It Looks Like A “C” But It’s An A+

It brings me joy to find the right gift for the special people in my life. Anything I come by, though, is no match for the happiness they bring me every day. There is one special someone in my life whose use of the things I’ve chosen on their behalf makes my heart expand and almost pop unlike any other and that’s Piper.

When we adopted him six years ago from a rescue, we rushed the day before we brought him home to outfit his new “room” with toys he would like. We consulted the rescue’s owner about his preferences and asked for pictures of his current setup so we could purchase similar items for play to help make his transition easier. Birds need to keep busy with a variety of options and it’s my job as a parromt to provide the most interesting and often noisiest choices for just that. A bored bird can
become depressed and pluck his own feathers so playtime is not all fun and games, it’s a critical part of a healthy bird’s life. 

It has been trial and error and even now, knowing what Piper likes and doesn’t, introducing new toys can go either way. It’s important to offer something familiar enough he will take to it but different enough that it’s something he’ll be curious about. Piper is fearful of things when they first appear, which still is a surprise to me considering how feisty he is. And so it is a non-exaggeration when I say it’s a thrill when he investigates the latest addition and approves.

The wooden “C” he is sitting on in these photos is bendable and this was the first iteration I tried. When I discovered him sitting on it within minutes of its installation I felt the Piper Effect, moments when I love him so much,it takes my breath away.


The gift that keeps on giving: the 90-gram Orange-fronted conure named Piper. 





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Who Doesn’t Love A Gift Card?

We are supposed to live in the present. Being stuck in the past isn’t healthy or what life is about and nothing about tomorrow is guaranteed. All we have is this moment. But what if you are creating something that will be your future, a passionate endeavor that requires a lot of work now? 

I am finding it incredibly difficult to get to the one thing that should be my priority every day, instead doing chores around the house or other less critical activities also on my To Do list. Now I will admit that part of the reason is that the other, standard tasks are easy and comfortable, and in my mind they can’t wait. But I know better: cleaning out the linen closet does not compare with a new business I am trying to get off the ground. Being home, it’s easy to get caught up in the needs of the household instead of the requirements of the rest of my life. I also have the added challenge that these routine duties once served an important purpose, giving me a purpose, when I had none the first few years after my vision loss. Surprisingly, it’s difficult to turn your back on loading water into the fridge and k-cups into the carousel when they once provided you with something to pass the time during infinitely long days so completely the opposite of my busy life in corporate America. 

But it is a new day, today, Friday, next week, next month. And after YEARS of wracking my brain 24/7 for what comes next, next is now. The present is indeed a gift. The future a gift card whose balance we don’t know.

It’s time for all the distractions inside the walls of my home need to take a seat and let the lady of the house do her thing. Because what she’s been doing the last few years – after the mental, physical and emotional healing, of course – although helpful and a necessary part of her recovery, is most definitely not her thing. And it’s high time she remembered that. Today.

The exception though will be the k-cups. The future’s not happening without coffee. 


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They Don’t Buy It

People’s reactions to my informing them that I am visually impaired has been one of the greatest surprises of my life. You cannot tell by looking at me: I am able to enact eye contact fairly well, I walk unassisted unless in difficult terrain and my eyes move the way peeps with 20/20 do. I go to lunch every week with my friend at a favorite eatery and often have the same waitress. Hamburger after salad after nachos after chicken fingers, the server doesn’t know until I finally make them aware.

I don’t hand out my optic deficiency like candy on Halloween but sometimes I need help working a credit card machine or reading something and then I explain why. Often I see a person a lot at a restaurant or store and they have no idea of my lack of sight. One night I was at dinner at my weekly lunch place and the hostess I talk to every visit was waving to me from about 5’ away and I didn’t see her until my husband told me she was trying to get my attention. I vigorously returned the gesture and the next time I saw her I told her why it appeared I was giving her the brush-off that evening. I learned my lesson that night and now I let acquaintances know that they may see me somewhere, but I won’t see them.

I know that my delivery does not help others to digest my disclosure. I say it so matter-of-factly, wanting to get the information out there so we can all get on with our lives. I need to work on the way I share the news and also learn to allow time for the recipient to take in the unexpected revelation. In my mind it’s such a part of who I am that it’s no different than the fact that my eyes are hazel and I am 37. Ahem. But I also realize that you don’t meet that many people as you go about your day who have a severe physical disability that can’t be seen. There couldn’t possibly be any more irony in that sentence.

