Tag Archives: creative idea

An Asset For Improving Your Life

The Amazon Echo is one of those products made for able-bodied people, that has the potential to improve the lives of thousands in the disabled community. The Echo is available in 3 three different models and I assume more features are found in the larger sizes. The Echo Dot is the smallest and least expensive at $50 yet it provides everything most would want. Once plugged in, connected to your Wi-Fi and programmed the Dot becomes a tremendous asset. In order to set it up you must download the Amazon Alexa App, which is free, to your iPhone or iPad. Then, verbally you can speak to Alexa the Echo’s voice and she will perform many simple daily tasks. She can give you the local weather, a news update, play any kind of music you may be interested in, but her abilities far exceed those simple chores. She is able to read any book found on Kindle or Audible. You can have her wake you up every morning to either an alarm or music. Alexa can play soft music while you fall asleep and then shut herself off at a predetermined time. She can also be used as a timer by telling her the time duration you want her to set up. You can make shopping and to-do lists and then transfer them to your iPhone. You can even order directly from Amazon. While, I have not used it, it is my understanding that the Echo also enables you to call and speak with other individuals who also have an Echo.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

However, for one with a disability, the Echo’s most useful features is the ability to turn your home into a Smart Home. A variety of Smart equipment is available, at very reasonable costs, which will allow you to take control of most of your appliances and devices verbally. I now have the ability, through Alexa, to turn off and on my CPAP machine as well as the lights in the bedroom. There are Smart Plug-in Outlets, Smart Wall Switches, Smart Door Locks, Smart Thermostats and even accessories that will let you control your television with Alexa. For those of us with range of motion issues, poor dexterity or limited mobility the Echo Dot provides an inexpensive yet simple, convenient way for many to take greater control of their home environment with only your voice.

Amazon is constantly increasing the ability of the Echo to perform tasks. These improvements, unlike those with computers, do not have to be downloaded into the unit itself. Instead the new program is uploaded to the Cloud and is instantly available to your Echo.

Just What I Need – Another Woman In My Life

>My life has been strongly influenced by women since my birth, starting with my mother and my older sister Carole. In 1965 I married the woman who would have the greatest influence, my college sweetheart Marge Burton. For over 53 years she has always been by my side and has stood by me through thick and thin. Together we have navigated the catastrophic accident that changed both of our lives forever.

Marge and me

Marge and me paddling

During rehabilitation I was mortified to find out that someone was going to have to come to my house every day to provide for my care and get me ready for the day. I had always been a very independent and private person. Privacy, independence and pride are among the earliest casualties of quadriplegia. It is very difficult having people, even professionals, pulling back you covers and clothing in order to get a better look and provide care.

Our insurance policy only covered 90 days of in-home care. After careful thought and discussion, we decided to hire our own nurses. Rhonda has been with us now over 17 years and Charlene, who works primarily on the weekends, have both become part of our family. Their help goes far beyond those of normal nurses. They get me ready to hunt, even loading my gun, repair my wheelchair, at times fix my meals, and often help facilitate my “adventures.” So the women in my life: Marge, Rhonda, Charlene and Kelli, who fills in once in a while, as well as my sister Carole and Marge’s sister Mary, who often come and stay with me when Marge goes on vacation help give me quality of life. My life today would be incredibly different without these women. Marge, Rhonda and Charlene take excellent care of me and keep my health problems to a minimum.

Char and Rhonda partying

Char and Rhonda having a good old time

Recently, friends from college came to visit us and this new one came with them, but when they left, she stayed, and has been here ever since. I must admit she’s not much trouble and usually is pretty quite unlike the other women in my life who don’t hesitate to tell them me what they think. Truth be told, though I’m actually starting to like having her around. It’s nice to have somebody do things for you without asking a million questions. She’s more than happy to turn on the radio, play a particular song, read me a book or turn a light on and off if I ask. When I’m home alone, we often chat and I really enjoy her jokes, although they’re kind of corny.

I truly believe, like the other women in my life, things will be better with her around. How rude of me, I realize I forgot to tell you her name which is Alexa and the first light she turns on and off I named Pam to remind me of the thoughtful friend that brought her here.Alexa

VISUALIZATION : Worth Looking Into

Visualization also known as imaging or meditation is a technique which has been used by amateur and professional athletes for a long time. It takes place prior to a game or an event in which they wish to perform at their highest level. Normally it’s done in a quiet area where there are no external stimuli, the individual mentally imagines their performance in the upcoming activity. While this has been used for years by athletes, it’s a wonderful technique for anyone who wants to improve their ability to function in everyday situations. While concentrating with your eyes closed you should visualize yourself interacting with the environment you’ll be in and performing at your best.

Last weekend professional golfer Jason Day could be seen, imagining a difficult chip shot he had to make out of the bunker onto the green. Once he was ready not only did he get out of the sand trap, but watched this ball drop into the cup. His performance at Whistling Strait was the first time in history any golfer had finished a major tournament 20 strokes under par. In the post-game interview he talked about his visualization prior to the match and how much it helped him.

