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

Archive for March, 2014

Glasses and Hair as Metaphors

During late January and most of February, I left home minus something I rarely am in public without —my glasses. This is because between Phil being in and out of the hospital, my phone crashing, and everything which went wrong during that time period, I lost them. I’m great at losing things, and if they are here at home, they turn up eventually as did my glasses. It got me to thinking about my history with glasses
When attending the school for the blind through sixth grade, I didn’t wear glasses at all. Entering the 7th grade in my small town public school, my parents thought it was a good idea for me to start. One thing among many startling changes was how dark the glasses were. I have very little eye sight, but what I have, I like to use, and wearing sunglasses didn’t allow that to happen. I wore them most of the time through high school. P.E. was one of the few times I was visible without them. It’s hard to be much of a rebel when you depend on your family to take you where you need to go. I raised the occasional objection about not being able to use all of my very little vision, but the response from my dad was always the same, “blind people wear dark glasses.”

During the first week at the Iowa Department for the Blind, I broke my glasses. Instructors quizzed me about why I needed to wear them anyway. This was a place where it was ok to be blind, and glasses might be a way of hiding my blindness. I was under blind fold during the day anyway, and if I had an excuse not to wear my glasses, I was all over it! This continued during college and graduate school, but one conversation stuck with me.

A very good friend of mine was treating me to lunch. She’d been my itinerate teacher from junior high through high school, and somehow glasses came up. She described the way my left eye looked as being without the colored doughnut around most people’s eyes. Her suggestion was getting a pair of glasses to soften that unusual look by making the color eye-catching enough to distract from it.

After marriage I started doing gigs and getting into the music. As I made more public appearances, the conversation came back to me, and in 1999, I picked out the slightly tinted purple glasses I have publicly worn ever since, — recently lost and found. Family members told me they weren’t dark enough, but these glasses allowed me to compromise. I’d wear the glasses, but not sacrifice my vision for other people’s comfort.

During the time I couldn’t find my glasses, I decided there were a few more important things going on besides getting them replaced. I went about my business and didn’t feel uncomfortable without them. As soon as I found them again, I had no trouble going back to wearing them.

Something very similar happened with my hair. As a little kid, apparently my hair had no wave to it whatsoever. I tried for long hair, but I just didn’t have the patience to take care of it. The solution for my mother was curly permanents. I didn’t like them! I thought they made my hair look and feel like an old lady’s! I’d swim, and my hair would have a distinct green tinge due to the perm and the chlorine mix. Because my favorite color was and is still green, I thought that was the only good thing about a permanent.

At the Iowa Department for the blind, a teacher described my hair as “ash blonde” which sounded awful. Ashes to me are colorless things, so I had someone help me dye my hair red. I have since learned that my hair has always had red highlights, as I was born a red head. Even though it’s a little darker now, several beauticians have told me people would love to have my hair color. The perms may have taken some of them out, but this red die was hideously orange apparently and with the curls made me look like little Orphan Annie.

College sophomore year was my hair’s transformation. My R.A. was well-known for cutting hair. Her mother was a beautician, and people told me she did a good job. She asked me if I was ready for something different, and I said a resounding yes! It turned out my hair wasn’t completely flat and actually looked quite good short. It even had wave! That’s the way I still wear it, although I tend to go from a military buzz cut to neck length getting it cut only every five or six months especially in winter. It reaches a certain length, and suddenly I can’t get to the beauty shop fast enough. Bangs especially bother me! No matter what the length is, I just brush it back once wet and once dry, and it seems to look ok.
Those who know me well realize that I’m not one to talk about the way I look for no good reason. I would just as soon not focus on it, as I know I’m no Miss America. Somehow I started thinking about my hair and glasses as a bit like ideas of God and how they evolve. Perhaps this is because I read a blog entry in which someone accused the blogger of not being a Christian anymore, because he didn’t believe in X, Y, Z.

Church and God were not things about which I felt a lot of resentment growing up. It was definitely private for a long time —an area I felt uncomfortable discussing. Maybe this is because my God was like my parents. Do what you’re told, and don’t even think of questioning it. A high school search retreat and college helped me reshape my God into more than just an authority or task master. College is a time when people often lose their faith —a bit like my not wearing glasses at all or dying my hair red. The argument goes, why go to church? I can talk to God right here. God is in everything, not a building. Some would say that people throw the baby out with the bathwater by not participating in church or reading the Bible. I have always found some beauty and challenge in both, but I understand that for some people, these things might be associated with severe psychological pain. If that’s true, I don’t think they can be used as vehicles for getting closer to God. Far too often in trying to “minister” to people, they are instead driven away.

It’s only when people are ready to let these things help them for some reason that things come back to center. Most of the time it’s having kids. For me it was the desire to have people comfortable around me while not sacrificing all of my own needs. I hope and pray my image of God has continued to evolve. Although the Bible and my church have continued to be important tenants of my faith, other readings, interaction with people and even the atmosphere around me can also assist in encountering God. I’ve been accused of not being Catholic anymore because I have decided not to follow certain iron-clad teachings. Some teachings seem like those dark glasses or curly permanents. It’s a group of people prescribing what is right for me. I’ve taken a look at those teachings and decided that although they may have been appropriate in the past; other factors have made them not right for me now. One of my biggest measures is whether applying them hurts people. Even though I have always said I’d get my own meatless supper and never forced Phil to abstain because I believed I had to, my doing this negatively affects him for some reason. My priest confirmed God doesn’t want disharmony between spouses because of a church teaching! It bothers me that so many people believe in a one-size-fits-all idea of God. It seems to me that if the Lord created us, God has some understanding about how individual we are and the different glasses and styles we all use to encounter the Lord.

