From animation to art

When disability changes personality

One night last week, my mind found a hundred different sunset silhouettes to keep me occupied through the sleep hours. Wonderment filled me as I woke, had I ever seen any of these pieces in real life? One in particular was a tree swing, only the rope’s obvious use and frayed strings were more evident. Another was a scene from the Disney movie Bambi that is actually a fire in the back ground. One was the two doves on the tree branch, but with more leafage than the one below. And there are the fishing scenes on the lake, and the moored boats next to docks. While three hours looking for any silouettes on the internet was an empty handed fishing trip. The only ones in my dreams that sort of matched were these two. Each one in my vision did not have an ovious sunlight, the sun being off to the side of the actual object of focus. Sunset is implied rather than targeted.

And why would such art images fill my mind so much? I am unable to dissolve their possibilities in my mind. Each one just keeps recurring at some point in the day. What does this thought process mean to me? And why a sunset? I am not a prophet, I don’t think. Are these prophetic in their nature or a symbol of the past?

More revelation has come to me over the days since these images first appeared to me. I see so much more than the setting sun or a tree swing resting from its flight. The waters of the lake have no ripples from the jet-skies, or the breeze. Each item seems quiet, tranquil, peaceful.

At rest.

Years ago, my brother and I would write little plays and act out various performances. Remembrances of woodbox stages, and piano bench theatre fill my memory. We dressed up as pirates, or Indians and cowboys, or maybe Cleopatra, it does not really matter. Imagination was lord and we were King and Queen of the drama world in our home. From those days I learned to mime, to pretend, and to fib my way through our play day.

Throughout my childhood, from my early temper tantrum fits into my teen years, I learned the power of dramatic and emotional hand gestures. These seemed quite effective in the whole of conversation, speech, and relating an incident to an audience.

Until…

One day as a teenager, during my “waitress” years, I learned a valuable less about the tragedy of lost peripheral vision and hand gesturing. My father (who is the carrier for my families genetic retinal degeneration) was telling some story as he often did. While dramatizing his tale to a table of men, he used his hand to gesture some scene. Unbeknownst to him, I was coming in with his refill of coffee. I had tried to get his attention, but everyone knows how difficult it is to get my dad to quit talking. Interruption is not much of an option. Needless to say… the coffee got spilled.

Those were the days of my growing up. Many instances like that very one happened frequently. The challenge was to wait long enough to get noticed. Or to have the patience to wait out the telling. Or to simply never serve. Some chose the later. Gradually my father leaned not to wave his arms about while fabricating his stories. Sadly, it took me a few years to lean this dismembering of my arms and hands from conversation.

And not too recently, a plate full of desert was easily sprung to the floor when because of my lack of sight, my hands reached out for the item only to flip it through the air. Videos of food flying, cakes tipping to the floor, or cups leaping through the air are not funny to me. They are a part of the surprise of visual impairment. Sitting perfectly statue is the best response to the possible “Boo!” Not really so fun anymore.

One example that still frustrates me is my children’s club teaching years. Much of what one does while teaching children is achieving compliance so that the teacher can do her job. One particular student of mine never learned to stay in his designated space. I was actually okay if he did not sit, but the wandering into my space caused acciden after accident. My frustration reached its boiling point each week at lesson. Every night, I would go home in tears because Nathan would get “HIT” every week either by my arm, hand, foot, or another appendage. Could he never learn that I could not see him coming towards my path? I cried every week, because this child made teaching club miserable for me. My eyesight made teaching kids impossible.

Finally we made it to the end of the year and I quit teaching kids club at church. I was heart broken to end on such a sour note. I loved teaching, but children have this nasty ability to move faster than my eyes. Peripheral vision is key to dealing with “needy” children who cannot comprehend another might have some disability that clashes with theirs. I was so sad.

Ending my teaching due to my eyesight.

Yep, It was just one more thing my eyes had taken away from me. Grief set in for some time. I still don’t want to attend a Vacation Bible School program or any child focused event. It hurts. I still want to teach. But it is not possible. These encounters with moving targets still continue. I can’t even read children’s books very well because the text is so unpredictable on the pages. It’s all over the place. Up, then down, then in the middle, and sometimes on the edges. Uff. It’s just too much to feel lost all the time.

