‘Unplugged’ vacation recalls carefree youth

Day by Day

‘Unplugged’ vacation recalls carefree youth

By LIZ THOMPSON
This Week News
June 28, 2016

I’m glad I was born in the early 1950s.

I didn’t appreciate it then, but times were much simpler than today. Choices were fewer, true, but I never felt deprived.

The doors to our home were never locked; we played outside till after dark — barefoot in the summer. Our parents never worried and since everyone knew us, we couldn’t get into mischief without being caught in the act. We were too busy having fun to think about messing around.

Our social “media” consisted of extended family and friends from school, Scouts and church.

Speaking of church, its doors were never locked, either.

When we camped in the Smokies this past May, we watched children play with abandon — running up and down the hillsides laughing and chattering and helping the younger ones up and down the steep hills.

All the while, they were talking to each other face to face, hugging playfully with arms flung around the shoulders of siblings and friends. As I listened to the chatter, I realized I couldn’t understand a single word spoken in rapid fire. I asked several other adults if they could understand and they all smiled and said, “No, not a word. But they seem to understand each other!”

I was walking our dog and a young girl said to me, “I’m looking for my brother. He’s 4 and riding a (indiscernible) bike.”

“He went that way,” I said, pointing.

I knew this because the whole crew of children had gone by our campsite many times.

I saw the girl again and asked if she found her brother.

“Yes. He was already back at the campsite.”

Another young girl rode by on her small, pink bike numerous times, always singing at the top of her lungs with a smile.

No worries. Fresh air. Freedom. And no distractions. In today’s vernacular, unplugged. No Wi-Fi (oh horrors!), so no Internet or cellphones that worked. The campground had a pay phone if you want to call someone and that worked just fine for me.

It was about 10 years ago when the first smartphone came on the market. Before that, cellphones made calls and texting was cumbersome, using a keypad like a regular telephone, so I didn’t text. I still only do it as a means to get a quick message to someone.

The first pay telephone was installed in 1889 in Hartford, Connecticut. By 1891, there were more than 2 million pay phones in America, according to Smithsonian.com. By some estimates, there are now fewer than 300,000 pay phones in America (one in the Smokies!)

But being unplugged is refreshing. When someone walks by the campsite, they are talking to the person next to them, not into a phone. People actually wave and smile, just like when I was growing up, and people walked for the simple joy of it or to actually get somewhere without a car.

I got a sense of how adults might have felt raising children in simpler times in small-town Westerville, which was a village when I was born. Or in the thousands of small towns across America. A campground can mimic a small town, albeit for a short time. Campers come and go continually, unlike the days decades ago when families stayed put for generations.

We saw several retro campers — Scotties and Shastas, mostly. One was aqua and white pulled by a 1956 Chevrolet Cabriolet (I only know this because my husband told me) painted to match. The inside was decorated like a diner with a mini jukebox.

For days, people walked by it taking photos and talking to the owners. The man said his father used to take him camping in the Smokies in a camper like that, and he wanted to recapture those good times.

Retro trailers, and days of old, for that matter, don’t have all the bells and whistles the new trailers and our current society have. But something about this era charms us.

I think it’s possible to keep a lot of what we loved about the simpler times by remembering that talking with someone is more interesting than staring at a phone screen and that looking at the trees and enjoying the breeze can bring more peace than hundreds of texts.

And taking a walk and waving to our neighbors can hold the same allure as it did when we baby boomers were young.

Anniversaries provide reason to reflect on past

Anniversaries provide reason to reflect on past

Day by Day
by Liz Thompson
This Week News
June 2, 2016

When I walk through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze…

This verse in the hymn, How Great Thou Art always makes me emotional.

We camped in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last month and we experienced all these words imply first hand.

This might not have been possible if a few determined people hadn’t gone many extra miles to make national parks part of our lives. What began in the 1850’s, became official 100 years ago this year. It wasn’t all pretty and it wasn’t all easy.

