Wednesday, October 28

the meaning in a sleeve

We were shopping with the small queen for school shoes.

Another family nearby appeared to be shopping for their little girl as well, but she was visibly unhappy, and I quickly noticed that she had some sort of reddish rash or birthmark covering much of her body. She was desperately trying to pull one of her arms into her short sleeve T-shirt, and her general demeanor made it clear that, if possible, she would have pulled her entire body inside her shirt. She was emitting a near constant beseeching whimper, distressed by her own presence in the store.

I immediately recognized this scene in my bones. I spent most of my childhood and well into my twenties refusing to wear anything without sleeves. In my mind, the only thing that stood between me and public ridicule was at least 6 inches of fabric. And if the sleeve wasn't long enough to cover the length of my little arm, I lifted (almost subconsciously) my shoulder an inch or two to compensate for the lack of length. It was a physical symptom of my shame.

My old sleeve-conscious self would have run from this shoe store scene before I was found out, exposed. But I was immediately sympathetic. I wanted to help this girl, hug her, tell her something helpful, something that I wish someone would have told me. I imagined the scene: I'd walk to her, aglow with confidence. I'd say, "I just want you to know how beautiful you are." Or, I'd hug her. Or, just reach out and touch her skin, like Jesus reaching out to heal the man with the withered hand, the warmth of my gaze banishing all of her self-consciousness. Perhaps I would be the first ever to tell her she was beautiful.

I don't know why I started wearing sleeveless shirts, but I know exactly when. I went to Greece to cover the Paralympics in my mid-twenties and I packed sleeveless tanks (which I normally only dared wear at home). When I opened my suitcase in Athens, I panicked. What had I done? But I was already so far out of my comfort zone, what was one more discomfort? I put on a sleeveless shirt and headed out into the world. And then...nothing. Nothing happened. The world appeared the same as it always had, no one stared or whispered any more or less than they always had. But everything had changed. I could not go back. I've been sleeve-free ever since, and loving every little black cocktail dress of it.

I stepped closer to the family with the girl. I smiled, hoping to make eye contact, to exchange recognition and establish trust. But she never lifted her eyes. And I didn't say anything. I was too scared. Yes, me, the confident new woman proudly wearing my disability, no sleeves attached. What if the girl cried or recoiled from my touch?, I thought. What if she wasn't ready to receive what I wanted to give? What if she didn't respond at all and I was just a creepy stranger trespassing on her life? After standing awkwardly close for a few moments, I retreated. 

I retuned to the chore of finding sensible sneakers with the required amount of sparkles to satisfy a 6-yr-old. But I continued to look out across the racks of shoes, hoping to catch a glimpse of the family. I tried to muster my nerve, hoping I might have another opportunity. But finally, they were gone. Disappointed in myself, I told Left Hand Man what I had wanted to do, hoping that somehow this would validate my admirable intentions. He had not noticed the girl at all. Eventually, we left the store, having compromised with bubble-gum-pink Converse.

I still feel my failure, but given some time to think, I wonder if my good intention was motivated by altruism, or a need to validate my own experience. And so, I write. It's how I figure anything out. And I hope that maybe one day, a little girl that needs to, will read this.


Wednesday, September 9


I realized how much time I'd been spending at home when I put on a bra recently and the dogs' ears perked and tails started wagging like they normally do when I put on tennis shoes and grab their leashes. We're going out, they thought!

Not a fan of backaches and compromised breathing, I prefer to go braless at home. I've even been known to answer the door for deliveries or visiting neighbors at liberty. Honestly, it's probably mostly laziness--these days, I just can't be bothered. But I like to pretend it's my late-blooming inner feminist refusing to imprison my bust.
Thankfully Left Hand Man is supportive of my stance...or, at least he seems minimally interested. It is actually in his interest to support my liberation since recently it's been difficult to find bras to suit which I can also attach to my body by myself, and I am now dependent on his assistance to strap things down (up?).

