Friday, October 12, 2012

Shine On Beautiful Flower!

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. ~ Helen Keller

This quote from Helen Keller is an absolute true reflection of my attitude about living my life as independently as possible as long as I can do so. Every day I appreciate the fact that I can still care for myself. It wasn’t possible after I first sustained my spinal cord injury, and with lots of therapy I was fortunate enough to regain my independence. In the back of my mind, I know the reality of the very likely fact that as I get older, I will probably need additional help. December 13th will be the 29th anniversary of my injury, and I can already feel the difference within my body as I age.

An important part of my therapy has always been to do as much as possible for myself, even if it takes me a little longer to do something. Initially, this was quite awkward for my loved ones to understand. I remember getting mad at them for trying to help me when I was quite awkwardly relearning how to use my hands. Most people who see me today do not fully comprehend the fact that I had to relearn how to do everything; from scratching my nose, to sitting up, to rolling over, feeding myself, to writing, bathing, toileting to dressing, etc. The only way that I could possibly regain my independence was to learn how to do these things for myself.

If someone today grabs the back of my chair, I may instinctively elbow their hand, or worse. I may actually yell at them if they startle me. As mean as this may sound, to a person with a disability it is as insulting as that infamous, patronizing pat on the head. It is a violation of my being, and for a person living without a disability, it is the equivalent of someone touching them inappropriately. I always insist that young children ask me first before pushing on my chair. I demonstrate why they shouldn’t push on my chair (with permission) by gently pushing on them to demonstrate how intrusive this is, and by talking about how they don’t like being shoved by another person. I explain this to adults by telling them that pushing on my chair unexpectedly could actually be dangerous because of my sitting balance. Pushing on my chair on uneven terrain could cause me to fly out of my chair, literally. My attention and focus are on the terrain.

For most people, it is simply within human nature to want to help. I remember unloading my wheelchair from the backseat of my car one time quite awhile back, and my sister sitting there commenting that people must of thought that she was an awful person for not helping me. The fact is that she knew better and she is a great person. Loading and unloading my wheelchair was something that actually became easier for me to do than to have to explain how to disassemble or assemble it to another person. I eventually learned a little trick when I was by myself not to make eye contact with anyone passing by. If I did, they were more compelled to offer their assistance which inevitably would slow me down. There were always plenty of offers asking me if I needed help, but I would only acknowledge with a simple “no thank you”, and without looking up at them because they would become more insistent on helping if I did.

Generally, I know when I need help and I’m pretty good about asking for it. My advice for anyone not knowing what do, is to sit back a second and see if your help is actually needed. Instead of using “do you need help”, I would suggest saying something like “do you want a hand with that” because it actually depicts less dependency. I open doors for other people all of the time, especially if the door is within the proper code for pull resistance. If I stop and look back at you, chances are that I already know that the door ahead of me is very heavy and I would rather not smash my toes on it. As a female, I’m accustomed to having the door open at times anyway. I’m personally not offended by it, but don’t run me over to do it when you see that I’ve gotten it!

I’ve enjoyed learning to use my camera this summer. I don’t have a lot of flowers, but I have managed to find enough almost daily to photograph. Having fewer flowers allows me to look at each flower with more individual detail. Each flower is slightly different looking than the next one, each looking somewhat unique. I’ve also discovered, after very patiently waiting, that my mystery cosmos are indeed cosmos with several new buds waiting to burst open. There is a weed that looks similar, and I was beginning to think that I was unintentionally, of course, growing giant weeds in front of the house. My patience has paid off, and I will have more flowers to share on my Facebook page, Access to the Garden.

After contacting another editor this week regarding outdated terminology when referring to people with disabilities in what was actually a wonderfully written article on gardening from a wheelchair, I received a thank you from an editor with an amazing attitude.

“Thanks Brenda. I had a twin brother with a disability and he and I have been on the receiving end of language which was hurtful, although not by intention.

We need to learn and evolve in how we communicate. People like you are the leaders in teaching those of us without disabilities. I feel wiser, and more comfortable, in communicating with people who have disabilities thanks to you. I encourage you to continue helping all people in this regard.” ~ editor

Even though occasionally we must deal with the weeds, it’s the beauty of a flower that makes it all worth it! It is always a pleasure to run across a new bloom. For me to revisit those beautiful blooms in photographs in the colder months ahead will be fun while planning what we’ll be planting next year. More cosmos, more sunflowers, more zinnias just to name a few. It will also be a pleasure for me to read more articles written by this editor. As long as I can keep making a difference, I will and as long as I can keep gardening and taking pictures, I will do that too.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Seasons Change

Seasons Change:
"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Very special mums shared by Tracy from a living memorial for her son, Joshua Michael Dague, 9/10/84 - 1/7/2010.

Autumn is in the air, well, at least it is a little. I’m still running around in shorts here in the southeast, but from what I can see, seasonal changes are occurring. Daylight is less, and plants are changing colors. Leaves and acorns are falling too. Many gardeners are tending to their fall vegetable gardens, and somewhat surprisingly, my summer eggplant, tomatoes and okra are still producing. I’ve started my lettuce and spinach, but that’s pretty much it for now. I’m ready to do some of my volunteer time with our Master Gardener's program. This summer has certainly flown by.

I realized even more this week while I was out burying a rotting banana next to a rosebush how much of an impact Access to the Garden was actually making on me. I had read that a buried banana near, but not too close to the rose’s roots, was a good source of potassium and phosphorous for roses. Many people on Access to the Garden have done this in the past and many were eager to learn more. I’ve shared some great ideas for containers, construction plans for raised beds, useful tools, and healthy recipes for using many fruits and vegetables. I’ve also learned many helpful tips on various gardening techniques and more about the amazing healthful benefits of many fruits and vegetables too.

I love seeing and hearing from others who are implementing and sharing some of their useful ideas too. To me, this is very cool. To have over 1000 people who are truly interested in Access to the Garden is quite awesome to say the least. This has been a really fun online community. I have loved sharing my photographs, but I have especially loved receiving beautiful photos and very interesting comments from others. When other pages share their photos with Access to the Garden, I feel as if we are an inclusive part of the online gardening community. This is what it is all about!

As a gardener who cares about nutrition and where my food comes from, this has been an incredible learning experience. We are all learning from each other. Accessibility and adaptive equipment are important, but we are all gardeners. This was very evident recently when I shared a photo of my lap full of red and green okra. The inquisitive responses were great. Many people were unfamiliar with the red okra. It is a beautiful plant with red and green leaves and it’s a member of the Hibiscus family. You can tell from its gorgeous flower that it looks similar to a hibiscus. I just became familiar with the red variety this past summer, and I also recently have learned of a good green variety known as the ‘Clemson’ spineless.

Because it is incredibly easy for me to grow, I am planning on growing more of the red okra next year and I am planning on growing some of it intermingled within our landscaping here on our suburban tract. I unfortunately live in a neighborhood with outdated Home Owner’s Association (HOA) rules and regulations pertaining to anyone trying to live a sustainable lifestyle. Next year’s blog will probably include a story on my personal battle with the creation of a yarden, kidding of course. No worries though, I think that I know my limits. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with your own HOA rules and regulations about front yard vegetable gardens if you have to deal with a neighborhood association.

The internet is useful for finding out new ways to prepare food and for discovering many successful ways of growing just about anything. The people and pages online are a wealth of knowledge. Sometimes it is really difficult to siphon through this abundance of information. Sometimes I feel that there may be a possible necessity to add a disclaimer. It seems that for every pro, there is a con. I trust that all of the followers to Access to the Garden will use their own best judgment for what works best for them.

I hope everyone has a great weekend ahead. Some of you are already getting snow and frost, and that is somewhat difficult for me to remember. Your pictures of the beautiful leaves changing have helped me to remember the beauty of fall. We’ve had cold in late October in the past, but our first frost here isn't usually until after the first week of December, and our last frost is sometime in mid-February. It would be nice to take a little excursion west to the mountains, but chances are I’ll be bidding my son farewell as he deploys again with the US Navy.

This week's must share recipe: