Category Archives: misc.

“there is value in standing up and being counted.”

i’ve had the hook from this song stuck in my head while i’ve been percolating this blog post.

the idea of “coming out” has been something i’ve been thinking about a lot these last few months.

at the forum on acquired disability i attended as a panelist last month, there was some talk about being open about being a person with a disability. i know that i am – it took me a while though before i could claim the title of “disabled” without feeling sad or embarrassed. it’s not my only identity, but it’s one of them and by being open about it, not only have i felt like i was living a true life, but my friends have developed more awareness of the realities of living with a disability as well.

a winter 2009 visit to the school where i used to teach.

“coming out” is probably most associated with the idea of folks in the LGBTQ community revealing their sexuality and gender preferences.  i’ve ended up having some interesting conversations with friends lately around this topic. one was a with the woman who waxes my eyebrows – yep, i’m coming out about having my eyebrows waxed! my eyebrow stylist said that her younger brother came out while he was in his late teens and that she once said to him, “i don’t care that you’re gay.” she realized that that didn’t sound like what she felt, so she clarified by saying that of course she cared that he was gay – it was a piece of his overall identity and because she cared about him, she cared about the pieces of his identity. i’m not sure that there’s a simpler way of saying what she meant.

gandolf!

a few weeks back, anderson cooper issued a statement in which he said “the fact is, I’m gay.” his statement was interesting to me, not because i’m interested in the sexuality of public figures, but because of this line – “i do think there is value in standing up and being counted.” although i’m not gay, that sentence really resonated with me. there’s value in standing up and being counted not only because you’re able to live a truer life, but also because the count is more accurate. i’m guessing that the more public figures come out, the less “different” people feel who are not straight, and the more regular folks feel safe coming out. there’s also the idea of community – i feel like marginalized groups naturally create communities which welcome new members with acceptance and experience. this is certainly true in the disabled community – i could see it so clearly at the forum i went to last month. it has also been a strong force in the “it gets better” campaign – this idea that other people have been through what you’re going through and have had similar experiences.

which all got me to thinking – is there any piece of my identity that i’m “in the closet” about? i’m out as a disabled person, a vegetarian, and now a person who gets her eyebrows waxed. when i was a foster parent, my foster daughter and i didn’t hide how we ended up together. i’m honest that i don’t care about sports. i admit that i love reading a super-trashy vampire series. what else?  in taking an inventory of my life, i did see one thing that i’ve made an effort to hide. so inspired by anderson cooper’s words, here i go.

i’m an atheist.

some background – i grew up in a secular home, but my parents really encouraged me to go to church with my friends, so that i’d have a better understanding of different beliefs. i enjoyed going to church, but the religious teachings never really resonated with me beyond the storytelling level. then again, i think that i might be hard-wired for atheism – i never really got into the whole santa thing, and when i confirmed my suspicions i was outraged that my parents had lied to me, and i made a catalog of all the other things they’d lied about – the tooth fairy! the easter bunny! so i think that i’m a skeptic on a genetic level.

but i also from a young age realized that being an atheist was something to keep quiet about. i really went into the closet about it when i started teaching elementary school in my mid-twenties. my first school was in a strongly religious community, and i worried what people would say if they knew. i worried that people would view everything about me through that lens. so when kids would ask me if i believed in god, i learned to shift the focus away from me – “what about you? do you believe in god?”

my foster daughter was really curious about religion. i was very honest about my beliefs. but she went to the school where i taught. so i explained to her that she could never tell anyone at school that i was an atheist. saying that made me feel morally wrong, but it was just too risky.

just like my parents did, i encouraged my foster daughter to go to church with her friends. i wanted her to be aware of many belief systems, but i also wondered if one of those belief systems might really resonate with her. because i’m not an evangelical atheist. what it all comes down to for me is that i admire people who do the right things in their lives – their motivation truly doesn’t matter to me at all.