So RP changes personalities. Where does the teacher in me go?

What happens to the dramatic, funny girl that once loved to tell a story and get laughs from the room?

One time someone told me, I acted like I did not want to be in a particular place all the time. Actually, that’s not it at all. When someone hands me a cellphone with an image to look at, I simply do not see the gesture. My focus has been on their face, and unless the words indicate their actions… It is not within my perpheral anymore. People in a room throw conversation around like a hot potato. It has become difficult to follow who is talking and where the ping pong ball is now. There are times it gets so tiring, I just don’t try to follow it.

So interjecting appropriate conversation has become difficult when there are more than two or three people in a group.

But just becuase I miss a lot of conversation cues, does not mean I miss every facial gesture. Sometimes I am completely passed up when a “picture” on said phone is shown. This does hurt. Not intentionally, but it does. Sometimes, I see someone roll eyes in my direction at another person because I missed something. Yes, that hurts too.

So I have changed.

From animation to still art form, I have become the unused swing hanging from the tree branch. While everyone else around me is playing baseball, or croquet in the lawn, I miss the whole thing. The ball wizzes right by my head and I haven’t seen a thing. I am lost. And no one has found me.

I am blind, but now I see. I see that I cannot be the same animated dramatic energetic self I once was. Moving too quicly through any space could be hazardous to my health. Having a friend that can’t even sit still for a conversation is not my cup of tea. I had a friend like that once. She was so busy bodied that I would get a head ache trying to figure out where she was all the time.

Now I see that being lost all the time might just be part of who I am. Getting my dog to figure out that she has to be my eyes is the task at hand. If she becomes a new tripping hazard….

Well, the blind fold might have to go up for a day to teach her that she is IT! When I am around people that do not see me as blind becuase there is no blindfold, well, life turns into a still life form in a piece of art. I become a silhouette sitting on the dock while others are gazing at a glorious sunset. The suns rays are not my friend, so I am looking at the silhouettes. The sky has a beautiful orange and pink glow. I hope I don’t forget it.

If I say nothing at all

Letters become words

My little grand-daughter is in the “walk and talk” stage. I know, I told myself when I had children there would never be stages. No particular thing that I was hoping to get through quickly or without some mishap. Yet because my vantage point is more in weekly coffee break doses,the changes that she has are more in stages and more hops, and skips and noticeable. The new words that she learns, the mobility that she gains is different when I am not the mommy in the trenches.

The new words are fun: Swing, Nite nite, Josh, Yes, Mom, Huh?, and Dad are all part of her vocabulary tools. The sign language she knows helps immensely on communication. Things like more, food, wash, all done, oh no, too loud, and peek-a-boo make being around baby enjoyable. But when she learns to stand up from sit and won’t stay down for a nap, that’s on her momma. So to me she is still the cutest thing ever.

The last few years being unable to “drive” away from my isolated country life has been so hard for me. There are days when the empty black pit seems to come along and swallow me whole. Few people know what I mean when I mention that “black hole.” I am not talking about some space odyssey either. Not long ago, I had a series of books on my talking book library that put into action what “Stomping Out the Darkness” was trying to teach me years ago.

Spiritual warfare, mental battles, mind over matter is never a subject others prefer. Most people just want to avoid matters of the mind. Spiritual health and well-being are considered topics best dealt with on a clinical level. So while this lovely little one year old is learning the power of words, and language, dealing with my own mental battle with the strong words and weak thought-life… here we go.

When I was a young girl things happened within our family that would best be forgotten. Words that cut through marrow were flung and spewed from the figure in my family that should have been loaded with coaching encouragement. Dealing with verbal abuse for so many years left a mark upon our family. I am not playing the shame and blame game. This is just how it was. Being a girl as the offspring of the “incapable” should have been an obvious mirrored image to the tongue that spat, but those feelings were never-the-less planted.