Some of the saddest pages in our nation’s history include when Native Americans, who had lived on these lands for generations, were driven off the lands. When our government finally had the opportunity to make National Parks in Alaska, they had a chance to “do it right.” The natives continued to be part of the culture, not excluded from it.

But we can focus on the end result of what these determined people did for our nation. First and foremost, to preserve the natural wonders– flora and fauna in all its purest form. And later, the wonders like Mount Rushmore and other monuments to people and historical events.

All this happened when communication was very basic – written letters and telephone. Transportation was by train and car – and many people did not own cars. If you wanted to travel from the East Coast out to California, it wasn’t easy going. I’m not even sure the condition of the roads.

Most of us can’t think back 100 years or even imagine what life might have been like. But preserving our history is important so we can learn from it and hopefully not make some of the same mistakes.

Preserving history also is celebratory.

Recently, my Mother came upon her mother’s wedding gown she had stored in her home. Another 100 year marker. The satin of the gown is in mint condition with only the delicate bodice and sleeves having become more fragile.

In my quest to find a home for this gown with a historical society, I wanted to get a copy of the February 27, 1916 Columbus Dispatch. The front page of the Society Section had a story about my grandparent’s wedding with a photo of the bride, her six bridesmaids and two flower girls.

My grandparents were married in a downtown Columbus church. 1,500 people attended and the reception at my great-grandparent’s home at 368 E. Broad greeted more than 300. The church still stands but not the large home.

I was amazed the paper copy my mother had of the story was still intact and, for the most part, we could see the photo and read the article. Personally, I’m glad I didn’t have 1,500 people at my wedding. My Mother and I were trying to imagine addressing invitations or writing thank you notes to all those people.

I learned the Dispatch only keeps papers in storage back to 1980. They suggested contacting the library, which I did.

Julie Callahan, of Reynoldsburg, Librarian in the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Columbus Metropolitan Library gave me the good news.

“We have every copy of the Columbus Dispatch since it began.”

I told her of the paper copy my mother had and that I wondered how it survived 100 years. Julie explained that paper in the 1800’s was fiber and lasted much longer. So the newspaper in 1916 was still a much higher quality paper than is used today.

Now I’ll have my copy to go with the dress once I find it a permanent home. No gown 100 years old should be hidden in storage.

Time does march on, but when I see my grandmother’s wedding gown I can’t help but wonder what was going through her mind as she placed the gown over her head and walked down the aisle. What gems did I miss in the 30-plus years I knew her?

She was starting married life the same year that the National Parks began.

I know she could play “How Great Thou Art” on the piano beautifully.

So while I walk through the woods, I can see the connection to the beauty in more ways than one.

For more information, go to: pbs.org/nationalparks

Sounds of spring often go unheard

Day by day

Sounds of spring often go unheard

LIZ THOMPSON
May 3, 2016

This Week Newspapers

Spring is in full swing and along with it comes birdsong, children’s laughter, wind chimes gently clanging in the breeze, rain splattering on the roof and windows, thunderstorms and — on the warm days — quiet conversations on decks, porches, patios and in campgrounds and parks.

All this delicious activity we wait for all winter long. But for about 20 percent of Americans — 48 million people — with some degree of hearing loss, these springtime gifts are diminished.

These millions can see the birds, but can’t hear the songs.

They see the children laughing.

These millions can see the wind chimes moving in the wind, but the melodious sounds elude them.

The lightning of a storm is present for these many, but the thunder might only be felt, not heard.

They see the rain hitting the windowpanes, but no pitter-patter sound meets their ears.

But most disheartening of all is the inability to carry on a conversation. Words are muddled or lost, and the meaning of a conversation is beyond their comprehension.

They sit feeling the warmth of the sun and watch the words being spoken; the jokes they won’t get or be able to repeat.

These same people use what they can to make sense of the noisy world we live in through touch, vision, taste and smell.

