Tag Archives: vitamin D

One Thing Leads to Another

23 Sep

For two nights in a row, about 3 weeks ago, I heard a familiar, although relatively rare, sound. It woke me up out of a dead sleep. I have a friend who has suggested that I’m “aurally defended.” I tried to google that but didn’t find that term on the internet. Basically, though, little sounds like a faucet dripping or a clock ticking, can keep me awake or drive me nuts. In this particular case, it led to a series of events.

In 2007, my dear, beloved cat, Hallie, died at the ripe old age of 17. Since that time, I’ve had, about every other year, a mouse (I prefer tiny rodent, since “mouse” sounds too endearing) to attempt occupation of my home. This does not go over well with me. I do not like rodents. They’re nasty and, unfortunately, they’re usually smart. Well, except this one pictured below who thought he’d found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when he discovered the dog food bin in the laundry room two years ago.  Unfortunately, his occupation plan did not provide a way for him to exit the pot of gold, since it was very tall and only about a third full. I won’t say how I disposed of him, just in case someone from PETA reads this. I will say, though, one should NEVER reach down into a dog food bin at 6 AM in the semi-dark without looking into the bin first. Feeling a creature try to “scamper” up your arm is not a good start to the day!

Mouse in dog food bin

“Okay, I’ve found my way in. Now, how do I get back out of here???”

One thing led to another, and I purchased a dog food bin with a screw-on lid. There has never been another rodent take-over of the dog food container since then.

Anyway, the two nights of lost sleep led me to take matters into my own hands, since this new rodent was not scared off by my stomping and hitting the walls. And, now that my Jack Russell Terrier is hard of hearing, he’s not scaring off the rodent either. So, the next day, I tracked the tiny rodent to my bedroom closet. (They do leave calling cards, so to speak.) I pulled everything, and I mean everything, out of my closet, which, thankfully, is very small. It’s about 10” deep and 7’ long. Someone walled in a fireplace and chimney and created this closet a few decades ago. Back when the house was built, in 1904, people didn’t really need closets, because people didn’t collect junk and amass a fortune in clothes and shoes like we Americans tend to do now. So,the closet is about the depth of a chimney.

20130911_133958

The closet, looking to the left.

20130911_134733

The closet, looking to the right towards chimney.

The emptying of my closet lead to the discovery of several large rodent size holes that had never been filled in. I had never done anything to this closet, including painting it, so, this led to my conviction that a complete renovation was in order. And it really needed it. I even had to do some light construction in there, because whoever did the work before did a half-uh, a half-mouse job. I filled in all the holes with caulk, after discovering that someone many years ago had tried stuffing a few of these holes with tinfoil and even this thing I found in there:

20130909_212915

I’m not sure what this is. Perhaps it is a stove valve regulator, as one friend suggested.

 I sawed off some old nails that were poking through the walls. I primed the walls, the shelves and the chimney with some very toxic primer. But I was prepared.

20130911_140505

Wearing my mask and Sponge Bob hat. Poor Sponge Bob. He has dental issues, too.

It actually came in handy that I am a little person. I could squeeze into this tiny space and reach in there to paint those end walls and shelves fairly easily. I don’t think a tall or big person could have done this job. Well, they would have griped about it, probably. So, one coat of primer and two coats of leftover “Moroccan Moon” paint from another paint job and the closet was well on its way to completion.

20130913_201503

“Moroccan Moon” paint on a brush. If I could do it all over again, I’d become a namer of paint colors.

The next thing to deal with was the floor. As you can see in an earlier photo, it needed work. I was not about to refinish it, either. But being from a long line of borderline hoarders, I did happen to have some leftover “ipe” wood flooring that had been used when I had the front porch rebuilt several years ago. It was perfect for the job, doesn’t need refinishing, and I didn’t have to go buy something else. My kind of project! So, the tiny rodent led to another thing…not just the restoration of my closet, but using up stuff like paint and wood that I already had.

20130923_141138

How many closets have exotic hardwood floors?

Oftentimes when we use that phrase, “one thing leads to another” it is used in a negative sense. There’s a pop song out with this idiom as the title, and when I read the lyrics, it looked pretty bleak to me. When you google “one thing leads to another idiom” then you can see several examples in the free dictionary reference that are pretty negative, too. Although the tiny rodent in the house was clearly a negative experience in my mind, the outcome has been positive I think. And this one thing leads me to mention another thing—

