#AtoZChallenge — Beer

I like beer. I’m not a beer connoisseur by any stretch, but I know what I like.

A rare moment, drinking a Corona.

I didn’t always like beer. What I have discovered is that I seem to prefer beer that doesn’t taste like beer. You won’t likely find me drinking a Budweiser, Coors Light, or Miller. Maybe a very occasional Corona (because I like the lime), but generally speaking, not a beer-flavored beer drinker!

Enjoying my “comfort beer,” a Guinness.

I learned that there were beers that had actual flavors from my friends Steven and Brian, who actually opened and ran their own brewery for a few years. (Brian has since moved on to working for a beer distributor in the Florida keys, using his extensive beer knowledge and reputation to make a name for himself on the beer world. Steven is a brewer and part owner at a local brewery near where I live, so I still get to drink his beer, and it makes me happy!) My very favorite beer in the world is actually one Steven brewed at home and also ended up brewing when he was in business with his brother. It was called Stick to the Nuts (many of their beers had a hockey slant, as their business was named SlapShot Brewing. Stick to the Nuts had peanut butter in it, and it was just so tasty! But since I can’t enjoy Stick to the Nuts anymore, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites:

  • Guinness, especially if it’s a nitro (I do love a good stout, and Guinness is just a comfort beer for me)
  • Wells Banana Bread
  • Abita Purple Haze
  • Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
  • Left Hand Milk Stout
  • Hailstorm Hotel Life (this is one of the beers Steven brews)
  • 3 Floyds Zombie Dust
  • Pollyanna Fun Size
  • New Glarus Spotted Cow
  • Saugatuck Neapolitan Milk Stout
Wearing a Guinness shirt I literally charmed off the back of a man in Key West!
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Blogging A to Z — Adopt, Don’t Shop

I have 2 dogs — Blanca and Zoey. They’re both chihuahuas. Zoey is 12; Blanca is 14. Zoey was adopted from someone I knew whose dog had puppies. But Blanca, she’s a different story. One I want to share.

I wanted a chihuahua. I knew I wanted one that was solid, light colored. I did not do any legwork or research and assumed I would not find one anywhere except from a breeder or a shop. I ended up finding her at a pet store, and I won’t disclose what I paid for my dog, but it was A LOT.

Since getting her, I have done a lot of learning, and I discovered that puppy mills exist. I didn’t really know anything about them 14 years ago, but I soon came to learn the horrors of them. If you’re an animal lover. then the details about puppy mills will make you absolutely sick to your stomach. I also learned that many pet stores are notorious for acquiring dogs from puppy mills, and I am fairly certain that my Blanca was probably the product of a puppy mill, and I unwittingly contributed to that practice continuing by buying her at a pet store.

If I had to do it all again, I would reach out to rescues specifically for chihuahuas to see if I could find the kind of pup I wanted. I would go to a shelter to see if they had a dog I wanted. I would NOT go to a breeder (not for a house pet; that’s a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a dog I’m not going to do anything with except feed and love on). I would NOT go to a pet shop. I would adopt. That’s what I would encourage anyone to do for any kind of pet. There are far too many unwanted animals out there that need a home; there is no need to pay big bucks for a house pet. Period.

And while I am on my soap box, please also do not bring a pet into your home unless you plan to keep it for the rest of its life. Pets are not disposable. You do not get to just get rid of it when it becomes an inconvenience. Blanca, being up in years, can’t hold her peeing and pooping as long as she used to be able to, so she does end up having accidents in the house. It’s a pain, and it’s gross. But I will NOT get rid of her because of it. Instead, we use puppy pads in areas where she is prone to making a mess, and we clean floors, throw rugs, and carpets where she has accidents. We invested in a good carpet cleaner, and we have plenty of cleaning supplies. THAT’S what need to be done, not throw her away because she got old.

So the next time you are looking for a new fur baby, please adopt, don’t shop!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Sheila for suggesting I write on this topic. She is a fierce advocate for all things furry!

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Year in Review 2020 — The Year of Silver Linings

I think everyone agrees — 2020 sucked! It was the hottest mess of hot messes of a year. So why is this post subtitled, “The Year of Silver Linings”? Because as I reflected on the year and what I wanted to write about, I realized that pretty much every gray cloud of 2020 had a silver lining.

