Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Greetings

It is the end of another Christmas Day, and we've survived the crowds, the presents and all the excitement of the children. Now it's time to just sit.

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Still, Still, Still

This is the title of one of my favorite Christmas songs. And it’s a good reminder at this hectic time of year to just stop and “Be still.”

We specialize in extreme winter weather here in Montana, with unimaginable temperatures (we’ve seen the thermometer on our back porch dip to -40), fierce winter winds and blinding blizzards that intimidate even the most experienced of drivers. But the snow storms of my childhood in northern Utah covered my world in a heavy wet blanket of white silence that could still even the most rambunctious child on Christmas Eve. My ultimate picture of stillness is a winter evening with the snow falling gently in the light of the lamppost on the corner. Several inches of newly fallen snow on the sidewalk muffles my footsteps as I walk the block to my aunt’s house. It is so still, so totally silent, that I imagine I am in another world entirely. It is to that stillness, albeit only in my mind, that I retreat when life’s demands (and my body’s inability to meet them) overwhelm me.
Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed,
The world is sleeping,
Holy Star its vigil keeping.
Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.
Wishing you stillness, as you contemplate the beauty of the season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

A post by Susie over at The Canary Report combined with a severe Arctic air mass descending on Montana this week (temperatures hovering around -20F) got me thinking about "emergency preparedness. " What comes to mind when you hear this phrase? Emergency packs in the car and coat closet? Food storage? A list of phone numbers on the frig? A family emergency plan? All of those things have to be adapted for people with disabilities.

I sometimes get a little bit paranoid about this. The thought of going to a public shelter for help sends chills down my spine. Not only would they not have any food I could eat, but they would undoubtedly use cleaning and first aid products to which I would be sensitive, not to mention the personal care products used by the mass of people all in one location. On the other hand, the idea of freezing to death in a heatless home (or worse yet, in a tent on my front lawn if we had an earthquake) doesn't exactly warm my heart either. And these are only MY concerns. What about all the other disabilities people deal with, like diabetes, MS, etc.? The Red Cross and local health care agencies can accommodate some of these people, but certainly not all in a mass emergency. It's up to us as individuals to prepare for our own (and our family's) needs. So here are a few ideas that give me peace of mind. I'd be really interested to know how others have tweaked their family emergency plans to meet individual needs.

Food storage: while other people store wheat, we store brown rice, about 200 pounds of it in the freezer (it will go rancid at room temperature). We follow the old adage: store what you eat and eat what you store.

Emergency packs: the emergency packs in our vehicles and coat closet contain gluten free foods, fragrance-free toiletries and plenty of Pepto Bismal tablets (just in case I do get some gluten in something). I also need to include laundry detergent, so I could at least hand wash my own clothes if necessary. I am so concerned about this that I actually have an extra emergency bag in the trunk of my car containing nothing but gluten free food, enough to last me a week or two, and a case of bottled water (I can't tolerate treated water).

Camping supplies & clothing: we have camping supplies and emergency clothing in our garage in case our home was damaged. A tent would be a much safer place for me (even in the winter) than a public shelter.

Heat: we have a large stone fireplace in which we have installed glass doors (to keep smoke out of the house), and we have a large stack of firewood available. Burning wood in the fireplace to keep warm would certainly cause me some problems, but would not be as life threatening as freezing to death, so this is a compromise. And, of course, if we were burning wood, I wouldn't be able to go outside, where the smoke would really make me ill.

Emergency plan: we have family and friends who live in other parts of the valley who would take us in for a few days if need be. Their homes are fairly safe for me, and we would bring our own food. In the seven years we have lived here, the entire valley has not lost power at the same time, so this is a viable option most of the time.

List of things to grab: these are things we use all the time, but would grab if we were leaving the house, like my vitamin powder, RWO's daily medication and the thumb drive containing the book I'm writing. (I should add the raspberry jelly filled candies RWO bought me for Christmas--wouldn't want to leave those behind!)

