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About This Webpage

this website was first created by my late friend Mike Fisher May, 2001. I have been maintaining it for years with some occasional technical from Mike.

in the fall of 1966 Mike went off to college and after a year working at a lamp factory, I went off to computer school. That is when Mike and I lost track of each other. About 35 years later our paths crossed via email.

Trading emails on what we had been doing over the years really sparked an interest in Mike. He kept telling me that I have to share my stories with the world. It took a lot of arm twisting with him and a few other friends to get me to agree. The next thing that I knew was that there was a sample web site launched.

as development continued I had the idea of trying to locate resources that could help the blind community. There is now a fairly extensive resource list for the blind and visually challenged on my website.

now without Mike's guidance, on my own, I developed a new designed website. I tried to keep it visually appealing for the sighted community and easy to navigate for the blind using screen reading software. I have tried to follow the format that Mike previously designed, using columns for the information. I did my best to make this new page useable on mobile devices as well as on the conventional desk top computer.

Special Thanks


To Karen, my best friend
A very special thanks to my loving wife for all that she has done for me. She is always there for me when I need her support and help. She always has a great smile, I can always hear the smile in her voice. I am so lucky to have her, not only as my friend but also my wife. Karen, I shall love you always.

To Nancy DeFont Arnold
I also have a very special thanks to, the late, Nancy DeFont Arnold. Because of our re-acquaintance at our class reunion, I was able to get back in touch with Mike. Nancy has also had a large part in convincing me to create this web site. She believes that my stories will help others as they did for her. Between her and Mike, I found it hard to refuse.

I have very fond memories of Nancy. We only became friends during the last few weeks of school. I was very lucky to have been paired up with her for all of the graduation events. We laughed a lot and talked about the famous "Y" dances.

To Pastor Marianne Unger
I must add this thanks to a wonderful friend, whom I once had the honor and privilege of calling her my Pastor. Pastor Marianne has been a very motivating force in convincing me to share my stories. The story "Be careful for what you wish" in her opinion is a wonderful testimonial to the Glory of God. On July 1, 2001 she encouraged me to tell this story in place of one of her wonderful sermons. She was absolutely right; the members of the congregation were all very touched. Wherever our journeys in life take us, you will always be with me. To visit Rev. Marianne and John's web page visit www.spiritimpact.org. If you would like to read some of Pastor Marianne's inspiring sermons visit www.sermoncentral.com. Then from the home page click on the "All Free Searches". Now near the bottom of the page enter "Unger" in the Search Sermons By Contributor area. Enjoy!

To Mike Fisher
I have a very special thanks to my old friend and Web Designer, Mike Fisher. During high school days Mike and I were very good friends. We must have played several hundred games of chess. I have fond memories of going down to the LAR, an ice cream and sandwich shop. We use to carry in the chess game listen to the jukebox, have a milkshake and play a game or two of chess. What a memory! With that jukebox you could listen to ten songs for fifty cents. It was about the fall of 1966 Mike and I lost contact. When I attended my 35th class reunion and became reacquainted with some old classmates. One classmate has a friend who kept in contact with Mike. I was provided with his email address and an old wonderful friendship was re-established. Resulting in the creation of this web site. This development was totally Mike's brainstorm. I am truly glad that he convinced me into creating the website. Mike did all of the technical stuff to make it happen. Thanks Mike.

To Bonnie Zimmerman (From Mike)(This is a note from Mike Fisher, the "novice (webmaster of this site.) I felt that I should mention that the anonymous person Lenny referred to above, who re-introduced Lenny and me, is , the late, Bonnie Zimmerman. Bonnie my great friend and classmate from Pottsville Area High School , class of 1966. She was the main catalyst that brought together the elements that cooked up the wonderful chemistry that made this all happen. As Bonnie Told me recently, "The Lord works in mysterious ways!"
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World Tour

here is the list of the countries from which I received positive emails about my web page content:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Denmark
  • England
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • Porto Rico
  • Scotland
  • Zambia

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Webmaster's Corner


Please sign my guest book

To contact me, send an email to: Lenny Please put"About your web page"in the subject line. That way I will know that it is not a spam message!

Here are a few informational links that helped me to re-write this webpage.
HTML For Beginners And Veterans Made Easy – Start Learning Today


THE WORLD'S LARGEST WEB DEVELOPER SITE Website design, promotion, programming and revenue making
Welcome to the HiSoftware Cynthia Says Portal - The HiSoftware Cynthia Says is a web content accessibility validation solution, it is designed to identify errors in your content related to Section 508 standards and/or the WCAG guidelines. Unlike HiSoftware's Desktop Software, AccVerify, this online test only validates one page at a time.

note: All trademarks and registered trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.


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My Stories

 

  • Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, 2012

    This is an interesting story why I wore ladies high heels one day. The story is very serious but written with a touch of humor. The program is a fund raiser for the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center. This story contains some hilarious videos and photographs. My story will make you laugh and cry at the same time. Also there is a very funny video of me using some powertools.

  • Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, 2015

    This story has even more humor and a wonderful WBRE TV interview.

  • About My Decision to Get a Guide Dog

    The story about my decision to get a guide dog was chosen as the 2007 first placewinner in the International Association of Assistant Dog Partners, IAADP, writing contest. It was truly an honor for this award for the best opinion story.

  • My Guide Dog Discrimination story and some educational information The New Jersey State Attorney issued a press release educating business owners, hopefully preventing future guide dog discrimination cases.
  • Seeing and Hearing Similarities (almost unbelievable)

    This is a follow-up story to my guide dog discrimination case.

  • Would you like some cheese?

    This was a very humorous situation that took place in an Italian restaurant.

  • Genuflect - My first lesson

    This is another humorous situation that I and some other blind friends encountered

  • Our trip to Australia

    In June of 2003 my wife went to our local State Store to purchase a bottle of Jacob's Creek Merlot wine. She found a contest entry form to win a trip to visit the winery.

  • Amateur Radio Stories

    Here are a few quite interesting amateur radio stories. Kind of makes you wonder/understand why my wife had gray hair at an early age!

  • World's First Talking Computer

    I had the world's first talking computer linked to an IBM mainframe computer. It is an interesting and alarming story.

  • When To Use A Cane

    Many years ago I requested some mobility training. I was able to travel in very familiar environments without the use of a cane. As I was losing more of my vision independent travel was becoming difficult.

  • MY THOUGHTS, CREATION VS EVOLUTION

    I heard part of a discussion about evolution vs. creation. I started thinking more about this and I came to the conclusion that they are probably one and the same.


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My video news stories

Kelly Choate, the reporter from WBRE/WYOU TV did the following 3 news stories. They were all very positive. At the time she told me that the first story"Walk A Mile in Her Shoes"was the most watched story that they ever had because it was so positive.

Pa Home page, WBRE/Wyou TV story WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES Pa Home page, WBRE/Wyou TV story MOTIVATIONAL MAGIC STORY Pa Home page, WBRE/Wyou TV story About the clock MAKES FOR my CHURCH

The theme song for the first Sexual Resource and Counseling Center was"WALK LIKE A MAN"by the Four Seasons. In the pictures and videos, they had firefighters, golfers, businessmen and hunters wearing high heels. I could do none of these but as a blind woodworker I was able to make a promotional video for SARCC. Here is the link to that video.

Lenny Cutting Wood while wearing red heels
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BLIND BEATITUDES

  • Blessed are they who refrain from shouting when they speak to me.
  • Blessed are they who talk directly to me and not to someone else.
  • Blessed are they who say who they are when entering a room and say hello to me.
  • Blessed are they who say goodbye to me when they leave so I am not left speaking to the air.
  • Blessed are they who do not hesitate to say SEE when talking to me.
  • Blessed are they who tap my shoulder gently when they approach from behind or from the side when speaking to me.
  • Blessed are they who wait for me to extend my hand before shaking it.
  • Blessed are they who place my hand on an object such as the back of a chair when telling me where it is, so I can seat myself.
  • Blessed are they who do not leave me in a strange environment without orienting me to it.
  • Blessed are they who offer me their arm so they can serve as my guide, instead of grabbing, pulling or shoving me.
  • Blessed are they who come up to me in a large crowd and offer to help me when I appear disoriented.
  • Blessed are they who do not embarrass me in a group of people by openly referring to my blindness in word or action.
  • Blessed are they who laugh with me when I tell a joke related to blindness.
  • Blessed are they who read me the menu and its prices and allow me to order my own meal.
  • Blessed are they who take me to the cashier so I may pay for my own meal.
  • Blessed are they who do not distract my guide dog from being my active eyes.
  • Bllessed are they who treat me like a human being, for like it or not, I am a human being.
  • Author Unknown:


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    Adversity

    By Maureen Barnard, Licensed Pastoral Counselor

    Hi Lenny,

    I just read your story about your back operations. What an inspiration you are! What a major ordeal you have gone through. I guess the statement is true that" there is no strength where there is no struggle".

    When I first read about your blindness, I could relate somewhat because I have a daughter who is legally blind. When I read this story about your operations and not being able to move, it touched me again and again, I could relate. My 2nd daughter was born with mild cerebral palsy. I was told she would not walk without surgery and my response was "oh yes she will". I prayed and stood her up every day and forced her to move those legs. At age 2 she began to walk and talk. When she was 5, she went to Hershey for surgery on her legs and had casts on both legs for 6 weeks. They told me she would need lots of rehab, and would probably not walk when the casts were removed without rehab. I said "oh yes she will". I prayed and quoted healing scriptures and the day they removed those casts she stood up and walked for the first time with her feet on the floor. We ended up staying at Hershey rehab for about 6 weeks.

    I never let my daughters know they had a handicap and I didn't baby them. I pushed them to succeed. My daughter who is legally blind, is working on her PHD at Pitt. She is married and pregnant with her 2nd child. She has mastered everything she tries. My youngest daughter graduated from Dickinson, was senior class President of her college, worked at the White house editing speeches for George Bush and now works for IBM. I have a son who had ADD and I told him it was a gift to be able to accomplish a lot of things. He is in college, 3 majors, Chinese, finance and business.

    My God is able. I believe in the power of prayer, I believe in laying hands on the sick. I believe in miracles. I was a single mom for 20 yrs and I was strict with my kids. The odds were not good for kids success in a single parent home. I did not want them to be a statistic, so I prayed a lot and spoke positive things into their life.

    Lenny, I'm not sure but I want you to look up "prolotherepy". I think it will help you. It will be great for your muscular skeletal system. Dr. Scott Greenberg is in Cherry Hill N.J. who does this treatment. Here is MY story: I had 4 ruptured discs and was in severe pain for 3 years. Three doctors wanted to operate and put rods and screws in my back, and I said"No way"! I am married to a physician now and he wanted me to have surgery. I said no!. I found Dr. Greenberg searching the internet. I went to him 5 times and each time he injected me with 60 to 70 shots of sugar water into my joints; the sugar water has a touch of lidocaine in it. This causes your body to become inflamed. then The body alerts itself to start healing itself and the tendons & ligaments are built up and strengthened. 5 trips to Cherry Hill and I was pain free. The migraine headaches I suffered with for 40 yrs were gone too.

    My youngest daughter just started this treatment because of the CP; she has hip and leg pain. I'm praying and believing God that he will heal her and prolotherepy is the way God is going to heal her. Check into it, my husband was amazed and now tells his patients about it.

    Some of Dr. Greenberg's patients are the former surgeon general C. Everett Coupe, the sports teams in Phila. (Hockey, football etc.). I think Dr. Greenberg may help you. Nothing is by chance; I read about you for a reason. Your story is touching and quite remarkable about the power of determination and the power of prayer. Nothing is impossible with God. You made a choice to live and that was a harder decision to live up to. It would have been so easy to give up, but you didn't. God bless you Lenny, your story has touched me...so inspirational, you give HOPE a new meaning. I'll keep you in prayer. Blessings, Maureen Barnard
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    Really Flying Blind

    By: Alan Paganelli

    Yes, I really did learn to fly. I can also prove every dime I spent on flying lessons. I kept every receipt for each hour I paid for and every entry in my log book is signed by John Dunn and his CFI certification license number making it perfectly legal. I had close to 40 hours or about enough for a private pilot's license. We even discussed going to court but decided that it would be a waste of good money. I'd be crazy to fly with any body other than a pilot. So technically, I'm flying under his license so in the end we would be going to court to argue over a piece of paper. Somebody else wanted me to give the information to the Guinness world book of records as the first totally blind man to learn to fly but I don't care about that. I did it because it was what I wanted to do and not for anything else and was willing to put my money where my mouth is. Anyway, here's my story.

    Back in the mid 70's I was playing at a local restaurant. They swapped out musicians from time to time and we all came to know each other pretty well. At one time or another, we all played at all of the local establishments. One night I had a night off and went to listen to a new musician at one of the places I regularly worked at. They had a woman playing and she was pretty good. When she took a break we sat and visited talking about the job. She asked me what kind of music the people liked here and I told her. During our conversation she mentioned that she was tired that night because she had just flown into the local airport shortly before she came to work. I knew that the airport only had small aircraft housed there and asked her about it. She said that she was a pilot. I began asking her questions about flying. She said that her husband knew more about the subject than she did and then invited me to their home to meet him and talk about it. I took her up on her offer and her husband was a really great fellow. Come to think of it, some 28 years later give or take he still is but I digress here.

    As we discussed flying he put it to me, if I can talk one of the certified flying instructors into it would you be willing to put your money down on the table to find out what it was all about? We discussed how much it cost back then. It was 20 bucks an hour for a small two place airplane and another 10 an hour for the services of the C-F-I. I said that I thought any flying instructor he might talk to would surely think he was a mad man and that they might pull his ticket too! Much to my surprise the next afternoon he called me up and told me to be down at the airport in the morning at 10 A.M. My flying lesson was then but if I wanted to get a few pointers ahead of time be there two hours earlier and meet him in the flight center and he would show me around in his plane.

    I told my dad all about it and he too thought we all were out of our trees but he would drive me over. Dad flew in in the Second World War and knew about flying.

    We met my friend the next day and he explained all the flight controls and their functions to me. Not only do you have to worry about left and right, you have to worry about up and down too. An aircraft doesn't only operate in two axes, it moves in 3 because an aircraft can also roll. So there is pitch and roll in addition to left and right. Many concepts were explained to me by using my hand representing an airplane or a toy aircraft. He explained the instruments and what they were used fore and it was as clear as mud at midnight on a dark night! He said "don't worry about it now. It'll all come to you as you learn." I began to think he may be in error. We had the left hand side cabin door open for fresh air and a man came up to me and said you must be Alan Paganelli. My name is John and I'm going to be your flying instructor. I remember thinking to myself; funny, he doesn't sound like a mad man.

    John took my brand new empty log book and said I'll make your entries for you and sign off on them with my certified flying instructor's number. That makes it all legal and all. That means I will be making a record of it myself for my records. I thought yeah for the hearing to see which of us is nuttier! Is there such a word? I took his arm and called over my shoulder that I would see my dad and friend when we got back; hopefully.

    John lead me over to a Cessna 1 50 with the identification number of November 6 6 2 1 4. I thought I would be riding in the right hand seat and this would more or less be an introductory lesson. This is this, that's that, we do this to go up and that to go down etc etc etc. No such luck. John led me over to the left hand side of the aircraft and to the pilot's door and helped me strap in. The aircraft had a shoulder and lap strap much like what one would find in an automobile except that the shoulder strap and lap strap are not joined together at the buckle but are independent of each other but are pretty much the same kind of set up. I sat there as he ran around to the right side of the plane and climbed in fastening his own seat belt and shoulder harness. I thought he better make it real good and tight. After he was settled he produced a clip-board and pen and began filling out the paper work as to aircraft identification number, date, time, persons onboard and the like. Wow, we aren't fooling around here. This must be in case we die or crash and burn or something. I later found out it was for the billing of his and the aircraft's time but you couldn't have convinced me of it at the time.

    "Okay Alan, I'm ready. What we're going to do is to get out the pre-flight and before starting engines check list and I'm going to read each item to you. I did it for you this time but from now on you'll be required to do it yourself. I'll assist you the next time so you can learn the correct way to do it for this aircraft. What we are concerned here with now and always is safety safety safety; both yours and mine as well as to those on the ground. As I've said I have already did the preflight and we can proceed to the engine start check list. I will again read every item and you will perform the necessary action to accomplish that task. Are you ready?" He described all the things I would have to do to insure the aircraft was ready to fly including making sure there was fuel in the tanks down to making sure there were no rivets missing from the aircraft's skin and that the landing wheels were correct and proper. I remember thinking there is a lot more to this than there would be in a car. I haven't even got the engine turned on yet! I wonder if there is a key to this thing.....

    John read every item on his check-list and made sure I had performed each task. We finally came to the engine start and he says "before you turn the key, they actually did have one surprisingly enough; you have to yell clear before you turn the engine on. This is to make sure everybody around the area knows you are about to start that propeller to turning extremely fast and we don't want any accidents or anybody to be hurt. Safety, safety, safety remember that always." I waited a few seconds to let anybody near by look around them after I yelled at the top of my lungs, (cleeeeear!) and hit the key. The big giros spun up and began to wine as the radios came on line after the big engine roared into life. Now that was really neat and we aren't even out of the parking place yet. Now this is cool. John said next to me, yeah my face brakes out in a big grin too when I start up too because I know it won't be long before I'm flying.

    "What I'm going to do is to tell you a little bit of left or a little bit of right. What I want you to do is when I say a little bit of right is to take your right foot and lightly press on the right rudder pedal. When I say a little bit of left I want you to lightly press on the left rudder pedal with your left foot. The left and right rudder pedals are located right in front of your feet on the floor. Make sure when you press one of the rudder pedals your pressing on the pedal and not on it's top because you would be stepping on the brake for that pedal. There will be times when your going to do that to assist in turning but for now don't worry about it. I'll help you at first till you get the hang of it and from then on you'll do it yourself. When you press on the right pedal the aircraft will taxi in that direction and by means of the rudder pedals we can control the direction in which we want the aircraft to go. Are you ready to taxi?" Yep! let's do it. "Okay as you have learned we use check-lists to do everything so we leave nothing out. We also do not move or anything else with out clearance when you're a student pilot. Is that understood?" It is said I. "Then, you're cleared to taxi."

