The power of a picture

or milk, turtles and impressions

When I visit a scenic location or attend an event, I’m not one who always remembers the details. The name of a person or place may not immediately come to mind, but images certainly stick. I was reading a book last month, Less Clutter, Less Noise by Kem Meyer, and she had a wonderful example of the power of a picture.

milk ring turtleAs she was discussing the impact an image can have, Kem shared a photograph she had seen several years ago, a picture of a sea turtle that had been caught in a plastic ring from a milk jug as a hatchling. The little turtle had grown up with the plastic ring around its middle, and the adult turtle was malformed, shaped more like a large apple core. When Kem first saw this image, the point had been that we could do something simple to keep this from happening, simple as clipping the little plastic ring before discarding it.

The purpose behind sharing this image in the book was not necessarily environmental, but it was to make a point: a well-placed image can make quite an impression. In the same way, the way that we are can say so much more than any words. I know, for instance, that people see the care and love shown to me by my husband, as I face barriers brought on by disability, and we’ve had a number of people approach us with comments and questions – even for advice (?!). The milk-ring turtle speaks to us due to the way she appears, and I think we each speak to those around us in the same way.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words; sometimes, I think an image can speak volumes beyond this proverbial sum. As for our house, we have now formed a new habit: once we open a new carton of milk, the ring is clipped. Every time. And I hope this helps us remember that the impressions we give to others can be more valuable than we may realize.

parking spots and such

I had a new post I was planning to publish today, but there was a discussion I read this morning that I just had to respond to. People were complaining about handicap parking spots. First, the comment was about people using the spots without seeming to need them (I added the “seeming” – they were judging the need, without more information). Another individual mentioned that what bothers her even more is an empty handicap spot.

The last several times we have been to our area Wal-Mart, the handicap spots have all be full, and we had quite a time finding a place to park. This is the biggest reason that T.R. dislikes shopping there. Empty marked spaces in a parking lot are there so that they are available for customers who really need them, and if a parking lot is completely filled, that is a sign that it’s not large enough.

…I just wanted to rant a bit – thank you for obliging.  The comment I referred to in 2007 was in response to the start of the original blog, the concept that many disability issues are unseen, hence the “invisible issues” title.

This was first posted on June 1,2007

And just what does that look like?

I am glad to see some conversations started here! One bit was shared by Laura about a week ago, and that is something I know many face. “But you look so good!” is a nice thing to hear, but it can also be discouraging. Does he mean that I look really nice today, but shouldn’t? Does she mean that I must be exaggerating, I really can’t feel as wiped out as I say I do? Do they mean that I’m being a hypochondriac?

The reason I’m referring to Laura’s comment is that she had a response I hadn’t really thought of before, and I thought it was very well stated. Like many, she has a car with plates marked to let her parked in a “handicapped” spot. And like some, she doesn’t necessarily look “handicapped.” As she relayed in her comment, a gentleman approached her at a parking lot, looking quite annoyed, and informed her that she shouldn’t be parking in that spot, as she certainly didn’t look handicapped. So she extended her hand and said, “Thank you. Thank you for thinking I am not handicapped. Could you tell me what I need to look like to be handicapped?” That definitely caught him off guard, and she went on to explain that she was having a good day, and on other days she might be using a cane or a chair.

With M.S., fatigue is a major issue, and even if a person is able to walk in a straight line without a cane on a given day, walking a distance can use all of her energy. So parking nearby helps at least to conserve a little bit, and this isn’t something that is easily visible. But this is a worthwhile question: what does a handicap look like? What do we expect it to look like?

Remembering Grandma

Two years ago, my grandmother passed away. My father’s mother had the same habit of holding short conversations, but there many unspoken lessons I learned from Grandma over the years. Our daughters talk of their great grandmother at times also – she passed away when they were eight years old, so their memories were of times that Grandma was living in an assisted living facility, but they smile as they tell me of these visits. With today’s economic struggles, I remember Grandma’s lessons from the Great Depression, and even in her later years, Grandma always insisted on reusing bread bags, for instance. And at Christmas, we always saved the bows – so they could reappear on next year’s gift. …maybe this is why I have the large boxes of bows and gift bags under the bed. 🙂 Thank you, Grandma, for the lessons you passed on to us!


First posted on June 27, 2007

Lessons from my grandmother

My grandmother lived a very full life, one she rarely talked much of. She was born more that 86 years ago, and she lived through The Great Depression, the death of a sister, World War II, a divorce, a second marriage, raising of two sons, the cancer and death of her husband, the aging and death of her mother, a number of hip replacement surgeries, having a pacemaker implanted in her heart, loss of her hearing and vision, her own issues of “growing old” and moving from her home of several decades… and these are just a few of the bits I know of.

Grandma was never one for long conversations or for sharing a lot of personal information. My cousin and I joked a few days ago how a phone call with Grandma was great… as long as you remembered to keep it under 60 seconds. (Her son is quite similar, but I’m afraid this granddaughter didn’t inherit that trait.)
Though she may not have “told us” a lot, Grandma has indeed passed on several lessons, ones that are useful at any age.

