Windchime Walker

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Pt. Pelee National Park in Ontario 

Three beautiful spring days in a row! Yesterday I drove over to Pt. Pelee National Park in Leamington, Ontario to enjoy the sun and mild temperatures hiking in the woods and beside Lake Erie. Today I put up a photo album of photos I took there. I call it Pt. Pelee photo album 2005. I'm sure I'll be adding more photos as spring melts into summer.

This afternoon I scooted down to the lake to take a last listen to the ice music. I could tell that the strong winds coming out of the southwest would be in the right direction to sound the ice that is breaking up inside the harbor. As I sat beside the harbor, our Canadian geese-scaring border collie, Kate, and her park employee-trainer came to visit. Tom knew why I was there. He said, "Listening to the ice music?" It's nice to be around people who understand.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Spring has sprung! 

Yesterday was an inside day, and today was an outside day. During my inside day I prepared and put up 83 photos (Ed counted them!) in an online WoMaMu Spring 2005 photo album. If you recall, that was the music camp I attended in Northern California the weekend before last. I also painted. I've named it Spring Has Sprung because that's what happened today.

Today was one of those early spring days when you can't wipe the smile off your face--warm sun, blue skies, green shoots popping out of the brown earth, kids on roller blades, outside playing basketball, Moms and Dads pushing baby carriages, joggers sweating in tank tops and shorts, and even the first flower, at least the first flower I've seen. Tomorrow's supposed to be even warmer--they're predicting 68 degrees F--so I'm planning to take my first trip of the year to my favorite hiking place, Pt. Pelee National Park in Leamington, Ontario.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

It's always the people... 

When I think about my trip to California, I call to mind the beauty of the land, sky and waters. After such a hard winter here in Detroit, just seeing green grass, smelling the fragrance of lilacs and night-blooming jasmine, and spying a hummingbird near the Youth Hostel one morning was enough to make me purr in contentment. But the beauty that touched me most deeply was in the people.

I'd done my best to curb my natural tendency to see everyone and do everything. After having spent the equivalent of two and a half years in San Francisco during six winters (1996-2002), I had a great number of friends whom it would have been fun to see. But I only had a week in the city, so I made up a short list of people with whom I'd stayed in touch during my three years away. That list included:

1) My dear friend Dorothy with whom I was able to spend three days.

The Friday I arrived, we walk/scooted on the island at Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park, shared a delicious dinner at a Chinese restaurant on Clement Street, and went to the Davies Emergency Room to see about my injury from a fall. She was such a comfort to me there, and went beyond the call of duty by coming to spend that night with me at the Youth Hostel just in case I needed help. A true friend.

On Monday we got together with our friend Joyce for sandwiches and soup at our old lunch place, the Dolores Cafe across from Dolores Park. Then Dorothy and I went to Ocean Beach so I could say "hi" to the Pacific Ocean. Once there, we walk/scooted up to the newly-remodeled Cliff House where I had cranberry juice and talked on my cell phone with the editor of "New Mobility" magazine regarding my article "Pumping Iron: Why Not?" After spending at least 45 minutes talking Ed through the project of emailing one of my digital photos to the magazine, Dorothy and I were surprised and delighted to see the sun set over the ocean--a glorious sight. We ended that day at a Japanese restaurant where I devoured a firecracker sushi roll and Dorothy enjoyed shrimp tempura.

Our final day together was Dorothy's birthday, Thursday, March 17. We started by going to see the movie "Finding Neverland," which we both adored, and then drove over to the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park where we walked around and I took pictures until it closed at 5 PM. We went Japanese again for an early dinner, and had a lovely walk back to the car through the park at dusk. You'll see these and my other photos at another time.

2) My younger sister Emily who lives with her husband Gorsha in Redwood City, south of San Francisco.

Emily and I got together twice. On Saturday, March 12, she met me at the Youth Hostel around 5 PM and we drove (in my rented handicap-accessible minivan) over to my old neighborhood in the Mission district for dinner at my favorite restaurant, Saigon Saigon. It was such a mild evening that, after dinner, we ended up having visits outside with two of my dearest friends--Marci who, with her husband Evan, had renovated and rented the "tiny urban cottage" in their backyard to me for three of my winters in San Francisco, and John at Jump Start deli up the street who, with his brothers and parents, had made me feel part of their family the five winters that I lived on this block.

