Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Eight weeks and counting...

Exactly eight weeks ago I had surgery on my right foot. More than ten weeks ago I broke it while landing my paraglider in a crappy field in Thailand. And today, I am still not allowed to walk on it or even just stand evenly on my two feet. For those of you who like numbers, that is 73 days without getting to use my right foot.

73 days.

It feels like forever.

I know have been a pretty good sport throughout this ordeal. People keep telling me how upbeat and optimistic I seem. And how important the healing process is and such.

But let me just say: TODAY SUCKS!

I feel like throwing a tantrum. Like falling on the floor in some public place and beating my fists against the floor, kicking my feet at anyone who comes near and half-yelling, half-crying my heart out in exclamation of the frustration of not being able to walk on my own two feet... or carry something with my hands while walking... or put on pants while standing up... or even the most basic thing of showering without sitting down or leaning against the wall for support. I am so over being injured.

And I know it could be so much worse. Normally that thought makes me feel better. But sometimes it doesn't. And right now is one of those times.

So for all of you who thought I was endlessly optimistic and upbeat, here's the truth... I am human just like everyone else reading this blog.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tikkun Olam... or not

I have a lot of time to think these days and my thoughts have roamed across a variety of topics and questions. But one question keeps resurfacing this year and it strikes deep at my core:

How can I make the world a better place?

This question is a central part of my heritage as a Jew. Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase with various interpretations. The one to which I ascribe is a call to action: that it is our duty as humans to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants.

While I have felt this responsibility was my life's purpose for as long as I can remember, I have yet to figure out the how of it. There are so many possible answers to this question. But each possible course of action dislodges a wave of other questions for me:

  • How do I make sure that my "helping" isn't actually making things worse?
  • How should I, as a middle-upper income white woman, behave so as not to perpetuate the fallacy of the white savior? Should I only intervene in white communities?
  • What is the long-term affect of helping a community for only a short amount of time?
  • Who should pick the beneficiaries from any intervention I might support, especially if resources are limited and some deserving individuals are destined to be excluded?
  • How should those decisions be made and what existing structures of oppression will be reinforced through this process?
  • When/where is it my place to spread my own ideas about social justice? Is there a place where I can appropriately assert my values or ideals?
  • Does it even matter if I contemplate these questions? Should I just act without regard to the unintended consequences of my actions?
  • Is it important that any charitable work I do be sustainable over time? If I can't continue with the work, how will I ensure its lasting significance?
  • What would it look like to work in partnership with local leaders in a place where I'm not fluent in the language or culture? Must I attain a certain level of fluency in a place before attempting to make a difference there?
  • How does one go about finding opportunities for public service while traveling?
  • How does one travel internationally without harming others or contributing to existing structures of oppression?

If you have answers or reflections on any of these questions, I'd love to hear them. Until then, I will continue to wrestle with these thoughts in hopes of reaching at least a temporary identification of next steps on my path to make the world a better place.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Aquariums are for adults too!

A week ago Saturday, hubby and I spent the weekend in Monterey. I have fond memories of visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a child... of petting the stingrays and watching the anchovies spin round their cylindrical fish tank... of the beautiful colors of fish and coral... and of the sea otters being super cute.

I have known for years that even though hubby grew up in California and at one point lived less than two hours from Monterey, he'd never been to its aquarium. So when the opportunity for a weekend getaway to someplace near the Bay Area sprang up last minute on a Friday afternoon, I seized on the idea of taking my hubby to see one of my favorite California sights.

For those who haven't been, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a sight to behold. Huge fish tanks--more like man-made ecosystems for underwater creatures--abound and colorful, enchanting aquatic life entice voyeuristic people of all ages and ethnicities to stop their hectic behavior and pause quietly in awe. It is a place where lovely views are readily available and where good educational information about the seas can be found.

Like I'd hoped, hubby shared my delight in the aquarium and lent me his phone to take the following pictures (and others that did not make the cut for this post):

Kelp forest with all it's fishy friends.

Feeding frenzy!

Pink sea anenome with it's multicolored mini-me's.

Softly undulating anemones.... is this what sparked Dr.Seuss' creativity?

Fairy forest!

What I would give to spot this scene while scuba diving....

Fluorescent tangerine fairy forest.

Look close! Can you spot all three eels in this picture? (Hint: just the head of the third one is peaking out by a starfish)


More jellyfish!

Even more jellyfish!
Who knew there were so many varieties of jellyfish?

Not me, that's who....

Did you know there are light-up jellyfish? So cool.

Also, lots of mackeral!

And of course, sea otters playing with a big barrel full of fish parts.
And while we were watching the sea otters, they were checking out the human babies on the other side of the glass.

So there you have it! A wonderful excursion for my wonderful man.

Who could resist this much handsomeness! Happy anniversary babe! (#9 for those keeping track)


Friday, May 16, 2014

In the land of the Golden Gate

I have been enamored with the Golden Gate Bridge ever since I was a little girl accompanying my mom to Giants games at Candlestick Park. My favorite part of those adventures was driving across the bridge into San Francisco, holding my breathe through the Rainbow Tunnel with fidgety excitement and then sighing with delight (and relief!) at seeing the bridge come into view. In high school, I walked across the bridge with friends... and again in my twenties with my husband before we were wed.

So when it came time to return to the Bay Area for a check-up with my foot surgeon, I knew I would find a reason to visit my old faithful friend. And, as always, it did not disappoint.

Driving with my left foot on the gas (right foot is still not weight-bearing), I entered the Rainbow Tunnel. Whether that is the tunnel's rightful name or not, it has always been known by that name in my family (its northbound entrance bears a painted rainbow). But yesterday as I drove southbound through the tunnel glimpsing my first peek at the rust red Golden Gate Bridge I found new meaning in this moniker. Children's stories tell that there is a pot of gold or treasure of some sort at the end of every rainbow. And for me the Golden Gate Bridge is a treasure, so it is quite fitting that the Rainbow Tunnel leads to it.

Anyway, as I was careening down the hill out of the tunnel, using my left foot now on the brake, I was inspired by the sight of the fog rolling over golden hills and flowing into the bridge's tall masts. The fog was like tendrils interweaving themselves with the steel of the bridge. And I couldn't take my eyes off it.mEventually I snapped out of my wonderment just in time to avoid hitting another car, all the while taking this completely inadequate photo of the majestic scene.

This picture sucks but you can imagine it was much better than this.

The rest of my adventures in the SF Bay were also grand. In short:

  • Lunch and chat time with my brother, godfather and godfather's eldest son (like a brother to me)
  • Stroll thru the Embarcadero buildings and window shopping
  • Matisse exhibit and Rodin sculptures at the Legion of Honor Museum
  • Pretty flowers outside the Legion of Honor
  • Fetching my friend Annie off a random street corner, followed by delicious dinner and a great catch-up session
  • Lunch at a tasty Ethiopian Restaurant
  • Kayaking in Lake Merritt, where my mom learned to sail as a young girl
  • Soon-to-be dinner with my godfather, his wife (my Auntie) and his daughter (like a little sister to me)
  • Reconnecting with my hubby tonight after his work trip to LA!

And for those who like photos:

Fountain with long ramp up to the Legion of Honor beyond. I got quite the work-out pushing myself up that walkway in my wheelchair.
Cool monkey sculpture. Not a Rodin or a Matissee, but intriguing nonetheless.
Lovely flowers.
Another lovely flower.
Kayaking Lake Merritt.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

I love my life

People keep telling me what a positive attitude I have about life, especially about my injury and whatnot. But really it's quite simple: happiness is a choice I make every day.

Yes, I live an incredibly privileged life. I have benefited from injustice and discrimination in this world in so many more ways than I can enumerate. And trying to do so would just make me sad--and mad.

So, instead, I am embracing my life. I am choosing to do things that make me happy, like travel and play outdoors and eat delicious food with people I enjoy. For years, I chose to save and work hard--sometimes in jobs I disliked--so that now I can NOT work and do what I want nearly every day. I am taking a risk by passing on some of the most productive career years of my life and instead wandering about the world stocking up on joyful experiences.

When things don't go my way (e.g., broken bones) and when weird experiences present themselves (armored truck, anyone?) I try to find the silver lining of the path I'm on. I am not religious, but I do believe the everything works out perfectly (EWOP).

And so, although I'm disappointed to be sending my knee scooter back today, I am choosing to embrace the arm strength I will gain from continuing to get around by lifting my entire body with each step, a la the old lady walker, albeit newly kitted out with a cup holder. And I am delighted that hubby and I took the plunge and bought a tandem sailing kayak so we can explore Oregon lakes and kayak-camp in the Puget Sound and other lovely places.

I may not be able to walk at quick speeds or even stand up without leaning on something, but I can paddle and I can paint and I can do lots of other things that give me immense joy.

Bottom line: I love my life and you can love yours too!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A normal day in a different way

Yesterday I did something that was so normal for me a few months ago, I could hardly understand why it was such an ordeal.

I rode the bus in Seattle.

Since moving here in 2001, I have ridden transit at least once a week, sometimes multiple times a day to all kind of destinations and on almost of the services available: Metro express and local service, Sound Transit Express bus and light rail, even Amtrak. Oh, and I've studied worked in the transit world for the last 8 years.

But yesterday was the first time I rode transit with a mobility device. And boy was it a different experience.

For those who don't know, for three years I helped improve access and transportation options for people with mobility limitations of all types, whether due to age, injury, disability, income or language. I even spearheaded the creation of a series of videos on how to ride the bus for seniors and people with disabilities in 8 languages! And yet when it was time for me to hop the bus with a broken foot, I found myself struggling to do so.

Here's what happened.

I used Google to plan my trip from downtown Seattle to Issaquah, on buses I've taken in the past. The first option it showed me was a one-seat ride that would have required a four block walk--something I would have readily done just a couple months ago. But this time, I stared in disbelief at the option knowing that rolling myself downhill from 5th Ave to 2nd Ave would be treacherous at best on my knee-scooter.

Option two required just one block walk to the first stop and then a transfer. Happy about the initial short travel distance, I was dismayed to note that I would have to scoot three blocks from where the first bus would let me off the to second bus--and I'd only have 5 minutes to make the trek, assuming my first bus was on time. Again, this option would have been fine if I was walking, but the thought of having to scoot under time constraints thru multiple signaled intersections seemed ill-advised.

Luckily there was a third option, again requiring a transfer and with the longest travel time of all the options, but it was by far the best for me in my current state of limited mobility. The initial bus would pick up three blocks from where I was along a mostly flat sidewalk and then I would transfer to a bus at the same stop where I'd get off the first bus.

Hooray! I had found a viable option!

I made it to the bus stop on time and even got my cash ready to go. I searched the sign at the bus stop to figure out what I'd owe, but despite my double Master's degrees, I couldn't find the price to Issaquah. So I waited to ask the bus driver.

When the bus arrived, I let everyone else board, patiently waiting to request the ramp. The drive happily complied and when the ramp wouldn't deploy itself, he easily did it himself. Everything was going as I expected until I tried to board the ramp. As I attempted to push my scooter up the ramp, it bounced off the lip and bucked me off--prompting me to instinctively catch myself with my broken right foot! "Ouch," I yelped! Although pleased to have avoided smashing my face into the pavement, I was pissed I'd put weight on my injured leg and annoyed that I couldn't just roll up onto the bus as I'd anticipated. I got it on the second try, lifting the front tires of my scooter onto the ramp and then rolling aboard.

Once on board, I asked the driver for the fare to Issaquah. He didn't know. So I read the sign on the bus determining I needed to pay $2.50 for a one-county fare. Getting my cash ready, I asked the driver for a transfer as I would need to change buses. He reminded me that Sound Transit doesn't offer transfer passes anymore. "Great!" I thought. "Now this little bus ride is going to cost me $5 instead of $2.50." Fortunately, as I went to feed my cash into the machine, the driver informed me that the cash machine was broken and I was getting a free ride. Yay me.

I found a seat in the front, parked my scooter and put on its brakes, and rode the six stops to the transfer point in peaceful silence. When it was time to get off, I waited patiently for everyone to get off, then unloaded myself via the ramp.

When the second bus came, I had my exact fare ready and again waited for everyone else to load. Have I mentioned that I hate being last? Well, I do. But such is a the life of someone who needs the ramp or lift on transit. Again I had to request the lift, as if it was not obvious that I needed it. This time, having learned my lesson, I lifted the front of my scooter onto the ramp and slowly pushed my way aboard, paid the fare and took my seat in the front of the bus.

I had forgotten how lovely it is to ride the bus across Lake Washington:

No view of Mt. Rainier today but the scenery was lovely as always.

I also broke the bus-riders' code and asked another passenger to take a photo of me aboard the bus with my scooter.

Me and my scooter aboard the #554.

Having broken the ice with this complete stranger, we got to talking and discovered that he was from Bogota and I had studied there. An interesting conversation about the relative merits of transit in Bogota vs. Seattle ensued in Spanglish (more about that in another post) and I was thankful that the novelty of riding the bus with a scooter had enboldened me to talk to my fellow transit rider.

When the bus reached my final destination, I again waited--a little less patiently-- for everyone else to get off before again asking for the ramp so I could exit. The bus driver did not reply but did push the button for the ramp and then looked away as I cautiously scooted to the sidewalk. I guess a friendly "sure!" or "no problem" was too much to hope for, much less a bus driver able to anticipate I would need the ramp to get off since I'd needed it to board.

Despite all the minor inconveniences and the pain of standing on my barred-from-weight-bearing foot, I had successfully rode the bus! I'd love to say this is a big deal, but really I've been doing this for 13 years.