What Three Years Can Do

My last blog post for Just Visiting was October 2013.

Since then I have been employed in a position that I enjoy, but is often as frustrating as it is challenging, and have developed some health and wellness problems which has resulted in re-examining how I treat myself and interact with the world around me.

I have some issues which I consider “minor,” –high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, and depression. By minor, I mean they have the potential for becoming dire and serious, but if I watch myself, they are controllable.

For me, the biggest and most life-impacting diagnosis I received last summer is that I have osteoarthritis in my right hip (and I suspect I’m developing it in my left hip as well). Every person’s hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint cushioned by cartilage. Essentially, I have no more cartilage in my hip where the ball rotates in the socket; I have bone grinding on bone.

It’s no fun, of course, but a cortisone injection makes it bearable. Ultimately, the joint needs repairing, but I neither have $6500 (my medical deductible per year), nor do I have six weeks to spare as recovery time. But life must go on, eh?

Enter “Life and the Art of Accessibility.”

As many people know, I love my road trips (and my photography). I can still drive but exploring new places once at the destination is now challenging. I cannot walk distances like I used to. I use a cane for stability for short distances, but exploration is bigger than that.

For the longest time, I resisted the very idea of using a wheelchair for assistance.

It felt like capitulation.

What changed my mind was going with Misha to VisionCon in Branson, Missouri. VisionCon recently changed its venue to the Branson Convention Center which adjoins a Hilton Hotel. We borrowed a wheelchair from the Hilton concierge, and I had a fabulous time! I discovered wheeling myself around was fun, kept me mobile, kept me busy, and gave me a workout that is helping my upper body and getting my heart rate moving. It makes a mess of my steps numbers in my Fitbit Flex, but life isn’t perfect, is it?

Since then, we purchased a used wheelchair which I keep in my car. I can pull it out and go wheeling for exercise in the morning if my joints hurt too much to walk at the Grand Basin.

I can take it out and go shopping (wicked evil grin).

Best of all, I can go places and shoot photos again.

Now, however, I have to make use of ramps and power doors and pavement. I have become aware of inclines and downhills. Can I negotiate the gift shop? – or am I going to trash half of the displays along the way?

Oh brave new world!

And with it will come reviews of places — some ordinary, some not-so-ordinary — from an accessibility point of view. It will be truthful, and so it might be biting, but the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, and independent access to places should, by now, be less the exception than the rule, especially to places such as museums and botanical gardens.

So while the accessibility aspect of the review may not impact you now, it might at some future time, or it might be important for someone else in your life, as parents and grandparents age.

Who knows. Let’s just go!

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

IMG_0911

There are a couple of things you need to know about me: I am not a political animal and I do not watch television.

I watch streaming, via Netflix or Amazon, but I do not watch broadcast television or cable TV. I’m usually a season or more behind in even knowing what’s out there.

Currently, I’m watching Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” which is copyright 1990.

On November 19th, 2013  — just next month — it will have been 150 years since the national cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated. 150 years since Abraham Lincoln gave us a two-minute address that continues to be relevant today.

In July, I visited Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, which is on grounds managed by the National Park Service. It’s strange visiting a place like that, knowing what would happen in the Lincolns’ future — that he would be elected President, that one of their sons would die in Washington, that the President himself would be assassinated there and never return to the only house he ever owned….

And behind all of that is the huge and bloody stage of the American Civil War.

In 1959, the last Civil War veteran died, and with him, I think, went our last connection to the domestic war that slaughtered 600,000 men– some of whom had gone to school together, or were relatives of each other. Without a Civil War veteran to remind us of the high price we paid for a continued union of States, we have fallen back to the shrill rhetoric and dearth of compromise that led up to secession and war. These days I see, and I hear, the similar passion and fervor that led this nation down that path.

We are a nation of related strangers. Our forefathers all came to this country from somewhere. This is what makes us fabulous.

My adopted grandfather’s family can be traced back to the 1700’s in what is now Germany; they fought in the Revolutionary War, and they fought in the Civil War (Pickett’s Charge, to be exact). What makes this nation work is its design — the three branches of government, and the checks and balances it’s supposed to have. Has the design evolved over the years? Of course it has. Is it perfect? Oh hell no.

But it is the best we have.

We still have the right to vote (yeah, let’s not get into that whole Electoral College thing right now); we can still call or write to our elected officials (yeah, let’s not get into that whole are-they-gonna-bother-to-listen-to-me thing right now).

We can still participate in the system; we can still influence and change the system, if we choose to, and even in choosing not to influence and participate, we have the freedom of choosing.

That’s pretty crazy cool, I think.

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Unglamorous Office Assistant

invoices

I’ve been looking for a new office position since mid-July. I’ve sent letters and resumes, I’m registered at three temp services. I can code and data-enter two hundred electric invoices in a week, and can knock out a stack of water invoices (like above, a hundred of them) in three days. That includes scanning to attachment to make the accountants happy.

My old boss Kari, whom I followed to two jobs, would tell you that I’m ridiculously punctual and reliable, and that she never had to worry about me working unsupervised. I can think on my feet, and the success of my employer is my top priority.

So why aren’t I working?