Let’s start with the obvious: COVID-19.

Gray cloud: schools closed. Clearly unprecedented. Something I surely never, ever expected to happen in the course of my career. When schools closed in March, my mind was simply reeling. It was surreal, working from home every day. When we had the chance to get back into the schools near the end of the school year to close up our spaces, it was eerie, with everything having been frozen in time. Dates written on whiteboards, supplies left on desks, decorations on walls and doors. Having the pick up day at the end of the year with kids in cars with their parents was so strange and sad somehow. It was like all of us in education couldn’t believe this was our current reality.

Silver lining: the camaraderie I felt with my colleagues. It was comforting knowing there was a group of people I could bond with, who could understand exactly how difficult trying to teach kids from home actually was. We were all united in our efforts to do right by our kids, and we all were able to laugh and cry together, even if it was virtually. I am still so incredibly proud of the extraordinary work my colleagues did (and are actually still doing) to ensure the students in our district had the best possible experience, both educationally and socially.

Silver lining: the comforts of home. While working from home, I got to be with my dogs and my husband. I got to sleep a little bit later. I got to wear super comfy clothes each day.

Gray cloud: my husband, my daughter, and my future son-in-law got COVID. Becky and Ben came down with it pretty much at the exact same time. Jim came down with it, too. We are all pretty sure we knew where Becky and Ben got it, but no clue where Jim picked it up.

Silver lining: none of them had a serious case. Becky and Ben never had anything more serious than some body aches; Jim never had anything more than a stuffy nose. And I have also managed to avoid getting it (unless I have had it and have been asymptomatic). Hearing about how many people have had serious cases of COVID and how many people have actually died from it makes me grateful beyond measure that my family was fortunate enough to have mild cases.

Gray cloud: quarantining. Stay-at-home orders and voluntarily avoiding being around people has meant I don’t get to see some people, like my mom or my brother and his family. In fact, I have not hugged my mom since March. It can be pretty emotionally draining to be away from those you love.

Silver lining: quality time with the hubs. We have enjoyed binge watching TV shows together and playing cards as well as doing some cleaning projects around the house.

On to other gray clouds and their silver linings:

Gray cloud: Larry and Cathy leave me. My dearest friends moved to Key West this year. These are people I love like family, and their moving has left a hole in my heart. I miss them so much every damn day.

Silver lining: travel. Jim and I have managed to get 3 trips this year to visit them in Key West. We have a reason to get there as often as possible now, and because they live there, they show us all sorts of great new places to visit, places we would have never thought about if not for their experience. Plus they are happy, so I am happy for them.

Gray cloud: neuropathy. I still have pretty significant numbness, especially in my left foot. I really thought I would be back to 100% this year, but alas, I am not.

Silver lining: lots of normalcy. I am now able to drive normally — no hand controls. I don’t have to wear leg braces. I don’t have to use a walker or a cane. I go to the gym and go to boxing, and I can do most of the things I want to do to be active.

2020 is ending, and I am so glad for that! I am very much looking forward to 2021. The biggest event is my daughter’s wedding. I am also looking forward to getting a COVID vaccine as soon as I can, taking more tripe to Key West, and continuing to work on my recovery.

Happy New Year, my friends!

via Wintershall Dea on GIPHY

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I Get To

Today is Thanksgiving and I thought of something I wanted to say today about gratitude. This year, Thanksgiving is peppered with a little bit of angst and even resentment as many of us aren’t able to celebrate the way we normally would because of COVID. Even last night, I was lamenting the fact that I wouldn’t get to be with my mom on Thanksgiving (part of that had to do with the fact that I had to make the pies that she normally brings haha)! But this morning, I had a thought, and this is something that many of us have probably heard.

Instead of saying, “I have to,” say, ” I get to.”

Instead of, “I have to be away from family this Thanksgiving,” say, “I get to keep family safe and healthy,” or, “I get to have a small. cozy Thanksgiving this year.”

Instead of, “I have to make the pies that my mom normally makes,” say, “I get to try something new.”

Instead of, “I have to do all the cooking this year,” say, “I get to provide a good meal for my family,” or, “I get to eat while some people don’t.”

Instead of, “I have a big mess to clean up after this meal,” say, “I get to to clean up from a great celebration.”

