Posts

, , ,

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Date Ideas for Inter-Abled Couples

Let me start off by saying that for most of my adult life I’ve had a snarky little ‘tude when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

The boxes of cheap chocolate… the heart shaped diamond jewelry…

Not my thang.

And yes, on more than 1 occasion I have completely forgotten it was V-Day (I swear it always falls on a Wednesday – what’s so romantic about a Wednesday?) and decided to go out for a “quick” dinner. Ummm…nope. Not gonna happen in this town.

But 4 years ago or so, cupid pierced me with his gold tipped arrow.

And since then, V-Day is just one more welcomed excuse to spend quality time with my boo. This year, that means we are packing up the old Toyota Braunability Ramp Van for a snow filled adventure weekend over in Bend, Oregon. I’ll share a recap later, but please follow along real time (ish) by heading over to Instagram and following our pals at BACKBONES.

So TODAY is V-Day, right? And that means if you haven’t already crafted the perfectly romantic date for your sweetie, you’re screwed. Just kidding, guys, because I’ve got you covered with these sure to please last minute date ideas.

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Date Ideas For The Inter-Abled Couple (or anyone, really)

Idea #1 – Release Your Inner Artist at Sip and Paint

The concept is simple – you and your sweetie spend a couple hours enjoying a little wine and making a little art. But wait, will this work for the inter-abled couple? Of course, you silly! There is no need to be Intimidated because Sip and Paint classes cater to the masses and are all about having fun. So paint with your hands, paint with your mouth, paint with your feet, who cares! Or better yet, don’t paint at all and use the time to snuggle up close to your date and help direct the creative process.

If you are Portland based, check out these Sip and Paint Shops:

THE LOADED BRUSH wants you to eat, drink, and be merry. Sounds good to me! L.B. offers step by step water color classes for the beginners.

BOTTLE AND BOTTEGA offers Sip n Paint at their SW Portland studio as well as pop up venues around town. Bottle and Bottega aims to help you “discover the creativity that you had long forgotten or never knew you had.” Cool!

POP & PAINT is a women owned business offering Sip n Paint classes at pop up locations around Portland, hence the name.

VINEGOGH is located in the heart of Selwood. This is Portland’s OG Sip n Paint.

 

 

Idea #2 – Enjoy a Couple’s Massage Without Ever Having to Leave Your Home!

Mobile massage is legit, you guys. And that is totally awesome because for those with a physical limitation, massaging outside of the home can sometimes be more hassle than it’s worth. And for someone who hates the whole greasy post-massage body having to interact with the outside world thing (that would be me), I love that mobile massage allows one to transition right from massage, to shower, to bed, or to whatever the night has in store. Ya know what I m saying (wink, wink)?

Check out these Websites / Apps for In-Home Massage:

ZEEL offers the quintessential couples massage in the convenience of your house. It’s easy! Book online and then 2 massage therapists with 2 massage tables show up at the same time and place to rub you and your boo.

SOOTHE also offers a couples massage, but the logistics are a bit different. In the case of Soothe, you book 2 back to back massage appointments for you and your boo, and then 1 massage therapist with 1 massage table shows up to work out those tight knots for a couple of hours. This option might be just as convenient for some couples, though in the Poor house this just wouldn’t make logistical sense.

Tip 1 – if you or your partner need some extra time or assistance transitioning onto a massage table, consider purchasing a new or used table (craigslist) and get ready ahead of time.

Tip 2 – I personally have only tried Soothe and had a nice experience. That said I have heard great things about Zeel.

Tip 3 (Riley Poor Tip)- Ri wanted me to recommend that all P.H.L. readers take some time in 2018 and find a skilled massage therapist that will make regular home visits. Agree! Thanks, Ri!

 

Idea #3 – Have Some Dessert Delivered to Your Door!

Shoot. You waited until the last minute and now every restaurant in town is booked solid on Valentine’s Day. What about dessert? Surely there must be somewhere you can go for a little dessert. Think again, my friends. But thankfully, everyone loves dessert and a Rom-Com (Chocolat, anyone?) in bed. I am a practical gal, you see, and I say if bed is where you want to end up with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day, I say make life easy and do the whole dang date from that singular locale. Technology makes this a snap!

If you are Portland based, check out these places that deliver:

PIX PATISSERIE is a little slice of France in Portland. Decadent chocolates, cakes, macarons, eclairs and more. They deliver 7 days a week through CAVIAR.

