Sunday, December 6, 2015

5 reasons for gratitude after my accident

It's been three months since I crushed both wrists in an ATV accident. After two surgeries, multiple casts, dozens of x-rays and hours of physical therapy, I am on the mend. Here are five reasons I am grateful.

1. I am grateful my disability is temporary. I was not crushed by the ATV. I could be dead, paralyzed or have a brain injury. Soon I will be free of casts, splints and pain.

2. I am grateful for my job as a newspaper reporter at The Columbian. After 11 weeks on disability, I returned to work part time before Thanksgiving. Last week I returned full time. I am typing with a cast on my left hand, so it's a clumsy, slow process. It's challenging to write under deadline pressure, but I'm doing it. The people at work have been welcoming and supportive. I am riding to schools with our photographers because I still can't drive. The Mountain Man even crafted a leather strap that fits over my cast and holds my reporter's notebook when I.m out on assignment.

3. I am grateful for my medical insurance through my job. The most recent medical statement totaled services rendered so far as almost equal to my annual income. Thankfully, that's not what I have to pay.

4. I am grateful for people willing to help me. A long list of co-workers, friends and family have been driving me to my doctor appointments, to work, to get groceries and run other errands. I am grateful for friends who have picked me up and taken me to their home for dinner or out to eat. Three months without driving has meant way too much time home alone. It's a treat to be among people again.

5. I am grateful for the progress I am making each day. In the first few weeks, I needed help with eating, dressing, washing my hair, opening doors, putting on a seat belt, turning the water faucet on and off, cutting my food and so much more. I live alone, so it's been crucial for me to regain use of my arms/wrists/hands so I can take care of myself.

Three months later, I am still not driving, but I prepare my meals, do my laundry and take care of myself. This week I opened a zip-loc baggy with my right hand--instead of with my teeth! With my shorter, below-elbow cast, I can put my arm into the sleeve of my winter coat, Today I zipped a zipper on my vest. Perhaps I'll be able to wear dress slacks and jeans again soon instead of elastic-waist pants. Progress!

I appreciate everything now. May I never again take the little things in life for granted.

Although I don't get a ski season this year, I plan to be back on the dragon boat next spring paddling with the Mighty Women. Two broken wrists are a temporary setback. I can't wait for my next adventure.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Getting my arms back after my accident: Things I can't wait to do

Eight weeks ago, I somersaulted over the handlebars of an all-terrain vehicle and broke both my wrists. For the past two months, I've had casts and/or splints on both arms, which has kept me home from work and seriously cramped my adventurous spirit.

Here are some things I can't wait to do when I finally regain the full use of my arms and hands:
1. Paddling a dragon boat with the Mighty Women.
2. Playing my djembe drum again--especially around a campfire.
3. Hiking and backpacking adventures.
4. Alpine skiing! I took my first solo runs last winter, and hoped to improve this year. My orthopedic doctor gently suggested skiing might have to wait a year. But maybe x-country skiing or snow shoeing?
5. Paddling kayaks and canoes.

6. Regaining my arm strength to shoot my bow.
7. Riding a zip line with my daughter, Kate. We had a blast zipping last summer.

8. Spelunking! Looking forward to exploring more caves.
9. Dancing! I'm itching to get back to country swing, contra dancing with pal Brenda Cartino and take another belly dancing lesson with girlfriends.
10. Driving--and be independent! I miss taking solo trips to have adventures in the mountains, on rivers, to the beach. It is hard for a woman who is paddling her own canoe to be dependent on others for transportation.

11. Manipulating zippers and buttons so I can wear jeans, shirts with sleeves, coats, jackets and sweaters. And lace-up shoes rather than slip-ons. This week with cooler weather and rain, I bought a cape at Goodwill. Flamboyant? Yes. Practical? Absolutely. I can't get my cast in coat sleeves.

12. I can't believe the tomboy in me is putting this on my list, but here goes:Giving myself pedicures so I feel pretty and pampered. Wear earrings and necklaces. Wear a little make up again once in awhile. Make a pony tail in my hair.
!3. Working! Type with both hands. Write quickly--and drive to schools all over Clark County to write stories. I miss my newsroom peeps! I typed this post with one hand--and it took far too long.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Keeping a positive attitude even in hard times

My two broken wrists have slowed me down temporarily, but I have so many reasons to be grateful.

Over Labor Day weekend, I was having a blast riding four-wheelers with the Mountain Man until I flew over the handlebars, somersaulted through the air, and crashed to the ground. I crushed both of my wrists. Eventually, I required surgery in both wrists to install permanent titanium plates and screws to repair my shattered bones. Now I am the bionic woman.

