Makeover

I read an article about free makeovers at Nordstrom’s on Saturday. Nordstrom’s is a very upscale department store, and I never even shop there, but free is free, or so I thought. And I thought it would be a fun girlie thing to do with my granddaughters. Meghan drives now, so we went to lunch first and then headed over to Easton Town Center, where there are lots of very nice shops and 2 major department stores. The place was crawling with cars, all circling the parking lot for a place to park. It was quite nerve-racking for Meghan, but she finally found a spot. Then when she tried to straighten out, by backing up a little, cars lined up behind her, thinking she was going to leave and they could grab her spot, so McKenzie, in the back seat, had to wave them on. Then the store was packed too, and we didn’t know exactly how to go about finding a person to do our makeovers. I had to rely on the girls to FIND A PERSON TO ASK HOW WE DO THIS. They are not used to having to verbalize to me what they see, so this was a learning experience for them. They are 14 and 16. So finally, we were directed to this very nice woman who was happy to do all 3 of us. She spent about an hour, because she was the only person available, so she did us all herself. First she did me. I had worn my makeup I had been using for years , so she could evaluate my present look. Of course she was surprised that I applied my own makeup. She said I did a very nice job, but my colors were all wrong. I had been wearing 3 shades of eye shadow, including a very light pink, a mauve, and a plum, per my Mary Kay consultant many years ago. I did not wear mascara, because I always smudge it. I also had a foundation on from Mary Kay. So she proceeded to wipe everything off with their cleanser, and apply 15 more products. I’m not kidding. There were 15 products on my face when she got done, and I looked like a million bucks, but it also would cost me that much to buy all that stuff, because I finally thought to ask her what brand we were using. Christian Dior! OMG. Next was Meghan, 16, and the woman told her to stop using black eye liner. It’s much too harsh and does nothing for her. Next was McKenzie, 14, so she only did some cleanser and lipstick on her. So I took that time to mull over what I thought I really needed that day. If I only had an impartial mirror. And who should I believe, Mary Kay or Christian dior? At least the girls both said I looked better. I went with that. She told me that I was wrecking my skin by using the Mary Kay scrub every day, so I bought the cleanser. Then I bought the foundation, 2 shades of more natural-looking eye shadow, and eye liner. I did not buy the $38 lip stick, or the powder, the blush, the toner, the eye foundation, the stuff to fill in the wrinkles around my eyes or the stuff to conceal the dark circles under my eyes, or the syrum, or the moisturizer. I bought 5 things, and my bill was $outrageous! But I felt obligated to buy, since she spent so much time with us. Looking back, I should have said no thanks to most of the products and bought 1 or 2things. Could I actually be spending this much on my face? I had wanted to buy something for the girls, but my God, even a tube of lipstick for each of them would have cost me $80. So as we walked to the car, we talked about things they learned about skin care and applying makeup, but I didn’t teach them much about being prudent with my money. As an encouraging post script, I have had several unsolicited compliments since then. It would have been a good idea to post a before and after picture, but I just now thought of that. Oh well. Next time you see me, just say I look like a million bucks.

Out of My Mouth

There’s a T-shirt I’d like to buy that says, “When I open my mouth, out comes my mother.” It’s true. I often hear my mother’s words come out, before I can think about it. After all, I heard these words for umpty-dum years. Here is a brief sampling of expressions.

When I worry that I might not be wearing the right thing or doing the right thing, my mother’s voice says, “That’s all right. They don’t pay your electric bill.”

When I worry about a spot on my skirt or a rip in my hem, my grandmother’s voice says, “It will never be noticed on a galloping horse.” I think the original saying was, never be noticed “from a galloping horse,” but I like my grandmother’s version better, albeit not very flattering.

When I hear a sour note or a glaring grammatical error, my Aunt Lynn’s voice says, “That jangles my ankles.”

When I think about the troubles people have in their lives, my grandmother’s voice says, “Peopley peopley, got more troubles than anybody.” And then if I go to a crowded store, and it’s jammed with shoppers, I hear Grandma’s voice muttering, “They don’t have any,” as she’d turn and leave the store.

Of course there are always the old standards, “Pretty is as pretty does,” and “A place for everything and everything in its place,” and “Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today,” and “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” All good advice, but it amuses me that I find myself saying the very same things. As my little plaque says, “Mirror mirror, on the wall, I am my mother after all.” My grandmother, my mother, and my aunt have all left their legacies to me, which I am apparently passing on.

