<![CDATA[Roxanne Smolen, author - Facts & Fiction]]>Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:46:13 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Steamy Windows]]>Mon, 24 Dec 2012 00:08:11 GMThttp://roxannesmolen.weebly.com/2/post/2012/12/steamy-windows.htmlChristmas is about family, gratitude, and giving. It's also about cookies. As a child, I would come home from school on a snowy day to a house full of sweet and spicy smells. I remember my mother's infinite patience as I drew smiles and scarfs on the snowmen with icing. Some of my favorite memories of my mom involve her cookies.

When I had children of my own, I wanted to share those memories with them. Every Christmas, I went overboard. I'd bake countless varieties of cookies. The windows would steam, and the house would fill with the wonderful smell of gingerbread. My kids would come home, wet and tired from snowball fights, to find a cup of hot chocolate and a warm cookie waiting for them.

The little crumbs don't remember any of that.

But I still like to bake. The problem blind people have with baking is measuring the ingredients. I use individual measuring cups--1/4 cup, 1/2 cup, 1 cup. That way I can feel if the cup is filled to the rim. There are many such measuring cups on the market. I use a set from Maxi Aids

Whenever possible, however, I use pre-measured ingredients. For example, here is my recipe for:

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

1 can of pumpkin
1 box spice cake

Mix everything in a bowl (use a big bowl to give yourself some room) then drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Try to get the cookies all the same size--that's the hardest part. Then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for ten minutes.

Perfect for the holidays. You also might want to try my:

Cranberry Nut Cookies

1 egg
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of dried cranberries
1 cup of crunchy peanut butter

Crack the egg into a big bowl. Again, use a big bowl so you have room to work. Stir the egg a little with a fork. Measure 1 cup of sugar in your 1 cup measuring cup and dump it on the egg. Stir it a little. Using the same cup, add a cup of dried cranberries. Alternately, you can buy the cranberries in snack packs and use two or three packs. Then measure one cup of crunchy peanut butter--keep packing it in until it reaches the top. Add it to the ingredients in the bowl and combine by hand until it feels pretty well incorporated. Then drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, trying to keep each cookie the same size. Sometimes it helps to roll them in balls. Bake for 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

I hope your Christmas is as sweet as your childhood memories. And may all your windows be steamy.
<![CDATA[Getting Caned]]>Mon, 06 Feb 2012 13:30:34 GMThttp://roxannesmolen.weebly.com/2/post/2012/02/getting-caned.htmlBack in the day, all us kids were taught about white canes in school. On White Cane Safety Day, we wore white cane lapel pins given to us by the Lions Clubs to show solidarity. They don't seem to make such a big deal about it anymore; at least, not where I live.

As a result, not as many people understand what a white cane means. You'd be surprised at how many people ask me for directions as I stand with my white cane trying to hear if the traffic has cleared. Some people become indignant if I clip their ankle as I pass, or hysterical if I touch the wheel of their baby carriage.

Others don't want me in public at all. I remember strolling through my local shopping mall with a woman walking ahead of me yelling, "Look out! There's a blind lady coming. You never know what she'll do with her stick."

Yet I persevere. My white cane has become an extension of my hand, feeling the path before me so I know what to expect. There are different methods for using a cane. If I have somebody's arm to hold, I just carry the cane as a sort of notification that I am sight impaired. If I expect a long day, I attach a ball tip to the end of my cane and swish it ahead as I walk.

Normally, I'm a tapper. I tap my cane from side to side about a shoulder length apart. That way I can hear the difference between sidewalk and grass, tile floor and wooden stairs. It keeps me on the straight and narrow. But I've found that tapping rhythmically sounds like a woman in high heels to the people ahead. They don't realize I'm coming up on them. So I've added a third tap, making me sound like a woman in high heels who is tripping. That gets their attention so they can move out of my way.

At night, it is even more important that people see me coming. The cane flash light attaches to my cane and blinks red as my cane taps the ground. That way I can walk around without risk of bumping into anyone.

If you're new to vision loss and don't know where to get started, I suggest you contact your local Lighthouse of the Blind. They will give you your first cane and tell you where to buy more. I buy mine online. Just search for blind canes; there are many sites that carry them. Two of my favorites are MaxiAids and ILA.

There are many different types of canes to fit tastes or circumstances. Some are rigid, some fold or telescope outward. Some have the aforementioned balls at the end, and some have a shoehorn shaped tip to make it easier to walk at the beach.

