Spring Always Comes

Hi! I wrote a post about a month ago and I didn’t publish it because I didn’t want to sound like a whiny complainer. But today, the Monday before Easter, I realize that sometimes we ALL have dark times, sad, tempestuous seasons, that happen without warning and seem to endure, even regenerate-regurgitate themselves like a curse, well beyond their unwelcome time.

But today I know in my heart and by the aspiring robins, hyacinths, and tulips outdoors, that “spring always comes!” Easter tells its story once again. The continuous mini-crucifixions and resurrections that I have experienced throughout my life are the times that can change me. My only hope is that they change me for the better.

But how? This time I once again reflect upon the blessings of family, friends and faith. Can’t be afraid to ask for help! I learned that somebody’s really got my back when I reach out! Even found lingering inspiration from a lovely book on the power of gratitude that I am currently savoring with a cup of coffee every morning. If you’ve never read One Thousand Gifts,  I highly recommend it…

And so, I got through the tough time described below and learned or re-learned a lot. More about that after you see the story written one month ago…


It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day and Spring is just around the corner in Michigan. Or is it? Right now, a mid-March snowstorm is raging outside my front door! The wind blows fiercely, swirling three inches of fresh snow off rooftops onto the sidewalks and streets below. This winter’s weather has been confusing for us in the Midwest–warm enough for green spike daffodil leaves to emerge three inches up from the garden ground. Balmy enough for bright bluebirds to excitedly flit through the air, joyfully teasing mates.

But wait! Suddenly now the flowers and birds hide. Millions of people huddle together in warming centers to battle frigid temperatures.  They’ve had no power or heat for five days. Brrrr!

In fact, it’s been a pretty crazy winter for me too. Machines that I depend upon have been either getting wrecked or suddenly fallen apart. First, an inexperienced driver illegally tried to careen left across five lanes of thick Christmastime traffic and hit my adapted van. Luckily there were no bodily injuries. But that ended up being seven thousand dollars of auto damage and left me stranded without any personal transportation/community mobility for six weeks. I became a prisoner in my house! Weird. It was like someone cut off my legs. It reminded me of being stuck in bed–a four-year-old, paralyzed with polio.  Then my microwave and clothes dryer both overheated. One caught on fire. No injuries once again, whew! But both appliances had to be discarded and replaced. Then last week, one of my pet parakeets suddenly died, leaving her lonely parakeet partner and me behind to mourn. Within a few days after that, I was on my electric scooter, zooming in front of a grocery store entrance when a young woman who looked like Beyonce came barreling full speed ahead through the automatic entrance door, t-boning her big metal grocery cart right into me! She banged my knee. Good Grief! Rattled for about an hour afterward, I remained lucky enough to be relatively unharmed. Have also been grappling with ominous fiscal and post-polio physical threats that have been insidiously tormenting me. How can I cut costs and earn enough new income to continue to support myself? Should I have surgery or not? Would I be able to withstand the debilitating and expensive rehab process afterward?

I know, “life is messy,” but needless to say, I am really ready for a new season.


Here’s what I learned:

  1. If a car insurance company wants to total your adapted van because they don’t know what the adaptations are worth, you must teach them over and over again on the phone until they understand.
  2. If your doctor’s office doesn’t understand why it’s urgent to get a form into the transportation company for a disabled transport pass, tell them.
  3. Overcoming obstacles involves both learning new methods for success and being open to seeing the miracles all around. My friends can teach me a lot.
  4. Trusting your instincts is useful.
  5. Talk to good doctors and therapists.
  6. Ask for assistance. Let your friends and family help you. Giving gifts and help strengthens the givers! Sometimes even more than the receivers.
  7. Give thanks over and over.
  8. Seek the good in everything. Yes, everything.

Each one of these points could be the topic of so many good conversations!


Finally my challenging, rather tiring winter has passed.

Ah…Spring! Easter comes soon. I see flowers. Lots of colorful flowers as I begin to think about the joys of my garden. Do you have a garden too?

Why the Weight? Losing a Few Pounds Is Possible Right Now. Why Wait?

Even if one uses a wheelchair full time and has a metabolism that is a bit slower due to aging, losing weight is possible.  I had almost given up, but then 14 months ago, my doctor fiercely demanded that I lose 10 pounds. If I did not, she threatened to infuse me with some creepy medication.  How terrifying!  At that time, since I had quit walking with braces and crutches two years before, I was close to 50 pounds overweight.  And I knew that the extra weight was not only undesirable; it also made my abilities to transfer and move about so much more strenuous and dangerous.  As I pushed, twisted and lifted my body around every day, my hands, arms and shoulders were at imminent risk for injury and worsening carpal tunnel syndrome.

Looking back, I started to struggle with overweight issues at the age of 11. As I grew into womanhood with an obvious physical disability and a polio survivor’s drive to succeed, losing weight was usually on my mind. It plagued me like a whispering snake, reminding me that I was too fat, which magnified my shame—silently saturating my gut with a dark remorse. I sincerely wanted to shed the pounds, but could never figure out how to do it. Or maybe I wasn’t scared enough to do it.  My thoughts ranged along a scale from “why this weight?” to “oh, why not wait?”  Throughout my busy adult life, I ate when the other girls were out dancing or flirting. I ate at social events with friends. It was easier to meet for dinner than to go roller-skating together. I also ate poorly; grabbing fast food when I was super-achieving to meet my latest professional work deadline.

But now, in my retirement years, “why not wait” had abruptly turned into “don’t wait; too much weight!” For 58 long years, I had not been caring for my body properly. I didn’t know how. My halfhearted attempts had always failed.

reevesSomehow, though, I had actually hung on to hope. A spirited twinkle inside me knew that, “All things are possible”.  I did believe that for me there had to be a key to success. Other people lose weight, why can’t I? I wasn’t born overweight nor was I overweight as a little girl with a disability from polio.  I wanted to get back to who I really am—innocent and unburdened–free from obesity and that incessant snake murmuring in my ear.

So, optimism in hand, with the ironically “blessed threat” of some freaky new medication propelling me forward, I began arduously searching. My deep inner resolve arose. I hunted for a logical strategy and a little magic to help guide me on a new path to weight loss.  One that was feasible and effective. Delightfully, I found both—the strategy and the touch of magic.