There have been some exciting developments in the world of XLH research. A hormone called “FGF23” has been found to be partly responsible for our phosphate wasting disorder, and there has been a “discovery” of a compound (name “KRN23”) that is being tested to be used to reduce the amount of FGF23 hormone that is wreaking havoc on us. The Phase 3 trials will hopefully begin soon. This will not likely be of a lot of help to adults with XLH, from what I have read, because it cannot undo the damage that has already been done, such as the excessive calcifications. But, what GREAT news for children and the parents of those children! We have mice (I’m okay with referring to these laboratory rodents as “mice” since they’re being helpful) to thank for this development, since they have been used in the research, but we mostly have some wonderful research scientists who have spent their lives looking for cures and treatments for human diseases. I have a friend who is a research scientist in medicine and God bless him, because it takes a very long time in many cases, to have a breakthrough in your research. But one thing can lead to another, and in this case, many tests and trials, and many mice and humans willing to be in drug trials, have led to possibly a huge breakthrough in a rare disease. I am honestly amazed that some people have spent their lives researching something so rare, too, because they will not likely be mentioned in any textbook, unless they also find the cure for the common cold. My hat’s off to them.

Yep, one thing leads to another. And that can be a really positive thing. And as for my tiny rodent—well, he is going to lead me to have to empty out another closet because in my zeal to caulk all the holes in my closet, I apparently caulked them while he was in instead of out of the house, and he’s found another closet, a bigger one, that he likes!

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaires, 2013-2018.

Advertisements

Spring Genes

9 May

I love spring in the South.

Well, let me re-phrase that.

With the help of a lot of allergy medication, I love spring in the South.

The neighborhood has burst with color, and there are days when I think, “Have the colors ever been as bright as they are this year? Has that tree or that neighbor’s yard ever been as beautiful?”

The flowers in the front yard have gone crazy this year. In fact, I think I’m going to have to transplant some of them that are taking over like they own the place. I can’t just throw them away like some people do, though. It feels murderous. So, I’ll find some little patch of dirt that needs something in it.

I always think of genetics when spring rolls around. When I first moved here, I knew that I wanted to plant a lot of perennials. It’s fun to watch them re-bloom and spread year after year. I bought some columbine seeds my first spring here, sort of a medium pink color, and now I have several variations of pink columbines blooming all over the yard. (I’m a seed-saver, so they’re all over the place now.) I don’t remember buying several shades of pink, but there sure are several shades now.

A good friend of mine, as a housewarming gift, planted Lenten roses in the front yard shortly after I arrived. After a couple of years, I noticed that some of them were not pink colored at all, but were white, and they stayed white. The pink ones will fade during their few weeks of blooming, but the white ones never changed colors. They were resolutely white, with no shades of pink. Genetics did that.

White Lenten Roses with one pink

The other day I found a lucky clover patch in the backyard with one four-leaf clover in it. A spontaneous mutation, I’m sure. Then, about 20 feet away, I found a super-lucky clover patch that had three four-leaf clovers and three five-leaf clovers in it. I guess those were inherited mutations. Then, several days after being mowed, the super-lucky clover patch yielded no four-leaf clovers. I couldn’t even find a two-leaf clover in it, it was so unlucky. But the regular lucky clover patch, several days after being mowed, had two four-leaf clovers and one six-leaf clover in it. It became super-lucky in one week’s time. Those crazy genes. Go figure.

Clovers

The six-leaf clover is on the left and the four-leaf clover is on the right. Both are from the clover patch that was originally just a lucky patch, but this week is a super-lucky patch. Notice that the six-leaf clover has a very thick stem. It looks to me like it was two twin three-leaf clovers that were supposed to separate, but never did. I guess that would make it a Siamese stem, eh?

Sometimes, that whole genetic thing, when thinking about XLH, really kind of aggravates me and makes me feel very unlucky. Losing teeth is annoying, and sometimes embarrassing, to say the least. Having to go to the doctor to have my Vitamin D and parathyroid hormone checked every three months is a pain in the hiney. A trip to the doctor’s office to get the blood drawn, then a trip back a week later to consult with the doctor about the results takes me away from work and other fun activities. (Hey, I love my job, what can I say?) Last week, the Vitamin D was finally above 30 (now 34, woo-hoo!) but now my parathyroid hormone is above normal and “trending” upwards towards secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is not good, because that could lead to kidney stones, bone fractures, bone and joint pain (Hah! Are you kidding me? More?) and depression and something else…oh yeah, forgetfulness. It leads to an overall bad mood, if you ask me. I can’t believe that a little gland in the neck that regulates calcium, and is the size of a GRAIN OF RICE, can cause such trouble. Some XLH-er’s have to have them removed, and I am not really wanting to have to do that, because that’s just a little scary to think about.

