Archives for category: Aging

Every year near the end of July, you’ll notice news pieces about the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and how far we’ve come toward access for  and inclusion of the one out of five Americans who has a disability. Please consider how you can turn the spotlight on advances in your community this month.

I’d like to highlight three things in the Chippewa Valley that give me hope for the good life being open to all.

  • A year ago, Lake Street United Methodist Church hosted the first monthly Ecumenical Inclusive Ministry (IM) Church for people with cognitive disabilities, their friends and families. Each month a different church or ecumenical team organizes and delivers a Sunday school/craft activity, a worship service and a fellowship meal. The attendance is about fifty when you count participants and the team in charge that month. I notice singing and the fellowship supper are the most popular parts of the event. The service occurs the third Sunday each month from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM. For more info, or to request a ride or sign language interpreter at IM church, contact Ellen at Lake Street United Methodist Church at 715-832-6603.
  • The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library has purchased a braille printer. This printer is the first of its kind in a Wisconsin public library. Some uses for the printer include: printing legal documents, letters, greeting cards, recipes, directions for appliances, games, projects, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as public meeting agendas and minutes, just to name a few.  Customers wanting to have a document printed can email their document in either Word or PDF format to: annaz@eauclaire.lib.wi.us. There is a 10 page limit per document and customers are limited to one request per week.
  • Erickson Park at Glen Lock in Chippewa Falls opened an accessible area recently. Erickson Park has new accessible fishing docks, kayak launch, bathrooms, pavilions, walk ways and picnic areas and will connect to Irvin Park via an accessible foot bridge.

Have fun finding and highlighting things to celebrate in your community!

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In addition to it being the first day of summer, June 21st was national selfie day. For a little summer fun, I challenged my Facebook friends to add in comments an accessible selfie. I’m defining that as no visual picture, but a word picture of what your regular selfie would show. Bonus: the skill in describing the selfie will translate (if you remember to post a description) to making every day accessible selfie day.
To get you started, here’s mine:
I’m sitting at a table with a friend eating strawberries. A thought balloon says: “I wonder when I’ll get the first local berries”.

Some of what was posted follows. It’s interesting to me how much people describe what they look like:

Michael G.: Sitting in a hotel conference room at the corner of a big square table. Decent hair day, but longer than in the past. Blue button-down Brooks Brothers shirt (small logo over left breast – reversed view in selfies!). Name badge from ALA conference barely visible.

Alex S.: I’m sitting at my computer. I’m wearing blue and white plaid pajamas. Retirement is good!

Linda H.: I’m sitting in a recliner with a blanket on the first night of summer. Fell asleep reading a Richard Russo book & just woke up at bedtime. Wondering what I’m going to do tomorrow with the 6 pounds of local strawberries I found today.

Ann K.: I have a big smile on my face, I’m wearing a Leinenkugel’s hat, there is a campfire behind me and it’s dusk. Thought balloon says, no better way to spend the longest day of the year!

Patty M.: I’m driving, hair swept up, and glasses resting on my nose. My grandson is in the back seat and hears an ambulance siren.. The balloon says, “Nana, maybe someone is hurt. We better say a Hail Mary.”

Beverly K.: I’m sitting in an orange, red and blue striped sand chair with a baby golden puppy resting quietly on my lap and my iPad balanced precariously on the arm of the chair so not to disturb her. Thought balloon over the puppy’s head: “Maybe this won’t be a bad gig after all.” Oops, rest time is over. Puppy slid off my lap.

Four years ago I got an IPhone 5S and have been happily using it about an hour a day. Catching up on news, Facebooking, checking email and playing Trivia Crack keep me enlightened and entertained.  Occasionally I use it as a phone when I’m away from the landline.  But the phone is getting stiff; imagine trying to double tap on a small spot with hammer-like intensity. There are rumors that 5S won’t be supported after July, so I reluctantly bit the bullet and decided on a IPhone 8.

For me there are the extra steps of reading about which phones work best with the voiceover technology I use and getting a Speed Dots screen protector to mark where the letters are for quicker typing. The typing is agonizingly slow but better than dictating when accuracy is required, like filling in my email address on a form.

