Living with MS requires positive attitude

Day by day

Living with MS requires positive attitude
By
LIZ THOMPSON
March 3, 2015

It’s a good thing I didn’t take up dancing for a living.

My daughter has always been good about documenting our family times with videos and beautiful photographs.

Not long ago, she told me she found a video taken of me “dancing” with two of her children — obviously, my grandchildren — when they were very young. They are now 18, 16 and 14. So this was about 15 years ago.

She told me the children realized they didn’t remember ever seeing me without a cane.

“Want to see the video next time you are here?” she asked. “I don’t want to make you feel bad or anything.”

I told her I’d love to see it.

On our next visit, I watched the video and smiled the entire time. I wasn’t really dancing but bouncing to a VeggieTales video with Jacob, then about 3, and Elizabeth, about 2.

That’s when I said, “Good thing I didn’t take up dancing for a living!” while laughing. We all laughed.

In 2000, I was starting a career as a reporter. I didn’t use a cane and didn’t own one. While attending a meeting in downtown Columbus, I fell in a crosswalk on Spring Street. My papers and purse went sliding ahead of me as I lay face down on the street. My first thought was that I was glad I hadn’t worn a skirt that day.

The people were wonderful and helped me stand, gathered my things and a woman with a young daughter walked with me to the sidewalk. These two stayed with me till I caught my breath and took stock of any injuries, which was only a skinned knee. Later I thought about how that woman’s kindness taught her daughter a life lesson in compassion.

Since 1998, I have written this column, the duration of which includes two years in Arizona. I’m typically inspired by life experiences, and this certainly was one to write about. When I wrote about the fall in downtown Columbus, the editor titled it, “The people of Columbus are still picking me up.” Perfect.

And, yes, I bought a cane — a rather funky, handmade cane.

With my day-to-day advocacy for people with any disability, I find a common thread of need that everyone shares, disabled or not: to be treated with respect.

I’m on Social Security disability. Curious, I called the Social Security information number and asked what happens when I’m of retirement age in a few years. “Then we don’t consider you disabled, only aged,” the woman said.

I asked if that meant my multiple sclerosis would be gone then and she laughed. But aged? Wow.

March is MS Awareness Month and I support this awareness together with understanding.

I let people know what I need to safely get from point A to point B without falling: lend me a strong arm or hand up; remove the items from the floor for a clear path; reach that item up high for me; carry my hot drink. These are examples that give others a chance to do something to help, just like the people who helped me in the street when I fell.

But making sure my attitude stays positive makes life more enjoyable. Then hopefully friends and family won’t run the opposite direction when they see me coming their way. Instead, they will smile and ask how I’m doing. MS simply becomes a part of who I am, not the definition of my life.

I have talked with many people also living with MS who really were dancers and physically active in all aspects. Many are parenting young children, which is an active sport in its own right and just as physically challenging as playing some sports. Most have not given up. Instead we adapt.

My first symptoms appeared 45 years ago, but I am grateful I can still move. My middle name became “adapt,” as my MS became more active than me. Some people with MS literally stop moving.

There are more than 400,000 men, women and children in Ohio living with MS.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “More than 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases, and because symptoms can be completely invisible, the prevalence of MS in the U.S. can only be estimated.”

For more information, see nmss.org.

By the way, I still dance but only to slow music when I’m being held in my husband’s arms. No cane.

There are more than 400,000 men, women and children in Ohio living with MS.

 

My grandchildren
My grandchildren

Pantries, other groups help those in need

Day by Day
Pantries, other groups help those in need
Liz Thompson
January 28, 2015
THISWEEKNEWS

Uncertainty can mean not knowing where your next meal will come from.

Annamarie, 23, knew nothing but living on public assistance during her young life. Her mother dropped out of school with two children and later with a third child, opted to stay home to care for them, rather than find work.

“At this point, she stopped relying on family and got help from government assistance,” Annamarie said. “Even though we were poor, she did everything a stay-at-home mom would do and did it well. I never understood and still do not understand the path she took.”

She said her mother never felt adequate enough to have a job other than child care.

Annamarie said these experiences made her stronger and made her realize she wanted to provide for herself without help. She hopes others will try to understand her story, listen to others in similar situations and not punish the children of parents who don’t take the best path in life.

As soon as Annamarie was old enough, she got a job and broke the cycle of living on public assistance. “Luckily, I had help from my grandparents,” she said.

Her mother, now 40, has her first job and also is no longer on public assistance.

Statistics are only good as a marker. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (cnpp. usda.gov), a family of four, with young children, spends an average of $857 to $1,296 a month for groceries. That’s 4,380 meals a year.

Where you live isn’t always a good indicator of need.

