News, updates, and happenings with the Kragnes family: Phil, our Seeing Eye Dogs, and (me) Rebecca.

Current life Event

Before I describe how great my birthday was, I want to let you all know I’m going to have surgery next month. At this point, some women might just say it is of the female variety and hush up. I think we hush up the details of female things when we’d think nothing of describing surgeries in other parts of our bodies. I’d rather write it out and perhaps have someone learn something they didn’t know or benefit in some other way. I’ve been having some extra bleeding in the last few months, and originally, my doctor recommended an Interuterine device (IUD). We had a false start earlier in the month when my appointment had to be rescheduled due to the ultrasound tech’s daughter being sick. Upon the recommendation of a GYN I had ultrasounds taken, because this bleeding is new. She found a cyst on an ovary, a fibroid on my uterus, and a very very thick uterine lining. These are all normal things for my age which could be responsible for the bleeding. I asked whether the IUD would stop the bleeding, and she said gradually. However, then she told me of an alternative called Endometrial Oblation. Because I don’t ever plan to have children, they can destroy the uterine lining which should stop bleeding until menopause. It’s a same-day surgery, and right now is planned for May 19. By the next day, life should be back to normal for me. I told her I’d be hearing about a dog soon, and she told me I could reschedule. This is not urrgent. I need to get in to see my regular doctor for a pre-op physical etc.
I received a call from Tom at the Seeing Eye today. He wanted to know my availability for training, and I gave him a pretty good idea. I asked what he could tell me about the dog, and here’s what I learned. He’s a sizable male “Back cross” meaning three fourths Lab, one fourth Golden Retriever. The color is yellow. I tried to wheedle a name, but no dice. So sometime in the next three months, the instructor will bring the dog and train us here at home. Probably at the same time, Phil will be applying for his dog, and perhaps my instructor will be able to do a juno walk with Phil.

My birthday was wonderful! Over the years, I’ve had people tell me the last occulist painted my eye more hazel than green, so when asked about painting, I made it clear I wanted it to look green, yet natural. According to those who have seen it, the goal was achieved. Meals out were wonderful. At Culver’s for lunch I had a double cheddar butter burger with cheese curds. Instead of ice cream, they make frozen custtard which is even thicker and Richer. I had chocolate with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in it and plenty of Pepsi to wash it down. The main course of supper was a lot more healthy. I had a stir fry with pork and lots of vegies which was called the “Slayer” because of all the garlic! Then I just had to eat Wok in the Park’s Key lime Pie my favorite dessert! Just as palatable as the meals was the company of the friends with whom I ate. I came home to open presents from my sweetie. He gave me a keyboard necklace and two more colored lights. I can put on quite the light show in either the bedroom or the living room with different effects.

Prince and Birthdays

In the wake of Prince’s death, informal celebrations of his life have been occurring here in Minneapolis. There have also been discussions about our celebrity culture and how some feel celebrities’ lives are over-celebrated, dead or alive. I don’t believe in celebrating a celebrity’s life just because he or she is a celebrity. However, when Michael Jackson died, I celebrated his life listening to the memorial service and for many times since. Yes, some celebrity connections can be unhealthy, but I felt such a connection while he lived. Why wouldn’t I celebrate that connection when he was gone? the same thing seems to be occurring on a wider scale in Prince’s beloved Minneapolis, and we are just finding out Prince went beyond celebrity into being a good neighbor and humanitarian to the city and people he loved.
My birthday is Monday, and I’ll be 44 years old. As I’ve talked to my sisters after they have had children, they express their birthdays aren’t as important now as their children’s birthdays. I obviously can’t make a good comparison having never had children. I celebrate my dogs’ birthdays, but of course, they aren’t aware of why one day is anymore special than another. They’re happy to be celebrated whenever we feel like giving them some love.
I’ve been asked why at 44 I still love my birthday as much as I do. After all, I’m an adult, and it’s just another reminder I’m aging. Prince’s celebrations have reminded me that people are celebrating just because he was alive. Yes, he made movies and music, but it seems to go beyond that. A birthday is a day when we non-celebrities get to experience what celebrities experience much more often. In his book, Michael talks about people applauding just because he happens to be in the audience. He’s not the main attraction, but people applaud anyway. My birthday is a little like that for me. People are celebrating just because I’m here, and I don’t earn those celebrations or extra tokens of love. People feel strongly enough about my being born or present to do whatever they do to help me celebrate. Perhaps it’s because I *don’t have kids that my birthday is more important. After all, there’s no mother’s day celebration for me. It’s Christmas which is more of a kids time of year with Santa etc. As an adult, I am more focused on Christ’s birth, and gratitude for the people I love. A birthday is a special day which feels like it’s just mine. I love it so much I created a Facebook group called Born 425. So far it hasn’t gone much of anywhere, but just like my birthday, I’m not willing to give up on it.
So I’ll anticipate Monday when I have a friend taking me to an appointment to have a new prosthetic eye made. (Phil’s not the only one with prosthetics in this house). I planned it, so I’d be able to go out for lunch and not be stuck alone that day. There’s a Culver’s near the Occulist, and that’s lunch. Supper is with a group of people we call “Dinner Delvers”. We go out to a different restaurant once a month, and it’s tradition that the birthday person gets to choose that month. Wok in the Park has become tradition for me in the last 4 years. One of the family members who owns the restaurant also has a birthday on the 25th. Another is a beloved Metro Mobility Driver and sometimes chef. The siblings often sing together, and their harmonious version of “Happy birthday” has brought me to tears.
I’m excited about the day for two more reasons. My husband is very talented at finding gifts I will really like, and it’s so cool to learn what he’s found each year. This year, there’s an extra special reason to celebrate my birthday, which typically goes on for the week. I learned last week the Trainer Manager has been out of touch, because he’s found a dog for me. He told me I’ll learn more about him (I know he’s looking at males) this week. Any little tidbit of info will make this birthday extra special, and I’ll be glad to see my late present arrive.

