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.