By Wednesday, Gorsha, Emily's husband, had returned from helping his parents move into a new apartment in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, so we three met at Green's restaurant for dinner. One of the advantages of staying at the Youth Hostel at Ft. Mason is its being a short scoot/walk away from one of the best restaurants in the city. I was fortunate to be able to have two in-house dinners and one carry-out meal from Green's during my stay.

3) One of my oldest friends in San Francisco, Jeff, and his five year-old son Noah.

Although Jeff adopted Noah more than two years ago, this was my first chance to meet him. We spent all of Sunday together, with Noah happy to ride on my lap over to Fisherman's Wharf where we had lunch, and then on to Pier 39 to see the seals and sea lions. Later Jeff and I took turns catching a cap nap: Jeff played baseball with Noah during my nap, and I made art with him while Jeff slept. Keeping up with an active five-year old boy is quite a trick, but Jeff handles it like he was born to the job. What a fabulous father!

4) My cousin Stacey and her boyfriend Adam.

On Tuesday night Stacey and Adam came to my room--more like an apartment--at the Youth Hostel and we shared a carry-out dinner from Green's. Stacey and I used to have lots of fun together when I lived in San Francisco, so it was a real treat to spend time with her again. And her friend Adam is a sweetheart.

5) My dear friend Luis whom I first met in line at SF City Hall in 1996 when Mayor Willie Brown officiated at the commitment ceremonies for two hundred same and opposite sex Domestic Partners.

On December 26, 2004, Luis had broken his hip getting off a Muni bus, so he'd been homebound, except for doctors' appointments, since then. Because I had a handicap accessible minivan that he could wheel his walker up into, we were able to go to Golden Gate Park for a picnic. Luis, who loves to cook, had packed our lunches and we were graced with a beautiful day. I wish you could have seen the smile on his face as he sat by Stowe Lake and watched the turtles sunning on a log. It was healing for us both.

6) My days and nights at WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp were filled with wonderful women. Among them were a few who touched my heart in special ways: Harmony, Claudia, Rima, Jamie, Katie, Maryanne and Susanna.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Raging Grannies prepare to rage 

Today the Raging Grannies met at my house for a rehearsal/meeting. We'd expected a Detroit Free Press photographer to join us, but it didn't happen, so we just went ahead and did our thing. We rehearsed five songs we intend to sing at our Fossil Fools Day rage at a Ford dealership here in Detroit on April 1. We'll be mounting our protest in solidarity with hundreds of groups across the United States that are participating in an international campaign to intervene and stop the oil addiction of the worst gas-guzzler in the auto industry, the Ford Motor Company. From Jumpstart Ford's information packet, we discovered that

Ford vehicles account for approximately one month of the United States' annual oil consumption, an amount equal to the annual oil consumption of Italy. The Union of Concerned Scientists lists Ford's cars as the worst global warming polluters in the industry. The average fuel economy of Ford's fleet is 18.8 mpg, dead last among the top six automakers for the fifth straight year, according to the EPA. The typical Ford vehicle on the road today gets worse gas mileage than the Model-T did 80 years ago.

And we DID end up having an official photographer show up to take a portrait of the Raging Grannies Without Borders. His name is Ed Dorsey and, as an artist with an eye for composition, he insisted on getting our feet in the picture!

Friday, March 25, 2005

ice music 

When one is in Northern California it's tempting to think that no place could be more beautiful than that. And to some extent, that is true. But not completely. Here in Michigan, during the month of March, we experience something that is unearthly in its beauty: the sight and sound of ice music. As I listened to it today, I tried to imagine how to describe the sound.

Schwoosh...tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. Schwoosh...tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. Schwoosh...tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. Like a giant rainstick filled with shards of glass. The sun shot through with crystal arrows. Pieces of your heart crushed by love and floating on waves of passion.