I had the novel experience recently of wondering, when he went out of town, how I was going to dress myself for out-of-house business. Thankfully the kitchen was lately stocked and I've been known to throw on a sweatshirt and call it good for a late night run to Target. What only you know, can't hurt anyone else?

I vaguely remember my last bra shopping adventure, many many moons ago. Left-Hand Man was there and, bless his soul, he went right into the dressing room with me. I would dare claim that no woman (who wears above a B cup) enjoys shopping for bras, but I have a lengthy list of specifications and special needs in this department. My back is uneven (read more about that here), my shoulders short or sloping, my booties (as The Small Queen calls them) asymmetrical by approximately two cup sizes, not to mention I only have ONE ARM! I guess you probably know that by now.

I've been asked how a one-armed girl puts on a bra, but if asked today, I'd have to say "with a husband." Left Hand Man stood dutifully by me as I wrangled myself into various possibilities, unfastening, fastening, and rehanging as needed. He was a real trooper. 

As I write now, I am braless, as you may have guessed. This new age of telecommuting and online business has opened up a whole new world of dressing down, or hardly dressing at all. I'd like to think I am writing to breast-freed women across the globe. 

Cheers, to bust-freedom!


Monday, April 27

another day in place

In an effort to catch you up on the past few years (well, year, really) of my life, I have neglected to relay any part of the ongoing present, or current events.

Early boredom
But what's to say, really? We're all doing the same thing: staying home. Since my Left-Hand Man and I only recently moved to this home, the adjustment has not been that significant. We don't have work outside of our home or social gatherings to avoid since we don't have friends. We have a house and the two (and sometimes three) of us. We might as well be living on a desert island, except the beaches would not be closed.

Anyone else having flashbacks to every post-apocalyptic novel they ever read, wondering when the wandering marauders will start raiding for babies and canned tomatoes. Why babies, you ask? To start a new civilization, obviously. I will say I never saw toilet paper becoming the currency of this new world.

I can only imagine what it might be like when your ability to eat or feed your family is taken, but I am familiar with staying home. I stayed home most of my childhood, in fact. Homeschooled on the rural high desert southwest, isolation was a given. But boredom begets, by necessity, creativity. We had hours and hours to invent new worlds in juniper tree houses and crude wooden block fortresses that stretched across the family room floor.

And later, in my mid 20s, I experienced another bout of home-boundedness forced by physical collapse. I spent lots of time in a hammock, not only under house rest, but held hostage by my own body. This is when I started writing my book.

I've learned that being side-lined deserves gratitude, thought it frequently invites anger. The beaches closing actually felt like a personal insult to my spiritual wellbeing. I raged. I slept as much as possible. I'm still drinking gin and tonics, but I started painting. And now the Small Queen insists on painting with me, as in, when she wants to paint, I have to paint, too. And she is prolific.


Thursday, April 9

the small queen

There is a new small person in my life.
She is about two thirds my height, loves ice cream, music, and scaring anyone, at any moment, throughout the day.
As I mentioned in a previous post, after I met my left-hand man and got married, I gained a 5-year-old girl, in her adorable and whimsical prime.
She is BIG into fairytale at the moment. At any given time, she will be a fairy, unicorn, mermaid, or queen (not, she will inform you, a princess). She can produce any Frozen song (1 or 2) at any time, anywhere, complete with all lyrics memorized. 
"Guess what I'm going to be when I grow up? A stage singer," she has been informing us of late.
I'm so delighted by this small person, which is the very best way to describe her. And I'm impressed with the great honor and responsibility of the position of influence I've been given.

I am now regularly propositioned: "I need you to help me go to the bathroom." I guess it's more of a demand than a pitch, but at least she makes me feel needed. And by 'help' she means keep her company while she sits on the toilet, supply exactly four ply of toilet paper in due time, and wash your hands with her. I take my role in moral support very seriously.

