated hugs, and brightened an otherwise dreary afternoon.

I had to come. I just needed to make sure you were really OK.

Stephanie and Brad came up to visit again in August, the weekend before I moved. She knew I was stressed about finishing my packing, and cleaning out my “junk room.”

We’ll see what the weather is like. If it’s raining we can do work inside. But if it’s nice we should probably go have some fun.

I can always count on Steph for fun. Sure enough, she and Brad arrived and within two hours, we had a lunch packed and were on our way up to Saratoga Race Course. We spent the day watching horses and people, laughing over silly things, trying to capture the perfect photo. Our day was the perfect break from reality, a much needed oasis of frivolity in the midst of anxiety.

Stephanie – thank you for always “getting me.” I cannot imagine a world without your presence as my bosom friend, a true kindred spirit. Throughout this year you have listened, cajoled, encouraged, and laughed with me. You have seen and listened to me at my absolute worst, and you still love me anyway. I don’t know how I managed to get so lucky as to claim you as my partner in cute. Everyone needs a Stephie in their life, but I’m not sharing mine.

I’m grateful for the gift of your friendship all these years. Here’s to more fun adventures for another forty years!

Two Caucasian women leaning towards each other, holding adult size sippy cups with straws. Both women have brown hair and glasses.

30 Days of Thanks Day 24 – Caroline

Until I was born, my sister Caroline was the youngest DiNoto sister. I usurped her position as “the baby” when Crinnie, as we all call her, was eleven. Because she is the closest to me in age, and the only one of my sisters who has always lived in our hometown, I spent more time with her than my other sisters while growing up. Now that we are “grown ups” (I use the term lightly when applied to me), I am proud to call her one of my closest friends.

Over the years, Crinnie has taken steps to ensure I am able to remain fully involved in our family activities. In 2007, when I fell and injured my leg, she bought a fully electric hospital bed so I could recuperate at her house over the Thanksgiving holiday. That was the first year I spent Thanksgiving with her and her husband’s extended family, a tradition I have continued for nine years now.

When Crinnie and her husband Paul built their new house in 2008 on a country road outside our hometown, they incorporated visitability and accessibility into their plans. Their house has a ramp, accessible toilets, pedastal sinks, wide doors, lowered light switches, raised outlets, lever door handle sets, and other modifications which make it a wonderful refuge for me.

We wanted to make sure you always had a place to come home to.

This year, Crinnie made it possible for our parents to see me while I was in the hospital. Our elderly parents do not drive the distance from our hometown to the city where I now live. Crinnie brought them up to visit me twice – once right after surgery and again while I was at Sunnyview Rehabilation Hospital.

Mom wants to see her baby, so I told her I’d bring them up on Sunday. Is there a room we can use for lunch?

Crinnie, Mom and Dad arrived after my physical therapy, just before noon the following Sunday. Knowing pasta is my comfort food, Mom made a dish of rigatoni, meatballs and sauce. Crinnie made a delicious salad, and the four of us had a lively picnic in the patient lounge. For three hours, I was able to escape from the reality of rehab as we talked and laughed. And just because I’m in my 40’s doesn’t mean I don’t feel better after a hug from my mom and dad.

Eventually, I returned home to face the reality of a new way of doing all my daily tasks. My restrictions meant I was no longer able to use a regular toilet, and required the purchase of a specific bedside commode and transfer board. I told Crinnie I would not be able to come visit and stay at her house without this equipment, unless I found a way to safely use a regular toilet.

Well, can’t we just order what you need? Tell me what to get so you will be able to stay.

Crinnie ordered the commode, and learned how to transfer me using my new transfer board. This allowed me to double the locations in which I could go to the bathroom – my home and her house. It also allows me the opportunity to join the family feast once again today for Thanksgiving, and means I don’t have to miss the annual DiNoto Cookie Bake this weekend with our parents and sisters.

If you are a regular reader and comment on this blog, you have seen Crinnie’s comments. She is by far the most frequent commenter here, which makes sense as she has always supported my writing since I was a child. I know I can count on her honest feedback whenever I call to read her a work in progress. She is a great editor, often catching irregularities I miss or offering suggestions for improvement. Crinnie first heard this post when I read it aloud to her last night while she was busy preparing food for today’s feast.