i usually listened to npr on my commute, and enjoyed the “this i believe” segments. once a week a person would read an essay about something they believed in, with topics ranging from addiction to war. in 2005, penn jillette (of penn and teller) read his essay, starting with this – “i believe that there is no god.” i remember feeling a jolt when i heard that – did he really just say that out loud? on the radio? i felt like i was a little less alone, a little less different. and since then, whenever i see him on tv, i feel a connection to him – he’s like me. he could say the thing that i wished i could say, but i couldn’t because it would have put my job in danger. truly. i think that some people still have this idea that atheists are predators, and i was an elementary school teacher in a very religious school and town. not a safe place to out yourself. but i’m in a stage of my life where it feels safe to say it.

me with my first class.

so i’m standing up and being counted as an atheist.

and it seems fitting that i’m finishing this post on sunday morning. soon i’ll be heading out for my own sunday morning ritual – i meet my grandma for the $1.99 early bird breakfast special at a dive bar down the road.

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driving lessons

it’s been a while since my last post. i’ve been spending a lot of time walking around corvallis, and there are a few things i think we need to review.

some background: at an impressionable driving age (18), i left southern california for humboldt county in far northern california. humboldt county is a land of redwood trees, fog, rain, and roundabouts. people there tend to be on the far left of several scales, including the polite driving scale. for example, when driving on the highway (that would be 101) and there’s one of those “right lane closed ahead in 1 mile” signs, everyone gets into the left lane as soon as they see the sign. when someone zips down the now-empty right lane and tries to merge in at the very end of the lane, everyone mutters “tourist” – but they still let the car pull in ahead of them. when i’d go back to pasadena for holidays, i’d end up frustrating other drivers because i didn’t turn left the second the light turned green to beat the drivers going the other direction. and i’d get over to the left as soon as i saw the “lane closed ahead” sign. and i’d give the right-of-way to pedestrians. which brings me to my point.

a humboldt self-timer - that's me and hethir and my beloved honda civic.

early in my recovery, the local newspaper dubbed me a “vulnerable pedestrian,” and i’ve certainly been feeling vulnerable the last few months walking around town. i think it’s time that we review some elements of safe and polite driving.

1. look both ways when turning onto a one-way street.

just because the street is one-way doesn’t mean that the sidewalks are too. remember to look the other direction to see if there are any pedestrians coming.

2. stop before the crosswalk.

yep. stop at the crosswalk and then pull forward to check for cars. give pedestrians a chance.

3. please don’t stalk me like i’m your prey.

so you’ve let me cross. no need to inch forward as i make my way across the street. does this get you to where you’re going any sooner? i don’t think so. i know you’re in a hurry, but here’s my suggestion (you can take the woman out of humboldt…) – take a deep breath while you’re waiting. be still. once i’m out from in front of your car, get back on your merry way. it’ll make our moment of overlap more pleasant for both of us.

4. leave early enough so you aren’t stressed by waiting for me to cross.

now i was a hard-core driver for a lot of years, so i empathize with how rushed you feel. but leaving early solves a lot of problems, if you think about it. try to get out your door 5 minutes earlier so that you can err on the side of polite driving. you’ll be in a better mood when you get to wherever you’re going, and so will the other drivers and pedestrians you’ve interacted with along the way. cue the kittens and ponies and rainbows.

5. turn signals aren’t just for other drivers.

i didn’t really understand this until i became a pedestrian. if you don’t use your turn signal, i think you’re going straight. if you aren’t going straight, let me know and everything will go more smoothly.

which brings me to your homework. please work on perfecting the wave-through. now in humboldt county the wave-through can grind an intersection to a halt, everybody waving everybody else through until nobody’s going anywhere. that’s not what i’m asking for. keep the flow of traffic moving. in baseball, a tie goes to the runner, right? so let’s let a tie go to the walker. especially if it’s raining! the other day i was walking through the intersection in the picture above, caught in a torrential downpour (i’m not exaggerating – i lived in humboldt county for a dozen years so i’m no rain wimp). i absolutely had the right-of-way, but a woman stopped her car, looked right at me, and kept right on going. wave ’em through and practice some gratitude for  your warm dry car. take a breath. make up a little story about where that pedestrian is going. i’m sure you can think of something to do for the few seconds it’ll take me to cross.

thanks in advance.

permanent accessories

i was about 18 when i decided that i wanted a tattoo from lafcadio, my favorite shel silverstein book.