This short-lived wonder requires a constellation of natural events to come together. First there must be sheets of ice broken into a sea of crushed ice. Then there must be wind to whip up the waves. And finally there must be human ears to hear the sound and receive its beauty. Ice music. Earth harmony. Gaia's love song to herself.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

a true news break 

Among the most restful aspects of my time away was hearing, reading and seeing no news for 12 days and nights. During times like these, such a thing is unimaginable, but with no computer, newspaper, radio or TV, it was easy. I just hadn't realized ahead of time that I was setting up such a wondrous situation by not bringing along my laptop. Remind me NEVER to take my laptop on vacations!

Of course our current president and his policies/wars/destructive decisions came up in conversations with my friends and family in the Bay Area and up at WoWaMu (Women Making music) camp--everyone I know in California sees things pretty much as I do--but at least I wasn't being hit with the day-to-day unfoldings of the Evil Empire.

However we DID mount our own low-key peace vigil in the Ranch House at WoMaMu on Saturday afternoon, March 19, the second anniversary of Bush's war against the Iraqi people. We sang anti-war and peace songs, and some of the women spontaneously marched around the room singing "We Shall Not Be Moved." Simple as our remembrance was, I was conscious that we were acting in solidarity with millions of anti-war protesters across the globe. It doesn't have to be large to be heartfelt.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

California Colors 

I had to paint my experience of San Francisco and WoMaMu before I could put it into words. Even now, words do not come easily. Life in all its heights and depths found me in that beautiful city by the bay and on top of a velvet green hill overlooking vineyards in the valley below. Northern California is much more than a geographical location; it is a state of mind. One must be ready to open all the doors and windows of one's heart, mind, body and spirit to whatever comes. Everything is on a grand scale: beauty, surprises, color, creativity, warmth, suffering, vision, compassion, risk and wonder. It is not a place for cowards.

And so on Friday afternoon, March 11, I arrived to sun and warmth, unimaginable warmth. In five hours I had traveled more than miles; I had skipped from winter into summer. Not spring as I'd expected, but full-blown summer with the temperature hovering around 90 degrees F.

A dear man named Jose met me at the airport with the handicap accessible van I'd rented, and off I went to pick up my friend Dorothy at her home near West Portal in the city. And then, instead of rushing over to check in at the International Hostel at Ft. Mason as I'd planned, we drove right to Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park. This was too perfect a day to miss a minute of walking in that magical land of pines, oaks, eucalyptus, calla lilies and wildflowers of every imaginable shape and color. At the top of the path that surrounds the island, I stood up and cried, "I am SO happy!"

Three hours later I was lower than a bug squashed flat by a rock. A simple fall--more like a slide--as I was reaching into my suitcase on the back seat of my van, threw me down onto a sharp metal corner that hit where my kidneys reside. It wasn't until I tried to stand up and transfer into the driver's seat of the minivan that I knew this was serious. The pain was excruciating; I feared I might have ruptured something. Dorothy encouraged me to go to an emergency room and have it checked out. She recommended California Pacific Medical Center Davies on Castro at Duboce. I knew it well.

In 2002, during my last winter in San Francisco, Evan and Marci had taken me to Davies Emergency Room after I'd fallen and opened a gash beside my right eye. I'd been pleased with their competence and care then, so was happy Dorothy suggested we go there on this warm Friday evening three years later. While most folks try to find the best restaurants in a city, I'm always on the lookout for a good emergency room. And good it was.

I was attended to right away and the nurses--mostly male--were compassionate, strong enough to lift me on and off the examining table without hurting me too much, and the doctor--who had had his residency here in Detroit in the 1990s--was competent and totally present in his interactions with me. It turned out my kidneys and the left lower lobe of my lung were OK, but, according to Dr. Miller, the contusion (deep bruise) was going to be extremely painful for at least 7-10 days. And it was. Pain pills helped--Vicodin the first 24 hours and then an Advil one or two times a day for the next four days--but I still didn't dare sleeping in a bed until the following Wednesday night. The thought of twisting my body to get in and out of bed made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck; just standing was painful enough.

But on Tuesday I made an excellent choice. On my way to breakfast, I scooted by a storefront that advertised Healing Touch. After eating, I went back to the shop and entered the world of a true healer. Kim Le, the owner/practitioner of the Nurturing Salon on Lombard Street in the Marina locked the door so no one could come in, and spent two hours giving me a chair massage and helping me explore what this injury was trying to teach me. I wrote on a 3x5 index card the wisdom we found together:

1. I can slow down now and enjoy myself.
2. Breathe deeply and come home to myself.
3. Welcome the color red (the physical) into my life.
4. Always ask myself will this choice add to my life force or rob me of my energy.

