Who? Us?

We are two disabled, oldish women who have been adventuring through life for years. We are talking about how disabilities, both visible and not, change the way we enjoy our retirement.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Perform Self Mini Mental Status Exams


A Little Katrina and Two Mental Health Litmus Tests

I decided not to make Hurricane Katrina my entire topic today.  However, I do offer up some memories of that Sunday in August ten years ago.

It was a regular August day; hot, little windy, but a blue-sky-sun-shiny-day.  We finished loading up our car, only taking essentials: a few clothes, an ice chest with food and drink for ourselves and our rescued greyhound, Ursula, our computers, and family photos. I knew to take family photos, but just in case I forgot, my oldest son, Scot, phoned from Cincinnati and anxiously asked, "Mom, ya got all the photos?!" And off we went with our friend, Emily, trailing not far behind.

Depending on where you lived, you had to evacuate along a certain route. As Jan and I drove our assigned get-the-hell-outta-dodge road, we discussed possibilities. We had no premonitions about the future, about what the next few days, weeks, months, years would bring.  We had no idea, none...

Enough of hurricanes for today.  Ya gotta know the memories still tighten my chest.


Moving right along, how about mini mental status self examinations:

OK.  Diagnositic Litmus Tests for Mental Health

Test Number 1 -  PBJ Sandwiches: How do you make them?

Type A:  Are you the type that puts the peanut butter on one slice of bread and jelly of the other?  Well, that, of course, means that you are a concrete thinker who sees most of life in black and white.  You are likely to categorize your life and put things/people/events in separate little/big boxes. You do not want things/people/events to spill over/under/around/through each other.  If you are unable to keep your life orderly (normal), you become anxious/irritated,angry.  

Jan is Type A: ya no mixie-uppie my life.

Type B: Are you the type that mixes the peanut butter and jelly together and then puts the mixture on a slice of bread and slaps the other slice on top?  That, of course, means that you are an abstract thinker and see much of life as gray - even other colors.  Things/people/events do mesh into each other, spill over each other.  And you are OK with that.  You tend to become anxious/irritated/angry if you are forced to label things/people/events and put them into neat, little boxes. 

I'm a Type B.

What Jan and I have in common is that we both like our PBJ sandwiches on whole wheat bread.

Test Number 2:  The TP Roll

Type A:  How do you put on the toilet paper roll on the tube? Do you put on so that the end comes from under the roll?  AhHa! This tell-tale sign means that you are secretive about your life.  It can also mean that you can be a little, or a lot, underhanded.  You tend not to tell the whole story when asked.  You also do not like to spill your guts. Therefore, your body does it for you and you frequently get the runs.

Type B:  Does the toilet paper roll go on the tube so that the end comes over the top?  This litmus test is indicative of a more open individual.  You do not mind talking about yourself.  In fact, you may spill too many personal beans and talk too much.  Since your mouth tends to do a lotta talking, you often have a problem with constipation.

No comment on what type Jan is/I am.

And, of course, anyone reading the above regarding Litmus Tests for Mental Health knows that I am FOS.


Have a good day, Althea.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Post Katrina Rubbernecking

After tending to life changing decisions after the storm, we decided to take a break and do some sightseeing ourselves. After all plenty ofsightseers had driven by our lot with cameras in their hands.

These are the sights of Post Katrina surrounds.



 
Destroyed: Chalmette, LA Church


                                     
Chalmette gate
Biloxi Condos


We had no rain for 6 sizzling months after the storm. Here’s the result 

Katrina Drought

In Bay St Louis MS, the bank vault survived, but not the bank.

Bank vault

This survivor had  his own way of asking for help.


 
                                                                        Donations



This house was abandoned. It probably could 
 have been saved.
 

                                                                        Abandoned house

 Nature didn’t take long to reclaim her own.
Overgrown house

For a long time displaced residents called FEMA trailers home.

  
FEMA trailer park

These folks wanted to work, but you had to be careful who you hired.


Trades people advertised on every corner.

 


And we never did figure this out.


We are starting to get well now, after 10 years. We left New Orleans and  stopped watching the recovery snail along.











Saturday, August 29, 2015

Discrimination after Katrina

After we started to think about what we were going to do after Katrina, I was interviewed by an out of state radio station specializing in gay stories.  One of the questions I was asked if we were treated differently because we were different.

Hmm, I had to think about that for a bit. Let’s see, when all the churches were set up in shopping center parking lots to give assistance, we were handed the same things as everyone else. I have to admit that I was surprised that all the churches were working together for once. Who believed what didn’t make any difference. I asked some of the preachers why they couldn’t act like that all the time?  They just laughed and wondered the same thing.

