More than Silver Sneakers

Last week, I wrote about speaking to business leaders in Columbus about the YMCA, but I have a lot more to say about the Y. If you’re like me, when you think of the Y, you think of the pool, basketball courts, racket ball, yoga, Zoomba, pre-school tumbling, weight machines, and a walking track. But there’s so much more that we, the affluent middle class never have had to think about.

As I watched the video and listened to the accompanying speakers, I learned that the Y extends its services way beyond the the traditional activities.

For instance, a young black man spoke eloquently about his activities as a Y volunteer. He goes to playgrounds at recess times and engages the kids in constructive and organized games. Too often, these kids, without complete supervision, can get into trouble, such as fighting or throwing rocks at passing cars. This young man has a technique for getting their attention and diverting it to more acceptable behavior. Instead of yelling at them to stop whatever misbehavior they are engaged in, he holds out his hands and beckons them to come and “have a conversation” with them. As he explained to us, having a conversation is much more effective.

Another story was about a young woman whose home life was a struggle every day. With no husband to help with the young children, little money, and a low-paying job, coordinating her mornings and evenings with job and school schedules was a challenge, and the Y was there to help. Her children went to the Y in the morning as their mother left on the bus to work, and stayed their until their own bus to school arrived. And in the afternoons, they went to the Y until their mother came to collect them. These kids were not left at home by themselves to get into trouble or fall prey to other kids in the neighborhood or worse. In fact, in some cases, volunteers escorted the kids to their homes in dangerous neighborhoods. We who live behind our white picket fences with two cars in the driveway rarely see or understand these situations, but the Y is very much aware and has a corps of volunteers to insure the safety and wellbeing of all our children.

I spoke as a member of the Silver Sneakers set, who have the opportunity to recover from surgeries or debilitating conditions, to keep fit and healthy, or just have something to do in what could be an empty life after retirement. The name, YMCA encompasses much more than I ever knew. I rarely get sucked into a fund-raiser event by writing a check on the spot, but this time I did. The Y is good to me, and while my check isn’t very big, it’s one way I can say thank-you.

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Breakfast with 200 of my Closest Friends at the Y

mary4Last year about this time, I was asked to speak at a fund-raiser kickoff breakfast for the Gahanna Y. I had a wonderful time using my Toastmasters skills and entertaining my audience with silly jokes like, “I must be the poster child for Silver Sneakers.” My audience members were big wigs at the Y and the community business leaders of Gahanna, people who could be inspired to donate big bucks for the Y. They must have enjoyed it, because I was invited this year to speak to even bigger wigs and business leaders from all over Columbus. About 200 people were gathered at an exclusive restaurant for the gourmet breakfast and the hour-long presentation. Featured were several speakers and a video that was broken into clips to show what the next speaker would be promoting. Now you’ve probably guessed that I was in the video and that I got to speak about my experience at the Y as part of their “Diversability” program. BTW, as coined words go, this one is a whole lot better than some others I’ve heard. Anyway, it was really fun to be part of a well-produced video, part of which I shall present to you. After my part of the video was shown, I gave a brief overview of the events leading up to my becoming a huge fan of the Gahanna Y.

I used to never consider myself an athlete, but after I became involved with Ski for Light and learned to ski at the age of 41, I found myself joining my cross country ski friends in other athletic endeavors, such as tandem cycling for long distances, taking longer walks, hiking, and even running. As I told my audience today, one of the highlights of my life was running in The Race for the Cure with my daughter on her 26th birthday. I told them about my friends at church who graciously offered to take me to the Y and help me with the weight machines. It was amazing to me how much I enjoyed working out. In fact, I came to the discovery that OMG, I was becoming a gym rat. And I finished up by telling them how much I enjoyed the pool, although I did admit that the hot tub was my “favorite exercise machine.” I told them how Dora watches my every move from the sidelines while I’m in the pool and how she knows my routine well. I don’t even have to give her the commands to the next place to go.She knows that after swimming, we head directly to the hot tub. I complimented the staff, especially the gals at the front desk who make me feel like a “rock star” each time I come in, and at the end of my session, as I wait for my ride with The Red Cross, I am usually handed a cup of coffee fixed just the way I like it.. Everybody is always very nice, not only to me but to each other. We all know that it’s important to improve our lives, and we all know that the best place to do it is at the Gahanna Y.

Enjoy the video.

