Monday, March 31, 2014

Move Over 'People of Walmart'...

Move over 'People of Walmart', there's a new Walmart entertainer in stores.  Yes, that's right!  No more will the shirtless, nearly pants-less, thong-wearing, butt-crack showing photos-which-should-never-have-had-the-camera's shutter-pressed be center stage.  Nope.  There's a new king at Walmart.

feet, toe, toe sucker

He's a man who has decided to live life on the edge.  Who decided that being a mere passenger on the internet sensation train was too close to being anonymous.  Yes, this man went all out to change the way you look at shopping at Walmart.

All of those who have complained for years about the lack of assistance in Walmart stores will rethink their complaints.  Those who have grumbled and groused about the way the customers dress, will find those dress code infractions to be inconsequential.

Who could possibly top the kings and queens of clothing malfunctions and poor taste?  A man, posing as a podiatry student, conned a woman into allowing him to assist her with trying on shoes.  In the process of trying on a shoe, he plopped her foot in his mouth and started sucking her toes. 

Yes, the woman realized instantly that something odd was afoot at Walmart and called police.  Good Morning Walmart shoppers!  We have a toe-sucker on aisle 3.

According to reports, this man had possibly made the rounds at other Walmart stores in the area, as well as a Kmart store.  That's one way to get a blue light special.......... with a police escort to jail to boot.

The good news is they have caught the toe-sucking bandit. If he is convicted, he will be a repeat offender.  Yes, that's right, he's a repeat toe-sucker.  The news media has reported that back in 2001 he was convicted of breaking into a woman's home and sucking on her toes.  I wonder if there is a 12-"step" program for foot fetishes......

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wishing Time Away

12 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  It was such a relief to have that ball full of energy out into the world where he wasn't kicking and punching me for a good 20 hours out of every day.  Ironically, when he was born he was quite the snuggler.  If you held him, he would sleep soundly for hours upon hours.  If you laid him in his crib, playpen, bouncy chair, swing, or anywhere else, he was awake in 20 minutes or less.

Baby, childhood, infant

In his first year of life, he went to the hospital more times than I can count.  We were there so many times, the ER nurses knew our insurance information by heart.  Between the middle of the night cases of croup, the asthma complications, ear infections, and the capper:  RSV, I learned more than I ever needed to know about an infant's breathing.  Most of the gray hairs on my head now came as a result of having to learn how to pacify a baby enough so he'd allow a nebulizer mask to be put on his face to receive his asthma medication so he could breathe.

I'm not sure how many hours of sleep I actually got in his first year of life, but I'm betting I have more fingers and toes than I did actual sleeping hours.  Many long hours, both day and night, were spent rocking him in the rocking chair, as well as watching Barney's Super Singing Circus every 2 hours so he wouldn't notice the nebulizer in his face.  Oh, how I had a love/hate relationship with that blasted dinosaur.  In those days and hours of frustration and exhaustion, I can't even count the number of times I thought about how nice it would be when he was older and we both could get some sleep.

I wished those days away without even truly realizing it.  Now he is older, and in less than 3 years he'll have his driver's permit.  In 6 years he'll be graduating from high school and heading off to college.  Instead of wishing for the years to pass so I can get some sleep, I really want time to freeze.  I want to have lots of memories I can hold onto when our nest becomes empty and his room stays clean for months on end, or I look in the cupboard and realize I don't need to go to the grocery store 2-3 days a week to restock what he's devoured.

In just a few short years, the quiet I enjoy today while my kids are in school will become a deafening silence.  Now where there is shouting, arguments with his sister, rough-housing with his friends, and Nerf gun battles that take place throughout the entire house, in 6 years time it will all be replaced by quiet........ lots and lots of quiet.

I will be hanging onto these next few years memories with an iron fist.  I may even enjoy every time I have to ask him to make up his bed, pick his shoes up out of the middle of the living room floor, or take out the garbage.  As he enters the teenage years, he may drive me batty with his excessive energy, teenage eye rolls, and attitude, but I'm going to put every single one of his mannerisms in my memory bank.

