How Do You Measure a Year?

My world changed a year ago on January 13, 2016. That was the day one of my former Personal Assistants (PAs) did not follow my instructions, resulting in her dropping me to the floor during a transfer and fracturing my left femur.

I’ve written many posts about my progress this past year. I explained how it all happened in this post, then provided an update from the rehabilitation hospital in this post. I blogged about my transition home, and the challenges I faced as I struggled to prioritize my needs as I continued to heal.

There have been many gains this year. After months of therapy, I was able to successfully transfer into my driver seat in my van in April. Granted, performing that transfer requires such a high amount of my limited energy so I only drive when absolutely necessary. And I still can’t independently transfer back into my wheelchair when I arrive at my destination, which means I must have someone meet me so I can get out of my van.

That’s not entirely accurate. I CAN transfer out of my driver seat if I am parked on an uphill incline. Gravity still works, and when parked uphill, it gives me a boost when I slide back to my wheelchair. However, if I’m parked on an uphill incline, I can’t get back into my driver seat so I can drive back home. Stupid gravity – who said it was a good thing?!

I am still pursuing a new vehicle which will be modified with a high tech driving system. This will allow me to drive while seated in my wheelchair. The evaluation process is stalled for the moment, thanks to matters that deserve and will get their own blog post. But, eventually I will be fully independent for driving again and it WILL happen in 2017.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. Anyone who is a fan of the musical Rent, written by Jonathan Larson, knows a year contains 525,600 minutes. But as the opening song in the show tells us, time is just one way to measure a year.

I can measure the past year in the number of hospital admissions (2), the number of new internal permanent screws in my leg (8), the number of new PAs I’ve hired (4), the number of months absent from work (4) and the number of address changes (1). I can also measure the number of new great nieces and nephews born (2), the number of visits with my best friend (5), the number of blog posts (72) or the number of funerals (thankfully, only 1).

But when I think about this past year, the one word that keeps repeating itself in my head is the one thing Jonathan Larson encourages us to measure most – love. This year, I have been blessed to be the recipient of so much love from friends, family, and readers. When I first started writing about my fracture and rehab, I received cards and letters from around the world. I had at least five visitors every day for the month I was hospitalized. People called, sent Facebook messages and Skyped when I was unable to leave my house.

Although I need assistance every day in order to survive, I am bad at asking for it. I would rather do just about anything else than ask someone to help me when a PA has called in sick or has quit. However, this year I had to repeatedly ask the people in my support network for their assistance and you know what happened? Almost 100% of the time they said yes! Whenever I asked for help, I received it. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

So while 2016 was full of more challenges than I’ve had to face in quite some time, it was also full of love. I’d rather measure the love.

I searched for a good video of this song and was overwhelmed at how many hits came up. Then, I stumbled on this one with ASL interpretation and knew this would be the one to share.

Going Up

Last week, my wheelchair died. I had just transferred from my chair into bed on Tuesday night, and decided to start moving it out of the way while waiting for my Personal Assistant (PA) to put the transfer board down. Only, when I pushed the joystick nothing happened.

I’m not a stranger to this. Sometimes, I don’t wait long enough for the drive motors to engage before trying to drive. I’m impatient. I like to go when I want to go. But, I know there is a start up sequence that has to run and if you try to operate the chair before it is ready, it won’t go. You’ll push on the joystick and nothing will happen.

So, last Tuesday night I did what I always do. I counted to five and tried again. Still nothing. I turned the chair off, then turned it back on and waited for another five seconds.

Zero movement.

My chair has a powered seat, so I tried those controls next. The seat base elevates and moves forward and backward, giving me more clear floor space in front of my chair during transfers. My seat elevator also makes it possible for me to reach higher objects, rise to a standing height during speaking engagements, and helps me get my own drink off the bar when I am out with friends instead of relying on others.

Last Tuesday when I tested the seat controls, it moved forward and backwards but did not change height. This was a problem because it was elevated. I elevate it most of the time I transfer out of my chair because, well, gravity still works. It’s easier to go from higher to lower than to transfer uphill.

The final piece of the puzzle came to light when I looked at the screen on my joystick. Highlighted in yellow was the message “drive fault.” This told me it was probably either the joystick, the controller (the computer brain of the chair) or the drive motor. None of them were good possibilities, but without a diagnostic tool I couldn’t do anything further. I had my PA disengage the drive motors, push my good chair out of my bedroom and get my old clunker chair out of my office.