I’d love to hear the quirky things your parents used to say. And are you saying them now too?

More about the Ridderrenn

As I wrote my post for March 17 on the ridderrenn, I realized that I had more to share than just 1 page. I would have written about it when I went to Norway as part of the U.S. team from SFL, but I didn’t have a blog back then. I’m not even sure if anybody had a blog back then. So here’s the rest of the story.

Even though I had never dreamed of going to Norway, it was an honor to be chosen, and it was a life-changing experience.

Any time you go to another country and experience the culture and get to know its people as individuals, it’s a gift. I found the language to be almost impossible to decyfer, until my guide Liv, who was born Norwegian and lives in Indiana now, taught me some basics, like please and thank you, and (very important,) “Will you dance with me?” I can still say that one after all these years, but I don’t have a clue how to spell it, but it sounds something like “Vil du donsa maya my? I said important, because in the evenings, there was dancing with live music, every single night. It was fortunate that I had memorized how to say “American” in Norwegian, because 1 night, Liv told me that a young blind man told her he would like to dance with me. She guided us both to the dance floor, and we danced. We had nothing to say to each other, because he knew absolutely no English, and all I could say in Norwegian was you are a very good dancer. That only goes so far. We danced 2 or 3 numbers, and then we were ready to go back to our respective tables, but where were they? We were both totally blind. Liv had said she would come and get us, but she got to talking to somebody and forgot. So the 2 of us went wandering around and bumping into the tables, listening for familiar accents. As I mentioned last time, there were people there from all over the world. I was getting a little panicky until finally, 1 of the Norwegians rescued us, and I told her to please find the Americans. The next dance was with a man who had no right arm. Liv had given me the heads up when he asked me to dance. Well, what was I supposed to do with my left hand, and how could he lead? Seeing my confusion, (He was sighted but spoke no English.) with his left hand, he placed my left hand on his right shoulder and took my right hand in his left. I was absolutely entranced how he could lead me with the pinky finger of his left hand. Think about, that my ballroom dancing friends. And then there was the man with the artificial leg from the knee down. He said he could dance anything but the polka. And remember, these guys were out on the ski trails too. I’m not going to use the word amazing, but it was humbling. I only had the challenge of being blind. I can’t imagine skiing with the use of only 1 arm, but then he probably can’t imagine skiing blind.

One evening, a bunch of us went to a favorite Norwegian restaurant. The specialty was shrimp. But to my dismay, they were served, whole, heads and tails included, on slices of buttered white bread. People rave about the food at the Ridderrenn, but I like my shrimp grilled or deep fried, or on the side of a cocktail glass at the very least. There was no such thing as low fat ice cream. We joked that just looking at it would cause our arteries to harden. And there were reindeer meatballs—I’m serious.

After the race week, we were treated to a busy schedule of sightseeing and shopping in Oslo. Our tour guide was 1 of our own SFL Norwegian guides, and she treated us like royalty. These were only a few of the highlights from this amazing time. I’d love for any of my SFL friends who read this blog to chime in on what a fabulous experience this is.

Ridderrenn

4 of my friends from Ski for Light, SFL, are returning from Norway as I write. They have just participated in the Norwegian version of SFL, the 2015 Ridderrenn. I mention this, because in 1991, I was one of those SFL participants chosen to represent the U.S. at the Ridderrenn. Back in those days, they saved the announcement for the final night, at the banquet, and it was a surprise to everyone, including those of us who had been selected to go. No one in that room was more surprised, no shocked, than I when they announced my name as 1 of the 4. After I picked my jaw up off my chest, I remember thinking, Why me? I didn’t even want to go to Norway. Talk about being ungrateful for an all expense paid 2 weeks in Norway, complete with airfare, sightseeing, and skiing in the famous Ridderrenn, on which the idea of SFL was based. But I did have the grace to look happy and accept the congratulations of everybody afterward. I would be 1 of 2 blind skiers, along with 2 guides, and we would be the official USA team.

As soon as I got home, I had to call my boss and tell her, not ask her, that I would be taking off a week in mid March. Then I had to run around and get a passport and start training. The Ridderrenn was a 20-K race, half of which was up and down the side of a mountain. The most I had ever skied at 1 time was 5K. I was very nervous. Somehow, I managed to borrow a Nordic Track, and I’d work out on it in a storeage room on my lunch hour.