 

First 250 words of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living, a Daughter’s Memoir”

Prologue

When the phone rang at 4:00 on that Friday afternoon, I thought, “What now? What else could go wrong?” I had come home to make dinner, after five days of unpacking box after box of too much stuff and too many things that my mother insisted on bringing. Kara was still at the assisted living home, helping her grandmother get settled. I thought she was going to tell me that she had done all she could do, and was at the end of her rope. But what I heard in the background was the reason for the call.

My daughter’s voice was tinged with weariness and cautious hope. “Listen to this, Mom,” she said. Someone was playing the piano. I recognized her style immediately. It was my mother, playing “Stardust,” my father’s favorite. This was my mother, playing the piano, as in happier times.

We didn’t speak for a full minute, as we listened and choked back tears. After losing the battle for her independence, after having her life turned inside out, after being forced to face institutional living, Mom finally relaxed and found what would soothe her sense of loss, her music. Several other residents stopped in to ask who was playing the piano so beautifully, and my mom was finally in her element. The new girl in town was making music for her neighbors.

As I heard the familiar melodies, “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In the Garden,“ “Sentimental Journey,“ I pictured those ninety-six-year-old arthritic hands, finding their way through the chords with the same precision and ease as of the past 80 years.

To read the whole story, you’ll need to buy the book at

dldbooks.com/maryhiland/

Half Price Sale at Smashwords

Who knew that the hardest part of publishing a book was not writing it but selling it? I didn’t. But I’m learning. At first, it was fun, doing book-signings, making a youtube video, and telling you about it here. Now that the flurry of activity is slowing, I’m settling down to more tedious but none-the-less important means of getting the word out about my book, “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living,” a daughter’s Memoire.”

If you haven’t bought it yet, because you’re waiting for it to show up at your local library, or you’re waiting for your sister-in-law to let you borrow it, here’s some good news for you.

You can buy my book in ebook form for half price, this week only. Considering that these ebooks are very inexpensive in the first place, you can buy it for practically nothing, since I’ve cut the price in half, this week only. The sale ends at midnight on Saturday, March 10.

Go to

dldbooks.com/maryhiland/

to get the book for 50% off!

In case you’ve missed my other posts about the book, here’s a 35-word synopsis.

Moving Mom into assisted living is often traumatic. When the only adult child is blind and has the full responsibility, the story is intriguing, informative, and relevant to anyone with aging parents..

If you’ve already bought my book, thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Now please tell your sister-in-law about this sale.

Oops. Forgot to Describe

Remember when I posted “Political Savvy on January 7th about how my granddaughter Mika won honorable mention in a political cartoon contest? Well, a friend pointed out to me that I had made a serious faux pas. “You of all people…,” she said. She was right. For my sighted friends, it was no big deal. You all could just go to the link and see how wonderful it was. For my blind friends, however, I left you in the dark, pun intended. Here’s what you see when you look at this picture carefully, as described to me by my daughter.

A young woman, maybe in her 20’s, with dark curly hair, sits in a pink and red wheelchair. She’s wearing green pants and a mustard yellow shirt. The expression on her face is one of frustration and annoyance. The reason for her annoyance is that she is sitting in front of a store, which has no sidewalk across the grass to a steep flight of steps leading up to the purple front door. The steps are painted royal blue, and the letters of a sign on the brick wall are also painted the same shade of blue. One sign on the door says “OPEN,” and another sign says “CAUTION STEEP STAIRS.” and the sign on the wall says “HELP WANTED.” Now that might be enough for you to get it, why she is frustrated, but Mika made the message crystal clear, as she printed the following words on various bricks on the wall.

Unemployment, Discrimination, Bullying, Medicaid cuts, Misrepresentation, Harassment, Stigma, Abuse, Indifference, Poverty, Hate Crimes, Pre-existing conditions,

In the bubble over her head, it says “Never the less, she persisted.”

I’m sorry I forgot to describe it the first time. And I “of all people” should know better. But I was so eager to send up that post that I was like the sign saying “Steep stairs.” If you can’t get to the steps or up the steps to apply for the job, what good is it? Please forgive a proud grandma, just too excited about the achievements of her talented and politically aware granddaughter.

Christmas Afterglow

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The decorations have been stowed away, back in the garage; the receipts have been shredded since no returns were required; the house has been cleaned, and the new sweaters and toys have found their new homes in closets and drawers. But one present will remain in full view for me to show off for many years to come.