The first step was to pay attention to the process of caring for myself. Really taking good care. What a lovely goal. Polio survivors do know how to set a goal and achieve it and I was now adamant. Focus, focus, focus. Then re-focus when focus wanes. The next step was to choose a strategy that involved a comprehensive set of tactics. I needed to go at it from all angles—exercise, healthful eating, and cognitive/emotional support.

sunstepbbThe exercise opportunity already existed. I just had to tweak it a little. I had found a gym program at our local rehabilitation center that would help me. After a time of physical therapy for an arm injury a year before, I attended what was called a “post-rehabilitation gym clinic”. For a monthly fee, former patients could work out at the gym with the assistance and support of enthusiastic rehabilitation technicians. It was perfect. I could go every day of the week and work out on the NuStep machine or stand and walk at the parallel bars. They also would help me weigh myself on a scale to track weight loss

Here’s where the magic of kindness appeared first. When they found out I was working to lose weight, they lifted their established rule of short-term membership. They agreed to let me work out for as many months as I wished; knowing that my goal had moved from rehabilitation to weight loss.  So, I keep working out at the gym.

For more details on the reasonable high intensity interval training that my post-polio specialist, Frederick M. Maynard, M.D., recommended, refer to my post of May 15, 2015 titled “Recipes for Regeneration.”

The second part of my strategy was to eat properly. This was a huge challenge because my kitchen is not very accessible and I don’t like to cook. But I knew I needed to start eating clean. Eating clean is the latest buzzword young people use to mean “include whole foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats; and exclude refined sugar and processed food”.  I had been to WeightWatchers numerous times throughout my life and knew they had the most widely acclaimed sensible eating program. So for $20.00 per month, I signed up this time for WeightWatchers Online.

See: https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/plans/onlineplus

57b64293964beb883da5f9c1680e64ff-mmmIt was convenient and I found a huge selection of recipes that were “clean!”  But I didn’t like to cook. That was a problem. One day a friend was listening to me trying to solve the challenge of not cooking, when she suggested that I ask my current housekeeper, whose contract was only for cleaning, to prepare three WeightWatcher meals for me each week. Here’s where the magic of kindness appeared once more. My housekeeper agreed to stretch her skills. She genuinely wanted to help and encourage me in my weight loss effort. The magic of her generosity and kindness made this part of the strategy work. And my world of “clean eating” joyfully became a reality. I choose the recipes, shop for the food and she cooks them up in my inaccessible kitchen. It is wonderful.

I had found a way to exercise and eat healthful foods, but I knew I needed a third tactic–the psychological support to keep going and learn about my weight problem in greater depth. I asked my physician for a referral to a program at the University called “The Hunger Within“.  She said, “Oh you don’t need that, but if you want to, I will”.  With resolve and referral in hand, I joined the 12-week support/counseling group. It was fascinating and helpful. Actually, it involved a therapeutic technique called cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring refers to any methods that help people think differently about a situation, event, thought, or belief. Cognitive restructuring shifts a person from irrational destructive thought to positive and healthy thinking about any given idea. For class members, it was all about how we see food and the meaning of food in our lives. When are we REALLY hungry, versus when do we simply WANT FOOD?

We learned that with practice, we could change our thoughts about food. I discovered that I often automatically eat when I am bored or lonely.  That kind of emotional eating alone can lead to unwanted obesity.  Did you know that some people want to eat a lot of bread because it brings them closer to an important person in their past lives—like a mother or grandmother, whose homemade bread was irresistible and symbolized love and nurturing?  Or that some people crave a lot of sugary products because there has not been enough sweetness in their lives; but perhaps abuse or harshness from those around them? So I have learned that I can change my distorted thinking and practice more constructive ways to alleviate boredom or loneliness as I develop exciting new interests, and build deeper and more active friendships.

The magic of kindness also emerged from the class in a powerfully different way, as I continued my weight new_book_cover-gbloss journey.  “The Hunger Within” ultimately teaches that we must practice being kind to ourselves. If we want to become physically healthier, it’s our job to replace any self-criticism with self-compassion. As we forgive our mistakes, and nurture the inner joy and goodness that shone in our faces as little children, our thoughts about other people become kinder and more compassionate too.

This class is only conducted at the University of Michigan, but Marilyn Migliore, the workshop’s creator and leader for 20 years, relays that there is a website associated with it. This site describes the program in detail and provides an opportunity to purchase the book. She reports that many people across the country have formed monthly reading/discussion groups with weight-loss in mind. They study the book, chapter by chapter and apply its premises together.

See: http://www.thehungerwithin.com/

Before my physician’s warning, I had nearly given up. Then I changed my mind. With fierce focus and fresh hope, I worked to adapt that three-part strategy to my unique situation.  The kindness demonstrated by those around me has added the magical power that completes the equation. As others continue to teach me how to be kinder and more nurturing of myself, I believe the adipose tissue will continue to fade away. Funny how that works.

Since my physician’s warning in May of 2015, I have lost 15.5 pounds. Not dramatic. Not perfect. But moving in the right direction—about a pound a month.  I slowed down during the cold, winter months, but continued to lose a little.  Now I am focused on shedding 10 more pounds by Thanksgiving.

Losing weight is a feasible goal, even if one is a polio survivor in later life who uses a wheelchair full time.  Why the weight? Who needs it? Why wait? From this experience, I can earnestly say—losing a few pounds is possible…right now.

This article was originally published by Post-Polio Health International in their newsletter, Post-Polio Health (Summer 2016, Volume 32, Number 3).


I guess my question now is…because I have 35 pounds to go,

“what do I say to myself at this point to stay enthused?”

Gotta keep going in the right direction…


Thanks for reading,



Zest at its Best: Wheeling Through Portugal and Spain


The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The following story is about a spiritual pilgrimage through Portugal and Spain.

Susan Peters, the main author of the account, has a spinal cord injury and is a full time wheelchair user. Her story of spiritual renewal, physical daring and warmhearted camaraderie makes me want to return to Europe to travel “The Way” like she did. It must have been such a beautiful experience. See if you agree…



With Duct-Tape and Daring: Elated Friends Complete Rugged Wheelchair Adventure

By: Susan Peters with Sunny Roller

The Camino de Santigo or “Way of St. James” is a mostly mountainous route that adventure travelers take imagesvvvto reach the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  Tradition has it that the remains of Jesus’ apostle, James, are buried at this cathedral in northwestern Spain. Hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims and many others set out each year from a variety of popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to the sacred site. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel, as their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey. Learning this, I decided to try it last Fall–using my wheelchair.

I’ve been a manual wheelchair user due to paraplegia from a spinal cord injury for 40 of my 68 years and I am still looking for adventure and mountains to climb.  So, when a friend of mine suggested that I test my audacity and dare to set off on a wheeling expedition for hundreds of miles along the Camino de Santiago, in Europe, my eyes lit up. In need of personal renewal and sparked by the possibilities of this expedition, I made a commitment to travel “The Way.” Not just for its physical challenges, but also to rejuvenate my zest for life.

map camino

There are many routes to the cathedral. Pilgrims on the Way of St. James walk for weeks or months to visit the city of Santiago de Compostela. Some Europeans begin their pilgrimage on foot from the very doorstep of their homes.

Soon I had recruited my hardy crew of four people–two hired guides from Portuguese Green Walks and two great friends. After avidly planning the trip’s daily itinerary, off we flew to Portugal on September 25th.There are many different routes to choose for this strenuous pilgrimage to St. James’ resting place, but to receive the certificate for traveling The Way, one must clock at least 120 kilometers and stay on a route marked with yellow arrows.  I selected the Portuguese way, beginning in the city of Valenca then along ancient paths north into Spain. Once I determined the route, the hard part was convincing people it could be done by wheelchair. Wrapped up in this initial challenge was actually finding a set of strong-willed, committed, physically-able helpers who not only believed it could be done, but also wanted to go. They were out there. I just had to look.


Ready to roll from the beginning, Susan and friend Nuno, face a rocky road ahead.

Excited and ready to roll at the starting point, I immediately confronted several dozen stone steps leading down-down-down to a narrow ancient path and then a dirt trail. That was when reality hit me–this excursion would not be the slightest bit easy.  Every hotel was slightly different; so I was glad I had my friends with me to help with shower and toilet transfers, which was the hardest part of the trip, really. By day seven, the rough terrain had snapped off all of the metal screws on my front foot plate, and I had to continue the journey with a wheelchair that was partially duct-taped together.  As we pushed ahead, we came across so many gorgeous sites that also became challenging delights. We walked and rolled through bustling ancient towns and pastoral cow pastures.  We forded streams and bumped over bridges only a few inches wider than the wheelchair.


The countryside.

Pushing and pulling, we climbed steep hills and zig-zagged our way down rugged, bumpy Roman roads that had been laid in ancient times using boulders or giant stones. Not easy or comfortable to roll over.

In spite of the obstacles we bashed up against from start to finish, this adventure through Portugal and Spain exceeded every one of my dreams.  All along the way, human warmth and camaraderie carried us.  I met pilgrims from the U.S., Brazil, Korea, New Zealand, Serbia, and from other parts of Europe.


The cuisine.

With spontaneous chances to intermingle every day, fellow sojourners and I took delight in sharing warm companionship and stories of our trek. The people who live along the Camino wanted to commune and gave me a joyful sense of belonging. They energized us with constant encouragement, welcoming smiles, and nourishment of all kinds. And they shared so much–from replenishing my water supply, to enfolding us in big bear hugs, to sharing important secrets about the trails ahead.

With each new dawn I felt a fresh sense of renewal and restoration.  As we continued to walk and roll along the rocky hillsides and over singing woodland rivers, my companions and I came to hear The Way’s new harmonies that seemed to be caroling just for us. We sang and danced. We hugged trees.  We savored delicious hot meals–oysters, clams, rice, sausage, kale soup and Portuguese wine graciously served up at our wayside inns.  We happily stopped at so many shrines and churches along the way, praying for the power of love to heal our world’s wounded.

Santiago_Cathedral (1)

Susan (center front) and comrades finally arrive at the cathedral.

After 120 kilometers, we arrived in Santiago at noon on day ten of our journey, just in time for Mass at the cathedral.   Quickly escorted to a front row seat, I was elated to experience the famous incense burner dramatically swinging right above my head.   Suspended and swaying back and forth from a very long rope through the resplendent cathedral over hundreds of pious onlookers, its wafting smoke and scent seemed to cleanse and coat us with a mystical sense of comfort and reassurance.

It was also my 68th birthday that day. So after the mass, we found a cozy outdoor café. With wine glasses clinking, we heartily celebrated our successful journey AND my birthday. A moment I’ll always remember. We did it! I did it! It was a wonderful feeling as we jubilantly turned ourselves into a lively Spanish fiesta.

I enthusiastically encourage others who use a wheelchair to consider taking the Camino de Santiago.  I was so thankful that my therapist had suggested I take a FreeWheel for my chair. (See photo below.)  It’s an attachment that enables your wheelchair casters to be lifted off the ground, turning your chair into a three-wheeler, so you simply roll over any obstacle: curbs, dirt trails, grass, gravel, snow, and sand. I couldn’t have gotten along without it. (To learn more go to https://www.gofreewheel.com/)

Roman_Road2 (1)

The FreeWheel attachment on the wheelchair’s front enabled easier passage.

When you go, strong friends, a FreeWheel, patience and perseverance are a must.  Also remember to pack rain gear, a wheelchair repair kit, and layered clothing. If I can do it at my age, with arthritis and brittle bones, you can too.

For more information contact me at speters@msu.edu.


Bom Camino!


Susan Peters, Ph.D.  is an Associate Professor Emerita at Michigan State University, College of Education.  As a Fulbright Scholar and educational consultant for Ministries of Education, the World Bank, and UNESCO, her work focuses on inclusive education policy and practice for people with disabilities in cross-cultural and international perspectives.


In 2011 Martin Sheen starred in a movie titled THE WAY about one man’s journey to the cathedral. THE WAY is a powerful and inspirational story about family, friends and the challenges we face while navigating this ever-changing and complicated world. Martin Sheen plays Tom, an irascible American doctor who comes to France to deal with the tragic loss of his son (played by Emilio Estevez). Rather than return home, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage “The Way of St. James” to honor his son’s desire to finish the journey. What Tom doesn’t plan on is the profound impact this trip will have on him. Through unexpected and oftentimes amusing experiences along THE WAY, Tom discovers the difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.”   It is well worth watching.

Check it out here: 



The above story by Susan Peters, Ph.D. was first published in the Spring/Summer 2016 newsletter, SCI Access. Distributed annually by the University of Michigan (U-M) Spinal Cord Injury Model System within the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, SCI Access is sent to 1200 readers in Michigan and across the country. For more information about this program that focuses on people who are living with a spinal cord injury, see their U-M website:  http://pmr.med.umich.edu/SCIMS



Thanks for Reading!


Want to add an adventure like this to your own To-Do List?

What do you think?  Feel free to comment…


Messing With The Great Pumpkin

images gpAhhh, the Great Pumpkin! Remember the famous story by Charles Schultz? Linus sits up wide-eyed agonizing  all night under the stars–in the dark chilly pumpkin patch–faithfully waiting, waiting, waiting for the wonderful Great Pumpkin to appear. Sorta like Santa appears on Christmas.

It is a story of great faith on Halloween. Many say that, “Linus’s interpretation of Halloween renders the Great Pumpkin a symbol of hope and expectation.” And I ALWAYS wanted Linus’ Great Pumpkin to appear. I really, really did. I wanted the miracle to happen.

Well, Linus’ envisioned Great Pumpkin never shows up. Heavy sigh! Sad, but true.

So lately, whenever I have seen this Halloween special on T.V., I have pondered,  “how could Linus have averted this discouraging tragedy? How could any of us who are living with the late effects of polio (or the late effects of life), turn this story of dashed hopes, and repeatedly unmet expectations around?” Have you been waiting and waiting for something that hasn’t come? Have you sat in your proverbial pumpkin patch too long?

Well, I have! And I decided that maybe I need to quit waiting submissively for that wonder-squash to magically appear and go after what I want. Take action! Maybe I need to slightly alter my vision and create a somewhat different dream in my mind that’s more me. More possible. Maybe even more interesting. Don’t change it completely, just tweak it a little. And then do something. Go after it!

So yesterday, here’s what I did…I took expectations into my own hands and went to my kitchen. There I created a new pumpkin…it’s not The Great Pumpkin, but it’s my pumpkin…do-able…likeable…


It’s the…

grape pumpkin






And so, it is in the spirit of enjoyment,  

merry -making and 

The Grape Pumpkin


I wish you a very

Happy Halloween!

Thanks for Reading,




P.S. Here’s a Great Pumpkin Soup recipe

you may want to try this season…


From my friend, Susan.

4 cups mashed pumpkin
1 quart chicken broth
2 T orange zest
1/4 teaspoons each cinnamon and nutmeg
2 T fresh grated ginger root
1/2 to 1 cup of orange juice (or juice of 1 orange)
Salt / pepper to taste
Let simmer in a crock pot.


P.P.S. Weight loss update: Well, I checked in with my doctor yesterday, who read my blood test results.

Gulp. I was nervous.

She said that after losing 11.5 lbs., my liver is back to normal, and my glucose is down. No medication needed!  Yahoo! It can be done!

Next she told me to lose another 10 lbs. by May 1st. So I’m not quitting! ( I think I still slightly resemble our friend, the Great Pumpkin, when I see my profile in a mirror.)

She said that I must vigilantly track my food for the next 30 days in a row, especially since the holidays are coming up. Okay. And that I might want to try a little light weight-lifting to help me lose more weight. She said studies prove that that can help. (What have you read about that for folks with the late effects of polio? Anything?)

She also said that I can tell all you guys she is WAY PLEASED with the progress, so far.

Thanks so very much for your

help and support!


On Giving: An Epiphany in the North Woods

Giving to others is a good thing. Once in awhile, when cruising in for an afternoon latte at our Starbuck’s Drive-Thru, I warmlove to anonymously buy coffee for the person in line behind me. And then I zoom away–before they find out! That small gesture actually makes my eyes twinkle. Newly energized, it fills me with a quiet merriment as I chuckle and head into the rest of my day.

Generosity has actually been shown to stimulate happy feelings that light up centers of euphoria in our brains. In one study, brain scans revealed that when people made the decision to donate to what they felt was a worthy organization, the brain’s mesolimbic system lit up. This system produces dopamine, which makes us feel good. (See Hard-Wired For Giving and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Giving)

Further, other scientists purport that generosity can even be an effective antidepressant. Wow. That would be much better than depending on expensive pharmaceuticals! If you are ever feeling down, I suggest that you reach out to another person with a small act of generosity. Spirits will be lifted in no time! Give someone a flower or a friendly phone call. Or, how about 37 cents?

“Why 37 cents?” you may ask.

Fifty-four years ago, in a remote village in the north woods a stranger’s small gesture gave me the chance to learn a huge life lesson. I’d like to share my story with you.


When I was fourteen years old, I experienced a moment of enlightenment about the virtue of random acts of kindness. For me, it was an unmistakably spiritual experience.  Back in the 1960s my church youth group went on a missionary trip to Rapid River, a tiny town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. During the day, all thestream (2)aaa little kids in the area would come to the church for Bible School, which we led. Then in the evenings our group of teenage missionaries would enjoy a variety of social activities together. Well, one night, we all walked down to the A&W Drive-In for ice cream. I was happy to keep up with the gang, hobbling on my braces and crutches for the three-block adventure. I felt so accepted. We were having fun, joking with each other and goofing around. After we each purchased our evening treat, we strolled back a different way– this time through the center of the tiny town. It was a route which took us in front of the local bar. As we walked past the tavern’s old wooden entrance door, a drunken local stumbled out. He immediately spotted our group and suddenly zeroed in on me. “Hey, girl!” he slurred, for all to hear. The entire group abruptly stopped walking. The kids’ eyes widened and quiet gasps came from a couple of the girls. Then dead silence. I stood still as the man approached me. He outstretched his hand to me and said, “Here girl. You need this more than me.” He dropped 37 cents in nickels and pennies into my hand and staggered across the street into the darkness. Now hushed, our once joshing group just silently walked. I especially, was speechless. But more than that I was so embarrassed. Then I got confused and shook up, but tried not to show it as we headed back to the church. Why did that man pick me out of all those kids? I had tried so hard to fit in with the group, but once again was forced to be the peculiar, atypical one. At least that’s how it felt to a teenager desperately seeking peer group acceptance.


Located inside the Hiawatha National Forest, Rapid River has a population of 1,492 and is near Escanaba, Michigan along U.S. Highway 2. It’s a great place to go fishing if you’re ever up that way!

A little while later, my minister found me sitting on the front steps of the church under the night sky, looking up at the stars and down at my slightly deformed feet, just thinking. He sat down beside me, put his arm around my shoulders, and shared that he had heard about what happened. Sad and confused I shared the story from my perspective.

That’s when he taught me the life lesson I have never forgotten. He predicted there would be many times in my life, because I had such an obvious disability, that people would want to give me help–in good faith–even if I didn’t need it. He taught me that I then would be blessed with an opportunity to help them, strengthen them and love them by graciously accepting their gestures of kindness whenever possible. I did not need that man’s 37 cents, but by thanking him for it I would have been giving him the opportunity to be blessed in new ways. Somehow, my gratefully receiving the 37 cents would have made life a little better for both of us.

In her sermon just this past summer, my church pastor, Lori Carey, unknowingly expanded upon my teenage epiphany. She explained that every so often in life, just like that night in Rapid River, an amazing opportunity opens up. We are called to engage in a sacred give and take when two souls can connect and feel the presence of God.  There is an interesting thing that happens in this exchange of give and take. The roles of giving and taking become blurred. You see, the one who gives can only give if the gift is accepted. Receiving the gift is a gift in return. Suddenly, in the act of give and take, the giver receives the acceptance of and connection with the receiver– and the receiver becomes a giver by accepting the gift. Both parties give and receive simultaneously. We seamlessly move between both.

Perhaps we’ve learned somewhere that the receiving part is not as important as the giving part. Not true, she went on to share. Graciously receiving completes the act of giving and unifies the giver and receiver. It’s a beautiful mystery.

I’ve never forgotten that long-ago 37-cent encounter way up in the north woods. I discovered that whenever I receive graciously from another person, that suddenly becomes my opportunity to become a generous, loving giver as well.

It’s true. That stranger’s meager handful of change initiated a million dollar lesson for me.



Thanks for Reading,



A great big thanks to Pastor Lori Carey, Rosalie Meyer, and Susan Rasmussen for their thoughts and words. They helped shape this post.


P.S.  Weight loss update: Aaargh! I have lost a tiny bit of weight since I last reported! My loss since starting in mid-May is only up by 1/2 lb.– at 9.5 lbs. total. I continue to work out 2-5 times a week on the NuStep and eat WeightWatchers recipes. The problem: my gym was closed to me for one whole week and my food portion sizes are not controlled enough. Bummer. But I refuse to become discouraged and give up!  I know what I need to do.  Any advice or encouragement you might have sure would be appreciated today!


sr exercising 2Oh! Did you see the recent company blog post from NuStep?

Click on this link: NuStep for polio survivors








Celebrating Independence Day Makes Me Think…

…About Moving From Independence to Healthy Interdependence


DSC03697 flagJuly Fourth. It’s Independence Day weekend in America; a time to celebrate that we live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”  And this weekend, the national celebration also makes me think about my own sense of independence.

As a polio survivor for 63 years who has needed crutches, leg braces, and now a wheelchair and a scooter to get around, I was taught searing lessons about independence since the age of four. As children of the epidemics, we were  immersed, even indoctrinated, with the goals of becoming fiercely independent as we went through our initial rehabilitation from acute polio.  “Do it yourself! You fell down? Well, figure out how to get up on your own! It’s a cold, cruel world out there! You will always have to prove yourself to others,” were words I often heard from my parents and therapists. And they worked for me for a long time.

For fourteen-plus years, my 1950’s rehabilitation professionals convinced my family and me that I, as a young person who had a disability, was not sick, or defective. Neither was I destined to become a deviant object of charity. In fact, my mother always told me that I could do anything anybody else could do–just a bit differently. Our Wise Elders, the polio survivors in my national report, said they were told the same thing. One woman said she had a need to think independently from the time she was a young woman. She described how she traveled alone around the country and made other decisions that seemed imprudent to her non-disabled social group. Our stories of super achievement are numerous. But as we learned self-determination and self-respect, we were also taught not to be a burden on others.


Now that’s a loaded statement. One that needs unraveling–fast!  A burden? What’s that? What does this concept called independence really mean to us today? Is it the flip side of dependence? If independent means not being a burden on people, does that mean we should have less self-respect as we demurely become a dependent thorn in the side of others when we do reach out for help? Excess baggage? An affliction to them? Should we feel guilty? Defective? Unworthy? OMG: independence versus dependence. Let the unraveling begin with a new thought…

It’s the Fourth of July in America. Our greatest document, other than the Constitution, is the Declaration of Independence. For people who are growing older with the late effects of polio or simply growing older with the late effects of life, I say we need to draw up a more evolved document: The Declaration of Interdependence!  

Not independence. Not dependence. But interdependence: “the quality of being mutually reliant on each other.” 

It makes total sense, if we can shake our old ways of thinking. Under the guidance of this new declaration, we can begin to move from needing to fly solo so as not to bother others and prove ourselves worthy, into a new and lovely blessed state of healthy exchange. “I ask you for new kinds of help and I give you the help you need that I am capable of giving.”  It becomes a gracious and reciprocal experience that none of us will want to miss out on.

Trying to be that old kind of independent can be not only exhausting, but darn lonely. Working with a friend to plan a class reunion or a church event not only takes the load off me, but is a lot more fun. Who wants to do stuff alone all the time? That’s too independent! Trying to be strong and self-reliant can also be dangerous. Now while painting the fence or planting a garden, I could easily fall down, and then pop a bicep trying to push myself up from the ground. I say find a twenty-year old to do it. Then give him some of your best home baked cookies, some money and your full attention as he shares his life plans and interests. We have both gained from the experience. My friends and I trade favors. We drive each other to the airport and to our colonoscopies. I always have to drive my adapted car wherever we go, but my friends often chip in for gas. I listen intently to what my friends need to share with somebody and my buddies pay for dinner or buy me a device I can’t afford right now. It’s becoming easier for me to ask strangers for help when I need it too. We have always needed others and they have needed us. It just starts to look different as we age. As the poet says, “no man is an island.”

lemieux vv

Who needs to do stuff alone all the time? (Photo: Bay Cliff wildflower taken by Paula Lemieux)

If we need more, we need to ask for more. No guilt. We still have much to contribute now; maybe even more, but in different arenas. We don’t need to prove ourselves in the mainstream workplace and keep up with our non-disabled competitors. We can make new disability-related adaptations and be content with who we are really becoming, and what we need to do to live well during our retirement years.

Growing older with greater disability can offer us a fresh sense of not only comfort, but also liberation. I love having a flexible schedule that I can coordinate with my energy levels. It’s great to have time to Skype or play Skip-Bo with kids, do my scrapbooking and card making, walk and roll with my friends along the river’s edge, and contribute to my special social causes. Another unexpected thought–because of feedback I’ve received, I think I have somehow become more beautiful in certain ways as I’ve aged. And that’s in spite of new fat, wrinkles and deformity. Maybe it has to do with personal essence. Not sure, but I think that phenomenon is possible for each of us. We can mysteriously become more attractive. In many important ways, life can be better in old age than it ever was in youth. Especially when we each figure out how to adopt our own personal Declaration of Interdependence.

So stay tuned! Next time we’ll focus on the sacred exchange of giving and receiving.

Until then, I’m interdependently yours,


P.S. Weight loss update: I have shed nine pounds since May 13th. Much more to go. Onward!

—Many thanks to Sue Rasmussen for her editorial assistance with this post!—

What are your thoughts on all this? 

Would love to read your comments…


Of That Unspoken Feared “Post-Polio Syndrome”…

And so, Way Back When: The Lost Anthology, continues to unfold…

This next contribution, chapter five, by the late Norene Seinkbeil was written when she first began to experience her own physical changes due to post-polio syndrome. So many of us felt her desperate sense of fear and a bewildering resurgence of grief when we learned there was no cure for what was to come–only management strategies. But, like Norene, most of us eventually figured out how to re-frame our priorities and perspectives on life–to move forward with optimism, grace and a renewed sense of purpose.


Post-polio syndrome is a new condition that affects the survivors of polio decades after the acute illness of poliomyelitis. The major symptoms are pain, fatigue and weakness. New weakness is considered the hallmark of post-polio syndrome. Less commonly, survivors may have new sleep/breathing/swallowing problems and some survivors may also experience muscle atrophy or muscle wasting.

–Joan L. Headley, M.S.

For more information on post-polio syndrome click here:  phi logo


shadowxxIt’s How You Feel Within

–by Norene Senkbeil, polio survivor, (1934-2010)

We hide our fears,

Our weakness we somehow muster under

Go on and on and then…

The rumbles begin like thunder.

At first it’s just a little tired

And vitamins will help.

Some exercise, a little more sleep

Just get a hold of yourself!


Then comes the time when there’s no push left,

“I can’t do that anymore”

And your family says “Come on, come on,

You’ve never been a quitter before.”

So you struggle up and say

“Yes that’s true.

I’ve been through so much already17711cc

I can beat this too!”

And then one day

That remembered day

You knew.

The rounds of doctors start,

And prayers flow from the heart.

Please Father God, not this again

This battle I must win!

But prayers go unanswered, weakness sets in

And pain, and most of all Fear.

Where will it end for me, Lord?

How will I be next year?

Take this my child and serve me wellgeranium

Even if it’s just your example

People will know by your actions and faith

That my care is always ample.

But what can I do Lord, to further Your Kingdom?

Locked in this body, that hurts when it moves

These legs with unsteady gait.

Remember my child, Milton wrote long ago–

“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Acceptance and peace begin anew.P1000934xx

Your heart can sing again.

There is a wonderful life for me now…

It’s how you feel within!


Norene Janet Shepard Senkbeil, 75, passed away January 1, 2010. She was born February 1, 1934 in Wheeling, WV. Norene grew up in Wheeling and attended Tridelphia High School. She married Walter Senkbeil in 1951 and they later moved to Tampa in 1960. Her love and devotion was directed toward her family and her church. Norene shared her creative gifts through poetry, painting and numerous arts and crafts.

In 1987, at the time she submitted this poem for the anthology, she wrote:

“In June 1955, at the age of 21, I contracted polio while living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I had two small children. I came down with what was referred to the as all three types. High and low spinal, and bulbar. Was in an iron lung, in a coma, and not expected to live. Then as now, the power of prayer prevailed and I gained strength. Was the first gentile woman admitted to the Jewish hospital, called Sheltering Oaks, for therapy. I gradually grew stronger, walked again and had three more children. Although many problems existed I managed to do just about as much as most moms did. Others in this situation know the struggle and how ‘we’ must try harder.”



The Search for Anthology Authors Continues…

Almost 30 years ago (1987), friends, Barbara Pike, Charlene Bozarth, and I sent out a nationwide request to polio survivors who might want to have their writings published in an anthology. Manuscripts came in, but life took over, and we were never able to create and publish the collection, as we had hoped. When I lost track of Barbara in Ohio, and Charlene, who left Michigan for New Mexico,  I protectively stored the writings for resurrection at a later date.

Well, this year is that later date! I recently rediscovered them in my files, dusted them off, and now plan to take the liberty of publishing them by way of this blog.  Some are essays. Some are poems. They are heartfelt, intimate and describe living with polio in earlier times. We can still resonate with their feelings and messages.

Here is a list of the missing anthology authors whom I would like to contact for permission to publish their work, now, so many years later. Since the publishing of chapter one, we have found five authors, but have many yet to find.

If you are one, or know of one, please contact me at sunnyrollerblog@gmail.com.

Thank you!


Floy Schoenfelder

Lee Whipple

William Wild

Agnes Fennewald

Charlotte Snitzer

Ann Bradley

Toni Keffeler

Sofia Baltodano

Bruce Berman

Roberta Dillion Williams

Becky Lee Vance

Jean Hamm

Ann Goodhall

Ginger Sage

Shirley Hile Powell

Elizabeth Reeves

Doris Vanden Boogard

Donna L. Mattinson

Marie Galda

Alan M. Oberdick

Emma Blosser Hartzler

R. N. Hackney

Robert C. Huse


If you appreciate the support that this blog can give to you and to others, please consider supporting it financially–offering your small gifts of encouragement to help keep the messages coming. Just click on the “donate” button at the right sidebar. Sometimes a little financial endorsement really makes a big inspirational difference…


“Who Are These Polio Survivors?”

The latest installment of…

Way Back When: The Lost Anthology — Chapter Four

The following piece was sent to us by the late Ernie Anderegg from Tuscon, Arizona. He wanted it to be published in the post-polio anthology back in the late 1980s.  This poem is a tough one to read because it so concretely describes the anguish and adversity that polio brought to so many newly-paralyzed children and their heartbroken families. The experience was absolutely devastating on so many levels and can bring back mournful images and memories that are still buried deep within.

But wait! Out of the desolation, Ernie expresses his pride in being a polio survivor and reminds us that the powerful spirit of love and our enthusiasm for living life prevails …



Who are these polio Survivors?


Infants, only days or weeks into this precious life;

Lifeless and aching in paralytic strife.

Toddlers, removed from their bonding with kin;

to a world of strangers and loneliness therein.

School-age tots, healthy, vital and well;

with an untimely sentencing to a strange form of Hell.

Young adults, men and women alike;

not quite able to evade this phantom’s strike.

With febrile delusion and limbs that would fail;

Like rag dolls–languid, flaccid and frail.

Parents of whom were often alerted,


“Go home to your family, death cannot be averted.”

But we heard not the dirge, we made no departure;

and we all cheated death to pursue life’s adventure. ask

Now challenged by life to rebuild and maintain;

the Polio Survivor will gain and regain.

With lost weeks and years in sterile abandonment,

maturing, enduring this foreign environment.

Spanning the spectrum from newborn past twenty;

Their good lives disrupted–tears shed aplenty.

With racking pain in uphill progression,

who’d ever believe we would relive regression?

But through this all we bore the test;

and still proclaim we are the best.

And drawing from our days on trial,

When we all pushed the extra mile.

The common thread running through our lives


The Polio Survivor endures and survives!

plain baycliff flowers v

About the Author

images (3)11Polio survivor, Ernest J. Anderegg, Jr., age 68, “ended his earthly journey at home on March 29, 2015. Born on December 1, 1946 in Jersey City, NJ to parents Ernest and Lillian Anderegg and survived by first wife, Beverly Anderegg; two children, Darrin and Renee; three grandchildren and two brothers, Warren and Gregory Anderegg. As a polio survivor he became a strong advocate for the disabled community and instrumental in establishing the polio EPIC group. His presence will be missed and treasured by family and many beloved friends. He was admired for his wit, appreciation of the value and comfort of friendship, and particularly for his strength and equanimity in the face of chronic pain. He was a profound poet and writer who earned the title of “Distinguished Poet” on Poetry.com.

Of his life he wrote, ” (I am a) polio survivor of the 40’s epidemic (spino-bulbar) who has spent a lifetime ‘trying to pass for normal’ (a term used by survivors).  In my old age there has been a number of concessions, physical and psychological, that directed me to writing to express and vent. Watching the natural course of things in an analytical way,  I am able to draw from life experience to leave my thoughts, strengths, personal spirituality for family & friends to cipher after the fact.”