Sometimes bad things happen. That's life. What I've learned in the past seven weeks since my accident is the importance in keeping a positive attitude. It's vital in my healing process and in keeping my spirits up.

Since the beginning of the year, I've written in my gratitude journal. Every morning, I write at least three reasons to be grateful. For five weeks after the accident, I couldn't hold a pen. I couldn't write at all. That was devastating. I am a writer, a newspaper reporter, a storyteller, and a long-time journaler. Writing my thoughts is how I make sense of the world. Not only could I not hold a pen, but I couldn't type either.

Although I still have a cast on my left hand, now I can type with my right hand. My one-handed typing combined with voice recognition software has allowed me to start typing again--albeit very slowly, Even sweeter, I can grip a pen in my right hand for short periods of time. I'm writing in my gratitude journal again. Yes!

Here are some of my reasons I am grateful:

1. I am alive, and with physical therapy, I am improving daily. I could have been paralyzed or killed.

2. It's true that I've hung up my dragon boat paddle until spring and likely will not be recovered enough to ski this winter, but I'll be back. I am not going to let my accident stop me from having future adventures.

3. Seven weeks ago, I could not turn a door knob. Now I can twist a doorknob without pain. I am no longer trapped and can stay at home without a caretaker.

4. After the accident, I couldn't lift a coffee cup or glass. I had to lean over the cup on the table and drink with a straw. This morning I made my own coffee and lifted a ceramic mug to my lips. No more straws!

5. For a few weeks after the accident, I could not hold silverware. I had the table manners of a Neanderthal. This week I cut steak with my knife. Last night with the Mountain Man I ate sushi with chopsticks! I was messy, but I wasn't thrown out of the restaurant for spilling a little rice.

6. During the first week after the accident, both arms had casts that reached clear up my hands and allowed only an inch of fingertips free. In the bathroom, I had to tear off toilet paper with my teeth. Now although I still have a cast on my left hand, my right hand is in a removable splint. Now I am fully operational in the bathroom. Enough said!

7. For six weeks, I couldn't wash my hair myself, but had to rely on friends, my daughter and my mom to wash it in the sink. Last week, I washed my hair all by myself!

8. For the first several weeks, I didn't have the stamina to stand in the shower. Instead, my caregiver wrapped both my arms in plastic bags and I took baths, but I needed help turning the water on and off and pulling the plug. Since last week, I've been taking a shower. And I can turn the water on and off all by myself.

9. For about a month, I couldn't open or close a car door or buckle my seat belt. Now I can do those things. However, it will still be some weeks before I am cleared to drive. I miss driving.

10. For about a month, I needed help getting dressed. Now I can dress myself, but I am living in elastic-waist exercise pants and free-flowing hippie skirts with leggings. I still can't manipulate zippers or buttons. I am looking forward to wearing jeans again.

11. Until recently, I needed lots of help preparing meals, opening food containers, and washing the dishes. Now I am doing my own simple cooking and can even wash dishes--while wearing my plastic bag over my cast.

12. I am grateful for the long list of family, friends and co-workers who have pitched in to help me through these weeks of healing.

Tomorrow I begin my eighth week of being on short-term disability from work. I am hopeful that my doctor will clear me to return to work soon.

Each day is a gift to be cherished and lived to the fullest. I know that now more than ever. What would you write in your gratitude journal?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Life's little setbacks

This morning, my dragon boating teammates are driving to Vancouver, British Columbia, taking a ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. They will be paddling in the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival this weekend. They'll be staying in the Painted Turtle Guesthouse, a renovated heritage hostel near the waterfront in quaint, downtown Nanaimo.

They'll be hosted by a friendly, fun-loving Canadian dragon boat team. There will be music, dancing and merriment after the races.

For months, I've been anticipating this mini-vacation to Nanaimo. Despite its relative proximity to home, I've never been to Vancouver Island. But alas! It wasn't meant to be.

Although my teammates have left, I am lying on my couch icing my leg and nursing an injured hamstring. Disappointment does not begin to convey my feelings.

But that's life, isn't it? As Mick Jagger and the Stones said, you don't always get what you want. In fact, we often get the opposite of what we wanted.

Was I injured dragon boating?  Skating in roller derby? Backpacking? Kayaking? Running a marathon? Running with the bulls? Sadly, no.

I wish I had an amazing, adventurous story about my injury, but here's the truth: I was climbing up onto the running board of a very, very, very high pickup truck. It was a long stretch for my short hobbit legs. Immediately, I knew I'd pulled something. I've been icing my hamstring and hobbling around like an old lady ever since.

Through the trials and tribulations of the past five years, I've learned a thing or two. First, life rarely happens exactly as we plan it. Second, the secret to living joyfully is learning to go with the flow and to appreciate the simple things when the current takes you someplace unexpected.

