Children, dogs, & perspective


I remember a philosophy class in college where the professor presented the option of living as we are now; with all the realities that encompass life as a human, or trading it all for the simplicity of life as a dog. I mean it is tantalizing to think of being fed and cared for and loved unconditionally. I think one stoner kid in the back raised his hand, willing to make the switch. The professor proclaimed that he found it odd because typically when we have insight into what an evolved brain is capable of, you wouldn’t give it up. In other words, even with all the challenges and strife, it’s hard to trade the good, more complicated emotions, for the life of a dog, who could never truly experience such.

A while ago, I met up with my friend Cindy and we had a conversation during dinner about how ignorance, at a time, truly was bliss. She had her daughter very young and in-looking back in hindsight, she said the only way she got through it was ignorance; not knowing what she didn’t know.

It’s interesting to me that we spend so many years maturing and it’s looked upon as a good thing, an evolutionary thing. And yet by the time we’re more-or-less mature adults (am I mature adult — I dunno) we yearn for the ignorance, the simplicity, that filled our early years that so many waited for us to grow out of.

I was reminded of this just the other morning when Van was with me in the bathroom, shoving a q-tip deep into his ear. I asked him, “are you excited to go to school tomorrow?”, to-which-he-replied, “but first I need to clean my ear”.

Children know nothing more than the moment. And it’s something that they’re lack of brain cells allow for and ours kinda don’t. They’re kinda like dogs. It’s a struggle as an adult to know all we know and still stay present in the moment.

So I pose the question to you: would you trade brain cells for a life of simplicity, a life of living in the moment? Or do you chose the realities of adulthood, which includes the heavy, hard emotions and forethought into what needs to be done in the coming weeks, months, even years… but also includes the ability to watch a kid stick a q-tip in his ear and see the beauty in it?

Thoughts on having a third | Perspective

Souther California Photographer-281 Souther California Photographer-285If you’ve been a long-ish reader of my blog, it’s no news to you that I’d like to have another child. I wrote about it here. It has nothing to do with how I view my ability to handle having three kids because I know better than anyone else that most days consist of varying levels of stress and self-sacrifice and that our home, the place we rest our heads most nights, is wickedly unforgiving. Just ask the dust balls on the stairs. There is no rational rhyme or reason to my madness, just the simple fact that I feel called to mother another child.
Willy looks at me from across the kitchen table perplexed as to why I’m not in a padded room; chaos surrounding us… toys everywhere, dishes piled up, a four-going-on-five-year-old who still requires to be spoon fed from time to time should you want anything to actually make it’s way into his stomach, and a two-going-on-stubborn-year-old that will slap you if he doesn’t get his way. Willy can’t help but question why I would want to add to our current situation when our current situation sometimes feels abusive (parental abuse should be a thing), overwhelming, and trying. We’re like underpaid, unappreciated workers.
I nod my head in agreeance each time because I can’t argue with things I agree with. But the pull to have another remains strong, regardless. And it wasn’t until recently that I was able to hit the nail on the head.
My sister sent me this blog post, which sums it up perfectly.
The author writes, “The first time a kind stranger peeked at my newborn baby and gushed, “Oh honey, treasure every second!” I almost burst into tears. Not because I was so touched, but because I was so tired. We were standing at the entrance to the mall–me, my baby, and my Shamu-sized postpartum belly–all three of us staring at this sweet lady with her abounding supply of freedom. I wanted to say, “I’ll try!  I’ll try to treasure every second, and you try to treasure every second of the eight hours of uninterrupted sleep you’re going to get tonight. And treasure every second you’re going to roam this mall in total freedom, buying clothes that will fit your skinny waist, and shirts that aren’t breastfeeding accessible. And while you’re at it, treasure all the discretionary time you’ll have in the next decade while I watch Dora, and take temperatures, and settle fights, and pretend to be a human jungle gym, and birth more babies, and clean puke off my clothes.”’

