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.

The Final two days of Class

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Last Two Days of ZoomText Fusion Training

Wednesday 21 July 2016

Kindness of strangers and a Dog Day evening

First of all, thank you all for your patience as I was delayed posting this. It will be a long update, to cover Wednesday and Thursday. Someone asked where this was all happening. I was taking a class in an adaptive technology software program called ZoomText fusion, a screen reader and magnifier combined, putting it simply. The class last three days and was held in Littleton Colorado.

I worried all Tuesday night about getting to class on Wednesday. Would it be another disastrous start to the day? And it could have been. I asked the front desk to call the taxi at ten to eight, and at 8:30, it still had not arrived. Crap, I thought, though I’m sure I thought worse than crap, I’m going to be late again! Suddenly, a guest in the hotel walked up to ask if I wanted any breakfast. I had been sitting there a while, waiting for the blasted cab, after all. I politely thanked him, told him no and that I was waiting for a cab. And out of nowhere, he offered to give me a ride! And what did I do? I did exactly what I would have warned any other single woman not to do. I got in a vehicle with a man I did not know and trusted him to take me where I needed to go. And he did! I don’t even know his name, think it was Walter, or something like that. I have good instincts, so I felt I could trust him, and the hotel people knew I’d left with him. He was a businessman, and he was very kind, and I got to class five minutes before start! Thank you sir for your act of generosity. And for being a good guy!

Class went well. We covered so much each day, and I only hope I retained a lot of it. I was getting to know the other members of the class and enjoying their company very much. We got lunch from this incredible place called Etai’s. I had a turkey avocado sandwich with a seasonable fruit salad, chips and carrot cake. The sandwich was so good, and the variety of offerings on the menu blew me away. Oh, Etai’s, please come to my neck of the woods, please. They deliver too, and it would be so nice to have something besides pizza to order for delivery on a Friday night, when I actually want dinner but will not cook.

Wednesday night, I’d arranged to get together with a few friends, guide dog puppy raisers and a former trainer. Dot picked us up from the class and we went directly to her house. She had three dogs there, her old career change guide dog puppy she’d raised, an eight-month old puppy she had, her own dog, and a retired guide she was dogsitting. Then we had Barb with the dog she’s raising, Melissa with the dog she’s raising, and Becky with her career change guide dog puppy, that she raised a few years ago. At one point, we had seven large dogs, Labradors and my golden, running and raising cane in the back yard. It’s a testament to the fine training all the dogs have received, that all seven got along. They had fun, and there were no fights or other problems. Seven well-trained dogs, five experienced dog handlers, great food, great friendship, a perfect evening. Dot made the best food, homemade chicken salad, with these amazing appetizers, and Sangria. It was lovely outside on the patio, just sharing time with friends and laughing at the antics of seven dogs. I never wanted the evening to end. Well, except for being tired.

Thursday, 22 July 2016

Last Day, saying Goodbyes, Coming Home!

If I’d been stressed about the morning situation on Wednesday, it was almost nothing to the stress I felt about it Wednesday night. I probably only slept about three hours. Okay, so yeah, I have insomnia anyway, and I don’t sleep well in a strange place. Add to that the fact that a hotel is never really quiet. Room doors opening and closing, people or luggage bumping walls, it all wakes me up. I knew I’d have to finish packing everything, and somehow get me, my dog and my luggage to the center for class, on time!

That morning, I call the front desk, even before heading over, at 7:30 and asked them to call the taxi. By the time I got Petunia relieved and got to the lobby, it was close to eight, and they had heard from the cab company that it would be another fifteen minutes for the cab. If they showed up, of course. Surprisingly, to me, anyway, they did. At first I thought the cab driver was going to try to refuse the ride. He kinda freaked out when he saw Petunia, but he didn’t object more than saying a few things about how nobody told him there’d be a dog. For those who don’t know, a person with a disability is legally allowed to be accompanied by a service dog in places or services of public accommodation. This definitely includes taxis. Anyway, he didn’t object, and he was reasonably friendly. We got to the center in plenty of time, in fact, I was the first one there. Go me.

Last day of class. I had such mixed feelings about it. I was eager to get home, brain and body tired, wanting desperately to sleep. Petunia doesn’t care much for traveling apparently, as she hadn’t eaten Wednesday night or Thursday morning. I needed to get her back home to her own environment. At the same time, I had enjoyed the class greatly, loved learning the new stuff, was becoming friends with classmates, and part of me hated to have it end and to go back to my quiet lifestyle. Hmmm, I guess there still is a social lady inside me.

