Tears

Here we were on this lovely cruise. We were well fed, well taken care of, in an accessible room, relaxed, sunning, entertained, reading, … But, yet, as I read my book, I was tearing up for the second day. The book was historic fiction set near the end of the Civil War and slavery, written from the viewpoint of the slaves. I have read plenty of books about slavery, slave trade, Nazi suppression of Jews, Dutch suffering when caught for hiding the Jews, Japanese Internment camps, Native American suffering based on the US government’s broken promises and white western expansion, … lots of books about some of the worst examples of humanity. Why were the tears continuing to stream down my cheeks while reading this book, I wondered?

The slaves in this book kept supporting each other with promises from God. Promises like “his eye is on the sparrow” sustained those who were suffering. They had faith that, in the end, God would provide Glory. Eventually it dawned on me. Now that I am living in a wheelchair, I feel imprisoned in a body that no longer works. I have a small sense of what it must have felt like for slaves. In a way, I was like them with no way out of my paralysis, here through no personal choice, benefiting from the love of family who also had no ability to change my situation, … I thought I had always felt empathy for others. What I felt in the past wasn’t as real as it was now to feel the pain of others in similar groups.

Maybe the worst hurt came when I realized that a then-Presidential candidate was mocking others with handicaps like me. Not only did he think it was funny and ok to mock us (or anyone), but he did it while trying to impress and earn the support from voters who also thought it was ok. And, it wasn’t only those of us with handicaps but other groups were purposely targeted and disenfranchised.

Another realization was “in my face.” There was not one excursion off the ship in any of the six countries included on the ship itinerary that was wheelchair accessible. I was told by ship staff that one particular city we visited, of over a million people, did not have one bus in the city that was accessible. How challenging it must be for those with handicaps in such countries. It made me grateful for the many people before me who fought long and hard for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing Act (FHA). I also wondered what America some people wanted us to go back to when America was greater than it is now. Prior to ADA or prior to more fair civil rights?

I am reminded of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I pray for America, Americans, and our leaders. Jesus ate with Samaritans and tax collectors. Our command is to love others as ourselves. Isn’t that how we work to help His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven?

Give thanks for your many blessings.

Shalom, Collene

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Van Go(gh): Yesterday’s Anniversary

Yesterday marked the first year anniversary of our amazing Van Go. Because of the gifts of NMEDA and the adaptation of BraunAbility and Clock Mobility to our Toyota Sienna, we have been blessed with a year of closer to normal abilities to get in the VAN and GOgh.

In the second half of that year, I have written the manuscript of an information text (children’s book) which is written from the voice of a child in the preschool years thought HS graduation facing mobility challenges. The various children (male/female; many physical causes; all races) are tackling and accomplishing many day-to-day as well as atypical task with the attitude of “Sure, I Can.” My challenge for this summer has been to find a publisher who will take a look at this manuscript and, hopefully, decide that it is worthy of publication. I know this is a concern of parents of children who are impacted and holds a powerful message for all educators and all people who come into contact with persons with mobility challenges. (Read: everyone!!) I need an illustrator and a publisher. I know they are out there. We just need to get connected.

Just this week I learned about a young grandchild of precious friends who has one of the diseases addressed in “Sure, I Can” and will be facing mobility challenges. This is a message his parents, siblings, and those who love him need to read.

Appreciate your blessing of health. Shalom, Collene

Joy Through the Eyes of a Child: Who Just Happens to Have a Mobility Disability

 

Recently my husband and I were privileged to attend Stroll n’ Roll, a fundraiser and fun activity for Spina Bifida. Stroll n’ Roll, as I understand, was originated by two young moms who learned up close and personal what Spinal Bifida was all about. In a bit over a half dozen years, this event grew to what we witnessed and participated with. The event was moving, and I’ll share it through my impressions and recurring memories.

  • Hmmm, interesting:
    • We walked into a large, banquet room filled with hundreds of people of all ages, knowing, but not visually noticing, that it involved families living with spina bifida.
    • We were in the outstanding Frederick Meijer Gardens venue and were able to enjoy the gardens, sculptures, and thousands of fall mums. The most striking sculpture was the enormous Da Vinci Horse Statue.
    • A table of red t-shirts noting “ADJUST BELIEVE OVERCOME REDEFINING SPINA BIFIDA” with the JUST BE ME lined up vertically in the center of the wearer’s chest.
    • Vendors proudly participating in the event with samples of their products but also with their families present.
    • A nurse telling me she has participated for years with her personal children because at work, she sees the children at their lowest. Here, she sees them healthy and having fun.
  • So fun:
    • Boys about 2nd to 4th grade clad in new, red t-shirts greeting each other with huge smiles as only children can when they see another child who they may have just met or may have seen over the years.
    • Knowing one of the boys who is walking has spina bifida and an obvious friend his age in a wheelchair also with spina bifida.
    • One of the boys doing wheelies and balancing joyfully and proudly on his large, rear wheels.
    • Moments later 4 red, t-shirted boys gathered, chatting, smiling.
    • Young children with lights flashing on their wheels like one sees on some children’s shoe soles.
    • Wheelchair Michigan, proudly wearing her sash and ornate dress, rolling around the room, introducing herself for the award she had won and explaining her ambassador role. She told me she happens to have spina bifida as well but goes around the state greeting people and letting them know that life goes on for people in wheelchairs. (Example of her cutting the ribbon for a new beach access sidewalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO_iTiaVTI0)
    • A buzz in the room of lots of chatter, laughter, kiddos moving about the room comfortably, obviously well used to moving themselves around with their wheelchair, leg braces, or other methods.
  • Most tender sight:
    • A young child of about 2 years pushing the back of his (apparently) older sister’s wheelchair down the hall.
  • Signs of brighter times:
    • Sunshine breaking through the drizzle as we headed out, with my husband and I purposely holding back to watch the excited youngsters and their support groups heading out.
    • Lining up with about a hundred others to roll or stroll about the gardens with the other families and friends, unable to keep from smiling as I watched the kiddos with their flashing wheels and chairs touched with individualizing color and sensing their excitement.
    • Rolling as quickly as I could with my power assist wheels just to keep up with the scores of people who were in the line that began to stretch and thin out a bit. I recall feeling determined NOT to fall behind.
    • A group of probably 20-30 people of all ages, dressed in t-shirts proudly noting the name of the child they were there to support all gathered around and dwarfed by Da Vinci’s Horse.
  • Funniest memory:
    • Hearing a voice behind me say, “keep going, we’re falling behind that old lady.” It didn’t take much checking in my peripheral vision to note my grandmother wasn’t walking with me and they just might be talking about me.

Watch for your blessing in the eyes and smiles of our little ones.

Shalom, Collene

9/11/01 ~ 15 Years and Counting

Where were you when you first heard, then watched a plane crash into one of the twin towers of the NY World Trade Center? Each of you reading this will be able to quickly bring back the place, people, surroundings, feelings, conversations, uncertainties, immediate thoughts of the safety of personal loved ones, horrific images, … and, the rest of the day as well. This is a time for each to remember personal experiences and implications – not those of mine. … … … … Vivid and poignant, aren’t they?

It is hard to think such vivid memories are from15 years ago. Aren’t there things you wish our country had done differently since then? Aren’t there things you wish our world had done differently since then? Aren’t there things you wish you had done differently since then? I do! None of that can change. We can only impact the future. The Iroquois Nation said, “In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” I believe that is wise advice. In order to do that, we must study, think on, and then teach our family and share with our friends the “true north” in our lives, what we believe, what we trust, and what we value. May it be for Good and not for harm.

This morning I received a message from Cheri Lovre, the well-known and respected expert from The Crisis Management Institute, who helped me and many school leader friends deal with school crisis situations like suicide and the Amish school shooting personally, to the Columbine school shooting on a more national scale. Cheri closed her note with the following:

“I would hope for all of you that you find time for reflection on the preciousness of every moment, the treasure it is that we have for those who love us and those to love, and the opportunity for each of us to continue to strive to make a difference by bringing more than tolerance…by inspiring love in all corners of our world…or in the words of my favorite prayer, ‘to rise above the differences and distinctions which divide us…’

 “May we all bring the light of hope to those around us, most especially to the children and youth in the hallways of our schools. Never underestimate the encouragement you bring to students’ lives by your loving presence. Live is fragile. Fill it with goodness!”

Watch for your blessings – and be sure you are a blessing to those around you.

Shalom, Collene

A Challenge & Van Gogh: First Anniversary

Yesterday marked the first year anniversary of our amazing Van Gogh. Because of the gifts of NMEDA and the adaptation of BraunAbility and Clock Mobility to our Toyota Sienna, we have been blessed with a year of closer-to-normal abilities to get in the VAN and GOgh.

In the second half of that year, I have written the manuscript of an information text (children’s book) which is written from the voice of a child in the preschool years though HS graduation facing mobility challenges. The various, growing children (male/female; many physical causes; all races) are tackling and accomplishing many day-to-day as well as atypical tasks with the attitude of Sure, I Can. My challenge for this summer has been to find a publisher who will take a look at this manuscript and, hopefully, decide that it is worthy of publication. I know this is a concern of families of children who are impacted and holds a powerful message for all educators and all people who come into contact with persons with mobility challenges. (Read: everyone!!) I need an illustrator and a publisher. I know they are out there. We just need to get connected.

Just this week I learned about a young grandchild of precious friends who has one of the diseases addressed in Sure, I Can and will be facing mobility challenges. This is a message his parents, siblings, and those who love him need to read.

God Moments 1 ~ Mini

At the 2-year mark, post accident I decided it was time to share a bit more of the first days, week, and months, given the years of reflection and the healing of time. I decided I would do that through many God Moments that helped uphold us. However, a celebration blog and other important projects kept me from getting to those blogs. I’m now moved to start those but I’m kicking this off with a present-day one, and then I’ll periodically bring out the earlier ones.

