IMAGES OF A DAD

 

It’s Fathers’ Day, a day I normally dread, a day I’ve dreaded for twenty years. My own dad died on February 12, 1997. I usually try to lose myself in other things on this day every year. I’m torn. Equally, I resent that mothers get more focus and adulation, but I also hate hearing people yammer on about happy father’s Day, when I can never say it to my own. And I never say it to anyone else. After all, nobody else is my father, but my own dad, Jerry Gomes.

 

But today, as I have a twitter conversation with friends about our dads, there was so much I wanted to say, things I couldn’t say in 140 characters or less. Flashes of memory, of all the good and bad things about Dad. He was not perfect, but I loved him more perhaps because of those flaws. Here, in no order, are my thoughts, the memory flashes I’m having today.

 

I’m a little girl. My daddy is a brave fireman. Grandma and then mommy take me to the firehouse, where I am spoiled by the other firemen and shown off by Daddy. I feel like my grin will burst off my face. I am so proud of my Daddy.

 

I am a nearly graduated high school girl, and I fall in the pool in our back yard, damaging my fused knee on the hard cement corner. Dad ties my legs together with towels and puts me in his Porsche, driving as fast as he can get away with from our home in Los Gatos to my doctors at Stanford. Both of us so terrified of what it can mean that my knee is moving, when it hasn’t moved since I was three.

 

I am a little girl, a teenager, a woman, and it’s Christmas. Dad’s joy in the day fills the room, spreads to everyone around him. His voice rises above the others as we gather around my aunt’s piano and we sing carols.

 

I am thirty-nine, and it’s Christmas, and I gather with my brothers and sister, their spouses and children, for what we all know will be his last Christmas with us. We all smile. We take pictures. We laugh and sing and joke. Our hearts going to pieces inside. I’m the only one to witness dad’s breakdown after everyone has gone home. His rush to the phone to wait on hold forever for the doctor on call, his agonized cry out to God, that he can’t take the pain anymore. “If you want me so badly, God, then take me! I can’t take this pain anymore!” He screams it to the heavens, and I gasp and hang onto my emotions with all my being, so as not to let him see the anguish that cry brings me.

 

I’m in fourth grade. My teacher brings in a story for current events. A firefighter named Jerry Gomes, saved the life of a small boy who had fallen in a pool and nearly drowned. There is a picture of my young handsome father, and my teacher has me walk up and down the rows of desks showing his picture to my classmates. I’m beaming as the girls squeal and say how cute my dad is.

 

I’m sitting in a wheelchair at my high school graduation. I’m in the wheelchair because of that knee I damaged falling in dad’s pool. As the principal calls my name, and someone I don’t remember pushes me to the microphone to receive my diploma, dad’s voice rings out: “I can’t believe it!’ He wasn’t quite sure I’d get through high school.

 

I’m thirteen. I wake up and sense that something is wrong in my home. Dad and Mom—mom being my dad’s second wife and my beloved mother of the heart forever—they are in their room. I hear hangers, empty hangers. I hear Mom crying. What is going on? I hear Dad say he needs to tell me. And he takes me into my room and tells me he is leaving. He says he’s “going away to think”, but I know what that means. I know my home, my safe secure place, is never going to be the same. I know someday I will have to leave, because in those days, around 1971, stepparents did not get custody. I am torn again. I want to stay with Mom and the little ones, but I want to go with Dad too. I hate this feeling. I’ll never get over it. I never did.

 

I’m in high school. My best friend and I are crazy about Jesus Christ superstar. I listen to the double album constantly. My high school has a braille transcriber, and she brailles the lyrics for me, so I can know all the words and sing along. Dad and his third wife take me and my best friend to San Francisco to see the show. I am enthralled. And Dad is blown away too, commenting how one actor dances so well, dad thinks he must even move his toes, because he moves every part of his visible body. I think for the first time, how weird it is that my dad is only eighteen years older than me, and we actually like much of the same music. Not like my friends whose parents are far older than mine.

 

I’m in my twenties, at my brother’s wedding, and I hear family members talk about how they advised my dad to give me up, when the truth came out about my disabilities. “Give her up for adoption, or put her in a special home.” They tell me they gave him this advice, but he refused. My thankfulness for being given the dad I had is overwhelming. Imperfect, yes, he was so imperfect, but he would not send me away.

 

I am growing up, totally blind, with a disabling disease called Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis. Dad sends me to public school. He and Mom tell me to believe in myself. They tell me I am as good as anyone else, and that nobody but me can ever stop me from achieving my dreams. They tell me that the only things I can’t do are drive a car and fly a plane.

 

I am staying with my sister’s family after that last Christmas. She and I drive to and from Stanford every day, listening to Collin Raye. Collin sings about living life for all it’s worth, or about how love remains. The songs are a part of that time, the thing, the music that helped me keep going day after day. We visit Dad in the hospital. We smile. We tell him we love him. We get the chance to remind our aunt that he is our father, when she tries to shoo us away and says we shouldn’t be hanging around the hospital all the time. We are adults now and we can’t be sent away like children. He is our dad. And we win. He wants us there, and we will be there unless he sends us away.

 

I am thirty. My Granny, Dad’s mom, has been in the hospital for two weeks. It is dad who calls and tells me, “Sherry, she’s gone, that great lady is gone.” Ten years later, it is I now, the one who must call my sister and tell her that he is gone. How did he stand having to tell me? I cannot express the pain of having to tell my sister.

 

I am thirty-nine. I go with family members to see dad one more time. He is gone. His heart and soul, his essence, the stuff that made him that charming, messed up, lovable and loving man, it is gone. But I must see for myself. We have a brief window to visit the body before cremation. I go to him. Trembling, I reach out my hand and barely touch his cheek. There is stubble on his cheek. But it is cold. It is hard. It is not the warm living flesh of the cheek I’ve kissed so many many times over the years. I cannot kiss that cheek goodbye. I stroke his face. I turn and move away. This is not my dad. This is a cold replica.

 

I am somewhere, some age, probably at the gathering at an aunt’s home, following the memorial service. It’s all such a blur. I don’t remember who and what and when and where. Someone tells me, “You know, sherry, your dad always worried about you. He worried about what would happen to you if you could not work, if your arthritis got so bad that you were completely disabled. Who would take care of you? How would you survive?” I wonder then. I wonder now. Do I wish I had known his fears for me back then, when he was alive? Is it better that I never did know? Would I have worked harder to achieve the things he hoped for me, if I’d known he was so worried? What would I have done?

 

I am thirty-nine. My sister and I arrive at Dad’s house, for what we don’t know, will be the last time we see him alive. I am nearly forty, and he is sick and frail from chemo and cancer, but he pulls me onto his lap and asks how I am doing. He’s watching golf, as he always is, and I listen to the commentators. I had never paid attention before. I realize wow, when they hit golf balls, they hit them into the air. I make some comment about it, and Dad laughs and laughs. My last memory of being with him is that I made him laugh. Always a good thing.

 

Two months later, we, Jerry, John, Joe and Rosie, and me of course, the children of our dad, and Jerry’s oldest daughter, stand in a circle at a river where he loved to fish. We hold roses and glasses of wine. We each say something. One brother sends the ashes out into the river, as dad had wished. In our own time, we each move to the bank and send our rose into the river as well. We say our own farewells and walk away.

