If there has ever been a post I was more excited to write about...this has to be in my top 3!
What I'm about to share with you is one of the most amazing stories of inspiration I have ever had the personal pleasure to experience. Granted, I have met so many incredible people with the most amazing stories of how they fought to overcome their hardships and came out winning, so by no means do I in any way want to diminish their experiences, at all...it's just that this particular experience has touched me, literally and permanently, and for that, I will always be grateful and forever inspired.
my torn earlobe :)
Let me first explain WHY I was so moved to share this story. If you've never met Lisa Decosse of Decosse's Dynamite Doodles, you're in for a treat. Words, sentences, paragraphs, nor volumes of pages can begin to describe her positive outreach in the blog world. She has to be one of the most organized and thoughtful women who remembers dates, awards, birthdays, anniversaries (and will write you to tell you happy anniversary too!), pretty much ANY information that is shared in blog land and she writes about it daily. She is a constant source of upbeat fun and encouragement. That, and she has a freakin' awesome name too! She truly uses her blog to inspire and to promote the many amazing works of so many people. Lisa is the reason I'm writing this post. Recently she has begun her very own challenge on her blog and it's so appropriately called Path of Positivity Challenge. There's a button on my sidebar that you can click for more information.
Now, let me introduce to you, Cheryl, but first...
I had absolutely NO part in the making of this most fantastic canvas. However, when I read of Lisa's challenge, the stars and planets aligned and I instantly knew that I had to ask an extremely talented fellow blogger if she would mind taking on the task of creating this image that I had floating around in my head and lo and behold she said YES and would you believe it...she had this masterpiece mailed to my doorstep within one week!! An eternal and sincere thank you of gratitude goes to Kelly Neis at The Beauty of Paper, for taking my simple words of description and turning it into the most incredible piece of artwork that will hang on my wall forever! Kelly, hope you don't mind that I put your beautiful picture and information on each of the pictures!! :)
A proper introduction and the rest of the story and yes, I'll get to the boobies part!
It is with great excitement that I show you Cheryl....
I was in college and lived on Ramen Noodles and Mac n' Cheese.
Bills to be paid, classes to take and two jobs just weren't cutting it. So, I went searching for a third and there in the classified ads was a Help Wanted article written by a women who was seeking a personal care attendant, serious inquiries only.
Having absolutely NO experience, no idea what I would be required to do, no idea if I would even be available at the times she needed, I picked up the phone and made a serious inquiry. The conversation was very brief but thorough, as if she'd done this sort of thing before, and to my surprise, an interview was set for that very night!
As I drove to her house, my nerves were running a muck as her words, 'If this interview goes well, you'll literally be my arms and legs' kept replaying in my mind.
OMG! I should of hung up then. This poor woman wants the world's biggest klutz to take care of her? I kept reciting this affirmation to myself, "It's okay Lisa, you're okay...she doesn't know you're the most ungraceful and clumsy person on the face of the earth. Just remember to walk through the door, not into the door frame, through...not into, through..not into." HOLY CRAP...I wanted to ralph right there on the side of the road.
My mind swirling and my stomach flipping, somehow I managed to be standing at her doorstep.
As my finger raised to make my presence known, my ears were filled with the glorious sound of her doorbell that seemed like the singing of little angels. My nerves were instantly calmed as the door slowly opened and what I saw on the other side of the threshold would change my life forever.
p.s...It was touch and go for a second, but my entrance did not include becoming intimately aware of the door frame! I definitely believe there was divine intervention involved ;)
I'm going to have to be honest here and say that going to an interview for a job at the local burger joint and going to an interview for a personal care attendant are SO way different. Never in my interview at Burger King was I ever asked if I would be comfortable undressing and bathing anyone. Never was I asked would I have a problem with prepping for an 'intimate' night, never was I asked if I would be okay with changing out a urine bag and never was I asked if I could be trusted to handle their most basic needs.
My answer, "I honestly don't know. I've never been asked these questions before and quite frankly, I have no earthly idea what I'm doing here. I simply saw your ad and wanted to help you. If you guide me through it, I hope to treat you the way I'd like to be treated."
GASP...what the hell did I just say??? Did I just completely botch this?