There’s a song by Wilburn and Wilburn called “You Asked Him To Leave” which has really upset me for the last week, but although I disagree with part of it’s message, I’m considering buying it due to it’s extremely great musicianship. In the first verse, they outline a school shooting in which 3 children are killed. People are asking why God allowed this to happen, and “Old Mr. Carter” reminds us that we asked God to leave. “You wanted it that way”. He rightly says God’s not responsible for causing our pain but then argues God wasn’t there. This is because we asked God to Leave.
In the second verse, the story is extended into the whole world full of violence, unrest, no peace or churches. In the song the “people who wanted God gone” stand confused wondering what went wrong. “You wanted it that way.”
I understand and agree with the message that we can’t suddenly call on and blame God only when there’s a tragedy. But did we ask God to leave, and even if the answer to that is yes, did God really leave?
I understand the frustration with political correctness, but I also understand we are a melting pot of people here in America. Although we may have Christian roots,, part of the reason this country was founded was the freedom of religion, and that doesn’t just apply to “a particular denomination, sect, or brand: We all have this precious freedom, and that includes the people in this country who are not Christian. It’s very hard for me to consider the ideals of the religious right which would be to forcibly have group prayer in school. I’M a Christian, but even in my small schools, I grew up with people who had to abstain from certain activities on religious grounds. Conservative Christians would rightly chafe at having forced prayers to the Muslim Allah in schools. It’s difficult for me to understand how keeping group religious activities outside school can be seen as asking God to leave.
One of the very basic things we learn as little Christians is that God is everywhere. God is especially everywhere a believer goes, so if there is even one believer in that school, God is there. As individuals, we are free to acknowledge God no matter where we are, but we just can’t acknowledge God as a group. Therefore, I’d like to argue that true believers haven’t asked God to leave and remain close to their God at all times.
There’s another message in this song I just find abhorrent, and that is whatever is going wrong, it’s because God has been left out of the school, government, society. I don’t believe in a God who would abandon me simply because I don’t participate in group prayer in a particular setting. Nor do I believe that God’s protection is gone from people who believe simply because we don’t express that belief as a group. The part of this argument I really can’t stand is that if we don’t acknowledge God as a group, we deserve every bad thing that’s coming to us. If only we start praying in schools again, the bad stuff would stop. I personally don’t think the bad stuff would stop and in fact would probably get worse due to the resentment of those who do not worship the God being acknowledged in a group and public way.
I am not going to say I don’t have my own issues with some Muslims. The ones who won’t take my dog in their cab in the name of religion are particularly odious to me. I’m not a fan of terrorists either, but we shouldn’t forget Christians, too have performed great violence in the name of our God.
This whole thing comes down to basic respect. In this instance and others, I think Christian Conservatives have lost track of “love thine enemy”. How is it loving our fellow man to force prayer to a particular God in the public arena? I don’t think it is.

