It’s August, and since the last update, the BOH has cruised through the summer with “high, high hopes,” as the current song from Panic! At the Disco goes. I will “try” to be brief, making as many stops as we “shoot for the stars” along the way.
Melissa’s fall schedule: speaking of panic, I put out a call for hope and prayers on Facebook the other day as my credit load dipped below 12. That number is the magical one to maintain health benefits. After the axe fell – and it’s par for the course as all MNSCU schools are now low in enrollment – I took a deep breath, found my center, and hoped for the best. Within the next day or so, I landed two classes that put me fully in the safety zone for benefits. What’s really interesting? The 2-credit College Success Strategies course I will teach at MCTC needed an instructor with a reading background. So, “I didn’t know how, but I *always have a feeling” that these stuff works out. (But at least Panic! ensues.)
Rachel’s OT/Speech/PT: Right now, Rachel’s right hand is in a cast, but please, don’t “panic.” She is using a procedure called “serial casting.” During a successful round of phenol/Bo-tox shots, the medical team put her right hand into the plaster mold: the process incorporates a series of four casts over the space of four weeks. Each one puts her right hand into both a prolonged stretch and a new, neutral position. She is tolerating it well, but good, happy, and healthy distractions are a must. Enter EVELYN! This girl’s got “high, high hopes” alright…
Detour: Evelyn is a constant source of energy, joy, and ideas. Her energy is infectious, filling my tank to keep going myself, and she is game for damned near anything. (Ev, when you read this, I’ll say it for you: Language!!!) With the cast, Ev’s self-appointed role was to have a Sharpie on hand in order to have anyone and everyone sign it. Speaking of detours, since the beginning of the summer, Ev’s suggested going to a place called Cat’s Meow.
So, on Friday, we made the trek to Minneapolis and paid a visit to the “unique experience […] where you can enjoy quality coffee and tea while relaxing in a lounge with 10 – 15 rescue cats that are up for adoption!” Now this event could have been a place for Rachel’s own panic. She doesn’t always do well around animals, that is, beyond our own cat, Hobbes. Well, she delivered on “rewriting her own history” and was a total rock star. We all three had a wonderful time spending an hour with the kitties and striking up conversations with other feline fans.
Back to therapy: Her PT sessions are now filled with something called e-stimulation. What does this mean? It’s using electrical stimulation to “contract muscles that are weak or not functioning well” (Verywell Health). We apply it to her thighs, wait for the machine to start working, and work on stretches or sit-to-stands. We will work on gait training in our last sessions of PT too. The therapists remain pleased with the progress from the summer as a whole.
Speech: We are making lots of progress here. Her communication skills used to be just sounds, then a word repeated over and over, and now, it’s grown from 1-2 word statements to 4-8 words with encouragement and cueing. Examples: 1. Can I have ice cream? 2. I see a bird. 3. Can you make big popcorn please, cherry on top?
Jim’s job at Stratasys: My husband procured a management position at his work. It’s garnered a small bump in pay and a big opportunity to help the company. *Apparently, he’s doing well, as accolades of Atta boys and job well done are flowing in. I’m very proud of him.
Our new “bus stop”: As I have written before, our second driveway that leads us from the bus stop to the kitchen door is akin to any skateboarder’s wet dream: it’s steep, curvy, and now dangerous given how big Rachel is getting. As our current plan sits, by October, we will put in a chair lift that takes Rachel from the main floor to the basement. Then, an asphalt company will install a place for the school bus to pull in (off the main road) to retrieve Rachel; once on the bus, the driver will pull back onto Wilshire Blvd. to continue her route.
Some of our community might know our bus driver, a delightful woman by the name of Marty. She’s coming back to help us out, even after dealing with health issues at home. I’m certain that she will be happy to see the new set up for Rachel. Every day I brought her down that driveway, I felt as though Marty and any para were holding their collective breath, making sure that Rach and I made it to the door in one piece. We’re “rewriting history,” allowing for better safety and saving *someone’s back from injury!
Grandma Kathy: My mother – a young at heart 75-year-old as of June – is a smoothly running engine of hope. Forgive me for mixing metaphors, but I often regard her as love’s headwaters, flowing to family and friends. During a three-week period in the month of July, my mother helped out the BOH big time: While I taught at Normandale from 9-12, she drove from Bloomington to Mound, collecting Evelyn en route to Grandview Middle School, where Rachel finished her day of summer school. Once there, Grandma Kathy fed Rachel and Ev as they waited for me to come from Normandale. At about 12: 45, I loaded all three girls and a wheelchair, into my van. We headed out to St. Paul for Rachel’s Lokomat session at 2. We were only late once.
Grandma Kathy made all that possible. She helps whenever and however she can. I’m truly grateful. It’s very likely that she would agree with the song lyric: “Mama said, don’t give up, it’s a little complicated.” But my mother replenishes me, she fuels me, and she loves me, so that I won’t give up. I’ll go out on a limb: she might even be a tiny bit proud of me. But I don’t wanna push it. 🙂
How am I, you ask?
Melissa: Oh, I’m fine.
BOH: That’s it? You’re just “fine”?
Melissa: Yeah, I’m good.
BOH: Aren’t you going to tell us all the things you’ve done this summer?
Melissa: Well I could—nah, I’m good. Maybe I’m just a little tired, but really I’m go–
BOH: Did you submit grades for three classes in the last week or so?
Melissa: Sure, it goes with the territory, so, no big de—
BOH: I have heard rumors that you read two big books this summer. One was about Jim Henson and the other was an autobiography about Norman Lear. You aren’t going to share that you snuck that in?
Melissa: The Henson one was an audiobook. I listened to that while driving. Technically I was multi-tasking. No big deal, really.
BOH: How about running the BOH Day Camp? That’s something to brag about.
Melissa: No, that’s something to heap praise onto Evelyn as she makes caring for Rachel so much easier.
BOH: Look, all I’m saying is that it’s okay to be proud of the work you do. People who read this blog ought to know a smidge of what you accomplish.
Melissa: Look, don’t call me “amazing,” or some kind of hero. I’m just a bus driver. I just believe better days are coming. Doesn’t everyone work this way? Besides, Jim is doing this work with me, at my side. Grandma Kathy and Evelyn too. I’m not doing it alone.
BOH: Sure, fair point, but many of the Gillette team have said that not all parents do the work and are as committed as you both. That’s a fact.
Melissa: I can’t argue that the professionals said that. I was there. The best way I can explain this is what runners say: “Slow and steady wins the race.”
BOH: Well, then we can just close this with “obey the speed limit,” right?
Melissa: And use the cruise control while driving as my mom suggested.
BOH: That’s a start.
– – – – –
Well, folks, the BOH rests now. A Blue Moon is catching the evening sunlight. All the beds have fresh linen. Everyone has clean, folded laundry. We have a clean bathroom. All the groceries are put away. I have work and health benefits when I return to work this fall. And Rachel begins the seventh grade on September 3, 2019.
Thanks for riding with us! And offering your hope, love, light, prayers, and positive vibes! You are “that one in a million!” We are cruising right along…. See you in September!
Melissa, Bus Driver – who’s “got high, high hopes for a living”