Archive for the ‘family’ Category

The Hospital Vacation

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An unexpected vacation came my way last week via a trip to the local emergency room when I experienced severe pain radiating from my shoulder down to the tips of my puffy fingers. The ER receptionist immediately had me whisked away in a wheelchair for a cardiac work-up, (not a recommended way to beat the line, but it was nice not have to wait!) The orderly swished me by all the cubicles so fast I did not have time to be nosy and glance in to see what everyone else’s commotion was about. The thing about the ER is that is houses REAL people with all their unglamorous appeal. No high heels or make-up. Unruly hair which obviously had not seen a comb in some time. Morning crustiness still in the eyes, line of drool down the side of the mouth. Bra-less, face contorted into an ugly grimace of pain, posture slumped over..and that was just ME, I could only imagine what everyone else looked like!

Once admitted to the cardiac ward, the nurses got right to work hooking me up to all kinds of do dads and thing a ma jigs. Their cheerfulness belied the seriousness of their work. I was comforted not only by their reassurance but also by the toasty, warm blanket that soon enveloped my body. Once the morphine took away the pain, I was a happy camper and willing test participant. Wheee! Off with another orderly for another test. Lay still like a sardine in a tiny metal tube while it sounded like the room was crashing all around me? Piece of cake. Electrodes super glued to my breasts? No problem, I wasn’t using them anyway. X-rays this way and that? Show me how to pose. (Those 5 modeling classes I took as a gawky teen finally came in handy!) Then there was the added adventure of being maneuvered, gurney and all, back to my room, bumping in and out of the elevators, around other patients and gurneys, and trying to fit through slim doorways all the while piloted by friendly orderlies. It was reminiscent of trying to scooter through Disney World with my daughter last May, and I tried to hide my silly smile lest the orderly think I was not in my right mind. (And, yes, the morphine was still working.)

Once back in my room, taking my blood pressure and poking and prodding for blood tests and glucose monitoring became commonplace at any time of the day or night. What an amazing staff of nurses and CNAs whose job it was to wake me only to poke me with a needle to capture my blood, and to do it all pleasantly when I felt less than pleasant for them having to do it. Although I tried not to be too crabby at them, my roommates were often less inhibited and grumbling was commonplace. Still, the staff smiled and carried on with quiet reassurance, seemingly immune to the barrage of complaints.

The most exciting thing for me was “room service”. Yes, “room service”, just like in a fancy hotel! Armed with an actual menu, I called down to the kitchen and my custom order would find its way to my bedside table. How amazing! Being a person obsessed with food, this was the highlight of my vacation. (Well, that and not being home to have to clean my house.) I carefully selected each meal; scrumptious omelet with tomatoes and onions, muffins and fruit, macaroni and cheese and broccoli with custard pudding, pot roast with salad with cake for dessert! Yum! It all sounded as good as I am sure it tasted, IF I were ever able to eat it when it arrived! Unfortunately, my food delights were delivered while I was away for one test or another. Imagine…meals being interrupted by medical procedures! What kind of vacation is that? The nurses offered to heat it up for me or to get me something else, but this seemed to be a silly request with all the important medical stuff that they had to do. When they took their jobs, I am sure that “waitress” was not in the job description.

Fortunately, it was the kind of vacation where the primary focus was my health; where what was going on INSIDE my body was more important that what I put INTO my body. With the utmost professionalism, the staff were unwaveringly pleasant, reassuring and kind. My medical care was top notch, and I was soon sent on my way home with expert instructions for the next chapter in my medical care.

Nothing could beat my hospital “vacation”. Next time I really want something as frivolous as a hot meal, I will go to a restaurant!The

Crosswalks, people, CROSSWALKS!

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My son, who lives and works in Silicon Valley, delights us in discussing the progress of Google’s “cars that drive themselves”, which can regularly be seen toting along the streets in his neighborhood. Being blind, he has a special interest in this new technology, (although UBER has provided a suitable stop gap in the meantime.) A report on the self-driving cars shows that in the history of trials, there have been 4 accidents; 3 were someone else’s fault and 1 was the car’s fault, but technically the car was right.  Because it had been programmed with the rules of the road, the car was following the law, but it was a law Californians routinely break and of which the programmed car had no knowledge. Currently, the Googlers are working on programming the car for these types of idiosyncrasies.

My car, which routinely FOLLOWS rules, almost caused an accident this morning when fellow Rhode Island drivers followed their own rule idiosyncrasies; IGNORING CROSSWALKS. Somehow it appears that most drivers think their CARS have the right of way and the white stripes on the ground are decorative, not meaningful.

A lovely, older woman, clinging to hold her coat shut against the frigid air, gray hair flailing about in the wind, was waiting on the curb in front of a crosswalk.  Drawn in at first by the sight of her, then by the crosswalk that loomed in front of her, I stopped my car. The car behind be, which had been tailgating, came within a hair’s breadth of hitting me, evidenced by the car’s screech and swerve up onto the curb, sounding it’s horn so loud I thought it was foggy and I was a boat in the bay. Once that car had settled with one wheel on the sidewalk, the startled woman boldly took a few tentative steps in front of my car to begin her crossing adventure. She stood in front of my car while 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 cars quickly passed by without pausing at all and the fog horn sounded again behind me. Finally, the 9th car stopped after he had correctly slowed down seeing the crosswalk.  Looking over, I saw the driver smile and motion for the petrified woman to continue to cross.  She tentatively shuffled her little elderly feet in front of him. Coming from the other direction, and with advance observation of what was happening in front of them, the cars in the opposing 2 lanes stopped to allow her to successfully complete her daring adventure. She shuffled more quickly, head down, hair flying, coat flinging open. When she triumphantly stepped onto the sidewalk on the other side, my heart, which had sunk into my stomach, slowly rose to its normal position. On my way I went, encouraged on by the sound of the fog horn once again.

The near miss accident intrigued me.  Have I gone the way of the Google self-driving car which follows the law but can still cause an accident?  Or was everyone else who didn’t stop following the way of the recalculated Google self-driving car which make accommodations for laws which are routinely broken? Either way, my assumption was the driver-less car would have been more observant on obeying a law which allows a frail, grandmotherly type woman to live a few years longer by allowing her to cross the street safely.

 

 

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The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:
https://www.createspace.com/5321986?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

I am A Faux Kind of Woman

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Without the sophistication to realize the value of “real,” I am a faux kind of woman. It started when I was in my teens and I was given a beautiful little necklace of a dove carrying an olive branch with a diamond at the tip of the branch. The tiny stone fell out and it was replaced with a beautiful blue stone, (cheap glass, not a sapphire or anything “real”). I thought the blue matched the jeans that were my standard wardrobe at the time, and that necklace became one of my most cherished possessions.

When getting engaged and faced with the fact that getting a diamond was a tradition, my thoughtful hubby to be picked out the perfect engagement ring for me – a tiny diamond in the middle with navy sapphires forming the shape of a flower around it. It was awesome, and I still wear it today, not desiring a two- or three-carat diamond when my ring is so much more colorful and personal.

One of my first years married, my in-laws gifted me with a white fur coat for Christmas. I loved that coat, and wore it for every special occasion. It was exquisite; warm and toasty. I would not have preferred to have a “real” fur (unless the furriers hunkered down on the ice floes waiting for the polar bears to die a natural death and then made a coat out of them). Another favorite coat hung in my closet, and I received many compliments on it. It took me a while to realize that everyone thought it was leather and not the $24.99 jacket I had purchased on sale at JC Penney’s. It managed to fit me elegantly.

This life changing realization actually came to me the other day while getting out of the shower when I noticed our bathroom counter. As an avid watcher of “House Hunters,” the strict demands of the house buyers often fascinated me; people would be knowledgeable about what material was the most stylish and which material was mandated, such as marble countertops.

Looking at the cheap plastic countertop surrounding our bathroom sink, it looked like marble to me. The “tile” in the bathroom floor was just vinyl, and the white cupboard looked like wood (but was just particle board with the “wood” part uncurling in a few areas). The bright, cheerful flower arrangement on the back of the toilet was made of artificial flowers, and a plastic ivy plant curled around the circumference of the mirror. My whole bathroom was faux, and I was suddenly thankful that at least the toilet was real!

“Real” for me are the things that meet my needs. I am not envious of people with huge diamonds and marble countertops, but I admire their beautiful choices that are right for them. “To each his own,” my mom used to say. I may not always be perfect, but I’m always me, the “real” me!

What to Learn from Baby Birds

 

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I drive slowly down my street to get home, which includes an area of trees, wild grasses and the occasional soda can or lost piece of paper. It is usually a non-committal drive, with my head swirling with ideas and concerns, not paying attention to the road at all. Yesterday was different. In between the trees was a mother bird, brown breast with brown-flecked wings. 6 inches in front of her was her tiny twin, obviously her offspring. The little one was walking away from her, turning to look back every second or so. Her beak seemed to say, “Go on, little one,” as the tiny bird inched farther along from her mom. It was such a sweet situation to observe!

Of course, all parents have gone through the same thing, pushing our little ones out of the nest. It is an 18, (or 19 or 20) year push. Lessons start early. An infant learns that he can depend on us to meet his needs, and trust that we are there for him. As a toddler develops, he tries to stretch the boundaries, asserting his own will, sometimes throwing a tantrum. As parents, we teach him how to handle his frustration differently, diverting tantrums into learning experiences. We give him lots of choices so that he feels in control, and lots of activities that he can do independently, giving him that sense of self he so desperately needs to develop. When it is time for school, we send them off like mother birds, nudging them along towards independence. We smile, wave, and hide the tears as he goes off to school for the first time, making it a great independent experiment!

By our own modeling, we teach him to be considerate of others, to share, to accept and to encourage. It is by demonstrating the “do unto others” concept that he learns not only his own value, but the value of all human life.

My oldest son, Francis, a manager for a large tech company, goes out of his way to hire individuals with disabilities. He often remarks it is easy to overlook their capabilities when presented with their physical impairments. As a teen, he used to build houses for Habitat for Humanity and teach Sunday School. As a teen, my daughter, Dinora, raised money for the development of a soup kitchen in her native Guatemala, even visiting and working there herself when she graduated from college. Even now, as a successful make-up artist, she regularly sends them money. When younger, Steven, with the weight of all of his own problems, looked kindly upon others, volunteering to help people carry groceries or donating his precious change to someone in need. (I will never forget traveling the subway in Boston and he kept asking me for change to give to all of the musicians and beggars down in the tunnels. He was devastated when I ran out of money.) Angel, who currently works 2 jobs to pay for his car, continues to make time to work at a camp for children who are blind where he has volunteered since he was 14. And Marie, who has so many issues herself, takes pride in leading a young schoolmate with Down Syndrom to get his daily medication from the nurse. She is gentle and kind and considerate of his special needs.

As that mother bird nudged her birdling towards independence, we need to nudge our own children to care about others. The future of Peace depends upon it.

 

Little Red Convertible

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Our family has the unfortunate dilemma of having all three of our cars disabled. (Children with disabilities I can handle, cars, not so much…) Hubby purchased a new (used) work van, but due some out of state issues, he is unable to register it, so his brother’s work truck has been a handy loaner. Angel, like so many other high school graduates when they get their first, real job, purchased an newish SUV, envisioning driving on the beach and sloshing through the mud puddles rather than the reality of driving in traffic on Route 95 every day, (although he did get some sloshing in during the road construction during the rain.) The transmission on that car just ceased to work; would happily drive it anywhere in reverse, but stubbornly refused to move forward. My car of necessity had been the resurrected old family van, which recently decided it outlived its purpose, refused to run at all, and is cost prohibitive to fix. Angel has the pleasure of driving a rental from the dealer where his car is being fixed, whereas the dealer of our van is long gone and probably dead. No help there!