    John expertly guided me out of the parking ramp and on to the taxi way. I remember thinking if the sighted only knew this blind fool was taxiing this airplane they'd clear the area for miles around but nobody seemed to notice! We came to the run-up area and John and I went through the run-up checklist. This is to make sure the flight controls haven't picked up any debris or foreign objects and that the engine is developing full power for flight. "Everything looks good and you're cleared to runway 2_7." This does not mean that there are twenty seven runways at this airport but rather the runway is laid out east to west on a compass heading of 270 degrees. Of course the opposite direction would be zero niner zero on the exact same runway only going the other way. I found out that a pilot has to be able to keep the picture in his mind of what's going on at all times.

    I taxied out of the run-up area and on to runway two seven and put my hands in my lap and made sure my feet were well away from the rudder pedals. John said "what are you doing? You can't fly with your hands in your lap. The pilot always sits in the left hand seat and as far as I can see that's you. The pilot does the flying so let's do it." You want me to fly the airplane? "That's what your here for isn't it; to learn how to fly?" I wasn't even sure it would even work at this point in time. "Put your left hand on the control column lightly. (I did as was instructed) but was perfectly sure it wouldn't even work. Now, place your right hand on the throttle. Your right foot will be on the right rudder pedal because when we are going down the runway the torque of the engine will want to rotate the aircraft in an opposite manner than the prop is turning. In other words, when the plane is in the air if the prop is turning clockwise, the airplane wants to rotate counter clockwise and this needs to be compensated for with a little right rudder. I was as ready as I could be but was sure it wouldn't work at all. We would surely go spinning off into space like some crazed egg beater.

    John said I'll call out your speed for you and direct you down the runway. Remember, a little bit of right and a little bit of left. We will accelerate out to 50 knots and rotate the aircraft. About 55 knots the aircraft will leave the ground." I remember thinking the hell you say. What was I doing? Blind people don't fly aircraft at over fifty miles an hour and they're not even off the ground yet. At that rate of speed if I hit those rudders to hard we'll wind up off to the side of the runway into the weeds if we don't take out a few of those runway lights and that's if we're lucky. It could go to hell in a hand cart real damn quick. It's not too late. I can still tell John I didn't have guts enough to try something so foolhardy. This was madness to think I could ever learn to fly and this guy sitting next to me is so calm and collected like he teaches totally blind guys how to fly every day. John interrupted my thoughts which had probably only lasted a second or two. "Okay, push the throttle to the firewall and let's go flying pilot. Well if this guy was a crazy fool what the hell maybe he did teach blind guys every day. Hit the power or call it quits! Are you a man or a mouse? Do you want to live forever? I shoved the throttle to the stops and thought may God favor the foolish.

    The Cessna 1-50 began accelerating down the runway at what seemed to be breakneck speed. John calmly said a little bit of left now. Now a bit of right. You're looking good. Your speed is 30. 40. 50. Okay now rotate! I gently eased back on the controls..... The aircraft actually rotates on its main gear from forward to aft. As it goes along the ground in this way poised for flight, as lift exceeds weight the aircraft lifted off the runway into the air. I couldn't believe it. I'll be a dirty name; it actually works. I must have said this out loud because John began to laugh. "I love to see the look on students faces as they take off for the first time. Yours was no different and maybe even more thunder struck than most. Yes, you took off all by yourself. My hands were in my lap and my feet on the deck. Your flying man; your flying. I gave a little whoop of joy. So this was what it was all about. It doesn't matter how small or how large the aircraft is the experience is still the same. You can sit next to the pilot a thousand hours through hundreds of take-offs and never even have a clue of what that feels like because there is no way to describe it.

    After many more such takeoffs the feeling never lessened. I've heard it said that it's about as close to being a bird as you'll ever get but it's more than that. I have asked men and women alike their thoughts on this subject. I've asked jet jockeys and small aircraft pilots and one astronaut, Sally Ride and they all to a person agree they experienced the same thing. It's like touching the face of God. I know you won't understand that and I don't expect anybody to do so either but it's the best description I have ever heard. I had a guy one time try to tell me you experience the same thing in a race car and offered to show me. We hit 130 miles in a short time but it wasn't anywhere near the same thing because a car is limited to only two axis and not three.

    I have flown many different kinds of aircraft at one time or another. The coolest was an aircraft where there were no sides or nothing overhead. The main wing and engine were behind and above you in a pusher arrangement. The propeller faces backwards and actually pushes the aircraft through the air but it's about as close to riding on a broomstick as one can get and fun as hell. Don't drop your sunglasses because the next step is three thousand feet below and for God's sake don't smile unless you want your teeth full of bugs..... The aircraft is named quite appropriately enough, A "Breezy." I flew a L-10-11 Try star up from Florida on a return to Chicago one time and the passengers in the back never knew that some blind guy flew them the last fifteen minutes along the way.

    I went on with John for another 40 or so hours and have them all in my log book to this day. He went on to bigger and better things and the last time I saw him he was flying for a major airline. One day I asked him why he was willing to try to teach me how to fly. It surely had to be a monumental task. The regular methods of teaching wouldn't work here on a totally blind person. ""Well, I thought of that it's true enough. On the other hand, if I could find ways to make it clear to a blind man it might make it easier to a sighted one as well. Everybody would be better off for it and I would be a better pilot and instructor for it."

    I had a second instructor after John and learned much from him too. That was back in the 70's. I flew many times since then and even did some flying in sail planes and tossed those around the sky doing aerobatics for the fun of it. Imagine roller coaster hills a thousand feet high and a sudden drop of thousands of feet. Picture your head in the center of a circle. Now imagine your butt making a sideways circle from right to left up over your head and back down again wile your head appears to stay in the center of that circle. That my friends is called a roll and is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. Picture yourself being raced up and have your head back in that center circle again. Now imagine your butt going up over your head and stopping there with your butt up and your head down and now it feels like you're falling straight down before it all reverses to the way it was when it started. This is called a wing over and is just as much fun.

    I met a guy in Boulder City, Nevada who was a sail plane pilot who took me up for a ride in a plane with no engine. That's called a sail plane my friends because you seek out thermals that rise. Thermals are warm rising columns of air. These can actually lift an aircraft. Sail plane pilots can stay aloft for quite some time just riding the rising air columns like the eagles do. After a prop plane towed us to an altitude of 10,000 feet and turned us lose, he says I usually take the tourists over the Las Vegas strip and let them see the lights. If you want, I can do that for you and try my best to describe what I see to you if that's okay. I told him about my flying and damn that. Show me what this baby can really do! "Well okay then!" and away we went. It should have been a 30 minute ride. An hour later we landed laughing and having a ball. My dad and wife were on the ground wondering where we were. The half hour had gone by and we weren't back yet. They both looked up in the sky about the same time as we were doing a spin. It looks like the aircraft is doing a spiral down at about a 45 degree angle. Looks scary as hell. They thought we were surely going to buy the farm. Were we in trouble? No way! We were having way too much fun!

    blind-geek-zone.net/Audio/ReallyFlyingBlind.mp3 - This is a link to the mp3 recording of his first flight. He suggests using headphones because you can hear him and the instructor better over the engine noise.
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    Another genuflecting Story"

    by: Anne (last name withheld by request)

    Dear Lenny,

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful web page. I am laughing and crying at the same time. I love the cheese story, and of course the genuflecting!

    Being a Catholic, I believe I can add to that story. You know, we catholics are so used to genuflecting, that we take for granted that we can exercise this move with all sorts of agility and not much thought. When I was about 16 (and totally boy-crazy!), I found myself following my father right down the middle aisle of St. Patrick's Church at the 12:15 Mass on a Sunday morning. My father, of course, always insisted on sitting very close to the front of the church. When we got to the designated pew, my father knelt down to genuflect while I was busy gaping over my right shoulder at my latest "crush", who was a few pews behind us.

    You know what's coming now, don't you. Luckily, Dad was much bigger than me, and I flew over him and was sprawled on the floor. He, however, managed to keep his dignity intact and regain his footing! And also get me off the floor! Needless to say, I was never able to look at the heartthrob of the moment again! And from that moment on, my Father never walked in front of me.


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    story section

    My Success Story

    I was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, commonly referred as RP. RP is an eye disease that affects a person's night vision and peripheral vision. It is a genetic disorder that is usually hereditary. Symptoms start with decreased night vision and later progress to a diminishing of peripheral vision. The rate of decline varies depending on the genetic makeup of the disease.

    In my family, it mainly shows up in the male members although I did come across one female who was related to my mother. I had a grandfather, two uncles a brother and now a grandson with the affliction. I had an uncle without it. These three uncles were all brothers of my mother. None of my cousins contracted the disease. I have one brother that has it and two brothers that do not. None of my sisters have the problem. Many believe that it skips a generation but, in my case each generation has someone with the disease.

    During my high school days, I was actually ashamed of my problem. I did everything possible to conceal it. Because of this I was probably in better shape than most of the kids in my class. In gym class I knew that I could not see well enough to participate in some of the sporting games. Therefore I would talk or chew gum to get punished. The punishment was running laps, running up and down the bleachers, or doing sit ups for the entire class. For me this was much easier than facing the embarrassment of not being able to play. I probably should have gone to a school for the blind, but main streamed long before the term was coined. I had a special tutor. My guidance counselor, Mrs. Dietrich, and her sister, Miss Ryan, set up a program where I had some help. Three days a week I would go to a small conference room by the guidance office. A wonderful lady, Mrs. Berkowitz, brought in large print books. She would get all of the assignments from my teachers. She would then help me study.

    After I left high school in 1965, I worked for about a year at the lamp factory. I knew that I did not want to do this for the rest of my life. Although I had a lot of fun there, nothing was mind stimulating.

    The Pennsylvania Office for the Blind sent me to Williamsport Community College for an evaluation. This was a four-week trial. I was to spend two or three days in every course to determine what best suited me. The first was electric shop, which I really enjoyed. The next was the computer lab. I never left this course. I liked that so much that I kept asking the professor if I could stay.

    The decision was made and Computer Systems Institute, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, here I come. This was a hand-picked class. There were twenty-two students from Rhode Island through Mississippi. Out of these students I was the only one, as well as the youngest one, with just a high school education. The rest had two to four years of college. After the first week, I was ready to quit. I didn't believe that I could compete with the other students. My high school counselor talked to me. She reminded me that I accepted every challenge in school and encouraged me to try it for one more week. She told me that after another week or so I could come home and no one would be upset. Interesting, out of the original twenty-two students, only eleven graduated. And out of these eleven I was sixth in the class.

    I then started a thirty-one year career with the Pennsylvania Department of Highways, later to become the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. A few years later I met Karen Naffin. On May 25, 1974 we married. We are blessed with two girls Kelly and Susan. Kelly is now married and has our first grandson, Christian Gauker.

    I became an active member of the Pottsville Jaycees. I held every office with the exceptions of treasurer and secretary. I was the only blind person in Pennsylvania Jaycee history to become a chapter president of a non-handicap chapter. Through the years in this organization I was presented with many awards for outstanding community service.

    In the mid 1980's I developed an interest in amateur( HAM ) radio. I enrolled in a correspondence course from The Hadley School for the Blind. This correspondence course took me nearly two years to complete. With the help of my friend Gary ( call sign KA3FUL ), I finally was prepared for the FCC test and was presented with a license. I was first issued the call sign of KA3PVO. When I upgraded to the technician class I elected for a call sign change. I was then issued the new call sign of N3FGY. Every week a bunch of us would talk and try to insult each other, only in fun. One operator John ( call sign K3SLJ )gave me the phonetics of KA3PVO - "Pottsville's Vicious Operator." After I received my new call sign, I used the phonetics N3FGY- "Finest Guy Yet." Wow, did this cause a ruckus!

    Back at work, my reputation of being a competent computer systems analyst kept improving. Through the years at PennDot I was presented with several employee of the month awards. I was being presented with one of these awards by a new Bureau Director, Brian, who really didn't know me or my sense of humor. When he presented me with the certificate and a coffee mug, I couldn'' help myself. I took the cup in my left hand, grabbed my cane and said If I had a pair of sunglasses, I could now supplement my income at lunch time. Everyone that knew me started laughing, and the Bureau Director did not know what to say! On six different occasions I was nominated to receive the Governor's Most Outstanding Handicap Employee of the Year Award. Up until the time of my retirement, I was the only employee to be presented with the Star of Excellence Award on two occasions. This is the highest award presented for outstanding service. I can remember what was said during the first presentation. The Secretary of Transportation during the presentation said "Lenny isn't getting this award because of his disability. He is getting it in spite of it." I don't believe that there was a dry eye in the place. My high school guidance counselor always called me her most successful graduate. I never understood what Mrs. D. meant by that. I always thought that success was power, prestige or wealth. How wrong I was for thinking that way. I did not think I was the success that she said because I hadn't become a doctor or famous lawyer. It was only after the recent death of her sister Miss Ryan, my favorite English teacher, that I began to understand. I went to Ms. Ryan's wake with my wife. When I met Mrs. D. she was so glad to see me. She told my wife that I always had a very kind heart. For some unexplained reason I only then understood. She counted success with the way I lived. Thanks Mrs. D.

    In some ways I probably did more without sight than most people have done with vision. I rode horses and I was an avid bass fisherman. I am one of only three blind magicians in the country. I used magic to show kids that just because one has a handicap it doesn't mean that he/she can not do anything. It is ironic, when you watch a magician he can see what he is doing and you can not. When I performed you can see what I am doing and I can not. In both cases you can not figure out how it is done.

    I think my highest accomplishment was jumping out of an airplane at 8,200 feet and experiencing a one mile free fall. This was a tandem jump. Both the instructor and I used the same parachute. After the free fall, I was in control until the last 100 feet.

    My current hobby is woodworking. I use a table saw, sliding compound miter saw and some other power tools. It's funny but I feel safer using these tools than allowing some of my sighted friends. Sighted people take things for granted whereas I can not afford to do so.
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    Be careful for what you wish, you just might get it

    For many years prior to November 1995, I was developing more and more dysfunction with my arms and legs. The cause was bone spurs cutting my spinal cord. After years of physical therapy it finally came to reality that with out surgery I would be paralyzed from the neck down. This would happen over the next five or so years.

    Now I had to find a good surgeon. Through a lot of talking to co-workers and friends I located the best orthopedic surgeon in the Harrisburg area. After meeting this man, I learned a totally new meaning for the word impressive. As he was studying my MRI and x-ray films, he kept saying, "Hmm, impressive, very impressive." Listening to this I knew that it was good, after all look around at all of the impressive things and people. I couldn't believe what came next. He took down the films and carefully put them back into their respective folders. He then came over and said "I'm very sorry, this is much more than I can handle". He then shook my hand, recommended that I find a good neurosurgeon, and wished me good luck. Not only did he not charge me the $250 for the office visit; he even gave me a home cervical traction unit. This unit hung over a door and used a pulley system. A bunch of straps went under my chin and behind my neck and at the other end of the rope was a plastic container that held ten pounds of water. I think it was designed from someone reincarnated from mediaeval France.

    Later, I located the best neurosurgeon at Hershey Medical Center. . This Doctor was very reserved. He wanted to try a few other things before he cut. He finally came to the conclusion that I had no other choice.

    My decision now was do nothing and wait for the paralysis to slowly happen, or as I kind of joked, go for it over night.

    I made living wills and stated that if something went wrong I didn't want to live. One of my co-workers overheard this and got on my case. He stated in the passed twenty-five years or so that he knew me, he never saw a selfish trait until that moment. He felt that even if something went wrong I would be depriving my family of both my love but also theirs. I told him that it may be true but I am getting tired of fighting. I have been fighting all of my life to overcome blindness and prove myself, not to others but just to myself.

    Finally November 20, 1995 was here. Instead of cutting a bone graft from my hip, I requested that the doctor use the bone bank. I have talked to other people who went through the same procedure. They all said that they had more discomfort with their hip than with their neck. Anyway, when he agreed I was very happy. In fact, I was so upbeat about the procedure that I said to the Doctor "let's rock and roll".

    This was to be an overnight visit and I was to come home the following morning. The procedure, which lasted about six hours, consisted of cutting through my throat, moving everything aside, cutting out the bone in the c3, and 4,5 and 6 vertebrae. Then installing a bone graft, plates and screws.

    When back in my room and awake, I realized that I was almost totally paralyzed from the neck down. I only had a little movement with my left arm. I was that upset and angry with God that I could not even tell Karen. I left her go home without telling her that I was paralyzed. I also could not believe that God left me live this way.

    Karen then got a phone call telling her that I was being rushed back into the operating room for another emergency surgery. Here some blood ran down and clotted along my spinal cord causing swelling and resulting in a spinal cord injury. This six-hour procedure entailed removing everything and removing the blood clot, then putting the grafts and screws back in place.

    When I awoke from this operation, my anger worsened. I had even more paralysis than before. I could not believe that God let this happen to me. I just wanted to die. And later, I almost got my wish.

    Shortly, I was rushed back for a third and final operation to remove a second blood clot that caused even more paralysis.

    I did make a few friends at Hershey. Pastor Dan, a resident chaplain, and I had many long talks. I first met him as I was being rushed into one of the two emergency surgeries. He talked to me said a prayer and read Psalm 22, from the NIV, New International Version, Bible. .

    It starts with "My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me,".

    As I said "be careful for what you wish, you just might get it".

    Through the night after the final surgery there was a time of true terror. I felt myself starting to get nauseated. No nurse had come in to see me, but the call nurse button was placed in my right hand. I don't know how I got the strength to depress the button. She tried to talk to me over the intercom but I could only whisper after the eighteen hours or so of surgery. When she came in I told her that I was sick. Before she entered I could only imagine myself choking to death.

    I had the most incredible feeling of terror and helplessness. She quickly pushed me to one side and left never to return. I knew that that was not far enough. I lay this way for four or five hours in terror trying to hold back the sickness. Since she did not put the call button in my hand, I could not again call for help. I also knew that I would not live if I became ill.

    That is when I, again, started talking to God. I made peace with him for letting this awful thing happen to me and told him that I really did want to live. I asked him to help me. I again regained the motivation and determination with which I had always been blessed.

    About two days after these surgeries a group of people came into my room. They had forms to be filled out placing me on total disability. I guess I got a little rude when I told them to get out of my room. I told them that I planned to go back to work. I then asked Karen to start bringing small weights, soft rubber balls and things like that to my room. I started my own physical therapy program long before it was ordered. I made Karen stretch and hold my fingers straight. Over the years I saw many that had paralysis that their hands and fingers were twisted and curled. I was not going to allow this to happen to me.