The Worthington Resource Pantry, 445 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Building G, served 1,000 unique families in 2014 and 400 volunteers offered 15,000 hours to the pantry last year. It has a small, paid staff and is a walk-in choice pantry. That means no referral is necessary to walk in the door two times a month for assistance and shopping is similar to a grocery store.

Executive Director Jennifer Fralic explained assistance is based on family size and need. One time a year, adults show photo ID, proof of address and have a valid ID for each child. Eligibility is based on the six ZIP codes where students are enrolled in the school district. Last year, 30 percent of these students qualified for free lunches, up from 25 percent the year before.

They offer clients, called “neighbors,” employment, emergency and health-care resources as well as food. They partner with Columbus Diaper Coalition, for obvious needs, and Sedona Grace Foundation for dog food.

“I love Worthington,” Fralic said. “And love taking care of our neighbors so no one goes hungry. We see many who are either underemployed or experiencing health or family issues.”

This pantry is open 10 a.m. to noon Monday and Saturday and 4-6 p.m. Wednesday.

She agreed with Don Swogger, board president of the Grove City Food Pantry, that they are seeing more seniors with children and families combining households. Those who are homeless are given food they don’t have to cook.

“We give the homeless peanut butter, bread and canned goods and can’t give them meat,” Swogger said.

Grove City Food Pantry, 2710 Columbus St., has 100 volunteers, no paid staff and offers food and emergency services. Service is by referral only from Hands On Central Ohio, 195 N. Grant Ave., 614-221-2255.

“Right now this is mandatory and can cause delays,” Swogger said. “One of my goals is to have our own referral system.”

The pantry serves Grove City, Harrisburg and Orient and is open 2-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to noon the last two Saturdays of each month. For a family of four, the average given in goods is $135. Families can go to three different pantries a month.

Five years ago, Grove City Food Pantry served about 180 families and now the number is 270.

“Seeing the gratitude of the people truly in need is the highlight of my work,” Swogger said. “I believe it’s a calling from God, for me.”

In 2005, he almost died from complications of surgery and when he recovered he asked God, “What do you want me to do?”

Churches in both cities take turns offering community meals.

Hunger and need are constants in our society. These are only two pantries in a long list. Many people, like Annamarie and her mother, struggle to rise above poverty.

“There are no easy answers,” Swogger said. “All stories are unique.”

To be certain, we can help ease the uncertainty of those in need.

For more information, search handsoncentralohio.org, contact your city offices or local churches.

Spring rebirth offers ongoing gifts, life lessons

Day by Day
Spring rebirth offers ongoing gifts, life lessons
By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews
Tuesday, January 6, 2015

“Baby, it’s cold outside” is an appropriate phrase, whether sung with the familiar tune or spoken, from December till early spring in Ohio.

By now, and definitely by February, we are ready for sunshine and weather warm enough to step outside wearing only a light jacket. Of course, the joke goes, in central Ohio, if we wait 10 minutes the weather changes.

Squirrel and bird nests, which were once hidden in green foliage of spring and summer, are visible in winter-barren trees,

Nature always has fascinated and soothed me. One poem I wrote years ago called Winter Branches speaks to this topic. In part, it reads:

The branches of the winter tree, wave in the wind, alone and free, reaching up towards the sky, the foreground of sunsets, orange to the eye.

Each tiny branch can be easily seen, for the leaves of cover have fallen and died. The tree seems to have lost any real purpose, naked and cold and seemingly worthless.

But the sap is waiting for the warmth of the sun, to rush through the branches to bring life to what seems done. Then once again all the leaves will grow, and the tree will survive, as it has since long ago.

Regeneration in nature is a true miracle. Springtime teems with new life but in winter, I see hidden hope because I know the sap is running inside the trees and roots underground are waiting to sprout, showing new growth.

Several years ago, we had a sunflower, which we never planted, grow more than 6 feet tall in our garden. Thank you birds.

The next year, we had a long row of sunflowers looking for all their worth like a neatly planted garden of flowers. But we never planted any of them either.
They had multiplied themselves with the help of more of our feathered friends, dropping seed along their flight.

The next two years, not a single sunflower. Then they came back with a mighty force, giving me plenty of cutting to do so we could walk along the sidewalk.

I laughed when I bought a bag of wildflower seeds and saw sunflowers listed. When I planted those in another spot than our volunteer sunflowers, sunflowers did appear with different varieties I’d never seen.

Who knows what we’ll see come spring, but the anticipation is fun.
I was watching an episode of Growing a Greener World (growingagreenerworld.com) on WOSU (Columbus, Ohio) about this topic. A horticulturalist and propagator was showing how to generate new growth by starting new plants from cuttings. She said that plants’ and trees’ only missions are to propagate with a need to duplicate as a matter of survival.

She used the oak tree dropping “buckets full” of acorns to make new trees as an example. Our small but healthy oak tree did that very thing this year for the first time. Thankfully, squirrels collected them for us.