Having read up on the transferring data from old to new phone process, I had my phone all backed up in the cloud and all my passwords in hand as I ventured to the Verizon store with a sympathetic friend. After confirming my choices, the young Verizon man put the phones near each other and told them to talk.  In a few minutes, it was done.  The new phone is a little bigger and has touch ID, so I only have to sign in by typing occasionally.  The ease of getting into the phone and more powerful and better sound are the main improvements I notice. Maybe all those improvements in the chip make it a little faster, but my typing speed still slows me down to the speed of a fast-walking tortoise.  I’ve got four times as much storage as I used to. I will probably load up with books to read when I get tired of gaming and Facebooking. There wasn’t a huge learning curve except having to reenter passwords on several apps. I thought the Cloud knew everything, but passwords didn’t transfer.

All this tech for less than a buck a day for the next two years. It is truly amazing, but I did get misty eyed as I surrendered my old IPhone to be wiped and reused somehow.  I hope its next owner loves it as much and gets as many hours of fun out of it as I did.  Goodbye sweet 5S!

 

So far, being seventy is a blast! Meals and tea times with friends, phone calls and emails are each treasures. I’ve been able to spread out the meals all month,  so I can get naps and a little bit of project work done.  Thanks to the seventy-plus folks who sent poems, I facilitated a grand poetry reading at a local nursing home. It was the second annual one there and we’d opened it to the public, so we had twice the attendance of last year. In addition to poems, “Happy Birthday” was sung in both Polish and English to the five of us who had April birthdays. There were wind up dancing unicorns and dogs showed around by the activity director. It was a little wilder than most poetry readings, but only one person requested to go back to her room and nobody fell asleep.

The other notable event was a fantastic experience going to confession.  Don’t worry, I haven’t gone off the deep end. I told the priest I was turning seventy tomorrow and confessed that I was  quick to judge and take offense, a sin that I allowed I’d fought for my whole life and I figured I would for the next thirty years. He asked how I felt about turning seventy. I said I felt fabulous about it. When I was born I was a preemie and not expected to live, so I was happy and grateful to get to be seventy. He said my penance was thanking God for getting me to seventy and then asked if that was “enough”. I said it seemed a little light, so he said I could say a couple Lord’s prayers.  We laughed, talked about dogs and I left feeling ready to go for the next adventure.

A C.S. Lewis quote I was given says: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” After I get more celebrating done, I’ll sit back and figure what’s next. I’ll reread the poems I was sent with their themes of enjoying the moment, humor, animals, hanging in there and having courage. Only one poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver was sent to me twice.

My advice to you from this lofty perch of being seventy for a month:

As Bob Marley sang (one of the songs I was sent):
“Get up, stand up. Don’t give up the fight.”
And as it says in “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver,
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.”

 

 

I think I’m ready, or at least as ready as one can be for an adventure into the unknown.

I’ve done my research. I’ve read May Sarton’s contemplative journal At Seventy and Judith Viorst’s lively book of poems I’m Too Young to Be Seventy and other Delusions. A couple of Viorst’s points: You want time to slow down? Try waiting for the results of a biopsy! Keep trying because the world would be a lot worse if we don’t.

I’ve read about the physical changes of aging: faces becoming more asymmetrical, eye sockets get wider, ears grow longer and wider, nose droops, rib cage rounds, feet get wider, etc. In general gravity rules!

I’ve enjoyed novels about aging characters like The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson and Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. The characters are still kicking and still finding joy in doing so.

Then there are the nonfiction guides. Current favorites are On the Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer and Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher. Their emphasis on saying “enough” and “no” to even good projects is freeing. Then one can concentrate on planting seeds from your tree, not somebody else’s. As Palmer says, “Today you’re the peacock; tomorrow the feather duster”.

My mail is starting to feature AARP, hearing aids and funeral planning seminars.

I’ve got some projects planned:

  • Finish reading the Bible (last time I started I got stuck in Leviticus)
  • Attack the tsunami of Braille magazines in my living room. I must skim them before recycling them.
  • Turn my blogs into a book so I’ll leave a well-marked trail of one woman’s occupying aging process.

