Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When "Supermom" Crashes and Burns

Supermom officially crashed today. I was in the middle of heating up some pancakes for our kids' breakfast and I just started sobbing. Our two boys had only been awake for half an hour, but they were already fighting, yelling, hitting each other, crying, and being disobedient. My poor husband is trying to get ready for work while dealing with their chaos, and I'm trying to keep it together while making snacks and lunch out of the few lunch-worthy ingredients we had available in the pantry. I woke up with a slightly scratchy throat, and I can't tell if I'm getting my second cold in two weeks, or if it's just from sleeping on my back for too long.

Then it just became a downhill slide, and everything I have going on in my life piled up in a split second. It looks a little something like this:

- My new business has a lot of money going out, but no money will be coming in for some time.
- I have several continuing writing commitments for my consulting business.
- I have to find a hotel for the Texas Book Festival in late October near the Capitol, and all the rooms under $300 a night are taken.
- I have to bleed more money to attend a conference in November in Florida.
- My kids start soccer practice this week--on alternate days at two different locations.
- I have a 75-minute presentation to create from scratch by next week.
- I can't help my 6 year-old with his Common Core math homework because there are some problems where I don't understand what they're asking--and I took calculus in college.
- I have to interview backup babysitters this week.
- One of my son's Tiger Cub Scout socks is missing.
- Did I mention I have multiple sclerosis while all this is going on?

Honestly, the MS is just incidental at this point. And I'm luckier than a lot of people to have two great kids, an amazing husband, and exciting career. Hell, I was in New York City last week to tape an interview for the Stossel Show on FOX Business, and was being shuttled around town with my best friend in an executive sedan; that's nothing to cry about. But there are just some moments in time where everything crashes together in the space of one second while you're microwaving pancakes, and it just gets to be too much.

So what do I do? My sweet husband suggested I take time after the grocery delivery this afternoon to go get a pedicure or massage to have some "me" time. Sadly, I don't even have time for that, but just the thought of it is pretty nice. As much as I would love to just sit and do nothing, or even curl up on the couch and feel sorry for myself, that's just not my style. I will allow myself one day to be weepy, and sad, and stressed, and overwhelmed. Then life will take over, my routine will set in, and I'll move on. I'll go to sleep tonight, and tomorrow will be a different day. All the issues I have to deal with will still be there, but my mental state will be refreshed, and I'll remember to take on only one challenge at at a time instead of thinking I have to conquer the whole world at once.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Complicated Relationship with the Word "Help"

"Mommy, can you help me open this?"

"Mommy, can you fix this?"

"Mommy, can you wipe my tush?"

Any mother of small children has heard these phrases a million times, and has become accustomed to responding almost robotically to repeated requests for assistance: opening granola bar wrappers, tying shoes, separating tightly latched Lego pieces, and so on. And it's not just little kids who need our help; countless strangers can use our help throughout our days, whether it's picking up a coin they dropped or holding a door for someone who has their arms full. I guess it can depend on what part of the country you live in, but I'd like to think that more often than not, in this country we want to help people when we can.

I like to help; I really do. But I have a few problems in that department. I usually wait to be asked to help before offering it (something I have to work on every day), and I'm usually the one needing help (but not asking for it); we'll get to that conundrum in a few paragraphs. Living for so many years in a military world where everyone helps each other get through being away from loved ones, helping is part of a lifestyle. Adding to that lifestyle is being in a community of military spouses and moms whose generosity in the help department (in my opinion) is unmatched...except for maybe Mother Theresa :).

But my struggle with helping these days isn't a lack of willingness to help; it's the physical limits I have in my ability to help, which causes no small amount of guilt. I can't offer to babysit someone else's kids for a bit so they can take a break for a few hours. I can't help to clean up very much after a get-together or other social event. I can't go get slices of pizza or cake or juice boxes for other people's kids at a birthday party. I can't volunteer to do anything that requires standing for more than a minute or two or being outside on a warm (or hotter) day. Even though I wasn't the world's best helper when I was able-bodied, it's devastating to not be able to reciprocate the incredible amounts of help I get from other people now.

