Here and Now

Sometimes going nowhere special can be more special than an elaborately planned outing.

I haven’t posted for a while. The summer has been lovely and sitting in front of the computer hasn’t appealed…so much for my once a week goal. Maybe now that fall has started I will do better. The joy we experienced this summer is due in large part to a few arrangements we made at my father’s house to improve access.

ksm-20160605-here_and_now-01Grandma has been well, the weather this summer was pretty good here in the Seattle area and we have reveled in the Here and Now. In August we didn’t go on any trips, unless you count going over to my dad’s on Vashon Island.

The Seattle area in August is, in my experience, the best summer has to offer anywhere in the world, and I stick close to home unless absolutely necessary.

As recently as a year ago Grandma was refusing to go over to dad’s. She couldn’t get up the steps into the house, she couldn’t use the bathroom, she couldn’t get up off his furniture…there was a lot of fear of the unknown and getting stuck in awkward ( and embarrassing) situations.

Access changes that help us get here

Over the course of the year we worked on fixes and she now really likes to go over. The holidays (and this year’s are approaching fast!) motivated us. Here is a list of what we did to improve access:

  • Dad built a very solid ramp with a railing.
  • We got bars and a raised toilet seat for the bathroom.
  • We took over a solid captain’s chair the right height for her to manage getting out of and into on her own.

What she did was swallow her pride enough to let us wheel her up the ramp. That was the single biggest change. A year ago she was adamant that she wouldn’t use a wheelchair.

Just being here

ksm-20160710-here_and_now-07This summer she enjoyed sitting at the picture window and just hanging around with the family (human and canine) as it ebbed and flowed, sailed, stand-up-paddled, and ran and got muddy on the beach.

One day we piled into the car (three dogs, three people) to go to the store. At the top of the driveway we decided to take the long way. Grandma lived on Vashon Island for 20 plus years so it was a ramble down memory lane. As a bonus a couple of good friends were out working in their yard and when hailed they came up and had a good long visit at the side of the car.

Time for Sharing (Use the comment box to respond)

  • Do you have favorite “nothing special” places where just hanging out is a fun, relaxing time?
  • What access adjustments and accommodations do you find yourself making?
  • How do you arrange family get-togethers so your elderly/mobility impaired loved one can be part of it all?

Road trip to Yakima Valley

Planning is important, but on our recent road trip an impulse and a missed turn resulted in some of our favorite memories. Have you ever made a wrong turn that turned out great?

The sign of a successful road trip is when everyone says “That was great! We have to do that again!”

We recently took a two night road trip to the Yakima River Valley in eastern Washington and everyone (Grandma, my husband, and I) said “That was great! We have to do that again!”. Score one for planning! And for being willing to adjust the plans.

I planned this road trip carefully using some of the things I have learned during the past few years.

Using Lessons Learned
  • I contacted the hotel directly to make sure that Grandma had a handicap room. The hotel was in the middle of the valley making it easy to explore both sides.
  • I researched the area and had a list of different types of things  to see and do depending on energy levels, weather, and time available (including opening and closing times for tasting rooms-Yakima Valley is wine country).
  • We used scenic drives as activities. This doesn’t come naturally to me, but Grandma really enjoys scenic drives.
  • I tried to limit the time sitting in the car to 2 1/2 hours or less. When Grandma sits too long she gets stiff and has a harder time getting out of the car and walking, it seems to affect her balance as well.
  • It turned out we didn’t need it, but, at Grandma’s request, we took a raised toilet seat along. This provided peace of mind. (In a previous outing we had a few scary moments when I wasn’t sure I could get her up off a toilet in a restaurant. Here is the story ).

Some of the success of this road trip was because our planning was around reducing stress not creating a detailed agenda. Some examples: We didn’t try to drive back to Seattle (a 4 hour drive) after sight-seeing. We had a bunch of options, but only two things we wanted to accomplish: taste some wine and buy some apricots. We had a raised toilet seat so we knew we could make critical logistics work.


In some ways my aversion to road trips is an asset: I am very willing to pull over to check out a view point or interesting looking park. Here are a few examples:

Teapot Dome Gas Station in Zillah, Washington.
Teapot Dome Gas Station in Zillah, Washington.

Another example was the Teapot Dome Gas Station. We saw the historical marker sign for it and thought “that looks like fun”. The sign led to a serendipitous trip on back roads. The station itself was pretty cute and in a pretty area. A very pleasant break

Yakima Valley road trip: the countryside near Zillah, Washington through the windshield.
The countryside near Zillah, Washington.

A little later we missed a turn for a planned winery stop. That resulted in a drive through a rural area we would not otherwise have seen. We got up close to the orchards and even saw a coyote slinking across the road between orchards. This detour resulted in just being out in the countryside, and it was one of our favorite parts of the trip.

We did eventually get to the winery, and the woman there gave us two tips that made the trip home summa cum laude. She recommended doughnut peaches and a fruit stand that sold them, and she told us about the Yakima River Canyon Road.

Lessons I Learned from This Road Trip
  • Planning is important, but relax and let unplanned good things happen. As a Japanese friend of ours used to say “balance, ne (“ne” kind of means “you get it, don’t you?”). I have to keep learning this since I tend to be…well…a bit anal.
  • Pretty scenery is enough.
  • Back-up plans are worth having, even if you don’t use them they reduce stress. Grandma only used the Duet as a wheelchair one time during the trip, and we never had to use the raised toilet seat. However, just knowing we had the ability to deal with adversity allowed us to relax. That made us enjoy the trip much more than if we had those little niggling worries at the back of our minds.
  • Don’t try to do it all in one go. There is joy in the thought of a future trip.

Time for Sharing (Use the comment box to respond)

  • Do you have any tips for road trips? (Maybe something that you take along to make things easier, or details you check into before heading out.)
  • Are there areas near you that make a good one or two day trip for people who are mobility challenged?

Shared Journeys

Accessibility: getting through the door

Every situation and every person is different. What are the particular challenges you have faced with accessing buildings?

I have learned that the word “accessibility” means different things to different people. The ADA provides guidelines for design. You might think that would be enough. I used to, and even was a bit put out about how onerous the guidelines could be on institutions like churches and small businesses. Continue reading “Accessibility: getting through the door”

Lessons learned part 2: Somewhere to lay our heads

This is the second post of lessons I learned from our trip to California, The story begins… and the first set of lessons is in the post: Lessons learned part 1: Flying Lessons.

Two airport/rental car notes:

  1. Travel with a pocket knife to cut the zip-tie off the walker. (Keep it close to the surface of your packed bag.)
  2. We got a mid-sized car. This was a good move: a smaller car might have done, but it was nice to have a little margin for getting the walker/wheelchair combo in and out of the trunk.

Lesson #1: The biggest lesson I learned is this: do not use a booking agency.

As mentioned in The story begins… the hotel did not have a room that matched the description I was sold. How could I be so stupid? Continue reading “Lessons learned part 2: Somewhere to lay our heads”

Lessons learned part 1: Flying lessons

This is a continuation from the post: The story begins…

The most important lesson: The day ended well, believe it or not; I did something right!

It ended well because I made the choice, even though I was tired and she was stiff (she had slept on the plane so she wasn’t tired), to take us out to dinner at one of our old favorite spots, Sherman’s deli, which has outdoor seating, and we had good food, accompanied by good memories on a beautiful warm evening. The challenges of the day faded into the background, drowned out by making a pleasant new memory to join those old ones.

Flying lessons:

Heading to the Sky with someone who is mobility impaired isn’t a cake walk.

Lesson #1: I didn’t know it, but different airports handle the wheel chair assist differently. Coming home Grandma was left in the wheel chair and we were able to go outside and enjoy the warm day while we were waiting. If she had needed to do so she could have used the restroom. At SeaTac they move the person into a seat and take off with the chair. In the future I will find out ahead of time how the airport handles it and see if we can borrow or rent the airport chair, or, worst case, bring our own walker/wheelchair combo (Duet by Drive) to the gate and gate check it, so we aren’t stranded. Continue reading “Lessons learned part 1: Flying lessons”