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Kristeen Hughes
      My favorite thing about spring, or one of them, is the smell of all the flowers, trees and shrubs as they bloom. It doesn't get any better than nature's scented gifts to enjoy.

One of the best things about living in Louisville, for me, was that spring breezes absolutely fill the air with these precious aromas. There is more abundant fragrance than I ever noticed in Michigan, where I grew up, or certainly in Tucson, where I spent several years. I had heard people talk about aromatic southern south winds before. Living in Kentucky,, and having a house with a yard that I filled with flowers, certainly gave meaning to the phrase.

When I was growing up, we had one large lilac bush on each side of our front porch. When it got nice enough to have the screen door open and let the winds blow in, it was also time for those bushes to bloom. That was heavenly to me. I would sit in our living room and simply breathe the fragrance into every cell of my body. I would allow myself to feel the stirrings of rebirth, renewal and life, which is the promise and the definition of spring. I deeply believe that if there were more chances for more people to smell more flowers, there would not be so much anger, pain and depression. It's hard not to smile and feel an inner joy and peace when you smell the springtime and, especially lilacs.

My mother loved the land and animals and all of nature and she definitely passed that love along to me. She showed me all of the flowers that she could find and when we were going for a Sunday drive, it was not unheard of to stop along the road in order to allow me to touch and smell and learn about something she did not think I had seen before. I'd listen to her talk about gardening, and I  inherited her natural green thumbs. I told myself often through the years that if I ever got the chance, I would have a lilac bush someday or at least be near one so I could basque in its fragrance and reflect on my mother.

My mom died in September of 1995 and at the time, my life was rather full of turmoil. I know it saddened her that I wasunresolved about so many things.

When my partner and I got our house in January of 2002, and I knew that I would have some yard space, I began to consider what I would plant. I knew that if it did not have a scent, it would not make my list. As a person who is totally blind, I am not much acquainted with color.

The first item I acquired and ,by far, the most special was a little Korean Lilac bush. It was very healthy, but I was told that it would  not bloom for perhaps three to five years. I was unhappy about the delay, but the bush had been given to me as a gift and I knew I would treasure it. I decided I would simply have to enjoy the neighbor's big, wonderfully-scented lilac bush until the time of its first blooming.

On a Monday evening, in mid March, in a cold, light drizzle, I sat outside on the ground to begin the process of digging the hole in which to place the little bush.  From the moment I took the shovel into my hands, I felt my mother's presence. It was a very intense feeling, and an incredibly  spiritual experience. I could feel her smile and hear her words of encouragement. I knew she was sharing in this, my first spring planting. I knew she would have great joy because I now had peace in my life and had  found a loving partner with which to share it. I knew that she'd be proud of the yard and the flowers, and especially the bush I was now planting. So I cried like the child I had once been as I dug the hole and, with great gentleness and a feeling of utter reverence, lowered the bush into its new home. when I was done, I smiled and laughed, and then cried some more. It was a glorious spring ritual, and a celebration of my mother.

Against all the odds, against all I had been told and had read, that spectacular,  baby bush bloomed that very year about a month after I planted it. Not just a couple of little blooms here and there, but full of blooms. Every part of it radiating pure joy at being alive. The scent was amazing and carried tosurrounding houses.

My bush never missed blooming every spring from that first  in 2002 through  the spring of 2010. My father died in October of 2010, and within days of his passing, my precious and beloved bush died too. I understand that all things have a time and a season, but I will always wonderbe struck by the timing.

I no longer live in that house with that splendid yard. I have moved back to Michigan and into a townhouse. I can not have a Lilac bush, but I will make sure I find some every spring if at all possible. There beauty and scent mean more to me than the heralding of spring and summer. My mother speaks to me every time I smell them. My heart warms and I laugh a lot and weep a little. I also remember to whisper a sincere, heart-felt thank you to the universe for all of life and for my mother!

Current Mood: reflective

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I met a monkey once, just one monkey, just one time. It stole a large sweet tart right out of my hand before I could ever even pet it and see what it felt like and whether it was worth losing my candy. I was about eight and was so excited when Mom said there was a monkey and perhaps I could touch it.

It snatched the tart away from me and laughed at me. I was not amused. I was hurt and enraged as only an eight-year-old can be when the candy they have been enjoying is wrenched away by someone they can’t see and haven’t even met. Mom said I might as well pet the monkey, since the crime of thievery had already been committed. It seemed a shame not to get something out of the experience besides righteous indignation. I reached out and, of course, the first thing I touched was the hand that held my sweet tart. It amused me to  see the little hand gripping the candy so tightly. It grabbed even harder when I pulled gently on the tart to make it think I was trying to take it back. We playfully tugged the candy between us for a minute and I patted other parts of the monkey. I liked its fur. I decided that since the monkey couldn’t go into a store and get candy with money like I could, since I was a grown-up young lady, It was a good thing I came along with something worthwhile for it to steal. My mom and I went on our way.

