A Piano Concert: Pure Joy!

I attended a piano concert at Spivey Hall this weekend. Now I am a total novice when it comes to music of such caliber. But I do love music of all genres and enjoy the way it can influence my mood, inspire my thoughts, and elicit sweet memories all at once. That is indeed the power and magic of music and I have always wished that I could make music and understand it more fully. Though I am no musical connoisseur or musician, I was moved by the pure pleasure of this experience.

keyboard of a Steinway grand piano

keyboard of a Steinway Grand Piano

Richard Goode, a classical American Pianist, was phenomenal. We had 2nd row seats and I could see his outline as he entered the stage in his black suit and snow white hair. He seemed to have a commanding posture and bowed deeply to his audience. Then he got right to the business of stroking and caressing his beloved keys. Immediately, I was in awe and drawn into his music. He played a variety of classical pieces each with its own story, mood and interpretation, for which he is known. He is a true master and it was a privilege to be there.

black Steinwas Grand Piano

Steinway Grand Piano

I found myself closing my eyes so that I could “hear” the music better. And paradoxically, I could “see” the music better too. I got lost in it as each note, each piece rang out crystal clear in the perfect accoustics of this fine hall. I imagined some notes as fairies dancing on moonbeams, lithe and whimsical. Others were complex and booming like a thunderous storm in the night. In my mind’s eye, I followed each story as it unfolded in layers. The music appeared as light and gave me a sense of knowing.  I could hear, see and feel each piece in a way I have never experienced before. Is this part of losing one’s vision? Is it a function of being more attuned to my senses? Was it the sheer pleasure and appreciation of exquisite music? I do not know for sure but I can say with certainty that it was beautiful and haunting and it left me wanting more. 

Music notes with Light in the background

Music is Light…

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life. ~Ludwig van Beethoven

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Dora Is Back From Vacation

A Post from Mary about the Hen Hike from her point of view…

Seeing It My Way - Mary Hiland

Mary with tea Tea time

You know how you are exhausted when you come back from vacation? You think you should be refreshed from the break from your normal routine, but all that play tires you out.

My friends Tricia and David took care of Dora while I was at my annual hiking trip, The Hen Hike, in northeastern Pennsylvania. They returned her to me a few minutes after I got home from the airport. I have never seen her so joyful. She was jumping and licking and even biting my nose and my chin. I think maybe she missed me. Even though she had a grand time at their house, playing ball several times a day and going on really long walks, she seemed to be worn out. Usually, when I unpack from a trip, my dog follows me around as I put things away, but Dora lay sprawled out on the…

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A Hiking We All Went

 

“Not all those who wander are lost”

                               J.R.R. Tolkien

I recently returned from a wonderful hiking trip. I was invited to join nine other women on their annual hiking adventure which they have taken for the last 16 years together. When I received the invitation, I hardly stopped to think about it. Count me in any time there is hiking, a chance to travel, and an opportunity to make new friends. I had never met these women and this would be my first “Hen Hike.”

The Hens-lunch at the waterfall

The Hens-lunch at the waterfall

 The Hens are made up of five visually impaired women and five sighted guides who have been friends for years. They are the kind of women who are “shakers and movers,” impressive in their vivacious spirits and thirst for adventure. Most of them have been involved with Ski For Light, Inc. (which I will write about in another post), where the sighted guides have developed their skill to guide the visually impaired and their selfless sense of service as volunteers. It is a group of physically fit and “aging gracefully” women who know how to have fun! They are world travelers, survivors of some of life’s most difficult challenges, professionals, wise, well-read, kind and gracious ladies. And it was such a privilege to be among them!

 We stayed at the Starlight Inn in northeast Pennsylvania. It is nestled in the country, overlooking a lake and surrounded by scenic trails. Sari the innkeeper, runs the quaint establishment with other family members. Wholesome and homemade meals are served in the cozy dining room where you feel as though you are part of the family. Every day, we were sent off on our hike with made-to-order sack lunches; meaty sandwiches on freshly baked bread, crisp apples and homemade cookies.