Two days later, after finally having laid down to sleep on a bed instead of sitting up in a chair, I felt I had come home to myself. I truly believe the trauma of that injury had knocked me out of my body and Kim Le helped me return to it. I am deeply grateful to her for her wise and compassionate companionship.

Of course there are many more stories from my twelve days away, but one of my learnings is that I can take my time and share in bits and pieces instead of driving myself to lay everything out at once. The same way with the photos. In time you will see them all, but I have no agenda about when that might be. I'd like to put up two photo albums--one from San Francisco and the other from the WoMaMu music camp--but again, I will do it organically, not on any preconceived timetable.

Do you think maybe this trip and all that I experienced there have taught me to "slow down now and enjoy myself?" That would be truly sweet.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

San Francisco bound 

I look out my window here in Detroit and see browns, grays, the dark green of evergreen trees, and the white of snow. Yes, it is snowing yet again. But do I care? Heck no! For tomorrow at 12:22 PM I'll be (all going well) taking off from Detroit Metropolitan airport on my way west to San Francisco where sun is predicted and highs of 73 degrees F. Oh my, I can't even imagine it. And not only sun and warm temperatures, but green green grass and colorful flowers and trees in bloom. Pinch me, I think I'm dreaming.

I am not taking my laptop so you will not hear from me again until I return home late Tuesday night, March 22. Farewell my friends. May your next two weeks be pleasant and may Spring find you wherever you are.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A birthday to celebrate & a trip to contemplate 

My sweet Eddie's 75th birthday! My gosh, when I first met this guy, he was 35 and I was 23. What a lot of life we've shared since then. And after 38 years together, I can't imagine anyone else with whom I would have wanted to share my life. Ed Dorsey is a genuinely good man. Good, through and through. May we celebrate many more of his birthdays together.

Today my brother Rabih Haddad and I had a wonderful phone visit. I was especially interested to hear his thoughts about what is now happening in Lebanon. He told me how proud he is that throughout all the demonstrations, both pro- and anti-Syria, there has been not a drop of blood spilled. He expressed the wish that outside influences would leave his country alone and let them resolve the current conflict in their own democratic way. "After all," he continued, "Lebanon is the oldest democracy in the Middle East. We can handle this ourselves." Of course, both Bush in the United States and Sharon in Israel came up in our discussion, mainly because they are the two who are most engaged in trying to tell Lebanon what to do.

We also talked about family things. Rabih has been busy with his lifelong humanitarian work, this time it was organizing the ritual slaughter of 600 sheeps and I forget how many cows, and the distribution of their meat to 6000 needy families across Lebanon. It was carried out as part of Hajj, the Moslem high holiday when pilgrims traditionally make their journey to Mecca. As with all Moslem holidays, almsgiving is an important part of its celebration.

I asked about the children. Yesterday Rabih had emailed photos of eight-and-a-half-month-old Ibraheem, their child of freedom, and I reflected on his beauty. Rabih said, "He is the joy of our lives." I was delighted to hear that sixteen-year-old Sana has changed schools and is not only much happier but doing exceptionally well academically. She is also making close friends. I'd say the adjustment from Ann Arbor to Beirut has been the hardest for her, but that would be expected for any teenager. The boys--Sami, Rami and Oussama--are doing fine.

The most exciting (for me) part of our conversation was when we started talking about the possiblity of my coming to visit the family in Beirut next fall. It's hard to believe that Rabih and I have never actually met in person, but this would be a perfect opportunity. Besides, it would give me a chance to see Sulaima and the kids whom I love dearly. Their apartment is large enough for guests and in a building with an elevator, so it would be handicap-accessible for me and my scooter. Rabih says he goes out on their balcony every morning and looks to the left at snow-covered mountains and to the right at the Mediterranean Sea.

I thought about being with them in Lebanon during my entire 36 lengths of the pool tonight. I can SEE myself there, and you know what that means. Guess it's time to renew my passport!

