Category Archives: Uncategorized

thin-skinned

She hides under her bed, small and still. It’s not enough to go to her room and slam the door. Her feelings are sorted in a quiet, dark space. “Annie, are you okay?”

The first time she hid I couldn’t find her. I opened her bedroom door and found an empty room, and then a tiny voice, “I just need to be alone.”

“Oh.” I was surprised. “Okay.”

I left, wondering about this new thing. The whole house knew when she was upset. Every step up the stairs loud and defined, Annie always had big feelings packed into a small body. At the age of 2 she hit and pushed when she was angry, no time to explain. Always moving, running, jumping I couldn’t keep up with her. She couldn’t find her words, but she knew exactly what to do with her body. She has become better with words, curious with questions, but her body still takes over. Now, when it’s too much, she retreats.

I was all-in all year and somewhere between summer beginning and ending I got tired. My body broke down. It was too much. I’ve been hiding in this season, my favorite season, when fall steals summer in a burst of red and gold, leaves falling to invite quiet. I am feeling, but unable to find the words. Writing – my fall-back, my go-to, my sanctuary is missing. I’m not under the bed, but I’m guarded. Separating my thoughts. Being thin-skinned in a thick-skinned world.

We admire toughness. The ability to deflect, to be quick with answers. Handle noise and intensity with a smile. To shrug and say so what. We are rated, reviewed and judged, and we’re supposed to be fine with it, welcoming. What happens when you’re not so easygoing? We get hurt, overwhelmed, receive bad news and we must bounce back, and when we can’t, we’re wondering what’s wrong. Thick skin is demanded.

Yet.

It doesn’t fit.

I have always wanted to be one of those people who lets things slide off her shoulders, cares less. But things get to me and under my skin. I hang on white-knuckled until I’m pried loose. I can do it all until I can’t. Guarded, unguarded…I’m not sure which way to go, but I know armor is heavy. Rather than fight sensitivity, I’ll surrender. Be high-strung and scrappy. I am flaws and failures, honesty and strength. Secure, insecure. There is no right version of me. Of us. Whatever that means. We are two sides, all sides; heart, mind and soul.

I look at Annie – we are more alike than not. I tell her it’s not about being perfect. I know perfect lives vast inside her. “It’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from them and keep going. There is more to you than a mistake.” This isn’t profound, but it’s important for her. As I say these words, this little truth; I take a deep breath. We are doing the best we can with what we have and that has to be enough.

Swept up
in Rare Bird
This beautiful book is written by Anna Whiston-Donaldson. It is about the life and loss of her beloved son Jack. I’ve been reading Anna’s blog for a long time, learning about her kids and her son who reminded me of mine, so when I received an email from a mutual friend sharing the sad news that she lost her boy to a tragic accident I was shocked, heartbroken. This should not have happened. I have witnessed her survival and strength turn into a book. The book is not trite or happily ever after. It is true and rich and thoughtful. I loved her courage, her incredible ability to write and let the reader in. I couldn’t put Rare Bird down. You can buy it here!

a disabled mother

I was so excited when Suzanne Broughton, editor of OC Register Family Magazine, contacted me to be a contributing writer to the Parenting Voices of their magazine. Suz and I go way back. When I first ventured into blogging her blog Alive in Wonderland was the first one I began to read. I loved her writing, her photographs and her voice. I was hooked and charmed into commenting, and what a thrill when she replied and read my blog. I had the delight of meeting her and her beautiful family in Disneyland a few years ago. Suz is as gorgeous in person as she is in the online world. So. When she asked me to write for her of course I said yes. I was thrilled again, and honoured.

Below is the beginning of the article: A happy ending for mom left disabled by crash

I worried about being a disabled mother. Would I be enough for my kids? A few years before the car crash when life was unbroken, no line on the horizon, I had been a nanny to two boys. I took those boys everywhere – to the park for wild adventures in the ravine. I gave them piggybacks and played until I was spent.

At the age of 19, I thought I could be a good mom one day. At 23, I dated someone I could dream with and then one terrible evening everything changed. My life was divided into before and after by a car crash that killed my friend, burnt over half my body and cost me both my legs. During the seven months in the burn unit and the five months at rehabilitation, my boyfriend, Scott, was there and we chose to walk through this world together.

Two years later, Scott and I got married, and we were thrilled and nervous as we anticipated our first child. There were concerns about my legs. Would my prosthetic legs fit as I gained weight? Would my grafted skin stretch enough to accommodate the growing baby inside me?

You can read the rest here at OC Register.

who cares

This year I’m going for a “good-enough” New Year’s resolution. Clearly, because we’re near the end of January and I am only now coming up with a resolution. No lofty goals or profound words for me this year. I simply want to care less because I often care too much.