    As I previously mentioned I made a new friend Pastor Dan. We had many long talks about my life and the church and God. This may sound a little strange however; he told me that he was glad when I told him that I was very upset and angry with God. He said you could only get angry with him if you truly believe and that God has broad shoulders. He said that it is easy to get angry with someone that you can see and touch. I also told him that I knew that God did not want me to be blind but allowed it. I told him that I knew that he wanted me to use my blindness to help and, if possible, to inspire others.

    At the time our church had no regular pastor, only supply pastors. Dan was so wonderful I told him that I wish he could come to our church but I really knew that he was needed at Hershey.

    I didn't know that the nurses had put a sign on my door warning others that I am highly motivated.

    I believe that they actually closed the door so that they could not see what I was doing. One-day nurse Pat came into my room where they had me sitting in a chair with the bed tray wedged in front to keep me from falling. When she saw it tipping forward she panicked. I was lifting it with my toes. She exclaimed, "you can't do that" I said, "yes I can just watch".

    Pat also spent some time talking to me. She could not believe what happened. She had been an acute care nurse for about four years. She told me that the procedure that was done to me was repeated two or three times a week. In her four years she never saw anyone get a blood clot along the spinal cord let alone two times. I told her that that is one way that I could get some recognition.

    My dad has always had a great sense of humor and he knew that I was also blessed with this gift. I guess that it was about the fourth day after the surgeries that I struggled and was able to peel a banana, by myself. It must have taken me almost an hour to complete. I was that happy I started to cry. I asked the nurse to dial my parent's phone number so I could tell them of this fantastic accomplishment. I could hear my dad becoming a little choked up. He then got his composure and said "you mean, I now have a son with the same ability as a monkey". We both laughed for several minutes.

    A few days later the doctor ordered physical and occupational therapy. Before the program started a small group of physical therapists came into my room for evaluation. It took four of them just to help me stand. They also took hand and arm movement measurements. They were very professional but a little too serious. I could not control my sense of humor. I looked toward one of the young girls and held out my hand and asked, "will I be able to play the piano when you are finished?" They all got very quiet, finally she said absolutely. I said, "wonderful, I always wanted to be able to play". It took several minutes for them to stop laughing. They said they could not believe that they fell for that one.

    The next day when I got to the occupational therapist she wheeled me to the arm bike. She lifted my hands onto the handles and said we will try to do this for two minutes. I said "no problem" she replied with a we will see, comment. Eight minutes later she made me stop.

    I found myself getting depressed whenever they took me back to my room. I knew that I had a better chance of getting better in the gym as opposed to lying in the hospital bed.

    I use to get upset when I heard the other patients crying "I can't do that" or "it hurts". I guess that I had a very unfair advantage since I started viewing this as just another obstacle to overcome, like my blindness, and furthermore I knew that God was on my side.

    About another week passed and another group of people came into my room. At this time I really embarrassed Karen. They talked about moving me to the rehabilitation center for seven to ten days. This was just time enough to let me learn to walk and then continue outpatient therapy. I told them no more than five days. They got a little louder and so did I. They said that they know what they are talking about because they saw cases like this before. They said it would be at least ten days and they don't want me to be disappointed with my time frame. I still insisted on three to five days. I walked out in exactly five days of physical therapy. Before going home, I made Karen and my good friend Ed take me shopping to purchase some jewelry for my sister's Christmas present.

    Ed, a true friend, came to see me every possible day. Ed and I use to work together and now he works for the State Police. At the time his wife and home was in western Pennsylvania and he went home every weekend. He eventually built a home near Harrisburg and his family relocated. Anyway, as I was saying, a true friend. One day he came into my room with a map and a key to his apartment. He told me that it is for any of my family members to use if they want to stay over. He never met any of my family. This is the action of a true friend.

    After being released from Hershey Medical, I felt like a permanent fixture at Schuylkill Rehabilitation. There, I also made some new friends. I later found out that my motivation spread to the therapists as well as some of the other patients. One instance that comes to mind is when on a Monday, Kathy had me between the parallel bars. She had some other people assisting just in case I would fall. My task was to try and walk with one foot in front of the other. I could only take two or three steps so she stopped that exercise. The following Thursday she wanted to re-try that exercise. She called for some help. I told her that that was not necessary and walked up and down several times. She said that is impossible. I told her that I practiced it at home. I explained that I walked about ten to fifteen miles on my treadmill with one foot in front of the other.

    Another incident that helped a patient was when I was working with Janet my occupational therapist. Before the session was complete I performed a magic illusion. For many years I was a magician, MOTIVATIONAL MAGIC, and used magic to demonstrate that a handicap is only what you make it. Anyway, as I was performing this trick, Kathy was working with a patient that was uncooperative. She started explaining to him that I not only was blind but also recently paralyzed from a surgical procedure. She could see the expression on this man's face change as he started trying to help himself.

    When I was discharged, Kathy told me that I had my own grading scale. She told me that once a week all therapists and the doctor met to discuss patient's progress and performance plans. She said they would look at my progress and try and figure where I should be in the next two weeks. She would then say "remember this is Lenny" and the two-week progress was changed to a few days.

    I know that I did not do all of this on my own. I had wonderful support from family, friends, professional therapists and most of all God.

    Because of these new problems I lost my ability of independent travel. I no longer have the coordination to correctly use my white cane. That is when I decided to get a guide dog. Indy, my first guide was truly a part of God's plan!. Because of my physical condition, every well-known guide dog school turned me down. They thought that I did not have the physical ability to handle a dog. I talked to a friend that has a guide dog. I told him the story of the first guide dog I ever met. I went to computer school with a man that had this dog. I haven't talked to Joe since we left in May 1967. When I mentioned his name to this friend I was told that he recently met Joe. He just happened to have his phone number. I then called Joe, during our conversation I told him that I finally decided to get a guide dog but was unsuccessful. He told me to contact Eric at Freedom Guide Dogs. Interestingly, Freedom just decided to expand into Pennsylvania. Eric came down to interview me and told me that he could train a dog for me. This had to have been planned. What are the chances of having friend that just met someone that knew a trainer who would provide me with a dog?

    By the way, remember when I said that I chased some people out of my room because I planned to go back to work? Well, the First week of February 1996, I started again working. My employer installed a remote computer site in my home. I worked from home for the next few years. There were many times when I would start at six in the morning, and except for lunch, dinner, and the two hour physical therapy session, I would work to eleven or twelve PM. There were a few times when my daughter would walk into the room and say "give it up dad!"

    Although I have not fully recovered, without the surgeries by now I would probably be paralyzed. And now, with God's help, I can only improve.



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    Hard to believe, falling down the basement steps is one of the best things that ever happened to me

    It is even harder to believe that on two separate occasions I fell down a flight of steps and came out much better than I was before the fall. The second story immediately follows the September 2011 story.

    On September 14, 2011 I fell down the basement steps. The basement doorway is Immediately to the right of the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room. We were getting ready to go on a shopping excursion with some friends. I already had Toga, my Freedom Guide Dog, in the van when I decided to go back into the house for some extra strength pain relief for another of my frequent headaches.

    While in the kitchen, taking the pain relief medication, I heard the lawn care guys in the yard. Karen was upstairs so I quickly ran into the dining room to let her know that the workers were out back. I did not realize that the basement door was open and I ended up going on a slight angle. Instead of entering the dining room, suddenly there was no floor.

    I do have an electronic door warning device that recently stopped working. It was to be replaced in the next day or so. I went face first down the steps. As I was bouncing off the steps I tried to grab one of them to slow or stop my rapid descent. I had a mental picture of what I most likely would encounter when I stopped gliding down the steps. At the bottom I have a large metal woodworking table and visualized myself hitting that table and breaking my neck. Fortunately I only hit my face on the floor.

    Now laying there with blood gushing, I yelled for help. Karen actually heard me falling down the steps and was on her way. I must have been a horrific sight for her. She went running to a phone to call 911. Then she yelled what is the number. Seeing me in that state covered in blood lying on the floor she momentarily could not think.

    Now waiting for the ambulance I started checking myself out. I was able to move fingers, hands, arms, toes, feet and legs. I immediately thanked God that there was nothing more serious, I did feel the bones in my nose break. I did not know that I also fractured some bones around my eye and in my cheek. I really kept my sense of humor and upbeat attitude. Why get upset, I could not undo the fall. I had to put it past me and focus on my complete recovery.

    I never could stand pity and always hated self-pity in anyone. I do not like sympathy because of my blindness however I do expect empathy.

    When an ambulance is dispatched a policeman also is automatically dispatched. When they arrived I told them what happened. When it went over the police scanner, the Chief of Police, a longtime friend, quickly called his son, another police officer, to go and check on me. He then quickly called my sister who is on city council to let her know what happened? He did not want her to hear it from a stranger.

    I can only imagine what my friends thought when they arrived for the shopping trip. It had to look like a major crime scene. In front of my home there was an ambulance and two police cars. And the ambulance crew carrying me, drenched in blood, out of the basement. The only thing missing was the crime scene tape around my home and the news vans.

    As I mentioned, I never lost my sense of humor and upbeat attitude. When I arrived at the hospital they asked if I was allergic to anything. I responded "basement steps". Everyone around me stopped for a moment to laugh. I, after explaining the fall, I started joking that first she pushed me then changed my story to saying isn't dinner ready yet? And she hit me with a frying pan. One emergency room worker had already stated that it looks like I was hit with a frying pan.

    I ended up with 26 stitches in my face and had to see an ear, nose and throat specialist as well as an ophthalmologist because of the fractured bones around my eye. He had to make sure that some eye muscles were not trapped in the breaks. If so another surgery would be required.

    The next day I had the doctor appointments. The ENT surgeon told me that next week he will be able to reconstruct my nose. He had to wait until most of the swelling went down. At the same time he would correct the sinus problem that bothered me for as long as I can remember.

    Years ago I had some serious neck surgery and was afraid that I did some major damage in that area. Actually I did a little. I had pain in my right arm and could not lift it with any signs of black and blue marks there. Two days later I turned my head and the pain in my neck was at a very high level. Here the vertebras were popping back into place by themselves relieving the pressure on the nerves immediately allowing me to lift my right arm.

    I did seek medical attention for my neck but so far everything is healing on its own. After about eight weeks the pain in my right arm totally faded. This was after the pressure on the nerves in my neck was relieved. There were also black and blue marks with the pattern of the steps imbedded in my left arm and leg.

    Damage to my neck, from the fall, turned out to be another wonderful blessing. After my neck surgery in 1995, I could not turn my head all the way to the right because scar tissue prohibited full range of motion. The fall broke the scar tissue allowing me to turn my head normally. It was explained to me that in cases like this I would be taken into the operating room, put under, and they would break the scar tissue to have this corrected, . Fortunately, the fall did that for me.

    On Sunday, four days after my fall, I went to church. I must have looked like something directly from a Frankenstein horror movie. Everyone was concerned and I was immediately placed on the prayer list. Actually I was blessed with having people praying for me in at least seven states and two additional countries. I strongly believe in the power of prayer.

    Anyway back to the church service. Our pastor, whom I consider a good friend, knows my sense of humor. After I explained what happened, he jokingly said, "This is possibly an improvement to my looks". Each week he could not believe how fast I was healing. He said that it was as if he could watch the healing process take place in front of him.

    Here is some advice for anyone who may have to go to the emergency room for some stitches in your face. Please ask for an experienced doctor, surgeon or plastic surgeon to come in to do the sutures. In my case a physician assistant did the repair. Around my eye and above my nose he had the skin piled and folded over. I did require another surgery to have that repaired. If done properly the first time I would not have required that second surgery.

    As I started out saying this is one of the best things that ever happened to me. Immediately after the nose reconstruction surgery I was able to breath better than I ever did. I also had constant sinus headaches. Over my working career I lost many days due to severe headache pain. I also was diagnosed with chronic sinusitis since I normally suffer with five or six major infections every year. I am optimistic that these will also be eliminated or significantly reduced. I took hundreds of prescription medications for the sinus pain. The fall was about ten weeks ago and I have not had one headache in that time period. I suspect that will continue. I do not think I ever went more than a week without a headache.

    When I was in the recovery room after the second surgery, I told the nurses that that fall was the best thing that ever happened to me. They were all laughing and the one made a great observation. She loved my upbeat attitude and my sense of humor. I told her about being allergic to basement steps. She believes that a good sense of humor is not learned but a gift from God. I cannot agree more. I often stated that maybe I wasn't given sight however I was blessed with a wonderful sense of humor.

    Another good thing that came out of the fall is that I finally learned to slow down. My late father always yelled at me to slow down. I always walked very fast through the house, kind of like the preverbal bull in the china shop.

    I installed an automatic door closer on the basement door, no more depending on battery operated warning devices at the top of the basement steps.

    This home is about 120 years old, long before any building codes. The front porch is a high porch with two foot railings. On more than one occasion, I almost fell over the side railing. I designed and built a railing extension bringing it up to a 39 inch height. I had a helper help install and paint it for me. Last year Karen fell on the porch and almost went over the front railing. Over the winter I plan to bring it up to code height with flower boxes. They will add safety to the front railing height and give Karen a place to showcase her flowers.

    the orthopedic surgeon that I went to see to check out my neck is very conservative. That is why I went to him. He did not want to even do an MRI since things appeared to be healing on their own. He did check out my neck with an examination and chose to just monitor the situation. I do not think that I even have to go back but I will for a final visit. Everything seems to be back to normal. I told to him that I often go into the basement because of a woodworking hobby. He did not want me to be using power saws. When I asked why, he said that he just does not think it is a good idea and does not want me doing that. The following visit I took pictures of some of my projects. He studied them and asked if I made them before I lost my vision. I told him that that was not the case and some were made last year. He pondered while studying the photographs and then stated that God really gave me a gift. He told me about a blind artist and that like him I could visualize a piece of furniture in my mind and transfer that picture to my hands and the tools. When I go back to the ophthalmologist I will again have to take the pictures. He have similar feelings about me using power tools.

    The surgeon, who reconstructed my nose, gave me permission to resume woodworking. That is when I made the extension for the porch railing. When he did the corrective surgery for the bad stitch job, he was telling the staff in the operating room about my web page and that I made some beautiful furniture and cabinet work. He also was telling them about my beautiful guide dog. He also loves Toga. When I go to his office I remove her harness so she can socialize.

    Karen had her waiting for me. Karen removed her harness so everyone in the operating room and recovery room could have a short visit with Toga. After the doctor told them about her they all had to come out to see her. When I came out of the recovery room Toga was waiting. She kept trying to touch my hand. Toga is trained not to get on furniture. I think that if she could have she would have been up in the bed with me. Obviously she knew that something was not right.

    So as I stated it is one of the best things that ever happened to me. My sinus problems and headaches are cured. I was able to educate some nurses and doctors on the capability of blind individuals. I learned to slow down a little and made the home more blind friendly and safer for all.

    The actual fall took about four or five seconds, seemed like a very long time of terror. When I was able to move everything I was so thankful and immediately put the fall behind me. I did not complain about the situation. A few of the nurses told me that most people would be complaining and feeling sorry for them, I believe that I gave them a little more motivation.

    Prior to the reconstruction surgery, a request was made to allow two student nurses to observe the procedure. I told them absolutely and started talking about the rules of guide dogs. I never pass an opportunity to educate the public about guide dogs. I explained how important it is not to try and pet a working guide. I also told them that occasionally the medical profession is the worst to deal with blind individuals. On many occasions I arrived at the reception's desk and was handed a stack of papers and told to fill them out. Sometimes a nurse will come out call your name and say "follow me", hmmm! Where did you go? Eye doctors during an examine often will say "look this way" or "look that way", ok where is over there or that way? After talking to them they requested that I would come to speak at the school. They said that the talk would help them all become better equipped to work with blind patients.

    One after thought, I guess that I do have one small complaint. When the doctor corrected the bad stitch job, he could have tried to make me look about 16 years old, about the age that I often act. I often joke that when people ask how many children do we have, I say "two" and Karen says "three". I do not understand why she cannot count!!! This Christmas Eve I will turn 65 years old and I still do not know what I want to do when I grow up...

    Now, for the second time by falling down a flight of steps has resulted in me being significantly better than I was prior to the fall. January, 2015 we were taking some Christmas decorations into the attic for storage. I was carrying a deep tote up the steps. At the top I did not have it high enough. It hit the top step and bounced back. That forced me to fall straight backwards down the steep steps, about 15 in all.

    The fall resulted in three broken ribs, bruised lungs, a break in my hand and crystals knocked loose in both ears. I also had a large bruise on top of my head where I hit some things at the bottom of the steps that were waiting to be taken up.

    Again waiting for the ambulance and EMTs I was in really good spirits. I kind of checked myself out. I could move my toes, feet and legs. I also could move my fingers, hands, arms and head. So first I was not dead and secondly not paralyzed so I knew that everything else could and would be fixed. I again told them that I was allergic to steps when the question"are you allergic to anything"was asked.

    I was unaware about the crystals until at the hospital. I had severe vertigo as I did many years ago. Two weeks later I went to have the vertigo checked out and again was sent to see a balance therapist. They slightly changed the procedure from 18 years ago. This time all of the crystals were put back into place. For 18 years I suffered with vertigo. When they did the procedure they never rechecked and the crystal was not put back into the correct ear chamber. So this time it totally corrected the vertigo that I had for almost 20 years. This made me better than I was prior to the fall.

    There is a machine called the balance master used to check your balance. Years ago when they put me on it I was very sick. The moving platform seamed to tilt in every possible direction. That is not the case. Because the crystal was not back in place the slight movement caused severe dizziness making it feel like the platform moved in all directions. I always stated that I would never again get on that machine.

    After the crystals were back in place, I did request that I would be put back on the balance master. To my surprise it only slightly tilted front and back. It tests your total equilibrium system. As expected it only flagged eyesight as not working for your balance. So to have 18 years of vertigo corrected was really worth the broken ribs and hand.

    Honestly, I never want to try the steps again to have something else corrected. I really believe that God had a hand in keeping my injuries to a minimum and have the outcome making me better than I was before the fall.


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    Joining the Zipper Club

    - I joined the zipper club in 2004, this story should convince everyone not to dismiss a potential medical problem.

    On August 3, 2004 I became a member of the Zipper Club. This club was named for people who had open heart surgery. The name was chosen because of the scar. In the past the scar greatly resembled a zipper.

