On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Giant's Shoulders

I'm standing on the shoulders of some new giants these days. I'm hoping that I a. don't tumble off or b. crush them underneath my weight. The new shoulders are the people at WW online which I joined a month ago in an attempt to find the skinny person I used to be. Any of you who've been reading this for any length of time saw my funny hat pictures back in February and could easily see that a session with WW was overdue.

I've been doing this for a month and have lost 8 pounds so far. I've been reluctant to 'fess up here, for fear I'd come crashing to the ground. However, after visiting the website of the Amazing Shrinking Mother this morning, I decided it was time to come clean. I'm actually enjoying the program, the whole family is eating more fruits and veggies and unlike some weight loss attempts this one has me feeling energized and not starving.

So I'll update you from time to time and if I don't update you, come in and bug me about it. That skinny girl I used to be has woken up like Rip Van Winkle and she's really annoyed at what's happened to her body over the last 23 years. So it's time for her to start cracking the whip and insisting on rearranging some furniture.

If you are struggling with your own weight issues, welcome. Let's fight the battle together.

When Miss HTML Genius comes home this weekend, just maybe I can get her to scan pictures of the skinny girl I used to be. I'm hoping that by Christmas or so there'll be a need for some before and after pictures. Right now the only thing that 8 pounds does is get me back into some clothes I couldn't wear a month ago.

Monday, June 26, 2006

So Long ,Terry

When I was in high school my best friend at school, Terry, and I were crazy about Agatha Christie mysteries. We used to talk over plots and fantasize about solving mysteries ourselves. Then at the end of high school Terry turned into a mystery. She moved away and, although she went to nursing school in the same town where I went to college, I saw her only intermittently. Then when I got back from Christmas break my sophomore year I discovered that she'd gotten married and left school. When I had seen her in November she hadn't even mentioned that she was dating anyone. I caught up with her once more senior year, but then she disappeared again. From time to time since we got internet services I've tried "googling her", to no avail. I tried again tonight, and found her, or rather, I found her obituary. She died the day after my birthday, in Vermont, in a town I've driven through regularly over in the past decade. Only I never knew she was there.

She'd changed her name, or rather gone back to her original first name. She'd never gone to a high school reunion. She apparently never got in touch with any of her old friends. Admittedly, I wouldn't have been as easy to find as some because none of my family lives in that town anymore. However, we had mutual friends who knew where I was, and since both my mother and my sister have died in recent years, my name has been in the newspaper she would have been purchasing at least twice in the last six years. So her finding me was a lot more likely than me finding her.

I guess she didn't want to. I guess I wasn't as good a detective as I'd thought I'd be.

Terry was my very first friend in a new school. She was the one I walked from the bus with every afternoon. I used to walk her to the end of her road and then walk back to the elementary school where I caught my second bus. On those walks we talked and talked about all sorts of things, but often about Agatha Christie mysteries. I'll always treasure puzzling over the lastest Agatha Christie (there were still new ones coming out in those years)together. However, there were other memories as well. I'll never forget the night that we argued theology in French in Mr. Whitney's kitchen (I was arguing for a miraculous feeding of the loaves and fishes, she was arguing for a miracle of sharing). I'll never forget sitting in front of her in geometry class and getting a note saying that her mother had just had a new baby (we had only recently found out that her mother had remarried) and her embarassment over the fact. I'll never forget how pretty her prom dress was and how pleased she was to be going. I'll never forget how much fun she had putting Summer Blonde in her hair after she'd moved out of her mother's house. I'll also never forget the day that our friend Ellen and I helped her pack up her stuff to move out of that house. It was a rainy, eerie, creepy sort of day and there was an eerie creepy sort of air about the whole experience. I'll never forget the cute nurse's cap she got to wear as a nurse in training (it was pleated, nothing at all like the nurse's caps I was familiar with). I'll never forget her showing me around her dorm, which had amenities (like an elevator) that mine didn't have. There were happy times and there were not so happy times. Every time it looked like her life had taken a happier turn, it seemed to turn dark again.

There were reasons why Terry never wanted to go home again. Many of them I suspect will never be fully known now. I wish that I hadn't been so associated with a time she wanted to forget. I really wish we could have known each other as grownups.

I hope that before she died she found her way to faith, but I really don't know whether she did or not. So, I'll commend her to God's mercy and ask you to do the same.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A New Link

Those of you who read my previous ranting post my be interested in a link I've added today. Seedlings is an organization which promotes Braille reading by providing lower cost braille books for children. They have some really neat stuff promoting Braille literacy, if you want to buy things like pins, mugs, sweatshirts, caps, etc. There is also information about fundraising, for example, if you are a bowler, you can participate in their bowling fundraiser from anywhere in the country.

There are also some neat stories about a couple of blind kids. These include what their aspirations are and what some of their amazing activities are. You should check the link out for the stories alone.

Please note, that per my rant above, that Seedlings doesn't happen to offer Anne of Green Gables. For that we have to go to another catalog. They do, much to my surprise, offer Meet the Austins, which we weren't able to find on the other list. You might find it interesting to read through their catalog, just to see which of your children's favorite books are and aren't there.

If more people will support the work of Seedlings and other organizations for the blind, the number of titles that are available to blind children will increase. So please do check them out and consider a purchase or a donation. End of Commercial, regular programming will resume shortly.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Challenge of Buying Books for Crystal

This past week my niece Amanda and I went searching the internet for sites that sell braille books. Her little sister Crystal has really taken off in reading this year and actually likes to read in bed (a bigger challenge with braille books than small paperbacks, but she has the advantage of not needing the light on - what I wouldn't have given for being able to read in the dark when I was a kid - or even now some nights!). Anyway Crystal is currently working her way through the Little House books, but is also in love with Narnia (which so far she has heard read to her and has listened to the movie -incessantly some people would say...).