This Sunday morning began with the local weather news showing a nasty band of storms with intense lightning strikes heading our way and projecting to hit just the time we typically leave for church. Remember, being in a wheelchair, which requires two hands for propelling my chariot, leaves NO hands for umbrella protection from rain so rain typically dictates we stay inside. Well, by time we were both ready for church, we had missed the window for getting to Van Gogh before the rain began. This wasn’t just a MI rain storm. This was coming down in torrents. Sitting by our open condo door, I determined I needed to stay home but just then, it slowed a tad so we decided to head out. I was most thankful for our incredible condo board members here who, despite already having the ADA required access to the raised entry sidewalk, recognized that it was across a large, open, exposed parking lot. They took it upon themselves after my accident to add a second ramp which allows me to get between the raised sidewalk to our garage with only a very short area without a covered walk and exposure to the elements, i.e. soaking rain.

Once we arrived at church, we secured one of the coveted van/ramp, blue slashes, accessible parking spots and decided to wait 15-20 minutes hoping for the rain to slow. It was getting close to the start of church and the rain let up only a bit but my husband exited Van Gogh, raised the huge golf umbrella, and came around to where the ramp comes down. The look on his face changed but was unreadable to me. I pushed the button to lower the ramp and realized his look. The water right where the ramp landed was in about 3-4 inches of fast flowing water. A quick look down at my wheels assured me that the wheels would hold me above the water, even if not the hand rims, so down I went and continued to move through the falling rain rather than sit in the rushing water while Alan pushed the button to raise the ramp and close the van door. I looked up to see two angels walking toward me from church in the form of two friends holding their own huge, golf umbrellas. They were able to keep me from getting soaked between the van and the door overhang. Mini God Moment.

As was typical, the service was worshipful and harmonized from the words of preparation through the postlude. The final message in the series on Nehemiah, Restoring Purpose, the Power of Rubble Restored, reminded me of my focus word this year, purpose. Our minister of music and his (guest) brother added richness with their musical talents on piano, organ, blended voice, and trumpet. They sang the hymn of response, Blessings by L. Story, as a dialogue between a typical person’s words and God’s response.

Revised chorus text:

Your blessings come through rain drops. (just this morning)

Your healing comes through tears. (many in the last two+ years)

A thousand sleepless nights (can’t count the number my husband has had)

Are what it takes to know I’m near.

 

Person’s voice in final verse:

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.

What if trials of this life

The rain, the storms, the hardest nights

Are your mercies in disguise.

 

Watch for your disguised blessings.

Shalom: May all be well, Collene

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♪ On the Boat Again ♬

CVN Moving up mast

Well, actually if I were on THE boat, it would be our beloved, beautiful sailboat, Mariah. Technically this should be entitled On A Boat Again but that doesn’t fit as well with the song in my head (On the Road Again). This week I was able to get on our plan B boat, an open cockpit powerboat which has ample, flat floor space for my wheelchair. It was indeed a red-letter day. Watching water is beautiful but being on the water evokes fresh smells, feelings of rolling gently, sounds of others playing on the water, and a sense of freshness on ones skin.

This could fit as the third in a trilogy of blogs on creative problem solving for a richer life.

The picture above was of me, prior to the accident, of course. When someone needed to go to the top of our approximately 40’ mast to change a light bulb, visually check on things, or retape the spreader boots, I volunteered. I was lighter and Alan was stronger. Besides, the view from up there is breath taking. For the ride up, I sat in our bosun’s chair, an incredibly strong seat made of heavy-duty fabric, strong webbing strategically placed, and indestructible metal rings. The large ring clipped to the main (sail) halyard. Another safety feature we used on Mariah was a Garhauer lifting davit engine hoist to move the outboard 5-horse motor from the bracket on the back stanchion to the transom of the dinghy, bobbing in the water, without dropping it or wrecking Alan’s back. It is a stainless steel upright bar topped with a second bar at about a 120˚ angle. Attached is a 6:1 block and tackle pulley system to significantly lighten the lifting workload and a heavy-duty clamp to securely hold the cargo. With me as cargo seated in the bosun’s chair, the engine hoist could lift me. One of my creative brother-in-laws designed and made a flat backed bracket with a 1” rod welded on to attach to the dock bollard (pole) to provide an upright rod like the stanchion on Mariah’s stern.

With the davit hoist securely attached to the special bracket on that dock bollard so it could pivot, Alan utilized the motor hoist to raise me off my wheelchair seat. Alan’s sister & brother-in-law lifted my empty wheelchair into the boat and then helped position me above my wheelchair. At that point, Alan lowered me with the hoist onto my wheelchair seat. We took extra precautions. I wore a life jacket even before rolling onto to the dock. I hung over the dock, not the water, while the wheelchair was transferred into position on the boat. This brother-in-law and sister are the ones we bought this boat from so if anything went wrong with me on the boat, Alan had a back-up, experienced captain.

Plan B Lowering boat

Our kind neighbors noticed I was on the boat as we returned to the slip, and he thoughtfully came out to catch the momentous event with his camera. It was great to be back on the water. We can now boat together again! I think my worst day after the accident was the fall day Alan went to prep Mariah for winter. After 40 years of working on our sailboat together, I was home crying while he worked alone. After 40+ years of sailing, we are together on a boat again.

Watch for your blessings.Shalom, Collene

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