Sunday, January 31, 2010

Inspiration from Goodlife Zen Question 11

Hi. Remember me? I’m the flake who used to post on this blog quite frequently.
What have you been up to? Where have you been?

Me--I’ve just been growing new gray hairs daily and trying to keep blood pressure down to a low boil. Really, it was my intent to post the answer to Goodlife Zen’s number eleven question on January 9. And ironically, my answer to question eleven was part of the reason I couldn’t provide an answer.

Alas, something I call “Mundania” happened. [Thank you, Piers Anthony. We won’t tell my aunt that you labeled a map of Florida as Mundania.] The boring, necessary, mundane details of life walked right up to my blogging time, pushed her out of the way and said, “Um hey. Me first.”

First a good friend asked for some assistance getting his books ready for the unconstitutional income tax man. And it just so happened that he needed it all done in less than a week. Right after, came the teacher-dreaded End of Quarter. Trying to get grades done at the same time as trying to teach info from the new quarter can be exasperating. Plus, as I am the writing teacher, my job is to make writers out of children who think “and then, and then, and then…” is a perfectly acceptable way of prolonging a paragraph. I make them write. A lot. I have to grade their papers. A lot of them. Silly me. When will I learn that the more I make them write, the more time I have to spend correcting papers? It took about two weeks to grade roughly sixty essays.

Then more stress came sneaking right up on top of emergency accounting and lengthy grading marathons. We found out we have to move again.

Without further ado, I will present the answer to Goodlife Zen’s Number 11 question!

11. What difficulty taught you an important lesson?

I was going to write something profound about all the lessons I had learned by having to move in 2009. And how I finally came to terms with having to move and the associated breakage of things, loss of things, and having to buy more things. It was going to be a wonderful post, meant to encourage and inspire. You would have loved it.

Then a family friend came up to Computer Geek and said, “Hey, House X is going to be available soon. Would you and Randi like to move there? It’s $200 per month cheaper.”

My dear husband very honestly answered, “Not unless I want to wake up with an axe in my head.”

I hate to move.

I might like moving better if this would not be the ninth move for me in twelve years. That means I move every 1.33333333 repeating decimal years.

The Whine List

I still can’t find things that I packed for my move to Utah twelve years ago.

My set of scriptures is still missing from my move last year.

My couch leg got broken on the last move and may not make it another move.

Weston is upset that he still cannot find his ninth birthday presents and fears that by the time we find them, he will have outgrown them.

My friend remarked the other day, “You know that plant you have in your kitchen would do much better in the ground instead of in a planter.” I had to respond, “That may be true, but I never know where my ground is going to be.”

Every time I have moved, it has been while I am working or teaching and am unable to take time off. All moves have to be completed after work and on the weekends.

I think that’s all the whining I will allow myself in public, although the list could be much more comprehensive. I’m really good when I get on a roll.

Last summer, I spent time nearly every day unpacking boxes from my move six months prior. I was able to throw away a slew of unneeded items including some books (pain!)
old cosmetics that never were my color, socks that had no mates, receipts from six year old purchases, dried up pens and markers, baby things I had saved for my girls only to discover they don’t want them, and items with missing parts. I felt good! Accomplished.
Lighter even. Still have half that room to go, but getting half of it done felt amazing. My inspirational post would have motivated you to get rid of all your extraneous junk too!

In the middle of all my complaining, venting, steaming, and kicking about having to move again, guess what happened?


I have a home. Two to choose from, as a matter of fact. I have things---furniture, appliances, clothes, toothbrushes, toilets, running water, food, and vehicles. My children are not orphans and have all their limbs. My grandchildren are not crying for a mama who will never come.

My greatest difficulty gave me my greatest lesson of gratitude. I’ll try to keep my murmuring about moving down to a minimum. I’ll keep my whining to myself. And if I can wait 2.666666 repeating decimal years before I have to move again, I’ll be happy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Inspiration from Goodlife Zen Question 10

10. What made you feel good?

Oh gosh, I just have to tell you what made me feel good this year. Blogging. No kidding.

I’ve loved writing ever since I was a scrawny, stringy-haired, four-eyed, buck-toothed tween. Snippets of tales would appear in my head, begging to be woven into a real live story. Day after day, details would be added in my mind, until several months later, the story was complete.

None of them are finalized in print; I find it difficult to know which of my many characters deserve the honor of being in my first novel. Do I start with my oldest character first? My latest characters—the ones whose complete story appeared to me in a dream? The characters who would seem most interesting to others?

It’s hard to play favorites and decide who gets to go first, so instead, I blog. (Besides, with the exception of two, all my stories are romances--Ugh, right?) Blogging has satisfied that need that won’t go away, the need to be verbal. The need to use words in a new way. Besides the joy of putting finger pressure to keyboard (remember when we used to say “put pen to paper?”), blogging makes me feel good in other ways.

A blog feels like a home in space. There is a place I can always go to express myself without anyone telling me to be quiet. The people who visit me in my space-home are there because they help my home feel complete. The only people I close my door to are those who invade, uninvited, trying to use my comment box as a place to sell their wares. I close the door in their faces. Delete. Gone. My home is my place to enjoy people who are truly likeable and very lovable. They come into my home and leave a piece of themselves for me to enjoy, ponder, laugh at, and cry with. They are like the family members of this home in space. Quangsters.

I like learning new things. At my home in space I have learned to redecorate (thank you, Blogger, for making it free and easy.) I have learned to scrape up old linoleum and place down tile, so to speak. I’ve learned to do things like link to another website, resize photos, copy html, work with advertisers, chat with the guests in my home and be a good guest at someone else’s home in space.

I’ve discovered joy in fun little things: Daily looking at my Google Analytics map to see where on this planet my visitors were from that day, checking my Gmail account to see who left a new comment on my blog, seeing that I set a new record for how many people visited in one day, hearing a comment from a brand new reader and learning what combination of words people typed into Google to find my site.

I feel good when I get to come to YOUR blog to visit. You will never know how much you’ve inspired me or made me a better writer. You've always made me feel wanted. *Sniff.*

I like knowing that as much as I have learned by blogging, I have tons more to accomplish.

For example, I want to learn someday how to be more creative with my blog header and sidebar titles. There are people whose blogs I visit and wonder, “Hey! How’d they DO that!” (See the header and/or sidebar titles of Controlling my Chaos, Sisters’Stuff, and Dream a Little Dream.)

I want to learn how to get my header in the center of my blog. It’s in the center when I look at my blog, but when I move to Computer Geek’s monitor, my header justifies left.

I want to find out why feedburner hates me. Some of you are old enough Quangsters to remember that no matter how many new readers feedburner said I gained that day, the next day feedburner would always say I had ONE reader. Well that glitch seemed to have solved itself. Now it’s stuck on FOUR. No matter how many new readers it says I have, the next day it will always say I have four readers. I’ll get excited some mornings because I’ll think feedburner has unstuck me—it’ll say I have 7 readers, or 5 readers, or 9 readers! But next morning? Back to FOUR. Always eternally back to four. Aargh. But you know what? Whoever the FOUR of you are, I LOVE YOU!

What made YOU feel good?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Inspiration from Goodlife Zen Question 9

The posts until Saturday, January 9, will be in response to Mary Jaksch's questions on Goodlife Zen, 11 Questions that lead to Gratitude. Please visit the site and subscribe for daily inspiration.

9.What inspired you?

My sister, Kelli, without a doubt.

She’s a working mom, with two kids in college and one still in high school. Her kids have always been involved in a myriad of activities from politics and baseball to dance and football to cheerleading and basketball. Yet she can always be found serving the poor.

I remember her as a young lady, making food and taking it around to the homeless people in our town. Later, when her kids were in school, she heard teachers talking about children who went out to recess with no mittens, hats, or even socks during the frigid Iowa winters. One teacher that really touched Kelli’s heart told her of a child whose coat was held together with bread wrapper twisty ties. Like most people, Kelli nearly cried when hearing these stories.

