It’s for the birds (and me)

The back side of the Sugar Grove Nature Center – this is the protection around the bird feeding area. You can see one side of the corner of windows in particular.

I have always enjoyed watching the birds. The come and go, quarrel with each other, and sometimes even watch me back through the window. I have a feeder set up so I can see them from my nest – the seat on the sofa surrounded by all my things. We get tons of cardinals who nest in our yard as well as a large variety of sparrows.

I used to go to the Sugar Grove Nature Center in Funk’s Grove, Illinois (great name, huh) to watch the birds and hike. Of course, I was feeling better then. I used to love winding out around the trails in woods and prairie. Today I cannot hike, but am working to get that back.

Sugar Grove had a room where people could watch the birds (and chipmunks) through a floor-to-ceiling glass window. This is of the utmost importance – because it let everyone have a nature experience no matter their mobility. Anyone could walk, hobble, or roll into the room and take a comfy seat surrounded by windows covered with one-way glass. You could pick up a bird book, look around the room for pictures of common seasonal birds, or just relax and enjoy the show.

They set out specialized food to bring diversity. Sunflower seeds are the perennial favorite, but they had a finch sock, fruit or jelly for orioles, hummingbird sugar-water, suet for woodpeckers, and several other specialty foods. The variety of foods attracted a number of birds who normally don’t feed together.

Chipmunks were everyone’s favorites. (Yes, I know, not birds). These critters would dart around the area, munching on peanuts and playing in the running water. I bet they thought they hit the lottery by finding the feeding area.

Chipping sparrow – small but mighty. Image from Cornell Lab’s “All about birds”.

Watching birds is therapeutic. I have always loved being outdoors. My favorite thing used to be removing turf for a garden – it’s quite a workout. I cannot get out in nature as much as I used to. I can bring some to me, feeding the birds.

Flying while disabled

This summer I flew to Maine. I carefully packed my carry-on with all my medical stuff. CPAP for sleep apnea*, a large bag of pills, some comfort items. I packed snacks because I am supposed to eat several small meals daily. I brought along my folding cane, so it could help me into the airplane but still fit in a seat-back. My laptop had to go in the carry-on as well. No problem. I brought a small purse and made sure I could manage hauling everything I had.

My first two flights went exactly as planned, and I was starting to feel good about traveling. My third flight (of three) is where things went downhill.

I boarded early (my cane gave me that privilege). I stepped out of the boarding area and saw a plane in front of me with a huge metal ramp leading up to it. That was not going to be easy, but I steeled myself and started painfully pulling my carry-on up the ramp.

Not my airplane, but this is what the boarding ramp looked like.

About halfway up, a flight attendant called out to me, saying I had to put my bag on the cart at the bottom of the ramp. I told her that my bag was full of a CPAP, medicine, and things that had to be carried on. She said my carry-on would not fit in the overheads. I would have to take everything out of it that had to go on the plane.

I made it (painfully) back down the ramp and started to unpack my bag. The flight attendant re-appeared with a plastic bag that she said I could use to put my stuff in. But she stood in the door of the plane. I had to trudge all the way up the ramp – at least without a suitcase this time – take the bag, and go back down to my bag to finish unpacking.

At this point, the regular customers are boarding. They are also upset about having to check their carry-ons and are hauling them onto the cart around me unpacking mine.

I unpacked the CPAP bag and put it over my shoulder with my purse. I took out the pills, computer, and a couple of other things and put them in the plastic bag. I then closed my nearly empty carry-on on the cart.

Now, I have a cane in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. I have two bags around my neck and shoulder and am highly off balance. And I have to go back up the ramp this way. And through a busy cabin, slowing down the boarding process for everyone behind me. And then haul two smaller bags into the overhead bin above my seat.

At this point, the flight attendant approaches me and apologizes, but tells me there is nothing else she could do, as my bag would not fit in the extra-small overhead space.

I laughed. What else could I do? This is flying with a disability. I folded my cane and put it in the seat back, not looking forward to the repeat of this process when the flight was over.

What could she do? She could have found someone to help me with my bags up and down the ramp. She could have run the plastic bag down the ramp herself, it would have saved time. She could have assisted me in carrying my multiple bags (now) into and out of the plane. The gate agents could have explained the situation to me before I boarded, so I had time to resettle my belongings.

  • Yes, I know they are supposed to allow me to fly with the CPAP as a “free” carry-on. But they don’t. I’m not certain what I need to do to get that clearance, but a doctor’s note and a prescription doesn’t cut it.

On chronic pain

Hi. I’m Heni and I’ve been living with chronic pain for a very long time. And I’ve just about reached the end of my rope more times than I can count. At my last doctor’s visit, and yet another, “We can’t do anything about it except give you more pain pills.” I thought I was going to choke. Then I decided I could write about it – and share everything with you. I have fibromyalgia and arthritis – but I want to be inclusive – looking at all types of chronic pain.

I am on a journey to find out what works, even a little bit. I am going to write about it here. Send in your things that work, even a little bit, and we may build a resource here.

Things that work (even a little bit) so far

  • not moving
  • heating pads
  • pills
  • CBD
  • massage
  • popsicles
  • herbal teas
  • aromatherapy
  • meditation
  • screaming
  • aqua-therapy
  • bio-feedback
  • cats
  • sunshine
  • The Great British Baking Show
  • sock filled with rice
  • humidifier
  • yoga – only sometimes

I’ll talk about these as we move forward. I’ll also talk about my continuing effort to find relief and other issues around living with pain. Send in your stories or suggestions and I can blog on that, too.

Also, I find strength in my animal friend the Virginia Opossum. Expect them to pop up regularly.