The Soldier and the Squirrel introduces children to the Purple Heart

through a loving story of a friendship between a newly wounded soldier

and Rocky the squirrel with his backyard friends. This story began as a

blog during my first year in bed after my incident. With much

encouragement, it is now a book and has been placed in the

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Please watch the video

on the About page to learn for the Soldier & Rocky are changing children's






Glorious Rejoice Dots Glitter





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What I Have Learned through the Challenge of Pain



Well, I at last have a new, functioning and looks-like-I'm-legit laptop making it simpler to update here! No, not really. It's been the wildest ride since I last posted a year ago, one I should have been posting about, stem cell recoveries are a funny thing. First, you have to tell everyone how AMAZING they are, because they are. Then you go through the 9-12 month recovery period and all of a sudden, life is SO much more doable! I used to say, if they could just take the pain away, I can deal with being in a wheelchair. Just get me out of this much pain. If you've followed at all, you've surely read the part about my spinal contractions equalling labor contractions, every ten to fifteen minutes around the clock for weeks or months, while every contraction brought with it butcher knives that seem to shovel the muscles off my femur bones followed by the shooting of boiling icycles down the legs to the toes, that stayed at a cool 42 degrees F. F-f-fUN stuff! That's jsut when I was in a "flare". Otherwise, it was just a brewing cesspool of fire and daggers circling the vertrebrae dancing up and down the spine until I did someting stupid, like sit for more than five minutes, and it would start all over again.

That said. No small violins, only electric guitars, people!
But, once I reached what they called my new baseline of pain levels, after a year of the rollercoaster after effects of feeling like Wonder Woman on the upswing and Frankenstein's daughter on the down, as well as physical therapy (a MUST), I sat back and looked at what was, compared to what was now.

It became a confusing thing to see.

I felt absolutely selfish.

I wanted more.

It was like offering a child a Vanilla cone, only for them to complain it wasn't Vanilla Bean.

I've already given you guys a taste of what was. What was "now" was EONS from where I was. I could now sit for almost two hours at a time, which meant going to a movie with my hubby AND a drink (medications doesn't allow for much more than one, so that was good, fit into my time frame). This was a miracle! But what was even more of a miracle, was that the spinal contractions which took six years of my life from me, my children, my husband and family, had completely stopped. Not one contraction since my first stem cell transplant on June 28, 2017. Not one. That alone should have had me kneeling at the feet of my physician. Which I actually did, on my second round of stem cells.

That's right. I did it again. Nonetheless, this time, on Halloween. Made sense to me, seeing's that I was Frankenstein's Daughter and all.

My second stransplant was exactly like the first, but this time, it involved a second phase, and this is why:

No matter what improvements I experienced, there was still one issue which was not addressed during my first transplant, a situation of increasing pain levels L4-5 to Sacrum discs, which had begun derailing all of the progress we had achieved so far. My lower lumbar levels were now screaming after 45 minutes of sitting. Yes, my contractions were gone, so I should have been thrilled! But pain is pain. Anyone who lives in chronic pain, no matter the levels, understands that pain is like a magnet to the brain and becomes all you can think about. How you wish it wasn’t there. So, I used my tools of distraction, learning new things, writing, not overdoing things, but still nothing could grant me the serenity of knowing the things I cannot change. The decision was made. I would go for number two.

The original protocol involves the actual stem cell transfusion (this particular protol uses hundreds of millions of cells at one time, rather than tens, multiple times) then, intramuscular injections of stem cells made into a "paste" injected along the spine. However, during my second transplant, the doctor used a live flouroscpoy (an in real time video x-ray) to watch exactly where the phase two of stem cell paste injections will this time, enter INTO, the vetrebral spaces.In particular, one with an artificial disc! The space which housed my artificial disc at L4-5 had caused what happens to many patients over time, it adds so much pressure to the levels below it, that not only is the artificial disc level compromised by blinding pain, the levels below it grow increasingly painful as well.