At the end of the day, we got to evaluate the class, and I gave it all the top marks I could. I’m very happy I was asked to take the class. I learned a lot and feel like I have the beginnings of a grasp on the program. Obviously, I won’t have a deep grasp until I get to play with it in real life time, but it was a good start.

My classmates and I shared email addresses, and I already heard from a couple of them. I do hope we keep in touch. We’re all scattered around the state, so we probably won’t see each other, but keeping in touch by email will be nice.

We all got a fun goodie bag for completing the training, with shirts, demos, thumb drives of materials we covered in class and a nice certificate of completion. I must admit I had some trouble concentrating in the latter half of the training day though.

Sandie picked us up at the end of the day, and we were finally homeward bound! Petunia got in the back seat and crashed. We made it home in good time, dumped my luggage, relieved all parties, and then we were off to dinner, for the humans anyway. We went to chili’s and had a good dinner, and I had a margarita too. But I was just tired and wanted to get home. Once we did get back, Petunia finally ate her dinner, and Sandie did some yard work for me.

When Sandie left, I thought Petunia and I would both fall upon the bed and sleep, but we didn’t. I unpacked a little, watched a bit of the RNC out of curiosity, and just unwound. Finally, I went to bed, called Doug to catch up and slept till time to get up for work.

I still feel exhausted and brain and body tired to the bone. I want to curl up with a good book or a movie and let the sound lull me off to dreamland for a few hours! But it’s Friday, and that means, the weekend is upon us, once five PM arrives!

Overall, the experience was fabulous. I have to say a huge thank you to the Residence Inn and all there staff. And I don’t even have words to express to the training people how much I enjoyed the class. Thanks, ZoomText University, Mark and all involved! Knowledge increasing is a glorious thing!

Two little comments, I believe I left my charm bracelets in the hotel. I’m kinda crushed about this and need to call them to see if they have been found and if the hotel can send them to me.

And what am I reading, a book called Coyote, about a trip to colonize another planet, but oh, there’s so so much more to it than that. Political intrigue, family dynamics, character development, survival, and all kinds of good stuff. Check it out!

the second day, not the most auspicious start

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The Second Day

Not exactly the way I expected the day to start! It was the day start from hell, sorta, kinda.

The hotel is actually very nice. The staff has helped me get around, helping me teach petunia the way. they’ve helped get Petunia out to do her business. Oh yeah, Petunia is my guide dog. grin.

I had a nice cup of coffee in the common area near the lobby, and felt the day was starting off fine.

Then came the fun. I was supposed to be taking the hotel shuttle to the Center for the Blind for this ZoomText Fusion class. Uh oh. The shuttle was so tall, that I could not step into it. I have a fused knee and an artificial knee, and it was too high for me. Definitely not a wheelchair accessible shuttle. Not that I need a wheel chair, but I need an accessible way to get in. lol. So, back to the lobby and the front desk we go. Yippee. The desk clerk, a very nice woman, called a taxi, and specifically told them that I needed a sedan, a vehicle I could get in. Did they send such a vehicle? Um, noooo. They sent a van, again, not something I could get into. Aaaaaaaahhhhh
111 So, the nice desk clerk called again, double emphasized the need for a sedan, and off I went to wait again. And wait, I did. And wait I did. And again, yes, indeed I waited. We called one more time, and finally, at last, as I was teetering on the edge of despair, rage, tears, anguishh, dramatic mood swings and tears, the cab arrived. And off to the center we went. Only a mere forty minutes late. Sigh. Ah well.

I’m what one might call a tiny bit anal about punctuality. Just a tiny bit. I don’t feak out when I’m late, no not me, never. Okay, so I do. I was ready to go by eight AM, class starting at nine, at a center a whole long five miles away Forty minutes late, when it isn’t my doing, makes me crazy! But at last I arrived, and the purpose of this whole adventure could begin.

Fortunately, nobody was upset that I was late, and I didn’t miss too much. The instructor, Mark, brushed it off, and just let me get seated and went on. There are four other people in the class, and I enjoyed getting to know them all, working with them, laughing with them.

