Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sleep - Part II

In my last post, Sleep-Part I, I wrote about how I'd recently gotten my own bed, and how we had a plan in place to switch things up at our house.

When we first moved into our home in January 2014, we decided it was best for my Mom to have the master bedroom, and to have Jeff's room be centrally located in the house because of his needs. So the first bedroom, located just off the living room, became his - well ours. But it always felt like his - never ours. Yes, I slept there every night too, on my inflatable, non-permanent bed. But when we talked about the room, it was always "Jeff's room" or "Daddy's room" not "Mom and Dad's room."

It's not a very big room, with not a very big closet, so we had a lot of Jeff's medical supplies stored around the room. It wasn't very neat, but it was functional.

And it totally worked for us in the beginning.

But having to lug my mattress in and out of that room every day was taxing.

So I ordered a twin bed. And I was prepared to set it up in the office and sleep apart from Jeff.

Then my Mom sat down with me and Jeff and said, "I'm ready to switch rooms with you guys." We looked at her rather puzzled. She had mentioned when we moved in that when Jeff and I were ready to move into the master, she would be happy to take one of the smaller rooms. We honestly hadn't given it much thought. And when we did, we were hesitant to make the move because the master is located at the back of the house, and Jeff was worried that he might have anxiety about being alone back there - in case he needed something and we couldn't hear him if we were in a different part of the house.

But the more we thought about it, and pondered the pros and cons, the more it sounded like a really good idea.

Of course I had guilt that my mom would have to downsize her room so drastically. But she reassured me that she was ready, and that we needed the master bedroom more than she did. And her being ready made us ready.

And so, we put our plan into action.

It took days to prepare everything for the final move. We had to move things from closets out into the staging area of the garage. Switch clothes and shoes from one closet to the next. Decide how to set up the new rooms, etc.

Once we got all the preliminary stuff moved, it was time to move the beds. My Dad came over and helped with all the heavy lifting. First we moved my twin bed into the master, then moved Mom's bed out and into the living room temporarily. Then we moved a very large, very long dresser into the office. Lastly, it was time to move Jeff's bed into the master. This one was tricky. Jeff has a hospital bed with a motor on it that raises the head and feet. I know that when the supply company set it up, it came in three or four separate pieces. Of course I didn't hover over them to watch how they put it together; therefore, I had no idea how to take it apart.

The bed frame is brown metal with a green mattress that sits on a maze of springs. I swear it looks like a hospital bed from the 1940s. It might be for all I know. It's also extra long, so we were going to have to figure out how to take it apart in order to bend it enough to get it around the sharp corner and into the master bedroom.

We were gambling here because the whole move was hinging on us getting this bed into the master. I guess we should have started the whole thing with this particular bed move, but what the heck ... we were living on the edge.

When we took off the mattress, my Dad and I looked at the bed-o-springs with furrowed brows. We were sweaty and tired, and quite frankly, not sure how we were going to do this. Jeff drove up in his chair, and in looking over the tangle of metal, quickly figured out where the springs came apart so that we could bend the frame. He also advised that the headboard and footboard should come off to help make the move easier.

Once we got it apart, my parents and I slowly but surely moved that clunk of metal and springs down the hall, and successfully got it into the master. Setting it back up proved nearly almost as tricky as taking it apart. But we did it. I'm so thankful I have parents who are both able and willing to do this kind of stuff for my family. Because it certainly took a team to get this done.

It took several days for me and my Mom to set up our new rooms. And it's now been a couple weeks since we've made the transition.

My Mom had to downsize considerably to move into her new room, and she's done a great job. She's created a cozy, colorful spot that suits her just perfectly. And she loves her new room. Once again, she's gone above and beyond.

Her act has opened a new chapter for us. One that begins with our new room.

Here's some pictures.

It's over twice as big as our old room. Plenty of room for both of our beds, and for Jeff to maneuver his chair.

We absolutely love it.

We love how big it is. We love that all Jeff's medical supplies can be hidden away in the large closet instead of sitting out, staring at us, constantly reminding us of their intrusion into our lives. We love having the bathroom so close. It makes things so convenient.

But what we love most is our time we get to spend in there with Evie.

In our old life, the three of us spent a lot of time in the master bedroom. Each evening we would unwind in there by eating snacks, relaxing, and watching TV. Jeff and I would joke how we finally had a three bedroom home, and yet every night we would all huddle together in the master (including our two cats). Our old master bedroom was the heart of our old house.