Easter, Spring, and hope

A couple weeks ago, I had a medication screw-up, as the pharmacy put the wrong braille labels on my meds. All three medications were anti-depressants, so you can about imagine what that did to my mood. Last week it seemed to reach it’s lowest point right during Holy week when I had four radio shows plus a doctor’s appointment which felt like a big d’l. There were also upcoming social things and of course intense church services. Sleeping and crying were my best friends, as both allowed me to get the icky stuff out and still function. I can feel things starting to stabilize, although sleeping more is still necessary. This really taught me a valuable lesson about making sure the shapes of medication really did change before trusting someone’s braille label. The pharmacy staff were horrified when they learned of the mistake and have instituted policies in which two people will check that the correct braille label is put on the right bottle. There will also be a party who has to log responsibility for labeling in case there’s another mistake like this. It’s such a little thing, but wow can it make a big difference!!!
The four radio shows went great, although I feel better knowing I only have the normal two this week. The doctor’s appointment wasn’t bad but not what I hoped, and the one social thing was wonderful. We had planned a game night with friends last night, as the Malt Shop was closed for Easter. Unfortunately, Phil awoke with a fever yesterday. He had the normal joint aches going along with his fever, but it didn’t seem to last long. He was congested part of the day, but even that sounded better this morning. He’s off to work and seemed ok.
Good Friday church was emotional for me, and I have the feeling it was the interaction between my depression and the solemnity of what was being observed. Phil put gold magnetic clasps on the gold cross necklace my mom sent me last fall, Blessed by Pope Francis. Wearing it on Friday and during three out of four Radio shows brought such comfort for some reason. But it was the Easter Vigil Saturday which is the main reason for my writing. Last year, I attended my church’s Easter vigil for the first time with a friend, and it felt far better than attending Easter morning as I had previous years. On Easter morning, people would ask if I was headed to celebrate Easter, and although some years we put things in place, it still was tough to be in church alone and seeing all these people there with their loved ones. Then there was the music. I have no wish to be in the choir, but Easter is the one time I felt left out of things with multiple instruments and the choir singing. Even at Christmas I’m at the piano, and frankly it radically decreases any sense of being without loved ones with me in church. At last year’s Easter Vigil, there was a procession into the relatively dark church with candles. I’m not a fan of fire, unless I can turn it on and off with a switch. I was afraid of touching someone with the flame or having hot wax drip, so I watched and enjoyed others’ candles. This year, I had an idea about how to be part of things without having to deal with candles. I wore a certain necklace and earrings Phil made for me and entered the dark church. This year there was no procession, as it was raining, so the light was spread from candle to candle first on the alter and then in the congregation. When I felt the time was right, I turned on my wearable art earrings and necklace with their multiple and changing colored lights. Although I didn’t know the people around me (as the friend I went with was a lector), the woman sitting next to me knew me from attending that 5:30 Mass when I am often at the piano under normal circumstances. She was very friendly and really admired my jewelry. There was also a couple of older ladies who ran a running commentary about everything throughout the Mass, and I could tell they really liked my lights, too. I felt a part of things and maybe even a little distinctive with my multicolored, lighted jewelry.
My braille display has to be shipped back for repair, but this morning, I discovered even that won’t be as bad as I envisioned. Months ago, a braille keyboard was dropped from my phone, and it was something on which I dearly depended. Then I got my braille display, and things were better. Just this morning I discovered the keyboard on my phone is back again, so I can quickly write switching back and forth from the braille keyboard to the application in which I’m writing. I’ll miss my display, but it’s better to get it fixed while under warrantee.
We are slowly coming up on the magical time of spring, my favorite season. Before then, I really want to get my laundry done. Between hurting my knee and the depression, it’s been piling up all winter, and as the mood stabilizes, I really want to get it under control before the deck outside becomes seductive. I’m also hopeful that I will finally sit down at the piano this spring too with Phil at work and laundry under control. 