Monday, March 07, 2005

our first hints of spring 

Cacophonous honks of geese flying northward in a V overhead. Temperatures in the 40s yesterday and the 50s today. Rain instead of snow. Fat-budded branches blowing in the wind. The musky smell of wet trees and bushes. Large patches of bare ground. Going outside without a hat, muffler and mittens. The joyful screams of children playing outside.

Yes, spring is coming.

But I've lived in Michigan long enough to know not to put away my cold weather gear for at least another month. We can have snow into April, and historically our largest snowfalls are apt to come in mid-March as temperatures rise. But maybe not this year. A friend told me that we'd already had 54.8 inches of snow here in Detroit, making it the snowiest winter since 1880. Maybe we'll get lucky and have an early spring. Wouldn't that be sweet!

Yesterday I scooted down to the lakefront park. It was gratifying to see such an expanse of open water. There was still ice in lagoons, hugging the shore, in the harbor, and out in the middle of the channel, but otherwise things looked free and clear. At least for now. Generally speaking in late March, our lake is packed with broken-up chunks of ice on their annual journey from frigid Lake Superior down into warmer Lake Erie. For us Detroiters, that heralds the end of winter.

But we're not there yet. When I drove home from swimming tonight, it was 26 degrees F. The temperature had dropped 30 degrees in less than five hours!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

O Beautiful Gaia monthly gathering 

Every time I think our O Beautiful Gaia planning committee--whose members change every month--can't possibly match the creativity expressed the month before, they do. Yesterday, for instance.

We sang for the first hour and a half--Photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6--accompanied by Deanne on the keyboard. After a short break, Jeanne introduced the labyrinth. We were meeting at a church that has an outdoor labyrinth (unusable with so much snow on the ground) and a room-sized one printed on plastic. Linda gave us two questions to consider as we walked: 1) What has come to birth in us during the year and a half that our Great Lakes Basin community has been exploring the theme of Gaia?; and 2) What do we feel stirring in us as we continue?

The labyrinth was not scooter-accessible so I had the luxury of sitting and watching my sisters walk it, each in her own unique way. It was almost as if I could place myself in their bodies and walk with them. I was overcome by gratitude for these women in my life.

When the last woman had exited the labyrinth, Barbara invited us to create a sand painting as our response and sharing of what had surfaced as we'd walked. This exercise was based on what the planning committee had seen at the Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario when they'd attended the final event of a week-long series of lectures/meditations/chanting/sand painting shared by a visiting group of Tibetan monks.

On the table in the center of our circle was a large round sheet of paper. Glass bowls filled with different-colored sand surrounded its perimeter. What happened next was a dance--sometimes solo, sometimes two or three together--of mind, heart and spirit. Some women spoke as they drew with the sand, others were silent. Some flung the sand with delight, others carefully drew a spiral, flower or hand. What emerged contained such a mix of joy, sorrow, play and purpose that it defied description. But we didn't need to describe it; we needed to let it go. For an integral part of sand painting as practiced by Tibetan monks is its ephemeral nature.

Within minutes of its completion, the planning committee brushed the sand into a bowl. Barbara danced the bowl around the circle that we might honor the process of which we had been a part. Our final song was, aptly enough, the first song of Carolyn McDade's that I'd ever sung in my life--"Come Drink Deep"--and the day was done.

A few more pictures were taken yesterday: one of me singing, and one of two wonderful women, Pauline and Mary.

Is it any wonder I am filled with gratitude for my life?

Friday, March 04, 2005

growing into my legacy 

I dislike money. I've been this way since I was a little girl. I've never wanted to have more than I already have. I don't gamble or play the lottery. To my way of thinking, hitting the jackpot would be a nightmare. So, of course, the Cosmos has to have its little joke and dump $$ in my lap that I did nothing to earn.

When my parents were in their prime, they lived from paycheck to paycheck. Dad always had a hankering for the latest thing--the first TV in our neighborhood in 1947, a TV/stereo ensemble that dominated the living room in 1958, to name a few of his favorite "gadgets"--and even though Mom handled the finances, she was an easy mark for Dad's charming reasons why he-just-HAD-to-have-such-and-so. All this meant that bills were paid on a need-to-pay basis. Mom called it "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

So how in the world did they end up with a legacy that, even divided between my two sisters and me, is still a significant amount of money?