Having hubby give me a ride is as frustrating for me as for him. “Time to go,” he announces 15 minutes before it is actually time to go. While I am standing there in the bathroom in my underwear, he goes out to the car, starts it, and beeps the horn every 10 seconds. If anyone wonders why I have been arriving to work disheveled, hair not coifed, face not glamored with make up, and mismatching socks, blame hubby.

Not having a car to go out to lunch with is a huge imposition and detrimental to my job. While I love my work and the people with whom I work, going out to for lunch to Wendy’s or Panera Bread allows me time to relax and regenerate my work ethic. Currently, by 3:00 in the afternoon after working 7 straight hours on serious matters, my brain is fuzzy and my motivation weakened. (Having lunch in the office always results in my getting pulled into some crisis, to which I can’t possibly say “no”.) How I long to be able to go out to lunch to get that much needed break!

Then there are the times I forget I don’t have a car. I readily agree to attend meetings and do favors for others, only to be embarrassed later to proclaim I can’t because the van is dead. If there is no Diet Coke or microwave popcorn in the house, the store is out of range and I must unfairly suffer.

However, not having a car enables me to daydream about what type of car would fit into my life now. Teenage life, (with my first job) saw me driving an MG convertible; fun, awesome, 2-person car, top down in the summer, wind blowing through my hair, and sunshine on my face. That lasted until marriage, which necessitated a family mini-van. As our family grew, (and grew) only a 9-passenger van would do, the very same van that now sits useless in our driveway. At this stage, after working hard and mothering most of my adult life, the possibility awaits for a return to a fun car like was driven in my teen years. Noticing so many “older” individuals driving little sports cars, at first I scoffed, thinking they are trying to reclaim their youth, unaccepting of the fact that they are now “old”. Then the realization hit that they have lived their lives and have earned the right to drive a fun car more than a person just starting out in life. The possibility that it might be my time to pick out my own, cute, fun little car is enthralling. Suddenly, having no car is exciting! The possibilities are endless! Little red convertible, here I come!

 

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Please consider purchasing my book, The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane.  Thanks!!!!

 

The Original Tiny House

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When our children were young, it was evident that we could not take Steven, with his autistic tendencies and severe sensory integration issues, on vacations to touristy hotels in unfamiliar areas. It only took us one trip to New Hampshire when he was a toddler to learn that his disability might be a hindrance for family fun and relaxation.

Never one to back down from a lifetime of vacations, hubby and I went up to NH a few weeks later to search for a home away from home in which Steven could be comfortable. We purchased a small cabin, one which would qualify to be a tiny house on Tiny House Hunters. It is cleverly designed, having 2 bedrooms. The “master” bedroom consists of a double bed inside 4 walls where one has to open the door outwards to crawl onto the bed. The second bedroom had 3 fashionable twin beds in bunked style, again accessed in the doorway. There is a tiny ladder to reach the 2nd and 3rd bunks. The tiny kitchen doesn’t matter because we usually grilled our food, and the tiny bathroom may have a bathtub in which I can’t sit up, but it is better than no bath at all.

This cabin has served our family well throughout the years with swimming, canoeing, fishing, frog catching, game playing and lots of family fun. It has never been as valuable as it has the past few years when hubby and I try to go up for monthly respite weekends. Life is so hectic and busy and often problematic having children with difficult issues that we literally count the days until we can once again relax in the woods; no cable tv, no wi fi, no telephone coverage, completely cut off from the outside world.

So it was that I relaxed this past weekend. Sitting on the deck, I sipped my tea and listened to the quietness. Every so often a bird would chirp, different birds, different chirps. I had never been interested in bird watching, but hearing the variety of peeps and tweets piqued my interest.

The snake that lived under the house was sunning itself on a nearby rock. Because Steven was a snake expert, I learned that it was not a dangerous snake, and would eat field mice that might otherwise invade our tiny house. I might prefer a cat, but a snake would do in a pinch.