We drove through parking lots like thousands of other stranded residents. It was like a cafeteria line. You lined up and got ice and water (really important), a sandwich, MREs a bucket, mop, soap, scrub brushes and other cleaning equipment. Oh, and a blanket, pillow and sometimes some silverware.

The used clothing available could have clothed an emerging country and it was wonderful.  Most of us, if we evacuated, only had  a couple of shirts, some underwear and shorts. Everything left in the house was gone. Even if a resident’s house was standing, it had been flooded and the clothes, bed linens or anything below 4’ was ruined forever. With the mold that was growing, nothing could be saved.  We loved those used clothes that people donated.

So were we treated differently because we are a same sex couple? Only once that I can remember.  I was on the property when a man called, identified himself as preacher somebody or another, and asked to speak with my husband. I gave him my standard answer: “Gee, I knew there was something I forgot to get. I don’t have one.”  He was stuck for anything else to say. I helped him out by saying I had a partner, was that OK? He made strange gurgling noises. By that time I knew what was happening and was determined to make him struggle through it. It was my laugh for the week and we didn’t get many of those. 

He then said that he was finding families in the community who needed help.  I said we sure did need help and if grandchildren counted, we had 3 of them.  I told you I was determined to make him uncomfortable. 

He then said that only families with husbands were eligible for his help.  I countered that I hoped he didn’t leave any mothers who had  a deployed soldier husband or was a widow.  I was going to make him admit how bigoted he was, so full of hate.  

I told him that he was giving Christianity a bad name by being so full of hatred that Jesus was going to put him in time out. And all those other ministers would be ashamed of him for refusing to help us.

::Crickets::

He hung up. I almost fell over laughing. Whoever or wherever you are, you hate filled preacher, I hope you have learned something since that day you called me.

So, yes, we were victims of discrimination, but by such an insignificant troll, it really didn’t matter.




Friday, August 28, 2015

WAITING FOR NORMAL Betcha Didn't Know


Betcha didn't know that in 1987 the Army Corp Of Engineers contracted with a private company to survey the levee system in south Louisiana for its ability to with stand storm surges and the raging flood waters that always come with hurricanes.  The results of the survey were that the levee  system was crap, levees would NOT be able to withstand these dangerous waters.  They would leak, sprout holes, crumble, disintegrate.   How do I know this?  My brother was one of the surveyors.

Betcha didn't know that it was the failure of the levee system after the hurricane that caused the deadly and destructive flooding in the Greater New Orleans area.  Let us not deny Katrina her due. She was a mighty wind and she blew a 25 foot storm surge miles inland along the coast. But after the wind was gone, so were the storm surge waters.  Then the waters that the levees were supposed to hold back came snaking through the streets like some evil sea serpent.  I know ´cause of the first hand accounts from many of my friends and clients.
Betcha didn't know that as Hurricane Katrina roared in that Sunday in August, people were still trying to evacuate, using the twin spans over Lake Pontchatrain to get out of New Orleans. Many tried but never made it across this high rise to the other side and safety.  Why not?  'Cause those spans began to twist and turn and slip and slide and, either tilt enough so the evacuees' vehicles just slipped into Lake Pontchartrain, or the entire span just fell down, down, down into those murky waters. I know ´cause a first responder, a guy who saw those cars and those people, told me
.
Betcha didn't know  that hospitals are routinely built with the a/c system, the water pumps, the generators, the pharmacy, the cafeteria, and other vital materials and equipment in the basement. MEN!  Now, no matter if the water came from the storm surge or the levee failure, it went into the basement first.  And there went the ¨vital organs¨ of the hospital.  Medical staff and patients left behind soon had little or nothing to eat or drink, no medications, no medical equipment.  Of course, there was also no running water, no flushing commodes, no electricity...you know... nothing.  Lots of people died in those nursing homes and hospitals. I know because doctors and nurses who were there told me so.

Betcha didn´t know that concrete floats.  Yep.  Althea floated for several miles, to my friend´s front yard. Let´s call my friend Linda.  Althea lay there, day after day, week after week, month after month.  Over a year Althea laid near my friend´s front door, encased in a twelve foot long by four foot wide by three foot high concrete sarcophagus.  Linda did not know from where Althea had floated, but she´d reports from other folks in Slidell that various large, concrete tombs were scattered around... lotsa homeless dead people.  Initially, Linda was discombobulated by Althea´s presence.  But soon she thought of a solution to this invasion of her privacy.  ¨Well,¨Linda told me, "Ëvery morning, when I go to work, I pass by and touch the tomb and say, ´Good Morning, Althea, have a nice day´... And when I come home, I walk near enough for her to hear me say, ´Hope you had a nice day, Althea.´¨

Have a good day, Althea.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More Katrina Stories, Insurance

Speaking of homeowners’ insurance and we were, weren’t we?

No one has you in Good Hands, nor are they a Good Neighbor.  Trust me on this.  Insurance companies are in business for one reason and one only: To make money and lots of it. They accomplish this by not paying claims.  They proved it after Katrina. The adjustors harassed, delayed, argued, with the insured until they often just wore them down. 

We had an adjustor, Alan.  He was not a Good Neighbor, nor was he there. One of my jobs was to deal with Alan. When he finally arrived about a week after we got home, we started off like this:  I said, “Alan, we will be friends if you realize one thing. I have paid you for 40 or so years. You will now pay me back.”  He did not reply, figuring two little old grey haired ladies were going to be a piece of cake to get over on. I think he did not know us well.  He started by putting his arm over my shoulders telling me that everything would be OK and he would speed our claim through, so we could get through this comfortably. Somehow I did not believe him. That arm over the shoulder patronizing bs he did didn't get us off to a good start. I told him that the easiest thing for him to do was just to pay us every dime we were insured for and his job would be done and we could get on with what we had to do.

He started toward the house ruins and I had to stop him. The house remains were not safe for anyone to be near, let alone a man in a suit and leather shoes. I suggested that my insurance company would not like another claim for injury to him. He said he was going to go there anyway.  

I have a good friend who is an engineer and specializes in structural damage and he consults all over the world. I mentioned his name and said I had him on speed dial, and did Alan want to speak with him.  Ummm, Alan recognized his name and demurred. He did not go near the house ruins.

Good old Alan dumped paperwork on us to fill out. We did. I had made a CD at the beginning of every hurricane season filled with photos of every room in the house, everything in every room. I didn’t miss the garage or mechanical room either.  I had serial  numbers, sales receipts, all that was needed.  He would not accept the CD. We had to transcribe all the information onto his forms. Took us at least 3 days, but we did it, turned it in and kept a copy.  Good thing, because he lost it, so we had to make another copy and send it again.

Then we waited. And waited. They made us an offer that was laughable.

It took two months of me being adamant that the house and contents were a total loss (and they were). We had several ‘come to Jesus meetings’ with him, his boss and his boss. After two months, we got a check for every dime that we were insured for.  Had he done as I told him at first we could have  avoided all that unpleasantness and been done in a week.

They got us back though, those insurance companies. They stopped writing insurance where Katrina and 3 weeks later, Hurricane Rita hit. If you own a house in those areas, you must pick out an assigned risk company based somewhere out of the country and pay them over $3000.00 yearly with a huge deductible and huge percentages of no coverage if it’s a named storm. 

Seems to me that with the naming of more kinds of storms these days, are insurance companies going to impose the same restrictions with those ‘named storms’?

Insurance companies make huge yearly profits and trust me, they are determined to keep it that way.






Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Katrina and African Americans

Looks like you are going to have to put up with a few more Katrina memories with me.   I’m just not ready to stop talking about it yet, even 10 years later.

People ask me all the time, why did all those people stay in New Orleans.  Remember New Orleans flooded as a result of poorly built levee breaches, not because of a hurricane.  We on the Northshore were affected by the wind and water. The flooding subsided within hours. New Orleans was flooded for at least 5 weeks.

People had stayed in their houses for generations when hurricanes came and were sure they could be safe. Not this time.

So why did so many stay even though they were under an evacuation order?  To understand that, you have to understand the economics and fundamental racism of New Orleans. 70% of the city’s population 10 years ago was below the poverty line. It was also over 50% African American. There was some overlap, but not very much. 

The African Americans lived in the lower elevations of the city, below sea level Only small parts of the city are above sea level. So when flooding started, it was the black community that was most affected. 

The storm hit on the 29th day of August.  Welfare or Social Security checks arrived on the 1st of the month so, no financial resources were available to the poorest 70% of the city. If they did own cars, they could not afford gas. The cars barely ran, so driving for hours through flooded streets simply couldn’t happen.

Public transportation was stopped the moment the streets got wet. 

No public evacuation plans were in place because, well, a storm like Katrina could never happen. Pumping stations, decades old, would not fail and how could levees poorly built by the Corps of Engineers ever fail.