as a kid i made my parents read lafcadio to me over and over. eventually i had it memorized and could “read” it myself. the tone and content of the book shaped me as a person. every school year it always the first book i read out loud to my class. i think that my tolerance for the unknown comes from this book. and a good chunk of my sense of humor.

when i turned 36, i realized that 36 is double-18, and that half my life was long enough to wait for a tattoo. i still wanted the same drawing from the book in the same spot on my back – seemed like a safe bet. my grandma florence gave me some money for my birthday. i decided to use it to get my lafcadio tattoo.

i was going to be in berkeley in june. my friend sandy lived in the east bay and he suggested a tattoo spot – sacred rose. i remember that after i got it i changed my facebook status to “i am not the same.”

thanks for the rad tattoo, grandma florence!

when i got back from my trip to the east bay, my mom greeted me with enthusiasm. and with a pile of information about tattoo parlors in corvallis. back when i was 18, she had responded to my desire to get a tattoo with an admission of her own desire to get one. she had a good story about what she wanted to get – her rattlesnake pendant on her ankle. i wanted to get the pocket watch from to kill a mockingbird, and we made plans to get them together on her 59th birthday that coming september.

but plans change. soon after, i was diagnosed with a brain tumor. my mom spent part of her 59th birthday visiting me in a nursing home.

after my medical drama i started to feel a strong need to have a more visible scar. my surgery scars aren’t easy to see, and i wanted something like a badge to mark what i’d been through and survived. i decided that i needed to get a tattoo of a phoenix, because the symbolism was too good to pass up. i certainly felt like a phoenix, and i wanted to represent all of the folks who’d been a part of my surgery and recovery. it turned out that i was going to be in hawaii on the 1-year anniversary of my surgery. i found a tattoo parlor in lahaina and met with rob there. i explained it all to him and he drew up some sketches. i wanted it to be round because i knew that i also wanted to get that pocket watch on my other calf and i wanted them to balance. rob’s sketches were great, so i picked one and walked myself over to his shop (maui atomic tattoo) on august 7, 2010. i wanted it on my left leg because that’s the weak side from my stroke.

that wasn’t the only tattoo i got that day. the other was inspired by my friend robyn. in a line down her calf she’s collecting small tattoos symbolizing important events in her life. i knew that i’d be collecting theme words and i wanted to do something special with them. robyn’s example gave me the idea to collect my theme words down my back. not wanting to miss the opportunity to customize things, i decided that i’d ask someone who was really involved in my theme word to write it for me and i’d get it tattooed on my back going down my spine. i asked emily to write “new” for me. she was a major part of my recovery and really helped me stay positive that first year.

my mom and i made plans to get tattooed together the day before she turned 60. we went to high priestess in corvallis – a friend had much praise to denise there. mom went first, and she agreed with my assessment that it hurts enough so you know you’re getting a tattoo. this time i wondered what it would feel like – i was getting the pocket watch on my right calf, and as a complication from the surgeries i have no temperature sensation on that side. the answer was that i could feel the needle vibrating but i didn’t feel any pain. since it didn’t hurt, denise zipped through my tattoo in record time.

i knew that i wanted to include a quote from to kill a mockingbird as part of my tattoo. when i was in the hospital, my mom read it to me and i had her mark lines that really spoke to me, so that i could choose one for my tattoo. the one that stood out the most was “one does not love breathing.” that part – when scout is afraid that she won’t be allowed to read with her dad anymore because her teacher doesn’t like that she already knows how to read – has always meant a lot to me. but that phrase has new meaning, because now i really do love breathing. i asked my dad to write it out for me – he’s always had really distinctive printing – and he reluctantly agreed. i had denise point the hands at the 7 and the 1 – my parents’ wedding anniversary is july 1st.

i love my pocket watch tattoo. i like it when people stop me and say, “can i read your tattoo?” but after spending some time with it, i decided that there was too much open space in the middle of it. my solution was to get denise to add the mockingbird from the cover of the paperback edition. so on the 2-year anniversary denise did just that.