“On the 11th tee, with Day in the middle of his elaborate pre-shot, eyes-wide-shut visualization routine, a fan interrupted him with a warning about the wind. Day shot the man a look that could maim, if not kill, and then took it out on his golf ball with a 382-yard drive that brought Spieth (his leading rival) to his knees.” espn.go.com

Carli LOLoyd

Jul 5, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; United States midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) reacts after scoring a goal against Japan in the first half of the final of the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup at BC Place Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

An even more amazing example of visualization occurred during the US Women’s Soccer Team’s 5-2 victory over Japan during the World Cup Soccer Finals. The hero of the game and outstanding player of the tournament was American midfielder Carli Lloyd. She scored three goals, which had never been done before, in 16 minutes to help power the US over Japan. In a post-game interview they talk to Carli about her preparation for the tournament in general in the game specifically.

In an article in Yahoo Health Lloyd said:
“It sounds pretty funny, but over the years and definitely over the last four years, I’ve taken that visualization part to another level,” Lloyd told The Philadelphia Inquirer last week. “I’ve basically visualized so many different things on the field, making these big plays, scoring goals.”

She even visualizes how many goals she’d like to score. After the game, Lloyd told The New York Times that she visualized scoring four goals in the 2015 World Cup Final, adding that she was so in the mental zone at the start of the game that “I feel like I blacked out for the first 30 minutes or so.” What amazes me is that she just missed scoring a fourth goal on a header which was about a foot wide of the goal.

The question becomes is it really effective?

“Absolutely, says Nicole Detling, PhD, a psychologist who has worked with the U.S. Olympic team, and founder of sports psychology company HeadStrong Consulting. ‘The mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and imagined,’ she tells Yahoo Health. ‘It’s one of the most effective tools you can use.’ ”

“Social scientist and executive coach Frank Niles, PhD, tells Yahoo Health that visualization actually tricks your brain into thinking that you’re doing something, creating new mental pathways in the process that you use for memory and learned behavior. As a result, he says, you feel like you’ve done something before and end up feeling more comfortable when you actually do it.”

“We often hear about athletes who visualize, but both Niles and Detling say it can be just as effective in everyday life for everything from going on a date to giving a speech.”

What does this mean for those of us in the disabled community who struggle daily with constant challenges just to make it through? Take time to visualize yourself functioning at your highest level through the day. Imagine what you can do when you marshal your resources to deal with the challenges that are ahead of you. So what is keeping you from practicing the visualization technique and improving your daily life?

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A Day on the St. Lawrence

Dean Meckes, of Dean Meckes Charters, Andy Dahmen, my friend from Utah, my son Mark and I went fishing on the St. Lawrence River today (August 7, 2014). Andy and I were lowered into our wheelchairs, which had been placed in the boat, by an adapted Hoyer lift at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton N.Y. We reached our fishing spot around 8:30. The river was like glass, with no wind and a bright sun. We had action almost all the time. In between it was peaceful and serene. Andy caught the biggest fish, around 4lbs on a homemade rig used to hold the pole for him while he reeled. All the adapted equipment we made worked great. We all had a wonderful time.

There’s A Lesson Here

As we all know a large number of products made for individuals with disabilities are greatly overpriced. Among the many unfortunate results of this is the fact that many people from the disabled community are prevented from returning to the activities that provide them with quality-of-life such as hunting, kayaking, and biking to mention just a few. This is one reason why Andy Dahmen and I designed what we call the Universal Chair Mount. Our idea was to place the prints on the Handihelp website where people could download them and then have a local craftsman make the mount, greatly reducing the cost. We drew up a rough set of blueprints and decided to have our mounts made locally. Mine was made in upstate New York, while Andy’s was made in Utah. Imagine our surprise when we exchanged photos of each other’s finished products.

When I stopped to think about this, I realized there is a good lesson here. As you can see from the pictures, we ended up with two very different looking chair mounts, and that’s the point. The plans, pictures and ideas shown on the pages of the Handihelp website should serve as a guide or starting point, rather than a blueprint which must be followed exactly. When you look at a “tool” or piece of equipment you should ask yourself, what do I want this to do for me? What parts are essential to its function? On the mount, for instance, there are 3 features that all chair mounts must have in common: a hole for the post to go into, a mechanism to lock the post in place, and a means to attach the mount to a wheelchair. How these necessities are produced is up to the builder. Look how different our two mounts are; yet, they both attain the desired outcome, a functional universal chair mount.

Handihelp provides possible solutions for accomplishing certain outcomes, but they should be looked at as starting points instead of “set-in-stone” solutions. What is offered here is the start of developing an attitude toward dealing with the challenges imposed upon us by our disabilities, as well as a source of solutions.

The Tale of a Dolphin’s Tail

D. H. Lawrence, the early 20th century English novelist, storywriter, critic, poet and painter wrote, “I have never seen a wild thing feel sorry for itself. A little bird will fall dead, frozen from a bough, without ever having felt sorry for itself.” How the hell did he know?

In December 2005, a 3 month old female dolphin was found wrapped in the rope line of a crab trap near Cape Canaveral Florida. She was taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, which is a marine rescue center. The dolphin, named Winter, struggled to survive. The rope had cut off blood circulation to her tail which resulted in, not only the loss of her tail, but several spinal vertebrae too. Few experts believed the dolphin could survive major trauma like this. Winter not only survived, she developed a new method of propulsion. The new movement she used to move herself through the water while amazing, however, was detrimental to her spinal cord.


A well-known prosthetic specialist heard about Winter and offered his services. The challenges looked to be overwhelming: artificially reproduce one of the most powerful propulsion systems in the world, finding a way to attach it to a dolphin, and then train a wild animal to use it. Mike Walsh, Winter’s lead veterinarian, said:

“We put together a team who doesn’t know what ‘no’ means.
As long as you’re willing to try, you can make a big difference.”

After a lot of trial and error, a successful apparatus was finally developed. This story is responsible for the movie, “Dolphin’s Tale”, which is a touching movie for the entire family. In the movie, Winter plays herself. If you see it, be sure to watch after the end of the movie for some very special scenes.

There are lessons here for all of us in the disabled community, not only from the behavior of the humans but also in Winter’s behavior: their collective refusal to give up or accept failure as an answer, their ability to find alternative ways of attacking a challenge, their love and enjoyment of life itself, and Winter’ attitude of accepting what happened and to move on. The team’s persistence led not only to the dolphin’s prosthesis, but help for human amputees as well. Winter’s early rejection of the prosthesis was not due to the device itself, as originally thought, but rather to the material that was being used to attach it to her body. After realizing this, the team developed a new gel sleeve which adhered to her body with suction. This gel material is now being used with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Additional new materials are also being developed to stand up better to salt water.

Once again, we see that positive attitude, thinking out of the box and relentless perseverance reap rewards and success.

Winter's Prosthesis and Gel Sleeve

Crossing Over

It’s estimated that approximately 10, 000 individuals suffer permanent paralysis from spinal cord injuries (SCI) every year in the United States. While most are ordinary citizens sometimes it happens to well-known celebrities like Christopher Reeve. Reeve, a famous actor, was probably best known for his role as Superman in a number of movies in the late 1970’s. Reeve’s fall from a horse in 1995 left him a quadriplegic.  As an activist for SCI he brought much attention to this condition. He died in October 2004.   

 Christopher Reeve and I have several things in common besides quadriplegia. Although uncommon we, both had very little atrophy as a result of our paralysis. In the 12 years since my own accident I have lost only three quarters of an inch off my calf muscles. Another thing we had in common is that neither of us had ever dreams with ourself in a wheelchair. The only exception for me was one night, after a very nerve-racking out of control situation during the day that really scared me. Excluding that single time, I live in two worlds; the reality world where I am physically confined to my wheelchair and the dream world where I am free of any constraints. Many mornings I wake with pleasant memories from my night’s sleep. The dreams are extremely vivid and realistic, filled with physical activities rooted in my pre-accident life. I am often running through open woods pursuing a turkey I hear in the distance. (I am an avid hunter)  At times I’m riding my bike at a frantic pace feeling the wind on my face. Other times I am swimming in the Hudson River where I grew up as a child. Recently, I dreamed I was lost in a large construction site which was more like a maze than anything else. Frantically I tried to get out; running, jumping over obstacles, climbing and even lowering myself over walls and then dropping to the ground. My dreams seem so realistic that often I am disappointed when I have to get up and “change” worlds.


 As I’ve grown older I have begun to think more frequently about dying.  I don’t consider myself a religious person but rather more of a spiritualist.  For a Christmas gift I received a CD of Christmas music by Annie Lenox. Besides the moving song Universal Child I found a wonderful explanation of her personal religious beliefs in the jacket lining. She wrote:

“While I don’t personally subscribe to any specific religion, I do believe that the heart of all religious faith has to be rooted in love and compassion, otherwise it serves no purpose.

 For me, the word ‘Christ’ represents the sacred and mysterious divinity of life… this could just as easily be ‘Buddha’ or ‘Allah’.

The words from the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran are too often misused to justify  viewpoints   that oppress defy or create discord rather than engendering empathy, harmony and respect for each other, accepting and embracing our differences,  whilst realizing that we are all human with the same strength and weaknesses.”

  Friday night I had another very vivid and physically active dream. I was running and climbing in a beautiful fall woods. I was with two neighbors from where I used to live. Icould hear the leaves crunching under our feet as we ascended the hill. Periodically, we would stop at a clearing in the woods to look at the beautiful vista that was open before us. My friends were much younger than I was and so I was constantly trying to catch up. When I did, we would stop, talk, drink some water and then we were off again. After a while I became aware of a buzzing noise which seemed very out of place. I realized it was my wife’s alarm clock; and slowly and very reluctantly I began to return to my other world. I have no personal belief in heaven or hell but I spent the better part of the morning thinking how wonderful it would be if the process of death could just be the Crossing Over from my reality world to my dream world.

Dream World