Verbal Snapshots from My Summer Staycation

By Kathie Schneider

Some people return from vacation with a camera full of pictures to show at coffee break. It seemed best that my summer vacation be a staycation this year because the house required insulation to prevent ice dams like I had last winter. Also, I organized and largely funded the purchase of a statue of a guide dog for my campus to celebrate being 65. Instead of pictures, I will give you verbal snapshots of the big events: fortune-telling for a high school graduation lock-in party, dedication of the guide/assistance dog statue and having a piece air on “Wisconsin Life” on Wisconsin Public Radio. The good life in summer in Wisconsin, experienced by an aging blind person—no climbing Mount Everest, just fulfilling experiences being part of my community.

Fortune-telling: Luna and Madam Katherine make their debut

When a friend who is the mom of a high school student asked me if I’d be a fortune-teller for the lock-in party they have for seniors after graduation, I just had to say “yes.” As I did research (both books from Bookshare and Internet) to get ready, I realized that fortune-telling and my real career of being a clinical psychologist share some big similarities.

Friends and neighbors let me practice on them and they lent me clothing and gaudy jewelry. One neighbor made Luna and Madam Katherine a fine sign with stars and the moon on it. A classroom at the high school was transformed with fabric and little twinkly lights into the fortune-telling parlor. Three of us fortune tellers held forth. The other two had done it before and were much more definitive in their predictions than I was. For example, “Roll the dice, and I’ll tell you how many times you’ll be married and how many kids you’ll have.” Mine were more of the “You will have some troubles in life, but you will get through them and then you will have some good luck” form. Luna’s favorite customer was a young man going into engine mechanics who loved to fish. I think she was working on him to take her fishing, but he said he preferred cats to dogs. The next day, we both staggered around like we had hangovers. 2:30 a.m. is definitely past our bedtime. Note to self: next year take an evening nap!

Guide Dog Sculpture Installed at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Bronze dog sculpture on display in Centennial Hall at UW-Eau Claire

A sculpture created by the Randolph Rose Company of Yonkers, New York, in honor of guide and other assistance dogs was dedicated on July 25 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The sculpture was commissioned by a couple friends and me in honor of my 41 years of partnerships with Seeing Eye dogs. It is named “Juno” to highlight the initial walk a student takes at a guide dog school to ascertain the student’s particular needs, hopes and dreams for working with a guide dog. I wanted to honor the guide and other assistance dogs as well as all the humans who raise, train and provide retirement homes for these canines.

In addition to the life-sized bronze sculpture of a yellow Labrador complete with harness, there’s a plaque in both print and braille. The Chancellor spoke, a service dog user talked and I read an ode that I wrote. Afterwards, there were blue and gold bone-shaped cookies for the humans who attended the ceremony.

Writing a piece about a disability experience for “Wisconsin Life”

About six months ago, I heard that Wisconsin Public Radio wanted submissions for its “Wisconsin Life” series that features stories and voices of all kinds of Wisconsinites. I submitted a piece called “Bubbles” about the bubble of isolation that sometimes surrounds those of us with visible disabilities and how it is broken. It was accepted and then the producer and I began wrestling by email about the tone of it. She wanted more feelings and more pathos. I wanted to say “Here’s a problem and here’s how we can all fix it.” Eventually, we arrived at text that was mutually agreeable, but I had to re-record parts because you could hear my braille pages turning as I read them. I learned that, on radio, one never hears pages turning. I have high hopes the piece will encourage sighted people to reach out and say “hi” rather than talking to the sighted person next to me, but time will tell. If you’d like to hear it, it’s archived here.

So, summer speeds by with volunteer work, book clubs, potlucks, bridge games, reading, and waiting to pick the first tomato from my plants. I may need to rest up from this staycation! Happy summer!

Kathie Schneider lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Read more from her at Kathie Comments

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