Thursday, December 30, 2010

Intruder alert: Dude in a wheelchair

I know, of course, that I should just be amused by the silliness of some people, and last year when Neighborhood Watch stalked me, I was.

But now, I am pissed off.

A car coming up Highland Avenue slowed then stopped right across from where I was letting Claren sniff some grass.

I was uncomfortable. I saw the magnet on the car door said Neighborhood Watch, but I don't like being stared at. I wasn't doing anything out of place ... unless you count being in a chair and walking a dog as out of place, but even so, a wheelchair bandit?

Because neither fight nor flight are options for me, I raised my hand in greeting. I was hoping this would show them that I support Neighborhood Watch and was not involved in any nefarious goings-on, and then they would drive on.

Instead, they kept staring.

All I can figure is that they wanted to see if I picked up after Claren. I didn't, but she did not do anything.

Finally, I said (yelled really because they heard): "Can I help you?" I figured this would embarrass them into driving on, too.

But no. They answered: "No, we're Neighborhood Watch," which explained it all. Because Neighborhood Watch is allowed to gawk openly at community members and make them feel like intruders in the neighborhood they have been a part of for 30 years.

And then they kept staring.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm still standing

The other day I was transferring back to my chair, and for some reason -- not on purpose -- I let go of the grab bars I was using to move.

Of course, I fell. I still have a big scrape on my leg from that fall.

But just for an instant, I was not only standing but I was also not holding onto anything. It was one of the coolest things I have felt in ages.

I can stand now, as long as I have bars or countertops or rock walls or poles to balance me. It has been years since I have not used my hands to stand, whether using a cane, walker or just grabbing walls.

I won't try it again on purpose, but it was a pretty amazing sensation to not be holding something but to still be standing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tearing down the new house

This morning bodes poorly for living in the new house my brother-in-law is building.

I was exiting the bathroom, not fast at all, but off-centered.

I hit the door jam, tore it not-quite off, ripped the paint next to it and popped a nail almost out.

Dad hammered the nail back and kicked the jam back into shape. We are more or less OK; the paint is ugly, but it is not obvious.

This, or something similar, will happen in the new house. No maybe's. This, unfortunately, is who I am.

I know my brother-in-law and sister are aware of my crash tendencies and still offered to let me live with them. But I still feel rotten.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Ahh, Christmas Eve mass. Perhaps the best place to be in a wheelchair.

The priest thought so. "Smart man, brought your on chair," he joked as he made his way through the crows.

Add in a service dog, and to the little kids I am like Brad Pitt and Claren is Angelina Jolie.

One kid walked by with her chin not quite touching her neck. She was staring mostly at me. Another kept running away from her dad to try to get to Claren. She never did. One little girl just kept looking at Claren. A little boy came back from Communion but would sit down because he was staring at Claren. And his grandma kept turning back and looking at Claren, too.

Older people think we are something else, too.

This guy came up to me before Mass, and he leaned in toward me. I swear I thought he was going to kiss me on the cheek. Instead he whispered: I'll say a prayer for you. He might have added and your dog, too, which would make sense because his wife came over and said she raised 10 guide dogs for the blind and how great it is to see the dogs out helping people.

My public! I love 'em.

P.S. As we were singing Away in a Manger tonight, I started giggling. I was remembering this SNL skit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Please Father Christmas if you love me at all, bring me a watch

Several years ago one of our former columnists wrote about the demise of the wristwatch, which he said was coming because everyone would soon have cellphones, which have clocks.

Even then I found this silly because people did not, and still do not, wear their phones. And it is still more convenient to flip over your wrist than reach in a pocket for your phone. Usually.

I never replaced my much-lauded Superfriends' watch. Perhaps Santa will, but at the moment I am watchless.

I needed to know the time shortly after I had been excused this morning. I am not sure why, but I did, so I grappled my phone out of its pouch, looked at the time and dropped it ... back on my wheelchair seat. (Be honest, you thought I was going to say dropped it into the toilet.)

When I got back in my chair, I grabbed at my phone, but it slipped through my fingers and flew gloriously airborne, and landed squarely in the ... other stall (Thought I was going to say toilet again, didn't you?)