I have not seen another monkey since. I think making the acquaintance of one monkey was fine, but I don’t think I want anything to do with a whole barrel of them.

Current Mood: amused amused

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I believe that because of my blindness, I live recency bias each and every day. Until this topic, however, I did not have a word for this most necessary way of life. From the moment I rise in the morning, until the slow slide toward sleep at night, I have a mental inventory of my environment. There is a rather fixed location for everything I own. My ability to function in an affective and  timely manner depends on mentally predicting where what I need for a specific task will be and having it actually be there.

After living in situations where this was very easy to do: either because I lived alone, or because I lived with others who respected this, or by living with those people who did not or could not have said respect, I have decided I will no longer compromise recency bias in my home. It is the one place it must exist. Most fortunately for me, my partner is in agreement,  and for this, I am truly glad.

When I venture out into the sighted world, I am immediately made aware that recency bias is definitely not in effect. It is as if there is a huge conspiracy against me out here. I am not considered which translates into being unwanted.

When I was first learning to travel independently with a cane and later with a dog, things were very different. Sidewalks ran from one street to another and were kept reasonably clear so they could be used for walking, which I have, up until recently, thought to be their primary, perhaps only purpose. This is no longer something that can be counted upon. Sidewalks are now places for a myriad of objects. These include, but probably are not limited to: newspaper boxes, mailboxes, cement planters, ashtrays, poles which may or may not contain signs, but which nonetheless are poorly placed, and a variety of tables and chairs for restaurants and cafes. Most of these tables are very small and flimsy. One nudge from a knee, a dog’s body, or a white cane will send these tables skittering away from their occupants which displeases them as they watch their food and drink move swiftly out of their reach. I allow myself to be amused by this last, because otherwise I would be consumed by anger and sadness at the thoughtlessness of their location.

Even in the winter, there is no break from the unpredictability of sidewalks. Snow falls evenly from nature’s skies. My seeing counterparts, however, do not appreciate this equanimity and must make sure that as much snow as possible is placed on sidewalks and especially at the street corners where one would get on and off of them. As the years go by, this becomes more and more hazardous. There are more people and, because people who are blind are a small minority, this means more people driving and more cars. This makes walking impossible from about mid November to sometime in April, hopefully. This, of course, depends on where one lives, but Michigan is definitely a winter state that fits this scenario.

When the snow is melted, the construction crews can go to work and they are seemingly everywhere I might want to go. On one hand they move frequently, meaning they will not be in the same place in a few hours, on the other hand, their frequent movement does nothing to make it easier for traveling without vision.

I cling to the hope that something will stay the same. When I first learn an area, I try to figure out on what corners public bus stop signs and garbage cans will be found. These items are both quite important. The reason for the first is obvious if one needs or wants to use public transportation. The second is necessary if you use a guide dog and do not want to walk into your favorite neighborhood coffee shop or restaurant inadvertently carrying a bag of something undesirable that your dog deposited while on route. This happened to me once because I knew where a garbage can had been. It was in the same place for months and I used it on a regular basis. This day, however, it was gone. I didn’t believe it, but someone else walking by confirmed that it had been taken away. It was now, as the passerby put it, “Down a ways and over there”. Neither of these most useful descriptors are going to work for me since I cannot see the jerk of the head or the pointing finger. I no better than to explain this, however, because recency bias tells me my explanations have not worked in the past and will not work today. The location of garbage cans can never be predicted; the stupidity and thoughtlessness of a vast amount of humanity, however, seems to be far to dependable.

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I have mentioned my neighbors, Fred & Kathy in a previous entry. They were my neighbors for almost 12 years when I lived in Louisville. They were awesome people who I cared about a great deal. They were very fun and funny and had quirks that were a source of interest and entertainment. I believe that it’s a plus to have quirks that can give some positive advantage to people. Far to many quirks are minor or major annoyances and some are dangerous and should be avoided at almost any cost. Having said that, Fred had a couple of these and I would come in contact with one of them more times than I would have liked.

I must point out that Terrie was the one who did a lot of the things in the house and I was the outdoor person. Therefore, I got to be the go-to person for Fred’s “plans”. He has many, and he believes they are all very necessary and should be implemented. He also believed that the help and the resources necessary to carry them out should and would of course, come from his “neighbor”

The time for talking about what will be planted in the garden beds is upon us and Fred comes over one morning to discuss “something” with me. He talks about how nice my beds look and how rich the soil is. I tell him how I compost, for it is very different from what he does. He mentions the quality of my soil and of my vegetables a lot. I am a great gardener and have grown truly wonderful things.

He says that he thinks it would be very good if I “commandeered” another place in my yard that has, up until now, been used as a bed for building quality soil.

“Make it work for me!” he says with great hope and anticipation.