Not being one to wallow in self-pity or useless guilt for too long (as compared to useful guilt), I'm trying hard to focus on the things I can help with. There are lots of things I can do for the kids, and thankfully they have no problem asking me for help with things they are old enough to know I can do. I use a walker with a small basket at home, and while I have to take rest breaks often, I can take care of laundry, pick up most toys with my "claw" grabber, bathe the boys, wipe the counters, and put away groceries. I volunteer at our boys' school in the classroom, where I can sit and help kids with reading and writing. I can read to my younger son at the library. But it's not enough; I often hover on the line between not feeling like doing something and not physically being able to do something. It can be hard to figure out where that line is between pushing your limits in a good way and pushing yourself too hard and paying the price for overdoing it. I often find that when I offer to help with something I'm turned down, but the person getting the offer (usually my husband) is pretty happy just that I asked.

Which leads me into the flip/other side of my relationship with "help." People ask me if I need their help all the time, which is understandable. I'm always out and about with either my walker or electric scooter, and most strangers (around here in Tucson, anyway) are just plain nice. Sometimes I'm good to go by myself, and sometimes I accept; more so now than even just a couple of years ago. Accepting help has been hard for me, and asking for it even harder. Call it a pride thing or a Cuban/Latino thing. I just say that I feel bad taking time out of someone's day to do something for me.

Then I realize I'm just being stupid. People usually don't offer to help unless they really want to and intend to do it if their offer is accepted. People feel good about helping others, and especially if they're helping someone who's disabled. I don't want to be that bitter old person with a walker getting pissed off at people who just want to hold a door open, yelling "I can do it my damn self!!" I travel alone quite a bit for my work, and I've accepted the fact that I NEED help from strangers on occasion. Like getting a suitcase off the belt at baggage claim. Try doing that from a seated position on a scooter with a bunch of people crowded around. NOT easy! Or just needing an arm from a Southwest Airlines employee to get from my scooter at the end of the jetway to my seat on the plane.

So what's my takeaway or life lesson from all of this? I guess it's that "help" is a complex concept that can be difficult to master from either being the helper or the helped. It can be a sensitive issue for a lot of people. You can feel judged for not helping enough, or find yourself judging others who don't help as much as you think they should. You can feel totally comfortable with asking strangers for help, make life incredibly difficult by never asking, or take advantage of others by relying too much on others. I think it's a balancing act for everyone. For my part, I'm working on finding more opportunities to help others in ways that aren't physical but still contribute in a meaningful way. Maybe that's why more people don't offer to help others--because they think it always has to be hard work. As for me, I'm happy every time I discover new ways to help our family, and the kindness of strangers everywhere I travel lifts my veil of cynicism just a little bit more with every trip I take.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Conquering the Mountains with MS: Space, Big Thunder, Splash...

I'm not the first person with multiple sclerosis to visit Disneyland and California Adventure, and I certainly won't be the last. But just as MS is a unique experience for every person who has it, a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth is equally unique for every MSer because there are so many variables involved. Having a plan of attack for each day at a theme park when you have two young children is challenging enough; but we're masochists, so we wanted to throw a mom with a scooter and sensitivity to heat into the mix!

Fortunately, Americans would be hard-pressed to find a more accessible place than a Disney park. There was a lot of controversy about a year ago when Disney changed the rules for people in wheelchairs or scooters who wanted to go on rides because so many people were cheating the system. Can you believe people were actually hiring disabled individuals to travel with them at the parks so they could all get on rides faster?? Unbelievable. Anyway, it used to be that if you were in a wheelchair or scooter, you would enter the ride through the exit and more or less get on the ride right away. For many of the older rides, that's still the case, simply because of space limitations and the way the ride works. But for the bigger and newer rides, disabled riders and their families now get their tickets scanned at the ride exits and are given a return time--usually within an hour or less, which is actually pretty nice because it doesn't interfere with the FastPass system. For other rides, we waited in the normal line for part of the time, then got diverted to an elevator or wheelchair ramp in a back hallway.

