On the 35th day it rained

In the foreground are a small, low bistro table and 2 chairs. Behind is a very wet screen. And further back are a wet, brick patio with blue and white Adirondack chairs, a white statue, and in the very back an elm with new green leaves.

Has it been 29 days since the last entry here?

I fear I’ve let time slip away during this time of Staying Home. I’ve tried to stay up to date on my Instagram account (@grector71). I’m behind on reading blogs but have been working on it. Mostly Sandy and I have kept the house neat and clean (Yes!) and read books with our Kindles out on the patio in the fresh air.

Back to my photography roots

I have been learning about finding our passions. We each need to feel passionate about something. Priority for me has always been my family and friends. After that my passion is photography. At one time my camera bag weighed 17 pounds (7.7 kg). That was long ago before MS, paraplegia, and the ever present, trusty wheelchair. Since the move to Florida, my 5 ounce camera has sufficed. In an audioblog I listened to last November, the advice was to rekindle our passions by returning to our roots, where we first started. Go back to that and know the joy all over again.

I recalled the thrill of my first 35mm camera, how it felt in my hands, and the moments I was able to capture. Then a few years later came my first SLR. I looked at some of the photos I made with a small zoom and realized my joy of photography again. The pictures taken up close, where the subject feels personal. The street photography that is so much fun. And thus began the search for the perfect retro, digital camera. Retro and digital in the same sentence? It was not an easy task.

I almost settled a couple of times but remembered how long I had saved to buy those first good cameras and stayed patient. On my desk is a not so expensive black and silver toy that looks like my first rangefinder and can be operated exactly like my first SLR. I can use the viewfinder or the screen depending on what glasses I’m wearing and the light. It just feels good in my hands. So here I sit, cruise cancelled, Staying Home. On Day 35 it rained. First time in over a month. Aha! A new subject has appeared. Water!

Stay safe, my friends

Please stay safe. Follow the guidelines of your area. I’m more than ready for the Caribbean as opposed to my elm tree. I know you have your own “elm” and are ready, too. What have you been doing? Do you have plans?

Thank you for stopping by. Your presence is always appreciated, and comments are welcome. Blessings.

– George

Picture description:  In the foreground are a small, low bistro table and 2 chairs. Behind is a very wet screen. Further back are a wet, brick patio with blue and white Adirondack chairs, a white statue, and in the very back an elm with new green leaves.

Rocking on the porch

Panoramic view from George's glider. Potted grasses, empty planters, a bright blue bench, empty planters, a white, Greek statue. In the lawn is a tree without leaves. Sky is deep blue with white clouds.

Day 6

This evening marks six days of officially Staying Home. More to come, of course. The only question is for how long. In the interim, Sandy and I are rocking on the porch. We both have health conditions that put us at risk, and we are staying home. Social distance, as it were. Talking to our neighbor from a respectable 30 feet!

Sandy in a blue and white glider chair. She has red hair, a light green t-shirt, white shorts, and glasses.

It isn’t that we don’t have things to do. We do, indeed. Who wants to do “projects” when the spring that finally arrived is beckoning on the back porch? We have watched the sunrise and the sunsets. I’ve taken some pictures of the ordinary. These things become beautiful if we wait for the light and take our time. It has been rather refreshing.

Natural pottery colored planter in the form of an antique truck. In the bed is a large, soft cactus plant that overflows the sides. The morning light is angling across the plant and front of the truck.

 

 

Sometimes we need to follow local events and ignore the hype and misery of the press. This is one of those times. We are trying!

George is in his blue and white glider. Beyond is his wheelchair. He has blond hair, sunglasses, and is wearing a blue, classic Mickey Mouse t-shirt, and dark blue shorts.

 

 

It’s not like I don’t have anything to do. I need to take advantage of this nice weather to spray liquid fertilizer on the shrubs. Then I need to fix the weed sprayer and eliminate the pesky plants that we don’t want. Ironing! If I ironed the summer shirts that have been waiting since fall, I’d have some crisp cotton and linen to wear whilst staying home.

A word about small business ingenuity

Two loaves of freshly baked bread. Each is wrapped in a clear wrapper with the type of bread printed on the label. White on the left and wheat on the right. They are on a wooden cutting board on the granite countertop.

The grocery stores are picked clean. There is literally no bread to be found, for example. (And I promise I won’t mention the toilet paper crisis.) Meanwhile restaurants are empty with the fallout being that our small town, wholesale, French bakery needs customers. They posted on the local Rants and Raves Facebook group that beginning today they would have bread and sweet breads available. And cookies. They created a drive thru system of ordering and picking up bread at the first entrance and paying at the second entrance. Employees are wearing gloves and masks. They report a steady line all day today. Tomorrow they will expand the menu. The public gets bread. The bakers get work. Win, win! The bread is delicious, and the cookies (biscuits for y’all in the UK) are soft and yummy. Chocolate chunk, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin. Awesome! We did leave the house for this fresh, wholesome product delivered in a safe manner outdoors.