So here I am, it is the beginning of February, three months out, and my perspective has changed. Instead of expecting to be who I was. I am now learning that it is ok to be who I am now, or whatever the next year should bring. The second transplant dramatically improved these levels, L4-5 is but a distant memory, but the lower levels are proving to be more of a beast that we expected. I learned to walk again a year after my first transplant, yet limitations only allow for this within our home, short spurts with sofa at arms length. I've tried going out without my chair, but dont' get too far, and have realized I'm more of a snail that a mom who needs to "get sh*t done!". I have learned that even the most magical of sciences, has its limitation when there has been a level of mechanical damage that has been done. Finally, I can truly say, I am ok with this. This is not giving in, it is opening up to whatever will be and all the possibilities that could be, good or “bad”. This has taken a long time to get to.

Life may never be what it was, or what at first I so desperately hoped it would be again. It is ok for some things to be what they are, and to find the beauty in what is. I have learned to live a life with more blessings than I could have ever experienced had I not been hurt. For the last seven years I have been able to be home to watch my children grow rather than constantly traveling to shoot destination weddings and portraits of those wealthier than God (not that that's a bad thing, it just wasn't being with my kids), and being too busy editing all week to help them with homework, or problems, or simply lay on the bed while all four of them circling as a band around me, singing and playing our favorite songs - mine being, whatever my children played and the songs they sang. My husband has unearthed within him a patience and an empathy not just for myself ,but for others facing challenges, as have our children. Our children understand that a' life challenge' can be an opportunity to reframe what it means to live one's life. They have garnered,over time, an unyeilding urge to create change in our world by witnessing how misunderstood their mother could be by others. They understand the challenges a life challenge can create and that we never truly know what is going on behind closed doors. Also, whatever upturns one’s live is a life challenge, and that the processing of it is pretty much universally the same. That everyone has a story no one else has lived, and yet it's everyone's story at once. I have learned how many fragile, diminutive moments of joy I bypassed for so many years becasue I was moving too quickly to notice them. I have realized the joy in taking out the trash and stopping because a ray of sunlight has turned a simple leaf into an xray version of itself, and having it be the highlight of one's day. I have gotten to know a squirrel in our backyard and named it Rocky. It has many names, as we have many neighbors, to me, he's mine. I have learned of the devotional love and bond which can grow between a service dog and her handler. How one animal can make a very scary world, once agian, make sense. I have learned that not everyone will understand what I have been through, but in the end, I don't need nor expect them to. I only offer hope that one day all will experience the empathy we have so humbly received. I have realized that not everyone needs to be your friend, and most have not truly been one at all. That when your world crashes, it is those who carry you through the flames that define friendship as though it were etched in stone by God. I have realised that if every parent could spend every moment of their time with their children, you would see them as people, not kids. That there is no place you would rather be than exactly where you are, even though others may wish they never saw where you are, at all. I have seen colors on raindrops and am convinced there are many more than we have been told. I learned to love football because of a story I saw about what it can take to face a challenge and rise above. Go Seahawks! But most of all, I have realized that the meaning of life can be so simple. For me, it has come down to loving and connecting with others, and meaning every word I say. If I cannot answer the phone, I will wait until I call you back with my world aside and at your feet. I have learned that the worst thing I can do another is to place expectations, it's like making them take a test they couldn't study for if they tried. That no one should ever be expected to truly know every thought or feeling you have, or be expected to respond to something they have never lived. I have learned that everything that I have become after my accident, good or bad, has happened because something shattered. A life exploded, everything I knew, every way I knew how to live went up in a puff of smoke. And yet, here I am. Rising from ashes does an incredible thing, turning into somehing akin to tempered steel, the only thing on earth that endures fire only to come out stonger than before; that just because life is now different,doesn’t mean it isn’t the life you are supposed to lead.

So, as I meter my sitting time, and wheel with Blue from A to B, as I do homework with my children or breathe in love of a man who has risen through his own shattered house, and as I continue to meet others who's pain is lifted for even a minute just because someone else has been there, too, I etch this life in stone, as my own.




Wounds of Santa Fe - A Mother’s Reflection on Fear 

As the mother of a high school student advocate for change in safety standards within our schools with nerves of steel and complete and total refusal to be restricted by the ire bullies bring,  I sit today wrestling with unbridled heartbreak at the 22nd school shooting to occur in our country this year alone, and vulnerably ask other mothers - has this excruciating wave caused you to consider home schooling?  Is this a weakness we may bend to, or is this a brave and empowering option? We homeschool our youngest as this practice is necessary to fit her learning style, with the intention of her returning to public school once she is able. But at this point, my maternal instincts are tearing me apart as to what could or should be a decision or response relative to the threat? 


As a 70’s child, I feel physically ill, that our children will never know that feeling of freedom and safety. 


I often wonder if the internet and social media has truly been gasoline on the proverbial fire that has historically threaded the high school experience. Gun control is one thing, Mental Illness is another, at times they combine. These Mixed with social toxicity is the perfect storm it seems we find ourselves watching while in denial that embers travel. 


To what degree is our fear vindicated by refusing to disturb the status quo? Keeping our children in a fishbowl at the carnival so a roque can claim his prize. 


Upon my return from NYC in April with our youngest for her 13th birthday, a ritual we have celebrated with each of our four children through the years (this one being our last) a lovely flight attendant, who lives near our town, and I struck a confidence and bonded over the current state of our schools and our children’s safety, my daughter Cassie’s part (14 at the time) in charging forward with her peers in leading a movement for change. Only upon decent did she share quietly that the pilot of our flight lost his 14 year old daughter to Parkland. As we landed, the father, no longer a pilot in my eyes you traditionally want to thank for a safe arrival, exited the cockpit. This was the first time in my life that loss was larger than any life, and the life that was his was gone. A beautiful human being vacant in grief, a ghost wandering to find his soul. Because that is what our children become. Our soul.  I wanted to scream for him, dig into the freshly layered soil above his self so oxygen could reach his lungs. Then he was gone. The wounds so freshly carved left a trail my site could not contain. 


With 22 shootings this year alone, 12 dead today and 10 injured in Santa Fe, TX today, who is to say our fears are invalid or incomparable to the possibility ours could be next? Golden Valley, Valencia High and others have already received numerous investigated threats. 


In looking at the beautiful young lives, each a perfect reflection of who could easily be mistaken for our now 15 year old and her friends; The long hair and porcelain faces of a generation of girls aching to recreate the aesthetic of a gentler time with voices launching to thread the canvas of a status quo. These images strike with the unbridled optimism and confidence of a generation so acutely aware of the crosshairs painted in invisible ink. The ones adults too often refuse to see in the dark. Because then they would be real. 


I think I have finally seen them. The crosshairs. Because I’m just so tired of aging the light to where we are expected to focus. It is this that frightened me most of all. 




Tips for Traveling After Spine Surgery

Tips for Traveling after Spine Surgery!


A friend just asked for some advice as she will be traveling to Hawaii with her family after a spine surgery. These are my thoughts after having lived & learned!


🌺Call the airline prior to departure and let them know you’ll need early boarding due to your condition. 


🌺If you have a long layover somewhere, request access (may need to purchase entry) to the airline’s lounge so you can lay down if needed. 


🌺You can request that an airline employee meet you at check-in with a wheelchair to escort you to the gate and on-board so you don’t have to walk. I’d suggest an aisle seat closer to the lavatory so you can more easily access the restroom when needed. 


🌺Let the airline also know prior - to that in case of an emergency you may need assistance exiting the plane. Be sure to let them know if you can manage a flight of 8-10 stairs without assistance. If not, they will need to know to have a wheelchair and lift ready for you upon arrival. Especially in Hawaii as many exit the plane via a stairway. 


🌺 At the hotel, request a room closer to the elevator to prevent unnecessary walking. (Exercise is one thing, Pain is another!)


🌺If you’re post-op, you may not be able or willing to go to lunches/dinners as easily if you’re having a tough time. I always request a mini fridge when traveling and stock it w milk, vino 😉 and food. Plus it saves a ton of money when the kids want cereal at midnight! 


🌺Sitting for long periods is going to be difficult. I bring at least 2 squishy pillows (not a brand, just pillows that are firm yet squishy. Not really feather pillows, more of mashable tempurpedic typ so it can contort and still support)  with me so I can adjust positions to make myself comfortable in the airplane seat and during travel in general, even in the car! You can curl your knees up and cushion the armrest for them, or pad the window area etc. One for your head, or neck, lumbar and or knees. 


🌺Prescription Lidoderm Patches help a lot in distributing subdermal lidocaine to help anesthetize the area. 


🌺Drink a TON of water. Your spine depends on being hydrated to heal and traveling sucks it right out of you. 


🌺Make sure any lounge chairs you use lean back at least 45 degrees and beware of the classic long chairs with hinged recline! These put an extreme amount of pressure on your spine. This is when the pillows come in! I keep a squishy type pillow with me everywhere I go. No shame here! It can also be a great lumbar support even at dinner!


🌺When laying on your side (the beach or in bed) place a folded pillow under your waist to lift it from the bed / ground to align your properly releasing pressure, and one between your knees. At night use at least 2-3 pillows under your head when sleeping. This will again level your spine while releasing pressure on the cervical spine’s nerves exiting to your arms. Note to self, you may never want to sleep another way again 😉 


🌺When site seeing in a car, always keep a folding beach chair that reclines with you at all times with a pillow and blanket or towel). This way you can Stop no matter where you are and participate but also take care of your spine and your pain levels. Reclining with lumbar support is key. 


🌺Pack a heating pad with you and have a pack of frozen peas available for use at night if possible. 


🌺Through trial and error I finally found the perfect sneaker with best arch support ever that even made a massive difference in easing my gate in physical therapy, the Nike Pegasus. (Dang wish I could get paid for this endorsement!🤓). When traveling, shoes are more important than anything else you could possibly wear when recovering from spine surgery. 


🌺 Wear a Velcro based back brace at all times (unless you’re just wantin’ to be sexy). This makes a world of difference that you’ll notice as soon as you take it off. The most important part of the body in charge of spine support is your core!!!! I don’t have enough exclamation points! When learning to walk again, it’s my stomach muscles that hurt so much afterward, more than my legs! Anything you can do to strengthen, tighten this region is IT!


🌺On the health end of things, here’s the deal. 90% of pain is INFLAMMATION. Sugar and alcohol are like pouring gasoline on a fire. Think about this when traveling. It’s so easy to want to embibe, just be aware of the cost when post-op or otherwise. 


🌺But most of all, don’t be a hero or a martyr. Us Moms are the worst! We don’t want to get in the way of our kids’ fun etc on a vacation, but remember you just had MAJOR surgery. I don’t care what they say, anytime they go into our spine, which is literally connected to every other part of our body, it’s a huge deal and recovery can be a beast. Like they say, oxygen goes to Mommy first! Think of your spine as another child. She’s scared and timid and in pain so taking care of it is being a good Mama! The more You accept that it’s ok to comfort yourself during this time, the faster you’ll heal and decrease the chances of hurting yourself further along the way. Even just sitting on your tailbone the wrong way for too long can send you into spasm.  


