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

Archive for December, 2011

random thoughts on a Friday afternoon

Well, first of all, Phil woke up with a 100.4 fever this morning. This was supposed to be a vacation day for him, but it has turned into a sick day. He’s been sleeping either in bed or on the couch just about the whole day, and this means no going to our favorite Mexican restaurant for our informal date night. He does go to dialysis tomorrow morning again, and I play piano at church both tomorrow night and Sunday morning. I’m hopeful that one of those times, he will feel better enough to meet me afterward. We rarely get to have a Saturday night together, as most of the time, he’s at dialysis. I don’t know why holidays either mean sickness or crabbiness, but that’s the way it seems to happen.
It seems like one if not both of us are sick during days leading up to the new year.
He has gotten the computer fixed, so we’ve been able to play games when we feel like it. I’m relaxed in my robe and slippers waiting for the courier bringing Phil’s medication. He was planning to pick it up yesterday, but something got in the way. Because he forgot a couple and his illness today, a courier is coming. We also received what I think is the humidifier Phil ordered. It was 1 very big box I had trouble getting in the door. He’s been sneezing for the past weeks and attributing it to the dry air. I hope it isn’t this bug, I hope the bug passes quickly and it doesn’t mean a hospital stay. My eyes and skin have certainly felt dry.

I was planning to do laundry, but without being able to put laundry from the baskets away in the closet, that’s not going to happen. Then I thought I would get some minutes done for one of my Secretarial duties. More than an hour into the writing, I accidentally pressed control s in the Windows Media Player. I meant to press it in Word as I do periodically to save the latest version of the report. Control s in Windows media Player means Stop, instead of the control p for pause and play I was using. I’ve tried to figure out how to move through a file in Windows Media Player, but no go. If Phil doesn’t awaken soon, I’ll have to go get my Victor Stream so I can finish up those blasted minutes and read for enjoyment by the fire. Garron will eat better when Phil is up, so he didn’t get fed yet. I’m going to do my best to let Phil wake up naturally, because sometimes when I accidentally do it, I get sickness *and crabbiness. For now, I’ll keep writing and downloading books.

On the positive side, we had a great start to our book club by phone last night. There were thirteen of us in attendance from all over the country. One woman is captioning for a Deaf Blind woman. She reads from her Braille display. She can apparently listen to audio books, but the phone is much more difficult for her. I also recorded the proceedings for the people who couldn’t make it last night. I have a Christmas series to finish, and then I’ll start on the book club book.

There are a few things to which I have to look forward. I got an update about my light, and that should be examined sometime next week. Then Phil surprised me. He found a great sale on speakers. His downstairs are wonderful, but up here I have some pretty old ones which have lost their oomph. We’ve been noticing that whispers in movies have been hard to understand, and we almost always watch movies up here by the fire. Being the music nut I am, having this available sounds great to me. He purchased speakers from the same company as the one’s downstairs, and the bass is phenomenal! My ears are going to be in for a treat, and more bass means my light will react easier too.

I’m still learning the fine points of Twitter. Today I nearly got my head bitten off for making an assumption. the story isn’t worth repeating, but I supposed direct messaging is like phoning or texting a person at just the wrong moment. I made an honest mistake and didn’t feel I deserved the scathing response I got. I’ll be much more careful about responding to this person in the future.