ZoomText Fusion is an adaptive technology software package, combining the ZT screen magnifier with the window Eyes screen reader. I need to learn it for my job, because the program I know like I know my own name is a different program. And I’m not going to use this blog to talk about the program. This is just about my time here taking the class.

We dealt with a lot of interesting topics, somethings very familiar much like the program I know, but other things were different, and I was fascinated, interested and 100 percent engaged in the class. I love learning new things, giving my brain new fodder to chew on, trying unfamiliar stuff. So, if today was any indication, I’m going to have a marvelous time.

For lunch, we all ordered pizza, and we got to know each other a little bit more. I know each of my fellow students and Mark are people I would enjoy socializing with, as colleagues or friends.

The afternoon was more training, where I learned some cool new techniques, and where I had to remember not to use the techniques from my other program. I love the challenge!

I shared a classmate’s Uber ride and didn’t have a problem at all with them accepting Petunia. I got back to the hotel, and Kayla, the very nice evening desk person, helped me get Petunia relieved. I was going to go down to the happy hour social hour but I’m pretty tired, and we’re in the midst of a big thunder storm, and I didn’t want to take Petunia, my thunder fearful girl, didn’t want to make her guide in that situation.

I’m now kicking back with a glass of red wine, some turkey, cheddar and crackers, a couple yummy home made cookies, watching CNN’s coverage of the Republican convention.

Tomorrow, another day of class, a night with friends, and most likely more wine and cookies!

So, though the day didn’t start off, giving me a great impression of this adventure, the day ended up being fantastic, wiping away all the stress and anxiety from the morning.

Let’s keep our fingers and paws crossed for a better start tomorrow!

Oh, and if anyone cares, I’m reading, the Ivy Crown, by mary Luke, an historical fiction novel about Katherine Par, sixth wife of Henry VIII, a woman I admire greatly!

the first day

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Well, here I am, down by Denver in a Residence Inn. My oomtext fuson class starts tomorrow. It’s been a long long day, and I’m too tired to write this all in Word first, so please forgive typos and brevity. I worked today, and we were quite busy. I shut down and 2:30 and finished packig while waiting for Sandie to arrive. We loaded up me and Petunia and our things and went to Sandie’s house first’ We hung out there, had some pizza and relaxed before driving down here to the hotel Their career changed guide dog, golden retriever Olima is absolutely adorable. She took to me, ad I to her I do love those goldens!

The hotel is nice enough. the room is adorable. The staff are incredibly nice and helpful. We brought a few groceries, but as the class will be providing lunch, and I’m going out to dinner Wednesday. I didn’t bring much. We taught Petunia the way around and she picked it up so fast. This dog is top notch. I’m so blessed in her.

Now, i’m sitting here at the desk in the room, drinking some wine and catching up on email. I’m tired I’ve been stressing and agonizing over this trip for days. Now that I’m here, I’m calm, but I’m exhausted i’m going to call the desk in a minute and ask for assistance finding where to relieve Petunia, and then I’m going to bed.

Just a weird thing about the hotel, there are no little bars of soap. Hmmm.
don’t Hotels always have those little bars? I guess I’m washing with shampoo tomorrow. weird. Also, I asked specifically for a disability room with a roll/walk in shower, and I didn’t get one. Wish me luck and keep me in your prayers, getting in and out of the shower.

And tomorrow, the class starst.

Superman, Thoughts and Memories

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Memories of Superman

I spent the evening watching movies. The last one for the night is Superman, the Christopher Reeve version from 1978. I love the movie, and I get the urge to watch it every few years. Chris Reeve was wonderful in that movie, and I always feel nostalgic and sort of sad, thinking what happened to him.

But tonight, I was thinking of different things, different memories, only sparing a stray thought or two for the real life Superman Chris became, and the sad end of his life. Tonight, I sat here remembering how my ex-husband and I saw this movie together back when it was first in the theaters. There we were, young and silly, barely scraping by, but taking a few dollars to go to the theater and smile, laugh and thrill to the story of Superman. I snuck my old cassette recorder in my purse and got a shaky, sometimes unclear audio recording of the movie. We’d listen to it again and again, till we could quote it, he quoting all the guys’ lines, I quoting the girls. Oh, it was fun.

“Swell? You know, Clark, there are very few people left in the world it feel comfortable saying that word.”

“What word?”

“Swell.”

“Oh really? I always kinda liked it.”

