Archive for December, 2013

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Waiting for Decades, Lasting Forever

Meet Donna Azar, a resident of Wexford, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a small child, she was removed from parents because they were abusive and addicted to drugs. Donna’s adoptive parents were loving, and she currently enjoys a wonderful relationship with her husband.

Now meet Lorin Mills. Like Donna, she was also taken away from parents with child and substance abuse issues and became part of a new family where consistency, stability, and love were the norms.

On the surface, these similarities may seem unremarkable, but what recently transformed this scenario from pedestrian to definitely unbelievable was Donna learning that Lorin is her sister!

“Lorin knew that I existed, but I didn’t know that she existed,” Donna shared with KDKA TV reporter Dave Crawley. (Dave Crawley has been employed by KDKA TV since 1988, his stories often being of a human interest nature.) “I had been searching for Donna for 17 years,” older sister Lorin continued. “When I went to, I found her adoption and birth names and we then met on Facebook.”

Donna told Dave Crawley that her first conversation with her long lost sister was “absolutely wonderful.” It was Donna’s brother who took that first call and told his sister that she had a sister and a brother named John.

During her visit to Pittsburgh to be reunited with her younger sister after three decades, the two also shared their incredible story on Pittsburgh Today Live, a talk show which Pittsburgh’s CBS affiliate airs Monday through Friday.

Lorin learned in 2012 that her birth mother had passed away, and found her biological father lying in the grass at a Santa Cruz, California park while high on meth and alcohol. “My husband was with me,” Lorin stated, adding how emotional that encounter was for her.

Sad though it is, if this is the lifestyle the birth father wants to continue to explore, there is also the happiness built on the hope that their sisterly bonds will become stronger and that they can soon add a much sought after brother to this potpourri of love.

Source:, Facebook, and Twitter. (The article on which this piece is based was tweeted 11 times, shared 12 times via email, and received 164 likes on Facebook.)

If you are searching, or plan to search for a family member who was placed for adoption, visit, where you will also find a toll-free number which answers 24 hours a day.

Tell us in the Reader’s Forum if you believe miracles can still occur. If so, what holiday surprise have you experienced that you would define as “a miracle.” If some of you feel that miracles definitely do not exist and therefore feel that people put too much stock into what they call “miracles,” I’d love your thoughts too in the Reader’s Forum.

Happy and healthy holiday seasons to all.

Feature Writer John Christie – The History of Christmas

Christmas is both a religious and secular holiday and has been celebrated throughout the world for 2,000 years. People around the world celebrate it by going to church, giving and receiving gifts and being with family and friends. People also celebrate Christmas by decorating Christmas Trees and waiting for Santa Claus. The holiday also celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Christmas has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.

Christmas has a variety of traditions worldwide. For instance, in the Scandinavian countries, St. Lucia, also known as St. Lucy, is honored on December 13 of each year. The celebration of St. Lucia Day first began in Sweden, but spread to Denmark and Finland by the mid 19th century. This is begun in the beginning of the holiday season and is known as Little Yule. In Little Yule, the oldest daughter wakes every member of the family. She is dressed in a long white gown. She is also wearing a red sash and wearing a crown made of twigs. In addition, she is carrying nine lighted candles. For the day, she is called Lussi or Lussibruden. The family then eats breakfast in a room lighted with candles. At night, men, women, and children would carry torches in a parade. The night would end when the torches would be placed on a large pile of straw creating a large bonfire.

In Italy, people call Christmas “Il Natale” which means the birthday. In America, on Christmas Eve, Italians have various fishes along with a main Italian meal such as stuffed shells.

In Australia, during their summer, it’s not unusual for the temperatures to be around 100 degrees. This is why people go to the beach and barbecues. During Christmas, people have family gatherings and exchange gifts. People have ham, turkey, pork or seafood barbeques.

The one man we can’t forget about is Santa Claus. His history goes back to the third century, when he was known St. Nicholas. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth. However, our image that we have of Santa today comes from the poem “The Night Before Christmas.” Whatever your image of the Jolly Old Fellow or the traditions you celebrate, have a happy holiday season.