Twitter has brought another thing to mind, and certainly my sweater post alluded to it. I follow many musicians, and I expect shallow subjects from a lot of the pop ones I love in particular. Some of them are surprising me with the depth of their thoughts. Unfortunately, I’ve been surprised on the other end, too. I’m learning that maybe you can know musicians a little too well, and it takes away from their message. I’m talking about Christian singers and vanity! I guess because I’m self-conscious, there are just certain things I wouldn’t share with a bigger audience. One example is two of them talking publicly about getting skin peels! Earlier another Christian singer said one of her favorite things was a theater style mirror, so she could see herself from all angles. I asked her about it, and she said God wants us to look our best. I’m not private about a lot of things, but things going along with appearance are something I approach very carefully. A lot of bible verses and other sayings from these people are tweeted about being kind to everyone and showing God’s love being one of the most important things. But then I turn around and read this kind of stuff. I understand they’re only human and aren’t going to be perfect. Maybe because I’m no beauty pageant contestant, this is just a touchy area for me. But somehow it just feels wrong to tweet so much on the appearance, and I’m a performer myself. Someone recommended a book a couple years ago, and in one of the scenarios, the author was asked to go in CD stores and find ugly performers. It apparently was hard to do it in the pop and country sections, but it could be done. In the Christian stores, it was impossible to find ugly performers. So many Christian women want to promote the fact that no matter what shape and size you are, you are just as worthy of love and a child of God. But these are some of the same people I see tweeting so much about their appearance. It just leaves me cold.

Finally, I learned something else on Twitter which leaves me cold. Apparently starting in January, the state program that covers medical things for low-income people is having to limit what they cover to hospitals and emergency room visits. I’ve heard the arguments about not covering preventative medicine and agree with all of them. But this time, people won’t be covered under this program for kidney dialysis or chemotherapy. It isn’t apparent from the news story whether some other program is in place, but it doesn’t sound like it. It really sounds like if you aren’t insured or able to cough up the money, you’re going to die in Minnesota in 2012. I am certainly grateful that Phil has insurance. I know he’s a valuable employee, and his workplace has been so good to us this year. I just can’t help feeling sorry and angry for those who aren’t so fortunate.

Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dog)
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes


working on publicity as professional musician

I am in the process of signing up on Linked In. There are a few technical glitches, but I’d like to use it, Twitter, and this post to highlight my professional skills.

I play piano most Sunday nights at The Malt Shop. It’s not a paid gig, but I consider myself at work for tips and CD sales. I am available to do background music in the Twin Cities Area. Although most of my followers have heard what I do, I’d like to describe it in more detail.
If one attends many banquets for companies or organizations, often background music is heard which is jazz mixed with what most people call “standards”. We’re talking about Sinatra and company.
Standards can bring out feelings of sophistication , but some would like other options. I’m here to offer two options which can also be mixed together.

The first option is music with a New Age flavor. I have my own, but people seemed to like the soft music I make-up on the spot. Give me a piano and a group of people, and I can make it happen. Of course, this won’t be familiar music. the more I do this, the more I witness how people connect when they hear something familiar. This brings me to the second option.

Option #2 is what I do at the Malt Shop. My repertoire includes music from the 60’s like the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, The Righteous Brothers, and Simon and Garfunkle. The 70’s gets my attention. I play Seals and Croft, Elton John, the Eagles, and Abba. I grew up in the eighties, and had my ear on many genres. On the classic rock side, there’s Billy Joel, Stix, Little River Band, and Journey. I know a lot of light rock from people like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago and Air Supply. And let’s not forget my favorite: light R&B from Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston. I also try to cover a few things made popular in movies of this period. I take requests, and if I know the song, I’ll give it my best shot. I’ve played requests from the Charlie Brown Theme to Debussy on the fly. Very often I weave my selections into medleys, and when you book me for two or three hours, the only break I take is for the occasional sip of water. My listening experiences are much wider, but there are some things which are hard to play on piano (like heavy metal, funky R&B, and rap). This is not music only for a certain age group. I had an 84-year-old woman come up to me at a gig and say she was touched by my rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You”.

My fees are very reasonable, and I have a lower starting fee for nonprofit organizations. I also take $50 off when transportation is provided. Please contact me for further details.

Rebecca Kragnes
(612) 827-2132
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes

Zane’s Birthday: the day after or the 2nd day of Christmas

Zane turns six today, for some people it’s the day after Christmas, and for others, it’s the second day of Christmas running through Epiphany. I’ve seen a lot of tweets from the day after people who are already getting back to normal and putting away their Christmas stuff. I really try to be a second day person, as that’s part of my faith. I also don’t want to give up Christmas stuff until I absolutely have to. So I’m the one still reading Christmas books and listening to Christmas music, and I’m going to be the one trying to rip and label all my Christmas CD’s, so I can have an even more a relaxing time next year.

