Friday, February 10, 2017

Real Pain

I don't really think about the pain I went through last year.  In fact, I work very hard to keep it at bay, holding it at arm's length hoping to never experience it again, but one of those memories decided to show up uninvited.

Today, I was sitting on the floor in the guest bathroom, sponge in one hand and cleaner in the other. The smell of bleach proved I was already done with the shower. I pulled the toilet seat cover open and before I knew it, I was transported back 9 months to the moment when I was sitting in this exact same place. Screaming.

9 months ago, I had just gone to the bathroom and I couldn't stand up.  I literally couldn't.  The excruciating pain that would run through my body when I moved in any direction made me completely unable to move. I looked around to find a solution. The only thing I could come up with was maybe if I threw myself off to the right, I could put one hand down on the edge of the bathtub, use my momentum to turn around and push off to get standing.  This sounded like the worst idea of all time, but it was all I had.

So, I counted.  1.... 2.... 3.  And like ripping off the worst band aid of all time, I threw my body off to the right, only my hand slipped off the bathtub, causing my body to shoot forward.  My ribs crashed onto the edge of the bathtub and then I slid down to sitting on the floor.  My back blazing with pain, my leg throbbing and moving uncontrollably, and my ribs shrieking.  And I just screamed; out of anger, out of pain, out of frustration.

I slithered down to floor.  I laid there on my back and cried for a long while until the pain subsided to it's usual unbelievable level. I asked all the same questions.  Why me?  Who am I now?  Will this ever end? What if I never walk normal again?

And then I remembered, these questions don't matter. Getting up matters. Finding a solution matters. So, with that, I slowly rolled to my side.  I used my foot to slide my cane into my hand.  Then I rolled over onto my hands and knees.  With one hand on my cane and one hand on the toilet, I screamed as I stood up; hunched over as usual.

I looked at that girl in the mirror; 22 pounds heavier than usual and swollen red eyes. I never would be the girl I was, but I'm so curious to find out who I will become.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Just Ask For Milk

Yesterday I found myself sitting in front of a pot of melted gooey wonderful chocolate.  It was marvelous.  Colin and I dipped everything you could imagine in it; cheesecake, cookies, brownies, rice crispy treats, marshmallows, strawberries, even pineapple.

It was so good.

When we got to the end of all our treats, we still had chocolate left.  I asked Colin what we should do with it when he flagged down the waitress.  "Could we have a little milk?"  She looked a little confused.  With a smile he continued, "We have some extra chococlate and we were thinking about making some hot chocolate."  She looked a little unsure of us.  Colin asks, "Has anyone ever done that?"  

"No."

She looked at Colin, Colin just kept looking at her.

She then said, "I dont' think it will work, I think it will just get clumpy."

She looked at Colin, Colin just kept looking at her.

Then realizing it couldn't hurt to play along, she returned with a small amount of milk.  She watched in amazement as Colin slowly poured the milk in.  Then she was on board.  I don't know if was just interested to see what would happen or suddenly realized this was a brilliant idea, but she came over and turned the burner up under the pot to make it hotter.

Colin slowly added milk, taste testing as he went along.  Finally, he says, "It's ready."

He poured a small amount in a tiny little bowl and I sipped it slowly.  It was the second best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life.  (Napa Rose at Disneyland holds the top spot.)

"Oh my gosh, this is so good."  The waitress standing there waiting to see the outcome smiles widely and heads back to work.  I look at Colin "They could make a fortune if they added this to menu."

This is why I try new things.  This is why Colin and I believe in not always walking the same way everyone else walks.  Because sometimes you find something you never expected.  People will look at you strange.  People will try to tell you it won't work.  But once you do it - whatever it is - people who were scared will be standing by excited and glad for your success.

Be the one who asks for milk at a fancy chocolate restaurant.  You will be glad you did.




Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hire Me (to do awesome stuff)

I want to be hired by someone to do awesome stuff for people. Like, I could be that sweepstakes person who shows up at houses with huge checks. Or Ellen could hire me to give away cars. Or a morning news show could hire me to give people advice on how to live a freakin amazing life, The Happy Corner - Mondays on KTLA.

But no one has offered me that job yet, so I have to figure it out on my own. A couple years ago I did the How Can I Help You campaign. Where I just offered my free services to people. I chopped wood and made costumes. I drove in cars and did airport pick ups.

Then last year - as you probably know - I couldn't help.  I was stuck in bed; hurt, frustrated and annoyed. I wanted to be helping people and there was no possible way to do it. It hurt my soul.

So now, I'm finding my way back to regular Liz.  And regular Liz can't chop wood anymore, so I have to figure out how to help the world.  How can I do that?

I can write.

So, I will be starting a regular feature on here called "Just a Couple Pennies".  It will be the best piece of advice (or two cents, wink, wink) that people have been given.  If you have some great advice that you have been given that you would like to share with the world let me know.  Email me at AmbassaLiz@gmail.com.  Let's do this!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Get on the Road!

When I was 16 my dad had a Datsun 280Z. It was silver like a bullet and it moved like a bullet. I learned how to drive stick in this car and I knew this car was a privilege to drive.

The day I got my license, I was looking for any reason to drive alone and there it was sitting on the kitchen counter. A rented VHS tape that needed to be returned.  (Yep, I'm 136 years old.) I picked up the tape, shook it at my dad, he tossed me the keys to the Z.  Yes!

I got in the car, pulled out of the driveway and started down the empty farm roads. I was about 100 yards from my house when I looked over at the empty passenger seat. I felt so much freedom and I pushed down on that gas pedal.

Soon after, the speedometer was easily sitting at 110, radio blaring. Man, it was so fun.  So free. I sped down those empty streets, not one car in sight.

I was about to see what this car could really do, when I flew through a stop sign. My foot immediately came off the gas pedal.  My heart raced.  I looked in the rear view mirror.  Was there anyone back there?  What if I had run into someone?

My freedom suddenly became very scary. I pulled over. Chills raced up the back of my neck. This freedom could literally kill me.  I breathed in. After a couple minutes pulling my newly 16 year old self back together. I turned on my turn signal. I checked my blind spot a few times before slowly and carefully pulling back onto the totally empty farm roads.

This is when I learned that you have to treat freedom with respect. It is a privilege. It is important. That is where I am sitting right now.  In a huge amount of freedom.  Because of my back injury, work slowed.  Because of the drugs I was taking, I stopped writing and didn't have my normal ambition. I'm no longer the dancer I was.

So, here I am.  With the freedom to be whoever I wanted to be.  The freedom to take whatever job I want.  The freedom to live where ever I want to live.  And the scariest part of freedom, the freedom to do absolutely nothing.  I have to respect this freedom.  I have to pull over and take a breath.  What do I want to do with this freedom?  Just sit around and do nothing?  Or check my blind spot and pull back into traffic and work on my dreams.

Here we go.  I'm figuring out how to get back on the road.



Friday, December 30, 2016

Just a Branch

Today my dad and I cut a branch from a rose plant and replanted it into a pot. I felt awful the whole time. Empathy is in my top 5 strengths which means even when I kill a spider I wonder if it was sad. So, here we are attacking this rose to try to make it better.

I had to dissect the healthiest part. Then rip off the flower. Stab the bottom of the stem and then slice it open. I had to chop off half of every leaf. Then shove it into the dirt and smash all the dirt around it. Finally, I had to trap it under a mason jar.

When we are all done, I stood back and looked at this pathetic little two inches of a branch, sliced, poked, smothered and I prayed that it would root.  There is so much potential in this little stick. With a little luck and science, it will root and grow into a whole new rose bush.

I'm that branch.  Last year, I was sliced, the best parts of me ripped away, and now I have been shoved into dirt and I'm sitting here, a small version of the person I was last year, just hoping and praying that I take root and grow into a whole new person.

With any luck (and science) I will be bigger, better and more beautiful than ever.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Life is a Seattle Ferry

I sat down on the Ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge about 20 minutes early and put my head into a book. I got done with the chapter and looked up to realize we were far from the dock.  I hadn't even notice how far we had gone.  I looked at the city.  It was a beautiful city, but with the sun just about to set behind the clouds, it was dull and grey.  As we moved further away, the city disappeared behind the fog and before I knew it, I couldn't even see it.

We landed on Bainbridge Island and I walked to dinner at a local restaurant.  It was raining and cold, but it was beautiful.  I had a wonderful dinner and then headed back to the ferry.

I took a seat facing Seattle.  The sun had been down for about an hour now and, through the fog, I could see little sparkles of lights from the city.  As we moved toward the city, the fog moved away and the city became larger and more brilliant.  My eyes couldn't take in all the beautiful lights of the skyline.  It was just gorgeous.

I walked out to the front of the boat.  The wind off the water chilled my face and hands.  A small tear fell.  This was my story.

I hurt my back so suddenly that I was far from who I used to be before I even knew it. I watched as my injury slowly took my life from me.  As I gained weight, rolled in wheelchairs, and layed in bed for weeks at a time, the person I had been slowly disappeared behind the fog.

I was stuck in that fog for months.  And just like the lovely dinner I had in Bainbridge, I had small wonderful moments in the cold, confusing times.  But then, I had surgery and found myself sitting there, squinting to see a few lights of my old life sparkling behind the fog. I started physical therapy and I knew I was moving back into the direction of that old life that I loved.

I haven't docked back in Seattle yet, but I am really close.  I'm still on my journey back to the city that I know will be even more brilliant than when I left it, but for now, I will still exercise everyday, eat right and work on finding the girl that I was before my life was ripped from me.  And when I do, I will sparkle brighter than even before.

Monday, May 2, 2016

No Miracle for Me

My friend Brooke saw a real life miracle.  Her husband was gone.  They told her it was the end and to say goodbye.  She prayed, we all prayed, people all over the world prayed and within the hour a nurse ran in and told her to come quick her husband was back.

I don't understand miracles.  I don't understand how God decides which miracles to perform.  But I know I saw a lot of people's faith renewed watching Jason come back to life.

And then there's me.  I was on vacation with my family and on day one (Monday), the combo of roller coaster, throwing my nephew and hoola hooping with my niece made my back seize up in a way I never experienced.

Within 24 hours I couldn't even stand.  I was in Florida with my family and all I saw was the speckled ceiling of my hotel room.  I would lay there helpless as my family played with Mickey and Minnie.  I asked for a miracle.

By the third night, I would hold in my screams as I rolled onto my stomach to throw up into a garbage can next to the bed.  The pain meds and my stomach didn't get along.  Throwing up would make my back seize and lightning bolts of pain would shoot down my legs.  It was the second worst pain I have ever experienced.

I had already tried asking for a miracle.  So I thought maybe I didn't ask right or ask enough.  Maybe (like Brooke) I needed more people to pray.  I sent texts out to friends and posted on Facebook.  I prayed over and over, begged for a miracle.

Nothing.

So what do you do with that?  Have I suddenly found out God doesn't exist?  Is this the moment when I realize even if there is a God he doesn't love me enough to heal me?  Or maybe he just loves Brooke more?

And then you start feeling selfish and small.  There are wars going on.  There are people who will actually never walk again.  There are children being deserted by their parents.  Maybe God's off worrying about the real problems in life.

But here's the truth.  God doesn't have to choose who to worry about because he can worry about everyone all the time.  He isn't ignoring me, he allowing me to be here for some reason.

So it began.  I reminded myself all the miracles I have seen.  All the times God came through.  I reminded myself that God doesn't love me more or less compared to my pain level.  I believe that suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance to character, and character to hope.  So I will sit in this suffering knowing that hope will arrive.  And maybe the fact that I'm sitting in pain shows how much God loves me because he wants me to learn or to grow.  

Our human minds want answers.  I don't have answers and I have now been sitting in this pain for two weeks.  I'm jealous of people who can walk.  I just want to get up and run.  But instead I will sit in my wheelchair reminding myself to have joy.

I have seen amazing kindness from so many people.  From small acts of a stranger offering to help me into a car to my friends bringing me food and transporting me around.  There is so much good in every bad situation.

So, as I wait for my miracle, I will smile at people staring at my purple flowered cane.  I will tip the wheelchair lady at the airport more than I should.  I will accept the humility that comes with constantly asking for help.

But I know this.  God is not only real when miracles happen.  He is also real in my pain.