To read more about the history of Christmas follow this link:

Feature Writer Jane Kronheim – Mrs. Finneburgh’s Piano: An Early Gift of Music

Whenever I visit programs for young children, I am always scanning the classroom in search of a piano. A real piano. Yes, they are still out there, those pieces of musical furniture lurking somewhere in a preschool or kindergarten classroom.

In recent years, the pianos have been disappearing. I do not see them anymore. This reminds of a time, long ago, when I was a little girl. Mom and I would visit Mrs. Finneburgh’s house. In her living room, filled with typical furnishings of the 1950’s, I saw this beautiful piano.

Mrs. Finneburgh’s children, now grown up, once took lessons there. But the piano, still looking beautiful as ever, had been transformed, and became a fancy table top upon which the family stored photos, embellishing its uppermost level.

I would ask Mrs. Finneburgh if it was OK for me to sit at the piano and explore its black and white keys. At that point, I did not really know how to play the piano, but I loved tinkling the ivories for hours, forming chords, making my way with “Chopsticks” and lovingly creating those “Oriental” sounding melodies playing only the black keys, as I called them.

On and on I would play high notes, imagining little woodland folk floating around the upper keyboard, then low, deep notes as if thunder just infiltrated the deep forest while all of the woodland creatures ran off to their appointed knot holes. I loved Mrs. Finneburgh’s piano and the fact that she allowed me those moments of time in which to create my own childish rhapsodies.

I am struck by the fact that people are discarding these “relics” of old front rooms and Victorian parlors. Some people will do anything; “just cart it away and you can have it for free,” say many of the “Piano for Sale” ads in the local papers.

Just a few years ago, while up north doing some vision consults, my student and I were on a community trip when we went into a secondhand shop and saw an announcement regarding a piano raffle. I put my name in, just for fun, and wouldn’t you know it, they called me from the great north woods to tell me that I had won the piano, so come and get it! I explained that I was a three and a half hour drive away. I tried to hook them up with a local piano teacher in their neck of the woods, but somehow they never connected.

Sadly I learned that these people, out of frustration, took an ax to the old piano, eventually dumping it into some local ravine. I was heartsick, feeling guilty and remorseful about the demise of that piano. I felt that its musical soul had been broken. What could I have done?

I thought again about Mrs. Finneburgh’s old piano, how I had loved it, longed for one just like it and eventually learned how to play an upright Krakauer that my parents bought.

I hope that young children today, even in the midst of their iPods and iPads and virtual keyboards, will have the opportunity to play a real piano in real time in some old lady’s front room.

Feature Writer Ann Chiapetta – Holiday Stress

The holiday season is a very meaningful time for us. We make the most of the spiritual opportunities to connect with family and friends and help those less fortunate than ourselves.

But the holidays can also be painful reminders of what we have lost. I facilitate two Post Trauma Recovery groups and the holidays are a painful time for many of the group members. Since the group’s main focus is on the losses they have experienced during war, I thought sharing some of their coping strategies could help those of us who may have also experienced losses during the past year. I know that the death of my father last January has made it very difficult for me to find the joy in the holidays this year.

What I’d like to focus on in this article is how the holidays can be stress triggers for us as well. For instance, those of us who have lost loved ones near or on the actual holiday react much differently than those of us who have not. Anniversary dates of traumatic events also trigger anxiety and depression which can cause the person’s need to isolate or avoid family gatherings and parties.

Here are some tips to help yourself or a loved one manage the holiday stress.

Go easy on yourself and plan to meet your needs. If parties and visiting don’t appeal to you, limit the number of visits and holiday parties you will attend.

If you or your loved one is in recovery, surround yourselves with alcohol and drug free gatherings.

Only you can judge when a party or family gathering becomes overwhelming, allow yourself the flexibility to take short breaks from the festivities and walks outside to find the peace and quiet required to get you through the party.

Keep to your routines as much as possible.

If you are feeling especially blue, depressed or have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Remember holiday blues are real and being aware of how you can manage them will lower your anxiety and stress.

Blessings and safe traveling to all.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Gifts of Fragrance at Christmas

Christmas of 1962, I was thirteen. One gift I wished for was bottles of perfume. The girls at Perkins always wore lovely scents; I wished to be part of their crowd. Fragrance always fascinated me. My wish would start coming true before Christmas Day.

The night of the Perkins annual Christmas party was exciting. I was lucky to grab a can of Avon talcum powder from the grab bag outside of Dwight Hall. I immediately loved its sweet, spicy scent. At the cottage party, my gift was a glass bottle of bubble bath.

On Christmas Eve I was elated to receive Apple Blossom and other fragrances, including Tweed cologne. My mom’s friend gave me a lovely box with three bars of Yardley of London’s English Lavender soap. These gifts were special and made me feel more grown-up. My avid fascination and interest in fragrances had only begun blossoming.

During my adolescence, my parents would surprise me with gifts of small bottles of fragrance throughout the year. The spring of 1963, I received the delicate, soft, sweet scent “On The Wind” cologne. The winter of 1964, my mom and I both got a small bottle of real French perfume from a friend. At this same time, she bought me “Fresh,” a delightfully perfumed deodorant.

I was introduced to new fragrances at Christmas. I remember fondly Shoulton’s Early American Old Spice gift set, “April Showers” cologne, a Jeanne Natae gift set and Shoulton’s “Desert Flower” cologne.

“Desert Flower” evokes pleasant and sentimental memories. In December, when I was 21, I touched a small, daintily wrapped package on our living room mantel. When I inquired about it, my mom said, “it is something your father bought you.” On that snowy Christmas morning in 1970, I was handed this small package with its lustrous shiny paper. I opened it and was delighted to discover that it was one of my favorite fragrances. The round bottle of “Desert Flower” cologne had tiny dotted square imprints, unlike today’s plain nondescript perfume bottles. I liked its soft, delicate floral scent and wore it often. I would put it, and the four small bottles of Yardley fragrances my dad gave me, on my large bureau. At 21, I was content and did not expect major changes in my life. Even though my father was not in great health, I was sure he would be with us for years.

However, In mid August 1971, my dad died of a sudden heart attack. In January 1972, on a mild Monday afternoon, I could not resist buying another bottle of Desert Flower cologne. Smelling its delicate floral essence, I fondly remembered and missed my father. I will always cherish that happy Christmas and the gentle gesture of love he showed with that thoughtful gift.

My life did change. After I married my husband, he would often give me fragrances for Christmas. I received “Lauren by Ralph Lauren,” “Wind Song by Prince Matchibelli,” and “Chanel Number 5,” as a Valentine’s Day gift. Although “Desert Flower” is almost impossible to find, there are many beautiful new scents. One I like is Yardley’s “Iris,” which is inexpensive and can be bought at Parfume1. Pacifica’s lilac soap is lovely, as is Make Scents’ lilac and rain fragrances. To all Ziegler readers: have a great Christmas; may you receive love, happiness and wished for gifts.

Letter from the Editor – Week of December 23, 2013

Hello Everyone,

I hope you had a great weekend, and have had or will have some time to relax away from the bustle of holiday shoppers.

I wish the very best for you and yours this holiday season.

The audio edition for November went out last week. If you would like to download it the direct link is here:

I have heard from several readers requesting that I bring back the recipes section so I will do that starting next week. For this week, Alena’s article contains a recipe for gingerbread that seems pretty tasty!

Thanks for reading and to those who wrote in to the Reader’s Forum.

Have a great week and enjoy the holidays!


Reader’s Forum – Week of December 16, 2013

For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.

Lucia wrote:

I wish to comment on something mentioned in a Reader’s Forum quite a while ago, but this is of paramount importance. This has to do with the title change from Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic to Learning Ally.

The reason for this change is due to the fact that dyslexia is not the only learning disability wherein people cannot read print. A friend who is knowledgeable informed me of this and I had a feeling all along that this friend was correct. There are other learning disabilities which prevent a person from accessing printed material. Hence, the new name “Learning Ally.”

Unfortunately, two individuals, who shall be nameless, ranted and raved, claiming that this change in name is due to “shame” with reference to blindness. This is a fallacy. These nameless individuals do not have a right to an opinion. We do!

