I’ve struggled to write this post about my recent injury. I usually blog when I glean some personal insight into finding shama/inner-peace. But the story I’m about to tell will continue for quite some time, and I have no idea when the ending will play out (months, years?).

Eric and I quietly and privately got married on May 1st. For years we have committed ourselves as life partners, but when we decided to formalize things with a marriage certificate I anticipated an extra special, romantic honeymoon period in our relationship.

Well.

Our lives changed in the span of about 4 or 5 seconds. I went from being a new bride to being a patient, with my new husband as my full time caregiver. Nothing like testing “in sickness and in health” marriage vows right off the bat.

So here’s what happened. Eric and I are producing a TV show about road tripping to unique locations. In July we were filming an episode in Vermont, a state we picked initially for the sole reason that it is home to Dog Chapel, a sweet, quirky, lovely place where people pay homage to their dead dogs by leaving photos and notes tacked to the walls. It’s a pilgrimage I’ve wanted to make since a friend told me about it last year after Yoda transitioned. I figured by putting Dog Chapel in the show, I would be lighting two candles with one flame.

On July 15th, Dog Chapel was our last day of filming in Vermont before we headed to Maine to film for another week. Towards the end of the day, I had the BRILLIANT idea (okay, really not brilliant at all, and actually one of the worst decisions of my life) to film a Pomeranian running through a doggy door. The short version is on “action,” the Pomeranian ran in the wrong direction. I lunged to catch it, and I plunged right off a cement staircase.

I ended up in a rural Vermont ER, where they told me I have a tibial plateau fracture (and I would later find out I also have a fractured femur). I had no idea what a tibial plateau fracture (“TPF”) was, but presumed it would be like that mild stress fracture I had in high school where six weeks later the cast came off and I was walking on my own. I was wrong.

I was put in a full leg immobilizer, told I couldn’t put any weight on my leg, and ordered to see an orthopedic surgeon within 48 hours. So we canceled our Maine shoot and Eric and our Director of Photography, Andrew, drove me a very long 6 hours back to New Jersey, with every bump in the road feeling like someone was smashing my knee with a hammer.

The next day I saw an orthopedist who gave me a new full-leg metal hinged brace that I like to pretend makes me look like a bionic woman. He looked at my CT Scan results and told me I don’t need surgery – HURRAY! Of course my celebration abruptly ended when I learned that this will be a very long, painful and frustrating journey to walking again. A tibial plateau fracture is pretty rare and accounts for only 1% of all bone breaks. The tibia and femur are the two largest bones in the body, and thus take a really long time to heal. I broke the top end of the tibia and the bottom end of the femur, which are both part of the knee joint, one of the most critical weight bearing joints in the body. When you have a TPF you cannot put any weight whatsoever on the leg for a length of time that varies from 6 weeks to many months.

Here’s what I have to look forward to with my recovery: Hopefully at 6 weeks (one week from now), I’ll be able to be partial weight bearing (that means I’ll be able to touch my toe to the ground with a tiny bit of weight (like 20 pounds worth) while still in a full leg brace and still on crutches). With any luck (meaning all my calcium supplements are doing their job) my scans will show good bone growth and then at 9 or 10 weeks I can finally begin PT to learn to walk again. My orthopedist hopes I’ll take my first steps on my own (without a brace, crutches, walker or cane) at the 3 month mark. Shit got real fast when I watched videos of my TPF comrades taking their first unassisted steps, and they look like toddlers learning to walk. I’ve been reading it can take a year or more to get rid of the limp and get my gait back (insert crying jag here).

Second to the 24/7 pain, the most horrific part of this injury is the complete and total loss of my independence. A friend recently told me that when he describes me to people he uses many verbs: I’m always busy, always over committed, always trying to accomplish something. I’m not good with sitting still. Yet here I sit five weeks after my accident, with my leg elevated and my cold therapy machine pumping ice water around my knee (which is really the only real pain relief I’ve found). I’m not able to do much of anything myself. Obviously you can’t even carry a glass of water across the room when you can only put weight on one foot and are bound to crutches, all while hitching your pelvis in a weird position so you don’t touch your foot to the floor (which is really difficult when you are wearing a full leg brace that is holding your leg almost straight).

This all means my husband, my brand spanking new glorious husband, has now become my sexy manservant.

Because we have really steep, scary stairs, and because I can’t bend my leg when I crutch, going upstairs has been impossible. The bedroom and the showers are upstairs, so I’ve been living, sleeping and eating in the living room and taking daily sponge baths. I’m a girl who has been known to occasionally take two showers a day, so let’s just say that sponge baths really suck in my world. One day, out of desperation for clean hair, Eric even washed my greasy hair with a garden hose. It was a sloppy wet disaster, and we quickly bought a kitchen sink spray faucet that we’ve been using since. We also finally got a chair lift installed and last week Eric helped me take my first shower in 32 DAYS. Really, sitting on my new shower bench with my leg propped up on the side of the tub, having hot water rain down on me was as close to bathing perfection as I have ever felt.

I could complain about the pain in my knee, about my hip spasms from balancing on my good leg, about learning to sleep on my back (I hate it, how do you back sleepers do it?!), about needing an elevated toilet seat with medical bars and other granny gear, and about the rapid muscle atrophy in my TPF leg. But I realized from the start that this injury hasn’t solely happened to me. The accident also changed Eric’s life overnight. He has to help me bathe and dress, he cooks for me, washes the dishes, does my laundry, does all the shopping, takes me to the doctor, and about a million other things. My new wheelchair has given me a small amount of much needed independence, but the fact of the matter is I could not be navigating this recovery without Eric. He has to be exhausted, but he doesn’t complain. Instead, he finds ways to make me laugh – like telling me he got a lemon for a bride and wants to trade me in for a new model. So we laugh, and sometimes I cry, but mainly we laugh.

It is hard work being positive, given this is the most physically and emotionally challenging experience of my life. But I think that now more than ever I need to put in the elbow grease to be strong and optimistic. Things could obviously be soooo much worse. I will walk again, hopefully soon-ish. Some people aren’t that lucky.

Already I’ve recognized a couple gifts from the experience. (Warning, this first one is woo woo girl stuff). The actual act of breaking my bones was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. When it happened it was like I was in a timeless, quiet, peaceful space – almost floating in a different dimension. I felt the snap of the bone, but it was like I knew it was happening to me, but at the same time it was not at all happening to me and I was just an observer. When I stopped rolling off the staircase, I opened my eyes and the world was noisy and bright. I wanted to go back to that sacred, calm, dark space. This makes me feel, even more than I ever believed, that there is something bigger and more beautiful out there, just beyond my reach.

The other gift has to do with my marriage. That this happened right after our wedding is so nuts that I kinda think it was supposed to happen. Like this was some twisted wedding gift from the Universe – almost like a test with a reward at the end. And here’s the thing: Eric and I are earning our gold stars. The intimacy of this yucky shared experience is bringing us closer than we ever dreamed we could be. It’s cementing our bond and deepening our love and commitment to one another. I didn’t think it was possible, but now I’m even more madly and completely in love with my gorgeous, compassionate, loving husband.

So thanks Universe. You have given us the best wedding gift we could have asked for. Now can we please move on to the part where I walk again?

 

 

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We are living at the Holiday Inn. I felt like I lived out of hotels when Yoda and I drove around the country. And sometimes I feel like I live out of hotels with all the traveling Eric and I do. But this time is different. This isn’t by choice and doesn’t have anything to do with work, and we are only 10 minutes from our house and not in some far away location.

It started last Thursday night when freezing rain started flooding our basement. We spent hours bailing out the water until Eric finally figured out a way to temporarily divert the leak. Then Friday morning things got worse when a so-called “bomb cyclone” hit, bringing with it snow and, in some locations, hurricane force winds. Within a couple hours the storm had uprooted one tree, which knocked down our fence and landed in the pool. Then another tree fell and took out our phone line. Finally, a third tree fell and landed on the power lines over our driveway. Instantly we had no heat, no running water or flushable toilets (our well is powered by electricity), no lights, and no internet.

So we checked ourselves into a nearby Holiday Inn so we could continue to work. But within an hour of settling into our room, the hotel lost power. When it hadn’t come back on by early evening, we moved to a different nearby hotel that still had electricity, but within 15 minutes of us checking in, that hotel’s power went out. Because the Holiday Inn had a technician valiantly trying to fix the generator and had gotten to the point where they had limited power in the lobby, we decided to move back to that hotel with the hope that the generator would power some of the rooms.

With each move, we were lugging a cooler (in our attempt to save our food from rotting in our fridge), a guitar, suitcases and computer bags up and down the dark stairwells of the hotels because, quite obviously, the elevators weren’t working. By the time we got back to the Holiday Inn, we collapsed into bed. Right before we went to sleep, Eric fist bumped me and said “Disaster Buddies,” which was both hilarious and comforting at the same time as he reminded me that we were in this together. The storm was a doozy—at least five people died and 1.7 million people and businesses lost power.

The power came back on at the hotel Saturday afternoon. But not at our house. And not at many many other people’s homes. In fact, when a conference of 300 people checked out of our hotel on Sunday, there was a line out the door with people trying to claim the newly vacated rooms. People waited in line for two hours to get rooms, and some sadly had to be turned away.

It’s now our sixth day of living in the Holiday Inn. The hotel guests are all starting to recognize each other. People give one another a knowing nod in the elevator when they see someone carrying a bag of groceries, a cooler, or bottled water up to their rooms.

Our next-door neighbors are here and we’ve met many other locals who have taken refuge at the hotel with their families and pets. I’ve never seen so many dogs in a hotel (which, quite frankly, is totally awesome). Most of these dogs have never been in a hotel, and given they are here with their humans as fellow storm refugees, I’m not about to complain about the pile of dog poo in the hallway outside my room, or about the pile of poo in the elevator. Really, I get it. The humans are freaked out, and so the animals are freaked out too.

To keep myself from going stir crazy in the room, I’ve been finding little corners of the hotel to work in. We’ve also tried our best to make our room feel more like home. We brought our own coffee, coffee maker and mugs, a tea kettle, dishes, silverware, dish detergent, hand soap…and of course our brag-worthy disaster preparedness means we also have plenty of avocados and gourmet chocolate on hand.

But after six days with no sign in sight of our power being restored, I’m starting to struggle to spin positive. Especially given I’m sitting here writing this while the second Nor’easter in a week is hitting. Adding an even more surreal twist to the week, this morning I was on Good Morning America in a segment where they were warning people about this dangerous storm while also highlighting that there are many of us still without power from last Friday’s storm.

The smart people who do the weather on TV have been saying that this storm, with up to 14 inches of very wet, heavy snow, will likely take out more people’s power. This is bad news for us. We live in the woods with a downed power line that is only connected to our house. The rule of power restoration is to restore power to the areas where the most people are impacted.

Yet each time that Eric and I start to get down about our situation, we fist bump each other and say “Hey disaster buddy,” which makes us laugh. Then we talk about Puerto Rico, where there are still 400,000 people without power, almost six months after back-to-back hurricanes ravaged the island. Now that’s a reality check. Those people don’t have the luxury of living in a hotel, with comfy beds, lights, Wi-Fi, and plenty of fresh food and clean water. Puerto Ricans are living the true disaster, and it’s all too easy to forget that.

So until our power comes back on and we can move home, I’ll continue to fist bump my disaster buddy, while remembering that we aren’t really living a disaster. The old adage is true: Home is where the heart is. My heart is with Eric. And since he’s here at the Holiday Inn with me, it’s a pretty good place to be.

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An Open Letter to the New Year

February 5, 2018

Dear 2018, You finally arrived. Nonetheless, it’s taken me a month to center myself enough to write my eighth annual letter to the New Year. Last year, 2017, will forever be remembered as my year of grief. The year was filled with loss—loss of sanity, kindness and reason not only in the White House but […]

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What My Dog Taught Me By Dying

August 29, 2017

It’s been six months. In the love letter I read to Yoda minutes before he transitioned to formlessness, I promised him I would find shama amidst the grief of losing him. A promise made on a deathbed is a promise one must keep. Yet I had absolutely no idea how to find inner peace while […]

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Yoda Pies: Mourning and Celebration

March 20, 2017

Three weeks ago my precious Yoda left this world. Eric and I decided we wanted to set him free with a celebration of his large life. The last day of his life began with baking a “Yoda Pie” in his honor. The three of us ate the pie for lunch, and Yoda devoured his piece (an impressive feat, given we […]

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Yoda, Thank You

March 2, 2017

I said goodbye to my furry shama warrior on Tuesday night. My friend Dorry Bless, a Life-Cycle Celebrant, conducted a beautiful ceremony celebrating his life, and then he was set free in Eric’s and my arms in the studio next to the grand piano, his favorite place in the house. I read him this thank […]

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Breaking Bread with the Enemy

February 10, 2017

Take a look at the guy in the photo with me. I don’t know his name, and I don’t know much about him, but I’ll likely never forget him. Last week I attended a rally in Flemington, NJ to protest the president’s un-American and un-Constitutional Muslim ban. The county I live in largely voted for […]

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Activism is the New Normal

January 31, 2017

A friend posted on Facebook that she wants to see puppy, kitten and baby photos and that she is going to unfriend anyone who posts anything political. She continued by saying “It’s gotten out of hand. We’re not going to save our country on Facebook.” Her post is a perfect example of how we have […]

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An Open Letter to the New Year

January 18, 2017

Dear 2017, This is the seventh year in a row that I’ve written an open letter to the new year. It seems especially important this year to start off on the right foot with you, given the state of American politics and the deep divide between the people of our country. In the wake of […]

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I Stole My Dog’s Xanax (aka Finding Inner Peace in Donald Trump’s World)

December 20, 2016

I hit rock bottom the day I took my dog’s Xanax. Let’s be absolutely clear: I STOLE DRUGS FROM MY DOG. What kind of crappy human does that? Or perhaps my big low was the day I made myself a cake with cream cheese frosting. I ATE IT ALL. It’s pretty clear that my regular […]

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