History matters. Grandma spent a lot of time studying genealogy, finding the historical roots of her – and of our – family. She let me know that if I ever desired, I could join the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution), as our family can be traced back that far. In fact, Dolly Madison is not just a snack cake brand, but this wife of President James Madison was my great, great… (etc.) great aunt. I had to ask the questions, but remembering information that she had shared with me as I wrote a paper in college, I asked her during our Mother’s Day visit this year to tell her great-granddaughters about her family and the Underground Railroad, as the girls had studied this in school. So she explained that her own grandfather told stories of how the horses in the barn would be sweaty and muddy in the morning, and he later found that his father had been transporting escaped slaves to the next stop in the Underground Railroad. [My father said that this was actually her grandmother, and they have even found her written stories in an old journal. Wow!]

There are times to be stubborn… and perhaps times not to be.
Grandma has always been quite determined, and I remember when she was staying with my younger brother and me for a few days while my parents were gone. (I think I was eleven or twelve years old.) The only thing I specifically recall from those few days is the “peach episode.” With dinner, we were having canned peaches. The peach halves were in bowls for each of us, and when my brother was going to start eating his, Grandma had a fit – Matt was obviously using the wrong utensil! I believe he was using a spoon to slice and consume the said fruit, but Grandma said he needed to use a FORK. (It might have been the other way around, but that wasn’t the point.) Neither would budge, so I think that Matt was told he wouldn’t have his dessert if he wouldn’t use the correct silverware. In their minds, they both won, as he didn’t switch utensils and she kept his piece of cake. But what did this accomplish? Did it lead to better table manners, or help make her time at our home run more smoothly? Not really. (Matt does have very good manners, though I don’t think it’s related to canned peaches.) I’ve watched since then, and after initially dragging her heels (quite understandably), Grandma did move from her house of several decades into an assisted living facility in Muncie. And after coming to terms with the changes, Grandma eventually told us how it was nice not to have to worry about cooking, home repairs, lawn care… I know it was a hard step, and the acceptance did not come easy for her. But she knew this was a time to stop being stubborn.

Time is a beautiful gift. After we moved to Upland, I recall being able to have Grandma and her friend Mary over for lunch at our house on Main Street. Wanting to please and impress Grandma and her friend, I made crab quiche and homemade Swiss cheese bread. Then we had fresh blueberries in Fostoria fruit cups, while we ate our main dish on the Fostoria glass plates that Grandma had just passed on to me. After she moved to Muncie, Grandma lived right by my ride home from Ball State, where I was taking night classes and finishing my Master’s degree. Grandma was much more of a “night owl” than “early bird,” so I would stop by her room around 10 p.m., on my way home from class, and we’d chat for up to an hour. I’d hear of her neighbors in the hall, of her long-lost friend from high school with whom she’d reunited, how her friend Mary really should come live there also… and Grandma would hear about young married life and family news. And she’d still talk about that Swiss cheese bread and quiche I’d made for her a few years back. As the years progressed, the girls and I would sometimes visit Grandma during the day, and on our way up to her room, there would be others who were hungry for visits from family, from children, and my daughters continued learning the lessons of life. Grandma often mentioned how friends had children or grandchildren who rarely visited, if ever, and I knew that for us, this was time well spent.

There are several other thoughts that come to mind, and I’m sure we’ll discuss many of these tomorrow. You see, my grandmother passed away early Monday morning. Her funeral will be tomorrow, June 28, and her grandsons, grandson-in-law, and great-grandsons will be her pallbearers. If there are peaches at the funeral dinner, I don’t know if we’ll use forks or spoons to eat them, but I do know that many special memories will be shared.

A father’s strength

In any profession, I know that some days are harder than others, and I know this is even truer of professions that involve difficult, delicate situations. My father’s profession is that of family physician, a much-loved doctor who has been practicing in the same town for… let me see… 37 or 38 years. (I was there at the time he started, but I’m afraid I don’t remember back that far all too well, as I was a newborn.) Dad wouldn’t tell us about his patients, but I know they loved him then – and do now – for the knowledge, care and compassion he offers.

I know that my chatty side doesn’t come from my father, as he is not a man of many words. In fact, there are often times that I don’t really know what Dad is thinking – or feeling. (Actually, this isn’t as frequent as I’ve grown older – perhaps I’ve matured, he’s mellowed a bit, or maybe both.) Now that I am a parent, I think I understand a little more about the feelings a parent feels when a child hurts… and as a doctor, I know that Dad has had many a heartache on my behalf. This would have been very true in May 1997.

At that time, I had an MRI of the brain, as an ophthalmologist suspected something and sent me in for this test. (This doctor wouldn’t tell me what he suspected, but I think Dad knew.) Because of our coming move, my mother came with me to the doctor appointment on June 3. Mom had a message my father had wanted to share with me. He was my physician, so the MRI results were sent to him as well as the neurologist to whom I was referred. And Dad wanted to let me know before I went that it was quite likely I had multiple sclerosis.

Twelve years have passed, and Dad has attended more classes, read more publications about MS that just about any other family physician I think you could find. But what really strikes me, as I reflect, is what that spring of 1997 must have felt like to him. For me, I was frightened and searching, but for him, he had to watch as his baby girl, his only daughter, was diagnosed with a chronic illness… and there was nothing he could do about it. As I type this, I’m tearing up a bit… Dad doesn’t display his emotions on his sleeve, but I know he feels them. And he feels them deeply.

Dad, thank you for the love and support and tears and strength that you’ve given to me! This post could go on for pages, chapters, and that wouldn’t even be enough. So I’ll stop here.

I love you,
Angie

Anne’s anniversary – a year later

Exactly one year ago today, I got to visit Green Gables, Prince Edward Island. We went with a group of more than 30 on Lightrider, a double-decker bus, and what an experience this was! I have to include a couple of photos, of course, and I will also follow with a post about Anne from my former blog. There is a lot I can learn from the life of fictional Anne and her very real author, Lucy Maud Montgomery.


The entry below was first published on January 10, 2008.

100 years later, and still sparkling

Prince Edward Island will host centennial celebrations this year for Anne‘s publication. I’m not sure why, but the authors I’ve grown to love are all people with “invisible issues” of their own. As I wrote a few months ago, Madeleine L’Engle’s most well-known and awarded book, A Wrinkle in Time, was rejected by publishers eight times before it was put aside to collect dust (until it was resurrected by another interested publisher). It is hard to believe that one of the most celebrated and well-known books of a century ago had a similar history. Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was handwritten then typed on her “old second-hand typewriter that never makes the capitals plain and won’t print ‘w’ at all” (from volume 1 of Montgomery’s selected journals). Ms. Montgomery had several short stories and poems published before that time, but this was her first full-length book, so Maud, as she went by, decided the manuscript must not be worthwhile. And she put it aside.

What would lead her to do this? And why was such a bright young lady using a secondhand typewriter with some letters that wouldn’t work? Despite the cheery disposition of many of her characters, Maud did not live a charmed life by any means. Much like her beloved character, her mother died when Maud was very young. Unlike Anne, Maud did have a father still living, a father who went across the country to make a new life and later settle in Saskatchewan. Lucy Maud stayed on Prince Edward Island, where she lived with her mother’s parents, her Grandma Lucy and Grandfather Alexander Macneill. She lived near and grew to love her cousins, one of the families living at a house called “Green Gables,” but L. M. Montgomery is described on page 17 of Annotated Anne of Green Gables as fine physically, but “emotionally starved.” And a century ago, Maud’s relatives’ views were not unusual. She was a female, her parents weren’t here, and a girl – or young lady – was not expected to need, accomplish or become much of anything. So it was that her grandfather, who passed away when Maud was in her early 20’s, left nothing in his will to his wife or granddaughter, but to the males of the family. Then ten years later, in 1908, something happened that would have surprised her grandfather: her first book was published. In fact, Anne of Green Gables was so popular that it went through thirty-two printings in the first five years. Unlike many other books, it has not gone out of print after a hundred years.

The character Anne herself lived the first part of her life filled with issues that weren’t even “invisible.” Orphaned as an infant, Anne spent her growing years either in an orphanage or in homes as a servant of sorts. She went to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert when the brother and sister had sent for a boy orphan, one who could help on the farm. Then came Anne. She wasn’t a boy, and thus wasn’t really wanted, much like Maud felt through her growing years. It became apparent, though, that Anne, much like her author, had much to offer the world. Some of those special gifts were ones she had cultivated during life’s struggles.

So a hundred years have passed… and who would have thought that little dreamer Maud would bring to the printed page one of literature’s most beloved heroines? Anne is known and loved in Canada, America, and in nations around the world. If you go to Prince Edward Island, you’ll likely see as many tourists from Japan as America. This book has been translated into 36 languages, and people are just as enthusiastic about is as they were when it was first published, if not more so. In fact, one exciting thing about 2008 is that there will be special celebrations this summer, marking the centennial of Anne’s publication. (In fact, a bus tour with Lightrider will embark to PEI for eight days in June. There are a few spaces left, and I can get information for you if you’re interested!)

As she read reviews of her work in 1908, Maud wrote, as can be seen in her first volume of published journals, “…Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work. I would not wish to darken any other life—I want instead to be a messenger of optimism….” Though her life held further shadows, I am thankful that Lucy Maud Montgomery was able to rise above those to share this message of optimism. Both through her life and her writing, Lucy Maud Montgomery left a sparkle in this world that is well worth celebrating!


So we did return from my “dream trip” to PEI, and it is fun to reflect back on that special time we had. It was neat to see Maud’s community, to see the legacy that remains in the spirit of the island. I will share other thoughts in days to come – and if you have any questions about our trip, I will warn you that once I start sharing about something dear to my heart, it can be hard to put on the brakes. 😉