I don’t travel very often, but when I need to book a hotel, I use Hotwire.com. They offer wonderful hotels at a low rate; hotels that have extra rooms that they need to fill up. The catch is, you do not know the name of the hotel, just the “type” of hotels that are included in each category. Hotwire has never disappointed me, as they have always provided quality hotels at a greatly discounted price. This past weekend, I was scheduled to do a presentation for a large parents conference held at Perkins School for the Blind, about a two hour drive for me. Because the conference was scheduled to begin at 8:30 am, and I would be reimbursed for my travel expenses, I contacted Hotwire to book a hotel room. The least expensive one listed was $69, which was a real bargain because hotels in and around the Boston area are very pricey. I booked it on line, and awaited the name of the hotel. It was not a brand name I had ever heard of, so Google checked it out for me. It was listed as an “elite, boutique hotel”, and the least expensive price listed on their website for a room was $180! Now, I am definitely NOT elite, and have never visited a boutique before, but for $69 I was going to give it my all! Upon driving up to the hotel’s front door, I learned that valet parking was mandatory. I relinquished my “Best Mom” fake jeweled key chain to the parking attendant, (pardon me…to the VALET.) Politely and without comment, he struggled as I do to climb up into the driver’s seat of my large van, and drove away in my 2002, dented, dirty, 15 passenger with a raised roof and wheelchair lift van. He parked it right between a Rolls and a Jaguar, and it looked like a large, dirty, cheap piece of coal between 2 diamonds. Even my car was going to get a new experience! The lobby was gorgeous, as are so many in expensive hotels. Lots of fresh flowers, a water fountain cascaded down the wall, and a lovely tray of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Checking in was a pleasurable experience with a tuxedo clad clerk, who offered me a cookie. (I would have taken one anyway, so the fact that he offered was a bonus, although I would have preferred he offered me 10.) My 6th floor room, with the curtains open, had a breathtaking view of the Boston skyline at night. The room itself was definitely “boutique”… furniture with trim lines, a wood floor with plush, beautifully designed, throw rugs that added an elegant, clean look to the room. Because it was late in the day and I was tired, I put on my jammies, brushed my teeth, and climbed under the luxurious, fragrant, CLEAN sheets and comforter. I honestly felt as though I were laying on a cloud. In addition, there were four different types of pillows on the bed so that I could choose the one which would best facilitate a good night’s sleep. Ahhhhhh…..sleep….on a cloud overlooking the Boston skyline… The modern bathroom had a very large walk-in shower with huge round shower heads pointed in all directions. In the morning I took a shower, or, should I say, I EXPERIENCED a shower. It was all a new thing for me; hot water flowing over my body from all different angles. Do people really LIVE like that? The shampoo was ultra fragrant, with a conditioner and body wash that had complementary fragrances. (Think orchids, strawberries and oranges…) I felt like a fruit orchard, and it was a very unique feeling! (I guess that is what makes the hotel “boutique”.) As I finished showering and came through the frosted glass door of the shower, I shocked myself when I saw another dripping wet, old, fat, ugly naked woman coming towards me in the room. I screamed. I shuddered. I looked closer. It was ME. Reflected in the mirrored wall just outside the bathroom. Although breathing a sigh of relief, I was also filled with horror at the image in front of me. I don’t know about you, but I NEVER look at myself naked in a full mirror. Any illusions I may have had about my looks were proven false in that moment. Oh, well…it’s a good thing I feel beautiful on the INSIDE… After getting over my shock, I dressed and made myself a nice cup of tea with the provided Keurig. Now THAT is my idea of a boutique hotel…one that provides fresh tea to my liking. Now, if only I had a few of those chocolate chip cookies from downstairs… ************************ I would love to come and speak for your group or at your conference. I would do it for free, but would need the price of travel. For functions in the North East, that would be only gas money. Link to my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11 The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
Archive for the ‘inspiring’ Category
We adopted Dinora from Guatemala at the age of 6 weeks, and I was so thrilled to have a daughter!!! She came with a variety of diseases common in s 3rd World Country, scabies, intestinal parasites and malnutrition. But we loved her and fed her and she blossomed into an adorable baby with big black eyes and shiny black hair.
At the age of six months, it became apparent that Dinora was deaf. She had not yet started to babble like other babies her age, but she also did not turn to her name, or looked at the dog when she barked, or seem to notice the footsteps of me coming into her bedroom. She would be laying there awake when I walked in, (and, believe me, I am not light on my fight.) When she finally would see me, she would startle. She had not heard me. The day I knew it for sure was a day she was sitting next to me on the floor while I was doing the dishes. I accidentally dropped a huge lobster pot I was cleaning and it made a horrendous clang on the floor. Dinora happily sat there playing, her back to the pan. She did not startle. She did not cry. She did not hear it.
We then made the rounds of the doctors. She flunked regular hearing tests, and had a brain stem evoked response test. Her brain did not respond up to 90 decibels. The doctor informed me that she was severely hearing impaired and that we would try hearing aids to maximize her hearing, although they would not be strong enough for her to hear normally. They took the impressions for her ear molds.
That evening, our family went for a pre-Christmas visit to a shrine beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. I was feeling sorry for myself. I had a two year old son who was legally blind, and now I had an infant daughter who was deaf.
There was a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes surrounded by prayer water and many large candles. There was also a large display of crutches and wheelchairs of people who had been healed by her. I helped my son, Francis, who was 2 1/2 years old, light a candle. Because it was almost Christmas, and the only candles he had seen were on a birthday cake, he merrily sang “Happy Birthday Dear Jesus”. I remember saying a non-de-script prayer, still upset that Dinora was deaf. I still thanked God, but was not quite as enthusiastic as usual.
The next morning, the dog barked and Dinora woke up! I thought it was a coincidence until I started to walk into her room and she turned to smile at me. She had heard my footsteps! I started talking to her and she started babbling back. Only a day earlier she had been fitted with ear molds for hearing aids! I excitedly called the doctor, who agreed to see her that day. Her hearing was tested and it was normal! Neither I nor the doctor could believe it. He said in his 29 years as an ear doctor he had never seen anything like it. He told me that it had to be an “Christmas miracle from Above”. The visit the night before to the shrine came to mind. A miracle HAD occurred, and I was embarrassed because I had not thanked God more enthusiastically the night before. He had granted me a miracle even though I did not ask for one.
Dinora is now 28 years old and has had perfect hearing ever since that day! And I have lived life with a peaceful,generous heart because I know, without any doubt, that God is with me.
Most people can look up and see a tree. To a child who is blind or visually impaired, their concept of a tree is the bark they can feel. Their concept of a tree is that it is” rough”. If they have some vision, they can tell that a tree is brown at its trunk, but “a blob of green” above the trunk. They could grow up and their whole lives not know what a tree “looks” like. Expanding such basic knowledge of their world is called expanding the core curriculum. It consists of concepts that are not taught in school, but are still important lessons for that child to learn in order to grow up as an educated adult who is blind.
One topic covered by the nine students, ages six through thirteen, at an April vacation program, was the concept of trees and their differences. During a nature walk, students found that some trees were so small they could fit their hand around the trunk. Some trees were so large that it took all nine students holding hands to encircle the trunk. Some trunks were very rough, with deep groves, and some were smooth, with little lines barely traceable by their little fingers.
They learned that evergreen trees stay green all year, and they giggled as they carefully touched the sharp needles. They never knew that trees could be so prickly! Under the tree, they found the pinecones from which a new tree may grow.
They learned that oak trees, in the spring, have no leaves. They closely examined the branches of an oak with a few dead leaves still attached, carefully feeling them and making the connection with the leaves they see on the ground in the autumn. Acorns which were still attached to the tree branch were felt with much enthusiasm. They had collected acorns from the ground underneath the tree, but to actually see it attached seemed to be a surprise. They felt the new buds on the ends of the small branches, buds which would soon bloom into leaves.
Students learned about flowering trees, in full bloom during their springtime visit. Most students were amazed that a tree could have flowers. In their minds, trees and flowers were two entirely different things. But there they were; pink blossoms on the end of a cherry blossom tree branch, gentle, sweet smelling little flowers.
As they were feeling and looking at the trees up close, students were in awe. So many different types of trees! And they would not describe a single one of them as “rough” because they were finally able to look beyond the bark.
