Sunday, August 16, 2015

DC Living

Well, I did it.

I finally escaped Mississippi's death grip, despite its attempts to keep me there, and made the move to Washington DC.

As dramatic as it sounds, I have dreamed of moving out of the South since I was about 13 years old. That's when I started to really understand things and realized that my family never really fit into the southern lifestyle. That's also the age I was when my family took a trip to Boston to pick up my brother from his Tanglewood summer music program, which was my first trip out of the South. And I was all, "WOW PLACES THAT AREN'T THE SOUTH ARE AMAZING. Pine and magnolia trees aren't the only trees that exist!!"

(Despite my deep hatred for Boston's baseball team, Boston is actually really cool. Go Yankees.)

I was pretty nervous about moving 16 hours away from most of my family, understandably. I just spent a year with my parents. We were already close, but there's a deeper bond that happens when you have to depend on your parents for basic things like your mobility and every day activities even though you're an adult.

I'd love to say I am transitioning so much better than I thought I would because I'm so independent (true), but I know a big part of it has to do with JT and Karley living 20 minutes away. They were out of town during my first weekend here after my family left, and it was unexpectedly a little rough. So when they were coming back on Sunday, I texted "Can I invite myself over for dinner? Because I had a dream everyone in our family was dead and I think I need to be around people." It's nice to have someone close by that you can say that to and you know their response will be "Yeah, bring some wine!"

So I've spent the last two weeks exploring, Netflixing, and spending lots of girl bonding time with Karley. JT travels for work during the week, so it's really nice to have each other. She has been awesome and we've been having so much fun! It's cool when you are able to get to know your sister-in-law as a friend rather than just your brother's wife. She is a teacher too so we obviously love to talk about that nonstop, unfortunately for JT. We can already tell that we're going to have some fun occassionally teaming up against him. ;)

Favorite activities include drinking wine, watching an episode of a TV show, then pausing it and talking about the most random stuff until 1am.

I also met up with my student teaching CT (cooperating teacher) and he freaking rocks. We basically line up on everything when it comes to education/teaching styles/work personalities, so I have no doubt that this semester is going to be a blast. We were up there decorating the classroom and I met a bunch of other teachers and administrators, all who are so welcoming, inclusive, and friendly. It is the best atmosphere I've ever seen in a high poverty school. The school is one street over from my place, which also rocks. It's also really big and has a very confusing setup, so luckily teachers have to be there a week before students so I will hopefully stop getting lost by the time the kids get there. 

It's a totally different world up here in the best way. The thing about DC is you can choose to do your own thing and talk to no one or have a conversation with the person sitting next to you in the coffee shop, and both are totally okay.

There is so much culture and diversity, and everyone is so respectful of that. If you go to church or just believe in God, that's cool. If you don't, that's cool too. If you want to be Catholic and also stand up for social justice, no one calls you horrible names. If you're a democrat, good for you, and if you're a republican (Rs here are NOT like Rs in the South, for the record), good for you too. The first question people ask a 22 year old woman is "What do you do for a living?" not "Why don't you have a boyfriend?"

So basically I'm finally living in a place where my views are in line with the majority of the people here, rather than the minority. And even if they're not (pay close attention here, South), you can still be great friends with each other! You can even be NICE to each other! For the first time in my 22 years of living, I can actually BE MYSELF outside of my family without fear of losing friends or being excommunicated simply because I view the world in a different way. Being different isn't just tolerated here, it's celebrated. Are there ignorant people here? Sure, those people are everywhere. But there sure as hell aren't as many of them, and it's beautiful.

It's so liberating to be able to be yourself.

The view from the rooftop of my apartment building. Not too shabby, yeah?
PD week for teachers starts tomorrow, and there are no words to explain how happy I am that school is starting. I need my routine back. I met my University Supervisor via FaceTime earlier this week and she is so funny and wise. She briefly got off topic, and we discovered that her husband and I had the same Traumatic Brain Injury rehab doctor at Methodist in Jackson, and we are both good friends with my favorite Starkville OT, Linda! I have repeatedly let the fact that I'm a semester behind beat up the perfectionist in me, but GUYS, no doubt that God is all up in that. Although I don't really need many accommodations anymore since my cognitive abilities are so much better, it's so nice to have a University Supervisor who just gets it. She gets the struggle.