Instead of, “I am having a lonely Thanksgiving,” say, “I get to have a peaceful, low key Thanksgiving.”

Gratitude is a matter of perspective, in my opinion. I have had to learn this the hard way as I have battled through some mighty tough obstacles in my life. “Having to” is an obligation, a chore, a duty. “Getting to” is an opportunity, a chance, a possibility.

This Thanksgiving, and as we continue to live through the era of coronavirus, please join me in “getting to” instead of “having to.”

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The Tunnel

I am standing in the middle of a long, dark tunnel. If I look behind me, I can see the pinpoint of light that is where I came from. If I look in front of me, there is a light that is my final destination, but that light always seems to be flickering and elusive. I want that light in front of me to be exactly the same as the light behind me, but I fear it won’t be. My biggest worry is that I have no idea what kind of light awaits me at the end of the tunnel.

The light behind me is my life before Key West in August 2019. I wouldn’t say it was blissfully happy, but overall, I was one happy camper. I was happy with my marriage, my child, my family, my job, my friends, and my health and body. Life was comfortable and I was highly satisfied. I could see my future out ahead of me very clearly, and I took comfort in that. I knew the steps I would have to take to reach that future.

Then Key West happened. Normally it’s one of the trips I most look forward to every year. I woke the morning of August 1 feeling just as excited as usual, but there was something bothering me: my back was sore. The pain in my back steadily grew more unbearable throughout the whole trip, to the point where it was debilitating. I suffered that whole trip.

Then as soon as I got home, my world turned upside down, and I wasn’t even aware it happened while it was happening. Complications from spinal surgery to fix 3 vertebrae that were lined up like stair steps left me numb and unable to move from the knees down, with some numbness up the outside of my legs and the back of my legs. Thus started my trip through this tunnel I am currently in.

I have been in this tunnel since August 8, 2019. I call it a tunnel because I feel closed in, trapped. My body traps my will. My body has altered everything — my marriage, my relationships, my job, my body, and my vision for the future. That’s the little, flickering light in front of me. I have no idea what my future looks like, and that uncertainty colors everything I see and everything I do.

And I hate it. I am the kind of person who follows directions, who sets goals, who takes deliberate steps to reach those goals. People keep likening my recovery journey to my marathon training. Except that they’re not alike at all. When I trained for the marathon, I followed a plan, and I knew that by following the plan, I would be able to finish the marathon. And I did. Yes, there were obstacles and uncertainties along the way, but it was implied that plan + effort = finish line. In my current situation, that equation doesn’t work. Instead, my equation looks like this: plan + effort = maybe walk again normally, maybe not — just wait and see, keep working though. I hate the uncertainty, and that hatred taints everything else in my life. My marriage seems compromised and less vibrant despite being more in love than ever with my husband. My relationships are changed, focusing so heavily on the limitations of my physical abilities. My job has changed in that I am now playing catch up after missing the first half of the school year and having to change the way I physically move about my environment. My health and relationship with my body is strained. I mostly hate my body and its limitations. Yes, I do have moments of celebration with my body when I can do something I couldn’t do (like use a regular cane instead of a walker, or walk unassisted, or bend down to pick something up off the floor), but those moments often turn quickly into thinking, “How sad is it to celebrate something so primary, something everyone else can do, something I used to be able to do without even thinking about it?” and then I am right back to that self-loathing.

I have such an impressive support system. I have family and friends and co-workers and doctors and therapists. Some of them are here for the long haul; some of them come and go. I am grateful for so many people who care about me and my progress, but I am resentful that my relationships now seem to revolve around my recovery. I don’t resent the people; I resent my situation permeating those relationships. That’s not anybody’s fault, well, except maybe mine for letting those relationships center around that. But my whole damn life revolves around that, and I never asked for it.

I have no idea what the rest of the tunnel path looks like. It’s dark, and the light at the end keeps flickering. The path ahead of me is often bumpy, sometimes smooth, and always unclear. I hate being in the dark, and I hate the lack of clarity. I wonder what my life will look like when I finally meet that elusive flickering light in front of me. Will it look like what is behind me, or will it look completely different? That unknown angers me, it saddens me, and it scares me.

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2019 Year in Review — Buckle Up

2019 has been an incredibly memorable year. The ups were way up there. The downs were way down there.

Peabody Ducks!

