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.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Why do I Have a Label?

Uhhh. Sadly, most of us as we age find our bodies don’t perform as well as they did 20 years ago. Or maybe as well as yesterday.  

I know my 75 year old body resists so many things that I could easily do just a few years ago. I use to open jars for other people, now, I need help in opening the ones I want to use. Thank heavens they make nifty little gadgets these days to help open jars, to help reach and pick up things.

I love my grabbers. I have them inside and outside. They let me pick up something off the floor without asking somebody else.  I can get stuff down off a high shelf.  Why the hell did I put stuff up there? Was I taller when I put the stuff up there? Must be.

And if I can’t  right off put my hands on that little piece of rubber made to help open jars because some invisible occupant of the house did not return it to its spot, I can slam that sucker down on the counter to loosen it up or better yet, I have a pair of channel locks that can get tops off most jars.

My balance continues to worsen, but I can still get where I want to go in the house. And outside I have my trusty scooter to get into the garden or down to the mailbox at the end of the driveway.

It is the rest of the world who calls me disabled. The people and places who do not make their homes or businesses accessible. If they were available to me to spend money in, I would be just like ever other 75 year old.  No longer disabled.  Only old and that’s fine.

It’s funny that if anyone is anything that falls outside of the white, male, abled, wage earning, ideal that has been set up as what we all need to be or at least aspire to, we are disabled and see displays of prejudice every single day.  

In 1964, we had a law that gave civil rights to African Americans who had never been covered by the Constitution before. They were then able to vote and attend integrated schools.  Although that has worked a little bit, we have not yet gotten past the inculcated racism that is endemic in our country. We can certainly see it in the Republican party these days with the candidates telling us how wholesale racism will make this country great. Go figure. 

The Equal Rights amendment was proposed in 1923 and again in 1972. It has not yet been ratified by the number of states required to make women equal to men. For some reason that’s OK with women. Go figure. 

The ADA was made into law 25+ years ago. It has not yet done much.

So maybe instead of making laws about disability rights, gay rights, rights for people of color, women’s rights, we need to just have equal rights for the entire population.  Why must we be ranked? And who does the ranking and the ensuing separation?

Really, male citizens of the US, is power and control so important to you that making everyone else feel small, powerless and not part of your tribe, that you do not follow the laws of the country and feel justified in doing so. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I'm as Corny as Kansas.....

Kansas is a long state if you are driving it the east/west way.  It took me a few days to get across it with not all that many tourist spots to see.

Truman Capote wrote “In Cold Blood’  He lived in New Orleans, so I wanted to see where he did his research for his book http://www.thenation.com/article/november-15-1959-the-clutter-family-is-murdered-in-holcomb-texas-later-the-subject-of-truman-capotes-in-cold-blood/

I spent a day near Holcomb, Kansas seeing the spot  http://www.house-crazy.com/in-cold-blood-murder-house-in-holcomb-kansas/ where the Herbert Clutter family was murdered by two men who thought there was a large amount of money hidden in the house.  Truman Capote wrote about the murder in the book, “In Cold Blood.” The murders happened while I was in high school and the newspapers were full of the story.  I was fascinated not even imagining that anybody would murder anyone for any reason.  I was 17 years old and naive. Growing up in a really small town will do that for a child. And, of course, Truman Capote lived and worked in New Orleans, so I had a connection to him when I moved there in 1969.  I had to visit and I did.  Holcomb, Kansas is about as unassuming as any town of under 3000 people. There’s no reason for a tourist to visit, but I wanted to and I did. I spent the day looking around and buying the night’s dinner and slept in a park nearby. I often slept in city parks, fairgrounds or other public spaces in a town.  I didn’t put up the tent when I did that and only was awakened by a policeman once and that was in Mill Valley, CA, in Marin County just on the north side of the Golden Gate bridge.

After seeing that part of Kansas in the blistering heat, with the cottonwood doing what they do in late June,  I went to Dodge City to have a drink at the Long Branch.  I know it was backtracking a bit, but remember I didn’t have an itinerary  and I had plenty of time.

In 1973, the Long Branch Saloon did not serve alcohol. I couldn’t believe it. So I had to have a root beer. They called it Sasaparilla.  Not beer, for sure and It was disappointing.

The second night, I stayed in some very flat county park. Oh before I say that, I should say that the cottonwood tree is the state tree of Kansas. It’s a fine tree except in June. In May and June it flings its seeds around so the ground looks like this:

And that cottony stuff builds up against the side of the tent.  And another by the way, the winds blow, never ending just like they do in East Texas, and maybe West Texas too. I think I was still picking out cottonwood cotton in Wyoming.

Kansas was easy to drive in. You can see a hundred miles easy with no hills. And it was Kansas that brought me to Colorado.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Donna Speaks: Adventures with Mike

You'll remember me mentioning dad's Weimaraner, Mike, in my last post: Pump It Up. Mike was a favorite of my oldest son. 

Mike was a very big imposing dog, as most Weimaraners are.  But they are obedient, playful, protective, lovable and loving dogs.  My dad had trained Mike and he unfailingly did my dad's bid.  