Update / Progress Report

I think we are approaching the current state of normal. The last couple weeks have been somewhat eventful. We dog sat a pet who was very well-behaved. The only issue was that he’s use to sleeping in bed with his humans. Phil and I were not aware of that, and that’s one situation in which Phil’s not having feet in bed with him was a Blessing. If he was awake, he’d invite Henry the dog to his side of the foot of the bed. Notice I said if he was awake. Often I come to bed after Phil, and Henry, claimed my side of the bed. It wasawesome to see Phil interacting with a dog again, and it was fortutous considering the first anniversary of Garron’s death is coming up this week. Phil has been getting used to his new feet for about three weeks, and Thursday he turned them in to be covered to look more leg-like. His endurrance is coming along for the short time he’s had them. He has installed a baby gate and a couple shelves in the kitchen. Saturday night he also took his first fall, and his prosthetist said it would happen. It must happen to all amputees, but blindness plus being a double amputee can make it more difficult. Both of us are ok cane travelers even if we’d prefer to have Seeing Eye Dogs. Phil explained the process of falling far better than I ever could, and those Of you who follow him on Facebook have read it. It had something to do with uneven surfaces. I was more worried about the results, as I heard his cries. I started across the street first, so he could follow my canes taps. The feeling of two prosthetic feet under him is messing with some street crossings, which is something he plans to get use to ASAP. The worst casualty of his fall wasn’t either stump, but an elbow which swelled. It still smarts, but icing it soon after getting home helped. A man and a woman stopped and helped him up and across the street. The man walked us the half a block and through our alley to our home to make sure we made it home OK. He told us his name and where he lived, which isn’t far from us. Despite the myriads of Mark Johnsons in Minneapolis, I think I found the addressand phone number for him and his wife using the Whitepages app on my iPhone. I plan to call, leave a message of thanks and our numbers. They seem like nice people, and despite living in the area for 10 years (just like them), Phil and I know very few people in the immediate area. We were impressed with how many people stopped on this very busy street with offers of help, and it made us feel even better about where we live. It’s nice to have Phil being the cheif cook and going back to being only the cheif dish washer. We do have a dishwasher, but for a while now, things didn’t feel very clean. I always felt like it was my fault for placement of the dishes, but when Phil ran it twice after organizing things himself without the dishes getting clean, we knew it was time to get a professional in here. We pay for a service to keep our appliances going, and our dishwasher needed a new pump. Phil is still using metro for work until we have proof that snow and ice are history for a while. Then he’ll start taking the 23 to his regular bus stop and using his stool there until he builds up the endurrance to walk the five blocks. I think even without the dog he dreams of in his future, he’d still be motivated. I have to say I’ll be more mobile once I have a dog. Cane travel is a fact of life but not very much fun. I did something to my knee a couple weeks ago, and it’s taking a while to recover. It was painful to play piano for three hours at the Malt Shop using my pedal foot, but finally this week I didn’t have that concern. We’re busy with radio show nights, and I’ve covered a Saturday show for the last couple weeks. We’re in a book club once a month, and there’s the week to week meeting with our reader to get through mail. Our volunteer Reader had to move on at the beginning of the year. The guy who replaced him hasn’t been very reliable, and last week we learned he has emotional problems sending him to the hospital and ousting him from the program. We were getting disgusted with how he either canceled last minute or didn’t call at all. A friend is stepping in temporarily, and we’re using several sources to locate a suitable, permanent reader.
For those who have invited us out to dinner, we are to the point where we can start doing things like that again. In some cases, part of the social time of the evening is riding in the car with people. Though Metro Mobility provides us an independent way to get places, it can also be restricting in having to be ready to leave at a set time (even if often they are late). We’ve held off doing things like that, until Phil could walk to and from the car without needing to be pushed in a transfer chair. Until we get our dogs, we’ll take people’s arms and go sighted guide, but usually we’re meeting more than one person anyway.
Speaking of driving cars, Phil is starting to become active in a movement to get funding for researching self-driving cars. They are the wave of the future and could provide more independence for people with all kinds of disabilities who can’t currently drive cars now. I’m certainly for the research, although I’m currently a lot less confident in the technology than Phil and others on the coalition advocating for the research. 

Lately I’ve been thinking how sometimes we want things both ways and how confusing it must be for the people from whom we “want it”. For example, women want equal rights, and I’d definitely put myself in that category. If I had a job in which a constant salary was involved, I would want my salary to be equal to any man’s working that same job. But in order to have those equal rights, we will have to forego things I’m not sure many of us are willing to give up. I still appreciate a door held for me or a guy helping me with my coat or pulling out my chair. Those “Treat Her Like a Lady” nicities aren’t lost on me. And how about the bigger stuff like military service? If we demand equal rights, are we saying we want to be drafted if a draft is instituted? How about the biggy of combat? I wouldn’t want to be in the military let alone combat, and it isn’t due to the traditional reasons like wanting to have kids or whatever. I’m just plain chicken. So how far are we willing to go for equal pay, and what are we willing to give up for it?
Closer to my heart is the concept of deserving and my very complicated feelings around it. Of course, those of us who are Christians believe Jesus died for our sins and forgives us, though we deserve neither. But then Paul says if you don’t work, you don’t eat, plain and simple. Phil gave me a gift of a portable stool. Because of his prosthetics, it has become hard for him to stand for long periods of time, so he got one for himself a few weeks ago. But the one he got had weight limits I would not fit. Today a stool with my weight in mind was delivered, and I felt so undserving of it! I didn’t have prosthetic legs, and why should my overweight self deserve such a comfortable seat? I have always hated standing though and would rather be given the option to sit whenever possible. Phil knew about it and decided to give me something to help with my comfort while waiting at bus stops or whereever there might not be a handy seat.
Part of my complex feelings around deserving and undeserving have to do with my income contribution to our household. I contribute what I can, but x’s safe to say Phil is the ultimate bread winner! Due to life circumstances, Phil has rarely come to one of my performances, but last night he and a couple new friends came to the Malt Shop to hear me play. My tips were average which was more than welcome after the last abysmal few weeks. Probably the best thing I took away from the night though was Phil’s comments to our friends while I was playing. His comments indicated he was proud of me, and I hadn’t heard that in a long time. I get hung up on income and being undeserving due to income , because those intangible things don’t often show. I’ll definitely use the stool, but it’s his pride in me which was my best Valentine’s present from him.  

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