Most years, I save seeds from my zinnias and marigold flowers. The seeds from last year, once blooming, looked different this summer. In addition to growing taller than me, some of the zinnias were multiple colors, with colors, like pink, I’d never seen before. Some had large flowers while others were almost tiny but packed with vibrant color.

Then I learned that when seeds are saved and sown from hybrid plants, the plants grown from those seeds tend to revert to the original plants. A little confusing but the result was remarkable and lovely.

We are already planning our garden for this year. Seed catalogs will soon be here and as the snow blows and wind howls, we will map out what and where to plant. We’ll set up our mini-greenhouse in the basement and start tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It makes the possibility of spring seem closer and expectations an ongoing gift.

The idea of regeneration gives the bleak winter, with hidden treasures waiting for spring sunshine to reveal new growth, more promise. Once the winter season is behind us, we are renewed and ready to get planting.

I think we need times to wait for fresh purpose to stir within us.

The branches of the winter tree set an example for you and me. When all purpose seems to be gone, we can remember the seemingly barren tree.

It knows that soon the spring will come and winter’s cold harshness will be done. We must persist, as the lonely tree, and wait for new life to set us free.Sunflowers

Guitar lessons live via Skype…

Dennis Whitt and I “starred” in our high school musical Showboat in 1969. He as a dashing Gaylord Ravenal and me as an adoring Magnolia Blossom. Go ahead and smile or laugh – I didn’t write the play but the music is spectacular to sing and easy to listen to.

Who would have guessed that 45 years later he would take his love of music and gift of teaching to the Internet?

The Internet was so far away from our thinking 45 years ago, we could not have imagined it: but it’s here now and taking guitar lessons online, face-to-face with your teacher is truly amazing – and I might add, convenient.

If you need to dust off your guitar or have always wanted to learn, at least basics, Dennis is the man to go to. Or maybe your child or grandchild wants to learn. This is a perfect gift any time of year or for any occasion.

Dennis has more than 30 years of guitar teaching experience privately and three years in public schools. He has performed hundreds of shows in nightclubs and restaurants, hotels and motels, private resorts and music festivals. Dennis has also been featured in newspaper articles, on television shows and radio programs.

About this online learning, in Dennis’ words:

“The guitar lessons are live webcam video guitar lessons via Skype. All that is required of the student in terms of technology is a free Skype account, installing the Skype application software, a webcam and either a USB headset or microphone plugged into a sound card.

“I can also chat and do file sharing through Skype such as PDF, Word docs, MP3s and more. Since I have my own Website at: http://www.classicfolkguitarlessons.com/ I can direct my students to specific URLs to view additional content, blog entries and “How To’s.”

“I have an appointment booking service that allows real time scheduling via my online calendar which doubles as a payment processor accepting all major credit cards and PayPal.  I offer a free introductory guitar lesson, followed by rates as follows:

  • $15.00 per 1/2 Hour
  • $20 00 per 45 minutes
  • $25.00 for 1 full hour

“I also offer payable in advance lesson bundles such as four 1/2 hour lessons for $49.95.”

Holidays allow time to reflect, reexamine life

Holidays allow time to reflect, reexamine life
Liz Thompson
This Week News
December 4, 2014

What time is it? Our most natural reaction, when we hear this question, is to glance at our watch or clock.

In 2004, I worked in an elementary school in Arizona where students took turns each morning announcing the date, time, daily lunch menu and special events over the intercom from the principal’s office. One day, when the students looked at the clock on the wall, they couldn’t read the time so the principal told them.

The clock they could not read was analog; the “old fashioned” clock with “hands” most of us older than 30 used learning to read time.

Staff learned of this situation when the principal visited each classroom. When she saw all clocks were digital, analog clocks were ordered for the entire school.

The principal realized it’s a digital age, but she knew the importance of knowing how to read clocks both ways.

We use time to mark most things in our lives. The song, Turn! Turn! Turn! , written by Pete Seeger in the 1950s, during a relatively stable time in our country, was made popular in our more turbulent 1960s when recorded (on vinyl, not digital) by The Byrds. It’s all about the value of time. Based on the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 the lyrics tell us:

“To everything – turn, turn, turn, There is a season – turn, turn, turn, And a time to every purpose under heaven.

A time to be born, a time to die, A time to plant, a time to reap, A time to kill, a time to heal, A time to laugh, a time to weep.

A time to build up, a time to break down, A time to dance, a time to mourn, A time to cast away stones, A time to gather stones together.

A time of love, a time of hate, A time of war, a time of peace, A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose, A time to rend, a time to sew, A time for love, a time for hate, A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late!”

Are you singing or humming along? I listened to it online and sang along, remembering and being amazed Bible verses were made popular in the mainstream music industry.