 

 

Today, I am fifty-nine. Some years are better than others, as I face this day. His birthday is usually harder for me. This year, I remember him without fleeing my thoughts from the memories. I smile. I frown. I cry. I laugh. I want to hug him so much. I envy those who have their dads around. I want to snarl at them to remember how lucky they are and for goodness sake talk to your dad today. I thank God for the dad he gave me, flawed, messed-up, but mine, mine. My hero in my early life, as he raced into burning buildings or saved children who fell in pools. A hero at the end of his life for fighting so hard to live and for showing me how to keep fighting, in spite of everything.

 

I think of him. And I remember him. I hope my words will honor him. I wish I could tell him, just one more time, how much I love him.

 

 

movie emotions

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I haven’t pre-written this in word, this is off the cuff, so please excuse errors.

Tonight, I watched two classic movies. First, Love is a Many-splendored Thing and then The Goodbye Girl. Two completely different movies. Romances both, but splendored is tragic and heartwrenching, always leaves me in a sobbing mess, and then Goodbye is a funny romantic comedy, my favorite movie of all time.

For some reason, I felt like crying tonight, so I went with Splendored, starring Jennifer Jones and William Holden. If you haven’t seen it, find it somewhere. It’s based on a true story, and it will tear your heart out. I got my good cry. Don’t know why. I was listening to music earlier and heard Keith Urban’s song, Tonight I wanna Cry, and I knew I did want to cry, needed to for whatever reason. So off to Hong Kong and the tragic love story of Han suyin and Mark Elliot I went.

But then I had to come back and visit New York, and the world of the Goodbye Girl, oh the goodbye Girl, funny, hopeful, positive with the fabulous Richard Dreyfuss in his Oscar winning role. I watched this movie so many time since it first appeared in 1976, that I can literally quote the whole movie, start to finish, almost word perfect. But it never loses its magic for me, in spite of how many times I’ve lost myself in the adventures of Paula, Lucy and Elliot. i’m so moved by paula’s moments of realization that she could survive if elliot did not return from his movie making stint, just like the jerk men she’d known in the past. Paula had learned to take care of herself and her daughter, and finally, she knew she did not need a man to be happy. And then the final scene, when she realizes he is coming back, and she runs out on to the balcony, with his guitar in hand, in the pouring rain, and screaming about how she loves him. and those famous last words from Dreyfuss’ character Elliot: “Never mind that. You’re rusting my guitar!” I laugh and get a little teary in that final scene, sometimes wishing i’d found my own version of elliot garfield, but mostly just loving the sentimental sweet funny all of it.

But tonight, I found myself thinking something else. as I was quoting that final scene, sitting here in my living room, I thought, wow, wouldn’t it be fun to just run out on a balcony–if I had a balcony that is–and scream out those lines for the hell of it?

“I have it sweetheart! Have a safe trip! I love you!!!!”

Ah, damn, wouldn’t that just be an absolute blast!

These two great movies bring out the emotions in me, and I suppose that’s why I like them so very much.

Never mind that; you’re rusting my guitar!

Banana cream Pie Murder, book review

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Book Review
Banana Cream Pie Murder
By Joanne Fluke

WARNING: SPOILERS, BIG SPOILERS AHEAD!

I discovered the Hannah Swensen series, by Joanne fluke, a few years ago. I was enchanted by the title Blackberry Pie Murder. I love blackberry anything and had to read the book. And I got hooked. I rushed off to BARD—that’s the National Library Services for the blind’s braille and audio digital service—and got all the books in the series, starting at book one and making my way through to what was the last book at the time. My dear friend, Blackberry Pie Murder. I’d never cared for cozy mysteries before, but I fell in love with Lake Eden, with Hannah’s bakery the Cookie Jar, with the characters, quirky, funny, kind or not so. I loved it all. Some books in the series were better than others, and I definitely had my favorites and ones I skipped over when I reread, in preparation for a new book release. I never thought I’d be so angry and disgusted with one of the books that I would consider giving up on Hannah Swensen for good. And yet, here I am.

Three books ago, when Hannah got engaged to Ross Barton, I was thrilled. I was so tired of the ongoing should-she-marry Norman or should-she-marry-mike debate that Hannah has with herself. Obviously, if she loved either of them enough, she wouldn’t be stumbling over making a decision. Mike is a jerk and Norman is too gooey. I liked Ross from the time he was first introduced in Cherry Cheesecake Murder, so I was ecstatic when Hannah booted both previous contenders for her hand and fell head over heels in love with Ross.

I reviewed Wedding Cake Murder, and my disappointment with that book was deep but not overwhelming. Mike and Norman were despicable in that one. But the worst was Hannah herself. Rushing off to a restaurant to catch a killer instead of rushing off to the church to marry her intended. She had her cell phone and at least half a dozen sheriff deputies in her contact list. So why, oh why did she go catch the killer? And then she jumps in a garbage truck to get away from him, has to be rescued again, by Mike naturally, and races down the church aisle covered in trash. I supposed it was supposed to be funny, but it wasn’t. It was horrible. That was then, Wedding Cake Murder.

Finally, yes, I’m there, my review of Banana Cream Pie Murder. This is when the spoilers begin, so read at your own risk. Personally, I love spoilers.

The book begins with Hannah’s mother lounging around her condo. She hears arguing from the condo below hers, but her friend, a former Broadway actress and a now acting coach for Lake Eden’s amateur acting group, so Dolores thinks it must just be someone acting. But then she hears a gunshot, and it was real. Does she immediately pick up her cell phone and call 911, or her son-in-law, bill, the sheriff, or even Mike the jerk, the homicide cop? No, of course not. She rushes downstairs into the scene of the crime, and she does find her friend dead, shot to death. Oh no. She thinks to herself that she must call her other daughter Hannah, who is conveniently on her honeymoon, and tell her she absolutely must come home right away and solve this crime.

From then on, the rest of the book is back to Hannah as the point of view character. Hannah is on her honeymoon. Ross is out of the cabin right now, and Hannah is thinking that it’s nice to have him away for a few minutes. He hovers too much and she’s not used to it and doesn’t like it. I have to say, having been single, living alone, since my divorce over thirty years ago. I get that. I do understand. It’s part of why I vow I will not marry again, ever. But I don’t think anyone would feel that way on their honeymoon. This was just the beginning of all the ways that Hannah no longer felt like Hannah to me.

We know the formula. Hannah and Ross come home from their cruise and Hannah begins to solve the mystery, while running her bakery and starting her new life with Ross. This should have been great, or at least, if not great, it should have been fun, and sweet and charming. We should have had happy moments between Ross and Hannah mixed in with the baking and sleuthing. The book should have had some added element with Hannah being married. But what we got was a very weird Hannah, a boring predictable mystery, Mike and Norman butting in and horning in where they don’t belong, and well, I don’t even know where to begin with Ross or the marriage aspect of the story. And a cliff hanger that makes no sense and shouldn’t be in a cozy mystery at all, in my opinion anyway.