Believe it or not, some white canes glow in the dark. I enjoy nighttime activities, so these are a good match for me. Several companies make such canes, but the best I've found is by Reizen. These canes absorb the sunlight during the day and glow bright green for hours into the night. They definitely attract attention. At times, I've heard kids cry out, "Wow, that is so cool. I want one of those." I want to tell them they really don't.

October 15 is National White Cane Safety Day. Please observe this tradition by explaining to your children what a white cane is all about.]]>
<![CDATA[What is Disabled?]]>Sat, 24 Sep 2011 13:27:51 GMThttp://roxannesmolen.weebly.com/2/post/2011/09/first-post.html        What is disabled?  What is it like to be a disabled person?  I used to ask myself that question daily, run scenarios through my mind as I fell asleep at night.  Disabled meant unable.  Disability was inability.  Was that how I would spend my life—unable to fend for myself?

        About thirteen years ago, I was diagnosed with Pigmentary Glaucoma.  Traditional treatments for glaucoma didn't work on me, and my eyesight deteriorated rapidly.  Desperate and despondent, I went from specialist to specialist, none of whom could help.  It wasn't until I received the additional diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa that they got a handle on my case.

        During that period, sitting in countless waiting rooms, I had the opportunity to meet many sight-impaired and blind people.  Some were good humored.  Some were bitter.  All were completely dependant on a companion seated next to them.  They'd tell me how frustrated they were at not being able to drive or cook or play cards.  Things they once enjoyed doing—everyday things like reading or gardening—were no longer possible.  They spent their days waiting in darkness until someone had time to take care of them.

        I'd go home in tears.  I wasn't ready for my life to be over.  There were still things I'd planned to do.  I had wanted to grow a bonsai garden, always wanted to write a book.  I didn't want to be disabled.  But the doctors gave me no hope.

        Friends began to shy away—I couldn't participate, couldn't do the things I used to do with them.  My family felt sorry for me.  My husband began doing more and more around the house until when I was forced to quit my job, I had nothing left to do.  At first, I cried a lot.  I felt like I was mourning my own death.  After a while, I settled down and just sat waiting for someone to take care of me.

        It was around then that my husband heard about the program at the Broward Lighthouse.  He mentioned it to me every few days.  I was offended and defiant.  Hadn't I sat through enough waiting room conversations with blind people?  I didn't want anyone to think I was one of them.  Anger turned to dismay, and then to fear.  If the Lighthouse asked me to do something I couldn't do, I would be admitting I was disabled.  In a moment of weakness, I agreed to an exploratory visit.

        I was greeted by Fred, a blind man who never once bemoaned debility, and given a tour of the building.  After that, I was interviewed by Eunice.  She asked me a question I wasn't expecting—what did I want to do with the rest of my life?  I was surprised even more by my answer—I wanted to write novels.  I hadn't realized I still harbored that dream.  Eunice merely smiled and said she would keep that in mind when she set up my curriculum.  I was in the program.

        It was grueling—both emotionally and physically.  I had done nothing for so long, it was hard to suddenly do something three times a week.  I learned nifty little tricks, such as wearing an apron with pockets so I always had a phone, a flashlight, and a timer with me.  But each day, I'd go home exhausted, threatening never to go back.  And each time, my husband would encourage me to try just one more day.

        Then I had an epiphany.  True to her promise of tailoring my curriculum, Eunice had enrolled me in computer class so I could learn how to write my books.  My teacher, Connie, asked what programs I wanted to learn, and I told her I was planning to use Dragon Naturally Speaking, a voice recognition program, so I could speak into the computer instead of type.

        She said, "Why?  You aren't disabled.  You can still use your hands."

        My mouth fell open.  Not disabled?  I was blind.  How could I not be disabled?

        The rest of that day, I studied my other instructors.  Did they also think I wasn't disabled?  Sure enough, Pat was encouraging me to cook my own Thanksgiving dinner, and Nicole was telling me to take my white cane to the shopping mall and do some early Christmas shopping.  Did they really think I could do these things?

        I looked around at my fellow students.  A few were still locked in "I can't do that" mode, but many seemed transformed.  They were more talkative, more vibrant, laughing about how they'd tried this tip or that tip at home.  And I could tell which of them were disabled and which were not.

        That was my epiphany.  It is not blindness that disables us—it is the belief that we are disabled.  And it is belief that makes us enabled.  That night, I sat at my computer and began writing my first novel.  It isn't easy, but I'm up to the challenge.