I also have to acknowledge the fear I often detect, for if this random devastation could occur to me . . . And maybe it’s as simple as that. I look like you and I once was you but now I’m not. It’s sobering, I am sure, to learn that it is rare, yet possible, to wake up blind without warning. In a strange twist of fate, I have the advantage: I’ve lived it for over five years while my unsuspecting recipient is shocked that such a thing is even possible. Before it actually happened to me I would also have been sickened to hear that seeing is not guaranteed. The

The #1 reaction, though, hands down is a nervous laugh and the person not believing me. I tend to joke around a lot and since I don’t look like I can’t see properly they think I’m kidding. Or, because I am over 50 it is often thought that I am referring to the need for reading glasses that most of us require at a certain age. Recently I was in a Michael Kors outlet store, talking my same friend into buying a handbag that was both beautiful and a steal at its discounted price. As my mother-in-law would say, “You would lose money if you didn’t buy it.” A salesperson was standing nearby, watching us and the rest of the space, no doubt listening to our exchange. I can be a character and was pouring it on thick to seal the deal of the purse purchase. My friend was admiring the red color of the leather and as she always does, was asking me what it looked like to me. I told her tan and she was surprised, despite us playing this game all the time. The salesperson joined our discussion and my friend explained that I am visually impaired. The woman, probably in her 20s, asked, “So are you color blind?” I replied, “Color is one of my issues but I have very little sight in general.” “I don’t know what to say”, she said, which was the single-most honest reaction I have ever received upon telling someone I am visually impaired. I told her that was fine and that I really appreciated her truthful response. She then asked, “What happened?”, to which I provided the abridged version of how one morning I woke up completely blind, they don’t know why, a virus perhaps, and that I regained some of my sight but not much.

Our attention went back to the red beauty, already looking very at home on my friend’s shoulder. She bought the bag and we said goodbye to the young woman. As we continued on to other shops that afternoon, we talked about her and how she handled my sharing my “see-cret” with her compared to others we have both observed over the years. We are together a lot and my friend has a different vantage point than I do when I nonchalantly make my “vision statement”. It’s possible there’s a quicker processing time if the person hasn’t previously seen me and has less of a chance to observe me seeming to be observing too. My friend reported to me she saw empathy, disbelief and the curiosity I sensed, and added that she got the distinct impression this young woman was wondering what it would be like to have my limited sight. I know that if the optic nerves were on the other brain, I would definitely do the same. I am happy to answer anyone’s questions and respect and am touched by their interest.

I have no way of knowing if there are lasting effects as a result of my disclosure when we go our separate ways but I hope there are. I want those in the know to remember tha if I was a handbag, my tag would say “disabled” but I am able to live my life just like them: out in the world with friends, laughing, needing a little help sometimes, and capable of detecting a bargain a mile away.


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Don’t Wait For A Pull-Tab. Use An Opener.

I’ve always been a tomboy, my older-by-eight-years brother’s hand-me-down toys some of my favorites. G.I. Joe went on as many, if not more, adventures than Malibu Barbie and Suntan Ken did. Surprisingly, though, I never went fishing, as many of the kids I grew up with did and seems the perfect activity for a girl in a baseball cap and skinned knees. And so I never got used to worms. I am sure it can be contested that just because you handle them doesn’t mean you get used to them, but I never had the opportunity nor the interest to test out the theory.

I didn’t finally get to try my hand at casting, but yesterday I opened a big ole can of worms nonetheless. You see, I recently spent a week in my local hospital and the stay left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I’m not referring to the food which was actually very good and one of the few positives of the time spent in room 496. The level of service I received was lacking in many areas. I kept notes and if you’re a frequent visitor to this site you aren’t surprised to hear this and if you’re not, Hi, I’m Sister Rain. I may have started to document events to combat the boredom but it quickly became evident on day one that being a patient in a hospital is not what it once was. Or is it, and things are terribly off in this particular medical center that has been a part of my community my entire life? By the end of my seven-day stay, I had no answer to that question but I did have a record of concerns that were impossible to ignore. I scheduled a meeting with a patient relations representative and yesterday I was able to share what I observed with her.

Calling attention to the unacceptable is not easy and I will admit I did have a moment’s hesitation for fear of retribution should I find myself seeking medical assistance at this same facility in the future. But I want my friends, family and neighbors to get quality care in their backyard. Also, I was able to speak up for myself when the managing of my care fell through the cracks but not everyone can or will. The things that I experienced cannot happen to an 80-year-old woman. I will not allow it.

I encourage you to open your own can of worms whenever you become aware of something you know to not wrong. I’m not naive, waking up blind removed any remnants of innocence that remained at 47, and I understand the reality of budgets, red tape and apathy. But if we don’t try we are worse than them because we know better. Open the can. Approach the water with the facts, humility, compassion, hope and a little anger never hurt. It’s scary and daunting but you may just catch a really big fish called change.



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Overnight Stay, Forever Friends

Amy C. My first overnight at a friend’s house that couldn’t be seen from my own. It was 7th grade, my first year in junior high, when your world explodes beyond the fifty kids you’ve known since kindergarten. I don’t recall what her mom made us for dinner but I do remember lying in Amy’s bed watching Psycho for the first time. It all felt so adult and as I snuggled happily into my sleeping bag on the floor that night, I resolved to do this as often as I could. Maybe, although only five miles from my home, this was the beginning of my traveling Joneses. 

Friday night I had another sleepover, this time at my best friend’s lovely new place. Instead of a black and white Hitchcock classic while eating popcorn and surrounded by Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett posters, we saw Oceans 8 while having cocktails and dinner at the Movie Tavern. We talked late into the night, that hasn’t changed, although now “late” is 10 p.m. But talk we did, about everything and anything. Somehow we never run out of things to share and laughter is always the third person in the room. But we also revisited all the really rough things we’ve both been through and I had to wonder: how did real life become scarier than a horror movie?

Granted neither of us have been stabbed at in the shower by a madman but trust me when I say life hasn’t caused us nightmares, at times it has BEEN an actual nightmare. But the difference between Marion Crane (Janet Leigh’s character’s name in the 1960 film) and us is that we have never been alone in our terrifying moments, in those times when everything but was at risk, when figuratively we lay bloodied and naked, fighting to survive. We had someone with us, reminding us that the next breath was all that was required of us and that we would get through whatever lay ahead together. 

I fully realize this post has gone to a sappy love story genre but if Marion Crane had been on a girls’ trip when that well, psycho, came to her room, I have no doubt she would have made it. It would have become a part of their history, recounted during future grown-up pajama parties and stand as another testament to a sisterhood that has stood the test of time. Crazy men. Medical challenges. Death. Tragedy. Disability. There’s not an overnight bag that can handle all that. But I am beyond blessed to have a friendship that can.


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Menage A Pillow

Recently I’ve heard about a lot of couples sleeping in separate beds for the sole purpose of them both getting a good night’s sleep. Personally, I think it’s not a bad idea and it hasn’t been implemented here primarily because we don’t have another bed and the futon in our office is covered by painting supplies and room clean-out items as we recolor the rooms on our second floor. It’s also old and not a comfortable measure no matter how desperate times may become. 

I will share with you now that we have gone in the opposite direction, bringing a third entity into our marital bed. It’s not a furry creature but one made of memory foam. It was all my husband’s doing although the responsibility for finding it and its arrival on our porch falls completely on me. No, it’s not some kind of sex doll. PUH-LEASE!!!  

It’s an extra pillow. 

Truth be told, my husband holds and hugs it in the most intimate of ways. I am not jealous; 25 years of marriage replaces the green-eyed monster with a shrug and the statement, “Recycling goes out tonight.” But I am in the fight of my life, trying to stake my claim of at least half of our already small full size bed, now battling not only a knee or an elbow but a toddler-sized slab of polyurethane more than a third of my 5’ 2” length. I would institute the age-old demand, “Either she goes or I do!”, (yes, I see what I did there) but a quarter of a century of living together promises I would be on the short end of that stick. So I make sure to get in bed first each night, battening down the hatches for seven hours of being knocked around by my 50-year-old husband’s security blanket. Maybe it’s time to add the 2’ stuffed Mickey Mouse doll he bought me on our honeymoon in Disney World that somehow has remained in our bedroom all these years to the mix. Ours was a world of laughter and hopes back then, the tears and fears would come later. But one thing’s for sure, these days in our bed it’s a small world after all.


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Either Way, Amen*

When I meet someone going through a rough time, or a person in my life is struggling, I want to help by offering some of the things I have learned since the within-five-months’ losses of my mom and my vision. But lately I have begun to worry: When does passionate sharing turn into preaching?

My intent is to let others know what it’s like on the other side of the difficulty and assure them they will get there. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I have more than I did before my life was upended in 2012. It’s only in the last few years, out of survival mode and grief processing, that I now know and can articulate what I have discovered about enormous challenge and life after loss. But the last thing I want is to be overbearing and/or superior about what it means to go through something devastating. I know with every single part of my body, mind, heart and soul what it means to suffer. And I am compelled to alleviate someone’s pain, even if just a moment of it, if I can by showing them they will, one day, be okay. I want them to see, through me, that you can have a good life after bad things happen. It is my number one priority after the people and bird I love and my intense desire to show someone the way through their most trying times can perhaps be off-putting. I will have to work on my delivery. But I wish I had had someone to tell me what I know now when I was in the thick of it, when my world was dark beyond my vision. 

So forgive me, dear friends and strangers, should I come on too forcefully. But if you’re going to talk to people about their strength and resiliency, you darn well better do it with conviction. 


*Amen, meaning ‘so be it’


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The Burger

I had been in the hospital two days when the decision to operate came quickly on a Friday night. I had not yet eaten dinner and lunch had been about six hours earlier. The skin abscess was not improving and the staph infection was so desperate to leave my body it tunneled a few inches away from the abscess and created a blister that popped, leaving me with another open wound. The plan was to make an incision between the two and clean the entire area out. The surgeon actually said he would “power wash” the infected region. How’s breakfast going down?

I was taken to pre-op where I met the anesthesiologist who would be putting me to sleep for the procedure. After answering a multitude of questions about my health and its history, he said I would be having general anesthesia because of the burger. I wasn’t expecting any of what was happening but this last bit of news threw me even more sideways than I already was. Thank goodness for the bed rails! I had assumed an intravenous sedation and asked, ”Why general?”, and the doctor replied, “Because of the burger.”


I knew I had an abscess. And a peripheral blister. Now what?

”What’s a burger?”, I screeched.

”The hamburger you had for lunch”, the anesthesiologist answered.

Not gonna find that on WebMD.


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