Information Please

Once upon a time, when you needed a phone number, you dialed zero, and you spoke to a real live person who gave you information, like the phone number you wanted to call and even the address. Then times changed, and you dialed 411, now called directory assistance, and you got an automated voice asking you what number you would like. How simple and easy that was. Then they started charging you for those information calls. But people who were blind could fill out an application and send in a doctor’s statement, and they wouldn’t be charged. Then phone companies split up, and only certain companies allowed free access to directory assistance for blind customers. Here’s where my struggles began.

Next came a wonderful service called Tell Me. You called this 800 number, and you could get all sorts of information, the weather, movies that are playing, traffic reports, and yes, even phone numbers. Then it was no longer an 800 number, but no problem. Now I had unlimited and free long distance service, so I could still use that number. But it often never heard of the businesses I wanted to call, including the one today. I wanted to find the number for the Short North Theater, so I could request audio description for a play next week. First, I had to find the number of the Ohio Theater, because they own the audio description equipment. Fortunately, I already had that number in my files, but I had to be transferred to somebody else who might know how that whole thing works. Okay. I got the name of the person for whom to ask, if I could ever talk to somebody at the Short North Theater. I asked Siri, the latest and greatest method for getting such information, and she referred me to a website. I went on line and found the theater’s home page, which did not give the phone number, but it had a link for “contact.” So I clicked that link, found the phone number, called it, and I got a recording telling me to go to the website for more information.

Is this the age of information or the age of frustration?

Game On

I have many friends who are avid fans of basketball, football, hockey, and just about any other sport that involves a ball. I just never could get interested in team sports, once I grew out of whiffle ball. In fact, I wanted nothing to do with sports of any kind, as I grew up, because my passion was dance. As my eye disease, RP, progressed, dancing on stage became impossible. I turned to other physical activities, like walking, bicycling, and cross country skiing. Oh wait, now I had to admit that skiing and cycling were sports, and here I was enjoying them. Still, team sports were not my thing.

But set out a board game on the table, and I’m in. Mention Scrabble, Taboo, Tri-Bond, The 5-Second Rule, or jeopardy, and it’s game on for me.

One of my favorite games is Encore, a singing game, where you have to remember at least 6 words of a song and sing it, given a specific word or category to sing about. It’s a great team game. Last Saturday, I had 5 women friends over for an evening of “wine, women, and song.” There was much laughter and a whole lot of singing. Instead of just singing the required 6 words, when one of us would think of a song, we would all join in and sing the whole thing. What a blessing we have in the ability to make music together. But there’s keen competition in this game as well. If your team can’t think of a song with that word in it, the other team gets a turn, and so on it goes until we’re all stumped. Of course, we had to take lots of breaks for gabbing, so by the time the game was finally over, we didn’t care who won, because we were all tired, but happy.

Already, I’m considering having another party, maybe this time with Jeopardy, or Trivial Pursuit. There’s so much more to life than caring about which team has the ball.

When I was in junior high, my dad loved to go to hockey games, and so did I. But I was much more interested in their skating skills than their control of the puck. My little girlfriend and I would play in the top of the stands, doing cartwheels and cheers, instead of watching the game. When I entered my freshman year at OSU, my dad bought a season ticket for me for the football games, so I would have the full college experience. I went to exactly 1 game, and I left after the halftime show. My seat was between 2 old men, and I couldn’t see what was happening on the field, much less care about it, but my dad had good intentions. I was a drill team member for my high school football and basketball games, but I had no idea what was going on, except when they scored, and we girls would run out and do our kick line routine. I attended 1 home game with my husband, 25 years after I graduated college. He joked that I only go to a game every 25 years. In just a few years it will be time for me to go again. Meanwhile, a good game for me means a battle well fought over words, knowledge or songs. For most people I guess, playing board games is something you do after a holiday meal or when it rains on your fishing trip, but I think it’s a great way to spend an evening.

Wind Chimes

It was a warm afternoon, so I slid open the patio doors and pulled out a patio chair to enjoy a few minutes of just being. Although it was warm,, it was breezy, so the wind chimes hanging in the corner of the screened in patio were dancing and playing a simple but complicated tune. My feelings about those wind chimes were also complicated.

Last August, during the calling hours for my mother’s funeral, our murmuring conversations were abruptly interrupted by the sound of clanging, clanging that was moving into the room. My first reaction was to be indignant. Why would somebody come clanging into this quiet room uninvited, and what on earth was that? Someone else jumped up and greeted the visitor and took care of the noise, and I didn’t give it another thought. Later, I learned that a thoughtful neighbor of my mother’s had brought wind chimes as a gift, a charming way to remember my mother and the friends she had back in French Lick, Indiana. Sadly, the name of the giver of this gift was lost in the transporting of the flowers and memorabilia from the funeral home to my garage. As Kara and I sorted through my mother’s belongings, books, glassware, records, jewelry, etc., we discovered the chimes. “Don’t give these away,” Kara said. “If you don’t want them, I do.” But in the end, she decided she didn’t really have a place for them, but I did. I had actually been thinking about getting some dainty wind chimes for that corner, not these huge things that are meant for a much larger piece of property, but now that they’re up, I’m adjusting to their tones. After all, my mother was a huge part of my life, so why shouldn’t she be remembered by big sounds? And she loved music. It’s appropriate after all.

I have a set of Blue Willow plates that I display on the tops of my kitchen cabinets. They are there, in memory of my beloved grandmother, who used them for her everyday dishes. I have wonderful memories of enjoying fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy on those plates, with fresh green beans from the garden, and blackberry cobbler. But I can’t see those plates way up there. I have 1 that is chipped that I keep in my own everyday dishes, and now and then I use it, in honor of my grandma. Other people have photos and portraits than hang on the wall. I have a plate that I can hold in my hands and wind chimes that dance in the wind and remind me of the blessings I have received from the women in my life.

Ripped Off Again

Here we go again. My credit card information was stolen, for the second time in a year. The first time was a few months ago, when somebody keyed in my number and made a $2.50 purchase to a nonexistent hotel. I was told by the woman in the fraud department that this is a common practice, making a very small charge that they hope you don’t notice, and then larger purchases in time. Ironically, the credit card company noticed, within minutes, and called me to report it. This meant that she had to shut down my account immediately, and I would have to wait about a week for my new card. Because I use my card more than I do cash, this was very inconvenient, but more troubling than that, was the trouble I went through for several weeks, calling various entities that take fees and contributions directly out of my credit card account each month. It’s a painless way to donate to The Seeing Eye and my public radio station. I also pay all my medical bills with my card, so I can rack up those points. All that came to a screeching halt. And here we go again.

Several years ago, my debit card number was stolen, and about $500 was taken from my checking account without my permission. My bank was on it right away, but I never found out if they caught the guy. From that time on, I felt that if I was going to get ripped off, I’d rather have it go through a credit card first, not directly through my money at the bank, so no more debit card.

I asked the woman in the fraud department last Saturday, when I discovered the fraud, if there was something more I could do to protect myself. She told me that no, there are scanning devices everywhere, so there really is no protection. Even carrying my cards in one of those little wallets that are supposed to keep your information private are worthless, except that they prevent someone in line behind you from taking a picture of your card as you hold it in your hand and then wave it in front of a machine.

I don’t enjoy going through this every few months, so I’ve decided to go back to using mostly cash. Of course, then there is the problem of taking care not to be ripped off by a dishonest clerk, or having cash swiped from my purse. And then, I also have to be diligent about keeping my bills separated by denomination. I use a folding method, but thanks to the Bureau of Engraving, I now have a little device that identifies the amount on each bill. I know that there is an app for my iPhone that will do the same thing, but this seems easier and quicker. My thanks go to Audrey, a fellow blogger for Vision Aware

Visionaware.org

For reporting that these devices are free for any visually impaired person in America. On the one hand, I’m grateful for this little device, and on the other, I’m annoyed that now I have yet another thing to keep track of, because unlike 180 other countries in the world, the U.S. can’t come up with a reasonable way to make our currency accessible. And yet, my currency seems to be quite accessible to other people. So every morning, I will continue to make it part of my routine to call the 800 number of my credit card and make sure I’m the only one using it. That’s how I discovered the theft last Saturday morning. The first 2 charges listed were at places I don’t patronize. Pretty dumb. Still, it’s a lot of work, keeping ahead of the thieves.

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.