The Working Dog at Play

Dora in the yard

Dora in the yard

I haven’t bragged about Dora for a while, so it’s time to update you on what a great dog she is and what a great match this has turned out to be.

Last Monday, my friend Dan took us to a sporting goods store to buy tennis balls for Dora. She has a wonderful new toy called a Canine Cannon, a gift from Uncle Dan, where you put a tennis ball in the end of a rifle like contraption and then shoot it out across the yard. She absolutely loves this game, but as she dashes back with the ball in her mouth, she chomps on it vigorously in her excitement, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to be destroyed. When we got to the store, we were directed to the second floor. After getting off the elevator, we zigzagged all over the place and finally found the tennis balls. After we made our selection, I said, “OK, let’s go,” and that’s all Dora needed. She took the lead, zigging and zagging across the store, without any hints from Uncle Dan, and without hesitation, and she proudly took us directly back to the elevator. It’s like she says, “I got this. And Dan is one of the few people who get it that the dog can do her work best if he stays one step behind my right shoulder. That way, it’s clear to the dog that she’s in charge. When we strode up to the elevator, he said “I’m so impressed with her confidence, I could almost cry. She is just so awesome.”

Back at home, we replaced the old ratty ball. As I shot it out over the yard from my chair on the patio, , Dan took pictures of this gloriously happy girl, sitting in wrapped attention as I aimed and then leaping up to catch the ball as it sailed over her head. I hope you can see the pure joy in her play and get the pure joy I feel in her work.

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When the Wine Gets Smashed

I was reaching for a box of cake mix in my pantry, when I accidentally touched a bottle of red wine, lying on its side. In one second, it rolled off the shelf and immediately smashed onto the tile floor. Seriously, one second.

Standing in a puddle of red wine, a puddle filled with jagged fragments of glass, I knew that this was not something I should attempt to clean up myself. I’m not afraid of broken glass. If you handle it carefully, and it hasn’t shattered into shards, it’s not that hard to deal with. But there was no way I could investigate the damage without making the mess much worse than it already was. I backed out of the puddle and realized that my socks were now soaked with wine, so I had to take them off to move anywhere. I returned to my kitchen, where I sat down to ponder this situation. It was a Sunday afternoon. Whose Sunday afternoon would I hate the least to ruin? I considered my good friend Dan, but he might cry at the sight of ruined red wine. Just kidding Dan. I considered my son Steve, but he was most likely involved in one of his daughter’s activities. I called my friend Mary Beth, who had helped me out of a vicious glass crisis before, but her husband had just been taken to the ER. Never mind Mary Beth. I was relieved to reach my neighbors, Dan and Amy, who also have helped me with a couple of crises, like removing solid ice from my front door, raking my leaves when my back problems prevented me from doing it, and looking for a missing house key. So Dan and Amy to the rescue, even though they were just wrapping up a day with their parents, celebrating their twins’ confirmation. They quickly googled how to remove broken glass, and they came armed with slices of bread. This was going to be some crazy kind of communion. I had put down paper towels around the perimeter of the puddle, to keep it from spreading over the utility room floor, but after that, I just stayed out of the way, and fortunately, Dora had no interest in the red wine.

Once again, I am reminded that there are indeed times when you just have to be realistic and ask for help. And once again, I am reminded that I am truly blessed with good people in my life who will come to my aid, especially when it involves broken glass. It’s a good thing I don’t like red wine. That empty spot in the pantry can now be used for something much better, like chocolate syrup, in a plastic bottle.

Chorus Line

If you’ve seen the musical, A Chorus Line, you have seen exactly what my dreams and aspirations look like when I was a girl. Dance was my whole life. The wood floors, the mirrored walls, the rehearsals, learning new routines and combinations, smiling until your face ached, practicing until your body was limp with fatigue, stretching, kicking, spinning, and doing it all for the love of dance. “What I did for love.”

As I sat in the audience of a small theater last Saturday and listened once again to the brilliant lyrics of that musical, I was carried back to the bitter-sweet reality of my distant youth. As you may know, the show is about an audition for a musical. The story line is simple. There are a bunch of young, vibrant, talented dancers, trying out for only 8 positions in the chorus line, 4 boys and 4 girls. Each one has a poignant story about how they got to this stage at this time, trying out for this show. I could have been one of them, should have been one of them, if it hadn’t been for an eye disease, RP that was slowly, but steadily, robbing me of my sight and of my dream. As I listened to this music and imagined the dancing, my heart was right up there on stage with those kids.

The ironic part of this story is that I might never have made it that far, not because of lack of talent, but because I would not have been made of the same stuff, the same tough enduring strength that got them through extremes in their personal histories. I had only 1 mother and 1 father, who loved each other and who loved me. My home life was solid and organized, loving, and centered on me. I didn’t have drug or alcohol abuse or child abuse or homosexuality to complicate my life. How would I ever have fit in? And maybe I would never have made it on my self-perceived talent anyway, but I can still dream. Or I should say, I could still dream. Step ball change, kick, turn. “I can do that.” It never leaves your blood, once you’ve stepped on stage, danced your heart out, and feasted on the applause.

This theater chose not to offer audio description, even though I requested it, claiming that they don’t have the technology for that. Ten minutes before the show started on Saturday night was not the time to argue with the manager, but I suspect that if they knew there was a patron in the audience who was deaf, they would have provided an interpreter. Had they provided audio description, I could have seen in my mind’s eye each “little movement” they made. Instead, I had to rely on my imagination, based on memories of a bitter-sweet time in my life. Thisshow ran for 40 years, but the vicarious feelings live forever.

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.