I am who I am and I am pretty happy with me, flaws and all. I’m fairly certain I have an awkward 13 year old girl living inside a 39 year old woman who compensates with chocolate and Netflix. I’ll never be rid of insecurities, but as I’m getting older and becoming more of a grown-up, I want to let go once in a while and be less afraid. To be less obsessive. Less at war with myself. Just less. In a world where it is mostly about more, I’m aiming low.

Last year Ben struggled with anxiety around pick-up time at school, birthday parties, activities – every pick-up time. If I wasn’t in his eye line he panicked, “Mommy! Mommy?” He grew louder; his body twisting, running to find me. And I was there, in the shadow of a tree, on a bench, talking to someone, never far. “Ben, Ben. I’m right here.” Calm and smiling, I comforted him. Sometimes there were phone calls from mothers, good friends letting me know Ben is upset. He wants you. Do you want to come? I did. He hadn’t always been like this. This was new. When I arrived, his cheeks were red and tear-stained. Shoulders straight, he was quick to recover. “I thought maybe you weren’t coming. I’m okay.” I pried, asking him why he felt this way, but I never learned the root of his fear. We’d strategize about what to do if plans changed. I reassured him over and over. “Remember to breathe. I’m here. It will be okay.”

I feel like Ben some days; my insides twisting, heart racing over something that may or may not happen. These past few months I have discovered there is nothing quite like putting your memoir out there to rattle your bones and remind you of your vulnerability. Asking for help, hassled by guilt, wondering if I’m too much, then not enough – I’m an old clock wound up tight and tick-tick-ticking until it’s all I can hear.

So? Today? As part of my quest for less, I’m going to watch an episode of Call the Midwife. See my daughter dance and not be in knots about the costume that isn’t ready yet or her upcoming competition. Hope that inspiration finds me instead of striving to find it. Remember to breathe, I will be okay. Maybe in less, I will feel air and sky and room will be made for more.

swept up
in dark chocolate & peppermint pretzel crisps
I’m having issues with posting images, so you’ll just have to click to see all of the goodness that are these crisps. Sadly, they are only available during the holiday season. They were on sale and I bought 10 bags – need I say more?

the gift of girlhood friends

“Hi!”

I looked up.

Past my yard, across the alley there was a girl with her elbows propped up on a fence, her chin resting in her hands. “Hi,” she yelled, “How old are you?”

She had rosy cheeks and dark hair divided into pigtails. We had just moved in and this was my first encounter with a neighbor, another child. And she was talking to me. I cupped my hands around my mouth, “I’m four!”

“Me too!” This girl was bold. “When’s your birthday?”

I knew my birthday and proudly answered, “October 17th.”

She grinned, “Me too! I’m Rita. Who are you?”

I was stunned by her, taken with this apple-cheeked confident girl. We shared the same birthday – no way! My age! “I’m Heidi.” Please be my friend. What if I say something stupid? Overcome, I ducked inside the house. More words failed me, and I hoped and prayed she wouldn’t disappear.

She didn’t.

Long conversations hanging off the fence, joint birthdays, sleepovers filled our days; and best friends were born.

***

It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve seen her. Will I recognize her? Should I get coffee or just wait for her? I’ll wait. I check my phone. It’s 1:48. I will see her in 12 minutes. A woman just sat down. Is that her? It doesn’t look like her, but it could be her. At 1:55 I find the email that includes her phone number. I call and her voice mail message transports me to girlhood. The voice that greets me is older, but I can hear the girl I knew. I look up and that has to be Rita pushing on the glass door. It is her! We hug and cling and exclaim. “It’s you! I can’t believe it’s you! It’s so good to see you!” And then we’re laughing, shaking and talking. We can’t stop talking for two and a half hours.

Rita is as deep, smart and rosy-cheeked as I remember who still has an affinity for the color red. As we sit across from each other we interrupt our catching-up (oh, the catching up and the photos!) to point out, “You’re just like I remember. You haven’t changed a bit. Look at us! We turned out okay.”

I look at this bright, bold woman who fell from the sky to perch on a fence seemingly just for me. She didn’t know then how she would make my life better, sweeter. How she would be stamped all over my childhood. How she was a gift. And what a gift she is today.

Swept up

in Childhood. Nothing says childhood like a tire swing.

limited

I’m limited.

I mean, obviously. If you know me, or read this blog and follow my story you know all about my limitations. I get that I’m an amputee, but does it have to get in my way?

I can buy groceries, shop for Christmas, jostle for a place in the long line at Starbucks, revise that damn book, drive my kids to their activities and I might be cranky by dinner but I’ll have accomplished so much. I think I can do this. I have done it, but I’ll pay.