Last month began what advertisers call the countdown to Christmas, marking shopping days left. I prefer to dwell on the purpose we celebrate on December 25 which leads into the time for celebrating the end and start of another year gone by. Often we take this time to reflect and reexamine our lives, maybe making a resolution to stop something unhealthy and become more healthful-minded. The latter might happen as a result of indulging too much in the good food everywhere we turn, including our own kitchens, especially with the sweets we love during this time.

We might resolve to exercise more, lose that extra weight, volunteer, study harder, spend more time with family or friends and more.

Whatever we resolve, or not, it is a time to start fresh with a new year. We see depictions of Old Man Time with a flowing beard passing the New Year to a baby representing the new months ahead. He ages fast, eh?

When I look back at my 6-plus decades, I wish I had been more present in the moments and not always pushing for the future. I see our grandchildren growing taller, smarter, and more talented than us (thanks be to God), and hope they will learn from our experiences and be more aware of the everyday blessings surrounding them.

My 92-year old mother has the right idea. She says this year she is reversing her age making her a mere 29. She said she can do this every decade for the first four years meaning I’m only 36 this year. Ah, to have this experience and a more youthful physique. How often have you heard or said, “If I knew then what I know now…”

My wise mother comes in again to tell me that as we age we have more time to reflect yet time seems to move much faster. “When we’re young, we are raising families and working just trying to get it all done each day before collapsing into slumber (unless we have a sleepless baby).”

Whether you read digital or analog clocks matters not. It’s how you spend the time that counts.

 

 

Thanksgiving reminds us to let go, forgive

Day by day
Thanksgiving reminds us to let go, forgive
By LIZ THOMPSON
November 4, 2014
ThisWeekNews.com

When we think of slow baking, we might get our Crock-Pot ready for the sweet smells of cooking low and slow. The fragrance of soup, meats and even desserts will fill our home, if we are fortunate enough to have the pot and ingredients.

With Thanksgiving happening this month, we are thinking of what to cook and who to cook for. Many will give of themselves to serve meals at shelters or churches; giving back to their community for those less fortunate. God bless them all with clean motives of love abounding.

The word forbearance was used in my daily devotion recently and I checked the dictionary to make sure I had the right definition. Basically, it is a byproduct of love and means to have patience when provoked; being willing to put up with people’s actions and inactions — to let things go and to forgive.

No one says it’s easy but it is possible.

In the book Lee: The Last Years, by Charles Bracelen Flood, a story about Robert E. Lee illustrates my thoughts. After the end of the Civil War, Lee visited a woman in Kentucky who showed him the remains of what was once a grand, old tree. It had been destroyed by federal artillery fire.

Crying, the woman looked for Lee to condemn the Northerners or sympathize with her loss. His response: “Cut it down, dear Madam, and forget it.”

When I asked my friend Suzanne if she thought writing about forbearance while thinking of giving thanks this month, in particular, made sense, she didn’t hesitate. “Being able to forgive is one of the best gifts God has given us,” she said. “So yes, we need to be thankful about all things, including our learning to let things go.”

Lack of communication or poor communication can break down even the smallest family or corporation. Add to that a lack of patience and walls go up that create divisions that are hard to break down or through. Offenses are exaggerated to the point where we might even forget how it all began.

“A (fly’s) egg becomes as huge as ever was laid by an ostrich,” Charles Spurgeon said about offenses magnified out of proportion.

I’ve been there, done that — seen that. It takes someone saying something to break through that wall of conflict and wave a white flag; call it quits and start again.

On the lighter side, Erma Bombeck wrote with humor on living, through her years. Near the end of her life, she was asked what she would do differently if she had a chance to live her life again. Many famous quotes came from her answers: burning that fancy pink candle instead of letting it collect dust, not worrying about grass stains and playing with her children more, but the following quote relates to my writing today:

“There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”

We need to decide whether to let our annoyances slow bake or let them go. It’s hard to be thankful when our hearts and minds are busy being angry. And you might already know it takes more muscles to frown than to smile; not just the baring teeth smile but the true smile that reaches the eyes.

Smiling is only an indication of being open to forgiving, forgetting (at least not bringing up old hurts repeatedly) and being willing to “cut it down.”
This month, we think more about what we are thankful for because of the national holiday. It’s a good reminder to be thankful year-round.

I look at the birds at our feeder and realize how hard they must work for daily food and I become more thankful.

Physical things such as food, clothing and shelter are temporary and shifting.
The long-term, year-round list for me includes family, friends, memories, and acts of love and forgiveness I have experienced in my life. There isn’t paper enough to write it all down.

Jan Karon wrote in Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness.” Sounds right to me.

But check that Crock-Pot to make sure your food doesn’t burn. You likely have hungry people to feed.

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