Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The fear of falling.

It was a scary couple of weeks after Queen Teen's fall. Her hand remained swollen and bruised, and even though the first set of x-rays showed no fractures, we waited anxiously for the second set to confirm. Sometimes it can take several day or weeks for a fracture to become apparent in an x-ray. Queen Teen wore a big black wrist brace and couldn't use her walker. Instead, Rick or I helped her walk.

But the worst thing was the depression. She became more sullen and moody every day. School was out for Thanksgiving break (a whole frickin week!) so there was nothing to distract her. She was mighty sick of movies after day three, and the distraction of Thanksgiving day only helped a little. By day five she was lying on her bed weeping because she couldn't find the Evil Step-Mother figurine that goes with the Cinderella. Plus, it was raining, which always puts her in a bad mood. I felt so bad for her and tried everything to keep her distracted and entertained, but when you can't even look at a book because your hand hurts too much, there isn't anything that will cheer you up. Happily, the second set of x-rays confirmed no fractures.

We all survived Thanksgiving break (mostly) and she went back to her doctor the first day of school. The doctor pushed and pulled on her wrist and hand to double check for hidden fractures or cracks, but other than a sore thumb and a couple of small bruises, Queen Teen seemed fine. She returned to school with a big grin on her face and we announced to her teachers and classmates that she was fine. She decided to keep wearing the brace though because using her walker hurt her hand without it.

Queen Teen has fallen this hard before. Three years ago she fell in the bathroom, hit her face on the sink, and knocked out a front tooth. Usually she falls about once a day, landing on her butt. Her pale skin is typically mottled with bruises, especially on her legs and feet. We've all become somewhat immune to the fear when she falls. Queen Teen curses her ataxia and gets back up on her own. Sometimes she needs help, like the day she fell into her closet and couldn't find a handhold to pull herself out. When I hear her fall in the next room, I listen closely to see if she's okay, but continue with what I'm doing. If we all didn't adapt to the worry of falling, all three of us would be drinking Vodka before 9:00 am.

But this fall felt different, because this fall scared her. Yes, she was seriously injured, which will rattle anyone, but in the days following the accident, she seemed scared to move. Not just because it hurt her wrist, but because she seemed afraid she might fall again. And I was nervous. The terror I felt when we thought she may have broken her wrist was oppressive. I still can't shake off the fear, the thought that she didn't break anything... this time. What about next time? What if she breaks her leg? She and I clung to each other a lot more than usual, and not just because of the injury or the fact that she needed more help. Our confidence in her ability to always get back up when she fell was shattered.

Queen Teen recovered more quickly than I did. One morning I heard her try to walk to the bathroom on her own, heard her shout "Whoa!" as she began to fall. I jumped out of bed and ran to her side, scolding her to wait for me, to be careful, to not fall down. She let me help, and for a few days I heard her say to herself, "You have to wait for help. You can't do it by yourself."

Shit... have I just made it worse by telling her she can't?

Luckily, Queen Teen isn't a girl who sits and waits for long. She started moving around her room on her own again by holding on to the furniture, and once the second x-rays showed no fractures, I let her. I had to force myself to go back into the other room and let her walk alone. She had to prove to herself she could do it, that she was safe, that she was strong. I had to clamp down on my fear that she would fall again. I had to have faith in her ability to keep getting up.

Today when I took her to school, several of her classmates came out to the car to greet her. They wanted to help. So I brought the walker to her as she got out of the car and allowed two of her girlfriends to guide her into the class. Watching them closely, my heart pounded and I had to force myself not to hover. Queen Teen walked into the class and she was quickly surrounded by a large group of friends who said hi, patted her on the back, touched her hand, asked her if it still hurt, was she okay, could they help. Her aid then entered, looking a little frazzled that she hadn't been there to help Queen Teen inside. This was where QT feel, so the staff and teachers are very nervous about having her walk into the class on her own. I understand, but I have to let her do it. And with that many students surrounding her, supporting her, making her feel safe, I know they won't let her fall.

Queen Teen knows that too. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A great big, epic gravity check.