august 7, 2011 was a busy day for tattoos in my family. my mom got a hibiscus on her other ankle – this had been her plan to represent the two sides of her personality with balanced tattoos.

i also got my word for year two – gratitude. i asked my friend vickie to write it – she’s been in my life for a decade now and has a lot to do with that word. a bonus is that she has lovely cursive.

i’ll crunch some numbers. i’ve been tattooed in 3 states and have 7 words tattooed on me in 3 people’s writing. 2 book tattoos. 2 bird tattoos. 1 gun tattoo.

in 2011 i’ll add another tattoo to my collection – “experience” – and the jury’s still out on who will write it. i don’t know how long i’ll collect theme words on my back. i think i’ll know when i’m finished.

i really love my tattoos. i feel like there are good stories about each of them – where i got them, who i was with, what they represent, their location on my body. now i find myself drawn to people who have tattoos. i want to hear the stories behind them.

resolutions

in my twenties i did the new year’s resolution thing.

some years with more success than others. one year i vowed not to punch my friend zari in the arm anymore – that was my traditional greeting. i haven’t done it once since.

around that time i also resolved to always return my shopping cart to the corral or back into the store. being a californian, i sometimes left it in the parking lot – always tucked carefully away, of course. that was another successful resolution -since then i’ve never once left a cart unreturned.

i’ve never enjoyed cooking. one year i resolved to bake one pie a month. that resolution lasted through january. i made a lemon meringue pie and haven’t made once since. that pie was probably 12 years ago.

in 2012 i'll try making my grandma's pecan pie recipe.

soon before my medical drama, my friend harriet introduced me to the idea of picking a theme word for the year instead of making a resolution. i really like having a word as a theme – it seems to lead more towards mindfulness and away from feeling bad about not making pies. it’s a way of choosing what you want to be aware of in your life. what you want to be tuned into.

i’ve done this for each year post-stroke. my new year starts on august 7th, the anniversary of the beginning of my surgeries, so i won’t be putting a new word into effect tomorrow. but two of my friends might be.

emily’s word for 2011 was “ready” – and boy was she! this year she met jeremy and they got engaged and just this week closed on a house. their wedding is in february. emily’s thinking that “trust” will be her word for 2012.

riding the tram in portland with emily, summer 2011.

my friend t.a./bucko is also thinking about a word theme for 2012: “connect” – partially to challenge himself to look for and take opportunities to connect with folks.

bucko has the duck, i'm in the black dress.

i really like both of those words. i just might share one with them when it’s time for me to choose word 4 this summer.

year one, my word was “new” – it was an excellent choice for a year with a lot of changes. it helped remind me not to think of things as bad or good, but as new. i feel like it kept me on a positive path, observing the things around me for what they were, then moving forward.

year two my word was “gratitude” – and it was another excellent choice. that word reminded me to be appreciative of the things i have, and maybe more importantly it reminded me to verbalize my gratitude. all of which certainly helped make for a good year.

i like words, and when i started this theme-word tradition i spent some time thinking over how i might visually collect these words. i decided that on august 7th, as one word was traded out for the next, i’d get the outgoing word tattooed on my back, centered under my tattoo of lafcadio (from my favorite children’s book). i decided that i’d ask someone who was really involved in how that word played out to write it for me and then i’d get it tattooed in their handwriting. i asked emily to write “new” and my former foster daughter’s grandma vickie wrote “gratitude” for me. i like the idea of having a map on my back of the road i’ve taken since my medical drama.

it’s year 3 and my word is “experience” – i chose that word for a few reasons. the first two years were really focused on recovery, and because of all the work that went into those two years i’m now able to do so much more, to have experiences. also, around the time of my 20 year high school reunion this year i realized that i really value people who have experience. the jury’s still out on who will write “experience” for me – over 8 months left.

someone recently asked me what will happen once my back is filled with words. my answer was that at some point i won’t feel compelled to do it anymore and i’ll stop. now it occurs to me that maybe my theme calendar will be like the chinese zodiac and after whatever year 12 is it’ll be the year of the new again. time will tell.

if you’re making a resolution this year, i wish you success. if you’re picking a theme word, i’d love to hear what it is and how it works for you. i’m always looking for inspiration for year 4.

above all, i hope for a great 2012 for all of us.

make your own fun

someone recently said to me, “i hope you aren’t bored.” i replied that i’m never bored. which got me to thinking about it. and truly i’m never bored. but why?

i think that being an only child is a big factor. now, i know what you think about only children – that their parents cater to their every whim. i think that that’s one kind of only child, and i’m another – my parents mostly dug having me around when i was a kid but they also had their own lives, and they expected me to be able to entertain myself. some childhood highlights are writing and filming super-8 movies, endless scavenger hunts, and the “children’s craft fair” my friend tammy and i put on (with help from our families). i was fortunate to have a cool big backyard and to grow up somewhere where i could ride my bike and walk around by myself. i had lots of benevolent neighbors on my block, and the fabulous two strike park was just down the street.

also, as a former elementary school teacher and foster parent, i know that i should be prepared. i always have a book with me, and paper and a pen so i can write a letter. i often have my quiddler deck and a pad of madlibs in case there are other folks around to join me in my fun.

as an adult, i think that i continue to make steady progress in the making your own fun department. here are a few examples:

psychic greeting card

this game was invented with an ex while we were waiting for a flight at the portland airport. the gift shop had a rack of greeting cards. we separately went into the shop and picked a card from the rack, trying to intuit the card the other one would choose. we wrote notes on the cards and exchanged them.

now i play psychic greeting card with my friend molly. we choose a theme – the most recent one was “embarking on a new adventure” – and then on the same day we each go to a card store (she’s in california and i’m in oregon) and intuitively pick a card.

molly's most recent psychic greeting card is on my fridge.

bingo

i like to make bingo cards. when i’m in a frustrating situation, making a bingo card makes me feel better. i’ve made bingo cards for staff meetings, for a class i took with an especially awful instructor, and for many inservice trainings. yes, it’s passive-aggressive, but it’s a victimless crime. i have a reason to stay interested (i’m rooting for my coworker to say, “we tried that 30 years ago and it didn’t work” because that gives me 4 in a row) and i don’t revert to my default middle schooler mode of smartass. so really, everyone benefits.

you realize of course that you may never make a kriste bingo card.

bingo cards can also be used for good. my 3/4/5 grades class made bingo cards before we went on a hike – we brainstormed things we might see. yep, some kids figured out that they could arrange dirt, grass, a stick, and the sky, all in line with the free space, and more power to ’em. my friend zari and i once created a very complete game of “late show bingo” out of our love for david letterman. i found the cards when i cleaned out my file cabinet this spring. good times.

a lot of good stuff here, but "dave smells the guest" might be my favorite.

dinosaurs

when i was teaching primary multiage, i had a student i’ll call pedro. pedro drew a picture of a dinosaur with someone in its mouth. he elbowed the kid next to him, pointed at the mouth, and said “that’s you.” the school leadership leaped into action. i was asked if we should fear violence from pedro. my response was something like, “yep. if pedro has a dinosaur, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

my coworkers and i decided that pedro had a good plan – drawing pictures of our enemies being eaten by dinosaurs was a pretty good way of relieving stress. melanie uses the technique during grading periods:

jaqui has used it as a frustration-management technique with her middle school students:

jaqui's dinosaur-inspired art.

i once enlisted another student’s help in drawing a picture of melanie.

i think that "wha! mommy" was a nice touch.

drinking games

drinking games are similar to bingo cards. in my twenties i made a drinking game for the tv soap “all my children” – i don’t think that i ever played it. the fun was in coming up with it. i enjoy saying, “we should make a drinking game for this” when confronted with frustrating situations. i’m making a drinking game about a frustrating meal that i regularly eat (the kids call that “vaguebooking”). this year i was at a high school graduation with my friend vickie, and during the reading of the names of the graduates we came up with a drinking game. we decided that you should drink when someone has only two names, or four or more names. laughing about it got us through this year, but i’ll come prepared if any of you invite me to a graduation ceremony next year.

