A Hodgepodge of Bullet Points

(quick editing note - if you are reading this on the actual website, the list of bullet points is all running together like a giant paragraph for some reason - it is not allowing the spacing to post - it does show up nicely on the Caring Bridge app... so sorry for the difficult to read version on the site... Caring Bridge changed their site functions as this hasn't happened before...)

It's been awhile since I've written and I have several little things to share. Some are updates, some are deep thoughts on life, some are random and a few might even feature a little humor. So, in no particular order, here goes:

* My last surgery (on my right leg/foot) was Feb 12 as you know - I was on crutches and wasn't allowed to drive for seven weeks. At the end of March, my right leg was healed enough for me to bear weight again and try anything I wanted to see how it went. Just in a matter of days, I was walking again with no assistance, driving (windows down, tunes blaring I might add - freedom!) and getting my life back once again. This meant ditching the Hallmark scooter (which I did appreciate having that option when I needed it) and putting my crutches in the basement with my wheelchair, walker, walking boot and other devices I pray gather as much dust and cobwebs as possible.

* I have also been spending a majority of my time with NO BRACE on my right leg. I only wear it for more active things like biking or walking on uneven terrain as I have to be careful to protect my ankles as they are no longer protected by the normal tendon structure. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love not wearing my brace/AFO. It is so much more comfortable to have nothing on one limb and - wait for it - I am getting more shoe options! :) I can fit in most any flat-ish shoe with either foot now, but have discovered I still need something sneaker-like to walk well. At least for now, things could change. So I've embraced the tennis shoe innovation that is out there, like my new uniform of black and gray sparkly Mary Jane Sketchers. This shoe category is not ideal but I'll take it! I'm definitely making progress, moving beyond the extra wide New Balance tennis shoes I literally wore every day for five or six months which looked downright silly with anything but workout clothes. For the record, I do still love and appreciate those tennis shoes as they saved me from these terrible men's all white shoes I sported early on...but having more options is nice. So needless to say, my last surgery was a huge success and I'm so grateful!! A seven week temporary setback was so worth it to put that clunky brace aside most days. I pray the progress continues!

* My right foot is still totally numb. This is a bi-product of having to gently move a nerve aside during the surgery. The feeling is highly likely to return, but can take 6 to 12 months after the surgery in some people. I have to be cautious from a safety perspective, such as be careful my foot doesn't have cuts or blisters or isn't getting burned in hot water or on pavement, etc. but otherwise it doesn't cause me much issue to have a lack of feeling. I can feel pressure to know my foot is on the ground which is how I can walk without feeling.

* The recent weather rocks. I love it so much. And have been so thankful I bit the bullet on my February surgery to get it all over with before the nice outdoor weather hit. And the strategy worked as I've been able to enjoy the outdoors with my family which I've dreamed about for months.

* This time of year is birthday season for my kids. Morgan's is April 26 and Mitchell's is May 26. When you go through something like this, you become fixated on certain goals and positive visions. One of mine was being "healed" by the time my kids' birthdays rolled around. I literally counted back the weeks from Morgan's birthday when my last surgery was scheduled, hopeful my recovery would be complete by then. And it was. The night after her birthday party, I reflected on how incredibly grateful I was to be able to be the Mom I wanted to be for her party. To host the gathering. To hang the birthday banner I always hang. To make her cake. To help her open her gifts. All of that normal Mom stuff I got to do without needing help from others. It meant a lot to me.

* I started PT up again around the same time I was released to walk and drive. I go once a week now and continue to work on strength, my gait, agility, etc. My PT team was so excited to see how well the tendon transfer surgery went. They are awesome cheerleaders and have helped me so much. I am winding down on the PT front as they have taught me most of what they can, I will just need to continue to be disciplined to do the homework on a regular basis.

* I have started another form of PT - working out with a personal trainer. She is a friend of mine from K-State and does amazing work here in KC. She is very talented and has helped many people with their personal goals. I just started working with her and am confident she can help take me to the next level whatever that may end up meaning. The stronger my upper legs, hips and core can become, the more it helps to offset the issues I have from the knees down. The training is individualized but done with others and most don't know yet that I have a prosthetic leg or issues with my right leg as I always wear pants. It will be fun the first day I decide to reveal myself and show up in shorts!! :)

* I am getting measured for a waterproof leg next week. This will be the one I can wear in the swimming pool or on a beach. I'm also hopeful I can use it to take a normal/stand-up shower as well but we will see how that all works. There are a couple of types of waterproof legs and I'm not exactly sure what mine will look like yet as I have one more consultation. The leading candidate looks more like a regular leg vs. showing the metal pylon, but it comes in limited skin colors. My Prosthetist warned me it will be "Barbie-colored". ha! I honestly don't care that much if it will function well. Maybe down the road I'll get a more custom version made, but I'm not going to pursue that kind of thing until I'm certain my limb is 100% shrunk/normalized (which can take 12-18 months). If I get brave this summer, maybe I'll post a picture of me with my water leg to show you how it turned out.