We really did have a nice, quiet Christmas Eve and Day. Originally I was going to play piano with the choir and its organist/director, but the director got sick. Although I don’t wish anyone ill, it was nice to keep up the tradition of working with the canter and trumpeter with whom I played Christmas morning Mass for the last five years or so. The director thought the choir should sing, partly because Christmas fell on Sunday. I’m sure it would have been beautiful, but I’m also guessing choir members were just as happy to spend time with families and/or sleep in after Christmas Eve Mass. We were initially locked out of church, but other than that, the music part went pretty well.

We had a few mishaps in the last three days. Nothing serious, but enough. Phil finally had his appointment at the prosthetist’s on Friday. The part of his limb which the prosthesis was rubbing has stopped. there might be another spot on his knee, or he just has to get used to walking differently with the change. .

Zane has been inspired to pee in a particular spot downstairs, and Friday before my Mall of America gig, he decided to race down and do it rather than go out the open door I was holding . Of course, I had just gotten out of the shower, and cleaning up that mess before leaving for the gig was not on my top ten list of things to do. After just being out this afternoon, he raced down to that spot again. It was dry when checked , but he was smelling it. I gave him quite the correction for that. Although I didn’t necessarily wish this before an event, traveling through the Mall of America parking lot and the mall itself reminds me of why I put up with idiosyncrasies like this and not being able to have Zane wait for me without puppy sitting services as I swim. Zane is my best worker hands down. People and traffic cut in front of us like crazy , and he stopped on a dime. My friend Gina kept looking back very concerned something was going to happen to us. I had Zane following her, but I reassured her he would keep me safe. I had a great audience at the gig, but CD sales weren’t as plentiful as usual. I wasn’t happy with my performance, although Gina said it was good. in past years the sound men have been friendly and very attentive asking me questions about my sound needs. Not this one! It really through me for a loop. I was unsettled by a bright TV screen projecting images from one of the big three networks. Weren’t there enough visual distractions for people without that?

Christmas Eve brought a little problem with water standing in the shower. Phil asked me to ask our friend Dwight — who lives a block away from the hardware store — to get a solution to clear the drain, but I didn’t want to interrupt Christmas Eve with his family. After learning the hardware store and our favorite restaurant kitty-corner from it were open that afternoon, I thought we’d be able to get it ourselves and have lunch as a bonus. The door to the hardware store we usually use was out of order, and Phil and Garron at a terrible time trying to find the alternate door through their parking lot with lots of obstacles in the way. Dwight was able to go over to the store and grab the solution for us.

When in our alley, Zane and I encountered some ice, and I didn’t fall once but twice. Zane feels terrible when I fall! the long-term repercussions weren’t serious. But I was dying to get home and use the restroom. About the short-term repercussions … enough said!

Then there was the Christmas Klutz. That would be me. fifteen minutes before leaving for church, I was filling my water bottle. We keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge for occasions like this. I thought I set the pitcher securely on the counter. All I can assume is that it was unbalanced by being on the boarder between counter and sink. The closed but very heavy pitcher of water fell into the sink shattering one of our cereal bowls. Glass went flying everywhere, and we didn’t find out it was on the carpet, until I almost had another mishap. Better me than the pups. One of us has to be in bare feet to assure we find things which shouldn’t be on the floor. With Phil’s prosthetic foot, I’m it by default. Most of the time I like bare feet, but that would have been ouchy.

The final mishap is still unresolved as of this writing. Phil and I have spent a significant part of these days playing games on a site called RSGames. We had an epic Uno game which went for four hours, and we’ve played lots of Yatzee and a little blackjack. Phil can feel dice, but we have to be at a table to play Yatzee comfortably for him. He can’t read Braille cards, because of his noropathy, so playing games — although something we both love to do — hasn’t always been easy for us. We were in the middle of a game called 1000 miles when all of the sudden, the wireless network failed on Phil’s computer. He has spent the last two hours trying to fix it with no positive results. I’ve been telling him how much fun these games were for months, and we were both having fun playing games by the fire and looking forward to possibly playing games while he was at dialysis. Certainly not the end of the world, but what’s the song about not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone? Also, if the problem is in our wireless network, I hope I don’t have to reboot the computer, because that could mean no speech access.

