Saturday, July 28, 2012

Three Trees

Earlier this year my sister Kristin made a button tree for her bathroom using bright, colorful buttons, foam board and paint. I loved it, so I told her she could feel free to make me one for my birthday if she wanted. :) Kristin also decided to make one for our mom for her birthday which will be coming up in a few months. Kristin finished the trees and they arrived last week. This is how she packaged them. (Adorable, right?!) I almost didn't want to open mine because it was packaged so nicely, but I knew there was something even prettier inside!
Here it is: it's cute, isn't it?! This is perfect for my room because I love pretty things! Here's a picture of it in its memory box frame, and another picture with the glass door open so that there isn't a glare reflecting off the glass.
Here's a picture of what my mom's tree looks like, and another picture of a button tree that represents the four seasons. I'm taking a teensy, tiny bit of credit for it since I gave Kristin the idea to try it.
Now on to another tree project that I recently acquired for my room… a few months ago I was reading a blog that I follow and the woman was talking about this family history tree, and I loved it. (The tree is 11 x 14, and the kit costs $18.95.) I knew it would be perfect for me since I love things like this and I have a nice, large family to fill out my tree. I just put my immediate family on the tree (grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews), but I guess if you don't have an immediate family as large as mine, you could always put on aunts, uncles and cousins on the tree to make it nice and lush. I didn't even need to use all of the leaves, so I just filled in my tree with the extra leaves to make it look nice and full. That way I can fill in names if/when my family expands. (I made sure to leave a little room for a leaf by mine for when the one I love (or someone else) makes an honest woman out of me! ;)

I absolutely love the way it turned out, but I feel like the tree is still missing something, so my friend Linda is going to help me do some vinyl lettering on the back of the glass and have its say something like "my eternal family."
And finally, the tree above is something my sister Laura made me for my birthday. It's an idea that she found on Pinterest. Thanks, Pinterest, for another cute idea!

For Posterity's Sake

Last week my sister Sharon and her family spent a few days with us. It's always exciting to be able to spend time with her and to see my nieces and nephew. I'm very much into making memories/records to keep for posterity's sake, so I decided to have Sharon take a video of each of the kids before they went to bed one evening. (I wish I had videos of myself as a child to look back on, but I don't. Hopefully Sharon's kids will like watching videos of themselves when they're grown up.) I've watched these videos several times, and I know I'm partial, but I just love these kids! I love their expressions and sweet little voices. 

Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Elizabeth:
Nine-year-old Kate:
Six-year-old Sarah:
Four-year-old Rachel (eating a chocolate peanut butter graham cracker):
Two-year-old Matt: (It warms my heart to have Mattie come into my room in the morning and say, "Hi Heather!"
[Almost] four-month old Emily:

A Panda Express restaurant recently opened near my house, so one evening Sharon treated all of us to Panda Express for dinner since she's never had it before, but has heard good things about it from me. We got several different entrées so that we could all try a little of everything. My favorite thing from Panda Express is Beijing beef, so I made sure we ordered that. We also had orange chicken, Shanghai angus steak, kung pao chicken and black pepper chicken. (The orange chicken and Shanghai steak were both good, but I didn't really care for the Kung Pao chicken and black pepper chicken; too spicy!) We also got egg rolls and potstickers (which are also one of my favorite things on the menu). Here's a picture of our Chinese feast (I was looking like a hot mess, so I had to crop myself out of it!):
We didn't take many pictures during Sharon's visit, but we got a few. Sharon and her three oldest girls took a trip to Target to look for some school supplies since they don't have a Target in the town where they live (sad, I know!). Sarah was so excited about her new backpack!
Kate and Elizabeth:
Matt was sure proud of his tower and kept shouting, "Tower, tower!" over and over again.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just the Way I Like It

My older sister Annette recently had surgery on her left arm to repair a damaged nerve. Her arm has been wrapped in a splint for the past two weeks so it can heal. This splint, coupled with the pain and tenderness from surgery rendered Annette much less independent than her usual capable/self-sufficient self. She even had to have her husband help put her hair in a ponytail the other day since she couldn't do it one-handed. She found it kind of frustrating since it took so much longer, especially since she knew she could do a better/faster job herself, if only she had the use of both of her arms.