I point out that it works very well for me as a soil bed and he says that while this may be true, it would be much better if I used it to grow potatoes. He says he loves growing them and knows I would as well. I cringe inwardly. I grew up on a farm and it had a huge garden. I know something about potatoes. I know they grow in hills and if one does not have enough land to do this a certain way, one must pile something around the plants and continue the process as they grow. I find out from him that he uses straw. I ask him why I need to grow potatoes, since he already does this. After all, it is he who talks about planning what we both grow, so that we each grow different things and we can then share the fruits of our labors. I point out that Terrie and I do not eat that many potatoes and have always found that harvesting them from the supermarket was an acceptable practice. He says that they love potatoes and if I will grow them they will take most of them, leaving us with a small amount. He says there can never be too many potatoes. I grudgingly agree, because I am incredibly reluctant to say no to Fred.

So I plant potatoes in this awesome soil and I tend them and I pile straw around them about five times. This means I have to purchase straw and keep it in my shed. Straw does not contain itself well. It is everywhere. It blows around the yard and it is all over the floor of the shed. It finds it’s way into the hot tub, where it is most unwelcome. It remains long after it is needed. I am hugely unimpressed with this vast amount of straw.

I grow an immense crop of potatoes for the space I have. I am shocked and quite pleased with myself. I think Fred will be quite happy and that he and Kathy will love these. They are various sizes and there must be around forty pounds of them when all are harvested.

I tell Fred this good news. He says that’s great and that he has had quite a good crop himself this year.  The God and Goddess of veggies must indeed be fans of the mashed potato! He does not come over and take any of them. A week goes by and two and I continue to remind him and he continues to say they have a lot of spuds and is not interested. One day I take three of the finest representatives of the crop to their house. They take them and politely thank me. They tell me they were wonderful, but they do not ask for any more. The rest are all mine

I have a lot of Irish in me, but I do not know enough ways to eat potatoes to use all of these. Terrie is a good cook and she joins in with ideas for potato usage. Still between the two of us, a great many of them go bad. I tell her that I will “never” do this again. That is the easy part, but I also have to tell Fred.

I do this before the next spring. He asks me what happens if his crop isn’t as good and wasn’t I proud of how well I had done. I tell him that I would rather be proud of growing something our household eats more of, and that the answer will always be “no” on potatoes.

Does he stop trying? No, he brings it up a couple more times at least. I think he believes I will change my mind because I hate to disappoint or hurt people and he knows this about me very well. He eventually has to accept this and I become less reluctant to say “no” to him. As it happens this turns out to be an essential survival skill throughout the remainder of my time as his neighbor.

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While I lived in Louisville, my neighbors were a couple who both have disabilities. Fred had juvenile RA and it resulted in, among other things, his having to use a manual wheelchair. Kathy is blind and travels with a guide dog. When her dogs retire from guide work because of health or age, they are kept as pets. Fred is a dog lover and so he takes over the care and attention of the retired guide, leaving Kathy free to train with a new dog and to grow the close bond necessary for a successful guiding team.

Shortly after I moved in next door, it was the case that there were two dogs. One was the retired black Lab named Betsy who was about fourteen years old when the event about which I am writing occurred. The other was a young, mellow Golden Lab cross named Perrine.

When Fred and Kathy went away for a few hours or more, they weren’t  comfortable leaving Betsy home alone. They wanted her to be around people and to be able to go outside more often to relieve herself. She would come over and stay with us. I am ever ready to look after a dog, given the dog will behave in a decent manner. I always enjoyed watching Betsy and giving her lots of affection and massages for her joints.

Kathy had asked me earlier this day if I would come over and get Betsy in the late afternoon and watch her until they returned from a concert about 10:30 or so that night. I told her I’d be happy too and went off to do some errands so I would be home at the proper time.

When it was time, I walked the short distance to their house and unlocked the door. I was pleased to see that Betsy was already at the door waiting for me. Often, I had to call her loudly and hunt for her in various parts of the house. She seemed almost eager to go with me as I attached the leash to her collar and left, locking the door once again.

I was thrilled at the  bounce to her step as we walked. I took her inside and she immediately lay down on the floor of the back room and rolled on her back. I was astonished because she had stopped wanting to lie on her back and get her tummy rubbed sometime ago. I called to my partner,

“Honey! Come see what Betsy is doing. You won’t believe it!”

She came and we both exclaimed over how active she seemed rolling around on the hard floor. She got big belly rubs from both of us. I asked Terrie if she didn’t think her fur seemed softer and healthier. She said yes and posited that perhaps it had to do with the nicer weather and more time spent lying in the sun. I agreed and then pointed out that it felt like she had added a little weight as well. Terrie felt her ribs and hips and said it idd seem like there was a bit more meat on them. This was a very good thing.

I knelt to help her up, but she rolled off of her back and got up on her own. I was so pleased at how well she was doing. I had only seen her a few days ago and this was nothing short of miraculous.