Not to get all preachy, and I wouldn't consider myself an "everything happens for a reason" person, but God is so good at making His presence known sometimes. Even after a year and a half of me being all "ARE YOU FREAKIN' SERIOUS, DUDE? REALLY?" And if you don't believe any of that, then we can just chalk it up to a really freaky coincidence.

I'm about 4 months shy of my 2 year mark (CRAZY), and much to my surprise, life is so good again. I truly didn't think it was ever going to get truly wonderful and enjoyable again despite the promises that it would, but here it is.

On one final note, meet this 2 month old love who is officially living life as a Cacibauda. I was bored on a Saturday morning and just went to look. An hour later, I was leaving with a cardboard box carrier and this 2 pound kitty. She came into the shelter in bad shape, so she's still a little spazzy, but she's quickly realizing that sudden movements and talking loudly is a regular thing when you live with me. ;)

Introducing sweet Darby Rose Cacibauda!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

5 Things We Should All Agree to Stop Asking/Saying to People with Paralysis

When I lost all feeling below the knee, the people that I had met that were around my age with paralysis gave me a run down of the way things would be. The endless search for something that might bring even a little feeling back, the way people will look at you, the little and big adjustments you'll make in your daily routines, and the questions people will ask you.

I'm not a sensitive person at ALL. I never have been. I have some pretty thick skin, and it's only gotten thicker since my wreck because, well, it's basically required if you want to survive.


There's nothing I hate more than ignorance. Goodness gracious, it kills me. SO. I'm going to help you out here.

5 Things We Should All Agree to Stop Asking/Saying to People with Paralysis: 

5. So are you just going to live off disability like everyone else?
**Try: "Has this affected your career plans?"

First of all, that program is in place for a reason, and until you're in a situation where you aren't sure you'll ever be able to work, you shouldn't bash it. However, not having a teaching career was never an option for me. It started out as denial after my legs went dead, but then it just turned into determination. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of us who qualify for disability don't ever want to be in a position where we HAVE to be on it because we can't work.

4. You are so lucky you get to park in handicap parking!
**Try: There is no alternative. You sound stupid.

Yes! I am SO LUCKY that I'm paralyzed from the knee down at 22 years old and am not capable of walking from the back of the parking lot with heavy bags like a normal person my age. It's not a privilege. Now that I have my leg braces, I don't even use my handicap tag unless there isn't a spot anywhere near the building or if I'm alone and will have a lot to carry to my car. I can promise you that all of us young people who need a handicap tag would gladly give it up if we could have our healthy, working legs back.  

3. I would just want to DIE if my life was ruined like that.
**Try: "I bet it's been a really hard and sucky adjustment, I'm really sorry."

Well you see, for the first several months, I did. It's a pretty common thing with people who have TBIs and/or SCIs, or any other really traumatic injury, really. Luckily, with a little research and support from the other young people at rehab, I realized that 1) my life isn't ruined and 2) I am too stubborn to let some red light running idiot decide how my life is going to be. Bottom line: Please stop saying this. We have already thought everything that is running through your mind. Don't convince someone that the voice in their head telling them that things won't ever get better is true. It's not.

2. How are you going to have babies if your legs don't work?
**If you must be nosy, try: "Will your injuries affect any plans to have a family?"

This is a fun one. First of all, my legs work, just not in the same way that everyone else's do. Second, you have no idea whether or not someone has real fertility issues that have nothing to do with their injury. Third, all of the people who ask me this are (obviously) adults. I assume that if you're an adult, you're aware that the area from your knee to your foot doesn't play a vital part in the baby having process. It just means that when I do have kids and I step on a lego barefoot, I won't feel it. So who's the real winner here?

1. Do you think a man will ever want to marry you with all of that?
**There is no alternative. You sound rude, ignorant, and shallow.

I'M SORRY, WHAT? I have not just been asked this once, but MULTIPLE times. As in way more than 10. People. This is not okay. First of all, we all know how I feel about the South thinking women need to be married with babies at 20 to survive in life. And if you want to know the truth, having to be re-taught how to walk as an adult kills your confidence, so of course that crossed my mind. But only once, maybe twice, and that was right after I realized this wasn't going away and way before I knew so much about this kind of life. So yes, I do think so, because I'd like to think there are people out there who aren't as shallow as you crazies asking this question. And truthfully (as my family so lovingly pointed out), between my never-ending stories about my students, my education rants, and my giant, slightly over zealous yet extremely loving extended family.. my paralysis is going to be the least of that very, very patient man's worries.

According to my 2nd graders last semester, my singleness had nothing to do with my leg braces and everything to do with the fact that my hair gets frizzy "even when it's not raining, Ms. Cacibauda!!" (BYE Southern humidity, you won't be missed)

So there you are. It's all out on the table for you. Let's all agree that these are absurd things to say to a person and we should all just stop, yeah?

I love when people come up and ask me questions rather than staring at me because duh. I love to share information with people who also have partial paralysis and tell everyone about Methodist Rehab and all of that good stuff. I love to hear stories about people and their loved ones who have used or tried the Bioness braces. And I know the majority of people really do mean well. But come on. Use your brain.

If you aren't sure how to treat people with paralysis, or any other disability for that matter, here are a few guidelines to help:

1. Approach said person and talk to them like you would any other person. (Crazy, I know)

2. Say "How are you today?" or "It's a pretty day, isn't it?" (No, because it's almost July and we are in the South.)

3. Smile and say, "Have a nice day."

END SCENE. You're welcome.

Friday, May 22, 2015

That's a Wrap

Over the past year of this crazy ride, I have shared a lot of the ugly moments. Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries are invisible, under-discussed, and commonly misdiagnosed. They need to be talked about so that there aren't more people who are told paralysis isn't possible AND THEN THEY LOSE ALL FEELING FROM BELOW THE KNEE.

But I've also shared the really big moments-- my first time being able to roll myself over on my own, my first time trying out the Bioness braces with my walker, my first time walking with the Bioness braces and looking less like Bambi, my first time walking with the Bioness braces and walker free (!!!), and now my first steps without the Bioness braces during our attempt to wean me off of them.


Although technically the video I posted wasn't my REAL first steps. They were more like the first steps I would allow anyone to video, because even though I am all about sharing the ugly stuff, some of it is a little too ugly. Well, that and it's really just inappropriate for the public eye due to my colorful choice of words if ya know what I mean.

But now it's all over and life is finally making sense again. It's not only much more bearable, but it's even kind of enjoyable. I am driving, going to the gym again, going to the movies (MUCH bigger accomplishment than you would think after a traumatic event), and going out for drinks with my friends. I am back to being a generally happy person on most days and during the last 5 months, I spent every moment outside of rehab doing homework.

When people want to know about my life (aka they want to know about my progress) I'm all, "Oh it's good the legs are still dead but GUESS WHAT MY 2ND GRADERS SAID YESTERDAY?" And we all know it's a good sign when I'm back to talking about my kids every time someone will listen. ;)

Sometimes, when I'm not so focused on school and rehab and worrying about the future that I have little to no control over, I am hit with a wave of "OH MY GOOD GOD I THINK THIS IS THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL THEY WERE LYING ABOUT ALL THOSE MONTHS". It usually happens when I've had too much coffee that day, but that's a minor detail.

When something truly awful and life changing happens, I'm not sure when you reach the point where you say, "Okay. This is life now. I don't know why it happened, and it's certainly not fair, but it's okay. And I'm okay." Sometimes I feel like I'm there, but the smallest bump in the road caused by my wreck can send me over the edge and I lose it all over again. I'm okay until I'm having to get shots in the BACK OF MY FREAKIN' SKULL, and it's not even the pain that does it. It's the fact that I am only 22, but could have another 50 years of shots and neck pain and numb legs because of one person and their choice. And I'm not going to lie, I might be bitter about that for the rest of my life.

But this IS life now. And I don't know why it happened. And it definitely isn't fair. But it IS okay. And I'M okay. And I have lots of people to thank.

Thanks to all of the schools, administrators, student organizations, etc. who have asked me to come speak to their students about my journey and the importance of being a safe driver. Thank you to all of the students for vowing to be smart, be responsible, and use your voice when you know something isn't right.

Thanks to the friends and family who have stuck by me since day 1. Some of my friendships with people changed after my life wasn't normal anymore. It's one of those cliche "you find out who will really stay when you get hit by a truck" thing. ;) It's not easy to love a loved one who is going through something like this, but they so need it. To those who did-- thank you for being beautiful, selfless people.

I seriously have to brag on these two above, Amber and Haylee, for being such great friends and taking care of me when I was still living in Starkville! You know you've found a great friend when they will hold your puke bag at the hospital (Thanks, Nurse Amby!!) and translate your jumbled brain words that you say into coherent sentences for all of your school assignments during the worst days after getting a TBI. (Thanks, Haylee!!) These two are lifesavers and I am so thankful for our friendship.

Thanks to these two kids for reminding me what it means to be family. My mom's side of the family is very close, but my cousin Jamey and his wife Molly have always lived in a different part of MS than the coast, so I didn't have the chance to build that close relationship with them like I have built with my other cousins. Still, they immediately insisted that I stay with them rather than living in a hotel when I started rehab in Jackson back in September. When I found out I would be here until April and was going to look for an apartment, they told me I was ridiculous and that I wasn't going anywhere, even after they got a big surprise and found out they are having a beautiful baby girl in July. Guys, that is some serious LOVE. They didn't just give me a place to stay, but they were supportive, loving, and so fun. They made their home my home. I have loved having the chance to get close to you two, and I am so thankful. Best roomies EVER. ;)

Thanks to all of the sweet friends I made here at rehab in Jackson-- you all inspire me every day with your smile, strength, and hard work, and somehow we are all going to be just fine.

This is Cheri-- she had a stroke after giving birth to her 2nd baby boy. She rocks the robot leg AND arm on the side that became paralyzed after her stroke. Lets just say she's a badass.
THANK YOU to all of my peeps at Drayer PT in Starkville, OCH Rehab Services, and Methodist Rehab for either being one of my therapists or just being my friend.
With some of my therapists at Walk and Roll for research to help the foundation that discovers all of the great therapy stuff like my Bioness braces.
With my fabulous OT, Allison, on my last day of OT! March 2015

I have officially finished Senior Block!! Thank you to Mrs. Callahan and her 2nd grade crew at Highland Bluff Elementary for letting me be a part of your special classroom this semester. I had so much fun and learned so much. I love you all!

Obligatory "I AM DONE WITH SENIOR BLOCK AND THIS BINDER!" picture. If you are an on-campus student, you know that this picture is what every elementary education major looks forward to from day 1!

I've officially been discharged from Methodist Rehab's Quest Program. They threw me a "graduation" party with ice cream cake-- my favorite! There aren't enough positive things I can say about this place. They changed my life. Thank you for helping me re-learn how to walk, jump, think, laugh, and just be okay again. I love you all and will carry everyone I have met on this journey with me in my heart forever.

And finally, I have officially been given my student teaching placement in Washington, DC. I will be in 1st grade, which was my first pick. I couldn't be more excited! I will be moving at the end of July, and will graduate in December. Every time someone asks why I didn't just give up, this is why. This exact moment is what I've always wanted, and I refuse to let someone and their bad choices take that away from me. 

For now, I'm spending some much needed quality time with my parents before kissing Mississippi goodbye in a couple months. My mom's big side of the family is going to Disney World with us this year, and it is going to be so fun. I'm trying to soak up all of these moments with this family I love so much. They are the best thing about living in Mississippi, and I can't even imagine living so far away from them. Watch out Disney, there are lots of crazies coming your way.

So that's where we are, and I'm good with it, ya know? It's hard to believe that the worst part of this is (hopefully) over after all this time. It's crazy to think that in a couple months I'll be back to "normal" life. Living on my own, going to school, doing fun stuff that 22 year olds do. Hell, I might even start dating again. Crazy, I KNOW. I can do whatever I want. I'm free.

All I know is that I am going to enjoy the hell out of whatever I'm doing. I sure do hate cliches, but nothing puts how short life is into perspective quite like getting hit by a truck. After 17 months of living rehab life, I don't even know if I remember HOW to be a normal person in their 20s. Luckily, I don't think it will take me very long to get the hang of it. ;)

Happy Summer, loves. xo.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Year Later

"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace-- only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." --Anne Lamott

Happy Birthday to me.

It's not the day I actually made my way into this crazy world, but it's the day I was forced to begin figuring out my new way around this place. Today is my one year mark from my wreck. I am officially 1 year post-TBI, seizure free, and a little more like the Alexa I recognize.

MAN, I miss that car. It was a goodie.
I didn't know how I would feel about this day or the days leading up to it. Some people said they stayed in bed and hid from reality all day, not wanting to face the anger and hurt waiting for them. Others said they celebrated how far they had come in a year and looked forward to things being even better in another year.

I thought I would be the kind of person who would celebrate. I mean, why not? I love any excuse to eat cake. But my therapists warned me that it might sneak up and sweep me off my feet. That I would find myself wanting to stay in bed all day the closer it got. And, as usual, they were right.

This year was full of so much up and down, from thinking I had just bumped my head and was fine to trying to go back to life to suddenly realizing that the numbness in my feet was getting worse to not being able to walk. I spent more time with doctors than my own friends. I was thrown into all of the awful, annoying, and just plan weird things that come with brain injuries-- changing taste buds, constant migraines, car anxiety, pain that makes getting a tattoo or gashing open your arm feel like nothing, and my first experience with real, suffocating depression.

And I suffered through a lot of it very silently, afraid that if I didn't keep pushing through my normal life like my first neurologist told me to, I was going to let myself and everyone who counted on me down-- my daycare babies, my school partner, my friends, my family. I thought I could fight what was happening by burying myself in life.

I thought I was back in the life game when my neurologist cleared me to go back to work. It was hard on me and overly exhausting a lot of days, but I needed to pay my bills and knew I needed that time with my babies to look forward to in order to keep going every day. And although we are now finding out that the lining of my spinal cord was most likely just getting worse during that time, I don't think I would have been able to push through this without seeing my kids. Most days, they were the ONLY reason I could talk myself into getting up. My little saving graces-- I love them so dearly.

We now know that neurologists have lots of opinions about the best approach to TBI, and returning to normal life immediately is NOT a popular one. When my TBI doctor made me move to Jackson and put my senior elementary ed block on hold, I made HUGE improvements and started feeling so much like myself after a month or two of being able to really rest and let my brain heal. It's what needed to be done at the very beginning, but we didn't know that.

It was hard. These 12 months have been so hard. And as much as I hate it and wish it had never happened, it has made me so much stronger and more understanding and even more driven than I already was before. It's so cliche, but after this? After having to fix my broken memory? After having to reteach my brain and muscles how to balance and roll out of bed in the morning? After pushing through school and work and life with a head, neck, and back injury? After losing sensation in my feet and having to figure out how to walk like that? After ALL of that, the word "difficult" has a whole new meaning. Things like spending 4 hours on homework, paying my own bills, and having to do my own laundry are things I can't WAIT to be doing again after having to go through all of this. After all of that, how can there possibly be something that I can't get through?

(That is not a challenge, life. NOT A CHALLENGE.)

I learned even more about how we truly don't know what is going on with someone. Brain and spine injuries are essentially invisible. The most common response I get is "but you look so normal and fine!!" "One day you could kind of feel your feet and then something happened in your neck and spine and you couldn't feel them anymore?" Yes. Exactly. I learned that we take SO MUCH for granted and people complain about things that aren't worth complaining about. I learned that the people you think will be there for you when life kicks you down may not be the people who actually stick around when you aren't yourself. I learned that it hurts like hell when those people are the ones who you have always held nearest and dearest to you. I learned that people who never have and may not ever face a situation like this will judge and roll their eyes and continue to think that staying in a 3 star hotel and being too busy to get a massage are the biggest injustices in life.

My very first time walking with the Bioness braces!
I've experienced first hand the struggle my dyslexic reading students face every day, and the frustration of not being able to fix it. I've experienced feeling left behind because life is moving on without you even though your world has stopped. I've experienced being furious at God and wanting to kick Him out, only to realize that His unfailing love and grace is the only thing that's constant when Rock Bottom becomes your permanent residence. I've experienced feeling closer to Him in my own little apartment than in a church building. I've experienced feeling Him wrap His arms around me during every fall, curse word, and setback at rehab.

My little happy on the day I got discharged from speech/cognitive therapy!
So many of you are so sweet and constantly encouraging me. One of the things that is most frequently said to me is, "You are handling this with so much grace and positivity." But I have to make sure you know that there are many days that grace and positivity do NOT happen.

I try to be positive and humorous, because I get through things with jokes and laughter. I try to keep it light and breezy because I don't want people to think I can't be a great friend, babysitter, and teacher while I struggle. I can't begin to tell you how many "I'd rather get hit by a truck than (insert something I don't want to do here)" jokes I've made. (My mom totally doesn't think they are as funny as I do.) But I've also had so many days where I've been so furious, hurt, upset, and frustrated that I was in an awful mood and snapped at my precious mom who just wanted to know what I felt like eating for dinner. I've cursed and cried when I've fallen or can't get my body to do what we are working on in PT, even though we've been working on this one thing for WEEKS.

And then I lay on the floor like this because LIFE.
I've tossed my phone across my bedroom in anger when jealousy was eating me alive because Facebook was showing me that all of my friends and classmates were doing everything I should be doing in Starkville. I've made my family completely reschedule our plans because I couldn't bring myself to go to another public place where people would stare or talk to me like I'm dumb or just be rude. I've had to clinch my fists to keep myself from throwing a punch at someone who is bragging about their ability to drive irresponsibly, total their car, and walk away without a scratch as I sit right in front of them with a walker and leg braces. I've had to almost bite a hole in my tongue to keep myself from screaming YOU LITERALLY HAVE NO IDEA HOW GOOD YOU HAVE IT SO STOP WHINING at someone.

I've spent many of these last few days leading up to Christmas and my one year mark in bed swallowed up by anger and sadness while my family continues on with our holiday traditions that I just can't bring myself to participate in. And I don't know WHY. I don't know if it's because I spent yet another December night in the hospital this year or because my body is like STAY AWAY FROM CARS AND RED LIGHTS or because the holidays just don't feel as merry and bright anymore.

I've done so many things that wouldn't be considered handling this with grace and positivity, and I try to convey that as much as possible. I try to convey that sometimes life is--for lack of better words--full of shit, and there's nothing shameful about having to take a couple detours and being pissed about it. It's okay if our life plan has to be put on hold for a little bit. It's okay to say I AM SO MISERABLE on the bad days, as long as you somehow remember that there will be another great day ahead where you will say "God, I'm so blessed."

The day I learned how to shift my weight without being able to feel it.
And I'm telling you all of this because if there is anything I'm good at, it's using my words. And I don't know what I'm supposed to do with this mess I've been given, but if I can somehow use my raw and real words to convey SOME type of message-- whether it's about the impact of your driving decisions or how a normal, bubbly girl can suddenly be kidnapped by Depression and its pal Anxiety and feel so lonely or how someone can want to trust in God SO BADLY while stuck in a giant shithole but can't get past the anger-- then maybe I can somehow make myself believe that this massive, awful situation wasn't for nothing.

