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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I am, I said

I have a birthday coming next week. I will be 74 years old. How the hell did that happen? I am of the generation who said, “Never trust anyone over 30.” We never thought we would be thirty. But we did, didn’t we?  And now it was so long ago.

As I age, I think of what I have done in this life, what I have left that I want to do and how much have I accomplished that I wanted to do. As I review, I sorta like my reviews, biased or not.

Most people, I think, have regrets. I don’t have any major ones that I can think of. 

One very important thing to me is that I have never had a job. I have never worked for anyone where I got a W2. I have gotten plenty of 1099s but no W2s.  The 1099 is a form you get as an independent contractor and do a certain amount of work for an organization, company or person.  

I never had to get to work at a specific time that I didn’t choose. I like that. I always started and finished what I had to do on time, no matter what. It’s something I am proud of.

I was a consultant checking the progress of the Title One schools in New Orleans. It was a short contract, about a year, if I remember right. I had no idea schools were in such bad shape. Teachers couldn't even write a sentence, let alone teach a child how to do it. That was 1969. Schools are no better, perhaps worse, both in New Orleans and all over the country.

I considered being a teacher for a short while but abandoned that idea because it would indeed be restricting J.O.B.

I wrote grants for drug abuse prevention, education, and rehab organizations. LBJ's War on Poverty couldn’t give money away fast enough, so I thought New Orleans should be in that number. After funding, I negotiated all the paperwork the agencies needed to do to stay funded. And got a percentage of each grant. Oh, and we never won that war on poverty.

That could not last forever, so when I saw the money train tracks veering in another direction, I installed myself as director of one of those agencies and did that for several years. 

I have to mention that I never let work interfere with my travel plans.

I tried to travel at least four months of the year. The Matterhorn in Zermatt was one of my first mountains. I was instantly addicted to climbing. And in future years, climbed in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California.
I had a goal to see a National Park in every state, so I did. I’m not sure Delaware had any then but cycled through Delaware anyway.  Oh, did I mention that I did that particular trip on a motorcycle with a tent, a couple pairs of jean, shirts and sleeping bag.  That took a year.

Traveling never stopped. In my traveling life, I got to Western Europe a few times, Canada, Mexico, but most of the travel was in the US. 

If you don’t travel, start now.

Soon the federal funding stopped funding my organization, so it was time to change gears.  I wanted to do something concrete, (pardon the pun), so became the first female licensed general contractor in Louisiana. That was fun for about 10 years. When it stopped being fun, I sold that business and started another one. 

I had always loved gardening and doing exterior design work so started building ornamental garden ponds in people’s yards or commercial spaces.  That was probably my favorite thing that I ever did to make a buck.  They called me the Pondlady. I liked that. 

As I was building businesses, I taught adult basic education, usually in junior colleges or private colleges. Doing that was another most favorite thing so do.

I stopped working on August 27th, 2005, two days before Hurricane Katrina stole our house. I sold my landscaping business shortly after that and aside from a bit  of writing, have not worked for money ever since. It’s hard to believe that was 10 years ago.

As I look back, I have done everything I wanted to do.  If my life ended tomorrow, I would be satisfied that I have lived just as I wished to.  

And I don’t have a bucket list. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Being Vegan

I realized just the other day that I have been vegetarian for 39 years, vegan for 22 years. Wow.  I remember when friends visited way back in the 70’s and one mentioned she had been vegan for 11 years. I was dumbfounded, couldn’t imagine anyone not eating meat and dairy for that long. And now here I am, a pain in the ass for most people because they don’t understand, can’t understand and sure as hell don’t want me to come over to their house for dinner.

You would be amazed at how many people don’t understand being vegan. They either don’t know what it is or can’t figure out why anyone would choose to be vegan.  

Just for a refresher, a vegan eats no meat or dairy. That doesn’t mean an ice cream cone is OK once in awhile or stopping at a fast food restaurant just this once is OK. It means that no meat or dairy is eaten. Ever.

But what if your mother says, “Just a little bit won’t hurt you.”  Well, it does and you have to make that clear.  

While I was going through the trials of cataract surgery and the relatively unfortunate aftermath, I had to convince the Dr. that I had to be able to see better because I had to read labels in the grocery store.  He couldn’t comprehend that. I suspect he neither shops nor is vegan.  I tried to explain, but male doctors don’t listen until female patients are very firm in their demands. 

 BTW, I still don’t have the necessary glasses after almost a year and have to schlepp a magnifying glass to the store.  You see, milk hides in food.  Almost all food. Want a Hershey bar?  Nope, it’s full of milk. How about a cake mix? Oops, eggs and milk. See what I mean. And I don’t buy prepared foods. I buy ingredients.  

And you can never trust something you bought last week that was milk free. This week you will see lactose, whey, casein or some milk product has been snuck in as a filler.  If you see LAC as a prefix with any word on a label, you can be sure there is milk in it.  So you must read labels.

Why vegan?  For me, health is the main reason, with lots of feelings for eating sentient beings thrown in.  How on earth can someone eat a pig when they are smarter than some people I know? Or a cow, for that matter?  If you ever saw a chicken raising/killing operation, you would never eat another piece of chicken.  Arkansas has huge chicken processing plants. In fact, Tyson is a major industry in Arkansas. The living conditions and killing conditions are obscene, full of cruelty and torture.

And milk?  To make a cow continue to produce milk, you keep it pregnant and producing calves and take the calf from its mother immediately and keep milking that cow. Think about that.  Plus, the only animals who drink milk from a different species are us humans.   Hmm, guess we really are swayed by advertising, aren’t we?  Got Milk?  Mygod, I hope not.

