Wheelchair Accessible Swing

I saw this on FB this morning and my spirits soared. This swing is a dream come true for many children who are confined to wheelchairs. My wish is that all cities and towns will have a park with a swing like this one day. I hope that you watch the video and see the pure and utter joy on this boy’s face. https://5newsonline.com/2018/03/26/creekmore-park-wheelchair-swing-gaining-attention-on-social-media

 

Dad and me

This swing was the best one that I had access to in the as baby and young child.  However, I became too big to for the swing by second grade or so.

Elderly Forced to Move Due to Corporate Greed

Elderly Forced to Move Due to Corporate Greed

This story headlined my Seattle CBS news affiliate. Ballard is a suburb of Seattle. We must remember that a society is judged by how well it treats its elderly, disabled and children, its most needy and vulnerable population. This is an example of how terrible we are doing; 48 seniors have to find a new, affordable place to live March 31st because the owner wants to convert these assisted living apartments into regular apartments.  I would appreciate your thoughts on this important issue. Here is the link to the full story:

http://www.kiro7.com/news/local/seattle-assisted-living-residents-told-to-move-because-of-apartment-conversion/490393054

 

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Voices from My Heart

Voices from My Heart

It was 1967, I was three years old and my parents rolled me into the biggest room I had ever seen with kids in wheelchairs from the ages of 3-12. My eyes were drawn immediately to the blackboard, the long table slightly to the right, the play area and a yellow piano. As I took in the scene with my keen eyes, I saw a young girl. She was so pale and fragile and not much larger than me even though she was nine years older. Elizabeth, unlike me, who was very loquacious could not speak or feed herself. She had a smile brighter than sunshine, and she beamed whenever she saw me. A year later, I met Bruce who had eyes the color of a blue jay and a great Tarzan yell, so I was deeply in love for a four year old. Forty years later, I carry these two in my heart; they taught me so much about grace in the face of terrible pain and suffering. At seven years old, they gave me the courage to leave them so I could help break down barriers for us and other handicapped children. Who would speak to her and bring that wonderful smile to her after I left?  I saw Bruce one last time; the light of life was absent from his eyes. Later, I learned that Bruce had gone home to be with God and Elizabeth’s Dad had placed her in a nursing home.

     Everyone at California Avenue treated us with such loving compassion as if we were their own children or grandchildren. Praise was never in short supply! “What a great job, two gold stars, Kathy!’’ Whenever one of us celebrated a birthday, we would all work together to whip up a birthday cake for him/her. I wonder how many eggs I cracked all over the table, but nobody ever raised their voices. We were our own assembly line starting with the birthday person who began by adding the precious ingredients to our much anticipated treat. It was a sneaky but fun way for us to practice our therapy skills and our counting simultaneously. It was a little tricky for me to hold the mixing bowl and stir with my right hand as speedily as possible while counting by fives: “five, ten, fifteen…’’ By the time the bowl was passed around twice, all the lumps were whipped and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   beaten out. Next, the birthday kid poured the batter into a pan with Mrs. Coles’ help. The same lucky kid was given the momentous honor of licking the mixing spoon. While waiting with great anticipation for the oven to produce its eagerly awaited treat, we loved gathering around the piano to sing and/or clap to rousing, but slightly off key renditions of Old McDonald  and other favorites. I must have had the most fun of anyone that ever went to school! Our class even put on a grand production of The Little Gingerbread Man. Bruce played the Gingerbread Man and I was the old Grandma who made him. I still recall the bright smile Elizabeth gave me as I took over the part of narrator from my teacher and my Dad’s roaring, snorting laughter that rose above the applause. I think they were so dear to me because they had the most tragic diagnoses of all the kids. In spite of that, they both kept such a bright outlook, in spite of their sad circumstances.