Ernie was a founding member of the flourishing post-polio support group, Polio Epic, in Tuscon, Arizona. Current group president, Micki Minner, enthusiastically shared with me that Polio Epic is a dynamic, ever-enlarging support group with strong programs and powerful outreach. It attracts folks from all over the state to their regular meetings.  To learn more, check out their website here… PolioEpicLogo-801-x-83

The Search for Anthology Authors Continues…

Almost 30 years ago (1987), friends, Barbara Pike, Charlene Bozarth, and I sent out a nationwide request to polio survivors who might want to have their writings published in an anthology. Manuscripts came in, but life took over, and we were never able to create and publish the collection, as we had hoped. When I lost track of Barbara in Ohio, and Charlene, who left Michigan for New Mexico,  I protectively stored the writings for resurrection at a later date.

Well, this year is that later date! I recently rediscovered them in my files, dusted them off, and now plan to take the liberty of publishing them by way of this blog.  Some are essays. Some are poems. They are heartfelt, intimate and describe living with polio in earlier times. We can still resonate with their feelings and messages.

Here is a list of the missing anthology authors whom I would like to contact for permission to publish their work, now, so many years later. Since the publishing of chapter one, we have found three more authors, but have many yet to find.

If you are one, or know of one, please contact me at sunnyrollerblog@gmail.com.

Thank you!


Floy Schoenfelder

Lee Whipple

William Wild

Agnes Fennewald

Charlotte Snitzer

Ann Bradley

Toni Keffeler

Sofia Baltodano

Bruce Berman

Roberta Dillion Williams

Becky Lee Vance

Jean Hamm

Norene Senkbeil

Ann Goodhall

Ginger Sage

Shirley Hile Powell

Elizabeth Reeves

Doris Vanden Boogard

Donna L. Mattinson

Marie Galda

Alan M. Oberdick

Emma Blosser Hartzler

R. N. Hackney

Robert C. Huse


 Where can you be?



P.S. Quick report on my weight loss program: since May 13th I have lost 4.5 pounds. Onward and upward!

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The links below and throughout this blog are affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you stay on the link and make a purchase anywhere on that website. Thanks for your support in this way!

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Recipes for Regeneration

 The snow dissipates. 
 The springtime flowers emerge. 
  Man regenerates.
–Haiku by Frederick M. Maynard, M.D.


Regeneration is my goal now that spring has arrived. And especially now that my doctor just orderedDSCN2692 me to lose ten pounds by Halloween or else! The “else” would be unwanted medication with weird unpredictable side effects, and gradual systemic breakdown ultimately leading to disease and death. Not good.

So that’s it! I am sick of being almost 50 pounds too heavy. This situation is embarrassing, serious, disgusting, and super scary. I must lose weight or become morbidly obese. Yuk! Who needs that repugnant label next to your name?

It’s up to me. Yeah sure, obesity’s an American epidemic. Yeah sure, taking off pounds and pounds of fat is hard. Especially for someone who is a sedentary wheelchair user, like me. But there are a lot of American polio survivors that use wheelchairs who are not so overweight. I truly believe that “all things are possible,” in spite of being difficult. All I have to do is look around me to see the success stories.

So, how will I do what my physician firmly advised?  It’s gonna take resolve, a new diet, and more exercise. I hope that sharing my story publicly might help others who are struggling with the same issue. Maybe writing this post will keep me accountable to my reading audience of friends as well? I am now cooking up an action plan and will be checking in with a progress note to you once a month on this blog through October. I am hereby altering my personal perspective on getting rid of my extra pounds, choosing to eat fresh foods with smarter carbohydrates and less sugar, and exercising more often–under the prescribed guidelines for polio survivors.

For starters today, here are three more specific wellness ideas–“recipes for regeneration”– that can become part of the action plan…

Recipe One: Emotional, Intellectual, and Spiritual Resolve

Step One: I dig deep. Way deep. Back to the unflinching resolve that I learned during my childhood rehab from acute polio. Set a goal and achieve it. Polio survivors know how to do that well. I can feel it. That perspective is coming back to me.  I dig deep and take the first steps. My willpower gets stronger as I keep moving.

Step Two: I focus. My eyes are narrowing. My grinding grit and laser drive to succeed take me back to that 18806_956653137698640_7321545173920855628_nxxstubborn, dedicated, unrelenting, hard core self. Now I have engaged an unrelenting commitment to eat properly and go to the gym to workout. I connect to WeightWatchers Online and plan my weekly menus. I have engaged a super-friend to help me cook. I plan to  workout at my gym three to five times per week. Then I’ll report to my inner circle of close friends at the end of each week on how many times I got there. My daily schedule will revolve around these critical tactics to achieve that new health goal: ten pounds off by late October!

Step Three: I pray.  May the Lord give me the daily inspiration to continue this journey back to wellness and regeneration. I wasn’t born overweight. I don’t have to be so heavy now. And may I have the heart and eyes to be open to this spiritual blessing to me and others as I find joy and little miracles of support and encouragement all along the way.

Recipe Two: A Lovely Spring Soup

Here is a very tasty, low calorie soup that I discovered last week. (Found it at WeightWatchers Online.)  Just thought you might like to try it sometime…

spring soup recipe

Recipe Three: A New Workout Technique

When I go to the gym, one thing I do is workout on the NuStep machine. Ever seen one or used one? DSCN2439xxIt’s a great option because one doesn’t need much leg power to use it, but it can provide an aerobic workout. How to effectively pace the workout is a key for burning calories without overdoing the exercise.

Here is a method I just learned from Frederick M. Maynard, M.D., well-known physiatrist and medical expert on the late effects of polio and post-polio disability.  He is a man who works out to stay healthy himself, so he also speaks from personal experience.

Dr. Maynard writes:

New Workout Exercise Research finds significant benefits for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) compared to Conventional Aerobic Training (CAT). HIIT is ideally performed for only 20 minutes 3 times per week and involves alternating 60 seconds of ‘high intensity exertion,’ defined as 7-8 on a 1-10 perceived intensity of exertion scale and/or 80%-90% of estimated maximum heart rate. CAT is performed for 20-40 minutes at moderate to high intensity exertion continuously 5 times per week.

Researchers found that although CAT burned more calories per session than HIIT, people who did 15 weeks of HIIT burned 900% more fat than those who did 20 weeks of CAT, likely because it resulted in a significant increase in Basal Metabolic rate.

What might this mean to polio survivors? It has long been recommended that polio survivors utilize principles of Interval Training in order to make participation in Aerobic Training possible, given their common limitations of moderate to severe weakness in limb muscles. This research suggests that if a person’s primary goal for doing an exercise program is to achieve weight loss, then doing it with an HIIT approach may help obtain the desired outcome.

Here are the steps to try this out:

1) Pick a feasible activity: stationary bicycle, NuStep, swimming, arm ergometry, treadmill walking, etc. It needs to be an activity that can be performed without struggle, be possible to engage in 3 to 4 times per week and be done briefly without risk of harm at moderate intensity levels.

2) Do the activity at low comfortable levels of exertion for 3 to 5 minutes as a warm up.

3) Then do a speed interval of the activity at as high an intensity as possible (faster and/or harder resistance) for 30 seconds, with a goal of doing it for 60 seconds at gradually higher intensities.

4) Then do a rest break or light interval for 30-60 seconds, the same length of time as the speed interval. Keep doing the activity at a leisurely or comfortable speed during this interval.

5) Repeat the speed interval and rest interval for 2 or 3 times, and build up to a goal of a 20-minute session or bout of exercise.

6) Do a bout of exercise every other day or 3 times per week.

This approach to exercising for weight loss and improved fitness for polio survivors has not been scientifically studied or proven to be effective. However, in my opinion, it makes sense to try to incorporate as many of the principles of HIIT as possible into any polio survivor’s exercise program. Many polio survivors may need the professional advice and coaching of a doctor, therapist or trainer to be able to conduct these programs effectively. The long-established important principles of pacing and avoiding overuse injury or harm must still be honored.

Please share your experiences of trying this approach out with us by way of the comment section below.

 –Frederick M. Maynard, MD

My personal regeneration program just started.

Am off to the gym now…



More Later,


Points to Ponder:

Do you have any practical ideas to share with us on successful weight loss tactics for people living with polio?

Have you ever lost weight and kept it off? How did you do it?


P.S. If you found this article helpful and enjoyed “the read,” you may want to subscribe–free of charge–to receive an email every 10 days or so, announcing the latest post.

Just go to the right sidebar here to sign up.



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Way Back When: The Lost Anthology–Chapter Three

Way back when, Mary Ellen Nyberg Hemby wrote about her experience as a mom with polio. Her words below reflect a tenderhearted relationship with children and their purity of spirit.  May we fondly pause a moment to once again be caught up in the “springtime of life”… 


The Best Wheels

There were once two little girls

who loved to play with wheels.

f3fae57c2f66595774768bafbadfb3aa vv

“Playing House” by Jim Daly

They pushed their dolls in strollers

before and after meals.

Roller skates, a bike, and a trike

all painted red and white

Kept them moving all around

from morning until night.

They pulled their new wooden wagon

all over in the sun,

and shopping carts in the stores

made shopping much more fun!

But Mama’s yellow wheelchair

had the best wheels of all,

To push and ride with Mama

all over the mall!



Most people stand up straight and tall,

can walk and run with no help at all.

But some use canes or crutches, too,

to walk around like others do.

Some need braces or special shoes

for walking or running or whatever they choose.

And some people can just sit in a chair

And wheel around from here to there.

But remember that we’re all people, too,

We all like to play and go to the zoo.

We all love to laugh and sing and talk

whether we have to wheel or walk.

Brian Penguins 2vv

“Peckish Penquins” by John Dyer


Later, when up against the late effects of polio, her positive, youthful spirit emerged as she reflected on what might come next …

Polio Survivors–Movement

Movement, from the day we were born, was an exciting, enjoyable experience. Crawling, running, jumping, and riding bikes made the process of getting there as exciting as being there.

As children, we explored and enjoyed every possibility–even with braces or crutches–we tried it all. We succeeded at things people said we could never do.

When we grew older, the movements became normal, for us, and many steps were made unconsciously–simply as a means to an end. The process wasn’t as important as the result. Unless the brace or crutch was changed or broken, we forgot our handicap.

Now, after so many years of succeeding, we have begun to contemplate every movement again. Each step is being carefully considered due to weakness, pain and exhaustion. We have needed to add more supports, and have compromised our independence with mechanical chairs.

paintings trees childhood children_www.wall321.com_8 bb

Unknown Artist

We, like children again, will confront the new challenge and learn to savor every movement–to succeed once more!


About the Author

10982084_10204913127121900_4667068791303788880_naaMary Ellen Nyberg Hemby lives in Willis, Texas. She contracted polio in 1954 at age two in Nebraska and walked with one long leg brace during her younger years. After college graduation, she moved to Texas to escape winter weather. Mary Ellen worked as a Montessori teacher for five  years.  Post-Polio Syndrome was diagnosed in 1986 when she was married with two young daughters.

She recalls her past writings above, giving them a life context…“they were my way of adjusting to Social Security Disability Income with two small children. I visited their classrooms and talked about disability. One of my daughters, her husband, and their six-month old daughter now live with me. They help me with shopping and cooking and I help them love Isabel…I stay connected (to others by way of) the internet mostly. I try to find something to be positive about at each stage (of life). …God has a plan for all of us.”

Readers are welcome to contact Mary Ellen at menybergh@aol.com

Thank you, Mary Ellen.

May your abiding love for children continue to be a huge blessing for you. Kids desperately need all the love and attention we adults have ready to give them. And we also know that children are so very good for all of us way-too-sensible adults!


Still Searching…

Almost 30 years ago (1987), friends, Barbara Pike, Charlene Bozarth, and I sent out a nationwide request to polio survivors who might want to have their writings published in an anthology. Manuscripts came in, but life took over, and we were never able to create and publish the collection, as we had hoped. When I lost track of Barbara in Ohio, and Charlene, who left Michigan for New Mexico,  I protectively stored the writings for resurrection at a later date.

Well, this year is that later date! I recently rediscovered them in my files, dusted them off, and now plan to take the liberty of publishing them by way of this blog.  Some are essays. Some are poems. They are heartfelt, intimate and describe living with polio in earlier times. We can still resonate with their feelings and messages.

Here is a list of the missing anthology authors whom I would like to contact for permission to publish their work, now, so many years later. Since the publishing of chapter one, we have found two more authors, but have many yet to find.

If you are one, or know of one, please contact me at sunnyrollerblog@gmail.com.

Thank you!


 Floy Schoenfelder

Lee Whipple

William Wild

Agnes Fennewald

Charlotte Snitzer

Ann Bradley

Toni Keffeler

Sofia Baltodano

Bruce Berman

Roberta Dillion Williams

Becky Lee Vance

Jean Hamm

Norene Senkbeil

Ann Goodhall

Ginger Sage

Shirley Hile Powell

Elizabeth Reeves

Doris Vanden Boogard

Donna L. Mattinson

Marie Galda

Alan M. Oberdick

Emma Blosser Hartzler

R. N. Hackney

Robert C. Huse


Are you somewhere out there?

Lets-Go-Fly-a-Kite-kids-or-adults vv


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