Tuesday, June 25, 2013


As Charlotte and I sat in the early evening sun, last Sunday, on a picnic table, outside the root beer stand, the song "Turn, Turn, Turn" started playing, as I was helping her finish off the last sip of her first root beer float, something happened and I started to cry. Maybe it was the exhaustion in Charlotte's eyes from a busy day at the beach, maybe it was the layers of dirt on her, telling the story of her day,like sediment tells the history of our world, sunscreen, sand, ice cream, strawberries and root beer, or maybe it was her pink skin from her day of playing in the sand and surf on the shore of Lake Michigan, but I started crying out of pure happiness and thankfulness.

When this journey began, I never thought a day like I had Sunday would be possible, but there I was tending to the daughter I was afraid I wouldn't bond to, helping her drink her root beer and sharing  my chocolate/vanilla twist cone with her, smiling and enjoying, simply other's company after a great day at the beach.

In that moment as I dabbed my eyes with a napkin, while Charlotte tried to lick the last of her root beer off of her straw, and my twisty cone melted on the table where I had set it, I wasn't a stroke survivor, I wasn't Old Liz or Liz 2.0, I was just Charlotte's mom, which is all I ever wanted to be.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Break on Through

"Something has changed within me Something is not the sameI'm through with playing by the rulesOf someone else's game"

Yeah, that's about where I'm at right now. In the last week, something has shifted and inner peace has settled in.

For the first time since my brain sprung a leak, I feel comfortable in my skin and confodent in my abilities. Why? I'm not sure, I think it's a mixture of a lot of things, I've been getting up with Charlotte every morning for the last couple of weeks, getting her dressed, feeding her breakfast and playing with her after breakfast, then we do lunch, then we play outside for a bit til naptime. So, I think I'm starting to feel like a mom, and a good one, at that, my bond with Charlotte has been getting depper because of all of this, so my self-doubt as far as whether I can care for her or not has faded and I no longer doubt the fact that she does, in fact, like me.I also think letting go of all of the hate I've had towards my ex in New Haven, has healed my soul, it feels better to acknowledge the love I felt for him, rather than wasting all of that energy hatin ghim.

Lately, I feel like a zen master, in love with everything around me, excited to be awake in the morning, I feel like I'm going to jump out of my skin from happiness most of the time.

Life is now as it should be, normal, routine and happy, so, I've achieved the goal I had at the beginning of all of this: "I just want to be normal again."

Monday, June 10, 2013


"I just want to be normal again."

This was a phrase anyone who came to visit me in rehab would hear come from my mouth.

During those early days, I wanted so desperetly to be restored to my former glory, that the entire goal of recovery was to be myself again.

So here's the real question: What is recovery? Is it my arm and my leg working normally again?

Well, no. It's not, because, I still walk pretty slow, with a very noticeable limp and I use a brace on my leg and my toes and ankle don't move yet, but I manage to get around just fine, in fact, my gait has become smoother and faster in the last few months, thanks to a fancy new leg brace and tons of walking practice, so, I think I'm just fine with the use I have in my leg, and as far as I'm concerned, considering the fact that I had no idea what to expect as far as walking again when all of this started, where I'm at is pretty damn good, I've gone to museums, large stores and walked on my own with no problems, so, I guess that's recovered as far as the leg is concerned. I still have faith that, with time, the ankle and toes will join the land of the living again someday.

And then there's Larry.....Oh Larry.Are there days when I deperatly want to use my hand? Yes. But, it's not the center of my world. There are large groups of people in my life who believe that recovery is getting my hand back, and I'm not a part of that group.So, what is recovery?I wanted to be normal again. And I beilieve I am more normal now than I ever was. I have a deeper understanding of myself and a greater accptance of myself and my life than I had pre-stroke. I love myself now. My life no longer hinges on whether I can use my arm or not.

As far as I'm concerned I am recovered, because I accept and love my life rgardless of my limitations. I no longer take anything for granted, nor do I overlook the wonderful things the people who love me do for me. I can live my life singlehanded and be happy, at the beginning of this process the idea that I might never use my hand again was terrifying, but now? I really don't care, my arm gets stronger and I gain more control over it everyday. if it stays the way it is now, which I don't think will happen. That's just fine, I've learned to live like this and I'm living quite well, thank you.
So, is my journey over? No, I think it will only get better, but I intend to move forward and face whatever challenges life throws at me head on, because I know I can take it.

Recovery complete.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Here and Now

Yesterday as Sara was driving Charlotte and I home from the park, she said something that changed everything in my world.

As we were driving, her girls were planning out what they would eat for lunch, focusing very hard on the many food choices they had waiting for them when they got home. At one point Sara said,"Girls, I want you to stop and take a moment, breathe and take in this moment, because what just happened and what is going to happen doesn't exsist, this moment is now and we only get this moment once." I may be paraphrasing, but I did exactly as she asked and that statement stuck with me for the rest of the day

I've been experiencing some intersting feelings lately that have been a little disconcerting. Lately. the energy that has surrounded me has felt very similar to the energy that swirled around me durimg my first summer in Connecticut, when I was starting to date and fall in love with my boyfriend there.

I was assuming I was feeling that way because I am facing my first summer since the stroke where I feel physically capable of enjoying it, the excitement of that, I assumed was mimicking the excitement of new love, I also assumed that I was supposed to be feeling that way for whatever reason, maybe it was my body and spirit's way of making peace with my past, so I've just been living in it and feeling the full strength of it, even though it was pulling me out of my present.