Have I stayed healthy because of being vegan? Well, I do have peripheral neuropathy. If not genetic, it sure is familial. Parents, g’parents g’g’ grandparents, thanks for the non-working feet. That’s what keeps me from walking. But I have had no real reasons for a doctor visit in about 60 years. That’s not too bad. 

I can’t even imagine eating dead flesh.  I have to search diligently to find milk free ingredients, but I think it’s worth it.  I suggest people try it gradually. Ease on into not eating meat one day a week, them a couple.  It’s easy that way.  Tackle the meatless menu first, then you will be ready to tackle the dairyless menu.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Donna Speaks: The Moon and The Pope

I doubt if any of you will notice that this is my thirteenth post.  There's no reason you should. I know 'cause each of the posts, in addition to being part of Accessible Arkansas Blog, is part of a series I call "Waiting for Normal". I number each one in this series. And I count pretty good.

However, not only is this my thirteenth post, but I'm writing it on the night of the Super Moon, the Blood Moon, the Lunar Eclipse.  We know that "luna", Spanish for moon, is the root word for "lunatic.  

OMG!  Is this a sign?  A portent of some mysterious, awful thing to come? 

And, that's not all.  Get ready.  This is the real kicker: I am an ex-nun and I don't give a damn about the Pope's visit.  It's not quite an accurate reflection, but Shakespeare's play, "Much Ado About Nothing", comes to mind.  Just add "of substance" after "nothing."

There.  I've said it.  I've written it.  People" will now know.  Will I be able to sleep tonight after openly admitting this?  Snore away and defy the superstitions surrounding The Thirteenth, The Blood Moon, The Lunar Eclipse, and The Pope?  

Like a baby, I'll sleep.  But before "I lay me down to sleep", Jan and I'll view the super/blood moon/eclipse with wonder and genuine appreciation for The Wonders of Mother Nature.

Jan is readying the camera.  Got it on the tripod. We hope to get a good photo of a real spectacle. We'll sit on the swing on our deck on this cool September evening - the swing pointed due east where we'll get the best view of the rise and the eclipse.  (We must have intuitively known it needed to be positioned this way when we had the deck built.)  And, patiently, we'll wait. (Well, if you know Jan, not so patiently waiting.)  We'll feel awe, absolute awe, when it happens.  We won't cheer, or cry, or prostrate ourselves on the deck in hysterical admiration. We'll thank Mother Nature for the free show.

Thanks, Mom, thank ya' very much.

For us, for sure, the Super-Blood-Moon-Eclipse beats the pope's visit hands down.  And the world didn’t end either. Some folks have to be disappointed about that.

Have a good day, Althea.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's Only Sunday

The baby died.  Just like that, the cord wrapped itself around the baby, still unborn with a month to go before birth, the baby died.  

We have young friends. Very young. In fact, mom was just 18 and dad not much older. They were happy, doing OK when pregnancy happened as it does. They were self-supporting, working, in love and doing well.  

On Friday, mom knew something was wrong. On Sunday, they both went to the hospital. They learned what had happened.  Labor was induced and on Monday, their daughter was stillborn. 

Tuesday was for beginning recovery and starting to make necessary arrangements. Who, at 18, ever thought they would have to make funeral arrangements? Where do you start? Who can help? How much is it going to cost? How are we going to do this?

With help from relatives, the youngsters arranged a visitation on Thursday night and burial on Friday. To bury their baby who never was alive.  

The room where the visitation was had a tiny platform up front with a tiny coffin not much bigger than a shoe box. Music was playing and photos of the once happy parents to be were on a television set so all could see.

The funeral was attended by relatives, on a sunny morning that should have been filled with plans and maybe sorting through new baby clothes and toys.  Instead it was filled with sorrow, not just by parents, but by grandparents, sisters, brothers and cousins.

Then they went home and looked at the new baby’s room, newly painted, made pretty and new for the  baby’s arrival. A crib, a changing place, mobiles, toys and new baby clothes. All there for a baby who would never arrive. What is to be done with the room and all the baby things?  And when will it be done. Now? Later? Keep it. Sell it? Give it back to the givers? What happens now?

And suddenly the family and guests are gone. The food gifted to them is gone.  Living has to happen again. Both mom and dad have to go back to work.  

And it’s only Sunday.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Mattress Saga is Over!

At least I hope it is.  This started in mid-July HERE

And continued HERE.

A couple of weeks ago, after sleeping on the stained mattress, I decided I did like it, stain or not, and told Dealbeds I would keep the mattress if they discounted it $250.00. Nope, they said. So I said I would let them pick up the stained mattress.

Remember, this is mattress number 2 from this company.  I printed out the bill of lading for the return and stripped the bed readying it for pick up. They had to deal with the packaging.

But it wasn’t over yet. Dealbeds.com did not send out a truck for pick up.  The day they were supposed to come, Monday, September 21st, they didn’t call, they didn’t show.  I finally called to find out where the truck was and found they were not coming! Why? Because there was no plastic on that particular truck.  Did they bother to tell me? What do you think? No plastic on the truck? C’mon. And no new pick-up date.  In my experience, a new pick-up date takes about 2 weeks to arrange. All over a piece of plastic.

So I still had the stained mattress and no date for it to be picked up.
I had ordered a second mattress from another company and was expecting it some day soon. Was I going to have two mattresses in this little bitty house?  Good lord.  

I called Dealbeds and asked, “Now what.” I feel sorry for the woman who answered the phone because I was, to say the least, angry.  After listening to me for a few minutes, she said, “Hold on a minute.” She came back soon and said Dealbeds would give me the $250.00 that I offered originally.  Fine.  I have a bed, granted all stripped and ready to be picked up. 

I had to remake the bed, but I am pretty good at that by now. 

I got on the phone with the second company and cancelled that order.  I hoped I was on time. 

