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Breathe

morning haze on the campground

The air quality is pretty bad here, I can’t imagine what it is like in California.  This time of year the air here tends to be thick with humidity and still so the particulates from the Canadian wildfires hang in the haze.  The weather forecasters keep predicting rain, which would wash some of the particulate out of the air, but we’ve been dry for quite a stretch.

Why is this relevant?  Well, last week I missed posting because I was outside breathing the “fresh” air.  I was camping north of the Twin Cities.  Spent the first couple of days in a tent and then the next several in a trailer.  The advantages of trailer camping include air conditioning and last week that made a world of difference.

“New” camper on the road needs to go into “old” spot off the road. My job to stand at the sewer intake and make sure it wasn’t run over.

I’ve never really trailer camped before so I don’t understand the ins and outs of hook-ups and reserve tanks.  I do have a friend who, having just purchased a trailer, asked for my help getting it parked and set up.  In return I’ll have access to a retreat in the summer – air conditioning included.  Seems like a win-win to me!

The last time I was tent camping I ended up in the ER.  I threw my back out, badly.  This time I had enough help and support (and I didn’t have Orion with me) that I did fine.  I even managed to be a real help to the people I was camping with.  I also took care to go to bed when I was tired (much earlier than I would at home) instead of staying up half the night around the campfire.  I made sure to stay hydrated.  I didn’t “settle in” and stop moving.

Early morning campfires to help dry off the dew.

Even so I had a nasty allergy episode.  Someone decided to spread an allergen (they had been specifically asked not to use) around the ritual circle.  This is a particulate that contains a volatile oil.  In this environment, especially with the heavy, still air, the allergen doesn’t dissipate and instead continues to be reactivated and spread.  It meant I had to miss out on much of the community activities and stay close to our campsite.  It actually could have been life-threatening if I was less careful or less well equipped to handle my reaction.

The thing about accessibility is that accommodations were made and someone chose to ignore them.  I see that a lot.  People block aisles, drop into parking spots “for just a minute”, use public accessible bathrooms as employee changing rooms or (as in this case) think their experiences with disability are equal to everyone else so if it works for them that means it’s accessible.  This behavior is nasty when done in ignorance and down right evil when it is done with self-righteous intention.

I have spent 50 years of my life with an awareness of access and disability.  My sister had sever enough allergies growing up that we had to leave the city at this time of year because the air quality was too bad.  That was before the advent of central air commonly available in housing.   I’ve cooked around food issues (for friends and family, conference style events and as a personal chef).  I’ve been pushing Orion around in a wheelchair for 25 years.  I have had my own experiences with access issues as well.

Our camp. The tent I stayed in on the right.

If I’ve learned anything it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all.  I know my son’s wheelchair is not as wide as standard and just because he can get somewhere does not mean it is “accessible”.  I know that what we need in a parking spot is different than what a driver with a disability might need, or someone with a scooter.   I know that distance isn’t the same issue for someone pushing Orion as it is for someone dealing with Fibromyalgia or a breathing disorder.

Many people, myself included, who deal with asthma will joke that “breathing is over rated”.  It’s actually not, and that’s why people die of asthma.  That’s why environmental controls on air quality are not just an inconvenience.  That’s why setting off fires, that become forest fires, that impact air quality across states is criminal.  That’s why I run my air conditioner all summer long, it filters the air.  It makes it possible to breathe.

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Busy

Orion – you should make this your new profile picture!

Everywhere Orion and I went this week it was busy.  Maybe it was my timing, but busier than what I usually find all the same.

I took Orion to get his haircut and we waited a good 1/2 hour on a walk in appointment.  Now, I could have “checked in on-line”.   I could have gone earlier in the afternoon.  I could have gone during the week and not on a weekend.  Sometimes I do.  Often I don’t.  This week, things were busy.

We went to the movies, afternoon matinee.   I was hoping for Christopher Robin thinking we might be hitting the “naptime” show.  Things never bode well when ALL the accessibility spots are filled.  When that happens I’ll often say, “forget it.”   But I really wanted to be out and about with Orion.  (Dinner at the theater rather than cooking was also a bonus feature.)

I didn’t get into the movie I wanted.  All the accessible seats were filled.  In a matinee for Christopher Robin!  I guess nostalgia goes a long way.  There was another movie on my list screening at the same time.  We snagged the some of the last seats for Mama Mia 2.

Even after the credits were over the theater was still busy.

Because we stood in line for food and read the tickets wrong about which theater we were going to, we missed some of the previews.  Not only that, there were people in our seats!  An elderly couple, who needed accessible seating and were hoping to sit together.  Guys…..

It all worked out, kindly and peaceably.   Minnesota nice does occasionally help.  The movie was not as much fun as the first, but still a summer romp.  We went home and listened to ABBA for the rest of the evening.

Even the grocery store (co-op) was busy.  There it wasn’t so much the volume of customers in the store. It was more the staff desperately trying to restock from what looked like hoards of shoppers we’d just missed.  Still managed to find what I was looking for, pretty fresh vegetables!

Hoping Karina cooks up a lovely dinner for me with these!

I guess I just wanted to be a grasshopper this week and everyone else decided to be ants.  busy busy.

Rain

The indoor mural doesn't feel quite the same as being out in the woods

The indoor mural doesn’t feel quite the same as being out in the woods

It has been raining on and off all week.  That puts more than a little damper into our plans.  There is flooding.  (We’re fine, but there have been road closings just 10 minutes north of us.) Power has been a little unstable.  (I haven’t had long outages, but there have been several rounds of reset the clock.)  My allergies, especially mold, have been acting up.

The part that’s hard is that Orion and I had weekend plans that involved being outdoors.  The weekend was actually mostly quite lovely.  The sky cleared, the sun peeped out it was pleasantly cool, but not cold.  All things that make for a great time in the outdoors.   Unless you are in a wheelchair.

Playing with the bull snake

Playing with the bull snake

I struggle to push Orion when we’re “off roading” under the best of circumstances.  When the ground is firm, when there aren’t a lot of fallen obstacles or rocks, when the grass is short, when he could push himself for at least a short distance that’s ideal.  This weekend, given the amount of rain, was not going to be ideal and could be really horrible.

Beekeepers, we did pick up some honey.

Beekeepers, we did pick up some honey.

We skipped through several versions of our plans.  We did make an appearance at the Richardson Nature Center.  They had an event called Party in the Park.  Most of the party was spread out into the park, and not accessible.  I got help from a stranger to go up a small hill.  We visited the bee keeping exhibit inside.  We played with a bull snake, made a seed bomb, and had some sumac popcorn from the Tatanka Truck.  Then I was done in.

Our “time in nature” was mostly spent shopping at the co-op.  Even there we didn’t load up as much as we often do.  Prices are high and the budget is not.

I ended the week on a note of gratitude.  We did a ritual for the harvest season.  There is a lot of bounty in my world, even if I don’t have full access.  It’s good to take some time out to recognize what I do have, to be grateful.

Harvest Home

Harvest Home

Paganicon Weekend

Still bad at selfless. Trying to find the next workshop

Still bad at the selfie. Trying to find the next workshop

It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend and it may take me a bit to come back into my regular routine.   Paganicon happened, which was fun and exciting. I did a presentation on Friday.   It was well attended and I got some very positive feedback.   I have to think it went well.

Ran into Sandy in the vendor room. I knew her from the Priestess Show on Blog talk Radio. We finally got to meet in person! (she took this one)

Ran into Sandy in the vendor room. I knew her from the Priestess Show on Blog talk Radio. We finally got to meet in person! (she took this one)

I spent plenty of time socializing on Friday.  This is a local convention, but it’s getting some buzz on the National scale.  Some of the guests and folks coming in from out-of-town are good friends.  It’s always nice to have the opportunity to touch base in person with those long distance relationships.

Saturday was our political district convention.  Both Orion and I were delegates.   This year Orion is excited about politics and I’m feeling fit enough to make it possible for him to participate at this level.  We struggle with accessibility in these venues.  On caucus night it was the crowds.  For the district convention it was the convention set up itself.

I don't have photos from the political convention but here's Orion at dinner with one of our long distance friends Crystal Blanton.

I don’t have photos from the political convention but here’s Orion at dinner with one of our long distance friends (and also from the Priestess Show) Crystal Blanton.

The building this district historically uses for its convention is technically ADA accessible.   There is a ramp and an elevator.  There are handicapped stalls in the bathrooms.   However the signage is horrible.

To make matters worse the convention was in the auditorium.   You may know most auditorium seating has a small designated area to accommodate wheelchairs.  Depending on the auditorium they may or may not have seating near them for companions.  But at a political convention the rules require that delegates sit in their precincts – not in the special seats on the other side of the room.

We found a spot in a little used aisle.   Little used because the door to that aisle was locked the entire day.  Every time we left we had to get someone to go around and let us back in.   The lighting was horrible.  I had eye fatigue and a burgeoning headache from trying to read the amendments.  Orion is legally blind.  He can read, but he needs good lighting.   I drained my cell phone battery using the flashlight.

I begged someone to take this for me. Not sure I've had my coffee yet!

I begged someone to take this for me. Not sure I’ve had my coffee yet!

In spite of being worn out we swung by Paganicon after the political convention.   It gave Orion a chance to visit with some of his friends.  He picked up a beautiful drum that he’s enjoying.   Orion has an inherent sense of rhythm and perfect pitch.

Sunday morning I was back at Paganicon to do a book signing.  It went pretty well for me after one of the organizers kindly found me a decent cup of coffee to get me through.  I spent the afternoon actually attending the convention, going to workshops and participating in rituals.

It was a good weekend.  I couldn’t have done so much, and at that pace, 3 years ago.   I am so grateful to be able to do these kinds of things again, and to be able to do them with Orion in tow.

Great panel on social justice and systemic issues!

Great panel on social justice and systemic issues (like accessibility)!

 

I was talking about my bariatric surgery and the outcomes with some folks I hadn’t seen for awhile.  These are people who have been in that internal debate about their own weight issues.  I said that I think part of my success is because I’m not focused on the weight or the numbers as much as I’m focused on the things I can do.

I can get down on the floor and up again.  I can go up and down the stairs.  I can walk from one end of the convention to the other and not sit down.  I can stand for my entire presentation and still manage to pack my stuff up when I’m done.  Gratitude keeps me on track.  Excitement about what I can do keeps me pushing to do more.

 

Stepping Out

I has occurred to me that I am the queen of excuses. 

I had a friend who made a distinction between excuses and reasons.  Reasons are real problems.  Obstacles that have a way around them if we are willing to look.  Excuses are the stories we tell ourselves to avoid looking for solutions.

There was a reason I struggled with last weeks posting.  Anyone who read it can see that.  But I didn’t use an excuse to avoid making the attempt.  That’s writing.  I’ve been working on my self talk about my writing.  I started the blog on purpose, stepping out and being accountable about my writing.

Look what it’s gotten me!  I have been writing once a week since August on the blog.  I’ve made quite a few new on-line friends reading and commenting on their blogs.  I’ve got a book at the publishers.  Yes, occasionally I may produce a blog like last weeks.  Generally though I’m a writer.

crocus peeking color

Now it’s time to take on some exercise and health projects.  I’ve got long and deep excuses for not exercising, not taking care of myself and generally being a sedentary kind of gal.  I’ve been thinking about doing something about this for a long while.  I recognized on my trip to California that I’m not doing myself any favors.

My most recent, consistent excuse has been the weather.  It’s scary to walk outside on the snow and ice, especially when you’ve spent the last 2 years in physical therapy from your last set of falls.   Has anybody noticed me commenting on our unseasonable weather?  We haven’t had snow and ice for almost a month.  It’s time to step out.

I’ve enlisted Orion to help me.  He’s not really keen on exercise either, but if I set him on his way out the door he’s game for anything.  The nice thing about walking with Orion is that I move slower.  When I walk with him I can go farther than when I walk on my own.

Orion says his wheelchair is built for speed.

The first time I made him take a walk with me I packed a chair on the back of his wheelchair, just in case.  One of my fears is that I’ll get out and not be able to get back.  Turns out I made it a lot further than I thought I could!  In part because we went slowly, but also just because I had that reassurance that I could stop if I needed to.

Getting out the door for a walk is pleasant, but it’s not always easy.  The pollen count is high, the days are busy and sometimes there really isn’t time.  On the other hand when we do go out I sleep better, feel better and eat a lot less.  I even went out by myself when Orion was at his Dad’s on Sunday!

The third thing that really needs to happen is stepping out socially.  It’s been two years since I kicked out my last husband and it’s time to come out of the cave.  Because I have Orion in tow, this does get to be a little complicated.  Often it’s just easier to stay home than to pack everything up and then deal with accessibility issues in a strange place.  However, it needs to happen.

Waiting for the music to start

We had the opportunity to go to a CD release party last weekend.  The venue was convenient and accessible.  The crowd were mostly people we know and who adore Orion.  It was going to be after dinner so maybe we could avoid eating the junk food.  We had a blast!  Orion is still talking about it to anyone who will listen.  It was great to catch up with some of the folks we haven’t seen for months.  The music was good too.

I’ve also signed us up for a couple of “meet-ups”.  Local groups with a common interest.  The one’s I signed up for are a tour of a local Hindu Temple and a discussion of Islamic women in art.  Orion has a strong interest in East Indian culture (he speaks Hindi and Urdu).  I have a strong interest in religion in culture.  These meet-ups seemed like a good match for both of us.

Great time to be "Stepping Out!"

So I’m stepping out.  I may have Orion in tow, but he’s a fun and enthusiastic companion.  How are you challenging yourself in the next months?

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