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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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October 2011

Dress Up Day

I’ve always been the type of person that didn’t believe in dressing up animals. I hate those email jokes where there’s some poor attired feline who looks ticked off (obviously,) and I would never humiliate a cat with an outfit. I felt bad for my friend’s Labrador when she slapped a pair of plastic antlers on its head at Christmas                                                     time. Once again, Frankie’s changing my ways.

I was swayed by the persuasive tactics of commercial marketing. Have you seen the rows of pet costumes at Target? They’re adorable. Last year, still unconvinced, we did things my mom’s way — last minute. We were stuck with the unoriginal, far from clever, hot dog dog costume. Maybe this would’ve been cuter if Frankie actually was a Dachshund, but a Pekingese as a hot dog wasn’t that funny. I was a little embarrassed walking him the morning of the 31st, not to mention constantly worried he was going to pee on his getup. (Though I now know these costumes are made with strategically placed straps for safe and comfortable widdling.)

Amazingly, Frankie seemed to not only tolerate it, but enjoy it! Maybe it was all the extra attention he was getting, but there did seem to be an extra bounce in his step. Frankie has always trotted happily, but as ridiculous as it sounds, as a hot dog, he pranced.

This year, we’ve done things my way. Planned out and well in advance. Frankie’s Halloween gear was originally a sweater. Black and white striped with a skull and crossbones. Simple. Cute. I steered away from anything that looked too uncomfortable or went on his head. (I may have changed my mind, but I still have my compassion.) The problem was, his sweater looked like it had gone a couple rounds in the dryer. Way too small, it only came halfway down his back. I marveled that my mom was even able to get it on.

The sizing charts of pet costumes and a book on the Pekingese have called Frankie’s weight into question. The book says “dog show standards” (yeah, right) are limited to a maximum of 14 pounds. At last weigh-in, Frankie tipped the scales at  20. The sweater chart listed his breed as size small. Yet, what I received looked fit for a Chihuahua. We were told he’s all Pekingese, but he’s a rescue, so either he’s a very big boy or he’s mixed with Bulldog, which would explain his absolute stubbornness.

Validated for beginning the process early in the month, I returned the miniature sweater in favor of two more outfits, in hopes that one would work. One did. And Frankie felt so good about it at photo time, he turned toward the camera at his name like he was working the red carpet.

The Hawaiian Guy

In the end, he’s a contest winning Hawaiian Guy. That’s right, the dogs are having a party and costume contest on Monday at daycare. As a columnist in Tallahassee says, this is what happens in America when you don’t have children. Silly yes, but I’m embracing it. If you see us on the street on Monday, I’ll be the one proudly walking the prancing Hawaiian Guy.

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In-Transit Transient

Illustration by Suzanne F. Quincy

I used to get embarrassed driving in traffic when my car was filthy or there was bird poop all over the windshield. Now, I’m traveling across A1A in my power wheelchair with giant bags hanging off of it like I collect aluminum cans. Punishment for my vanity.

Frankie and I are heading home after spending the night at my mother’s. I have an overnight bag filled with all the things that staying overnight entails. I also have a black garbage bag that has a big empty box in it. My writing group is having a book drive for the Sulzbacher Library and I want to drop off the box at my chiropractor’s office on the way. There’s also a bag for all the reading material I didn’t get to, a small bag for Frankie’s things (plastic poop bags and emergency-come-here-NOW treats) and some leftover lasagna from my mom’s refrigerator. I feel like a handicapped hobo.

All in the name of independence. I’m grateful that I live in a town where things are just a scooter ride away. (I call it a scooter, but it’s not that cool. It’s a wheelchair.) I prefer doing things myself when I can and I’ve been to any number of shops and restaurants with my wheels. I’ve done shopping, banking, met friends for lunch or coffee. Heck, I’ve even been for a beer in the thing. I’m not sure that’s legal. Is a power wheelchair a motorized vehicle? If you can drive a bicycle under the influence, then it would stand to reason…

Last week, I even took in my dry cleaning. The place has a drop off drive-thru. Imagine me pulling over the hose that announces my arrival, “ding ding!” I’ve been there before so they know me, but if the owner felt any surprise or amusement the first time, he hid it well.

The only time I’m truly stuck is when it’s raining out. The power chair can’t get wet. The heat of summer is best avoided too. Someone suggested I carry an umbrella to shade myself from the sun. But, come on. I don’t want to look ridiculous.

Material

Just as I began to wonder what on earth my next blog post would be about, my wheelchair fell off the back of our Jeep in rush-hour traffic.

My mom and I were heading to Best Buy for a new T.V. My heavy, corner-unit Samsung didn’t owe me anything and to prove it, had started showing me a fun-house-mirror picture in miniature. My mother was thrilled. She’d been after me for some time to get with the 21st century and get a flat-screen, but T.V.’s are like cars in my book — I prefer to run them into the ground.

That my mom was driving “in-town” in the first place was kind of my fault. I’m the one who decreed “beach driving only” (not that she ever listens to me.) I’ve been arranging for other rides a lot lately, but this particular trip seemed too good to pass up. Not only did I need the ride, I needed the pixel expertise.