* I'm also about due for a new/smaller every day leg. My current one is pretty big on me now. I wear around 13 ply of socks every day. If you didn't know, sock weight is measured in ply units. A one-ply sock is like a trouser sock, a 5-ply sock is like a winter wool sock. Currently, I put on the equivalent of two wool socks plus three trouser socks on top to fill in the extra space. And the socks are on top of an initial sock (known strangely as a liner liner) and a 1/4" rubber liner. Last but not least, it's all topped off with a top thinner rubber liner that holds the whole thing on me and suctions out the extra air. This is a lot of layers to put on every morning and they can get quite toasty at times. Plus, bending your knee is a little challenging under the 27 layers! So when I get measured for the waterproof leg, we'll likely order my next prosthetic which should last me quite a while. I've had this one since Christmas. We might also explore a different type of prosthetic that wouldn't have the outer liner and let my knee bend more easily. Not sure if a new system will work with my limb or not, it's all trial and error. We will see! Another note for the record...despite some of the nuisances I mentioned, the prosthetic leg actually works pretty darn well so I can't complain!!

* Speaking of different leg types, some people end up with several different legs. For instance, a few women injured in the Boston Marathon last year have a waterproof leg, a running leg (the blade-type), a leg for wearing flats and a leg for high heels. Though prosthetic legs can do all of these types of things, my right leg won't be compatible with some of these. For instance, I won't need a leg for high heels due to my right leg and I'm not sure if my right leg will be able to run fast enough to necessitate a running prosthetic or not. Time will tell. Frankly at this point, neither are a big deal to me as heels and running weren't major parts of my life before anyway. Although I do think the Cheetah running legs (as they are called/branded) look pretty freaking cool.

* As I alluded to above, I started riding a real bike again! I never really know what I can or cannot do until I try it but I tend to have good instincts about what will work. I felt pretty confident I'd be able to ride my bike but I wasn't entirely sure. It was a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago and all four of us were in the driveway. I managed to get on the bike which was a little challenging but doable and then I headed down our long and steep-ish driveway despite Aaron's warning I might be better to start on the flat road. It took a harrowing (for Aaron) eight seconds or so for my left (prosthetic) leg to actually get settled on the pedal, but I got it all working in due time. The kids were cheering me on from the top of the driveway which was really cute. I've been in on it a few times since, including a 5+ mile ride we did this past Sunday on some trails in Shawnee. Despite my feet slipping off the pedals every once in awhile, it's going well and is another good way for me to build up my endurance and strength and do something active with the family. I definitely have to rely heavily on my upper legs as I essentially have very limited to no working muscle tissue below the knee on either leg. All in all, I'm getting there and hope to work up to riding more and more. And to be honest, 5 miles with slight hills on these trails with a mountain bike would have probably worn me out a little cardio-wise before the accident!! Cool and a little ironic to think I might actually end up in better shape.

* Have any of you been watching my idol Amy Purdy on Dancing with the Stars? If you haven't, tune in sometime or at least watch her dances on abc.com or youtube or wherever Google takes you. She has been simply amazing. With two prosthetic legs competing with everyone else, she is one of the top scorers every week. I can't tell you how much it inspires me to watch her. I look forward to it every Monday.

* My kids are doing great. People ask me all the time about them, so I thought I'd add this bullet point to the list. And when I say they are doing great, that has little to do with my accident or recovery. That has honestly never impacted them all that much. They are simply an awesome little 3-year old and almost 5-year old who live normal and fun lives. I will mention a couple of things specific to my journey as that's what this blog is all about... When I healed from the last surgery, Morgan would announce to EVERYBODY we saw for a couple of weeks, "My Mommy doesn't need her crunches anymore!". She was clearly excited for this development which was so sweet. Plus, as a side note, if you haven't met Morgan you should know how she has never met a stranger so when I say she told everybody, I mean everybody. :) The other night Mitchell and I ended up having a conversation about my healing. He had referenced something about me being hurt in passing and I told him I wasn't really hurt anymore. He said he thought my right leg was still hurt and he referenced the way the wound looks. I told him it was healed but would always just look like that. Then he said, "well, you're a little slow". That totally cracked me up. I asked him if it really matters that I'm slow as I still get to do everything with him that we like to do. His response was classic... "well, if I'm in the living room and I see a deer run by and I yell at you to come see it, you might not get here before it runs away". Because that happens all the time. (not!) It was a sweet conversation and good to hear his perspective. He of course followed it by telling me how much he loves me which is something he has a tendency to do about 16 times a day which I hope doesn't stop for many years to come. He has told me for a long time he will hug and kiss me until he's 99 years old. I'll have to get a recording of that for his teenage years. I know I've overused the word grateful in this post, but I am beyond grateful for these children. I gave them life but they saved my life. 