If I had known what a fabulous experience was in store for me, I would have been a whole lot more excited.

At the Ridderren site, the tracks were beautiful, and the trails were gently rolling. The skiing was so delightful that my guide, Liv, who was born in Norwa, taught me a few Norwegian phrases as we skied along, like “It’s nice to meet you,” and “Have a good day” and (most useful) “You are a very good dancer.” Liv’s parents lived in Oslo, so she brought the whole American group to meet her parents and have real Norwegian pastries and coffee. I got to put my newly attained Norwegian phrases to good use, although I didn’t have much to say, past “It’s nice to meet you.”

It was warm that year, and by the end of the race week, the only snow left was on the mountain, a terrifying thought. But with Liv’s expert guiding, and the reassurance that half the course had been cut off due to lack of snow, I made it.

People from all over the world come to this event, and Every night, there was entertainment and dancing. I tell you, those Norwegians can ski all day and then party all night. I have stories to tell about dancing with a man who had no right arm, a man with an artificial leg, and a totally blind man who could speak no English. Stay tuned for those memories.

There are 3 races during the week, the 5K, the biathlon, and then the big race on the last day. For the biathlon, we had to ski around a short loop, then flop on our bellies, with skis still on and shoot at a target. For those of us who were blind, we wore headsets that made different tones, and when we thought we heard the right tone for shooting, we pulled the trigger. The best part of that was getting coaching from the cute young Norwegian soldiers that were assigned to help. There were many other little memories from that week that I keep tucked away that I’ll share in another post. The whole thing was the experience of a lifetime. I hope that at least one of my SFL friends who went this year, will comment on this blog. Yes, Betty, I’m talking to you.

My New Mantra

I just discovered a quote that appeared in an article by Liz Thompson, who writes a column for The Gahanna News. She was talking about living with MS. She said that it was true that her physical abilities have changed since the onset of MS, but she is still able to enjoy many of the things she did before, including playing with her grandchildren and dancing with her husband. The message was that in spite of some limitations, MS was not going to rule her life. But here are the words that stood up and shouted to me. She said her disability, and I don’t know if this was original or not, “is only part of who I am, not the definition of my life.” Wow. How true this is for me.

Blindness is only part of who I am, not the definition of my life. I should use it as part of my signature on my email messages. I should get a T-shirt with those words written in puff paint. I should make a plaque and post it on my fridge. I should print it on letterhead and make business cards with those words in braille. Blindness is only part of who I am, not the definition of my life. Now, if only the rest of the world would get it.

Another Airport Adventure

As I boarded the plane for the first leg of my journey to my daughter’s in Syracuse, I wondered if this would be an easy experience for a change, or if there would be the usual frustrations with flight attendants, airport personnel, or the public. Surer enough, the first snafu occurred not long after the flight attendant showed me to my seat. A female passenger approached me and told me that I was in her seat. I explained that the flight attendant had told me to sit here. After making a big fuss, she decided to sit in the seat that I was originally assigned. I could have moved to that seat, if that was what she wanted, but she preferred to make a scene.

When I got to Washington Dulles, I was assigned a sky cap to get me to my next gate. Just as I feared, as happens so much in large airports, this woman could hardly speak English, a poor choice for assisting a blind person. Since my next gate was very close, and I had an hour to kill, I wanted to grab a sandwich and take it with me to the gate. I did not want to be trapped again at a gate and have to wait for hours without food. It took an enormous amount of energy to get her to understand that’s what I wanted, but then we had to address the question of where I wanted to buy a sandwich. There seemed to be 2 choices, but she did not have enough command of English to tell me what they were. She did communicate that there were many people in line, and her method of telling me it was my turn to order was to take my white cane and poke it at the counter. I’m serious. My next challenge was to place an order to a woman who could barely speak English at a restaurant where I did not know what they served.

For the next leg of the journey, I had to insist to the next sky cap that I did not need a wheelchair to get onto the plane. I had to assure her, with an exaggerated shaking of my head from side to side, that I was capable of walking, and yes, I could do stairs. The bright spot in this interlude was the man sitting next to me, who recognized that I was having difficulties and offered to walk on the plane with me. He actually seemed interested in having a conversation with me. I make note of this, because that is very rare these days. And to top it off, he didn’t want to talk about my blindness, which is also rare. It would have been nice to continue our conversation on the plane, but the sky cap caught up with us, sains wheelchair and dragged me toward the plane, and once we were on the plane, he was off to his seat, and I never saw him again.