But, as aggravating as having my genes has been at times, spring comes around and I notice that if it weren’t for genes, what would my yard look like? The same old thing every year, I guess. Pretty boring, obviously. Humans would be boring, too. My doctor would have a very boring career, I’m sure, because all she’d have to deal with is cranky people coming in with colds and flu. Now she gets to see ME, and draw pictures of the parathyroid glands to show its location near the thyroid gland, which gives them their name, because they have nothing to do with the thyroid gland; they just live next door to it, and she gets to talk about things other than antibiotics and eating a healthy diet. Surely, I must make her day? I bet she went home and told her husband that she saw 20 people with colds and sinus infections, and the most interesting part of her day was when the little short lady with the genetic disorder called XLH came in to discuss her blood test results and she got to explain to the intern who was with her about this rare disorder that he had never heard of, because he had just started med school and looked like he was about 14 years old. If it wasn’t for me, her day would be spent prescribing antibiotics or blood pressure meds and telling patients to lay off the red meat and salt. Boring.

One more thing that has been special about this spring. Last year, a friend of my sister gave me an iris to plant that was a color I had never seen before in irises. Sort of a peachy, salmon color. This year, it bloomed for the first time. Now, I love my tall, gangly yellow and purple irises that have taken over the front yard. They have been with me from the beginning, and are very tall (about chest high for me) and they get so tall that they flop over from being top heavy.

Two purple irises with yellow irises behind

Purple irises with yellow irises in the background. The purple ones smell like grape soda.

But this new and different color is just breathtakingly beautiful to me. AND, I am happy to report, they are the shortest irises in the yard! Hah! How about THAT!?! The shortest and the prettiest!

Iris with old Pentax telephoto lens

My new iris. My mother’s first name is Iris. She is also beautiful, like the flower.

Iris with Pentax lens

Since it’s the new flower on the block, I take a lot of pictures of it! We’ve had quite a lot of rain, as you can tell by the droplets of rain water still clinging to it when the sun came out. I think it looks like it’s sticking its tongue out at me, which makes me smile.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you who are  mothers and mothering women out there, and especially to mine, who’ll be the lucky beneficiary of some of those irises this weekend!

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2013-2018.

People first

14 Jan

ImageThe first week of January, someone told me that another hammered dulcimer player had moved to town. When I heard this news, I think I felt like some John Wayne-like cowboy– “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us. There’s only one paying St. Paddy’s Day gig in this town, and I don’t aim to let you have it…uh, yep.” Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Actually, what I realized was that I have gotten very lazy about learning new music. If you were to pull out an old Baptist hymnal, and name any familiar hymn from it, I could probably sit down and within a few minutes, work out an arrangement of that song on my hammered dulcimer and play it for you, even improvise a little bit too. When it comes to playing familiar tunes by ear, it is very easy for me to do. However, when it comes to sitting down and learning an unfamiliar tune written out in standard notation, it takes me much longer and my patience wears thin. Also, since the hammered dulcimer is an instrument that you have to play while looking at your hands and not a piece of music, then I feel like a bobble-head doll when attempting to learn written music. Look up at the music, look down at the hammered dulcimer to find the notes, look back up to the music, back down at the hammered dulcimer. It can be dizzying.

There has been one particular piece of music that I have wanted to learn for a long time, but I haven’t because I knew that I would have to sit down and WORK on it by reading and memorizing the music note for note. I have heard this piece several times over the years and every time I have heard it I have thought, “What IS that song? It’s so beautiful.” And every time I would check my CD to find the name of the song, I would see that it’s “Carolan’s Concerto.” The song is, to me, very beautiful, but not very memorable. Or maybe I should say it’s not very memorize-able. I have tried listening to it over and over before, to try and memorize the tune but it just did not stick in my head. Not like a Baptist hymn, anyway. So, I never bothered to attempt to learn it by the notes on the page. I just assumed that I would never be able to learn it because it didn’t make very much musical sense, in the same way that a song with words might.

“Carolan’s Concerto” is one of many songs written by Turlough O’Carolan in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. So, now I’m going to take a detour here and tell you about him and something that does relate to the purpose of this blog. Several places that I have found with descriptions of Turlough O’Carolan, or Carolan, as he and his friends referred to him, describe him as a blind, Irish harpist. The noticeable thing about these descriptions is that he is labeled first as “blind.”  Actually, the most memorable thing about Carolan was that he was an outstanding and prolific composer. He was a better composer than a harpist, apparently. But, some of these descriptions that I have read put “blind” first.