If I keep pace with my mind I’ll do it all, but my body can’t keep up. My legs defy me and my skin breaks down or that crazy-assed phantom pain makes an appearance. I am one of the lucky few amputees out there that rarely deal with phantom pain, however, if the trigger is pulled my ghost feet begin to hurt like someone has skewered my legs. (Paints a lovely picture doesn’t it?)

I’ve accepted I’m an amputee – it’s just that I forget. And then I’m surprised when I’m restricted, when my body protests, especially when I’ve spent so much time overcoming. I’ve proven to everyone, but mostly to me, that I can do this. Just watch me.

I don’t like to feel ‘less than’.

I’m not the only one with limits, though. I haven’t met one person who does it all, not with some repercussion. Everyone is limited, restricted, handicapped in some form. It’s good to be aware, to know what we’re capable of, how far we can go, and when it’s time to stop. I don’t need to be a superhero, even a superhero with cool steel legs.

I can do almost anything I want. And I’m a better person for it.

Swept up

in my new boots!
Love, love my Fluevogs

people united

At 4:30am on Friday I received an email from Christy bearing sad news, the kind of news that breaks your heart. Anna lost her 12 year old son.

I found Anna from the blog An Inch of Gray through Kate from the Big Piece of Cake. She wrote a guest post and I was hooked, immediately taken in by her humor and down-to-earthness. I liked this Anna and subscribed to her words about her life and family, her love of decorating and spraying furniture with heritage white paint. I laugh at her stories about her family, appreciate her wisdom and relate to her daughter’s independence and her son’s love of Lego and home. My son is obsessed with Lego and a homebody too. She recently posted back-to-school photos of her beautiful kids. They are like so many families, like you and me.

To lose your beloved, a part of yourself, is unimaginable and words are not enough. Yet, this is what we’re offering. It’s what we can do when we want to do so much more and can’t. We’re saying, this isn’t fair. This is tragic and heartbreaking and we are standing with you, praying for you and loving you. We don’t have much but we have this. And we mean it.

After I received Christy’s email I joined in the chorus of people online – and it is a chorus. Of voices pouring out love and prayers, sending comfort and strength. I can’t begin to touch Anna’s loss, to say ‘I know’ or ‘I understand’. But I can, all of us can, love and support her through it.

There is power in people coming together, people united. Let love, comfort and strength stretch, reach and cover Anna and her family.

shine

I’m jumping around in time. I’ve taken you back to the burn unit in this post.

I was handed swatches of fabric in different colors.

“Some people get them in bright colors,” an Occupational Therapist said.

Hot pink and electric blue was not going to make this appealing.

I chose white and black. Basic, boring, like I was going into battle, which I was. I stretched out to be measured and would receive the garments in a few weeks. They were like long underwear, but clingy and elasticized. They looked like workout wear, but really bad workout wear that did nothing for you and no one should ever see you in them. They started at just below my boobs, covered my torso, and stopped at the knee with a zipper along the side, so I could wriggle into them. I was also measured for long sleeves for my arms made up of the same fabric. I had one small graft on the inside soft part of my arm, not enough to warrant pressure garments. But, with all their unmarred skin, my arms had become prime donor sites. Skin was shaved from them often and, eventually, they were as red, purple, and bumpy like the rest of me.

All I could think of was how hot I would be in the summer months straitjacketed like this. Wherever my skin was grafted, I didn’t sweat. I had trouble cooling down once I got hot. There was a fan on at the highest setting in my room for this reason. My face was often red and flushed, overworked. I was assured that the pressure garments were made of breathable fabric. They were, but I would be wearing clothes on top of clothes, and clunky legs made up of material that didn’t breathe at all.

I felt sorry for myself.

I understood they would be instrumental in healing my skin, going from purple and red to lighter shades of purple and red, then blanching to pink and white. I asked if it was possible for the garments to take my scars away entirely. I thought it would give me more incentive to wear them. Maybe I was crazy, but I continued to hope for miracles. No, they couldn’t do that. But, they would fade and flatten the scars. I had to wear them for two years every day and night in order for them to do their job.

One quiet evening after I had gone for a short walk around the unit I was lying on my bed, legs still on, when a nurse poked her head into my room. She wiggled a bottle of nail polish at me and said, “For your toes!” My depression must have permeated the hallways.

I waved her in. She slapped the bottle against her palm a few times and unscrewed the lid. She sat at the edge of my bed, painting my toes the most sparkly silver nail polish I had ever seen. They were gorgeous. I was a princess with a new crown. She was like a proud mama after that, showing off my painted toes to everyone that came through my door. Take pride in your feet, Heidi. Don’t hide your light under a bushel and all that. She reminded me of the old Sunday school song, this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. I’ve long ago moved on to different feet, but these were my favorite, if only for my adorned toes and that someone had cared for them so much.

a post about the possibly of a post (a non post)

This will be short. My shortest post ever just to say I’ll be back with a new proper post soon. It’s the holidays and I use the holidays to neglect as much as I possibly can. This includes writing.