I can recall feeling the same way. Being told to treasure every second was my first experience of mom guilt. When I’d here those words, “treasure every second”, I’d feel this impending feeling of doom — I was not only expected to wake every two hours to feed my newborn, but I was also expected to enjoy it. Hell, forget enjoying it, we’re told to treasure it. Can you imagine being dead asleep following a sleep derived night before only to awoken by that ever-so-subtle newborn whine that not-so-slowly grows into an all out adult scream and think to yourself, “lucky me, it’s that time to nurse that baby again“. Those people that insist on such ridiculous notions clearly have had a better nights sleep. They’re clearly speaking from hindsight. They clearly have something all new parents in their delirious, over-worked, under-appreciated state have; they have perspective.
The author of the aforementioned post went on to have three children, all girls, and had to this to say following the birth of the third: “This time, if a kindly stranger tells me to treasure every second, I think I will burst into tears.  Not because of my lost figure or freedom, but because I so ardently understand that the seconds truly are numbered. They are grains of sand slipping through the hourglass, never to be returned. That’s the funny thing about motherhood. You start off with so little on your plate, and it feels like you’re absolutely drowning. And yet the more you add, the more joyful it becomes. Because somewhere in between adding more babies, and more diapers, and more laundry, you also add more perspective. You realize there are worse things than a long night, and challenges really do pass, and tiny toes don’t stay tiny forever. You know cribs turn into beds, and strollers turn into bikes, and the chubby cheeks making fish faces today will be wearing your makeup tomorrow.”
And so when Willy looks at me from across the table I remind him it won’t be like this forever and hell, when it’s not like this, we’ll miss it. Parts of it anyway.

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ashley-121VeniceLast Friday I was in a terrible car accident on the freeway. I was on my way to work when a pickup truck was rear ended and came flying into me faster than a speeding bullet. I can still hear the sound of the crashing metal and the smell of the air bag. It plays over and over in my mind in slow motion, but the reality of it is that it all happened in a second. Life can change in a second. It’s terrifying. All three cars involved were totaled and yet, we all walked away.  Almost immediately, however, I felt pain in my neck. It’s been a year and a half since my surgery but the pain I felt was all too familiar.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had debilitating pain and the accident has served as an unwelcome reminder of all that comes along with it.
I remember spending much of my time in bed in the weeks following my surgery. I felt very sorry for myself. It’s really difficult to rely on others for everything; to give up your independence and the freedom to do what you want when you want and, frankly, how you want. I was plagued by the realization that while this was simply the recovery process for me, many others go through their entire lives with these limitations. I feared I’d forget the perspective that I acquired during those hard times. And, in truth, part of me has. I found that as I slowly recovered, I also slowly forgot. I started to take my health for granted. Maybe that’s not the write word. Rather, I started to feel entitled to good health because that’s what life had always given me.
It’s hard to make sense of tragedies. And my accident is far from a tragedy, I know. But when I look to find meaning embedded in what happened, I think about the perspective that I let slip away and I think about the entitlement I felt. And I think, maybe this accident was meant to give me some sort of reminder; a reminder that life – the good and the bad – is a privilege. When people ask me about how my neck is feeling, I tell them neck pain isn’t a bad problem to have. Because, really, think of the alternatives.
I haven’t been able to do as much as I normally can. Dishes have piled up, clothes have piled up, the floors are dirty, the entryway is cluttered with unmatched shoes strewn about, piles of mail are sitting unopened, and so on and so forth. And I’ve found myself swearing that if it weren’t for my pain, all of these things would be done; that the house would be clean, sparkling even.
I’m familiar with this cycle. You see, I know that when my body recovers, the house will stay dirty. I’ll be left wondering where that positive, energetic energy went that was so looking forward to being healthy so that things could get done. Because, you see, when I can’t do them, it’s what I miss most. When I can’t do them, I realize that being able to do normal, everyday things really is a privilege.
It’s a shift in perspective from bitching about having to make a bed to being grateful for having a bed to make. And nothing has taught me that more than my experiences with debilitating pain. I hope this go-around I can hang on to that perspective just a little bit longer.
Photo by Tish Carlson