There has been a movement for at least the last two decades in the world of disabilities to move away from adjective-first language (i.e., disabled person, handicapped person, blind person, deaf person, autistic person, learning-disabled person, etc.) and move toward people-first language (person with disabilities, person with visual or hearing impairment, person with autism, etc.) Apparently, this shift to people-first language has been controversial in some communities, because for some of these communities, what others may call their “disability” is for them a source of culture and pride (for example, in the deaf and visually-impaired communities.) However, the shift has been welcomed in some other communities, for example, those people who have mobility-related disabilities. Not everyone wants to be defined, for example, by what they cannot do. I can understand that. I don’t want to be defined as that “short, bowlegged limping woman.” However, if I were a criminal, that description would be very handy to the police who might be looking for me. I mean, after all, that is the first thing you might notice about me if you saw me out on the street. I guess the more polite thing to say about me if you were describing me would be “the woman with bowlegs, a limp and short stature,” to use people-first language. Hmm…actually, that’s not so great either, I suppose. If you see me out on the street, just ask me my name and strike up a conversation. Then you can describe me as “that woman who is nice and whose name I can’t remember.”

Anyway, there has been a lot written on people-first language. Just Google that phrase and you’ll find many articles. The ones that I read were all very interesting. I understand the reasoning behind it all. People should be people first and their “otherness” should be secondary to the obvious fact that they’re human beings created in the image of God first. I also understand that there are some communities whose “otherness” defines who they are as people. I had a good friend many years ago who was deaf and was thrilled to invite me into her world and her culture of deafness and even more thrilled when I asked her to tutor me in her language. Her identity as a deaf person was very important to her. And while I do have an identity as a person with XLH, it is certainly not the defining thing about me, and it probably isn’t for many folks in that particular community. We are people with many talents and gifts and many characteristics. Yes, we have all those physical traits that come with the territory of having XLH, and it has probably influenced who we’ve become as far as personality is concerned (compassionate comes to mind) but who we are certainly is not limited to our medical diagnosis. That goes for all people, too. We are not solely defined by our professions, our race, gender, age, etc. We do love categories in the U.S.A., but hopefully each of us is way more multi-faceted than some box we check on a survey or census form.

So, back to the hammered dulcimer and Carolan’s Concerto. I found an arrangement of the song that I like, started learning it and within three days, I was playing the song. I discovered something new about myself in the process. The song turned out, for me, to be very memorize-able as long as I didn’t just limit myself to learning it solely by ear. I realized that there was a kind of three-legged stool necessary for me to learn this song, each leg being equally important. In addition to listening, I had to read the written music and also pay extra close attention to the visual patterns of the piece as I played it on the dulcimer. Now I am working on getting the piece up to speed. I needed to take a multi-faceted approach to learn this song, rather than limit myself to trying to learn it solely by ear. I found it sort of ironic that I really had to rely so heavily on the visual aspects of learning it on my instrument rather than my usual aural approach, when it was a song written by a composer who was blind. I’m rather pleased to discover that I am not nearly as impatient as I had judged myself, either. So, now I’m thinking I need to learn one song each month this way. I need to not be so lazy, and push myself to learn something that may require more brain power (and discipline) than normal. I guess I had sort of subconsciously self-labeled myself as music-reading challenged or rather, a person with music-reading challenges. Thank you, Turlough O’Carolan for a beautiful song that is worth the extra work to learn it. Now, I will be ready for that St. Paddy’s day gig. Uh, yep.

Copyright 2013-2018, S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries

Numbers

6 Jan

Tucker sleepingTucker thinks this blog is about him. He is bowlegged like me, but I am not a beagle. He, however, sometimes thinks he’s a human, with all the rights and privileges that accompany that. He is wrong.

I had the opportunity to spend some unexpected extra time with my brother and his family in late December. I spent the night at their house…he is married and has two teenage children. I also learned something new about my niece, his daughter, who is 16 years old. We were talking about math, of all things, and more specifically, calculus. She is taking a calculus class at the local state university and when we got into a discussion of how school was going, she said, “That class is killing me!” Now, not to brag or anything, but this kid is SMART. I remarked to my brother once that I thought it should be the goal of every parent to make sure that their kids turn out smarter than their parents. I commended him for his success in that! He agreed but wasn’t exactly sure if it was also a rather backhanded compliment.

Anyway, my niece said that she had really enjoyed algebra, but that calculus was a bit of a mystery to her. I’ll call her Algebragrrl. I told her that I had taken calculus in high school and did not do well in it at all, but I had always attributed that to the fact that I moved to another city right in the middle of high school (11th grade) and the math classes at the new school didn’t really match up to the classes I was in at the old school, and I never really got back on track with math, although I had also loved algebra. My math chat with my niece was a very nice moment for me…realizing that we both had a love of algebra. When she was a young kid, I didn’t really feel a connection to her and so, making this connection with her a few days before Christmas was a really nice feeling. It was an early Christmas present. Then she surprised me even more.

Algebragrrl: I like to count things, too. Do you?

Me: Why YES, I DO! I count steps. How interesting. We must be related. (Snicker.)

Algebragrrl: (Grin.) I also like to put things in alphabetical order. All of our DVD’s are in alphabetical order.