I’ve been reading a lot of LinkedIn articles and letters, and I’ve come to one conclusion: I’m not glamorous enough.

My resume is filled with practical, but decidedly non-exciting, skills.

Yes, I can mail merge. I can create mailing lists. I present a professional appearance and demeanor. Of course I type. I file correctly (Far, Fat, Few, Fuse), I answer the phone using correct spoken English and syntax. I take messages with the caller’s name, phone number, time of call, and message — and I try to glean more information so that the message recipient has more to work on than, “Ms So-and-So wants you to call her back.” I compose letters using a bare minimum of information from my boss, again utilizing correct grammar and spelling.

How long have I been using MS Word? I have no idea. I’m sure there was a time when I didn’t, but I was typing on a Selectric then. Yes, I can create newsletters using Publisher, but for a real challenge, try it in Word (which I did when creating marketing material in real estate). I have legible handwriting, and I know how to minimize risk to my employer. I can document incident reports, when necessary, precisely and succinctly. I have grown a receptionist position into an administrative assistant position by taking on more responsibility and freeing my director for other things.

But I do not have the great, huge, billboard-inspiring accomplishments like “Overhauled entire filing system while verifying employment and income for 100 waiting list applicants and catering a dance recital for 60 coworkers’ children.” Not having the great, huge, billboard-inspiring accomplishments just means that to me, there are more important things to do than quantify every thing I do for my employer so that my resume looks more impressive next time. I like being support personnel, I don’t want there to be a next time.

Let me be the support person you hired me to be.

(Resume available upon request.)

Back to Basics

100_1961-1

“Basic” can be defined as “forming an essential foundation or starting point….”

I spent yesterday and part of today reworking my resume for a staffing service, and I was hung up on how they wanted me to fill out the “Career Profile.”

In six brief bullet points, they wanted me to say what I do, not who I am.

I found it difficult because I discovered that I am adjectives, I am -able words: Dependable, reliable, capable.

Is that really what I am? Adjectives?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Visiting: St. Louis Gateway Arch

GatewayArch

archcollage1968

Yesterday, I spent ninety minutes on the phone catching up with an old high school friend. He’s traveled to every continent on this planet except Antarctica, and will likely do that at some point, I’m sure. He links to travel blogs and challenged me to take a shot of the Arch  that hadn’t been done before.

Since “Just Visiting” is getting back on track as an actual road-trip blog, it’s only fitting and I accepted.

Now, I have pictures that my dad took of me at the Arch in 1968, when it had barely been open a year. I was about five. When I moved to St. Louis in 1988 or 1989, I didn’t drive and didn’t know anyone with a car. I got to know the Arch grounds and the surrounding downtown neighborhood  intimately. I’ve walked it. I’ve explored it. I’ve gotten drunk on the Landing and played slots when the Admiral was a casino.

I am here to tell you that I don’t believe there is a shot of the Arch that hasn’t been taken before. Just Google-image-search “St. Louis Gateway Arch.” Your return will get a gazillion images, including the architect’s drawings and crayon drawings. Do the same search on Flickr, and you’ll find more.

Also, there is a dearth of public observation decks in this town, unless you’re connected or can rent a riverfront hotel room for a couple of hours. In going through older photos I’ve taken of the Arch, I noticed that our urban planners didn’t give us any lovely, unobstructed views of the national monument, thereby ratcheting the need for creative camera angles even higher. (In St. Louis, “planners” is a very loosely defined word.)

But it’s all good.

You learn to work with it.

The thing about the Arch is that, obstructed or unobstructed, morning or night, winter or summer, it’s a gorgeous piece of engineering.

Its stainless steel exterior plays with light – no two mornings are ever alike, nor evenings, because of the changing nature of sunrises and sunsets. I’ve seen foggy mornings where half of the structure is lost in mist, and at 630 feet tall, that’s pretty impressive. If you watch sporting events originating from St. Louis, like baseball or football, you’ve likely seen local “beauty shots” incorporating it. Standing beneath it and staring straight up to its apex can almost as exhilarating as riding up the capsule-like elevator to the top, and feeling the whole structure sway slightly in the wind as you look out of the windows at the top.

It’s perfectly safe, though, and the view is spectacular. Don’t forget to ask the docent how they change the red airplane warning light outside on top!

For more information about the Arch, hours, admission charge to the top, link here.  The Arch, its grounds, and the Jefferson Expansion Memorial (which includes the History Museum in Forest Park), are administered and curated by the National Park Service.

(All photos by me, except the Feb 15 1968 set, which were taken by my dad.)

Wishing Upon A Star

IMG_9695A

Today’s is the last motivational/inspirational photo I’ll be posting here.

I’ve opened a storefront on Fiverr.com, wherein I will send daily photos to your inbox for $5 for 7days (that’s only 71cents a day!!).

You’ve seen the quality of my images; if you’ve enjoyed them, I ask for your support by subscribing or gifting a subscription to someone.

I’m not collecting email addresses, I’m not going to spam you, everything is handled through Fiverr.com whose site takes credit cards and PayPal.

For those choose not to subscribe, thank you for allowing me to share my images with you these last few weeks!

I’ve created a new blog around the corner to introduce the Fiverr storefront and show samples of the work.