make a shirt about it

i like to make iron-on t-shirts. i’ve been known to make a shirt with a quote about someone i’m frustrated with and wear it under the rest of my clothes when i have to interact with that person. i think that i feel a little like what clark kent feels like knowing that he has his superman duds on under his suit.

this is the best shirt i've ever made. velcro letters so i could change the first part. perfect for intimidating opponents.

names/branding

having a cool name for whatever fun you’re making is important (see psychic greeting card above). my dear friends and childhood neighbors the charnows know this. michael’s hatred of celery has led to an annual party called celeryfest. madalaine had the idea to make an outdoor bowling alley. we came up with a name – the midnight bowlers – and made a portable bowling kit of 10 real pins, a bowling ball, and a long strip of astroturf for the lane. we’d load it up in the car and practice random acts of bowling.

scholars believe that these were the first midnight bowlers.

eventually there were several chapters of the midnight bowlers – “it’s always midnight somewhere.” michael gave madalaine a bowling-themed pinball machine. erin painted captain underpants on a bowling pin for me – it’s currently proudly displayed on my mantel. i sometimes bowl on sunday with friends – we call it the church of the ten pins.

oh. now i see why my grandma called my hair a rat's nest.

card games

when i taught 4th grade, i realized that i had a captive group to play card games with. i like the social skills that can be modeled and practiced during a good card game. and the shared experience of playing a game with a group of people. my two favorites are spoons and i doubt it (you might know it as b.s.).

"do we really have to play i doubt it again, ms. york?"

around that same time, i was developing a serious quiddler habit. quiddler is a card word game – kind of like scrabble but played in rounds and with letters on cards. it’s really, really a great game.

madalaine goes ultimate in quiddler.

now i’m loving apples to apples. if you ever see me with a group of 3 or more people, i’m probably thinking about how i can convince them to play apples to apples with me.

here are a few pros making their own fun:

i guess that the moral is that you can’t always depend on other people to make your fun for you. sometimes you have to make your own. and the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

dancing with the stars

dancing with the stars might seem like a strange topic for me for several reasons, the main ones being that i personally don’t enjoy dancing nor am i currently able to dance (because of my balance and coordination, or lack thereof).

well, it has to do with this:

i remember watching this live and feeling the importance of what muhammed ali was doing. no, smartypants, not lighting the olympic flame although that is also important. ali was brave enough to stand up in front of the world, literally, as himself without hiding. i remember being really moved by that, and watching it now i’m even more moved. and i think that i better understand the bravery. i had to summon it, on a much smaller scale, when i was taking daily walks down my busy street when i was first learning to walk with a cane. feeling exposed and nervous about people seeing me look weak, but doing it anyway.

so, dancing with the stars. i’ve only watched it this season and the last one. it’s not the dancing that i find myself thinking about. this season i’ve been thinking about this guy j.r. martinez. i’d never heard of him before dwts. when he was in the army and stationed in iraq, he was severely burned over 40% of his body. now he’s a motivational speaker and was on the soap opera all my children. i don’t pay much attention to pop culture, but i know that chaz bono was the big controversial casting on this season of the show. personally, i love that an out gay man, carson kressley, is not the controversial one. ideas and situations that are scary to us are made less scary once we know someone involved. and tv is one way that we get to know new people. i think that homosexuality became less scary and strange to people who didn’t know any out gay people once they got to know jack and will on will & grace. with dwts, without any lecturing, people were exposed to some transgender issues (and correct pronoun usage) because of chaz bono. and by casting j.r., who has significant facial scarring (and has himself pointed out that he only has one ear), dwts is allowing viewers to look at him and move through any discomfort they might see into paying attention and into his personality and his skills. now his trauma and mine are very different, but i identify with him as a person who looks different. and i appreciate that a show filled with sequins and feathers and spandex and spray-tans can help people to see past those things. j.r. is treated like a regular person because that’s who he is.

