Sunshine

The sun was out today, in more ways than one! Prayers were answered that I hadnt thought to pray. I had been stressing about how to get out and buy a gift and a birthday card for my son, whose birthday will be Monday. When I awoke this morning, I thought about how people are always saying something to me like, Maybe somebody can take you, or get somebody to do this or that for you. I always wonder who they think that somebody is. Where was that somebody today, when I needed to run some very important errands. Would it be friend Bonnie? No, shes having surgery on Monday. How about friend Dorothy? No, shes moving today. What about Helen? No, she helped me yesterday. I dont want to wear out her friendship. Could I pay friend Janet, who could use the money? Im sick of having to pay people to take me places. Like Scarlet, I decided to put off worrying about it and went about my morning as if all I had to do was laundry, exercises, and checking email.

Then, the phone rang, and it was friend Linda, who with her husband, wanted to know if I wanted to go out for lunch? Could they be that mysterious somebody? Why yes, as it happened, they surely were. We went to the restaurant where I had been wishing I could get to, so I could purchase a gift card for Steve. Gift cards these days are the safest gift to give my son. Then, they did what every blind person on her own wishes for. They offered to take me on any errand I needed to do. So after we finished our leisurely lunch, off we went to buy a birthday card and a bottle of vanilla, which I had discovered I needed for a dish Im making for Easter brunch tomorrow. What a blessing. It truly was a silent prayer answered. But wait, the sun continued to shine on this day.

Late this afternoon, another friend called and asked if I would be willing to go out for dinner with her. She has been working for the past week on an unpleasant task and needed to relax with a friend. Im honored that she thought of me and doesnt mind having to drive over to get me. The sun kissed my cheeks today, and so did the Son. S O N. He not only sent help, but He also knew I was in need of reassurance that I do have friends who value my friendship, and thats the best blessing of all.

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Turning the Corner

After 12 sessions at Corner Stone Physical Therapy, Im finally getting a glimpse of the end of my misery. Physical therapy, PT was the best thing that has happened to my back in 2 years. Funny I should say that, because 2 years ago, my doctor sent me to PT, at a different place, and it only made the sciatic nerve pain worse. Thus began the frustrating, time consuming, money wasting journey through medical and health insurance hell.

6 steroid treatments later, along with 4 MRIs, X-rays, blood tests, all sorts of ineffective anti-inflammatory medications, 2 sessions of acupuncture, 9 visits to the chiropractor, ice and heat, massage, consultations with 2 separate surgeons, and finally surgery, to say nothing of thousands of dollars, Ive come full circle to physical therapy. Only this time, instead of increasing my pain, Im actually feeling great at the end of each session. Its hard work, waking up muscles that have gone into hiding for 2 years. But I have things to do. I have a beautiful tandem bike and a great friend ready to ride it with me, if the weather ever turns to spring. Im scheduled to go to The Seeing Eye in late May to train with a new dog. Im planning the 15th annual Hen Hike for October. And maybe next winter, I can get back on my skis! But first, I must be diligent about my stretches, my crunches, squats, toe rises, elastic bands, and weighted balls. For the first time in 2 years, Im doing something for my back that I know is right. No more guess work. No more expensive and pointless tests. No more postponements with doctors who are too busy to see me. No more fighting with health insurance. No more bad advice. no more rudeness and incompetence. How refreshing it is to feel confident that I am finally on the road to recovery. Thank you Justin and Craig for helping me turn the corner.

Mary at physical therapy

Stage Time

Did you know that the number 1 fear for most people is public speaking? The second greatest fear is death. In other words, most people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. Not me. I love public speaking.

Monday night, I had the opportunity to give a presentation to the Gahanna Lions Club. I say opportunity, because I welcome any stage time, so I can practice the speech I will deliver at the Toastmasters Spring Conference contest on April 20. Its the same speech that won on the club level, the area level, and the division level. On April 20, well see if it wins the district level. This contest will be particularly fun, because 2 of my friends will be competing against me, so no matter who wins, Ill be happy, so long as the 3 of us are at the top. One of them is my webmaster, and the other is a friend from my bike club.

The speech I gave Monday night included a little about Toastmasters, and how I got to the point of competing on the district level. I had 15 copies of a handout, Tips for Public speaking, taken from the Toastmasters website

www.toastmasters.org

and I noticed that only 8 were taken, but everybody took one of my business cards, which features a picture of me on a climbing wall and the title, Take Your Event to NewHeights.

I encouraged everybody to spread the word that I love doing speeches for free for service clubs and church groups. Stage time is extremely important for a speaker who is growing her business.

My speech is titled RSVP, and the message is to recognize your passion and to find a way to pursue it, even though the distractions of life get in the way. I use the example of how I rediscovered my passion for dancing and then found a way for a totally blind person to pursue her passion for dance. But the speech is not about dancing at all. Its about my passion for public speaking. If Im going to realize my dream of getting paid to speak, Id better get over being shy about it. If youre not familiar with my website

www.seeingitmyway.com

heres an invitation to come and meet just the speaker youve been looking for.

Red Hats at Assisted Living

When I am old, I shall wear purple and a red hat, that doesnt go and doesnt suit me. These are the first few words of a poem that the Red Hat Society was inspired by. Women all over the country who are over 50 have embraced the idea of dressing up with purple outfits and red hats, and meeting regularly, just to have fun.

The women who gathered at the assisted living home last Saturday were way over 50, and they had already learned how to be old, as the poem describes on down the page. But they had forgotten how to have fun, or maybe they hadnt had the opportunity to celebrate themselves as women.

With the help of 4 of my own Red Hat sisters, Ginger, Beverly, Sandy, and Jackie, I organized a Red hat tea for the ladies at the assisted living home.

My mother had belonged to many clubs and organizations in her little town in Indiana, and she has been missing that kind of social activity, ever since she had to move to Ohio. Although she feels she has tried to make friends at the home, her attempts have failed. Its hard, when you cant see or hear very well. Its hard when you dont like to play Bingo or do chair exercises. Its hard when you dont like watching TV, even with other folks in the activities room. Like a mother, anguishing over watching her child feel isolated on the playground, Ive struggled with coming up with a way I can help her overcome her loneliness. On Saturday, I felt a slight change in the current. Seated around a large table with 12 other women, with the exuberant encouragement of Ginger and the other Red Hat hostesses, the ladies finally learned a little about one another that they had never had the opportunity to know. Who knew that Nora played basketball in high school so many years ago? Who knew that Betty used to be an artist, or that Marilyn had 5 brothers? These seemingly insignificant facts are the beginnings of recognition of one another as real people, who used to have real lives, and who have real names other than that woman who sits at the next table for meals.

The 5 of us who hosted this tea had gathered an hour early to decorate the table, make the tea, distribute the donated hats, fill out name tags, and help seat the ladies as they arrived. Not knowing exactly what to expect, we played it by ear as we went, with the backup of the experience of my fellow hostesses. They each had had a mother in a nursing home, and the each had volunteered their whole Saturday afternoon in honor and in memory of their own mothers. The kindness that permeated the room was like a breath of air for me, a daughter struggling to stay afloat fighting an undertoe of loneliness and depression threatening to carry her mother away in sadness. That kindness buoyed us all, but especially those 13 women who smiled, laughed, and learned each others names.

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Anniversary

9 years ago, this week, I met Pippen. It was cold and rainy in Morristown, NJ, as we trained together, at The Seeing Eye ®, but it was cheery and warm inside as our classmates formed friendships. One of them was a retired pastor, and one had a beautiful singing voice, so as we approached palm Sunday, we made plans to have our own worship service in the lounge. Traditionally, we were allowed to go to church on the Sundays during training, but I forgot just why we didnt that time. Anyway, being there on Palm Sunday always helps me remember our anniversary. Pippen and I came home together on the Wednesday before Easter. We were on our own to explore the neighborhood and to settle into a feeding and relieving routine. The day after Easter, a traveling instructor came to assist us in learning the safest routes to work, to church, the restaurants in town, the beauty shop, etc. It was pouring down rain the whole 2 days he was here. I mean, I had to wear the full rain gear from head to toe to keep from getting drenched. But he was here, so we had to go out and do it. From that time on, Pippen has refused to walk in the rain, unless its necessary to get to a car in our driveway. Even if it looks like rain, she wont go farther than the driveway. No amount of encouragement or scolding will convince her that its not a bad idea. One day, when she smelled rain in the air, I managed to get her halfway up the block, and then sure enough, the skies opened up. I gladly admitted she was right and turned around, and she practically ran back to the house. Another day, she made her statement by doing an about face, the moment we got out the front door, and faced the door. She might as well have said, Im not going. Take your own self for a walk.

Early in our partnership, we would walk to the track at the school near our house and walk around the track. One night, we were halfway around the track, when the thunder cracked, and the rain suddenly came down in buckets. Pippen came to a dead stop. I dont do rain, she said. But with considerable prodding, I got her to lead me to the gate. It was one of the scariest nights of my life. Cars were streaming out of the parking lot, as the Little League game was called off by the rain. I couldnt hear anything because of the thunder and stampeding rain on the pavement. We needed to walk beside the cars to get out of the parking lot, but I couldnt tell if I was in the path of a car or not. That night, I had to put my faith in God and just move forward. If you are a dog guide user, you might say, Why didnt you put your faith in your dog? Remember, this was a very young dog, and she was terrified of rain, so this night, it was up to God, not only to get us out of the parking lot, but also across the busy street. Pippen was so eager to get home, that she crossed the street in a diagonal, instead of going from corner to corner, and it was only the Grace of God that kept us from getting hit. When we reached the far corner, still alive, albeit soaked, I thanked God profusely. From now on, I vowed, if it looks like rain, Ill listen to my dog.

Every March, when its cold, windy, and wet, I celebrate, because its another year with my little golden/lab girlfriend.

Cycling for All

Theres a new non profit called Cycling for All. I was asked to write something about my cycling experience for a display next week, so I thought Id share what I wrote with you.

My first tandem bike ride was on an old one-speed bike with my husband and our 3-year-old son. I liked to say that it was a 2-speed bike, pump, and pump harder. We strapped Steve into a child seat behind me, and we rode around the neighborhood. Later, my husband and I would ride 7 miles to the airport and back, and we thought that distance deserved a milk shake and a soak in a hot bath.

We gradually increased our distances and eventually bought a better bike. Much later still, I bought a tandem on my own, formed a group of visually impaired riders, and matched them up with bikes and captains. Through this effort, I met some pretty wonderful folks from a bike club near where I live. Soon I was riding 40, 50, and 60 miles in a day. Various members of the club would take turns at being my captain for the day, both men and women. The friendships forged from riding together have been some of the best.

On 3 occasions, I was able to participate in the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, GOBA, where we would ride about 50 miles a day for a week, around the rural parts of Ohio. I maintain that its the best way to see the Ohio countryside and to experience Small TownAmerica. The first year, I rode with Tricia the whole week. She was great at describing such scenes as cows standing in a stream to cool off and Amish overalls hanging from a clothes line as we pedaled past. The second year, my captain was the man I was dating at the time. The third year, I had a different captain each day of the week, which was a real feat of orchestration. Its interesting to note how different people notice different things as we ride together. Then there are those captains who just want to go as fast as we can and forget to tell me what were passing. One of my favorite captains was Glenn, who described everything from the little old woman sitting on her front porch to the beautiful sunset. He could identify for me the birds that I heard. Once when we were riding with some of his friends, one of them asked, How far til we get there? Glenn answered, what do you mean? We are there. His point was that the joy was in the journey, not the destination.

The most exciting ride of all was with my friend Eve, whom Ive mentioned several times on this blog. Twice, we rode in a fund-raiser for Leukemia in El Tour De Tucson, a 111-mile ride around the perimeter of Tucson, AZ, in one day. As we stoked our way up one of the long hills, Eve said, Well, instead of corn on the left and soy beans on the right, I see cacti on the left and cacti on the right. At the end of the day, both times, I felt like I needed to be peeled off the bike. But what a terrific experience it was. I like riding for a cause, but I love riding, just because. Its a wonderful way to be out in the sunshine and fresh air and getting good exercise at the same time. I used to hate summer, because I cant stand bugs and sweat, but when youre on a bike, you dont notice the sweat, and youre going too fast for the bugs to catch you.

Stranded

The driver of the Red Cross van and I were happily chatting away about the oldies playing on the radio, when he pulled up to my house and backed into the driveway. You dont need to walk me to the door, I said. Ill be fine. I had left Pippen at home, because I had been to physical therapy for my spine surgery, and she would just be in the way. I had my white cane though, but when I reached the front of the house, it didnt sound right. I dont have super hearing, as sighted people often claim I do, and I dont have facial vision that many totally blind people have, but my suspicions were confirmed when the tip of my cane tapped an ankle-high rock on the left side of the walkway. This was definitely not my house. By the time I made this discovery, the driver had started to pull forward into the street.

Don! Don! I yelled, as I waved my white cane wildly above my head, hoping to catch his attention in his rearview mirror. But no. Don was on a mission to get to his next pickup on time and didnt hear me or see me.

So there I was, in front of a house that wasnt mine. It was also not my next-door neighbors, which I would have recognized. How far up the street was I? 2 houses? 3 houses? At least I knew I was on my street, because I recognized the bumpy surface that had been poorly patched and repatched. I had 2 options. I could call the transportation service and tell them to call that driver and tell him to turn around. Or, I could be brave and start making my way until I found the landscaping in my front yard that would help me find my driveway. I had never found my house on my own. My guide dogs were each excellent at finding the right driveway. I was just digging in my purse for my cell phone, when a friendly-voiced young man appeared out of nowhere. He said he lived across the street, but I still think he dropped down out of Heaven. He held out his elbow, just like we had been doing this for years, and he walked me to my door. I felt a little like we were the very picture of the Boy Scout helping the little old lady across the street, but I was very thankful for that Boy Scout.

For just a moment, I thought about reporting Don, but hes a really nice man. Hes been my driver several times and couldnt be more polite and helpful, except for this one time. I didnt want to get him in trouble, especially since I got help immediately. Later that afternoon, he called and apologized all over the place. Now he feels terrible, but as a result of his error, I met my neighbor. The question is, who told on Don? This story had a happy ending for me, but not for him. The lesson I learned was to not be so cocky from now on. Im going to ask the driver to not leave until he sees my key in the right door. I shouldnt have to ask, but apparently I do.