My biggest complaints are about Hannah. They all go back to work the day after they get home from the honeymoon. Okay, so they all is just Hannah and Ross. That’s cool. But Hannah invites Mike and Norman over for dinner that same night. The night after she got home from her honeymoon! Yes, that’s right. What? Really? I wouldn’t want the gals my husband used to date to come over for dinner the night after we got home from our honeymoon. It felt weird and just off to me. Also, Hannah’s younger sister, Michelle, was staying in town for a while, instead of finishing her college semester. Hannah immediately asked her to stay at her condo, and it was Michelle who practically had to force her to call Ross and ask if he minded. And I understand that too. If you’re used to living alone, it takes time to get used to thinking for two and living for two, so to speak. I liked that Hannah didn’t feel she had to ask permission to go to the various places to ask questions as she tried to solve the murder. She’s an independent woman, and it’s nice to see it. And it would have been nice to see her being independent but still becoming a couple. I believe she spent more time with Mike and Norman than she did with Ross. At least, they got more screen time than Ross did. Hannah didn’t seem to be married at all. It felt like Ross was just a roommate or a guest, not someone Hannah loved deeply and was ecstatic to spend her life with. It just felt wrong.

Ross is a good guy. He accepts Hannah as she is in ways neither Mike nor Norman ever did. He doesn’t put her down, and he doesn’t try to stop her from doing whatever she wants to do. He doesn’t try to protect her too much. He encourages her and supports her in all her activities, including amateur sleuthing. I really wanted to see Mike and Norman dating other people, or even better, I’d have liked to see that both Mike and Norman had split the scene altogether. Yippee, happy day that would have been. He loves her as the strong woman she is and doesn’t try to make her anything less. He’d been the sort of man I could love, his personality I mean.

Of course, Hannah solves the mystery. Yawn, ho hum. Yep. As usual. Along the way, we see Andrea, Michelle, Dolores, Tracy and Bethy, Lisa and of course Moisha, Hannah’s wonderful cat. We don’t see enough of Ross, but we see the characters we’ve come to love over all the books. And we get some yummy new recipes. The banana cream pie recipe alone was worth reading the book to get.

What can I say about the ending? More spoilers, the biggest spoiler of all. Of course, Hannah nearly gets done in solving the crime. Mike the Jerk takes her home. Ross had been away on a trip, and as they pull into the parking lot of the condo, Hannah notices Ross’s car is home. She’s thrilled. Well, that’s nice at least. But when they get to her door, they discovered it is ajar. Mike goes in first and when he finally allows her to enter, he is somber and in cop mode. They can’t find Moisha at first either. Finally he appears, having been hiding in the closet, afraid of something. Oh, and Ross is nowhere to be found.

Mike leads Hannah down to the master bedroom, where she finds a half-packed suitcase, with Ross’s clothes jumbled into it. His keys are on the dresser along with his cell phone. Ross has disappeared. The only key he took with him is the key to the condo he shares with Hannah.

I was ready to throw my Victor Reader stream—an MP3 type player that plays accessible books—across the room. I was ready to scream and yell and have a complete fit of rage and irritation.

Mike, of course, Mike the Jerk, proceeds to tell Hannah that the reason Ross left everything is because he wants to disappear. He left money and credit cards and ID, so he can’t be traced. The Jerk works hard to place doubt in Hannah’s mind. He never gives her any other sort of idea for what it could be, and as far as I can tell, he doesn’t plan to investigate. And good grief, Hannah isn’t even investigating! Hannah, who can’t let a dead body pass her by, doesn’t even consider investigating what happened to her husband. The one man she loved so much that she couldn’t bear to be without him and married him. I don’t get it.

The main story ends with Hannah realizing that Ross took only the condo key, and so he must be coming home to her. But there is a brief epilogue sort of thing after that. Showing everyone, the usual gang, at Dolores and Doc’s place, watching the Mayor on TV accepting an award for his sister, the former Broadway star who got murdered at the beginning of the book. Remember her? Hannah is beginning to live again and feels good being out and surrounded by her family and friends, including Gooey Norman and mike the Jerk. However, Norman does get the only real points for anyone in this story, because he tells Hannah that he believes Ross loves her and that he will be back. Yay Norman. And Hannah is still not thinking of investigating.

One big red herring in the process of solving the murder, was an allusion to unscrupulous business managers for people like actresses. This was mentioned over and over and turned out to be nothing. Could have been just a red herring, but I also wonder if it’s a clue about Ross and his disappearing act. He was a Hollywood producer before giving it all up to move back to Lake Eden, Minnesota to be with his one true love. Personally, I believe Ross is in trouble but that he hasn’t done anything bad or illegal. I believe someone has done something bad to him. Because frankly, if we had all this set up and Ross turns out to be a bad guy, I am going to scream, really throw my book player, and delete every book in the series from my hard drive. I could not bear to lose Ross, to go back to Hannah debates over Gooey Norman or Mike the jerk, in essence, to go backward instead of forward. I do usually get bored with a series after a long time, having stuck with Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series since the eighties, and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch since the nineties. But those are the only two that haven’t come to bore me at some stage. I can move on from Hannah and Lake Eden, but I would be sad to do so because the entire series became so outrageous and unacceptable to me. I don’t know how long we have to wait for the next book. Another year? I only plan to read it to see what really happened to Ross, but I also hope it will restore my joy in my visits to Lake Eden and Hannah Swensen’s world.

I suppose this isn’t the most terrific book review. I had a gut reaction to this book, a visceral reaction. I didn’t hear the final words with any sense of contentment and pleasure at a nice comfortable experience. I was just angry. I felt cheated and frustrated. I’ve read plenty of books that make me angry. Take martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, where every good guy I love gets murdered. But it all makes sense in the world the author has created. Karen’s death in exodus by Uris broke my heart, but it worked with that story. I wasn’t outraged, feeling like the author cheated me and confused me for no reason. And that’s how banana Cream Pie left me, feeling angry, drained, cheated and confused. I didn’t like it at all. If I was handing out stars, it would get one, for the fantastic recipes.

Very sad to write this review.

My Annual Rant, Daylight Saving Time

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MY ANNUAL RANT!
11 March 2017

In case you didn’t know, you who read this, I absolutely positively insistently, indubitably, explicitly, wholeheartedly, hate Daylight saving time. In case that didn’t make sense, I HATE IT! I HATE IT! HATE IT! HATE it! hate!hate!hate!hate!hate Daylight saving time! I hate it.

There is no earthly legitimate realistic reason to force people to turn their clocks back and forth. If there ever was a legitimate reason, it doesn’t exist anymore! Turning the clock ahead, and back, ahead and back, ahead and back, why? I’d like to throw the mother of all tantrums over the fact that I am forced to lose an hour of sleep. On a weekend, no less! You know, or if you don’t know, now you do, I have terrible insomnia. The only nights I sleep worth a damn is on weekends when I take an over the counter sleeping pill. Taking an hour, a precious precious coveted hour, away from the only night I get a decent artificial sleep is criminal. Seriously. It’s theft. Stealing. Stealing my sleep. How dare anyone steal my sleep! It should be illegal. Shouldn’t it? Where are the sleep robbery police? *grin*

It’s proven that sleep is one of the most important things we need for health and productivity, health, that’s physical, mental and emotional health. So, why do they continue to cause us a loss of sleep?

I WANT MY HOUR OF SLEEP! I don’t want it seven or eight months from now in November … I want it NOW!