Of course, I can't get into the other stall, but of course Claren came to my aid, saving me from seeking embarrassing help. She snagged it cleanly; I left; no one was any the wiser.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I miss sleeping with my dog


My sister said one of our friends was a better mother because if one of her kids is sick, the friend still gives them hugs and kisses.

I am with my sister. I want nothing to do with sick people. Don't even like talking to them via e-mail lest I get some virus from them.

Everything changes, though, when your service dog is sick.

Actually, Claren isn't really sick. She just barfed last night as we got ready for bed. I think she ate something she shouldn't have and seems fine now.

Last night, though, she was tired and looked pathetic, and I really really wanted my double bed -- I didn't want her to be alone.

We went out to the family room and sat together on the loveseat out there. She immediately zonked out, but she kept her face toward me and stuck a paw behind my back -- I assume to reassure herself I was there.

Even though it is my normal napping spot, I could not fall asleep. My legs started getting all jumpy so I had to go to bed. I am not sure if she followed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's a Very DC (Comics) Christmas

I expected to have access to all my figures this Christmas, but the house is not done yet. Fortunately, I have made a few purchases on eBay this year so I am able to fill nativity with new figures of my own. I did not have to raid my niece's or nephew's toys. I consider this a source of pride. I realize some might consider it a sign of dorkiness. They are, of course, wrong.

This year I bought entirely DC figures. I am liking DC more these days and I have few figures, or I did at the start of the year. Now I have a few, including:

  • The Angels on the top tier, announcing the good news to all and keeping a watchful eye out for Dr. Sivana or Onimar Synn. The white guy in the front left actually is an angel:  Zauriel, a guardian angel of the Eagle host, has protected the souls of countless women, including Cleopatra, Mona Lisa and Joan of Arc. Now we can add the mother of God. Next is Hawkman, likely familiar to any viewer of the Superfriends. You know he is just waiting for evildoers to show up so he can beat the holy heck out of them. Continuing clockwise are two guys I know little about but look cool and stand up without the need for the purple playdoh that Zauriel has on his feet. Orion and Mr. Miracle are part of the New Gods. Finally, there is Captain Marvel. I always liked him because he was friends with a talking tiger.
  • On the middle shelf are the Big 3, played by Charlie Brown, Lucy and Woodstock. Next to them are the shepherds. Wonder Woman is the only gal this year. I had another, but Huntress kept falling over even with playdoh. Green Lantern Kyle Rayner is to Wonder Woman's left. He was a struggling artist before becoming Green Lantern, so perhaps he could draw the scene. If you could zoom in on his face, you would know, though, that he ain't drawing nothing. He is just daring Herod to show up. My brother-in-law and I were considering who'd win in a fight: Green Lantern or Thor. We meant GL Hal Jordan and my money is on him. Kyle is no slouch either.  With his back mostly to the camera is Aquaman, who swam in from Mediterranean Sea via the Dead Sea. He has his trademark orange shirt back now if anyone cares.
  • Finally, on the far left shelf: the three Wise Men. The cool thing about these guys: They don't have to leave right when they see a star. They can have dinner, dessert, coffee, and then take off. That's what happens when you are Golden Age Flash, the modern Flash and Superman. I highly recommend the Flash-Superman races.
Here are the ones from 2007,  2008 and 2009. These posts also have some background. And God must be amused by this because I have not been struck down yet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Power naps

You know what I am doing this week -- my week off before Christmas?

I am sleeping.

I don't mean good nights' sleeps. I am talking about 12+ hours a day. It is the only way I can have enough energy for the next heap of winter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sidewalks are for suckers

Occasionally, I listen to various family members who suggest I walk on the sidewalk. Occasionally, I almost die, too.

I hate for many reasons: They are full of cracks, signposts, telephone poles and more. Then there is the curb and its six-inch plunge to the road.

In Mom's defense, she said "Good luck with the sidewalks," and she asserts that she did not necessarily mean to use them'

But when I crossed Park Avenue and neared the busy Route 7, I decided to use the sidewalk. I was driving into the wind, so I had my head buried in my scarf. Then I felt Claren pulling a bit on the leash.

