Thursday, June 27, 2013

National PTSD Awareness Day

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day. 
Here are some things you  might not know about PTSD:
  • Military veterans are not the only people that get PTSD (although the rate of PTSD in vets returning from the Middle East is frighteningly high).
  • PTSD is not something people can "just get over."
  • Telling people with PTSD to "stop dwelling on" the traumatic experience is not helpful.
  • There is treatment for PTSD, which is fairly effective for most people.  However, it can take a long time and it's expensive.  Even with good treatment, symptoms may not go away completely.
  • PTSD can be extremely debilitating.
  • You can't tell just by looking at someone if they have PTSD.  Someone can seem pretty "normal" and still have PTSD.
If anyone has any questions, please feel free to post them.

Embarrassed to Be Seen with Someone with a Service Dog

I've never had this problem.  Or maybe some people do prefer not to be seen with me with my service dog and I'm just oblivious to it because, well, I don't really care.  But mostly I assume that if someone needs a service dog or a wheelchair or a cane or hearing aids or an interpreter or whatever, that should be just fine with everyone around them because, well, why wouldn't it be all right?

But this is an issue I hear about kind of often from other people that have service dogs.  Their mom or their sister or their girlfriend or whomever wants them to go to the grocery store or out to eat or someplace with them, but does not want them to bring their service dog.  They are embarrassed about being seen with someone with a service dog. 

And  yes, in some cases, those same people are embarrassed to be seen with someone that uses a walker or a wheelchair or some other assistive device.  Someone recently talked about her girlfriend wanting to go to the mall, but wanting her to leave her walker at home because she was embarrassed to be seen with someone that wasn't elderly but used a walker.  Apparently she thought only elderly people should use walkers.

This type of thinking really confuses me.  Apparently a fair number of people think like that, but I don't get it.  Why wouldn't you want your girlfriend or your family member or whomever to enjoy their trip to the mall with you and be glad they had a walker or whatever device they needed that would allow them to do that?  Why would you prefer they leave the walker at home and get tired out or maybe even fall and hurt themselves?  And I'm sure it's not that the girlfriend wanted this person to get tired out or fall and get hurt.  But if you don't want that to happen, why wouldn't you welcome the walker or whatever other device would help prevent that from happening?

When you go into a grocery store or restaurant with a service dog, you often get some attention.  I guess that embarrasses some people.  It doesn't embarrass me, but I don't really like it, either.  I would rather people leave me alone. 

But the attention isn't usually that bad, and people aren't paying attention to whomever I am with.  They are looking at my dog, and sometimes, at me.  I doubt they even notice my human companion, they are so busy looking at the dog.  And sometimes people do ask me questions, like if I am training Isaac for a blind person or why I have a service dog, but they don't ask questions of my companion.  I deal with any questions or comments as needed.   My companion doesn't have to deal with them.

I guess I don't see why someone should care if my service dog is with me, because it doesn't seem to me that it affects them very much.

Service Dogs Actually Get Petted A Lot

Someone I know that has a service dog told me that the other day, someone in the grocery store said to her, "It must be hard for you not to pet your dog."  The person knew that people aren't supposed to pet service dogs when they are working, and somehow assumed, based on that, that service dogs aren't supposed to be petted at all, not even by their owners.

One of my neighbors, who absolutely loves Isaac and pets him every chance she gets, thinks no one but the dog's owner is supposed to ever pet a service dog.  She has told me several times that I am not really supposed to let other people pet him. 

Now, all of my neighbors seemed to know that you aren't supposed to pet service dogs when they are working, so when  Isaac and I first moved in, they asked if they were allowed to pet him.  I explained that when they see us in the elevator or the lobby or outside taking a walk, that he's not working and it's fine to pet him.  I said that when he is wearing his service dog vest, or if we are in the laundry room and he's unloading the dryer for me, then he is working and those are not good times to pet him.  And I thanked them for asking, and reminded them that they should always ask before petting any dog, even if it's not a service dog, just to make sure it's friendly and won't bite.

But this one neighbor thinks no one but the dog's owner is supposed to ever pet a service dog.  She tells me that all the time, but at the same time, she pets Isaac every time she can because she loves him.  She tells him she loves him and encourages him to kiss her face.

Anyway.  My point is, service dogs are absolutely allowed to be petted.  Most of them probably get petted a lot.  Isaac is with me almost all the time, so I pet him a lot.  I bet he gets petted more than the typical pet dog, whose owner goes to work all day and leaves the dog home alone.  Isaac also gets petted by his dog walker, by my neighbors (on a daily basis), by friends when they come over (which admittedly isn't that often), sometimes by children when we go on walks, and occasionally by people at the store or other public places, if they ask and if I say yes.  Trust me, he does not suffer from lack of physical affection.  He certainly gets petted a lot more than I do!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt (for Doggies)

Combine two parts plain Greek  yogurt with one part creamy peanut butter in a bowl and mix well.  Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto a sheet of aluminum foil and stick in the freezer for a few hours.  Then you can take the blobs of frozen yogurt off the foil and store them in a sealed container with a lid.  Serve one at a time when your doggie needs a cool treat.  You can also let your doggie lick the bowl - Isaac loves that!

Homemade Puzzle Toy

The other day I was setting my all my vitamins (I use one of those weekly pill sorter things) and I emptied a bottle of calcium tablets, so I stuck a couple milk bones in the empty bottle and gave it to Isaac to try to figure out how to get the treats out.  Note: don't do this with medicine bottles unless you've washed them first. 

Isaac spent about half an hour trying to get the treats out, then finally gave up and brought the bottle to me so I could help him.  He had chewed the mouth of the bottle almost shut, which of course made it hard to get the treats to fall out.

I love the fact that he is so easily entertained.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life is Fragile

This evening I learned that earlier today, a friend of Mike's died in a car accident.  She ran a stop sign and was broadsided by a tractor trailer.  Her seven-year-old daughter was air lifted to a hospital, where she is currently fighting for her life.  Mike said he went out to lunch with this woman, and her daughter, and her husband, two days ago.  It was the couple's 11th wedding anniversary.

I knew the family, though not well.  But it's still overwhelming to think about.  I can only imagine what the woman's husband is going through right now.  Imagine your wife and daughter leaving the house in the morning, healthy and whole, and a couple hours later getting a call that your wife is dead and your daughter may  not survive and you'd better get in your car and drive to the hospital as fast as you can so maybe you can at least see your daughter alive one last time.

And that poor little girl.  If she lives, she's badly injured, she's in the hospital, she'll be in pain, she'll want her mother.  I don't know the details of the accident, I don't know if she was unconscious the whole time or if she was awake and aware that her mother was dead in the car with her, while waiting for help to arrive.  I don't know if her mother died instantly or if this little girl sat trapped in the car, scared and in pain, listening to her mother die.  She's seriously injured, so she may end up having to deal with a long and difficult recovery process, or even a permanent disability, at the same time she's dealing with the loss of her mom.

And her poor father.   Best case scenario, he has to cope with supporting a severely injured, scared, emotionally traumatized little girl while coping with the loss of his wife.  That's if he's lucky.  That's the best case scenario here.  Worst case scenario, after he plans his wife's funeral, he gets to bury his daughter.

We all know life is fragile, right?  We all know any of us, or any of the people we love, could walk out our front door and get run over by a bus today.  We all know that none of us is promised another day.  But wow, when it actually happens, it's such a shock.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dog Days at the Beach

Saturday I took Isaac to the doggie beach at Alum Creek State Park.  It's a fenced in area, like any dog park, but it's on the lake and the fence extends into the water so that dogs can swim in the lake but are still in a safe, enclosed area.  Isaac loves water (except for in the bath tub) and I was sure he would love the lake.

He did.  Isaac has a routine he follows at dog parks.  First, he sniffs every tree, bush, clump of grass, fence post, etc.  Then he pees on all those things.  He usually spends the first 20 minutes or so sniffing and peeing.  Then he wants to say hello to any people at the dog park.  He likes people more than he likes other dogs.  After he greets the people, then he is ready to greet the other dogs and to run around.  He loves to run, but he always sticks to his routine.  That means unless we stay at the dog park for more than half an hour, he doesn't end up getting to do any running.  It takes him that long to sniff, pee, and greet all the people.

So he did the same thing at the doggie beach.  I couldn't wait to see what happened when he realized there was water and he was actually allowed to get in it.  Isaac, self-entitled dog that he is, just naturally assumed he would be allowed to get in the water.  He didn't hesitate, didn't glance back at me to see if it was OK, or anything like that.  He dove right in, after he'd completed the necessary sniffing, peeing, and greeting rituals.

There was a guy there throwing sticks into the water for his dog to chase and of course Isaac wanted to chase them, too.  Mike was with us and he tried to throw some sticks for Isaac (I could not bend over to pick up sticks due to my back pain) but Isaac ignored those sticks.  He wanted the other dog's sticks.  At one point, he swam up to the other dog and snatched a stick right out of his mouth!  How rude is that?

He had a great time.  He got soaking wet, of course, and smelly and now my car smells like a wet dog.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Running in the Summertime

Today I called Isaac's vet to ask about the safety of running in the summertime when it's really hot.  Not for me, silly.  I don't run!  For Isaac.

See, Isaac's current running buddy is one of those nutty running people that will run in any weather.  Hot, cold, pouring rain, whatever, he's up for a rain.  So is Isaac.  So I'm not sure I can trust either of them to make a good judgment about whether or not it's too hot.  And I don't want my doggie to have a heat stroke.  I don't want my dog walker to have a heat stroke, either.

