No knees, no controversy.
In a doctor’s exam room a nurse takes my vitals and reviews my medical history. My vision comes up and I recite the facts as if they were just another position on my resume during a job interview. Then this:
Nurse: “How do you get around?”
Me: “I can walk pretty well on my own. If I need help, I take someone’s shoulder.”
Nurse: “No. I mean do you drive?”
Nurse: “It could be worse.”
Me: “Did you drive yourself here today?”
Until you know me or you’ve ridden countless miles in the passenger seat . . .
When my nana began to lose her hearing, I was in my thirties. My mom and I discussed it a lot, how when the family got together my nana would smile and nod her head but it was evident that she was missing a lot of the conversation. I would tell her over and over to let us know if she was having trouble. I even worked out a discreet sign with her, a hand gesture I could detect and adjust the discussion so she could be a proper part of it. But she never used the signal and truth be told, it angered me. Why would she allow herself to not be involved?
Fast forward to current times, twenty years later. Now in my fifties, visually challenged, I find myself doing the same thing. Someone will hand me their phone to show me a photo and sometimes I will ask them to enlarge it, but an equal amount of time I will pretend to see the picture. Also, if I’m in a noisy place, a restaurant for example, it’s hard for me to hear. I think we read lips more than we realize when we have our full sight in a loud environment, and I no longer have that ability. This was a surprising discovery when my vision became compromised. If I am with more than one person in such a setting I am not always able to follow the verbal exchange and I am sorry to say that I will do the same thing my nana did that upset me so much.
I didn’t want this for her and I don’t want it for myself. It may be easier to act as though you can see or hear what’s going on but it’s a huge disservice to yourself and the people you are with. If you are brave enough to take your new normal out into the world, you cannot stop there. If you can’t hear, say so. If you can’t see, say so. Those you are with will be happy to make adjustments so that you are a full participant; they would be very sad to know that you are not.
My nana has been gone a long time. We were very close and she taught me a lot. Every Thanksgiving morning I pat the turkey dry the way she showed me. I remember staying with her for several weeks each summer and the first time she made her own croutons I thought she was a magician! And this memory of her hearing decline guides me today. I got the signal, Nana, and I will be do better moving forward. For the both of us.
“Having breakfast with a best friend right before a doctor’s appointment is like having the most delicious dessert before an inedible, overpriced meal.”
— Sister Rain
My husband recently painted our porch and the railing of our many steps also needed some tender loving color. I don’t know why but I really wanted to tackle this project. I can’t see anything clearly, let alone in detail, from a light standpoint it’s as if I’m always wearing a very dark pair of sunglasses, I am unable to see color and my depth perception is terrible. What could Picassobly go wrong?
I set to work, laying down a drop cloth underneath the railing. Getting the lid off the paint can was my first hurdle. Finding the groove by feel to insert the screwdriver took some time but I was able to pry it off. As I dipped the brush into the paint for the first time I thought about the old joke where a patient asks, “Doctor, will I be able to play the piano after the operation?”, and the doctor replies, “Yes, of course.” The patient says, “Great. I never could before.” I had painted a few little things prior to my sight being compromised but nothing as public as this.
I began to paint, trying to make straight, even strokes. I took my time, worked methodically and carefully, moving the tarp as I went to capture any drips. Steps are a challenge for me, especially going down, and we have many in front of our house. I always use the railing and remembering not to touch it while working was difficult. I’m sure I left a finger print or two before I realized what I was doing.
Two hours later, I was done. It was strange to finish and not be able to check my work. My quality control inspector wouldn’t be home for a few hours, so I made “Wet Paint” signs and cleaned up. I was proud of what I had done but the perfectionist in me had some concerns about how it looked. I forced myself to focus on the fact that I did it.
It’s the start of a new week. I encourage you to paint a railing, carry a watermelon, tackle something daunting. For the very thing you conquer this week my be the very thing you hold on to when you take your next steps.
One of the first questions I am asked when someone learns that I have a bird is whether he talks. I find myself replying that he mimics, which is true, but I do it in a way that is almost apologetic. I explain that he was in a bird rescue before coming to his forever home with us five years ago, as if his Oliver Twist history is an excuse for him not talking. I know better. I have been a bird mom for over twenty years, first to our lutino cockatiel, Cato, and now to Piper, an orange-fronted conure. I need to stop doing this. Instead I should try to educate the person that not all birds talk, just like not all dogs can catch a frisbee.