Tomorrow, day 7

Maybe tomorrow will bring fertilized plants, dead weeds, wrinkle-free shirts, a clean floor, and dust-free furniture. Maybe it will bring more quality time together on the back porch. What do you think it will be? If you guess quality time, you will be right, for sure. With Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn directly above in the crystal clear sky, Sandy and I bid you Good Evening Sandy in the evening, in the glider.and wish you and your families health, safety, and quality time together. And before I stop, we’d like to say a big THANK YOU to all of our first responders, medical people, and everyone who are working so hard, taking chances to protest the rest of us. And let us not forget their families. Blessings. 🙏

 

Picture Descriptions:  Main photo is a panoramic view from George’s glider. Potted grasses, empty planters, a bright blue bench, empty planters, a white, Greek statue. In the lawn is a tree without leaves. Sky is deep blue with white clouds. Second photo is Sandy in a blue and white glider chair. She has red hair, a light green t-shirt, white shorts, and glasses. Third photo is a natural pottery colored planter in the form of an antique truck. In the bed is a large, soft cactus plant that overflows the sides. The morning light is angling across the plant and front of the truck. Fourth photo shows George is in his blue and white glider. Beyond is his wheelchair. He has blond hair and is wearing sunglasses, a blue, classic Mickey Mouse t-shirt, and dark blue shorts. Fifth photo shows 2 loaves of freshly baked bread. Each is wrapped in a clear wrapper with the type of bread printed on the label. White on the left and wheat on the right. They are on a wooden cutting board on the granite countertop. Final photo shows Sandy in the evening, in the glider.

Wheel-Tech, Part 2

A large, comfortable, retro-style arm chair with a matching toss pillow and ottoman type foot rest. It is rose color with cream trim and flowers.It’s a chair! So… what is a chair? We all have them; we all love them. What happens, though, if we put wheels on it? In Part 1 we talked about the wheels we put on chairs and call them wheelchairs. Wouldn’t it be fun to put wheels on that upholstered chair?!? 

Of course we wouldn’t attempt that, but today let’s have some fun and examine the chairs on which we do put wheels and how they are similar to the chairs in our home. 

What is under all the soft cushions in the chair at the top?  A frame is usually made of metal or wood. The heavier that frame, the harder the chair is to move. The exact same thing applies to wheelchairs. The chair has a frame that is made of aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber. The lighter the frame, the easier it is to propel or push. 

A modern, custom, ultra-lightweight wheelchair. The frame is natural finish titanium, silver gray in color. It has red axles and wheel spokes and black cushion and back.We need to be able to actually sit on our chair, so on go a seat sling on which we put a cushion, and a back. The back is usually nylon but can be custom made for the user. The cushion must support the full weight of the rider and also protect the delicate skin.

I was talking with a lady one day in the parking lot of a grocery. She asked if I minded her watching me put my chair into the car. Intrigued by the process, but especially the cushion, she explained that her husband had recently been sold a wheelchair that had no cushion. He said it hurt. Of course it hurt after sitting in it all day long.

Manual wheelchairs have either a “folding” or “rigid” frame, though actually both fold. The “folding” chair has a cross-brace that can fold the seat similar to a Director’s Chair. The “rigid” frame is essentially a box. Usually the back can be folded down. I once had a chair that could have the seat folded, the back folded down, or both at the same time. It had a lot of moving parts to keep tightened. In general, experienced users tend to prefer the rigid chair for its durability and lighter weight.

That’s it. A frame, a back, and a cushion – almost. Every user has a different need. It might need to be very easy to push or get in and out of the car. Maybe it needs a motor. A motorized wheelchair with a thick cushion, padded back, and blue arms. It is controlled with a mouse.Want a bike? It’s called a handcycle.

From the chairs in our living rooms, to our dining rooms, to outdoors, to the office, a chair is not just a chair; a wheelchair is not just a wheelchair.

Whilst I have your ear, may I add that people who use wheelchairs are neither confined nor bound. Those terms date from an era long past, when the wheelchair was more of a hospital item. They are degrading and imply inferior ability. The modern wheelchair is a device of independence and liberation. If we shop ’till we drop, I’ll be going when most walkers are ready to go home!

Thank you for following this 2 part tech series. I hope I haven’t bored you. If you have questions, please feel welcome to let me know. Disclaimer, aka the fine print, I am not a seating specialist or physical therapist. Please get proper consultation before ordering or using any type of wheelchair.

This was written as a 2 part series for CAPTIVATING! and is used with permission.

Photos: Top photo is of a large, comfortable, retro-style arm chair with a matching toss pillow and ottoman type foot rest. It is rose color with cream trim and flowers. Second photo, a custom, rigid wheelchair. It has a silver-gray, natural finish titanium frame. The axles and wheel spokes are red. The cushion and back are black. Third photo shows a motorized wheelchair with a thick cushion, padded back, and blue arms. It is controlled with a mouse.

Getting personal with SCI

George is in his wheelchair beside a red, British mailbox. His blond hair is windblown. He has glasses, a red rain jacket, half-fingered gloves, and jeans. 

National Spinal Cord Injury Month

The original outline for what follows was planned as a two-part blog. I kept asking myself, “How much do they really want to read about this?” Like all good conversationalists, I answered myself. “Not that much.” If you have questions or comments, please leave them in Comments. Lots of questions will yield  lots of answers. Few questions, and I have more time to do whatever it is that consumes most of my day when I’m not looking.

My own thoughts on the subject

I am not going to sit here and tell you a bunch of facts and maybe get something wrong. What I shall do is explain from my own experiences, what I’ve learned from others I’ve known, and how I feel about things. This is from my perspective and from that view only.

A primer – it doesn’t work like you might have been told

When my grandson asked my why my legs don’t work right, I explained what we have all been told. When the brain wants something to happen, it sends a signal down a cord and tells a muscle to move. If you damage the cord, the signal doesn’t get through. He was happy with that (for now). Isn’t that the way we usually think of the spinal cord? We all know that signals go upward, as well, to tell the brain that the hand touched something hot, or the feet are in ice water.

What we don’t think about until it breaks, is that the brain not only sends signals to a muscle to contract, it also sends signals to relax. The normal position is tight. So if only that part gets interrupted, the muscles stay tight. Cut the cord entirely, and usually the muscles stay relaxed.  From the people with whom I’ve talked, it seems the people with tight muscles would prefer fully relaxed, and the people with relaxed muscles would prefer tight. I’m no exception.

SCI is classified by where the damage is on the spine. Cervical injuries result in quadriplegia. If the damage is very low in the cervical spine, the person will have arm function, but not fingers. Damage in the thoracic and lumbar areas result in paraplegia. The lower the lesion, the more trunk strength the person retains.

The tingling and pain factors

I experience constant tingling. A therapist who taught me to manage it explained that the brain has a place for everything. Every sensation sent to it goes to a specific place. When we damage the spinal cord, the nerve endings at the site of damage continue to be active but are sending stray electrical signals. The brain does not know where to put this and simply files it under “pain.” Yes, the pain is quite real. This is why you will find that people with spinal cord injury/spinal cord damage frequently meditate or use music imaging to control this static.

Pot-A-to; pot-ah-to

So what is the difference between spinal cord injury and spinal cord damage? None! Typically we think of SCI as from trauma and SCD as from a disease process. In fact, once the damage is done, no matter how, the result is the same. In recent years the two have become one.

Freedom on wheels

After SCI/SCD the wheelchair becomes a prosthetic body. It does what the lower body previously did. Many of us consider the terms “wheelchair bound” and “confined to a wheelchair” to be degrading and insulting. When people ask me how long I’ve been in a wheelchair, I will check the time and tell them the truth, “About 3 hours.”

There are 3 types of wheelchairs. Custom ultralight chairs are fit specifically for the user, even down to the precise distance the wheels are from the frame. George in a custom, titanium wheelchair. The chair is natural finish titanium, wheels that resemble bicycle wheels, and bright blue tires. He is wearing dark sunglasses, a green and white t-shirt, and dark pants. He is eating lunch outside on a deck.These are made from titanium, carbon fiber (I want that someday), and aluminum alloy that is supposedly light.

Power wheelchairs come in a million sizes and prices. The inexpensive, basic chairs work for someone who uses it infrequently, maybe can walk a bit. They are not considered suitable for someone with SCI. Power chairs for a person with SCI are more durable, tend to be larger, and usually have high backs. Some can recline or go up and down over an 8-12 inch range.

Sadly, I must include a breed of wheelchair that I call the Chrome Clunker. My first wheelchair weighed in at 65 pounds. Sandy could not lift it, and I could barely propel it. Modern chrome clunkers are usually heavy gauge aluminum and weigh about 40 pounds. They do not allow the user to be independent.

Let’s get personal

Not only are SCI and SCD the same once the damage is done, they can be blended. With spinal lesions from a rare form of Multiple Sclerosis and some damage from bruising, I fit into both categories. Like many people, I don’t mind explaining “what happened,” but I don’t get into lengthy discussions. These things are not the finest of memories. I am a T10 incomplete paraplegic. The spinal cord is not fully cut. I have some movement and feel but nothing useful. I am not sensitive to hot but am intensely sensitive to cold. Vibration feels like Medieval torture.

I drive with hand controls. There is a lever to the left of the steering column. Push down to go, in to brake. Steering is with my dominant right hand. (All sorts of driving aids are available, and even quadriplegics can drive.) Our home is Universal Design, fully accessible. Universal Design is designing something so that most people can use it without having to adapt it later. There are no steps, wide doors, there is a roll-in shower, lowered light switches, raised outlets, a pantry cabinet with roll-out shelves, and the microwave built into a lower cabinet. Floors are wood or tile, no carpet. I’m blessed to have this, as most people never have the opportunity.

Thank you for stopping by. Life on wheels is fine, just different. Was this helpful to maybe understand a friend or coworker? Questions? As I said before, I’m open to about any question, but be prepared that I might answer it. George's feet on the footrest. He is wearing blue and white Converse shoes. 

Photos: Main photo shows George in his wheelchair beside a red, British mailbox. His blond hair is windblown. He has glasses, a red rain jacket, half-fingered gloves, and jeans.  Second photo has George in a custom, titanium wheelchair. The chair is natural finish titanium, wheels that resemble bicycle wheels, and bright blue tires. He is wearing dark sunglasses, a green and white t-shirt, and dark pants. He is eating lunch outside on a deck.   Third photo shows George’s feet on the footrest. He is wearing blue and white Converse shoes. 

The second serenade cruise

Version 2 (3)

When we think of the Caribbean, our first thoughts are sand, turquoise water,  palm trees, and deep blue sky. Rightfully so, I think, but the Caribbean is a delightful blend of sights, sounds, feel, and feelings. Sandy and I recently re-created a cruise we took a few years ago, this time with a less dramatic start. Here’s a bit of history.

We had dreamed of someday celebrating our Anniversary with a special cruise. We pinched the piggy bank a bit and booked a very nice cabin on the beautiful Serenade of the Seas. All started well, for about 2 hours. I became very ill, which proved to be a faulty gallbladder. The medical staff  literally saved my life.    The entire crew was wonderful, and we managed to finish the cruise, though staying on or close to the ship at all times. I promised Sandy we’d do it again someday. When this cruise popped up again was when “The Second Serenade” trip became a reality.

Having been on several ships, the Serenade was instantly our favorite. Beautiful, clean lines and gleaming white paint outside with a huge atrium, the “Centrum,” with brass elevators and railings accent everything from shops to intimate bars to gourmet coffee. A bank of outside elevators are open with spectacular sea views as they glide up and down.  We were glad to get back aboard, this time feeling fine.

Destination – the Southern Caribbean. Cruising along at a comfortable 18 knots we relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the ocean breeze, and the heavenly sounds of the sea. With Kindles and iPhone fully loaded, we were ready to solve some whodunnits.

Our mistake on Arbua

The first port was Aruba. It was where we made our first, and probably only, mistake. The downtown area is close to the ship, and we remembered it as nice with quaint shops and rather accessible. The plan was to visit this area and then take a taxi to the newer Palm Beach area. We soon discovered that the sidewalk and curb cuts were something of a tactile nightmare. There were some large cracks, slopes we didn’t remember, and curb cuts that took a wheelie to pass over the gaps. We forged on. With Sandy pushing and actually guiding the wheelchair and me doing the same, we used a lot of energy. The shopping area was nice, though it did not have an accessible gentleman’s restroom. We bought a bottle of mineral water from a nice lady in a small convenience store and headed for the trolly. A map of the Caribbean. It is blue with a few black areas to indicate deeper water. Each island of the cruise is noted. There is a line showing the ship's route along the north coast of Cuba, between Cuba and Hispaniola, and across the sea toward Aruba in the south. Moving east and north from Aruba are Bonaire, Curacao, St. Lucia, and Antigua.

The person at the trolly said it went, “all over the island,” and from the way she described the schedule perhaps a 75 minute ride. Free. There was an area for wheelchair users to sit in their chairs, but 2 steps up to it. For me, that is a no go. As more people came I got adventuresome and accepted some gravity defying help. But before we could get to the area, some tourists from another ship charged into the area and took the companion seats. We asked them to move, which they refused to do. So we crowded right in on top of them! At the first stop, they moved. The trolly is actually a ride up and down the streets of the old downtown, which appeared to have some economic distress. Sadly, we’d expended so much energy that we called it a day and went back to the ship.

Lovely Bonaire is a gem

Bonaire was our favorite of the islands! A small and delightful area of clean buildings, it had the fewer stores, but they were nice as well as accessible. They have worked hard on safe sidewalks, curb cuts, and access for everyone. There was a small park with venders in tents, like a permanent street fair. It is surprisingly and pleasantly quiet. Looking from the white, tented bar on the pier into the waterfront street. There are buildings of teal and blue, with white rails and shutters.
Conversations yes, but nothing to disrupt the feeling of the small island. We stopped in a small mall for a Coke before going through to the water side of the shops. Behold, a pier going into the yacht harbor that is entirely a Caribbean style bar. There was an open table in the shade with a easy route to it. It was a fun hour watching the boats and talking with our fellow cruisers. On the way back we picked up a couple of T-shirts and had a late lunch on the Serenade. I’d say Bonaire is a gem and would gladly go back.

