Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fog Rukkers

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Image description: A coffee hut, made of barn board and a bit of paint sits on the beach in Campbell River with a mixed bunch of tables and chairs.

I spotted Fog Rukkers coffee shop on our first drive through Campbell River on the way to see my father in the hospital. I made a mental note of it wanting to go in for a cup of tea and hopefully to sit at the ocean side of the hut and wonder at the view. But then, we got busy. With family visits and gallons of tea consumed all over town with various branches of the Hingsburger or Jobes families (Joe and I met in high school here so both families are here) we just never got there.

On our last full day in CR I told Joe that I really wanted to make it there if we could. We got in touch with Shannon, our niece and she was more than game to go with us. Was it wheelchair accessible? Didn't know. Were we going to make it wheelchair accessible if it wasn't? If we could, we would. We pulled up and took a good look. With some manoeuvring we got me out and on the bicycle path. The as they parked, I rolled up and onto the front patio. Was there a patio at the back? Yes. There was no way I could go around the hut because it was too rocky. So it had to be through.

The door was too narrow when one was opened, we then unlocked it's partner and swung both open and I was through. The concrete was uneven, it was difficult to push and go in the direction I wanted to go, the wheels and the tilt kept suggesting a different course, but we made it through to the back patio and took a table.

I haven't sat on a beach, anywhere, since becoming a wheelchair user. I gloried in it. We chatted and we laughed and we marvelled at the beauty of the world. It was beyond nice. I felt myself relax. It had been a race out here to see Dad while he was in the hospital, and he was doing so much better and we had had a really good visit and now was time to just let go of the tension.

Driving away I thought to myself that this place and this moment was now going to be my new 'happy place' when I need to take a breath.

Sometimes that's all we need.

A breath.

Of fresh ocean air.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Picture of My House

Just before leaving on this trip, I mentioned to Ruby, who is now 10 years old, that my father was in the hospital. She stopped and looked at me, "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked. I told her that she knew he had been in before and he had to go back. "You should have told me," she said again and then began rushing around looking for paper, for pens, for anything that could put colour on paper. Now this was happening in our new apartment and all there were were boxes upon boxes upon boxes. Soon both Joe and I became distracted with the move and didn't notice Ruby in the kitchen working away.

A half an hour or so later she comes out with a piece of crumpled yellow paper, all she could find, and on it she had drawn a picture of our new home with Joe and I, her mom, her sister and herself out front. She wrote a note to Jerry. This 10 year old was writing a 93 year old and addressing the note as if he's her best friend. She said in the note that Joe and I had just moved and she wanted him to see our new house so that he, Jerry, would know we are all okay. She thought he might be worried.

We carefully packed the paper away to bring to dad in the hospital here in town where we are now. Dad had heard about Ruby and Sadie of course because they are a big part of our lives and we talk about them. Dad has never questioned the fact that the girls are like family to us and has treated them in our lives with the interest that they deserve. So when I told him about Ruby scolding me about not telling her about him being in the hospital and about not having the stuff she needed to make a drawing, then I handed over her drawing.

Ruby's writing at 10, she prefers cursive to printing, is better than mine. He lay in his bed while reading the note, his face brightening at the boldness of her determination that she could call him Jerry as if they were friends. It was a nice moment, he loved the picture and he asked for it to be put up where he could see it. It's there now, a note from a child who never met the man who is my father, a note telling him that he didn't have to worry that we were all okay. A note that said, "though we haven't met, I love you because you are Dave's dad."

Before he asked for it to be put up he said, "She's quite the little girl isn't she?"

And she is.

It only take a moment of thoughtfulness to make someone feel cared for and loved.

Ruby took that moment.

I need to do that more often, I've got papers, I've got pencil crayons, I've got time, though I pretend I don't. I just need a little more of what Ruby's got ... the will to do something for someone else even if it seems there's nothing I can do.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What I'm Doing Today

Guess what I'm doing today?

I'm doing a webinar.

Guess why I'm excited about it?

Glad you asked.

Today I'm part of a webinar about an article which was published in the International Journal for Direct Support Professionals, it was about pride, and about the LGBTQ+ community and about how that intersects with the community of people with intellectual disabilities. I am one of the co-authors of this article. The article itself felt good to write, it's been a long time since I published on the issue, and we live, here, in very different times. When I published the first time, I believe it was the first journal article suggesting that people who were LGBT+ and who had a disability had a right to receive service that was respectful of their sexuality. I lost a lot of work because of that article.

This time we are talking about PRIDE and sexual diversity and, again, the need for people who provide service to be aware of their actions and their attitudes. And because of a partnership with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals and Handsthefamilyhelpnetwork.ca we do monthly webinars on the topics raised in the newsletter.

I am thrilled to be speaking to people who, most probably, have a lot of influence and power in the lives of the people we serve. I hope that what we do today will further the rights of people with intellectual disabilities to be fully human and for their hearts to be fully free. How great is that?

If you want to sign up, it's easy ...

Let's Talk: Speaking OUT: Understanding Sexuality and Diversity in LGBTQ+ Individuals with Developmental Disabilities on Jun 20, 2017 2:00 PM EDT at:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2490233691429208321

Hope some of you drop by.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Silly O'clock AM

We were up early for the flight. It was complicated figuring out how to do get me to the airport, then Joe back to park the car and then on the shuttle back to meet me where I would be waiting. The complication was of course, timing. So we were up at silly o'clock and down in the lobby leaving shortly thereafter. Joe loaded the car as I was pushing over to it.

It was dark.

It was early morning.

There was no one around.

I didn't feel particularly unsafe because it's a hotel parking lot, and we were in disabled parking, near the door. Joe passed me on his way back with the cart and I was pulling up beside the car. It was a slight incline and the pavement was rough so it took a bit of strength to get up to the passenger side door.

Just before I got there, I felt a shadow fall over me, cast by the streetlight a ways away. I knew it wasn't Joe, I turned to see a man approaching me, his hands out as if to grab ...

... now in other circumstances I would have immediately thought that he was going to grab the handles on the back of the chair to "assist me" but it was early, it was dark, it was deserted.

I panicked.

I didn't scream but I startled away from him, throwing myself hard and wrenching my back in the process. He saw me do this and then realized what was going on in my head and he said, "I was just going to help you." He seemed angry now and paused. I just stared at him. He turned and stomped away.

He scared me.

Really scared me.

He reminded me of how vulnerable I am.

Yes it was early and dark and deserted but I have a right to feel safe when it's early and it's dark and it's deserted. He had no right to intrude upon me in any way. I was pushing myself. I was alone. It was clear that if I'd needed help I would have had it with me.

Joe came back and saw the fellow walking angrily away from the car.

"Oh, no," he said.

"Indeed," I said.

It took me until we landed to tell him what had happened. I'd been sorely shaken and I was left physically sore from the encounter.

Mr. "Just trying to help" acted as if I'd hurt his feelings, he'll never know the damage he did to me and I suspect he wouldn't get it.



Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dads Plain and Simple

Getting ready right now to head to the airport for a quick flight to B.C. for a visit with family. Will see my Dad for the first time, on Father's Day since I left home at 16. Should have written a blog last night but was busy with so many things associated with moving and travelling, mostly packing and unpacking.

So, just a quick Happy Father's Day.

You will note that I'm not going to separate out Father's of kids with disabilities for a 'very special' Father's Day. Loving your kid doesn't make you special, being loved by them does. Any kid. Any where. Any dad. That's the way it works.

There is no hyphenated parenting.

Special needs Dads, I heard that yesterday and thought, what on earth might a man need in relationship to his child that makes him special? I hate the term 'special needs.'

Adoptive Dads, so why is that information necessary, what makes it matter and if it does, take Dad out of the title.

Substitute Dads, what even is that?

So happy (no hyphen) Father's Day.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Sheep in Sheep's Clothing

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Sadie proudly pulled out of her school bag the gifts she had made for her dad on Father's Day. There were a lot of them. She quietly sorted them out so that she could display them properly. I got a chance to see the gifts and, as always, I was quite moved by them. She put so much effort into hers. At the end, she looked at one last gift, sitting on the side table where she'd sorted them all out. After some thought she brought it over. It was a picture of a sheep. A one eyed sheep. It had the words Jesus Love's Us Always and Jesus is always in our hearts. She explained to me that when she made it, she had glued on two eyes.

She became a little upset when this happened, she said, and almost threw the artwork out. I asked her why she didn't. I know Sadie and she is very serious about her work and wants it to be just right. I was curious as to her reasoning.

"Well," she explained, "It's okay for a sheep to have one eye. It's still a sheep. It would be fair to throw a sheep away or hurt a sheep just because it had only one eye, would it?" I agreed that it wouldn't.

I asked her if Jesus would love a sheep just with one eye, or would the sheep have to have two eyes to be loved.

That I was told, was a silly question.

And she refused to answer it.

Because it was silly.

It should be a silly question shouldn't it? The answer is obvious to a seven year old girl. We are loved, perfect or not, and we are worthy of being kept and loved. We should expect kindness, different or not, and we are worthy enough to be seen has a gift. We should not be thrown away, two eyes or one, and we are worthy of welcome and belonging.

People will say, I know, that children can be wise, and of course they are. But worries me that is that the wisdom of children is seen as more cute than wise. What worries me is that we listen and smile at the words rather than being moved into action by the words.

Sadie's view of the value of everyone is a direct challenge to all of us, who find her words wise, to demonstrate that every day.

Every. Day.

Friday, June 16, 2017

In

We've moved.

Joe has spent the day with the movers. I've spent the day at the office. I'd get in the way, not because I have a disability but because I get stressed in these situations and that can make me difficult to be around. Joe wasn't at all disappointed that I decided to come to work.

He's on his way down to pick me up.

It's taken much longer than they anticipated or gave us an estimate for. I can feel the dollars falling out of our wallets. We'll face that bill when we get it.

All day I've been calling to check in. Because distance and distraction isn't enough of a barrier to stop me from being an annoyance to the process.

So I'll get to a place with movers still piling in stuff.

Boxes will be strewn everywhere.

But, I'll roll in to my new home.

It was weird leaving our old place. I was terrified that I might fall in the bathroom just one last time and relieved that I didn't.

I rolled down the hallway realizing that the past was now behind me and the future now before me.

Our life in a new place began, for me, the first time I realized today that I was going to be going north, not south, to get home.

Different roads.

I will sleep with my head to the south instead of my head to the west. I wonder if that will matter.

Accessibility waits for me.

I'm excited but I'm scared, we were so happy where we were.

This is why moving is so unsettling, I know how the past worked out, I don't know the future will.

I was told today that this is the stuff that keeps you young.

I'd prefer potion in a jar.