Monday, March 27, 2017

This weekend was Mom Prom, this is an event that I have been looking forward to for years. I have enjoyed the whole prom process through the years with my girls. From picking out the perfect dress, shoes, accessories, sticky boobs, eyelashes, tanning, updo’s….everything! Many people have said that prom was overrated, but for someone who never had the chance to go to prom, I have always felt gypped. I helped my friends get ready for prom when I was 17, but I couldn’t find that perfect maternity prom dress….or date that was willing to take a pregnant girl, so I opted out. This was finally my chance, and I was super excited.

Clearly, I am aware that this time around would not be the same as an actual high school prom but this was the closest I was going to get. I had plans to lose at least 40 lbs. this year so I wasn’t limited to a black dress to try and help hide all my flaws, mainly my apple shaped body. I knew I had to get serious on Jan 1st.   By Jan 3rd, I was like…cake, oh how I love cake.

I was able to lose about 10 lbs but that wasn’t enough to be back in a size 2….whatever, I’m not going to be the first fat mom at mom prom and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

I went to NY in March for Lauren to run a 5K and decided that was a great time to shop for my dress. Instead of a size 2 hot pink dress that I had envisioned, I decided to put a number 1 in front of the 2 and go for a size 12 black dress with the hopes I would look smaller. I have a really nice formal  gown that I wore to the Governors inaugural ball in January but I didn’t want to be the mom who looked like she thought this was a real prom….even though I secretly did. I had to play it cool!

I normally tan for a few weeks when I have a special event coming up, everyone knows that fat looks so much better when it has some color. Because I have spent way too much time baking this pasty Irish skin, I usually cover my face with a towel when I tan and use extra bronzer. I stopped at the tanning place last Monday to see about buying a tanning package. The girl at the counter tried to sell me every product known to man and told me the cost of 5 tans would be $90 and if I didn’t buy her tanning lotion that apparently possessed super powers, I wouldn’t achieve my desired result. I decided to leave while I still had my dignity and $90, there was no guarantee that 5 tans would give my pasty legs enough color. I went down the road to another tanning place and asked about spray tans.

She gave me all the information that they had. I could get a custom airbrush tan or try the mystic tan booth. I decided that it would be unfair to this young girl to have her see me half naked to get a custom spray. She was young and impressionable, I felt that if she was considering having 7 kids in 14 years that seeing my rocking hard body would just paint an unrealistic picture for her. Not everyone can be this smokin’ hot.  She gave me a print out of tips for spray tanning to take home. My girls have had several spray tans and they always look good so I figured this was the way to go, again I wanted to get some color but not look like I was trying too hard.

I read the leaflet and did my homework, I washed my face, exfoliated my skin, avoided lotion, took of my deodorant, I was ready to go. 

When I arrived, she asked If I wanted to buy some lotion that will help extend my tan, (I guess everyone has magic lotion) I opted out of the lotion but I did pay $2.50 for sticky feet as they are supposed to help keep you from having orange feet. I didn’t want orange feet. As I was sitting there I was starting to panic a bit, was I doing the right thing, should I have bought the magic potion at the other place and done the 5 tans, what if I turn out orange, I’m already feeling short and fat, will I look like an oompa loompa?