I walked into our bedroom, where per usual I prepared the bed for her arrival by spreading a sheet over the quilt. We didn’t let dogs on our bed as a rule, but she was the exception. Our house had no carpeting and she was, after all, the elder stateswoman of the canines. We wanted her to be comfortable, so she always got a prime position at the foot of the bed. She took no issue with this arrangement, believing it her due. Since she could no longer jump up by herself, I always picked her up and deposited her, very gently into a nice, cozy position. I did just that. She promptly stood up and stepped gingerly off the bed. I was afraid she would fall in an ungraceful heap, but she did not. She stood there and wagged her tail. I didn’t understand the problem, so I repeated the process. She once again got off the bed. I told Terrie that indeed she must be feeling very good this night for she never refused the bed. Terrie again agreed with me that it was odd but seemed a very good sign. Since I really wanted her to be on the comfortable bed, I put her up there for a third time and then lay down next to her petting and cuddling her into stillness. She finally relaxed, being more or less resigned to her fate.

Terrie and I sat in the living room talking about how Betsy was either going through a relapse or she was doing even worse, and we could not figure out which it was. At least she was finally settled on the bed and all seemed fine.

Finally my phone rang. It was Fred and he said in a rather stern tone,

“Do you have our dog?”

My relationship with Fred consisted primarily of humor and a bit of antagonism. I promptly responded,

“No, We’ve got no extra dogs here.”

He said in a very serious voice, “You had better because we’ve got one missing.”

I did not quite understand because he knew I had Betsy. That was our agreement, was it not?

I said, “Fred, you know that Betsy is here. She is asleep on the bed like all the other times she is here.”

There was a silence and finally he said,

“Betsy is right here! Perrine is gone!”

This was not possible because I knew I had gone over there and gotten Betsy and she was indeed in the bedroom.

“Fred, I came over like I agreed to do and I took Betsy and she is here.”

It’s probably not the brightest idea to debate so fervently with a man who can see the color of a dog and who knows the one he is looking at is quite black. He was insistent and a bit annoyed,

“She is right in front of me and we left them both in the house when we left for the concert.” “Can we have Perrine back, please?”

Slowly, agonizingly, with great embarrassment and utter humiliation, I realized that I had the wrong dog. The pieces fell into place and the puzzle was solved. Terrie and I laughed until there were tears. As I walked out the door with Perrine, I could hear Kathy laughing as she came out of her house and waited for me on her back porch. We laughed a lot more and talked a bit. Kathy thought the whole thing was incredibly funny.  She told me she left a message on my voicemail earlier that afternoon saying they had decided it would be more comfortable for the dogs if they did not take either of them to the concert. She said I could take both, or make sure I had Betsy because Perrine would be eager for anything and be waiting for me at the door. My phone was dead and when it was fully recharged, it was almost time for them to return, so I never checked it for messages. I had no idea Perrine would be there. It was impossible given the facts I had, that I could have any dog but Betsy so I continued to create the reality as necessary. This amused me for a time, and then it sobered me.

Because I believed something was true, I said yes and, yes and, until I made it so. I made, fatty tumors disappear, I felt rough, brittle fur and imagined it was smooth and healthy. I put weight on bones that did not exist. I conjured healthy joints and stronger muscles. Though it made sense that I would need to do this, given what I knew, it gave me pause. How many of us do this and how many times? Perhaps I will try to include more yes but, in my life. Believing is all well and good, but questions are also necessary and sometimes different answers are there to be found.

As a footer, Fred told me a few days later that I created another reality different from the one Perrine had been living with. It seems they do not let a working guide dog on the furniture. This privilege is reserved for the retired elders. Thanks to my insistence that she be on the bed and that she enjoy herself there, she now felt it right and proper that this become her new sleeping place. He said he couldn’t thank me enough and he did not.  

Current Mood: amused amused

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  Most of the fallacies that come to mind if, indeed I ever ponder the word, are external. The one I have chosen to write about is one I made up myself when I was very young. It was one of my first attempts to understand my blindness.

I don’t remember how old I was when I began to wonder what made me unique. I know that the very thing that was my difference, also kept me from being able to understand it. If you are wearing braces, walking with crutches, or are using a wheelchair, for example, it’s rather obvious to you what makes you stand out or sets you apart from other people. You’d have to be blind not to notice. Well, there’s the rub! I was blind, and in the very beginning, I wasn’t aware that other people were not. I did not even know what the word “blind” meant.

As time went by, I knew that blind meant different, and I began trying to figure out what exactly this “difference” was, and what caused it. For a short time, I thought maybe it was a family condition. It made sense that these people who were always with me, day and night, would be just like me. We were family and that should mean something. Perhaps it should, but I soon realized this was not it. So it seemed that I, alone, possessed this “difference”

As I thought about it, it seemed that I had a lack of something. Things that I examined with my hands were talked about differently by others. They had more, or different knowledge than I, such as color. I longed to know what color was. I was desperate to find out what was “wrong” with me so that I could get it fixed and be like everyone else. I wanted what they had, but first I had to discover exactly what “it” was.

I asked as many questions as I could at the time, but I didn’t get many, or satisfying answers. I knew that everyone had eyes and these were what gave all of this “extra” information I didn’t get from my fingers. I had eyes, but they didn’t work. So why were my eyes broken? No one seemed to want to talk about it beyond the fact that they didn’t work. I wasn’t sure if it was a secret, or if they really didn’t know what the problem was.

I knew that in order to “see” something in my environment, I had to reach out my hand or hands and touch the object and move my fingers over it to gather as much information as they could provide. It made sense to me that if I had to do this, there had to be a way for eyes to do the same thing. I believed they must have to leave the head and travel to an object in order to see it. I decided there must be a sort of cable system in people’s heads. I imagined that each human head had a button on the back and when pressed the eyes would spring out of the head on long, thin cables and land on the object they wanted to see. After rolling around for a bit and gathering all possible information, the button could be pressed and the cables would be retracted back into the head. I decided I was missing either the cables or the button. I began looking at people’s heads to try and find the button. My sister once commented that I had a head fettish. I was to young to know what a fettish was, but I knew I had to see enough heads to determine where the secret button was kept. When I didn’t find it, I decided I was missing the cables. I also thought perhaps the desire to see something was enough that it would send the cables out to seek the desired object. So thinking that you wanted to see something projected the cables in the same way that my desire to touch something caused me to reach for it. I stopped looking for the button. I’m sure this made my family quite happy.

I worried about possible problems that people might have with their cables and wondered why no one ever spoke about having any of them. I imagined a huge crowd of people at a baseball game and thought about how many cables there would be. It would be a mass of cables. They could get tangled, or broken. Did people have spare cables? Did some people lose their eyes and become blind? I wondered how much cable was needed to see the stars and how it could all possibly fit into the head and still leave enough room for the brain. I thought about how painful it must be to have crossed cables, resulting in crossed eyes, and I decided that must be what caused headaches. I never had them when I was a very young child, so this seemed reasonable. I wondered why there were never eyes on me and I figured it was because I couldn’t look back. People don’t like to look at you if you aren’t looking at them. I didn’t know whether to feel lucky because I didn’t have to deal with all of that or sad because I could not.

I am sure vision works incredibly well the way   it truly is. The Divine is a much better creator than I am and has thought it all through much better than a three or four-year-old, but this was my first attempt at making sense of something I truly did not understand.

Current Mood: quizzical

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It was the summer of 1972. It was incredibly hut and humid as it can be in west Michigan in August.  The only cool place was our dirt basement. It was cool, but not a desirable place to spend much time. Dirt and moldy walls were not very appealing unless you happened to be a salamander or a shrew or some kind of spider. All of whom seemed quite at home there. I would go down and enjoy the damp coolness for as long as I could when I was overwhelmed by the heat. I would come back up into what felt like an oven.
We had an old house built in the civil war era. At some point it had been wired for electricity, but no thoughts of air conditioning had occurred to anyone at the time. It would have cost a lot to rewire the house and my family operated on a very low budget. We had the basic window fans throughout the house and they stirred the air around and made little difference unless you sat perfectly still in front of one of them.
One Thursday evening, after my mother left for a meeting of a women's’ club to which she belonged, and my brother and sister were away, my father told me he had a wonderful idea and that it would be a great  surprise for everyone in the house. I should have been more skeptical, but I was twelve and I admired my father in many ways.
He was a most creative man and he was absolutely brilliant with anything that was mechanical. If it had a motor or moving parts, or ran on electricity, he could fix it, and perhaps,  build it. His career was as a machinist. When he was not actually at work, he fixed all manner of vehicles, farm equipment, outboard motors for boats, etc. I noticed at quite a young age, that he would fix anything for anyone, unless it was for his family or his home. I finally figured out this had to do with remuneration. Family didn’t pay him. However, when he fixed things for his friends he often got paid in his favorite currency, beer.
On this particular Thursday, he must have fixed a lot of things or received large amounts of back payment. He had access to a lot of beer and, as it was very hot, he was quite drunk by the time he told me of his “wonderful idea”. He asked me if I would help him. I was torn. I hated his drinking and avoided him at all costs when he was drunk.  However, The two of us were alone in the house and I was afraid if I didn’t hang around and help him, he might get hurt or cause irreparable damage to our home. I wasn’t sure how I could help, but it seemed prudent. Also, I have to admit to curiosity. He had said there would be something good in it for the family. I was still naive enough to believe him. I hadn’t yet learned those were, almost without exception empty words.
At this time, we had two refrigerators in our house . One was quite old, and the other was older. The older one was hanging on by a thread. We were trying to phase the old one out, but it was still in use. The first thing my father asked me to do was to put all of the items that were in the newer refrigerator back into the old one. I was uncertain, but complied.
As he got out tools and a blow torch and other devices one should not use in the kitchen of one’s home, he began to tell me his plan.
We would take the door off of the empty refrigerator and would remove the interior portion, which was mostly plastic. We would, by a combination of torching, cutting, and drilling, make a large hole in the remaining part of the door. Once this was done, we would place a window fan inside the unit and plug it in. With the temperature of the refrigerator turned down as low as possible, and the door closed, the fan would blow out the cold air. He was convinced this would work and would actually make a portion of the main floor of the house air conditioned. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with this plan, but I felt we were about to do something very wrong! I asked him if it was dangerous. He didn’t think so. I said I had never heard of anyone doing this sort of thing before. He said that until three years ago, no one had walked on the moon, but now it was almost common. I didn’t know how to argue with that, so I proceeded to try and assist him.
After more beer, much cursing, and a lot of noise and debris, there was a very jagged, ugly hole in the door of what had been a fine fridge.
I had never seen the inside of a refrigerator door before, and I truly believe no one should. One of the things that fills the inner area of a refrigerator is fiberglass insolation. Ah! This explains the coughing and sneezing we both did during and for a while after this memorable event.
We did plug in the fan and when we turned it on, steel shavings and fiberglass particles flew everywhere. They covered the kitchen floor and the ceiling. They stuck to all of the chairs and the table and the counters and were in the sink. They also coated the stove. Finally, my father decided that turning it off was the best fix for the moment. He supposed there was a tiny flaw that he had to work out. Sadly, I now realized that this, like so many other things my father did while drunk, was a colossal failure and would never be “worked out”.
My mother came home and, I must say, she was quite surprised. The house did cool off then. In fact, it became downright frigid! She had many words to say to my father and I don’t remember a lot of the content. I heard her mention my lungs and how dangerous it was for me to breathe the fiberglass and the shavings. I have a feeling my father was wishing for that walk on the moon he had spoken of earlier.
I did what I always did when my parents were going to argue. I went out to the barn to be with my animals. I also prayed for the future of my lungs. I was rather fond of them and wanted them to remain with me for a very long time to come.
I never saw the refrigerator again. I don’t know how he moved it out of the house or when. I developed a deeper appreciation for the simplicity of window fans.
I have told the story a number of times through the years and it always makes people laugh. I usually laugh too, but I always feel a great sadness as well. In about three hours my father and I managed to ruin a perfectly good appliance that we could not replace. It had been a gift to us. We did not make anything better for our family, we only made complications and a huge mess. I went to sleep that night hearing my mother crying in the living room.
I can only imagine  what my father would have come up with if he had ever taken it into his head to build a better mouse trap