Everything that was not planned for happened. 

Thousands of people were rescued by the Coast Guard, by private citizens, by first responders.  Rescue operations didn’t start for several days because no plans were in place - after all, it was the black community. 

It’s not that the poor people were ignored on purpose, it’s just that no politician or public official even considered it.

The government was not equipped to deal with Katrina. Even the US president, George W. Bush had no idea what to do, or when to do it; he wasn’t even concerned and appointed a guy who had no idea how to deal with an emergency of these proportions. “Brownie”, he was called by the president as in, “Good job, Brownie” when people were dying in the streets, the Superdome and the Convention Center.

Who is to blame?  I don’t know, but certainly we expected our elected officials to step up. Evacuation plans are now in place. No one will ever be bussed to the Superdome, the levees have been rebuilt and some people have rebuilt or are rebuilding. 
Many people have left for good, we being two of them.


Will it be better next time? Yes, there will be a next time. And I have no idea if it will be handled better or not.  What makes me doubt it?  I guess 70+ years of watching racism and politics in this country makes me think that way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hurricane Katrina Memories





The storm lifted vaults out of cemeteries. Many of the remains are not back in the right spots yet. 

I retired 10 years ago today. I was not aware that I was going to retire that day until a few months later.  You see, we evacuated in advance of Hurricane Katrina. She hit on 29 August 2005. And when she hit, she decided to take our house with her as she blew on to Mississippi. 

We drove to Columbus MI. Donna was 4 days out from gall bladder surgery and was not ready to pack for evacuation, let alone drive. We had more than one car and I had my work vans. Thankfully, my employees drove my work vans, Donna’s youngest boy and his fiancee left their cars at our house and drove another car.  They had to find and pack their essentials. Ours stayed in a go box all the time, so all we had to do was put it in the car. 

The go box contains all necessary papers, insurance papers, legal stuff, birth certificates, SS information, medical information, car titles, you know, that kind of stuff. We packed all of our computer equipment, camera equipment, photo negatives back to 1969, family pictures, boxes of photos that we did not want to lose.  Good thing we packed all that stuff because that’s all we were left with. 

That's a refrigerator in that tree

We learned that the house was destroyed from one of Donna’s clients who stayed behind and made it over to where the house was. She called and told us, so we kinda know what to expect when we finally got there.
There's a house under there somewhere.

We had to stay in North Louisiana until we could get back to Slidell, an across Lake Pontchartrain suburb.  When we rounded the corner to our house, we were in shock the moment we saw it. We had 120 trees on our acre and 100 of them were down with over 20 on the house.  I knew immediately the house could not be saved. 

First we had to remove all the trees, both from the property and off the house.  After they were removed we had a 30’ high x 200’ long pile of logs in front of the house.  FEMA people came by and took it away. We would never know where it went. 

Second we had to get the house bulldozed hauled away. Donna did lots of salvage work in 100º September heat. I was busy supervising the demolition workers.

We were traveling back and forth every day from Donna’s sister’s house near Baton Rouge, La

Donna’s clients were finding her in parking lots, in her car or theirs. After Walmart reopened, they found her in the aisles.  People were desperate for help and saw their therapist as invincible. 

We got the house down and hauled away. Now we needed a place to live. 

We have so many stories, so many things and so much work to do. We had to fight with our insurance company, the mortgage company, the phone company, electric company - well you get the idea.

I will write more because there was so much more.

Nothing but a foundation and a child's beloved bear left behind

Until then, we do remember, even 10 years later.

And after the storm took everything, 3000 people died, I never worked again.



Friends'  house. We left a message on that gate post. It was all that was left.  We found them almost a year later. They have since rebuilt on the same piece of land


Monday, August 24, 2015

Hurricane Hell, Ten Years Later

One of the main reasons we took on this small, cedar-sided home on six-plus acres in the middle of Nowhere, Arkansas, is because this place doesn't have hurricanes: No Katrinas here.

You're gonna be hearing and seeing media coverage about the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  It started with Robin Roberts' special last night. She did a great job telling the stories she did.  But there are just so many stories...

Many people did not even realize that they were suffering from the effects of trauma.  Over a year post-Katrina, a woman in her early seventies came to me, not knowing the reason for her debilitating anxiety and depression.  She had never before had these problems.  Let's call her Mary.  