One favorite trick was tell Mike to lie down and put both paws straight out in front of him on the ground.  Dad would then place treats on the top of Mike's paws. The dog would sit, staring at the treats and, very patiently, wait for dad to say "OK, Mike."  I think the dog woulda waited forever, with those treats on his paws, to get dad's ok.

My oldest son was a little over a year old when we traveled in our VW camper van from Fayetteville, NC, where his dad was stationed, to Alexandria.  It was summer and we were all (mom, dad, me, my son's dad, and my oldest son) outside, sitting in lawn chairs under the mimosa trees.  Mike was there, too.

Mike got up from laying at my dad's feet and moseyed around to carport, probably headed for his water near the back door spigot.  Number One son toddled behind him.

Not long after the two had headed for the back, I heard moaning.  Initially, I ignored the soulful sound.  Then everyone noticed it and remarked.  Dad said, "It sounds like a dog... like Mike... What the hell?!".

I got up to investigate, following the "OOOUUUUOOOAAA".  As I rounded the corner, the sight I saw proved dad right.

Mike was standing very still and stiff in the green grass next to the carport with his head was lifted toward the sky in a mournful howl. 

Number One Son was strategically situated, and peering at Mike's rear end.  He had a very determined but curious look on his face.  His big brown eyes were twice their normal size. 

As I walked up by the side of the two, I saw Number One Son's little one-year-old-hands holding, and squeezing, as hard as he could, Mike's balls. Intermittently, he would kinda twist the balls.  (Testicle Torsion Twist.)  Mike moaned particularly loudly when Number One applied the TTT.  My son was mesmerized.

I called my son's name, "What are you doing?!"  Mike turned his head and looked at me with a "For god's sake, HELP ME!" in his bluish eyes.
"Momma, see?"  said Number One, wide smile on his face. "Balls, momma.  Balls!" He giggled. "See... see".  He was just tickled pink and very proud of his accomplishment.

Fortunately, a 25 pound, one year old's small hands do little permanent damage to a Weimaraner's balls.  So Mike was no worse for the wear and my son had had his first experience balls other than his own.

Coincidently, the "Mike Adventure" was, in a way, a predictor of things to come in Number One Son's future life.

Bless his little heart.

Have a great day, Miss Althea.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pump It Up

My middle son, was born in September 1976. Middle son's cousin, my older sister's youngest daughter, was born a month earlier in August.  Whenever our family went home to visit from where ever middle son's air force dad was stationed, the two would "play" together.  You'll understand the reason I put quotes around play after I relate the following.

It was one of those hot-as-hell Louisiana summer days. Our family of five was staying at my mom and dad's house by Bayou Roberts, a few miles south of Alexandria.  Middle son and his cousin had been outside most of the morning and it was time to call them in for a bologna sandwich, chips, and grape Kool-Aid lunch.

They'd been on mom and dad's carport, playing with Mike, my parent's Weimaraner, and a neighbor's much smaller mutt.  I looked out the carport window and, sure 'nuff, there they were.

But, wait... I looked more closely. What were they doing? I paused and observed the two soon to be five year olds.  

Both dogs were laying close to each other, sprawled out on the cool concrete slab. Middle son was standing next to the small mutt, holding dad's bike pump with both hands - handle all the way up.  His face, framed with his remarkable red hair, looked very purposeful and determined.  

I had a side view of the slim cousin.  She was sitting, cross-legged, next to the mutt, her big brown eyes fixed on middle son.  And  she was holding the end of the bike pump hose in her four year old hands, moving it toward the mutt's rear end.

"Holy Crap!," I said out loud and quickly opened the door.

"Hey!"  I called loudly.  Both heads whipped toward me.

"What are you two doing?"

"Nut'in, momma," middle son replied as his face crinkled up. 

"Uhhhh...", was cousins's answer as her eyes popped and she dropped the hose.

I stepped out and stood over the kids and the unmoving dogs. 

"Momma... momma... we was just... Well, see Mike is so big... and... ahhh... we wanted to make Susie big, too.  See, " 

Middle son continued as he motioned his head toward the pump. 
"So Donnan found my dad's bike pump and we were gonna pump Susie up... See... momma...? We wanted to make her big like Mike."

I held back my laughter and gently discouraged my son and niece from completing their intended task.

But, I don't know.  Thinking about it now:  Maybe it woulda worked.

Have a great day, Miss Althea.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Family Therapy

When a family is in crisis, any or all the members often seek family counseling.  Dad thinks he can just ignore the problem and it will go away. Mom thinks she can fix it all by herself because she is the strength in the family. The children are usually most affected, but they are not sure why.  It's entirely possible that one or more of the children are the reason for the family crisis.

Family counseling participants often present as mom arriving at the therapist's office saying, "I want you to see my 12 year old daughter because she has a problem."  The family counselor takes a history and generally responds, "You are going through a crisis as a family, therefore, I need to see every member of the family.  I will see you and your husband separately and together, then I will see your 12 year old and as we find out what out the problems are from her perspective.  Then we will deal with the problem as a family, together and separately."