This weekend my unexpected adventure will be relaxing, icing my hamstring, reading a good book and savoring the juicy blackberries outside my front door.

And even from my couch, I'll be cheering for the Mighty Women as they paddle in Nanaimo.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Living small: Cutting through the clutter

So many books, so little time!

After spending $5 to buy five books at the library's book sale last week, I am now faced with tough choices. Because I live in 600 square feet, I have one self-imposed rule: one new item into the house means one old item from the same category must find a new home. The naked truth: It's time to let go of five old books.

When you live small, too much stuff quickly overwhelms your space. I don't have to look more than three feet from where I sit typing these words to see an example of needing to find space for something new. My lovely flaming dragon roller skates from my fresh meat roller derby tryouts a week ago are still sitting jauntily on the living room floor because I do not have a space to put them. I need to let go of another pair of shoes in my closet to make room for my gorgeous purple dragons.

I am proud of myself for limiting my purchase to only five books when other bibliophiles were filling boxes with books. I'm looking forward to immersing myself in my new book-friends including "The Sea Runners" by Ivan Doig, "Reservation Blues" by Sherman Alexie and "The American Indians: The Woman's Way" by Time-Life Books, which is filled with photos, artwork and stories about Native American women.

A Quaker friend, Wess Daniels, coined my downsizing of December 2011 as my "involuntary simplicity." He was right. That exercise was the antithesis of mindful simplicity. Circumstances beyond my control (being laid off without warning and having two months to sell my house at the real estate market's lowest point and move into 600 square feet) forced me to rid myself of more than half of my possessions in six weeks. It was a painful, but necessary step in my journey.

The process of prioritizing a lifetime of possessions changed me forever. I can't go back to being the woman who held so tightly to things that I missed out on the joy of experiences. When you live in a three-story 2,400-square-foot house with three humungous attics, a basement, a garage and a storage shed, opportunities abound to collect "stuff and junk" as my Grandma Lydia called it. I was the Estate Sale Queen and was always hauling home new treasures.

Now, five moves later, I am the Queen of Downsizing. I practice voluntary simplicity. Friends have invited me into their homes to help them organize their basements and closets and to determine what stuff to let go. It's much easier to help others get rid of their possessions because I have no emotional attachment to their stuff.

But here in my cozy, small living room/study/dining room, it is time to make tough choices. I know I can do it. Six months ago, my adventurous friends Kalyn and Mat MacDonald emptied their house and moved to Alaska. I chose 12 books from their library, which meant I had to let go of a dozen of my books to make space for them.

Now I must do it again. Am I ready to let go of "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd or "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks? They are among my favorites, but will I read them or refer to them again? I know I am not ready to get rid of my childhood copy of "Trixie Belden," the adventurous, mystery-solving, horseback-riding tomboy who inspired me in my geeky youth. I already let go of a dozen other Trixie Belden books in my big purge. Is it time to release "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini? Decisions, decisions.

Although my too-many-books dilemma does not possess the life-and-death gravity of Sophie's choice or of Indiana Jones choosing the holy grail, it's still been painful to choose which five books I'm going to let go into the universe.

As I stare at my bookshelves, I hear the voice of the old grail knight: "Choose wisely."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Adventure for one: My first solo hike

Blue larkspur bloomed beside the trail.
The sunrise through the woods was glorious Sunday morning. It was going to be a stunning day in the Columbia River Gorge, and I needed to get outside before my work week began again. I was itching to go hiking.

Quickly completing the most pressing tasks on my to-do list, I considered who might be my hiking buddy. One friend was still out of the country, another was visiting her aging mom across the state and yet another was not feeling well. What other friends were hikers and could go on short notice?

In my old life, I hiked first with my husband, and then with my husband and children. But now I am alone. And then it hit me: Why not hike alone? Although I walk the trails in town alone all the time, driving out to the Gorge for a solo hike was a first for me. It would be a gigantic step in my journey of paddling my own canoe.

I changed into my Keen hiking boots, and packed my backpack with water, sandwich and apple, sun hat and sweatshirt. I was ready to head out the door when I recalled two women who recently were stalked--one even grabbed--by men on trails in town. In my head, I heard Dad's cautious Kentucky drawl reminding me to "be careful" every time I left the house. In fact, he still warns me to "be careful!"

As a precaution, I zipped my fixed-blade knife into my pack. My knife isn't an enormous Crocodile Dundee knife, but just having it in my pack made me feel safer. Then I grabbed my sturdy wooden walking stick--which I also could use as a weapon--and headed out the door for my first solo hiking adventure.