Curacao’s colorful waterfront

Colorful, painted buildings along the waterfront. The buildings are in classic Dutch style painted yellow, brown, orange, green, teal, and blue. All have red, tiled roofs.

Curacao has upgraded its waterfront and access from the cruise port. It is a nice, smooth stroll (or roll!) into the tourist area. Along the way are a few vendors on the land side and large boulders between the sidewalk and the harbor. The air and sun were warm, the breeze refreshing. Across the way, the painted buildings for which the island is known did not disappoint. The buildings were old, the colors fresh and new. They have turned  the small fort into an area to enjoy the shade and get refreshments from one of the convenience stores. The liquor Curacao is made on the island, obviously, and it is available in multiple flavors. It would not fit into our luggage, perhaps another blog topic, and we probably wouldn’t drink it anyway. It was another late lunch on the ship.

Beautiful St. Lucia

St. Lucia might be the prettiest island in the Caribbean. It’s natural harbor is curving and relaxing the way Charlotte Amalie’s on St. Thomas is magnificent. There were exactly zero accessible tours offered for this cruise, so we visited the small shopping area and returned to our cabin’s balcony. From a high angle, the foreground is a channel of water with a pier and sailboat. Beyond are dense trees, and after that the sea and sky with a few, white clouds. From there we could experience the harbor, the live entertainment as the shopping area, and even watch the airport. We were in the shade all afternoon, and it was a truly relaxing port.

I got to compare wheelchairs with a local tour guide. Super nice guy!

Mountainous Antigua

The people of Antigua have had a hard way to go since Hurricane Irma. The small nation of Antigua and Barbuda was hit hard by the storm. Fearing the worst, the entire population of Barbuda evacuated to Antigua. The worst happened. Virtually everything on Barbuda was destroyed. They have worked hard to regroup on one, small island, and I applaud their determination.

A strip of mountainous island goes across the middle of the frame. Above is a deep blue sky with billowing clouds glowing in the sunset. The sky is reflected in a narrow body of water at the bottom. Just above the mountains is the silhouette of a frigate bird with a white body and very long, thin black wings.With three ships in port, nearly 10,000 passengers the town was beyond capacity. Not too accessible or easy to navigate originally, we ventured into a few shops, could not get into either place to get something to drink, bought a bag, thanked the nice lady in the store, and worked our way back to the ship.

Not so fast

It wasn’t time to call it a trip. More books and our balcony awaited. The distance from Antigua to the east is about the same as to Aruba in the south, and we had another two days to relax and watch the Caribbean. So the second Serenade trip was a huge success. Sandy and I had lots of quality time together, got to experience different things at each port, and came home feeling better about everything.

Thank you for stopping by. Cruising is a fun and accessible way to travel for virtually everyone. Far more than what is seen in pictures, there are sounds, tastes, smooth ports and some that are hard to navigate. I’d remind everyone to exercise caution in port towns and not venture into areas that aren’t common tourist places unless on a tour.

Picture descriptions: The main picture is taken from the waterfront in Curacao. It shows the smooth sidewalk, boulders, and the Serenade of the Seas. The ship is white and has 13 decks. The second picture is a map of the Caribbean. It is blue with a few black areas to indicate deeper water. Each island of the cruise is noted. There is a line showing the ship’s route along the north coast of Cuba, between Cuba and Hispaniola, and across the sea toward Aruba in the south. Moving east and north from Aruba are Bonaire, Curacao, St. Lucia, and Antigua. The third picture is looking from the white, tented bar on the pier into the waterfront street. There are buildings of teal and blue, with white rails and shutters. fourth picture shows the colorful, painted buildings along the waterfront. The buildings are in classic Dutch style painted yellow, brown, orange, green, teal, and blue. All have red, tiled roofs. 

 

Directing our own show – take 2

This is a revised version of a post from earlier in the week. It did not seem to generate much enthusiasm, and I took it down. Several people have encouraged me to re-post it. Perhaps this time I will express myself better. Thanks to all!

Out and about

George is in his wheelchair, at home, with shopping bags from Skechers, Nautica and a brilliant green bag. He has blond hair, wire rimmed glasses with an orangish tine, a blue T-shirt with white stripes, and he has removed his shoes.
As I share some thoughts with you on a warm, Sunday afternoon, I am sitting on my lanai. In Florida that is a part of the house under roof but open and screened. It is quiet and peaceful. But we don’t live only at home. We go out, and we interact with other people.

Those of us with a visible disability, or our family and friends, know that people look at us. I’ve become used to looks and stares, but it took time. They are going to look. People will naturally look at anyone or anything unusual. What happens, though, when it comes time for us to interact with them?

Our audience is watching

Those of us who use wheelchairs, and I’ve learned white canes also, seem to come under some kind of scrutiny. I’ve read that people in service and retail are often, sadly, apprehensive. They don’t know what to expect or what to do. Hence, the Just Say Hi campaign.