thanks in part to netflix instant, lately i’ve been watching a lot of obsessed, hoarders, and intervention – what i like to call recovery porn. those shows are interesting to me because they’re basically short documentaries about recovery. through those shows i’ve been introduced to the concept of “sitting with” emotions. the idea is that you acknowledge unpleasant or foreign emotions and then “sit with” them until they pass. on obsessed the therapists use this process to help people with fears related to ocd overcome those fears. by having the person sit with their fear, the person sees that the fear will pass, and can eventually start dealing with other issues that are involved. i guess that dwts is having viewers (15 million for the most recent episode) sit with any discomfort they might feel about looking at a person with major facial scarring. what viewers are likely finding out is that the discomfort eventually passes and and that the man has other qualities.

i think that j.r. martinez is brave, and not only because of his army service. he’s living his life, and by living part of that life on primetime network tv he’s helping other folks at home in their own communities be met with a little more understanding and compassion.

the eiffel tower

my friend lisa is a photographer. before my medical drama, i hated having my picture taken. even by lisa.

mere weeks before my diagnosis. i can almost see the tumor back there behind my left eye.

after my medical drama, lisa noticed that having my picture taken didn’t make me grumpy anymore. i think that it’s like being on vacation in paris and having your picture taken in front of the eiffel tower. why do you do it? to show that you were there since you probably won’t be back anytime soon. same reason. those pictures show where i was. i asked my mom to take pictures when i was in the hospital, and she delivered. i look at those pictures and i remember that i survived, and i’m getting better every day. i’m reminded of where i was and how far i’ve come. without the pictures, i think it would seem less real than it already does. and when other people look at them, well that’s when it gets really real. so i’ll show you a few. thanks for looking at them.

still in the hospital. check out that half-smile. my stylish headband covers the shaved parts and a nasty drill-hole above my forehead.

in this picture i have my eyes closed because of my newfound crazy double vision. and the half-smile is because the left side of my face is entirely numb. back then i spent a whole day practicing my grandma’s scowl in a mirror, and it’s improved gradually since then. people tell me now that it’s not very noticeable. as embarrassing as it was back then, i’m glad to have pictures of the way i looked.

and there’s my cup of ice chips!

i spent 3 weeks in that squeaky nursing home bed.

this is me with meseret. she was on the staff of capri, the nursing home i was in after i was released from the hospital.

my mom, brian, me, karen

this one is of me paying a visit to 6N, my home away from home at st. joseph’s hospital, before my mom and i headed back to oregon. i’m leaning on brian because i love him, and also because my balance is shot and i have constant vertigo. i have no doubt that my mom just said, “open both of your eyes.”

lisa took this picture.

this was my first visit to the school where i taught before my medical drama, about 4 months after my surgeries. lisa was taking pictures, and she was amazed at my ungrumpiness. “honey, while i’m here get a picture of me in this here wheelchair. who knows when i’ll be back again.”

i think that my mom's finger just adds to it...

i’m so glad to have this picture. it was taken at creekside, a coffee shop near my parents’ house. creekside was the home of many firsts. most importantly to me, it was the first place out in the world where i was left alone. my mom, after much troubleshooting, would leave me there while she did her grocery shopping down the road. a big step towards the new normal. creekside closed that winter, and finally reopened in a new location a month or two ago. it will always be a special place to me.

i was still pretty shaky here, and probably just took off my pink gait belt for the photo op. that’s the walker my elderly grandma let me borrow. i’m holding onto it for dear life.

one-handed walking. harder than you think.

this was one of the first times i walked any distance with my quad cane. the switch from a walker to one-handed walking was horrifying. at the time i compared it to walking a tightrope. without a net. i was rocking the low-slung gait belt for laughs. i have really good memories of this day – i’m glad to have a picture from it.

another picture by lisa.

now i did not reach this advance state of one-handed walking overnight. it took me about a year. on this day, lisa and i went on a hike. it was my first time hiking in mud. lisa had her camera ready in case i wiped out. clearly i didn’t or i’d use that picture here.

it's green where i live.

my cousin took this picture when he visited earlier this month. i like it because i think it still shows progress. my cane is there – i’m not trying to hide it or anything – but it’s not front and center. which is how my life is now.

when my cousin took this picture i realized that part of the new normal is that i’m grumpy about having my picture taken again. i need to remind myself that i’m still in paris, and i don’t know when i’ll ever be back again. so i’ll remember to keep having my picture taken. the kriste 2 years from now will smile when she looks at them.