Anyway, that’s my rant. I’d like Congress to abolish time changing altogether. No springing forward; no falling back. You know, springing is a word that denotes action, movement, a sort of joyous exuberant movement. Who is exuberant about losing an hour of sleep? How about this? Fall forward and bounce back?

Abolish Daylight saving Time. Abolish Standard time. Make a decision—if they know how to make decisions anymore—and pick a time and stick to it.

Okay, that’s my rant. Got it? See the picture? Understand? Laughing? You can, go ahead and laugh. I’ve been railing against Daylight Saving time since I was a kid, so it’s not going to change. Sigh. Do I feel better? No. I still face the morrow knowing that my sleep will be stolen from me again. Grumble, grumble, grumble. I want it back.

Oh yeah, I hate Daylight saving time.

I Believed, Honoring President Barack Obama

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I Believed
January 22, 2017

Really, is it 2017 already? I’ll be sixty in October. Weird.

I’ve been in a tizzy since the election. It’s part of why I haven’t been able to update this blog in so long. Sorry for all who read this. There were lots of other things to talk about, and I hope to catch up soon. But we had the inauguration of a new president two days ago, and I need to write about how I feel.

I already said I’d be sixty in October, so any who read this can guess at when I was born. Yep, you got it, 1957. I graduated from high school in 1975. I was just beginning to take an interest in politics when the Watergate scandal hit the scene. I remember it pretty well, all the stories, all the disgust and disgrace. It colored my perceptions of politics, specifically politicians from that time forward. Until, 2008.

For me, I believed all politicians were crooks or idiots. Maybe both. I believed that nobody could climb to the highest office in the nation, maybe the entire world, without stepping on anyone and anything, and without having to lose all sense of morality and decency. And my feelings were further cemented by the antics of President Clinton when he was in the office. Yes, I nodded sagely to myself. See, they’re all crooked or full of nothing but garbage, no values at all. And please note, a Republican president started me on that path of belief, and a Democrat helped it become entrenched. I truly never dreamed I’d believe in a president. And then came, 2008. And I believed, believed hard, believed absolutely.

Barack Obama changed my mind, my heart, my whole self. He was young; he was dynamic; he was an orator like none other, and he made my long-dormant political interest come alive. It filled me and swept over me, and I’ve never been the same. When he spoke of hope and change, I was ecstatic. When he said, “Yes we can!” I wanted to run up and down the streets proclaiming it to the world. I donated to his campaign, since working fulltime and with my other disabilities, energy being low, didn’t make me the best candidate for organizing and calling and knocking on doors. But I wanted to help somehow.

When he was elected I laughed and cried with joy. When he was inaugurated, I wept with happiness and the wonder that in my lifetime, I got to see an African-American become president. I’m white as white can be, but I remember the marches and speeches in the sixties. I remember Martin Luther King Jr. I remember his death and the death of John and Bobby Kennedy. I remember how much I wanted to be able to march for civil rights and march against the war in Vietnam. So, middle-aged, white as white can be me, I rejoiced with the election of a black man as president. And I believed.

Of course, it wasn’t all rosy and glorious during the eight years President Obama was in office. He’s only human, and had a Congress that often worked against him. But I watched him try with everything he had. I watched him lead us into a better world than we had before. I watched as he never gave up trying to turn our hope into real change. And I never stopped believing.

In November 2016, when my country elected a man who boasts about sexual assault toward women, mocks people with disabilities, wants to ban an entire religion, and undo everything president Obama accomplished, I had a literal panic attack. I was depressed and frightened for weeks, still am. And on Friday night, after that person was inaugurated, I broke down and cried as I had not cried in a very long time. (There were other reasons why I cried, but the inauguration made my world and life seem bleaker than it had in a very long time.) I was and am afraid. How much serious damage can he do in four years? Not just undoing President Obama’s legacy, but taking us backward into years of bigotry and loss of freedom and rights for all people. I am scared. I want to pull the covers over my head and sleep for the next four years. And this time, I don’t believe, not in anything good or positive or hopeful for my country or my life in the next four years. Will the Americans with disabilities act still exist in 2020? When he nominates a woman for Secretary of education who has never heard of the ADA, what hope does that bring for disabled children, or for we disabled adults? What will happen to people of other races, religions, nationalities, women, gays, what will happen to us as a country? Will we even be able to recognize us as the United States of America? What will happen to the First amendment? You know, freedom of speech, of religion and the Press? His team is already setting spin into motion, claiming they have “alternate facts” from what the media states, as in the media’s photos of empty stands at the inauguration, while the new team swears it was biggest crowd ever. Alternate facts? Lies.

No, I don’t believe. I fear and tremble.

I will miss President Obama. I wish I could shake his hand and thank him for the hope he gave me, thank him for being the one politician who could make me believe, and who never did anything to cause my belief to falter. I don’t know what I can do, but I will do all I can to hold up your legacy and to fight to sustain it and to continue to make things better for all of us, no matter our position or station in life. I will try to keep the dream alive and not to give up in despair. I will work to keep the hope and change alive. I am afraid, but I will never give in to tyranny, and I’ve yet to give into fear and despair. Thank you for making me care enough to try.

Thank you President Obama. As long as there are people like you out there, fighting for the betterment of all, I will still believe.

What are they Afraid?

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Why are They Afraid?

I’m watching a movie called God is not Dead, 2. It’s about a high school history teacher. The class is studying the history of civil disobedience, nonviolent protest. She quotes Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A student asks her if civil disobedience is the same as Jesus saying we should love our enemies. The teacher, who is a Christian, hesitates and then says yes, and she quotes the relevant passage from the book of Matthew.

Of course, this brings us to the meat of the plot. One of the students reports it as pushing religion. The teacher is suspended. There is a hearing before the school board, and the teacher refuses to apologize. She is suspended, and now the ACLU is in on the case, hoping to make it a landmark case for the separation of church and state. That’s where I am in the movie, and I’m already pissed.

Here’s the thing. Now, I am a Christian, but I know myself well, and I believe I would say this if I wasn’t, due to the circumstances of how this all happened. The teacher never once said anything about being a Christian or anything about how the students should believe. She never professed her beliefs. All she did was quote the words of a historical figure. Jesus Christ, whatever you believe about him, was a real man. It’s proven by sources other than the Bible. I’m not here to argue his divinity or anything else. Just to say, he was a living breathing man once upon a time in history, some 2000 years ago.

So, if the teacher can quote the speeches and writings of historical figures like Gandhi and King, what has she done wrong by quoting the words of another historical figure? How does this huge overreaction by the school board and the so-called landmark law suit coming up, even make sense, considering there was no religious proselytizing in the first place? Are people who don’t believe in Jesus as God truly so afraid of the words of a man out of history, that they go to such extremes? It’s bizarre!

Many people have read the words of many historical figures. Why is it only when it comes to Christianity, and I’m sure Jewish teachings and words, that people go crazy and want to stamp it out, even in such a situation where a teacher only answered a question a student asked? Why can she quote those other men but she’s suspended for quoting Christ? How can they claim separation of church and state as they stifle free speech in a classroom? It baffles and bewilders me, and it would if I wasn’t a Christian. What are they afraid of?

Just my thoughts on a movie that is making me so angry, I probably won’t finish it.