Neither one of us realized how much we missed that.

Until we got it back.

Once we were settled, Evie immediately started filling our room with her presence. Her sweet voice drifted in and out, and we would find her in there relaxing on my bed watching a video on her tablet or doing a craft.

Just this morning she climbed into bed with me bringing two dollies with her, and she played quietly while I transitioned from sleeping to waking. We heard Jeff stir, and we both lifted our heads to look at him in the mirror. When he saw our two heads pop up, he said it was the cutest thing he's ever seen.

Something has changed in the last couple weeks. And I think it has a lot to do with this bedroom move.
Jeff and I have our sanctuary back. It's quite different than it used to be, but the feeling is the same.

Jeff summed it up best the other night when we were talking about our new room, realizing how much we missed having a space of our own, and the difference it's made in our new life. He said to me, "I don't feel like we're trying to make it work anymore. It's just working now."

Our room is filled with love.

So are our hearts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sleep - Part I

I have a brand new bed of my very own. A REAL (as in non-inflatable) bed.

And it's made a huge difference in our lives.

Over the last year, my sleeping habits have been inconsistent to say the least.

I thought I'd take a trip down sleepy-time lane to re-visit some of the spots I've (tried) to sleep in the last year.

Too bad I didn't take photos of them all. Probably because I'd like to forget most of them.

First there was the folding cot at the initial hospital Jeff was in. The mattress was no longer than I am tall (and I'm only 5'4). It was decently thick but was on horrid springs that squeaked with each move. Those were the early days, so I didn't sleep much anyway. I would position myself on the cot so that I could see Jeff just by opening my eyes, so most nights I slept with my glasses on. I was scared to death his trach would pop off in the middle of the night (and it did several times). He couldn't pull any breaths on his own at that time, so he would pass out quickly if he didn't have air. I guess I thought if I stared at his trach long enough, I could will it to stay in place - I don't know. What I mainly remember from those days was being horribly sleep deprived.

When I wasn't sleeping on the cot, it was stored in the folded position, and I rolled it into the bathroom. That always surprised the cleaning staff. But I learned early on that if you got a cot, you'd better hold on to it if you wanted to see it again.

The second spot was a short stay at a sub-acute facility with no guests beds. So I borrowed a camping cot from my Dad. In fact, I'd taken some forced naps on that thing in the ICU waiting room several weeks earlier. I quickly found that the metal bar located just beneath the canvas of the cot was an unwelcome intruder into my back/side during the night. So I put a thick sleeping bag on it which helped a bit.

Next it was back to the first facility because of pneumonia. So it was five more weeks on another equally squeaky folding cot.

The next bed was a doozie. And I even got a picture of this one. Now we were in the ICU at Rancho Los Amigos. Here Jeff would spend 3 weeks before being admitted. This bed is what I'd like to call a torture device. It was like an antique dental chair, or something equally unpleasant. It didn't unfold to a fully horizontal position, so there was a deep valley in the middle that I would inevitably be sucked into and get stuck. Trying to get out of the chair was a frustrating (to me) and funny (to Jeff) experience.

Pure torture

After Jeff was admitted to SCI rehab at Rancho, I was lucky enough to get the most comfy of convertible chair beds. It was a deep turquoise, leather-like chair that pulled out to an impressive 6 feet in length, and laid all the way flat. Hallelujah! It was actually really comfortable. Jeff's brother, Gary, also slept on that chair/bed when he visited, and was surprised at how comfortable it was. (He also slept on the folding cot from the first hospital, so he had a valid comparison.)

When Jeff had surgery on his tailbone and was transferred down the hall to the surgical unit, my comfy chair/bed mysteriously disappeared. (Lesson learned - do NOT depend on the nurses or staff to move it for you to your new room.) For a couple weeks, I had to go back to my Dad's camping cot which I tried to bolster with a borrowed padded camping roll. Still, I awoke every morning with stiff knees and a sore back - kind of like you would if you were actually camping - and I'm NOT a camper. It wasn't until Jeff's surgeon saw my sad setup and demanded I get the comfy chair/bed back that it made a re-appearance.  I wish I had a picture of this wonder chair. But I found this online, and it's close:
Ta da!