Using this system--essentially a combination of waiting in line, not waiting in line at all, getting scanned at the exit, and using the regular FastPass tickets, we never waited in line for more than 30 minutes despite the fact that Disneyland was PACKED all three days that we were there. It was hot with a bit of humidity, but definitely not Arizona hot, and the cool breeze off the Pacific Ocean was absolute heaven in the shade. This, along with drinking cold water and finding shade whenever possible--even if that meant sharing a tight space under a tree with a large Malaysian family--made the heat quite tolerable.

So on to the fun stuff! In the space of three days, the four of us went on 30 rides and saw several shows. I was able to get on every ride, with varying levels of ease and difficulty. By far the easiest was the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh because I was able to stay in the wheelchair I had to transfer into from my scooter. By far the hardest--and most embarrassing--was Space Mountain. I tried four different ways to get my right leg to bend (which it refuses to do when I feel nervous under pressure) with no luck. The very kind and patient attendant finally brought out a padded slide, believe it or not! This finally worked, and getting out of all the rides was much easier than getting in. We weren't sure how the boys (ages 6 and 4) were going to do on the "scary" rides with drops, but they loved them all, including all the Mountain rides. I thought our youngest would freak out during that huge drop on Splash Mountain, but it looks like he's going to be our adrenaline junkie. And then, there was the meet-and-greet with Captain America. This picture pretty much says it all.

In addition to the rides, we did a lot of great stuff. Our youngest son is a natural comedian and performer, so we weren't surprised that he was falling out of his seat and had his head on a swivel throughout the entire Aladdin Broadway-style show at California Adventure, as well as during the Mickey's Soundsational parade at Disneyland (or any other musical performance in either park). Our older son loves to build, so we spent what felt like hours in the Star Wars store in Tomorrowland building light sabers and R2-D2 figures. We went to a character breakfast at the Plaza Inn during our second morning at the parks, and took lots of great pictures. I highly recommend the Mickey-shaped waffles with banana caramel sauce.

Like any trip to a theme park, we had a few challenges and mishaps, but we overcame all of them. The hotel was a mess, even though it was a Radisson and we had high expectations because of the chain's reputation (and past experience at other Radissons). Poor management, poor room quality, a broken lift system on the accessible shuttle, horrible food at the restaurant...the list goes on. But we managed, and it's hard to complain when the room is free (we used my husband's points). By the third day, the boys started having meltdowns before we even reached the parks from being off their normal sleep schedule, but we alternated carrying them and distracting them with rides, and they (and we) survived. My husband accidentally left his backpack (with the car keys in it) on Main Street after we watched the parade, but a cast member turned it in right away to lost and found and we got it back intact.

Trust me when I tell you we were ready to come home after three days at the Happiest Place on Earth. For our next trip, we will definitely stay at a hotel across or down the street from the park entrance so we can take a mid-day break for naps/rest. We couldn't do that this time since our free hotel required us to take a 20-minute shuttle ride, and they didn't do mid-day pickups or drop-offs. We will also get a room with bunk beds, ha ha! Our sleeping arrangements were terrible, but we did the best we could with the hand we were dealt. We made the mistake of buying the boys toys (like unwieldy plastic swords; blaming that one on Daddy) at the beginning of the day instead of the end, so it was a constant battle over who was going to carry them, making sure they didn't get left behind on a ride, etc.

Overall, Disneyland and California Adventure was a great experience, and I really felt like my MS wasn't a big impediment to our level of enjoyment. We did everything we wanted to do, and if I didn't feel like going through the hassle of getting on a ride, I just waited in the cool shade for my boys and people watched. When the time comes for our next visit (in a couple of years at least), we'll be ready!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On Touching Me Without Permission...

I was going through my Twitter feed this morning and came across this really interesting article on Vox.com titled "Are you a jerk to people with disabilities without even knowing it?" The story is basically about Scope, "a British group which advocates for people with disabilities, [that] has partnered with the advertising firm Grey London and TV presenter Alex Brooker to make a clever series of ads meant to help non-disabled people avoid being awkward (and, you know, actively offensive) when interacting with people with disabilities." The ads are pretty clever, and I have to admit, it'd be pretty cool if those aired here in the US, where we think we're oh-so-PC about these sorts of things. So I thought I'd offer my own perspective on people who think they're trying to help and, in reality, really aren't.