Once it was my turn, she brought me back and quickly went over the instructions, she recommended that I tan naked. As she was explaining everything I was thinking, naked? Really? I must have stopped listening but didn’t realize until she left. I took of my clothes and was like, “which lotion am I supposed to put on my hands? The stuff in the pump on the counter, or on the wall? What are these wet wipes for?” Once in the booth I was told to wave my hand across the sensor and the spray will begin. What she didn’t tell me was that the sensor was actually a Jedi mind trick that erases your whole memory. I couldn’t remember what she said about my arms, where do I put them? At my sides, in the air, half way in front of me, I knew that I was supposed to hold my hands with my fingers apart but my arms….Oh God, why didn’t I pay attention. I had 15 seconds to make a decision so I put my hands straight in the air like I was praying to Jesus….Okay maybe I was praying to Jesus, “Dear Jesus please help me not look orange at mom prom”. The logic behind my warped thinking was that I wouldn’t have white armpits, my dress was sleeveless. Half way through the first spray Jesus told me I should move my arms. When the machine said to pivot, and place my feet on 2 and 4, I decided to hold my arms straight out in front of me. Then Jesus said, “you are still doing it wrong”. The next pivot would have had me facing the back wall…that couldn’t be right, could it? Then Jesus said, “how stupid are you”?? “Do you not want a tan on the back of your body”? The final spray I turned around and faced the back,I still wasn’t sure where to put my arms. Next came the drying phase, I remember the girl telling me something about making sure I left before the cleaning phase, but how long did she say I had? Why am I such a bad listener? I quickly exited the booth wearing nothing but my birthday suit and some sticky feet.

I Couldn’t wait to get dressed and get the hell out of there, I felt like Ross from friends.

What the girl at the front desk failed to tell me when she sold me the sticky feet was that they are actually just mouse traps shaped like feet. I was stuck, like literally stuck to my sticky feet.  I wanted to cry, it hurt like the fires of hell pulling off my sticky feet. I think, no, actually, I know I would have preferred orange feet.

I got dressed and hurried the hell out of there. When I got home I texted my daughter’s Erin and Shannon (who often spray tan) to ask about how I was supposed to hold my arms and how bad would my tan be if I did the front 3 times instead of 2?  They thought I was hilarious and couldn’t understand how I could screw up so bad. I knew that my color wouldn’t come out for a few hours so I decided to go to bed and hope for the best.

I woke up early because I keep my grandson on Fridays, who incidentally has gorgeous golden brown skin thanks to his Italian father. I looked in the mirror and was pleasantly surprised that my tan wasn’t as dreadful as I thought it might be. I breathed a very heavy sight of relief. I went to grab my toothbrush and as was putting the toothpaste on, I screamed. OMG I have one brown hand….”how did this happen?”  My best guess is that when I was praying to Jesus, my right hand must have been in line with the mystic tan sensor. It was bad, like really bad. Luckily prom wasn’t until Saturday, I had a little time to try and figure it out.

I spent all day Friday drenching my hand in chemicals, lime away, comet, soft scrub with bleach, kaboom, acetone, salt scrub, baking soda and lemon, magic eraser, sugar and lemon, powdered hair bleach with 40 volume peroxide, and standing with my hand in the sink under a constant flow of near boiling water…. Eventually the color began to fade, my hand feels like a dry foot but it is currently a lighter shade of brown.

Mom prom was a blast, last year I set a goal to acquire a taste for wine. Amazingly I discovered that I like my family so much more when I am a little drunk. Why did it take me 46 years to figure this out? Why didn’t anyone tell me?  We ordered super cute wine glasses to commemorate the evening and I drank just enough to help me forget that I had one white hand and one slightly darker hand that burned a bit and felt like a foot. My date was super cute but he looked a little pasty!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hell Yeah!

     There are moments in life that literally take your breath away. For me one of those moments was when I received that awful phone call from a Los Angeles detective informing me of Lauren's accident. I have relived the memories of that day time and time again. Not many people can pinpoint the exact second in their lives where literally everything changed, unfortunately for me...I can! Not just the obvious change but an event that was so big that the ripple effects have changed not only my  immediate family but extended family, friends and even strangers.
     Many of my relationships are now deeper and there is an emotional bond (that was already there) so much stronger now that I know there is absolutely nothing that could ever tear it apart. Sadly, other relationships have ended,  tragedy tends to reveal cracks in relationships that are ignored for so long that you look back and realize that for whatever reason, some people aren't who you thought they were...including yourself.