As I sat with Charlotte yesterday afternoon, I turned what Sara had said over and over in my head, yes, the past doesn't exsist anymore and yes now is the only now I get. But the past does exsist, it exsists in my heart, spirit, mind and soul and I may never experience that present again, but I got to once and I can always remember my perfect summer of love where I loved my new man so fiercely where my adoration for another person was as bottomless as it ever had been when I learned to love the new town I had choosen as my home.

And even though that relationship ended very badly, as many fast and passionate love affairs do, thank goodness I have that experience written into my spiritual DNA, I'm lucky to know what ecstatic, endless love like that feels like, and because I know what it is, I can show Charlotte that love, because it is the same kind of deep limitless love I feel for her.

And as I ended that train of thought, I made peace with New Haven, Connecticut and all that happened there to change me,  I let it go and looked at the moment I was in and loved it, because, someday I will want to remember the simplicity of watching my 19-month-old spin in the middle of the living room, to remember the depth of love I felt for her in that moment, after a successful day at the park together, to remember the deep satisfaction of a job well done, caring for the child that 19 monthss ago I never thought I'd be able to care for effectively.

Since then I've felt, dare I say it? Zen. Happy. Peacful. So, here's my advice, stop. Breathe and notice the moment. You'll never get it again and you'll never want to forget it.

Friday, June 7, 2013


You know how I've wrestled with not feeling like much of a mother because of my physical limitations and because I wasn't able to be very involved at the beginning of Charlotte's life?

Well, something magical happened this morning. My friend from the co-op have a little playgroup that meets Friday mornings at a nearby playground, this morning my friend Sara picked Charlotte and I up, so we could play.

I got Charlotte up, fed and dressed with time to spare before Sara arrived, in fact, I have been getting Charlotte up all week this week, I'm trying to give Matt a break since he has pretty much been the only one of us whos been doing that from the beginning.

We went to the playgroud, it was packed, I was fearful, worried that I would lose track of Charlotte because it's hard for me to keep up with her, luckily, Sara had her  daughters, Hannah and Mary with her, both of whom love Charlotte and helped me watch her.

I sat on a bench and watched as Mary took Charlotte to the swings, I joined them, helping Mary push Charlotte who sqealed delightedly as she flew through the air.

Out little group then took a little break on top of a large hill, I walked Charlotte over there, at the bottom of the hill, I had a moment of doubt, would I be able to get up the steep incline to the top? That thought only exsisted for a moment, as I don't allow self-doubt like that to exsist in my brain for long before pushing it back, replacing it with reassurances of success, Hannah took Charlotte to the top for me and I began my climb, I got top the top without incident and wished I had a stadium sized crowd cheering for me, as that what was going on in my head, at that moment, the sun came out from behind the clouds it had been hiding behind, I sat down with my friends, enjoying the sunshine and the company and shared some grapes and water with my child snd friends. Once our snack break concluded, we returned to the playground, I followe Charlotte as she inspected the play structure, climbiong the steps and sliding down the slide, I made sure she stayed safe as she played. By the time it was time to leave I was feeling more like a mom than I have since Charlotte's birth, she and I don't go many places just the two of us, so it was wonderful to spend time somewhere just us girls anf wonderful to know that I am, infact, fully capable of taking care of my child on my own, with some help, it takes a village after all!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sometimes the Worst Thing is the Best Thing

During one of the many dicussions I had with customers about my stroke on Monday as customer said this to me:
"I want to ask you a hard question." He said sheepishly, this is a regular customer, one who came to visit me while I was in rehab.
"Ok."I replied, "Sometimes those are the best ones." I enjoy thought provoking coversation to pointless small talk, so I like hard hitting questions.
"What's the best thing about having a stroke?" He asked.

I had to think about that for awhile, my initial answer was nothing, but then I thought more and I came up with this: The best thing about having a stroke is that I am so much more grateful for everything in my life than I was before, nothing like a little brush with death to remind you of how good you have it. I am also a better mother than I would have been, I'm more patient, kinder, gentler and more present than I would have been. I know life can end in an instant so I enjoy every single moment I have , I also have to convince myself that I can do something when I'm not sure I can do it so I'm finding hidden reserves of self-confidence that I didn't know I had, I truly believe that I am tuning into a more beautiful person as a result of all of this. Oh, and without the stroke I wouldn't have the best prize of all:Charlotte.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Big Question

When I'm at work, my afflicted arm, Larry, is usually safely tucked away in a sling, this is to minimize any confusion when I am ringing people up, I prefer people think I'm injured over wondering why I'm only using one hand.

As a result of this, I get a lot of questions about what I did to myself, I always segway into my answer by saying,
"It's really not a very cool story..I had a stroke, so the arm is paralyzed."

The response is usually a shocked look and an inability to know how to respond to that, it's usually a pretty uncomfortable situation to be in with a stranger. I always try to deflect the discomfort with some kind of self-depricating humor, I figure, if they can see that I don't take myself or my situation too seriously, that it's not nearly as dire as it seems. Today I found myself talking with people about how thankful I am to be walking around and talking about my experience, because some stroke survivors are left with some very serious deficits when it comes to communicating and this is why I always answr The Big Question honestly, because I may be the only stroke survivor that person evermwwts who can communicate clearly about their journey and, that's an important discussion to have, in my opinion.