"I didn't lose anything in the hurricane... My whole family evacuated to our home north of Slidell... We all did fine." We talked for several sessions, exploring possible causes. During one appointment, Mary matter-of-factly said, "I was glad we didn't live in New Orleans East anymore... I had a good friend, Susan, she and her husband, Joe, used to be our next-door neighbors... Susan died waiting to be rescued."  I asked her to elaborate. 

After Katrina, Mary had offered to help Joe salvage things from their now uninhabitable home.  "We went up in the attic... Sue and Joe had been forced to go up there 'cause of the rising waters from the damned levee breaches. You could still see the hole Joe'd chopped in the roof for some air... and so they could wave their make-shift flag - a pink slip of Sue's - at the rescue helicopters... As I looked around, something caught me eye... I went over to pick it up off the floor... There wasn't much light... I bent over and grabbed it... (Mary involuntarily shivered and grimaced.)  It was sticky and yuckie - smelly.  I quickly shook it off my hand..."  


What was it?  Joe explained to Mary that that was where Susan was laying when she died.  Mary had grabbed a part of Sue's scalp and hair that had rotted off her head, and had stuck to the attic floor, three days post-mortem, when rescuers finally got around to collecting Sue's body.  They'd rescued the husband; he'd been alive.  His wife had died that night before.  Rescuing" the already dead was not a priority so the body had laid there - doing what dead bodies do, in the sweltering heat of early September in Louisiana.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park Wildlife








One of our favorite National Parks in the US is Rocky Mountain National Park just outside Estes Park, CO. We love the wildlife activities that we can see there. And if lucky enough, the animals stand still enough to let us photograph them. 

Living in Louisiana, we didn’t get to see these critters, in Arkansas, we don’t either.  Most folks don’t see these four-footed beasties unless they go to a zoo (boo, hiss) or see them in photos.

At the very top of Old Fall River Rd, near the Alpine Visitors’ Center is a marmot getting ready for winter. These guys live above the tree line above 10,000 feet. Air is a little thin that far up.




Heading down Trail Ridge Road you may see Bighorn Sheep.  They are a bit used to people, so might have a look at who is looking at them.

The young ones play at what will be serious when they are older.




If  you are the west side of Rocky, near Granby, CO, you will most likely see moose. For some reason they like the west side more than the east.

   


September and October begin the rutting season for the elk. The males fight for domination. They want to have as many cows in their harems as they can and the stronger bulls get to have larger harems. You can hear them bugling from probably ½ mile away.  They are telling their potential mates how strong and desirable they are and telling the other bulls that they had better stay away. The bugling will entice more cows to join his harem.

You can see hundreds of elk down in the meadows of Rocky.  It’s a awesome sight. To make themselves larger and more attractive to the does, the buck collects leaves and branches in his antlers to make himself look bigger, then he dips his antlers in urine, often taking a full rollover in the urine.  That makes him irresistible to the females. Not sure that would work for human males.
 

And then this is what you see in the spring.


On most any road into the park, you can be surprised and delighted by the red fox
She might pose for you too. Staring into the eyes of wild critters makes you know that all of you share the same world and every living thing is connected.


Rocky is full of deer, often they can be a nuisance. They will come to your back door and beg for food. They roam the golf courses for nibbles and of a Sunday morning, they come into town to beg from unsuspecting tourists.




Thanks for dropping by for a read.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Donna has an Affair

Yes.  I admit it.  I'm having an affair.  It's been off and on for almost ten years now. It's gone on right under Jan's nose, with her full knowledge.  I've never tried to hide it from her, and don't now.  I've never been discreet.   And the best thing: Jan has now fully accepted it.  And, in fact, at times, she's even encouraged the affair. 
Recently, she's started telling a few close friends about it.

There are times when I've tried not to engage in the affair; other days,  I just can't help it.  My other love seduces me and I cannot say no.

In truth, I am not responsible for this affair.  I never have been.  It started without my knowledge about ten years ago - several months after we lost our home and most of our possessions in Hurricane Katrina.  I'd had a bout of shingles over the holidays and then some gastrointestinal problems that spring.  During that year, and for a few thereafter, the affair was sporadic, intermittent.  Jan and I both ignored it.  I certainly did not admit it.  However, over the next five to seven years, it grew more intense and frequent, and, finally, neither of us could pretend it wasn't happening.  Then even my doctor realized it and reinforced the fact that I was not responsible.  Chronic Fatigue was.

Chronic fatigue had forced my body to sleep more than any sloth you might find hanging upside down from  some tree limb in Sri Lanka. Chronic Fatigue had forced me to begin the affair... the affair with Serta.
  
Yes, my affair is with my bed.  I love my bed:  My Serta Perfect Day Mattress Bed. The attraction has increased expotentially over the last five  years especially.  Just the thought of Serta makes me smile. Most days, as evening comes, I find myself longing for Serta, to be stretched out on, and to sink into, her pillow-top.  In the morning, when I first awake, before I even open my eyes, I think, "We cannot part just yet".  And I often snuggle down against Serta and fall back asleep.

Truth be told, many days I've spend more hours sleeping with Serta, than awake... more than with Jan.  Often Serta and I just can't bear to be a part.  Other days, I'll arise at a decent hour (like 9 or 10 a.m.) and try to spend time with Jan and accomplish some important tasks.  But, by 1 or 2 p.m., Serta begins calling me, cajoling me, seducing me back into her pillow-top.  Only rarely can I resist.


It's not my fault.  Really.  Chronic Fatigue drove me to Serta... to my affair with my bed. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rocky Mountain Scootering










Rocky Mountain National Park, breathtaking at any season, really sparkles in October.  And it has accessible trails.






















Coyote Valley Trail   is a mile long trail on the west side of the park.   I have not scootered this one, so have to take their word for the accessibility of it.


Path to Sprague Lake


Sprague Lake  trail is a ½ mile ride around a man made lake. At
the far end you can see the continental divide. You can also see rainbows if you get there at the right time.   You can find this trail located on Bear Lake Road, one mile west of the Park and Ride shuttle bus parking lot.

If you are really lucky, you will find a double rainbow at Sprague.




Lily Lake   This hike is spectacular. It’s not at nosebleed altitude, so you can breathe a bit easier as you walk or scooter.  Watch for wildflowers in spring and early summer. See a beautiful bridge as you walk the mile hike. Oh, no water lilies here. Ever.  Find this trail six miles south of the town of Estes Park on Highway 7.  I love the fall season here. Photographers will delight in the golden light at Lily Lake.



Bear Lake   Sure, they call this accessible if your scooter or wheelchair is equipped with tank treads.  The loop around the lake at the top of the trail is flat, but the getting there is difficult if you are in the best shape and not much more than 25 years old. It’s at the base of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain.  Find it at the very end of Bear Lake Rd. Best take the shuttle as the parking lot is usually full.



Holzwarth Historic Site   This is another accessible site on the west side of the park. I have not hiked here, so can’t speak personally, but if you are on the west side of Rocky, explore a historic homestead cabin and 1920's dude ranch located in the beautiful Kawuneeche Valley. This is a 1 mile round trip walk. It’s located 8 miles north of Kawuneeche Visitor Center on Highway 34.

There's no such thing as a bad day in Rocky. This may require another visit to see the wildlife roaming free. 




Thursday, August 20, 2015

Take it to the Limit.

I often wonder what my limit is. I mean physical limits, mobility limits.  As far as mental limits, I don’t think I have any. I don’t wake up every morning telling myself I am disabled, unable to accomplish what I want to accomplish. I wake up not even thinking about my limits. I wake up like you do.  Gotta get up and kick start the day. 

But damn, I wake up sore and aching. Getting out of bed is tough, walking down the hall is hard, letting the dogs out is hard, starting email for the day just about requires a rest before I start.  Am I at my limit? I don’t want to think so.  It’s a sobering thought, for sure.

Peripheral neuropathy is a progressive disease. So far, as far as we  know, it won’t ever get better. That’s discouraging, isn’t it?  

But the medical community is making advances these days. New things are being tested every day. So I do have hope that I have new limits and it is possible that things will get better.


Stem cell transplants are now real. I have been in touch with an MD who offers it. He thinks there is a real possibility that the PN can be reversed or at least diminished.  Of course, insurance doesn’t cover it - yet.  And the cost is upwards of $10,000.00.  That’s more money that I have, but maybe the cost will go down as time passes, or maybe insurance will cover it. I have hope. Maybe limits will be pushed on through and changed.

Maybe.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Scootering in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park has accessible trails. That may not sound phenomenal to you, but to me it is.

We traveled to Yellowstone National Park a few years ago. It was not the first time I had been there, but it was the first time I was there when it wasn’t snowing.  Five inches of snow happened in one July several years ago, so I was a bit wary going in August. We went anyway and had perfect weather. The kids were not back in school yet, so it was pretty busy, but we were not camping, so busy-ness was not a real concern.

You never stay in Yellowstone. In fact, you don’t really stay very near Yellowstone even if the motels tell you that you are close. The best you can do is decide what direction you are coming from and plan from there.  If you are approaching from the west, you will most likely stay in West Yellowstone, Montana. We found the Best Western was best for handicapped accessibility. Holiday Inn would have met our needs as well, but we were traveling with friends and they preferred Best Western.

Start early in the morning to head for the park. The road to the entrance is not a long drive, but the drive to Old Faithful is about 15 miles and that’s where everybody wants to go first. Whatever you do, don’t drive fast. There are too many things to see along the way.

This is probably the first reason you will stop and look.



The buffalo have the right of way in the park. Even if they didn’t, you would give it to them. They are bigger than  you can imagine and could most likely swallow your car as an appetizer.

You will stop here and realize that this boiling water is coming up from the center of the earth and could turn you into an instant french fry. In fact all of the cauldrons and pools show us just how close we are to an erupting volcano. Scary isn’t it?

And Old Faithful, the most famous sight in the park. Every visitor wants to see it. It erupts on a sort of regular schedule, so you can plan your day around it.

Oh, at many places in the park, there are boardwalks for easy access to bubbling pools. I loved it. 





I thought his mother was going to come at me with a baseball bat until she got to me. She calmed down when I explained that he was running flat out and could easily get cooked if he fell into a boiling pool.  It was easy to catch him at my scooter seated level.

Be prepared. Seeing Yellowstone is a many day proposition. And we spent many days there.  We left via the south entrance and headed to Jackson Hole, WY and the Tetons.

Glad you are traveling along.






Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Day by Day

The faster I go, the behinder I get. At least it seems like it. When you don’t have use of your legs, you have to spend twice as much time doing half the work.  I know, I know, it doesn’t seem like our legs do much when it comes to cleaning the house, teaching a class, weeding a raised bed garden or just doing day to day chores, but trust me, they do. 

Seems like we ride down the rows picking ripe tomatoes or green beans easily and watch the scooter basket fill with free produce. Ha. We ride down the rows all right, but we pick off the tomato worms, some big enough to hitch a ride on. In order to squish the tomato worm, a foot has to be raised up to the level of the raised bed. That ain’t easy. And I’m not about to squish one with my bare hands.  Tomatoes have to be staked so they won’t fall over and get driven over by my scooter. Staking requires standing up and tying a string at the same time. When it takes all your strength to stand up, suddenly tying a string around a recalcitrant tomato can be daunting.  

I am pulling tomato plants now as they are done producing. They want to stay in the ground and resist being pulled. After you pull a few, they have to be transported to the compost heap. Somewhere during that transport with one hand clutching several pulled plants, the other steering the scooter, you run into a spider web - with spider.  And no hand to brush it away.  What a wake up call that is!

And the swimming pool seemingly needs daily maintenance. Oy. Up the ramp, down the ramp, bend over to get the cover off. Pull that sucker out.  Now turn on the pump. Oh wait, it needs chemicals.  Back up the ramp to get them. Gotta find something sharp to open the bag with. The scissors is not where they were left. Maybe my garden hand snips will do the job. They do. Back down the ramp to fling the chemicals over the water. Now turn on the pump. Wait, read the directions on the bag. Does the pump need to be on or off. On for an hour, then off.  Back up the ramp to put things back where they belong. It’s not even 7am.

It’s going to be a long day.



Monday, August 17, 2015

How Do the Handicapped Do It?


Aha! I'll bet you're reading this blog post 'cause ya thought I was gonna talk about, "Sex: How Do the Handicapped Do It?"  Yea.  Now, don't deny it...  Dirty little minds. Perhaps, in a future post - after I get to know ya'll better.

How does a 73 year old, scooter-reliant, woman maintain three veggie gardens? She is Super Sappho Scooter-Woman!  Endowed with the Special Powers of Mindlessness (as opposed to mind-ful-ness), of Single-Mindedness, of Routiness and Sameness,  of Opinionated-Determined- Stubborness, of Being Slowly-Quick (or, quickly slow), of being Mistress of Her Fate and Servant to None.  Her Special Red Scooter has become an extension of herself and does whatever she commands.

