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Rice and Buttons

I’ll bet you’re thinking there’s some exquisite inside joke in that title.

And there probably is.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This is about the most infuriating bowl of rice I’ve ever encountered.

I’ve mentioned before that I had a stroke in July 2005.  The months that followed were filled with physical therapy.

Lift these weights.

Walk those stairs.

Balance this ball.

Touch the target.

Stand on one foot.

Ride a bicycle.

Write your ABC’s. <—yeah, that was actually one of the exercises and I sucked at it. If blogs had to be handwritten, I can guarantee you I wouldn’t be writing this one right now.

And at the end of every session I faced down the bowl of rice.

An enormous bowl of uncooked rice would become my greatest nemesis.

It was full of small random objects….paper clips, rubber bands, safety pins, dimes, marbles, and buttons…lots and lots of buttons of all sizes and textures.

Blindfolded, I fished in the bowl to find all the non-rice objects.

With my left hand I could find and identify each and every one.

With my right hand, I could not.

The damage to my brain and my right side left me unable to feel the differences in textures or sizes or temperatures of the objects with my fingertips.

After weeks of walking away from the bowl in tears, I started to see progress.  I was teaching my brain to recognize the shape and FINALLY I could feel of the physical manifestations of my greatest frustration.

Over and over again my right hand would pass through the rice and I would start to pull out the paper clips and marbles…the rubber bands and the dimes…the large buttons…but NEVER the small buttons.

I KNEW my fingers were brushing over the buttons.

The therapist told me when I was nearing them and I would try so hard to MAKE my hands feel the buttons.  Just once I wanted to run my fingers over the buttons and feel the elation of my nerves telling my brain it was there.

They never did.

My stupid broken brain.

I prayed that God would please help me heal, help me be able to be a mother again, to be a wife, to let me have another chance.

I was slowly regaining strength, I could finally walk a decent distance, I stopped mentally checking out during the day…but the rice bowl continued to elude me.

Peyton was a baby at the time and I could only hold her for short periods of time before she became too heavy for me to feel safe carrying.

You could tell when I was tired at the end of the day from the way my right foot would start to drag a bit and I shuffled through the house.

I would stare at my signature on a check and realize that I didn’t know that handwriting anymore.

I would look at something or someone and know in my heart that I knew the word, the name, I KNEW what it was, I had said it a thousand times before…but I couldn’t make the word form and come out of my mouth…I cried more than once at not being able to force my own children’s names to come out.

None of that bothered me the way the rice bowl did.

I would actually have nightmares about that rice bowl.  I was drowning in it. My kids being in the rice bowl and I couldn’t feel them to get them out. The rice bowl became the epitome of everything that was wrong with me.

I would love to tell you that I overcame it and had this awesome Rocky moment where I  triumphantly pulled a button from the bowl on my last day of PT…but I didn’t.

It won.

It beat me.

I never did feel the buttons.

And I had to accept that I would probably never find a button in a bowl of rice.

I recently felt this urge to just see if I could do it.  Just wanted to know if there had been any improvement.  So, I bought a huge bag of rice.  I purchased a package of small white buttons, identical to the ones that haunted my dreams all those years ago.

I sat blindfolded in my kitchen and went to work with the bowl.

I didn’t find even one of the twelve buttons in the bowl.


Still broken.

You know what?

I didn’t care.  I sat there and laughed at myself for worrying about whether I could feel a button in a bowl of rice.

I didn’t plan to have any career that required me to do it.

I really haven’t been in one situations since PT that I felt “OMG, I need to get a button out of the rice! WHAT will I do?”

It just didn’t matter anymore.

Because if there’s one thing the past years have taught me…recovering from a stroke, having a child diagnosed with cancer, chasing a dream, being a family apart for seventeen months…true strength doesn’t come from the body.

It comes from faith, soul, heart and love.

90 Comments on “Rice and Buttons”

  1. #1 Jen
    on Jun 3rd, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    please do not be surprised when I just hug you at blogher – you are amazing!

    Jens last blog post..My Monkey

  2. #2 Pamela
    on Jun 3rd, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    I have no idea what to say except that you are an amazing woman. Strong and determined, thats for sure! I’m truly in awe

    Pamelas last blog post..Real Life Vampires?

