The Outlook


Official Newsletter of the Sight-Loss
Support Group of Central PA, Inc

The Sight-Loss Support Group of Central Pennsylvania, Inc.
Turning Darkness into Light Since 1982

P.O. Box 782, Lemont, PA  16851
office@slsg.org            www.slsg.org          814-238-0132

December 2018

TIS’ THE SEASON TO “TURN DARKNESS TO LIGHT”

Winter is a dark time. The days grow ever darker as we approach the Winter Solstice, a time of year when we seek out the light. Twinkling lights and candles spread a soft glow on evergreen boughs, the Yule log is lit, and the candles of the menorah burn brightly for eight days – all affirmations that light will prevail at the darkest time of year.

Many traditions of the season, which share the common theme of “turning darkness to light”, are remnants of long-forgotten pagan celebrations that honored the Winter Solstice, the Sun and the return of the light. Ancient druids decorated oak trees with candles and apples to drive away the darkness. Others collected holly, ivy and mistletoe, as well as sacred evergreen trees, adorning them with lighted candles inside their homes.

During this season devoted to “turning darkness to light”, the Board of Directors of the Sight-Loss Support Group wish all of you a joyous holiday and a New Year filled with many blessings.


CHRISTMAS PARTY

Christmas Party: Thursday, December 13, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, Mount Nittany Residences, 301 Rolling Ridge Drive.

We will have our own festival of lights and Winter Solstice feast, celebrating the season with good food, good cheer and good company. Most of our feast will be provided by the Sight-Loss Support Group and North Central Sight Services elves, but if you’d like to bring a side dish or dessert please call the office at 238-0132. Family members are very welcome.

RSVP: Please RSVP by Monday, December 10 (238-0132).


AUDIO-DESCRIBED EVENTS THIS WINTER

The audio-describers will have you singing and dancing this winter! In addition to fan favorites, the Nittany Ballet's “Nutcracker” and a FUSE production of “George..”, the Center for the Performing Arts is offering five uplifting musicals this season.

Remember: In theaters, please arrive in plenty of time to acquire your headset and go to your seat before the 15-minute pre-show description about the production, characters, costumes and sets begins. Tell your friends and co-workers about these offerings. Those with full-vision may also find the introduction and description helpful and interesting.

The Audio Description service is free of charge, but reservations are required AT LEAST TWO WEEKS IN ADVANCE. Also, assistance with ticket costs is available for many performances. Please call the Sight-Loss Support Group of Central PA at (814) 238-0132 or email at office@slsg.org for reservations or for further information.

THE NUTCRACKER (BALLET): Sunday, Dec. 9, 3:00 pm, Eisenhower Auditorium.*

The Performing Arts School of Central Pennsylvania's Nittany Ballet presents the classic holiday ballet, “The Nutcracker.” Enter a magical world where toy soldiers come to life, snowflakes dance across the stage and a Sugar Plum Fairy guides a young girl on an adventure through the Land of the Sweets! Note: Audio description is available for the Sunday matinee performance only; please reserve the AD service by Nov. 25.

FINDING NEVERLAND (Musical): Wednesday, Jan. 23, 7:30 pm, Eisenhower Auditorium.*

The Center for the Performing Arts at Eisenhower Auditorium presents the heart-warming theatrical event, “Finding Neverland”. This uplifting Broadway musical tells the fascinating story of how Peter became Pan. Based on the Academy-winning film of the same name, it has been brought to extraordinary life by the team behind Shakespeare in LoveChicago and Pippin. Please reserve the AD service by Jan. 9.


ME....JANE: THE DREAMS AND ADVENTURES OF YOUNG JANE GOODALL (Children's Musical): Sunday, Feb. 10, 4:00 pm, Eisenhower Auditorium.*

The Center for the the Performing Arts at Eisenhower Auditorium brings us “Me….Jane: The Dreams and Adventures of Young Jane Goodall”, a production of the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences on Tour. An hour-long musical production based on the Caldecott Honor Book by Patrick McDonnell, this is the true story of the young Goodall, who as an adult scientist has spent more than half a century studying the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees. This lively, inspiring show shares how Goodall believed in herself, lived her dreams, and made a difference in the world. Please reserve the AD service by Jan. 27.


SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (Musical):Thursday, Feb. 21, 7:30pm, Schwab Auditorium.

FUSE Productions presents the Sondheim musical inspired by the French pointillist painter George Seurat's painting. The main characters are Seurat, as he immerses himself deeply in painting his masterpiece, and his great-grandson, also named George, a conflicted and cynical contemporary artist. Note: Audio-description (A-D) service is for the Thursday performance only. Tickets are available through FUSE at www.fuseproductions.org or phone (814)-380-8672; ask for reduced "student" price. Please reserve the A-D service by Feb. 7.


