An Eventful Week of Family, Fairs and Flu

Hello again loyal readers. It has sure been an eventful week since my last entry. Last Sunday, I was woken up at the ridiculously early hour of 5:00 in the morning to shower and do some last minute packing, and by 6:30, my parents and I were in the car for an eight hour drive to Indiana to attend a family reunion. Actually, my mom wanted to be on the road by 4:00 in the morning at the latest because lunch at this reunion was being served at noon which actually meant 11:00 our time because Indiana is on eastern time. But since my mom didn’t get home from work until around 9:00 Saturday evening, she mercifully decided it was more important to get some sleep so we would feel well enough to actually enjoy the reunion once we got there and not be practically falling asleep over our plates which has happened when we have been ambitious and left for Indiana by 4:00 in the morning in past years. The funny thing was that leaving at 6:30 meant we arrived at the reunion at the same time a lot of people were leaving because events for this side of the family break up early. But there were a lot of people still there, and plenty of chicken, casserole, potatoes and dessert saved for us, so we didn’t end up missing the reunion after all. Then to stretch our legs after sitting in the car for eight hours and then sitting at the reunion, my dad invited my grandma and aunt to join us for a walk around Metamora, a quaint historic canal town that has been preserved for tourists. A lot of the historic sites required you to pay admission, and they were closed by the time we got there. But my mom, aunt and grandma enjoyed browsing the little shops, and since my dad and I aren’t wild about shopping, we left the women behind and enjoyed a peaceful walk on sidewalks that were pretty smooth and well maintained, with cicadas, crickets and birds singing summer songs all around us. I think Gilbert enjoyed this walk too, and other than encountering an unusually noisy bird at the beginning of the walk which distracted him, he worked beautifully on this walk. From there we went to a diner where I enjoyed a cup of soup and a turkey dinner. We did eat at the family reunion, but that had been several hours ago by the time we got to the restaurant, and since the food had been sitting out for several hours by the time we arrived, and since we didn’t want to overload our stomachs after sitting in the car so long, we kept our plates small.

     And then we went to my grandma’s house where we would visit with her until Tuesday afternoon. My grandma lives in a little tiny town just outside Indianapolis, one of those towns that seems to take you back to a time when life was simple. The town has a tiny grocery store, hardware store, drugstore, gas station and a couple pizza places, but no Walmart and none of the other sprawling stores like it that seem to dominate the landscape everywhere else. Many of the houses in this town, including my grandma’s house, were built over a hundred years ago. When my grandma and grandpa moved in to the house with my mom and her siblings over forty years ago, the modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and electricity had to be added to the house, but these additions did not do anything to take away from the antique feel of this house. From the creaky wood staircases with old fashioned wood banisters, to the wood floors and a unique fragrance that my mom said is given off by all of this antique wood, I love how entering this house is like stepping back in time.

     I also love how the houses in this town all have quaint little front porches that face the street which fosters a wonderful sense of neighborliness that you will not see if you came to the modernized suburb where I live. In my grandma’s town, it is pretty hard to take an exercise walk because for one thing, the old sidewalks in this town have been preserved so they are really bumpy requiring Gilbert and I to take it slow, but also because one moment you will be walking, and then before you know it, a neighbor will see you and invite you warmly on to their porch for a cup of tea. By contrast, where I live, a neighbor might say hi or chat briefly if they happen to see you walking the dog past their house when they are working in their yard, but our neighborhood is the kind where if people have porches, they are secluded in the back of the house, and people prefer to keep to themselves. In fact, when one neighbor sent out invitations to try and organize a block party a few years ago, it wasn’t long before we got another letter saying the block party had ben cancelled because no one expressed interest in attending it. Don’t get me wrong. Our neighbors are wonderfully nice people when you see them. They are just not the social types like the neighbors where my grandma lives, so visiting her neighborhood is kind of a refreshing change of scenery. And of course, I enjoy spending time with my grandma too because although we have our differences, the most notable one being her passionate love of shopping versus my passionate hatred of squandering a whole day shopping, we also have a lot in common. If only there were no such thing as diabetes, we both wouldn’t mind living on chocolate, and we have had some special memories baking chocolate treats together. We also both enjoy music from the Gaithers, a gospel music band.

     However, I hate to admit this, but now that I am an adult, and the cousin closest to me in age that I had so much fun playing with as a child now has a child of her own, I always kind of feel bored and out of place sitting around the table with my mom and grandma as they look at pictures and talk about distant relatives or friends they knew forty years ago. When my grandma comes to visit us, and the topic of conversation doesn’t interest me, I have no problem going to another room to amuse myself by reading blogs, checking e-mail or hanging out on facebook. With a special adapter, my old braille notetaker could have had a wireless internet connection configured on it, and my mom and Dad already went wireless with their regular computer a couple years ago. But when I read the manual for configuring a wireless connection on the old braille notetaker, I decided it was too complicated to mess with. I think you even had to perform a reset on the machine as part of the process, so I just decided to continue using an ethernet card which connected to a router that went to an internet modem thing provided by the cable company. Back when I had this type of connection, I knew internet access would be out of the question at my grandma’s house because she doesn’t have one of these routers, and besides, she would have no idea what language I was speaking when I asked about proxy servers and infrastructure modes and all that kind of stuff the braille notetaker asks for to configure a connection. She does have internet access, but I think I heard that my mom’s younger brother who lives nearby set it up for her and handled all of the technical stuff. But I won the battle with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and received the Apex, the newest, most fancy version yet for the braille notetaker, which I received at the beginning of July. (You can read all the details about how this battle got started in an entry I wrote back on May 30). One of the fancy new features this braille notetaker has is an internal wireless ethernet system, which the guy who came to deliver this computer and orient me to it said this meant I could access the internet from anywhere in the house since I no longer had to be plugged in to a cable, and I could access countless public wireless networks at places like airports or restaurants, even other people’s private networks if they are not protected by passwords or anything. This was the first trip to Grandma’s house with this new capability, which gave me an exciting glimmer of hope because while my grandma doesn’t have wireless internet, surely one of her neighbors did, so I would no longer have to endure the boredom of being offline for three days! But to my disappointment, when I got to the house and tried to scan for a wireless signal, I was informed by the braille notetaker that there were “no visible networks”, making me realize that although I enjoy some aspects of the simpler life in this town, this lack of wireless makes life a little too simple for my taste nowadays when I visit Grandma’s house. I have heard of special software called sa2go, a temporary screen reader software similar to Jaws that can be downloaded to any computer so that blind people can have internet access when on vacation, but my grandma’s computer is old, and when I thought about the combined hurdles of potentially messing up my grandma’s computer and having to learn how to use this program and when I then recalled past experiences which have taught me that when it comes to computer programs, nothing ever works properly until you have wasted a whole day and given yourself a headache over it, I decided I would rather just suck it up, be bored and come home with a renewed appreciation for how awesome wireless internet access is. I suppose I could have pleaded with my parents to drop me off at a cafe with wireless internet access, but didn’t want to give the impression that I have an internet addiction problem, because I probably do (grin), and I have read stuff from psychologists who say that constant stimulation from electronics, especially the internet is unhealthy for the brain, so this lack of internet access was probably good for me even though the withdrawal drove me crazy. I could have also used this trip as an opportunity to escape with a good old fashioned book, but lately I havent had much luck finding a really good book that kept my attention beyond the first chapter or two.

     But actually, there really wasn’t too much time to get bored this trip because for one thing, my aunt who is a teacher brought my ten year old cousin over to hang out with us since school hadn’t started for him yet, so we had a good time talking to him. As a matter of fact, Gilbert must love him too because both mornings, my cousin arrived before I had woken up to get Gilbert out of his crate, and when he could sense that my cousin had arrived, he would start whining. Thinking he was probably whining because he needed to go outside, I would quickly get up and open the crate for him. But both mornings, I found out that he was not whining to go outside because he would wait patiently until I had found the rail to get downstairs, but then he would bolt past me, and while I was still making my way down the stairs, I could hear him tear through the living room, burst in to the kitchen and run circles around my cousin during which I could hear my Mom yelling “Gilbert, SIT!” But my cousin, grandma and I couldn’t help laughing at this adorably enthusiastic display of love from a dog who is usually so mellow and professionally behaved.