I hope this helps anyone heading out on a fantastic journey! Enjoy! 🦋


#accessibletravel #ada #ontgeroadsgain #postoptravel #backpain #spinesurgery #spinerecovery Spine-health DISC Sports & Spine Center



A funny thing happens during the 6th-8th month of this rollercoaster that is a Stem Cell Transplant recovery, and having spoken to others I am discovering I am not alone. The last two months became kind of a black hole, a padded room, an island without communication to the outside world. Ok, not quite, but something happened where all of a sudden my recovery became so intense, the labor of physical therapy so exhausting and the status of my progress progressing yet uncertain, that my mind could not wrap around updating something I couldn’t understand myself. Sound crazy? Sure felt that way. A span of incredible days where I was Wonder Woman flipped on its head to excruciating setbacks where I wondered if I had messed it all up for good. Going from a sense of fierce independence to treading on eggshells and knocking on wood at every flash of accomplishment. Finally, at 8 1/2 months (knock on wood) I have reached a tipping point, finally leaning into a life and possibilities I could have only dreamed of before. My first steps teetering on legs firing on cylinders renewed via some extended warranty. I step with rusty, wobbling joints with muscles a mix of roast beef and jello, together in a union for a common goal. My knees finally lifting my toes off the floor but with what feels like bags of cement tied to my toes, a stuttering scenario but so beautiful I ache in disbelief. It is happening. I am learning to walk all over again. I can stand at my sink and take some steps on my own. Our goal is to continue to stretch the amount of time my spine can manage the pressures and challenges of this new mobility, mechanical issues that will take time to see if walking full time can be possible again.  But to stand up and hug my husband, our children, my mother on Christmas Day, I look back on how much I took for granted in a hug. The mere ability to feel another heartbeat and never want to let go again. 

So here is this journey so far, ongoing but at the most beautiful place atop a mountain where for the first time I can see both sides and each face of all that was and that this can be. This video is the planting of a flag to say, I was here, one for others to know it’s a place anyone could be. 

Dr. Todd Malan, Stem Cell Therapyy #arachnoiditisArachnoiditissArachnoiditis SocietyyArachnoiditis USAALife With ArachnoiditissCRPSS #crps 


(I have never been compensated for mentioning doctors. If you ever see ‘Sponsored’ on any post it is due to a Boost increasing awareness of topics covered on our journey).


Background Info:

I am 47, a wife of a rock and mother of four two-legged people and three four-legged people. I was initially injured in a accident in my driveway when the corner of the electric tailgate of my car lodged itself in the temple of my skull as I stood up quickly when unloading groceries. This inverted my cervical spine also causing CRPS of the spine as well as Arachnoiditis (two of the most painful conditions in the world above childbirth and phantom limb). My accident resulted in over 20+ surgeries and procedures, a wheelchair, and 6 years in bed 80-90% of the time. Flares of spinal contractions lasting from weeks to months occurred every 15-20 minutes around the clock(Bring in those tiny violins!) 


As of June 28, 2017 I underwent a unique Stem Cell Transplant trial and am in that recovery phase, one that has saved my life and offered me whole new one.


 Our type of injury is like suffering the death of who we were and what we knew in our hearts our life would become. It's a long process as we know and are finding out. I appreciate your acceptance and look forward to growing along with everyone here. If I discuss SCT, it will never be to try to convince anyone, only that it is a part of my personal Recovery and a multi-disciplinary approach is essential to any protocol we endure.


The Untouchability of a Stranger Thing

The Untouchability of a Stranger Things


If you are of the “tween” set, or parents-of, you would have to have lived under a rock not to have heard of the NETFLIX hit, Stranger Things. One of its young breakthrough stars from its ensemble is Finn Wolfhard, a dark haired fresh-faced newly knighted prince of today’s emerging Hollywood royalty.


Our daughter is the bullseye of Finn’s target market. She is 12 years old and has watched both seasons of Stranger Things to the point of lip syncing both seasons and figured out its theme song on the piano - a repetitive flurry of fingers each time she passes its keyboard. Many of her Christmas presents this year are Finn-themed and her greatest hope is to meet him in person someday. Or, at least breathe the same air.  Of all things Finn, the biggest draw for our girl was discovering that he actually had a band named Calpurnia. A friend of hers heard something about a Los Angeles performance.  