A good counselor will recognize that the family problem might be temporary and easily talked through in a short time. It also may deal with a long term problem such as dealing with a disability of a child or one of the parents.  A treatment plan for the family can be devised and then altered as the family needs dictate.  If the family is in crisis, the therapist will see them perhaps as much as twice a week. As the crisis abates, the sessions may be only once a week until everyone is comfortable.

A good family counselor will be able to deal with every member of the family, refer if necessary. For example, if drugs or alcohol are involved, perhaps a referral to an inpatient or outpatient drug or alcohol rehabilitation program. The other treatment programs will also have a family treatment component and it then becomes part of the total treatment team for the family.

Family counseling must involve all members of the family in distress. The family is equally involved in the treatment plan, defining short and long term goals.  Often family counseling can bring a family back together will all of them working to resolve the family crisis.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Donna Speaks: Giving up the Tit

You know, if you've read my blog posts, that I had three sons who are now three handsome, intelligent, wonderful men.  When a mother says that, she means that her children no longer live with her, they all have jobs, and they are financially independent.  These are the three hallmarks of successful parenting.

I breast fed all three boys: the oldest, for almost a year; the middle, for about six months; and, the youngest, for only about four months.  The reason for the decreasing time breast-feeding was not a lack of commitment on my part, but sibling rivalry and the fact that all three boys had minds of their own.  

My oldest had no competitors except, at a year old, a nasty case of an intestinal virus that necessitated a week long hospitalization of IV fluids. With nothing by mouth, weaning became inevitable.

My middle son had little competition from his older brother; he was in preschool.  So competition wasn't really what caused his wean.  My middle son determined his own fate.  

He was around six months old and decided the only time he wanted to breast feed was between two and four in the morning.

He didn't wanna suckling when normal babies do.  No, not for breakfast in the morning, when he awoke.  No cuddle with mommy then.  And, it was also a "No thanks, mom" when he was ready for bed at night.  Not this baby boy. 

Swear to whomever you swear to, he'd wake me up every-single-morning-between-two-and-four and yell-scream-wail-whine til I answered his primal call.

For several weeks, the whole house endured these four to five hours long, early morning tantrums from Number Two Son.  And I endured wearing a nursing bra to bed - over-stuffed with kleenex to absorb the leakage.

Then, through the brain fog caused by very little sleep and a screaming red-headed child, the solution became clear: Benign Neglect.

It took four to five straight nights ignoring the cacophony, but the babe gradually gave up, and hushed up.  Normalcy returned to our household.  Well, let me say, as normal as our household ever got. 

Number three son really never had a chance to breast-feed until he wanted to wean.

What happened is gonna be fodder for my next post.  That, and the Marshmallow Tales.

Have a great day, Miss Althea.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

O-o-o-Oklahoma Where the Wind, Well, You Know the Rest

Lake Tenkiller, Photo from Lake Tenkiller State Park

I had now been on the road for about three weeks now. I learned so very much about the people I met and interacted with.  Every day I stopped and bought something for lunch and usually for dinner at the same time. I had also found a tiny ice chest for keeping a few things cool.  

I would always park near the door of whatever store I was going to.  I usually came back to my bike, made my sandwich and ate it either on my bike or under a tree nearby.  Folks would always come over to talk. Usually they wanted to know where I had come from and where I was going.

Geez, I had a Louisiana license plate and really no idea where I was going. Most also said they would be afraid of traveling like I was.  But also most said they wish they could just take off on a bike for as long as they wanted, but they just couldn’t. They would have to wait until they retired.   

They had jobs that they could not quit. They had wives, children or husbands to care for. They had RESPONSIBILITIES.  They had to have jobs to pay for their houses and cars that were expensive. They had to waste hours a day driving back and forth to a job they hated so they could collect a paycheck. They didn’t realize that if they didn’t have big houses and cars, they would have those awful responsibilities.

Even my parents were appalled at what I was doing, but once in talking to my dad, he said he would love to be going along right then. He wasn’t retired yet back in 1973 and would never be one to shirk any responsibilities to my mother, so put off his traveling until several years later.

Another thing that I learned was that 200 miles a day was the most I ever wanted to go in one day. And I took a break every 50 miles.

I rode into Oklahoma at the southeast corner. 

I found Lake Tenkiller after finding it on a map and seeing a lake there. I headed straight north to Tenkiller. What a road to the now state park.   It was not much more than a path. And a ten mile long path.  Motorcycles do not do well in sand or gravel, tending to slide around and fall over. I didn’t do that but I’m surprised I didn’t.  I kept thinking, this better be worth it just for a place to sleep.  I rode in mostly standing up on my bike. That’s a good way to stay balanced in sand and gravel.

And worse  yet, in order to get out, I had to retrace my route back through all that sand and gravel.  I was glad to see a place to sleep, but when I woke up, I ate, packed, had a look around, and left soon.  And had to stand up while riding or get off and walk most of the way while pushing my bike. Bye bye, Tenkiller.