Fall colors on the trail-Betty and Susan

Fall colors on the trail-Betty and Susan

 

Each morning we hit the trails paired up with our guide for the day. The trees were spectacular in their fall “coats of many colors.” We walked the woodsy paths, side by side, at an easy pace and lost ourselves in companionable conversations. Breathing in the cool fresh air, we merrily trudged along in our broken-in boots,LLBean flannels and brandishing our walking canes. The sun was bright on our faces as we wandered the forest, leaving behind the worries of the world. The hikes were pleasant and we covered quite a bit of ground. We discovered several waterfalls and open meadows which were perfect lunch spots. It was refreshing and relaxing to enjoy the beautiful scenery with new friends who also appreciated nature.

 The hiking was only half the fun. Every day, we gathered in the “parlor” for Happy Hour, sipping wine and nibbling cheese and crackers. We shared stories of our lives and talked about the day’s highlights. Each day, I learned more about the Hens and grew to appreciate their colorful personalities, their vitality, and their fun-loving, adventurous spirits. After our lovely evening meals, we retired to the sun porch to play games. Some of the Hens pulled out their knitting as we played. We cackled and laughed until we cried and our sides hurt! And after much mirth and merriment, we trotted off to bed, full and satisfied with the day’s activities.

Hen Hike 2014

Hen Hike 2014

 This trip was such a joy. Everything went smoothly and the group meshed so well. I am grateful to these special women for welcoming me warmly and sharing their lives with me. I appreciated what the guides did for us VIPs (visually impaired person) and I was inspired by the VIPs. It is always reassuring to me to be with others who are visually impaired and managing life so well…it empowers me to keep on and encourages me to “see the possibilities” for new adventures. Happy Trails!

 

Happy Birthday Ms. Sophie!

My guide dog turned 5 years old yesterday. All day I pondered the ways she enriches my life and facilitates my independence. I celebrated her with extra hugs and special attentions and she ate it up. I even fixed her a “birthday” treat which my sister shared with me. (Take several doggie treats and place them in a small bowl. Cover with water or chicken broth and freeze. Pop it out of the bowl and give to your dog) Sophie loved her popsicle and worked on it out in the yard. She also got a juicy bone to chew today!

Sophie enjoying her birthday popsicle

Sophie enjoying her birthday popsicle

     ” Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

It just so happened that Leader Dogs for the Blind asked me to write a list of “Top Ten Ways My Leader Dog Assists Me” for a media campaign the day before Sophie’s birthday. I enjoyed thinking about that list and it marked her birthday in a special way. So here is what I came up with:

Top Ten Ways My Leader Dog Assists Me…

    10. My Leader Dog helps me to live a healthy walking lifestyle.

     9.  With my Leader Dog, I am more engaged in my community with    organizations like Lions Clubs and local school groups.

     8. My Leader Dog helps break the ice and start conversations socially.

     7. I feel confident and eager to go places with my Leader Dog.

     6. My Leader Dog gets me from here to there with style, grace, and efficiency.

     5. My Leader Dog keeps me on a schedule and encourages me to play.

     4. My Leader dog helps me walk in a straight line, maintaining my balance, pace, and route.

     3.My Leader Dog assists me to stay safe while walking, avoiding obstacles like curbs, signs, and people.

     2.With my Leader Dog, I am able to walk with my head up and enjoy my surroundings.

…and the #1 way my guide dog assists me is she provides unlimited love, adoration and devotion which lifts my spirit and enriches my life…what is not great about being adored?! 

Happy Birthday Sophie…I love you to the moon and back!

It’s Pumpkin Time!

My favorite time of year is autumn. I love when the air turns cool and the shadows lengthen. After a long, hot summer it is a welcome reprieve. The colors and flavors of fall are among my favorites as well. From golden yellows and showy reds in the leaves to the rich oranges of pumpkins, the changing colors announce the harvest and the time to prepare the earth for rest. As a child, I remember my mother always brought home bushels of crisp, shiny apples from a farm nearby. We would delight in the first apple pie of the season – my mom’s specialty. Her crust was the flakiest in the entire world and the scent of cinnamon filled the kitchen. I grew to love the warm spices of fall recipes; cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and clove. To this day, they evoke fond memories of hearty meals, fruity desserts, and autumn activities.