When Jeff was transferred back to the rehab unit (again, down the hall), you bet I rolled my chair/bed myself down that hall - and kept it in my possession the rest of his stay. I remember when a new patient moved in to the bed next to Jeff, and one of his family members was side-eyeing my chair asking if they could get one. Whenever I would leave Jeff to go home for a while, I would tell him, "Do NOT let anyone take my chair." I joked with the nurses on Jeff's discharge day that I just might try to roll it downstairs and into my car.

Once Jeff got home, my new bed became an inflatable mattress. Each night I would set it up next to Jeff's bed. Our bedroom wasn't big enough to allow my bed to stay in place full time, so each morning I would wrestle it out of the bedroom, slide it down the hall, and store it in the office.

I did this routine for 5 months.

Until I woke up one morning and my body locked up on me. I wrote about it in a blog post titled My Body is Rebelling

That's when I switched to using Evie's twin mattress on the floor next to Jeff's bed. That mattress was more comfortable, but now it required both my Mom and me to drag the mattress off Evie's bed every night, then drag it back onto her bed in the morning. Plus, Evie was having to sleep with my mom.

We did this final routine for a month until we got to the point where something HAD to give. 

I wanted to continue sleeping next to Jeff. I could no longer sleep in the same bed with him, but I could still sleep next to him, and I wanted to keep doing that. I just couldn't imagine sleeping in another room so far away from him.

But I also needed my own bed. A real bed. Not one you "bring out" every night for sleeping and "put away" every morning for storing.

And so I took a trip to the mattress store.

I tried out several beds, and tried not to let the fact that I was shopping for a twin bed bring me down. I wanted to shop for a king bed. A bed I would share with my husband. But that's a different story altogether.

In the end, I took my Mom to the mattress store on the next visit, and we both decided to get new beds. Our bodies go through a lot in the care we provide for Jeff, and we decided an investment in new, comfortable beds would be worth it.

And while we waited for our new beds to be delivered, we came up with a plan. We were going to shake things up with a major switcheroo at our house ...

... which I'll write about in the next post: Sleep - Part II

In the mean time, Sweet Dreams!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy Anniversary

Today is our 9-year wedding anniversary.

Nine years ago, on a lovely yacht in Newport Beach, Jeff and I exchanged our vows in front of 60 family members and friends.

It was a beautiful day. We were happy. We were healthy.

We promised to love one another unconditionally.

Last year, one month before our 8th-wedding anniversary, our lives were forever changed.

But one of the constants throughout our entire marriage has been our commitment to the vows we exchanged on this day nine years ago. I can honestly say that the vow I spoke in 2005 means more to me today than it did when I first promised it. Not that it wasn't meaningful at the time - I guess I'm just experiencing the full power of it now.

I remember back to when Jeff was first injured and was lying in ICU. After the doctors and nurses tended to him in a rushed, systematic blur. After he was hooked up to machines, breathing tube in place, pulse ox secured onto his finger, IVs taped down to his skin. One by one, the doctors and nurses had left the room, and left me standing, alone, next to my husband.

I watched his chest rise and fall in an unnatural, forced pattern. I looked at all the blinking lights and numbers on the monitors with a foreign stare. I watched his face as a mixture of saltwater and sand drained out of his nose. I slowly searched for a tissue, then with a gentle, unsteady hand, wiped him clean.

I was on the verge of either losing it completely or somehow pulling myself together to face this awful situation.

I distinctly remember thinking and saying quietly, "This is the "for worse" part. This is what the "in sickness" part really means."

And in that moment, I felt the full power of our vows rush over me. Because I knew, with every ounce of my being, that there was nothing that could pull me away from my husband. A life-changing injury was staring us in the face, and walking away from it simply wasn't an option - in both the literal and figurative sense. I was rooted in my position next to him, and for the first time, truly understood the meaning of making a promise to love someone unconditionally through everything that comes our way in life - including through sickness and in sorrowful times.

To me, it wasn't a choice. I didn't mull it over in my head then finally come to the conclusion that "okay, I've decided to stick by you through this."

It's just something you do when you love someone. Period.

You just never imagine - or at least I didn't - when you say those vows, that anything so incredibly challenging will ever cross your path.

I meant it when I said it, but I didn't fully understand the meaning until I lived it.