As a single woman, having the confidence to go places on my own is a necessity. I've been divorced for five years, so I'm used to being alone. Having the courage for solo adventures doesn't come naturally to me. It's something I've learned to do. It requires me to be comfortable in my own skin and to enjoy my own company. After practicing, I do enjoy my own company. I've pushed beyond my comfort zone to get out, go places and do things. I've taken solo day trips to the beach, road trips all over the Northwest and have worn my little black dress to community dinner events sans a man on my arm.

Even married women or women with a committed significant other should be prepared for the inevitable: the majority of us outlive our male partners. In some chapter in our lives, we women most likely will be alone.

Although I'd hiked that trail before, it was almost as if it was my first time on the trail. Instead of talking to a hiking buddy, I had the luxury of paying attention to my surroundings. I found a shriveled trillium long past its bloom, but the blue larkspur grew profusely along the trail. As I stopped at a meadow, a pileated woodpecker flew past me and landed on a tree.

After gradually climbing to the viewpoint, I was rewarded with a stunning view of the Columbia River Gorge. Sitting on the ground under a tree, I ate my lunch at an exclusive table for one with a river view. Another solo hiker, a seasoned woman like me, entered the clearing and gazed at the view before us. We gave each other a knowing look and smiled.

After gaining elevation as I hiked through the lush woods, I reached this viewpoint, 
where I ate my lunch and dreamed great dreams.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Being fearless: My first solo ski run

This ski season, I conquered my fear of the chair lift,
made my first solo ski runs and started parallel skiing.
My heart beating wildly, I skied toward the chair lift for my first solo ride to the top of the mountain. I was determined to conquer my fear of falling to my death from the chair lift. For more than three decades, this irrational fear had kept me from skiing again.

"Can you do this?" my 55-year-old experienced brain asked my timid, 19-year-old self. That unsure  teenager was the one who had nearly fallen off the lift all those years ago.

I'd been standing to the side for several minutes, gathering my courage and watching skiers and boarders approach the lift, sit down and ride calmly to the top. Plenty of athletic young adults did it, but so did middle-aged folks and even grandmas and grandpas.

Yet, I was still gripped with fear from my first time skiing--in 1979--when I'd been dragged up the chair lift by my boyfriend, who didn't seem to care that I didn't know how to turn, control my speed or stop. I nearly fell off the chairlift, and then tumbled all the way down the mountain, hollering. My sister, Judy, who was working at the ski resort, recognized my screams of terror.

After that horrifying experience, the fear of falling off the lift was ingrained in my brain. It was the timid, teenage me who still held onto that fear.

I was brought back to the present when a group of elementary school kids zoomed down the hill in front of me, laughing, and got on the lift. None of them faltered, let alone plummeted to their death.

"Can you do this?" I asked myself again.

But this time, it was not the timid, 19-year-old me I asked. It was the adventurous 55-year-old me. Now I'm the dragon boat paddling, zip lining, kayaking, belly dancing, bow-shooting, backpacking woman with the dragon tattoo.

And thanks to the encouraging teaching of Kirby, my certified ski instructor boyfriend, I had been learning to ski. Although I had ridden the chair lift successfully just that morning, Kirby had ridden with me, coaching me and calming my fear with his soothing voice.

But now Kirby was teaching a skiing lesson and would be busy for the next hour. If I wanted to go skiing, I'd have to get back on that horse--er--chair lift--alone. It was time to conquer this irrational fear.

"Do you want to do this?" I asked myself.

My 19-year-old self was still tentative. But at that moment, I decided I would no longer let that timid girl or her fears control me.

"Yes! Be fearless!" my 55-year-old self said, with enthusiasm. "You're the girl with the dragon tattoo! Let's go!"

I skied forward, held my poles in my left hand and turned to grab the chair with my right hand. Then I sat down.

Miracle of miracles, I didn't fall.The timid teenage me might have closed my eyes for a nanosecond, but then I opened my eyes and looked at the beauty around me. As I approached the top, I could see the Wallowa Mountains blanketed in snow in the distance.

My heart began pounding again as I approached the top and prepared to exit the lift. I'd never exited the lift without Kirby. What if I fell when I stood up?

But then I remembered what Kirby had told me: "Stand up and ski to the right!"

I gulped--but did exactly as he'd instructed me. And I didn't fall!

My solo trip down the mountain was the opposite of my first ski experience all those decades ago. I was in control of my skis. I could slow down, turn and stop. I was having fun.

At one point, I stopped to admire the view. Then I looked down at my skis and realized I wasn't afraid anymore. I'm pretty sure I saw my 19-year-old self giving me a thumbs-up.

Smiling, I pushed off with my poles and glided down the mountain.