We ended up cleaning up all the goodies from our friends and family on Christmas Eve. We even ate the chocolates from my younger sisters family for lunch yesterday. Phil didn’t have as many as I did, but his food restrictions sometimes are meant to be broken. Phil got a big silver letter K Christmas ornament, and I had fun with a new twist on a Simon game called Simon Extreme. We each talked to our families, and when I talked to my younger sister, I gleaned enough information to figure out how the game works. There are four individual buttons which cycle through all of the colors. But when placed in a row , each connects to a little wireless network among the four and flashes it’s own color. Since all are capable of flashing all colors, they can be put in any order with the same results. the green button starts a traditional individual game, the red one starts a group game, and I think blue and yellow have something to do with levels of difficulty. Our reader has the week off, but maybe by the time she comes again, I’ll have it all figured out.

One of the things I really enjoy about this version of the Simon game is it’s true, bright colors . It’s more reminiscent of the older Simon games from the 80’s. I have one of the newer Simon games, and although the lights are bright, the colors are very pale. The red is actually pink. Although most know my favorite color is green, I love green and red together all year round.

Maybe that’s part of the reason I’m attracted to m&M containers out at Christmas time. I went to target and got five greens and five reds. (And I have to eat the candy inside before I can use them. What a sacrifice!)

This Christmas season I took care of those little things I’ve wanted for a long time and denied myself. One was a silver lab necklace which will go perfectly in a green M&M container. The m&M’s are air tight, so the silver is less likely to tarnish quickly. One of the red ones already has a plethora of Earring backs also from Target.
For years I’ve been trying to use just a few earring backs — taking them off of one pair and putting them into a case until I needed them for another pair . Part of the reason is that every time I went to Target, the person helping me couldn’t find earring backs. This should not be a problem anymore!

Finally, it’s fun to have something to which I can look forward after Christmas, although it wasn’t meant to be this way. Phil didn’t feel like putting up lights this year, and of course I understood that. Then the newest and my favorite of my big, bright lights shorted out at the end of November. this is the DJ style light with five different colors, mirrors, a motor, great projection, and such good sound sensitivity that it looks like a disco in here when music is playing. I think it’s the brightest and most versatile light I’ve ever had. It was still under warrantee when it broke down and has been in the shop being repaired, and I hope it comes back soon. The soft blue and white lights on the church tree are nice, but there’s nothing like the blue, white, orange, and of course red and green in this light!

Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dog)
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes

2011 a Kragnes Karol

(To the Tune of “Santa Clause is Coming To town”)

It’s not a great deal,
But it’s what he’s got.
Life still has appeal,
And that’s worth a lot.
Phil is back on dialysis.
He’s back on the list,
He didn’t think twice,
Kidney to assist,
Would really be nice.
It’s the gift on Phil’s Christmas list.

In spring when he stopped breathing,
His Garron saved his life.
He alerted the hospital staff of Phil’s respiratory strife.

The rest of the year,
Phil found simple joys,
The things which brought cheer,
Were big and small toys,
Called a Schwinn tandem and IPhone.
Mental lists maintained,
Of bike parts and apps,
While Garron and Zane
Took turns on his lap,
Giving therapy of their own.

But it was hard on Garron,
When bike riding Phil went,
Until appeared a two-wheeled trailer, Garron’s Schwinn pup tent.

In June to the east,
Rebecca and Zane,
Had fun and a feast,
With dogs, Pat, and Jane,
During a needed vacation.
What wasn’t so great,
Was the return flight,
A couple planes late,
Meant an overnight,
Ending the trip with frustration.

The National Library,
Is where they took a tour,
Provides hours of reading and enjoyment, that’s for sure!