Thank goodness I listened to Bob, my wheelchair repair guru, when he told me to put new batteries in my old clunker. Sure the old clunker isn’t comfortable to sit in for long periods of time, and I wasn’t sure how I would manage in it with formerly fractured femur, but at least the chair was made to my measurements. Five years ago, this was my daily chair. Even if it had outlived it’s daily use, it would be better than a loaner which didn’t fit me.

I used my clunker last Wednesday while Bob ran diagnostics on my chair. Of course, when my PA brought the chair to the shop, it worked perfectly. Try as he might, Bob couldn’t get the chair to fail. From how I described the error code, Bob was fairly certain it was the seat elevator, not the joystick, motors or controller. He played with some loose wires, adjusted the seat elevator actuator (a known problem on prior repairs to my chair) and arranged for delivery of my chair back to me later that day.

Fast forward to this morning, a week later. I drove my chair under the bathroom sink after breakfast, ready to brush my teeth. I activated the seat controls and moved my joystick to elevate my chair. All normal activities, except the chair didn’t move. Ugh.

Opponents of funding for complex medical technology always say adaptations like seat elevators are luxury items and not really necessary for people like me. Luxury? Well, here is a list of things I have not been able to independently perform in the 90 minutes since noticing my broken seat elevator:

  • I have not been able to brush my teeth. The bathroom and kitchen sinks are too high for me to access without my seat elevator. I could grab a cup to use as a spit cup but…
  • I can’t reach the cups in the cabinets because I can’t elevate my wheelchair. No access to cups means nothing to use to help me brush my teeth or take a drink.
  • I can’t wash my face  – another task requiring the ability to reach the sink.
  • I can’t get my sweater off the hook behind my bedroom door. I’ve tried using my reacher. It doesn’t give me enough height.

I’ve already called Bob. He’s going to look at my chair as soon as my PA gets it to him. Thank goodness for Bob. Every wheelchair user needs a Bob, and those of us who have a Bob know how fortunate we are.

 

The Will to Write

Two years ago, when I started this blog, I felt guilty calling myself a writer. I worried people would laugh at me, not take me seriously. I had to talk myself up each and every time I hit “publish” and put my work out into the world.

Fast forward two years to this September. I started a new memoir writing class with my friend and mentor Marion Roach Smith. I committed to finally working, really working, on the book – the book I promised my late sister Mary Jane I would write. I wrote daily, sharing my work each month with the others in my class. Finally I felt comfortable saying the words, “I am a writer!”

Confession time: I haven’t written in two weeks. Life has a way of changing the best laid plans. At least, it always seems to happen to me.

My beloved father passed away on December 14th, giving me a healthy dose of perspective just as I was starting to get mired in pre-holiday stress. In an instant, I went from “How will I ever get the rest of my cookies done?” to “How will I get home to Mom and my sisters?”

After the funeral, the family gatherings, the tears and the laughter, there was still Christmas. And work. And life. And a book still waiting to be written.

That is how it happens. We gather with loved ones to offer comfort and share memories. Then, we return to our new normal and try to make our grieving selves fit back into our prior routines.

Somehow, I never manage to fit.

When my sister Mary Jane passed away five years ago today, I learned how easy it was for me to cultivate a relationship with grief. At the time, I wasn’t aware it was what I was doing. Now, I recognize the listlessness and lack of focus.

I am on vacation this week. Once again, my sister Caroline has agreed to let me crash at her house for the week. It was supposed to be a week of writing, crochet and relaxation.

Every day this week I have sat to write, and nothing has come. Well-meaning friends have offered me encouragement. Just journal. Write to a prompt. Set a timer and write for just ten minutes.

I started this post two days ago. Today, because I made Mary Jane a promise and I always try to keep my promises, I am finishing something – anything – just to say I am writing.

I know enough to know that I need to listen to myself when I don’t have the will to write. It is fine to take a break, to grieve, to allow myself to retreat and take a respite.

The trick is to not encourage myself to stay in that dark place, to not allow my voice to dwell in the grief and sadness in my heart. Even though I may want to sit and mourn, I know how easy it is to become mired in the sorrow and not move forward towards the goal.

I am a writer. It is what I do to help process the world around me. I think in words, stringing thoughts together in my head whenever I have moments to myself. When I don’t write, I feel like part of me is not fully functioning.

My goal today was to write a post and get it up – no matter how long, even if I think it’s crap. My goal tomorrow is to write 750 words about my experiences as a former poster child.