Me: ME TOO! All of my DVD’s are in alphabetical order. I used to want to be a librarian. You would like my coin collection.  I have coins from all over the world, organized in notebooks, in alphabetical order, and also in order of ascending value within each country. I’ll have to show you sometime. I started this collection when I was about 8 years old.

Algebragrrl: (Eyes wide.) Okay!

What a cute kid. I can’t believe she’s 16 years old either! And I was just thrilled to make this new connection with her. (I also found out recently that she likes photography, too.) And what a strange, quirky connection…math, algebra and counting things.

After all the Christmas travels were over, and the calendar flipped over to January, I received an email report from WordPress with my first annual blog summary report. It was chock full of numbers…I loved it. Apparently, WordPress likes to count things, too.

Here’s what I learned: People from 64 countries have viewed my blog, which I began last May. (Gosh, I wonder if I have coins from all of those countries? Better check that out…) The report said I had over 2,300 views of my posts in 2012. My busiest day was last September 18, 2012 when I had 63 views of my blog. My most popular posts were the ones on the leg braces. It must have been the photos of the cute bird feeder that I made with the braces that made it so popular.

I just read all that stuff in the report and thought, “Why?” Then I laughed. Why in the world would someone from clear across the world want to read this? I really have no idea. It could have been accidental. One of the tags is “XLH” which is also some kind of motorcycle.

Anyway, all those numbers do fascinate me. (And, who, by the way, is counting all of those views? Hmmm…)

Here are some more fascinating numbers that I have been thinking about lately, unrelated to the report:

There are over 7 billion people in the world (and this information comes from http://www.worldometers.info). I have something in common with over 7 billion people…I am a human just like they are humans.

There are over 315,000,000 people living in the U.S.A., which is where I live. I share something in common with over 315,000,000 other people…I reside in the U.S.A.

Approximately 51% of those people living in the U.S.A. are women. So, I share something in common with 160,650,000 other people here in the U.S.A. I am a woman. You won’t see that same percentage in Congress or in the prison system, but overall, we are the majority, slightly.

Okay, and now for my fellow XLH-ers, which is the whole reason I started this blog last May: According to http://www.xlhnetwork.org, which is our online support group, 1 in 20,000 people (and I am assuming they mean worldwide) have XLH. That’s 350,000 people in the WORLD and 15,750 people in the U.S.A.  with whom I have something very unique in common. Very unique, indeed! I find that to be a little miraculous, actually…that I share the same quirky, weird genetic mutation as 11 other people in my city, 462 other people in my state, and 15,750 other people in my country, and 350,000 other people in the world. How’d we all do that very same thing…mutate on the X chromosome and end up with this thing called XLH? What a mystery!

I also find it odd that I have all these genetic “relatives” and I’ve never met a single one of you in person. (We’re still not sure about my mother…) I’ve “met” some of you through this blog (ah, the internet, another miracle!) but I’ve never stood face to face with another XLH-er, even though there are several of you out there, 11 of whom reside in my city. (Wanna meet for lunch?)

I have enjoyed the mystery, though. I know you’re out there…I’ve been thrilled to connect with some of you through this blog. It’s been a comfort to think there are some folks out there who might read a post and think, “Yep, I know what she’s talking about!” I’ve enjoyed the connection with my mystery readers and the readers with whom I was already friends and who are only reading this blog because they love me, which may be another disorder altogether. I even have a relative who read my blog and he says it inspired him to start his own blog.

So, here’s to 2012. Thank you, readers and subscribers, for reading my ramblings, making comments, and hitting the “like” button. I feel very honored that you have taken the time to read some of my posts. And, being a little partial to the XLH-ers, sometimes I say an extra little prayer for your well-being. I know you’re out there. I have numbers to prove it.

Yes, 2012 was a good year. And when I woke up on January 1st, 2013, and my feet hit the floor and my butt did NOT hit the floor, I thought, “Yep. This is starting out to be a good year, too!” I wish you all a good year in 2013!

Coins

Most of these coins are from my childhood collection, as you can see the childish handwriting on some of the holders.  My dad started me out by giving me Canadian coins that he had found in his change. Then, as I got older, friends would bring back some from their travels. The one from Pakistan was the first coin I ever purchased. I bought it already in a cardboard holder, at a flea market for 10 cents, when I was about 10 years old. The memory is worth way more than 10 cents.

Copyright 2013-2018, Banjogrrldiaries and S.G. Hunter

The Truth about Santa Claus

22 Dec

I clearly remember the day that I discovered the truth about Santa Claus.

Obviously I had my suspicions about the whole thing, or I wouldn’t have known that I needed to sneak behind my parents’ backs and get to the bottom of this question. So, one afternoon, I went down to the back of the house and pushed open a vent that opened up into the basement and saw two blue bicycles (one for me and one for my sister) each with a banana seat and a sissy bar, and the awesome world globe that I wanted. WOW! Just what I had asked Santa for and he had stored them at my house…hey, wait a minute! Santa Claus is not some fat man with a white beard and red clothes but Santa Claus is (are?) my parents!!!