As I began to look for my purse on the floor and gather my stuff, anticipating the next words, 'Thanks for nothing' or 'Seriously, why'd you bother?'...instead I looked up at her and her main squeeze as they were smiling at me. I'd started to think that my internal ramblings did not remain inside thoughts (another habit of mine, talking out loud to myself).
Cheryl, in her wheelchair, came right beside me and giggled (YEP...I was mumbling!) and said, "Can you start tomorrow night?" WOO HOO!!....I flew out my chair, knocked it over, glass of water went flying, stumbled over the fallen chair and nearly toppled my new employer just to say thank you and yes, yes I can!
Dangit!!...Miss Clod strikes again.
The first few months went on with her training me as to what I needed to do and know. Basically, when she wanted to Spring clean, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing. When she wanted a new look to her living room, I was shuffling around furniture (I think it's safe to say we can leave out the theatrics of that event; needless to say, it looked nothing like the well choreographed ballet of The Swan Lake) When she wanted to take a bath, I was there. When she wanted her hair curled, I was there, when she wanted to look sexy for her man, I was there.
Now, here's where I tell you a bit more about Cheryl and explain the reason for this incredible canvas.
It had been several months of working for her and one afternoon while standing in her kitchen prepping what she wanted to cook for dinner, she very matter of fact said, "How come you've never asked why I'm in a wheelchair?" To which I said, "Probably for the same reason you've never asked why I have a uni-brow. It's none of my business." (In my defense, it was 1990 and the whole Brooke Shields craze was going on and I thought I was being hip, but in all honesty, I was just a Yeti in the making!)
We sat down at the kitchen table and she opened up her life to me and explained why I was sitting in the home of a woman in a wheelchair, drinking tea and talking.
Cheryl had been married before and had lived in a whole other state. Her husband had worked for a company that had given him a promotion and would require them to move. The movers had already packed up their stuff, but both her and her husband were driving their cars to their new destination to start their wonderful future together. The weather had been peculiarly awful that winter and so much snow and freezing rain had made the journey treacherous. Her husband had indicated to her that he wanted to stop and eat, but Cheryl was so excited to see their new home, so she and their little puppy went on down the road while he stopped.
Now, since this is a very personal story of Cheryl's, I don't want to go into graphic detail, but the gist of the matter is that when she took the exit that brought her into the new town, her vehicle hit a patch of ice and her car spun out of control and rolled into a deep ditch off to the side. She told me that for awhile she could still feel her arms and legs, but she was so pinned in, she couldn't move to get herself free. As hours passed by she could start to feel that she was losing sensation in her legs. Now her little puppy stayed by her side this entire time, but I don't know what transpired in the moments when she realized that the situation was going from bad to worse, but that little puppy found its way out of the car and ran to the top of hill and barked and barked and barked until someone stopped and followed it back to where Cheryl was in the toppled car covered in snow.
By the time the emergency crews arrived, Cheryl no longer had feeling in any of her extremities. Her body was so severely injured the doctors informed her that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. That was of course after spending months in the hospital and being fitted for a halo (twice).
When she felt confident enough to talk about what happened with her friends and family, she was told that they had people out looking for her everywhere, but didn't think to look at the exit she was on...apparently she had taken the wrong one. The correct exit was just the very next one. She even said herself that it made her wonder had she just gone 2 miles more down the road to the next exit, would this be her life?
It was months before she was able to leave the hospital and see her new home.
She had fully expected for it to be decorated up with all her pretty things and balloons and Welcome Home signs and people that she loved and those that loved and cared for her. That wasn't to be the case.
What she came home to was an almost empty home, her husband and his secretary and the legal documents for a divorce. That was Cheryl's welcome home party.
She ended the story with, "Yah, it pretty much sucked."
I cried, she cried and then we made drinks. I went about prepping their dinner and then we made more drinks and a friendship blossomed and then laughter and jokes and dry wit banter was filling the air again. She wasn't the same woman trapped in her car anymore, she wasn't a woman who's soul was confined to a wheelchair, she wasn't a woman who had or wanted pity..she was a beautiful woman going on about her day, folding laundry, cooking dinner and having some great laughs with a friend.
Okay, so I did mention the drinks part right?
