On My Way to Being Famous

Did you know that I wrote a book? Did you know I’m now writing a second book, which is the first book revised? That’s why I haven’t done much lately for this blog. Since last February, I’ve been working on a book about moving my mother into assisted living. It was 391 pages long, and I thought it was fabulous. I sent it to 9 agents, with no response from any of them, and then to 1 editor, who replied almost immediately. She liked my query letter and asked to see the whole manuscript. I was thrilled. Then after a week, she wrote a very nice letter saying what an amazing person I was, blab la bla, and then the second paragraph said unfortunately blab la bla. Surprisingly, I was not upset at all. I know that many famous authors claimed that they had sent their manuscripts to hundreds of editors before 1 finally said they liked it, and then it became a best seller. So I figure I’m on my way to becoming a best seller author. I just have some work to do in the meantime.

The first thing I did was ask that editor why the heck she didn’t like my book. No, I really didn’t say that. I asked her for suggestions for improving it. I was so grateful for her reply, because she spelled it out and now I understand why it would never sell the way it was. I’m not going to go into detail about my failed attempt. I’ll just let you know when my newly revised book gets accepted by some publisher, and then I’ll be rich and famous. ha ha

A Bubble of Americana

Here’s an idea for the perfect getaway vacation. Imagine walking down a street made of bricks, where no cars are allowed. You hear piano music floating from the windows of more than one charming old house. Here comes a man whistling as he walks, and you recognize it as a Chopin waltz. You stop and wait for a group of little kids on bikes with no parent in sight. They ride wherever they please, just like we did as kids. No need for a play date. these kids are just out for the day. As you walk along, you hear people laughing and talking on their front porches, and if they look your way, they wave. Everybody you encounter is smiling. People you sit next to on a bench engage you in conversation. When you go into a store, the girl at the counter smiles and seems genuinely interested in your having a good time. She actually likes her job, and when she’s not serving a customer, she’s reading a book. Many people are walking their dogs, but they’re all under control, and no little kid yells, “Look! It’s a dog.” Everything is kept sparkling clean, from the front porch steps to the red brick walkway to the amphitheater. there will be no dust on the seats or even under your feet when you attend the next lecture. Everyone you meet is interested in learning and has a sense of humor. Every other person seems to be a musician, a writer, a scholar, or at least a reader. You look around at the audience before a lecture, and you discover that someone like Stephen Spielberg is sitting 2 rows behind you. You see a lot of little old ladies with their canes and walkers, but they are just as eager to keep their minds and bodies active and healthy. Teenagers hawk daily newspapers in the square, as in olden days. You leave your door unlocked, even at night, because this is Chautauqua.

Last year, I checked off an item from my bucket list, to go to Chautauqua, CHQ. Then I told you that next on my bucket list was to go again, and I did. See my post on 8/11/2015. I just returned from a week of physical and mental exercise with my friend, Dan. Yu know him as Driver Dan.

Each morning, we walked a mile to the aquatic center for 10 laps of swimming and then walked back to our respective rooms at our rooming house, so there were 2 miles and 500 meters before breakfast every day. The rest of the day, we attended fascinating lectures and discussions with such notables as Roger Rosenblatt, Jane Pauley, Gary Trudeau, Alan Alda, and Bishop John Spong. We managed to squeeze in a little plain old fun by renting a pedal boat, even with Dora along. Don’t we all look charming in our May Wests?

In the evenings we enjoyed music from the Army Brass Band, the CHQ Symphony Orchestra, and a variety of other entertainment.

One of the highlights for me was to have one of the teachers of prose give a quick critique of the book I’m writing. He was very encouraging, and I was thrilled to hear him say it looked quite promising.

As we drove out of the gates on the last day, we felt like we were leaving a bubble of pure Americana—Americana with the ambiance of the fifties but the search for knowledge and truth of today.

Hands On At the Arts Festival

One of the highlights of summer in Columbus Ohio is the annual arts festival, held on the first weekend in June. I went today with my friend Eve and had a wonderful time. Hundreds of booths and tents line the two main bridges downtown and the streets that connect them. In this photo, I am leaning over the railing of the bridge, admiring the sparkling Scioto River along with my new “deer” friend. He’s a life-size statue of a deer, and it looks like he’s smiling as he looks over the River.

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My friend Eve has been a guide for me when hiking and a captain for me when biking. She has taken me shopping, and she has assisted when I host parties. she knows my tastes and what I need and do not need regarding mobility. When we would come to a booth that caught her eye, she would describe briefly what it contained, and if I showed no interest, we moved on. But if it was something I wanted to explore, she expertly placed my hands on the objects of art without fear of breaking anything. Most vendors encouraged me to touch anything I wanted anyway. Even people who are sighted want to touch the artwork to experience the textures.

We had a “get-away” cue. Sometimes, the vendors were so excited about showing me their artworks that it was hard to leave. After touching a few examples of the various pieces, Eve would say, “Here’s my arm,” and we would escape. But this one man delighted so much in showing me what he had done with palm leaves and maple leaves, that he’d say, “No, I’ve got her. I want to show her this other piece,” and off he’d take me to look at another stunning example of tactile art. You’d think I was a millionaire in disguise, and they somehow knew it. But we weren’t in a hurry, and it was a beautiful day, so we had fun with him.

In addition to being able to buy jewelry, blown glass, wood carvings, and even art objects made from collected pieces of junk, we could enjoy the same variety of food. Wanting to know all my options, I insisted on walking through the entire row of food vendors before I made my choice. Fortunately, Eve is the same way. We don’t just stop at the first thing we see and settle for that.

Mostly what I like to do at an arts festival is get an ice cream cone and sit on the grass and enjoy live music. Today, however, we got there early to beat the heat, so we were too early for the music, but I got a real “feel” for the world of arts.

If you think that art is just for those who can see, you’re missing out on an experience that will broaden your world and impress you with the imagination and creativity that these artists demonstrate. And if you happen to be a millionaire, it’s just the place for finding that perfect lamp, bird feeder, serving tray, or object to make you laugh.

Don’t miss out on a different way to spend a summer day.

Memorial Day Renewed

It’s a funny thing how your views change about certain customs as you grow older or mature,. I mean, I used to think that it’s not Christmas unless you have a Christmas tree. And you had to have ham on Easter. And Memorial Day was the most boring of so called holidays.

This year, something—or someone—was calling me to go down to French Lick, Indiana to put flowers on my mother’s grave. I always thought that was an odd thing to do. Who cared if there were flowers on the headstones of people who were not there? It’s just like when my brother died at age 29, and people I didn’t know streamed into the funeral home to express their condolences. Before that, I had thought it was goolish. that night, I was touched.

So after a six-hour drive, with live purple dianthus in the trunk, along with a shovel, jugs of water, and gardening gloves, my generous friend Dan and I trudged through the weeds to a certain spot in this ancient cemetery to decorate the graves of my family. We placed one flower on either side of each of six headstones of my family, my grandmother, my mother, my dad, my aunt and her husband, and my beloved cousin. I had planned to stroll around and read the names of the others buried there, some of whom I knew as a child, but by then, the heat and the bugs were really getting to us. Then I asked Dan to do something else I used to think was weird. I asked him to take a picture of each stone with its little flank of Dianthus, so I could send them to my kids. They both are mature enough to appreciate my effort, because they both remember that beautiful old cemetery from funerals they had attended as little children and two years ago for the funeral of their grandma. It’s way out in the country on the top of a hill, where all you can hear is an occasional chirp of a bird. I think it’s the most peaceful place in the world.

We also brought a flag to place by my dad’s headstone. the American Legion volunteers had already planted one there, but we put ours there anyway. After all, he had served in the Army twice.

I had wanted to make this pilgrimage last August, on the first anniversary of my mother’s death, but I didn’t know of anyone I could ask to make such a sacrifice. It’s a 12-hour drive round trip and an overnight stay, so it’s not easy. One friend said in disbelief, ”You drove all that way just to plant flowers? You didn’t walk around the town or anything else? that’s a lot of work just to decorate your family’s graves.”” But now, I am blessed to have a new friend Dan who gave me the gift of his time for me to do what I felt needed to be done. It’s an honorable thing to do, dan, when you honor the deceased, even when it’s not your own family. Thank you for understanding a call that I can’t even understand myself.

Movie Workeres in the Dark

Because descriptive video, DVS, is becoming more available with first run movies, and most theaters have the equipment necessary to make it work, by now, the employees of the theaters should have some clue as to what it’s all about. Not so it seems.

Last night, when my friend Dan and I went to see a popular movie in a theater, we asked for the DVS receiver. He had even called ahead to make sure that the movie had DVS and the theater had the equipment. The guy at the counter assured us that this was the right receiver. As anyone reading this blog who is blind can tell you, there’s about a 50% chance that it will be the one for people who are hard of hearing.

After we got settled in our seats, I plugged in the device to see if this was the right one. I heard nothing during the trailers—a good sign. If I heard enhanced sound, I would know that it was the wrong receiver. So it looked promising.

But then the movie started and there was nothing. With a sigh of frustration but good natured resignation, Dan took the unit back to the desk and reported that it didn’t work. Aftger some heated discussion as in

“This device isn’t working.”

”It doesn’t work until the movie starts,” and

“I know. the movie has started.” and

“No, the movie has not started,” and

“Yes, the movie has started,” the manager brought the device into the theater, turned it on, and sure enough. The movie had started and it didn’t work. Imagine that. the customer was right. The manager apologized and gave Dan two passes to another show, which did not impress Dan at all. Why should we come back to this theater only to be disappointed again.

The major problem with this system is that there is no way to tell if you have the right receiver or if it’s going to work properly until the movie itself begins. that means, you either sit there in misery for the rest of the show, which I have done, or your friend has to describe it for you, or your friend has to run back to the front and miss the first 10 minutes of the show while he argues with the management. Surely, somebody smarter than I can figure out how to fix this problem.

But here’s the funny part of this story. the manager, trying to smooth things over brought out a device for enhanced listening. Great. Maybe if I could switch my disability from blindness to deafness, everything would be all better. On another occasion, at a different theater, I was handed a device that provided closed captioning for the deaf.

Dan told me later that a lot of my blog posts infer that people say or do really stupid things, and he thought I was being a little harsh. Now he agrees. Sometimes people do the stupidest things.

Always the Toastmaster

Last fall, I did not renew my membership in toastmasters, but I would never say I quit. The skills I learned and the talents I developed have allowed for some of my happiest memories.

One of these times was last Tuesday morning, when I presented a talk about the Hen Hike to a group of church women. Beginning with a five-minute speech I created for a speech contest several years ago, which I won on several levels, I expanded the story to a twenty-minute presentation.

Expecting to be mildly entertained, perhaps inspired by my positive attitude, or “amazed” by all the “unbelievable” activities I try, even as a blind person, I think they were slightly taken aback by all the laughter they shared. In my story of the Hen Hike, I talk about how twelve women hike together each year, and half of us are blind. I describe the precarious ways we get through some situations that might be a little dangerous. I tell stories of how one of our gals broke her leg on a hike, and how I was jealous, because all six of those paramedics who rushed to the scene were big strapping gorgeous guys. I describe the beauty of the silence of our surroundings when we pause each day for five minutes of silence and how we sing girl Scout songs just for fun. I’m the one who has the most fun telling these stories as my audience members are falling off their chairs with giggles and guffaws. The biggest laugh of all comes when I tell about going to the bathroom in the woods, how “even our bottoms love the great outdoors.” I have given this talk to several groups and have received an honorarium for some of them, but of course for church groups, they get the “friends and family” rate, i.e. free. As they say, some of the best things in life are free, and laughter ranks right up there with the best of them. Thanks to my audience for laughing at all the right times and reminding me that being a toastmaster was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Shameless plug. If you need about a twenty-minute program for your group, you know where to find me.

Part 4, conclusion of a series On Being a Blind Mother

Making Me Proud

The proudest I’ve ever been was the time when Kara’s inlaws came for a visit, and they all decided to go bowling. Not wanting me to be left out, Kara tried to find a place that provided railings for blind bowlers. But finding none, she offered to be the railing herself. I knew this was a great sacrifice for her, because we would be quite the spectacle. . She’d hold my left arm and walk with me as I approached the foul line and tell me when to deliver the ball. I still wasn’t any good, but I’ll always be grateful to her for not being embarrassed, because you know, everybody in the place was probably watching us. If we’d been playing baseball, I’d say, she really stepped up to the plate.

I won’t say that my children and/or grandchildren were never uncomfortable or embarrassed or unsure what to do. And I’ve wondered from time to time if they ever felt cheated because of my blindness. My daughter, particularly, has a way of making me feel comfortable and not conspicuous, and she’s a natural at guiding and describing . She always tries to include me in their family activities when I’m visiting and encourages interaction with her children. One of the greatest compliments I ever received came from her husband when I had gone to help out following the birth of their first baby. On the day I was to leave, my son-in-law and my daughter came to me and asked if I could stay two more days. I must have been doing something right, because how many times does a young father ask his mother-in-law to stay longer? Perhaps one day, when she isn’t dealing with teenage drama and running after a two-year-old, she’ll tell me her side of the story.