A few weeks ago my mom had a medical procedure that incapacitated her for a few hours. She was weak after the procedure and even had to have her friend hold the cup/straw when she wanted a drink. Both Mom and Annette told me that these experiences have given them a small glimpse into what my life is like on a daily basis. Face it, it's hard to be helpless, especially when that means asking for and accepting help from others.

After my accident, allowing others to do things for me was a humbling experience that took some getting used to. I still WANTED to do things for myself, but I knew that that was no longer an option. Coming to terms with this was often frustrating, but I knew that I had no other choice than to rely on others, so I tried to be the best sport I could be. I think I handled myself remarkably well, but that doesn't mean it was a walk in the park.

Last week when my sister Sharon was visiting she was helping Mom with my afternoon routine and the three of us were reminiscing about what life was like in the early days/years after my accident. When I was first in the ICU I never wanted my mom around when it came time to do my bath. It was hard enough having the nurses/techs (nurses aides) see me naked, but at least they were strangers who were used to bathing patients. I definitely wasn't ready for Mom to see me "au naturel" just yet, and she wasn't ready for it either!

Seven weeks after my accident my mom and I went to Shepherd Center; a specialized rehab hospital for patients with spinal cord injuries. This facility was in Atlanta, Georgia – hundreds of miles away from everything I knew and everything that was normal. How grateful I was to have Mom come with me! She was the only normal, constant thing in this new phase of my life. I quickly let go of any shyness and embarrassment that I'd initially felt about having my mom around for my intimate care like bathing and she instantly became the ONLY person I wanted to do things for me!

Whenever it was time for my bath, or time to get dressed or to be fed I wanted my mom to be right there by my side doing these things for me (with the assistance of the nurses when something was a two-person job). The time for awkwardness was over and I had to let others start doing things for me, whether I liked it or not. Mom was my advocate; the person who I knew had my back and all of my best interests at heart. To everyone else I was just a patient, but to Mom I was her precious daughter. Another reason I always wanted Mom by my side was because I still didn't have the ability to speak at the time. I could only mouth words, and Mom was best at reading my lips. (Reading lips is not easy, mind you, but it becomes easier the more you're around someone, so I always looked at her as my "translator.")

I've basically gotten used to asking people to do things for me, but it's still difficult at times. One reason is because it takes a long time before I feel like someone is adequately "trained" to know just the right way to do things for me. Things like the way I like to be fed, the way I like to be positioned/adjusted, the way I like my itches scratched or the way I like Chapstick applied. It can be really frustrating when people who aren't familiar with my likes/dislikes try to do things for me if they do it in a different way than I'm accustomed. If I need assistance with something, I'd rather suffer with whatever's bothering me (like an itch, for example) instead of accepting help from someone who doesn't know the correct "Heather protocol."  It can be really frustrating trying to find the words to explain how I want something done! 

My mom and youngest sister Chandra are the best at caring for me since they've been by my side every step of the way in this journey and they know me and my needs the best. They are my angels and best buds. I'd surely be sunk without them!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another Senseless Act of Violence

Last week I didn't do any blogging because my sister Sharon and her family were in town visiting. We had lots of fun spending time together and I will make a post about her visit soon, but I wanted to make a special post this morning about the terrible tragedy that happened in Aurora, Colorado last week.

24-year-old gunman, James Holmes, opened fire during the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises early last Friday morning. He killed 12 people and injured 58 others. This shooting wasn't something that'll Holmes did on a whim. I don't know what his motivation was, but this was obviously something he'd been planning for a while. He even went so far as to booby-trap his apartment. I, like the rest of the world, am wondering why someone would go to such extreme measures to do something so heinous.
One of the victims was Jessica Ghawl, a 24-year-old aspiring sportswriter. Eerily, Jessica was involved in another shooting just a few weeks ago on June 2 when a gunman opened fire at a mall food court in Toronto, Canada. Understandably, she was extremely shaken after the incident and wrote about it on her blog, A Run On of Thoughts. Here's her picture and an excerpt from the post she made about the terrifying ordeal:
"I  was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. 

"I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given."

It's chilling to think about the words that Jessica wrote just weeks ago and how much they would apply to what would transpire in her life on July 20. (Talk about foreshadowing.) In Jessica's post she said, "Gun crimes are fairly common where I grew up in Texas, but I never imagined I'd experience a violent crime firsthand." 

Victim Alex Sullivan went to the movie  to celebrate his 27th birthday which was on Friday.  Just before going into the theater he sent out this Tweet:  "Oh man, one hour till the movie and it's going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever!" That was the last his family and friends heard from him. Heartbreaking photos showed Alex's father, Tom, in the nearby Gateway High School parking lot waving a picture of his son yelling, "Find my son!" Late Friday night Alex's received confirmation that their son was one of the victims. How devastating.
A vigil was held last night and thousands of people showed up to mourn and show their support.
24-year-old gunman James Holmes had his first court appearance a few hours ago, and I watched the live "breaking news" coverage on TV. It was eerie getting my first look at him, especially seeing his dyed red hair. He almost appeared to be drugged or something, because he looked like he was about to nod off while the judge was talking to him. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens to him as time goes on, and to see if he'll ever give any explanation as to why he did this.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises"

I've been eagerly anticipating the release of The Dark Knight Rises for many months, so last weekend Chandra and I watched The Dark Knight to refresh our memories and gear up for the new movie. (In hindsight, I wish I'd taken the time to re-watch Batman Begins as well, since its story line really plays into The Dark Knight Rises much more than I thought it would… oh well!)

I was really impressed with both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, so I was crossing my fingers that The Dark Knight Rises would live up to my sky-high expectations. It did. Actually, it surpassed them. I absolutely loved the movie! It was a tad hard to follow and I got confused several times as to what was happening. In my defense, there was a lot going on in this movie plot-wise, not to mention the fact that the movie is almost three hours long! Subtitles would've been helpful since some of the dialogue was hard to catch, but all in all, this was a great movie and I can't wait to see it again.

Heather rating: 10/10 stars. Giving a movie a perfect '10' is a first for me, since I always like to leave at least a small margin of error. (I'm the kind of person who never goes "all the way" to one extreme or the other when filling out a survey where you have to assign a number on the 1 – 10 continuum to denote how good/bad something is.) Who knows… when I watch this movie again I might feel differently since I sometimes experience "rater's remorse;" but for now, I'm sticking with a perfect '10!'

Something else I was thinking about… I can't help but wonder what path the story line of the movie would've taken if Heath Ledger (who played the role of the Joker in The Dark Knight) wouldn't have died  in 2008. The Dark Knight  ended in a bit of a cliffhanger with unfinished business regarding the Joker, so I'm sure the Joker character would've played a significant part in The Dark Knight Rises. I guess I'll never know what would've happened and will just have to wonder. Fortunately, there are plenty of other villains in the world of Batman so that this installment of Batman movies didn't die with Ledger. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

If You Live Long Enough…

One of the phrases that my mom often says is, "If you live long enough, you get old." She says it on a regular basis and it's actually become a bit of an inside joke between my mom, my sister Chandra and me. Whenever she starts to say, "If you live long enough…" Chandra and I will chime in (in unison) with, "you get OLD!"

If you live long enough, you WILL get old. This is the sad but true reality of mortality. It's quite disheartening to see the physical toll that time takes on our bodies. Beauty fades, eyes dull, wrinkles form, backs stoop, bellies paunch, breasts sag, vision blurs, heads of hair silver, arms turn to flab, skin loses turgor, pounds pack on and once tight bods start to jiggle and waggle. All of this, plus a myriad of other maladies that will inevitably develop as your body ages is enough to make you want to climb into bed and pull the covers over your head!

Before long you wake up and realize your best days are behind you and your physical prime has long since passed. I personally think there's a window from about age 25 to 45 where people look their best. Of course, some people's windows are a little bit longer or shorter than others' based on their lifestyle and genetics, but generally everyone has a few "bright eyed and bushy tailed" decades before they start to sink and sag.

Take a look at these collages I've made of some well-known celebrities that show their age progression through the years: Brad Pitt, Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Sallie Field, Johnny Depp and Rob Lowe. Brad Pitt is a great example. He's always been a great looking guy and has aged well, but I think his most attractive years are behind him. Don't get me wrong; he's still an extremely attractive man (when he keeps his hair short and his beard in check) but his skin has aged and wrinkled and he's not as fresh as he was in his 30's.
I don't mind getting older, but I do admit that I dread the physical toll that age will take on my mortal frame, especially since I feel like the deck is already stacked against me when you combine paralysis with the aging process. It's not going to be a pretty sight!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If a Tree Falls in the Forest…

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? I'd be inclined to say yes, but I guess only God can say for certain!
My mom and I sometimes watch Jeopardy! in the afternoon while she does my afternoon routine. I'm definitely not a smarty-pants and I'm just of average intelligence, so I don't think I'd do so well as a contestant, unless I were playing in the kids tournament! That being said, I always get a thrill when I know the answer to the questions, especially the questions that are worth more money (since the more they're worth the more difficult they are). The crème de la crème is when I know the answer to the Final Jeopardy question. More often than not I don't know it, but I've surprised myself (and Mom) several times lately. Maybe I'm smarter than I give myself credit for! ;)

So my question is, if a person knows the answer to a Jeopardy! question and nobody is around to witness you blurt out the answer, does it still count? Watching Jeopardy!  by myself isn't nearly as fun as watching it with someone else because there's no one to high-five me when I come up with the answer to the more difficult questions.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If Money Were No Object…

Boy, would I love to be rich! I know that sounds horribly superficial of me to admit, but I wish I had unlimited funds so that I wouldn't have to worry about money. I'd love to just be able to do fun things with it, give it away to others and fulfill the big dreams I have and not have to worry about the cost.

I love fireworks and think they are grand, but I usually just see them on TV, not in person, (and I think we can all agree that that's just not the same!). I love watching A Capital Fourth on PBS to see the fireworks in Washington DC or to watch the firework extravaganza that Macy's puts on each year over the Hudson River in New York. Pure magic!
I wish I had loads of money to drop on fireworks for holidays and special occasions! I've actually never seen a really good fireworks show in person. When I was a kid we never set off fireworks because we were definitely too poor to "waste" money on such a frivolous thing, and now that I'm paralyzed I'm always* at home and in bed by that late in the evening, hence the reason I watch them on TV. That's definitely not like seeing them in person, but at least I'm able to watch a spectacular fireworks show where no expense is spared! (I always wonder just how much money it takes to put on a big fireworks spread like that.)

*The one exception to what I said about always being back in bed [since my accident] on the Fourth of July was two years ago. My sister Chandra usually goes downtown to watch the fireworks in St. Louis with her friends (which means my mom and I are on our own), but two years ago the Fourth of July was on  Sunday, so Chandra decided to stay home with my mom and me. We had one of our friends over for dinner, and he encouraged me to get up in my wheelchair so that we could go somewhere to watch fireworks. That was such a memorable Fourth of July because it was so spontaneous and not something we'd planned on doing.
… maybe one day I'll have my own Fourth of July fireworks if money is no option!
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