Now, I’m off to Chapters where I must, must get a new 2011 calendar. This will force me into the new year. I hope.

See you soon!

my first book update, sort-of

It’s October. October! The weather here has been glorious until today. In typical Lower Mainland fashion it is raining so hard you’re tempted to build an ark. This will be a quick post and then more of the story to follow. I’m aiming to post once every week and so far, so good.

I think this will be the quarterly letter I’m supposed to send out to update you on the progress of my book. I read that on my site, the part of my site that I had a Gilmore Girls angsty fit over (this is what happens when your husband takes over) and thought crap! I have to do that?! Along with all the other things I have to do? I’ve got to let Scott know I have a life. Really though, thank you to ALL of you that have signed up and handed over your email addresses to me. That means you don’t mind spam from me and I appreciate that.

With the help of my writer friend, Jordan, I created an outline. I have been writing and writing without a very clear idea of where I’m headed. I have a beginning and I know exactly where I want to end it, but it’s all the in between that had no real direction. So, over a glass of wine we talked outlines, memories and writing. Early the next morning I wrote my outline and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

This month is a busy one for me and for my daughter Annie (and for poor Ben who gets no say in the matter). I plastered it on FB and Twitter all proud mama that she’s going to be in the Moscow Ballet’s Nutcracker along with many girls from her dance studio. This means a lot of rehearsals and quality time is in the van over Starbucks iced tea lemonades. When they’re in school, I write. I try to. As much as I can. I don’t answer the phone most mornings, I do not check email and I stay away from the internet. Damn internet. It’s so hard to stay away from with its stupid celebrity news and TV recaps. I’ve already failed miserably this morning with this thing called discipline.

In good news, yesterday I realized that I am a little more than halfway through writing a first draft of my book. It’s only taken me a year, but let’s pretend that it’s only been a few months.

Thus concludes my very first book update.

A few people have told they me they’ve had a little trouble with my new site/blog. You might have to re-subscribe and that should clear it up. Let me know if there are further issues.

swept up

in Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing – a Memoir of the Craft’. My friend Jordan gave it to me and I read it in two days. I’ve read a few books on writing and while they’ve been informative they weren’t the kind of books I just couldn’t put down. That’s my criteria for a good book. I have to be unable to put it down to the detriment of my house and, sometimes, my family. When I’ve picked up one of those books Scott will say, “I’ll see you in a few days.” Stephen King’s book was a great read from beginning to end. I got solid advice, inspiring story, and insight. Jordan told me it was the best book he’d read on writing and he was right. I couldn’t put it down.

stream of un/consciousness

My feet are planted apart, toes out like a ballerina.

“Beautiful arms,” murmurs a woman, a stranger.

Oh, she must be the instructor.

Out of the corner of my eye I see my arm is long and defined, my skin smooth.

She touches my outstretched hand briefly. “Leg up!”

I wobble slightly. I frown in concentration and point my toes, my right leg stretched out behind me, balancing on my left foot. I smile just a little, aiming for nonchalance. But, inside…inside I am elated. Euphoric. I can feel my toes, the muscles in my calves flexing. I am looking down at bare feet. Veins, arches, long skinny toes. It is all me.

This isn’t possible.

But, I don’t care. I push aside logic, turn away from the sadness that looms near. I focus on what is in front of me. I am here. All of me is here.

In dreams, everything is possible.

Hours later, cup of coffee in hand I can’t shake this dream. I tell Scott about it and I’m back in time remembering dreams of running, taking stairs in twos and threes, energetic and invincible. I’d wake up dream fading, loss pinning me to my bed. Grief was at its most powerful in the mornings, only losing some of its grip as I got out of bed and began the day’s routine.

What is it about anything being possible in the dark? Before the night turns gray, as the sun rises, when the world is asleep, I believe.

Time is a reliable healer. After dreaming about a body I no longer have I didn’t wake up to a sucker punch in the gut. I didn’t lift the blankets and mourn over what wasn’t there. Now a dream like this is something to ponder. It’s a lesson hidden, awaiting my discovery.

My legs are returning to me in dreams, in life. Clinging to them are my beliefs. Prodigal son-like,  bruised and weakened, they are coming home. My belief in what’s possible; my belief that the world is big enough to hold many dreams; my belief that failure isn’t the worst thing to ever happen to you, but a place to begin from, are alive. I may be shaky and trying to find my footing, but I can believe. In me.