So today when I deal with the spiritual topic of ask and receive, my mind does a complete 360 while I consider all the possibilities. It makes me dizzy to think of the people who have come and gone in my life. As a child we learn to say please and may I and thankyou. As an adult we learn that asking others often leads to be “shushed, ” “turned off,” “told no,” or simply considered a burden and ignored. Several times in my journey towards lost eyesight, people have asked if they could pray for healing for me. Then within a short period of time told me they could not give me rides places. As if praying for my healing gets them off the hook for not helping. This kind of response led me to quit asking. So perhaps I am much too human, but this turning away has taught me that perhaps God the Father says “No” more that He says “yes.” Mentally I tell myself that God is more loving than people. Yet, it’s hard to ask and be rejected so many times.

Words are creative. Or destructive. And yes, sometimes words are like creeping bindweed. Like the boa constrictor of weeds, it wraps around the soul, the mind, the will-power, the heart and these words and feelings are difficult to root out. And like russian thistles, their barbed thorns take flesh and soul with them as we try to deal with the ugly past. Right when the field is all cleared out, some nasty ragweed finds it’s way back into our daily existence.

Because of my library of book reading, I spent years training my brain how to do battle with these nasty weeds. Knowing that the power of scripture to overcome these old thought patterns is key, I have an MP3 Bible that I plug into at night. The words of the Father Creator are far stronger than any insult, or abuse ever endured. This keeps me going on the path to uprooting the dark matter.

I also know that giving the demons voice is the worst thing that I can do. So silence often invades my life. I say nothing at all. Trying to speak good and light in the face of evil dark thoughts is the hardest thing ever. Most times all I can manage to mouth is “Jesus, help me.”

By nature, I am a creative person. I like to see crochet art take shape. I like to watch the yearn take cloth. I like to hear music fill the space. Being creative has always been part of who I am. As a child I made cards, and wrote poems. I was always singing and soon began to play the piano with passion and possibility. When I wa not turning letters into words, I made music.

That girl that I once was, letting my voice ring in noisy play, or pounding away at the keyboard seems lost to me. Often I wonder if she is still under all this skin. The tent that covers me, is it really still me? Remembering how I once sucked nervously on a strand of hair, makes me wonder what anxiety do I let rule me now? Taking another step today sends me farther away from who I once was in that little girl.

So I cherish watching our little one learn how to blow kisses goodbye. The teacher in me rejoices when she discovers imaginative play and puts “Scout” in the box that she was just in, doing for the stuffed puppy what we had been doing with her. I treasure her little fingers learning how to put the lid on the cookie tin. I want to memorize how she plods back and forth figuring out the tupperware basket for her little three inch ball. I am amazed at her ability to put sounds into words. Yeah, the cycle of life tells me this is all repetitive. But to her- Everything Is New.

If I say nothing at all, that does not always mean that there is nothing good to say. Sometimes letters become words. But just like my little one year old specialty, letters can sometimes just be magnets that stick to the front panel of the dishwasher. Sometimes words just get all jumbled up and things come out wrong, like calling the giraffe stuffy a “zebra.” Sometimes there is not even any music that comes to mind when my fingers rest on the ebony and ivory. Sometimes I just watch other people, hoping I don’t forget what they look like. Sometimes it’s easier to just copy an old crochet pattern than to learn a new one. Sometimes… I say nothing at all.

If I say nothing at all…

Will you still pick me up when I fall?

will you still carry me?

Will we still walk hand in hand?

If I say nothing at all…

Will you still sit with me?

Will you feed me?

Will you still care?

If I say nothing at all…

Will you still take me to the zoo?

Will you still show me the ocean blue?

Will you sing to me “You Are So Beautiful?”

If I say nothing at all…

Will you still tell me about your day?

Will you still say you love me?

Will we still be best friends?

If I say nothing at all…

If I can no longer call…

If I cannot help when you fall…

Will you

Still

Love

Me?

-written by Yovnne Annette

Empty nest syndrome

Filling the empty egg cartons

A dozen. Lots of things come in twelves. Roses, cupcakes, eggs, dinner rolls, inches on a ruler…

Things that come by the dozen are not found in singles. You can’t go to the store and buy just one egg. Good luck finding a packaged single dinner roll!