Crinnie – thank you for being one of the best big sisters a girl could ask for. Your sacrifices this year have kept me involved in family activities, which has helped the healing process. I know from my disabled peers this does not always happen in families. I appreciate all you do to assist me with daily activities whenever I stay at your “inn on the hill.” Your support and love make my world a brighter place, and I can’t think of a better person to recognize with this post, the 300th post on my little blog.

Two Caucasian women smiling at a camera. The woman on the left is wearing a blue v-neck dress under a black cardigan sweater. The woman on the right is wearing a white turtleneck under a purple cardigan. Both women have brown hair and glasses.

30 Days of Thanks Day 23 – Alyssa

One of the best outcomes of my brief employment in an office at the New York State Department of Health was my introduction to Alyssa, my friend and massage therapist. Alyssa brought her massage chair to our building once a week and set up shop in an alcove near the cafe on my floor. I was quickly one of the regulars, reserving the 1 PM spot.

Over the next two years, we swapped stories and developed a friendship as she worked the knots and kinks out of my shoulders and neck. When she moved her workspace into an empty office large enough for a massage table, I lamented that I wished I could get on it for a full body massage.

You know, I don’t mind doing a home visit. Would that be an option?

Wait – she was willing to bring her wonderful hands to my house?! Of course I said yes!

So began our monthly visits. Since I have a fully electric hospital bed, Alyssa does not need to bring her massage table. With the help of my red satin sheet used as a pull sheet, Alyssa is able to move my body into positions which are comfortable for both of us.

I was scheduled to have a massage on the week after I broke my leg. I contacted Alyssa from the hospital to cancel our plans.

I’m going to keep it on my calendar. I’ll plan to come visit you at the hospital.

Alyssa arrived that Sunday to find me whimpering in discomfort. The swelling in my lower leg and foot, below the fracture, was the worst I’ve ever experienced. My leg felt like a sausage under pressure, my skin shiny like a casing ready to pop.

Would you like me to just massage it gently? I see you have some lotion here.

The next hour was bliss. Alyssa dimmed the harsh overhead light, used her iPhone to provide relaxing music and slowly started to rub my leg. Gradually, the fluid started to work it’s way up my leg and I felt the pressure decrease. The pain and tightness disappeared as she worked her magic hands over my skin. When Alyssa was done, I asked her to grab my purse from the drawer next to my bed so I could pay her for the massage.

I’m not going to let you pay me Denise. I didn’t come to massage a client. I came to visit a friend.

Alyssa has become a very treasured friend. She listens without judgement, providing encouragement and support. She frequently shares my writing with others and always takes time to comment on posts she has heard me talking about writing or researching. When I had to learn new ways to move my body after the fracture, Alyssa was willing to adapt our sessions. Throughout this year, she has helped with stretching and massage, providing some of the few fleeting pain free moments I have had since fracturing my leg in January.

Sometimes when people have to provide my physical assistance for the first time, they are nervous about hurting me or doing the wrong thing. Alyssa did not have experience with personal care before she started coming to work at my house. But, she listened to my instructions and very quickly became adept at moving me and working within my limitations to give me the most benefit.

Alyssa knew I was planning to move out of my former apartment this year. She witnessed the stack of boxes growing as I packed my life in June and July. Then, she surprised me with a text.

I’ve blocked out the morning you are moving. Plan on me being there to help, and I’ll try to bring my boyfriend.

Alyssa and Josh lifted and carried many of those boxes in August. Even when her family plans changed, Alyssa honored her commitment to provide help during a stressful time in my life. Because that is what Alyssa always does. She provides relief when I am stressed and anxious.

Thank you Alyssa, for being a true friend through good times and bad. Yes, I love your massage skills and talents. But they pale in comparison to your kindness and compassion. I am grateful to all you do to make my world less stressful and less painful. I function better because you are there whenever I call.

Two open hands.
Alyssa’s hands after a massage.