We went on a grand field trip to Camp Pendleton because President Nixon, who was President of the U.S. from 1968 – 74, was appearing there. We also took trips to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. My parents often went along as helpers because all twelve of us had assistive devices: crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and/or leg braces. This meant that it could be quite challenging to keep us all together as a group since we all traveled at different paces. For the most part, these excursions were fun adventures, but these trips were also personal lessons; my first lessons that showed me people could be extremely cruel, especially toward my dear friend Elizabeth. “Look at that stupid retard!’’ This happened many times to her and anger seethed through me each time, but I didn’t know how to cope with it. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but the cerebral palsy had robbed her of the ability to voice her agonies. I made it a point to let her know she was a beautiful, smart person; they were the dumb ones! It was around this time that I noticed that Bruce was growing weaker. Mom explained that he had Muscular Dystrophy; he was dying and that meant I would not see him again once he died. It was a difficult concept for me as I had thought that only old people died. Little did I know or comprehend how much the winds of change were swirling in my life and in society as a whole. First grade saw me mainstreamed two hours a day into a regular classroom.

 

I was part of a trial group selected as an experiment to see if we could succeed in class with able-bodied or non-disabled children, and if we would be accepted by them. Our success, in part, led to the inclusion laws a few years later that allowed children the least restrictive education possible. Toward the end of first grade, my parents were called to a meeting. The experiment would be expanded to see if I could handle a full day in my neighborhood elementary school. I would soon be leaving my precious friends. How would I say good-bye to Bruce and Elizabeth? I was filled with sorrow. Mom said that my new classmates could be mean to me, and my mind flashed back to Elizabeth and the heartaches that she suffered on our field trips. I would no longer have my empathetic teacher to act as a buffer from the cruelty that I may encounter. Would I also be teased and bullied?

A mixture of dread, sadness and anticipation filled me on that first day in my new school. As I rolled into the front of my second grade class, I began to introduce myself, explained about cerebral palsy etc. I was so nervous that I could not recall what I had said even a few minutes afterwards. It amazes me now that I do not recall my years at San Luis Ray nearly as easily as I call to mind my time at California Avenue School. A piece of my heart stayed behind there with Bruce, Elizabeth and the others. Part of me wanted to return because I knew that I was accepted there, and I missed my dear friends.

It turned out that it was not my academic performance or my classmates who tried to railroad my mainstream experience, it was the school administrators. They hired aides for me that they knew would not last long; Mrs. Brand was pregnant, Mrs. Stover was elderly… Mom was my aide until she caught the flu and I was forced to stay home. Flu or not, the school district had greatly underestimated a mother’s love when her child was being denied a quality education. She had college dreams for me, after all. Mrs. Deibert entered my life a few days later, and she has never been absent from it. We have had a great many good times together all the way up through my high school graduation and beyond. At this moment, I type away doing my best to fulfill a mother’s wish, dreamed so long ago. This dream has rekindled in me as well; the fire burns deep in my heart to get my degree.

 

2016

So much has happened since I wrote my story five years ago that I thought another chapter was fitting.  Mom’s long suffering ended on May 21st, 2012. The nursing home said she passed away at 7AM, but I awoke at 5:15 AM as she told me goodbye. It turns out that I was not alone; she visited all those she was closest to as she slipped from this life to go to her eternal mansion. I know she thought of my Dad often since his death only two years before her own passing. It was as though the long, bitter years never occurred between them. I strongly believe that they are together once again in love and peace.

I know that they watched me walk/stroll in the arena with the other more than 500 graduates on June 18th, 2016. I am positive that their cheers joined Kristie’s’ from far above Seattle to wish me well and express their pride in a degree well earned. I sit here tonight, school done, reflecting on one of my favorite poems, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. What lies ahead for me?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.                                                                                                               

         

Which road less traveled should I go? What seemed so clear a short time ago is now filled with questions as I end another chapter. Perhaps, these voices from my past will guide my path. But, do not tarry because I am anxious to get going doing the work that my God has for me. I ask for the strength and the courage to be up to the challenge. Am I supposed to be happy wherever I am placed, or do You have the ideal place in mind?3rd grade

Update on My Journey

As of September 19th, I finished my last two classes for my BA degree in Human Services with the Gerontology emphasis. Most of the jobs I am looking at require a Master’s degree. Those that do not require me to drive require a CPR certificate. I applied for a Master’s Program. I have written to a supervisor/trainer  who wants to meet with me. But, I do have to impress the Dean well enough to be accepted via a Skype interview. The timing of all this depends when my completed transcript is received by the school.