I don't have it all figured out, and I certainly don't have any magical powers or answers. But if things are sucky right now or you've just been unwillingly inducted into the National Depression Club, I can stand here with you, just like my friends in the rehab center and the cancer center and the neuro lab have stood here with me. I can stand here and say this sucks. And it's unfair. And I'm so sorry. I will stand here and say that the holidays SUCK when you feel like this, and there is no way to explain it to anyone else. I will stand here and say that I know you can't feel it right now but life isn't going to be like this every day for the rest of your life. I will talk it out or throw darts at a picture of someone's face or just sit here next to you as someone who gets it if that's what you need.

In the words of my Proverbs 31 Ministry devotion from a few days ago: "I want to be a woman who is willing to say, 'I'll trust Jesus even when it's hard. I'll be real with my weakness so you can see Christ working in me. I'll be brave so you know you can be, too. Watch, I'll go first.'"

A whole year later, and my life doesn't match the life plan I've been working on since I learned how to write. So here are a couple things that are on my NEW plan for 2015.

I've been asked to share my story at a SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) safe driving workshop that's being held in Biloxi in January. I will be speaking to groups of students from all over the state who are working to promote safe driving in their own schools and communities, and hopefully will have the privilege to continue to work with them and other organizations to promote safe driving. Needless to say, I. Am. Pumped. (And SO SCARED) I love being able to use my words in a positive and (hopefully) effective way.

I am officially going back to school full time, and will be completing my senior elementary ed block this spring. I will be taking the classes online and will do my practicum at schools in the Jackson area while I continue rehab. TEACHER ALEXA IS BACK, PEOPLE. I can't wait to be back in my element doing what I'm good at.

I will (fingers crossed) be discharged from rehab by summer, and will hopefully be making the move to the Washington DC area where I will complete my student teaching and graduate in December. I will apply to grad school to get my masters in Reading Education, and work on getting a teaching position at a struggling school in the city where I can work hard to play a part in closing the word gap and giving low-income students the education they deserve.

But the biggest, best, and most exciting thing I can say is that, thanks to my PTs and Bioness leg braces (the robot legs), I will be WALKING into this new year.

Here's to a new year, that will hopefully be filled with much more walking, teaching, and pure happiness than 2014. Here's to every single rehabilitation professional who loves what they do and works hard for those of us who find ourselves in an awful situation.

And here's to you. Especially those of you who have sat with me at the hospital and loved me in my bad moods and brought the party to me when I couldn't leave the house. Thank you all so much for loving, encouraging, and praying for me. I will always have so much love in my heart for every single one of you.

Happy New Year, peeps. Let's get this party started! xo.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

I Love My "Overachieving" Mom

It's that time of year again.

Time for everyone to start sharing those articles about why people hate THOSE moms. Oh, I'm not talking about those moms who scream at their kids for being kids or the crazy ones who get arrested for locking their kid in a closet for 10 years.

Nope. I'm talking about THOSE moms-- the ones who make homemade goodie bags for their kid's Christmas party and do silly things with their Elf on the Shelf and make snowflakes and other holiday crafts with their kids. The ones we all love to hate on.

Nothing says happy holidays like judging others, right?

When I first came across an article complaining about the "overachieving mom" a few years ago, I clicked on it thinking it was going to be about a "pushy mom" who puts a lot of pressure on her kids to make straight 100s and compete in the olympics.

But then I read the article. And I was like, well shit. They just described Rose Cacibauda. Also known as Mom.


This is my mother. She's an incredible artist (especially when it comes to pottery), a hard worker, and occasionally an expert at annoying her middle child who is basically Rose Cacibauda part 2. She's a woman of many traits, really.

But mostly? She's what today's world calls an "overachieving mother". Actually, I'm pretty convinced that one of my classmate's moms probably met her and created the term overachieving mother. 

She was a stay at home mom when my siblings and I were younger. She filled our toddler days with educational activities, crafts, books, and trips to the park. When we were in elementary school, she did things with the PTA, went on our field trips, helped with field day, and painted sets for school plays every time one of us volunteered her because we told everyone how good of an artist she was.