General update

Settling by the fireplace after a scrumptious supper of burgers, Chex mix, an orange, and ice cream, it’s time to catch you up on what’s going on around here. Then if I still have the writing bug, I may write a little more of a reflective piece.

It’s a momentous week for Phil, because he’s going back to work. The kidney numbers keep going in the right direction, and his endurance is slowly coming back. Since that third hospitalization, he lost that fluid in his gut pretty quickly once doctors did what worked for him before. In fact, one weekend, he was in the bathroom at least once an hour and lost 20 pounds! I think he’s excited to get back to a routine. He’ll be taking paratransit for the first week, and I suspect that may go longer. For those not in the area, it feels like the winter will never end. If it’s not cold it’s snowing. If it’s not snowing, it’s cold. Many years we have one or two thaws to get rid of the snow, but not this year. It’s really high, and neither team in this house has been able to do too much winter walking because of that. It’s hard to imagine where all of the snow coming this month is going to go. March is typically the snowiest month of the year. We’re still well into the subzero temps, and normally by March, these extreme temperatures are done.

I think I mentioned in an update that my husband got a recharging doc for my phone bed rail in January. When he was in the hospital, I learned to love being able to listen to music in the bedroom and dozing off to it. When he came home that wasn’t an option, and he understood how much I loved hearing music to relax. The main issue was that the headphone jack wasn’t exposed to use when the phone was charging in the doc. He looked at some Bluetooth headphones which were made for sleeping, but between my sleep mask and the expense, I wasn’t sure they’d work. I already had a brand new stereo pillow speaker stored in a drawer for when I finally broke down and threw the old one out which hasn’t worked right for years. I was down to one speaker which worked. It was ok for books but not music. Late last year, we thought we were having trouble with another Blue Tooth receiver which brings the music and sounds from our computer into the living room stereo. Phil ordered a different kind to try, and when it got here, we had figured out the problems with the other one were on the human end.
I thought he sent the other one back, but it’s now Velcroed to my headboard. I can plug my speaker in to its headphone jack and listen to my iPhone with Bluetooth turned on. Eventually, I’ll listen to books this way too, but I like my sleep timer which isn’t available on the talking book app on the iPhone yet. My husband spoils me so much!

I’ve been slowly working toward Internet broadcasting. I now have a combo of a mike and headphones which seem to produce good sound. With the addition of an extension cord, they do well running to my chair in the living room. This is important, because in addition to loving my comfy chair, the office / bedroom housing the computer gets so cold, especially at night. I want to be able to broadcast in front of the fireplace. I took the next step last week when I applied to a station called the Phoenix where my Keyboard show is likely to fit nicely. Many of the presenters migrated from the deceased MushroomFM where I originally wanted to broadcast. As people and as presenters, many are easy to like. I’m catching other broadcasters who were at Mushroom on other stations too. A consistent R&B station out of Atlanta called PeachTreeRadioFM has become a recent favorite. Then on Saturday nights I catch my friend Eric’s American Music Country Countdown on a station called Now Country, because I really like many of today’s country artists, too. Though I love both stations, the Phoenix allows a lot more variety of genres, and I definitely want my Keyboard show to encompass several of them. This Monday I work over Skype with my mentor who is setting me up and teaching me the software.

This Tuesday, we have the gas guy come to tune up the furnace/A.C. My friend Catalina is also coming over with some bulbs for our Scentsy warmers. She was here last week and gave me some pomegranate perfume as a totally unexpected gift. She was so nice to ask very gently if she could visit, and it made me realize I haven’t had people over as consistently as I used to. I have also stopped talking on the phone as frequently too. I’ve been so stressed out for the last year or two that I sort of isolated myself to try not to put any of that stress on anyone else.

Another visit from four people on Valentine’s Day also brought this to mind. Last fall, I started being a part of a group going out to dinner once a month. We’ve informally called ourselves the Dinner Delvers. Phil joined us in December, and we knew he’d be a lot more of a regular with us when dialysis was no longer an issue. We weren’t sure how Phil would be feeling, so we decided to have everyone who could make it come here. We had a great evening ordering delivery, eating, and laughing around the table and the fireplace. None of them had been to our house before, and it was so great to hear how much they liked it. February 14th marked the eighth year we’ve been here. Sighted people tell us all the time how much they love the wood work and other visual elements, but it was cool to have totally blind people tell us how cozy and friendly it felt in here.

I have two things to end this entry. We’ve tried to slowly get back into not doing quite as much delivery as we used to when Phil was on dialysis. However, there are certainly things Phil has been craving since he can finally eat them. We haven’t been able to order from many pizza places, because many don’t have a white sauce. Tomato sauces are high in things Phil wasn’t able to have during dialysis. I haven’t exactly argued against red sauce either. Apparently during the intervening two years, Papa John’s introduced a terrible temptation called a family sized Chocolate Chip Cookie. We’re talking warm, gooey sinfulness!

And speaking of sinfulness, Lent starts Wednesday. I feel like in some ways I’ve been in Lent for a while, but no… Anyway, I stopped my priest tonight asking for “the usual”. I had to remind him “the usual” was my dispensations from abstinence. For years at our house, Lent was a tense time – particularly Fridays and Ash Wednesday. Phil would come home craving a hamburger, and I said “Go ahead. I’ll find something else.” He’d realize why, and he’d hit the ceiling talking about how the Popes just wanted to get more fish sold. When my current priest came onboard, I explained the situation, and he reiterated the point again. “Remember, your marriage comes first.” But tonight, he had an addition as I was heading outside. “And not falling on this property comes second.”

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