 I had been through Oklahoma before, so wasn’t really all that excited about doing it again.  My time there had been spent near Norman and Oklahoma City.  This time I wanted to see the southeast corner.  

From Tenkiller.com

“The construction was begun on the Tenkiller Ferry Dam in 1947. The lake was named after the Tenkillers (a prominent Cherokee family who owned land and worked a ferry service near the site where the dam is now located. The Legend states that during the “Trail of Tears” era, the Cherokee warrior received his name by the soldiers and pioneers at Fort Gibson because of the ten notches in his bow.”

I continued north through Oklahoma and was in Kansas before I knew it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

You are Temporarily Abled

Let's face it. When you think of plumbing and aging, you think about having to get up at night. You don't think about installing a different style toilet.  But installing a new toilet is part of aging, just as replacing other bathroom fixtures that you never really think about until you need them.

Baby boomers, those born from 1946 to 1964 are headed into retirement age and with it, diseases and mobility problems caused by aging. Boomers are insisting that houses be build or retrofit to include their needs as the age. Boomers do not want to seek nursing home or assisted living care if they can be independent. A few adjustments to their houses can make barrier free living possible. Many of those adjustments include bathrooms that can make the room safer for the occupants of the house. Making plumbing work for the house is more important than you think.  Ask your plumber what is best for your needs and wants.

In fact, builders are beginning to build barrier free houses. Building that way adds little if anything to the cost of building and makes it possible to live in your house when disabilities begin to impede your mobility.

Those of you who think you will never be disabled, you are wrong.  You are only temporarily abled. Think of your older relatives.  How many could live independently as they aged?  If their plumbing were modified so bathrooms were accessible would they be able to live at home longer? Why not make your home accessible when you are building it and not wait until you need to retrofit?  

As boomers age, we have needs for barrier free houses including taller toilets, walk in tubs, and showers that can accommodate wheelchairs.  Your plumber is an expert in guiding you how to best meet your needs.

Ask about different bathtubs and showers.  Some bathtubs are designed with doors in them, so you can walk in, close the door, sit down, fill the tub with water and enjoy a bath.  If you are shower person, some showers have seats built in, others have no lip and a wheelchair can roll in.  
You can get sinks that a wheel chair fits under or one that is mounted lower than regular sinks to allow easier use.  Even different styles of faucets for sinks, showers and tubs can make it easier for painful hands to use.

Toilets come in different configurations and heights so you can get one that meets your needs.

Getting older is difficult for anyone. Make easier on yourself. Oh, and stay in your home longer. Assisted living is expensive.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Different Beat

When my three boys were youngsters, we lived in Biloxi, MS.  Their dad was in the air force stationed at Keesler AFB.  Before I became gainfully employed at the welfare department (that's what they called it in the 70's), I spent lots of time playing at beaches with them.

That's correct: beaches.  When I told them, "Get ready. We're going to the beach."  They'd always ask, "The clean beach or the dirty beach?"

"The Dirty Beach" was the one in Biloxi; "The Clean Beach" was 90 minutes away in Alabama.

One this particular occasion, we went to the dirty beach.
In addition to the litter that littered the beach, both from beach goers and from fishermen, there was often dead fish in varying degrees of decomposition strewn along the water's edge.  

But we'd make the best of it, pick up around our chosen spot, lay out our blanket, and get down to the business of sand and water play.

Oh, there was one more obstacle:  the water was the color of chocolate milk.  So when the boys went in the water, I'd have to be hypervigilant 'cause once they went under, they were invisible.   

"Scot... Tod... Jeff... 1...2...3...1...2...3...where...oh, there... hey, where's your brother?" and so on.

This particular day, Tod, who was four+ years, ran from the water to me.  I was sitting on the blanket scrapping sand off his little brother Jeff's tongue.  

"Mom... gotta pee, gotta pee!" as he danced the well-known pee-jig.  "Ok... just go in the water..." I told him offhandedly, forgot about him, and turned my attention back to the task at hand - sand removal.  

Shortly thereafter, my oldest, Scot, almost seven, yells, "MaaaaMom!  Hey, MAAAAMOM!"  "What!?" I replied. "Maaamom... Look at Tod."  I turned my head to the water and Tod.

There Tod was. Standing in the water.  Standing knee deep in the water.  His swim suit was around his ankles, swaying to and fro with the tide.  He had his little dick in his little hands, with his fully exposed little butt kinda tucked in... Ya know, in that guy-peeing-posture.  And he was letting the pee rip, in that well-known pee-arch - for all the world to see.

"But, mom," as he explained to me later, "Ya told me to pee in the water."  It was my fault; I'd just forgotten to tell the little man NOT to pull his swim suit down... 

Who woulda thunk?!

To a different drummer that child, now a man, has always walked.

That was probably the first time, of many times, throughout the years, that I called out, "Taaaa-oddd?"

Have a great day, Miss Althea. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Biking Through Arkansas

Just to give you an idea of what my plans are, this is map of all the national parks in the the country and a suggestion of a good route to take.   I followed it amazingly closely without even planning to.