     It has been 1,271 days since that awful day. Thankfully, of those days, most have been good.  Probably because the only way to go was up! Clearly my life isn't exactly what I had envisioned for myself but is anyone's?? I do see things differently now and I have learned to look for the positive even when I don't feel like being positive. Attitude is everything. I would be lying if I said that I am thankful for this tragedy because I have learned so much about selflessness, love, giving and life in general. It is true that Lauren's accident has taught me all of those things but as a mother I hate everything about my current situation. It will never be easy watching my child struggle.
     My faith is strong but I still question why God chose my family.  I am very proud that Lauren is so inspirational to so many. Yet still I wish it was someone else's kid instead of mine.

     Back on April 19th, 2013 I was driving down highway 40 when I received that fateful phone call. I remember frantically looking for an exit so I could pull over and write down the information the detective gave me. I eventually got off at Big Bend and pulled into a random parking lot. I remember it seemed like it took me forever to find a safe place to pull over that day. My heart was pounding and my head was spinning.
     Dave was my next call, he didn't answer. I said a quick prayer and dialed the hospital social worker. Even before she picked up, I knew. Call it mothers intuition but I knew it was bad. I had asked the detective earlier if Lauren had head trauma and he said No. My first question to the social worker when she said hello was, "Does she have head trauma?" Her response was; "yes, she has severe head trauma." How did I know? I can't answer that, but somehow I just did. My next question was; "Is she going to die?" Her response; " If you are asking if you need to get here quickly, the answer is yes." That first phone call from the detective brought me to the edge of a cliff and that next call to the social worker threw me over.
     Many more highs and lows followed in the days/weeks/months/years ahead but none were more life changing than those two calls on that cold and gloomy day in April of 2013.

     This past Sunday I was driving down that old familiar stretch of highway 40 on my way to Sam's baby shower. There isn't a time that I pass that area without that awful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Truth be told I avoid that stretch of highway if at all possible. Sunday I didn't have a choice, Sam's shower was coincidentally off of Big Bend. I had a few extra minutes to kill so I tried to locate the random parking lot I was in when I made the call to the hospital social worker 1,269 days earlier. I tried to find it one other time about a year ago but couldn't remember where it was. Sunday was different, I pulled right into the exact spot. It was the fence, I remember staring at that stupid fence. I hated that fence! It was there that I learned that my daughter was known as 'Trauma Foxtrot 5395.'
 I said a quick prayer and gave thanks for the fact that even though my life is still hard, harder than I ever thought possible, it is also good, better than I ever thought possible. I gave myself a mental "hell yeah." I pulled out of that parking lot feeling like a bad ass who could conquer the world....and maybe I will!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Am I Doing It Right?