I have heard the horror stories of people bringing a bird into their homes expecting it to talk and abandoning it when it doesn’t. The rescue where Piper lived was filled with over 200 birds when we adopted him. I don’t have any hard data but I have no doubt that many of the birds were there because someone gave them up when they didn’t talk. Please don’t bring a bird into your life because you expect it to talk. Those YouTube videos we have all seen where a parrot is tormenting the dog by calling it in their human’s voice is the exception and definitely not the rule. Bring a bird, or any animal, into your life because you want to love it unconditionally and only after you have done lots of research and spent time getting to know each other.
Although I can talk, I am visually impaired. I have learned to adapt and use all my other senses and abilities to compensate for this loss. Piper, in somewhat the same way, is able to communicate to us what he needs and wants and the usual fact that he wants it NOW! We all like to think we have the upper zygodactyl and paw when it comes to our feathered and furry family members but we aren’t fooling anyone, especially them. They have us trained and right where they want us; no human speech necessary.
Well, I’ve got to go. Someone wants to be picked up NOW. He didn’t say a word and I can’t see him very well, but it doesn’t matter. “Pick me up, Mommy”, is loud and clear.
If you use the Notes app on your iPhone and iPad, I want to share with you the great features that I knew nothing about until one day I was convinced there had to be a way to use bullet points in the app and made the discovery. I was shocked and thrilled to learn that there are all sorts of helpful, and, dare I say, FUN tools available including: create a checklist, add an attachment, video or photo, sketch in a Note, even SCAN A DOCUMENT in Notes.
BE STILL MY HEART
These options weren’t showing up on either of my devices so I set about investigating why. Initial search results led me to believe that as long as my iOS was updated with the latest version I would have the features on the Notes app. My operating system was current but no features. I continued googling and trying different suggestions until, finally, I figured it out.
I’m not going to recreate the Home Button when instructions already exist. Click here to learn about the features. But I will tell you what my issue was: the Notes app had to be upgraded. Here are the steps to do that:
- Open the Notes app on your device
- Tap the “<” button to view the folder list if you aren’t prompted to Upgrade
- Tap “Upgrade” in the upper right corner
- Tap “Upgrade Now” when prompted
That should do it! You should see the new features now as described in the link above in both existing and new Notes.
NOTE TO SELF: If loving technology is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
During a TV show about Houston and recovery efforts there after Hurricane Harvey, a woman was asked by a reporter how she and her family had fared as a result of the storm. Her response was immediate, honest and real, “We just lost one house and two cars.” She went on to say that her entire extended family was safe.
And with those two sentences I understand unequivocably how this country was founded, how it endures, how we the people rise above and beyond our challenges, that we will not allow one person in a big white house to destroy us and why the robots will never win.
Recently I mentioned to several people that when I call a business, I document the time, date and name of the person I speak to. I have done this for so long I don’t remember how or why I started doing it, but when I was just talking about it the idea was well received so I thought I would pass it on.
Whether you’re on the phone with an insurance company, a doctor’s office or placing an order, it’s always good to document the exchange in case you ever need to refer to it again. With interactions becoming less personal, gathering the details has become even more important. Unless you are on a video call you won’t be able to put a face to a name but putting a name to a name sure helps us all feel less like a number.
Driving by a local business, my husband saw a sign for an upcoming event. He told me about it when he got home and I commented that I walk by this place a few times a week and, of course, never saw the sign. This was an actual sign but what about the metaphorical ones we all miss?
The next day I passed the place and I located the sandwich board. Although I could not read what was on it, I certainly could have seen there was a sign before my husband told me. But when I am walking outside, my sole focus is on every step I take with the exclusive purpose of not falling. There is no option to look up; I have to be extremely careful and not make a mistake. Although I am trying to prevent a physical injury by keeping my head down, how often are we so worried about doing the wrong thing that we close ourselves off to the possibilities around us? We don’t allow ourselves to get much-needed perspective and input from not only others but what our internal indicators are telling us. And we can end up hurting ourselves worse than the pain we were trying to avoid.
On my walk I am trying to improve my time and optimize my workout and also complete this non-endorphin producing exercise (endorphins from exertion are like unicorns to me: heard about them, but never had the pleasure) so I can get on with my day and to do list. Life is moving so quickly and everyone has a lot of balls in the air while we speed along. How can we be expected to look for signals, too? I have found, though, that not paying attention to more than just what’s in front of us ends up costing us more time and energy. Life, the universe, whatever it is that we believe in, has a way of showing us the right thing to do and it has nothing to do with visual acuity.
Should you happen to miss a sign, the people in your life can help with what you may have overlooked, just like my husband did with the event announcement. It takes a village regardless of whether your hamlet has ten stoplights or one. And should your whole damn town fail to see the signs, don’t worry. Even detours are clearly marked and a different direction is a direction all the same.