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Able-bodied sex is on the decline, studies show. Meanwhile, at the Poor House…

Attention! This post is about sexy stuff. Therefore, parents / parental-like figures of Ri and Dre should probably just go ahead and skip this one, mkay? Thanks! 

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And as mentioned above, today on the blog we are talking about SEX!!

I suppose because…you know, wheelchair, paralysis, being GF to my BF quad lover… some assume, ignorantly and wrongly so, that our sex life must be dull. Maybe even non existent! BAHAHA! Oh contraire! And I have noticed over the years that this false assumption somehow creates a safe space for women to ask me some bold, brazen, and borderline inappropriate questions about my sex life—of which I am completely game to answer.

It usually begins with these 2 questions, and the scene could take place anywhere (grocery store, hairdresser, car, etc.):

Question 1 – “Ummm, so does it work? You know, Ri’s thingie?”

Andrea answer 1– “Helllllz yes, girl! Everything works just fine.”

My response elicits a dramatic sigh from my interrogator. Is she really that relieved by this or does she have something else on her mind? 

 Question 2 – “But Andrea, can he feel, you know, the sex?”

Andrea answer 2- “Mmmmhmmmm. Oh, believe me, he can feel.”

Awkward silence momentarily ensues. Either I was too blunt or they are totally confused. Probably both.

And then sometimes, this initial conversation takes an interesting turn, as I find myself suddenly on the receiving end of a full-on sex life confessional, or in some cases…a full-on lack of sex life confessional.

And based on the information I have gathered during those confessionals, I am now going to make a sweeping generalization. I recognize that this might not apply to you, so please don’t get your panties all in a tizzy if you don’t relate, buuuuuuut…

Ladies.

Either I am simply am a magnet / therapist-like figure for a certain subpopulation of women (and that may be) OR, and I pray not, but there is currently, happening (or not happening) in bedrooms everywhere all around us, an EPIDEMIC of unknown proportions. I’m talking about how bored you all seem to be with your sex life. Or how sex with your partner isn’t even happening at all anymore.

I’m half kidding. But for realz – no time, energy, and /or desire to get it on in the bedroom, even under the most standard vanilla scenario? What gives?

I suspect I know. It’s all the hats women wear.

There’s work, babies, long commutes, budgeting, keeping up with the news, Keeping up with the Kardashians, cleaning, errands, shopping, socializing, wine drinking, self-care taking, and all of that training time for that next half marathon. And of course there is stress. And anxiety. And depression. And medications that treat those last 3 but whose side effects numb the nether regions and decrease sexual arousal (I know. I’ve been there).

Being so busy can disconnect us from the most primal parts of ourselves that yearn for gratification, if we aren’t careful, and our modern day lifestyles appears to be straight up damaging and depleting our libidos. It’s not just my observation – studies, articles and the like are popping everywhere.

Check this BBC story out right HERE, as one example. Or this ONE in the New York Times.

But I, for one, need sex. I need subtle, raw, rough, soft, and everything else in between sex. Erogenous zones are plentiful on any body (disability or not), I do believe, and in our house, they need attention. There are other things I want to say, like how tongues are the great explorers and how it can take a lifetime to deeply traverse every mountain, valley and any area in between on a lovers body, but you know all of this already and I’m not trying to write a romance novel. But this I say, cheesy as it may come across – your greatest adventure does not await you in Thailand, friends, it can be found in your very own bedroom. I promise.

I suppose I am writing all of this with a realization – this quad lifestyle (and probably a lot of my own personal health stuff, though that’s mostly in the past) has shifted a lot of stuff that just isn’t priority out of my life. I’m not saying that I am all that great at accepting that fact, because society sends me a lot of messages telling me to do it all, and be it all. But I can’t. I just can’t. And the moment I think I can and take on too much, I am grateful for the way my unique lifestyle forces me to take a step back. I think I will get into that more in a future post, because that is a loaded topic for me. But either way, I’m feeling good that my priorities in life feel pretty clear and, contrary to what most inquiring minds assume, my sex life, is, as Ri puts it – “EPIC!”

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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

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We Don’t Miss Out On Much – A Backbones Blog Collaboration

Have you guys heard of BACKBONES?!?

This aptly named and totally awesome 501(c)(3) non-profit organization exists to “help people with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D) and their families connect with their communities.” 

This girl right here (moi!) totally digs a mission of supporting community connection. Therefore, I dig BACKBONES and the refreshingly delightful stuff they get behind (take for instance their yoga discovery workshop for people with spinal cord injuries workshop this weekend in Tucson, Arizona – umm… why are Ri and I not going?!). After meeting founder and executive director, Reveca Torres, at the No Barriers Summit this past summer (remember that adventure?… click HERE to jog your memory), and instantly deciding that the rumors were true – she is wicked cool- I was stoked when she and I decided to do some blog collabs. Here’s a snippet of my premier post for the BACKBONES blog, and a link to read on directly from their site. 