Each of my 5 granddaughters has her unique talents and charms, but today, I want to show you the gem that Mika, the artist, has created. A year ago, a few weeks before Christmas, I sent Mika a bunch of darling photos of Dora, Dora sleeping, Dora working, Dora catching a ball in midair, Dora with her littermates…. You get the idea. I had bought a tray at a garage sale that had a glass bottom, under which you could slide a favorite picture. Because my family room is all about dogs, with pictures, figurines, statues, throws, pillows, and everything dogs, what I really wanted was a collage of photos of my Seeing Eye ® dogs. My first 3 dogs, Mindy, Sherry, and Pippen lived here before the popularity of iphone cameras invaded my life; so sadly, there aren’t many photos of these precious dogs. But photos of Dora are on multiple cameras, so she would play the leading role in this collage. In fact, it would be all about Dora. Now I could have taken these photos to some professional who would charge a fortune, but instead I sent them away to my favorite artist. I suggested in my not-so-subtle way that this would make a wonderful Christmas present. But nothing happened. I received other presents, all very nice, but no collage. And soon I forgot about the whole idea, except, that is, whenever I came across that tray with no photo in it. Oh well. I guessed it was too time consuming, and I shouldn’t have been so bold as to suggest my own present.

But surprise! surprise! When I opened my present from Mika this Christmas, there was the collage. I was much more thrilled than if I had received it last year, because it was truly a surprise. Later, when all the flurry of Christmas was over, my friend Dan took the time to describe what Mika had done to enhance the effect. Some of the photos were trimmed and placed over the top of others, giving a multi-dimentional effect. In one picture, Mika made it look like Dora is petting the top of my head. It is truly a work of art. I don’t know if you can see such detail, but I thought I’d send it out anyway, because maybe you’ll never get to come to my family room and enjoy it in person. If it doesn’t show up in the post that is delivered directly to your inbox, come back to my website, and take a look. Isn’t it adorable?

Anniversary of the Blizzard of ’78

Kara was 5, and Steve was 8 and it was almost comical to watch them as they trudged to school, struggling up and over the mountains of snow that the snowplows left. Yes, they will have stories to tell their children about having to walk to school after “The Blizzard of ’78. But before they could return to school, we endured days of being trapped in the house where boredom and baking, along with endless TV cartoons were getting on everyone’s last nerve. When the streetes looked fairly passable, we bundled up, piled into the car, and my husband Mike drove us a couple of miles over to the home of a friend of mine, Nikki. She and I were in a volunteer singing and dancing group called The Entertainers. Their home was large and spacious, compared to ours. She had a wonderful playroom in the basement, where the kids could run and shout, jump, and twirl around, until they wore themselves out. After they settled down to a game of Candy Land, Nikki and I took over the play room to practice a dance we were choreographing for our next performance. We danced, laughed, twirled around and wore ourselves out. I have no memory of what the husbands did with their time, but an educated guess would be that they found a football game and a couple of beers to keep them occupied. That afternoon was the highlight of the blizzard for me, an afternoon of fun and friendship, release of pent up energy, and a change of scenery. Years later, I would discover the joys of being outside in the snow with a pair of cross country skis on my feet, but that was a whole different chapter in my life.

This morning, when I stepped out the back door to take Dora out for her morning piddle, I was shocked to feel the snow come up to the top of my boots. I had been warned the night before by a crystalline frosting over everything and a vicious wind, but this deep snow was beyond my expectation. I allowed Dora to pull me out just a few feet from the door, because I couldn’t even tell when we had stepped off the patio. For the next hour, I pondered about how I was going to deal with the next trip out, when it would be necessary to not only trudge through ankle deep snow but also to find and pick up what Dora would drop for me. Then I prayed. “Lord, Help me figure this out,”. then I heard that glorious sound of my next door neighbor’s shovel, as he cleared my front walk and my driveway. I used to take pride in shoveling myself, but even when I didn’t have a bad back, this deep and heavy snow would have been a challenge. I tried to open the front door to thank Ron once again, but I could only get it open a crack, as it was frozen shut. Then I swallowed my pride and accepted his offer to shovel my patio as well. He must have seen me doing it myself before, and he must have noticed the patch of grass that my friend Dan had shoveled the last time. But I was so grateful that he offered, so I didn’t have to ask. I thought I should do it myself. After all, he had already done so much. But considering my age and that I am to have back surgery soon, I felt that once again, my prayer had been answered. Not all of my prayers are answered, but this one will do for today. And BTW, after Dora had done her duty, I unhooked her leash and let her romp in the snow to her heart’s delight, a girl after my own heart.