This, my friends, is how the U.S. Government rewards its own. Dad retired in 1971 from the CIA at the age of 60, still strong physically and mentally but unknowingly entering a time when Alzheimer's would claim every brain cell he had used so effectively in his long career as a top-level Civil Servant. And that's when the money started rolling in. Government pensions at Dad's level are generous. And I don't know who advised them, but around this time they made a good number of canny investments that served them well for decades to come.

After Dad died in June 1987, Mom's survivor's benefits remained high. These, added to the dividends from their investments and her own pension from years of teaching and acting as Dean of Admissions at Catholic University's School of Social Work, meant Mom didn't have to worry about money. When the time came for her to enter an assisted living and later a nursing care facility, she could afford the best, and happily, my sister found it for her in the Asbury Park Retirement Village in Maryland. Mom spent her last years there, content and well cared for, until, at 89, she died a gentle death in November 2002.

The day we buried Mom, my eldest sister, who had handled Mom's finances for years, informed my younger sister and me that there was a sizable legacy coming our way. In yesterday's mail I received the fourth, and final, check from the estate executor.

Today I spent an hour consulting with Pamela at my local bank. Yes, I'd done some thinking ahead of time, but my ignorance of and disinterest in financial matters was holding me back. I did know I was not interested in stocks and bonds--not with the economy in the condition it is now--and I wanted my $$ insured by the FDIC. I've heard too many horror stories of bank failures to play around with that. Basically, all I was interested in doing was protecting my principal and getting enough interest to keep up with inflation.

So now I know that CDs are more than little round disks that play music, and that Money Market accounts are as liquid as saving accounts but give better interest rates. I made some decisions today, but have more to make in the future.

As so often happened when they were still alive, my parents' final gift is an invitation to grow. And I thank them for that.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Yes, it's beautiful, but... 

Was it ever good to have Susan back teaching art at the K-5 school where I help out! She was gone for five weeks--six, counting our mid-winter break--recovering from surgery and we missed her. Renee did a fine job of subbing but it's not the same. As I pointed out last week, kids are VERY different with substitute teachers. Well, today helped me see why I've been doing this for four years. Except for a few boys who always give us trouble, the children were well-behaved, fun to be around and engrossed in their projects. Susan is such a gifted teacher.

And now to show you photos of the storm that dumped another six inches of snow on the Detroit Metro area on Monday night and Tuesday morning. I've lost track of how many storms we've seen since the new year began, but I do know that every time the snow from one storm begins to melt, another one appears. By the way, more snow is predicted for Sunday and Monday.

Tuesday started with my looking out the back window in my upstairs bedroom and seeing a world painted in white. (Photos #1 & #2). Then I turned toward my side window that faces east and saw our neighbors' house and backyard looking like the Currier & Ives print that had hung in our dining room when I was growing up. (Photos #3 & #4). By the way, the snow was still coming down pretty hard.

Ed spent much of that morning shoveling our front walk, the entrance to our garage and my ramp. Actually he shoveled the ramp three times; the last time was immediately before I went off to my 12:30 PM appointment at the gym. I took my camera with me, not only to get some photos of me working out--Photos #1, #2 & #3--but because I knew I'd be seeing beauty everywhere I looked. Even driving down the streets took my breath away. (Photos #1 & #2). On the way home from the gym, I drove by the lake and turned into the driveway of a local private school that used to be a convent back in the 1800s. I knew the grounds with all the trees and bushes would be particularly lovely. And they were. I also wanted to show you the kind of snow hills we get in parking lots that have been shoveled.

This was an especially wet snow; that's why it stuck to every branch of every bush and tree. On Tuesday the temperature was in the 30s. But that didn't last long. When I drove home last night (Wednesday) from swimming, it was 16 degrees F. So this morning, instead of seeing drops of melting snow outside my bathroom window, there were long icicles glistening in the sun.