Celebrate the occasion as much as possible:

  • Schedule lunches, dinners and bridge playing galore
  • Read some of the poems my friends sent me at a poetry reading at a local nursing home
  • Survived an interview for a local television station for Women’s History month (I didn’t know seventy was that historic!): https://www.weau.com/video?vid=507544612

It’s below zero and we’ve had about 44 inches of snow this month, so I could be grim! But instead my thoughts turn to some old friends, some of whom are old in years and some of whom I’ve just known quite a while.

I just found out that I may be going back to Phoenix on a yearly basis to help hand out disability journalism awards again. A friend lives there who I’ve known forty-five years. She volunteered to read to me when I was in grad school and she was in undergrad. We went our separate ways but Facebook brought us back together.  Shared interests in ideas, nature and reading keep us in touch.  Next time you volunteer, think of the friend you may meet!

A friend whose office was next to mine for fourteen years at work is bringing over dinner before a book club tonight. How good it will be to eat someone else’s cooking and share news/gossip with her. Another friend we asked to join us is still working so didn’t have time for such foolishness.  Next week we’ll take an hour and a half and go visit another friend who is dying, but still enjoys seeing animals.  Nothing like surviving a stressful work environment together to make a friendship!

Preparing to lead a book club discussion of Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf made me think of the friend who dressed up and brought appropriate props for every book discussion she led.  I’m just reading a Jane Kenyan poem to set the mood.  The book is about the friendship between two elderly small town residents.  Spoiler alert: A sexual relationship doesn’t happen until about 82% into the book, but of course nosy neighbors suspect it long before that. Some friends are made by living near each other and trading snow rakes for cookies!

Warm thoughts of old friends have me warmed up enough to go outdoors with Luna. I’ll leave you with the last stanza of the Kenyon poem, “Let Evening Come”:

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

 

 

 

David Brooks in The Second Mountain talks about the four major commitments in life that lead to a good life. The fourth one is commitment to community. Lately my commitments to projects making Eau Claire more accessible to all have left me weary.

I’ve lived long enough to know that you don’t just ask a bureaucracy to change something and they jump to it. Meetings get set and put off. Committees are set up to see if change is really necessary. People get offended no matter how nicely you ask for change. I’m not being specific because I know this problem is universal. A friend came over this week to get tea and empathy about the same mountain, just a different face of it.

I reminded her about Martin Luther King’s arc bending toward justice and reminded myself “We Shall Overcome” said “someday”; it didn’t say today. Then I pulled up an old favorite, Saul Alinsky and read about his thirteen tactics for realistic radicals from Rules for Radicals.

Some of Alinsky’s points include:

Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have. Go outside the experience of the enemy. The threat is more powerful than the thing itself. Constant pressure sustains action. Have a realistic solution in mind. Keep clear about who’s the target of the action.

This personalizing a target makes sense, but makes me squirm. No leader is all bad and they didn’t create the problem themselves. Can I still win if I don’t fight all out?

Just in time to lift me up, funny about how that happens, I read two books that inspired me in their own ways. Becoming by Michelle Obama showed me a beautiful woman who struggles with some of the same issues I do but remains optimistic about the nation even in 2018. A Gentleman in Moscow by Towels although it’s a novel deals very thoughtfully with how to go deep when circumstances confine you.

Then I happened on NPR’s American anthems selection for inspiration, “This Little Light of Mine” and “The Times They Are A-changin’” call to me most, but you might have other soundtracks that keep you climbing. Jen Hoffmann’s weekly change advocacy newsletter also reminded me

“For it’s in community that we persevere, and together we create a better, brighter future.”

Let’s keep climbing!

 

 

The theme for the February IM Church was friendship. So off Luna and I went for our monthly adventure after bumming a ride to and from with another core team member. Greeting folks went smoothly; both Luna and I know how to do that.  I was pleased that the pastor used the prayer I’d submitted for the volunteers about serving with, not doing, for our guests.

Things got dicey when the craft activity began. The lesson was about the friendship between Jonathan and David. Each pair of people at the table was supposed to tie one wrist to their partner and then do the craft together. At the clay table we opted to each make a symbol of friendship. My partner was another steering team member whom I like but don’t know well, a retired special education teacher. She freely admits she doesn’t know much about working with blind people but is willing to learn.  However she and I are alike in that we’re used to being in charge and getting the job done with as little help from others as possible.  So she tied our wrists together and I began using my one free hand to make my clay creation of two birds on a branch together.  When I was mostly done she rightly pointed out I wasn’t doing the assignment right because she wasn’t involved in the creation. Most of our tablemates had discovered they didn’t like to work tied together and had untied themselves.  We did ask and offer help to each other around the table and came up with handsome hearts, pizzas, faces and my birds to which a gal added a bird feeder.

The pastor strolled by to ask if I’d lead the procession into the church with a tambourine and I said I would if my partner would lead with me.  Picture my left hand on Luna’s harness and my right hand tied to my partner’s left hand and gripping the edge of a tambourine. I needed to shake it but also use it to get bodily cues about terrain changes like going up the ramp. I didn’t have a third hand to take her elbow! So she informed me as we processed that I was holding the tambourine wrong and should put my thumb through it “like this”.

Yes, friends have to communicate to work together and we both were talking but not communicating.  Just to make sure I knew we didn’t have good communication going, at the meal after the service I stuck my finger in a bowl of Jell-O I didn’t know was there.  By that time I could laugh.

As I prayed about the event afterwards, I became aware of two things I could do to make the next adventure in friendship work out better.  I need to spend time with her so we can talk out style differences and I need to stick up for my needs for more information and not just retreat into a resentful “fine, you shake the tambourine” sulk.  Why can’t friendships be easy!

According to a February 9 Wall Street Journal article, nobody likes Valentine’s Day anymore. They cited a study that only 51% of us will celebrate it. I’m proud to be among that 51%.

I like the legend that long ago there was a bishop named Valentine who distributed food baskets to the poor. Fancy cards for your true love only came into fashion within the last couple hundred years.

A few years ago Parks and Recreation had a show about Galentine’s Day, celebrating female friendships.  A social justice organization is trying to #ReclaimLove as a public ethic and force for justice.

I’d like to get back to agape love celebrated by all sorts of acts of kindness.  If I were the kind of person who could start a movement, I’d call it “All-entine’s Day” because all of us could be a little kinder and have some fun doing it.  I know some folks at the university who need some cookies delivered to them, but I’m not telling who.  Luna will be sharing some meat with her 15 year-old predecessor. I’ve sent cards and will do some emails and phone calls to share the love.  What will you do?

Happy All-entine’s Day!

A few years ago I skirmished with Lumosity about the inaccessibility of their brain training games. They ended the subject by telling me they had no plans to make them accessible.  I thought “nuts to you” and kept doing all the other things recommended to slow the slide into mindlessness: exercising, eating a balanced diet, socializing, playing cards, volunteering, reading, etc.

Sure, there are some accessible word and trivia game apps and some designed just for blind people like the Blindfold games.  With my recent acquisition of an Echo Dot 2 (for $20) I’m pleased to report that brain games by ear have gone mainstream!  Trivia games from Holy Bible trivia to Harry Potter trivia, vocabulary building games like difficult word quiz and SAT word of the day, twenty questions, and television games like Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire. My personal favorite today (could discover a new one tomorrow) is Train Your Brain’s Odd One Out.  I haven’t found a good math-related puzzle or game, so let me know if you know one. Tyler Treese (another blogger about accessible games) says: “Products like Alexa have been great for the visually impaired. One of the best games on the system is the interactive radio drama Codename Cygnus. In it, players get to use their voice to be a secret agent trying to take down an evil organization called Trident.”

The games are not without their hiccups. For example “flour” was clearly the right answer in a word game, but when I said it, Alexa said “wrong” and I lost a life. So I said it again and got the same result. Then I tried spelling it and Alexa said “great job.” Apparently she had been translating my spoken “flour” into “flower”.  Good brain training to try to outthink her before I lost all my lives!

When mainstream tech provides something accessible to the blind, there are so many more choices than when we have to build it ourselves. Go mainstream!