Current Mood: reflective

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  As a person who has been blind since birth, I have countless examples of a back that gets bent, but does not break. It gets quite a bit of riding, but straightens up again, only to repeat the entire process again and again ad nauseam. It is a large part of what life is made of if you are a woman with a disability. Below, I give you one such example.

I changed my major from music to Social work in the middle of my sophomore year at my university. This meant I would be on the five-year plan, but when I thought of what awaited me after graduation: convincing prospective employer after prospective employer that I could walk, talk, breathe, go to the bathroom, and, very likely, perform any job duties they would expect of me if hired, I was not bothered by the extra year in college. Even in college, I almost immediately got a taste of what I have described above.

About two weeks into the term, there was a welcoming event for all of the new Bachelor’s students. It was a chance to meet some of the professors we would be working with and also a few representatives from local agencies we would later choose from when it was time to do internships during our senior year.

I listened with limited attention to all the introductory words about how we had all made an altruistic choice to serve our fellow human beings and so on. I was interested in what the reps from the agencies would say. I was roughly two years from my internship, but I was eager to begin the information-gathering process.

One of the women who spoke was from our local crisis intervention center, Gryphon Place. The first thing I liked was the fact that the name was spelled like the bird. The other thing that caught my ear was that they desperately needed volunteers for a spring training that was coming up in a couple of months. She pointed out that the empathy training Gryphon provided was well-known and quite incredible. It would be very beneficial for us at any time, and would also provide them with potential volunteers. It was very part-time and shouldn’t interfere with our work load, especially since summer was not a busy time for us.

Once you went through training, you answered phones and talked to the callers and, if necessary, gave them referrals to services in the community that could be helpful to them. There was always a supervisor and, at least, one other veteran staff on a shift with new volunteers. No new volunteers ever worked overnights, nor did they ever talk with a drop-in client unless a staff person was present.

All of this sounded great to me and I was thrilled by this unexpected opportunity. I was very excited and thought I would apply and see if I could get accepted.

After the program I shook hands with her, but did not give her my name, nor did I say anything about my interest in the center’s volunteer program. For her part, she was pleasant and said she hoped I enjoyed a very successful time in the social work department.

The next day I called her and set up an interview. As I often do, I waited until the end of the call to let her know that I was blind, so that if she had particular questions or issues that might be relevant, we could discuss them at the interview. It’s never good to start out with the mention of the B word because then you often do not get the interview. However, if you fail to mention it, it is a surprise, and that definitely does not work in your favor. Once you have been given an interview time, it is harder for them to refuse you with any believability.

After sitting down in her office, she started by explaining to me that she was sorry to have gotten me there under false pretenses, but that she needed to be honest and inform me that at the time there were no vacancies in the volunteer staff and she did not foresee any in the next year.

I told her that was quite interesting since, when she spoke at the university, she almost begged people to apply for the spring training because there was a great need for new volunteers. Perhaps, she had no spaces for people who were blind?

She assured me this was not the issue and that she must have misspoken. I asked her if she had misspoken at the university or here in her office.

After a quick shuffle of papers, she said that there actually were a few open spaces, but there were other issues. She said it would be impossible for me to do the job, because I would not see the lights on the phone lines. With immense pride and satisfaction, I showed her a nifty, small device that could be held over the buttons and it would vibrate when it saw they various indicator lights. It had a different vibration pattern for hold, for incoming calls, and for ongoing calls. This was 1981, so it was quite high-tech. I think under other circumstances, she may have been impressed, but certainly not under these.

She sounded quite sorrowful when she told me that she was very sorry, but the job was not only phone coverage. She told me that since I could not see, the guidelines of the agency would not allow me to see drop-in clients by myself and would not allow me to stay overnight. She said that both of these were requirements of the position.

I asked her if the rules had changed in the last week, because, and then I reminded her, word for word what she had said when she spoke at the meeting. I said that it felt very much that she either did not like the idea of a volunteer who was blind, or that perhaps she was not as familiar with the job descriptions of her agency as she should be. I helpfully suggested she may want to review them so that this sort of unpleasantness did not occur with other want-to-be volunteers.

After a long silence, she commented that I was certainly an attentive listener. I agreed and pointed out what an important skill that was to possess when doing this particular job.

Lastly, she showed me the information and referral volume and said she truly did not see how I could get that information when I did not read print. With my calm amazingly still intact, I explained to her that I would gladly put that information into braille on my own time, and since it was publicly available, there were no confidentiality issues and anyone could read it to me.

I attended the training and I loved it. During the training, matters of confidentiality were discuss and the staff and new trainees were eager to come up with ways of dealing with these that were within the boundaries of the agency. All but one person in the agency seemed very excited about a new challenge and offered various ways of being helpful.

I must say that the back was bent a few more times during my first few weeks on the phones. Two calls are very memorable to me. After each one I thought my career as a crisis center volunteer would come to a grinding halt. Fortunately it did not.

The second call I took was from a man who was extremely upset and who said he was unable to stay in his home alone. He wanted to get into crisis housing. While I was talking to him, the staff around me wasengaged in a rollicking discussion of a popular new movie just out at the time. It was, “The best Little Whorehouse In Texas”. Totally oblivious to the fact that a brand new person was on the phone, they became louder and louder. Finally, after hearing the title of this movie so many times, and trying to listen to my client, who was in need of my help, I almost screamed at them that they needed to be quiet so I could concentrate.

“This man needs to get into the crisis whorehouse!” I exclaimed.

Stunned silence followed, broken finally by bits of laughter and someone saying that he imagined a lot of people would like to get in there. Finally, a supervisor thought to ask me the all-important question,

“Is that line on hold?”

Fortunately for all of us, it was. I did go forward with the call and helped him get into the right place. I was a bit afraid of the phone for qwhile after that call.

Some time later, with myself and one other man present, I took another call which would prove educational for me. This call was from a man who seemed very much in need and he said,
"Do you mind if I come?"

I was a rather innocent young woman at that time. The only thing I could think of was that people either come home, come to a conclusion, or come unhinged. I decided he must mean the last of these and in that case, I was glad to tell him that he certainly could come because we took drop-Ins until midnight and we would be glad to help him with whatever his problem was. He quickly hung up; as did I.

My fellow staffer commented on the duration of the call. I explained  the content of the conversation to him and, not for the first time after I spoke about a call, there was total silence. He then began to laugh. He actually howled. I was puzzled. He asked me if I had done that on purpose because it was a wonderful answer for a call such as that and he thought I should patent it. I became more puzzled. He finally figured out that I truly did not know what the man really wanted. I told him I did not know that particular word had more than one meaning. He said it depended on the spelling. He never did explain it to me that night.

No! I do not need any comments attempting an explanation. I have had it figured out now for many, many years, but thanks for the offer!       

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Each year, in the beautiful and historic Clifton neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, a very festive parade is held to herald the arrival of spring and also to celebrate Easter. In April of 2001, I was in the city, and, in fact, in that neighborhood on Parade Day. I was spending the spring with my partner before moving there to be with her later that year. She lived in the heart of this afore-mentioned neighborhood.

On this fateful Saturday, she discovered there was a huge rummage and bake sale about five blocks from where her apartment was located. To get there and back, one must traverse a busy, main street called Frankfort Avenue. As it happens, this is also a most fine parade route, but of this fact, we were blissfully unaware when the day began.