Every time we go to the folks’ house this question is asked, “do you need eggs?” And whether we answer yes or no, there’s always this hem-haw=thing that happens with them saying “yes we have enough but there’s more in the garage fridge, ” et cetera. We didn’t go there just to get eggs. Probably it’s just this farm thing that’s a little weird for me. When I leave my mother’s or my dad’s we go through the hugs and the I love you’d but they never ask me if I need something. Rather it’s the other way around. For my dad it’s reading something or finding something (because he is blind.). For my mother it’s always about fixing something whether it is plumbing or electrical or some construction fix-it thing.

While others buy eggs at the grocery store and return the cartons in the recyclables, I have a stack of them near the front door. Or in the vehicle. There always seems to be this floating stack that we forget to take back to the supplier: my sister in law. And then there is the occasional carton full that gets left in the car on a sunshine day. Hush!

Filling the empty nest is something I have been attempting to do since my home school girls left me alone. While I hadn’t planned on the loneliness that would result after 20 some years with them around day and night, I had planned on them leaving home to seek their fortune in the wide wonderful world. So rather then instructing “my two little piglets” on what type of house to build now that they were free of mine, I found myself trying to fill the empty hallway with my own mess.

For anyone that doesn’t believe empty nest syndrome is real, I ask that you come for a visit.

The first egg I tried was another puppy. Waldo went real badly. Perhaps it was just his own stomach problems or just my lack of focus. No, it was all him. Then there was Seymour. He was a real good boy just full of allergens. And now the nest is a mess from Honey. Well, not really. It has been rainy and snow turning to mud lately, so she has been outside. I’m a bit tired of doing the groom thing and her going directly to the composting mud to play. Dogs are really pigs in disguise. That’s my new belief.

A dog simply is not working. Should I get another one, or a cat. Oh, yeah, that didn’t work either.

So today as I considered the empty house, the cat on the grill toying with my emotions, and the messes that I have stacked about: cleaning and de-cluttering became my mission. Emptying the next more. Like finding more of my fist daughter’s things to give her since she has a house of her own to fill up now.

More stuff.

More egg cartons.

More plastic containers filled with surprise. Sounds like quite the Easter Egg Hunt! Just on a more adult level.

Do you know what? I don’t enjoy Easter egg hunts. Looking for cartons to fill with stuff. Finding baskets to move the eggs around from one hiding spot to the next. Sure glad my girls didn’t insist we do the hunting for eggs thing real long. Hide and seek might be fun as a toddler when you are looking for colorful goodies, but now that I am going to be a grandma, this game has taking on entirely new meaning.

Oh, it will be fun to teach the little one this hide and seek ploy that is really a teaching tool about how to pack up a room, a house, a lifetime of stuff and find the right size containers for everything. Label them all appropriately and decide what to put in the basket and what to give away. Hopefully, my de-cluttering has a purpose. Hopefully, the cleaning helps me discover what projects aren’t done yet and which ones are important.

Empty nest syndrome for us as a couple was a greenhouse, a motorcycle, a hiking trip to the local park. This winter was nothing but snow. We put a basket on the back deck and it filled up with snow several times. A few times I decided not even to scoop. At least the leaves stayed out.

Empty nest as a mom with no driver’s license, no job, and nothing but time on my hands has led to some real idle talk. Or rather writing.

So there you have it. A lot of empty blubbering. There’s another stack of egg cartons to put into the vehicle for the next visit to the nearest relatives.

Bringing in the sheaves

Of learning new tricks and rewards

What in the world does an old time hymnal have to do with training a dog? How does the fall harvest and the fall festivals and the triumph of learning something new have any corelationship? Well, I’ll try to make sense of it all, or maybe I’ll just let it all be messy and we’ll chase bunny trails.  That’s what Honey would do.

With the beginner training classes for our ambitious golden doodle, we are learning some new tricks.   For instance, how to turn away from bad behavior. Also how to load the clicker reward system.  And how to walk with a dog instead of being in resistance training.

The most important training in puppy class happens to the pet parent.  Keeping the brain on the right train track might be more challenging than ever anticipated.  Having a smart dog means I have to work smart at keeping her occupied.  Sometimes though sending her busy body outside to chase cats is the easier option.