People must never judge, criticize or make assumptions before verifying and learning the facts. People say that “it is the blind speaking for themselves.” I think not.


Danni wrote in response to: Feature Writer John Christie – Man Decides to Take Himself Off of Life Support:

Before Bowers made a decision to live or die, he should have met with other people who were in a similar situation. In this way, he would have made a more educated decision.

I have to absolutely disagree with this whole statement! Who says he didn’t make a very educated decision? His own sister, a nurse, was there and supported his decision and for all any of us know he could have already expressed such a decision long before this happened!

Imagine if someone became blind and they saw no hope in life and didn’t know of other people who were already blind and this person, like Tim, decided to die. The blind person who decided to die could have lived a better quality of life with rehabilitation and other people as role models.

I really do not understand at all how blindness in any way shape or form compares to being paralyzed and trapped to machines??? I am appalled that this comparison has even been made!

How do you feel about Tim Bowers?

I feel that he made the best decision for himself and no matter how selfish some may think it was, it was and always will be his decision and I am so glad he was able to make it and relieved his family from such a difficult decision!


Bob Branco wrote:

Dear Readers,

I was wrong about the number of members in the Blind and Visually Impaired Professionals LinkedIn group. There are a total of 1,464 members as of today.


Ann Chiapetta wrote:

I’d like to respond to John Christie’s article in the December 9, 2013 issue titled Man Decides to Take Himself off Life Support.

In it, John writes: “Before Bowers made a decision to live or die, he should have met with other people who were in a similar situation. In this way, he would have made a more educated decision. Imagine if someone became blind and they saw no hope in life and didn’t know of other people who were already blind and this person, like Tim, decided to die. The blind person who decided to die could have lived a better quality of life with rehabilitation and other people as role models. How do you feel about Tim Bowers?”

First, I think comparing a person who cannot breathe or move independently to someone who has suddenly become blind is like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they are both devastating, tragic and life changing events but someone who is blind is still functioning at a much higher level. If I were this man, faced with living on the edge of life and death, completely dependent on machines, I would consider pressing the button. I have met with other quadriplegics and some have said they think about suicide all the time. I also realize that folks can become horrified if they even entertain the idea of being blind. There is no easy answer to this situation and that is what makes it a tragedy. End of life issues are never neatly packaged into what ifs, and while I think this story is both poignant and tragic, I also understand and accept this man’s choice to end his life, which many would say is no life at all, being on life support is merely existing.


Regina wrote:

I wish to comment on John Christie’s story about a man deciding to take himself off of life-support machine. Tim Bower was hurt in a car accident which left him paralyzed severely almost throughout the body. We hear that doctors have confirmed that his life will not be the same again, and that he will remain on the wheelchair for the rest of his life. Life is a God-given precious gift; hence, no one here on earth is supposed to overrule taking it away from you apart from God Himself who gave it to you. Being disabled in any form is not the end of the road; the only medicine is to accept yourself in every situation you are found in and remain positive about it, and life goes on.

I would like to thank all those people from different countries world-over that are mourning with us in Africa the death of a great man and a Father of Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela who passed on last week Thursday. He is one out very few leaders not only in Africa but the World as the whole who showed the true leadership qualities. I just hope that other leaders will emulate Mandela’s examples and put them in practice for the better world.


Stanley wrote:

Tim Bowers was given terrible support and awful advice. Instead of being asked difficult and impossible questions to answer shortly after his traumatic and devastating accident, he could have been given a chance to recover with loving and tender support around him. He could have been introduced to and told about the hundreds of people who are quadriplegics who live satisfying and rewarding lives as spouses, parents and grandparents. He could have been introduced to many individuals whom I know personally who would tell him that parenting is among the most joyous activities of their lives. He could have been encouraged to wait, recover as much as possible, experience his life and become a fulfilled person with a disability, which, while having limitations, can also be handled with love and caring support. By the way, as blind people, we are very sensitive when anyone questions our quality of life. We should be at least as careful as we want others to be.


Abbie wrote:

This is in response to John Christie’s article about the man who decided to take himself off life support. For six years, my late husband Bill lived with partial paralysis as a result of two strokes. The only things he could do independently were breathe, eat, and operate his computer, radio, and talking book players. It sounds like Tim Bowers couldn’t do even that.

I wonder. Did John Christie ever meet anyone in Tim Bowers’ condition who had a good quality of life? I doubt it. It’s true that people who are blind, deaf, or suffering from other physical disabilities can still have a good quality of life.

As for Tim Bowers, I applaud his family for allowing him to make his own decision. I’m sure it was hard for them. It wasn’t easy for me when I finally had to move Bill to a nursing home after caring for him for six years. About a month later, after a downhill battle, he stopped eating. He died three days after that. I could have insisted the staff use whatever drastic measures were available to keep him alive, but I knew he was tired of living with the use of only one arm and leg so I let him go. He and Tim Bowers are both in a better place. I have to believe that.


Roy wrote:

I think the decision Tim Bowers made was very courageous. Comparing Tim’s situation to someone who has lost his/her sight is like comparing apples to televisions. Nothing in common at all. The person who has lost their sight is not on a ventilator and is able to function in every other way except the eyes do not work anymore. Deciding to let oneself die is not easy. I’m sure many readers have thought of ending their life at one time or another but couldn’t go through with it and I’m glad they didn’t. This was a man who obviously lived a vibrant, fruitful life and that came to a total end. Rest in peace, Tim Bowers.


David wrote:

Concerning LinkedIn and Bob’s article: I’d be curious to know who is teaching the class to access LinkedIn. I can visit there, but don’t really understand the website. It’s like Facebook in that it’s elaborate, with lots of bells and whistles. I become easily mentally fatigued trying to sort it all out. I am fascinated to hear of the over 14,000 blind professionals on there. Some blind people are obviously very gainfully employed.

I’d skin any kitty that snatched my turkey. Bad Aleksander.

Contributor Valerie Moreno – To Linda

I was ten when we met. It was my second year at summer camp for blind children and I was dismayed none of my friends from the previous year were cabin mates.

That year had been filled with trauma: an intolerant school teacher; the death of my grandmother and a third move in two years. Finding I knew no one in Green cabin made me panic. “Stop crying!” My mom pushed me on to the cabin porch where there were wooden benches and a picnic table. “Nobody else is crying, it’s always you.”

I felt my face flush and my stomach begin to hurt. “Cry baby!” someone teased. Two counselors and some girls stood silently. No one said a word and I felt my sneakers stick to the floor. I was alone, a feeling I’d come to know well.

Suddenly, a bench creaked and footsteps came toward me purposefully. I felt a small hand brush my arm. “Hi, I’m Linda,” a gentle voice said. “Please, let me show you my doll. Her name is Joanne. You can hold her all day. I don’t want you to be sad, Joanne doesn’t either.”

I took the soft bundle in my arms and hugged it, then Linda. “How precious!” a counselor said and began to sob, but Linda and I were laughing.

For two weeks, I shared baby dolls and giggles with Lin, someone I truly liked and admired. She cared about everyone, always ready with a soft word or gentle pat if someone was angry or upset. She played something called an Auto Harp and sang softly as others talked and moved around her. She held her own in the midst of others overlooking her, her radio always tuned to a local rock station. Sometimes, she’d pretend she was a Spanish senorita complete with gestures and accent. Her laughter was sunshine and contagious.

One day in crafts, girls began joking about the silly names their mom had for them. “My mom calls me Tulip or Buttercup,” one laughed. “I’m honey bear!” another shared. We all laughed. “What about you, Linda?” someone asked. “Well, I’m Lin once in a while, but mine usually calls me Brat. Hey, you, Brat! Isn’t that funny?” No one laughed in the stunned silence, but Linda did, laughing harder as she repeated “Brat! Brat! Brat!”

At lunch I couldn’t eat. “Are you sick?” Linda touched my hand. The rock in my stomach turned in to hot tears. “No, I’m sad.” “Sad? Why?” “That you’re called Brat,” I answered. Linda slid her chocolate pudding toward me. “Have my dessert,” she said. “Don’t worry. Only she calls me that.”

