World’s First All-Accessible Water Park

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Image this:  A child who has never had the opportunity to be completely immersed in what would be considered a typical summer activity.  Why?  Because s/he is confined to a wheelchair or has autism or a brain injury.

I guess you don’t have to imagine it, do it?  With all the ADA-compliance modifications that have already been made – and they are wonderful, the world is still largely out of reach for anyone with special needs.

There have been times when I have cried because I was sidelined because of a physical barrier.  And, if I cried, I can only imagine how often a child has wept because s/he was relegated to an observer-only status.

Now, image this:  A child or adult with special needs has the opportunity to be completely immersed in a typical summer activity.  What a fantastic idea!

Well, we don’t have to use our imaginations anymore; someone has finally taken the barriers away:  Gordon Hartman, the creator of the world’s first ultra-accessible water park.  It is a fantastic idea, and it is a reality!

“Children and adults who have special needs are sometimes left out, not because they want to be but because sometimes things are not always adequate for them to use,” Hartman said.

Today is the opening day for Morgan’s Inspiration Island.  A $17 million tropical-themed water park located in San Antonio, Texas.  This astonishing park (check out the above link) merges those with and without disabilities into one experience. The greatest part of all is that it includes all special needs people.

There are waterproof wheelchairs that use compressed air instead of batteries (which the University of Pittsburgh helped develop); waterproof wristbands for those who tend to wander, quiet areas for those who get overwhelmed, and a way to quickly change water temperature for those who are sensitive to cold water.  There’s more:  fast passes for those who have trouble waiting in line, private wheelchair transfer areas, and the riverboat adventure attraction boats rise to meet passengers (instead of wheelchair ramps).

Admission?  FREE FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES.

Anyone up for a road trip to Texas?

 

 

 

Like A Turtle on Its Back

It was one of those mornings, Spring shining through the windows.  The promise of warm breezes and light jackets.  My favorite way to wake up.  Smiling, I lifted myself up.  Wait, no.  Rather than sitting up, I had remained prone.  Okay, I’ll try to push a little harder.  Nope.  That didn’t work.  Time and time again, I tried – and I failed.  You’ve heard of frogs turning into princes.  Well, I guess I had turned into a turtle on its back.

I happen to be married to one of those sweetheart kind of guys.  Knowing that if I quietly called to him, he would wake up and eagerly help me.  I guess I could say he loves his turtle.  Yet, there was no morning urgency to rise.  So, instead of waking him up as I had in similar situations in the past, I decided to let him sleep.  This old turtle could wait out the time with prayer.  Eventually, he stirred and my prince charming turned me into his princess.

The before Rose – the one who existed before a degenerative neuromuscular disease claimed her body – she would not have been given to wait out any situation.  She was always having to do, to go, and to act.  There are many disadvantages to living trapped in a body that doesn’t work very well, but there are some advantages, too.   This morning’s advantage was to let myself be helpless.  Rather than thrashing out against an unmovable force, I chose contentment.

It has not been an easy metamorphosis, and I am not changing from an earthbound, crawling bug into something that can fly in the light.  My conversion is taking away freedom of movement, incremental, almost indiscernable pieces of my life – my physical life.  In its place, I am finding an upside down turtle.  My choices are obvious.  Do I pull myself into my shell and hide away?  Or, do I lie there vulnerable and patient?

Patience and contentment are choices even when my life is not upside down.

 

Standing in Awe

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It all started simply enough.  Jasper wrote a post (An Amazing Choice) about a young man, Marshall, with cerebral palsy.  As typical for him, Jasper piece was insightful and thought-provoking.  At the end of the piece, Jasper offered his readers the opportunity to contribute to his post.

As someone who has made certain discoveries and choices with how to live with a chronic illness, much of what Marshall had to say vibrated within me.  So, I made the following comment:

“Jasper, thank you for sharing this post. Just recently, I have been formulating a concept that there is the Gift of Suffering. In its most basic form, the idea is that our suffering adds to our spiritual maturity. As we continue to add to our faith, we grow in our relationship with Christ. Once we trust God with our lives (and, we, who are disabled, know the meaning of this), we can move forward in our appreciation of God’s plan for us. One gift: tribulation develops patience; and patience, character (maturity). Another gift of suffering: we can then comfort others with the comfort that we received from Christ.”

Having the opinion that there can exist such a thing as a Gift of Suffering does not dimish the hardship that suffering brings with it. Do not misunderstand me, please. suffering is not a preferred way of life, but it can change us into more compassionate, patient, thoughtful, kind, loving, enthusiast, insightful, creative, and respectful people.  There are other ways that these attributes can be added to our lives, but disabilities have a way of hurrying along the process.

Again, do not misunderstand me, please.  I am not saying that if you have a chronic illness, you will automatically join the club of those who have found the secret of being content with their situation.  It is a choice – always and daily.  Jasper made that choice.

In a more recent post, he wrote:

“I was in awe when I realized how my experience and gradual understanding of the suffering surrounding my ABI reflected the comment you made a few months ago. I would reflect on your comment at times and anticipate a blog post in which you had developed your thoughts further. Talk about mutual inspiration and support. . .”

To read more of what Jasper shared, please click on The Gift of Suffering

Life Doesn’t Always Have to Be Good

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How many of us are done?  Done with the demonstrations, the riots, the “Build the Wall” chants, the Islamaphobia, the cry to dismantle elements of our constitution, and done with hatred in general.  I am.  Somehow, everything has been turned upside down.  It seems as if everyone is getting into the fray.  Rather than working towards peace and tolerance, we are witnessing aggression and bigotry.  What happened America?