Nothing declares fall like a bright orange pumpkin. As an adult, I have discovered the wonders of cooking with pumpkin — pumpkin cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, and even soups. The flesh of this humble squash is rich in vitamin A, anti-oxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, and carotene, all beneficial nutrients for eye health. It is low in calories and high in fiber. Pumpkin is versatile, nutritious and lends moisture to any recipe.

On a chilly morning, there is nothing quite as heavenly as a pumpkin spice muffin, one of my family’s favorites. I used to bake everything from scratch when my kids were young and my vision was better. I was opposed to using mixes and pre-prepared foods as a matter of principle. But over the years, I have given up this high moral standard as a matter of convenience and efficiency. I enjoyed cooking more when I had the vision and a hungry family to feed. Now, I am happy when I find “easy” recipes that are as good as “homemade” and feature nutritious ingredients. For those of you who still want to bake but your vision limits you in the kitchen, I share this simple and delicious recipe.              

Yummy Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Yummy Pumpkin Spice Muffins

 Pumpkin Spice Muffins 

  • 1 box Spice Cake Mix
  • 1 14 oz. can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup of water

Stir above ingredients until well mixed. Fill a greased muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.

I hope you enjoy the yummy flavors, aromas and colors of autumn. Make it a time to slow down, smell the spices, and be grateful for the harvest of blessings in your life.

Introducing the Low Vision Blogroll

Check out this very helpful list of sites on Adventures in Low Vision…Thanks for sharing with us!

Adventures in Low Vision

I’m unveiling a new feature on Adventures in Low Vision today, my Low Vision Blogroll. I wanted to highlight a few resources for living with a visual impairment. On the right sidebar you’ll find alphabetized links to organizations and personal blogs that I find helpful and/or interesting.

Have you visited any of the sites? Tell me about the sites on living with a visual impairment you recommend in the comments section so we can all benefit from them, too.

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Let’s Learn About Guide Dogs

Sophie and I often visit school classrooms. Today we were invited to Oak Grove Elementary to speak to the pre-k class about guide dogs. This class has several students who are visually impaired and the teacher just completed a unit on “pets.” I shared a storybook with the teacher about a guide dog and she read it to the children ahead of time. So they were well prepared and very excited to meet a real live guide dog.

Sophie visits Oak Grove Elementary Pre-K class

Sophie visits Oak Grove Elementary Pre-K class

We talked about Sophie’s very special job – to take care of me and keep me safe. They learned that working dogs usually have a harness or vest for their “work clothes.” I described how Sophie went to a special “dog college” to learn her job and that I had to go to the same school to learn how to work with Sophie as a team. We discussed how important it is to not pet or talk to working dogs while they are doing their job. The kids learned that they should ask permission before petting any dog, especially service dogs.

Not so sure about petting Sophie...

Not so sure about petting Sophie…

I asked the children to think about all the things a dog needs to be healthy and happy. They came up with food, water and treats. I brought Sophie’s brush and a toy to tell them that she needs grooming and time off to play like other dogs. They learned that Sophie also needs exercise and her teeth brushed, just like them. But most importantly, I told them she needs love, praise and affection so she knows that I appreciate the work she does for me. I gave them examples of the ways she takes care of me like helping me to cross a road safely, go down stairs, and find my way out the door. She takes care of me and I take care of her; we are a team.

All the while, the children sat on their squares, containing their wiggles and giggles. Then I took off Sophie’s harness and invited them to brush and pet her. Sophie weaved among them sniffing, giving wet kisses, and swooshing her beautiful, happy tail. The children squealed with delight. Some were eager to brush her and pet her, others not so much. Sophie brought some of her favorite treats to share with the kids so they could give their doggies a treat at home. It was a good day with some important lessons learned.

Happy dog...happy shildren...

Happy dog…happy shildren…