Just as my mother said would happen, my perspective has changed.  When I hear a mother talk about how her infant sleeps soundly through the night and how wonderful it is to get things done around the house, I think "how sad". We have a lifetime of doing laundry, cleaning, and picking things up, but only a short while to enjoy our children while they are small. 

What I saw 12 years ago as an exhausting, thankless job was actually a blessing filled with hours of snuggling and cuddling with that little bundle of snips and snails and puppy-dog tails.  Yes, I still look forward with great anticipation to seeing the man he will become, but for now, I'm going to relish in the teenager he's about to be.

Written by Christie Bielss

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wooo Pig Sooiee!!!!

6 years ago while we were on vacation in Florida, we stopped at a "scenic lookout" in a state park in Florida with my husband, children, and my parents.  On one side of the road of this "park" (aka swamp) were a bunch of logs (alligators?) in a large muddy body of water while there was a big thicket on the other side of the road.  My children were still quite young and were very excited at the thought of being able to see an alligator in the "wild".  I'd left the sliding door to our minivan open, just on the off chance one of those logs was an alligator who was looking for dinner.

Florida State Park, swamp, alligators

As we stood there looking at a log trying to determine if it was an old tree or something a bit more sinister, we started to hear rustling in the woods on the other side of the road.  Having watched one too many Nat Geo shows on how alligators can sneak up on you, we all jumped at the sound and stepped closer to one another.

We looked intently as we tried to see what animal was making all that noise in the dense growth of the forest.  While I wanted to see what was in those woods behind us, I also couldn't take my eyes off the swamp. With as much as I kept looking back and forth, my son said it looked like my head was on a swivel.  My husband as I mused that we might as well have chickens dangling from our necks with how it felt like we were being sized up as dinner from both sides of the road.

We heard more rustling accompanied by the tell-tale snorting of wild hogs foraging for food.  I laughed at myself for having thought it was a gator coming to eat us.  And then, without any warning whatsoever, my husband tried out the Arkansas Razorback yell he'd been forced to learn as a right of passage when we'd moved to Little Rock some years back.  "Woo Pig Sooiee!!!".  We all jumped out of our skin as he yelled loud enough so every hog in a 100 mile radius could hear him.

Those faint pig noises instantly turned to very loud, and very ticked off, snorts and squeals of a wild boar who was not happy at having another wild boar in his territory.  We froze in fear.  In the next instant, the sound of a herd of pigs stampeding toward us broke us out of our trance.  

"GET IN THE CAR!!" I yelled.  I tossed the kids through the open door of the minivan, while my parents jumped in quickly behind them.  I leapt into the driver's seat before my husband had even gotten the passenger side door open.  I turned on the car and slammed the gear shift into "drive" while pushing the gas pedal to the floorboard as my husband was still trying to close his car door.

As we left the danger behind us faster than a speeding bullet, my mother said with that age old motherly you-know-you're-in-trouble tone in her voice "Michael..........".  No other words were necessary, the tone said it all.  He replied "I know......".

A couple of weeks ago when we were in Florida on vacation, we reminded our kids of this little escapade and asked them if they'd like to drive through the same state park this year.  They quickly and emphatically declined the offer.  I guess some things you only need to experience once in a lifetime.

Written by Christie Bielss

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Doing Disney Disabled

For my kids' spring break, we decided to head to Florida and spend a couple of days at Walt Disney World.  Having never been to Disney World before, this was pretty exciting stuff for my kids. After looking at maps of how huge the Disney parks are, and with the progression of my Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, I had to face the fact that there was no way I was going to be able to physically walk the parks.  I was going to have to get around and visit the sites on a scooter as a disabled person.  This realization really played havoc with my ego. But, this vacation was about my kids, not about me.  I didn't want my physical condition to hold them back from experiencing the joys of Disney, and I figured that if I was going to have to deal with a scooter, then doing Disney disabled seemed like the best, most handicapped-accessible place to be. 
Walt Disney World, Disney Resorts, Magic Kingdom

 Upon our arrival at the Disney resort, we were greeted by the most helpful and lovely staff member who personally walked us through check-in and prepping us for which parks we should visit and the paths we should take to maximize the sites while taking into account my energy limitations.  She was delightful, helpful, and really made us feel welcome and at home.