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Living Deliberately

I get asked a lot about how my recovery is going and I never know quite what to say. Like most things in life, there are good days and there are bad days but dumbing it down to that cliche doesn’t speak to the actual experience of recovery.
And then I came across “The Spoon Theory”.
The Spoon Theory was written by someone who has Lupus. The girl gives her friend a bouquet of spoons and has her talk her through her typical day. Each daily task comes at the cost of one of the spoons; taking a shower, for example, makes one spoon drop from the bouquet. And one by one, as the friend accounts for each event in her typical day, a spoon disappears.
You see, when you’re healthy the possibilities seem limitless. Never before have I looked at taking a shower as a task as opposed to a privilege.
Recovery has changed that for me.
Living daily life with a disability forces you to live very deliberately. Almost every decision is a calculated one and my reason for choosing one thing over another depends greatly on my pain and / or limitations. When I shower, for example, depends on when I’ve given myself my daily neck treatment (I have an ultrasound machine at home I use to massage heat into the sore tissues in my neck). The gel gets all over my hair, so when getting ready, it’s something I have to take into account. I also have to take into account when I took my pain medication last (the heat from the shower will make me pass out if it’s too close to the time I took my pain medication). And I thought getting out the door with two kids was hard…
For a long time, I had difficulty raising my arms up over my head. Washing my own hair just about used up all the spoons I had. Blow drying my hair was / is nearly out of the question. Today I’ve gained mobility back in my arms but due to my bending restrictions I am still unable to properly blow dry my hair.
And so, caring for myself – and, in turn, feeling good about myself – has been a challenge. It feels like it’s been years since I’ve had the freedom to wear whatever I want. In 09′ I was pregnant, in 10′ I was breastfeeding, then in 11′ pregnant again, then in 12′ breastfeeding again, and then surgery in 13′. I’ve resorted to leggings, slip ons, and an oversized cardigan I can fit over my back brace.
Recovery has made me let go.
Would you believe I bought Crest White Stripes for the sole purpose of feeling like I’m doing something to help my appearance?  
I digress. Back to living deliberately.
I went to run a couple errands by myself the other day. Sounds like normal life, right? It was during one of my I’m-feeling-better waves so I always take advantage and usually do more than I should; I dip into tomorrow’s cluster of spoons, if you will.
When I get into my car, I watch how far I open my door. If I swing it all the way open, once I’m inside sitting in my seat, I’ll be unable to lean over and close it. I keep the door just barely cracked and squeeze in so I can close it on the third rock: rock it back and forth once, twice, and with a third rock, I get my door closed.
I drive an SUV because I’m a mom in Southern California. The gear shift is up by the wheel and I dread putting it in reverse. As soon as I do so, my scapula on my right side feels funny and I immediately start wondering if driving is something I should be doing. I remind myself of the PDF my surgeon gave me and I try to picture the word “driving” with the words “one month post op” next to it. I’m three months post-op and I remind myself it’s okay.
I drive and listen to music. Nirvana comes on and I turn it up loud. It feels like forever since I’ve been alone. Between having family by my side or, more recently, the nanny we had to hire to come in to help, the days when I could simply get away and be with my own thoughts feel like long ago.
I want to go shopping for shoes. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to try any clothes on (just getting dressed once a day costs me a spoon) and a pair of moccasins I had prior to surgery somehow mysteriously disappeared. I pull into the shopping center to discover the store has moved.
I put the car back in reverse and I get that weird feeling in my right scapula again. I go through the same imagery as I did before, “Driving – – – one month”. I feel the weight of the chip on my shoulder as I drive out of the parking lot having stopped but not having crossed a single errand off my list.
I head to CVS to return some medicine we had bought for Hooper only to get home and find that the bottle had already been opened. I crack the door open and do my typical slide down off the seat and I close the door using my whole body. Because I’m not a fan of potentially poisoning my son or of spending twelve bucks on something we never used, I wait in line to return it. They give me cash back and I immediately remember I had wanted to pick up some hair gel and bobby pins too. I make my way to the hair aisle and as I near the gels I can feel the muscles in my neck starting to tighten. I glance back at the line of three people behind the only open register and I leave without hair gel or bobby pins for fear my time is limited. It was going to cost me an extra spoon.
I get back in my beast of a car and rock the door three times before closing it. I put the car in reverse and confirm that, indeed, my neck is sore.
I make it to the shoe store I had originally intended to go to. I slide down off my seat and close the door, again, with my whole body.
I walk into the store with my purse hanging from my shoulder. It’s the first time in three months I’ve dared to let it actually hang from my shoulder as opposed to caring it under my arm like a clutch. With the soreness creeping in, I immediately start cursing myself for the extra little things in there that I don’t need: the raisins that are starting to feel like rocks, the two pairs of sunglasses that are starting to feel like their actually sitting on someone’s face… someone’s face whose head is in my bag.