Unlike most people, Kelli began a drive called Warm Hearts, Warm Hands and collected coats, mittens and scarves. She took the items to local schools for the teachers to give out to children in need.

Kelli also saw a feature in the local newspaper that plugged a nearby charity dedicated to serving the people of Tanzania. A surgeon and other doctors and dentists headed the group who went to Tanzania at least once a year to perform much needed surgeries (usually in hospitals with dirt floors) for free. They were looking for volunteers to help. Kelli’s heart was touched once again, and she served with the group for many years, her focus being on the orphans of Tanzania.

When the local group could not focus as much on the orphans as Kelli needed, she simply started her own charity, now called Project Rehema.

In a recent plea for help, Kelli said, “I have been involved in mission work in Tanzania, East Africa for the past 13 years. I was involved with another non-profit organization doing this until 3 years ago I started my own 501 c 3 not for profit organization called Project Rehema.

"Project Rehema is named after a sweet little 8 yr. old girl named Rehema Ntandu who I met in the summer of 2003. She was kicked out of orphanage after orphanage because she had HIV, passed onto her by her mother. In the short 3 week time period I was there in 2003, she was in 3 different orphanages because nobody wanted her there. By the time she finally got to an orphanage that did accept children with HIV, it was too late. Rehema died shortly after. We decided to name our project after her because she is truly an inspiration. Ironically enough her name in Swahili means “compassion” and that's what our project is all about.

"Unfortunately, there are 2.5 MILLION orphans in Tanzania alone. Project Rehema's goal is to get away from the institutionalizing of these kids and have a more "home like" setting. I am proud to say we have 9 VERY MODEST homes now where we have "mama's" caring for several orphans in each home. We provide their food every month and medical assistance. I took a step in faith this past June 2009 while on my 10th trip to Tanzania in committing to take on our 8th and 9th family.

"Mama Elisiana is caring for 5 orphaned children, some of whom were abandoned and others whose parents where eaten by wild animals. Mama Safina is caring for 3 orphans who lost both of their parents to AIDS.

"It broke my heart to hear their stories. They are nothing short of simply amazing. Life and death is such a part of life there. In talking with a young man named Adam, who has been an orphan since he was about 7, I asked Adam what was one of the scariest things that ever happened to him and he proceeded to tell me about the day when he was 7 and he had to walk for miles to go cut down sugar cane to sell. A python chased him. Keep in mind; pythons are well known for eating VERY large animals like antelope etc. as well as humans. Then he said, 'But Mama Kelli, I figured out if I ran on the gravel road instead of the grass, the python couldn't go as fast.”' What a life skill for a 7 year old to learn.

“I am currently looking for people or organizations to sponsor a child for food for $30 per month. I am begging you to share this with everyone you know because we are in need of finding sponsors so we can continue our mission of saving truly the neediest of the needy. While I realize we have "poor" people here in our own community, poor here and poor there are completely different levels. Trust me on this. There is no comparison. It's all about taking the opportunities we see to help others.

“Here is a link to our website. It is still under construction but you can at least get some basic information. There is a “donate” button under our ‘how you can help’ button.”

What Kelli didn’t mention is that she and another working mom, went ALONE to Tanzania to get these homes set up. There are many dangers in such travel, that I am not at liberty to discuss. She also didn’t mention that people who still believe in the practices of local witch doctors sometimes threaten the lives of the “mamas”. The witch doctors need “blood” or other “necessities” from the young children in order to manufacture their potions. The mamas risk their lives to protect the young children in their care.

What inspired YOU this year?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Inspiration from Goodlife Zen Question 8

Ok, I'm admitting something. I'm stumped. I can think of nothing. Zilch. Nada thing.

My mind is a sieve.

Here's where YOU come in.

Are you smarter than the mother of a 5th grader?

Please say yes.