    A few months earlier I was walking all around Australia with no problems. Several weeks after returning home I took Indy, my Freedom Guide Dog for a walk to visit my grandson. The walk is close to a mile with one large hill to climb. Near the top of the hill I found myself with some discomfort in my chest, like most, I thought it was indigestion. Now the fact that I am a retired computer system analyst I tend to be very logical. To prove to myself that it was only indigestion, the next day I went on the same walk and again near the top of the hill found myself in pain. I know that I can not recreate indigestion by simply walking up a hill. Subsequently, I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss this newly developed medical problem. This resulted in an immediate EKG and a follow-up stress test. During the stress test, I again found myself in some chest pain. Now back at my doctor's office with the stress test results, it was decided that I needed a heart catheterization. I informed my doctor that in that case I wanted to go to the Lehigh Valley Hospital. surprisingly his comment was "good, that is where I planned to send you."

    From the very beginning I had a good feeling about everything. The stress test really did not identify a major problem. A few weeks later I was in the hospital waiting to start the heart catheterization. I was so upbeat about the expected outcome, I even joked with the doctor while he was performing the procedure. I told him a few jokes; we talked about blindness and the fact that I use all types of power tools. During the procedure he was raving about my heart and arteries. He kept saying "your heart is so strong and there is no plaque build up." He went on to say that the walls of my heart are very clean and strong. He mentioned that I would probably be going home in a few hours. He just had one more thing to check. He directed his assistant to start the probe up the left main artery. That is when the fun time halted. He quickly told his assistant to stop because there was a blockage in the left main. The doctor then told me that I was a moment away from a major coronary. I was advised that this particular blockage could not be stinted and bypass surgery was the only option. If he would try to insert a stint it would result in instant death. He later told me they have a name for this particular blockage; it is commonly referred to as "the widow maker". I was informed how lucky I was that I not only had a warning but I quickly acted upon it. I have often heard about someone who walked outside and had a massive heart attack. Most people who develop the widow maker blockage never have any warning or if they do they tend to ignore it.

    He stated that I would not be going home and I cannot let you get off this table. He went on to say that if possible he would have me in the operating room that afternoon. This was about 11:00 AM. I was in the operating room before 7:00 AM the following morning. Fortunately, I had very little time to think and worry about the procedure. Unlike the last major surgery, this time I was talking to God and had a very good feeling, I felt like God was with me.

    That evening prior to the surgery, I requested that the hospital chaplain, who happens to be a friend, come to see me. Unfortunately, he was on vacation and another chaplain quickly came to my room. We had a long talk and said a few prayers after which I really felt relaxed. When I woke up after the surgery, a triple bypass, I felt absolutely wonderful. I had very little pain unless I tried to move, and a cough or sneeze was not so pleasant. Everyone at the hospital was very kind and helpful; I do not believe that I could have received better care anywhere else. Two days later when they removed all of the drainage tubes they wanted to take me for a walk around the halls. Now since I have Indy, I became a very fast walker and distance is no problem. We typically walk about two and a half miles per hour. So when the two nurses tried to take me down the hall I was pushing them along, saying let's walk. They kept saying "nobody walks this fast after cardiac surgery." The next day I requested for Karen to bring Indy down so the therapist could watch how we work. I wanted to make sure it would be OK. After all, my chest was wired together and Indy is typically a strong pulling dog. Let the show begin, I took hold of Indy's harness and off we went. We were nearly walking our normal pace and I could hear comments from everywhere. I wish I could have received a dollar for every comment "nobody walks that fast after cardiac surgery." I had almost no pain; after the third trip around the halls they stopped me.

    One very funny incident was with the cardiologist when I was allowed to get out of bed by myself to the bathroom. Trying to navigate back to my bed I bumped the dresser. Instantly I heard this voice shouting from way down the hall saying "What are you doing? Are you trying to wreck the place on us?" I immediately took a liking to this man because of his wonderful bedside manner and great sense of humor. Although he is about an hour drive away, he is now my cardiologist.

    Two weeks after the surgery I had a return visit with the surgeon. He wanted to make sure that my chest was healing normally. For some reason they have a routine speech that they tell every patient. When he told me that I would be able to drive in two weeks I said "if I knew that, I would have elected for this surgery thirty years ago." I could tell that he was a little embarrassed when he told a blind person that he would be able to drive in two weeks. Actually I was very glad that he made that comment. For him to say that, he viewed me as a normal person and not someone with a disability.

    About two weeks after I came home I started a six week cardiac rehabilitation program at the Pottsville Hospital.

    The first thing they did was to put me on a treadmill, set about one half mile per hour. I found myself over walking the machine, smashing my feet into the front of it. I kept insisting that they must speed it up for me. Again I heard "no one walks that fast after cardiac surgery". I was not comfortable until the settings were changed to 2.2 miles per hour with a 3% grade.

    Although they had preset goals for me, they were considerably less than the goals I set for myself. On the machine where you use both your legs and arms with resistance, in four weeks I was able to use the maximum setting. My goal for the treadmill was a little more difficult to reach. I wanted to walk at two and a half miles per hour with a 15% grade. On my last day of the rehabilitation therapy I did meet my goal.


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    Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, 2012

    Here is the letter that I wrote to the editor that I have written about the 2014 walk.

    To the editor,

    First I am grateful to everyone that has sponsored me for the walk. This is the 3rd time in which I was able to participate in"The Walk A Mile In Her Shoes"program. In all three events with the help of friends and just made new friends, I was able to raise the most money of each walk to help the unfortunate victims of sexual assault.

    When I first did the walk, I told my wife that I would not humiliate myself unless I could acquire at least $100 in pledges. The second individual to whom I approached told me her horrifying story about being raped. She could not thank me enough for doing the walk. I walked straight home with watering eyes and told Karen that I am doing it to support that woman even if I do not get any sponsors. I also told Karen that I now intend to be the highest fund raiser. She really did not think that I could do it, until I started bringing money home. Yes, I had a few large donations but the majorities were $5 and $10 amounts.

    I asked everyone that I came in contact with. The worst that could happen to me would be that they would say no! I walked over 20 miles with my guide dog, going to places seeking sponsors. I am still motivated and haunted by that first woman's tragic story.

    It is a real tragedy that such an organization like Sexual Resource and Counseling Center is even needed. I know that the funds collected go to help the people in Schuylkill County. Although the majority of victims are women, boys and men are also victims. Tragically, the morning after this recent walk, there was a story published in this newspaper about a female teacher who groped a young boy in the classroom. I know that SARCC will be here for him and his family if needed.

    For me the hardest part of the walk was to try and keep my Freedom Guide Dog walking in the street. She knows that we are to be on the sidewalk and she kept trying to get me there to be safe, it was like"hey dummy we belong over there". I do think that it is wonderful that such a funny fund raising event could be used for a nothing funny about it problem. I did have a lot of fun joking with people about my footwear. All along the walk girls were pointing to my rhinestone embellished yellow peep toe pumps. Many wanted to know where I purchased them. And I am sorry ladies but you can keep your stupid pantyhose, you have to be a contortionist to even put them on, my wife had to help me. There is more information and pictures about the previous walks in which I participated on this page. There also are some funny video links about the program.

    For me as a blind individual, I never left it stop me from becoming community involved. I hope that others with disabilities will realize that there is a place for them to help in community events. I still try to live by the Jaycee Creed. I often think of the last line of the creed it reads"Service to humanity is the best work of life.

    Please if you suspect that someone is being sexually abused report it. Do not look the other way. Thanks for reading Lenny McHugh Pottsville

    Once again I am participating in the Schuylkill County SARCC, Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center, Walk A Mile In Her Shoes Program. It is an interesting and funny fund raiser for a very serious problem. My old friend George Moyer and I were the two highest fund raisers in 2011. This year we decided to team up. We figured if the two highest 2011 supporters worked together we could really help make a difference so "TEAM TOGA" was formed.

    Since I am a blind wood worker, I made this interesting funny video for SARCC. I based it on last year's theam. Watch Lenny cutting wood video file on YouTube

    In the video I was wearing a Grizzly Tools apron. I put eye protection on and took a piece of wood. I cut it with a sliding miter saw. Then the camera moved down towards my feet. I was wearing red high heels about 2 inches high. Then I walked over to my table saw. I powered up the saw and cut the piece of wood in half.

    I purchased those red heels at the Salvation Army's thrift store for $1.00. I was hoping to use them for the SARCC video. Unfortunately they were old and the heel started to crack, making them unsafe to use.

    The 2012 SARCC commercial was made to the music of Footloose. About 30 men participated in the production of the video. Watch the 2012 Footloose video file on YouTube

    There is a short segment of me dancing with my Freedom Guide Dog. We all had a good time with the production. One of the women helping out noted that there was a lot of smiles and joking at the beginning but very little at the end. After about 4 hours of jumping around in those heels all of our feet hurt. I never understood hearing women saying that they cannot wait until they could take their shoes off. Ladies, I could not wait until the filming was over so I could take those shoes off. I was wearing a borrowed pair of royal blue shoes with 2 inch heels and Toga was wearing pink dog boots. She also had a sign on her harness that had SARCC in red letters, walk a mile in black and in her shoes in pink. I also had a blue bow on her harness that matched my shoes.

    My pastor serves two churches, Trinity UCC in Pottsville and Faith Reformed UCC in Landing Ville. I talked to him to see if I could speak to the Landingville group on Sunday, March 18. He really liked the idea. I told him that I was not sure if I would have the nerve to wear the heels to the service. I decided to do it for the shock factor. I most likely will do a similar presentation for the Pottsville, Trinity UCC as well on Sunday, March 25.

    When arriving in the parking lot, some ladies started to laugh. I yelled asking them if they liked my new footwear. I also had Toga's harness sign and blue bow on her. Before the service started Pastor Jim came back to see if I did have the shoes on. He was pleased that I wore them. Wearing shorts really brought attention to the shoes. Unfortunately, I did not have Toga's pink boots on her. I did have her walk a mile sign and a blue bow that matched my shoes on her harness.

    This is the presentation: Last year at the church picnic, a woman asked me if I really wore heels for the walk. I hope this answers her question. The Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center has an awareness and fund raising program called walk a mile in her shoes. Last year about 100 guys walked wearing ladies shoes.

    Each year there between 500 and 600 reported cases right here in Schuylkill County. The youngest was a few months old and the oldest eighty. I am looking for some supporters or better yet more guys to join in. Are there any more guys here man enough to walk a mile in their shoes?

    Last year one woman that I met really inspired me to do the walk. About 15 years ago there was a home break in and she was raped with her small kids in the house. Fifteen years later her husband cannot drive through that borough and when she has a bad days she still goes out to SARCC for some counseling. Obviously the attack never leaves them. It really gives me a sense of pride to be able to help these victims

    . I printed a few copies of the story on how I became involved. I also have it posted on my web page and links to both the SARCC video and a short one that I made using power tools while wearing red heels. I will leave the stories some cards with my web address and a few registration forms if anyone would like to join in the walk.

    I can put all of you ladies into one of two groups, those who wear high heels and those that do not. For those who do not, if I can walk in these two inch heels you can. Now for those who do, why do you do something so stupid, these are the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever worn and do not even get me started on the nylons. I always hear women saying that they cannot wait until they get home to get Those shoes off. Ladies, I really cannot wait until I get home to get these shoes off. Pastor Jim, thank you for giving me these few minutes to tell my story.

    During the first part of my talk you could tell that everyone was a little emotionally touched. You should have heard the laughter when I started on the group of women who wear heels. Pastor Jim then thanked me. Walking back there were a few complements about my legs.

    A little later in the service there is a Joy and Concern section where people needing prayer are mentioned. At that time I added all of the victims of sexual violence both past and future. By the time this service is over another 30 individuals across this country will be sexually assaulted. Pastor Jim added a comment to this prayer request.

    At the end of the service, before anyone left, Pastor Jim placed some money in a plate. Many others followed his lead as they were leaving. One woman told Karen that she is getting shoes for her husband to wear.

    The following Sunday, I presented the same program at my church, Trinity UCC, Pottsville. Between the two churches I collected a considerable amount for SARCC.
    Lenny, Karen and Toga

    Photograph of Lenny and Freedom Guide Dog Toga at Faith Reformed United Church of Christ.

    TEAM TOGA ROCKS!


    team toga george, lenny and toga


    < Pphotograph: Team Toga in 2012 walk. George Moyer left and Lenny and Toga right, carrying a banner that reads"walk a mile in her shoes"leading the Sexual Assault Counseling Center fund and awareness walk.

    Team Toga collected a final grand total of $3,382. George and I put in countless hours requesting sponsors for this cause. The work really was worth it. No other team even came close. It was quite rewarding to be able to help the victims of sexualt assault.

    George and I want to thank everyone who supported us with this effort. It is amazing what can be accomplished when you put your heart and into a cause. I really want to thank George for suggesting that Team Toga to be formed. Last year we were the two top fundraisers and it was his idea for us to team up this year. Trying to come up for a name he suggested using my Freedom Guide Dog's name, Toga. I thought it was a wonderful idea then as I usually joked saying"that is perfect; after all she is good at leading the blind".

    Again this year George and I were the two top individual fund raisers. George's total was $1,171 and I was able to secure $2,211. I really hope that some individual and team will surpass our totals in next years event.

    I was truly honored to have the following 2011 story published in both a national and international publications. The American Council of the blind published it in the April 2012 Braille Forum and Guide Dog Users International published it in the summer 2011 Pawtracks. They published it not only to raise awareness of sexual assaults but to show that blind individuals can become very active in community events.

    Here is the story on how and why I became involved with SARCC:

    Before I became a guide dog user I thought that it was impractical to participate in a charity walk as a cane traveler. After receiving my first Freedom Guide Dog, I thought it would be nice to participate in a charity fund raising walk. I usually learned about them after the fact or could not make arrangements to attend. A few weeks ago there was a news article about an interesting charity walk that will take place on Thursday, April 28, 2011.

    It was to support the SARCC, The Sexual Assault Resource & Counseling Center of Schuylkill County. The program was named, Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, where men would wear women's high heel shoes. Since it was to be held downtown, Pottsville, and not a very long walk, I was sure it would be an event in which I would be able to participate using a guide dog. Before I contacted SARCC, I went to the experts. I sent an email to the mailing list for Guide Dog Users, Inc. with the subject of a question for the ladies. The question was, do you ever wear high heels while working a guide dog? And explained the event. The responses were actually equally split. Half of the ladies told me no and gave several reasons why one should not, the other group gave me a lot of tips. The first one that really got my attention was No! No! No! spike heels. About ten years ago a spike heel was put through a guide dog's foot. Other heeded advice was nothing over two inches high. High heels were described as evil and can hype up your dog. I was told that you don't want to be drug down the street wearing very high heels. One other very valuable piece of information was to actually get out and work the dog before the event. Since my gait would be different, Toga had to learn walking with me in my new clicking shoes.

    Funny, after walking in the house for a few days to try and learn how to balance with these very noisy shoes, I migrated to the back alley. Did this late at night when no one was around. My wife walked with me and could not stop from laughing. It is amazing how loud they are when you are trying to sneak around. I felt like a cat prowler in high heels.

    It was quite humorous trying to find a pair of women's shoes. I visited several shoe stores. Can only imagine the looks when I was trying on high heels. Even prior to this I posted a message on a local free cycle list looking for ladies size 9m shoes not spikes and no more than two inch heels. I also explained why I wanted them. I did not receive any offer for shoes however I did receive this very touching note:

    Hi Lenny How are you? I don't have any women's shoes for you, but I want to say how much I appreciate your participating in the walk. The video for this event is so wonderfully clever, I posted it wherever I could. It did my heart good to see so many men speak up and stand up for women. Years ago, my daughters and I were helped by a similar organization in another state. It was transformative and saved us. We marched in an event to raise awareness of the epidemic of violence against women, and one of the speakers said something that made my spirit sink. She said that until men of goodwill speak out, this trend will continue. I thought at the time, "Then we are forever preaching to the choir. It will never change. Men stick together. They cover for each other and never talk about this. The good guys are too mild mannered to confront this." My girls were 5 and 6 at the time and my hope for their future was dimmed. I looked at the little boys in their classes and wondered who among them would be the next generation of abusive men. Now, more than 20 years later, the day has come where real men are not just taking that stand, but are doing it in a very public, creative and positive way. That is amazing! And it's happening right here! I hope I get to meet you. I'm proud of you and very grateful. Hugs (name withheld)

    Later, when I contacted the staff at the local SARCC office and told them my interest in the program they were very pleased. I made a few nice friends out there. Anyway, I decided that I would have to raise a minimum of $100 for me to humiliate myself. The first day I had $45 and one real horror story. A woman who I have only known for a few months thanked me for doing this. She then told me her tragic story. About fifteen years ago with her small kids in the house, there was a home break in and she was raped . I came out with watering eyes and decided then to do it no matter what I collected. I then met a third woman with another horrifying story who is currently using the local SARCC services. Now I was really motivated. I decided that not only will I participate but I wanted to be the highest fund raiser. I ended up being the highest fund raiser with a total of $1,354. I accomplished that in a little over three weeks.

    The walk was more fun than I could ever imagine. There were a total of 95 registered walkers. Before the walk actually started there were a few speakers. They ended up mentioning the top fund raisers. I really did not think that I met my goal. So many people that I contacted told me that George Moyer, an old friend, was already there. I kept doing my best to get pledges. They announced my friend as receiving $806 in pledges. That is when I knew that I met my goal. The crowd of walkers and family supporters went wild when they said my name with a total of $1,344. I did collect another $10 after the event. There was a bag pipe player and George and I were to be right up front. I sensed that Toga, my Freedom Guide Dog was a little uncomfortable with the pipes and did not hear all of my commands so I backed off. That caused me not to get my picture in the paper with George.

    At Maroon's sports bar there was a nice party for everyone. Each registered walker received a ticket for a drink. There was a lot of food provided for everyone who walked including family supporters. Then they had three awards. One for the best poised, ugliest shoes and grand prize. I had no idea that I would win for the best poised. For the prize it was a beautiful Pandora bracelet with a charm of a woman's high heel. Karen left me wear it for about an hour to show people. That bracelet is now hers and I know that she will always treasure it. I really must credit Freedom Guide Dogs trainer and Toga for me being poised while walking. When working Toga I am very aware of my posture. During training with my first guide my posture was corrected several times.

    Now for my shoes. They were described as yellow peep toe pumps with a one and a half inch heel and a cute bow. Even before the walk some neighbor girls thought that they were very cute. My wife, Karen, did a fantastic job of dressing them up. She carefully stuck iridescent rhinestones around the shoe and on the yellow bow across the front. They looked so professional that some girls later asked me where I purchased them. Karen also took some yellow ribbon that matched Toga's bow. She carefully tied it around my ankle then secured more iridescent rhinestones to it, making a very sparkling ankle bracelet. Sure did get a lot of complements on that piece. For Toga, I had a nice yellow bow on her harness and a sign that I made on the computer. The first line was SARCC in large red letters. The next line in a little smaller black letter was WALK A MILE;. The third line in pink was IN HER SHOES. Now since Toga was all decked out she had to have her toe nails painted and since I was wearing open toe shoes I needed to match her. Karen's hair dresser had a suggestion and lent me some polish. It was a bright pink/red and then a top coat of a gold shimmer.