Goals are good. They provide focus when you feel lost. They can be modified when life throws you curves. Sharing goals helps me remain accountable. Hence, I state them here so I know someone else is aware of my plan.

I’m not thinking beyond this week. I’ll spend the next few days playing with my sister’s dogs and crocheting in front of the fireplace.

But come next week, I’ll write again. Because I am a writer. And writers write.

Unruly Underwire

Last month, I took part in the 2nd Annual Brava! This event is a fundraiser for the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region. The evening features local writers performing readings on the subject of brassiers in their lives. I read my essay “Just the Bra for This” last year, and was honored to have another essay selected by the jury for this year’s successful event. Thanks to my sister Sandy, who was also one of this year’s featured writers, you can watch a video of me reading this essay.

Yes, this is a true story. Yes, I still talk to Don and he knows I shared the story publicly. I know I am not the only wheelchair user who has had odd things stuck in her wheels. Since I shared this video on my Facebook page, friends have shared their stories of underwear, hair ties, socks – you name it – stuck in their wheels. To my knowledge, I am the only one with an unruly underwire though.

Unruly Underwire

My longest romantic relationship started because I was being held hostage by a bra.

When Don first called in late September 2001 to ask me on a date, I was using a lightweight manual wheelchair. It had removable armrests, swing-away footrests and weighed less than 22 pounds. It was everything I wanted and needed from a wheelchair at the time.

The only part of the chair I didn’t love was the front wheel, or caster, mount. My front casters were four inches in diameter, held in place with a fork mount allowing them to spin and rotate easily, too easily. Things were always getting caught in them – hair, yarn, string, even fake cobwebs at Halloween.

I don’t really know how it happened. I was sitting in my bedroom, sorting laundry when the phone rang. The basket tumbled off my lap as I dashed across the floor to grab the cordless headset. Don said hello as I backed up to collect the wrinkled shirts and pants now on the floor around me.

Except, I didn’t move. My front wheel was stuck, not rotating, not turning, nothing. I almost flipped backwards as I uselessly struggled to reverse my chair off the pile of clothes. Looking down I realized something was wedged into the caster fork, through the front wheel.

My pink underwire bra, a favorite because of the fit, color and comfort, had somehow become twisted up inside the wheel. The wire itself, which had been threatening to come loose from its casing for weeks, was now wedged across the wheel, effectively locking it. My attempts to move and turn had simply lodged the bra firmly in place, preventing any wheel movement whatsoever.

I sat listening to Don, wondering how to bring this up in conversation. How exactly do you tell a male stranger that you are held hostage by a bra? A bright pink bra?

Um, excuse me Don. You don’t seem like a psychopath, and I’d like to talk to you, but there is a bra stuck in my wheelchair so now’s not the best time for us to have our first conversation.

Yeah – to pull that off without scaring a guy obviously flirting with me, who is interested in me, and who called me? As a rule, men didn’t often pursue me, so I was not going to jeopardize a potential romantic connection just because of an unruly underwire!

I continued to talk with Don as I frantically tried to come up with a strategy to set me free. All my adult life, I have joked with friends that living with disability has made me a female MacGyver, the TV hero who could get himself out of any sticky situation. Put me in a tough spot with very few resources, and I can problem solve my way through just about anything. But try as I might, I could not release the bra from the wheel. I twisted and contorted my body, bending forward, trying to pull the strap to move the wire while still maintaining a grip on the phone.

Yes, I love visiting bookstores.

I grabbed a pen off my dresser and attempted to push the bra out through the hole in the wheel.

No, I haven’t been to the new Barnes and Noble.

I leaned over the opposite way to take weight off the wheel praying to get it to spin freely, all the while making what I hoped were appropriate responses and encouraging remarks to Don.

Coffee on Sunday? I think that sounds great!

After an hour I realized the only way to liberate myself was to sacrifice the pink underwire and just cut the bra loose. I could see my scissors on the desk next to my bed, four feet away. Somehow, I had to get them.

So, I removed an armrest and used it to push the laundry basket across the floor to the desk. Turning a dirty pair of pants into a lasso, I tossed one pant leg over to the desk. The pants and the scissors slid and after four attempts, fell into the laundry basket. I dragged the basket containing the coveted scissors back to me with the chair armrest.

Snipping the offending undergarment into multiple pieces, I laughed in vindication. I wheeled backwards, taking in the tattered pink satin scraps scattered on the floor like cotton candy confetti. I wielded my shears in victory as I tossed the misshapen underwire into the trash.

MacGyver’s got nothin’ on me.

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!