I scan a couple aisles of shoes. I try on some slip ons. I try to pretend that I’m normal as I turn left and then right in front of the mirror, carefully checking myself out like I used to. I see another pair I like and I curse my size for being the box on the very bottom, other sizes that are as useful as peanut butter to a kid with a peanut allergy stacked high on top of it. I carefully maneuver it out and try to ignore my urge to reach up and stop the box on top from falling. I’ve learned it’s not worth the pain later and better to let the damn box fall. This has bled into watching my kids jump on the sofa. I sit as far away as I can with my fingers crossed because I know they’ll shoulder the tumble better than if I were to sit there and try to break their fall.
I decide it’s time to go despite the fact I have not made it down all the aisles I’ve wanted nor have I tried on all I was interested in. I decide the shoes and boots that require any lacing up or buckling can be saved for another day, another spoon. I walk toward the exit where I see an older woman and her even older mother coming toward the entrance. We’re going to meet at the door at approximately the same time and I’m hoping they’ll get the door for me. Those pesky big, heavy doors are my nemesis. I can see by the look on their faces, however, that I am expected to be the doorman; I am young and deceivingly hearty. And so I get the door for them, awkwardly pushing it open with my whole body as my feet kinda shuffle under me. I try my best to hold it for the duration it takes for her to get her walker through the door. I watch as the door just misses clipping her ankle. I don’t feel bad, rather, I feel pissed. I just used another spoon and I didn’t even get anything out of it for myself. Pain can you make selfish.
Rock one, rock two, rock three, and I shut the door and start the car. I have one stop left.
I walk into the bank and am pleased to see there is no line. It feels like karma is back in my corner. I make my way to the teller, tell him what I want to do, and he asks for my ID. I flip open my wallet and when it’s not where it usually is I remember that Willy had taken it when the paramedics came to take me to the hospital the week prior.
He tells me he’s going on his break and I sit down in the chair and wait for Willy to bring me my ID. I’m fighting feelings of anger toward Willy for having not put my license back in my wallet and as I feel those negative emotions come over me as I sit and wait and wait, it dawns on me that that’s not me, it’s my pain, and it’s trying to take me down, trying to take me over. I would never blame my husband – my best friend – for having my license after saving me from falling after I completely lost consciousness and getting me to the hospital. My pain, on the other hand, has no friends. No loved ones. No family. My pain could give a shit about what’s fair or right or humane. My pain is an asshole; it preys on my patience, it preys on my otherwise fun-loving spirit.
Willy calls me to tell me he’s in the parking lot and I’m immediately pissed off that he expects me to get off my ass and meet him there to get my license. He says something sweet and cute but I truthfully don’t even hear him. My pain has made it so his words fall on deaf ears, his smile on blind eyes. I start to say something snappy but I catch myself and hobble back toward the bank, back through the heavy double doors. There is a short line now and I wait.
Recovery has changed me. I hope I will never be the same. These days, I live deliberately and I hope that when life does return to normal that I can remember these burdens, these pains. Normal, healthy people don’t know how good they have it.
Everyday we all make choices. For the healthy, these choices are made more unconsciously but for the disabled, all decisions are conscious decisions. When you have pain or limitations, you’re constantly having to assess the gas in your tank. If you run on fumes you have to deal with the fear your car may break down the next day, or worse yet, the reality your car won’t start the next time you get in it.
I find myself feeling constantly torn between having feelings of gratitude for having a nanny to help with the boys, the laundry, and the dishes and feelings of frustration that I cannot care for my own home independently; that I have to rely on someone else, always. It doesn’t feel so wonderful when it’s not a choice. Offer me a nanny when I’m fully capable but feeling lazy and you’ll probably see me beaming from ear to ear. But take away my ability to do things on my own and suddenly all I want is the freedom associated with independence.
Like many other with disabilities, pain, and / or limitations, I hate having to stay behind. I’ve missed birthday parties, days at the beach, gatherings at wine bars, day trips. Like The Spoon Theory states, having an illness or disability is – in itself – a lifestyle. It’s hard when you are your own dead weight.
I know I am not alone. The author of the spoon theory has Lupus. I’m recovering from major spinal surgery. But even motherhood is a disability in some sense, isn’t it? I mean when you have small children, you too must slow down, strategize, skip aisles of shoes and leave without trying on all the shoes you wanted to. For me, this was one of the biggest adjustments of becoming a mother; the realization that your life is no longer yours. So I guess we’re all in it together to some extent. We all have our handicaps.
When the pain subsides, I return to me and I see things for what they are. I’ve always prided myself for my ability to keep things in perspective; all the more reason I hate my pain for infiltrating my good attitude, for cracking my code so damn easily.
Health is such a gift. I hope I never lose sight of that.
I snapped these pics the other day standing in the same position; looking left, ahead, right, and down. I think it’s fitting to pair with this post because really, any situation can be seen many different ways. Recovery is not only a curse, there have been many blessings too.

