The yard, the garden, everywhere but the roof.

Oct 202010

Mike and Beth outside Michael Talbart Advertising in San Diego.

My wife and I were photographed by my business partner, Tal Smith, before we closed Michael Talbart Advertising. Those who know me might recognize the changes Inclusion Body Myositis had made in my appearance.

The last two years of the 20th century also marked the end of my ability to function physically well enough to earn a living. Since my diagnosis in 1996, I had been getting along pretty well by using braces and forearm crutches. However in 1999, it became obvious that I needed to “graduate” to a scooter or wheelchair. I have always been of the philosophy that I should take advantage of any technology available, so I wound up with one of each – a Pride Legend Scooter and a Jazzy Wheelchair, both with elevating seats. I also purchased a van with a lift in the rear that would swing out and pick up my scooter and deposit it in the back. Then I would walk around to the front, hanging onto the van, and get into the driver seat. But as time went by, this process became more and more precarious, and I took some pretty bad falls in parking lots.

I also noticed that my advertising clients were evidencing discomfort when I would show up for meetings, as I was very limited in my mobility and they had to make considerable accommodations. The last straw was when a client had to lift me from my seat at lunch and then pick me up again when I fell in the restaurant parking lot (no martinis involved). I think that up until this point I had felt that my inclusion body myositis was just going to be a distraction and not a truly life-changing illness. But now I could see that it was going to continue to take away my ability to get around and to carry out the normal activities of daily living. I was also finding it more difficult to write, since my fingers were rapidly weakening. So, I reluctantly informed my business partner that we were going to need to close the business and that I was going to retire on disability.

My wife and I decided that we should travel as much as possible while I was still able. That turned out to be a very good decision since today I am unable to travel outside of San Diego County because I can’t be far from my custom bathroom and hospital bed. (Of course, if you’re going to be “stuck” somewhere, San Diego is a pretty nice place to be.)

Our travels introduced us to the difficulties facing those who rely on scooters or wheelchairs for mobility when they travel. We would reserve hotel rooms and request that they be handicap accessible only to learn that the room had been given to able-bodied people instead. If we complained, they would try to ship us off to another hotel in a much less convenient location simply to comply with the ADA regulations. More often than not, we would just rearrange the furniture in the non-accessible room and install a portable elevated toilet seat in the bathroom. Perhaps the worst offender was the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. First they refused to help us get our luggage from the front entrance to the lobby, causing me to break my foot when I tried to do it myself. Then they put us in a room for hearing impaired and said that that was the only kind of “handicap” room available in their hotel. We haven’t been back to Las Vegas since.

I’m happy to report that San Diego is blessed with scores of accessible hotels, restaurants, attractions and transportation. I’ll be reporting on many of these in the future.

Sep 262010

Make some accessible lemonade!

Mike picks lemons using a basket picker

Picking lemons from a wheelchair takes a long reach.

When disability forced us to leave our condo and buy a single story home in a “seniors” neighborhood, it came with a large lemon tree in the back yard. Now we all know that famous cliché that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, when you’re in a wheelchair, it’s not that simple. You need tools! To begin with the lemons are 10 to 20 feet overhead, far out of my reach. Fortunately, our gardener recommended that we purchase a basket style picker with a long, extendable, handle. I have used it for the last four years, but this past season I have found it difficult to reach high in the tree because my arms and shoulders are too weak. So that means I needed something else: a good neighbor. We are very fortunate to have a couple next door who will drop whatever they’re doing if they see I need help. Good thing, because the rest of this article wouldn’t have been written. (Not enough lemons.)

The next thing you need is a way of cutting the lemons in half so they can be juiced. I don’t know of any miracle devices, but I do know that a very sharp knife is much safer than a dull one. It is also good to have a handle that won’t slip in your hand when you have weak fingers or a weak grip. For me, the answer has been the Professional series of Good Grips Chef Knives. The one I used was a 6 inch model. It cost more than the regular Good Grips knives, but it holds an edge far longer and can be sharpened to a keen edge. (Use a steel, not a “sharpener.”)

Finally, there is the really hard work of juicing lemons and then stirring them together with sugar and water and ice. Once again, technology comes to the rescue.

Presto lemonade maker

An all-in-one lemonade maker.

Our Presto all-in-one lemonade maker takes much of the work out of the process. I just put water ice and sugar into the pitcher. Set the mechanism on top, apply the lemon and the juice goes into the water below. At the same time, a paddle extends to the bottom of the container and spins. By the time you have juiced all the lemons, the lemonade is ready. Unfortunately, I coldn’t locate this model at Amazon (internet shopping is another energy saver for the disabled) but they sell a similar product – the Salton Lemonader.
A big pitcher of lemonade.

Accessible lemonade - tastes great, less stirring!

Here you see the results. I had to take the picture quickly because I drank three glasses of lemonade immediately afterward. Delicious!