When I turned 7, I had a Spice Girls birthday party, and she painted the Spice Girls on a huge piece of cardboard/wood/something with face cutouts so my friends and I could put our faces in and take our pictures. She created microphones out of styrofoam and fabric and created a "stage" for us to perform on. I was Sporty Spice and it was awesome. 

In my 4th grade Mississippi play, I played the role of the teacher and we made and decorated a "teacher vest" for me to wear. She never sent anything store-bought to our class parties unless I was signed up for chips. She was simultaneously my brother's cub scout leader and me and my sister's girl scout troop leader, and we ALWAYS went camping with the cub scouts. She planned and ran a cub scout day camp every summer, and created Camp Cacibauda, where she had tons of special fun activities and outings for us to do as a family all week. 

She played with us and let us get dirty and pick out our own outfits, even when I was 3 and wore my cowboy boots with everything, including my pjs and swim suit. She brought orange slices and juice boxes to our soccer games, taught me ballet positions when I didn't have time to play sports AND do dance, and spent most of her days sitting in the stands at the baseball/softball fields. When we go to Disney World, she spends months working on getting us a reservation to eat in Cinderella or Belle's castle because we still think it's magical.

She's made every birthday cake my siblings and I have ever had (except that year I discovered the cakes with whipped cream icing at Walmart and became obsessed). When I turned 13, she and my aunt took me and 2 of my friends to New Orleans for a weekend to stay at the Alexa Hotel. When I turned 21, she said she would take me to New York to see Derek Jeter play at Yankee Stadium before he retired. Even after my accident happened, she still did everything to make it happen this past September and pushed me all around New York City.

She let us "camp out" in our sleeping bags in the living room on the weekends, and made matching Easter dresses for me and my sister on a regular basis. And the holidays? Let's just say she's the reason I'm so obsessed with Christmas. We still do the same things we used to. We decorate and make homemade Christmas cookies and make all of our homemade Italian food. We make goodies to send to her best friend in California and we play family games. She writes riddles and sticks them in the advent calendar, and on Christmas Eve morning we get to hunt for our new ornament that is hidden somewhere in the house.

But here's the thing-- I know it sounds like it, but my siblings and I weren't spoiled. Were we so, so, SO incredibly blessed? YES. No doubt. But we weren't (and still aren't) rich, and I heard the word "no" (nicely) plenty of times. We were a family on a budget, and I know my mom didn't do it just to one up the other parents. She didn't do it because she thinks she's perfect. She's still a mom and a human. She likes to spend a day in her pjs and gets frustrated with her crazy kids sometimes and still isn't very good at taking selfies. ;)

Do you know why she did it?

Because she WANTED TO. Because she thought it was FUN. Because that was, and still is, her personality.


Maybe that's not your personality. Maybe you are a store-bought cookie kind of girl and think the Elf on the Shelf is too much work. AND THAT'S OKAY TOO! It doesn't make you any less of a good mother.

But we can't tell women that they are awful and "setting the bar too high" just because of the way they are choosing to be a mom. If it makes you feel bad or you don't like it, then you have two options. You can step up your mom game, or you can just ignore it and keep on keeping on and loving your kids the way you love them. 

Because at the end of the day, I promise that the "overachieving moms" aren't doing all of these things to prove that they're a better mom or make you feel like an inadequate mother. Because the secret is that all of those "overachieving" things aren't about YOU, they are about their kid(s).

I'm thankful that my mom fits the description of an "overachieving mom". I'm thankful that I have that same personality, and can only hope that I'm as awesome of a mom as she is. I'm thankful that she still chooses to go above and beyond for me and my siblings.

But mostly, I'm thankful for my overachieving mother, who went above and beyond even though she knew we didn't fully realize just how good we had it at the time. I thought all moms were like mine when I was younger. I thought she was just being a mom and doing what she was supposed to do. 

But man, I was so wrong. Rose Cacibauda is definitely one of THOSE moms. And she did it all before Pinterest because she's just that cool. But you know what? We love it. 

We love our overachieving mother. You rock, Mom!