Dog Day, August 20, 1975

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had to repost. between my screen reader and word spell checker crashing, there were a few errors. I have a problem sometimes with getting the shift key for capital letters especially on letters with the baby finger like A and Q. enjoy this revamped version.

First Guide Dog Training

For those who read this who have had guide dogs, you’ll read about things like the instructors bringing us the dogs’ food bowls, meals already made up. And what is now called a patio outside the rooms was once a dog run, where we let the dogs out for the first two weeks of training. My, how things have changed! And though I don’t like all the changes, this is a good change, handling our dogs’ food ourselves and leash relieving from the start. Enjoy.

Dog Day!
August 20, 1975

It’s the middle of the morning on Dog Day. We just had obedience practice again. I had Juno Underwood. He was very good, except that he did not want to sit one time. I gave him a good correction and he straightened up. When we were through Mr. Underwood told me that I have everything down good. We’re going out with the harnesses to downtown San Rafael in a while. First, the three instructors have to go have a “pow-wow”, (Mr. Ainsworth’s words”, with the big-wigs about their dog choices for us.
In just a few short hours I will have my precious Dog! I’m so excited that I wish I could just go to sleep till then, because the anticipation is super crazy. I even drank two glasses of milk to try and keep my stomach in line. That was at breakfast I had the milk. I’m so nervous too. Will the dog like me? What if the dog doesn’t like me? Damn! How I want that dog! God, please, let the dog like me!!!!!!!!!!!
This morning’s workout was pretty good. I was out with Juno Ainsworth. No more Juno! Hooray! Mr. Ainsworth told me that I am very intelligent and that I have a lot going for me. I was probably blushing a thousand shades of red!
We had a lecture on grooming when we got back here after the workout. It was hard to concentrate because I was getting super excited about this afternoon!
Mr. Post sat at our table for lunch today. He is as crazy as everyone says he is. He kept purposely messing up our names and cracking jokes. I like him.
I don’t know if I’m going to make it till I get my dog!
At 1:15 we all gathered in the loading lounge. We had a lecture about getting our dogs and how we would be doing that. I kept fidgeting around and wished he would just get it over with. People kept asking questions and I wanted to yell at them to just shut up so we could hear about our dogs!
Finally, Mr. Jenkins read the list of who was getting what. He called the name, then would say they were getting and say the gender and breed and name. Then he spelled the name and said it again. I was glad Gomes is near the beginning of the alphabet. Finally, it was my turn. Mr. Jenkins said,
“Miss Gomes, you are receiving a female black Labrador Retriever named Quincy. Q. U. I. N. C. Y. Quincy.”
Quincy! My dog is Quincy! At first I wasn’t sure I liked that name. It’s a boy’s name. But by the time I was back here in my room, waiting, I loved the name.
I’m now here in my room, writing this and trying to keep my mind occupied while I’m waiting to be called to the instructors’ room to meet Quincy. It’s not occupying my mind very much. I’m also listening to the movie Jaws. I snuck my tape recorder into the movie theater in a big purse and taped it. But it’s not occupying my mind yet. Not even Richard Dreyfuss can keep me from wishing they’d hurry up and call me! I wonder if pacing will help. Or tearing at my hair. Or biting my nails. When will they call me! Oh, God, I’m so nervous! I’m shaky, and there’s a sort of empty feeling in my stomach. I sure hope I get her soon!
I got Quincy soon after writing that part. Mr. Jenkins called me, and I grabbed my leash and practically flew down to the instructors’ room. They had me sit in a big chair against the wall, and they let Quincy in from the run and let her sniff around the room for a few minutes, while they described her to me. Finally she came over to see who I was. I petted her and talked to her. She’s so small and cute. And she’s all wiggly. After a few minutes, they told me to snap the leash to her collar and take her back to my room. We don’t have any workout this afternoon. We get to spend the time getting acquainted with our dogs.
I left the room and gave my first command to Quincy.
“Quincy, heel.”
And we headed back to our room.
I sat on the floor with Quincy, petting her and talking to her in silly girly doggy talk. She would roll around and wag her tail a lot. Sometimes she would get up and pull on her leash like she wanted to go to the door and see what else was going on. She’s so small. But she’s happy and friendly. I think we’re going to do good together.
Between 4 and 4:30, Mr. Ainsworth brought around the food. The dogs’ food that is. They told us the instructors would go to the kennels to get the food and when they came back they would come in the dorm and yell “Chow!” when we heard that we were supposed to go to our doors and wait. The instructors would give us a bowl with our dogs’ meal and we would feed our dogs on their tie-down. I could hardly stand still waiting for him to bring me Quincy’s bowl. They started at the other end of the dorm. Quincy was bouncing around on her tie-down, and I was bouncing around in the doorway. She sure knows what chow means. Finally it was my turn and I rushed over to put the bowl down so my girl could eat.
After she ate, she got water and then Michele and I took turns letting our dogs out on the run. Michele got a yellow lab named Felix.
We went down to the dining room for human dinner early, so we could get in to our tables and seated and learn how to get our dogs settled. Quincy was very good throughout the meal. She didn’t get up and down like some other dogs did.
I called home after dinner. I talked to Suzy and Grandma I and Jerry. Poor Diana’s mouth was all swollen from the removal of three wisdom teeth. Dad was at the field watching Stevie play. Joey and Rosie went with them. They were all excited about Quincy. Then I called Barb to tell her every bit about today. She’s doing great and was super excited for me. I also got a tape from her today.
Later, Mr. Ainsworth came to size our harnesses. We had a lecture after that about the water and relieving schedule for the dogs. I think I have that down.

Wake up and offer the dog water then let the dog out on the run for ten minutes.
After morning workout, water then relieve.
After afternoon workout, water then food then water then relieve.
At 7 PM offer the dog water.
At 9 PM final relieving on the run.

Then we had to practice heeling our dogs. We walked up and down the dorm hallway, back and forth back and forth. It’s the length of three football fields. I thought we should have had marching music playing and it was super funny with us all walking up and down and talking to our dogs.
When we finished that, Quincy and I went down to the music room for a while and talked to Dan, and his yellow lab, Frisco. Frisco and Felix are brothers.
Now I’m back in my room. I’m going to finish this journal, get my tapes ready to mail and let Quincy out on the run for her final relieving and then go to bed. I’m tired now, and there’s a big day ahead tomorrow for Quincy-Girl and me.
I’m so happy!!!!!!

1975, First Guide Dog Training, First Steps Growing Up

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Tomorrow, august 20, is the 41st anniversary of when I got my first dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Wow, so much has changed! Not the least of which is me. I was seventeen, just out of high school, young, innocent, yet wiser than my years due to life’s experiences up till then. Getting my first dog was the fulfillment of a ten-year dream. It was also my first tentative steps from girl into woman.

GDB has changed so much since those days. Those who’ve been to class since the eighties and beyond, would hardly recognize the GDB I first knew. And those who have gotten their dogs in the last decade or so, might be inclined to think it was a different school altogether, or maybe a different planet!

I kept a journal in braille that first class. I lived close enough that my dad drove me up there, so I brought a Perkins brailer and a binder full of paper. I wrote that journal every night. I still have the original journal and the original binder, though it’s practically falling apart! Going to GDB was about so much more than just getting a dog, and I show that in my journal.