* * * * *

This is probably my favorite picture from our wedding day. So being the nostalgic, photo-loving gal I am, I wanted to try to re-create it today.

Here's the best of the bunch:

The only problem is I started getting the giggles as my mom was taking photos of the two of us.

And I couldn't stop laughing.

Here's what the other pictures looked like.

I don't even know why I was laughing. I think Jeff made a funny face at me, and it just snowballed from there.

My uncontrollable laughter was a good reminder that even though we may have experienced more of those "in sickness" and "sorrowful" times in the last year than we have during our entire relationship, there's still plenty of room for "good times" and "joyful" moments.

Luckily our afternoon and evening were filled with those moments as well.

We decided, on a whim, to go out to dinner. It was Jeff's suggestion.

Just the two of us. To celebrate us.

It was also our first time to a restaurant since the accident. So it was kind of a big deal.

Actually, it was perfect.

The best anniversary we've had in a long time.

We had great conversation, great Mexican food, and great margaritas.

For the first time, it felt like we were "us" again - if that makes any sense at all.

We came home to my Mom and Evie waiting for us, smiling and playing in the front yard.

And as I'm typing this, Evie is eating her snack on my bed and Jeff is content and wiped out from our day.

It's almost like old times.

Happy Anniversary to the love of my life. We are so fortunate to have one another.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Snippets of Evie

Oh, I could write a book on this girl.

One chapter would be about her kind heart. Another would be about the silly, imaginative stories she loves to tell. Yet another would be about how much she truly loves to laugh.

The stories would be interwoven with tales of her childlike innocence contrasted with her astounding perseverance through a life-changing event. They would show how each and every day she reminds us that despite adversity, life is good ... life is worth living ... life is love.

But since I'm not writing a novel (though this post might be just that!), here's what I call snippets of Evie - a glimpse into the delight that she is.

* * * * *

Last week, Evie decided Daddy needed a mirror on his wheelchair. So she found one of her doll mirrors - the kind with distorted, reflective material adhered to a plastic post - and strategically placed it on the arm of his chin control. She explained, "Now whenever you want to look at yourself, you can just look in your mirror, Daddy."

A few days after the placement of the mirror, Jeff had a doctor appointment, so we took the mirror off - "So as not to break it," we told her. Evie understood, but she did not forget.

Five minutes after we were back home, the mirror was quietly tucked back in its proper place.

"I put your mirror back for you, Daddy."

And it's still there.

* * * * *

In our house, we're big on those scented wax cubes that go into electric warmers and fill the air with delicious aromas. These have been a staple at the Sachs' residence for several years. Any time I would buy the cubes at the store or order them in the mail, it was always a fun family moment to open them up together and pass them around, sharing our opinions on each scent, then deciding which was our favorite.

A few days ago, I stocked up on a bunch of cubes. When Evie got home from school and found them piled up waiting for her, she was so excited. She pulled a stool up next to Jeff's chair, and said, "Okay, Daddy, let's smell 'em." She meticulously opened each one, put it to her nose, then held it out for Jeff to smell. 

I love how she always figures out a way to keep family traditions going.

* * * * *

The other day I was in the bathroom taking out my contact lenses. I was rinsing one in my hand with saline solution when Jeff called for me. "Just a sec!" I yelled as I fumbled to get the lens into the case.

Just then I heard Evie's hurried footsteps run into his room. 

"What do you need Daddy?" He was in his bed, and was starting to feel light-headed, and he needed to have this head reclined. Evie pushed the button to lower his head. As she was exiting his room, she turned back to him and sweetly chided him. 

"Daddy, whenever you need something and Mama's busy, you can always ask me." 

She turned away, then turned back again. "Always ask me," she reiterated.

"Ok, I will," he said.

* * * * *

Every day when we transfer Jeff from the bed to the chair and back, we use a Hoyer lift. It's a manual hydraulic lift with a sling attached to it that goes around Jeff's body. We have to pump a lever to lift Jeff up. Typically Evie's job during transfers is to operate the vents (which I wrote about here). But she's wanted to try "pumping Daddy up" lately. It usually takes about 15 full pumps to get him to the required, maximum height. At first, the pumps are easy peasy. But as it starts to lift Jeff's weight, the pumps become more challenging. 