I looked up to see another reason I dislike sidewalks: People use them, sometimes to walk their full-size Poodles.

With the Poodle on my left, I made a quick right slant and cut off my power so I did run off the sidewalk. I then watched in slow motion as my right front wheel edged nearer and nearer to the curb. It stopped right on the lip.

I then continued down the sidewalk looking into the wind despite the cold. no more real near-death experiences, though when crossing 7 in the crosswalk with the walk sign, this dang SUV did make a left turn in front of me.

Roads! They're as bad as sidewalks.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another good climb

Other than thumping J on the head twice during the second climb and nearly kneeing her in the face, climbing last night was good: three climbs and I made the top on all.

I kept trying to use both my legs, which is easier with a helper on either side. I also tried to stay on the wall. I mean I tried always to be holding on to the wall.

Not that I always did. Nor was I afraid I'd fall -- my belayer had me quite secure. I just wanted to try to do something a little harder than before. I also figured that when I get tapped for my first James Bond-esque mission, I might need to stay on the face of the mountain I have to scale. Unless Q has a jet pack for me.

I whacked J because my hand slipped off a hold and hit her. It is interesting how sore and tired one's fingers can get.

After the first climb, I had to ask J to help me pull up my kneepads because they had slipped and my knees were getting hurt. I had tried to do it myself, but my fingers just were too sore to grab the kneepad.

This was when I came real close to kneeing her in the face. My crazy reflexes sent my knee jumping just as she let go off the kneepad and stood up. Could have been ugly.

But it wasn't. Everything was good.

On my first time rock climbing, one of my helpers told me that I did not always have to use my arms to pull myself up. Sometimes, she said, I could put my hands on a lower hold and push myself up. I did it then but not since. I noticed several times it would have been a better move, but it was too hard to do. I want to work on that some.

Pictures to come.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My emergency warning system fails or does it?

Maybe my nephew was trying to get me back for suggesting that the Birthday Bird was going to leave stinky socks at the foot of his bed tomorrow. Or maybe he was mad I couldn't go bowling with him.

He came with Dad to pick me up from work, and we were talking about his birthday. We went through the presents, and we were talking about his party at the bowling alley. He said his friends were going to be there, his mom, his dad and ... "You!" he said. I had to break it to him that I wasn't going. He said OK, but maybe not.

I fell in the bathroom, not loudly or badly, but after several tries to get up, I was out of breath and decided to ask for help. I opened the door and asked my nephew to go get Dad for me.

He actually heard me and said OK. He was playing computer and he hardly ever hears anything else. And I saw him leave the room. And heard him call "Grampa Teddy, Uncle Matt needs your help."

He came back and I waited. And waited. And finally got tired of waiting and got up.

I am still not quite sure what my nephew did, but I asked Dad and he said he never heard him. I am thinking my nephew just wandered into the kitchen and hollered without seeing Dad.

But maybe he holds a grudge.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tales of a brassy monkey

I was talking yesterday to the volunteer working with me at swimming about how few of us showed up at class. He said when it gets cold out, people often don't show. I told him I was tempted not to show up. He pointed out that a lot of people were more than tempted.

It's too bad because the water was really nice. I like working with this volunteer because once I put the swim vest, or fat suit, on, he let me go. Most others may let me swim on my own, but they are real close. This guy stays six feet away, close enough to grab me if I inhale part of the pool but far enough to make it seem like I am swimming.

I did inhale a couple of gallons of chlorinated water, but mostly I swam. Even the lifeguard said so. Not that I needed him to save mw. He was passing by after I got out and he complimented me.

My big problem was swimming into the lane ropes. I don't swim straight apparently, but I can do nothing straight.

And freezing. That was a big problem.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Amy Sedaris, that's not funny

If you are a person who will be assisting a crippled crafter, or rather, a handicraftable crafter, be aware that most people have no desire to spend time with these types of crafters, for they can be depressing and exhausting. This person requires patience. So keep projects simple and brief in duration to compensate for short attention spans and emotional frustration, and have emergency numbers posted and plenty of sweets on hand. When working with the handicraftable, you will encounter a wide range of behaviors: for example, with a little help and guidance, one disabled crafter might be able to mold a simple ashtray, while another troubled crafter might set all the felt ablaze while screaming for more fudge (see page 142). Another might be cooperative, undemanding, and a pleasure to craft with, while still another might go off like a battery in a microwave. Some will nap most of the afternoon. Yet others will babble incoherently while taking a hostage and can only be talked down with the promise of cheese.

