Myrtle Mae Goes on an American Adventure

My mother is in her 86th year and I haven’t seen her in over 12 years. We talk on the phone weekly but it isn’t the same. My sister and her family gave my mother a wonderful Christmas present: me. Yes, I was the recipient of a plane ticket to the U.S. so that I could see my mother. Myrtle Mae went with me and together we had an adventure. Three weeks and two days later I am back. Now I can post all about it.

I must state that the one thing that I did not want to do at the end of my completion at the Loo was to pack a suitcase and go traveling. I had to pack and unpack was and after over 52 weeks of living out of a suitcase the last thing I wanted was to pack and unpack. However free trips are something a wise soul does not turn down and so first I trotted to Switzerland. It was just a week-long adventure. I returned home to place that bag away in storage. Then to my surprise I found out that this last trip was to be made. I packed and off I went yet again. Well at least this one was longer.

Myrtle and I went all over California together. Myrtle didn’t like the desert: too much dirt. California is near drought state and the high temperatures made for 70 and low 80 degree weather. (Think mid 20’s in Celsius) But meeting my nephews family was a must-do so I endured the one way eight-hour car ride.

What I should explain to all of you who don’t know much about California, of which I’m a native, is that it has everything. I wasn’t able to get to the ocean which was sad. I did manage redwoods, mountains, farm lands and big cities.

People were nice to me and I felt respected out in the world with Myrtle Mae. You never know how you will be perceived or treated. Buzzing around with Myrtle Mae was nice. Using her to navigate the nasty areas where I knew I had problems was a life saver. The nastiest was my brothers yard!!!! When I’m in an unfamiliar area Myrtle Mae saves me from falling. Feeling around before I step out can be rather useful. It is nice that others warn me of hazards but with Myrtle I’m also able to detect some things myself. Everywhere I went was a new place to be learned and discovered. I had a great time because Myrtle Mae was with me.

I got my hair done while in the U.S. of A. and even that was an adventure because I had no clue as to what I wanted. I decided to trust a very talented woman and let her have at the head. She gave me a perm and cut it really cute and I am happy with it. I mention this as I sit here in my warm house because it is important for those with a disability to look great and feel great.

My personal opinion about women with a disability is that we get caught up with the disability and detach from ourselves in ways that really matter. We might decide that being feminine and gentle is not something we can do. We might think of it as a weakness or that our femininity could convey the sense of lacking strengths that we really have. To show ourselves as feminine is a great strength. Letting others see who we are shows us to be stronger, self-assured and is something that attracts others to us.

My older sister came into her visual disability in her 30’s. I can see a real difference between us. She was always the “woman” and I was always trying to feel that way. I dressed well but didn’t feel feminine within. I have been surprised by the effect that Myrtle Mae has made on me in this area of my life.

I purchased new shoes while in the states. My old shoes were falling off of me due to weight loss. It was time to find new ways to dress up my feet. It was fun!! I noticed myself thinking about how I would feel in the shoes and wound up with one pair of heel with those cute pointy toes. I feel elegant in them and they delight me. The fact is: Myrtle Mae eases my mind and I am free to find out that I can be feminine.

Seeing family and talking with friends who I could not visit was also great. Having lots of Taco Bell (Fast Mexican food) was wonderful. Fining things for Jon to bring back with me was fun. The only thing that was horrible was the jet lag.

I don’t know about other visually impaired people but jet lag is the worst because my eyes bug out, I can’t sleep on the plane due to the noise which I am hyper sensitive to due to my hearing loss. Long flights are hard on everyone but for me there seems to be an added dimension. Right now I wish I had some Welches Grape juice. There is something in Concorde grapes that heals the body. You can’t find Welches on this side of the pond and that is making my life hard. (My sister was nice and had a bottle on stand-by for me.)

Oh but I digress.

Here are some rules for travel and life in general:
• When you have a Myrtle Mae of your own unfold it and use it proudly. It lets others know that when you need help you will need specific guidance.
• A folded Myrtle Mae is a useless thing. You get better service when you show her proudly.
• Let go and relax. Your Myrtle Mae is able to lift much stress from your life and vacations should be fun and not stressful.
• Use all the assistance you can. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
• Avoid Heathrow Terminal Five. (Also avoid Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta and Frankfurt International.) This one I can’t stress enough. I traveled with assistance through Heathrow this trip and on the return flight I had less than an hour to make the flight and barely made it with assistance ready to move me from point to point. Only half of my bags made it with me. (That in itself is another story.)

As I write this I am still in the process of finding “Eyelette” and I wonder “How will Eyelette change my life?” My adventures with Myrtle Mae have changed me. I am in a much better place because I’ve grasped on to the use of a cane. With Eyelette there shall be more adventures and new discoveries. I can’t wait. Oh but yet again I digress.

One of the big lessons I gained from doing mobility training was that I needed to employ constant observation. I found myself more aware of crossing in parking lots, learning physical layouts of houses and learning to find the good seating rather than just finding a seat in a room. I have come a long way!!

Having been the guest of honor at the family and friends bash (or just the reason for my sister to have a bash) taught me that knowing my environment, understanding my needs as a disabled person, and putting all of that into use made me a gracious recipient of much chaos and delight. And at the end it was fun and worth it..even if the new cute pointy shoes were better off than on my feet. (Warning: cute pointy shoes are best when sitting and not standing for long hours.)

There came a point in time during the bash when the noise became too much to tolerate. I found that others found me as I slipped off into a quiet part of the party space. Once in that space the party was once again great.

I still have things to discover and learn. I still have challenges. I must admit that there are still many areas of improvement. I’m not sure you can ever check everything off of a “learned list” when you have a disability but you can state that your comfort anc confidence levels are better.

I think that the gift I gave myself on this trip was the gift of exploration and the confidence and assurance that traveling is something I want to enjoy doing. Thanks to all of my mobility instructors and a big thanks to Myrtle Mae for being the trusty companion on a wonderful adventure. I am ready for the next adventure: bring it on.

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About Gail Nicolaysen-Shurtleff

I am an American who is living in The Netherlands. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist with a license to practice in California. Music has been a huge part of my life. Singing is something you can find me doing at any time and anywhere. I have to admit that I try to not sing while out in public though. You can also find me in the kitchen cooking up wonderful things. cooking is something that I have just recently (in the last ten years) discovered that I'm talented at doing, and it is really fun. The best way to know me is to read my blog.
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