Initially Evie would get to about pump number 8 and poop out. But the other day, she was determined to do the whole thing. We encouraged her as she pumped away, grunting, saying things like, "Getting heavy!" Finally, she made it to the last pump, and we all cheered. She and I did a high five. 

"I did it all by MYSELF!" she exclaimed, arms in the air, jumping up and down.

Oh, and she did it wearing Snow White high heels.

* * * * *

Evie loves to tell stories about one of her beloved stuffed animals - Big Bear. We've had him for years, but in just the last year, she has begun telling us the most wonderful, intricate stories of Big Bear's adventures before he came into our lives. Let me tell you, Big Bear is a world-traveler, has a very large family, and has lead an extremely full life thus far.

A few nights ago, Evie and I were in her bed telling stories before sleepy time, and she asked about Jeff's accident. I mentioned the word "injury" and she asked, "What does injury mean?"

I told her it means when someone gets hurt. There are minor injuries like a cut or scrape, and then there's more serious injuries, like the one Daddy had.

She thought for a minute, then said, "One time Big Bear's sister was injured. She was runned over by a car and her leg came off!"

Of course the graphic nature of Big Bear's sister's injury was shocking, but I wanted to hear more.

She continued. "And she had to take medicine that tasted like ... HOT PICKLES. But it was okay because she was asleep for 85 days and didn't even know she had the medicine. When she woke up, she was all better."

Whew. Glad she was okay after all that.

What an imagination.

What a sweet heart this little one has.

Every day she fills our house and our hearts with laughter and love.

We are blessed beyond measure.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Difficult Questions - Honest Answers

I've encountered this quote several times lately, and it reminds me of both the difficult questions and equally difficult answers my family has endured this last year.

Questions you never imagine in a million years that you'll have to ask. Questions you can't believe you have to provide an answer for.

Every one of my family members has had to both ask and answer these questions. I don't back down from the tough questions like I may have in the beginning. I both ask them and field them with determination. And I always answer honestly - even if my voice shakes.

. . . . . . . . . .

I remember the first impossible question I asked following the accident. I was standing in the corner of Jeff's ICU room, hugging my hunched body close to me, trembling with fear and disbelief. Doctors and nurses were getting ready to intubate Jeff with a breathing tube. He was still conscious and repeating hoarsely, "I can't breathe." His eyes were unfocused and full of panic. I looked at the anesthesiologist standing next to me and asked meekly, "Is he going to survive?"

I was met with an answer that relieved me to my core.

"Oh yes," he said turning to me and placing a caring hand on my shoulder. "I'm so sorry no one told you that. Yes, your husband will survive."

. . . . . . . . . .

A few days after the accident, Jeff lay in ICU heavily sedated in a halo traction unit with 30 pounds of weight hanging off his head in an effort to realign his cervical vertebrae and relieve the pressure on his spinal cord. We were alone in the room, and I wanted so badly to reverse what had happened to him - to us - in the last three days.

What do I do? I asked myself.

So I did something I've never done - I sang outloud to him.

We had been watching a lot of the movie Tangled at our house in the months prior to the accident. Evie and I often sang the songs together. In the movie, Rapunzel uses her magical powers in her hair to heal Flynn Rider. It turns out her tears also have the power to heal.

I thought it couldn't hurt to try with my own:

Flower, gleam and glow
Let your power shine
Make the clock reverse
Bring back what once was mine

Heal what has been hurt
Change the fates' design
Save what has been lost
Bring back what once was mine...

What once was mine.

. . . . . . . . . .

After Jeff's second surgery to stabilize his neck, the doctors lifted the sedation enough where he would be in and out of consciousness. We were alone again in his room. It was the first time he and I were able to "talk" since he arrived at the hospital. He wasn't able to speak yet, but he was able to mouth words.

I had no idea what he knew. Even though he had been conscious and talking after the accident, I didn't know how much he remembered - if he even remembered it at all.

I didn't know if he knew he was paralyzed.

He asked me two questions which assured me he knew much more than I thought.

"Will I move my arms?"


"Will I hold my baby again?"

These two questions were by far the hardest - to date - for me to hear and to answer.

I leaned in to him, stroked his forehead, and whispered the only answer I could.

"I don't know."

. . . . . . . . . .

Even our precious Evie has had to both ask and answer some loaded questions. I've written about them in a couple previous blog posts you can find here and here.

Just the other night, out of the blue, she asked my mom ...

"So Daddy will never walk again?" She asked it matter-of-factly. No sadness - just curiosity.

My mom was caught off guard not having anticipated the question. She answered that we all hope one day he will, but if not, he has his chair that helps him get where he needs to go.

Evie was perfectly satisfied with this answer.

. . .

In my effort to educate Evie on Jeff's injury, I believe in explaining it to her honestly. In terms she can understand, using the correct terminology. I've been doing this from the beginning. And I'm still astounded by what she's able to process.

A few weeks ago, I was attempting to explain to her what a spinal cord injury is. I asked her, "Do you know what it is Daddy has?" My question was worded strangely, so I thought I would get a puzzled look from her as a response which would then be my segue into the definition of SCI.

Instead, she hunched her shoulders, stuck out her neck, and looked up at me with only her eyes that stared from beneath her furrowed brow.

"A ventilator," she said robotically. "He's on a vent."

Translation: Duh, Mom.

I left it at that. Her learning curve is obviously coming along quite nicely.

. . .

Still, I can't help but have anxiety over the questions I know she's going to get. She starts kindergarten in a few weeks, and I don't know exactly when these questions will start coming or how they'll be worded, but I do know that it's not a matter of "if" - it's a matter of time.

I'm sure that most of the kids' questions will purely stem from curiosity. But I also think that, unfortunately, some will be rooted in cruelty. And it is my hope that when some punk kid asks Evie why her dad is different from other dads, she can school him with her answer. She's definitely got the smarts and spunk to pull it off.

. . . . . . . . . .

I don't think we'll ever stop asking or answering the hard questions. They are just a part of this new life we're living. And honestly, we don't mind them. We have to keep asking so we can keep moving forward. And we have to keep answering to pass along our knowledge and educate others.

That being said, we invite our friends and family to ask us questions. There's nothing we won't answer. Questions about our life, about spinal cord injuries, about Jeff's abilities, what it feels like to be paralyzed, or what it's like to be married to someone who's paralyzed.

Before all this, we didn't know anyone with a spinal cord injury. Now we know lots. Maybe Jeff is the first guy you know who's paralyzed. It's our hope that maybe someday when you're talking to some of your friends, and the topic of spinal cord injury comes up, you can join in the conversation by saying, "Hey, I know a guy who's paralyzed and he's pretty amazing ..."

So ask away, and we'll answer - the only way we know how.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Just What I Needed

Today we spent several hours with friends at a bbq. It was a good day. It was just what I needed because yesterday was a crappy day.

Yesterday was the culmination of a bunch of frustrating things that come along with life after a spinal cord injury.

I started off yesterday morning by re-organizing my "to do" list. Every so often I have to start over completely with my list because priorities change, things drop off, etc. But lately I've been keeping my list going in my head. It had gotten to the point that too much was piling up in my brain causing some to spill over into the land of "Gah! I forgot to do that!" So I got a pen and started writing.

By the time I finished and looked over my list, I let out a sound that was somewhere between a whimper and gag of disgust. How did this list get so long? How could I possibly get through all this? When am I going to get time to do all this? It was only 7:30 am, and I was already feeling overwhelmed.

The time factor is a big one for me. I work 40 hours a week during standard business hours. And the stuff on my to do list often requires that I contact other business that also operate during standard business hours. You can see my predicament.

This means as much as I would like to take on several of the items on my list per day, I just can't.

And so the list grows.

I decided to tackle an item requiring me to contact a government agency. My frustration was already revving up. I had called a couple days before, so I knew which buttons to push to get me into the proper queue. I was pleasantly surprised when the automated system told me I could leave my callback number rather than stay on hold, and someone would call ME back in 30-45 minutes. Sweet. I punched in my number, hung up, and waited for my call.

My phone rang.


The automated callback system HUNG UP ON ME.

Head in hands - close to tears.

The phone rang again ten minutes later.

"Is anyone there? Can you hear me?"

"CRAP!" (Please note that what I actually said was much worse than this).

After more cursing and some stomping around, I decided to move to the next item on the list ... and the next.

Each item was met with more frustrations. Incompetent, unresponsive people (how do these people keep their jobs? Seriously?). The silver lining on my list was provided by a very nice customer service rep who was able to process several refills for Jeff's medications, though she wasn't able to help me with figuring out why half of Jeff's medicine comes to us via mail, and the other half I have to pick up at the CVS down the street.