I'm sure I'm missing something, so I'm going to think on this some more. Hmmmm........

Friday, December 12, 2008

Less Toxic Children's Art

A couple of weeks ago, I had three of my grandchildren come over and help me put up Christmas decorations. As we took the items out of the storage boxes, we discovered that one of the favorites, a plastic snowman, had lost his carrot nose. The kids were relieved when I found the nose in the bottom of the box, and they insisted that I glue it back on. But with what? Superglue would work best, but I would certainly have a reaction to that toxic substance. I got into the kids' art supply box and pulled out the school glue, but the nose just wouldn't stay on with the sticky white stuff. Finally, I tried a piece of tape--not very attractive, but it seemed to do the trick.

This incident got me to thinking about kids' art materials. Just how safe is school glue anyway? And what about those marking pens or even the 144 different colors of crayons?

Today I took those same grandchildren to a children's art workshop at our local art museum, where they painted and glued the most beautiful Christmas trees. While the kids focused on their artful masterpieces, one of the other adults asked the artist in charge about the toxicity of the materials the kids were using. As my ears perked up, I heard that this particular artist teaches a seminar in chemically-safe children's art materials, and the museum store has just started carrying art kits and materials that are safer for kids than what you would find in the art aisle of your favorite superstore.

The kids were anxious to take their creations home after the activity, so I didn't get a chance to look in the museum store or find out when the next seminar on children's art materials is being held, but I'll be stopping by next week, without the children, to check it all out. And maybe I'll find something safe for me to use to re-attach the snowman's nose, which, alas, has fallen off again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Calling all Mama (and Papa) Bears

I can get pretty heated up about chemical contamination issues, but if you really want to see the steam coming from my ears, tell me about children being exposed to toxic substances. Then the Mama Bear in me takes over, and whether or not the cubs are my own, I can get pretty fierce in my attempts to protect them.

I've received two different emails today with links to a USA Today article about the location of public schools near toxic chemical sites. You can read the article here:
Besides the article, this site also gives you the option of finding the chemical pollution ranking of any school location in the country. After you read the article, you can go here: and find out what you can do to make schools and our communities safer places for children to live and learn.

Childproofing our Communities is a project of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), a non-profit organization founded by Lois Gibbs, the mother living near Love Canal thirty years ago, who led the fight against that toxic spot. Their mission statement says that they will assist any individual, family or community in the fight for a safer environment. They are currently leading the way to insisting that the EPA follow through on already established policies of building schools in safe locations. This is really a big issue. One place this controversy has raged is in the Salt Lake Valley, where plans were made to build a secondary school in a big industrial area right next to I-15. Clearly, this was not a healthy location for children to spend the bulk of their daylight hours.

I see the location of schools, however, as only half the battle. There are many communities (like Utah Valley, where some of my grandchildren live) in which the overall air pollution is so bad that no school location has a good rating. So the battle to clean up the whole community has to to on.

There is much work to do in cleaning up our toxic environment, with too many people in denial of the seriousness of the problem, but almost everyone agrees that children should be protected, so that's a good place to start.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Accepting (and celebrating) Our Differences

My husband, Randl, knocked on the bathroom door this morning while I was in the shower to tell me that Joseph Wirthlin had died last night. I grew up around the corner from this sweet man and his large family, and I have many fond memories of his cheerful greetings and gentle handshake. He always made everyone feel comfortable. For the last twenty-plus years of his life, he served in a top leadership position in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which gave him ample opportunity to give speeches. One of my favorites was a speech he gave last April entitled "Concern for the One," in which he talked about seeking out the "lost sheep." At the time, I had just recently quit attending church meetings because of my MCS, and his words really resonated with me. Following is an excerpt from that speech:

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don't belong...They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don't fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.
Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father's children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.
This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children. He does not esteem one flesh above another, but He "inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female: ...all are alike unto God." [Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:33]

At a time when I was feeling totally rejected by the people that I thought should care the most, these words gave me hope and made me feel valued.