Memphis: In the early part of 2019, Jim and I took a long weekend trip to Memphis with our friends Larry and Cathy. This was my first time in Memphis and I absolutely fell in love! Highlights include seeing the Peabody Ducks, having some fantastic food at Gus’s Fried Chicken, listening to some really great music at Rum Boogie Cafe, and visiting historic places like Graceland, Sun Records, and the Civil Rights Museum. I loved that whole trip to Memphis and I can’t wait to go back!


Engaged: On a family trip in June, my family grew by one: it’s a boy! My daughter Becky got engaged to her wonderful fiance, Ben. I couldn’t have hand picked a better man to be mu daughter’s husband. All the quirky things about Becky, he embraces them. He knows how to take care of her and protect her and make her feel safe. I watch them together and they really seem like they are friends who love each other. It fills me with a deep happiness to know that Becky gets to spend the rest of her life with someone as truly wonderful as Ben.

Google Innovator: This year, after submitting my 3rd application to become a Google for Education Innovator, I was finally accepted! It has been a highlight of my professional life to get to do this! I truly enjoy working on a project related to education that I hope becomes something valuable to teachers. The experience of going through the Innovator Academy actually reminded a little bit of attending Kairos my senior year of high school in that you find yourself being exposed and made vulnerable in ways you never expected, but you come out the other side with so much energy and growth and a host of new friends who also went through the same experience that you feel bonded for life with them. (Shameless pitch — my project is called EduRate, and you can read more about it here.) Related to this…

The application video that finally got me accepted to become a Google Innovator!

London: When I was accepted into the Google Innovator program, the academy I needed to attend was in London, so I took my first trip there with Jim. I crammed as much tourism as I could into a few days because once the academy started, I would be busy with that for three days solid. We visited Kensington Palace, saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, visited Tower of London, rode the London Eye, traveled using the Tube, drank beer in pubs, enjoyed a traditional English breakfast, took a tour on the Thames, and were dazzled by Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. I also got to spend time at Google’s offices in Covent Garden and King’s Cross. Jim and I both fell in love with London so much that we are planning a return trip, hopefully in 2021.

Back surgery: In August, the year took a turn for the worst. I was in Key West when I started to experience debilitating lower back pain and numbness in my feet and weakness in my legs. As soon as I returned home, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis (I had 3 vertebra slip out of place, looking like stair steps), and bilateral foot drop. This required a fusion of those 3 vertebra in my lumbar region as well as a laminectomy. The surgery did not go as planned (it is still unclear what exactly happened), but I had the surgery started in one hospital, then was transferred to another hospital where the surgery was finished, and I was left temporarily unable to feel or move anything really from below my knees to the tips of my toes, making me unable to stand or walk on my own. I was admitted to the hospital on August 6 and was finally released on September 4. I have since then started to regain some feeling and movement and mobility, which leads me to…

Rehab: I have been in some form of rehab since August 15. I spent 3 weeks in inpatient rehab, receiving 3 hours of PT/OT 6 days a week, and 90 minutes of PT/OT one day a week. I then transitioned to day rehab, which was 3 hours a day of PT/OT for 5 days a week, ultimately transitioning to 3 hours, 3 days a week. This just ended on December 27. I now transition to outpatient rehab, which will be about 1 hour a day, 2 days a week, for what I am guessing will be an indeterminate amount of time. I still have a long way to go to get back to full mobility.

Blood clots: Compounding the issues I am already facing, I also had to deal with having blood clots after surgery. After feeling pain in my right calf, ultrasounds were done on my legs to see if I had deep vein thrombosis (DVT). I did not. A week later, I was having pain in my left calf. Ultrasounds were done again and it was discovered that I had DVT in both legs. Because of that, I was also given a CT scan to check to blood clots that may have broken off and traveled to my lungs (even though I had no symptoms of this). Clots were indeed discovered, so I had pulmonary embolis (PE) in addition to DVT. As a precaution, I was placed on a different blood thinner (I had been receiving low doses of heparin) and had an IVC filter placed to catch any other clots that might decide to take a trip to the lungs.

In this image, you can see the hardware used for the fusion in my lower back. In the circle, you can see my IVC filter.

I am ready for 2019 to be in the rear view mirror. I have tried hard not to let the negatives of this year overshadow the positives, but the year has ended on a relatively sour note. So good riddance, 2019. Here’s hoping 2020 is a year full of celebration!

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My Journey Back: The Tracks of my Tears

This is the 6th post in a series about my recovery from complications from back surgery in August. And I apologize in advance. This post is likely to be a bit rambling. Honestly, I’m still not even sure I should publish it, but here it is.

Inspiring. Brave. Amazing. Bad ass. Hero. Positive. Upbeat. Strong.

These are all words — beautiful, flattering, humbling words — that people have used so many times to describe me as they’ve followed my journey through this struggle to get feeling back in my legs and feet and work on learning to walk again. It fills my heart when people say these things. It causes me to strive to be worthy of such kindness and praise. But if I am being brutally honest, I am not always those things. There are so many times when I am living in some pretty dark places in my mind. I just don’t show them very often.

Before this happened, I loved my body. It wasn’t skinny but it was strong. I could do so many things. This body trained for and ran both a half marathon and a full marathon. This body made it through power zone rides on the Peloton. This body survived speed punches and power punches in 90 degree heat during boxing class. This body did a 2 minute plank. This body hiked for hours on the Bright Angel trail in the Grand Canyon. This body may not have been much to look at, but it was strong and I loved my body so much because of what it did. And it did those things because I told it to do those things. I dictated my own limitations, which were none, as far as I was concerned.

Now, I don’t like this body. There are some days and some moments where I hate this body so much. There are days where I feel absolutely trapped in it. (Yes, I know that there are people in much worse condition than I am, but that doesn’t make my feelings any less real to me.) All of the things I listed above: can’t do them. I can’t even just go for a walk or go for a regular bike ride. I can’t just get down on the floor and do a sit up. I can’t lie on my side and do a leg lift. Yet everything I do is an effort. Sitting up in bed, rolling over in bed, sitting down on a toilet, getting up from a toilet, coming down the stairs, going up the stairs, walking with the walker, walking with the cane, standing, squatting, stepping to the side, stepping backwards, bending over, getting in a car, getting out of a car, putting on shoes and socks, taking off shoes and socks, putting on pants, shorts, or a skirt, taking off pants, shorts, or a skirt, a million little everyday things that millions of people do without thinking about them. Because everything is an effort, I am always huffing, puffing, tired, and sweaty. I never feel fresh and clean, even right after getting out of the shower because it is an effort to stand to shower and sit down to dry off. Because of this, I always feel yucky so I never feel like I look good. On days I have therapy, I don’t even do anything with my hair except dry it, and I don’t put on any makeup. I feel frumpy and dumpy and sweaty. Because I can’t exercise the way I used to (and also because my eating habits have gone down the toilet and I’m on a medication that can cause weight gain), I feel and look fat. So, in summary: weak, sweaty, frumpy, and fat. Which makes me hate this body. And because I hate this body, I can’t seem to see past the weak, sweaty, frumpy, and fat. Which makes me hate this body. You see the vicious circle. The negative self-talk in my head is relentless. I try to hear the words I mentioned at the start of this post — I’m inspiring, brave, bad ass, a hero, positive, upbeat, and strong. I try to remember where I came from — not feeling my legs or feet, not moving them, not able to wiggle a toe, stand, or walk. I try to realize I’ve come so far in a short amount of time. I try to remember that my doctor says I am progressing at a tremendous pace. And sometimes I can push out the negative self-talk with the reminders. But there are still a lot of times I can’t. And it breaks me.

I will never be able to thank so many people from literally around the world for the love and support they have given me and continue to give me. If I never had any of those people, I would have never been able to start this recovery, much less keep going with it. When I have a good day or hit a milestone or do something I couldn’t do a week ago, I can’t wait to share it with everyone. It buoys me up during the times my body stops me from doing what my mind is trying so hard to tell it to do. Just know that my smile, my happiness, my excitement, my joy are all real, but if you look closer, it’s easy to trace the tracks of my tears.

P.S. If you are tempted to suggest I seek some professional help to manage my feelings, rest assured I have also recognized this and have taken steps to keep my emotions manageable.

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My Journey Back — Travelling Gal

This is the 5th post in a series about my recovery from complications from spinal surgery.

