Our Stories

The Smiling Pirate

October 3, 2016

"It made her think that it was curious how much nicer a person looked when he Smiled. She never thought it before." The Secret Garden

“It made her think that it was curious how

much nicer a person looked when he smiled.

She had not thought of it before.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

I find myself smiling uncontrollably these days. Smiling at strangers, friends, or just even smiling into space as I sit alone.

Andy Rooney said, “If you are smiling when no one else is around, you really mean it.”

I’m smiling in the mirror, smiling in the reflection of the store windows, and taking way more smiling selfies than I care to admit. I stare and marvel at the creases on my face, and the way my eyebrows arch just so when I smile. It’s such a great smile. I had never thought about it before.

I am drawn to people who smile….its infectious and makes me feel good inside…like somehow I can take a piece of their joy and put it in my heart too.

SmilesAn unknown author said, 

“A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you are at home.”

Mary from The Secret Garden marveled too at the power of a smile when she saw the face of the surly old gardener Ben Weatherstaff change when she mention the Secret Garden and his best friend, the Robin.

“It made her think that it was curious how much nicer a person looked when he smiled.

She had never thought of it before.” 

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Why am I smiling so much these days? Because I know what it feels like to not be able to smile and show the world the joy you have in your heart through your face.

In April of 2016, I came down with a nasty sore throat and promptly went to the doctor for relief.  The doctor diagnosed me with a common virus for which she prescribed some medications and said I would be back on my feet in no time.

Within 24 hours of this diagnosis, I started noticing a strange metallic taste in my mouth, but chalked it up to the medicine and didn’t think much about it. A little later my right eye began to stream endless tears, which I promptly blamed on the high pollen count. But when I took my medicine that afternoon and dribbled water all over myself, I knew something else must be wrong. I quickly scrambled to read all of the medication paperwork and assumed I was having an allergic reaction.

FullSizeRender (1)A trip to the ER revealed something I had never in a million years considered: the virus had caused Bell’s Palsy. And by morning light, the reflection in the mirror showed a complete paralysis of the facial nerve on my right side, which visually looked like I had a stroke.

The Good News: 95% of people recover completely from Bell’s Palsy

The Crazy News: Recovery time for the nerve to regenerate can be a little as 10 days up to 1 year.

Yep…there was NO WAY OF KNOWING how long I would have ½ of a face down for the count.Image (1)

So, what does a self-proclaimed sunshine blower do with this diagnosis? Well, she puts on her big girl panties and starts to have fun!  I mean, what else are you going to do?

Welcome to my Bell’s Palsy alter ego:

Pirate Eye

Pirate Eye at the Doctor, Pirate Eye planting a Vineyard, Pirate Eye at her son’s National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony, Pirate Eye at a Tennis Tournament…

In the beginning, I couldn’t close my eye at all. So to keep my sanity and protect my eye, I taped down my eyelid and covered it with the patch. This provided endless photo ops and one sweet 5 year old even asked if I was a “real” pirate. I said yes of course and asked if she wanted to see my wooden leg.

The Greek origin of the word pirate is “peirates”, which breaks down like this:

peiran: to attack      +   -tes : agent      =     I am an Attack Agent!

Below was my Plan of Attack to kick my Bell’s Palsy’s Booty (see what I did there? *Pirate Booty*):

  • Play Dead: OK, not literally, but virtually. This was not a time to advance, or attack…I needed to slow down, to sleep, and to restore my body. I put all of my projects on hold, threw away my to do lists, ate lots of veggies, hydrated, rested, did yoga when I had the energy, took naps when I didn’t, and did my best to be good to my body.
  • Call on Me Mateys: The most humbling thing about something like this is the army that comes out to support you and lift you up. I felt it, I engaged it, and I sat down and for once really soaked it in and allowed those around me to breathe into me when I couldn’t take deep enough breaths. From my social media cheerleaders to coffee and lunches with friends, each word from my army aided in my refreshment.
  • Attack through Prayer: There are so many things that the internet say “can possibly” help with Bell’s Palsy, but most are not proven by science and in the end are more for the sanity of the person trying to cope with the diagnosis than real cures. In the waiting game, most just want to feel like they are doing something to help and turn to massage, acupuncture, herb mixtures, vitamin injections, and the list goes on an on. For me, prayer was my go-to place to find sanity.
  • Look for Buried Treasure: A few days into the paralysis, I heard an older gentleman telling a story on the radio about how God, over his lifetime, had always brought him through the bad times. And without fail, God always had something great waiting on the other side of the pain. And so now, when he faces challenges, instead of being fearful, he chooses to wait in giddy anticipation of what God was going to do on the other side of it.

I LOVED THAT…and took it on as my new mantra:

I will wait in GIDDY ANTICIPATION for what treasures

God has buried for me in this to find. ARGH!!!

cookieWell, treasure came to my doorstep in the form of a bag of FAMOUS ROSIE HOLLERAH Chocolate Chip Cookies. Growing up, if you were sick, had a birthday, or any other occasion…Rosie would bring these to you. They are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, crunchy and soft…and always transport you to a better place. And while I am not claiming they were the miracle cure for my pirate eye…they sure didn’t hurt.

IMG_7220 (1)

I was getting my hair cut, because even pirates need to look pretty, when I first saw my smile coming back. I sat and cried tears of joy.

The very next day, my smile began to slowly peek out again. Hallelujah!  This was good because I was about to start using “Sparkle Fingers and Jazz Hands” to show joy if needed.

As I write this, I would say I am 98% recovered. My eye doesn’t always blink at the exact same rate as the other, my lips still pull just a little to the left when I talk, and according to my husband, when I am tired or have had one margarita too many…the pirate eye comes alive.  I call these things now “character”, and chalk them up to how my face shows the amazing and colorful life I have led.

As for wrinkles, I will never curse them again.

Mark Twain, a neighbor and friend of Frances said,

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”

Wrinkles mean that I can smile again, and I will never again take that privilege for granted.

Smiling wide because we can,

FHB and Especially Me

Let’s Chat About It:

How can you use your smile better today?

Is your face reflecting the joy you feel inside?

Do you know someone who’s smile is infectious?

For More great Quotes on Smiles, check out this page: www.quotegarden.com/smiles/html