Between gigs and church,
Meeting minutes, too,
Rebecca didn’t search,
For something to do,
Along with dishes and laundry.
Plus tweets, texts IM,
Book downloads, E-mail,
She read all of them with ears or in Braille.
Kept informed by technology.

By writing in her new blog,
Rebecca’s found freedom,
The address is quite simple: Kragnews dot wordpress dot com.

Christmas will be quiet,
No travelling noise,
Just a doggy riot,
Discovering new toys,
With enthusiasm they’ll delve.
With this little rhyme,
We will soon finish,
And now it is time,
For a holiday wish.
Blessed Christmas and 2012!

Phil, Rhebecca,
Garron, and Zane

two chain reactions

This is just a little glimpse into the life of the Kragnes family on a Saturday night.

The first chain reaction happened while getting ready for church. I bought a new solid perfume from Scentsy. I thought it might be best to keep the inner container in the outer tube for protection. I put one part of the outer container in my pocket and used the perfume. The bottle itself had two caps — an outer round one and an inner flat disc with a ring around it. I thought it was strange that I didn’t see the outer lid to the inner container. I took half of the outer tube from my pocket, only to have the round cap shoot out of it and go flying across the room. We have a saying in our house “cursed round objects!” Most of the time, it’s because just when we find them, they roll! After putting the perfume bottle back in the outer container for protection, I chased the cap around as it kept rolling away. Zane thinks it’s fun to see if he can get anything off the floor to eat, so I had competition in my quest. I finally found it, took the bottle out of the tube … the wrong way — inner disc pointing down and falling off! The inner disc made a lovely impression of a toboggan as it danced across the slippery carpet protector. So back on the floor I went and this time the race was very close. The disc is in contact with the perfume, so it had some good smells on it to a Lab. Needless to say the outer container went in the trash. My consultant said it wasn’t needed, and it only seemed to be making my life more difficult. The second chain reaction happened after we ordered ribs and salads from a restaurant which delivers. I was clearing the table after supper when the trouble began. We joke that Phil is the organizer, and I’m the disorganizer. It’s true, but because I’m the disorganizer, I am very picky about trying to be sure that small containers — like the round ones dressing comes in — are put in bigger containers. I put on the dressing, close the small dressing container, snap the lid to the salad box closed, shake the salad, and immediately my dressing container goes in to the box lid. As soon as the salad is finished, the dressing container is immediately put in the salad container before the salad box is snapped shut. Most of the time Phil does this too, but tonight he acted like I often do and forgot this detail. I just about had everything off the table and was moving my hand pretty slowly to find anything else when the dressing container flew off the table. . once again, I was dealing with a round object acting like a toboggan with an indeterminate flight path. For the third time Zane and I raced to find an object. I dove to the floor trying to find the container. Just one problem. As I dove to the floor my hand quickly slid across the table knocking on the floor … an open bottle of pop. My general rule is that if I drink from bottles, I would rather be able to recap them. Not from this restaurant,., and oh, did I mention that it was red strawberry pop? I countered the red by cursing a blue streak very loudly, as Zane started licking the pop off the floor. Phil was cautioning me not to scare my dog, and I was grabbing paper towels and stain remover. In order to get to the paper towels and stain remover, I had to go through the cold pop in my white socks. I’m sure this spread the mess out further. I just about collided with Phil to get to the bathroom to put the socks in the laundry, and I was screeching at him like a shrew to get out of the way. I sopped up as much as I could and liberally doused the area with spray. We’ll have to have the next sighted person who enters the house tell us whether the red is in the gray carpet. Hopefully it’s our cleaning guy, in which case, he’ll probably do a better job getting it up than I did. Then we still had to find the stinking dressing container. I looked everywhere on the floor , and a few times, I thought I heard Zane chewing on it, but it must have been a dog toy. Phil finally found it behind the dog food bin. As he stood up with the container in hand, he forgot about the counter above him and thumped his head pretty hard on it. Both of us retired to our chairs very quickly after all this.
Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dog)
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes

Impressions from Twitter

OK, readers,
Now that I have my own place to share things, it’s probably going to be updates plus whatever is going through my mind and has to be written down. this post is no earth shattering Kragnews, unless you consider my thoughts Kragnews, which I guess they are.

First, I discovered a gem of a musician named Andre Louis on Twitter. Amazon has his album for download and I know CD Baby sells his CD. He looks like a good musician and a fun guy.

Second, I read that a gospel musician I follow had the awful experience of being called the N word at a Popeye’s Restaurant. There are so many things wrong with that — especially in 2011 — that I won’t even begin to count them. I feel strongly about this anyway, but after watching the movie “The Help” today, it feels especially shocking.
But finally, the thing which really has my heat turned up tonight is this trend I have seen among Christian DJ’s an artists referring to “tacky” Christmas sweaters!OK, it may be fun to laugh at pictures of them online; I can buy that. I can even go along with having parties themed around them for a laugh. We do that with Halloween costumes, and most of them aren’t particularly stylish. But especially around Christmas, I’m not sure how appropriate it is to come on Twitter and say you’re glad the sweater was the only thing tacky you were wearing. I don’t know what happens between the time they talk or sing about those less fortunate, showing compassion and mercy, etc., and making these comments. But I think they would do well to remember that there are homeless people who would love to wear their tacky sweaters for warmth, as they sleep on the streets. I am OK with a laugh, but these kinds of comments seem shallow And I’m not sure they serve a purpose. Perhaps I miss something in the translation, because I’ve never seen a tacky sweater. I remember having Christmas sweaters/sweatshirts and quite enjoying them. the only rationale is that maybe Christmas sweaters are to the eyes what most fruit cakes are to the tongue. Although I’ve had good fruitcake, most is very awful. I suppose one could argue that hungry people would be glad for fruitcake. Somehow joking about something that tastes bad and joking about something some feel is in bad taste don’t quite seem synonymous to me.
Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dog)
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes

first post

I was hoping the Kragnes Karol might be the first post, but I’m still working on that. Maybe that will motivate people to follow this blog. So far I have not been able to find a way for blog posts — rather than notifications with links — to come as e-mails. It’s simple to follow the blog and receive notifications with links, and I’ll be testing it with this post. For blind readers, I understand that receiving only notifications with a title and link is going to entail extra steps. But I think it will be relatively easy to find posts using heading keys in screen readers and the find command to search for the title of the post. It is my intention if possible to have the post itself — rather than the notification and link to the post — come to your e-mail boxes. but it’s taking a little more time and effort to find very specific answers to questions like if this is possible and how to make that happen. There’s also an unsubscribe link at the bottom of each notification message if you are changing e-mail addresses etc.

In a quick update, I have my second Christmas performance at the IDS building today. Phil stayed home because he couldn’t get his prosthetic on. He’s had a bump on the front of his limb, and today it hurt too badly to get the prosthetic working. He’s using crutches to get around, and we have had to rearrange his dialysis rides. I worry that Garron is going to pull him around, because I don’t know that he’s worked extensively with Phil on crutches. I am particularly worried about steps being slippery with the change in the weather coming.

We’ve had mild temps above freezing, and we’re due for more cold in the days to come. The majority of the snow has melted, and forecasters are saying we’ll have a brown Christmas. I know it’s probably not great for the economy, but it sure would make getting around easier.

Christmas has come a little early in the gift and goodies department. We’re waiting to open presents we don’t know about until Christmas day, but we did open some things from our family they told us were coming in the mail. I also had a friend send me a gift of a Scentsy warmer and some wax bars to go wit it. One out of eight cubes in a bar goes in the warmer, and the scent lasts for five or six days. We warmed Strawberry first, and just yesterday I put in a cube called Christmas Cottage — kind of a cinnamon, nutmeg smell. The warmer looks like a green cupcake with pink and white frosting which makes up the lid. In the little of the bass and lid sits a dish where the wax goes. This warmer is the only one with a lid, so there’s no way a hand can accidentally be put in it. I’m excited, because I’ll be able to be very specific about the scents I want upstairs. Phil has also taken the candle warmer downstairs, so we should have a lot less musty basement smell in the house.
Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dog)
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes

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