I have been fortunate in that my mother loved to travel and she often took me and one of my kiddos “along for the ride.” One of my favorite spots was Discovery Cove, part of Sea World in Orlando. Discovery Cove offered a make believe coral reef with lots of beautiful fish swimming around and huge stingrays that would swim close and touch you. It was so amazing, and was as close to real snorkeling that I had ever been. With a life jacket, snorkel and mask on, Marie, (my 13 year old daughter who is profoundly deaf and has PTSD) and I spent the day swimming around, amazed at the many varieties of tropical fish. It was like being in another world. In one spot, there was a glass wall and you could swim next to sharks. Up until this point in my life, this was as close to real snorkeling, and SHARKS, that I would get! It was awesome!
Near the end of the day, Marie’s medication began to wear off as we had stayed later than I anticipated. She began to get anxious, but she didn’t want to leave. I told her one more swim around the coral reef and then we’d head back to the hotel. As had been happening all day, a stingray came up and touched Marie on her leg. In fact, she had been petting them for most of the day, calling them her “friends”. For some reason, this touch was different than the rest. She became frightened and had a full blown panic attack. She started SCREAMING her high pitched scream and she was signing (in American sign language,) “The fish is going to eat me!” (Why the fish would think she were any tastier later in the day than earlier, I don’t understand.) To get away from the stingray, she climbed onto my back. I tried to calm her down, but it was difficult to do sign language while trying to swim with a child on your back, and she was screaming so loud her eyes were shut and she couldn’t see what I was saying anyway! By this time, we were halfway around the coral reef and as far from the shore as you could possibly get. Marie decided she was not safe enough on my back because her toes were still in the water, so she climbed up on my shoulders to get completely out of the water! Unfortunately, that meant I’d have to sink UNDER the water for her to stay OUT of it. I started screaming along with her. (Albeit alternating choking with water and screaming.) She was truly frightened the fish was going to eat her and I was truly frightened I was going to drowned.
They have several life guards there and our dilemma was not hard to miss, with Marie standing upright and me bobbing in and out of the water choking. Because we were so far out, it took the lifeguards what seemed like an eternity to reach us. When they got to us, Marie refused to let the lifeguards touch her, screaming and kicking at them. (Good old Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shows up when you least expect it!) What three of the lifeguards ended up doing was supporting me in the water while she continued to stand on my shoulders and scream. Of course there was a huge crowd of onlookers on the beach, some taking photos. (We really were quite a sight!) Once on the beach both Marie and I collapsed into the sand. The life guards asked if we needed to go to the hospital, but I was still breathing and Marie had stopped screaming and was crying quietly, so that meant we had both survived unscathed. Well, maybe not totally unscathed, I’ve lost my wanderlust for snorkeling!
My job is a social worker for children who are blind includes coordinating both a summer and winter program for the children with whom we work. Last winter we went to an indoor water park during February vacation with about twenty-five children who are blind and “legally blind”. The children had a wonderful time playing in the water park, on the slides, in the wave runner surfing area, and in the pool, as well as participate in the regular activities that we plan, such as playing bingo and dancing. Getting together is a huge big deal for these children who are mainstreamed into regular classrooms in their neighborhood public schools where they might not ever see another student with a vision impairment. I began this program twenty two years ago when my oldest son, who is legally blind, was six years old.
The winter program was a huge success! Most notably for me, it was the first time my fourteen year old daughter who is profoundly deaf wanted to help out a group of younger girls who are blind. Each girl had their own staff person who amicably allowed Marie to join their group to help with the little girls. Despite the fact that she normally communicates in American Sign Language, she somehow managed to be very sociable and get along well with everyone. Having normally been obsessed with surfing at the wave runner attraction, and being a somewhat selfish young lady, I had expected she would help for a little while, but spend most of her time surfing. However, I was pleasantly amazed that she did not choose her own activity, but spent all of her time in the water park playing with the little girls, helping them on the slides, holding their hands to guide them around the park, showing them where the food was on their plates, and so forth. She was having a grand time, and the girls all seemed to adore her.
On the last night of this program. Marie was seated at a booth with two of the girls and their staff. One of the girls all of a sudden started waving her hands wildly in the air. Prone to seizures, her staff person asked her if she was okay. She said of COURSE she was okay, she was just TALKING to Marie!! The laughter started at their table and soon circled around the room as everyone realized what she had said…she was signing to her, of course!!!!