As the sky cap showed me the steps going up to the plane, she got behind me, a great way to guide a blind person, and then she gave me a little shove over the threshold of the plane. I must have taken one step too close to the flight attendant, who was standing at the top of the stairs, because she did not speak to me, but turned my body in the direction I was to walk. I asked her if she spoke English, and when she said she did, I asked her to please tell me where I should walk, not just push me. Then, when she showed me to my seat, the first thing she said was, “I’ll take your stick.” What? It took me a second to realize that she meant she would take away my white cane. “No, you won’t I said,” in a firmer voice than I knew I had. “I’ll fold it up and put it in my purse.”

As the second flight ended, and the plane had come to a stop, and I made my way to the door, I was told that the “meet and assist” person wasn’t there. So the pilot escorted me into the terminal. He spoke English and treated me like a human being. And then there was Kara to meet me. Happy ending.

Longevity

In these posts, I often talk about misperceptions, misinformation, and misguided notions about blindness or blindness related issues. Today’s topic is the life expectancy of a guide dog.

I got my first Seeing Eye ® dog, Mindy, in 1982. Since then, I’ve worked with 4 more. Dora is my fifth Seeing Eye. I’m always surprised when a person engaged in conversation about my guide dog is confused about why I’ve had so many. Why didn’t I just keep the first one, they want to know. My sarcastic self wants to say, “think about it. If my first guide dog was 2 when I got her in 1982, she would now be 35 YEARS OLD. Dogs do not live to be 35. I must admit that the people who are surprised by this fact are not dog people. Most people who have dogs as part of their family understand that dogs do not live as long as people do. In fact, one of the saddest truths about being a dog guide handler is that it’s pretty certain that you will outlive your dog.

My first Dog lived to be 11. She died as a result of surgery that should not have been performed on such an elderly dog. My second dog, Sherry, became gravely ill, at age 13, suddenly, and I had to put her down that night. My third dog, Pippen, is still living and thriving as a retired dog guide. When I get to this part of the story, the uninformed person wonders, “If she is still living, why isn’t she still working as a guide dog?” Pippen is now 13. That’s like saying, “So what if you’re 100 years old. Why aren’t you still working?” Dogs, like people, get old and tired. For those of you who knew Pippen, you’ll be glad to know that she is loving her retirement. She lives with a family out in the country, where she can sniff around in the woods and lie in the garden in the sun or curl up by the fire in the house. My 4th dog, Cisco, was with me only 6 months, and then he returned to The Seeing Eye to be matched with a person with different needs from mine. So that brings us to my darling Dora, who is now 2-1/2. I suspect we’ll be together for at least another 8 years. Depending on my health and stamina, she might be my last, but I can’t dwell on that right now.

When I went to The Seeing Eye for my first dog, when I was 37, and I met people who were getting their 5th or 6th dog, I thought, “Wow, they must really be old.” And now here I am. Where did those last 33 years go? BTW, Dora and I came home from The Seeing Eye 1 year ago today. Funny, we had exactly the same weather, freezing cold and piles of snow. She learned in Morristown, NJ, how to guide me in snow and ice, but now, she’s a real expert.

Each dog I’ve had provided me with individual and specific memories. Mindy was the most serious one. I had to teach her how to play in the backyard. She liked to collect shoes. She never tore them up, just hid them behind the chair in the living room. Sherry was my chewer. There’s a little spot in my carpet at the foot of the stairs, which I cover up with a throw rug. But each time the rug gets scooted over, I see that little hole that Sherry left for me. Pippen was my happiest girl. She is a cuddler, and she hated walking in the rain. If we would step outside the front door, and we discovered it was raining outside, she would turn around and face the front door, as if to say, “I’m not going. Take your own self for a walk.” Cisco was a magestic looking golden retriever, tall and lanky. Because of his size, you might think he would drag me down the street, but in fact, I had to drag him. His singular joy was to run figure 8’s in the back yard. And now Dora, my little charger, will keep me young forever, or for as long as we both shall live.