    I will forever be grateful to some special friends who made some large donations. Sheila Styron, a super friend on the guide dog list that when she read what I was doing, she sent a very generous $50 donation to me for the cause. Another very special friend Rev. Marianne Unger wanted to see some pictures. When we emailed her the photos she was laughing and told me that she is sending $100 for SARCC. She went on to say that when she sees a video another $100 will be sent to Freedom Guide Dogs. I could never adequately express my thanks for her generosity and friendship. My physician, Dr. Phillip Tobash, was really laughing when I told him about me participating in the project. He then wrote a check for $100 to see me walk in women's high heels. I received this email from another good friend, Krista Klinger:
    Hi Lenny, What a great cause. I admire you and every man that takes on the challenge. You can count me in for $50.00. I'm not sure if you have the video that's out there to promote this fundraiser. See attached, it's a hoot! You may be able to use it to stir up more donations.

    Talking to some of the SARCC staff members when leaving Maroon's, I told them that if I were to do this next year I could never reach that dollar amount again. I was promptly corrected with them saying that"if"is not part of that statement… Well, I now know that they are correct. While writing this I contacted George to make sure I could use his name and photograph. I did not realize that they also had teams walking. On his suggestion what would make a better team? Two old friends who were the top fund raisers for the first annual walk. Sure hope that I do not have to start looking for new shoes. I do believe that most women would not wear the same outfit to repeating events. Karen just may have to make room in her closet for my new sexy shoes. All joking aside, I am grateful to everyone who made a pledge. All of the funds that I collected will stay right here in Schuylkill County. Schuylkill County is not a very big county and has between five and six hundred reported cases every year. Also the original thought of embarrassment or humiliation very quickly changed to a wonderful sense of pride. I sure hope that my little part will help to make a difference.

    Here is one final thought sent to me from Krista Klinger:
    Isn't it amazing how one act (ie: your intention to try to raise $100 for the cause) has such a ripple effect? These two quotes come to mind...
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."~ Margaret Mead
    Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. ~Robert F. Kennedy

    PHOTOGRAPHS and Videos


    Here is a link to a very funny video for the introduction to the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes project. It shows men doing different things while wearing ladies high heels. There is someone out hunting, guys doing karate and generally sitting and walking around. It is quite humorous! Watch the video file on YouTube
    Lenny, Karen and Toga

    Photograph of Lenny, wife Karen, and Freedom Guide Dog Toga.


    Lenny and George Moyer

    Photograph of Lenny and friend George Moyer. George is wearing ladies size 15 red go go boots.
    close up of Lenny's shoes and Toga

    Photograph of Lenny's shoes and Toga
    Lenny walking at night

    Photograph of Lenny walking at night. Here you can really see his shoes sparkle.
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    Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, 2015

    Once again I participated in the"Walk A Mile In Her Shoes"fund raising program for the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center. This will be the fourth time in which I could join the walk. It is a light hearted program designed to bring awareness to the sexual assault problems. On April 23, 2015 close to one hundred men walked in high heels. I read that it is estimated that nationally only thirty percent of all sexual assault cases are reported. Although it is primarily children and women who are victims, many men are also assaulted.

    I have always been the highest fund raiser and hope to be again this year. I requested donations from many friends and some businesses.

    On Sunday, April 12, I attended my Pastor's two church services wearing shorts, nylons, yellow peep toe pumps, a T-shirt that reads"walk a mile in her shoes"and my hat that reads"blind people feel better."Toga my Freedom Guide dog had a walk a mile in her shoes sign on her harness and a yellow bow that matched my shoes. She also wore a beaded necklace that complemented her yellow bow.

    For me I always try to add some humor in my presentations. It helps to keep interest. I mentioned that during one of the summer services, Pastor Jim made a funny comment about yellow shoes. I told everyone that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing yellow peep toe pumps, especially for a good cause. I then described my shoes that my wife embellished with rhinestones. They are peep toe with a bow, two and a quarter inch heels and rhinestones placed in a pattern around the shoe and on the bow. I also was wearing a yellow ribbon ankle bracelet that she made with the same rhinestones. Now I do not believe that any woman wearing peep toe pumps would not be seen without their toenails painted. So my wife painted my toenails with a bright red and a silver sparkle overlay. I kicked off one of the shoes so many could see Karen's art work. Again a lot of laughter and a comment or two about my legs and how nice my foot is shaped. This really had the women attending the services laughing.

    I then followed that with a few statements that kind of describe me in a nutshell. And they are as follows:

    I then went into the seriousness of sexual assaults and how SARCC helps victims and their families. I briefly told the story about the woman that is my motivation. About 20 years or so ago she was raped in her home while her young kids were there. This was a home break-in.

    Now again I had to end on a high note. I stated that over the years getting ready to go out, I always wondered why it took so long for my wife to get dressed. I told them that I finally understood and can describe it in one word,"pantyhose". I waited until the laughter stopped before continuing. I told them that I had to have my wife help me to get those stupid things on. My pastor asked if I was really wearing pantyhose. I told him yes and he asked me not to prove it. I was wearing shorts to flaunt my legs and ankles.

    Before going back to my seat, Pastor Jim asked if anyone had any questions for me. It was a little touching that one woman that attended our service for the first time spoke up. She went on to say that she may not be here if she did not get away from her x-husband because he abused her. I am sure it took a lot of courage for her to speak up. I wonder what she first thought when I walked up front wearing those pretty yellow shoes with all of the bling?

    It is so funny to hear the woman complain that my legs are nicer than theirs. The woman that I told the tragic story about her being assaulted in her home, says"I do not care, Lenny, from the knees down you are all woman." Anyway, it was really worth going to the church services. I collected almost $400 for SARCC.

    Now on Monday, my nails were still painted and friends at the local hospital's cardiac rehab and balance therapy were trying to help. So I got a pair of my wife's knee high stockings. When we arrived at the hospital to pick up the collected money, I changed shoes before I walked into the cardiac rehab center. You should have heard the laughter. While there I asked them to call one of the supervisors that I knew. When she came in she again started laughing. Then I asked if they knew anyone who would join in the walk. She told me that she will try to talk some hospital employees into joining in the walk, they all agreed that it is a wonderful program.

    I exceeded my goal of $2,212 one dollar more than my highest amount, I did secure a respectable $2,300 amount for this year. So for the four walks in which I participated I collected over $6,000 for SARCC.

    Now during the actual walk, I do have a big problem with Toga. Since the walk is formed like a parade, Toga knows that we belong on the sidewalk. I have a hard time keeping her walking straight in the middle of the roadway, she insists that we need to be over on the sidewalk. She will take every opportunity to get me off of the street to where she feels safe. This year a few people walked next to me to help keep us in the middle of the roadway.

    After the walk, we all met for some awards and some nonalcoholic drinks and food. I was given some recognition for collecting over $6,000 for the four walks in which I participated. There was also a special recognition certificate for me being the oldest guy in the walk. I just turned 68 and I still do not know what I want to do when I grow up.

    What was especially nice was that Kelly Choate, a reporter from WBRE/WYOU TV, came down for the walk and to interview me. They took pictures of Toga, my shoes and my hat that reads"blind people feel better."The reporter asked many questions on why I feel it was important. She also asked about Toga. Before she came down she read some of my stories on my web page. These stories especially the one about the walk a mile program really is what made her excited about the program and interviewing me. The interview was great, it focused on my abilities not disabilities. The interview can be watched at Blind Man, walks a mile in her shoes.

    I do hope that this story encourages others with disabilities to become involved in their communities. You will always get more out of it than you put into it.

    Please, if you suspect that someone is being sexually abused report it.

    © Photos by Rachel Imschweiler
    These two photos were taken during the 2015 walk a mile event.
     This is a close-up of my feet in the yellow peep toe pumps showing my painted nails and added bling to the shoes. It also is a close-up of my Freedom Guide Dog Toga. She also has her nails painted, wearing a yellow bow and displaying a sign that reads walk a mile in her shoes.

    
This is a picture of the walk in progress.  There are some people walking with me trying to help keep Toga from taking me to the sidewalk.

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    About My Decision to Get a Guide Dog

    I Was frequently asked questions about Indy, my first Freedom Guide Dog. People wanted to know where he was trained and if I had any difficulty learning to work with Him. I had always used a cane to get around and never saw the need for a guide dog in the first place. After all, my cane was extremely low maintenance. It never needed to be fed, or cleaned up or taken to a vet. I always liked dogs, but I was a little skeptical about trusting one. It wasn't until after being discharged from a year of physical therapy following my surgery that I even entertained the thought of acquiring a dog. Because of all the complications during my surgery and after it, I lost a great deal of strength and coordination in my arms and hands. Even after intense physical therapy, I only regained about forty percent use of my left arm. The cane that I had relied on for so long was now totally useless for me. If I were to regain any amount of independence and self-reliance I had two choices: either wait for others to assist me or break down and look into a guide dog. I chose the latter. It turned out not to be as easily accomplished as I had imagined.

    Because of my physical limitations, all of the well-known schools for training guide dogs that I had contacted turned me down. It wasn't until I came in contact with Eric Loori, the trainer for Freedom Guide Dogs, that my hope of independent travel was restored. He assured me that he could find a dog that could be trained to work with my limitations.

    In April 1998, Eric came to my house with Indy to begin the two-week training program. It didn't take long for Indy to work his way into my heart and life. Six months later, we were a great working team, and I was sorry that I didn't look into guide dogs thirty years earlier. Now I can't imagine what my life would be like without a guide dog!

    Before I had Indy, I needed someone to drive me to the barbershop and after getting my hair cut, I would sometimes walk the mile or so trip back home using my cane. The walk home would take me about an hour. Now, a guide dog and I can make the trip in fifteen minutes. Since I no longer need to have someone drive me to the shop, we often make it a round trip excursion. We even made it there and back during a snowstorm. With several inches on the ground and more falling, it would have been an impossible task using only my cane. Indy and I made it in forty minutes.

    I have my lighthearted moments with Indy too. As part of his training, Indy follows commands such as "find outside" where he will look for a door with a handle, or "find a seat" leading me to an available chair. Unfortunately, he is indiscriminate in his selections of either. At a restaurant located in a mall, the "Find outside" command led me to a freezer door with a handle and "Find a seat" found me in an empty chair at a table of strangers having dinner. Even buying a lottery ticket caused a few chuckles when Indy, not knowing the concept of waiting your turn, given the command to "Find the counter" did just that. The people waiting in line just laughed about it and told me to go ahead of them when they realized what had happened.

    Indy also possessed a keen sense of awareness. A friend's mother had passed away and my friend was having a difficult time dealing with the loss. At the funeral, Indy kept watching her from across the room because she was crying and so upset. When it came time to pay final respects, Indy took me straight to her instead of following the line up to the casket. It was like he wanted to let her know that we both came to express our sympathy and support.

    When I walked down the street I often heard people saying, "Here comes Indy." -- somewhere along the line I lost my identity. People open doors for Indy; something they seldom did when it was just my cane and me. With Indy, I don't need as much outside help and I'm now getting it in abundance. When I did need the help, I didn't get enough of it.

    In talking about Indy and other guide dogs, either to individuals or to groups, I stress how important it is not to approach a guide dog while he is "working." People are constantly coming up to Indy trying to give him a treat or pet him while he is in harness. In fact I joke about changing his name to "Babe Magnet" because of all the girls he attracts. They all want to pet him or talk to him. There are even some who try to hug and kiss him when he is supposed to be working. A guide dog has an awesome responsibility to the blind person he is guiding. Their lives literally depend on that dog's judgment and concentration. Being distracted in any way could result in horrific consequences. Most of the general public is not consciously aware of this and need to be educated in this regard.

    I believe that Indy was truly part of God's plan. He was born about two weeks prior to my surgery and was in training about the time I decided that I truly wanted a guide dog. Also it was a strange circumstance that I found Freedom Guide Dogs and their wonderful timing to expand into Pennsylvania. I don't believe that the timing of these events are just a coincidence but part of a great master plan.

    Below are two pictures of Lenny McHugh with his Freedom Guide Dog, Indy.

    Picture of Lenny and IndyFreedom Guide Dogs LOGO Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds, raises, trains and places dogs to guide the blind through a special program of "Hometown Training." For more information on how you can help a blind person in need, send e-mail to Eric and Sharon Loori, Founders of Freedom Guide Dogs or call: 315-822-5132 or write to:

    Freedom Guide Dogs
    1210 Hardscrabble Road
    Cassville, NY 13318


    Second Picture of Lenny and Indy
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    My Guide Dog Discrimination story and some educational information

    I removed the names of the motel and owners:



    For Immediate Release:

    October 29, 2003

    For Further Information Contact:

    Office of The Attorney General

    - Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General

    Division on Civil Rights

    - J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, Director

    Lee Moore

    (609) 292-4791


    State Finds Probable Cause in Discrimination Complaint Filed by Blind Man

    Who Sought Motel Room While Accompanied by Trained Service Dog

    TRENTON - Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and Division on Civil Rights

    Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo announced today that the State has issued a Finding of Probable Cause against a South Jersey motel owner accused of discrimination for turning away a blind man who sought to rent a room while accompanied by a trained guide dog.

    According to Harvey, prospective renter Leonard McHugh of Pottsville, Pa., filed a discrimination complaint against (name removed), owner of the (name removed) motel in Rio Grande, Cape May County, after he sought unsuccessfully to rent aroom there for himself and his specially-trained and credentialed guide dog "Indy" in April of 2003.

    A Finding of Probable Cause means the State has concluded its investigation, and has determined that there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that the treatment of McHugh violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), Harvey explained. "Persons with disabilities deserve the same access to public and private facilities as everyone else. Equal justice means, at least, equal treatment, and no one should be turned away from a motel or hotel room because of a disability, or because of their need for the assistance of a trained service or guidedog," said the Attorney General.

    Director Vespa-Papaleo said (name removed) is accused of denying McHugh the rental of two available rooms at the (name removed) motel on April 5,2003. In addition to his guide dog, McHugh was accompanied by his wife and his mother. The McHugh party was attempting to check into two rooms that had been previously reserved for them with the prior understanding, Vespa-Papaleo noted, that Leonard McHugh would be accompanied by a guide dog. Vespa-Papaleo said that McHugh was repeatedly told by the motel owner that no pets were permitted at the Motel. The Director said (name removed) also denied any knowledge of the motel accepting a reservation on behalf of McHugh withthe prior understanding that a guide dog would be among the guests. Attempts to resolve the issue by a Middle Township police officer, called to the scene by (name removed) at the request of the McHugh party, were unsuccessful. Ultimately, McHugh rented a room at (name removed) motel in nearby Cape May Court House, which was operated by (name removed)'s husband. However, Vespa-Papaleo said,McHugh was initially afforded similar treatment at that motel. McHugh was again told that no dogs or "pets" were allowed, local police were again called to the scene and, only after some discussion was the McHugh party permitted to rent two rooms.

    "Motel and hotel operators must understand that this kind of response to a person with a disability - and to someone using the services of a trained and certified guide dog - is unacceptable. Period," said Vespa-Papaleo. "The hospitality industry has a clear obligation under the LAD to accommodate persons with disabilities, and we are committed to enforcing the LAD for anyone that utilizes a place of public accommodation in New Jersey."

    Added Javier Robles, Deputy Director of the New Jersey Division of Disability Services, "As a person with a disability that requires me to utilize a trained service dog, I applaud that the Division on Civil Rights has issued a Finding of Probable Cause in this case."

    Robles noted that any person with a disability who believes he or she has been discriminated against, or who needs other assistance, can call the Division of Disability Services' Information and Assistance hotline at 1-800-285-3036.

    "While most owners of public establishments accommodate those of us with service dogs, some are uninformed and believe that service and guide dogs are 'pets.' That is simply not true," said Robles. "Rather, trained and certified guide dogs provide necessary assistance to persons with disabilities, just as wheelchairs do. The owners of public establishments need to know that they must welcome service and guide dogs, and cannot turn away those of us who rely on them for independence."

    According to Vespa-Papaleo, now that a Finding of Probable Cause has been issued the case will move into a phase known as conciliation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in which the parties make a final attempt to resolve the matter. If it is not resolved at conciliation, the matter will be referred to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, where an Administrative Law judge will hold a formal hearing or non-jury trial on the merits of the case, and issue an Initial Decision. The Initial Decision will then be reviewed by the Division, which is charged with issuing a Final Decision on the merits of the case presented at trial. The agency's Final Decision may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the State's Superior Court.

    If found in violation of the LAD, the respondents are subject to a fine, payable to the State, of up to $10,000 for a first offense, up to $25,000 for a second offense, and up to $50,000 for a subsequent offense. The respondents could also be directed to pay damages directly to the victim for "pain and humiliation" and compensatory damages.

    The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights is responsible for enforcement of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the Family Leave Act. Specifically, the Division investigates allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, places of public accommodation and credit. The Division has six offices located in Newark, Trenton, Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City and Paterson. The Division recently established its first-ever Disabilities and Public Accommodations Unit, and that unit was responsible for investigation of the McHugh complaint. Further information about the Division is available on its Web site: www.NJCivilRights.org.

    ###


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    Seeing and Hearing Similarities (almost unbelievable)

    As a result of my New Jersey guide dog discrimination case, New Jersey Attorney General Press Release, J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, Director of the Division on Civil Rights invited me to be a speaker at the January 2005 annual retreat. This retreat consists of a day long series of training seminars required for all employees. It was an honor to be invited as a presenter for the 2005 retreat. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet many employees from the Atlantic City Office where my complaint was filed. Everyone to whom I spoke to about the case was very kind and professional. They all apologized on behalf of New Jersey for the actions of a motel owner. The staff in this office exemplified customer service. I was asked to talk about guide dogs, as well as the April 2003 discrimination experience that I shared with myFreedom Guide Dog, Indy. During the explanation of the discrimination case I never mentioned the establishment or owner's name, only the Wildwood - Cape May area of South Jersey where the offense happened. It was a very enlightening experience for me since I had the privilege of sharing my time with Jason Weiland and his Canine Hearing Companions, Macy, his hearing ear dog. Both Jason and I spoke about different training requirements, educating the public and discrimination cases. We also told some funny personal stories. Jason described the chain of events that led up to a local shop owner being fined $500 for not allowing Macy in the store. The best part of his story, is Jason and the shop owner have become very good friends.