I'd like to preface these experiences by saying that in my professional travels and encounters with strangers, people have been nothing but extraordinarily kind and generous to me. Much of this awkwardness and insensitivity is borne out of benevolent ignorance and inexperience being around people with a disability. I'm just hoping maybe it will help you understand how to perhaps approach someone the right way when that instinct to assist hits you.

The day before yesterday, I was in San Diego to give a presentation to a civic group about my new book, Border Insecurity. It was at a lovely Italian restaurant, and the presentation itself went great! I met a lot of awesome people, and as you can see in the picture of me sitting next to my trusty walker with a glass of wine in my hand, it was a relaxing and enjoyable experience. It was a tight space in the room, and people had no problem getting up and sliding chairs or tables to the side so I could squeeze through with my walker to my designated spot.

After everything was done, I walked out with the event's organizer to get to the car taking me back to my hotel. The valet guy saw us and immediately said he wanted to help me however he could. I said very casually that I was fine, I do this all the time. He insisted. I got to the small curb and did what I usually do--just turned around, stepped off the curb backwards, then pulled the walker down in front of me. However, without asking permission, the valet grabbed my arm in an attempt to support me and help.

This exact scenario happens to me frequently, where people automatically try to hold me up or touch me in some way that they feel is helpful. It is ALWAYS without asking or me granting permission, and it's pretty infuriating. How many of you reading this like having complete strangers touching you without permission? Exactly. It's also often most unhelpful because it throws my already precarious balance completely off. And just as another reminder, I do this every single day. I limp around the side of my car when I get out and pull my walker or scooter out of the trunk all by myself, then put it back in when I'm done. I get into stores or offices or restaurants--many times with a curb that needs to be negotiated--by myself. This isn't a defiant statement like my almost-4 year-old makes when he says "I can do it by myself!!" It's just that I, and other people like me, have learned through experience how to do these things for ourselves out of necessity.

This isn't to say I have a problem asking for help. Trust me, I don't! Prime example: Thursday evening getting into the car taking me TO the restaurant. My right leg has a tendency to stiffen up when I'm getting into a car, and the more I stress about hurrying up, the stiffer and straighter it gets. That night I was in a tight dress and trying to get into the rather small back seat of a Prius. I made it most of the way in, and my foot/shoe got stuck in the corner where the door hinges on to the car. I awkwardly asked the driver if he would mind helping me. I told him exactly what to do with my foot and what I would do with my leg to help it bend and get into the car. It worked out just fine. A few minutes later, I joked that traveling with MS was always an adventure, and he told me a good friend and former bandmate of his has had MS for many years, so he was familiar with the trials and tribulations of the disease. We ended up having a really great conversation for the duration of the 30-minute drive.

So the lesson I hope to impart on all you kind and generous folk who want nothing more than to genuinely help a person in need? Just ask first. Don't make any assumptions about what a disabled person can or can't do on his/her own. They managed to get around before you came upon them, and will continue to do so after you walk away. If they need something, they'll ask. And maybe sometimes they won't because they don't want to bother anyone, but they'll LOVE the fact that you asked first, especially if it involves bodily contact. In the meantime, keep opening doors, picking up things that have been dropped, or grabbing an item that is just out of reach, because these are all things we should strive to do regardless of another person's abilities :).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Response to a Question about "That Sh*t on Your Leg"

I have to apologize first and foremost about the crude blog post title. Rest assured this isn't my usual language, but quoted from someone else. One of the hazards of writing for a large media outlet like Breitbart Texas is that you open yourself up for the general public to criticize or question. Trust me when I tell you the public does NOT hold anything back in the anonymous space known as the comments section of a story.

Several days ago, my managing director at Breitbart agreed to post the video of my interview on The Tavis Smiley Show from this past week, despite the fact he knew the mostly hard-core conservative readership might not agree with my more moderate opinions about how to tackle the illegal immigration problem. We talked about other border security-related stuff in my book, but that's what people would likely zero in on. However, he felt it was important to offer different voices and points of view, so they posted and we braced for some serious heat...that didn't come. Honestly, I was surprised, although I could chalk it up to maybe no one wanted to sit through the roughly 13-minute video. The initial comments criticized the show's host (who is a known liberal), but nothing about my views that was negative.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this comment from "1bimbo":

what the f*ck is that sh*t on her leg, take a day off and heal up for crisake

Again, my apologies for the foul language, but it's not mine :). To give you some context, here's a screen still from my interview that Breitbart Texas used for the story:

If you take a look at my right leg, there's certainly an odd contraption attached to it. While most of my interview was conducted showing me from the chest up, there were some shots of my entire body where this device was clearly shown. It must certainly have seemed strange to "1bimbo," who apparently thought I had it on as a result of some injury I could stay home and heal from before appearing on national television.

So in response to "1bimbo" and anyone else who might be curious about "that sh*t on [my] leg," it is called a WalkAide, and it's an electronic stimulation device that essentially keeps me from falling flat on my face. If you're reading this blog for the first time, I'll tell you that I've had multiple sclerosis for over nine years, and one of my symptoms is something called drop foot. Basically, when I take a step, my brain is unable to make my right foot pivot up to clear the ground when my right leg swings forward. As a result, my foot just flops down, and since I can't lift my right leg up at the knee either, I have to swing my right leg around in a wide arc just to walk. Amusing, I assure you. You can actually see this pretty cool video of the difference a WalkAide can make in a person with MS-induced drop foot.

Enter the WalkAide (or the competing device, called the Bioness L300):

Inside the cuff are two electrodes that are placed in the exact spot where a small electric jolt can stimulate my peroneal nerve. When I get that jolt with every step, through a reflex action my foot is forced to flex at the ankle, which allows it to clear the ground when I take a relatively normal step. Do you see that little box with the blue knob? Inside that box is a tilt sensor exactly like the one that's in your smart phone and makes your screen rotate when you change the position of your phone. The specialists calibrate the timing between that sensor and the electrodes to make sure it's perfect every time I take a step.

Does the WalkAide stick out? Sometimes. I can wear it under my boot-cut jeans, capris, and work slacks with no trouble. I'm still trying to figure out whether to cut holes for the electrodes in my (rather expensive) skinny jeans or just convert them into cutoffs. The device is obvious when I wear a dress, of course, and I get asked a lot about it. 99 times out of 100, people think I have some sort of injury or am recovering from surgery when they see it. I mean, how common is it for a young and (I'm told) relatively attractive professional woman to be using a walker or electric scooter? The producers of the show asked me if I'd be comfortable talking about my MS if Tavis wanted to address the device or just chat about my background, and I said I'd be more than happy to; they even had a printout of this blog! But in the 13 minutes we had to talk, we (and happily so) had more than enough ground to cover with just the book.

When people do ask, I tell them I have MS and the cuff is a device that helps me walk better. Usually after I give them a demonstration (there's a little test button on the control box), they're fascinated and so excited that I can take advantage of medical technology. I also tell them their tax dollars paid for it and thank them profusely, since I got it through the Veterans Administration. The reaction is ALWAYS, "I'm so happy my tax dollars are finally going towards something useful!" That usually makes an interaction that started out awkwardly (what do you say when someone tells you they have a lifelong chronic disease with no cure?) much more comfortable by the end. 

So, Mr. or Ms. "1bimbo," there's your answer. And as much as I'd like to take a day off and heal up before appearing on national television, MS just doesn't work that way. I'll take it from your lack of response to my MUCH shorter--and still very civilized--response than this one below your comment that you have been sufficiently placated. Oh, and no apology necessary.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Giving Birth to a Book (and Post-Pub Depression)

At the release party for my new book last week, I told the audience that publishing a book was like giving birth. I felt like I was justified in saying that because I've given birth to actual children twice, so I know what the "real thing" is like. The short explanation is that there's a huge sense of relief and joy and excitement when the book first comes out, but as the excitement wanes, you start to think, I'm never doing that again! I've done my duty in procreating and one child is plenty. But just like with kids, something called "pregnancy amnesia" starts to set in about a year after pub date (a.k.a. birth). You forget about the deadlines, the sleepless nights, the aches and pains from sitting in a chair for too long, and the tedium of endless edits and revisions. After a while, you start thinking, Hmmm...maybe it's time to start writing another book... (For the record, the human child factory is closed.)

Most people know it's hard to get published. I have been incredibly blessed to have two books in print with a major New York publisher, including a Spanish translation purchased by another major publisher. But there's this notion among many non-writers that published authors have some semblance of celebrity and wealth, and don't know much about what real life is like for many of us (Hint: it usually does NOT involve wealth). Even more mysterious is the reality that comes after a book is published for a lot of authors--what I'm starting to call "post-pub depression."

For most, I imagine it's not a real depression, but more of a serious letdown. I can only use myself as a personal example, but I've read enough author blogs to know I'm not alone. I had a serious spike in pre-orders just before Border Insecurity came out, thanks to a big media push by Breitbart News and some local media outlets here in Tucson. We sold 42 copies at the book release party (which means half the people in attendance bought a copy there), and I did three media interviews the day of the launch to push sales up that first week. I expected my Amazon rank to shoot up at least into the tens of thousands, if not the single thousands (it hit around #6,700 the day before its release), and it did...but it didn't stay there for as long as I had hoped.

While Amazon book rankings aren't all they're cracked up to be (nobody really knows the algorithm for how the rank relates to actual purchases), they're all we helpless authors have to go by to determine if people are buying our books. There are plenty of other outlets, like the Barnes & Noble website that also ranks books, but no one has the volume that Amazon does. My frustration is starting to build because I'm doing a TON of media, I'm much more well-known than I was when Cartel was published, and the initial reviews for Border Insecurity were outstanding. How audacious am I to wonder why hundreds of thousands of people all worried about our borders aren't running out to buy this book???

I ask that tongue-in-cheek of course, but it's very easy to build up your own work in your mind, especially when you have a lot of people telling you how awesome your book is. I have to keep reminding myself that for someone in a niche market like me, book sales are a marathon and not a sprint. Cartel didn't exactly sell a million copies right out of the gate. But here we are, 2 ½ years after it was originally published in hardcover, and sales are just as strong as they were right after pub date. Of course it's getting a big bump from Border Insecurity sales, but Cartel sales never really dropped off because the subject matter--while outdated in some places--is still completely relevant today.

So even though it's only been a week since my new book's publication, I'm working hard to fight off that post-pub depression I can feel just around the corner. Several times a day I'm checking Amazon ranks, and both anticipating and dreading how many stars the first review will garner--and fretting that the first review still hasn't come in. Can't people read a book in less than a week??? (Again, tongue-in-cheek.) I've had one amazing review from a very conservative media outlet and two mostly positive (but not glowing) reviews (here and here) from very liberal newspapers, and while I should be over the moon that my book is living up to its non-partisan characterizations, I'm not satisfied. I was crushed when my first Goodreads review came in at 3 out of 5 stars, even though the reader was only displeased that the book wasn't emotional enough for her; she really loved all the information and found it easy to read and interesting.

And more media push is coming. I was in Los Angeles yesterday to tape an episode of The Tavis Smiley Show, which will air on May 1st. I taped a show for the local PBS affiliate tonight for airing twice this weekend here in Tucson and in Phoenix, and I'm doing Al Jazeera America live tomorrow night. More media appearances will come, and I have a border conference to attend in late May that will likely garner more readers. I just have to learn to do something I've always sucked at: Give it time.

This is one of those let-it-go moments that we control freaks have such a hard time with. I can do my absolute best during interviews and bust my hump to get the word out about the book through friends, networking, and social media. But ultimately, my book's fate isn't up to me; it's up to millions of faceless strangers who may or may not buy it and may or may not understand or agree with my message. I'm going to try as best as I can to thank God for blessing me with this talent, for the incredible opportunity to share my message with anyone in this country (and several other countries) who wants to read it, and for the ability to contribute to humanity's body of knowledge. And if you want to read my book, you can buy it here :).

My 15 Minutes of Fame with Tavis Smiley...and a Few More Surprises

Yesterday I was in Los Angeles to tape an interview with Tavis Smiley for his late night show on PBS. To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of him until my publicist sent me a VERY excited email a couple of months ago letting me know they wanted to book me to talk about Border Insecurity. It took me a while to start doing my homework, but even though his show is on PBS and very late at night, it started looking more and more like he had a pretty huge audience. He has interviewed the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Ian Somerhalder, Salman Rushdie, and Jackie Collins, just to name a few.

So needless to say, I was a nervous wreck in the days leading up to my trip. I got a decent night's sleep on Monday night, had an OK breakfast and a small rushed lunch because that's all that time and the butterflies in my stomach would allow, and then I was off to the studio. I was feeling a bit more calm about the interview itself, but more nervous about my legs. I slept okay, but not great, and my left leg was really stiffening up on me that morning. My drop foot is almost completely on my right side and I have my WalkAide to help with that, but I'm starting to notice it creeping up on me on the left side. I was thinking, wouldn't it be just craptacular if I did a face plant in the studio right before my interview?

Anyway, when I arrived the studio was a flurry of activity. I was hoping to see Harry Hamlin, with whom I'd be sharing Thursday night's episode and whom I aDORE as Perseus from the original Clash of the Titans film. Yeah, yeah, he's on Mad Men, whatever. That movie is a classic! It turns out he wasn't showing up until later in the afternoon, but you can imagine my surprise when I realized they were filming nine segments in that one day--meaning I'd be seeing a lot of stars in my short time there!

I was ushered into my little private "green room" with a TV, water, and snacks. A lot of people came and went in the hallway, and I started to gather that Hugh Dancy from the new TV show Hannibal (based on the book/movie) was in the room next door. The only reason I know who he is is because he's married to Clare Danes, whom I LOVE in Homeland! I figured it would be rude to say something to him about his wife and not his show, so I kept to myself :). Over the next half hour, several extremely nice staffers checked on me to make sure I was okay; I can't tell you enough how nice everyone there was. I chatted with the producer about questions Tavis might ask me, and the makeup lady just tamed down some flyaway hairs. Then I was on!

The interview was only fifteen minutes long, and the time flew quickly. Tavis asked good, meaty questions and I think I gave meaningful answers. We covered many of the main points of my book, so I was happy we were able to touch on so much in such a short period of time. The chair was comfortable, and the perfect height so I could try my best to have good posture; I slouch way too much! After we finished, Tavis had me sign his copy of my book, then write in the show's guest book. After I stepped off the platform and headed out of the studio, the executive producer stopped what she was doing to introduce herself and tell me she thought I did a great job. I don't know if she says that to everyone (I always assume TV people get paid to coddle celebrities and show guests, so I always worry they don't always mean it and are just being nice), but it was really nice of her to do that. In the hallway I also had several staffers tell me they thought it went great, so I was happy. You can actually now watch the video of the interview HERE!

But the most interesting part of the afternoon hadn't even happened yet. After the interview, I changed my clothes since I was heading straight to the airport, then went to use the bathroom. It was a unisex bathroom and the only one available, since Tavis Smiley gets his own the next door over. As I was finishing up, I heard someone jiggle the handle (which I remembered to lock, fortunately). I washed my hands quickly so as not to make anyone wait too long, and as I opened the door to walk out, I see...Larry King standing there. It took my brain a bit to process this surreal piece of information, and what do I do? I said something stupid along the lines of, "Funny meeting you here!" Oh, brother. The poor guy just wanted to get in and do his business, and he's met with a flustered woman trying to navigate a bright orange walker around him, his escorts, and a narrow hallway.

It was finally time to go, so I headed down the hallway to the door. That was when I happened to say hello to Cheech Marin as he walked down the hallway towards me to his little green room. Like it was no big deal and I say hi to him all the time. Yep. Right before I walked out the door, one of the staffers came with a little white bag and said it was a thank you gift for being on the show. They had printed out three 5x7 photos of Tavis and me during the interview that I imagine they got off a screen grab, and they were great! They even put one in a plastic frame for me, which I thought was so nice. Then I was off to LAX to head home to my beautiful boys and my "normal" military mommy life ;). If you'd like to tune in and watch the show, it'll air this Thursday night (May 1) on PBS! Please check your local listings for the time, as it varies from city to city!