Today's question from Mary Jacksch's post at Goodlife Zen is bringing up a big fat goose egg.

8. What did others do for you?

Is it just me? Or is this almost the exact same question as number 7--What kindness did you experience? As I tried to think of what others did for me this last year, I'm coming up with the same answers as I did for the kindness question.

I have thought about this ALL DAY. I guess I could have just copied and pasted yesterday's answers but I don't have dumb people reading this blog. They would notice.

The only conclusion I can draw is that there is some subtle difference between the two questions. Something I'm not seeing. Something that the extremely intelligent readers of this blog will see and will be happy to point out to me so that I can later honestly answer the question without feeling like the person who drives up the wrong way in the parking lot at Walmart in oblivion. You know--that person who is looking for a clue, but is driving backwards.

This wouldn't have happened when I was 49.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inspiration from Goodlife Zen Question 7

The posts until Saturday, January 9, will be in response to Mary Jaksch's questions on Goodlife Zen, 11 Questions that lead to Gratitude. Please visit the site and subscribe for daily inspiration.

7. What kindness did you experience?

I am giving myself a week to finish this post. Really, I tried to go back over the last year and think of all the many kind things that people did for me. Then I worried about leaving anyone out. With a surety, I will get a list done, and then remember some extremely important act of kindness that someone did, and I will have to strike myself in the face for forgetting. So here I am…giving myself some room to fail at total recall. As kindnesses come to my recollection over the week, I will add them.

My week-long party of a birthday will not be mentioned since I so recently posted all the beautiful acts that were done in my behalf. Go here if you need a refresher.

I will however give kudos to Computer Geek for knowing about my early-morning birthday wake-up call ahead of time, but keeping it a secret. He’s a good surpriser! (He will tell you that it’s only because his memory is shot and that if he kept a secret it was only because he didn’t remember it.)

A kind person in Seattle gave us her parking spot so we didn’t have to pay $20.

Computer Geek’s two sisters let us stay at their respective homes for almost a week when we were in Seattle.

I got two Mother’s Day cards from sweet young ladies to whom I did not give birth—Gnome and Angel Dancer.

My students gave me heart-warming gifts of artwork, love notes, flowers, and other valued items.

My son frequently comes up to me and says, “You’re the best mom in the world. And I don’t think you’re fat.”

Several friends gave me gifts of garden produce, including homemade pickles and jam.

My two daughters, Em and Kay, wanted to go to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in Vegas, but they didn’t want to go without us, so together they paid for Computer Geek, Weston and me to go.

For the past year, I have received kind-hearted comments from the readers of this blog. Only one person was mean to me, but I have the power of the DELETE button! My kind aunt is always generous with her praise, which means a lot to me since she is a writer/author, editor extraordinaire. I feel like I can count many of you among my true friends, even though we have not met. Thank you to those of you who mailed surprises—you know who you are…

Daughter Em surprised her little brother Weston with some back-to-school outfits. Oh wait…Computer Geek tells me that males can only use the word “outfit” when referring to their trucks.

Several people gave me beautiful plants—roses, a Christmas Cactus, and another plant with pretty, poufy, pink blossoms.

My local friend Ekanela is always ready with a kind word (although she talks really fast so you have to listen carefully,) a beautiful smile, and a helping hand. Make that two. Two helping hands. Not to mention her six vertical feet.

Merrill Osmond shook my hand.

Em came over one day and surprised me with two new shirts. She's my Stacy.

Two people employed me for a few days to do some bookwork for them and overpaid me.

To be continued…

Continued from above: See--I knew I'd think of more...

One of my friend buys really cool clothes for her son. He's two years older than my son so when her boy outgrows his cool clothes, she gives them to me! In perfect condition!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Inspiration from Goodlife Zen Question 6

6. What deepened your spirituality?

This was definitely the hardest question out of Mary's list. For me, it seems as if any spiritual growth is preceded by a period of intense trial and introspection, and like most people---I don’t like looking at myself in great detail. What I don’t see, I don’t have to fix, right?

In early childhood most of us have our favorite things—our things we can’t do without, whether it is a pacifier, a blankie, a stuffed animal or a bottle. As we get older, we learn to do without these security items, these things that make us feel safe. But what if we really don’t give them up, we just transfer them to something else? What if the pacifier becomes the cigarette, the fuzzy blanket becomes sex, our stuffed animals become Ipods and new cars, and the bottle becomes food? Do we acquire new “security blankets” as we get older?

What if my security blanket is my favorite holiday?

Because I am a Christian, Christmas to me has always been a magical time. I love the lights, the trees, the buying of gifts, the baking, the concerts and performances, the stories, and most of all, a feeling of closeness to Christ. But what if my feelings about Christmas were focused more on it being my security blanket and not on Christ?

I refused to believe that was true about myself when my perceptions were first challenged. Christmas had always been about Christ, and worshiping Him. When someone challenged me to examine how much of my Christmas was really about Christ, I was a little offended. After all, for me Christmas is more about giving than receiving. And my feelings about Christ seemed to deepen over the holidays. How could my celebration as a Christian be off base? I refused to believe my motives at Christmas were less than Christ-centered.

Sometimes though, when someone hits the nail on the head, the accompanying headache is too great to ignore. Going into the Christmas season, I found myself thinking more and more about whether or not my Christmas traditions were really focused on Christ, or whether they were really focused on me and my feelings of security.

I began by thinking about something as simple as Christmas lights. I have always, from childhood loved the ambiance created by twinkle lights. I love the multi-colored streams hanging from neighbors’ homes, I love brightly lit trees, and I even love the white lights that adorn fake greenery in restaurants throughout the year. All year round, I have white twinkle lights on my kitchen counter so I can turn off the overheads when I’m through for the evening and just bask in the soft lighting. I had to ask myself What if Christmas had to be celebrated this year without lights? The thought of it nearly made me cry, so I knew I had struck a nerve.

Why was I so emotional about Christmas lights? Could I really have a happy Christmas without them? I started my self-introspection by recalling my earliest memories of Christmas lights. I remember sitting on the couch with my mom, in the darkness of a living room lit only by the garish bulbs hanging on our aluminum tree. Looking back, the colors of those bulbs were not that pretty. What was it then? It didn’t take long for me to realize why I loved the lights so much. The lights told me that my mom loved me. Even though she was an extremely busy working mother, she took time just to sit quietly in the dark with the Christmas lights and me. Bingo! My love for Christmas lights had nothing to do with Christ. It had everything to do with feeling unconditionally loved by my mom.

This realization led me to examine quite a few other things. The Christmas tree? Was it the bearer of lights for me or did I love it because of the gifts I had bought for others stacked neatly under it? Could I do without it? Yes, I decided, as long as I could put the gifts in another attractively displayed pile and keep my twinkle lights in the kitchen. Although I would hate to do it, I could give up my Christmas tree without diminishing my love for Christ.

That led me to the gifts. Could I still feel the spirit of Christmas if I bought no gifts this year? Again, I felt like crying at the thought of it. I wanted to buy gifts! But I knew I needed to look deep down inside at the emotion that erupted. What if I was told “no gifts” this year? Well, my son will have to have what he needs when he needs it, was my first thought. Frequently we hold off buying him things he needs such as a new coat or new snow pants until Christmas. If there were no Christmas gifts, we would just have to buy him what he needed as soon as he needed it.

That thought took me to a place I had never imagined. If I bought my son, what he needed when he needed it, what about his teacher? I normally buy a Christmas gift for his teacher, but if I did no Christmas gifts, what then? Then she too would have what she needed, when she needed it. Many times I have heard about a teacher having a bad day and thought to get her a small token of appreciation. Usually though, I let the thought pass, promising to just remember her at Christmas. Now? I would give her what she needed when she needed it. What about others? What if I always made a practice of being there for another’s needs, whether or not it was Christmas? After all, how many presents do the scriptures say that Christ gave out? I don’t remember any.

I do remember Him giving them what they needed, when they needed it. His was a life of service. Does it make more sense to go around doing good, meeting needs when they are needed, than to wait once a year at Christmas? Once again, I realized that Christmas was more about me, and my feeling good for having given a present at the right time, than about honoring Christ. As I looked at each of my Christmas traditions, I realized how many of them were about making me feel good. I really had believed that I celebrated Christmas more reverently than retailers encourage us to. But was I? No.

Does this mean that I think you shouldn't use Christmas lights? No. But I was lying to myself about their importance. Do I think you’re really only giving presents because you “have to” at Christmas? No. But I was giving them more for wanting my friends and loved ones to feel good than for fulfilling Christ’s expectations.

Did I give up lights and trees and presents this year? No way! But I did come away with a new resolve to make Christmas part of my life all year round.

I will have twinkle lights in my home all year because they remind me of my mother’s love. I will still drive by homes at night to look at all the Christmas lights. I won’t wait until Christmas to make fudge, pretending that I am doing it in celebration of Him. I won’t tell the beautiful story of His birth during December only. I’ll sing a Christmas carol in May if that’s where my heart leads me. I will try to capture those feelings daily instead of waiting until a special holiday. I will still give presents at Christmas, but I promise to begin giving people what they need all year round too, when they need it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Inspiration from Goodlife Zen Question 5

The posts until Saturday, January 9, will be in response to Mary Jaksch's questions on Goodlife Zen, 11 Questions that lead to Gratitude. Please visit the site and subscribe for daily inspiration.

5. What triggered your creativity?

Living on one income has sparked my creativity more than anything else this past year.

I have learned to scour the internet for freebies and frugal ideas. Just last week I saw an adorable idea for January birthdays or “just because” gifts. Since candy canes can be had for about 44 cents a box right now, buy several boxes. Buy a canister or box of hot cocoa packets. Go to the “victim’s” house and hang candy canes from their bushes and trees. Put the cocoa on their front porch along with a note that says “ Remember to stir your hot cocoa with a candy cane for a minty treat. Too bad candy canes don’t grow on trees. Or do they?” Ring the doorbell and run!

I shop more creatively, looking for sales to combine with coupons for the best savings. Recently I found crescent rolls on sale for 2/$3.00. There was also a coupon in the newspaper for $2 off, but only if you bought 4 packages. I bought 4 packages for $6.00, then got the $2.00 off coupon, dropping each package to $1.00. Then when we got to the store, each package had a 55-cent coupon on it, making each package only 45 cents! That was great when I got invited to a dinner and was asked to bring dinner rolls. I made two packages of rolls for 90 cents!

Ever think of having an indoor garden? I have a south facing window in a spare bedroom that has become home to my tomato plants. They flourish since they’re right under the heater vent and get lots of sun each day. I had a home grown tomato in my omelet yesterday, right in the middle of winter.

As I mentioned in my sidebar last week, I spend a few dollars each year after Christmas to buy Christmas wrap in generic colors. For example, last year I bought a metallic blue striped roll and a red plaid roll and wrapped birthday and wedding gifts all year. This year I found a gold wrap and a blue wrap with multi-colored stars and circles. I also bought matching tissue papers, bows, and gift bags. Between them all, we spent less than $10. If you wait to buy the skimpy rolls of birthday wrap every time you have a birthday throughout the year, you will spend way more than ten bucks.

As I mentioned in a previous post on frugality, the local newspaper is a great source of free activities for your family to do. Just by reading the paper, we have signed up Weston for a local history class ($2) where he made a dream catcher, learned how to frame a hide, and found out where all the state parks are in our state. Earlier in the year he went to a class on bug life ($2.) We saw a night time lighted Christmas parade (free.) We welcomed the cows home from the mountain and heard rousing country music at 7:00 a.m. (free.) During a summer parade Weston scored a free t-shirt, a jug of milk, some pens and candy (free.) We attended an outdoor community concert of Celtic music (free.) On a June night we watched an outdoor historical/religious pageant (free.) We went to a patriotic event at a local stadium that had music, fireworks and a Patrick Henry reading (free.) A local author visited our school and gave a presentation (free) after we saw in the paper that he had done so for other schools. So as you can see, our family is very active for very little cost. People might assume that we spend lots of money because of all that we do. 75 cents a week to our local newspaper publisher covers it.