    I then told the funny story, about my guide dog Indy. When leaving a restaurant, I told Indy to find outside. To my surprise Indy led me straight to a freezer door showing me the handle. Actually this was a perfect execution of the"find outside"command. Indy is trained to find both inside and outside of buildings. He was trained to identify a door with a handle or knob. This freezer door in Indy's mind met all of the criteria. Jason then told the story about attending a movie with his family. Macy ended up working through the entire movie. Every knock at the door, doorbell or telephone, Macy alerted Jason of the sound. I thought it was funny, but more important Macy flawlessly did her job without any distractions. Macy, a mixed Border Collie, was trained by Canine Hearing Companions in Vineland, NJ.

    Near the end of our time slot there was a question about the"blind beatitudes" printed on the main page of this web site. I just happened to pick out the one point where some people start shouting at me when they discover that I am blind. I can hear fine, I just can not see. While explaining this situation, both Jason and his interpreter started laughing. Jason then told us that occasionally, when people find out that he can not hear, he is presented with a Braille card or menu. As Jason was telling this, the room was filling with total laughter. I always thought that visually challenged people were the only recipients of this strange behavior. The next time that someone shouts at me because I am blind, I probably will think of Jason and try not to laugh.

    In closing, we were asked if we had any ideas on how to educate the public about service animals. My contribution was to suggest that information be sent to papers printed in foreign languages. I explained that when my daughter was in high school she needed some information for a World Culture class. At the time I worked with some engineers from India. I learned that they did not read our papers but ones printed in New York in their native language with news pertaining to India. Information in these types of newspapers would best be circulated through that media. I also made the suggestion that when business licenses are obtained, the information is required reading.
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    My Woodworking Ability

    It seems as if every time the topic of woodworking is mentioned, I am asked the same questions. They start out with "How can you do that?" I usually answer saying, "Very carefully!"and then describe some of my tools.

    It is a little strange, but I feel safer using my table saw and compound sliding miter saw than letting some friends use them. Sighted people tend to take things for granted, whereas I must be extra cautious.

    Some of the specialty tools that I use are a mechanical measuring device that was made from a piece of threaded rod, a talking tape measure, audible level and a talking angle finder.

    When using the power saws or router station equipment, I always use a full-face shield and hearing protection. I want to protect my face, and most importantly, my hearing.

    Since I lost the strength and coordination in my hands and arms, I am no longer able to use a hammer. I purchased some pneumatic (air powered) tools to compensate. These tools include nail and staple guns; both guns have a safety feature where the tool must be placed against the wood surface before the fastener can be shot. I always use eye protection when using these tools.

    I also never wear long sleeved clothing or any jewelry when working with the power tools. Ironically, what I thought would be the safest tool, a bench sander, has caused me the only injuries. When placing a piece of wood on the sander, I often sand off a fingernail and also have slightly sanded down some fingertips.

    I also believe that careful planning adds both to safety as well as the quality of the finished project. Many years ago, I heard a story of a basketball coach who tried an experiment. He had half of the team physically practice and the other half of the team just mentally picturing themselves shooting. After a month those players that actually shot the basketball and those who used mental imagery had roughly the same shooting ability. I use this concept. I have a mental picture of the completed project and picture myself making every cut. I can see myself setting the saws for the proper cuts. I visualize myself actually assembling the project. Now, when it comes time to actually start I feel as though this is the second time since the prototype has already been constructed in my mind.

    What is really incredible is that my wife has no problem with me using the power tools, but she will not allow me to touch a paintbrush, glue bottle, or a staining rag, I guess that she does not like the Picasso look.

    Seriously, when staining a project, if I miss a spot it is very difficult for Karen to evenly touch it up. So she does not want me to use a staining rag. As for painting, well I get everywhere but where it is intended. And the glue bottle, she often hides the glue from me. I already had glue finger prints on a project and sometimes create a big mess. I think the worst was when I set an open bottle of glue on my table saw. When I went to pick it up I knocked it over. It took me about 2 hours to clean the saw.


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    Bird house/Planter Plans



    Picture of the Finished Birdhouse Planter

    Description:


    The birdhouse planter when completed is about 29"long. It has a conventional peaked style bird house at each end with a small planter area in the center. The planter area is 4"x 4"x 18"and has two I-bolts near each end for hanging. There are drainage holes in the bottom of the planter. The birdhouse roofs are made to be removable for cleaning and there are four additional drainage holes inside each house. In a heavy driving rain water could be blown inside through the 1 ¼"entrance holes.

    Materials:

    Tools:

    Preparation:

    1. From the 8 foot board first cut two 28" pieces
    2. From the 5 foot board cut one 28" piece
    3. From the remaining 8 foot board cut two 19 3/4" pieces
    4. From the remaining 5 foot board cut two 15" pieces
    5. Rip two of the 28" one 19 3/4" and one 15" boards to 5 1/2"
      (These will be for the sides, ends and half of the roofs)
    6. Rip the remaining 28" and 19 3/4" stock to 4"
      (These will be for the bottom and back of the birdhouses
    7. Rip the remaining 15"board to 4 3/4"
      (Remaining roof halves)
    8. This is not necessary, but now take the 2 28" x 5 1/2" boards and chamfer one edge this will become the outside top edge. Then use a round over bit and round over the top inside and outside bottom edge.
    9. Cut the two 19 3/4" pieces in half
    10. Cut a 45 degree peak on each of the four pieces.
    11. To trim the outside bottom of the birdhouse measure down from the point 8 1/4" "and that is where to cut the two 5 1/2" wide ends .
    12. For the 4" peaks measure down 7 1/2" and make similar cuts.
    13. On the 28"x4" stock, bottom, drill a 1/4" hole centered 6" from each end, this is for the I-bolts.
    14. Then use a 3/4" or 7/8" forcener or spade bit to make a counter hole 3/8" deep for the bottom washer and nut.
    15. The actual bird house inside will be 4"x4 1/4" so drill 4 1/4" drainage at each of the inside corners. And 8 or 9 drainage holes in the planter area.
    16. Now a good idea is to dry fit the planter, clamps and duct tape work wonders. Sstandthe the two 4" peaks 4 1/4" from each end of the 28"x4" board, bottom, and stand the sides and clamp them in place. Then stand the end pieces and a little tape will hold them.
    17. Cut two 7 1/4" roof halves from each of the 15" stock pieces.
    18. Drill two 1/8" holes in each piece they should be 2 1/2" from the bottom and 1 1/8" from front and back edge.
      This will allow you to later screw the completed roof on the house. It is important that the roof is removable for cleaning.
      Hold them against the peak to make sure that you like the way that the roof covers the houses.
    19. The next thing is to drill a 1/2" vent hole near the peak on the 4" pieces and a 1 1/4" entrance hole in the 5 1/2" end pieces.

    Assembly:

    1. Make sure that the large holes for the nut and washer are on the bottom
    2. First glue the 4" pieces to the bottom 4 1/4" from each edge and let it set up This provides a much better working platform for the rest of assembly.
    3. When set up apply glue to the outside bottom edge and along the side of the back of the birdhouse.
      Yes, I know that you are not to glue cross grain but this will prevent water from seeping into the bird houses. You could calk the planter inside if you prefer.
    4. Line up the side and brad nail to secure.
    5. Glue and attach the other side.
    6. Glue and brad nail the end pieces in place.
    7. Glue the 7 1/4" x 4 3/4" pieces to the 7 1/4" x 5 1/2" pieces forming the roof.
    8. When dry sand to insure that the joint is smooth and sand the edges to eliminate the sharp corners.

    Finishing

    Suggestions

    Credits:


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    Magic Show and Guide Dog Talk

    What a wonderful feeling. It was almost 19 years since my last public appearance for a magic performance. The last show, November 21, 1995 was the night before the surgery that left me paralyzed for a while. With limited use of my arms I did not think that I could ever do any magic again. A few years ago with the help of Gary Barker Sr. of The Magic Emporium, Tampa Fla., I started with a few illusions for my church picnic and built up from there. The talk and show was held at Christmas Pines campgrounds. I first spoke a little about my Freedom Guide Dog, Toga, explaining the no petting when in harness rule. Then I removed Toga's harness to show how she instantly changes from work mode to play mode. Karen then took her around the room so that the kids and parents could pet her if they wished.

    I then started the magic show. It went extremely well. I always try to present with humor or a message. I did quite a few illusions with a Christian theme. There were a few that really got the audience attention. I also always try to put as much humor in my talks and shows. It helps to keep the audience attention. I have no idea what made me think of this one. Karen and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary next weekend on May 25. So I mentioned that we will celebrate our 40th anniversary next weekend. I promised Karen before we were married that we would have many magical evenings together. I then said I don't think that this is what she had in mind. I did get the response that I expected, some applause for our anniversary and a lot of laughter for the last part.

    I used a lot of new illusions that I performed for the first time. I think that Karen was more nervous than I over using them. Near the end of the show, I talked to the kids. I explained if I can do this being blind and limited use of my arms that they can do anything that that they wish. I always called my magic Motivational Magic and hope that it motivates at least one individual in the audience.

    I knew the owners and before the performance showed them some photographs of my woodworking. Clyde put them up front and told me that everyone should see them before they leave. For me, that was quite a compliment since he was a finished carpenter. He was shocked when I told him that I feel safer using my table saw than letting a sighted friend use it. I explained that sighted people take things for granted and I cannot afford too. After the show, so many came up to tell me how much they enjoyed it. There were also a lot of positive comments on my wood working. Dorrie was looking at my web page before the show. She wants Karen to have a copy of the poem that I wrote describing the parts of her plant table and what they each mean to me. I will try to print it on the back of that photograph.

    At the end when I put Toga's harness back on her, I asked the kids if they can pet her. They all yelled NO. After everything was packed up, we went back to the camp store for some ice cream. One of the kids came in and did not try to pet Toga because she was in harness. I am sure that these individuals will remember the rules.

    The illusion that had the most impact was my Bible. I talked a little about some of the Bible stories. And that God created the earth, water, wind and fire. I mentioned the burning bush and several other references of fire. I told them that I often visualize that and opened my Bible. Flames about six inches high came out of the book. You should have heard the crowd. There was a pastor in the group. Later he talked to me and said that he could come up with some great messages using my book.

    And here is the poem that I wrote for Karen when I gave her the plant stand. To Karen with Love,
    I am a closet romantic, meaning that I often have warm thoughts that I just can't seem to be able to say. When I was designing and building this special table for you I had these thoughts:
    The strong white oak legs remind me how supportive you have always been to me.
    The gentle taper that I made on the legs reminds me of how gentle and kind you are.
    The rich red cherry table top reminds me of all of your overflowing Love, color red is the color of the heart.
    The classical three bead decorative design in the aprons reminds me of how classy you are.
    The decorative Forget-Me-Not flower tile in the table top makes me think of all of the wonderful times that we had.
    The warm color purple of the flowers is most appropriate since it is a blend of red and blue, or hot and cold, since you indeed are a very warm person. Purple is also the color of royalty again most fitting.
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    Motivational Magic - How I Got Started In Magic

    How did I get started in magic is a question I have been asked many times. For as long as I can remember I have always had an interest in magic. I can remember as a small child taking a trip to the Pottsville Library. I was issued my library card, and the first book that I brought home was titled "101 Magic Tricks".

    I read this book from cover to cover, practicing the tricks and mentally picturing myself in a top hat and silk cape performing. (Funny, I never did get that hat and cape).

    In the early 1980's, my wife and I attended a Halloween party and I chose a costume with a "magic" theme. I went to the magic shop at the hovers plaza in lemoyne Pennsylvania, and talked to the owner, the late Joe homcheck, who also happened to be a magician. I asked him if he thought it possible for someone who is blind to learn magic and perform in front of an audience. He said that yes, it would be possible, but it would require three to four hours for every thirty minutes a sighted person would spend practicing, and that there would be some illusions that I wouldn't be able to accomplish due to my blindness. Normally a magician would practice in front of a mirror so he can tell if an audience would be able to guess the secrets behind his illusions. Being blind, I wouldn't have that advantage. I left the shop with a few small things just for the party.

    At the party there was a woman dressed as a gypsy telling everyone's "fortunes " with tarot cards she brought along as props. When it was my turn she happened to pull up the "Magician" card. Years later when I spoke to her, I asked her if she arranged the cards to match the person with the fortune, and she told me that that night was the last time the "Magician" card appeared for anyone; it never came up again.

    Using small illusions I began doing magic for my family and friends. Before long, I was entertaining the kids in my neighborhood and several scout troops. Gradually I saw the irony of using magic to illustrate that being blind wasn't going to stop me from pursuing my interests. When a magician performs, he depends on the fact that he can see what he is doing and the audience cannot. In my case, the audience can see what I'm doing but I cannot. A successful magician lets the audience witness the magic without revealing his secrets.

    One of the highest compliments I ever received was written on an evaluation form after a performance I did a few years ago. It was in front of an audience of about six hundred people attending a CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) Seminar for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. When asked to evaluate the conference, someone wrote on his form that he didn't think the magician was really blind.


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    FREEDOM GUIDE DOGS BENEFIT MAGIC SHOW

    APRIL, 2016 WAS A VERY BUSY MONTH FOR ME. I NOT ONLY WAS PREPARING TO RETIRE TOGA MY FREEDOM GUIDE DOG BUT TRYING TO PUT TOGETHER A VERY LARGE MAGIC SHOW. FOR THE SHOW I HAD TO BUILD A NEW MAGIC TABLE, PURCHASE AND PRACTICE NEW ILLUSIONS PROMOTE THE SHOW AND MAKE AN ASSISTANT TABLE FOR MY WIFE. IN ADDITION TO THE MAGIC SHOW PREPARATION I WAS RETIRING TOGA. FOR ME AND PROBABLY 99% OF GUIDE DOG USERS FIND THIS TO BE A VERY DIFFICULT TIME. THE BOND BETWEEN THE HANDLER AND THE GUIDE DOG CAN ONLY BE TRULY UNDERSTOOD BY OTHER BLIND HANDLERS. YOU DEVELOP A TRUST AND LOVE FOR THE GUIDE THAT IS UNEXPLAINABLE. YOU HAVE A MUTUAL TRUST THAT THIS DOG CAN MAKE DECISIONS THAT CAN KEEP YOU SAFE.

    I WAS SO FORTUNATE TO FIND A WONDERFUL HOME FOR TOGA. DR. MARY IS A VETERINARY OPHTHALMOLOGIST WHO HAS BEEN GIVING FREE EYE EXAMINES TO GUIDE AND SERVICE DOGS FOR ABOUT TEN YEARS. THE FIRST TIME THAT SHE MET TOGA, SHE TOLD ME THAT WHEN TOGA RETIRES SHE WOULD LIKE TO ADOPT HER. I THINK THAT SHE REPEATED THAT STATEMENT EVERY YEAR THAT SHE GAVE TOGA HER EYE EXAM. DR. MARY HAS TWO CHILDREN THAT REALLY LOVE TOGA AS DOES HER AND HER HUSBAND.

    FOR THE MAGIC SHOW IT WAS A BENEFIT SHOW FOR BOTH FREEDOM GUIDE DOGS AND THE MAJESTIC THEATER HERE IN POTTSVILLE. AT THE TIME I DID NOT KNOW OF ANOTHER VENUE THAT I COULD USE FOR THE MAGIC SHOWS. THERE WERE TWO ONE MAY 6TH AND THE OTHER MAY 7TH. THE PROCEEDS WERE TO BE SPLIT BETWEEN THE MAJESTIC AND FREEDOM AFTER A $50 CLEAN UP CHARGE FOR EACH SHOW WAS TAKEN. TO PROMOTE THE SHOW I MADE AND DISTRIBUTED FLYERS HAD TWO RADIO INTERVIEWS AND A TV INTERVIEW. THE TV INTERVIEW CAN BE VIEWED AT: BLIND MAGICIAN SUPPORTS SERVICE DOGS

    I AM SO VERY GRATEFUL TO THRIVENT FINANCIAL, THEY HAVE ANACTION TEAM PROGRAM WHERE THEY GAVE ME A $250 SEED MONEY PREPAID VISA CARD. THIS WAS TO BE USED TO PURCHASE SUPPLIES FOR THE MAGIC SHOW. I PURCHASED THE WOOD AND MATERIALS FOR THE MAGIC TABLE AND A FEW NEW ILLUSIONS.

    THE WEEK BEFORE THE SHOWS I RECEIVED MY NEW FREEDOM GUIDE DOG, OTTER. HE IS A 2 YEAR OLD BLACK LAB. SO FOR THAT WEEK I DID NOTHING BUT TRAIN AND BOND WITH OTTER. NOW FRIDAY EVENING WAS THE FIRST MAGIC SHOW, IT DID NOT GO AS WELL AS I HAD HOPED. WITH ALL OF THE NEW ILLUSIONS, MISTAKES DID HAPPEN. FOR THE SATURDAY EVENING SHOW IT WAS FLAWLESS. AFTER THE SHOW I DID RECEIVE ONE FANTASTIC COMPLIMENT. A MAN ON THE WAY OUT TOLD ME THAT HE WATCHED QUITE A FEW MAGICIANS. HE TOLD ME THAT HE THOUGHT THAT I WAS BETTER THAN ANY SIGHTED MAGICIAN THAT HE EVER SAW.

    DURING THE SHOW I HAD ERIC, THE TRAINER FROM FREEDOM, KEEP OTTER. I DID NOT WANT TO BE UPSTAGED BY A DOG. THAT HAD HAPPENED A FEW YEARS AGO DURING A MOTIVATIONAL TALK. WHEN THE SHOW WAS OVER, ERIC BROUGHT OTTER BACK ON STAGE TO ME. HE DID NOT EVEN LOOK BACK BUT MADE A BEE-LINE DIRECTLY TO ME AND STARTED TO PLAY. HE WAS SO EXCITED TO BE BACK WITH ME. MY DAUGHTER AND A FRIEND SAT WITH ERIC DURING THE PERFORMANCE. OTTER WOULD PERIODICALLY START WHINING. WHEN THEY ASKED HIM WHY, HE RESPONDED THAT HE HEARS ME AND WANTS TO BE CLOSE. OTTER ALREADY HAD A VERY STRONG BOND. I THEN HAD ABOUT A FIFTEEN MINUTE QUESTION AND ANSWER PERIOD ABOUT OTTER AND FREEDOM GUIDE DOGS.

    DURING THE PREPARATION FOR THE SHOWS I LEARNED THAT BOSCOV'S DEPARTMENT STORE HAS A VERY LARGE AUDITORIUM THAT SEATS BETWEEN 200 AND 250 PEOPLE. THEY OFFERED IT TO ME AT NO COST TO DO ANOTHER BENEFIT SHOW FOR FREEDOM GUIDE DOGS. THAT WAY 100% OF THE PROCEEDS WOULD GO TO FREEDOM AS OPPOSED TO SPLITTING WITH THE THEATER AND PAYING TWO $50 CLEAN UP CHARGES. SO I WILL BE DOING A SECOND SHOW ON JUNE 25, 2016 AND MOST LIKELY A THIRD SHOW LATER IN THE SUMMER. THEY EVEN PURCHASED A FEW SUPPLIES FOR ME.

    THE TUESDAY AFTER THE SHOWS, THE TRAINER FROM FREEDOM COMPLETED THE TRAINING. OTTER IS DOING SO VERY WELL. I ACTUALLY CAN SEE THE BEST OF MY THREE PREVIOUS DOGS IN HIM. THAT IS A DREAM COMES TRUE! IT STILL WILL TAKE A FEW MONTHS FOR US TO REALLY BECOME A GREAT WORKING TEAM; IT IS GOING SO VERY WELL.
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    Otter, my new Freedom Guide Dog

    Otter, my current Freedom Guide Dog is a Black Labrador Retriever. I have always requested Black Labs for a little more security. Typically, people that do not know dogs are afraid of black dogs. Even Eric, a trainer, told me that when training on a bus, people think it is cute when a yellow dog watches them but they are very nervous when the black dog does the same thing.

    I was matched with Otter in May 2016. It was quite an interesting time since I retired Toga on April 30th and met Otter May 2nd. For a few weeks, before receiving Otter, I was practicing for a benefit magic show. Every day after training I continued to work on my magic show presentation. This magic show was to benefit Freedom Guide Dogs. Amy Marciano, Republican Herald, did a wonderful story about Otter, Freedom Guide Dogs and my upcoming magic show. The story can be read at: Republican Herald Magic Show story

    Otter is the proverbial bull in the china shop. He runs and plays; there is nothing gentle about him. Even when he lies down he is not delicate. He often just flops down on his side shaking the floor. He bolts up and down the steps like a rabbit. Coming down, both of his back legs are on the same step as he hops down and takes a flying leap at the bottom. In harness, he is a fantastic guide dog. Within a very short time, I developed a very strong trust in him as a guide dog. He is so funny in a department store. When he takes me through a narrow aisle he looks up with tail wagging, as if to say,"Look what I did."He quickly gets a"good boy"and a pat on his head. This dog truly seeks and works for praise. Also, like all of my others, he knows work mode from play mode. When talking to people, I often remove his harness so he can socialize. Instantly, his personality changes to total play mode. As soon as I put the harness back on, he stands like a statue ready for work. Most people cannot believe his transformation from play to work mode.

    When we are working, he tends to remember every route that we have traveled and how to reverse them. Quite often, he thinks that we should take or reverse a previous route. We have had several arguments over him wanting to follow an old route. When in training, we walked down 12th street and made a left onto Market St. When we walk down Market St, he wants to walk back up 12th street. After all, we once came down that street. Whenever we approach a previous route he wants to either take it or reverse it. I really have to be aware of where I am and what route I want to take. I would like to teach him to find places by name.

    Honestly, I think that Otter bonded with me within the first few hours when we met. When performing the magic showI left him with his trainer. They were sitting near the back of the theater. Every time he heard my voice he started to whine. After the show I had him brought up on the stage to introduce him. I think that he would have knocked anyone over that might have been blocking his path to me. Kelly Choate, Eye Witness News, came to the theater to do a story on me as a blind magician and my new Freedom Guide Dog, Otter. In her story she references a previous story that she did when Toga and I participated in the WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES program for the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center (I have been told that I look great in heels. Those stories are also on this web page.) Here is the link to the magic show story: Pa Home Page, news Blind magician supports service dogs In the video you can hear Karen, my wife, say" I lost that" and and then she grabbs it. I was performing an illusion where I first show an empty metal tube from which I produce several items. These items include balls, eggs and silks. To be funny, I produce a pair of knee high stockings and ask Karen if she lost them. She quickly grabs them from me. Later I pull a $20 bill out of the tube. When she sees the money; she grabs it proclaiming that it is also hers. I am so grateful that Kelly reported this human interest story. I hope that the TV coverage helped to promote Freedom Guide Dogs and show that a disability is only what you make it to be.

    It is quite funny how strong Otter is and how rough he plays. However, he loves plush toys and is quite gentle with them. Actually he loves them so much that he became a thief. We walked by the groomer and we stopped in just to say hello. There is a basket of toys near the counter. I left Otter on long leash so he could say hello. I did not realize that he was in grabbing distance of the basket. He quickly grabbed one of the toys. The owner thought it was funny and told him to keep it saying"I love that dog."I did offer to pay for it but she refused. A few weeks later I had an appointment for him to be groomed; again he was a little too close and grabbed another toy. This time I did pay for it.

    When I took Otter for his free eye exam the Veterinary Ophthalmologist brought Toga, my previous guide dog for a short visit with us. She adopted Toga when I retired her. I think that Toga was much more interested in Otter than seeing me. I am pretty sure that she remembered us but it is quite clear that she is totally bonded with the doctor. I told her about Otter loving plush toys, as does Toga. I then told her that I should rename Otter to Clepto and told her about him steeling the plush toys. She asked if she could take Otter back so the rest of the staff could see him. When she came out she was laughing, Otter is a real thief. She walked past a basket of toys that they give to cats and dogs after surgery. Otter helped himself to one of them

    For a few months I have not been working or providing his daily care. In April 2017, I had some back surgery and was not allowed to bend, lift, twist, stretch or walk on any hills. Otter could not understand why I was not playing with him. Several times a day I would get hit with a cold soggy plush toy. Since the surgeon wanted me to do some walking but no hills, I learned that I could walk the level track around the high school's practice field. Otter was fantastic; I was informed by another runner that there are a few ground hogs or opossums lying in the field including one very close to the track. I expected Otter to try to go to them. I do not think that he even glanced at them.

    I have some photographs of Otter in training. The sidewalks around my home are some of the worst in the area. I do try to use these once a month. By using these sidewalks it will keep his skills sharp. I believe that if he can keep me safe on these sidewalks, he can keep me safe anywhere.

    Broken and missing sidewalk


    otter guiding me down a hill on broken and partially missing sidewalk

    Narrow sidewalk with trash can


    otter guiding me along the curb on a very narrow sidewalk around large trash cans

    Very narrow passage between parking meter and building


    otter guiding me single file between a parking meter and a building

    Tricky sidewalk with a curb and steps


    otter trying to get me through a very narrow area around steps to the curb

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    photographic journalism

    On February 11, 2007, I was contacted by David McKeown a college student majoring in photographic journalism. He had a class assignment to photograph love and asked if he could photograph Indy and me.

    David has a part time job working with my daughter and was discussing his project with her. She suggested that for something different to photograph me and my Freedom guide dog, Indy. Most people that have pets love them. However, the special bond and trust that I have in Indy exceeds normal pet relations. I believe that love and trust are very closely related. I have totally put my trust of my life in Indy superb training and judgment

    When David reviewed his pictures, he sent a few to me and wrote "Thank you very much for giving me the chance to meet, talk with you and take pictures of you and Indy together. I found this personally to be a very rewarding assignment".

    I was very pleased to learn that David received the letter grade of "A" for this assignment.
    Photographs by: David Mckeown, 2/11,07

    Photo: Mutual admiration, Lenny and Indy looking at each other.

    Photo: Having lots of fun, Lenny and Indy playing.

    Photo: Maybe getting lucky, Indy looking at Lenny?s hand anticipating a treat.

    Photo: Yes! Yes! Yes!,Indy getting a carrot for a treat.

    Photo: Time for a rest,Indy laying in front of Lenny.

    Photo:Break is over, Indy safely guiding Lenny down Market ST.
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    My minds eye, memory of Pottsville

    About a year ago, I was walking downtown Pottsville with Toga, my Freedom Guide Dog and while waiting to cross a street this very friendly arm came around my shoulders. It was Dr. Peter Yasenchak, a guidance counselor from my old high school days. He just stood there for a few moments and then told me that there is something to be said about losing my eyesight, as he was looking around the area. He then explained that if I could see downtown now I most likely would be upset. He went on to say that many people no longer have any pride in the way that they dress and most of the businesses are gone. We were standing near a parking lot where the old Capitol Movie theater once stood.

    Thinking about what he said did make some sense. When I was a senior in high school 1962-1965, there were two movie theaters, two skating rinks, seven jewelry stores, eight shoe stores, two department stores, dress shops, men's clothing stores and a few 5&10 cent stores. Now there is one jewelry store, one men's clothing store, two drug stores and a bridal shop. All of the other businesses have become just warm fading memories.

    One of my most picturesque memory as a kid was going downtown to do some Christmas shopping for my family. I was standing on the corner waiting for the cross walk light to turn on. The crisp air was filled with Christmas music from the Salvation Army's booths and the city was all decoratively lit. There were many shoppers walking around. It had just started to snow with very large flakes gracefully floating and dancing. There was a woman wearing a bright green long coat and the contrast of the pure white snowflakes falling with her green coat as a backdrop was beautiful. Before I started my shopping endeavor, I first had to visit Sears Toyland to admire the electric train display. Next on my agenda was to go across the street to watch the animated window displays at Pomeroy's department store. I then walked past one of the booths that the Salvation Army had set up from which they would accept donations and broadcast the Christmas music. I never had a lot of money but always managed to give them a few coins. The woman in the booth was always so pleasant and sincerely grateful for any donations. Even now sometimes when I am at Center and Market streets I can still hear that music and see the woman with the bright green coat.

    Back to what Dr. Yasenchak said to me, I am really grateful for the ability to still picture downtown Pottsville as it was about fifty years ago. I remember how lucky I thought that the people downtown were because they did not have to shovel snow. There was city steam heat pipes underground. This kept most of the street and sidewalks clear of snow. I also can still hear the sounds of the car tires hitting the old trolley tracks and the wooden block street near Garfield Square. I have very fond memories of the dances for the kids at the YMCA, the Pottsville Moose and at the one skating rink. I can still see the hula hoop contest on 2nd Street behind Green's 5 and 10 cent store. Also there were summer street dances at the city parking lot. There really was so much for us kids to do and I think at the time none of us truly appreciated it.

    When he mentioned about how people today do not care how they dress, it brought back some additional fond memories. I remember in the late sixties and seventies that on Friday and Saturday evenings most women wore dresses or skirts and high heel dress shoes. During that time period I almost never went out of the house without wearing a coat and tie. I had to dress that way for work and carried it through for almost everywhere I went. Funny, a few friends and I were going out for the evening so I wore my favorite jacket and tie. We decided to first stop at the bowling alley. Here I was in the bowling alley wearing a coat and tie. That night was the best thing that ever happened to me. I met Karen, my lovely wife. We still joke about the guy who wore a coat and tie to the bowling alley.

    What is most amazing is that these memories span the last fifty years and they can all be recalled in an eye blink. I know that technology has progressed exponentially but there is a lot to be said for the old stores in downtown USA. I am quite confident that my memories are not only for my home town of Pottsville but are indicative for small towns all across our wonderful United States of America. Indelible memories are often made. The day that Dr. Yasenchak put his arm around me, made one of these wonderful memories. I can no longer think of Pottsville without the warm memory of him putting his arm around me and remembering what he so eloquently said. It is a very recent memory that is beautifully linked to the past.

    Dedication:

    I am dedicating this story to my loving wife Karen. this story was Written May 25, 2010, our 36th wedding anniversary. The memories in this story are no comparison to all of the wonderful memories of Karen standing beside me. She has always supported me in all of my endeavors. I think that coat and tie that I wore to the bowling alley made a lasting impression on her . Karen, I love you.
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    Almost In a major production movie

    In 1992, much of the filming of the movie The Distinguished Gentleman Starring: Eddie Murphy, Joe Don Baker, Sheryl Lee, Victoria Rowell, Grant Shaud, Lane Smith was in Harrisburg Pa. The capitol building was only a four or five minute walk from the PennDot building where I worked as a computer systems analysts.

    One lunch hour I decided to walk over to the filming area to listen to what was going on. I was very careful to stay near the top of the plaza keeping as far away from the street as possible. I did not want to get into anyone's way.

    After about 15 minutes following filming of the scene, where the pick up truck went racing down the street and the hubcap was knocked off, the crew started yelling at someone to get out of the way. The more they yelled the more interested I became on what was happening. The thought that they were yelling at me never crossed my mind, especially since I took great care to be far away from the filming setting.

    After about five minutes, seemed like thirty, a security person came close to me and started yelling. When I unfolded my cane and started walking away there was total silence. I can only imagine what they thought when they learned that I could not see to whom they were pointing and yelling.

    So I guess that really dampened my career as a "Stand in". for the movies. I did enjoy the movie and more enjoyed telling this story.


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    Would you like some cheese?

    Although this event happened prior to me becoming a guide dog user, it could easily happen today with my Freedom Guide Dog. More often than not a waitress, waiter, wine stewart or server has no idea that there is a dog under the table. And when leaving, I find it to be a real complement when they say "Oh! I had no idea that there was a dog under the table."

    When I was still working for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, a few co-workers and I were sent to Hartford Connecticut to take an IBM computer course. After one of the classes I asked the instructor if he would recommend a good place to eat. He told us that Hartford is really known for its great Italian cuisine and then recommended a few very good Italian restaurants. One co-worker and I decided to try the instructor's favorite place. A restaurant called"The Hot Tamale".

    At the time I was a very competent cane traveler and always used a folding cane. When we arrived at the restaurant a host greeted us with a warm welcome. The host obviously knew I was blind but never shared that information with anyone else. After he seated us, he then explained that someone would be by to take our order.

    As I said, I always used a folding cane, so I took it and placed it under the table.

    Soon the waiter came by to take our order. I do believe that he also figured out that I was blind, but also did not tell anyone else. Finally, a different person came by to serve our food. This man had absolutely no idea that I could not see. After he placed the food onto the table, he asked, "Would you like some cheese?" Of course I said "Yes, please."

    I had no idea that he had a block of cheese and a small greater in his hands. By the way, did you know that grating cheese makes no noise? Anyway, I could tell that he was still standing by the table. I had no idea that he was grating cheese onto my food. Within a few seconds he started looking back and forth between my meal and me. Obviously, he wanted me to tell him when to stop. My co-worker friend was almost crying trying to hold back the laughter. Finally he was able to speak and said, "I think that is enough."

    I guess that that server thought, "Boy, this guy really likes cheese!"

    I often wonder how much cheese I would have had, if it were not for my co-worker speaking up?!
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    Genuflect - My first lesson

    When I was about seven years old, one of my friends asked me to attend Mass with him at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Parish Family in Pottsville, one of the largest Catholic churches in the area. Not being Catholic, the service and traditions would be a new experience for me. So off we went, two exuberant little boys going to church on a Sunday morning.

    With the boundless energy of any seven year old, we practically ran down the center aisle. Coming into the dimly lit church from a bright sunny day, my night blindness took over. I could barely see the shadowy figure of my friend, Jim walking in front of me. Unaware of the Catholic tradition of genuflecting on one knee and making the sign of the Cross before entering the pew, I hadn't noticed that my friend had paused to do this before taking his place. Between that and my limited night vision, I can only described what happened next as the perfect football block. While Jim was making his solemn reverence, I was tumbling over his genuflecting body and hurling myself half way down the aisle.

    Many years later, I was relaying this story to a friend, when I noticed he began laughing before I finished. My friend then proceeded to tell me that he had a very similar experience but with him it was two blind men tumbling over a third blind man. With only one of them being Catholic, the other two were unaware of the genuflecting custom before entering the church pew. Joe the person who invited his two friends quickly got up and started frantically yelling in a low voice for the others to also get up. Being absolutely convinced that Joe had dropped something Ted and Alex continued crawling and groping around the floor looking for whatever Joe dropped. They kept saying"Joe, what did you drop?"This scene played out until Joe was able to convince them that he did not drop anything. After recovering from their tumble, and what they thought was a search and recovery process, they sat down with their friend. Their embarrassed friend explained the ritual and the three grown men tried to remain quiet in their seats waiting for the service to begin.

    After all they did have a very entertaining performance to the other church members.


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    Our trip to Australia

    First I have a very special thank you for the owners and operators of the Jacob's Creek Winery located in Australia. In June of 2003 my wife, Karen, went to our local State Store to purchase a bottle of Jacob's Creek Merlot wine and found a contest entry form to win a trip to visit the winery. It is still hard to believe that Karen won the trip for two to Australia. Everyone involved with this trip did everything possible to make it a most memorable experience.

    I also want to give a very special thank you to some very kind and now fantastic friends whom I previously met through this website. George and Jennifer were so kind, they took a week of their vacation time to literally show us the town. Spending time with them made it even a more unforgettable trip.

    We met so many kind and friendly people it would be impossible to thank them all however, I do want to also thank Cheryl. This kind lady went out of her way to help us when we were getting off the plane in Los Angeles. She then invited us to visit a US Coast Guard lighthouse when we returned from Australia. That tour of the light house can only be described as awesome. Thanks Cheryl and Doug.

    I can not say that this wonderful adventure did not go without some minor problems. I did have a few stressful moments. The first was trying to acquire my visa which is required in addition to the passport to enter Australia. Karen's went through without a hitch, not mine. We got a phone call from the travel agent advising me to contact the Embassy that they need additional information. I first contacted the West Coast Australian Embassy and was given some information. The woman to whom I spoke then directed me to a webpage where I could download forms. When I downloaded these forms we went into total panic mode. I went to get new passport pictures and many other documents. We spent the entire day filling out the new forms so there could be no question. The following day I called the Washington DC Australian embassy with one final question. This time I was told to destroy the forms, all that I needed to do is to send a letter and a light copy of my passport to Australian Immigration. They only want to make sure that it is really me. There was someone with a similar name and the same birthdate with whom they previously had some problems. I then took that information to my US Congressman Tim Holden's office where they kindly wrote a letter and faxed the information for me. I really was in panic mode since we were to leave in less than a month.

    The second stressful moment was when we arrived at the Los Angeles airport. We had a four hour layover and could not find where to go for the Quantas International flight. We asked a few people even a cab driver and were told down the street and around the corner. We walked around with no idea where to go knowing that time is ticking along. Finally we saw a policeman who went out of his way to help. He took our ticket information and went into an area to get specific directions. Here we had to go to the second floor of the building. He stayed with us until we checked in. What a wonderful public servant. And the last stressful moment was when we were checking in for our final flight home. The person who checked us in curbside made a mistake that Karen did not see until after we were through security waiting for the flight. When she looked through the boarding passes Karen's was correct but I had one with the last name of Miller instead of McHugh. She quickly went down to have it corrected. An agent corrected the boarding pass but did not look through all the papers. My luggage claim check was also in the other person's name. Again Karen hurried down to have it fixed. They had to find my luggage to correct all tags. Everything else was so wonderful I do not think I can properly put it into words.

    From the time we left our home to the time we checked into the hotel in Adelaide was about thirty-five hours. Two and a half hours ride to Philadelphia and a four hour wait until we boarded the plane. My sister took us a little early because she had to get back for a meeting. Then a five hour plane ride to Los Angeles and four hour layover. Then a fifteen hour flight to Australia and a one hour layover at Melbourne. One hour and a half plane ride to Adelaide and the final drive to the hotel.

    The winery was absolutely spectacular. We had a personal guided tour by the manager. Bruce was so warm and friendly. After about fifteen minutes he made us feel like we were old friends. I do not believe that any royalty could ever have been treated better. The first thing that I noticed was the aroma of the grapes in the air. I still can not believe the size of the winery. We were shown a massive storage container that holds a million gallons. Gee, that could keep me busy! I also can not imagine a pile of one hundred and eighty thousand tons of grapes that are crushed each year. After the tour we also met with Tony, the head white wine maker. He explained how the different wines are made and we had the privilege of tasting the fourteen wines that are shipped to Pennsylvania. I did like all of them but the Merlot is still my favorite.

    We were then taken to the Jacob's Creek Visitor's center for an incredible meal and some social time. I tried the kangaroo. It reminded me a little of venison but much more tender and sweeter tasting. Karen had lamb shanks with a wine sauce; she only described them as being very delicious. She inquired about getting the recipe so she could make it at home.

    The view from the visitor's center was incredible, overlooking some vineyards with the mountains in the distance. When Karen went to take some pictures Bruce described the view to me.

    After the dinner, Bruce drove us past the estate and a bed and breakfast on the property. He then took us to a large penned in area of the winery where they have some kangaroos and emus. One emu looking for food, tried to eat Karen's sweater. It was really funny. Bruce tapped his beak to make him let go. Then one of the kangaroos put her front legs on Karen so she could pet her. What a wonderful ending to the visit to the winery.

    The next morning we had a 2 hour flight to Sydney. When we checked in our hotel I called Jennifer. Jenny asked me if we wanted to meet for tea. I replied no I would like to go out to dinner. That was the first of many expressions that we could interpret differently. Their tea is our dinner or supper and their light tea is our lunch. We had a lot of fun with the different terminologies.

    We visited the opera house and decided not to take the tour. There are about two-hundred steps and the tour is pretty fast moving. We made a few stops in Chinatown which started across the street from our hotel. We also saw the Royal Botanic Gardens, Chinese Gardens, and the Featherdale Park. At the Featherdale Park we petted Koala bears and kangaroos and wallabies. We also feed the Kangaroos and an employee placed an owl on my hand. We also took a sight seeing cruise around Darling Harbour. The harbour is so beautiful. Blue water and clean beaches. There is a big harbour bridge which people can pay to climb up and then walk across the top to the middle. I would have liked to experience that but due to my physical limitations and a $250 charge I decided against it. We were told the story that Paul Hogan, Crocodile Dundee, at one time was a rigger on this bridge.

    It was suggested by the winery personnel that we make the trip in March through May, their fall and crushing season. Because of this time the weather was getting a little cool. For me living in Pennsylvania I thought it was real nice since we were just coming out of winter. When I was wearing a short sleeved shirt most people there were wearing jackets, which they call jumpers, or sweaters. I was teased a little about not wearing a coat. I believe that there were only two evenings when I found it necessary to wear a light jacket.

    Our friends, George and Jenny, took us to the Blue Mountains. That was spectacular. When the sun shone on the trees they looked blue. You were high up looking down into the valley below. We road down into the valley on the incline which was formally used for coal mining. After walking around taking in all the sights and exhibits we went back up on a cable car. I had a slight sense of being home. The coal that was mined is anthracite and where I live in Pennsylvania is known as the gateway to the anthracite region. We also live in what is called the Blue Mountains. There was an interesting rock formation called the Three Sisters. Legend is their father was a tribe witch doctor. They were in love with three brothers from another tribe. The three brothers were great warriors and tried to take the maidens by force. A battle took place and the witch doctor turned the three sisters into stone. Unfortunately, their father was killed before he could turn them back.

    We took the ferry to Manly Island. There was a nice beach. Our friends drove us around the coast and showed us a good many of the beaches. Bondi Beach is a very popular beach. The beach had a section made into a wading pool.

    The price of food was expensive, as well as the price of souvenirs. Karen and I do not want to eat french fries for awhile. They call them chips. They serve chips for breakfast, lunch and supper. I was first surprised when I had scrambled eggs and French fries for my first breakfast. They have a lot of fried foods. Every where we went there was a coffee bar or cafe. Karen loves coffee; she must have spent $75 or more on coffee. A cup of coffee was $2.50. We had pumpkin with a lot of our meals as a vegetable, no pumpkin pie (my favorite).

    The Australian money is a five cent, ten cent, twenty cent, one dollar, and a two dollar coin and some paper money starting at five dollars. Everywhere we went the people were so very warm and friendly. One lady, who worked at a restaurant that we went for breakfast a few times, became teary eyed when we were there for the last time. I told her I would not say good-bye but hope to visit again and will see her then.

    Our last evening in Australia was a very warm and equally sad time. We went out for a lovely dinner or tea with George and Jennifer. I think we all had in the back of our minds what would happen later. In the lobby of our hotel we all hugged with a lot of warm and friendly tears. The friendship and bond that we made will last forever. Even writing this part my eyes are starting to water.

    When we arrived back in Los Angeles we stayed for three days with my cousin Dick and his wife Patty. We went to Universal Studios. We found it to be both educational and entertaining. We all had a great time. That was my first visit to California. My cousin has been trying to get us out there for about thirty years. We also spent some time with their son Joe and my other cousin Bern, Dick's brother. We plan to go again in the fall or spring, when it is not too hot for Indy, my wonderful Freedom Guide Dog.

    The next day we called Cheryl, the young lady who offered us help when we first landed in Los Angeles. She was not home but her husband, Doug was aware that we would be calling. He gave my cousin directions to the location of the lighthouse and set up a meeting time. We met him and their kids what a very lovely family. Then he took us up into the lighthouse. That was also an experience I will never forget. This is a non commercial light house. It was not at all what I expected. I was impressed with the way that it works and the fact that the light is never turned off. It must keep running in case there is some fog. Karen, my cousin Dick and his wife Patty were very interested and really enjoyed the view. Karen was fascinated by looking down the coast at a seal sunning himself on the rocks. Every time a wave would hit the rocks his tail would go up in the air.

    Now we went on a little sightseeing tour of the Los Angeles area. Had a great lunch in a restaurant that at one time was a government barge. Back at their home Karen picked some avocadoes from a tree in their yard. That evening we went to a fabulous Mexican restaurant and sadly prepared to come home.

    Although it was hard leaving, I also could not wait to get home to my Freedom Guide Dog Indy. He had some anxiety problems with me being gone for almost three weeks. He started getting my daughter up between three and four in the morning. He ripped up a telephone book and left it all around the house that is the half that he did not eat. The evening before her state certification test he ate her study guide. I think she was quite relieved to see us come home.
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    Amateur Radio Stories

    New Antenna

    Shortly after I received my radio license, it was time to order some equipment. My home is built at the base of a mountain, which is far from the ideal location for radio work. My home is also an old town house about three and a half stories in height with ten-foot ceilings. After thinking about this, I concluded that the ideal location for a nineteen-foot tall antenna would be on the top of my roof.

    I mail-ordered a nice antenna. When delivered a friend came to my home to help me assemble this contraption. After we assembled it, we took it to my third floor. From the back window there was a partial roof from which a ladder could easily reach the top.

    When we finally got the ladder out onto the second floor's roof, my friend said "I'm sorry, I can not go up there." He was afraid of heights! Being of quick mind, I asked him if he had his portable radio with him. When he answered that he had it, the new plan went into effect. My friend went out into the back alley, where he had a great view of my roof. I think you can guess what is coming?

    Yes, I went up the ladder dragging all of the tools and equipment. From his radio, he directed me to the chimney where I started with the mounts. When this phase was complete, I asked him if everything looked straight. Then I installed the first section of the mast. Again, with his visual observation, I made adjustments until it looked straight to him. When this task was completed, the rest was simple. I then gathered all my tools and my friend directed me back to the ladder. Job well done.

    Radio Road Trip

    I went to a HAM Fest with some friends. These HAM Fests are a combination of used and new radio sellers. There are many stands of people displaying their products. This HAM Fest was about fifty miles south of my hometown. We had no problem finding the location because of talk-in directions; if you were not sure of directions to the HAM Fest, you could tell a radio operator on site where you are and they would give you exact directions to get there.

    We spent the better part of the day having a really great time at the HAM Fest. We left for home about four o'clock in the afternoon. I was sitting in the rear of the car next to the door. Travelling home I said to the driver "You are going the wrong way!" He answered, "Be quiet." As I said I was sitting in the back on the passanger side of the car and the sun hitting the right side of my face. Now at four o'clock in the afternoon if the sun were hitting my right side, we would have to be going south, further away from home. As far as I always knew the sun sets in the west. Again, I said Roger you are going the wrong way and again I was told to be quiet, they are looking for landmarks. I told one of the other guys to tell Roger that he is going the wrong way. Another "Be quiet Lenny!" was shouted.

    Now these guys are also hunters and spend a lot of time in the mountains. Surely, they would understand the positioning of the sun, it seemed so hopeless convincing them.

    After we went about forty miles the wrong way they finally realized I was correct. They never lived that down, I was the only blind guy in the car, and the only one who knew that they were going the wrong way!


    Interesting Ride

    Many years ago I was active with the Pottsville Jaycees. On one occasion I had a very interesting short ride. The Jaycees host an annual soapbox derby. This is a race where kids race gravity - powered, homemade cars. The cars are constructed as a family project and must meet specific safety standards. Anyway, race day was here. I was assigned the task of releasing the cars and drivers for each run down the hill. There was a ramp on which two cars were loaded. When I was given the word, I just had to release the brake.

    A picnic and awards presentation was scheduled immediately after the race. Since I was standing in the hot sun for several hours, I decided to go home and lie down. I had a little too much sun and wasn't feeling very well.

    My wife and kids attended the picnic, and there was no way to contact them. Well, after a few hours I felt pretty good and decided to go back for some great food. I couldn't call for a ride, and the picnic was between two and three miles away at the far side of town.

    I grabbed my cane and portable radio and started the trek. I hadn't walked around this area since I was about twelve years old, but I still had a pretty good mental picture of the terrain. I walked downtown, crossed the highway, and proceeded up the other side of town. I knew when I got near the hospital I didn't have too much more to travel. I found the hospital and walked a few more blocks to a large curve in the road. Now I knew I was close. After rounding the turn I located the first driveway which would take me up to the park area. I went up the hill and in the distance, maybe two hundred yards, I could hear the kids and music playing. I started walking that way and oops! I was in some woods. I backed up and tried to go straight and again more woods. Every direction I went I found woods. I called out to the kids but they could not hear me. I gave it one more try, and now I found myself in a little trouble. I could not find the driveway.I took my portable radio and made a radio/telephone patch call to the local police. I told them exactly where to find me. I explained to them that when you come around the curve take the first left. At the top of the hill I was about ten to fifteen feet into the woods. It was starting to get dark and I no longer had the sun to help with directions. Anyway, about five minutes later, I heard a car coming up the hill. I started walking towards the officer. He asked me how I got there. I described my route. He was quite impressed and explained that the driveway I came up wasn't there twenty years ago. The one I needed was only about twenty yards further. I thanked him and started walking down the hill. He said, "No, get in." I said no problem, I can find it now. And another "Get in." You should have seen everyone when the police drove me up to the picnic. I tried to get the police officer to put on his lights and siren, but he wouldn't cooperate. He wished me well, and told me that he still couldn't believe that I traveled that far using only my cane.


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    World's First Talking Computer

    Lenny at the helm of the first talking computer

    February 1968, I began my career with the Pennsylvania Department of Highways later to become the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Here is where I first started working with the Burroughs Computers. By having the computer punched cards processed by a machine called an interpreter I was able to read them. This machine reads the card punches and types the character near the top. I would do this process two or three times making the print very dark. I would also request all printed output on carbon copied paper. The second copy was always dark. This allowed me to be able to read the program listings as well as locating cards that needed corrections.

    As time went by technology improved as my sight simultaneously decreased. In the mid-1970s I acquired a full size close circuit television system that had a magnifying lens. With this I could read listings and some cards when necessary.

    As upgrades to the computer were made a computer terminal called a CONRAC replaced the Teletype unit used by the computer operators at the main console. One of the Burroughs' field engineers discovered that he could greatly increase the height and width of the displayed characters. He could also change the contrast of the display to bright white letters on a total black background. I was able to utilize this terminal for many years. Finally in 1981 the decision to convert from Burroughs to IBM computers was made. This modified CONRAC was not compatible with the new IBM computers.

    Unfortunately there was not enough contrast with the new IBM terminals to allow me to see the text. I became fearful that I could no longer work in this environment.

    It was around this time that Maryland Computer Systems was developing a talking computer. This unit was built from a HP computer and was called ITS, Information Through Speech. Now another problem, like the CONRAC, ITS could not interface with an IBM computer.

    I found a company in Boston called Industrial Computer Control. They were developing a converter that would make the HP computer function as an IBM terminal.

    The converter cost $9,000 and the ITS computer was $6,000. Success, I was the first person to have a talking terminal on an IBM mainframe computer. (See picture above. )

    When all the bugs were worked out a press release was sent to the local papers. This story also was sent to wire services across the country as well as international.

    I started receiving telephone calls from around the world. I had some long and interesting calls from England, Ireland, Canada as well as many from around the country.

    I ended up giving many demonstrations of this new technology to other employers and caseworkers of blind clients.

    Some of the phone calls were very interesting, although one particularly upset me. A woman called from Bell of Michigan. She informed me that she was reading a newspaper article about my talking computer. She went on to ask if I would like to move to Michigan and work for her. She then said "we have many government contracts and must hire some disabled people. It would be nice to hire someone who can do something." This upset me so much that I found myself speechless. If I remember correctly, I slammed down the phone.

    Another call that was very interesting was from a man asking some very detailed questions. He went on to tell me that they were thinking of purchasing one hundred units. I asked him if they were hiring, it sounded like a great place to work. He went on telling me "No, they are not." He explained that they have a lot of people in a warehouse that can't read. He thought that these talking computers could solve their problem. I asked him where he worked and without thinking he told me the department of defense. He immediately ended the call.


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    Many years ago I requested some mobility training. I was able to travel in very familiar environments without the use of a cane. As I was losing more of my vision independent travel was becoming difficult.

    When To Use A Cane

    Many years ago I requested some mobility training. I was able to travel in very familiar environments without the use of a cane. As I was losing more of my vision independent travel was becoming difficult.

    One day I was going to leave my office building for a lunch break. I had no idea that there was a man standing on a ladder cleaning windows. This ladder was erected directly in front of two large heavy brass doors with glass panes from top to bottom. I was walking directly for these doors, lucky someone yelled for me to stop. When the situation was under control the person who stopped me started laughing. He said "You should have seen the expression on his face!" If I had gone through those doors since he did not have the door locked or barricaded, the ladder would have been knocked out from under him.

    A few days later, I talked to the mobility instructor telling him that story. I asked him what could happen if I would have made him fall. He didn't know the answer and later proposed it to his department lawyers.

    It took a team a few weeks to research and come to a conclusion. The first question I was asked was if I was using my cane. When I told him no, it was explained that I would be totally responsible for his injuries.

    It was explained that the cane has more than one purpose. It is not only for my safety but also to identify myself as having a visual problem. He then went on to say that if I had been carrying my cane the liability would shift totally to the man on the ladder. He explained that I would have done everything I could to protect myself including identification, whereas the man on the ladder did nothing to protect himself.


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    One day when riding in the car, I briefly heard part of a discussion about evolution vs. creation. I have been hearing this argument for the last thirty or forty years. I started thinking more about this and I came to the conclusion that they are probably one and the same.

    I first thought about a meeting when I worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. For a few years I worked on the Roadway Management System and later transferred to the Bridge Management System. I found myself in a meeting with the two groups. There was an argument about overpasses vs. underpasses. After listening to the argument for about ten minutes I started laughing. The people on the roadway side referred to something that goes over the road as an overpass where as the bridge people view a roadway under the bridge as an underpass. When the meeting started they did not realize that they were actually talking about the same physical feature.

    Now in the radio broadcast the statement was made about time and the fact that the earth is hundreds of millions years old. Probably true, I was not around long enough to verify. But this did bring me to think about time. In our time a day is defined as twenty-four hours, the time it takes for one revolution of the earth. We have no concept of what a day is in our creator's time. In contrast to eternity, a few hundred-million years is probably only an eye-blink.

    A further tangible example of this is viewing a model railroad. I have a friend that has a very large HO scale railroad. It takes about twenty minutes for one train to complete the main loop around the platform. This twenty minute trip, in our time, travels several thousand scale miles. In the scale time, the trip would be nearly two weeks. So I can not help but to picture our universe as a model layout with God sitting at the controls.

    Over the years I heard many discussions about evolution. I can only see that evolution is actually creation by design. For those of you who are lucky to own a computer, compare it to an early 1960 calculator or better yet an abacus or slide rule? The computer not only evolved from these primitive tools but was created and evolved by design.

    Another example is from early man living in caves and straw huts to buildings like the Empire State Building or the SEARS Towers. Again our art of architecture is a constant evolution created by design.

    Personally, I believe that with each new generation our creator might make subtle improvements that appear to us as a natural evolution process. I do believe that creation is to evolution as the overpass is to the underpass; they first appear on the surface to be different but in reality they are actually the same thing.
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