Her uniform defines her. (It's always the same.)  Light blue jeans. (Elastic waist a must.)  Dark blue t-shirt.  (Henley, please.)  Once on, her special powers of Slow-Quickness and Mindlessness are enabled.  Never does she have to think about "Ah, gee, what am I gonna wear today?" At the butt-crack-of-dawn, she bounds outta bed.  OK.  Not really bounds.  When she awakes, realizes she's still alive - 'cause she still feels pain - she cajoles herself to "roll over in the clover",  and, with her well-muscled, aching, trembling arms, pushes herself into a sitting position. Then she performs the two most challenging feats of the day:  standing-up and walking.  With a Lawrence-Welk-a-one-and-a-two-and-a-three, she sways to and fro, and, on the three, she rises, like magic, from her bed.  Now standing on feet with no feeling and uncooperative legs, she wills herself to do the impossible: put one foot in front of the other and walk!


Whew!  I don't know about ya'll, but I'm already tired.  As an old friend (Lisa, where are you?) used to say, Later, gator.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Change of Pace

Doe River, Roan Mountain, Johnson City, Tennessee



Would you come along?

A few years ago I had occasion to travel to Northeastern Tennessee to a place called Roan Mountain. Surging from Roan Mountain is the Doe River. I wish to take you there. Would you come along?

Come with me through the forest down into the Doe River gorge. The ground sinks under our feet from the hundreds of years of nature returning to itself to provide for itself and for us, although we are one. Some of the walking is difficult--the vines get in our way and the partially decomposed fallen trees block the path we pick out.


Feel the majesty of what once was and will be again.

Sometimes I stand on the fallen trunk and feel the majesty of what once was and will be again. I giggle and want to swing from the vines and yell mightily as I jump into the river. I restrain myself because the river is only a few inches deep--I can see the stones and silt on the bottom now. The bank drops off quickly so the last step will be a long one with no real assurance that the bottom is really the bottom. You reach out your hand to steady me as I make that last step--with a grin and much faith, I let go and step into Doe River. The water is cold initially. It rushes around my jeans clad leg almost up to my knees. 

I am laughing aloud now. I begin walking in the water, feeling my legs getting used to the coolness, letting my feet find the stones, the soft bottom, the millions of years of Doe River searching for the sea. I reach down and get one of the stones, rubbed smooth from thousands of miles of rolling down and down, for years of being soothed by the river, being slowly returned to the soil whence it came. 


Sounds and paths change 
You are now in the water with me, walking gingerly and wondering if we can keep our footing. We walk toward the rushing rapids upstream, hopping up on large boulders occasionally to survey our progress and watch the water eddy around the boulders. It makes sounds and paths that change each time we take our eyes away.

The smells of the woods, the water, the rocks, the trees, the plants are overwhelming in their richness, fecundity, the sounds are profound, talking to us of journeys it has traveled, of promises to us. And we know that those are promises that will never be broken.

As we make our way closer to the waterfalls, the water reaches our knees. I reach down again and divert the water, feeling it on my hands and arms. It splashes on my face and I, powerless to stop, splash some on you. We both laugh out loud, sit down and are surrounded by all of the feelings of the greenness around us. Tears stream down our faces mingling with the water from whence they came, the tears are a sign of the joy that is within us, joy from our sharing -- with each other and with Doe River and every river and all water that exists now or ever has.

Inside us and around us, now and tomorrow

The water welcomes us and washes over us, we can drink and feel the clarity, taste the journeys it has taken, know that it will give us life and soothe our thirsty beings. We are refreshed in every way--our thirst is quenched. 

It is inside us and around us, now and tomorrow.



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Twang!

People come to Mountain View, Arkansas mostly for the music. It is the folk music capital of the country, after all. I am reminded of the Cajun Zydeco, how regional and how popular it is when I hear this music. It’s local, but the songs are universal. Most have been sung by country musicians for a couple hundred years, having been passed down through families. Saturday’s performance is on Youtube. I have put up links so  you can hear a bit of our heritage.

Saturday night we went to a concert at the Ozark Folk Center auditorium. It’s accessible and it was all women performing. If you don’t have an hour to listen right now, listen when you have time:

See it on Youtube here:



Hear Kathleen Jensen, pianist and composer, and Dave Smith. Kathleen is now also playing guitar and performed at the concert solo.


All were great. Some were amazing.  This is a young girls band. They call themselves Twang. The oldest girl is 14, the little one is 10.  Watch out for this group. You are seeing future stars.


And I understand they have just made their first CD. If you see it, buy it and enjoy as we did.

We love the Folk Center. They spotlight local performers as much as they can. We have Clancy Ferguson, 17 now and getting better every day. We have been watching her grow up with a fiddle in her hands


We have Tina Wilcox, the Ozark Folk Center Head Gardener, herbalist and performer.


The music of Mountain View is famous and well deserved. With the naming of the town as a Music Roots town, this tradition will certainly  continue.