Tuesday morning at 7:45 the phone rang. "Hi, this is Queen Teen's teacher. I wanted to let you know that she fell. She seems okay, just embarrassed. We didn't see it happen so I'm not sure how she fell, but the other students told us and when we got to her she was sitting on the floor. It looks like the brakes on her walker stopped working. Can you fix them?"

"She's okay?" I asked.

Her teacher said she looked fine, just shaken up, so I told her I would be there with tools to fix the walker after my hair appointment.

But when I got to school an hour later, Queen Teen was definitely NOT okay. She was sitting at her desk with an ice pack on her right hand and the school nurse by her side. QT's hand was swollen and black and blue. Did she break it? I felt like the worst mom on the planet because I'd chosen to get my hair done rather then rush to my daughter's aid. But they told me she was okay!

I took her to the ER where we sat for three hours, got some x-rays, and were told it was a bad sprain. They wrapped it up and told me to take her to her primary doctor the following day. Really, a bad sprain? Should it be so swollen if it's just a bad sprain?

Her primary doctor wasn't so sure. "Queen Teen may have broken a tiny bone in her wrist. It's hard to tell right now, but this area is very tender." She explained that there's a small bone in the wrist that is prone to breaking when people fall on their hand, which is probably what Queen Teen did. It can be hard to see at first in an x-ray unless you're really looking for it. She told us to get another x-ray next week and come back to see her after Thanksgiving. Then she put a wrist splint on Queen Teen's hand and told her to take it easy.

Take it easy? Easier said than done. This morning at 5 AM I was woken by my daughter yelling, "WHOA!" Leaping out of bed I dashed to her room and found her trying to walk across her room without her walker, in the dark, with only one hand to catch herself. She can't use her walker because she can't put any weight on her wrist, so Queen Teen figures she'll just walk on her own anyway.

Isn't this the same girl who hurt her hand and wrist because she was trying to get her backpack off her wheelchair on her own, but when it got stuck she jerked it and then lost her balance (she finally admitted that was how she fell)? Isn't she the same girl who spent THREE HOURS in the ER yesterday?

Yes, this is the same girl. My stubborn, tenacious, independent daughter who seems to think the laws of gravity do not apply to her.

This is why I have gray hair, bags under my eyes, permanent knots in my shoulders and pain in my stomach.

Maybe it was all those times she fell learning to walk and we'd just call it a "gravity check," which made her laugh and get back up again. When she was three she weighed 25 pounds and the ground was only three feet away from her head. At sixteen she weighs 95 pounds and the ground is five feet from her head. Gravity hurts a lot more now.

Thank goodness for "Sponge Bob" and Starbucks Vanilla Cream Frappuccinos; we might survive the next few days.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What is Veteran's Day?

Queen Teen came home from school yesterday frustrated. "They were trying to tell me why there's no school tomorrow, but I don't understand." It's Veteran's Day, but Queen Teen has no idea what a veteran is.

I showed her pictures of soldiers and told her they are people who work very hard for us. That's why we all say thank you to them on Veteran's Day. She studied the pictures and asked a few questions, but still looked confused. Then she asked what one of them was carrying.

"That's a gun," I said.

She stared at me, unable to hear me. So I pantomimed the universal finger sign for gun that every four year old knows. She shook her head.

"I just don't get it." 

My daughter has no idea what a soldier is, or a gun. She doesn't know what war is, and doesn't understand killing. And I decided I'm okay with that. 

But that doesn't mean I don't think about our soldiers. I have a great respect for our soldiers and I worry about them fighting in Afghanistan. In fact, it drives me crazy that people so easily forget that we're at war. We go about our daily lives untouched by the hardships they face every day, our biggest complaint being the price of gas. And it enrages me how our elected officials fight over raising taxes or reducing the deficit. Really? You don't understand why there's a huge deficit? It really has nothing to do with the fact we've been fighting two wars for the last ten years? And I know no one wants to think about this, but maybe if our taxes were higher and we were forced to live with the specter of war every day, we'd all demand that the troops come home now. What better way to bring down the deficit then to bring home our soldiers safe and alive?

This Veterans Day, let's remember the men and women who are fighting and dying right now. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

4th anniversary of the first book I published, or, how I became an orientation and mobility teacher.

This past weekend marks the four year anniversary of when I published the first book from my press, Medusa's MuseTraveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, by Laura Fogg, is a memoir of Laura's 30 + years teaching children with vision impairments, and ultimately what those children taught her about life, love, loss, and joy. Laura has been my daughter's teacher since Queen Teen was 3, and when I discovered Laura was also a talented writer, I offered to publish her book. After a year-and a half of edits, revisions, and debates over cover design and font choices, her book was launched at the California Association of Orientation and Mobility Specialists Conference. The other teachers were excited and impressed, and we sold almost 100 copies in two days. Laura was ecstatic and I was thrilled. I was also intrigued by the other O and M teachers I met at the conference and the work they so obviously loved doing. A few days after the launch of Traveling Blind, I decided to go to Graduate School and become an O and M teacher too.

Four years later, I attended the Orientation and Mobility Conference again, this time as a credentialed O and M Specialist with a Master's Degree and a job working side-by-side with Laura. I'm still a publisher, but I'm also a teacher, working with visually impaired students throughout all of Mendocino County. It was a long, exhausting crawl to get my degree, as many of you saw if you've been reading my blog for the past three years, but so worth it. I love teaching, I love Orientation and Mobility, and I love my students.

The conference is held every other year in Monterey at a hotel right on the beach. About half of my classmates from SF State were there, as were my teachers. My main focus as a teacher was learning about GPS systems for the visually impaired because I have a student who may benefit from using such a device (see, I already sound like a teacher. "may benefit from using such a device." lol). On Saturday was a GPS treasure hunt in downtown Monterey where teams of six competed against each other to find all the clues and get to the last location before anyone else. Our leader was a visually impaired man who just so happens to be the President and CEO of Sendero Group, the manufacturer of the GPS we were using. Is that why we smoked the other teams, arriving 20 minutes before anyone else at the bar, where we waited near a warm fire and drank cold margaritas? But the best moments for me were when I got to spend time with my classmates, catching up on our lives and our teaching jobs while sharing wine and champagne. I've missed everyone so much! It's like we're part of a submarine crew, a small group of highly trained people sharing very specific experiences that hardly anyone else can really understand.

There was a raffle to raise money for the scholarship fund, so I donated four copies of Traveling Blind. As I was sitting in the audience listening to a speaker talk about the pros and cons of using GPS on a smart phone, it suddenly hit me how much my life has changed since the first time I was at this conference. Last time I was a publisher sitting behind a table covered in copies of Laura's book. Now I'm a teacher, just like Laura.

I'll always be a book publisher; no way will I give that up. But it's very hard to make a living publishing books, so I teach to support my book habit. Thank goodness I love my "real" job. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Video from Heavy Load

"They call me retard.... they call me mental.... they call me special.... THAT's NOT MY NAME"

Paul Richard of Heavy Load is a contributor to the punk anthology I edited and published, Punk Rock Saved My Ass. This song off his band's new album, Wham, shows perfectly how they feel about being called "special," or anything else that labels them. You've got to see this, and pass it on

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No more trick-or-treating

Queen Teen has decided she's a little too old for trick-or-treating. After panicking that her princess dress was too small, and sending her dad on a frantic hunt to find a new dress, Queen Teen announced that she didn't want to dress up after all.

Teenagers, the inspiration for Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Instead, she and I wore our Minnie Mouse ears and walked downtown to see all the little ones in their cute costumes go trick-or-treating at local businesses. Spider Man seemed to be particularly popular with the 5 to 9 boys, and Princesses were a favorite for the 50th year in a row for the young girls. Queen Teen loved the babies dressed up as pumpkins and teddy bears and butterflies. We didn't intentionally hunt for candy with the crowd, but many of the businesses handed us candy anyway, and many commented on our Minnie ears, which made Queen Teen giggle.

Maybe not too old to play dress up?

That night, she helped me hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters, who "oohed" and "aahed" over our yard of decapitated pumpkin heads. It made me realize that Halloween has changed for Queen Teen, but she still enjoys it. Instead of our family just focusing on her and what she wants to be (princess, princess, princess, princess...), we can now focus on decorations and handing out candy. We can be that "cool house" all the kids know about and drag their parents to see. The house with the scary yard and the really good candy.

Oh yeah... this is gonna be fun.