THE PIE SPOT does pie, cookies, scones, and things of that nature + they have stuff for the gluten free crowd and they offer lunch and dinner options. This northeast Portland based shop offers delivery through AMAZON RESTAURANTS.

SAINT CUPCAKE has the most darling cupcakes you ever did see. And they taste super yums too. Get yours through AMAZON RESTAURANTS.

 

I’m fresh out of ideas, so hopefully something in here will help create a little romance for you and yours! Thanks for reading, everyone, and have a lovely day! See you next time!

Drea

,

New Year and New Caregiver Conundrums

This last month has felt semi-dominated by the onboarding of Ri’s new care assistants.

And to be fair, part of that has a lot to do with how much I allow this process to infiltrate my headspace on any given day. But to also be fair, being down a few staff members means that I am the backup, which is only ideal for a limited amount of time. So in order to move me out of that role as quickly as possible and round out his team, Ri and I have both devoted a lot of the beginnings of 2018 to actively refreshing job ads, making phone calls, interviewing, hiring, training, and essentially spending our very early mornings and most evenings with people we don’t really know in some rather intimate scenarios that extend beyond our preferred girlfriend / boyfriend parameters. And we be tired, because change is hard, even though we know that these new changes will no doubt bring vibrant, capable individuals into our home.

So yesterday, I sat down at our kitchen island to cathartically write out my mind thoughts. Knowing that I wanted to blog candidly about the challenges that this complex caregiving topic presents, but also knowing that I wanted to be respectful of Ri’s perspectives, vulnerabilities, role as the employer, boyfriend, and, oh yes, the person actually requiring the care, I could not for the life of me figure out how to convey it all without editing my words through an elaborate filter &/or not, but potentially running the risk of coming across as overly emotional and a wee bit self absorbed. Yikes. That left my head confused and my heart a bit heavy as I wondered – even if I could wholeheartedly express my experience, who could possibly relate?

So I sat. And I stared. And my eyes caught on some smudgy old nearly illegible Andrea scribble schmeared across the dry erase board stuck to our refrigerator door. A quote or some random thought that occurred to me one day a number of months back read:

There is so much change in challenge. 

Ah, yes. So true. And if it were any other day that sentiment alone may have been enough to pump me full of positive vibes and set my head on straight as I very much believe in maintaining a perspective that sees change as auspicious and equates challenge with growth.

But I was tired, you see. I was tired of welcoming new people into our home with no guarantee that they would stick around. And I was tired of modeling hundreds of nuanced care steps because that meant I then had to watch on as unexperienced hands poked and prodded at my boyfriend. Shifting from being a girlfriend that helps with care stuff in ways that make sense within the relationship to a care assisting girlfriend, no matter how temporary, tugs at this delicately fearful place inside that never wants to put the overall health of our relationship at risk.

I was thinking about these things and perhaps shedding a tear or 2 as I walked over to the dry erase board, pushed the side of my fist against it, and somewhat aggressively erased and then ultimately rearranged the quote to read:

There is so much challenge in change.

Also a very true statement, and probably a big reason why people give up on change in favor of just doing whatever they be doing originally. I felt like I wanted to be a giver upper, just for a little bit. So I put a big X through my caregiver hiring task list for the day, hit the backspace button on my blog deleting the 3 sentences I spent an hour typing up, and went to meet up with a dear friend that I have known since middle school.

This friend and I talked about a lot of things, one being our mutal shock that next year is our 20 year high school reunion (irrelevant, except for the fact that being this old didn’t help my mood). After deciding that we still kinda sorta look the same as we did back in 12th grade and have accomplished some ok stuff between then and now, I listened in as she gave me a detailed account of just what it is like to be a working mom of 2 young kids + 1 new puppy. I was momentarily sidetracked by a cute little side story about her little one and thought to myself – oh my gosh a baby – Ri and I should totally have a baby (!!), but came to my senses when she explained just how limited her alone time (and even more importantly, her alone time with her husband) had become. Her life sounded damn difficult and chock with its own set of obstacles, but also completely wonderful in a way that seemed exactly right for her. And what a relief (and by relief I mean I broke down crying in the middle of a crowded restaurant), because I could totally relate to her life challenges, despite the difference in the details. Just connecting (and shedding my tears) with this friend of mine who was also stretched a bit thin and wearing one too many hats made me feel so much lighter, capable, and ready to push through this wave of change.