Upon checking in, I asked our registrar how we were to go about renting a scooter.  She had no clue and referred us to the Concierge.  When we asked the Concierge, she told us we could rent one at each park, and if we let the park attendant know that we'd be going to another park, they'd reserve a scooter for us at the other park.  If we wanted to rent from one of their outside vendors, then we'd need to speak with Bell Services.

We decided to go with the outside vendor so we'd just have to rent one time.  We went and spoke with Bell Services and they assured us they'd have a scooter ready for us in the morning when we were ready to depart for the parks.  Satisfied we were ready for the next day, we went and visited Downtown Disney and enjoyed the shopping, food, water ferry rides, and interesting sites there. 

One thing I didn't take into consideration, Downtown Disney is a LOT of walking.  A lot.  By the time we went from one end of the pier to the other, I was exhausted. While I really needed a scooter to get around Downtown, it would've been nearly impossible to get in/out of the many shops there because the aisles aren't very wide and with the number of people there, I'd have gotten myself boxed into a corner of every store I went in.

The next morning we went and purchased our park-hopper passes and then went to Bell Services to pick up our scooter.  Well, apparently the young man we spoke with was confused and Bell Services just receives the scooter from the outside vendor, while I am responsible for calling and ordering it.  With our scooter rental fouled up, it was going to take 1-2 hours to have one delivered.  With my kids antsy to get to the park, we made the decision to just rent a Disney scooter at each park.

That was a mistake.  We should've waited the 1-2 hours for one to be delivered from the outside service.  The Disney scooter is adequate, but it sucks.  While it goes like a bat out of hell and gets you through the park in world record time, there is no happy medium to its pace.  You are either stopped, or you get whiplash and burn rubber when you push the lever.  Also, for people who may have difficulty with their hands (i.e. arthritis, or some other problem (like mine)), it uses a thumb lever action to move.  It's ok for the first few minutes, but after that it rips the skin off your thumb and makes your hands really tired.

We started off our park visits with Animal Kingdom.  The park staff there were extremely kind and helpful. My kids absolutely loved the rides there.  I couldn't ride "Dinosaur" or "Expedition Everest" because they were too rough for my physical condition, however, being able to see the look of fear and terror on my husband's face as he rode those rides was absolutely priceless!  Mr. I've-never-met-a-ride-that-scared-me met one......... and he had to sit down for a good 10 minutes afterward!

I did get to ride "Kilimanjaro Safari".  That was a lot of fun and I was very impressed that Disney created a special area for the disabled to enter and exit the safari buses.  You ride your scooter or wheelchair through the line and enter the ride through a special door, which then takes you to a loading area away from the throngs of people.  Your wheelchair or scooter is stowed right at the entry to the bus, so you're only a few short steps from entering the bus and returning to your "wheels".  If you are "not transferable" (i.e. must stay in your wheelchair), the safari bus is fully equipped to accommodate a wheelchair, so you can still participate in the ride with your family and friends and enjoy the fun together.
After lunch, we park-hopped over to Magic Kingdom.  We had been told that for the $70 we spent on the scooter rental at Animal Kingdom, they would call over and reserve a scooter at the next park we were attending.  That was incorrect.  They do not call and reserve a scooter - no matter if you're an on-site Disney guest or not.  When we got to Magic Kingdom, they were out of scooters.  I was given the option of having to be pushed around in a wheelchair or try and walk the park. That sucked beyond suckdom.  Talk about a major battle with my big, fat redheaded ego.  In the end, my husband had to remind me that while this situation sucked and he understood my need to still appear ambulatory, this visit was about our kids and not about how I appeared to others.  I got in the wheelchair and let my kids push me around.

We arrived inside the park just as the Princess Parade began.  My kids were extremely excited and we "parked" next to a set of stairs so we'd kind of be out of the traffic pattern.  We were approached after a few minutes by a park employee who very, very rudely told us we could neither stand nor sit where we were.  She told my husband to move me in the wheelchair to the back of the throng of people standing around the parade route.  My view of the parade was of everyone's butts.  The park employee required the wheelchair to be pushed so closely to the people in front of us, that I couldn't even get up out of the wheelchair to stand and watch the parade.  I did get to see an occasional Princess' head if they were positioned high enough on their float.  But, for the most part, my view was of butt-central.......... and it wasn't a pretty sight.

After the mix-up with the scooter and now this problem, my attitude was turning quite sour.  When the parade was over, my daughter's one wish was to see Cinderella's Castle.  She grabbed ahold of the wheelchair handles and off we flew in search of the magical kingdom of Cinderella.  Let me say this:  Magic Kingdom is absolutely and positively not wheelchair friendly.  Because of the parade they do every day, there is a train track embedded down their streets.  The wheels in a wheelchair get caught in those tracks.  Doesn't sound like that big of a deal but what happens is when that tire hits that track, you come to an abrupt halt.  This causes you to be flung from the wheelchair like you've been tossed out by a pumpkin launcher. My daughter racked up a few good scores on how far she could toss me as we tried to make our way to the castle.

Disney personnel at Magic Kingdom were resoundingly unhelpful and not very cheerful or even kind, but maybe by the afternoon during spring break they're sick of people.  The park was packed with so many people and to such a degree we could hardly move, and people absolutely refused to step out of the way of our wheelchair.  Tired of the park employee's attitudes when we tried to ask them questions, along with the rudeness of the patrons visiting the park, we  made the decision to leave.  The act of trying to depart the park took on its own dimension of entertainment.  My daughter was pushing me and she is a gentle-natured soul who is shy and very even-tempered.  We discovered her even-tempered nature apparently came to an end with the people who kept stopping in front of us and refusing to move out of the way.

We had an elderly woman who walked right in front of us and stopped.  When my daughter very politely said "excuse us please", the woman looked at us, harrumphed, and continued to stand in our way.  My normally unruffled daughter got a better grip on the handle bars of the wheelchair and said "Outta my way you old granny! I've got a wheelchair and I'm not afraid to use it!".  I was shocked, and to be honest - amused - at my daughter's personality change, but the old hag got out of our way when she saw the very real threat of having her Achilles tendon severed with the push my daughter gave the wheelchair. 

We hadn't made it another 5 feet when 3 gigantic hulks of men stepped in front of us and stopped.  These guys were big and seemed like they would have been right at home in lederhosen while standing on a Swiss Alp yodeling.  My daughter had had enough of Magic Kingdom and these people and said quite loudly "BOWLING PINS!".  The men sensed their impending doom and were surprisingly agile for their size as they deftly moved out of the way of the wheelchair. 

As we rounded the corner, we had to go back down the main street, which has that blasted embedded train track in the road.  Our only option, due to the throngs of people standing along the sides of the street and completely blocking the sidewalk, was to go down the middle of the street, inbetween the train tracks.  As we made our way down the street, a Disney Fastpass Photographer stood right in the middle of our path and was watching our approach.  My daughter called out "excuse us please".  He didn't move.  I called out "Excuse us, we are trying to get through".  He still didn't move.

My daughter's choice was to either ram him or turn and try to weave around him while hoping the wheelchair tire didn't get caught in the train track. Unfortunately, the tire got caught in the track, and to such a degree, that I was launched out of the wheelchair and did a face plant on the cement.  It took every ounce of restraint I had not to shove the photographer's camera .......... well, you can imagine.

My daughter was horrified and near tears.  She thought it was her fault.  We settled her down and then my husband helped me up and back in the wheelchair.   Then he took control of pushing the wheelchair through the throngs of people.  He'd had enough and he was no longer kindly asking people to step aside.  No, these folks were no longer getting the benefit of a verbal warning.  He nailed more Achilles tendons in the first 3 feet of moving my wheelchair than I could count.  People learned quite quickly from the string of people groaning in pain to step aside - and to be quick about it.  It was amazing how quickly the sea of people parted and allowed us passage.

After we returned the wheelchair, my kids decided they'd had enough of Disney and wanted to leave.  Their experience at Magic Kingdom was of such rudeness and callousness by the park employees, as well as the patrons, that my children expressed no desire to ever return to a Disney park. Pretty darn sad. We have had to remind them regularly of the fun and kindness we received at Animal Kingdom and that Magic Kingdom was only one bad experience out of the better part of 2 days of fun.  Still, it's sad when adults at a CHILDREN'S theme park ruin the starry-eyed wonder and fun that is to be had there for the kids.

One thing I know for certain from having visited Disney as a disabled person - Magic Kingdom is absolutely not wheelchair friendly......... unless you think you might enjoy the experience of being flung out of a wheelchair like a pumpkin to see what kind of distance you can achieve.

Written by Christie Bielss

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Changing In An Instant

Last week while checking out at the grocery store, I had a rather unpleasant experience.  It was something so simple it should've been no big deal, and yet it became so much more.  It was an incident that made me stop and question my own way of thinking.  Most people would think it was ridiculous and so miniscule of an experience it's not worth anything more than to be a passing aggravation.  For me, it's been more than that.  How is it possible for something so simple and innocuous to change a person in an instant?

Manners, Etiquette
Public Domain Image

I don't really know.  What I do know is this incident has made me look inward and ask if who I am on the inside is who the world sees on the outside.  Is my perception of my behavior how I really appear to others, or is my perception skewed by my own arrogance?

As I said, the incident was nothing.  It was ridiculous.  It was simply a cashier at the grocery store who became angry when I asked her to price match a single item out of the many groceries I was purchasing.  She got quite upset and didn't want to be inconvenienced to press the few extra buttons on the cash register to over-ride the store price and she made a big show out of her aggravation.

If I had been alone and experienced this, I'd have written it off as typical, but on this trip my daughter was with me.  The woman's attitude and demeanor were such that my daughter asked me what was wrong with the woman.  She wanted to know why she got so mad if this was a normal service the store offered.

My daughter's questions and bewilderment at the cashier's behavior got me to thinking:  what are we saying to younger generations when we not only act this way, but accept this level of service as normal?  Have we become such a "me" society that even when we work or are out in society, we think it's ok to behave in any manner we choose?  Why has it become ok, or even expected, to put ourselves first and to never exercise any control over our words, actions, or emotions?

The cashier was going to be working the same number of hours at her cash register whether she had to price match an item or not.  Her salary was not reduced because the store chose to entice customers to do all of their shopping in one place by price matching.  There was no excuse for her attitude and downright rudeness.  And, as a customer, because I accepted this level of service as though it were a normal part of my transaction, I perpetuated this woman's behavior. 

This incident has really made me miss Miss Manners.  I miss etiquette.  I miss social responsibility.  I miss people being held accountable by their peers.  But mostly I miss people being hospitable to their "neighbors".  I miss society having a level of expectation where cursing in public was not only frowned upon but taboo, when people dressed in nice clothing when they left their homes, when courtesy and kindness were the norm, and when people treated others as they would like to be treated.

So how has this incident affected me?  It's made me realize that I have allowed the world's view to creep in and push aside the morals and social responsibility I was brought up with.  By saying and doing nothing, I actively accepted undesirable behavior, like this woman displayed, as normal or even acceptable.  Because I have become so accustomed to this behavior, as nauseating as it makes me feel just thinking about it, I'm sure I have most likely treated people this way myself.  Having the wide-eyed innocence of my daughter question the appropriateness of this situation opened my eyes and made this a game changer.

It's wonderful that many people step out of their everyday lives to help out at soup kitchens, sort clothes at donation locations, and build homes for the needy.  But what about your everyday life?  Isn't treating all people with kindness, courtesy and respect equally as worthy?  Is it really too much effort to say please and thank you, or hold a door open for someone, or offer your seat (or maybe your place in line) to someone much older than you?

At some point, the buck has to stop somewhere.  I have presented the challenge to my children and they have chosen to accept the challenge.  From this point forward, we are going to make a concerted effort to follow Miss Manner's rules for our behavior.  We are going to work at controlling our tongues and our attitudes and truly focus on treating others as we would like to be treated.  We may not change the world, but we can change the way we touch other's lives by working to make a positive impact.

An avalanche usually begins when an outside force or sound causes an area to break free of its bonds and move with great speed.  Maybe you'll decide to join us and we can break free of the bonds of anger, disrespect, and unkindness and start an avalanche toward a better society together.  Will you pick up the gauntlet and join us in this challenge?  I hope and pray so.

Written by Christie Bielss
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