BEAUTIFUL (Musical): Sunday, Feb. 24, 2 pm, Eisenhower Auditorium.*

With a stunning array of her hit songs, this Tony and Grammy Award-winning Carole King musical has thrilled Broadway with the inspiring true story of her remarkable journey from Brooklyn teenage songwriter to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Note: (A-D) service provided at the Sunday matinee only. Please reserve the A-D service by Feb. 10.


THE KING AND I (Musical): Wednesday, Mar. 28, 7:30 pm, Eisenhower Auditorium.*

We hope we will be “Getting to Know You” as you enjoy one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's finest musicals. The King of Siam and British schoolteacher Anna sing and dance through an unconventional and tempestuous relationship in this breathtaking revival. Please reserve the A-D service by March 13.


KINKY BOOTS (Musical): Wednesday, Apr. 10, 7:30 pm, Eisenhower Auditorium.*

With songs by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, KINKY BOOTS is known as Broadway's “huge-hearted, high-heeled hit.” This joyous musical celebration is about the friendships we discover and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind. Inspired by true events, KINKY BOOTS takes you from a gentlemen’s shoe factory in Northampton, England, to the glamorous catwalks of Milan, Italy. Please reserve the A-D service by April 28.


*Ticket Information for the Center for the Performing Arts (Eisenhower Auditorium):

Tickets are required and may be purchased by calling the Center for the Performing Arts at (814)-863-0255 or (800)-ARTS-TIX. A limited number of complimentary tickets are available for Eisenhower shows for patrons with sight-loss and a guest through their Accessibility Program; phone the Eisenhower Auditorium, (814)-865-5011, and ask for Joi McKenzie.

Tickets for all 2018/2019 performances at the CPA at Penn State are now on sale! For the best seats, buy your tickets early. For a complete list with ticket information, call the ticket office at 814-863-ARTSTIX, or check the CPA audio description web page at http://cpa.psu.edu/eventswithad.

SAVE THESE DATES AS WE LOOK FORWARD TO SPRING

May 9: BBQ/Tour of Columbus Chapel & Boal Mansion Museum

May 14: Spring Flower Tour at the Arboretum at Penn State



HELEN KELLER’S FIRST CHRISTMAS

Tell us about your happiest Christmas.” For Helen Keller it was the Christmas of 1887, her first real Christmas that would shine in her memory until adulthood. The Christmases before that (six of them) were a blank - dark, silent days like all days in her life.

In March 1887, a momentous year for Helen, light arrived in the form of her teacher Anne Sullivan when she was six years old. With the assistance of Alexander Graham Bell, the Kellers engaged Anne Sullivan, a teacher at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, to tutor their daughter at their Alabama plantation. Anne Sullivan helped Helen gain self-control and began teaching her using sign language spelled into her hand.

Before Anne Sullivan came to the Keller home, Helen was an untamed creature. As Helen described herself years later, “I had no wish for anything, except for food and objects that were taken from my hands because I might break or spoil them………I was not a child. I was a wayward, elfish little animal with no language but a cry. My dog was only something that got in the way. I did not even realize that I loved anyone or cared for anything.”

As Anne spelled words into Helen’s hand, trying to help the girl make a connection between letters, words, and objects, the meaning of it all eluded Helen. On April 5, 1887, Anne took Helen to an old pump house, put her hand under the stream of water and began spelling “w-a-t-e-r” into her palm. Helen Keller wrote in her autobiography, “As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word “water”, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “water” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.”

Helen began asking what the words for other objects were and learned dozens of new words in the following days. From that watershed moment at the pump house, the power, possibility, and joy of language opened-up a new world to Helen, one filled with meaning and an understanding of her place in this new world. By December Helen was ready for her “first” Christmas.

For weeks Helen and Anne did nothing but talk and read and tell each other stories about Christmas. Soon Helen could comprehend the concept of gifts and decorated trees in parlors. For the first time she understood the meaning of being invited to parties and sharing in games with other children. The red-letter event of that first Christmas was a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve at a party with the school children from her hometown. “When I found myself caught in the tangle of its fragrant embrace, I clapped my hands. I felt the presents hanging on every branch and twig. When I was told that each child would have a gift, I was so delighted that the people in charge let me hand the parcels to the children.”

On Christmas morning Helen woke her family early, frantically spelling with her hand “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!” She found surprises on the table, chairs, at the door, and on window sills. Helen later recalled, “How full the air was of secrets and mysteries! How tantalizing were the odors of gifts hidden away from my prying fingers – oranges, candies, pretty new toys. I do not think any child ever plotted more surprises or gave away more secrets or received more delightful gifts than I did on that beautiful Christmas day in the land of mockingbirds and roses.”


KNITTING A LIFE BACK TOGETHER AGAIN

Below is an excerpt from the Prologue to Lynda Lambert’s book Walking by Inner Vision: Stories and Poems. The Prologue was reprinted on the VisionAware website because the author thought it would be “so helpful to newly blind individuals.”

In my earliest memories knitting with two needles in my hands and a supple, colorful ball of yarn seemed to come naturally to me. Combine that activity with a quiet and sunny room, a comforting chair, and solitude, and I had a perfect day. I have no idea how I ever became so absorbed in knitting, but it has been a lifelong passion. Winter days cause me to remember a time when the possibility of ever knitting again seemed as far away as a distant star.…

It’s been nearly a decade since I lost most of my eyesight due to a stroke-like event that killed my optic nerve. … There was no way to predict this would happen and no treatment once it did its damage. Because I did not know anyone who had a profound sight loss, this unexpected challenge was disorienting for a few months as I tried to figure out what to do next.

I thought my life was over since I could do nothing I had done previously. In the beginning I did not know if it was day or night. The simplest tasks were impossible. The strain of trying to see and the constant failures in doing ordinary activities overwhelmed me. I felt useless, and one morning, I very quietly cried as I prayed out loud, “Oh God. This is not how I want to spend my life!” There were no more words I could say. I was heartbroken.

One dismal winter afternoon, I sat in the reclining chair, eyes closed and was thinking about the sweaters I had made for needy children through a charity and wondered how I would ever make a sweater again. I thought of the sweater I was making at the time of my sudden sight loss. I longed to finish the sweater … I decided to pick up the unfinished project and give it a try.

I began by holding the yarn strand in place in my two hands. Just the feel of the yarn brought a surge of pleasure. The long aluminum knitting needles felt cool against my warm hands. I remembered how much I had always loved to knit. … I started very slowly, moving the needles and trying to get them to balance. I shifted them between my two hands and put them into my normal knitting position. My breathing became shallow as I struggled. I tried to begin, stopped, and tried once again for the familiar feel of yarn and needles, now so strange and clumsy. I felt awkward, my needles now complete strangers.

Suddenly I had a slight, faltering revelation, something I had not thought about before: I could not do it because I was trying to see it. The idea came to me like a gentle whisper in my soul. It felt like a patient voice telling me, “Because you cannot see, you should just close your eyes and try to begin to feel it with your hands. Let your hands be your eyes now.” How ironic I thought! My desire to see what I am doing is preventing me from “seeing.”

Let Your Hands Be Your Eyes: I seemed to understand at this point that I must now learn to see non-visually. Intuitively I knew I needed to use my hands and fingers combined with my other senses. My fingers would now become my eyes! And I thought, yes, instead of looking with two eyes, I can now look with 10 fingers.

Soon I was feeling my way through this task. I finished that sweater and donated it to the charity that provided sweaters for needy children. God had allowed my passion for knitting to become my breakthrough in healing, and knitting again was the beginning step on the path to recovery. Shortly after this healing breakthrough, I was able to attend a rehabilitation center where I further developed my personal adjustment to blindness. Of course, I took my knitting along with me.

I knitted my way through the hard days of struggles and the depression of trying to relearn how to do little ordinary activities that people take for granted. I learned how to put my knitting patterns onto a digital sound device called a Milestone. Oh, how I love this little device! With my Milestone I can carry the verbal directions with me and I can knit. I learned how to put my patterns on a computer so I could read them again with adaptive technologies. I learned how to organize my knitting patterns in ways that I could access when I needed them. When I felt overwhelmed and tired from all the learning that I had to do each day, I retreated to my room and picked up my knitting. It was knitting that brought me through those hard times.

By successfully knitting again I gained confidence in myself and took pride in what I could do instead of lamenting my losses. For me, knitting was a game changer. I was back in the game of knitting together a life. … When someone stops me and compliments me on a beautiful sweater or stunning jacket I am wearing, I give them a wide smile and say, “Oh thanks! I knitted it.” … With God’s grace and faith in his guidance, I am learning to walk by faith and not by sight as I knit my life back together again.



The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.”

Helen Keller


SEASONS GREETINGS!

Sight-Loss Support Group of Central PA, Inc.

P.O. Box 782

Lemont, PA 16851

SECOND THURSDAYS SUPPORT GROUP MEETINGS

Dec. 13 Christmas Party

Jan. 10 Feb. 14 Mar. 14 Apr. 11

AUDIO-DESCRIBED PERFORMANCES

Dec. 9 The Nutcracker

Jan. 23 Finding Neverland

Feb. 10 Me...Jane

Feb. 21 Sunday in the Park with George

Feb. 24 Beautiful

Mar. 28 The King and I

Apr. 10 Kinky Boots

Remember to check our website (www.slsg.org)

for announcements, updates, and further information, and to follow

Sight-Loss Support Group of Central PA Inc” on Facebook.

THE OUTLOOK

December 2018