Most of the time when I hear folks’ stories about how they discovered “there is no Santa,” it is coupled with a lot of disappointment. Or even anger. They are angry that their parents had tricked them, sad that their fantasy world was shattered.

I never felt that way. I was THRILLED. I now knew a secret that only my parents and I were privy to in our household. I was now a keeper of the secret that my younger sister and brother still believed. I loved knowing something and being on that end of the surprise. This was great news to me. It was almost as if I was now part of Santa Claus’ team.

I recently told this story to Professorgrrl who said this about my discovery: “You discovered that the secret is that WE are the ones who bring the gifts, who offer the care, who share the love.”

At the age of 7 or 8, I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to put my feelings into those words, but I think she hit the nail on the head. Giving gifts and showing love is not about “magic Christmas dust” as Professorgrrl put it, but it is where the rubber hits the road. We get to BE the Santa, no matter our size or shape, whether or not we are abled or less-abled. We show love to others and we share our gifts as a response to the Love that has been shone to us.

Messiah Moravian sanctuary

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017

Mobility

4 Dec

I have been inspired to write about physical disabilities today. Unfortunately, the inspiration came from a neighbor who recently had a fall…in front of my house!

The day after Thanksgiving, my neighbor informed Professorgrrl that a couple weeks prior, she had tripped over an uneven section of the sidewalk in front of our house, late at night when she was walking her dog. Her fall landed her in the emergency room with cuts on her face and knees and a sprain in her ankle. She wanted Professorgrrl to know about this in case we wanted to call the city and let them know of the accident and that she had “taken photos” of the sidewalk where she fell. She said that in her hometown up north, if two people fell in a particular section of sidewalk, the city would take action to repair the sidewalk. But, two people have to get hurt before they will do anything…

Professorgrrl is VERY passionate when it comes to the subject of access for people with physical disabilities. She recently bought a car specifically because it would hold her, me, her mother and her mother’s walker at the same time, so that we could all go to church together. One of the reasons that she chose this particular church to attend is because the handicapped access was so easy…there is parking in front right at the door, a ramp, a place to park the walker and wide aisles in the sanctuary. She is also considering getting a new hair stylist for her mother because the handicapped entrance at the current beauty shop is through a narrow back door that leads into the break room where the hairstylists are hanging out between appointments and not real interested in moving their butts out of the way when “Mama” comes through with her walker. We’ve found another place that has a very nice ramp into the front of the building, and so we’re going to check it out. If this new stylist doesn’t cut “Mama’s” hair as well the stylist at the other shop, though, then we’ll keep taking her to the place with poor access, since for “Mama” beauty trumps convenience.

Professorgrrl is also sensitive about this because she knows that I have been known to stumble or fall when my legs or knees aren’t cooperating. And just as an aside, last year on one of our early morning dog-walks, I tripped over some uneven section of the sidewalk about this time of the year. I remember that because I was wearing a hoodie. I clearly remember the sidewalk rapidly advancing towards my face as I was falling forward when all of a sudden, I felt a hard pull on the neck of my hoodie and I stopped in mid-air, my face inches from the sidewalk. Professorgrrl had caught me by the hoodie mid-fall and stopped the fall before its potentially painful conclusion. That was the strangest feeling I have ever had. It was as if some angel had reached down from the heavens and rescued me from a LOT of pain. I am pretty sure I would have broken a knee or two or something, but fortunately, I did not.

Unfortunately for my neighbor, though, there was no one to catch her before she hit the ground one night a couple of weeks ago when she tripped on the sidewalk. And this has really made me think about how I am very unaware of some of these dangers for others who are unsuspecting because I am usually so extra careful, that I often pay excessive attention to every step I take, including those in front of the house. It had never really occurred to me to call the city to repair those sections, because I know they are there and know to be very careful. Another neighbor, who was curious as to why the city was spending so much time in front of my house, was not surprised when I told her they were replacing two sections of the sidewalk. She said she always warned her granddaughter to be careful and not run on the sidewalks on our block because they are so uneven.

So, I realized that because I now scrutinize every place where I’m about to place my feet, I have assumed that others do the same. That’s just not the case. They’ve not needed to think about whether or not they’ve lifted their feet high enough or if they can catch themselves and keep themselves from falling.