The silence of the woods reminded me of meditation. My mind was calm and relaxed, free floating and super observant. The trees were all blanketed in dew, and thefat dewdrops hung from each leaf, defying gravity. I further noticed that on the end of each pine tree branch was new growth, poking out gently in a light green extension, a half inch or so long. Somehow I had never thought of trees growing, much less be able to witness it in action. The same flowers that we had planted at home without much success were growing like wild flowers at our retreat; large leaves everywhere, bright, vibrant flowers so tall and large that their stems were bent over with the weight.

It seemed like eternity, no thought of time or place, as I sat there and all my anxiety fell away and contentment filled its space. I was ready! I would “put my big girl panties on” and face the stress of the week ahead with courage, knowing that in another 29 days I could return to this place of peace.

 

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If you would like to read more about our family adventures, please purchase my book The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane through Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Termites Aren’t so Bad

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My oldest son, Francis, was born “legally blind”. His visual acuity stabilized at 20/400. (In layman’s terms, what a fully sighted person could see 400 feet away, Francis could only see blurrily at 20 feet.) He used his hearing so well that it was easy to forget that he had impaired vision, but every now and then something humorous would happen to remind us!

One Friday night when he was about three years old, he entered the living room as my friend and I quietly sat amongst the pillows on the couch, munching away on buttered popcorn, and watching “Dallas” on television, (our ridiculously favorite TV show at the time.) He toddled toward where we sat and without hesitation climbed onto my friend’s lap.

“Why, HELLO there!” she exclaimed excitedly, since Francis had previously been very shy with her. He looked startled and then began to cry hysterically. He thought that he had crawled onto my lap! He could see well enough to distinguish that there were 2 figures on the couch, but was unable to focus on the differences of our faces. From that moment on, when he entered a room, he would say “Hi, mom!” and I would respond, “Hi, sweetie!” so he could tell from afar which figure I was. At the age of three he had already learned to make accommodations for his vision loss.

He made similar accommodations when he started. He loved going and had many playmates but seemed to develop a deep friendship with a little boy named Eddy, whom I had not yet met because his mom dropped him off at a later time. Francis would come home and tell me that he and Eddy played with blocks or outside in the playground or cleaned the hamster cage together. I was not only excited that he was actually telling me about his day at “school” but relieved that he was able to socialize and make friends.

One morning my lazy body did not want to get out of the comfy bed on time, so he was driven to school much later than usual. I accompanied him into the building and saw the entire class sitting on the floor listening to their teacher read a book. At first glance, the sea of toddlers looked like a blur of Caucasian, light haired children. Francis scanned the room with his limited vision, spotted Eddy, and walked over to sit down next to the only African-American child in the class. Francis was one smart kid…for his best friend he chose the classmate who was easiest to pick out!

Francis had a wonderful, normal nursery school experience, with one notable exception. The school invited an exterminator as a guest speaker who regaled the class about the abundance and peril of termites munching on the wood of houses. Francis came home terrified at the possibility of having them in our basement. I had never seen him so anxiety ridden and he developed problems falling asleep and nightmares. After about a week of this, I finally asked, “WHY are you so afraid of such tiny bugs?” He burst into fearful, explosive tears. “TINY????” he replied. “THEY ARE HUGE!”

Driving through Providence, RI, Francis had previously seen the only termite of his young life, the famous “Big Blue Bug” atop a building on Route 95, which is 928 times the size of a regular termite. No wonder he was so petrified! His understanding was that termites that large roamed throughout his basement and were eating his house! After I stopped laughing, it was explained to him that the Big Blue Bug by the side of the road was a joke and that termites are tiny. Then his dad and I took him downstairs, searched and confirmed that our house was, in fact, termite free. Happy dreams were his again.

 

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If you want to read about Francis’ hugely successful life, including skiing, captaining a sailboat, obtaining a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, and eventual career as a high level manager at a famous Silicon Valley computer company, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane through Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

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