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I had a conversation with a friend the other day about the “golden hour”. You know, that seemingly blink of an eye when the light is as beautiful as it ever has been just before the great big sun gives way to the dark of the night?
And I was saying how badly I wished it lasted longer. It goes so fast that instead of focusing on it’s beauty, it makes me anxious because I know how fleeting it is.
But perspective is everything, isn’t it? After bitching and moaning I ended the conversation with the acknowledgement that it happens every day. Every day the sun rises and the sun sets. And that, my friends, is pretty spectacular.
And with that I felt greedy for wanting it to last longer.
Recovery is the same way. Every day, several of us live seemingly normal lives and because much of what we’re able to do is similar from one day to another, we forget how great it is to have the energy to get through a day or – dare I say – make it through a day without pain or discomfort.
I’ve spent many days of my recovery feeling sorry for myself yet, as a nurse, I care for people all the time that have chronic conditions; people who live with limitations and pain in their “normal” every day life.
A friend from work came over last night to pick up some bags filled with clothing and household things I put together for her to send to her family in the Phillippines. The typhoon has left her family homeless, without any clothes or belongings. Families have been torn apart, children have

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lost their parents and vice versa.

On this Thanksgiving, I have a heavy heart and a clear perspective. I’m thankful for the setting and rising sun, the love and support I’ve received during my recovery, and both my family and the home that contains our love.

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everyone a beautiful Thanksgiving tomorrow.

*Top photo was an outtake from Janet and I’s trip to Salvation Mountain and bottom photo was from this post.

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