I wonder if, perhaps, most people, like my neighbor who fell, go along in life for 60 years or so and one day find out that they are not as sure-footed as they used to be. They may trip and almost fall, or they might actually fall and all of a sudden, they might think, “Oh. I didn’t see that thing that tripped me up.” Or, “Oh, I’m a little stiff today and I guess I didn’t step up high enough.” We all probably do it. One day you’re going along and can read size 8 font and then all of a sudden, one day you realize you need a size 18 font to read comfortably or, worse, reading glasses, a magnifier and a flashlight.

I have never been extremely sure-footed, and am getting less sure-footed with age, and as a result, it never occurred to me that perhaps I ought to look around and notice the sidewalks in my neighborhood that might trip SOMEONE ELSE up…someone who doesn’t realize how treacherous old sidewalks in an old neighborhood can be and hasn’t constantly monitored their every step before they take it, because they didn’t need to.

The GOOD news is, Professorgrrl called the city last Monday, and on Tuesday morning, they were out there at 9 AM pulling up five bad sections of sidewalk…two in front of my house and three in front of the church next door. On Wednesday, they had poured concrete into the forms they had made for the sections in front of the church. On Thursday, they came and poured black asphalt in the sections in front of my house. I was informed that this was something new the city was trying…where the sidewalk sections are crumbling and being raised up by tree roots (planted in the median by the city) they are pouring asphalt (which has more “give” to it than concrete, and won’t crack as much as concrete will as those tree roots continue to grow). This Monday morning, one week after the phone call, they sealed the asphalt sections and painted those sections to look like concrete. They also filled in dirt, planted grass seed and spread hay where they had dug around to replace the sections in front of the church building.

Sidewalk repairs- asphalt with sealantSidewalk repairs- asphalt with sealant

I have to say I was impressed with the speed in which they made this repair. I guess nothing says “fix this ASAP” like “emergency room” and “took photos of the sidewalk.” The new sections look great. In fact, they look so good, I wish they had gone ahead and replaced the entire length of our property so it would all match. But, that’s the Martha Stewart side of me coming out. I thanked the guys last week for coming out so quickly but now I even feel inspired to call the city transportation department and thank them for making our little section of the block safer. In fact, I’m thinking that I may also encourage them to take a look around the neighborhood at several other spots that I have now noticed are actually as bad or worse than those sections they repaired in front of my house. I hate the thought of more neighbors having to take a fall before the city does something about this. I thought about all the neighbors on my block…the youngest one is 50 years old. We’re not getting any younger on this street and changes in our mobility will likely occur…hopefully we won’t become disabled, but likely we will become “less-abled” or “differently-abled.” We XLH-ers have perhaps gotten an early start in that department, but we’re certainly not alone. And there are many folks out there who have it much worse.

Sidewalk repairs- painted asphaltLooks like concrete…but it’s not. It’s painted asphalt. Martha Stewart would not approve.

So, I am now reminded that I need to look around and think more of those around me who might not be aging so gracefully. Professorgrrl’s mom often complains of back pain, something new that she has acquired in her senior years, and is convinced, to hear her tell it, that no one has suffered like she is suffering with her back pain. For her, this may be true, because SHE has never suffered like she is now suffering. It’s new to her, and it has come as a shock to her system. It’s not just the pain she feels…it’s the shock and sense that her body has now betrayed her in painful ways that she never imagined.

That’s just not the case for me. I have always imagined it. Something about wearing braces as a child gets into your psyche, I guess. I have always imagined that I would end up as physically challenged as I was when I wore those stiff metal and leather leg braces when I was four years old. That thought was reinforced to me when I was 22 years old, a recent college graduate, and my parents presented me with a life insurance policy after I had gotten my first job and said, “Sign these papers for this insurance policy. We think you should have it, because it has a disability clause should you ever become unable to work and support yourself.” The thought occurred to me that maybe they knew something I didn’t know. So, it has not especially been that huge of a deal to have some new pain or physical challenge, because I have always assumed that I had it coming.

But for Professorgrrl’s mom…it’s all new and a huge slap in the face! She is not aging very gracefully and it took a lot of convincing just to get her to start using a walker. Of course her dad also had a unique perspective on physical pain, which I have always found to be somewhat amusing. It was pretty much this: “When the doctor asks you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, always choose a nine or a ten. That way, you’ll get the most medication you can get for your money. Maybe even some free samples.” He loved a good bargain.

So, I have a new resolution for myself. When I take my morning walks, I need to pay attention and view the sidewalks from others’ points of view. Are they wheelchair accessible? (I have seen two neighbors over the years who used the sidewalks for a daily outing in their wheelchairs, one of them even walking her dog as she drove her electric wheelchair. Accessibility not only includes safe sidewalks, but there should not be any tree branches that would impede a person in a wheelchair.) Are they accessible for someone with a walker? (I’ve seen one elderly neighbor who used to take walks with his walker on our sidewalks.) Are they baby-stroller accessible? (One huge bump might send a baby flying out of there!) Can you walk on them at night safely? (That might include making sure all the street lamps have working bulbs. Seeing an uneven section of sidewalk before you walk over it may prevent an accidental fall.) These are all things I need to think about…things that will make my neighborhood “walking-friendly” and safe for my neighbors, most of whom I like.