Well, at least I was able to cross one thing off.

Yesterday was a clerical nightmare. Looked at individually, the items aren't big things. But when they add up, and when I can't seem to make a dent in my list, I feel unproductive and defeated.

I went to bed last night feeling frustrated - about how this injury has upended our life - about all the sh** I have to handle on a daily basis in order for us to have a relatively smooth existence - about how some days it's all just too much to deal with.

Luckily my pity party didn't survive the night and my frustrations melted away today with a well-timed bbq with some great people. We met up with the families who were all at the beach with us the day of Jeff's accident - plus another family we hadn't seen in a long time.

Despite the obvious difference from the last time we were all together, it was a pretty normal day. And that's what we need right now - to feel normal. Especially Jeff. He loved hanging out with his friends. Talking, being goofy, laughing. He wasn't able to do that for so, so long, and it feels good to get back in the game.

Here's some pics from our afternoon:






After we got home, Jeff and I joked about yet another "flawless victory." That's what we call an outing/scenario that we pull off which ends with everyone safe and happy and provides a feeling of accomplishment.

It was a good reminder for me that I don't need to be bullied by my "to do" list. 

I didn't do a thing on it today, and I don't plan on even looking at it tomorrow.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

BBQ Queen

This weekend was kind of a big deal. Yesterday I barbecued for the first time.


In my life.

For those of you who aren't aware of the culinary situation at the Sachs house, I can sum it up pretty quickly: before the accident, Jeff was the cook.

Of course I made food as well, but it was nothing compared to what Jeff would prepare. When explaining our cooking roles to people, my standard statement was: "I make food that keeps my family alive. Jeff makes food that we actually like to eat."

Jeff used to love to cook. Loved being in the kitchen. He loved making a menu, going to the store, spending time in the kitchen preparing it, and of course, savoring every bite. And he was so good at all these things.

Me, not so much. I have no patience when it comes to the grocery store. No imagination when it comes to "whipping up a meal," and very little confidence in actually preparing a meal. I'm a wreck in the kitchen. I am always in awe of people who invite guests over for a get together, and simultaneously create a masterful dinner, engage in conversation, and keep tabs on the kids. If I tried that, it would end up with me shooing everyone into another room and snapping at anyone who tried to talk to me. "Can't you see I'm trying to cook in here!"

The kitchen and I just don't go together.

I knew pretty early after Jeff's injury that I would need to step up my game in the kitchen. Jeff and I talked about how we would have to start cooking together from now on. My good friend and I joked that I could star in a cooking/comedy show and she came up with two very enticing titles: Cooking? with Kristen and Throwing the Spatula. Creative and accurate.

Until now, I've been getting by by making my standard "keep the family alive" meals. These have, thankfully, been supplemented by meals from more culinary-savvy folks like my mom, family when they come visit, and some foodie friends.

But when I was in Costco last week and saw Jeff's favorite Santa Maria Tri Tip, I knew I had to get it and make it for him. He was so excited and couldn't wait to make it together. Yesterday was the day.

Here we are with the BBQ.

Photo courtesy of Evie.

We started with grilling 101. He had to talk me through everything.

Turn the knob counterclockwise on the propane tank.

Turn on the left burner . . .

You get the idea. He was very clear and patient with his instructions.

Once the BBQ was nice and hot, it was time to put the tri tip on the grill. I was scared to death I would drop it (that sucker was heavy!) and thus ruin dinner.

The meat made it onto the grill with no problems.

Whew. So far so good.

Cheers for getting this far.

Then it was time to turn the meat. More panic about the flip.

I was so proud I didn't botch the flip. 
Jeff was yelling in the background, "Close the lid!!"

Lastly, it was time to take the meat off and check it for doneness.


Here we are enjoying our meal.

Grilling meat is certainly no great feat - millions of people do it every day. But I'd never done it before, so it was a big deal at our house. Before the accident, Jeff and I had a great division of duties, as many relationships do. Barbecuing was his thing. He loved doing it, and I loved not doing it.

But things are different now. And yesterday we found a way to work as a team to get the job done. We were happy campers after eating our yummy dinner.

Jeff was so proud of me.

I was proud of me too.

Mostly for not dropping it.