Anyway, for fun, I thought I’d share the first few days. This post has Sunday through Tuesday. Saving dog day for tomorrow. I’m leaving it as written. Grammar not always so great, lovely wonderful 1975 slang, far out, and comments about everything. So often this type of journal is just about getting the dog. I write that sort of journal now. But this first time, it was my first trip away from home. I was dreadfully shy, to the point that I hardly talked to anyone all through high school. At GDB I took my first tentative chances at reaching out, at overcoming the shyness, at making friends outside my comfort zone. I fell in what I thought was love. (and no, not someone on my radar at all in the first three days.) I’m not that naïve idealistic starry-eyed girl anymore, but somewhere inside me, she exists on some level. I recognize me, as I read about her. So, I’m leaving in thoughts on my instructors and classmates. I’ve edited their names, the classmates that is, but I thought the things I wrote, sometimes changing my opinion from one day to the next. One thing is for sure, when I left GDB, I brought home a new dog, but I also brought home a new sherry.

And just for the sake of all the differences from then to now, enjoy!

First guide dog training, August 1975.

August 17, 1975

Dad woke me up about nine this morning. I slept good, though I’d expected my nervousness to keep me awake. I guess I mean excitement, not nervousness.
I was running around like crazy, trying to remember all the last minute stuff. Stuff like toothbrush and deodorant. Little things. I also wanted to move my cassettes from the outside pocket of my tote-bag to the inside.
Well, everything did get done, and when Grandma and Grandpa I came we took off. The drive went quicker than I had thought it would. Before I knew it, we were in Oakland and then we were here. It went quick because Suzy and I sang old camp songs till we reached the San Rafael Bridge.
Dad didn’t have any trouble at all finding the place. He and Diana went in first and then Mr. Jenkins came out. He took me into the loading lounge and the rest of the gang followed. My room wasn’t ready so we went out to look at the kennels. The first things we saw were some golden retriever puppies that Suzy and Diana went hog-wild over. All through the kennels those two were oooing and aaahing like a couple of idiots. It was fun though. They said they thought a golden or a yellow lab would fit my personality. We’ll see how right they are.
We came back to the dorm and the kids had an orange while Dad went to look at the pool. Orange soda that is. Then Mr. Jenkins said it was lunchtime, and my family said goodbye and I went to the dining room.
Lunch was good—fried chicken and green salad. Two of my classmates ate with me—Mr. Matthews from Canada, and Mr. Wakefield, both older men. Mr. Jenkins ate with us too. Mr. Jenkins loves cherry pie.
We went back to the loading lounge and all sat around and talked. Mr. Jenkins likes to tease—me, at least. He was saying I had five suitcases and had to order a rental truck. Then he said they had started training Chihuahuas this class and that I was getting one, Peanuts. I told him that Kitty would eat it.
Finally, my room was ready and I came down here and unpacked. The rooms are neat but I’ll explain it later. I worked on a tape to barb and Bunny and worked on this part of the journal. I’ll finish later.
My roommate just arrived. She’s super, so far. Her name is Michele and she’s from Texas. She has a gorgeous accent. She’s a diabetic. I don’t know her age, but I think she’s pretty young. I like her. We had a nice talk before dinner.
Barbara called me. She said she’d talked to Diana and she just had to call. It was good to hear from her. I heard the phone ring, and then Mr. Ainsworth knocked on my door and said it was for me. “For me?” I asked, shocked. “Yeah,” he said.
For dinner we had tomato soup and ham sandwiches. I hate ham, but I had two bowls of soup and some butter pecan ice cream, and iced tea. Mr. Jenkins sat at our table again. I told him that no one had brought peanuts in.
The people at my table were Dan B from Utah, Anne L from southern California and Jeff something, (I can’t spell his last name, but it’s something weird.), also from southern California. Mr. Jenkins kept teasing everyone, saying he was charging for the meal. Mr. Ainsworth is great too.
After dinner I didn’t do too much for a while. I tried the coke machine three times but it didn’t work. I thought maybe I had the wrong slot for the money. I decided to ask Mr. Jenkins or Mr. Ainsworth later.
I heard Mr. Jenkins passing by my room, so I asked him to show me where the library was. The library is far out! It has four shelves of books on each side of the door. I looked through them all. There are a lot of good ones. I chose Steve and the Guide dogs to start with. It’s in four volumes.
I came back here to my room and started to read. When Michele came in I quit reading and started talking. Then Mr. Ainsworth came in and told us it was time for lecture.
The lecture was an introduction to the school, the rules and the schedule. I found out that Mr. Underwood will be our supervisor. That’s cool. I liked him when he did my interview last year.
After lecture, I asked Mr. Jenkins about the coke machine. He said they’d fixed it and had collected the three dollars I owed him. What a nut! I got an orange soda and came back here. I finished taping to barb and listened to the Beachboys. I think I’ll take a shower and then tape to the family. That’s all for tonight.

August 18, 1975

This morning I woke up about two hours before time to get up. For breakfast, I had cream of wheat, sausage and toast. With coffee and orange juice for my pills. It was all good.
We had our morning lecture at 8—describing obedience. Then we got our leashes and fetch blocks. Mr. Ainsworth showed us how to do short-leash and long-leash. I was glad I already knew that stuff from barb and Bunny.
Then we got to try our hand at doing obedience with Juno. Mr. Ainsworth was my Juno. I think I did pretty good although I was nervous.
We also met Mr. Underwood and Miss Sullivan today. In a few minutes we’re going outside for walking exercise.
I just got back from walking exercise. We were divided into three groups of four each. One instructor took each group. Mr. Underwood took ours. I was with art, Anne and Jeff.
We walked to the road and turned around to come back, about twenty feet. Then we each had to walk in a straight line from Mr. Ainsworth to Mr. Jenkins and back again. Mr. Jenkins said I couldn’t have gone any straighter.
After that, we came back to the loading lounge for more practice with the leashes and fetch blocks.
We practiced obedience twice after the walking exercise. The first time I worked with Juno Jenkins. The only mistake I made was to say “Juno” before the command “stay”. The second time was with Mr. Underwood and I did it perfectly. So that makes three times so far, once with each instructor. Between the two obediences, we got our harnesses, or, the ones we’ll be practicing with till Wednesday.
Oh God, I just can’t wait till Wednesday!
For the afternoon workout, we all took our harnesses and leashes and went into downtown San Rafael. We waited for our turns in the downtown lounge. It’s different than the loading lounge. A narrow room with padded chairs along each wall and a bathroom. Plus fruit and things for the diabetics and a water fountain.
I went out with Mr. Jenkins. He first showed me how to hold the harness and leash together. We’d already learned the commands and hand signals back here at the school. Jenkins was a pretty good Juno. A couple of times he pulled a smart one and stopped for nothing. Usually though, he was a good dog. But I can’t wait to have a real dog in that harness. I don’t remember the route but I liked it. Mr. Jenkins went at a good pace, not too fast, but fast to me. If my dog goes like that I won’t have too much trouble.
Oh! I can’t wait!
It’s now before dinner. We just had another obedience practice. Mr. Jenkins was a super naughty Juno. I worked with Juno Underwood and he was naughty once. When I gave the fetch command, he fetched ok, but when he was going around me to sit at my left side, he just kept going. I had to give the come command again, taking in the slack of the leash quickly. He was a good boy after that.
For lunch we had something called Joe’s special, hamburger spinach and mushrooms, with fries and iced tea. For dinner we had roast beef, mashed potatoes and peas, with peach pie or jello for dessert. I had the pie.
After dinner, I did more taping to catch people up on the day’s activities. Then I read more of the book. Michele came back and we talked for a while. Art came along to ask if I’d brought my dymo tape braille labeler. He wanted to see it. I promised to ask the parents to bring it Sunday.
Michele, Art and I talked about his three previous guides, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, a black lab and a golden.
Then Gary came in to see Michele. I’m not sure but I think those two like each other. Michele said yesterday, that she didn’t want a blind boyfriend, but I’m beginning to wonder about that. Both times he’s been in here today, it sounded like they were kissing. Who knows?
Mr. Jenkins came along and told us to go to the loading lounge for another lecture. The lecture was about the three breed of dogs trained here. After that, we had another obedience practice. Mr. Ainsworth was the only instructor playing Juno. I think Mr. Underwood had already gone home, and Mr. Jenkins just sat and watched. Mr. Ainsworth said that any time a student did something wrong—forgetting the hand motions, voice inflection or praise, or if we said the name with the stay command—Juno would not respond. It was a blast! Michele said later that I had good voice inflection, especially when praising my dog.
Afterward, some of us sat and rapped with Ainsworth about dogs. It was so interesting. I went back to the room with Michele and worked on more tapes, after getting an orange soda. Gary came in and he and Michele went off to the music room.
We were assigned our official tables in the dining room today at lunch. I sit with Marvin, Gary and Kevin. I hate to say it, but I’m not too keen on Gary. He’s like the jerks my brother hangs around with and he thinks he’s tough stuff. My favorites in the class so far are Art Dan and Michele.
Enough for tonight. I have to wash my hair and work on my family’s tape. More tomorrow.