Amanda and I wanted to pick out for her the sorts of books that I would have bought for Amanda when she was turning 12 (Crystal's official birthday is coming right up). We discovered two things as we looked. First of all not all of the books we'd like to give her eventually are available in Braille. Secondly when they are a lot of them are tremendously expensive. For example Anne of Green Gables (you know, the one you can get in paperback for probably under $10) is $48 for the Braille edition, Little Women is $40, the full set of the Narnia Chronicles is $128 and change. Obviously buying Crystal multiple titles is much less doable than buying multiple titles for Amanda was.

What I also discovered in talking with Amanda was that a. a lot of teachers and parents are not encouraging blind children to learn Braille, they are expecting them to make do with readers and books on tape. Neither of those options allows blind children to go back and mull over a phrase easily, the way that sighted children can. and b. there is a tremendous shortage of Braille transcribers (and many of the current ones are volunteeers).

It has begun to strike me this summer just how much we take for granted as sighted people and just how much blind people are denied. They aren't denied it out of some deliberate discrimination, and they aren't denied it because of the intrinisic things connected with their disablity. Certainly there are some things blind people can't do: drive a car, fly a plane, pilot a boat, but there are lots of things that they could do, but often aren't able to because of barriers put in their way. While Crystal was here we went to MacDonalds; the girl at the counter noticed that she was blind and offered her a Braille menu. This was a new experience for Crystal, but it needn't have been. Having a braille menu on hand should be no more difficult for chain restaurants than having braille buttons in public elevators is. I realize that not every local restaurant is going to have access to a braille transcriber, but the big chains should be able to provide this. Being able to make your own choices, to mull over the decisions yourself rather than having the infomation communicated to you by someone else is the difference between being independent and being dependent. I am not a big fan of fast food restaurants, but I was really impressed with that cashier.

Blind kids shouldn't have to miss out on books just because they are blind. Blind college students shouldn't be dependent on readers for their text assignments. Braille is an incredible system and more braille books should be made available, not just those that meet the economies of scale. If publishers would put even a small percentage of their profits into producing more of their titles in braille it would make the lives of some very special children, youths, and adults a lot richer. If they would offer those books for prices even close to comparable with regular print books they would encourage sighted friends of the blind to buy their print books in appreciation.

By the way, Amanda and I were dismayed at some of what was available and I'm sure that it reflects our particular biases. However, it was disturbing that Mary Kate and Ashley books were available, but we couldn't find Emily of New Moon, or Meet the Austins, or even Adventures in Odyssey (Crystal is a huge fan of the Odyssey radio program). Oh well, we found a large enough list to last us for awhile, but it certainly made us rant over the unfairness of it all.

Interestingly, Crystal's reading is hampered far more by the fact that she occasionally (although less and less frequently all the time) encounters English words she doesn't know, than it is by the fact that she's actually been really reading Braille for less than three years. How many sighted kids do you know who are reading On the Banks of Plum Creek in their second language after three years of reading instruction? Her vocabulary, her grasp of English sentence structure, and even her reading fluency actually surpasses most of the kids her age in her Sunday School. Have I ever mentioned what an incredible kid she is? I'm sure I have. Anyway you can see why we were getting a bit perturbed that it was going to cost so much and be so difficult to get Anne of Green Gables for this inspiring almost 12 year old.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Shopping With the Girls

Last evening I took the girls (two nieces and one daughter) shopping at the mall. It was an interesting experience to say the least. My oldest niece was in charge of finding shorts and sneakers for her younger sister (who is blind). Shouldn't have been a difficult job, right? Well we sauntered into the children's section of K-Mart (because Crystal is still pretty tiny despite her almost 12 status). My daughter had stopped off at Hallmark to buy a birthday gift for a friend so it was just three of us at that point. Amanda and looked at the shorts that K Mart was offering up for girls and decided that a. they were obscenely short and b. her father would not allow his daughter to wear anything that short. So we headed for Old Navy figuring we'd have to pay more, but that they might have a better selection. Now admittedly they did have SOME shorts that weren't obscenely short. The only problem was that they either a. looked like they had already been through work on a major construction site for a couple of months or b. were ultra low waisted (also not really very modest). So we were about to give up and decide to go to JoAnne's and buy fabric and sew Crystal some shorts. Fortunately Penny's had a wider selection. Now I will grant you that Penny's had shorts for Amanda's size that were no longer than her hand, they also had low rider jeans, and the destructed ones, but they had in addition some very pretty feminine shorts that were a decent length that fit Crystal nicely. Best of all they were half price, so we paid about the same for two pair as we would have paid for one at Old Navy. It looks like Penny's at least is paying some attention to the people who asked for more modest options.

Then it was off to do sneaker shopping. This was really amusing because Amanda was looking at the rugged sneakers while Abby looked for the pretty pink feminine ones. Guess which ones Crystal wanted? Well let's just say Crystal is a girly girl. So she now has a lovely new pair of purple and pink sneakers to go with her pretty feminine shorts.

One of the things I had to keep reminding myself of as we sauntered through the mall is that Crystal could see none of it. She is so competent that I often forget that she's blind. We mostly just looked like a family of females out mall browsing. It's been really fun having more than one young girl around. I have to take Crystal back this week, and we will miss her. Fortunately we get to have Amanda around for about another month. Of course at the end of that time I will be girlless because Abby moves into her new apartment in the big B-town a week from tomorrow. I'm going to miss them all.