I am sick and tired of being held down by the ridiculous restrictions presented by SSI. They are designed to keep me and others where they are – stuck in abject poverty. Being in a power chair, it would be ideal if I could have a home built for me. Imagine my dismay when I learned that I did not make enough to qualify for the Habitat for Humanity Program guidelines. Someone, let me fly! PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES HAVE MUCH PASSIONATE COMMITMENT TO OFFER!!

storm

 

A Lesson from Christopher Reeves

Here is the devotional that goes with the previous post. I am sorry that that part did not publish.

“Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” —Job 14:5

A few years back when I watched Christopher Reeve on television (the actor who was severely paralyzed in a riding accident), I was deeply moved. Although he sat stiff and rigid in his wheelchair, he smiled courageously as he puffed-and-sipped his mouth controls to steer his chair. The day after the program aired, I kept running into people who said, “Did you see Christopher on TV last night? Isn’t he an inspiration?”

I smiled and nodded “yes,” but thought, just last week everyone was talking about assisted suicide for people like him. It is not consistent. One day letters to the editor applaud the courage of the severely disabled; the next, the editorial column can be filled with letters cheering on the new legislation legalizing assisted suicide. One day Christopher Reeve was positioned as “a helpless victim.” The next, a picture of courage.

It tells me that society keeps a double standard. Society thinks it is appropriate to prevent able-bodied people from committing suicide, but considers it rational for a terminally ill or severely incapacitated person to end his life. More importantly, it shows that we lack confidence in God’s ability to sustain those who suffer.

God gives common grace to non-believers who suffer and God gives special grace to believers who suffer. Is someone close to you terminally ill or severely incapacitated? Pray that God will give them grace today. Show a skeptical society the truth of 1 Corinthians 16:19-20, “You are not your own… Therefore, honor God with your body.” At all times, no matter how physically or mentally limited we are, it is the Lord of life who gives breath. Be the Lord’s hands to help a suffering friend today. Through prayer and encouragement, help this hurting friend understand that life is worth living.

Help me to shatter the schizophrenia as I share with others that you are the Lord of life. Help me to support the hurting and encourage the dying. Praise you for helping people like Christopher Reeve… using people like me.

Taken from More Precious Than Silver. © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Used by permission. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530.

 

More Valuable than Gold

The point that Joni is trying make here is that just because some people have physical or mental challenges that All we still have value. There are many who have no legs that still do marvelous things. Everyone has value because we are all God’s children. i copied my daily devotional from today. from to It really touched me and I hoped it touches you as well.

 

jesus with kids photo – Bing images

The Argonault

The very name of this chair sounds very space age; we are getting closer and closer to Star Trek and Jetsonian technology daily. This new  chair for is called the Argonault. It is only in the prototype stage. However, I can tell you that sitting in a chair usually makes makes a person much shorter than the average adult. It would be fantastic to have a chair that could raise up to a freezer or a high shelf. From the prototype animation, it also looks like you can roll onto it from the bed; this makes it much easier for the person with a disability  and/or the caregiver A Hoyer lift may not be necessary!  Arguably,  the most jaw dropping feature is the base that acts as its own ramp! You have to see it to believe it! I don’t have a photo to show all of you, but there are links  for you to look at below:  http://www.argonault.com/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik286spRM1w

With people living longer, the cost of the assistive technology just has to come down. It is a quality 0f life issue. Study after study shows that people, if given a choice, people overwelmingly feel that a higher quality of life means more than longevity of life!