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Celebrating Life and a Different Kind of Birthday

1/9/2018

As it stands, we are 9 short days into this 2018 business and that fact means tomorrow marks Ri’s spinal cord injury anniversary. Yesterday, Riley casually referred to 1/10 as his “new birthday,” which I naturally understood to be his subtle way of telling me he needed a piece of carrot cake. You don’t need to tell this girl twice, Riley Poor, I’ve got you (or at least your belly) figured out.

I make light, but of course 1/10 is an emotionally charged day, for reasons that go beyond Ri’s SCI, even. January, in general, carries themes of birth, death, rebirth, and creation throughout our home. I was considering such matters, the other night, after reading my serendipitously apt monthly horoscope by my faves, Chani Nicholas . And just then, and maybe because I am feeling a bit love sappy, a really special little moment happened, and I couldn’t help but to conclude my night with sticky tears of gratitude drying on my cheeks as I whispered to my sleeping man just how fortunate it really is that life brought us together.

I will share with you that I call Riley my Ribear, in part because he’s big, he’s strong, and he has a thick head of brown fur-like hair. But you see, when I was a child, I had this brown teddy bear that I just adored. He was perfect, despite the fact that he had a big gash right down his midline where his seam had split open revealing the soft, pure white stuffing he was made of. I really can’t recall my teddy not having that gash – it seems it was always there and from time to time I would lovingly patch that wound up with a bandaid or two. We all have our wounds and for some, they become so all consuming that they turn our insides sour. But for Riley and my teddy  (do you know what happened to that teddy, mother?!?) that’s just not the case. Ri’s the kind of bear that is filled with pure and sweet honey, and he isn’t afraid to reveal his wounds with an open and graceful heart. Sometimes, when he doesn’t know I am watching, I catch him revealing that pure gentle spirit in the most beautifully subtle ways.

So a couple nights back, I was reclining in bed and getting ready to / but not quite ready to sleep. I still had the TV on (bad habit to kick in 2018 me thinks?) as Ri drifted off into Ri snoozeland. It’s typical for Ri to start his dozing before me, which is a good thing as he stirs awake quite frequently throughout the night and gets up really flippin early in order to make it off to work at a reasonable hour as I, on the other hand, often sleep in. Ri’s snoring is my favorite bedtime lullaby, and when he kicks it into high gear my mind becomes peaceful and my eyes grow heavy. So I flipped the TV off and settled into the darkness that is officially our room now that we purchased total black out shades (yes! game changer…treat yoself). Moments later, a huge snore seemingly startled Riley awake. Or so I thought, based on the fact that he began humming the sweetest little something of his own composition for the next 30 seconds or so. I listened for a few and then opened my mouth to tell him goodnight and that he was the sweetest goddamn man on this planet, but he hummed right through my interjection. And then, without pause, he let out a seriously legit snore and continued on with his sleeping for the night.

Riley had been humming in his sleep, you guys. Who does that?

This, coming from a man whose pain and spasticity and paralysis accompany him to bed each night and are there by his side again each morning. He tells me it feels like his body is locked in concrete. He tells me that a lot of his body feels like my foot feels when it has fallen asleep and is just starting to wake up. That’s what many would call torture. At night, he waits to wake me until he absolutely must – mostly because his spasms have left him in a contorted position that he is unable to work his way out of. It isn’t like this all the time, but it is that way more of the time than he will ever admit. And somehow, between all of that nonsense, Ri hums in his sleep and wakes each morning with a smile that would impress anyone that is awake at such an ungodly hour.

And I guess that’s the end of my story, point being that despite physical pain and limitations, the spirit can transcend.

I want to take a moment to thank the amazing community of people that saved Ri’s life 9 years ago and have continued to nourish his body and soul through your unfailing friendships and palpable support. Each of you mean so much to me.

Thanks for reading. Ri and I wish you each love and happiness in 2018.

Andrea

He’s so badass!

 

 

 

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Woo Woo Poor House Health Intro

Written by Andrea

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Reporting live today from my hyperbaric chamber, you guys. Excuse me now? Yes, you did read that right- I am actually inside of that thing Michael Jackson (my absolute childhood idol) slept in.