I haven’t heard from or heard of my ex in about thirty years. I never had any hard feelings toward him, and I hope he’s happy and well, wherever he is. I rarely think of him after all this time, but I remember fondly all the things he brought into my life, great music, great movies, great fun quoting those old movies! If he still watches Superman, does he remember those days? I hope he remembers them as fondly as I do.

But I had other thoughts while watching Superman tonight. Superman must be terribly lonely. This version of the movie has a lot of deleted scenes incorporated into the movie itself, not separate tracks on the DVD. While watching a scene in which Superman goes to his Fortress of Solitude to confer with his father, after the evening when he first revealed himself. Daddy tells him that he shouldn’t beat himself up over the fact that he enjoyed being superman, warns him to watch out for vanity, and then solemnly tells him that though he can enjoy being who and what he is, he can never reveal himself to anyone on earth. My heart kinda broke at that moment. His father talks again about the danger of vanity, stating that if not for the vanity of the leaders of Krypton the planet and its people would have survived, and he would be able to hold his son in his arms.

It made me think, how would it feel never to be able to tell anyone who you are, where you’re from, why you do what you do, not even your real name? Yeah, lonely.

And you know that scene when Superman takes Lois for a little flight around New York City at night? Okay, fun I’m sure, romantic and lovely. But damn, he takes her up into the clouds. Not only would it be flipping cold, but seriously, how the hell did she breathe up there? Ah, well, so much for romance.

If I had the power, would I want to spin the world backward to undo whatever has gone before? No, I guess not. But it sure is a blast watching Superman do it!

So, a few random thoughts and memories. Memories of a fun time in life. Thoughts of a super hero who must have had a sad life amidst all the adulation. Who knew I could get so philosophical over superman? Not me. Just some of the weird things passing through my mind on a quiet Friday night.

book review, The Contract, by Melanie Moreland

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The Contract

By Melanie Moreland

 

Richard, an high-flying advertising exec, an unrepentant tyrant to everyone around him, a man who despises everyone, especially his personal assistant, Katy. Katy, an all-suffering assistant, perfect at her job but unable to put her far too demanding boss in his place. She puts up with behavior that would have me telling my boss where to stuff it and send me running to Human Resources. But she has a reason for tolerating Richard’s attitude, an aunt with Alzheimer’s Disease, whose care Katy pays for. She can’t afford to be fired or to quit. Who’d ever dream these two opposites could ever fall in love?

 

When he doesn’t receive a coveted promotion, Richard decides to try to get a job at the only other major firm in the area. The problem is that the firm’s owner is family-oriented and would never hire Richard, due to his lack of stable personal relationships. Richard has to come up with a plan. Find a fiancé, a fake fiancé, and make the owner of the new firm believe it’s real. Who does he know who can fill the role? A woman who is loved by all who meet her, who can charm everyone, and is just the type to make anyone believe the romance is real? Katy, of course.

 

For Katy, this contract will help her support her aunt and improve the care her aunt receives. It will lighten the heavy burden of always trying to find the money to pay for the care. She despises Richard, but she can tolerate anything for a year, right?

 

So begins this wonderful story. Enemies, become friends, and then, maybe more. This sort of plot may have been done before, but never so well as in this delightful book by Melanie Moreland. The character development is believable in such a way, that I went from disliking Richard to adoring him, and from sort of sneering at Katy for putting up with him, to applauding the way she can take him on outside the job front, and put him in his place. The gradual change in their relationship took the exact right amount of time, not too fast, not too drawn out. We see it happen in ways that work absolutely, in ways I could see it happening with real people.

 

I love lots of characters in books, never content with just the two main protagonists, and this book has plenty of fun characters to satisfy me. The big engaging family who runs the new firm are delightful, people I’d love to know. They make the story better, as they interact with Richard and Katy. They help make this lovely romance richer and deeper with extra little details that, for me, take a story from good to great.

 

I’ve been reading Melanie’s work for a number of years now, and the contract is absolutely my favorite so far. She makes me want to smack Richard, then hug him. She makes me want to tell Katy to stand up to him, then applaud when she does. She makes me laugh, makes me angry, makes me smile. Everything a great story should make you feel. And she reminds me, as I’ve become cynical and scorn most romances, that love stories can still be wonderful things to read. I give my highest recommendation to The Contract. I only wish it could have gone on longer, because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters.