Dairy Queen

 Photo shows neon colored straws against a red background Enough is enough. I’m not going to take it anymore…it’s got to go, this humidity. Frozen treat craving alert. Ice cream. Popsicles. Italian ice. Slushies. More more more my overheated body demands. On hot days, it’s hard not to rage from heat discomfort like a wall-busting creature of the Upside Down in Netflix’s Stranger Things. Yikes. Get this lady a blender and run to the grocery store before things get ugly.

In Mayberry the Vitamix stood ready, a gift from my dad. A powerful appliance he chronically underused when I was a kid, but consistently raved about. It breathed new life with the current juicing/smoothie trends. In my sweaty delirium, I decided to look up drink recipes. I came across a few good ones for–bear with me here–healthy Frostys.

Look. I know a Frosty can only be improved by adding french fries. Since I don’t dispense soft-serve ice cream or own a deep fryer in Mayberry, I improvised. Dreaming of the yellow, waxed paper cup overfilled with curled creamy goodness, I saw the Vitamix and decided to attempt spoon-ready greatness.

A healthy frosty compliments my never-ending quest for quality chocolate in life. Any mention of cacao powder and I’m in. However, the most important thing about a frozen beverage is texture. I chase the satisfying slushy sip, the perfect balance of solid to liquid. Imagine the soft whishppp as the concoction climbs up a straw evenly. It provides a primal comfort, the instinctual suckle babies rely on to sustain life. We do not outgrow this.

I prepped for the experiment. I peeled a couple of bananas and chopped them into 1-inch chunks, freezing them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. It was hard work, but someone had to sacrifice for this mission. Twenty minutes passed. I popped a half-dozen banana slices into the blender. I shook in about a tablespoon of cacao powder and poured in a cup or so of vanilla soy milk. Finally, I heaved in a large handful of ice cubes. Lid secured, I fired up the Vitamix. As if defending the house from a loud intruder, the terriers rounded on me and barked at the whirling machine. Oh welshies.

I increased the power to pulverize any remaining ice shards. A straw-clogging drink reveals poor execution. A healthy frosty needs to be a homogeneous mixture. Chunks are for amateurs. Those unfortunate enough to do a cement mixer shot in a college dive bar understand the dissatisfaction of heterogeneous mixtures sloshing around in the mouth. Ewww.

I cut the power. With a spoon, I poked the tan substance. It sort of burped and lightly resisted the utensil. Not too watery, not too stiff.

I poured a serving into a glass mason jar, sticking a straw in like an explorer claiming territory with her flag. I took a sip. A blissful whishppp met my ears, and a smooth coolness hit my tongue. This frozen treat delighted. Is there anything better than a frozen drink in the summer? Pass over a salty snack, bottoms up.

What’s your favorite frozen treat? Do you like Frostys? Would you make frozen beverages at home? Ever had a mishap with a blender? Tell me about it.

 

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Golden Voices: Olympic Edition

Photo shows logo of Rio Olympics, A blue oval transposed over a yellow round to form a green background. WIithin the green sits Rio in white text, golden text says 2016 and below sits the 5 rings of the olympics in white text.Athletes overcome gravity, battle time, and push themselves to physical exhaustion in achievement on the international stage of the Olympics. Despite controversies like shoddy venue construction and income inequality within a host country, millions of us tune in quadrennially to watch the competitions. Why do you watch the games–is it for the feats of strength, the risks taken, the colorful uniforms and lively ceremonies? Rivalries and individuals facing adversity parallel the contests. It’s all drama, all the time.

Missing some of the dramatic action stinks. With low vision my limited perception desires extra detail from sports broadcasters. And yes–hands clasped in the air–during the Rio games, Comcast provides audio description. I tested it out. Unfortunately, I’m not impressed compared to movie theater audio description and Netflix efforts. I bet it will improve in subsequent broadcasts.

I wrote about my high standards for sports commentary. I’m holding those calling the world’s greatest athletic events to them, too. With an eye-popping 170 commentators working for NBC in Rio, it’s a thick field to trim. Cue the trumpet-y Olympic theme music. Here’s the commentator rundown of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics:

Fan favorite: Leslie Jones.

Photo shows Leslie Jones headshot from SNL. She's smiling at the camera with her short hair upswept and she is wearing small hopp earings and a scoopneck shirt.You may know her as a featured player on SNL, but Ms. Jones expanded her comedic realm into the sports arena. NBC realized she could not be contained after she wrote tons of uber-nationalistic tweets cheering on Team USA while in flag apparel at home. NBC flew her to Rio and now she’s injecting a fierce dose of fandom into the coverage.

 

Candidates for disqualification: multiple offenders.

photo shows emoji for denied: a red circle with a slash across it.Any commentator making sexist remarks, any commentator getting into social media feuds, any commentator saying disrespectful comments about athletes. Enough said by them. It makes me want to look for live coverage elsewhere. Let’s jump instead to the podium.

Bronze medalist: Mary Whipple.

Photo shows Whipple 2012 headshot from USRowing, she's wearing a blue polo shirt and her blond hair is parted in the center as she smiles to the cameraShe earned multiple medals as a coxswain in the US Women’s 8+. She may be retired from rowing, but her focused analysis proves she hasn’t left behind attention to detail on the water. She notes things like catch timing, racing shell positions, and pace in a heat and simply explains why it’s relevant. High Five.

Full disclosure: I coxed the rowing team in college. Ms. Whipple is crushing it.

Silver medalist: Cynthia Potter.

Photo shows Cynthia Potter smilesat the camera with short dark hair, weraing a dark blazer and green shirt.

Her precise diving narration never fails to keep me engaged. She avoids repetition in word choice while describing similar dives and fully explains difficult elements to viewers. She separates a fast-paced performance into easily digestible bites, using the replay roll to highlight body posture and entry positions. She clarifies what would otherwise be a blur to these–and most–eyes. It comes as no surprise she represented the US in diving in multiple Olympic appearances.  Well done.

Gold medalist: Rowdy Gaines.

Photo shows Rowdy smiling at camera wearing a dark blazer, blue shirt and red tie.A veteran Olympic commentator, this former gold medalist packs in excitement time after time, race after race. It’s no wonder he’s the top fundraiser for USA Swimming. He can sell it. It’s hard not to be caught up in his exuberance of a close event when he passionately calls the race. He will show you the beauty of a perfectly timed relay start and the power of a quick flip turn. Underwater angle coverage allows him to point out techniques amateurs on the couch may have missed. He states the facts and ushers you along with authority and glee. Everybody in the pool.

Are you watching the Rio Olympics? Which sports do you like? Which commentators engage or annoy you? What would you do to improve Olympic coverage? Tell me about it.

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The Cutoff Point

 Image shows A pair of closed scissors with a black handle play on a yellow background My hair reached critical mass. Well, it reached it a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t appointment time yet. My loyalty to a great stylist who works in another state means scheduling haircuts way in advance. Some stylists don’t cut a curly girl’s mop differently than straight locks. The poor results: the dreaded frizz triangle. I’ll wait for my seasoned pro.

This time, my slot landed in the humid month of August. My straightened hair fell nearly to my waist–a real pain in the neck. I sat in the swivel chair wearing one of those billowy black capes. I tilted my head and asked, “How much would be left if I donated my hair?”

Salon Enso sends unprocessed hair to organizations like Wigs for Kids and Locks of Love. I shipped off my long curly tresses twice before, so I knew a significant amount like 10 inches would be cut. My stylist squared her shoulders, sized up the situation, and leaned in to mark a place just above my clavicles. “You would still be able to pull it back low, away from your face. Not much for a high ponytail though.” She made upward tossing gestures with her hands, and I imagined myself with a spiky tuft like a giggly toddler.  There’s always headbands.

“Ok. Let’s do it.” I sat back and my stylist went to work cutting, washing, drying, shaping. The salon uses organic products from Aveda. My eyes never water there. The space is fresh and pleasant, the polar opposite to places reeking of permanents and harsh coloring chemicals. You return to areas you feel relaxed in. Ahhh.

 Image shows two lengths of braided light brown hair held up in the salon. She finished and spun me around. She handed me a big mirror to check out my sleek new do. Loved it. I gave her a hug and smiled brightly. I settled up with the cashier and exited into the summer heat, enjoying the breeze on my neck. A weight off my shoulders will transform into a beautiful gift.

 

Have you ever donated your hair? What do you like about visiting a hair salon or barbershop? Did something funny ever happen to your hair? Tell me about it.

 

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Blind Bibliophilia and Free Books

Close-up of the definition of visionI’m a nerd. Of course I love to hold books in my hands, flip the pages, inhale the freshly-pressed inky scent. But with these eyes, reading regular print is a hardship. A paperback becomes a project. I gotta use my magnifier and risk major eye strain or fuss with my text reading equipment and hold the book still. Very relaxing.

Tactility is high on my list of ways to live a sensational life. That’s why the prospect of giving up heavy reading due to my vision loss saddened me. Bookshelf browsers and bookmark users made me jealous. Then I explored my library’s e-books and embraced audiobooks and got used to VoiceOver. My literary life flourished. But, it’s not quite the same as tucking into a book in a favorite chair, flipping crisp pages and sipping tea.

My remaining vision holds steady. Yet, there’s no guarantee the glaucoma monster won’t rob more acuity. I acted. As I mentioned in an earlier post. I started a braille course from Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Braille won’t cause eye strain. It will keep me literate through vision loss. It’s exciting to challenge myself with a new form of communication. I slide my fingers across lines of dots, recognizing the patterns beneath.

book share logo an arc of prange and blue pages symbolize an open book with Bookshare written in blue text on white backgroundAnother perk of continuing education: Bookshare grants Hadley students a one-year membership for free. Textbooks, novels, and more titles are available in multiple formats from the online library. This week I downloaded the files of my first Bookshare e-book. Using the free Capti Narrator app, I can listen anywhere, anytime. Bookshare gives people with print disabilities the opportunity to enjoy previously inaccessible books. This book nerd approves.

Even better, if I excel in my braille lessons, comfort awaits. I could wrap up in a blanket with a book written in braille. Whether books are in braille, audio, or digital form, vision loss does not lead to illiteracy.

What are you reading this summer? Did you know about Bookshare or Capti Narrator? Do you have a print disability? Would you learn braille if you experienced vision loss? Tell me about it.

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Raising awareness about living with vision loss happens here on Adventures in Low Vision. I learn skills and alternative ways of doing things to live well and share my experiences. Along this journey I meet people adapting behaviors and attitudes to thrive with a disability. As more people talk in public about living with blindness, living with any disability, my friend Joy from Double Vision says, “we’re part of a growing movement!” I agree. We abandon  shame and embrace our disabilities, seeking fulfillment over approval.

Educating others by yourself is rewarding. As a group, it’s dynamic. This summer, Stephanae from Bold Blind Beauty launched a campaign to break barriers and dispel misconceptions of blindness. It’s called #AbbyOnTheMove. Across social media platforms, people are using the #AbbyOnTheMove tag to share their experiences. Check it out.

Recently I added my voice to the mix when I visited the Baltimore Museum of Art. Low vision doesn’t stop me from enjoying paintings and sculptures.

Susan standing on the stone steps leading to the entrance of the BMA

It was a steamy day, temperatures reached well into the 90s. With relief, Stockton and I entered the air-conditioned space. Another treat: the museum is free to the public. Stockton grabbed a map at the reception area, but I had already looked online, zooming in as needed. I wanted to explore the Cone Collection of Modern Art on Level Two. What can I say, I’m a sucker for Impressionism. After a quick disagreement on whether we were already on Level Two, we took off. With my white cane leading me, we found the correct location. I walked from painting to painting making sure I wasn’t leaning in too far and threatening any of the artwork. For details like small figures or noting layers of paint, I use my monocular to study pieces. I love the hush of a gallery.

Susan studies Cezanne artwork with monocular at the Baltimore Museum of Art
After the collection inside, onto the sculpture garden outside. We braved the heat and walked over to the enclosed area next to the museum. As we neared a set of iron gates, Stockton said, “Uh, oh, these are padlocked.”

Close up of padlock

We walked around to another entrance, locked as well. I stared forlornly through the bars, seeing twisted metal shapes ahead. The lush landscaping looked so inviting. A respite from the busy overheated city, it was not to be.

Susan frowning Standing Outside the locked gates at the sculpture gardens

This is the part where I could let disappointment and anger ruin my day and I could rant here. I chose not to. Stockton queued up the museums info desk. I cradled the phone and listened when a nice and professional employee greeted me. I asked him if the sculpture garden was closed. He responded, with less spirit, indeed it was closed today, “due to the excessive heat.” I thanked him and disconnected with a shrug.

I wanted to visit the sculpture garden for its beauty and to learn. Researching pre-trip on the museum’s website, I discovered the BMA produced an audio tour discussing each sculpture as well as the design and care of the gardens. It’s available here on iTunes U.

Screenshot of the BMA Sculpture Garden tour on iTunes U

List of files within the audio tour of the BMA sculpture garden

I downloaded it, ready to listen until I was kept out by the iron gates. Or was I out of luck? I could still listen to the audio tour anywhere, anytime. Once home, I listened to the tour from the comfort of my porch swing using my imagination. Sometimes you can’t break down every barrier when you face real locked doors, but you can still find a way to enjoy things.

Screenshot of About Garden file, blue background with black wriiting says Baltimore Museum of Art

Have you visited the Baltimore Museum of Art? Is your local museum accessible? Do you explore sculpture gardens? What is your favorite artwork? Tell me about it.

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