I tried to look up info online about how hot was too hot to safely run and couldn't find what I was looking for.  Apparently it varies a bit depending upon the breed of the dog (really hairy dogs get overheated faster) and where they're running at (obviously if they run in the shade, it's safer).  So I finally just called the vet and asked.

I was told it was safe for Isaac to go for a run up to 85 degrees.  I was advised to make sure he has plenty of fresh, cold water when he gets back from a run, which of course I always do.  It was also suggested that I hose him down before a run on really hot days.  I'm not sure how Isaac would feel about that, and I don't have access to a hose here anyway, so I won't be trying that.  I thought I'd mention it, though, in case anyone else wants to try it with their dogs.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Back to Bed

This morning Isaac woke me up, wanted his breakfast, and went right back to bed.  My bed, of course.

Service Dog-Related Expenses Count as Medical Expenses

At least, they do according to many government agencies, including the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (the current name for the state welfare agency in Ohio, which seems a bit of misnomer to me, since I have neither a family nor a job but still require services from that agency).  This means you can deduct service dog-related expenses from your taxes along with any other medical expenses (if you itemize when you do your taxes, and if your medical expenses total more than a certain percent of your income; talk to an accountant or your tax preparer, though, don't take tax advice from me!).  It means you get lower rent if you qualify for subsidized housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and you may get more in food stamps and your Medicaid spend down may be lower.  Those agencies adjust your income by deducting certain expenses, like medical expenses, when determining how much assistance you qualify for.  So does the Social Security Administration, if you receive SSI and return to work under the Ticket to Work plan.

When I moved a couple months ago, I moved from one county to another withing the same state.  I guess because efficiency is not something valued by my state government, I had to reapply for Medicaid in the new county.  This meant I ended up having no Medicaid coverage at all for almost two months and that a caseworker had to spent time handling my application and reviewing all my documentation, even though my income had not changed and I had only moved 30 miles from where I used to live.  There are your tax dollars at work.

Since I had to reapply, I decided to provide verification of all my service-dog related expenses because I had not done so where I previously lived (because it was a pain in the butt to do so and I am lazy) and I expected that by doing so, I would qualify for some food stamps and that my Medicaid spend down would go down.  A Medicaid spend down, if you're not familiar with the concept, is like a deductible that must be met each month before your Medicaid kicks in.  My spend down was$538.  Yes, that meant the state of Ohio felt it was reasonable for me to spend $538 out of my pocket each month on medical bills, and then the state would cover the rest.

So I provided all the paperwork I could gather up, including:
  • copies of receipts for dog food, dog treats, and dog toys
  • copies of receipts from veterinary care, including the monthly flea prevention stuff I buy from the vet and then apply myself
  • copies of cancelled checks from payments I've made myself to the program I got Isaac from (money that's been donated to help pay for Isaac doesn't count, of course)
  • copies of cancelled checks for Isaac's dog walker
  • an itemized list breaking down the average expense for each service-dog related item per month
  • a copy of the certificate from Isaac's program, stating he is a trained service dog
Based on my medical expenses, which do include some other expenses but are mostly related to Isaac at the moment, my spend down dropped from $538 a month to just $158.  That was worth the paperwork hassle, I'd say.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Waking to Pain

To put this in perspective, keep in mind that my back hurts every day.  The last time I had an full day with no pain was sometime back in the winter, so four or five months ago, and that seemed like a miracle to me because it was the first full day with  no pain I'd had in probably over a year.  It has been months since I've slept through the night without the pain waking me at least once during the night.  It's not unusual to have pain so bad it makes me feel nauseous.  It's not unusual to move a certain way and actually cry out because it hurts so much.  That's my normal.

This morning Isaac woke me up about 5:45, insisting he had to pee.  It usually takes me a few minutes to get out of bed in the morning.  I'm stiff and sore when I wake up.  This morning, though, the pain was so bad, I could barely make it out of bed.  I had to pee myself, so I went to the bathroom, and had a terrible time getting up off the toilet.  I decided  not to brush my teeth because it hurt too much to bend over the sink like that.  I took Isaac out, held on to the side of the building while he peed because my back hurt so much I felt like I could barely stand, and came back inside.

I took a pain pill and fed Isaac.  I fed him from the plastic container of food I keep on the kitchen counter for occasions like this.  Most of his food is kept in a big plastic bin on the floor, but I have to bend over to scoop out the food.  Bending over to do that always causes some pain, sometimes more than others, but it's usually bearable.  This morning, there was no way I was going to try to bend over like that.  The food supply on the counter is for times like these.  I measured out his food, and dumped it into the dish on the floor without bending over.  Hopefully he'll eat all the little pieces that bounced out of the dish onto the kitchen floor.

I went back to bed, hoping the pain pill would kick in and I'd feel better when I next woke.  Isaac woke me up two hours later, and unfortunately, I didn't feel any better.  I took him out again, and by the time I got outside, I was in so much pain I was sweating heavily.  Then I threw up a couple times.  That causes my back muscles to spasm horribly.  I made it back upstairs to my apartment, where I considered taking more pain meds but decided against it because of the nausea.  I went back to bed.

Two hours later, I got up again.  I was finally able to bend over the sink to brush my teeth.  I guess that's progress.  I got out the heating pad, which usually helps but I have to bend over to plug it in, which is extremely difficult when I'm in this much pain.  I'm sitting on the heating pad now, though, and it feels a little better.

I have stuff I need to do today.  I have an appointment with  my psychiatrist later, which I really, really need to keep.  I have to drive 45 minutes to get there, then get out of the car (which is really difficult and really painful when my back is this bad), then I'll sit in the waiting room and have to get up out of that chair to walk back to his office, then sit in another chair, which I'll have to get out of a few minutes later, then drive 45 minutes back home.  I know that doesn't sound that strenuous but I'm dreading it.  I was planning to take a shower before my appointment, but I'm not sure I can stand up that long.  I had a couple errands I needed to run before my appointment, too, but right now I'm thinking I'm not getting in and out of the car anymore than I have to.

Right now I'm dreading having to get up again to take Isaac out.  I wish there was someone I could ask to take him out for me.  The dog walker is coming at 4:30 to take him for a run, but he'll need to go out before then.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Some Thoughts on Abortion

I know, this has nothing to do with service dogs.  It is somewhat related to my disability, though.  And I see so much discussion on this topic on Facebook and in the news and everywhere these days.  I just wanted to take the opportunity to put some of my own thoughts into words.

I guess I should start by saying I am pro-choice.  That doesn’t mean that I think abortion is something that should be chosen lightly, and I don’t think many women do make the choice lightly.  I can think of three women I’ve personally known that had abortions (there are probably more but it’s something most people don’t share with everyone they know) and I know all three of them put a lot of thought into making that decision.  I know two of them considered themselves pro-life or at least never thought they would choose to have an abortion, until they found themselves in circumstances in which they could not see another solution.  I know one of them got pregnant while using condoms and one of them got pregnant while taking birth control pills; the third was not using any form of birth control because she was not sexually active when she was raped and became pregnant.  I know one of them would have loved to have another child but it just did not seem feasible at that time, in those circumstances.  None of them was relying on abortion as a form of birth control.

I’ll also say that while I am pro-choice, abortion is not necessarily the choice I would make if I found myself facing an unexpected pregnancy.  I actually got pregnant when I was 16, and both my parents and the father’s parents encouraged us to either place the child for adoption or have an abortion.  I chose not to have an abortion.  I gave birth at age 17; my daughter was mostly raised by her father.  I see abortion as a last resort type of thing.  It’s what I would choose if I felt I was unable to carry a pregnancy to term for some reason.  If I felt I could carry a pregnancy to term but not raise a child myself, then I would place the child for adoption.

So what does all this have to do with being disabled?  Well, to begin with, being disabled affects my access to contraception.  I’m on Medicare, and I would like to have a tubal ligation because I definitely do not want to become pregnant, ever again.  However, Medicare will  not pay for a tubal ligation.  My primary care provider recommends I avoid birth control pills because I have a family history of breast cancer and the pills increase one’s risk of breast cancer.  She and I agree that it is best that I avoid all hormonal forms of birth control, since side effects can include depression and I already have a history of very severe depression.  That doesn’t leave me with many options, but Medicare will not cover a tubal ligation.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the $5,000 the surgeon told me it would cost to pay for it myself.

So because I am disabled, I don’t have access to real effective birth control.  I can use condoms, and I do, but they are not nearly as effective as a tubal ligation.  Am I just supposed to be celibate to make sure I don’t become pregnant if I don’t want to be?  I’ve been on Medicare since I was in my mid-30’s.  Do our legislators just assume disabled people aren’t interested in having sex?  And none of the pro-life folks have offered to pay for my tubal ligation in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, either.

At this point in my life, if I did become pregnant, I believe I would have to abort.  I don’t want to have to do that, so I am super careful about birth control (which at this point means condoms and vaginal contraceptive film).  But what if my birth control failed?  Even a tubal ligation can fail, although it’s very rare.  I asked the surgeon I spoke to how that could possibly happen, and it said that in some cases the tubes simply grow back together, or grow around an obstruction.  How bizarre is that?  It’s kind of cool, too, if you think about it, the body’s remarkable ability to heal and repair itself.  But it wouldn’t be so cool for a woman that had a tubal ligation and then found herself pregnant.

And let’s not forget that fact that some women that are abstinent become pregnant after being raped.  And women with disabilities of any kind are more likely to be raped than women without disabilities, although of course it can happen to anyone.

Anyway, if I became pregnant at this point in my life, I think I would have no choice but to abort.  I don’t see how I could possibly get through a pregnancy.  And that’s because of my disability.
For a moment, let’s just forget about my fear of doctors and hospitals.  I’d have to have a home birth, with a midwife, but that’s what I would have wanted before developing this fear, anyway.

I have severe depression, which is sort of stable at the moment, but the physical and emotional stress associated with pregnancy could wreak havoc on my psyche.  The hormonal upheaval scares the crap out of me.  Looking back on my life, I think I was depressed from a very young age, but it was not diagnosed until I was pregnant the first time.  And in the postpartum period, my depression was very severe; that’s when I attempted suicide for the first time.  Perhaps a second pregnancy would be easier than my first, but I don’t believe it would.  I believe there is a very good chance my depression would get significantly worse.  I believe I would be at risk for killing myself.

How does a severely depressed, suicidal person get through nine months of pregnancy?  Even if I  wanted to spend nine months on a locked psych ward (and I don’t), that wouldn’t happen.  Who would pay for it?  You’d be looking at about $1,000 a day, maybe more; that’s about $30,000 a month.  Medicare isn’t going to cover that; I think my co-pay for inpatient hospitalization is something like $450 per day right now, because I’ve already used up a lot of my inpatient days on my Medicare Part A plan.  As far as I’m aware, none of the prolife organizations offer to pay for inpatient psychiatric care for suicidal pregnant women, either.

Then there is the issue of quality of life.  Who would want to spend nine months on a locked psych ward, even if that was an option?  Who would want to spend nine months suffering from severe depression, from self-hatred, from feelings of guilt and hopelessness and despair?  

Medication wouldn’t be an option, since most psychotropic drugs have not been proven safe during pregnancy and many are now known to cause serious birth defects.  There are currently some class action lawsuits in the works for women that were given antidepressant drugs while pregnant and told the drugs were safe.

The bottom line is that I do not believe I would live through a pregnancy.  Now, many prolife folks, though not all, believe abortion is OK if a woman’s life is at risk.  Not all do, though.  And even if it is legal to have an abortion if my life is at risk, who gets to decide whether my life is at risk or if the risk is great enough?  Do I have to convince a doctor that my depression is that severe?  We all know how well doctors listen, right?  Who is in a better position to decide whether or not I really need to have an abortion than me?

Friday, June 14, 2013

All Worn Out

Poor tired doggie.

He says his stuffed tiger with the squeaky butt makes a good pillow.

If Everybody Spoke Sign Language...

I'm reading this book called "Talking Hands" by Margalit Fox, which is about the linguistics of sign language.  Before you decide that sounds really boring, check this out.

Among other things, the book talks about how, from the late 1700's to the mid 1900's, there was a very high percentage of deaf people living on Martha's Vineyard.  Most of the deafness was hereditary and it was so common that everyone there spoke sign language.  They spoke their own language, Martha's Vineyard Sign Language, a language which has mostly been lost now.  Apparently it resembled British Sign Language more than American Sign Language, but it was a unique language.

Did you know there are many different sign languages?  Many hearing people think there is one universal sign language, understood by deaf people around the world, but that is not true.  American Sign Language and British Sign Language are actually quite different.  American Sign Language is more like French Sign Language, because the first American teachers of the deaf went to France to study sign language and methods of teaching the deaf, then brought what they'd learned back to the States.

Anyway.  On Martha's Vineyard, everybody spoke sign language.  When deaf and hearing people gathered together, they spoke sign sign language, but groups of hearing people sometimes signed even when no deaf people were present.  Everyone on the Vineyard was bilingual.  It wasn't considered unusual or abnormal in any way.

Being deaf wasn't considered unusual or abnormal, either.  Deaf people on the Vineyard worked at all the same jobs their hearing neighbors worked at.  They got married, often to hearing people, and raised families.  In 1978, an anthropologist named Nora Ellen Groce was interviewing elderly people on the Vineyard about the deaf residents and what it was like for them (she later wrote a book about it called "Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language").  She asked a woman in her 80's what it was like for the children that grew up handicapped by deafness on the Vineyard, and he woman said, "Oh, those people weren't handicapped.  They were just deaf."

Do you get how cool that is?  The deaf people on the Vineyard didn't have to worry about interpreters, because everyone there signed.  The kids didn't have to go to special schools.  The adults could do all the same jobs hearing adults did.  The deaf and the hearing went to the same churches.  There was no discrimination, no prejudice. 

What if it was like that now, everywhere?  And what if everywhere you went, menus were printed in both print and Braille?  And what if all restaurants and stores and doctors' offices were wheelchair accessible?  (Do you have any idea how many doctors' offices are not wheelchair accessible?)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why the Dog Food Depressed Me

Yesterday I was depressed.  Actually, I'm still depressed today, but yesterday, I was depressed, in part, due to the dog food.

I couldn't quite understand why.  Yes, it is a hassle to have to open a 30-pound sack of dog food in my trunk, scoop it into plastic dishes, and carry it inside that way.  It is also a hassle to then wash all the plastic dishes I used to carry the dog food.  But many things in life are a hassle.  If you get depressed every time you must deal with a hassle, well, you are going to be depressed a lot.  I think I do a pretty good job of not sweating the small stuff, at least most of the time.