As we approach someone, we become the director of our own personal play. Do we look friendly? Do we look clean? Do we look alert? It is to our benefit to put people at ease.

Some tips I’ve learned

  • Adaptive equipment needs to be kept clean. It is an extension of ourselves.
  • Bling is good. My wheelchair is natural titanium, a silver gray. When it’s clean, it looks spiffy. I added bright blue tires and translucent blue casters. A gentleman in Saint Lucia recently told me that the sun through my casters made them positively glow.
  • Dress for the occasion, and wear what works for us. In the first picture I’d been shopping. In every store we went in I was welcomed and treated nicely. Obviously, from the load of goodies. Clothes need to fit and colors coordinate.
  • Smile and say Hi. Just Say Hi goes both ways, though if we can’t see the person well, we might not want to intrude.

Two guys in wheelchairs

George is sitting on the balcony of a cruise ship taking a photo with a small camera. He has rimless glasses with a gray tint. He is wearing a bright green polo shirt.On a recent cruise, as people were starting to board the ship, I heard a greeter say on her radio, “There are two guys in wheelchairs down here. The guy going by me now looks like he can handle things nicely.” Sandy and I smiled.

Thank you for stopping by. I’d very much like to hear your thoughts on this and if I’ve been of any encouragement to you.

Picture descriptions: In the top photo George is in his chair, loaded with shopping bags. He has medium length blond hair, almost round wire glasses with reddish-orange lenses, a blue shirt with narrow, white stripes, white short pants, and has removed his shoes. In the second picture George is taking a photo from his ship cabin’s balcony with a small camera after boarding. He is sitting up straight and is wearing small, rimless glasses with a gray tint and a bright green polo shirt.

Sandy, there’s no floor here!

Large, round sign that reads S P R Coffee against a green background.“Sandy, there’s no floor here!” I opened the door of the state-of-the-art elevator and found only a metal grate, through which I could see the floors below.

Taiwan is an island nation south of Japan. The island’s previous name, Formosa, is Japanese for beautiful island. I don’t know why I panicked in the coffee shop.

An urban park. The foreground is grass, followed by a small stream lined with river rocks, and beyond are more park and then skyscrapers in the distance. To the right is a foot bridge on which is visible a man doing Tai Chi.Across the city of Kaohsiung is a small chain of American-themed coffee shops called SPR Coffee. They are ornate and have a retro atmosphere. On the walls are photos, posters, and signs from the 1940’s and 50’s. Frank Sinatra, Norah Jones, and Harry Connick, Jr. emanate from the elaborate sound system. Coffee is ground in a huge, elaborate grinder and is always freshly brewed. They do food from hot sandwiches to Eggs Benedict. The shop near my family’s home takes 3 floors of a modern building across from a park.

Guests use ornate stairways, but there is an elevator for wheelchair users. It sits prominently near the lobby area and is a plexiglass tube. A barista showed me how to operate it and invited me to use it as needed throughout my stay in Kaohsiung. You’ve used the pneumatic tubes that connect bank drive-throughs to the main building. This is the exact same thing, only it will lift an adult using a manual wheelchair. It is swift and quiet.

On our first trip, we sat in the second floor cafe. The coffee and sandwiches were tasty and aromatic. We vowed to return, and return we did. Only this time we elected to try the third floor. That is where I nearly lost it.

In the center is the elevator. It has a blue, steel frame with a clear tube and a door. It is just large enough to carry a wheelchair. To the right is a young man with glasses, a navy shirt, and jeans. On the left are posters and pictures on the wall.As Sandy made her way up the steps, I was whisked quickly upward. I opened the door, began to roll out, and panicked. “Sandy, there’s no floor here!” All I found was an open, wrought iron pattern of elaborate, curving lines. My casters, the small wheels in the front of the chair, would fall right through those openings! I don’t do well with heights and balconies, except on a ship. Looking though the grate disoriented me.

“It’s fine. Come on out,” Sandy assured me. “But there’s no floor!” “It is plexiglass,” as she walked across it.

Sometimes things, are better than we might think. When scared, I made the matter out to be worse than it was. In fact, it turned out okay. This is the case with so many things in our lives. Bad things turn out for the best if we have faith and keep trying.

Expect the best, and prepare for the worst.

Thank you for stopping by. I apologize for having not written in a few weeks. Sandy and I did a 30 day detox. We have reset our brains and cooking back to healthy and nutritious. Much of what we are eating is organic. I’ve resumed doing free weights and have added some new things for arm and wrist strength.

Comments are welcome and appreciated. I wish you all the best. For those who have been in the bitter cold, Sandy and I care and hope you get an early spring.

Photo descriptions: The main picture is a round sign that reads SPR Coffee against a green background. Second picture is an urban park. The foreground is grass, followed by a small stream lined with river rocks, and beyond are more park and then skyscrapers in the distance. To the right is a foot bridge on which is visible a man doing Tai Chi. The third picture shows the elevator in the center. It has a blue, steel frame with a clear tube and a door. It is just large enough to carry a wheelchair. To the right is a young man with glasses, a navy shirt, and jeans. On the left are posters and pictures on the wall.

25 years later

George is stretched out on the sofa. He has blond hair and glasses with an orangish tint. He is wearing a black, Mickey and friends sweater with white snowflakes, black pants, black headphones, and he is barefooted.

At first I blamed it on the new shoes, the fall in the mall and the second fall later in the day. It didn’t seem right, though, as they were an exact replacement of the ones I loved. It was my introduction to MS. Later came the ice storm and a more serious fall. Finally after exhaustive tests with lots of E’s in their names and 24 vials of blood, we met with my neurologist.

There was no drama, no tension. He told us what we already knew. The MS is progressive, and there is too much spinal cord damage for you to walk again.

After a struggle, MS put an end to practicing optometry, though I never lost the love and try to stay current. I’ve been a disabled parent and a licensed swim official. I volunteered at the hospital where I edited the volunteers’ newsletter. Then one day I called the National MS Society for information and was soon a Peer Counselor.

So I’ve officially been rolling for 25 years. Somewhere along the way I learned Rock your disability! It was a life changer. If I have a message it would be that going through a progressive disease is, at times, agonizing. A few years ago my neurologist managed to sort out the MS from the injury. That explains things that are going on now, but it doesn’t change my resolve – or yours. I know my followers, and you are strong. And kind.

Thank you for your support, and this is probably the last you’ll hear of my Paraversary. Twenty-five is a big enough number, and I’ve long run out of fingers and toes. It’s time to quit counting and roll on to the next challenge.

Thank you for stopping by and for indulging me whilst I look on some emotional times. Thanks to Sandy and Cliff for their unwavering support and the sacrifices they have made to keep me mobile. I’m blessed more than what I could possibly deserve.

Photo: George is stretched out, on his side, on the sofa. He has blond hair and glasses with an orangish tint. He is wearing a black, Mickey and friends sweater, black pants, black headphones, and he is barefooted.

A day at Christmas

A very large topiary of Mickey Mouse pouring water into a large jug with water then cascading down other containers. He is wearing a red Santa hat with a white, fur band. There are planters of poinsettias beside and a tree, still with leaves, behind.What do you do when you are married to your best friend, have the things you truly need, and Christmas is coming? What do I buy for Sandy? What does Sandy buy for me?

It wasn’t so hard when we were friends in college. We didn’t have any money, so we each bought a simple, thoughtful gift. Then came the years when we worked downtown and had the ability to shop alone. The gifts expanded. Things began to change when we moved into our own office, worked together, and were blessed with a child.

Neither of us had the opportunity to shop alone, and neither of us really needed much. Thus was born the Day Together at Christmas. Each year we took a day off, and while our son was in school we went for a day together. We helped each other select a personal Christmas gift. It was a magical day to which we both looked forward each year. Time together, a nice lunch, and the fun of shopping together. “You would look really good in this.” “Would you like to have that Snoopy sweater?” George is sitting in front of a display of large tree ornaments and is surrounded by rotted poinsettias and other blooming flowers. He is wearing a green shirt, jeans, white Converse shoes, and a tan visor.

Sandy is standing between, slightly to the front of, 2 snowmen. Each is made of white and red balls. The female has a red hat, and the male has a black top hat. Sandy is wearing a green top, white jeans, and blue skimmers.The Day Together continues. Saturday we went to Disney Springs, and it was a wonderful day. Warm and sunny. Lunch outside at Blaze Pizza. We split a nice salad and a small pizza. We drank Coke Zero, watched the people, and listened to the joyful music and chatter of thousands of tourists. And just talked with each other about Christmas and nice things.

Then it was off to walk (and roll) around and enjoy the holiday decorations. There is a huge Christmas tree in the square that is without a doubt the most marvelous Christmas tree I’ve ever seen. Huge balls, each lighted by an Edison bulb, prisms, and mirrors make the tree unique.The top portion of a large Christmas tree rising above the rooftops. It has massive ornaments lit with Edison light bulbs. At the top of the photo, in the foreground are two palm fronds from a nearby tree.A couple of times we stopped and enjoyed the day in the sun. As we were headed toward the car in the late afternoon, I saw a new stand that I wanted to visit. Thirty minutes later it was starting to get dark, so we decided to stay and see the lights. Back to Blaze Pizza! (We like their pizza!) After looking at the lights, which were reminiscent of the small towns in which we grew up, we headed home. Long, long day. Together at Christmas. With all else put aside, we gave ourselves the best gift of all, a day together to celebrate our lives together and the blessings of this amazing season.

I wish each of you a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas. May you be blessed with joy and love.

Pictures: Top photo is a large topiary of Mickey Mouse. He is pouring water into a large jug. The water is then cascading from container to container. He is wearing a red Santa hat with a white, fur band. Photo on the left is Sandy sanding in front of 2 large snowmen. They are made of white and red balls. The female has a red hat, and the male has a black top hat. Sandy is wearing a green shirt, white jeans, and blue skimmers. Photo on the right is George sitting in front of some large tree ornaments and surrounded by potted poinsettias and other blooming plants. He is wearing a green shirt, jeans, white Converse shoes, and a tan visor. Fourth photo is the top portion of a large Christmas tree rising above the rooftops. 

 

Cruising and books

Dark blue background with Vision of the Seas written in white.

Thank you all so much for your lively discussion about our stay in Barcelona. I am grateful for your Comments and Likes. Barcelona done, we took a cab to the port and boarded the Vision of the Seas for a 13 night cruise home. It was a form of R and R, which we termed Relax and Read. We had a balcony that we put to use with ebooks and audiobooks.

Cartagena and Coca-Cola

Large sailboats in the yacht harbor line the foreground. The ship is behind with a mountain in the far distance.On the first full day of the cruise we ported in Cartagena, which was quite different from Barcelona. They have created an incredibly nice, accessible pedestrian mall. The dock leads to a sidewalk with benches and some trees beside the yacht harbor. At the end is a crosswalk complete with smooth curb cuts, tactile warnings, and pedestrian Walk/Wait signals that chirped loudly during the Walk phase. The street itself is smooth and only two narrow lanes wide.

Across the street we were in the pedestrian mall. Long, wide, and paved with tiles. Yes, the entire thing is paved with ceramic tiles. We were hot and for no particular reason didn’t stop at a nice looking sidewalk cafe. A block later we found an American-themed, sidewalk eatery called the Cotton Grill. A hometown version of Johnny Rocket’s. Everything from appetizers to burgers to “unlimited Coca-Cola.” The proprietor told us they get locals for lunch and tourists from the ships. She stays busy all day. Local stores line both sides of the walkways with few of the American chains we found in Barcelona.

“The One-Armed Lady”

Day two put us in Malaga on Spain’s south coast. An intrepid walker might enjoy the trek into town, but a taxi seemed prudent. There was no real need to explain our destination. Everyone starts at the Cathedral of Malaga. The Renaissance cathedral was started in the early 1500’s, and construction was stopped in the late 1700’s. The designClose up of the Renaissance style cathedral. People are standing outside a huge door. The stone facade has sandstone columns beside the door and square stones above. The top is lined with stained glass windows. called for a large rectangular church with twin spires. For reasons which were lost long ago, the second spire was started but never completed. While the left rises majestically into the sky, the right has only the pillars on which the structure was to be built. It is affectionally termed “The One-Armed Lady.”

Barcelona was massaging, Cartagena smooth, and Malaga was downright rough. The ancient, square cobbles showed no mercy on my ride in the wheelchair. Relatively flat, we went slowly and loved the city. We needed to replenish our travel First Aid kit. Sandy found a local holistic pharmacy,  and we tried to explain that we needed Coban. She put us on a bit and then produced Coban by 3M. We truly enjoyed the time in her store. It is so much fun to travel and meet people. Around the world, sharing smiles and kindness is wonderful.

How many books?

The rest of the cruise involved relaxing on our balcony and reading. We were armed for the task with two dozen new ebooks and audiobooks plus what we already had on our Kindles. I lost count, but we read most. I love sea days, and a transatlantic cruise has lots of them.

Sandy and I travel light. We took one medium size suitcase, a carry-on size bag (we checked it, too), and a small backpack each. Mix and match, wash and wear, a small bag to the ship’s laundry. No tux for me, thank you. I had one, by the way, and gave it to charity. Meals were informal with care not to overindulge.

Azores and Nassau were no go’s

I don’t want to bash anybody, but I feel obligated to mention accessibility at two ports. The Azores are hilly. I was told not to expect wheelchair accessibility in Portugal. Steps and a steep hill greeted us, and we decided to stay on the ship. The view from our balcony was lovely, it rained, and we were glad we stayed onboard. Nassau was impossible with crumbling concrete, curb cuts that led to potholes, and a blocked sidewalk with no way to get my chair around. I have always had a soft spot for Nassau, and I hope they can get things repaired.

We arrived home fresh and relaxed. I had taken almost a month off from everything, it seems. It was time well spent, and I hope it can be done again. And I know you are wondering about this. Sandy and I both lost a bit of weight on the ship.

Thank you for stopping by and letting me share an amazing time that was fun and will help me immensely down the road. Comments are great, so let me know what you think or if you have questions.

Pictures: Main picture is a dark blue banner with Vision of the Seas written in white. Second picture is a yacht harbor with large sailboats in the foreground, our ship behind, and a mountain in the distance. Third picture is part of the cathedral. There is a large, wooden door with sandstone columns beside it, square stones above, and a row of stained glass windows near the top.