‘Tis the season to be thankful.
I’m thankful, as always, for my life, family and friends. But there are lots of other things -- innovations, products and services -- that I am grateful for on a regular basis. Each of these has made my new life (can I call it new if it’s been more than 10 years?) as a disabled person much easier.
1) Downey Anti-Wrinkle Spray
One of my favorite inventions of recent history, this has been a godsend. I remember using it as far back as 2002, before cancer left me disabled, unable to walk up the stairs of my home or balance well enough to iron something.
I first picked it up as an easy way to spray away the wrinkles in clothes without having to haul out the ironing board and set it up. It was genius: you just spray the clothes, smooth it out a bit, then let it dry. Voila!
When I tucked a bottle in my suitcase for a trip to London, it turned out to be invaluable. Traveling in a group of five women with limited knowledge of hotel room amenities or outlet compatibility, my miracle spray came in super-handy. I left it with a friend who was studying in England. Downey spray hadn’t yet hit the stores there. It took a while for it to be widely available here, but now you can find the product (or an imitator) easily at grocery or drug stores. It even comes in travel sizes.
After lymphoma left me permanently disabled and requiring a walker, the spray has become a favorite product in my home. I can’t climb the stairs to do laundry or fluff up items in my dryer, but I can easily spray clothing items while they hang on my bathroom towel rack and leave them to de-wrinkle overnight.
2) Dream Dinners
This company has franchises in 24 states and is a “make-it-yourself” meal mecca. Again, I first discovered Dream Dinners before I got sick. It was an easy, fun way to assemble delicious meals -- with my friend or daughter in tow -- in advance to have several pre-prepared selections to choose from. When I was diagnosed with lymphoma and was essentially unable to help in the cooking at my house, my friends and relatives sent me gift cards to my Dream Dinners. For a small fee, you could order them assembled and then anyone could pick them up, bring them home and follow directions to make an easy, nutritious meal. It was more affordable and healthier than having to rely on fast food.
More than 11 years after my cancer diagnosis and eight years after my bone marrow transplant, I still am a Dream Dinners loyal customer. If I order regularly, the assembly fee costs nothing and I just pick up many meals for the month directly from the store and put them in my freezer. It still takes some work in the kitchen to cook a meal, but thankfully I can do more of that now. I still avoid the planning, shopping, chopping, and measuring. For someone who can’t stand long or balance well, it’s a lifesaver.
3) Mimi’s Cafe’s take-out holiday feasts
Once I discovered Mimi’s Cafe’s Thanksgiving dinner, it’s been hard to imagine the annual holiday without it. For (this year) about $90, the Mimi’s to-go meal feeds 8-10, is well-packaged, easy to heat up and delicious. You still need helpers at home to get it to the table.
Here’s the rundown of what’s in the Thanksgiving feast: 1 whole herb butter basted turkey, 2.5 lbs of buttered cornbread stuffing, 2 lbs of candied pecan sweet potatoes, 3 lbs of whipped mashed potatoes, 2.5 lbs of green bean casserole, 12 oz. of apple cranberry orange relish, 32 oz. of turkey gravy, 2 carrot nut loaves and 1 whole brown sugar pumpkin pie.
The restaurant also offers similar dinners for other holidays.
If you just want an easy-to-make meal with plenty of leftovers, it’s worth checking out. But if -- like me -- you are disabled or not able to operate like you once did in the kitchen, it’s a gift.
4) Banking on my smartphone
I love being able to deposit checks on my iPhone.
In the olden days, you used to have to bring a check with you to the bank, take it to a teller, fill out a deposit slip and stand there while it was deposited to your account. Sometimes you would have to show ID, if the teller didn’t recognize you.
Then progress and technology allowed people to deposit checks by using a pneumatic tube at the drive-though window. You could chat with the teller at the window via a microphone. In time, the tubes and employees were replaced by ATMs: both walk-up and drive-through versions.
This is all well and good, but not really ideal for disabled customers like me. It’s a pain to get out of the car and use a walk-up ATM. Making a deposit requires balance to insert the check or cash. I feel vulnerable, practically advertising while making a monetary transaction that I am not able to walk without assistance. Or run after any robber.
Even at the drive-though ATMs, I have difficulties. At some terminals, my arm isn’t long enough and I can’t get close enough. The height of the buttons aren’t quite right. I have to open my door, put one leg out (if it will fit between my car and the curb) and turn and really stretch to insert my card, plug in my numbers, deposit checks and/or retrieve cash and get the receipt. Then I strain to free my leg, place it back in the car, put on my seat-belt, etc. This is all time-consuming, which folks in cars behind me do not appreciate. (Yeah, that’s me also holding up the line at drive-through car washes, postal mailboxes and pharmacies, drop-off library book containers and ticket-issuing parking garages.)
Once I got my smartphone and downloaded my bank’s app, my banking life became easier. Following step-by-step instructions even I can understand, I can deposit a check without leaving my house. I can also transfer money and pay bills. I still have concerns about getting cash out of an ATM (someone could grab my money and sprint away in a flash), but thankfully there’s an alternative to that.
5) The cash-back feature when using a debit card at the grocery store