The End of the Road

Yesterday, we started the 1,003 mile journey back home from Florida to Illinois. We left Panama City Beach a little after 7 a.m. and headed west towards Biloxi, Mississippi. Amanda and I had visited there previously and we wanted to visit again before making our way north.

We stopped and had our last taste of seafood at a place called The Reef. We had eaten there before and had enjoyed the food quite a lot. Plus, Biloxi has some beautiful beaches as well as some very lovely homes along the coast. After having a great lunch we travelled up through Mississippi and in to Tennesee. We stopped in Memphis for the night.

Memphis is a city we have been through twice, but have never had time to explore while here. It is on our list of places to visit again once we have an opportunity to more fully sample the tastes, sights, and sounds of this great city.

I love to visit places with rich cultural histories. Memphis is certainly one of those places. From food, music, to the civil rights movement, it has much to taste, hear, and see. It is also a place with some family history for me as well. My paternal grandparents lived in the city for a while. In addition, my great uncle, Aldo Bastari, apparently once worked as a chef at the Peabody Hotel. We definitely could make a week of it in Memphis. However, that will have to wait for another time.

We left Memphis this morning around 9 a.m. and drove north through Arkansas and Missouri. Then we crossed the Mississippi River back into Illinois. I think we are all ready to be back home. It will be nice to sleep in our own beds tonight.

Time

Baby Boy had his first trip to the beach today. Amanda and I had originally planned to spend more time on the water while on vacation. I would have enjoyed laying on the beach reading all week. However, the weather didn’t cooperate the first few days. Likewise, soon after we arrived in Panama City Beach we found that there are not many easy access points out to the beach for those with disabilities.

This does not make me upset. I am used to living in a world that was not made for people like me. It was difficult to get to and from the water today, but I would not have missed it, as I got to watch Baby Boy’s reactions to waves lapping at his feet. I also was able to witness his curiosity as he touched the warm, powdery sand. He often tries to figure things out. It is fun to see the wheels turning in that little head of his.

I think Amanda, Baby Boy and I got a little too much sun today, as we all were a bit tired after we came back from the beach. After washing most of the sand off of us Baby Boy and I settled down for a nap.

One day at the beach was enough for us. I know it was for me at least. I’ll be washing sand off of my body and out of my mouth for the next few weeks.

We still have a couple days in Florida. It has been good to leave the routine of home behind. Likewise, it has been good to connect with family that we don’t get to see very often. It has also been an important reminder that time is fleeting.

Sometimes we let frustrations get the best of us and we lose sight of what is most important. Time is very precious. We shouldn’t waste it by getting hung up on things that do not matter in the long run.

I am glad I got to experience this time with family. We will have travelled over 2,000 miles by the time we get back home on Sunday. However, it was worth it to the see the world through a child’s eyes this week. We’d all be better off if we did this more often.

The Sunshine State?

After an abundance of rain on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday we finally saw some sun today here in Florida. Hopefully, that will continue tomorrow, at least for most of the day. We made it to the beach, however, we didn’t swim. We just looked out at the water. It was a magnificent sight.

Looking at such a large expanse of water is always relaxing. To hear the waves hitting the shore is so serene. The water was much calmer today. There were a multitude of sun- worshippers lined up and down the beach that we visited. I think I almost prefer just to look out at the water than to actually get in and swim. This is due to lack of access for those with disabilities, and my dislike of getting sand in places where it doesn’t belong.

I wear leg braces when I walk. Likewise, I use a pair of forearm crutches. By the time I get down to the beach I am usually worn out, as there are usually either a steep set of stairs I have to climb down, or there is a steep embankment I must navigate in order to make my way to the water.

Walking in sand with crutches isn’t easy. The tips often sink down into the sand. Then once I make it to the shore I have to take my leg braces off, which makes me feel self conscious, as my legs are scarred and misshapen. I feel like the eyes of everyone are usually upon me. Just looking out at the water is easier, as I don’t have to expose myself as much to others.

We will see if I am brave enough tomorrow to venture down to the water and show my ugly, scar-riddled legs to the world. If not, I will be happy just to see the water from a distance. It will still bring me peace.

Panama City Beach – Day 4

As The Carpenters once sang, “rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” Unfortunately, today we had both of those things. It seems as if the rain has been pretty relentless since yesterday morning. This has made going to the beach next to impossible since we arrived in Florida. The waters of the gulf have been very choppy as well and there have been riptide warnings.

We made the best of this rainy Monday and found some other activities to do. Eating was among those things. We all ventured out to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen here in Panama City. Unfortunately, the food was not very good, and it was overpriced. Her restaurant in Savannah, Georgia is much better.

Tonight’s homemade taco dinner was very tasty. My sister-in-law, Alice, even prepared some ground beef for me without taco seasoning. I am lucky to be surrounded by such a great family. Hopefully, at some point the rain stops and we can spend some time in the water. If not, we’ll just have to eat more tacos!

Day 3 – Montgomery

We woke up in Montgomery, Alabama yesterday morning and decided to just head the rest of the way to Florida. After having driven over 800 miles, we were all ready to be out of the car for a week. We had originally planned to do some sightseeing, but that can wait for another time.

So, we loaded up our Honda CR-V and set out yet again. Just outside of Montgomery, we spotted an outdoor market that had fresh fruits, vegetables, pies, bread, eggs, and all other kinds of goods. They even had some free-range chickens that were roaming the grounds. Baby Boy had fun chasing the chickens around. Fortunately, none of them were peckish. After a short break at the market we were once again on our way.

We finally reached Panama City Beach at around three yesterday afternoon. We had a late lunch at a place on the beach and then headed to join family at our rental house near the beach. It was nice to feel the breeze blowing up from the gulf. It looks like Tropical Storm Claudette has moved on, at least for the most part, although the waters of the gulf were extremely choppy today.

After settling in we decided to go and get some groceries for the week. This was quite an ordeal. I am not one who enjoys shopping, even when the market is empty. We went to two separate stores and both were packed with fellow vacationers. It almost seemed as if everyone was preparing for a disaster to strike.

Being from Northwest, Illinois, I am used to seeing people flood into the stores before an impending snowstorm to grab, milk, bread, and other staples. However, this experience was much different. It was nothing like I had ever seen. I think I’ll steer clear of the checkout lines and just spend the rest of my time at the beach with a good book.

Never again will I do this.

Paducah – Day 1

Amanda, Baby Boy, and I set out on a trip yesterday. I thought I’d chronicle our adventures over the next week here in my blog.

We left our home in Sterling, Illinois last night around 6:00 p.m. Our final destination will be Panama City Beach, Florida. However, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, we thought we’d do the 1,003 mile journey in stages. Last night we stopped in Paducah, Kentucky. We arrived at our hotel just after midnight. Fortunately, Baby Boy slept quite a bit in the car.

On the way down through Illinois there was a lot of road construction, which means there was also a plethora of flashing lights. There also seemed to be quite a few cars broken down along the highway. I am not sure if I have ever seen so many flashing lights in one night. We were even “lucky” enough to have a flashing light in our hotel room!

As I write this I am running on about 3 hours of sleep. That is because in addition to the flashing light blaring in my eyes, I also had a little boy keeping me awake. He has learned how to play peek-a-boo, which he was doing with me. We left his “pack ‘n play” in the car and he slept with me. Amanda had a bed to herself. I could tell Baby Boy had his eyes open, as our room was almost bright as day. When he saw me look at him he’d quickly put his head under the covers and giggle. I love this little boy so much. Anyway, after about thirty minutes of this we both settled down for a restless night sleep.

I think I was elbowed in the face at least ten times. I was also almost disembowled by Baby Boy’s dagger-like toenails. He will be getting these trimmed before we beddown in Montgomery, Alabama tonight.

After our three hour “nap” we were awoken by the rumbling of Harley Davidsons leaving the hotel parking lot. This was just like being at home, as a Harley barrels down our street every morning at 6:30.

I am looking forward to seeing some of the historical sites around Montgomery. Tropical Storm Claudette looks like it has drenched the Gulf Coast, which is where we are headed. I believe by the time we reach the coast on Sunday things will be okay, at least I hope. Stay tuned for more of our travelogue.

Day 2 – Paducah

After a fitful night’s sleep in Paducah, Kentucky, Amanda went and got us all some breakfast of powdered donuts. I believe this was Baby Boy’s first time experiencing those. Powdered donuts always bring back memories of a “staycation” my family and I had when I was a kid.

We stayed at a local hotel for a weekend and did a lot of swimming. Afterwards, we ate powdered donuts by the pool. The Ramada Inn and powdered donuts will forever be linked in my head, but I digress.

Paducah is a town with a lot of nice, little shops. If I was a shopper it would be a great weekend getaway spot. It is also home to Hancock’s of Paducah, which apparently is popular with those who quilt. Amanda and Baby Boy went in for a look while I stayed in the car. The ladies at Hancock’s were nice enough to give Baby Boy a fabric sample. We then went for some sandwiches at Kirchoff’s Deli & Bakery. If you are ever in Paducah, it is worth a stop here. The sandwiches were delicious, and so were the cookies.

After lunch it was time to get back on the road. Our destination for day two of our travels was Montgomery, Alabama. Despite hours of torrential rain, we eventually reached Montgomery last night around eight. After so much travelling, we were all pretty worn out. Well, Amanda and I were anyway. Baby Boy was ready to bounce on the bed, after which he procedeed to vomit. I guess the comedian Ray Romano was right when he said, “Having children is like living in a frat house. Nobody sleeps, everything is broken, and there’s lots of throwing up.” I am ready to see where else this “frat party” takes us.

Essential Tips for Someone With a Disability to Take Charge of Your Financial Future

The following is an article written by a guest contributor. His name is Ed Carter, a retired financial planner, who has his own site full of great information. Be sure to check out his website for more financial tips (ablefutures.org).

If you’ve ever been in a situation where money was tight, you know how it feels to try and make ends meet. This is a tough situation to be in, and one of the biggest issues with just getting by is that you can’t account for expenses that you’ll have later in life. Hopefully you’re in a better place than just getting by, but no matter what your current financial picture looks like, everyone can take steps to prepare their finances for the future.

Revisit Budgeting Basics

When you’re living with a disability, trying to make sense of benefits, healthcare, and accessibility needs can make your financial life complicated. We know how confusing it can be, but regardless of your age or stage in life, it’s always smart to revisit the fundamentals of setting a personal budget.

The main purpose of having a budget is to track your money and ensure you’re spending and saving wisely. Beyond that, everyone has their own personal reasons for setting a budget, and as Greenpath explains, whatever drives you will benefit you in the long run. You may want to set short-term goals, but it’s good to keep your primary focus on the long-term, especially when it comes to major expenses that could come up later in life, such as long-term care

While looking over your budget, it may be a good idea to determine whether it’s a good idea to refinance your mortgage. This can help free up some cash for any emergencies or expenses you may have.

When you’re considering these long-term needs, you’ll want to think about protecting your loved ones as well. If you have anyone who depends on you financially, you may have already gotten life insurance. However, in determining whether or not they need life insurance, too many people fail to consider the burden of final expenses.

Getting final expense insurance is an easy way to relieve that burden by making sure your family could cover the costs of your funeral, medical bills, and even other debts. Like with any other type of insurance, the amount of coverage you should buy is determined by the expenses it needs to cover, so you should think about factors like the type of final arrangements you want and other expenses you foresee leaving behind.

Create a Smart Savings Plan

A large part of your budget is determined by income and expenses, but when your goal is to be prepared for the future, any surplus should go into a savings account. Even if you’re just getting started, U.S. News explains how easy it is to build savings by automatically diverting a portion of each paycheck into your savings account. We also love this simple tip from America Saves: create a savings plan! While this may sound overly simple, they report that those who have a plan are twice as successful at actually saving than those who desire to save but don’t have a plan.