Well… sort of. I can’t get into hyperbaric specifics right now because I have other things to write about- I just wanted to give you context, so when you are reading this post from your toilet, or wherever you read classy inspirational pieces like this, you can imagine me in this pressurized tube, taking in an extra dose of O2 to the brain and body. And I am going to bet that I just might be the only blogger out there writing the majority of posts from inside a mild hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Could that be my niche?!?

Potential Bio- Andrea Lynn Peruzzi is a hyperbaric oxygen lifestyle blogger based out of her mild hyperbaric chamber in Portland, Oregon. She tells tales of her life in the Poor House with her wheelchair cruisin lover, Riley Poor (hence the name of the blog, Poor House Love). #hyperbaricbloggergirl? #poorhouselovechamber?  I see good things coming from this, you guys! The hyperbaric chamber never lets me down!

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I also like to read about beekeeping whilst in the chamber

Truth- I be woo woo with my healthcare (albeit in a selective, scientific, educated way- always analyzing). I have my reasons for bathing in oxygen. They go back, way back to the traditional allopathic landscape of my youth. My father was a primary care physician, and since we lived in the suburbs, and it was the 90’s, I had limited exposure to anything outside of that paradigm. Not that this was a bad thing in and of itself, except for the fact that I was the kid (I am #3 of 4) in my family with all the bizarre health stuff that that kind of approach didn’t fix.

Example- Me. Onset- grade 4. Covered in crusty psoriasis plaques (like, covered– arms, legs, scalp, torso- 70% body if I had to guess). It is unclear to me whether I was a naturally thick skinned kid or if the psoriasis itself actually built me a thick shell – either way I can’t recall the skin issue having a negative psychological impact on a young me, and yet, I am unable to write about it here without a tinge of sarcasm, so there must be something there…

Unscathed by my lizard like skin, my friends and I actually spent our free class time picking psoriasis chunks from my scalp and lining them up for display along my 4th grade desk (kids are super bizarre). While I was’t particularly bothered by my leather skin, I nonetheless adhered to a strict nightly treatment regimen which, in retrospect, was completely absurd (sorry parents, I know we were trying).

Here was the routine- each night, I arduously covered my psoriasis plagued body in steroid ointments. My dad got free samples, but they were these small trail sized tubes, so I would go through one tube after the next, layering it on thick. But once I put on the pjs, my hard work would inevitably rub right off. Clever child that I was, I developed a technique to keep that ointment in place. It was quite simple, really- I mummy wrapped my entire body in saran wrap. Then, as a last step, my psoriasis thickened scalp was covered in a slathering of tar (brain damage…tbd) and once I popped on a shower cap I was ready for bed. I cringe recalling this method, in part because it sounds unenjoyable, but also because I went on in my adult life to earn my master’s in Chinese medicine and, as it turns out, from a Chinese medical point of view I followed exactly the right steps to set myself up for a lifetime battle with psoriasis. Who could’ve known, way back then?

25 years later I sit in my mild hyperbaric chamber surrounded by an arsenal other healthcare tools. The chamber came into our life originally for Ri, but it has also been a really positive thing for me and my health. And so, in my desire to introduce our health focused lifestyle, I needed to first tell you about my psoriasis as that is where my healthcare journey began.

Now, I know Ri is the one in the wheelchair, the one with the unavoidably obvious physical disability, but here is an interesting thing- at age 25, we both coincidentally (I say there are no coincidences) went through our own versions of healthcare hell. We both had to stare our mortality directly in the face. Those kind of things at such a young age leave scars that are not just surface deep. They dig into your psyche. They are a source of trauma. I suppose on some level Ri and I soften our scars through the compassion we extend to one another.

Over the course of my 25th year on earth, a health issue slowly transformed me into a 70 pound version of myself. I had a difficult time doing the simplest of things- walking the length of a driveway, as an example. So lightweight, I could feel my body beginning to separate from my soul. I recall laying on the hospital stretcher in that sort of holding room that exists before you enter an operating room, mind fixed on an image- a lotus flower, a symbol of purity, rebirth and divinity. A healing vision to help me through a difficult surgery, if you will. Eyes closed and focused on my lotus, I heard a soft voice, felt a gentle touch upon my shoulder, smelled an enticing scent. I opened my eyes and saw a man that was so handsome I questioned his very existence, thinking I might have died, gone to heaven and was lucky enough to be greeted by the apparition of my eternal mate. But as it turned out, he was actually one of the docs on the team coming to prep me for surgery. Once I snapped back into reality I noticed his name tag, and somehow even as I inquired, I knew it- his name (which has now slipped away from my memory) was the sanskrit word for lotus flower. True story.