A week from tomorrow (Friday), I'll be on my way to San Francisco for a 12-day visit. Boy, am I in for a cultural/climate shock! Somehow I think I'll be able to manage ;-)

working out 

Oh but swimming felt good tonight! Sometimes it's like that. You fly through the water like a hot knife cutting through butter, no effort, no pain, just delight. After 32 lengths (a half mile) I felt like I could go on forever. But I didn't. Our hour was up and it was time to stop.

Speaking of our one hour of swim time, our activism produced results. Next term our second hour is being restored---at least two lanes of it. Those of us who spoke before the School Board, made phone calls and signed our group letter feel this is a good compromise. If we had remained silent, I'm sure our second hour would have been lost forever. It pays to work for what you want.

And that leads into the work I've been doing for almost a year now at the gym. Yesterday Matt had me do what he called "the ultimate meathead exercise." He assured me that every "meathead" (muscle man or woman) always does the dumb-bell press. Well now, so do I. That's why I told Matt he can call me "Meathead" if he wants!

Yesterday Matt also gave me his written reflections about the work we've been doing together over the past year. I've been writing an article about the benefits for disabled folks of working out at the gym, and had asked for his thoughts too. I call it, Pumping Iron: Why Not?", and plan to submit it to one of the national disability magazines. As of now, New Mobility is my first choice.

I was going to show you photos I took of yesterday's big snow, but it's after midnight and I need to get to bed. Tomorrow's a school day and my alarm is set for 7:15 AM. I'm afraid you'll have to wait one more day to see our winter wonderland. Tired as I am of snow, this time we really got a beauty. Here's a hint.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Not Dead Yet 

Remember how I wrote about having started a thread called "crips in movies" on an online bulletin board for wheelchair users? As you can imagine, this discussion has gone into high gear since Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" won four of the top Oscars last Sunday.

In my opinion, one of the most powerful postings was the following:

You have the right to die, I have the right to die, that's not the point. Look at this way.

If someone wants to consider suicide because she is a teenager who is pregnant, the consensus you hear is that the poor girl needs counseling and support.

If you have a drug problem and you consider suicide, society's reaction is you need counseling and drug treatment.

If you are a gay teenager and are considering suicide because of harrassment at school, you are considered to be in need of counseling and support.

But if you are disabled and want to die, the reaction of society is more and more often heard as:

Of course you do, why wouldn't you? How can we help?

The point is not about a right to die. It is about a bigoted attitude that being disabled makes you less than human. Therefore if you become disabled then life is over for you. This is the same logic that drove the eugenics movement, and was the philosopy behind the Nazi's T-9 program.

Not everyone sees it that way.

A few posters say they loved the movie. Some say it reflects their own personal struggles with the idea of suicide. Others say they're just happy to see disabled folks show up in movies at all; they're tired of feeling invisible. Some say we're getting our panties in a twist over nothing.

And there are those who are quite agitated, not just by the message that life as a quad is not worth living, but by Clint Eastwood's history of challenging the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act).

Apparently Mr. Eastwood was sued in 1996 for refusing to comply with the ADA requirement that one of his restaurants be made handicap-accessible, and in a Congressional hearing in 2000, he testified in favor of legislation that would have made it more difficult to bring action under Title III of the ADA.

Clint Eastwood is hardly a favorite of the disability rights communty.

I knew nothing of this until now, but have been exploring the subject through links to web sites and articles being posted on the WheelchairJunkies. com bulletin board. One of the more interesting links I've followed was to a web site called

I also discovered there is an attorney named Diane Coleman who, in 1983, founded a national disability rights group called Not Dead Yet. As a severely disabled woman herself, she apparently got sick of people's pity and especially their attitude that her life was not worth living. Her opinion article, "Seeing Million Dollar Baby from my Wheelchair" is a real eye-opener. I recommend it highly.

Even though I'm disabled myself, I carry a lot of internalized predudices against persons with disabilities, especially those who are more disabled than I. That's why I didn't catch on immediately to the not-so-hidden message in "Million Dollar Baby" that a quad was better off dead. I have Ed, my TAB (temporarily abled-bodied) husband, to thank for pointing it out to me on our way home from the theater. And that particular message is not being challenged by right or left-wingers; all they're interested in is the topic of euthanasia.

Much more is at stake here than how you feel about assisted suicide. What we need to be asking ourselves is, do we believe that the life of a severely disabled person is worth living or not?

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