Our girl is not alone. Millions of young people seem to have contracted this sort of Finn-itis, a gradual inflammation of the heart caused by the mere site or mention of Finn’s name. Our home just happens to feel as though we could very possibly be, ground zero. As this ever-expanding patient population grows, millions more parents watch helplessly as their children wish upon this star to somehow, some way, point in their direction, and even more parents are trying anything they can to make this happen.  


I Google for fan conventions or celebrity appearances for the cast of Stranger Things. We live in Los Angeles, who knows, right? Nothing comes up. It is Christmas, I remind myself. The schedules for next year’s Comicon etc. probably aren’t even finalized. Then I remember Finn’s band. A few more Googles leads me to its name I had mistakingly remembered as Cornucopia. Calpurnia, evidently, was the name of Julius Caesar’s third wife as well as a genus for ‘a noble family’.  Thank you, Internet. 


Again, my search results in nothing. Trying another zip code, the idealism of a few hours of driving with my daughter strikes a tone. We could bond, she will tell me secrets and we will laugh.  That is why we do these things, right? Moms, we try.  We try so hard to create that memory, that moment our child will forever hold as the time I met my mom. 


I see it. Calpurnia is playing in New York. Three thousand miles away, the fantasy of being the type of people who could whisk their child across the country for one special night quickly clicks to reality as the right column fills the screen. As if the inability to buy plane tickets wasn’t enough, 

the cost per-ticket for a General Admission is $600. 


I understand ticket pricing is traditionally based upon supply and demand - there is but one Finn Wolfhard, and millions in demand. For a talented young man at what may be his peak, with a management team most likely accounting for the uncertainty of the industry regarding a young actor’s longevity, I can understand wanting to strike while the iron’s hot. But as a mother of four, it is yet another reminder of how out of reach our children’s idols of the day can make seem especially during a time when families are struggling and the future uncertain, even in our dreams. 


Even if we lived in New York, the cost for us to take our daughter and a friend to see Finn’s band would be more than half the equivalent of her teacher’s net monthly income. 



I am not exactly sure why I decided to put down, type up and post the gymnastics of my mind. Perhaps it is simply venting, or most likely just me being a mom at Christmastime wondering how the world keeps seeming to slip its roots. How did something that should be accessible for such a young fan base become this untouchable implausibility? For now, I will wrap for her the art-poster from Etsy with Finn and his friends on their bikes, an ironic image of relatability in this world of ever stranger things.


DAY 66 Stem Cell Transplant Recovery Learning to Stand

This video includes physical therapy exercises essential for strengthening the specific muscles necessary for standing. It also includes the first time I have been able to stand since being in a wheelchair. I hope this is helpful to anyone in my situation, but please remember, I am not a physician and was prescribed this treatment protocol by my doctor. Never attempt without clearance from your physician, and do not attempt Standing without a second person present to hold your waistband and support with their arm around your waist. I have reached this point by building my muscles with isometric exercises every day to reach this point. Do not rush your progress. This is not a sprint, it's a marathon as the wise woman said🤓 Thank you for taking the time to watch. Please feel free to share!🤸🏼‍♀️ 


DAY 54 Stem Cell Transplant Recovery - Back to the Gym

DAY 54 Stem Cell Transplant Recovery - Blue Belle and I Went 'Back' to the Gym!


I am not a physician and attend PT under an official Physical Therapist. This is an exercise pre-approved and one I take very slowly and carefully. I purposefully did not state how long I stayed on the machine because every body is relative and the only thing that matters is that we all move forward at our own pace while carefully monitoring our personal well-being. Pain is not progress! Thanks for watching!


Feel free to share! 




Mic & Blue


#stemcells #stemcelltransplantrecovery #stemcellrecovery #exerciseafterstemcells Dr. Todd Malan, Stem Cell Therapy




Day 41 Stem Cell Transplant Recovery - Ozone Infusion


Day 39 Stem Cell Transplant Recovery - Travel Crash & Burn


DAY 34 Stem Cell Transplant Recovery - Cleaning House