I traveled to Houston for Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with my dad and his wife. This was my first trip of any kind since my surgery in August. We flew on Southwest via Midway and Hobby. My husband had pre-arranged with Southwest for me to have a wheelchair from check-in to the end of the jetway and from the end of the jetway through to baggage claim and where we would meet our ride for each way of the trip. My boarding pass had the code “WCHR’ so I knew that whenever anyone looked at my boarding pass, they knew we had a legit need for a wheelchair. At Midway, I had a short wait fro someone to arrive with a wheelchair. When I arrived at Hobby, I had a wheelchair waiting for me as soon as I got off the plane. However, I was told we would have to wait if we wanted the employee to take us beyond the gate, but he could not say how long he would be, so Jim opted to wheel me himself. We loaded my cane, walker, and purse into my lap and away we went. Jim parked me outside on a bench while he went to get our checked suitcase. The trip to Houston went pretty smoothly. Coming from Houston to Chicago was a bit less smooth, though. We waited probably half an hour for someone to come with a wheelchair after checking our bag, and when we landed in Chicago, I had to wait on the plane for about 15 minutes for a wheelchair, and then I was told we would have to wait again for someone to take us through to baggage claim. There were a bunch of us lined up waiting for transport. Jim just grabbed me and we left. I stopped in the bathroom and on the way out, we snagged an employee to take us through to where we would pick up our Uber to go home. I learned that if you need a wheelchair at the airport, you are 100% at the whim of all sorts of other people to get where you need to go.

I had no real issues going through security. I couldn’t walk through the metal detector with my cane so they gave me a TSA cane (clear plastic) to use, but I couldn’t use that either because it was just a regular, single cane. I did not think it would offer me the stability I need. So I got wheeled through and had my hands and chair swabbed and had a patdown in the wheelchair. It did not take long — but full disclosure: I have TSA Pre-Check.

I will admit some annoyance at having to use the bathroom, though. Let me first say that I completely understand that not all disabilities are visible. I should also share that the regular bathroom stalls at both Midway and Hobby are large enough to fit a person and carry-on luggage. The first time at Midway, I had to wait for the handicapped stall. A woman came out in pretty high heels, carrying a large purse and using a carry-on bag. The second time at Midway, I had to wait again. This time, the woman a large backpack on her back and a purse and a carry-on bag. The one time I used the bathroom at Hobby, I also had to wait for the handicapped stall. A flight attendant emerged with her small purse and carry-on bag. I can also tell you that each time I entered the bathrooms in these cases, there were many available regular stalls. So you draw the conclusions you want; I’ve already drawn mine.

For both flights, I was in the preboard group. You would think that is a sweet deal, especially on Southwest where they don’t have assigned seats. But if I am being honest, all I felt was conspicuous. I felt almost guilty. I wanted to tell people, “I normally board with the rest of you, and I sure wish I could now.” I just felt all these people’s eyes on me as a Southwest employee wheeled me over to the jetway. I just hate sticking out; I prefer to just blend in with the crowd, and I definitely did not at the airport.

One thing I have noticed with my condition is the feeling of almost needing to defend myself. Every time we pull into a handicapped parking space or I get some sort of special or preferential treatment, I feel like I need to somehow prove that yes, I am indeed in need of that parking space or assistance, that I’m not faking it or milking a situation or embellishing my current level of disability. The feeling I get is a little like guilt, a little like shame. I wonder if that’s some sort of prejudice I’m not conscious of in myself, being judgmental of people. Maybe I really am (see above paragraph about the bathrooms). I never thought I was like that, but maybe it’s something I need to work on.

Anyway, travelling in this condition isn’t easy. It required being comfortable with being dependent on others, and I am very independent, so I feel bad when I have to get help from others. Hopefully for my next flight, I’m more independent. Time will tell.

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My Journey Back: A Different Perspective

This is the 4th post in a series of posts about my recovery from complications from spinal surgery. And I have looked at the world from a very new perspective as someone who is dealing with a disability right now. I have discovered this:

The world is a very hostile place if you are not an able-bodied individual.

Things that no one gives second thoughts to suddenly become obstacles if you’re not able bodied. Cracks in sidewalks, doors, rugs on the floor, low toilets, small bathroom stalls, curbs — just to name a few.

It seems to me that there are so many places that really have no interest in accommodating people with disabilities; rather, they check a required box. They have the required number of parking spaces, but no real concern about the condition of the parking space or the condition of the parking lot. Potholes, uneven pavement, or cracked and ruddy pavement are just some of the issues I’ve encountered trying ti navigate my walker from a handicapped parking space to the entrance of a business. Entrances often have ramps; sometimes there are ramps from handicapped spaces to the sidewalk, sometimes not. The problem I see often with ramps is that they are steep. I’m not sure I’ve encountered a ramp I could actually push myself up while in my wheelchair, they are all so steep. Getting in through a doorway is also a challenge while in a wheelchair. Many entryway thresholds have some sort of lip that is difficult to roll over on your own, and when someone else is pushing, I have been nearly pitched out of my chair when someone tries to go at ramming speed to get over the hump.

Trying to go shopping is frustrating. Many retail stores try to cram so much merchandise onto their floor that it can be an exercise in futility to try to navigate the store. One store I visited was incredibly crammed to the point that my wheelchair could not fit between displays. Others are not any better even if I am using my walker.

I have been some places that have been very hard to walk because of their flooring choices. Textured flooring, uneven flooring, incredibly slippery flooring — all dangerous or requiring great exertion to walk across.

Public bathrooms can be among the most ridiculous. I have been in bathroom stalls that are supposed to be accommodating for people with disabilities but were so small that once you got yourself wheeled in the stall in your wheelchair, you had no way to turn around, no way to lock the door behind you (unless you backed into the stall), and no way to get out of the wheelchair and get to the toilet. I have been in bathrooms where there is only one grab bar behind the toilet or where the grab bars are loose. Even something as simple as placement of paper towels and sinks is problematic. Many public bathrooms have sinks and paper towels or hand dryers so far apart from each other that I have to walk several steps — with my wet hands on the walker handles (or using my wet hands to wheel myself to dry my hands).

Of course, businesses are allowed to design their businesses as they see fit — they can choose their own flooring, design their own displays, or maintain their grounds and parking areas as they see fit. But they should realize that they may be losing some business from people who simply can’t find a way to navigate their way to or through that business.

None of these things ever once crossed my mind while my body was working in a typical fashion. But now that I am forced to experience the world from a completely different perspective, I have discovered that most of the world doesn’t really seem very concerned about making that world easy for those with disabilities to exist in.

Quick side note: something else I have discovered, though, is that people can be very kind. I have had people of all ages voluntarily offer to hold doors for me or clear a path for me or find me someplace to sit that is easy to get to. I am deeply appreciative of each of those kindnesses when they are shown to me. I just wish that I didn’t need to rely on those kindnesses to open a door.

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Yesterday morning I was watching the morning news. There was a report about the California wildfires, which are just horrifying. It seems that California has a lot of these fires, but it never is any less tragic every time they happen. It’s terrifying and sad to see these fires come into populated areas and know that people’s lives and homes could be lost. But something struck me as I watched this particular news report.

The video showed a blazing fire closing in on a ranch. Silhouetted against the backdrop of the fire were horses running out of their fenced enclosure. It seems to me that it is likely that these horses will die in the fire. I don’t see how they can outrun it. I don’t see how they can protect themselves. I am willing to bet that the people who lived on and worked on that ranch evacuated. This infuriates me. I can’t wrap my brain around how people can flee a disaster to save their lives yet leave animals behind to perish in some pretty horrific ways. We sadly see this in too many natural disasters — wildfires, floods, hurricanes. But in the case of this ranch, I am sure some will say that it would be a massive effort to try to evacuate so many large animals. And they would be right — it would be incredibly challenging. Buy I guess my counter would be that maybe you should not maintain all those animals if you cannot properly care for them, which includes finding them adequate shelter in the face of disaster. If they cannot commit to this, then maybe they should not be allowed to have those animals.

Maybe this is a business opportunity for some people who are animal activists who know netter than I what to do. Maybe there should be a rescue or shelter service that people who own animals — especially a large number of animals or large animals like livestock — can partner with to help get animals to a safe place. If organizations like this already exist, then maybe they should be more visible or there should be more because it is just awful that animals can so easily be left behind to perish.

Maybe I am a complete moron about this. I know people who live in California, so maybe if I am completely off base on this, they will set me straight. All I know is that as I watched that news report, I felt just horrible for all the people who were having to face these fires, but I also felt pretty lousy about the animals I saw, too.

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