Tucker the Beagle and Deacon the Jack Russell Terrier, would also add: “Is our path free of all things that might otherwise prevent my humans from safely walking me every single morning without fail, through rain, sleet or snow?”

We all know that they are only thinking of me and Professorgrrl and not themselves, of course.

Dogs_and_shadowsSafety patrol

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

21 Nov

I’ve been thinking a lot about birds this week. I don’t think it’s tomorrow’s turkey-fest that has inspired me, either.

I live in an urban neighborhood. Even with all the traffic, the houses, the noise, the pollution, the cats, it’s quite a bird sanctuary. In the 14 years that I have lived in this neighborhood, I have seen crows, woodpeckers, hawks, finches, canaries, cardinals, blue jays, flickers, mockingbirds, doves, chickadees, wrens, owls, and, of course, the many different varieties of sparrows. There’s even a blue heron that hangs out at the creek in our park sometimes. I have always been amazed at the number of birds who are city-dwellers like me. City living has its challenges for our feathered friends, especially with the number of cats around here, but it also has many benefits. Many folks keep birdfeeders stocked up to encourage these many varieties of beautiful birds to stop by for food. I have quite a collection of  bird feathers that I have found on my walks over the years. If you remember my first blog post, then you already know that I like feathers and why I like them. I prefer to see them on the birds, of course, but hey, occasionally my hair falls out, too.

Found Feathers on a Drum

When I arrive home from work each day, I pull my car into the driveway which is next to a large wandering wild rose bush that is next to the front porch. Almost everyday, there is a flock of several varieties of sparrows hanging out in that tangled mess of a bush, chattering away, hopping around, doing the bird thing. They seem to be a happy bunch. Sometimes in the summer, they are wallowing in the dirt of the garden on the other side of the driveway, taking a dirt bath, flying from the garden, to and from the rose bush, which is their safe haven, I guess. I like to sit in my car and watch them sometimes. On Monday, when I pulled into the driveway, there was a beautiful hawk standing by the rose bush. I’ve seen a hawk in the front yard and on the porch before. I always assumed she was catching mice, for which I have been very grateful, since that cat next door is a lazy slacker, not doing the job she was meant to do on this earth.

But Monday, the beautiful hawk was obliterating a sparrow (or maybe more than one sparrow, given the number of feathers remaining) by the rose bush. The hawk was undeterred by my arrival, too. I didn’t notice what she was doing at first. Then, when I saw the pile of feathers all around her, I watched in both horror and fascination as she devoured her lunch. Many thoughts came to my mind including, “Today’s a really bad day to be a sparrow.”

Then I thought of a song that I heard many times growing up. “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” The song says, referring to God, “His eye is on the sparrow so I know He [God] watches me.”

One needs to be really careful before one uses nature as a metaphor to illustrate the presence of God, because the second thought I had was, “God wasn’t watching THAT sparrow today.”

And then, my mind rambling on, I thought of a friend of mine who is having a rough time right now with family illness and job changes. She might even feel like God is nowhere around and the hawks have gotten to her as a result of God’s absence. I know I certainly would if I were in her shoes.

So, that’s where we, those who love her and care about her step in. I really believe we are to be the presence of God in other people’s lives, especially during those times when they feel completely abandoned by God. I certainly am not God, and can do nothing to change her circumstances right now, but I can be with her, listen to her, think about her, pray for her, and support her in the best way I know how (which usually means going out to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner.) I can watch out for her, keep my eye on her. I am pretty sure she knows that she is loved by her friends, and that we’re paying attention and watching out for her.

That’s a lot of what I have to be thankful for this year. Friends. I have some really great ones. I hope I can be a really good friend, too. I also have some new friends, which makes me happy and reassures me that I have not become a sour-puss as I have gotten older. I worry about that, because I’ve seen it happen!

And I am really grateful for my XLH “friends” who are out there. I have never met another XLH-er in person. (Since it occurs in 1 in 20,000 people, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by that.) But thanks to the internet, I have “met” some people through this blog and through the XLH Network that share this odd condition with me, and it makes me feel like I have found my “flock” of fellow birds out there. They have been very supportive the past several years through their conversations on the network, and they probably don’t even realize it, since I have mostly just read the conversations rather than participated. The one or two times I asked for some advice, though, many willingly jumped in to offer their wisdom and concern.

So, this year, I raise a glass of cider to my flocks of friends, of many varieties, for whom I am very grateful! Happy Thanksgiving!

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017