They say one is never too old to learn new tricks.  Teaching myself a new training technique wouldn’t be so bad if I were an octopus.  There’s the hand for the clicker, the hand for the treat, and the hand to hold the leash, and I need an extra hand to make the symbol that goes with the command.  The first night at class I was sure a squid could train my dog better than I could.  I felt like a goat with all this new stuff.  Really the only thing added was the clicker, but I felt like both fists had suddenly emophosed into hooves or something.

Two class sessions later and ten days of practice, and Honey immediately goes for the watch-me-sit-down-pose when the clicker is removed form it’s basket near the treat bag.  So we have to go out into the cat world and breath the nippy fresh air to get a “distracted” training session in.  And if anyone hasn’t figured me out yet, I do not like the cold air.  It simply bites.  So on come the layers.  By the time I finally arrive outside for a brief brain train, Honey has all her energy spent on the cats, and she’s too chilled to sit still even for a frisbee toss.  Well, I would say this is going very well!

Not so much.  Today was a low energy day for me.  Every fifteen minutes this morning Honey either wanted out or wanted in.  So I took the time to teach her how to shake.  Everytime whe went out I said “Goodbye, see you later.” Everytime she came in, I said,”Hello, I’m mom. Is your name Honey? Nice to meet you Honey.  Can you sit?” (Response) “Good sit Honey. Can you shake?” (Response) “Very good. Other hand?” (Response) “Good girl, Honey.  Would you like a cookie?” (Hand signal down, followed by response)  I gave her a cookie and went about my business.  this occurred probably three or four times.  Thus passing the morning in very interrupted training sessions of Honey ringing the bells and me getting our of my chair to let her out.  Then letting her back in when she barked.

I remember my dad telling me some joke about exercise and letting the dog out and putting the dog in.  Don’t remember the joke.  Sorry.

The better new trick I learned this past week was actually in bread making.  All these years I thought I might kill the yeast if I stirred it too much.  Come to find out its really only temperature related on whether the yeast fails.  And I also wasn’t kneading the dough enough.  More time playing with the dough even after the dough hook in the mixer has had its share of time is actually quite fun.  So the recent attempt that I had with the bread making went quite well.

Another new thing I learned by trial and error was that cookies need a test run.  I get so into being done with the making process that I force them into fast pace.  That really doesn’t work.  Bars are better for the fast pace kitchen mode.  Cookies take time.  Thirteen minutes each tray to be exact.  My husband has always loved cookies though.  So I’ll probably continue to trial and error my way through the world of cookies. Hopefully Honey doesn’t decided I should homebake hers too.  Store bought ought to be good enough for her.

So today as I thought of the fall harvest and the emptying fields, the old hymn came to mind “Bringing in the Sheaves.”  There is a line in the song that just wont leave my thoughts. “Sowing seeds of kindness… fearing neither clouds nor winters chilly breeze… our spirits often grieve… We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.”

While this song is all about the reward for our labor, so too training my puppy is all about reward. The clicker is “loaded” with treats, In the minds’ eye, each click is equal to a treat or rather each work is rewarded by a click/treat.  Some day the click will be reward enough.  Some day… The joy in the harvest. With the recent mass shootings in our country much thought has gone to who is winning. Is the enemy winning when Christians die?

My most recent Talking Book is one that is the History of Christianity. While the concept of scattered seed is familiar to the farmers in my area the law of sowing and reaping crosses into society as an instrument of propagation in a way that defies the odds. Persecution has spread Christianity throughout the globe in a truly supernatural way. Thus reward based training is not a new concept. The joy in bringing in the sheaves is a God-thing.

So, my thought process though simplified to the click and the treat for my golden-girl, keeps me moving on toward far more eternal purposes. While I struggle with simple things, God reminds me that sowing seeds of kindness will reap a reward of rejoicing. I am blessed to have simple challenges. And my prayers will continue for those who face difficult life issues. May they find their eternal focus.

Brick walls

When God slams a door

Everyone always said that when God shuts a door, somewhere He opens a window. That is really just a line from the film Sound of Music. It’s not a bible verse.  It is repeated by the Christian world so much we tend to believe it. 

Perhaps God slams the door in our face and there is no window in the room. There is only darkness. Then just for no reason He builds a brick wall outside the door so that if we try to open it, we find a concussion to greet us.   RP often makes me feel like I am all alone in a crowd that will not let the door be closed. 