I spent some time reflecting today, and the truth is that for approximately 28 days each month, I am 99.5% in love with my life. That is some good living, y’all, and I ain’t got the time to forget that fact. It is clear though, that I need to reach out and talk to the people in my life when I need some support. I can be quick to assume they won’t get where I am coming from, but they always do.

In regards to the care stuff, Ri and I may always have a bit of an inner struggle with the fact that I sometimes need to step into that role unexpectedly. But I believe in our ability to work as a team and it seems that moments like these enable us to constantly improve our systems and make positive changes in our work home/work environment. And that helps all of us realize that while this caregiver stuff can sometimes feel like a conundrum, it is actually a truly wonderful gift. In my follow up post, I plan to talk more about some practical changes we have implemented over the years, and what changes may be on the horizon, so please check back in.

 

 

Thanks so much for reading, everyone. And HAPPY 35, Ri!

Drea

 

Load More
Something is wrong. Response takes too long or there is JS error. Press Ctrl+Shift+J or Cmd+Shift+J on a Mac.
, , , ,

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!

 

 

 

, ,

Spinal Cord Injury Super Basics

Written by Andrea

Now I understand writers block. I sit down, intent to write, as per Ri’s suggestion, about caregiving for my boyfriend while on vacation in Hawaii. I write, then erase, write, then erase- if it were the olden days I would have accumulated a thousand crumpled pieces of paper around my desk by now. Then my AhHa moment came, and I concluded- none of this makes any sense unless you understand a little more about Riley, about spinal cord injuries, about why caring for a loved one is… complicated. So, I am going to write a little bit about that as it just feels like where I need to start.

medical-specialist-foramina-cervical-spine-superior-nuchal-line-inferior-mastoid-biology-study-process-styloid-transverrse-ligamenta_fotor

It does feels weird though, starting at the beginning, probably because I wasn’t there 8 years ago when Riley dislocated his neck at C 5/6 (conveniently circled in the picture above). I could never speak to the gravity of that situation. It would be 4 years until we met, and in between the life he had back then and the life he has now was that moment, as quick as the blink of an eye, really, that changed so much.

Ri’s dislocation caused immediate injury to his spinal cord – the very important and delicate bundle of nerves that carries impulses to and from the brain to the rest of the body. When the spinal cord experiences trauma, a loss of function, such as mobility &/or feeling can occur. Unfortunately, for over 5 million (!) people in the US of A alone (including my love), the consequence of the SCI (spinal cord injury) is paralysis.

In many SCI’s, the cord remains intact, but the damage still causes a loss of function (called an incomplete injury). Riley falls into this category and, because of this, he still has a good bit of sensation below his level of injury. This threw me off at first. Example- early on, I remember him commenting to me that one sock (underneath his pants and completely out of sight) was twisted and sagging. Say what?!?! Sure enough, his diagnosis was accurate and I was super impressed. I realize that sounds promising, but the day to day reality for Ri is that most of that sensation takes the shape of pain and discomfort that he can’t just walk off. I haven’t asked lately, but I bet he would say this is one of the most challenging aspect of his life in a wheelchair.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation provides a really great summary of a C5/6 injury. Riley falls somewhere in between these 2 descriptions:

  • C5 injuries often spare the control of shoulder and biceps, but there is not much control at the wrist or hand. Those at C5 can usually feed themselves and independently handle many activities of daily living.
  • C6 injuries generally allow wrist control, enough to be able to drive adaptive vehicles and handle personal hygiene, but those affected at this level often lack fine hand function.

You can check out this handy dandy myotome/dermatome man below for a visual. Essentially, the purple C5/6 regions are the space where things start to change for Ri. Anything below those lines is affected.

dermatomes_fotor

It probably goes without saying, and it feels really bizarre for me to write this, but the majority of Riley’s body is paralyzed. I totally see the other side though- can you believe everything one can do and experience from the chest up? Think about it- see, taste, hear, smell, speak, kiss, make love, breathe, think. And move. Riley can definitely move. His shoulder dancing is legendary (I would’t dare joke). But, reality is such that Ri does require the physical assistance of caregivers/personal care assistants (PCA’s) to get up and on his way in this world.