* I feel guilty that I didn't do a good job properly thanking so many of you for your generosity. Early on especially, I received the most amazing letters and cards and gifts and meals and restaurant gift cards and countless thoughtful gestures. I am typically really good at sending thank-you notes but I was terrible at this during this era. There are some legit reasons you can imagine, including I couldn't really write with my right hand for months, but I still feel guilty I didn't get the chance to really thank those of you who sent these things to me. Please know I have a really really good memory and I remember what you did. You all helped me to get through some very difficult adjustments and I can't thank you enough. My sincere apologies a thoughtful thank-you note didn't show up in your mailbox.

* Speaking of my hand/arm, it is doing fantastic. I still have a little tightness in my thumb and limited range of motion with my thumb and wrist, but honestly nothing that limits my functionality. I often forget about my hand/arm injuries which is awesome. So that limb is all good!!

* Everybody has faced something difficult at some point. Or will in the future. Or is dealing with it right now. Before my accident I of course knew bad things that have happened to people but I really didn't think about how most people have had some sort of challenge in their life. People confide in me now in a way that is deeper and richer than before I had my own personal journey and I've really come to understand that some suffering is frankly part of the human experience. It is also a good reminder to try and give grace and be kind because you really don't know what someone is dealing with in their world. Not everybody's struggle is as obvious or noticeable as mine but that doesn't make the struggle any easier. It might even make it harder.

* I miss flip flops. I know that sounds silly but these have always been my comfort shoe of choice for a good slice of the year. I am the person who wears flip flops to somewhere like Disneyworld because I think they are so comfortable. And I won't be wearing them again most likely. I am mourning the loss of my pile of flip flops, especially as the season for them is upon us. Not a big deal in the scheme of life of course, but just sharing with you all the big and little things that comprise a journey like this...

* Often times in public, people will ask me something referencing my walking. "Hip surgery?" "Knee replacement?" Always kind and well intended and often related to something they've had done. I normally just nod or say something simple like I just had surgery. Short and sweet. The funniest situation I had though was quite random. I was walking out of a building and a man I do not know yelled at me from quite a distance away across the parking lot. "Hey, it looks like you're walking with an ingrown toenail". Huh? After he says this and I'm walking towards my car, we meet up on the sidewalk and I told him what really happened. I was just very matter of fact and didn't mean to make him feel bad, it just kind of came out. Needless to say I got the deer in the headlights look. This story has made me chuckle from time to time since it happened a few months ago. I wonder what he told his wife that evening!

* On the mental front, I've been doing really great. I feel like I have much of my life back. Sure some things are annoying or frustrating or downright hard, but there isn't a lot I don't or can't do in some fashion. The roller coaster has slowed considerably and mellowed out to a nice slow and steady ride. For the most part, I feel like "myself" almost all of the time.

* On the topic of the emotional journey, I really did experience the grieving process this year. I had been lucky enough to not understand this process firsthand before, but I have seen it up close and personal now. As you may or may not know, grieving stages are typically pretty similar for people and go like this.... shock/denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance. As I look back on my last (almost) nine months, I can say that I went through each of those, essentially in that order. Not to say that you can't toggle back and forth or revisit one of them on any given day, but in general I feel like I've reached Acceptance Island as I call it in my head. I have accepted my situation and am focused on making something good come from it. Like I've mentioned in a previous post, I am convinced I will turn my disadvantage into advantage in some way or in many ways in my life.

* Mother's Day is this weekend. Don't forget to buy your cards for any mother you admire and appreciate. Ok, shameless plug. But I would like to say how lucky I am to have my Mom and Aaron's Mom in my life. These amazing women have done more for me and my family this year than you can possibly imagine. Meals. Rides. Laundry. Washing my hair in the early days. Bringing joy to their grandchildren. Providing emotional support. Having fun with us. They are the best couple of Moms I could hope for and pray I can be half as good as either of them at the most important job in the world.

* We've all heard the notion before that life is 10% about what happens to you and 90% how you react to what happens to you. One step deeper on this subject and something I originally learned at work and have since learned on this journey... The science of happiness generally agrees that what makes up a person's happiness is 10% due to circumstances (anything from circumstances like mine to material possessions, etc.), 40% due to the health of your relationships and 50% is hereditary or a genetic set-point. I think it's awesome to think that almost half of our happiness can come from our relationships with others. I've also learned that experts agree people tend to believe that a bad thing happening to them will make them much more unhappy than actuality will show and a good thing happening to someone never makes them as happy as they think it might. Said another way, people expect their happiness curves to be much more dramatic when they anticipate things happening than actually plays out. I not only find these things interesting, I find them to be true. 

* I'm really looking forward to going to some concerts this summer. This is something I haven't had the chance to check off my goal list but am excited to do. I love live music and there are some good ones coming our way.

Wishing you a great week, upcoming days filled with fun in the sun and whatever your heart is wishing for...

Love and Gratitude (buzzword o' the post),