     My dad and I also amused ourselves by going for a workout every morning at the YMCA. At home, I don’t usually go with my dad to the YMCA because the only exercise machine I use religiously is the treadmill which we have at home, along with a stereo and lots of awesome albums that can be played without having to wear annoying headphones. But my grandma doesn’t have a treadmill, and since I always end up being tempted by more treats at Grandma’s house than I typically eat at home, it is even more important to make sure I get my exercise. Additionally, it is also kind of nice to have a break from the chattering women and enjoy some quiet father daughter bonding time. I know it might sound strange to some of you readers when I keep talking about having a break from the women, since I am a woman myself. I don’t know if it is because I am blind and therefore don’t find as much appeal in shopping or looking at pictures, or if I am just young and will find these things more appealing when I am a little older. But whatever the reason, I feel like I can relate better to my dad on these trips.

     Another thing that is kind of fun about going to the YMCA is that even though there is often a six month gap between our trips to Grandma’s house, the receptionist always remembers our names, and on Tuesday, she opened the security gate and let us go ahead and enter without filling out the customary guest paperwork! Then after our workout, my dad and I have a tradition of stopping for lunch at Longjohn Silvers, a fast food chain restaurant that has really good fish. Most of their fish selections are deep fried, so of course we don’t want to defeat the purpose of our workout. But my dad and I don’t feel guilty about eating their fish tacos, because while they have a little bit of fried fish in them, they also have a lot of lettuce and a really delicious sauce in them. The tacos are also very small, and they only cost $0.99! So every time we come to this restaurant, our tradition is to each have one fish taco, split a grilled tilapia dinner which also has a vegetable medley and rice, and finish by splitting a cup of either broccoli cheese or clam chowder soup. But actually, eating this lunch is only half the fun of this tradition. The other half of the fun comes when we get home and my mom always pretends she didn’t know we went out to lunch and invites us to sit down to have a sandwich with them, an invitation we politely turn down with mischievous smiles on our faces that always get my mom and grandma laughing.

     Usually this tradition is the highlight of these trips to Grandma’s house, but for this trip, the highlight for both me and my grandma was going to the Indiana State Fair Monday afternoon. Grandma always loved going to the fair but hadn’t been able to go for years, and my mom told me that I had been to the Indiana State Fair before when I was a baby being pushed in a stroller, an era which of course, I don’t remember so for all practical purposes, this was my first experience at the Indiana State Fair. Part of me dreaded going to this fair at first since the temptation of so much delicious fair food was the last thing I needed exactly a week before I would be weighed at the doctor’s office, and my arteries were probably still trying to recover from all the food I ate at our own state fair just a week and a half earlier. I still ended up eating more than I would have had I not gone to the fair, but I am pleased with myself for not going wild like I did at my own state fair. At this fair, I only ended up eating a small dinner of grilled pork, roasted potatoes and apple sauce, a quarter of a pork tenderloin sandwich and a couple bites of dipped ice cream on a stick. Well, I also had two tiny free samples of fudge, and a chip with a free sample of this really interesting salsa that the demonstrator told us required only a tablespoon of this spice mixture and a can of tomatoes. But my dad assured me that since I walked a lot at the fair, not counting the three and a half miles I walked on the treadmill at the YMCA, I didn’t need to feel guilty about what I had eaten.

     Once again for this fair, my dad and I went off by ourselves most of the time since we could see three barns and exhibit halls in the same amount of time it took the women to get through one! While there was some boring visual stuff in these exhibit halls, there was also a lot of cool nonvisual stuff like an old fashioned drug store where the demonstrator let me feel all the tools and showed me how they were used to make pills by hand. There was also this really cool machine that I got to try out in the products pavilion called the Viva Slimming Machine, where you stood on this vibrating platform which can tone your muscles if used twenty minutes a day because supposedly, the effort required to balance on this machine exercises your muscles. This is probably one of those things where it would be a good idea to do your own research about the validity of these claims before spending $800 for one, but it was still fun to try out anyway. But the most exciting highlight of the fair was still yet to come.

     Before we left for the fair, my dad found an event schedule for the fair on the internet, and that was how we discovered there was a free Josh Thompson concert at 5:30. For those of you who have never heard of Josh Thompson, he is an up and coming country artist who has not achieved the status of a headline act yet, but is nonetheless extremely talented. He even already has a couple really good songs that play a lot on the radio, one where he talks about his country values that starts with the line “our houses are protected by the good lord and a gun. You might meet ’em both if you show up here not welcome son!” My own personal views aren’t quite that country, but I figure you can still love the song even if you disagree with some of the views. His other big hit on the radio is about working hard all week to put beer on the table! It is very rare that I go to concerts since tickets to see most of the stars you hear on the radio cost a fortune. Also, since I am blind, I couldn’t care less about how “cute” they are, which I think is half the reason why a lot of sighted people go to concerts anyway. Additionally, this may sound terrible, but a lot of times it seems to me like singers sound better on the radio than they do live. I don’t know if it is because the sound quality is not the same in a recording studio as it is for a concert, or whether it is because traveling so many miles on a tour bus is exhausting, so the singers don’t sing at their best. But whatever the reason, since I cannot see, their sound is all I care about, so I usually prefer to just listen to them on the radio. But the fact that the concert was free, and we were planning to go to the Indiana State Fair anyway which meant we would be in the perfect place at the perfect time, I had to take advantage of this opportunity. I am so glad I did take this opportunity because it was a lot of fun. I got to hear both of his big radio hits, as well as some new songs that haven’t made it on to the radio yet, and he sounded just as good live. But the excitement didn’t end with the concert because after the concert I got to meet him! My dad and I made the mistake of not realizing how many other fans had the same idea or we would have hurried up and claimed a place in line earlier. As it was, by the time we got in line, there were about a hundred people ahead of us, but it was well worth the wait. My dad forgot about bringing a camera to get a picture of him which a lot of other fans ahead of us had done, and we didn’t have enough money to buy a CD for him to autograph, but that is alright because pictures and print signatures don’t mean anything for me anyway. For me the memory is more important. It is kind of ironic because Josh Thompson and I are both from the same state. In fact, his home town is only about a half hour drive from where I live. But I wasn’t able to go to performances he gave in our state, so I met him in Indiana. When the wait in line was finally over for us and I excitedly introduced myself and told him where I was from, he told me he was familiar with my town too, and as we were leaving he said “Have a safe trip home. It’s God’s country up there!” He also said hello to Gilbert, which was pretty cool even if Gilbert had no idea how famous the person petting him was. I probably talked to him for less than thirty seconds since there were lots of other people behind us in line still waiting to meet him. But this brief meeting with an aspiring country star was a special memory that I can share with my children and grandchildren, by which time my parents and I believe he will be a world famous headline act, and hearing his songs on the radio is even more special now that I can say “I met him!”

     Of course, after that excitement, the rest of the fair and the trip were pretty uneventful. But little did I know that there was one more eventful happening the day after we got home from the trip, this one not so exciting. We got home safely to God’s country at about 9:00 Tuesday evening, where despite all the fun and excitement of the trip, I was ready to relax, and get back to my healthier eating routine and listen to good music with my treadmill workout again. But the treadmill had to wait one more day. Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling a little sick to my stomach, but felt better by the time I had to leave for work so I figured it was just my body adjusting after a long trip. Then in the afternoon, I had a dull headache, which again I didn’t think meant anything, so I just took some medicine and sat down to rest. Pretty soon after taking the medicine though, the headache went away, but I still didn’t feel quite right, and as I ate the fajitas my dad made for dinner, the feeling didn’t go away. I didn’t feel like I was having fever or chills, but I felt kind of weak and dizzy. When I told my mom this, she said my facial color looked fine, and when she took my temperature it was official that I didn’t have a fever. But still, she insisted I lay on the couch and take the evening off, which meant absolutely no treadmill walking. Of course, this was probably a wise decision especially now that we know from this year’s Palm Sunday experience what can happen if I exercise when I am sick, and we sure didn’t want to take a chance of that happening again. Still, in addition to feeling physically sick, I felt mentally sick as I thought about the sour cream and cheese sitting in my stomach from the fajita, calories that wouldn’t be burned for another day. Fortunately though, the dizziness was gone by the next day and I felt absolutely fine, so I must have had a mild case of the flu.

     Fortunately, the rest of the week was uneventful, and though most of last week’s events were fun, I hope this last week and a half of summer will be restful and uneventful since peaceful uneventful summer days that I can devote solely to pleasurable pursuits like writing in this journal, will become a distant memory in no time once school starts. On that note, while I know a lot of you readers are adults in the working world where there is no summer vacation, I hope you all have a wonderful week, and that if it is eventful, it is eventful in good ways.

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