A Fresh Start on a Budget – doesn’t that title conjure all sorts of different things in your mind? It did in mine. I thought this blog, written by Karissa, was about decorating and designing on a budget. And, what about the photo above of the beautiful, young couple? Doesn’t it make you think that this young couple is the quintessential, perfect young couple with the “brass ring” just in front of them, ready for them to grab as they begin their journey together?
Well, was I ever wrong!
Before I tell you what the blog, A Fresh Start on a Budget is all about, let me give you a little “back story”. Tiffany and I attended the Women Get Social conference at the end of February in San Diego. This is the 3rd blogging conference we’ve had the privilege of attending since we launched our blog the end of July 2012. You can read stories from our various conference experiences by clicking the links below:
- Mommy Diary Monday: They Missed Me!
- The Conference Hangover
- Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Bloggy Boot Camp
I use the word “privilege” to describe what I feel like as an attendee at these conferences because it is, indeed, a privilege to attend. At every one of these conferences, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting amazing women. Kind and generous women. Smart women. Inspiring women. And, every one of these conferences have been jam-packed full of so much information that you leave almost shell-shocked. But, you always leave with ideas for your own “fresh start.”
Anyway, at the Women Get Social conference, rather than have “break-out sessions” where you have to pick-and-choose which sessions to attend, they have the same session for everyone in the same room throughout the day. During the transition from one presenter to another, you are asked to get up and switch tables and sit with a group of women you haven’t sat with before. The table switch lasts just a few minutes and once at your new table, you quickly exchange business cards with the rest of the women at your table and, if you are lucky, you have a minute to chat with the person next to you before the next presentation gets underway.
Karissa was at one of my tables and we exchanged cards. I didn’t sit next to her, but across from her, so I didn’t get an opportunity to chat with her. Not even for a minute. But, once I was home, I spent time over the next several days, visiting the blogs of everyone from whom I gathered a business card. And, at each blog, the first thing I’d read was their “About” page, so that I’d “get to know them” better.
And, when I read Karissa’s about page, that’s where I read her story. Today, Karissa is 29-years-old. Married at 19 to Blake since 2004, pictured with her above and below, they had their daughter, Bella, in 2006.
In February of 2012 (just barely two years ago), Karissa, 27-years-old, had a stroke.
Yes, a stroke.
A major stroke.
A lucky to be alive stroke.
On top of that, her husband, Blake, was diagnosed with epilepsy a few years before her stroke. These two young adults, just starting their life together, whammied with major life-changing health issues.
Still, she celebrates every day of her new life as a survivor of stroke with strength, grace and a courageous that most of us will never match.
Her stroke has left her with permanent disabilities from which she will never recover, but in her acceptance of her new reality, she has adapted and moves forward one day at a time with immeasurable courage. Overcoming obstacles that many of such can’t even comprehend, she is inspirational in her willingness to share her story with the world.
Here are direct links to some of her posts:
A Letter to You My Readers
Reading her stories gave me a new appreciation for my husband, Charlie. As a toddler, Charlie learned to walk when he was about 15 months old. At two-years-old, he got polio. He was in an iron lung for a year (he says he was, but at 2, maybe a few months seemed like a year to him? I have no way of confirming this, as his parents passed away before I met him…). And as a child, he had about 10 operations – operations on his back requiring that he be in a full-body cast for months, unable to move by himself, completely reliant on others. And, operations on each thigh, on each calf, on each foot.
You see, his wealthy aunt found a doctor (this is in the 1950’s), who was willing to do experimental surgery on this young boy, tightening his muscles through an endless series of operations, with the hope that at some point in the future, he would walk again.
And, at 12, he did learn to walk again, unassisted and without a brace. But, with a limp because after all the surgeries, one leg ended up shorter than the other by about 2 inches. He walked with a limp for 50 years, transitioning to a cane, then a walker and now uses a mobility scooter full-time (he’s 63 now).
At times, I’ve wanted Charlie to do “more”. In fact, when I first met Charlie, one of his best friends told me that Charlie was “handi-crapped” – the friend’s way of describing the situational limitations that Charlie had that his friend thought he should be able to overcome.
And, at times, I’ve wanted Charlie to be more pro-active in his mobility so that we can do more as a couple. Because, even though the United States is relatively “handicap accessible”, there are times when going places as a couple is a struggle; for both of us. So, selfishly, I’ve wanted him to work at improving his circumstances.
Karissa has made me understand, with greater clarity and sensitivity, what it’s like to be handicapped in a world of unhandicapped people and the unrealistic expectations that swirl around the handicapped. Especially, her post titled The Misunderstanding of My Acceptance. And, it made me cry because, suddenly, with a clearness of mind I haven’t had before now, even after 25 years of marriage to a handicapped person, I realized how selfish I have been in my expectations of Charlie.
I don’t want readers of this blog to think that her blog is all about her handicap. Because, it isn’t. She celebrates life and shares tidbits of useful information on many topics, including blogging. With “A Fresh Start” in the title, her blog symbolizes “Spring” in my mind – Spring Forward, Spring Board, Spring Cleaning…all these clichés suggest “a fresh start” to me.
So, thank you, Karissa, for your openness and willingness to share your personal experience on your blog. Because your story matters…
Until Next Time,
(other posts in the Your Story Matters series)