Well....As I had mentioned previously, one of my tasks was to do whatever Cheryl needed done and on this particular day, she was throwing a party for her man (yes, she met a fantastic guy who loved her dearly and was incredible with wood working and made her all these cool devices that aided her in being more independent around the house) that night and we needed to get the surprise decorations up AND she needed to get 'smokin' hot' for the occasion!
So, off to her bedroom we went. See, Cheryl is a very attractive woman who prides herself on always looking her best. She has that gorgeous thick black shiny hair that makes all the rest of us women sick and her makeup is done to perfection; which she applies herself. (Yes, by this point she has become fully aware of my awkward coordination and won't let me anywhere near her makeup or face).
Cheryl could go to the tanning salon, but it would require physically transporting her into the van, driving her there, getting her back out of the van and then into a tiny room, not wheelchair accessible, so would have to be lifted and placed in the tanning bed and blah, blah, blah, she wasn't having any of it! SO, she bought her own tanning bed that rolled over her bed and she would lay there and tan. On this particular day, she had ordered some new tanning lotion with a bronzer and she wanted to try it out.
Going through the usual routine, I got her undressed and lifted her onto the bed and then applied the bronzer and got the tanning machine all set up over her. She asked me to go check on something real quick and so I went off to the kitchen for just a second.
When I walked back into the room, I nearly pee'd myself.
I had never seen a more ridiculous sight in all my life and I don't think I've laughed that hard in forever.
I think that perhaps had there been maybe one less drink involved, clarity might have prevailed, but in this circumstance, I'm sorry to say it did not.
Remember the bronzer I spoke about? Well, in the box with it came these golden cone things and when I left the room, I had the the bronzer and the golden cones laying by her hand.
When I returned, there she was, my friend, butt naked as the day she was born laying under her tanning bed with these enormously large and golden cones over her eyeballs!!
For mere discretion I'll refrain from quoting what I said, but when Cheryl heard me choking on laughter, she piped out, "What the hell kind of glasses are these??"
It took more than awhile for me to regain my composure as I rolled around on her bedroom floor slapping my hand onto the ground in hysterical fits.
I'd never seen her laugh so hard in all the time I knew her when I was finally able to explain that the cones were not in anyway shape or form meant to be on her face; not even remotely...they were intended to cover up her nipples so they wouldn't get burned by the bronzer!
Which is why I think Kelly has selected the most perfect sentiment:
"In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different."
And different she is...and wonderful and inspiring and most definitely a human being that I respect and admire.
So what does this have to do with my earlobe after all of that?
Sadly, I was moving away and I was no longer able to stay as Cheryl's personal care attendant and it was my last day to spend with her. She decided that we were going to go out to lunch together and run some errands and just spend the day having fun.
The weather was beautiful and we had great laughs together and then it was time to bring her back home and say goodbye. I felt saying goodbye to her was harder to do than anything. I knew what she would have to do when I left; start the interviews all over again. Learn to trust the new person that would replace me. Train them all over again and it wasn't easy for her to reveal herself to someone she didn't know. I only hoped that whoever it was that opened up the newspaper and saw an ad from a woman who needed help, would be someone destined to cross Cheryl's path, just as I had been. Oh, and hopefully tons more coordinated and way less accident prone!
Now Cheryl was the kind of woman who loved giving gifts and she kept threatening me that she would have one for me. I pleaded NO...she ignored me, par usual, but on this particular time, she hadn't had time to get anything and it was perfect! I could just give her a hug and probably cry tons and tell her how much she meant to me and spending the day with her was the best gift ever; however, fate played its part.
As I was lifting her out of the van, I had her cradled in my arms and just about to turn and put her in her chair when she had a total body spasm and her hand went flying up and three seconds later I'm standing in her driveway, she's in my arms and we're both watching as a metallic golden circle spins round and round on the concrete.
The silence was finally broken by, "Oh Shit!" her words....
She took one glance at my ear and made this disturbing grimace like, "oops!"
"Okay...that's ugly. But at least I fixed these horrid eyebrows of yours!"
So to this day, I carry the best gift Cheryl could have ever given me.
I certainly don't know what awaits me at the next exit, nor the one after that, but what I do know is that I'm blessed to have known Cheryl, a truly inspiring woman who taught me a valuable lesson about life and triumph and happiness and I'll carry it with me always, right here on my earlobe. ;)
Hugs n' Happiness In all Things..