Darkness that closes in and attempts to claim our soul. Inspire  of songs   like “there is sunshine in my soul today” ringing in our ears, this darkness lurks like a lone wolf ready to gobble up every bit of sunshine.  The pain that engulfs my heart at this hour is so overwhelming.  The door is shut on the days when my eyesight allowed me to read music and play piano at the same time.  

The death of this ability leads me into a very dark room. 

The last Sunday that I was asked and foolishly attempted to read the hymnal and play piano was a very dark day for me. The realization that what once had been a “piece of cake” was now completely impossible has given rise to a deep cavern of anguish and fear. 

What is it like to go blind?

What is it like to give up what was once loved?

What is it like for things once easy to die? Is this death or divorce? Have my eyes divorced themselves from my brain and my fingers? There are days this overwhelming death of past ability completely engulfs me and shuts down my whole factory of operations.  

The death of my ability to shop was far easier to give up. I always hated going shopping anyhow. The grocery store to a tunnel visioned blind person is a nightmare. I could look for items for hours only to be pointed to the item right in front of me. I never enjoyed shopping. It’s difficulty rendered that doslikable years before the grocery section just made me cold and feel helpless. Might as well put me in the child’s seat in the cart, for all the help I am. 

But giving up music?

I remember the last few times I played for church choir. The song was The Revelations Anthem. The piano writing on the piece is amazing. But trying to help the choir with their parts and read all four lines while plunking out their notes…  that was nightmarish and led me to tears numerous occasions I was only thankful that God had somehow given me the ability to begin memorizing music. I had wanted that ability back in college but failed miserably and even flunked my piano jury because of brick wall brain!  

I still love that choir anthem and do not attempt to play it. It would be to devastating to my memory of when I was able. 

The hymnal brick wall is so…  I just wish I had another word besides death to describe this horrible feeling that slams into my chest. The tunnel vision does not allow me to focus on more that one note at a time. Hymnals are written in chord progressions that are common to multiple voice choir pieces. Imagine switching from reading the bass line to the soprano in lightening speed. The good eye does this automatically. Now put a straight jacket on a prisoner and tell her to beat the best boxer in the ring.  Impossible. My hands have been put in a straight jacket and I am blindfolded and I don’t even see the other boxer!  My eyes that once read all the choir lines and the piano (something like a conductors score) now can barely make out the alto line. 

And then I get lost. 

Once as a child I was in a department store in Bismarck Noth Dakota and sat under a clothing rack only to discover that my mother had wandered away. I hadn’t wandered away, mind you-she had! I distinctly remember the department store’s “man-hand” leading me back to my mother. 

I am lost. Without my ability to read piano music the panic sets in and there is no gentle hand to lead me back to my mother  this time. My mother-love of music is dead. 

I have no choice.  My eyes are continuing to fail me. The door has been closed. The brick wall has been built. The panic is still there. The loss is deep and wrenching. 

I ache for my love of piano.  In my own home I may sit and attempt to read a melody line and learn an old song new again. But in the ears of all others. No. 

My eyes continue to steal my joy from my fingers. If I close my eyes and just play. The memory takes over. Sometimes. Not  often enough. 

Another one bites the dust. That’s not a cool song anymore. It is cruel. Painful reality. 

I miss my ability to read and play piano without fear, without that lost feeling, without struggle, without crashing through the notes, without thus painful brick wall that ever casts such a dark shadow through the very tiny crack that is left in the gap of the door.  When others look at a tunnel they see the light at the end. I don’t. I see the narrowing end of this tunnel-like view of the keyboard as it is. The end of the keyboard. My view comes from the narrow end and fuzzes out at the wide end into nothing. The end.

It’s hard to enjoy this black and white world of music while my ability slowly fades into a muddy grey.. The light grows dimmer. The shadow lengthens. The door creaks slowly but surely towards the frame for a final slam.  And on the other side the brick wall is being built.  

And don’t tell me I shouldn’t be depressed. Death is never easy. No matter what kind it is. The death of my gift of music isn’t blossoming into something beautiful. It is a train wreck at the end of a dark tunnel. 

This is RP.