I understood courage and determination that summer from a whimsical, talented little girl who often forgot to comb her hair, searched for mice in our cabin and sang as sweetly as October wind.

When she died, my heart and mind were filled with the memory of a little girl holding out a doll, saying: “Hi, I’m Linda. Please, let me help.”

I know she always will.

To Linda, Rest in Peace. 12/1/13

Contributor James R. Campbell – My Defining Day: A View of the Day that Changed My Life Forever

For the mentally ill and their loved ones, in the hope that things will get better.

Monday, September 22, 1975, the break room at the West Texas Lighthouse for the Blind in San Angelo, Texas. It was just after ten o’clock in the morning, and we were on morning break. I stopped making pins and went to the break room. It was here that I noticed one of the ladies who worked there.

I sat down beside her on the couch, and we began to talk. I soon became comfortable with her. The staff was concerned; the other clients were dismissive, at best.

Later, one of the supervisors told me that the girl in question suffered from schizophrenia, a debilitating mental disease punctuated by loss of contact with reality, delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking. We know much more about it than we did in 1975. Brain scans have revealed that the brains of those with schizophrenia shrink over time, particularly in the frontal lobes, thus accounting for the deterioration in their conditions.

I guess it was all of the meditation that I was doing that prepared me for this challenge. At night, I would often wonder how the girl was. She got aggressive at work on November 3, 1975, and they had to let her go. Her situation, and my helplessness with regard to it, bothered me profoundly.

I never thought of going to college, even though this was the dream of every teacher that ever had me in a class, let alone my cherished aunt and grandmother. On the first anniversary of our fateful meeting, I decided to be in college by the first of September in 1978. My first day at Odessa College was June first of that year. I have a Bachelor’s in psychology, and though I don’t have a job, my degree has not gone to waste. Statistics would stand in the way of a master’s degree; I am weak in math skills.

When the state hospitals closed in the sixties, it was thought at the time that the new antipsychotic medicines on the market would allow the mentally ill to live among us and function normally. But these drugs have undesirable side effects, and the patients refused them. The result was a revolving door of homelessness, jail stays, and involuntary hospitalizations for these people. The newer drugs are no better, regrettably.

I have long favored a community based approach to treatment of mental illness, but we are hampered by lack of funds. This, I believe, is due to the waste of the money that we, the taxpayers, pay. Every community needs a place set aside for these patients, and I have long been a proponent of better drug therapies with the fewest possible side effects. But, again, this takes money. Until we get to a point where we are willing to provide for the mentally ill at home in our society, we will continue to bear the burden, and only we can change it.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – How the Blind and Sighted are Perceived

As many of you know, there is a percentage of the population who think that the blind can’t get out of their own way. This opinion, which, fortunately, changes after we prove it not to be true, puts us under a social spotlight. We have to be clean-shaven, well-dressed, have proper table manners, be as polite as possible, etc. The sighted must also meet these requirements, but wouldn’t you say that if a blind person makes a social mistake, it is thought of differently than if a sighted person makes that same mistake?

If a blind person spills his drink while eating at a restaurant, it is excused and expected. If a sighted person does it, it’s an accident. Though we have this stereotypical excuse, it reinforces this false belief about us.

Why can’t the blind get away with having an accident like the sighted can without being regarded as stumbling, bumbling fools? By the same token, why can’t some sighted people dress the way the blind dress. Let me point out an example. I know a blind teacher who comes to class every day wearing a suit, shirt, tie, and formal pants. He does this because it is expected of teachers, and he wants to show his students how proper that is. Though he is blind, he understands the full meaning of appearance. On the other hand, his sighted colleagues come to class wearing jeans and a sweat shirt. Why don’t these sighted teachers understand the nature of appearance the same way that the blind teacher does? Do these sighted teachers simply take life for granted as long as they educate the kids?

If we have to prove ourselves every day, whether it’s table manners, proper dress, appropriate behavior, cleanliness and kindness, then this applies to everybody in this world, and we should all be judged the same way no matter who makes a mistake. Our mistakes should not be based on our disability. They should be based on being human. For every blind person who isn’t taught properly, there is a sighted bum.

I welcome your thoughts in the Reader’s Forum.