Kindness to confidence

Rolling without confidence

How confident are you when you go out and about? Do you think about your every move, every interaction? For most of us we simply run our errands, grab lunch, or do whatever we need or want to do. But add a wheelchair, a chrome one with a gray back, and confidence vanishes. I’d been out in my wheelchair a few times – but always with someone. That confidence you see here, leaned back, relaxed did not come easily.

Out alone was not working

My first time out in the wheelchair alone came months later. Vacation time found us in Walt Disney World. We had checked into the Caribbean Beach hotel. Our room wasn’t ready, so we went exploring around the grounds and the hotel itself. We found a few things that interested my son, and Sandy suggested I get something to drink in the cafe.

The Caribbean Beach has undergone significant renovation since this trip, but at the time there was a small coffee shop. It had a slightly raised section with a nice railing around it. I rolled up to a rather central table expecting to order something cold to drink. So here is this guy in a wheelchair in the middle. I think I should have been easy to spot.

Spotted I was not. Servers came by and looked the other way. I didn’t have any confidence, and this was not helping. I tried all the polite ways to get service to no avail. Can I actually do this? How do people function like this?

Kindness changed everything

From out in the corridor came a young lady, a server. She carried a small crossbody bag. She looked at me, the only person there without something on the table, and came up the ramp. “Has anyone taken your order?” I answered they had not, and she said, “Hold tight. This isn’t my section, but I’ll be right back.” She disappeared into the back and within less than a minute she had returned.

After she had brought my drink, she asked about how our trip was going, plans, and all those nice things we say to our guests. She treated my like a human rather than a wheelchair. It meant the world to me. Her simple kindness showed me that perhaps I had a future on wheels. And yes, I still remember her name. She probably never knew how much that meant for me and my future. We don’t know, but that doesn’t matter. We pay it back; we pay it forward. Kindness is priceless and costs us nothing.

Thank you for your patience

Thank you all so much for stopping by. I have had a drought in terms of publishing. There is a list of topics on my desk, and I keep adding to it. But this summer I have been swamped with doing absolutely nothing. That really isn’t true because I’ve done some OT and have successfully learned how to stay in the present. And on another positive, I have not lost the list!

Picture descriptions: Main picture has George in his wheelchair in front of a pickup truck with a sign Oscar’s Super Service. He is relaxed, leaned back, and has his foot on the running board. Both the truck and his shirt are teal. Both the truck and his wheelchair have red wheels and trim. Second picture is a color by number puzzle. It shows a young lady wearing a bright, yellow raincoat holding her umbrella over a kitten. The caption is Be kind, even on your bad days.

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.

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.

It’s not the fault of your set

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It’s a test pattern. Many of you probably have never seen one. Every TV station had one. Last month it became relevant in our subject of living life on wheels. We turned off the cable TV! What a relief!

In our family room we have a nice cabinet with an ugly plastic machine on it that never gets used. Between November and May we turned it on four times and didn’t watch it on two of those. With a phone call and a trip to the cable office to return the converter, we became $99 per month richer. (Richer being a literary term only.) We are now free to get TV the way the pioneers did it, snag it out of the air. Here is where the test pattern comes back into our discussion.

I knew what all those lines, circles, and numbers were for and could use them if some time machine were to take me back to 1958. TV station engineers broadcast the test pattern and adjusted the picture to make everything true to form. The portrait of the Indian Chief was to test clarity and sharpness of faces, which to this day appear on most shows. By turning off the cable we took a small step toward the test pattern. All we have to do now is buy a small antenna and get local weather free.

And of course there is the high speed internet and the toys that let us be our own TV programmers. And DVD’s. And the OFF button. So how has this worked out? In the last week we have watched the first season of WKRP in Cincinnati.

If you turn off the cable and don’t get 400 channels, “it’s not the fault of your set.” Thanks so much for joining me on our trip back in time. I always love to read your comments and share them with our community.

Picture is a large TV test pattern. It matches the standard TV format shape. It has a grid pattern and a large circle with a smaller circle in the center with lines of different contrast in all directions. In the corners are small circles similar to the center circle. In the largest circle is a portrait of an Indian Chief. If it sounds confusing, you have it right. It is.