Turned out I was, that credit card charged cancelled, Dealbeds deducted the $250.00, Second company has not charged my Visa.

I like my bed….I’d better. And I hope, all is well with the world.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Donna Speaks: The Elephant Man and You and Me

I've seen the movie The Elephant Man. I also saw the play.  If you recall, Joseph Merrick (John in the movie and play) lived in late 19th century England. Although of superior intelligence, Joseph's body was severely deformed and he was forced to support himself as a freak in a traveling side show.  After being "discovered" by a London Hospital doctor, Frederick Treves, he was provided a home by the hospital and resided there until his death. He and Treves became great friends and Merrick became the darling of London high society, even visited by royalty.  

Joseph's deformities made it necessary to for him to sleep sitting up - always. He eventually succumbed to an ailment many individuals have; the desire to be like others, to be normal.  Merrick died of asphyxiation.  

Tired of being different, one night he decided to be like everyone else and sleep lying down and he suffocated and died.

Though few of us commit passive suicide like Merrick, some of us do severely compromise ourselves for the sake of being like others: the Keeping-Up-with-the-Jones' Syndrome. We do this to be accepted by others: the I-Wanna-Be-a-Member-of-Your-Club Syndrome. The two Syndromes usually exist in tandem.

We willingly erase parts of ourselves to be like others, to be accepted by others.  Some of us will erase so much of "us" that we cease to exist without "others".  We are recognizable only as part of the group, the tribe.  And the worst thing that can ever happen to us is to be alienated, shunned, estranged by "the others".

Phew! Holy moly, that's heavy shit. Reminds me: I rode my first, and only, elephant when I was like three years old.  The family was at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.  I know 'cause I've seen the photo my mom took - now a really old photo - of me and my older sister, Carol Ann, on the pachyderm's neck.  (My mom, also took black and white photos of the Painted Desert.) 

I don't go to zoos anymore 'cause, well, I just don't like zoos, i.e., animal prisons.  When I lived in Europe, my ex and I took our kids (three boys) to one of those wildlife center thingies.  Ya know, where the animals are free and the people are in imprisoned in their cars.  My three sons loved it - especially when the monkeys crapped on the truck camper's window.  

Those "zoos" are kinda ok.  But what I really like now is seeing animals run free, especially out west. Just don't get Jan started on how many photos I have of elk in Estes Park, CO, and how I can bugle with the best of 'em.

But I digress...

Until next time, have a good day, Althea. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ordinary People

I often hear about how much I do. People see me gardening and say, “I could never do that and you are doing it on a scooter. That's hard work”  Hey, I’m only gardening, something I have been doing for about 65 years. Millions of other people garden in this world, daily and longer than I have.  What I am doing is not special; it’s what people do. Every day. It’s not extraordinary, people. Everybody does it. I am not an inspiration to anyone.

I drive my car. What on earth is special about that? I park my car, unload my scooter from its lift, drive it off the platform and then press a switch to raise the lift back to its regular position. Sometimes it sticks, maybe balks a bit. If that happens, I have a spray bottle of lubricant that I keed in my car that unsticks it in a squirt or two. Passers-by exclaim, “I could never do what you do.” Huh, why not? It certainly does not make me an inspiration to anyone.

By the way, do not EVER park in a handicap spot, no matter what. I don’t care if you will ‘just be a minute’, or ‘It was the only spot open’.  Nothing, no nothing is an excuse to park in my spot.  I only have 2 or 3 spots if I have any. You have parking lots full of spots. Don’t take mine. I will call the cops. I will notify the staff of the store attached to the parking lot. I will leave  you a note on your windshield that will make your hair curl. I will take your license plate number, make, model of your car and report you.  I expect you to extend courtesy to me, but, if you park in my parking spot, you don’t know what the word courtesy means.  Bet your parents taught you what it is. So what happened when you got your driver’s license?  Did you forgot about courtesy? Parking somewhere else is something I can’t do. And you can, so do it.  

I do ordinary things - every day. So do you. Don’t tell me how wonderful I am because I do ordinary things, just like you do.  And I park in handicap parking spots, because I am extraordinary. So there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Living in a Romance Novel

 “He silenced her with his lips. He subdued her squirming because he knew she wanted him as much as he wanted her.  His lips found hers, suppressed her cries and soon she melted into him.”

I know that I could never write romance novels or any novels, for that matter. The words above are just one example of the suppression of women by men.  And we don’t even know it. In fact, we seem to like it.  And I can’t figure out why.

It starts when we are young. In school, teachers call on boys more than girls. Even preschool, boys begin to realize their privilege and power over girls. He gets to take chances, she is dressed in a tutu and expected to sit quietly and play with crayons.  She is taught to be subdued, be quiet and then is dressed so she can’t move freely to climb a tree.

During school years, young women are taught how to please young men. They must dress appropriately so as not to arouse young men into raping them, but have to look nice, wear makeup and carefully keep grades down so young men won’t feel inferior. It’s OK that girls feel inferior. After all, they are considered to be by the rest of the world.

As we move into adulthood, we are pretty much brainwashed; we don’t even realize we are already considered ‘less than’. After all it’s where we are meant to be.  In college, rape, no matter its name is often considered to be the woman’s fault. Dress codes exist in schools because men cannot be expected to control themselves. After all, they should get everything they want because they always have gotten what they want.

In adulthood, we women know that our job opportunities are limited pretty much to the ones men don’t want. How many of you men have said or implied that they could never work for a woman because of so many idiotic reasons.  If men don’t do their jobs, it has to be because the boss is a woman, never because they are not capable of doing the job they are being fired from.

Just have a look at what the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump is saying today.  Right now. And a good percentage of women will vote for him. Scary, but hey, we learned our place long ago.

How many times have you asked a woman friend to have lunch, go to the movies, see a show and she says, “I will have to ask my husband because he doesn’t like it when I go out without him.”
WTF?  Does he ask her or does he tell her when he is going out? 

During the ’70’s, I thought we were on our way to equality, but the Equal Rights Amendment  never even passed in the US and now here we are going backward again.

Now, in this very post, I want you to include the word disabled where you see woman.  Do you now get some idea what we live through on a daily basis.  The world is stacked against us and we seem be unaware or to welcome it.

Until we can make our own worlds as we see them. As long as we accept  second or third class citizenry, we will never change it.  Or maybe we just don’t want to.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Donna Speaks: Listen - Your Body's Talkin' to Ya

I needed one long ass nap today.  Like over three hours.  That's after sleeping about 10 hours the night before.  The day before I had  sat and painted some 20, four foot, two by fours, to ready them for our carpenter, Jesse to build a platform at the end of our pool for the motor, filter, etc., today.  I pushed the envelope... a little.  I didn't listen.  And, my profession was based on listening... to others.

My bod was giving me signals.  Whispering: "You're pushing yourself, girlfriend."  "But," I whispered back, " Jes' coming tomorrow... I gotta get the boards ready."  And then I just ignored the other whispers. 

Jesse ended up not able to come and I had a day to recoup.  So I fooled around inside.  It was like 90 degrees outside anyway.  And by news time, the recliner called me and I responded.

I didn't listen on Sunday, but I did today.  I was lucky it only took a long nap to restore my balance.  That and making myself a good meal of chicken and lotsa veggies.

For those of us with autoimmune stuff going on, listening to our bodies is so important.  Now that's harder for us women folk than the men, and, women have autoimmune problems significantly more than men.

What's our problem?  Well, so often women are recognized only - or mostly, at least - as vectors to men.  We are someone's mother, wife, sister, aunt, secretary, grandmother, etc. before we are who we are.  We are programmed to be the one who takes care of the other and are second to that "other". Even our most popular choices for professions reflect this learned need to take care of others, e.g., teachers, the nurses, childcare providers, counselors.  Our culture is changing slowly, but it's still "a man's world" and men still more often make more than women for the same job.  They have to support a family, ya know.

Suggest that we put ourselves first, we balk at, more often than embrace, this idea of self-care.  We can get away with this for a period of time, then our body will scream, yell, and holler at us. And, hopefully, we listen before it's too late.

This listening skill takes work, practice, purposeful, conscious thought.  I gotta brush up on listening to me.

Dear Althea, have a good day. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Donna Speaks: There's Hope for Me, Yet!

I've been having some good days lately.  I almost feel normal!  On days like these, I hope and hope is a good thing.

Everyone is different; everyone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, et al is different. I do much better in cooler weather. When it's hot, especially hot and humid, I can tolerate being in the sun only a few minutes.  And I do mean a few minutes. Shade helps some, but if I perspire too much, I'll have muscle cramps even if I drink gallons.  And I-ache-all-over comes and it's almost unbearable. I pushed the envelope last summer.  It was my first full summer in our new home and, well, there was soooo much to do.  And I did too much and I lost it.  And I do mean I LOST IT: physically and emotionally.  Not a pretty sight... when I lose it.

My over doing it, my not accepting my limitations, lead to a series of unfortunate events: a three month bout with irritable bowel and all the fun stuff that accompanies that, exhaustion in spades, sleeping more hours than I was awake, and being a real bitch, among other things. So when summer came this year, I did my best to change my approach to life here.  Ya know, not wanting to have another "hysterical woman" scene for Jan to live through.

I still sleep more hours than I want, but I need those hours.  I do not go out in the sun; I refuse.  I've violated this like, maybe, twice in these past three to four months.  I got my gastro shit (so to speak) under control, and when it threatens, I know what to do quickly to regain balance.  I do my best to eat well - so important.  I've researched, Jan's researched, and together we've come up with some supplements that truly have helped.  I'd list 'em all, but, as I said, we are all different and need to create our own regiment.  I also try, off and on, to practice the mountain dulcimer and continue my life-long effort to learn Spanish.  And I frequent my hot tub - hot when it's cold, cold when it's hot, jets ever-ready.

Additionally, and, most importantly, I make best efforts to remind myself how lucky I am to have the life I have with the love of my life:  Thank You, Jan.

Also, I am "retired", so I now have, and now make, the time to enjoy friends.  Friends are so important to a good life. We were fortunate enough to have friends visit our new home every month of this past year - 'cept January.  Like somebody or other said: “Friends double your joy and divide your grief.”  (Or maybe it was "give you grief"?)  We love all of you and thank you each for enriching our life.  

And, have a good day, Althea.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Don't Help Me...Unless I Ask

It’s hard to believe what people do in the name of ‘helping’.  

I had to do some grocery shopping yesterday. Sadly, my only choice is Walmart. After all, this is Arkansas, home of Walmart.

I didn’t need much, but what I needed was from one end of the store to the other.  My scooter works well in Walmart. I can pull a small cart lined with canvas and put groceries in there.  If an aisle is too crowded and most of them are, either with stock yet to be shelved or old friends chatting in the aisles, or worst of all, some old guy who needs to stand across the aisle so he can see because he has needed new glasses since 1985. My old English teacher would not approve of that for a sentence?

At any rate, shopping was going well, most people were moving out of the way without a word from me. That was nice. Some needed an ‘excuse me’, some who on their phones needed a bit more prodding. Did you know lots of the people on phones don’t hold their phones. The phones are somehow attached to their heads, so it looks like they are talking to themselves. Used to be those people would be institutionalized, or at least on heavy duty medications.

A couple times, I needed to stand up to get something from the top shelf. Why oh why do they put the good stuff way up top?  I do pretty well standing up on my scooter, holding on to the handlebars and pushing myself up. 

Twice a well-meaning woman - two different ones - put her hand under my elbow and tried to help me up. I not only never expected that, but didn’t even see either one coming. Surprise on top of putting me off balance almost put both of us on the floor.  Can you imagine somebody coming up behind you, putting her hands on your elbow and pushing? 

“I was only trying to help.” I heard twice.  After the first time, I certainly never expected the second time. Hell, I had never had anyone try to help me up, let alone twice in one day. They both came at me from behind, scared the shit out of me. 

Please, people, we will ask for help if we need it. Don’t automatically help if we seem to be struggling. If we don’t have things under control, we will ask for help. Trust me.  Let’s don’t both go down in a pile and possibly hurt both of us.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

More of Defective Mattress Saga

Remember that mattress I bought that I returned to the mattress company. If you don’t, you can read about it here:

This saga started in mid July. It’s now mid September.  Here’s what I have done so far since the second defective mattress arrived.  I sent  photos

to the company and told them I want my money back. This is the second defective mattress, remember.

 After much pestering, and finally canceling the charge on my Visa, the  company responded saying they would refund my money when I returned the mattress.  Got that letter 2 week ago.

Today I was told that someone would be here Monday to pick up the mattress. Here’s the letter:

“Attached below is your return Bill of Lading. We have advised the carrier to contact you to schedule your pick up appointment. Please be sure to print two copies. One copy to be taped on the package and second copy will be provided to the driver upon pick up. Please ensure your mattress is packaged and ready for pick up. If you do not have original packaging, any plastic encasement should work fine. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.”

I have to print out two copies of the bill of lading and, catch this:  I have to put the mattress back in its original package.  Ummmm, the last delivery people took it with them when they delivered it back on September 2nd.  Alternatively, I could wrap it in plastic and give it to the pick up guy.

Now you know that I, at 73 years old and not mobile, certainly cannot pick up 100 pounds of mattress, let alone wrap that sucker in plastic and present it to the mattress pick up people.

So, what to do?  I suspect that the delivery people will have to figure that out.

I will keep you posted. Monday should be the end of this story. At least I can hope. Of course, I will have no mattress…..

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bumper Cars

We were watching the hummingbird air show this morning as the little birds squabbled amongst themselves jockeying for position at the two feeders we have in the garden.  As we watched, I wondered how they managed to avoid head on collisions while they were going so fast and furious.  And how on earth they managed to go so fast and get to where they were going. 

I can’t do that.  I don’t mean fly. I can’t do that either, but I sure as hell can’t avoid collisions, no matter my speed.  Seems as if someone is in the way, no matter where I want to go, no matter where I am unless in my own driveway.

Forget restaurants.  There’s not an accessible one in Mountain View unless you count fast food and let’s face it, they really don’t count. And even if I could get inside, I can’t get through the mass of tables to find a seat. 

Can’t get inside the library or the museum.  

Oh, I can get inside the Ozark Folk Center, the home of Folk Music and crafts from our grandparents’ time.  I love the Folk Center with its live music most all day, the herb garden and watching people practice basket weaving, blacksmithing, or printing on a old press. I can get inside the park if someone will open the door. There’s most always someone there who willingly opens a door - usually another patron. I have never had to ask anyone; they do it without thinking. That’s nice.

But after getting in the park, scootering around is like the bumper car course at the carnival.  After all, it is a tourist attraction and tourists abound. That’s why they come to Mountain View.

Seems as if no matter where I want to go, people are still accommodating as far as opening doors go, but if I wish to watch a broom maker make a broom or a cooper show his skills with barrels, so do several dozen other people. They will open the door to the small building where the craftsperson is working, but that’s it. I can go as far as the doorway and sit in the open door. Trust me, nobody is happy with that in these sweltering Arkansas summers. So the door must be closed. And to close it, everybody has to move to let me in and then there I am at waist level and within 1 inch of running into someone’s heel. I can’t move unless someone opens the door again and can’t maneuver inside the exhibit either. 

I have to mention that everyone is polite and tries to make room, but it just isn’t possible. They ending up bumping into each other trying to keep from bumping into me. And I can’t think of any way the situation can be made better.

I have found that after going back and forth, in and out, up and down, by the time I have seen what I am able to at the Folk Center, I am totally and completely exhausted.  It’s tough moving an inch at a time to avoid hitting a person who is doing all that he can to stay out of my way. Must be tiring to both of us. Add 95ยบ temperatures to the mix and exhaustion sets in.

And I still have to put the scooter on the lift on the car and drive home. Whew!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Donna Speaks: Laughing your Ass Off: An Art for All Ages.

How do we survive living with a handicap, invisible or otherwise?  We survive the same way folks without a handicap survive. Except with one big, giant, huge caveat:  We gotta have much more humor, chutzpah, cajones, spunk, grit, guts, mettle, etc., than all those boring "normal" people.

We have to practice being able to laugh your ass off, and make it an art.  And the most important part of this art is being able to laugh at yourself. If you can't do that, start now.  If you can't take a joke or make a joke outta something you find hard to take, begin now. This is essential to survival.

I tell folks that I am so short, I have problems touching the top of my own head and that I am not overweight, I am height-impaired.  Additionally, I claim that I am so sexy, if I were tall and svelte, women - and men - would not be able to resist me and world chaos would ensue.  Or I am so intelligent that my head could not hold all my brains, so my body had to expand just to accommodate them all

I love telling kid and grandkid stories.  This one involves my bestest friend, Chris (we've known each other since we were six years old).  We took my red-headed grand daughter, Autumn, and my sweet-as-pie grandson, Martin, on a hike.  Autumn was around 8, and Martin, 6.  It was pre-left-hip-replacement, so I was using a cane. 