Many simply withdraw. It’s tiring trying to understand.

Even the best lip reader will grasp only a small percentage of a conversation.

I’m one of the millions with hearing loss.

At 39, I got my long-overdue first hearing aid and heard bacon sizzling for the first time in years. I was terrified during a spring storm. But my loving husband took me outside and explained the noises that had been lost for so many years, and my fear subsided.

The world of sound was partially back, but not for long. By 50, I was deaf, but with the miracle of a cochlear implant, hearing was restored with a clarity I might never have had in my entire life with hearing loss.

I had said, “Huh?” so often in my life that I had to unlearn using it.

But I’m still deaf when the batteries die.

For those who understood words prior to hearing loss and can no longer understand the world around them, it’s lonely. The noise of this world is creating more people who have hearing loss every day.

Causes include excessive noise, medications, heredity, viruses, disease, ear malformations, tumors, head trauma and aging.

Noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels.

Some common sounds and their noise levels are: 20 dB, rustling leaves; 60 dB, normal conversations or dishwashers; 60-70 dB, normal piano practice; 80 dB, alarm clocks; 90 dB, hair dryers, blenders and lawnmowers; 100 dB, MP3 players at full volume; 110 dB, concerts (any music genre), car racing and sporting events; 130 dB, ambulances and fire-engine sirens; 140 dB, gunshots, fireworks and custom car stereos at full volume.

It is worth the time to find ear protection. Even musicians who mostly make beautiful sounds can use special ear protection to keep performing and enjoying music for years to come.

The noise is too loud when: you have to raise your voice to be understood by someone standing nearby; the noise hurts your ears; you develop a buzzing or ringing sound in your ears; or you don’t hear as well as you normally do until several hours after you get away from the noise.

Excessive exposure to loud noise also can cause stress, illness, sleep disruption and high blood pressure.

At age 65, one in three people has some hearing loss.

About two to three of every 1,000 children are hard of hearing or deaf. It is estimated that 30 schoolchildren per 1,000 have hearing loss.

Childhood noise risks include noisy toys, sporting events, band class, motorbikes, farm equipment, movie theaters, shop class, arcades, concerts, firearms, fireworks, power tools and MP3 players.

If you suspect you or your child has hearing loss, see an ear, nose and throat doctor or your primary-care physician to rule out any medical condition.

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. It’s a good time to remember the value of our hearing and ability to communicate.

Life’s too short to miss the music of laughter. It’s nice to understand why others are laughing, too.

For more information, visit hearingloss.org.

At age 65, one in three people has some hearing loss. About two to three of every 1,000 children are hard of hearing or deaf.

 

Police deserve thanks, respect

Day by Day

Police deserve thanks, respect

By LIZ THOMPSON
April 6, 2016
ThisWeekNews

All my life, I have known I could look to police officers to help me in any number of situations. Talking with friends and family, they all agree. Police deserve respect for being willing to step into potential danger every day on the job.

With every one of my many car accidents over the years, I was always thrilled to see a police officer or state trooper, even when I was in the wrong.

Today, officers are more at risk than ever when doing the job they are trained to do. So why do they walk daily into the potential fray instead of opting for a safer option?

Misty Hutchinson, D.A.R.E. officer in Grove City, became an officer to help those who couldn’t help themselves.

“I still believe that most people recognize the sacrifice and dedication our officers put forth every day — we are fortunate in Grove City. The desire to serve a community and work for something greater than just one’s self. This career is both rewarding and challenging — especially in today’s world,” Hutchinson said.

“The best things, honestly, are those times when you know you have helped someone and are lucky enough to see the difference you have made. I have the good fortune of working closely with school-aged youth in our city and get to see the impact all of our officers make on these families.”

Al Kolp, a retired Westerville police officer, said, “The bottom line (about becoming a police officer) is that it is a job to help people and the community. I was never embarrassed to be seen in uniform.”

He didn’t always want to be a police officer.

“I was in college fully expecting to become a farmer, but the Vietnam War and the dropping of the college deferment happened. So I joined ROTC, and when I graduated I became a military police officer.”

A friend told him after the military he could become a civilian police officer.

“We talked to people when we got in a situation. We didn’t simply arrest them. Physical force wasn’t needed because there was respect (for officers).”

One time Kolp stopped a driver who was intoxicated and took him home. Some time later, the man saw him in a store and thanked Kolp for helping him.

“The main enjoyment in my job was we built a reputation and camaraderie with the public,” he said.

Kolp often did special duty and in the late 1970s and early ’80s, those officers were hired to be a presence in the schools.

“I got to know the kids and the younger kids were never scared of us. Four high school kids I knew during these days went on to become police officers. I’d like to think I was a good influence.”

His wife, Joy, said she didn’t worry about her husband as much as she worries about their son, who is a police officer in Delaware.

“Al became an officer even though he knew full well he wouldn’t get paid that well, would have to work weekends and holidays, but he went into it because he wanted to be a part of a community. Our son feels the same way,” she said.

On her first day in uniform, Hutchinson got a reality check. She was riding with a veteran officer and they had a flat tire on their cruiser. A “routine” traffic stop led her to draw her weapon as they found drugs and made an arrest, and they ended up being in the middle of a neighborhood fight.

After 18 years, she said, “I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for any other job.”

“My father was a policeman for 25 years in Tiffin,” said Grove City resident Sonja Stauch. “Being the daughter of a policeman meant if I was in trouble, like my bike broke down or I was lost, all I had to do is say who my dad was. I never tried anything (wrong) because I knew I’d get caught!

“He befriended so many people and was well-respected.”

I’m sure the police would agree with my decision to take myself off the road when my multiple sclerosis made me a hazard to others and myself.

My respect for police officers is absolute. Knowing one is a phone call away is comforting.

 

Those with MS appreciate help, understanding

Day by day

Those with MS appreciate help, understanding

By LIZ THOMPSON

This Week News
Tuesday March 8, 2016

When people see me walking with a cane, they typically ask if I had knee surgery. Or they might ask why I use a cane.

My answer, “I have MS (multiple sclerosis),” usually elicits, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

How could they know?

Each time I hear this response, I’m reminded that MS is invisible. I guess you could say I look normal, whatever that is.

The 2.3 million other people worldwide living with MS must look “normal,” too.

So every March, during MS Awareness Month, I write about it.

Why should people care about MS if they don’t have it and don’t know anyone who does?

Hopefully, to gain understanding and to think twice before criticizing a stranger who uses a motorized cart in a store (yet looks “normal”), walks into a display (been there, done that), or has trouble navigating a curb or step.

I don’t drink alcohol by choice, but when I walk, I can look like I’ve had “one too many.”

We can use a gentle offer of help and will be grateful for it.

MS is an unpredictable, often-disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

MS has what I call the frayed-wire effect. A frayed lamp cord often leads to flickering lights.

The covering of nerves, called the myelin sheath, is damaged by MS when the body attacks it, thinking it’s a foreign substance. So MS nerves have segments that are damaged, and the brain-to-body command is disrupted.

Instead of a flickering light, we have trouble walking or moving our hands and arms. We may have spasms, trouble thinking, numbness, balance issues and vision loss, among other symptoms.

In 1987, I lost most of my vision, had numbness in my limbs and couldn’t walk a straight line. Severe fatigue made putting one foot in front of another difficult.

After eight months of medical observation, an MRI led to a diagnosis of MS.

Doctors suspected I was having a series of strokes or had a brain tumor — though the tumor was ruled out early on — so I was relieved to hear MS. I was only 36. Most people are diagnosed between ages 20 and 50.

Once I knew MS symptoms, I looked back and realized I’d had MS since at least age 22.

Prior to 1980, the average time from a person’s first symptom of MS until a definite diagnosis was seven years. The MRI reduced the time to six months.

Before MRIs, when a doctor suspected MS, patients underwent a standard neurological exam and medical history, then sat in a warm bath for a period of time. If they were weak and had other symptoms, they could be diagnosed with MS. Heat is an enemy of MS, causing pseudo flare-ups.

When I was diagnosed, there were no MS drugs and no Internet to research the disease. There are now 13 disease-modifying drugs to reduce disease activity and progression for people with relapsing/remitting MS, the most common type.

In 2010, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society set out to raise $250 million.

This money launched 818 new research projects, 71 clinical trials, 141 projects testing rehabilitation and wellness approaches, and 137 grants to train promising MS researchers.

When people ask how MS affects me the most, the first thing I usually say is that I can’t just decide, “I think I’ll take a walk,” and step outside to do just that. But I refuse to give up, give in or become a miserable grump. I adapt.

MS is an unpredictable disease that can change in a heartbeat. When we put our feet on the floor each morning, if in fact we can do that, we don’t know for sure if our legs will work, at least well enough to carry us through the day.

A strong arm or helping hand is appreciated.

Knowledge is power, as the MS society says.

After all, we’re all just “normal” people getting through life one step at a time. We’re not alone in having something to deal with, invisible or not.

For more information about MS, go to nationalmssociety. org/chapters/oha.

 

Many overlook trades as viable career prospect

Day by day

Many overlook trades as viable career prospect

By LIZ THOMPSON

February 9, 2016

ThisWeekNews

“America has a problem on its hands — one caused by a shortage of people willing to work with their hands,” says Contractor Magazine.

I hope young people considering their future after high school — those in need of work and others transitioning to a new career — know what options are available. There is no one-size-fits-all with education.

College is not for everyone, and all education and professions are of equal value.

Our oldest grandson, Dan, long after high school worked to become an apprentice electrician.

Another of our grandsons, Jake, decided on Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. He has dabbled for years, successfully, with a small forge one of his grandfathers built.

When I tell people of my grandson’s choices, the common response is, “He’ll always have a job.”

J.D. White, coordinator for automotive and applied technology at Columbus State Community College, agreed.

“If a high school student tells their guidance counselor he or she wants to pick a trade and go to a career center, they would graduate, become part of an apprenticeship program with one of our employer partners and eventually become a journeyman,” White said.

“They will have a lifetime of employment. The sky’s the limit, for men and women alike.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the trades will increase 28 percent between 2008-18.

This country was literally built by workers willing to get their hands dirty. At one time, in this country, welders and all construction workers were considered champions.

Somewhere along the education line, hard physical work lost its upper hand — pun intended — in our society. Young people likely see manual labor is devalued and, because of that stigma, might not consider a career in the trades.

The idea that only a college education will land you a job has permeated our culture. Four years of college does not promise a job is waiting when you shed your cap and gown.

“The definition of a blue-collar worker has gone away,” said Angelo Frole, dean of business, engineering and technology at Columbus State. “It’s now a gray-collar worker. The gray-collar worker uses their head and extremities to get the job done and get it done well.”

It’s no secret that our nation’s roads, bridges and much of our infrastructure is in disrepair. On a smaller scale, finding a contractor to do home repair can be problematic.

Who will rebuild the old infrastructure and keep it working so we have clean water, sewage treatment, roads without potholes, bridges that aren’t crumbling, roofs that aren’t leaking, furnaces and air conditioners that heat and cool, cars that run and electrical and plumbing that work? Who will pour the concrete, lay bricks and tiles and shape wood?

“There’s a train wreck occurring in our country,” White said. “We have a shortfall of skilled workers. Many are retired — some being called back from retirement because of too few skilled workers and craftsmen.”

For every student Columbus State places after graduation, they receive two or three phone calls from employers looking for tradespeople.

“Some are even offering to pay relocation expenses — almost unheard of in the trades,” Frole said. “Within five years of graduation from a high school career center, those graduates’ salaries will have raised $20,000 to $30,000 more than the average high school graduate.”

Amy Schakat, coordinator of career technical education at South-Western City School District, said, “When students graduate (from a career center), they have a toolbox full of technical and academic skills and knowledge of industry. They are ready for the next step: employment, more education or both.”

Central Ohio career centers include: Delaware Area Career Center, delawareareacc.org; Tolles Career and Technical Center, tollestech.com; Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools, eastlandfair-field.com; and South-Western City School District Career Tech, swcsdcareertech.com.

Columbus State also offers career planning and aptitude tests. For more information, visit cscc.edu/advising.

 

Slow down, listen to what 2016 brings

Day by day

Slow down, listen to what 2016 brings

LIZ THOMPSON

January 11, 2016
This Week News

 

I woke up this morning and couldn’t believe another year had flown by. I’m thankful for another day and, hopefully, another year.

Time really does move faster as we get older. It seems there are more stars in the Arizona sky than in Ohio.

Yet no matter how fast time seems to fly and how many stars we can, or can’t, see, what’s important is how we spend our time and our appreciation for things such as the stars twinkling in the night sky.

The new year is a time when some make resolutions to change something for the better. Admirable, yes, but I don’t think resolutions should pervade our thoughts as much as society thinks they should.

It’s infinitely more important to mark each day as important, since the number of our days is uncertain.

In January 1998, I sent what would be my first column to Suburban News Publications, yet it seems like weeks ago. I still remember I wrote about my hearing loss as it was marching to deafness. I don’t remember what I thought the newspaper would do with my writing, but I was compelled to write and send.

As my hearing waned, I liked to say writing was like talking through my hands onto the keyboard and into the computer.

All those years as a secretary paid off. But I did also talk with my hands using sign language. Anything to communicate.

The commentary editor at the time called me on my TTY (text telephone) to confirm I was the author. I was stunned, as most hearing people either didn’t know how to do this or just didn’t take that extra measure to reach me.

A few years later, my hearing really did take a hike. It was as elusive as the stars in a cloudy Ohio sky. I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I kept on, day by day, until the miracle of a cochlear implant in 2002 restored my hearing — although I perceive sound, not hear it — to about 95 percent in a quiet setting. Technology at its best.

Sometimes I forget the sounds happening while my voice processors are off: the radio sending out music and voices; the dog’s nails as he walks on the hardwood floor; his barking; birds chirping or singing; the coffee dripping through the machine; the furnace or air conditioner kicking on; people talking; water dripping; coughs and sneezes; the wind chimes; wind and rain; and all kinds of clanks and bangs.

Our youngest grandson, now 15, used to whisper into my ear when he was younger, prior to my implants, telling me whatever was on his mind. Typically he was asking for gum or candy. As a grandmother, I always had both, just like my grandmothers had.

I would remind Andrew I couldn’t hear his whisper in my hearing aids. He would repeat his request facing me so I could read his lips and I’d tell him to ask his mom or dad first.

He thought I was a soft touch, which I really am, and would skulk away knowing their answer. I’d chuckle and my daughter would thank me.

After my implants, I could understand him, but I still gave him the same answer. Oh, how hearing and understanding his whispers made my heart happy.

Most sounds still make me happy — definitely my grandchildren’s voices.

The noise of this world is increasing exponentially. Many will join the thousands with hearing loss sooner than might have happened by aging alone, if they don’t quiet life down.

Some people say to me, “I wish I could to do that,” meaning shut out the noise in life. I know they mean well, but I don’t recommend wishing for such things that I, for one, know can happen.

The stars are there, whether we can see them or not, and time can be sweet if we slow down enough to listen for God whispering and telling us to look up. I suggest refilling the candy dish.