What triggered YOUR creativity this year?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Inspiration from Goodlife Zen Question 4

The posts until Saturday, January 9, will be in response to Mary Jaksch's questions on Goodlife Zen, 11 Questions that lead to Gratitude. Please visit the site and subscribe for daily inspiration.

4. What changed you?

My older sister [we’ll call her Lala] had a stroke two years ago, leaving her with limited use of her arm and leg on one side. Her devoted husband works 14 hours a day, then comes home and tackles whatever housework she is unable to do, plus helps her dress, undress and bathe. He has lovingly cared for her for those two years, never complaining or taking any time for himself. Last August, my sister called and asked me if I could come and stay with her for a few days so her husband could go on a well-deserved fishing trip.

Weston and I drove to Wyoming to stay with her. I love Wyoming. We drove for hours and hours, seeing roughly ten other cars in a four-hour time span. It’s beautiful, but very sparsely populated.

One of the first things Weston and I did was to take Lala shopping downtown. She doesn’t get there often since most stores are closed by the time her husband gets off work. And, as I soon learned, her trips out are not without great difficulty.

Getting her into and out of the car with a stubborn leg caused me to have to be mindful of the logistics of every trip. Are we close enough to the curb so that she won’t have to try to take a step up from the street? Is there a handicapped spot close enough to the store we want to visit? Are there any impediments in the sidewalk—unique textures, slopes, garbage, loiterers—that will cause her to stumble or fall?

The town Lala lives in is quite charming. It’s full of unique shops and friendly people. Our first stop was the bookstore where she used to work. The owner of the store is a good friend of Lala’s and tried for a long time to allow her to work around her disability. In the end, it was just too much for Lala. She tires easily and stumbles even more easily. A bump in a store’s carpet that we may walk over without noticing, becomes a small hurdle for someone who has to be conscious of every step her sluggish leg takes.

We next went to a cute coffee and pastry shop. Both employees and patrons yelled out Lala’s name. It seems she is well-known and liked in her town.

Just a few of the experiences that helped me become more aware:

  • Helping her with her shower was no big deal for me. It was humiliating for her.
  • A small irregularity in the street almost caused her to fall as I was helping her across.
  • The “Walk” lights don’t last long enough when helping a disabled person get across the street. “Don’t Walk” flashes before we are even one-third of the way across. Luckily the drivers in her town are very patient and wait while we struggle across.
  • Trying to walk through a swimming pool’s changing room is annoying for most of us as we watch our steps on the slick wet concrete. For Lala, it was terrifying. We walked very slowly, which embarrassed her when we were forced to make others walk slowly behind us. Luckily, the first person behind us as we struggled through the slippery area was her former physical therapist who said, “Don’t worry. Take all the time you need.”
  • Someone who has had a stroke and has limited arm/leg movement may need help with things like opening a can, getting toothpaste on a toothbrush, buttoning clothes or tying a shoe.

Once I was shopping in a mall with a friend of mine and her wheelchair-bound daughter. I started to go into a popular clothing store when my friend said, “I can’t go in that store.” When she noticed my puzzled look she said, “Look at the aisles between clothing racks. No room for a wheelchair to navigate.” I was amazed as store after store was off-limits to her and her daughter.

I had thought at that time that my eyes were opened to what people with disabilities have to go through. The few days I spent with Lala changed my perceptions further. I hope I am more aware and sensitive. I know I am more patient as people seem to thwart my progress as I am out and about. Who knows what disability or impairment is causing them to drive slowly, or appear to be dawdling in front of me?

What changed YOU in 2009?
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