My partner went alone, earlier that morning, when all was well on Frankfort Avenue and bought some bedding and a few other household items. These items were very fine and in good condition, but were a bit dingy from being out in the nice spring weather while waiting to be purchased. She also found a nice typing table on wheels. She was able to bring the table back with her. The other items we would pick up later. When later arrived at about 11:00 AM, which as it turns out is a most excellent hour for a parade to get underway,  we took our trusty cart, which could hold agreat deal and still be pulled easily, and we headed off for the sale with our gallant guide dogs at our sides. Perhaps this is a good point for interjecting that we are both blind. It is rather important!

The trip down to the sale was a basically smooth one, although we did comment about why there were so many people gathered and gathering along both sides of Frankfort and why things seemed so crowded and hushed. We also noticed that the street itself was growing rather empty of traffic. It was beginning to prove difficult to maneuver down the sidewalk, but we persevered!

At the sale, we gathered our purchases together and then we perused the bake sale and made some yummy acquisitions. The woman working the sale said she could put all of our baked goods into a box. She explained that the inside of this box was very clean but the outside had some smears of dried frosting and other pastry-related ingredients on it. We said it would be more important to have a box than not, and we were more than happy with that plan. So, cart packed to overflowing, and with the rather seedy-looking box of baked goods perched precariously at the top of the heap, we began our infamous trek back to our apartment.

Yes, we did hear some parade types of band music and people lightly clapping. Yes, we also heard a lot of talking and noticed vehicles crawling down the street, much too slowly, but being very new to the neighborhood we did not know about this yearly, well-attended parade. It was virtually impossible, we discovered, to make any visible progress down the sidewalk because everywhere there were people standing and sitting on the low stone wall and seeming to be  everywhere we wanted to be. Far too late to save us from our impending neighborhood debut, we discussed that this seemed very much like a large event of some kind like perhaps a parade? We decided that since we had no choice we would bravely forge ahead and try to get this over with as soon as humanly and caninely possible and get out of the mess.

Now, my guide dog, Bower is a most opportunistic fellow, and upon seeing he had two choices, one of which was fairly impassible and the other being a very wide street that was largely unoccupied, did the most intelligent thing a well-trained service animal could do to guide me safely and unimpeded. He chose a very level place at a driveway and then slightly angled into the street. Given the chaos of this moment, I did not notice the angle and was grateful that we seemed to have come upon a significant break in the crowd. My partner’s dog, also most excellently trained, knew when following seemed a most brilliant plan, and acted accordingly, leading her person and the hapless cartful of disparate objects into the lovely, unencumbered street.

As we walked along for a few steps I mentioned that maybe we had gotten to the end of the crowd and this was much better going. She agreed and our collective mood improved.

Suddenly we heard, off to our right, a child's excited voice squealing,

"Look Mommy, doggies in the parade!"

By the way, it's never a good idea to pray for a large hole to immediately open in the earth’s crust. It may happen, but probably not where you are standing. You will not only be responsible for the ruination of a beloved neighborhood parade, but also for the terrible destruction of something and somebody totally undeserving.

So realizing that the parade had essentially halted so that the Float for the Homeless Blind Women of Louisville Kentucky could wend its way down the avenue, we just kept moving forward and at the first opportunity got our dogs and ourselves and our calamitous cart back onto the sidewalk. We also tried to keep our heads very low, but we were nonetheless unforgettable.

For a while after that, we had no trouble getting help from the very attentive residents and business owners along Frankfort Avenue. When anyone saw us walking down the sidewalk they probably assumed we were eventually headed for the street and since there would be no parade to efficiently halt the steady, sometimes rapid flow of traffic, they wished to intervene before that happened.

We lived together in that neighborhood for twelve years, and I believe that time and many very successful parades, which we did not attend, dulled the impact of our very unique and public initiation into the community, Still, I would not recommend employing this strategy if you are blind, whether you are with or without dogs! There are much less noticeable if not more memorable ways to meet perspective neighbors.         

Current Mood: amused and reflective

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This is my first time doing LJ Idol. I know! It's the last season! I'm just a bit slow, but I gut here!

I live in Michigan, and share my dwelling       with my partner of almost one year.


This means that I am either blessed or cursed to live with the Winter Solstice Cat. This winter, this has not been such a positive experience. I do not know what has made her so mad, but she continues to heap winter upon us.

We have two wonderful labradors who, fortunately for everyone do not control the weather in any way. They are typical dogs and will wag in all seasons and find the up side to everything. I endeavor to be more like them.

I love to read and since the sidewalks have been obliterated for months now by snow, I’ve had plenty of time to do lots of it.

When it is not winter, I am a fanatic about being outdoors. I used to have a garden, but I now live in an apartment again, so that is not possible. I will look for other creatives ways to be outside. Maybe i’ll find a place to write out there.

I have been reading some of the intros and am excited by the writing. I look forward to following the competition and hopefully giving back something for others to read. and enjoy.

Current Mood: excited excited

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