Amen! Hallelejuah! The message was clear – I was going to be alright. And thank goodness because if I hadn’t made it, and if Ri hadn’t made it, well, I never would have walked through his front door, years later, on the very same day he made a little list describing his ideal mate. That is the brief version of another true story that I will leave you with for the time being.

Here is the list (it kind of cracks me up- Ri says it makes him sound like an a**hole).

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Oh, but here is some advice- if you are like me, there will be so many moments of synchronicity throughout life. So take your time when deciding which ones you need to tattoo on your body, especially if your psoriasis is always looking for a new reason to creep back up :).

Hey thanks so much for reading, everyone! And if you like this blog- Subscribe and share, por favor!

Oh! And find us on social media  here and here! Like and Follow us so we can all ride this rollercoaster together!

~~Andrea

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Present Tense Life

Thoughts by Drea (this is a long one, y’all)

These framed photos easily go unnoticed in our home. Surrounded by far louder pieces of artwork, they live on this narrow corner wall, tucked behind an oversized chair that has come to belong, exclusively, to Quill. That little guy is Ri (OMG!), and those little skis represent his first and perhaps greatest love. He swears to me that he is two years old in these pictures (my god he was a big boy) and already he had it figured out. Life plan = skier. Not a police officer, not a firefighter. A skier. Ri tells me “I wanted to be an Olympic skier, or (he pauses to reevaluate his words), really, I just wanted to BE someone in the ski industry. Pause again. He then says- How lucky am I that that came true?”

Ri’s mother, Maria, is the storyteller of the family. She artfully weaves together the most vibrant tales of Ri’s childhood. Sometimes, when she is decluttering (a frequent pastime of hers :), she delights me with a new little Ri guy photo or memento, accompanied by a memory that she wants to let me in on. I hang to each word as every photo breathes enough life into the past for me to pause and wonder- wait a minute- was I there? Is this my memory or have I just heard this one before? I swear to you that sometimes I feel my presence there in that past. Rumi put words to these feelings of mine when he said- Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along. I know this to be so.

Maria’s tales of the past have a cohesive storyline that I think, can emerge only after we have revisited our memories many times over many years. She recounts, with motherly pride, the innate, unwavering determination of her eldest lion cub. Her reverence for Ri is ever present, and it seems that in a way, it was his powerful will, his sage clarity that birthed Maria’s motherly confidence. Our children must teach us so much, and it is clear that from a very young age, Ri made his path known. I suppose Maria saw it as her job to foster that. As the story goes, Riley’s path was far bigger than the state of Vermont (I am quoting a very matter of fact Maria there) and so the Poor’s packed up house and home and moved a young Ri from the snowy rolling hills of Whitingham, Vermont to the tallest peaks of Colorado. Crested Butte was where Ri’s dreams became reality.

All of that is super fascinating to me, for many reasons, one being that Ri and I have never really been skiing together. Or, maybe we have. I am deciding as I write.

On that topic, a couple months back, Ri decided that he wanted to go downhill skiing through an adaptive program at Mt. Bachelor. Very cool. We set up a weekend trip to Bend, and though I was totally stoke, I remained cautiously flexible as our plans tend to change with the wind.

Alas, as the weekend trip approached the weather forecast called for warm rain- yuck. In short, we bailed. Instead, we had this wonderful weekend at home building roll under raised garden beds with Ri’s dad and getting our garden spring ready. My point- it really was neither here nor there.

newgardenbeds_Fotor

The new roll under garden beds!!

And all of that brings me to a few things that I think about quite a lot these days. There are gifts that emerge from even the darkest moments of trauma. I do not know, had Ri never had his SCI, that Maria would so willingly allow me to be a part of her past, of their past. I do not know if she would have the same beautiful hindsight.

I do not know if Ri and I would bond so deeply through the slow savoring of the present, a reverence for the past, and a celebration of small triumphs. Through our relationship, I have learned to go easier on myself, to be moderate, and to free myself from a pattern we can all be guilty of- placing unfair and unnecessary expectations on ourselves and (even worse) those that we love. I forget all of this regularly (arg patterns are hard to break!) but my home life with Ri grounds me back into those values.

I want to wrap this post up with a story that illustrates all of these thoughts I am trying to express.

A few weeks back, Ri and I drove up to Mt. Hood so I could cross country ski around Trillium lake. After a lovely drive up the mountain, we turned into the unremarkable parking lot by the trailhead. Ri and Quill planned to stay in the van, so I got my boys all cozied up and took off on my adventure. Just as the snowflakes began to kiss my cheeks and the world fell silent, my mind perked up and became unnecessarily busy. It started with a tinge of guilt for leaving my guys back in that ugly parking lot. I could have at least has the foresight to drop them at the nice, warm, ski lodge up the road. Or better yet, why couldn’t they just be here by my side, I wondered? Quite quickly, some enticing plans began to develop…

It seemed to me that there was no reason couldn’t rig up some system to get Ri and Quill out here on this trail next time around. How hard could it be? I have seen those social media videos that all of you have seen with these paralyzed people pushing themselves to the limits, doing all kinds of adventurous stuff. Why not us?

And for a moment there, traveling down that wormhole, I almost missed the entire point. First of all, I had driven all this way to find some peace and quiet- so my brain had no place chattering on about these things. Secondly, Ri has expressed previously that he has no interest in these types of things- he is interested in being extremely kind to his body and doing things that make him feel cold or physically uncomfortable sucks the joy from his spirit. It seems that my self imposed guilt had taken me down a path that made no sense. Funny how we do that sometimes.

After a couple hours and a few wrong turns (it is a loop trail, people, so you figure that one out) I got back to the van. I open the door and there is Ri, snuggled up with a book, Quillie, snacks, and a blanket. Ri smiles this big, genuine smile and says to me (he always asks it the same way) “How was it? Did you have fun?” He was so happy. Just then I remembered what he told me the last time I left him in the van at the mountain- he loves it because it reminds him of his days as a filmmaker. That, apparently, was a lot of what filming skiers was about- hunkering down inside, watching the snow fall, and just kind of waiting for the weather to pass by so the filming could begin.

So, I am going to go out on a limb here and make the claim that Riley and I have indeed been skiing together. We ski together through stories of the past and we ski together in the here and now. I fill Ri in on every detail of my cross country adventures, and he tells me about the cute stuff Quill did while I was away and how much snow accumulated while I was gone. Sometimes I call or text him halfway through my journey, sometimes I take little videos so he can laugh at how truly minuscule the “massive” hill I went down was. I love this man. I love this life.

I know that there is a misconception out there. Some people think that having a physical disability (or being in a relationship with someone with a physical disability for that matter) means you will miss out on so much in life.

I believe that mentality runs the risk of missing out on the moments we actually have to live in this life. To be present, to deeply love, to observe this world with a slowness and a softness- this is the life that I have always wanted. I am so grateful to have found my way here.

Thank you all so much for reading my stories. I welcome all comments, questions, and opportunities to connect!

Warmly,

Andrea

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Questions and Assumptions

Written by Drea

We are all just trying to figure out how to love and be loved, ya know?

And when we see a love that doesn’t necesarrily fit the mold (whatever that means…cause, newsflash, there is no such mold), people are curious (I say curious, Ri says nosey). I think this must explain all of the questions that come my way about my relationship with Ri.

Some people see that wheelchair in a way that I just never have. They see it as this thing that is between us. I see it as this part of Riley- it helps him be mobile just like my legs help propel me forward. They see it as a hardship- I see it as a convenience. They assume it complicates our relationship. I say relationships are complicated anyway.

I welcome the many (unsolicited and often quite intimate) questions because to me, they get at a fundamental truth.

Relationships challenge us – every day. They are, at times, really hard. Relationships ask us to show up not just for our partner but above all else for ourselves (because if we aren’t good to ourselves, how can we be good to another?). And all of that can be hard to carry out with consistency.

When people ask me how Ri and I “make it work” despite all that comes along with the spinal cord injury/wheelchair/paralysis stuff, all I can say is this-

Ri and I just love each other and decided to 100% go for it. We are both all in. No question about it. And when you have love, without (unrealistic) expectations, without exceptions, without excuses, without trying to change another, what might seem complicated from an outside perspective just flows along with all the rest. That is, at least when you are well rested and well fed- which, obviously I currently am :).

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi