Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Arts and Crafts as therapy

Valentine’s Day… so much anxiety.

I entertained at the Spark Matsunaga Center for the Aging on Valentine‘s Day. I noticed that there were no hearts and flowers as wall decorations celebrating Valentine’s Day. Regardless, I wore a red shirt, although my only red shirt had an ink stain on the pocket that I hoped wasn‘t noticeable. No such luck with military vets who are accustomed to inspecting every loose thread on one’s clothing. Regardless, even though the guys noticed it, they presumably appreciated my effort.

What is interesting is that Valentine’s Day is mostly to please women. When I had a relationship in my life, the days I dreaded the most were 1. Her birthday, 2. Christmas, and 3. Valentine’s Day.

It got to the point where if I didn’t spend enough on her on these special days, she went into a state of depression. I’ve terminated relationships based upon how women reacted to how much I spent during these special days.

These vets obviously felt the same way and may have been relieved to not have to dwell on Valentine’s Day.

What got the patients’ interest most was what the Arts and Crafts Lady brought for them. She represented a company called Help Hospitalized Veterans, which provided projects for the veterans  so they could create things with their hands by painting, putting together crafts and other projects. There are a number of organizations that help these vets. One, which is funded by private funds with no government help or intervention is

The above shows the art selections that are available for the residents

Some of them aren’t able to move their limbs so can’t create art projects. One guy, a Navy fighter pilot who had to land his plane on a moving ship, didn’t have use of any of his limbs. I believe he’s a recipient of  the Navy Cross but I can't confirm that because they don't like to brag about those things.

For those who have the use of their hands, making model cars is definitely a favorite activity

Another resident , was a navigator in the Air Force. Other residents nicknamed him “Wrongway” claiming that if the flight plan is set for Japan, he would navigate the plane to Alaska. Of course, it doesn’t help that “Wrongway” keeps bumping into things and people with his wheelchair.

Here is a painting that "Wrongway" created. He only has use of one hand

If you’re artistic or have time to volunteer, please consider doing so with them. Or, if you don’t have the time, but can contribute money, you can help in that way. The HHV organization is not sponsored by the government and exists because citizens who appreciate our veterans give of their time and resources.

Sunday, February 6, 2011



As most of you know, I volunteer to do tax returns every year about this time. Yesterday was my first day for the season. One of the taxpayers that came in had a way about him that I couldn't figure out.

During the interview process, I found that he was paying for his parents' entire mortgage payment and, taking care of them. His mother had some health issues which limited her mobility. His father was also frail and wasn't able to lift her when she needed help. He also bought their medicine and paid for their hospital bills.

Yet, he was filing a simple return as a single person. I asked if his parents filed a return and he indicated in the affirmative. That means that the taxpayer had to file as a single person rather than as "Head of Household" with much more favorable rates. I suggested that he bring his receipts in for the medicine, the hospital bills and the mortgage statement (he indicated that he was on the mortgage with his parents) and his parents' social security numbers and dates of birth. Perhaps if his parents don't need to file a tax return, he would be able to claim them as dependents and gain "Head of Household" status.

He further would obtain tax credits like earned income credit and dependent care credits. I explained all of this to him and suggested that he come back after gathering these records. He was abrupt and said that he didn't have any of the paperwork. So he was O.K. with filing as a single person even though he could get back thousands of dollars by filing as a "Head of household". He wasn't upset with me (I don't think) but he appeared to be distraught. This happens when a person is stressed out.

He prepares everything for his parents every morning, including meals and whatever they need and then goes to work. When he comes home, he needs to clean them up, prepare their meal and do the household chores. He has no respite other than going to work every day. There are many in our society who do these things, quietly and without fanfare.

Since he insisted that we prepare his tax return as a single person, I did so. He didn't want to come back and felt that getting the documentation was a hassle. I gave him a list of things he needs to keep as records and proof of support he gives his parents so that he may be able to files his tax returns properly next year. The thousands he would get as a refund could be used to help pay for medication and perhaps hire someone to come in to give him a day off from caregiving.

I went to the grocery store early this morning to buy refreshments for the work crew who would be finishing up the installation of my new kitchen. The taxpayer was behind me at the checkout counter and told the cashier that I do tax returns as a volunteer. He appeared to be less stressed and let me know he truly appreciated the guidance I gave him.

Made my day.