August 19, 1975

Today didn’t start off to well. I bumped my head twice and flubbed up in obedience. My right ankle is swollen too.
We were doing leash correction in obedience this morning. I’ve got to build up strength in my right arm. I just don’t jerk hard enough. Juno Underwood was inexcusably naughty this morning. We’ll be going downtown again soon. Maybe I’ll do better with the Harness. I can’t even braille right!
I did do better with the Harness! I had Juno Underwood. We did all right turns. Well, of course we walked straight down streets and crossed at corners. The only mistake I made was when we were coming back to the lounge. The lounge was on my right. We would go all the way to the corner, then turn around and backtrack a few steps. Then I’d give the command, left inside. Well, I guess I wasn’t paying attention, because I didn’t realize Juno had stopped. I just kept truckin along and stepped right off the curb. We laughed. Juno asked me where I was going, and I said I don’t know. The rest was easy after that. It was funny though.
Back at the school, we had another obedience practice. I had been practicing leash corrections with Dan, when the instructors came in. I jerked so hard on the leash that it flew out of Dan’s hand and fell on the floor. Mr. Jenkins teased me by saying I threw it at him. So, he started with me. And he was a brat, of course.
In the afternoon, we had obedience again. As Mr. Ainsworth led me into the hall, he started quoting the pome that begins with “come into my parlor said the spider to the fly.” He told me I should try to find that poem and recite it to him. He played even more tricks than Jenkins had played. Once he wouldn’t sit, and I had trouble with him on fetch too. But it was a blast.
Then it was time to grab our harnesses and hop on the busses, off to the downtown lounge. I was one of the last one to go out. I went with Mr. Jenkins. We were learning leash corrections in harness. Juno liked to sniff and I had to correct him three times. We also met a cute German shepherd pet dog on the route. When we got back to the bus, Jenkins said I’d done real good and the walk had been nice.
Since yesterday, I’ve talked more to Gary, and now I understand him and like him. Not saying I agree or believe all the things he says, but I like him. He’s crazy! He likes to joke around about eating exotic things, like rattlesnake meat. Yuck.
On the walk today, Mr. Jenkins asked me about my dog preferences. I told him I’d let them decide, since I couldn’t get a German shepherd. He told me Peanuts would be happy to hear it, and I said No way!!!
Oh man, tomorrow we get our dogs! I can’t wait!
By the way, Mr. Bensler sat at our table for lunch today. We had (or I had) two grilled cheese sandwiches and a chocolate roll for dessert. Dinner was okay, pork chops, rice and zucchini. I didn’t eat much, but I did have raspberry sherbet for dessert.
I finished reading Steve and the Guide dogs after dinner. I liked that book a lot, all about a teenage boy raising guide dog puppies. I took it back to the library and then got Mystery of the Pharaoh’s treasure. I also got a copy of the June Guide dog News.
Our lecture tonight was about equipment for our dogs. Tomorrow! Oh God, tomorrow! I can’t wait!
I really like all my classmates. They are all such good people. Anne is the quietest. Hazel is funny. She gives Juno as bad a time as he gives her. Art reminds me of what little I remember of Grandpa Gomes. He kind and comforting but he has a great sense of humor too. I don’t know marshal, chuck or Marvin very well. And Gary is still as crazy as it’s possible to be. He’s going to kill his liver if he really drinks as much as he says he does when he’s at home, but that’s his business. Jeff and Kevin are pretty quiet, though Jeff is quite nervous during workouts. That’s natural.
Michele is great. She’s 25. She’s really different from me, and I feel young and innocent around her sometimes. But I love her. She’s a good friend already.
Dan is my very best person in class. We seem to just understand each other perfectly. I hope that after we graduate, he will let me write to him and his wife Doreen and maybe visit them someday.
After our lecture about equipment. The instructors told us to go do what we want. They will be calling us, one by one, into their room to talk to us about our training so far. While I was waiting, I went into the music room where Dan had some country music on the stereo. We talked and looked through all the records, until Michele called me to go to the instructors’ room.
The instructors were very nice in that meeting. Jenkins asked me if I’d be going right home after graduation. He said the dog they had in mind for me was a “happy little dog” and they referred to it as she. Mr. Ainsworth was a big tease and told me I was very hard to work with and was a spoiled brat. Jenkins said that I am a very understanding person, that I do everything they tell me to do, and that I have good retention of the material. That all made me feel so happy inside. And those clowns kept joking around about Peanuts!
I went back to the music room and talked to everyone there. I danced around and played the Maracas. Then I went back to my room. I’m starved. I must have danced off all my dinner. Think I’ll get a soda and work on tapes.
I feel so sorry for Dan. He’s so lonely for Doreen. He can’t call her very often because he has to charge it to his in-laws’ phone. I feel so lucky that my family is only an hour and a half away, and that I have spending money. I wish I could help Dan and Doreen.
I get my dog tomorrow! Oh damn! I can’t stand the wait! Maybe my stomach will calm down after I get the dog.

My First Brush with UEB

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My Brush with UEB

Well, if you follow this blog, and you read my most recent entry about seeing Beautiful, then here’s a little different thing that happened today.