When asked, as a 5yr old myself, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, "A mommy." And as an adult, I have wondered what it would be like to be a one-armed mommy, never knowing if I would have the opportunity to find out. But apparently this small person is curious to know what it is like to be me, a nearly 40yr old newly married, unemployed woman trying to get in touch with her creative self.  
"Do you want to go swimming," I might propose to the small queen, and she will very likely respond, "Do YOU want to go swimming? I want to do what you want to do."

And when she is in the mood to learn my ways, she is a dedicated student. When we sit by the pool, me reading Vagina, A New Biography, and she one of various Frozen 2 adventures, she will wait to turn a page at the exact moment that I do. She waits to sip her hot chocolate for when I take a drink of my latte. She will refuse to wash her left hand unless I bend over sideways to allow Finneas a brief rinse. It's like being followed by a small robot, programing itself based on your actions.

Never have I been so aware of the way I do everything in my life. Now I know why moms are so exhausted. It's a huge job being the example template of adulthood. Frankly, it's overwhelming to think about, and I'm only part-time. But it also feels so exactly what I am meant to be at this time. She invites me to play with her, and what better way to spark my creative self. Whatever will I do when she stops requesting my presence at court by her porcelain throne?


Monday, February 3

my left-hand man

That was a pretty good cliffhanger I left you with, eh?

Yes, in a mere five months, I went from answering "How did you guys meet?" to "How's married life?" The first is much easier to answer...he rode a Harley with long salt and pepper curls to a coffee house and into my life. OK, we met online, BUT that is how we met in person. From then, we've spent most every day together until now, except that time I went to circus camp.

And that's how he became my Left-Hand Man. 

So many times love doesn't work out. And then it does. There was no flash of lightening, signaling trumpet or writing in the sky. I just knew he interested me and my interest did not wane. But this excited me so much I lost 10lbs in two weeks and woke up one morning to text my mom that I was going to marry this guy. Thankfully he agreed... over the phone, while returning ink cartridges to Target. I dare anyone to challenge his multi-tasking skills.

Falling in love with Left-Hand Man was like a quiet, but growing hum. It wasn't bells, whistles, or grand gestures. It was coming home. We had so much in common, it became redundant to express an opinion or preference. I found myself saying "me too" so often I worried he would think I was trying too hard. 

We have each lived quite a bit of life up to now; loved, lost, and left much of the arrogance of youth behind. It's the good time. I love his quiet, steady temperament; the way he prepares meals with special detail; and how he explains to his daughter that just because she is scared does not mean she isn't brave. And I still can't get over how spoiled I feel when he carries eight bags of food out of the grocery store while I carry none.


Tuesday, January 21

ten years

In May 2010, I posted for the first time to this blog, so we are nearing the 10th anniversary of the creation of OneArmGirl. That's gotta mean something, right?

Granted, I have sadly neglected this poor blog, and you faithful readers, if you are still out there, for the past four years. In the years 2017 and 2018, I wrote a total of one post respectively. Somehow it is worse that I took the time to write one!

As usual, there are reasons, but no real excuses for my lax creative integrity. I was in a raucously unhealthy relationship for longer than I'd like to put in writing. Not surprisingly, it sucked the life out of me, leaving little left to offer here, and too much shame to dig any deeper into my psyche. And strangely concurrently, my life got a lot more stable--I bought a house, got comfortable in my job, frequented local coffee shops--and I luxuriated in comfortable monotony.

But shame on me, as a self-identified memoirist, to avoid the real gunk of life!

It's a new year, a new era, and gunk of life I shall bring you. I admit this new resolve is somewhat selfish in nature (shocking for a vocation that demands self-absorption, I know!). I find myself now in the midst of a personal metamorphosis, the magnitude of which would measure at least a 5.5 if we had a Richter scale for such things (someone, please create one!). Not since moving back to New Mexico in 2009 have I intended as much difference in my life's focus and geography.

In the last year, I have found love, gotten married, become a step-mom, and moved to Florida. And now I want to write, for real.

Let the journey continue...