  3. #3 PAPA
    on Jun 3rd, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    You rock. Someday I’ll have to agree to do a blog post for you…or somethin’ 😉

    PAPAs last blog post..Goodbye

  4. #4 Shelley
    on Jun 3rd, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    I think the ONLY thing you can’t do well is find buttons in rice! You are an amazing writer.


  5. #5 moosh in indy.
    on Jun 4th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    As long as those buttons stay buttoned over those boobies of yours you have all the buttons you need.

    moosh in indy.s last blog post..wherein I fight to the death over (not in) green jell-o.

  6. #6 maggie, dammit
    on Jun 5th, 2009 at 4:08 am

    Oh you made me cry, dammit.

  7. #7 Maura
    on Jun 13th, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Wow. Just wow. You rock life so hard…with or without buttons.

  8. #8 Phillips Phamily Mama
    on Jun 17th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    You are amazing: words and faith and heart and soul and love! Amazing!

  9. #9 Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side
    on Jun 17th, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Hi! I found you through Penseive. Just have to say that I LOVE this post. So profound.

    Hope you’ll come say hello to my blog sometime too.

    Shelly @ Life on the Wild Sides last blog post..I Changed My Mind

  10. #10 Jenn Calling Home
    on Jun 18th, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Wow, I can’t even imagine what that would be like. I say, put the buttons in the sewing basket and the rice on the stove. Blessings!

  11. #11 Lisa
    on Jun 19th, 2009 at 12:27 am

    you are an amazing lady, and i thank you for being so transparent in this post. You have inspired me to look at life differently, and to take nothing for granted! May you be blessed and you are such an incredible blessing to so many.

    Lolli (aka Lisa)

    Lisas last blog post..Join the fun with your favorite post!

  12. #12 Christy M.
    on Jul 20th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    I’ve never read your blog(s) before, but I recently started following you on Twitter and saw a link for this post.

    Buttons be damned. You are amazing.

    Christy M.s last blog post..She

  13. #13 Amy @ Atlanta with Kid
    on Jul 20th, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Anissa, you have amazed me with all your strength and faith. You rock!!

    Amy @ Atlanta with Kids last blog post..Save The Date – FREE Museum Day 2009

  14. #14 Robin ~ PENSIEVE
    on Jul 20th, 2009 at 11:16 pm


    Unless I’m crazy, I did pull this page up when you must’ve tweeted it or something; it was vaguely familiar when I opened the page just now. What I DO know is I didn’t read the entire thing ’cause it just touched me at the deepest level.

    It’s funny…there is SO much to those of us who share our lives online; yet most of it we miss (especially when so much is competing for our attention). Thanks for directing me here…I’m glad to know this about you…the ending is simply beautiful.


    Robin ~ PENSIEVEs last blog post..Blog Hop ’09…Be there or be square!

  15. #15 Lingering | #FreeAnissa
    on Aug 14th, 2009 at 7:03 am

    […] written about overcoming mental hangups of the long-term effects of my stroke.  Not all of them are capable of being overcome. […]

  16. #16 Love & Help for Anissa | Sarcastic Mom
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 12:15 am

    […] (This is her second. You can read about her first one in 2005 here.) […]

  17. #17 Janice (5 Minutes for Mom)
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Oh girl!!!!!!! You are so strong and so beautiful!!!!!!!!

  18. #18 hip_m0m
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 2:55 pm


    You are a rare gem, one of the few who can make me cry and laugh at the same time. I can’t wait to snark with you again.



  19. #19 amanda
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Oh, Anissa, we can forget the buttons and everything else, let’s just get you out of that place. Love, love, love.

  20. #20 emily
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    “…true strength doesn’t come from the body.

    It comes from faith, soul, heart and love.”

    So true! Praying this truth for you.

  21. #21 Jenny, Bloggess
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Wake up and I swear to God I’ll buy you a sieve.

  22. #22 Nanette
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I am just reading this for the first time today. It brought tears to my eyes. You have such an amazing strength. You are so loved, that I have seen. Remain strong. Praying for you.

  23. #23 Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Oh Anissa, PLEASE PLEASE wake up and hate buttons again.

  24. #24 jennster
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    this is one of the best posts ever. stupid broken brain. i don’t care how broken you are, i’ll love you anyway. and i’ll always help you fish the buttons out of a bowl of rice. LIKE THAT WOULD EVER HAPPEN! lol

    love you. pull through this. i insist. 🙂

  25. #25 Nicole
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Anissa, right now you are in a bed somewhere trying to recover from yet another stroke. This post was tweeted and my heart just goes out to your sweet family today. We’ve (the entire blog world, I think) have been praying for you since we heard the news yesterday. Please know you are loved, by God and so many others. And get well very soon.

    By the way, I know the rice bowl you speak of. When my 8 year old almost had his middle finger amputated when he was 6, they used the rice and tiny objects therapy. It, along with a lot of other therapies, were frustrating to him and he may never have full use of that finger again. But we now call it the “lucky” finger and no longer the “bad” or “hurt” finger. Because we’ll take it, no matter how different it is!

    Bless you, sister…

  26. #26 Babybloomr
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Can’t wait to read your post on how you fought your way back from this one…

  27. #27 Carrie
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    And it is that same faith, hope, heart and love that will bring you out this time too honey.

    Love all around.

    Love all around.

  28. #28 Andrea (@shutterbitch)
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    You are so inspiring. Please wake up so you can curse buttons again.

  29. #29 Karianna
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Please come back to us. We’ll pick out all the buttons for you. (And tape them on your glorious breasts.)

  30. #30 Amy
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    You can do it again. I know it was hard, but I know you can do it again. And maybe whatever happened this time fixed your button feeler? Who knows?

    Praying for you, and I don’t even pray!

  31. #31 Tina@Sendchocolate
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Who needs buttons?? That’s what velcro is for. We played that stupid game at a baby shower, with tiny gold safety pins. I never did find one. My brain must be broken, too. Broken brains are much better than no brains. I know some people with that affliction.

    PLEASE wake up, Anissa.

  32. #32 Scary Mommy
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Oh, Anissa, you are amazing. Simply amazing.

  33. #33 Rose
    on Nov 19th, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Anissa, lots of prayers coming your way for you, and your family.

  34. #34 Hope for Anissa — TheBloggess.com
    on Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:27 am

    […] cancer survivor.  This isn’t Anissa’s first stroke.  Her first left her with struggles that she turned into inappropriate jokes that made me laugh and cry at the same time.  She’s good at that, dammit.  So why is she getting so much shit dumped on her in her […]

  35. #35 Kristi
    on Nov 20th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Just visited here from Blogess. I’ve been peeking around your sites since Tuesday, the first time I heard of you. Anissa, this is the post that made me fall in love with you. This is the post that makes me understand your fighting spirit. I am, undeniably, in awe. I’m sending prayers, and I’ll send strength, but anything I can offer is a drop compared the the ocean of strength I know you have. But even a drop is something.

  36. #36 habanerogal
    on Nov 21st, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    What Kristi says and more wishing you tons of hope and strength. This post says it all about you.

  37. #37 Jana B.
    on Nov 21st, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I am reading this for the first time because another blog that I read asked us to pray! I am AMAZED at the strength, love, hope and soul you have!
    I am praying for you and your entire family, I will be placing all of you on the prayer list at church tomorrow as well, pretty sure you can’t get enough prayers!

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

  38. #38 My Friend Anissa
    on Nov 21st, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    […] addition to all her other sterling qualities, however, Anissa is, hands down, one of the strongest women I know and thus, I have to believe that she will fight her way back to us. […]

  39. #39 Inspiration from unexpected places « Dragons Breath
    on Nov 23rd, 2009 at 5:34 am

    […] has just had a stroke and is in intensive care, and this isn’t her first battle, she had a stroke in 2005 and dealt with her daughter being diagnosed with […]

  40. #40 neva
    on Nov 25th, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    what an awesome post. Simply amazing. It really made me think about how much we take for granted when everything is going our way. Shame on me for belly-aching about the little inconveniences in my life.