I forgot to order a braille program, but the theater had one I could rent, by leaving my ID with them. I opened the program and started reading it aloud to Sandie. And suddenly I was baffled and confused. This was some funny looking braille, with a whole bunch of symbols I did not recognize, missing contractions I’d always known, making it actually hard to recognize some words. What the bloody hell? Oh, damn, it’s frigging UEB, the so-called unified English braille, that every braille reader in every English speaking country is now supposed to read and write. Okay, I already ranted about this some months ago, so if you look back, you’ll find my feelings laid out very clearly about what I call ugly English Braille.

But today, I got to read it for the first time. And yes, of course, I could still read. But I didn’t like it. My braille program was in seventy-three, yes, that 73, pages. For you sighted folks, how big is a print theater program? Braille has always taken more room than print, it has to be bigger so people can feel the dots, and it has to be embossed on heavy paper so it can hold up to being read. But in the past, it would have certainly been less pages. They’ve removed a number of contractions, and added symbols that are somehow supposed to be more equivalent to print. But wow, got a newsflash, braille is not print! Just like ASL is not English. So, there were new symbols around quotes, new parentheses and no ation, double D sign or various others. It wasn’t my program, so I had to give it back and didn’t get to read the whole thing.

So, my impressions, after my first brush with UEB, yeah, it’s ugly. I don’t like it. Can I read it, sure, but I don’t like it. And any braille books I buy in future will be even huger than they already were! Boo hoo. I want real braille back! Lol.

My Brush with UEB

Well, if you follow this blog, and you read my most recent entry about seeing Beautiful, then here’s a little different thing that happened today.

I forgot to order a braille program, but the theater had one I could rent, by leaving my ID with them. I opened the program and started reading it aloud to Sandie. And suddenly I was baffled and confused. This was some funny looking braille, with a whole bunch of symbols I did not recognize, missing contractions I’d always known, making it actually hard to recognize some words. What the bloody hell? Oh, damn, it’s frigging UEB, the so-called unified English braille, that every braille reader in every English speaking country is now supposed to read and write. Okay, I already ranted about this some months ago, so if you look back, you’ll find my feelings laid out very clearly about what I call ugly English Braille.

But today, I got to read it for the first time. And yes, of course, I could still read. But I didn’t like it. My braille program was in seventy-three, yes, that 73, pages. For you sighted folks, how big is a print theater program? Braille has always taken more room than print, it has to be bigger so people can feel the dots, and it has to be embossed on heavy paper so it can hold up to being read. But in the past, it would have certainly been less pages. They’ve removed a number of contractions, and added symbols that are somehow supposed to be more equivalent to print. But wow, got a newsflash, braille is not print! Just like ASL is not English. So, there were new symbols around quotes, new parentheses and no ation, double D sign or various others. It wasn’t my program, so I had to give it back and didn’t get to read the whole thing.

So, my impressions, after my first brush with UEB, yeah, it’s ugly. I don’t like it. Can I read it, sure, but I don’t like it. And any braille books I buy in future will be even huger than they already were! Boo hoo. I want real braille back! Lol.

My Visit with Beautiful

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My Visit with Beautiful

Today, my friend Sandie and I went down to the Buell Theatre in Denver to See Beautiful, The Carole King Musical. Oh, and of course, my guide dog Petunia came along. Sandie hadn’t been sure she wanted to see it, but I had tickets, and she was a wonderful friend and decided to go. And she ended up having a great time. As for me, well, I’d like to say, there are no words, but if you know me, you know there are words!

I was born in 1957, and I remember so vividly when King’s album, Tapestry, came along. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Not like my beloved Beatles, or the stones, or the doo wop bubblegum stuff of the sixties. She was part of the singer/songwriter era, and she was a master of it!

Beautiful tells the story of her life, from age sixteen, when she sold her first song—It Might as Well Rain Until September—to the making of Tapestry, and finally, a Carnegie Hall concert. It’s an ensemble cast, Carole, Gerry Gofin her ex-husband and co-songwriter, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, fellow songwriters, competitors and best friends, and Don Kirshner, the record executive who took a chance on Carole. People may not realize the extent of King’s song writing. Her songs were recorded by groups such as the Drifters, the Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers, the Monkees, and even, yes, the Beatles. Have you heard Aretha Franklin sing Natural Woman? Well, Carole King wrote that song.

The show had humor, sadness, and absolutely far out out of sight music! Ahem, think I’m dating myself with that slang, aren’t I? It just seemed fitting for the story.

Back to today. Sandie picked us up up around quarter to noon, and down to Denver we went. We got there in plenty of time, and stopped in at our usual Limelight Café for lunch. And as before, I had a mimosa and a burger. I didn’t enjoy the burger as much today. The day was exceedingly hot, and I wasn’t very hungry. But it was fun to be there, enjoying the atmosphere and anticipating the show.

After lunch, we walked across the courtyard to the will-call to pick up the tickets. One of the highlights of the day happened there. For over a year, I’ve been working with a woman at the theater complex named Jessica. She answered many emails about seating for people with disabilities, gave me the ins and outs of getting season tickets, braille programs, or anything I needed. She and I had emailed this week, and she told me she would be managing the box office, so look her up. And we got to meet her. I was so happy to have the chance to meet her face-to-face, to thank her in person for all she’s done, to give her a hug. Thanks for everything, Jessica. She’s going to help me exchange dates for tickets and things like that, if I need that in the future. One show I want to see very much is Finding Neverland, but my tickets are for New Year’s Eve. Now, really, who’s gonna want to drive to Denver with me on that day? Not to mention driving home after 5:00 on such a night. Anyway, she’s a gem, a pillar of the highest quality customer service. From time to time, after working at Nordstrom in the nineties, I come across someone who is so above and beyond the norm of customer service, and I think to myself, that person has the Nordstrom spirit. And that’s how Jessica is. I’ve always been thankful, that she was the one to answer my email about seating all those months ago.

Did you think I’d never get to talking about Beautiful? Finally!

The show was fantastic. Carole King was an amazing writer, but she didn’t have the best voice. Not the worst voice, but not one of the best. And I like that the actress playing her, showed that. There were a few songs where the actress let go and showed what a great voice she has, but for the most part, she stayed true to King, who was a little shy about her singing and didn’t have as much confidence in it as everyone else did. The people who sang the parts of the Drifters and the Righteous Brothers were over the moon, mmmm, so good! The songs that King/Gofin had written but didn’t record, were all jazzed up, so it wasn’t just a straight rendition of the pop hits we know. Every performer was top notch. The woman who played Little Eva, man, when she sang the Locomotion, the place was rockin! I was moving to the songs in my seat, trying not to sing along, and failing, wanting to clap but nobody else did. Grin. It was fun, it was happy, in spite of some of the sad parts, it was joyful, a true delight.

At the end, of course there was a standing ovation, and then the cast came out and did I Feel the Earth Move Under my Feet. We were finally all standing, clapping and singing along. I’m sure there must have been people dancing too. It was an experience!

We went to Applebee’s on the way home and then came back here. Sandie stayed for a bit, helping me with some things. I got some DVD’s I’d ordered from amazon, plus some new silverware—it’s got red handles, isn’t that cool? If you know me, you know my signature color is red. Now, I’m relaxing, listening to a little music, writing this blog entry. It was a wonderful day, a beautiful show, a perfect day out with friends. If you have the chance to see Beautiful, don’t miss it. Even if you didn’t grow up with her music, her story, her strength, her talent, it’s a story worth telling, and a show very much worth seeing.