At the beginning of hiking trail there was the obligatory sign showing a line through motorized vehicles, dogs on a leash, but one sign with no line through it, showing a person with a hiking stick.  Martin looks at the sign and turns to me, all smiles, "MaMa Donna, look... old people with canes have to go on this trail."  He was delighted with his observation and so happy I could "legally" hike with him.  What do you do?  You laugh.  Chris and I both laughed, belly laughed.

This next one is a "parking the car" story.  I had 3 grandkids with me.  The two mentioned above, and their older sister, Alex.  Alex was 13 at the time; Autumn and Martin 10 and 8, respectively.  

We were doing a Wally-World shop.  I couldn't find a handicap spot, so I pulled into a regular spot.  Autumn, our drama queen, seated in front with me, began gyrating her arms, and screeching in her high pitched voice, "No, MaMa Donna... NO... NO."   I thought, "What the hell?"  Alex says, "Autumn, what's wrong?!?!"  Autumn, gasping, spurts out, "I don't want the "pole-leace" to arrest MaMa Donna!" Alex, laughing, asks, "For what...?"  Autumn replies, "There's no sign here!"  Sign? "There's not one'a those wheel chair signs...!"  

It all becomes clear to me and Alex: Autumn thought I had  to park in a handicap space and, 'cause I didn't, feared  the cops were gonna come and get me.  Laughter all around.  

Another story for the ages.

Ahhh... Have a good day, Althea.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Scootering around Calico Rock

I have showed some photos of past travels in some of the national parks in the US.  Today I want to post a few pics of Calico Rock, AR about 45 minutes away from our house. We live in a part of the  Ozarks that is a vacation destination all by itself and we take advantage of that constantly. 

If we have a houseguest, we always drive them to Calico Rock, Blanchard Springs, Gunner Pool, all within 45 minutes. Blanchard Springs and Gunner pool are part of the Ozark National Forest. 

Calico Rock has a ghost town right next door. Actually it is old Calico Rock that was just left to rot away. There is still a Calico Rock Main Street with stores, mostly for tourists, but a small population keeps Calico Rock going.

Native wood holds up for years.

Broken bridge. How would you like scootering over that?

Window in old CR. Nature has reclaimed her own

Gunners pool, part of the Ozark National Forest is a must see for anyone.  It’s tough on a scooterer, but some of it is doable. Regardless, it is worth the trip, even if some of it has to be seen through a car window.

Gunner pool waterfall

Alligator fossil, no not really, but it doesn't take much imagination to see it.

We have no idea why so many butterflies decided to visit this spot all at the same time.  But we did get a photo of some of them.

Butterfly convention.

A visit to the Natural State has to include seeing the old town of Calico Rock and the recreational areas of Ozark National Forest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Subtle put downs

We are fixated in this country on the way people look. Really, we don't care what men look like, but women?  Oh women must look the right way.  They have to be able to grace a magazine cover and never never ever look 'different.'  And you have ways of letting us know that we are different.  

This post is mainly aimed toward men, but believe me, women can be equally cruel. They do it on purpose. Men just don't know any better.

Remember the very old joke, “For a fat girl, you don’t sweat much.”  That’s not very subtle, but it leads the way down the subtle put down rabbit hole.

And trust me, we hear lots of them….and you don’t even know you are doing it.  

How about, “You are looking great for someone your age.” Nice to hear that, isn’t it?  If I hear that once more, I shall be jailed shortly after doing great bodily harm to the next person who says that.

“You have such a beautiful face.”

"They had that suit in your size?"

How about, “Grey hair looks nice on you.”  Howja like to hear that?

Or, “You sure have adapted well to life on wheels. Did it make you gain weight?”

What about that doctor who pats on the shoulder and then says, “There, there, you will be fine.”

“Too bad you can’t walk anymore. You had such beautiful long legs”

These barbs are spoken by perfectly healthy (usually) men in suits who walk with assurance up to us and throw these words at us. They make us feel as if they are doing us a favor just to be recognized.  If we insist on equality, we hear yet another put down.  They wonder why we want high toilets, ramps, grab bars. After all, we are only a few people and obviously not to be taken seriously.

But we have to keep fighting no matter how long it takes.  And then fight again.

Hell, I’ll take, “For a fat girl, you don’t sweat much.”

When will you ever learn? When will  you ever learn. 


Monday, September 14, 2015

Cherr-errr-rie CherrieBaaabeee

Cherrie and Jan have been friends for like twenty-five years.  Took less than a day after I met Cherrie to know we'd be friends, too.

Cherrie's someone anyone would want for a friend. She's intelligent.  We've lost count of her degrees. Cherrie is talented.  A dynamite photographer.  A massage therapist with the hands of an angel. She's kind, caring, thoughtful.  Cherrie is also silly.  And I love silly.  If you're  always ready to play a joke on someone, I'm you're man.  Cherrie's a great playmate, too.  Like, how many people can you find - over fifty - who'll get down and dirty with you - over sixty - digging for crystals 'round Mount Ida, looking for fossils among along a rocky road, or help you weed your garden and think its' fun.

Over the last year or so, our good friend has been preparing to embark on an adventure many folks would consider crazy.  Especially crazy for a single woman in her mid fifties.  Cherrie has been in the process of selling all of her belongings.  Yes, you read that correctly: SELLING ALL OF HER BELONGINGS.  What in the hell drove her to that? A dream.  A very BIG DREAM:  To be foot-loose and fancy-free and travel the world for as long as she wants.  To go where she wants, when she wants.  To stay.  Or to go.  France.  Germany. Maybe Turkey.  Certainly Africa. And who knows where else.  Only Cherrie will know when Cherrie knows.