Whenever dealing with disabled crafters, you must be careful and focused, but the truth is, no single precaution can protect you from every crafter that we call disabled. The best that can be hoped for is that once n your care, these somewhat erratic and occasionally drooly misfits will stay focused on the task before them while avoiding permanent incarceration. They must be allowed to craft at their own speed, but most importantly, they must be treated exactly the same way one would treat a normal crafter, if that normal crafter were radically unpredictable and sporadically threatening.

Dear Amy Sedaris, you are quite funny, so when I saw you had a new book -- Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People -- I thought it would be perfect for my little sister's birthday. i even asked Mom to stop by a bookstore and get it so I'd have it for my sister's birthday tomorrow. She did, and as I was glancing through the book I saw the above paragraphs called: "Adding a Handicapped Crafter to Your Crafting Circle." Just at the title I cringed. After reading it I felt sick.

I read an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution where you talk about the chapter this comes from and you say that the chapter is your favorite.
"I think they’ll embrace it, because it’s inclusive," she said, describing her long struggle at Second City to include a "wheelchair scene" in one of the famed comedy troupe’s shows. Other comics “"would say, 'Amy, no, it’ll look like you’re making fun of people.’ And I’d say, 'No, it’s funny and someone will be there in a wheelchair and see themselves.’ When it happened, people rolled up to me after the show and said they were so happy we had that scene."

I kind of suspected you were trying to be edgy and include people who are disabled in your humor. My problem with that and with South Park's kid in a chair, I am not sure you or they get what it is like to shoulder a disability, whether it be autism or Friedreich's ataxia. Kind of like why Will Ferrell doesn't make Chris Rock-type jokes. You do know that referring to people with disabilities as "occasionally drooly misfits" is not funny, ever. I imagine you are poking fun at people who, when dealing with someone who is disabled, try to "keep projects simple and brief in duration to compensate for short attention spans and emotional frustration." It doesn't work.

I felt particularly bad because I have long adored your brother's writing. I have wished to be known as the David Sedaris of wheelchairs. I loved you in his stories and when you have been in various TV shows. I imagined that you all were sort of kindred spirits. But I guess not.

Maybe I need to read the whole chapter. Maybe you do understand. But I'll never know. I asked Mom to return the book.

I wish you success. I hope you never know what a disability really is,
Matt Trott

P.S. Sorry, sister. I am late with my gift.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Elevators close pretty tight

In addition to the loss of my favorite accessible bathroom, the new door on our floor shuts me off from my elevator bank of choice.

The elevators I used to use stayed open a nice long time. This is key because my chair accelerates poorly.

With the set of elevators I use now, I have to be moving toward the elevator that opens. I try to guess which elevator that might be, but I am not psychic.

Even if the door right nest to me opens, if I have not started moving toward it beforehand, the doors start to close on me.

I tried to get into an elevator on the way home yesterday. I thought I'd be clever and just stop on the way into the elevator, let them close and then bounce open. It was clever, I thought, because too often when I barrel in and the doors start to close, they whack the less-than-super-stable wheelchair controller arm, make a big crash and then bounce open. This way they would just shut gently on the footplate and then bounce open.

You know it didn't work, though, right? Because it failed on several levels and I am lucky a co-worker was nearby to push the elevator down button again so thie doors opened.

Problem No. 1: Elevator doors -- at least those at work -- open only when the inside doors hit a barrier. My footplate did not extend far enough into the elevator for that. I should have been able to reach in and hit the inside doors except for ...

Problem No. 2: the excruciating pain of the outer elevator doors squishing my foot, which was off the footplate, between the footplate and one of the doors, which rendered me helpless.

I learned my lesson. Today I went full speed into the elevator. It still closed on the controller arm and I banged my knees and made a loud noise. But then the doors bounced open.

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