Currently, Ri employs 4 PCA’s. Most days, our home is buzz buzz buzzing with activity. Someone arrives at our house before the sun even rises (we never set an alarm clock and instead wake to a gentle tapping on our bedroom door- a method that is 95% reliable). They first assist Ri with things that we might not even realize we do when we wake up- roll over in bed or take a sip of water, as an example. Then, this whole morning routine begins. The PCA helps Ri get up and on his commode (to do the morning business). They assist with showering, dressing and then they drive Ri off to work. In the early evening, he is picked up at work and then his PCA helps him around the house and eventually into bed. That’s 15+ hours of “being on” each day, you guys. By the end of the week, we all need a break, so I help Ri quite a bit throughout the weekend.

After much trial and error, that is our current homeostasis. It will change again soon- it always does. I have been asked, many times, what it is like always having someone around, observing your relationship and lifestyle. This has probably been an evolution, but at this point I would say we just really don’t care. We are committed to providing a solid work environment for the PCA’s, but outside of that we go about our normal home life.

I want to tell you one thing about me, though, since we are all getting to know each other. Admittedly, I have a caregiver-y side to my personality that I work to keep in check. Why? Because I NEVER EVER want Ri to wake up one morning, look left and realize that his girlfriend has transformed into his caregiver. Don’t get me wrong- I do help Riley with his care, but I am mindful not to over help, not to over insert myself into his intimate business in ways that would compromise our romantic partnership. I adore being adored by that man, and I admire how large, in charge and directive Ri is about his care and his life in general- I have no interest in stripping him of that autonomy. What I will do, though, is know his care like the back of my hand, totally step in as necessary and within my limits, and train each caregiver to the point of obsession so Ri and I can have peace of mind. I also need a lot of sleep to keep my head on straight, but that is more a side comment.

As for the Hawaii trip, my caregirlfriending was a true experiment and I really will share more about that soon.

But in the meantime, please oh please let me know-  Is any of this remotely interesting? Should I continue this blogging journey? I am feeling vulnerable and need input, ideas, whatever you got just give it to me straight!

I also want to say that this is, no doubt, an oversimplified blurb about spinal cord injuries. Good places to read more include:

christopherreeve.org   &/or   The Shepherd Center

Thanks and love!~~~~A

 

 

, ,

Poor House Video Tour!

Written by Drea

Welcome to our ever evolving Wheelchair Accessible Ranch Home!

Thanks to LineSync Architecture (Ri’s godparents and the architects behind the initial house remodel- we Love you Joseph & Julie!) we have a video (circa 2015) that highlights some of the accessible stuff around the Poor House. Fun!!!

While we are talking Poor House remodeling projects, boy oh boy I just can’t wrap my head around HOW MUCH has changed around here since this video was made… and I can’t wait to show you!!

So please stay tuned for more updates on all of the Poor Family projects and remodeling fun happening over at our place in Portland, Oregon!

Thanks for viewing!

 

, , ,

True Life at the Poor House

Source: True Life at the Poor House

Written by Drea

Hi! Allow me to introduce my family. We, (Riley, Andrea + Quill- cutest. dog. ever. seriously.) are the Poor’s.

We are a mid 30’s couple living our life of Riley (do you see what I did there!?) in our ever evolving/always a little bit under construction wheelchair accessible ranch home in Portland, Oregon. This blog is our love story and all the real life stuff that goes along with it.

Here is a little background to set the stage-

Ri and I took a leap into love a few years back and we have been totally stoked on our life together ever since! Now, it just so happens that Riley is in a wheelchair. Ri had a spinal cord injury 8 years ago and as a result, he is quadriplegic. Perhaps I will explain the specific physical implications of that in a later post, but for now, google can provide endless information about spinal cord injuries for those interested parties.

I, personally wouldn’t say that our life is much different than that of any young couple. We have all that normal stuff- wake up, go to work, feed the dog, cook dinner, watch movies…And we also have all that fun and exciting stuff that comes with being in love (use your imagination for that part). Of course, there are hard times too :(.

People often ask- How does paralysis /wheelchair life /stuff that comes along with Ri’s spinal cord injury affect your relationship? 

If I had to be honest, which I promise to do so henceforth, I would say that truthfully, it touches every square inch of our life together in some way, shape or form. Ri’s physical needs surrounding his injury define how we move about in this world as a couple because they are the non changing variable. Put differently- they set the beat, but together, we write the rhythm. And my life with Riley is absolutely music to my ears.

Poor House Love is a blog about Living and Loving. We thank you for reading and hope you will Like, Comment and Follow along with us!

, ,

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