Somehow, everything has been turned upside down.  It seems as if everyone is getting into the fray.  Rather than working towards peace and tolerance, we are witnessing aggression and bigotry.  What happened America?

What happened to: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Somewhere along the way, a seething, acrid rage began to smolder in our country’s belly.  Hidden behind the smiles and proclamations of acceptance, we ate the poisoned fruit of jealousy and hatred.  Until, finally, with glad relief, we spewed the foul bile from our hearts.  And, what happened then?  Did we look upon our vomit and hastened to sweep it into the trash?  No, instead we declared it good.

“Look!” we cried.  “Finally, my passions of greed, jealousy, lust, pride are unbridled, and I am ecstatic.”

Honestly, how many of us can follow our roots to the indigenous people of this land?  We are an immigrant-founded country.  Yet, we want to close our borders to the “alien,” the “illegal,” and the “refugees.”

We blame others for our failures.  Our appetites are insatiable.  Just like children, we dream of the good life – which has yet to be achieved because it is unachievable.  Our bellies grow as we lust after more.

It is time to grow up, America.  Look in the mirror, and ask yourself In what ways am I responsible for my life?  Am I willing to change?  What can I do be positive?  In what ways do I take offense?  How often does bigotry play a part in my actions and thoughts?

There seems to be a prevailing consensus that life should be good.  Period.  No ups and downs.  No struggles and successes.  No failures.  We want things the way they were – as if our memories are accurate storytellers.

Life doesn’t always have to be good.  In fact, life is pretty darn hard most of the time.  Many of us face financial troubles, relationship dilemmas, or health issues.  Yet, we find ways to cope.  When I look around me, I see potential.  Everyone I encounter has the ability to do good.  No matter what you are experiencing, you have the option to think well of people or to complain and find fault.

Life doesn’t always have to be good for you to be good, to do good, and to think good.

 

Freedom and Bitterness

 

9/22/2016 “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela

via Bitterness — Eyes + Words

 

The above photo and quote are reblogged from the Eyes & Words blog site.

In 1962, Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, was sentenced to life for conspiring to overthrow the state.  Due to international pressure and fear of a racial civil war, he was released after serving 27 years in prison.

 

Even though he had justifiable reasons to be angry and to encourage his supporters to seek retribution, he chose the path less traveled.  His decision to forgive and forge forward is helped him to be a great leader.  We all could stand to learn from his example.

Often, we imprison ourselves by our perceptions, attitudes, and thoughts.  We react to situations rather than respond.  Whatever situation you are facing right now, the choice is yours.

Do you choose bitterness or freedom?

For more of Eyes + Words blog posts, click here

It Is Just Too Much Work

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“It . . .is . . .just . . .too . . .much . . .work.”

Frustration breaks our resolve, and our hearts collapse from the strain.

Chronic illness, which we must eat every day, is a fruit that’s bitter from the first bite.  The monotony of our psychological diet leaves us malnourished as we struggle to find the strength to fight to live a life beyond.

So, at some point, even the brave, whose banner reads “We will find a way to be content,” find themselves prostrate on the ground.  As you lean your ear to their mouth, you will hear them whisper, “It . . .is. . .just . . .too . . .much . . .work.”

Then, slowly, they bend one knee and then the other.  Grasping a handicap bar, they pull themselves up.  Their eyes tell the story: clear and focused on the day and its promise of pain, fatigue, trouble, and frustration.  With the smiles of Mona Lisas, they ask themselves, “Do we cry out to heaven with bitter tears?  Are we defeated?”

“No!”  Birds scatter as the sound carries from sea to shining sea.

The more I read, the more I find a deep resolve in the Chronic Illness Community.  Our struggles cannot be easily understood by those who do not experience the realities of our daily lives.  At times, darkness settles on us, and we do not have the energy to fight.  The length of time it takes for the depression to lift is unknown, unpredictable, and capricious.  We know it will release us, eventually.  However, in those bleak moments, it is just too much work.  We need to remove ourselves from the demands around us.

Nevertheless, the more I read blogs written by people suffering from the wide blanket of chronic illness, the more I am amazed at their spirit.  The heartbreaking and heartwarming stories carry the same underlying theme:  It is just too much work, but I will not give up.

I love this aspect of my community.  For the past six years, I have been determined to live despite my disease.  I want to do all that I can for as long as I can.  Sometimes this means tackling two steps to enter a friend’s house.  Sometimes it means that I spend time with family even though I can hardly stay awake.  Other times, I need to listen to my body and bow out of activities I was looking forward to attending.  In the end, I have articulated my determination into the motto Never Give Up.

Often, I see wheelchair-bound people without any spark in them.  My heart bleeds for them.  Could it be that their resolve has been broken by daily frustrations?   I watch them look at me, then my wheelchair, and then into my eyes.  I smile a little; they smile a little in return.  As we engage in an easy conversation, their words expose their pain.  The mirror reflecting their value is cloudy, and their reflection distorted.  In the midst of despair, they fuss and find reasons not to participate in any activities.  Even though we both hope that the feeling will pass, their eyes reveal their secret.  As they complain to me, they are covertly saying, “I don’t want to do anything.  It’s too much work.”

They’re right.  It is too much work  – but, we will encourage one another to do it anyway.  After all, what are our choices?