Arkansas is one really pretty state. I thought that then and here 40 years later I am living here still thinking it’s a pretty state.  Most of the bottom half is relatively flat, but when you get north a bit, you run smack into the Ozark Mountains. Now they aren’t much in the way of mountains, not like the Rockies, the Cascades or even the Adirondacks. But they are beautiful.  

Arkansas has no national park, at least it didn’t in 1973. But it did have the Buffalo National River, now a national river, but not then.


It has many fine places to hike and most of all, for me, a great highway on which to put a Motorcycle through its paces. The idea when riding roads like this one are to make a turn and have your foot pegs scrape the road. That’s the mark of either an experienced biker or a dumb one, maybe both.

The Ozark Folk Center was opened for the first time in May 1973. It sure didn’t look like it does today, now that I am living within 15 minutes of it.  It has real biker days, featuring bike riders from all over the country who are welcomed to Mountain View, a far cry from folks who crossed the street to avoid us back in 1973.

And I had to go to Toad Suck, Arkansas because with a name like that, there had to be something there. There wasn't. Now there is a Toad Suck Days festival, but I have not been to it now that I live here.

As much as I love Arkansas, I need to go to Kansas because there’s no other way to get to Colorado.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Donna Speaks: How is your Cognition?

I thank Jan for her blog post on clinical depression. It was very informative and helpful.  I hope anyone who recognizes the symptoms does value themselves enough to get thee to a therapist.

I have some additional information to share that I also think will be informative and helpful to you.

Clinical Depression (CD) takes a toll on us from at least four different fronts.

The first front, Jan described: Clinical depression caused by situations we find ourselves in that are beyond our control.  A relationship break-up, the loss of a job, or retirement from your life long job, losing possessions and/or your home as a result of a natural disaster can cause depression.

Jan also alluded to the second front: physiological. Depression can adversely affect all bodily systems. 

For example, we know that serotonin, that feel-good chemical healthy bodies produce, is well known as a brain neurotransmitter.  However, it is estimated that 90 percent of the body's serotonin is made in the digestive tract. In fact, altered levels of this peripheral serotonin have been linked to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. CD and osteoporosis linked?  You betcha.

Your immune system is also compromised by depression.  When depressed, you are more likely to catch that bug everyone else has.  Pain receptors become more sensitive: pain is more painful.  And, your heart really does hurt.

On the third, family and friends front, there is also no doubt that depression makes developing and maintaining relationships much more difficult. Depressed people often isolate, become social hermits.  This is not a conscious choice.  You can rightfully blame that on Big Ole Aunt Anhedonia who usually comes to visit.  When you are depressed, there ain't much you do that gives you pleasure.  So you are pretty much likely to curl up on your couch in a fetal position and suck your thumb.

The fourth front, the cognitive front, is often not discussed as much as it needs to be.  It is way-way-way important when doing therapy with CD folks.

Yes, when afflicted with CD, your mood is way, way down.  And you feel Yuckie-Yuckie-Yuckie.  But, your thoughts are, your thought process is, also really fucked up.  What didn't piss you off last week, does now.  The people you loved yesterday - especially your lover, husband, wife, partner, etc. - you cannot stand today.  Your job was OK; now it isn't.  What changed?  You did.  Your thoughts did. 

Your thinking did. When your body declines to produce enough of the feel-good chemicals, your thinking goes in the toilet.

For a great percentage of the time, the things that upset us do so not because they are by their nature upsetting, but because of the way we think about them.  This is why research has demonstrated that the most effective therapy for CD is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Our actions are a result of our feelings.  Feelings are based on the way we think about life, love, people, places, and things. So, in therapy, we examine your Belief System (BS), help you find the flaws in it, the unhealthy beliefs, the stinkin 'thinkin', and assist you in re-thinking your BS, so you do not think BullShit anymore.

The drugs used to treat CD treat mood and cognition.  They will elevate your mood and help correct your toilet-bowl thoughts.  It is essential, in the long run, that you are able to think critically about the way you think, and change your flawed thinking in order to have long term success.

More thoughts about depression in my next blog.

Miss Althea, have a great day.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Donna Speaks: Serendipity Too

I was visiting Jan in her Lakeview home shortly after we'd decided to ignore our usual "rules of engagement". I had initially thought Jan was full of shit, but made an exception in her case - considering all of her other wonderful qualities.  Jan had sworn never to be in a relationship with a social worker (They're all crazy!) or a woman with children (They're nothing but trouble!).  Considering all my other wonderful qualities, she also made an exception.

We we sitting next to each other on Jan's multicolored floral couch in her living room.  Jan was narrating her photo albums:  childhood photos, family, past encounters, friends.

As we traveled through her pictorial history, Jan casually pointed to a very young, smiling woman: slim with long brown curly hair.  "This is Tina," Jan casually said.  "I met her at her Dad's hardware store." 

"Hmmm," I thought and tilted my head like the RCA doggie.

"Tina?" I said. "Yes, Tina.  She lives in Arkansas now and has for many years. She takes care of the gardens at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View," and Jan flipped the page.  I flipped it back.

I'd visited both Mt. View and Mt. Home, an hour+ north of Mt. View, many times.  My younger sister and her partner had moved there 20+ years ago, and continued to make it their home. And, my older sister and her family had lived there for several years.

My Mom and Dad also visited often.  Dad loved to fly fish on the White River.  My family had canoed and camped on the Buffalo River and explored its cliffs.  My boys loved Blanchard Springs Caverns and pontoon boat trips on Bull Shoals. 

One special night we were anchored out in the middle of this beautiful manmade lake, swimming and lying on our backs in the boat watching stars shoot all over the clear night sky.  

Mtn. Home and Mtn. View were special places.

On one trip, my younger sister had a gathering in her home and invited some of her friends.  Among her friends were Tina.  Yep, Tina Marie.  She was there just a' visiting and a'playing her gee-tar and a'singin'.

"I know Tina," I told Jan.  "Huh?  Whatcha mean you know Tina?"   And I told her my story.

After selling our home in Slidell, LA, I made my last trip from our old to our new home in Mt. View.  Jan had already moved there a couple of years earlier to supervise renovations and commuted from Mountain View to Slidell every few months.  I brought grand children with me.

They loved Mt. View and Mt. Home.  They marveled at the many fossils we found around our home.  After their first trip to the Ozark Folk Center, during which they traipsed along with Tina Marie on her tour, they wanted to return the next day.  They were in awe of Blanchard Springs Caverns, and hiked up the mountain from the springs. 

They returned during Christmas vacation last year and were treated to the awesome view of the White River and Calico Rock from the cliffs by my younger sister and her partner. Afterwards, we all hiked along Livingston Creek and sat around a fire we'd made, just a'talking.

This past Christmas, Jan and I had the pleasure of Miss Tina Marie's company.  Her scrumptious greens were a great additional to our menu.  She brought her pup, Brinn, with her so she could socialize with our Bella and Sandy.

We all had a grand time. 
May the circle be unbroken.

Have a good day, Miss Althea.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Be a Good Girl

Men want to infantilize us. Evidently men, who do and are whatever they damned well please want to mate with little girls.

We are told from birth to act dumber than boys, to be good, to take orders, to not get dirty playing in the mud, to not eat too much.

As we get a bit older, we are told to dress right, not slutty, but sexy because we must please boys.  We must not do very well in school because that makes boys feel inferior. But we must wear short skirts or shorts because boys like that. 

We must wear make up because we certainly don’t look good enough without it for men to want to look at us.

Soon we must start shaving our armpits and our legs because men like that. Often woman shave their entire bodies except for the hair on their heads which men love long and flowing. Go figure.

Oh and women wear high heeled shoes because it supposedly makes their legs look better. Their feet are ruined, but they look like men want them to.

The younger women look, the more men want to be seen with them. If it were up to men, all women would look like ten year old girls in  high heels and make up. Oh, and have boobs. Can’t forget boobs because women will undergo surgery to make them bigger. Men love boobs almost more than hairless and vapid women. Boobs on a stick would be ideal for them.

No fat please.  Remember, you can’t eat much. Be thin or be shamed and alone. Fat women are judged on their appearance daily.  Being fat is one of the first things they are shamed for. The tinier women are the better men like it.  Remember the ten year old girl look. 

And there is the age thing.  You won’t see a 60 yo man marry a 80 yo woman, but they marry 20 yo women. Especially ones that are shaved bare everywhere and have big boobs.

Sadly, this ‘ideal woman’ image is reinforced by women. We are taught that by our mothers who were taught it by their mothers.  It’s reinforced in schools, churches, the media, even Girl Scouts. Girls must be good girls first, then must constantly force themselves to fit into that perfect idea of what women should look like.

When will we become people in our own right? Maybe when we reclaim our bodies, stop accepting laws that take away our rights as humans. Old white men make these laws and we blindly accept them, often inculcate them because institutions tell us we must in order to be part of the tribe we want to be a part of.

I started women’s consciousness raising groups back in the 60’s.  We were doing great, demanding equal rights and equal pay. Talking about being a person in our own right, not merely being an extension of some man.  But I still hear, “I have to ask my husband.”  “My husband doesn’t want me to work.” “My husband doesn’t want me to cut my hair.” 

All those changes were happening. But now we are regressing. 

What on earth is happening?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Therapy for Clinical Depression

How do we separate having a bad day from clinical depression?  Sometimes that's difficult to do.  If a loved one dies, we understandably have bad days, often many weeks of bad days. Or if we are out of work, go through a divorce, even retirement can spark clinical depression.

Any traumatic events can lead to bad days.  Suddenly, or not so suddenly, a string of bad days get so bad, we cannot function in day to day living.  We feel awful. We feel like dying could not be nearly as bad as living. We have a real problem just getting out of bed in the morning or sleeping at night.  And it never seems to end.  We may begin self medicating with alcohol or drugs, but they only make us feel better for hours and then the sad feelings are back.

 Our friends, family and colleagues ask us if we are OK.  We may well be suffering from clinical depression. It's time to look for a therapist who can help us get back to our life loving self.  She will begin depression therapy with us.

Depression therapy is often treated with the short term help of anti depressant drugs like Zoloft or Celexa. There are dozens of them and only an MD can prescribe them. So your therapy may begin with a visit to a psychiatrist or other medical doctor to get a prescription before you can begin talk therapy.  Sometimes the medication is enough and your depression will begin to lift in a couple of weeks.  One important thing medications can do is help lift your depression so you can concentrate on working with your therapist.

Talk therapy done by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker may often accompany your prescription drug therapy.  Choose one you can work with, one you were referred to by your psychiatrist or MD. A friend can also be a good referral source.

You will have an initial intake interview, often lasting 1.5 - 2 hours getting your history.  Don't hold back. Tell her everything. She will not judge you, nor can you tell her something she has not heard before.  The work to heal your depression starts here, so be honest.  It's important.

Depression therapy is done by both of you, often with your family as well.  All are important in your life and want you to return to the person you were before you got sick.  Ask them to become involved with the therapist if it can help you.

Getting better is not easy. It's hard work done by you and the therapist, often for 6 months.  Sometimes more.  Your insurance usually covers  your visits.  

Check with your insurance company and ask your potential therapist if she is a provider for your insurance company. Of course, any therapist will take cash. This is your health we are talking about and you can feel fine again.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Donna Speaks: A Fortunate Happenstance

I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window, washing dishes.  I heard the roar of a motorcycle and looked up.  This female-woman-lady person straddling a big ole black bike was carefully maneuvering it up the driveway to the house.  From her slim body, long legs extended on either side of the leather saddle to the foot pegs.

As the roaring stopped, she planted those long legs firmly on the ground. Still seated, she popped the chin strap and lifted the helmet off her head to reveal short, curly, mostly pepper hair.  The woman ran fingers of her left hand through her hair and turned to look at the house revealing a small, square face and brown eyes.  When she spied me in the window, her lips smiled a crooked smile and her left hand waved.  

The woman dismounted, shoved the kickstand solidly to the ground, tucked her black helmet under her right arm, and walked toward the house.

"Whoa!" I thought and something stirred in me.
My apartment in New Orleans had been broken into.  The thieves gained entry through a window - after they'd removed the a/c unit. Even took my phone. I wanted to move.  

A woman on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in rural Goodbee was looking for a house-sitter because she traveled a lot.  Anyway, my new job was at a psychiatric hospital on the northshore.  So I moved in to Liz's house. I'd only been there about a month when Liz came home for a respite and decided to throw a party.
Jan hardly knew Liz. She'd met her at a Christmas party. Didn't much like her. When she received Liz's invitation, she was less than excited but thought, "What the hell?"  Jan rode her Honda all the way from her Lakeview home in New Orleans, across the Pontchartrain Causeway, through Mandeville, Covington, and Madisonville to Goodbee.  It was over an hour trek that ended on a long-ass dirt-gravel road that led to the house.
If those assholes hadn't broken into my New Orleans apartment...  If Jan hadn't decided the hour-plus ride to a party was worth it...

Ahhhh... Serendipity

Have a great day, Miss Althea.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Our Intrepid Biker goes to Hot Springs, AR

Lake Ouchita

After a few more days on the road, camping in state parks and sorting things out, I landed in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It took me a week to start getting comfortable with my packing system, bungie cords and how to best pare down to what I needed.  

I have learned that the worst part of being on a bike for 200 miles, taking a break every 50 miles, is the vibration in your hands.  Bought soft handlebar covers and they helped some.  I also learned that 200 miles a day is more than enough.

I found out you can carry a dozen eggs bungie corded to the handle bars. The way eggs are packaged is probably the best example of good packaging of a fragile product in the world. This was  before packing peanuts and shrink wrapped everything. By now I was enlarging my diet to include veggies, eggs, a bit of meat and the ever present potato. Fast food joints were already everywhere, but remember my $300.00 monthly budget.  I cooked everything I ate. Peanut butter sandwiches were a staple. A real staple.

I got to Hot Springs AR still in June. I don’t know if you are aware of summer in the south, but trust me, hot springs are the last thing you are interested in. But I was on a mission, so to Hot Springs I went.

In Southern Arkansas, is Hot Springs National Park, a tiny park only 8 square miles. Most of it is bathhouses. It’s tough to find a hot spring in or out of the park. I suppose if I had gone to one of the bathhouses, i may have been able to find a hot spring, but even finding a place to park near the visitor’s center was difficult. Hell, finding the visitors center was difficult.  I soon gave up. Stayed the night.

While I was in Arkansas, I saw a road sign for Toad Suck Arkansas.  Yup, it’s a real name of a real town. Now you know I had to see what Toad Suck looked like.

From Wikipedia
 “The origin of the name Toad Suck is disputed. Some hold it received the name when idle rivermen would congregate at the local tavern where they would "suck on the bottle 'til they swell up like toads’, while others believe it is a corruption of a French phrase meaning ‘a narrow channel in the river.’”

These days there is a festival called Toad Suck Days. When I was there, nobody really capitalized on the name Toad Suck. And you could pretty much see why they didn’t. It was just a small town. But it had a small city park that I could and did sleep in.  

I decided to head for Kansas through a tiny tip of Missouri. I wanted to see where the Clutters lived, the ones Truman Capote wrote about. And I wanted to order a beer in the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City and maybe see Miss Kitty.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Donna Speaks: Snippets of Home

Home Again! Home Again!  Jiggedy Jig!

I don't know from whence the above came, but as kids we used to say it when we returned home - with this ending:

Home Again!  Home Again!  Jiggedy Gin!

New babies have that "New Baby Smell" just like new cars have that "New Car Smell".  I love both, but babies better, especially when, after several whiffs, squeezes, and rocks, you can, unlike a new car, return the baby.  My grand-niece, Avery, three months, has that wonderful smell.  It's the fragrance of innocence.  Would that we could bottle it.  It'd beat out all of ole Liz Taylor's fragrances by a mile and we'd make millions.

The Marines may have a "Few Good Men"; I have a "Few Good Friends".  In a life lived well and lived well-intentioned, you can only have a Few Good Friends.  Really Good Friends, like Really Good Life Partners, take lotsa time to make them last a life time.   

Because they are so good, you want to spent lotsa time with them.  When I go home, I spent lotsa time with my best friend, Chris. Every time I do, she teaches me something new about life, love, and caring for one another.  Then I come home.  I spend lotsa time (more than ever) with Jan, the Love of My Life.  Daily, she teaches me more and more about life, love, and caring for each other.  We teachers are never too old to learn.

Also, we are never too old to make new friends.  During my visits home, Chris has reintroduced me to two folks with whom we attended high school:  Mary Clare and Glen. They weren't friends in high school; they are now.  We spend time together every time I go home. 

This visit, I reintroduced Chris to Evelyn, with whom we also attended high school.  We weren't friends in high school; we are now.  The circle completes itself if you are open and can bear a little dizziness. 

During one of our many conversations, my wonderful 90 year old Dad shared with me that during a recent medical procedure, he was put to sleep.  After he awoke, the doctor told him he had sleep apnea. 

Dad asked what were some of the adverse side effects of the condition.  

The doctor told him, "Well, Mr. Leatherman, you could stop breathing and die in your sleep."  

My Dad replied, "Well, let's not do a damned thing about it... what a way to go!"  That's my Dad! 

If we could bottle that kind of life-view, we'd make a million.

Have a great day, Miss Althea.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Random Thoughts about Education

If my dad didn't teach me to change a spark plug, or a tire, who would?
If he didn't read poetry to me at night, how would I learn to love it?
If my grandpa didn't teach me to glaze a window or use a square, who would?
If my mother didn't teach me to measure a teaspoon, who would?
If my grandma didn't teach me to look at wildflowers, who would?
if my grandpa didn't teach me to wire a lamp, who would?
If my grandma didn't teach me to dig worms and bait a hook, who would?

If my dad didn't teach me to frame a wall, or lay a roof, who would?
If he didn't teach me to make up rhymes and songs, who would?
If my grandpa didn't teach me how to eat an oyster, who would?
If my mother didn't teach me how to fix a toilet, who would?
If my grandma didn't teach me to plant a carrot, who would?
If my grandpa didn't teach me to drive a truck, who would?
If my grandma didn't teach me to clean a fish, who would?

If they didn't teach me to start a job and finish it, no matter what, even if I had never done the work before, how would I have gotten through these past ten post Katrina years? For that matter, all the years prior to that.

If they didn't teach me independence, perseverance, and the ability to know what was right and fight for it, who would?

Who is teaching the children now?  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Night One. Percy Quin State Park

So I set out on June 1, 1973 with my bike piled high with essential stuff.  I had a goal for night one, a Mississippi State Park across Lake Pontchartrain and into Mississippi.  It was to be  short ride and an early night. Percy Quin is 106 miles. Easy, right?

I soon found out that many things I had tied to my bike were unessential. So much so that they flew off my bike as I crossed the 26 mile Causeway across Lake Pontchartrain. But the time I got to Percy Quin, my pile was considerably smaller. Who needed a book of maps?  See what I mean about learning along the way.  I had no destination in mind except Rocky Mountain National Park via Kansas, avoiding Texas because I didn’t like the state. 

So I figured if I just headed sorta northwest, I would get there eventually. Took me until July 4th, but I got there.

Back to Percy Quin.  I had to do a new inventory when I arrived at the park. I got rid of many articles of clothing. Who needed all that stuff. Got down to one small frying pan, one sauce pan, a sharp knife, spoon and fork. Sleeping bag stayed, so did the tent and air mattress. I had a foot pump to blow up the air mattress. Best investment I ever made. 

The first huge obstacle was starting a fire at the park, so I could fry my potato.  I swear they treated that firewood with a fire retardant so they would never have a forest fire. Took me hours and lots of matches, but I got it going.  It was dark for dinner, but that potato sure tasted good.  Up with the tent, up with the air mattress, out with the sleeping bag. 

And so to bed, finally.