I have read the medical reports time and time again from the early days after Lauren's accident trying to make some sort of sense over what my daughter has endured over the last several years. The medical reports are crystal clear, she suffered a closed head injury that was complicated by brain  herniation, frontal lobe contusions, and diffuse SAH resulting in tetraparesis. Or is it? What does all of that mean? I had to google tetraparesis. Tetraparesis or tetraplegia is a neurological condition in which all four limbs are weak (paresis) or paralyzed (plegia). Translation, my kid was so injured that she was unable to move a muscle. Nurses and doctors had to pinch her on the fatty part of her arm, next to her armpit, sometimes just below her knee on the bend of her leg every few hours just to see if she responded. Brain herniation was another term I googled; Brain herniation is a potentially deadly side effect of very high pressure within the skull that occurs when a part of the brain is squeezed across structures within the skull.
            Once I knew she would live, I began my quest for all the information I could find on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) success stories. Who knew they actually have a book entitled Chicken Soup For The TBI Soul? That book actually made me the most annoyed of all the other TBI books and articles I have read. Many of the stories were written by the survivors themselves. I guess I should have been inspired but instead I found myself rating the extent of their injuries. I flipped through that book reading story after story and with each one I thought, “really, you don’t have a severe TBI, you were back at work 3 months later enjoying life again with a hard time remembering where you left your keys. Logically I know that isn’t fair to those who have lost so much and shared their stories. I was on a plane coming back from being with Lauren (when she was an inpatient in Omaha) when my epiphany hit me. The reason there weren’t any stories in the Chicken Soup for the TBI soul book that were similar to her story was because most of the people who had sustained such extreme injuries didn’t make it. Those that do, remain in a semi vegetative state.
            One thing I have learned is that I am constantly learning. Navigating this primary Caretaker TBI ship isn’t easy. Sometimes the pressure can really get to me. Am I doing all the right things? Is she getting the right therapies? Should I ask about other medications? Is she happy? Was I too crabby this morning? Is it okay if I am not always patient with her? Am I making enough time for my husband? Am I too distant with my other kids? Do my other kids know how proud they make me? Will this ever be easy? Is life really supposed to be easy..for anyone? Can God hear me? Why do I love cake and not carrots?
            I have made many friends along this journey and met many fabulous doctors, therapists and nurses. They all seem to be amazed by my daughter and the progress that she has made. Some even scratch their heads in bewilderment at the fact that she has accomplished so much despite how severe her injuries were. We are now at the point of her recovery that she has begun to take an active role in trying to get better. Things are still hard for her and her injury has actually made her a little quirky (like her dad). For instance; when we are going somewhere she will grab my purse and keys and stand by the door for 10 minutes until I am ready to go. If someone is coming to visit or picking her up, she will sit on the dining room chair for 20 minutes waiting for them to show up, if they are late, each minute is agony. On the days that I drop her off at work with her friend Shae, she always calls me 20 minutes before I am scheduled to come and get her. For the record, Dave’s quirks are different than Laurens. He doesn’t grab my purse and keys, when we are leaving the house,  he actually has to be the last one out of the house. Then he has to make himself an ice water and grab some snacks while his family melts in the hot car waiting for him. If only Dave and Lauren could get on the same quirk schedule, I could at least grab his keys from Lauren and start the car.
            This blog post was started because I was bored tonight while googling different therapies and TBI strategies. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve this year in regard to trying different types of therapies and brain injury computer programs. Lauren is normally pretty receptive to all the crazy crap that I come up with. We have a few Aphasia workbooks that we work on each week and often she will bring them to me and ask if we can practice. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for her to function each day. She has recovered enough to realize what has been lost. Her mental sharpness is on point but her understanding of language and her ability to talk fluently is still very poor.
            My prayer for her has always been, will she ever have the ability to fall in love, get married, bring children into the world etc. This summer while on vacation she had a seizure that caused a bit of a setback. For four days she was unable to speak any words that made sense and she couldn’t understand anything that she heard. It was really scary. Life is fragile and how quickly my prayer for her changed from, will she ever get married to a prayer of, will she ever be able to understand me or speak again? Thankfully our prayers were answered and she is back to her old spunky self.
I will continue to second guess every move I make and wonder what I am missing. The puzzle is coming together nicely but there are still so many pieces that are missing. I, like every other mother on the planet have been second guessing myself every day of my life. That will never change, unfortunately neither will my love for cake.   But for now I will celebrate the miracle of my daughter’s recovery and try my very hardest to be thankful for what I have. One of the countless quotes I have pinned on Pinterest  (I alternate between Pinterest quotes and Google TBI searches)  is “Recovery is a process. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes everything you got”  
Our family has changed so much since the date of Lauren’s accident. Sam got married and now she is having a baby…in that order. Dave and I were super excited especially since we ourselves messed up the order. Erin is a nurse and is in the process of looking for a house, not sure why because she has excellent roommates (us). Shannon is in South Africa working with sick kids in the hospital. She texted me tonight to tell me that she went zip lining, she pet a cheetah and was going to go shark cage diving today. Shannon is the kid that brought band aids with her to the movies when she was little just in case something started to hurt (thinking she may have been brainwashed in South Africa). Kelsey is finishing up her summer working as an intern with an awesome company and getting ready to return to college for her Junior year. Ryan just finished a week in DC learning about our government and politics and Maggie just got her permit and is learning how to drive (God help me.)
Despite all the hard things in life, life is still good and I am eternally grateful that Lauren survived a bunch of words that I can’t pronounce, and I’m going to be a grandma! How awesome is that?  God is Good!