Another crucial piece of advice for anyone who has a disability is to take advantage of ABLE savings accounts. Getting an ABLE account allows you to set aside tax-deferred savings without losing access to government benefits. ABLE savings also allow you to maintain autonomy over your own account, which makes it an excellent tool for taking charge of your financial future.

Seek Out the Best Resources

The other important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it all on your own. An easy solution is to get the help of a financial planner, but the web is full of helpful resources too. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor has tips for making the transition from receiving disability benefits to employment.

There may be times in life when we find ourselves just getting by, but you have so much to gain by being proactive with your finances. Don’t wait to set a budget, build your savings, and take advantage of all opportunities. Your future self will thank you for putting in the effort today!

Hello Again…

It has been quite some time since my last post. I just haven’t felt like writing for some reason. Perhaps, life has just been too hectic, or maybe I just have been a bit lazy. Sometimes, it is difficult to just stop and take stock of the things going on around you.

Life can seem fairly monotonous. Working from home, as I have been doing for over a year, has added to this feeling. Things seem to be slowy getting back to “normal.” I have returned to my office a few days a week. This has brought back some much needed structure to my life. Staying home everyday to work while I am in my pajamas didn’t seem to give me much of a purpose.

A lot has changed within the last year. Baby Boy is now walking and saying a few words, such as “dad.” Being a dad is such a wonderful experience. I have learned a lot about myself. In addition, I think I have learned the entire catalog of “Wiggles” songs. YouTube and Netflix come in handy when you are quarantined.

Amanda and I have been blessed with so much good. Despite, challenges related to health, 2020 was a very prosperous year. It is hard to believe that we are almost halfway through 2021. God has been good to us, even when we have not taken notice.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of the year holds. We will be taking a family vacation to Florida in June. I am excited to see Baby Boy play on the beach. I’m wondering what his reaction will be when he first sees the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure we will build some sandcastles. Well, I’ll build and he will sit on them halfway through their construction.

Looking at life through the eyes of a little one has given me a new perspective. Everything is new and exciting. Nothing is left untouched. Everything has to be tasted, even cat food. Maybe life is not so monotonous after all. How can it be when every day is a new experience?

Advice From a Father

I lost my father when I was just 12 years old. At different times I have felt cheated because of this. For instance, my brothers and I missed out on having our dad there to witness most every milestone of our lives. He was not there to see any of us graduate from high school. Likewise, he missed seeing any of us get married. Most importantly, he never got to meet any of his grandchildren.

Recently, I was speaking with a friend about some personal problems I have been having and she asked me, “what advice would your dad give you?” This is something I have never thought about. I’d never really had the opportunity to ask my dad for much advice. Ever since I was asked this question I have thought about what advice my dad would have for me today.

I am a father now and I look forward to guiding my child through the obstacles of life. This fatherly guidance is something that I did not have as I was going through adolescence, which is a critical period in any young person’s life. So, what would my dad have to say to me today?

My dad was a man with much integrity. He was also a person that doubted at various periods in his life. However, before he died I believe he was able to lay down his burden of doubt and was at peace. I’m a lot like my dad in many ways. I am stubborn, selfish with my time, and I have my own doubts that I carry.

I believe if I was to sit down with my dad today, he’d tell me to let go of doubt. I think with age my dad also would have become more giving of his time. He’d probably tell me that I need to be more open to this as well. Likewise, I am sure he’d probably let me know he is proud of me. This is perhaps what I need to hear the most. I often doubt my own abilities. I’d like to hear my dad say I am good at what I do. Hearing it from his lips might actually allow me to believe it for once.

My dad was skilled at so many ways. I wish I could have learned to do all of the things he knew how to do. His work was something in which he took pride. I think having some of his knowledge would make me more confident as a man. However, I have my own skills, which I look forward to passing down to my son. This will be a way for me to honor my dad’s memory. I’ll never be able to do the things my dad did. However, I know he’d proud of me for succeeding in life.

I don’t believe my dad is watching over me. I think he is spending eternity in Heaven where there is no sorrow. I have hope I will see him again. There are a lot of questions I have for him.

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