She's gonna do it.  She's leaving on a jet plane... in October.  Landing in London.  Then maybe Scotland, Ireland.  On then to Gay Paree.  Next: Spain.  Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago.  The entire way.  The over the Pyreness way.  Hundreds of kilometers.  Hannibal move outta the way, CherrieBaby is a'coming.

Courage with a capital C and ends with E.  That's Cherrie with a capital C and ends with E...

And, the best thing for all of us: Cherrie will be blogging all along the way, taking pics and posting. Her blog'll be "A Ribbon of Road".  Watch for it.
We'll keep you posted.

And... Althea, have a good day.     

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Disability and Disaster

If you are disabled, you fear any natural catastrophe, whether weather related or unnatural one like fire or a bomb. Hell, everybody fears them. We just have some extra obstacles to overcome. I have read newspaper articles about cars jumping a curb and landing in a living room or bedroom. These things happen rarely, but they do happen. I should know. Hurricane Katrina happened to us.

So what do we do when we are affected by something we cannot control?  What if we have to evacuate our houses or towns? Even something as simple as losing electricity can end the lives of some disabled people. 

Most of us are not rich and can’t afford back up generators at our houses. In a flood, they would be of no help anyway unless they were on the roof, and I have never seen one installed like that.

Obviously we have to rely on others in case of any emergency when things do not go according to our carefully laid out plans.  

Do you have a ‘getoutofhere’ plan? I can still drive, so this is less of an emergency for me than others. Really, as important as some ‘things’ are in my life, nothing is as important as getting the hell out of the way of danger.

You are probably going to need help evacuating unless  you are independent enough to drive yourself away.  If you value your things so much, you just can’t leave them behind, you need a strong backed person to load your stuff in your vehicle. 

Do you have one of those ‘life alert’ necklaces.  Use it.  If for no other reason than it may notify people who can help you.

Take a cellphone with you. Use it to tell your friends and relatives that you are OK after you are safe. You probably text with your phone. That may be your only way of communication. Often cell phones don't work after a disaster, so factor that in. If you don’t know how to text, learn. Know the phone numbers of the people you need to be in touch with. Your memory will desert you, so have those numbers in the phone.

Keep every electronic device fully charged. You may not be near electricity soon. Take them all with you. Computer, tablet, phone, laptop.  Take ‘em along. Many of your records are there. You will need access to them.

If you have to rely on someone else to help, have them no more than 5 minutes away.  Be sure you have several people on stand by in case the first few are unavailable. 

I know I have not remembered everything I learned pre and post Hurricane Katrina.  If you have anything to add, let me know by commenting in the comment section.

Be alert, be aware, be safe.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Disability and Death

Ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed, talk of death panels has spread throughout the country.  Seems as if, since the insurance companies are so powerful that they could easily decide who dies and when they do it. Just so we old folks, especially the disabled of us, would not bleed the insurance companies of all their profit.  

That didn’t happen.  I doubt that it will. What has happened so far is one more state has given all of us the right to die with dignity rather than having to die in agony for months or years just because we are not allowed to end our lives legally. So now, we have Washington, Oregon, Vermont and recently California. No longer do we have to wait for some law telling us that we must stay alive no matter what. We can be brain dead, but must be kept alive. Not only are we the almost dead suffering, but more than that, our friends and relatives go through hell until finally we stop breathing.

Should we be allowed to die with a doctor’s assistance? What do you think and why? After all, we have no value and have had no value since we became disabled citizens. 

Some folks think our lives should be terminated in the womb if our disabilities are discovered then. Genetic testing has evolved so far that many disabilities can be predicted with a degree of certainly.    I wonder what the extent of disability has to be for us to be born.  Down Syndrome?  Born or not? What about a missing leg? How about a heart that is not fully formed?  Anencephaly? That way we won’t even know we were born or not.  Where do we draw the line? Being a bioethics professional is a tough job these days. I wouldn’t want to be one.

But we do get born and then we develop a disability. Now what? I did not have a disability until I was 64 years old. I owned businesses, had employees, paid taxes, owned houses, traveled and was considered an upstanding citizen. Well, I am a lesbian, but lived in the tolerant city of New Orleans, so that was not a handicap.  Seems like it might be in Arkansas and headed that way again back in Louisiana. 

At any rate, I am disabled now. Do I have a certain number of years before I am discarded and no longer valued? I was devalued considerably because I have to travel on a scooter. When one is under 4’ tall, value decreases.  And fast.

I have made my own choices and will live or die when I want to, not when some law says I have to.  I really don’t care what the law is.  I have been known to break one or two in my lifetime.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Donna Speaks: Who is Crazy?

Ya'll remember Marty Feldman.  Ya know, the British actor with the eyes that really bugged out.  He played Gene Wilders' assistant in "Young Frankenstein" - the hunch back whose hump kept changing from his left shoulder, to his right shoulder, to his left, etc.  Marty was responsible for procuring the monster's brain.  Scouring the lab for the appropriate specimen, Marty grabbed a jar that he thought was labeled, 'Abby Normal" when it really read, "Abnormal".  You know the rest.

Marty also played Michael York's, "twin", Digby, to York's "Beau",  in, "The Last Remake of Beau Geste".  After losing their inheritance, they joined the French Foreign Legion and were sent to some really hot and sandy place.  At the end of the movie, Michael York, the hero, was awarded a medal for bravery.  He asked his "twin brother" what he thought of the medal.  Marty replied, " Medals are like hemorrhoids, sooner or later, every asshole gets one. 

Let me explain why Marty Feldman popped into my brain when I decided to write about another group of "The Invisible Ones": individuals with mental health handicaps.  If we are honest with  ourselves, we are all,  "sooner or later... Abby Normal". OK.  So the Marty Feldman thing is a stretch.

Mental illness, like other illnesses, can happen once in a life time: "I broke my leg when I fell outta a tree when I was five years old."  Or, it can be a life-long problem: " I am a paraplegic because I broke my neck when I fell outta a tree when I was five years old."

In my professional life I worked with about half, I broke my leg, and half, I broke my neck.  When folks would ask me, "How can you work with crazy people?!", I tell them, "I don't."  I work with people who'd tried their best to climb the Tree of Life carefully, but fell along the way, and were injured.  Like my friend who ended up with Althea in her front yard as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Have a good day, Althea.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Disability and Abortion

I know this topic has been done to death, but I want to revisit it once again.  What with  the way things are going with old men making decisions about what women can do with their bodies, the entire discussion may be moot anyway. After all, men have made almost 400 laws about what women can or can't do with their bodies.

But, whether abortion is legal or not, there will still be abortions. They will just be illegal and dangerous abortions.  That won’t change. For the record, I think that men do not need to be involved in abortion at all. Women should make that decision. And I think it should be legal everywhere.  

Let’s visit the ever enhanced and evolving genetic testing that we have today and why might people choose to abort.

We can now do genetic testing in utero to diagnose disease.  Tay Sachs, a disease that affects the neurological system of a child, limiting the child’s life to usually under 2 years, for example can be tested for in utero.  So what should the parents do?  Their decision, right? And probably the most difficult one they will ever make. But it is theirs to make.

Down Syndrome can be tested in utero as well. Now what? The parents now can decide if they want to abort the Down Syndrome affected child. Is Down Syndrome a disability? Is it?  Or CP, or MD? Are you sure? Think about it. Do those children have value? Or not?

What other supposed disabilities can be tested for?  And then what? Are we showing that we don’t value our children if they are not exactly the same as other children? And if we don’t value them as children, will we value them as adults?

Then comes homosexuality or any of the differences that fall under the LGBT umbrella. Trust me, there are many. And we know they are genetic. How soon will we be able to test for that?  Then what?  More abortions? Do we have so little value that no parent would want us?

Will we be able to test for blue eyes? Curly hair? Height and weight? What about IQ?

These are decisions that must be make pre life. We tread on dangerous ethical ground here. 

And soon we will visit what can happen to disabled people at the other end of their lives? When do we who are disabled stop having value? At what age? Can I hear 70? 80 maybe?

Makes me wonder.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I wonder what we who have some disability, whether intellectual, psychological or physical, or something else face as our biggest problem.  I know there are degrees of disability.  Some of us have been disabled since birth, others because of an accident or illness, and others because of a limiting progressive illness. 

But do we have one huge thing in common. Perhaps it is the biggest problem we all face on a daily basis. And it isn’t disability or problems with housing or a personal assistant or navigating through a store. 

We can call it lots of things. How about exclusion?  Much of the time we are excluded from group activity because of our particular disability precludes inclusion.  Our friends might decide to meet at a restaurant or club that doesn’t now afford us access.  We tell them, “Just go anyway and have a good time.”  And we stay home again.  

Or we can call it lack of public knowledge.  No one really thinks of the disabled as part of the community. For years we locked the ‘different’ in the attic or put them in institutions. We may not do that anymore, but we have sheltered workshops that prey on the disabled.  Don’t we all give donations to Goodwill; they employ disabled folks and pay them well below minimum wage. But the top executives make millions per year. I hesitate to call it earn, because it’s money they get on the backs of the disabled.

Isolation is another word for our daily lives. We usually can’t head on over to a community center, senior center or campus union because we can’t get in or maybe we can, but fear that we will not be recognized as a human being, laughed at, excluded and left alone sitting in the rear. In our place, you know.

But let’s call it what it really is. Loneliness.  It’s what we go through most of the time. We are not afforded access to public places,  are employed well below standard wages, unable to participate in public groups, usually excluded from political or social groups.  At least we can attend (usually) the movies. If we can afford it, get in the theatre and find a place to sit. But the movies are an individual thing to do. I don’t care if a group of 20 people go to the movie. You watch it alone, no talking, no socializing. You watch the movie and then you go home.   How about a summer evening picnic?  Yeah, sure.  If people think to invite you, how are you going to get to the picnic area or heaven forbid, the beach? 

Think about that. We are lonely.  We usually have a TV and most of us have computers. That’s how we keep in touch with the outside world. Because that’s about all we have.

See Finding our tribe. Keep on searching, people, it's out there somewhere.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sounds Easy Enough

On 15 July 2015 I ordered a new mattress. It was to be a real treat to replace an old Tempurpedic that had lost its memory years ago.

My new mattress arrived on 24 July. Two delivery people put it in place.  I loved my new mattress until….. I wrote the company on 2 August, a few short days later because my beloved new bed was sagging. It took me two weeks to convince them that the mattress was sagging. I even had to put a level on the mattress to prove it. Like I would want to replace a good mattress.  They finally told me they would indeed replace the mattress as long as I paid the $150.00 shipping charge again. 

Uh uh. Their problem, they pay. They finally agreed after I had to take my case to the upper managers. (Their words)

On August 14, after some angry letters, someone arrived from the delivery company and took my mattress away, but they did not bring me a new one. What?

I was left with box springs and no mattress. Now what?  I hauled the single bed mattress from the guest room to my queen size box springs, surrounded it with pillows and slept on that. It was a poor excuse for my new, but saggy and now gone mattress.

On September 2nd, my second new mattress arrived and was set up by the delivery men. Then they pointed out a big stain on the mattress.  I also noticed that the pillow top was crimped at the corners.


The following day, I notified the company of the stains and crimps.  I got an apology and a promise to deliver a new mattress. Uh uh. I want my money back. They say I will get my money back as soon as they get the mattress back and would come to get it soonest.  I have not heard a word since.

How long can this travesty go on?

I will let you know the outcome of the continuing mattress saga.