We Don’t Miss Out On Much.

Part of the reason people are in a romantic relationship is to share hobbies and life experiences together, right?

So in my world, I am always pumped to explore some new something with my boyfriend Riley, who is a C5/6 quadriplegic. Of course, there are so many stereotypes about people living with physical disability, and when Ri and I first got together one or two of the naysayers in my life expressed concern over the things I would “miss out on,” simply by choosing to be in a relationship with someone with a spinal cord injury. I ignored those skeptics in favor of love, and over the years, we have (of course) honed in on how we, as a couple, seek fun. Here are our Top 3 Takeaways that might help others living a similar lifestyle to enjoy the adventures of life just as much as we do.

Itchin’ to read on? Click HERE to discover just what these 3 takeaways are all about.

And as always, thanks for reading, friends!! ~~Drea

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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

 

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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!

beeIMG_3124_Fotorbee

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).

Ri love list_Fotor1_Fotor

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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Accessible Vaycay Hawaii Style

 

img_3009Written by Andrea

Winter in the Pacific Northwest gets tough, you guys. So cold. So wet. No sun. Why do we live in Portland again? Check back late spring and I will remember once again :).

At some point mid winter, it just became clear- Ri and I needed the warmth of a tropical breeze to dry out our water logged bodies. We craved Vitamin D -straight up from the sun. We required vaycay.

So, we booked a trip to Maui with friends. This was a big deal for 3 main reasons.

  1. We had never taken a tropical vacation together.
  2. We had never taken a tropical vacation with friends.
  3. We decided to do this tropical vacation sans caregiver, meaning Ri and I were a team on all fronts.

I want to tell you something about Riley- he is a travel prep pro. My boyfriend keeps a grand master list of every possible item we need to consider/bring when traveling + he keeps a prepackaged travel bag filled with extra medical supplies, a travel sling and more. Check, Check and Check!

Add to that, Ri and our travel pal sourced an awesomely accessible accommodation, along with a ramp van and a hoyer lift, so we had every controllable aspect of the trip set up beforehand with, quite honestly, little to no effort on my part! I, you see, was conserving my energy in preparation for the actual trip, when, you know, all the uncontrollable stuff starts to happen. Which, if you have ever travelled, you know is inevitable.

We had  fair amount of that stuff hit us on this particular vacation. Flight delays, rain, food poisoning, pain, sleep disturbances…that all happened. But, all of those things were just speed bumps along the way. Outside of the bumps, we made some kick ass memories with really great friends, Ri and I went swimming together for the first time ever, and we watched the sunset over the ocean every evening. We relaxed, we read, we soaked up the sun. We did Maui and it was really nice to get away.

I was hoping to share a few wheelchair savvy travel tips throughout this post, but all I can say about that is – talk to Ri, he has it down. I do have some general travel tips though, which I have realized apply equally as well to general life as they do to travel (darn, I guess vaycay is still real life). Either way, enjoy!

Here are my travel tips-

  • Be smart, be prepared, and only do what your body and mind are up for.
  • Don’t push yourself! Duh, you are on vacation.
  • Accept that in between all of the wonderful moments of travel/life there will be a bit of nonsense, chaos, and well, hard shit. This is the adventurous part of the trip (life) and you will either laugh about this stuff down the road or they will help define and shape the person that you will become.
  • Get a lot of sleep. Like, a lot of sleep. More than you think you need. Oh, and drink a lot of water. But not right before you sleep.

I want to give a big shout out to the Hyatt Residence Club at Kaanapali Beach. It is a fabulous option for anyone with mobility issues, or anyone who just wants to relax to the max.

Lastly,  Ri suggested I write another blurb about my experience with the whole caregiving side of the trip. So, stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, examining the juxtaposition that is Caregiving (or as I prefer- Care-girlfriending) While on Vacation.

Mahalo.

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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!

 

Who We are and Why We are Here

Written by Drea 

Poor House Love is a blog about, you guessed it, LOVE!

Andrea and Riley met a few years back and have been building a life together ever since.

Riley is paralyzed from the chest down, though you might not realize that right away because he is impressively agile. He uses a wheelchair for mobility and has caregivers assist him around our home with their extra set of hands. While our love is extraordinary, our life is, well, actually quite ordinary (in a good way). So we often wonder- Why is it that so many people, perfect strangers, even, love to ask us questions about this love life of ours? People seem SO curious!

So, here we are. Baring it all on the world wide web! By sharing bits and pieces of our story, we aim to show that love comes straight from the heart, and has neither rules nor barriers. We are here to share the joys and the triumphs, as well as the hard times. We are here to be real and in between all of the talk about wheelchair/paralysis stuff, you can find posts sharing our love for accessible design, cooking, nutrition, gardening, action sports, and more.

Thanks for checking us out! Please Like, Comment, and Follow us on our journey!

riandi