My mother isn’t known for her patience. She can also be a wee bit forgetful. So, when she came to pick me up without the bungee cords that secure my wheelchair onto the outside lift, we decided it would be fine lashed with what looked like an old leash of Frankie’s. I say “we decided” because, having discussed the option of driving back to her house for the bungee cords, both of us shrugged and said “nah.” What could go wrong?

We had just come through an intersection when I heard the series of thumps. “Mom, is the wheelchair okay?” I asked.

She looked in the rear-view mirror. “It’s gone! It’s gone!”

It wasn’t gone. It was dragging by Frankie’s leash down Atlantic Boulevard. Other drivers were flashing their lights. Miraculously, when she hauled it into the back seat from the shoulder, it had suffered only a few cosmetic scrapes.

Sometimes material presents itself.

Having a fresh idea used to be one of the hardest parts of writing. Now, I’m privy to an endless fountain of inspiration. Becoming handicapped is a hell of a trade off, but I’ll take it. I don’t really have a choice.

In his last broadcast, Andy Rooney said something like, any idiot can think up a weekly column. I cringed. Then again, he writes about the crap in his glove compartment and stuff like why-do-I-save-all-these-ketchup-packages.

I recently wrote my life story in 149 words and I dare say my handicap makes my life story more interesting. Something major has happened to me. Disability has its perks? Well, this is one of them. Sorry, writers. Get your own gig. This one’s mine.

Checking It Twice (Okay, 11 times)

It happened week before last. The thing that prompted this whole “get-organized” endeavor. I lost a computer file of pictures. Important pictures. Pictures for my website, my author bio. A full-fledged hunt ensued. I clicked on the wastepaper basket. It had recently been automatically emptied. If only the real trash would take itself to the curb as efficiently.

Enough was enough. I had to take back control. I am an organized person. Just ask anyone who knows me. My writing group is still freaking out over a confession in one of my stories that my frozen foods are arranged left to right, top to bottom. (How else are you supposed to read the labels?) But, things had gotten out of hand. A typical case of having too much to do and not enough time to do it.

So, I did what I always do when faced with a daunting new task. I bought a book. Getting Things Done by David Allen. Armed with this book, Internet research and tips from organizational guru Stephen R. Covey, I learned a few things. This week, I feel a lot better. And that’s what it’s all about, after all. Feeling less stressed. Continue reading “Checking It Twice (Okay, 11 times)”

Big Rocks First

I would like to dispel this notion that disabled people sit around all day and watch daytime television. When I worked full-time, I would long for a sick day to sleep late, stay in my pajamas and watch The Price Is Right. I still have that dream. Just because I don’t receive a paycheck doesn’t mean I don’t get stressed or have a problem with time management. I do. Okay, maybe I watch an episode or two of HGTV’s House Hunters over lunch, but that’s it. I wake at 5 a.m., “quit” at 5 p.m. and still feel I don’t have enough hours in the day or days in the week.

The problem became apparent in the last few weeks as I tried to juggle writing a weekly blog, finishing a book and walking Frankie every morning and evening. And let’s not forget that when you’re disabled, everything takes longer. Getting a shower, fixing a meal, transferring to my power chair with an excited pooch at my feet. Everything. I can spend a half-hour pecking out just one email!

So, I started researching organization and was introduced to the concept of “big rocks”  from Stephen R. Covey. He wrote the widely popular The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989. That’s right — 1989. And I’m just now learning about it. Ironic that I never felt the need to be even slightly effective before becoming disabled. (I’d argue that being productive and successful matter more when you’re doing something you love, but that seems like another post.)

Anyway, the idea is to prioritize. Your big rocks are what’s important to you in the overall scheme of things. The big picture. It’s personal. Maybe it’s time spent with family. Maybe it’s giving back — a charity or other service. The point is to get the big rocks in there and not squander away your time on hold with the cable company or reading email jokes.

One of the concepts I picked up during my web surfing is this: you have to follow your compass before you watch the clock. In other words, before you can manage your time, you need to know where you’re going, your priorities and goals. Instead of focusing on what’s urgent, learn what’s important to you. Where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going. Think of the Titanic.  

I thought about my big rocks and came up with three non-negotiables that I simply must make time for. Frankie (if you’ve read some prior posts, you know how much I get out of his walks,) my health (maintaining my current mobility is crucial to my continuing to live independently) and my writing (my passion and purpose.)

As it turned out, that covered two of the seven habits. I don’t know the others yet, so I’m only mildly effective. Habit 3 is putting first things first or prioritizing. In Habit 7, you focus on finding balance between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual areas of your life. This jives with my big rocks. Physically, I’m taking care of my health and exercise. My mental rock is my writing. And Frankie is a two-for. I cover my emotional needs by having social and meaningful interactions with others (just today I ditched my planned routine and went down to the local coffee shop with him at the invitation of a friend.) I think I successfully cover the spiritual side of things when I commune with nature on our walks and meditate seaside.

What are your big rocks? Think about your compass. And next week, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the clock. For now, I’m running out of time to post this.

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