I think I was a little depressed because I had no one to help me, and that makes me feel lonely and sad.  Of course, I probably could have asked a neighbor for help, but I don't like to ask for help.  I feel like I should be able to do things myself.  I feel like it's my responsibility and I shouldn't bother other people.

I think the biggest thing about the dog food that depressed me was the realization that there was a time in my life when lifting 30 pounds would have been like nothing to me.  I used to be a certified nursing assistant.  When I worked in a nursing home, we were not supposed to lift anyone weighing more than 60 pounds by ourselves.  Since most nursing home residents weigh more than 60 pounds, that meant we were supposed to get another CNA to help us.  Since we were chronically understaffed, though, we frequently lifted residents alone that weighed more than 60  pounds.

And for a while, I did private duty care for a teenage boy with multiple disabilities.  He weighed about 70 pounds, and in a day, I would lift him in and out of his wheelchair at least a dozen times.  I would lift him into the bathtub, then carry him from the bath to the bed to dress him, lift him back into his chair, lift him out of the chair and place him on the living room floor to do his range of motion exercises, then pick him up off the floor to put him back in his chair, etc.  And it was easy.  Even picking him up off the floor was easy.

Today I could not bend over to pick up a package off the floor when Fed Ex left it outside my front door.  The package contained a two-pound tub of protein powder, three single-serving samples of protein powder (I guess a couple ounces each), and a small bottle of vitamins.  Altogether, it might have weighed three pounds.  I could not bend over to pick it up.  I had to kick it across my door sill, across my foyer, across my living room, until it came to rest beside my couch, so I could sit on the couch and then pick it up.

I used to pick up a 70-pound teenager off the ground with no trouble at all.

I find that depressing.  It's depressing that I can't do things that I used to do so easily.  It's depressing that it's so difficult now to do things that should be so simple.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

30 Pounds of Dog Food

I have 30 pounds of dog food in the trunk of my car.

I normally buy dog food in 15-pound bags.  The brand Isaac eats comes in five-pound, 15-pound, and 30-pound bags.  I normally buy the 15-pound bags because I can carry them, though it's somewhat difficult, and because it works out to be cheaper per pound if I buy that size instead of the five-pound bags.  Well, today the farm supply place was out of 15-pound bags.  I had to choose between five pounds or 30 pounds.  And the 30-pound bags were on sale.  I could get a 30-pound bag of dog food for $41.  Compare that to buying three of the five-pound bags for a total of $36.  Well, of course I wanted to get 15 pounds more for just another $5.

I managed to wrestle the bag into my cart, and then into the trunk of my car.  I have no idea, though, how I'm going to get it out of my trunk and into my apartment.  I guess maybe I will open the bag in my trunk and scoop some of the food out into a container of a manageable size.  I can then carry the food into my house, making several trips.  Doesn't that sound fun?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Doing Laundry with Isaac in My New Apartment

Isaac has been helping me with laundry since shortly after I got him, but it's a little different in my new apartment than it was where I used to live.  I don't have my own washer and dryer here, but there is a laundry room downstairs I can use.  Since the laundry room is downstairs, Isaac doesn't get to pull the laundry basket to the laundry room for me, like he did in our own  house.  I have to carry the basket of laundry.  If I don't feel able to carry it, there is a cart on wheels I can use to take the laundry downstairs.

There are two washers and dryers in the laundry room, so I can do two loads of laundry at a time.  That works just fine for me, but Isaac is not a fan of it.  He is usually happy to pull the clothes out of one dryer but then he thinks it should be time to rest or time to play.  Sometimes I have a bit of trouble getting him to empty the second dryer.

One of the washing machines is a front loading kind, and it is actually broken at the moment.  Yesterday I suggested to the apartment manager that he replace it with a machine that loads from the top.  I've heard several tenants in the building say they don't like the front loading machine, and I don't like it, either.  Isaac takes the wet clothes out for me, just like he does with the dryer, but he can't put clothes in it so I have to bend over to do that.  Several of my neighbors have physical disabilities and find it difficult to bend over to put clothes in and take them out, and some of them can't use the machine at all.  Everyone seems to prefer the top loading machine.  Isaac doesn't mind getting the wet clothes out of the machine, but sometimes he drops clothes on the floor, and I don't really like my clean wet laundry falling on the laundry room floor.

Besides that fact that he has to do more work in a short period of time, Isaac also has to deal with more distractions when doing laundry in our new place.  Every time he hears someone out in the hallway, he stops working and looks to see who it is.  For a while, the idea of a dog that did laundry was quite a novelty for my neighbors and they all wanted to see him helping me, but of course that was an even bigger distraction.  They are all pretty used to Isaac by now, though, and usually stay away from the laundry room when they hear me in there telling him to "Get it, get it, get it," over and over again.

Yesterday for some reason, Isaac wanted to play tug with everything he took out of the dryer.  I was getting really annoyed.  I didn't want him to put holes in my towels.  At one point, he also lay down on the floor and said he was done.  I had a little trouble getting him to get up and get back to work.  Maybe I need to use hotdogs as treats the next time we do laundry.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dating with a Disability and a Dog

It's been more than seven months now since Mike and I separated.  I haven't dated much in that time, but I have dated a little.

Let me start by saying I hate dating.  I always have.  I've enjoyed being in relationships, although I'm also enjoying being single now.  But I hate dating.  Especially first dates.  First dates feel a lot like job interviews, only more complicated, because it's like I'm being interviewed and also like I'm interviewing someone else.

The internet has changed the dating process for many people, I think, and it's mostly been a good thing for me.  Mike and I met online.  Since I don't have a regular job, and I don't go to school, and I don't go to church, and I don't enjoy bars or nightclubs at all, I don't have many opportunities to meet people.  Plus, on internet dating sites you can be really clear in your profile about what you're looking for and then you can kind of screen people and try to avoid the idiots as much as possible.  Of course, you get messages from all kinds of creepy people online, too.  But you can just delete those.  It's better than someone creepy hitting on you at a party, I think.

When you have a disability, you have to decide when to tell a potential partner about your disability.  If you are blind or use a wheelchair, people are gonna figure that out as soon as they meet you, but if you have PTSD, they won't know until you tell them (or until something happens that freaks them out if they don't know about the PTSD, like have a flashback when you're with them).  I don't want to spend a lot of time getting to know and like someone, only to find out that they can't deal with the fact that I have PTSD.  I also don't want them to feel like I was not being honest, or somehow "lying by omission," if I'm not up front about.  On the other hand, I don't want to scare someone off before they've gotten the chance to know me at all.  Plus, I don't think the PTSD is the most important thing about me and I don't want to present it like it is.

It occurred to me recently that, although people can't tell just by looking at me that I have PTSD, it is now summer and it is hot out and I am not going on a first date wearing long sleeves.  I've had scars on my arms, and elsewhere, for years and years, but most were pretty faded.  After the... what do I call it?  The incident?  I don't know.  The thing last November when I cut myself really badly.  I now have numerous scars on both arms that are quite noticeable.  I'm sure they will fade more in time, but they are very obvious and anyone I meet will see them right away.  If I don't tell them before we meet, I need to be prepared to answer the inevitable question about what happened to my arms.

Then there is the dog.  When do I tell people I have a service dog?  If I tell them I have a service dog but haven't told them I have a disability, well, they are going to ask why I have a service dog so I need to be prepared to answer questions about my disability.  On the other hand, mentioning Isaac can be a good way to lead up to the fact that I have a disability.  For instance, if someone mentions their dog (people love to talk about their animals), I can say, "I have a dog, too.  He's a yellow lab.  He's a trained service dog."  Or, if someone I'm chatting with online asks for a picture of me, I can send them a picture of me with Isaac, with Isaac dressed in his service dog vest.  I've done that a couple times.

I decided I do need to let people know I have a service dog before I show up for a first date with Isaac in tow.  At first I wasn't sure if I should mention it ahead of time or not.  Then I decided, what if someone is allergic to dogs?  What if they are really scared of dogs for some reason?  What if they just don't like dogs?  It seems unfair to show up with one without making sure it's OK with them first.  Now, if someone said they hated dogs and would never want to be around my service dog, then obviously that relationship would not be going anywhere.  But it still seems wise, and fair, to discuss that before I show up at Starbucks with my service dog for a first date (I think Starbucks is the perfect place for a first date, by the way.  It's casual, you can  make it a short date if you want but you can also hang out and talk for a whole afternoon if you want.  And if the date doesn't show up, I still get a latte.).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Don't Encourage Your Kid to Bother the Service Dog

Apparently this is not uncommon, although today was the first time it happened to me.

I was at the grocery store, with Isaac, and a man was pushing a cart down the aisle with a toddler in it.  He pointed out the doggie to the toddler, then started calling, "Here, Doggie, Doggie!"  Then he started barking at the doggie.  The man, not the toddler.

Besides looking like an idiot, what is that teaching his kid? 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Biopsy Results

I just realized I never posted the results of my biopsy!  It was benign.  Just calcium deposits.  The incision is healed and is barely tender anymore.  My breast is really lumpy where they did the biopsy, but I guess I can live with that.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mmm, Pickles!

Isaac got a new toy today. It's a pickle. Can you tell that from the picture? How funny is that, a toy pickle? It's some sort of chewy rubbery stuff that is supposed to be virtually indestructible (we'll see about that, Isaac is a champion chewer, after all) and there are slots in it where you can stick treats in there. He has to chew on it for quite a while to get the treats out. He loves it. I just think it's hilarious that it's a pickle.

Words Matter (Part II)

There is a wonderful book called The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas by Joan Steinau Lester, in which she does a great job of explaining why words matter.  It's an easy read and highly entertaining, and if you can find a copy, I definitely recommend it.  In it, she explains that a word is not just a word, no matter how much some people insist it is.  Words have histories.  Words have complex and varied meanings.  They affect the way we think about things.

And if words didn't matter, some people wouldn't get so upset when other people suggest changing them.  Consider the people that insist the word "mankind" really means everyone.  They don't want to change a title from Chairman to Chairperson, for instance, insisting it isn't necessary because the "man" in Chairman really refers to women, too.  Suggest to one of these people that since a word is just a word, the title instead be changed to Chairwoman, which would include men, too.  The amount of resistance you'd get to such a suggestion is a clue that the word really does matter.

Do you know where the word "handicap" comes from?  In England in the 1700's, people with disabilities were not allowed into the poorhouses.  They were not considered good enough for that.  Instead, they were given caps with which they were supposed to beg.

Many people today prefer to be referred to as "a person with a disability" rather than as "a person with a handicap."  I see their point.  I have a disability, a condition that affects my abilities, but I don't beg on the street corner with a cap.  I also object to the idea that a person with a disability is not even good enough to be admitted into a poorhouse.

When someone refers to me as handicapped, do they mean to say I am not even good enough for a poorhouse?  Probably not.  I bet most people that use the word "handicapped" don't even know the origin of the word.  But now you do.  And you know that some people find it offensive or objectionable.  If it's just a word, and if you don't mean to use it to demean someone, why not just say "disability" instead?

Words Matter (Part I)

Read the following and be honest about the images each phrase brings up for you.
  • the mentally ill
  • a mentally ill person
  • a person with a mental illness
Do you really get the same picture in your head for each one?  Do they really all bring up the same emotions for you?

Now try these.
  • a wheelchair-bound person
  • a person in a wheelchair
  • a person confined to a wheelchair
  • a person that uses a wheelchair
And now try this one:
  • a person
 How would you prefer that people refer to you?  How would you refer to yourself, if you had a mental illness or used a wheelchair?

Monday, June 3, 2013

I Found This a Bit Insulting

A few days ago, I came home from running some errand and found a flyer on my door.  It looked like there was one on every door in my apartment building.  I took the flyer and went inside and read it over.

It was a handy list of "Tornado Safety Tips," which apparently my landlord thought would be of use to all the tenants in the building.

The flyer listed signs that a tornado might be coming, including a low-hanging cloud that looks to be rotating (well, yeah, I guess that would be a sign of a tornado, huh?), debris dropping from the sky, and a "greenish-black tint to the sky."  I was immediately turned off because as a freelance writer, I have to do research and put accurate facts, based on reputable sources, in my articles.  I recently read something that said that a greenish-colored sky did not indicate an approaching tornado.

To be certain of my facts, I looked it up.  According to the Journal of Applied Meteorology, a green sky is a sign of severe weather.  Well, yeah, you usually don't see a green sky on a calm, sunny day.  But it doesn't necessarily mean a tornado.

If my landlord wants to help me  prepare for a possible tornado, I would appreciate accurate information.  But whatever.  That's not the part that I found most insulting.

The flyer went on to advise me to inform "the blind or deaf" about the weather conditions.  Because, what, they aren't bright enough to know what the weather is like?

I guess blind people wouldn't be able to see that green sky, but since that doesn't mean a tornado is imminent anyway, I'm not sure that really matters.  I haven't known many people with visual impairments, but there was a woman that used to live near me that was blind.  We took the same bus downtown to work, back when I was a social worker.  She was a social worker, too.  I'm guessing she was aware of the weather conditions.  When it was raining, she got as wet as I did, standing on the corner waiting for that bus.  She used her umbrella when it rained, zipped up her coat and put on her gloves when it was cold, etc.  She seemed to be as aware as I was about the weather, even though she could not see the sky.  I wonder if she would have appreciated me saying, "Hey, Mary Ann, it's raining" when it was raining.  I'm thinking not.

I've known quite a few people that were deaf and they all seemed to be aware of the weather, too.  Sometimes they would even tell me about the weather.  For instance, when I did volunteer work at a summer camp for kids with disabilities, some of them would sign to me, "It's hot!" on a particularly hot day.  I bet they would be aware of things like low-hanging rotating clouds and debris falling from the sky, too.

Besides the apparent assumption that people that are visually impaired or deaf must be too dumb to notice if the weather is bad, this flyer referred to them as "the blind and deaf."  Not people with visual impairments, not people that are blind, not people that are hard of hearing, not deaf people.  The blind.  The deaf.  Because of course they are all the same and the most important thing about them is their disability.  I'll have to write about person first language another time, but if you didn't know, it is appropriate to say "a person with a disability," putting the person first.  It is not appropriate to say "the disabled."