The Promoter – February 2021

Table of Contents

From the President

2020 is history! We look toward the future with hope and expectancy. A friend of mine shared this with me, so I decided to share with you. I thought it would be a good way to start the journey together.
Welcome to Flight #2021.
We are prepared to take off into the New Year.
Please make sure your Attitude and Blessings are secured and locked in an upright position.
All self-destructive devices should be turned off at this time.
All negativity, hurt, and discouragement should be stowed away.
Should we lose attitude under pressure, during the flight, reach up and pull down a prayer. Prayers will automatically be activated by faith.
Once your faith is activated you can assist other passengers. There will be NO BAGGAGE allowed on this flight.
Leave 2020 behind. The Captain has cleared us for takeoff.

May the new year be a happy and healthy one for you and yours!

Zelda Gebhard, NDAB President

From the Editor

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that 2021 is a lot better for us all than 2020. I for one am looking forward to a fresh start this year.

As always, thank you to all those who submitted articles for this issue of The Promoter. Your hard work and timeliness is much appreciated. If anyone would like to submit an article for the May issue of The Promoter, please email me at before April 10th, 2021. As usual, I will be sending a reminder email to my regular contributors on April 1st.

I hope that all of you are enjoying our warmer than usual winter weather and that you are all staying healthy.
Best wishes for you all in 2021!

Lexee Steffan, Promoter Editor

NDAB Welcomes New Members

NDAB welcomes the following new members:
Lilli Mann of Fargo and Andy Davis of Minot.

Members of Our NDAB Family

We extend sympathy to the family of NDAB member Geraldine Florence of Velva. Geraldine passed away on September 8th, 2020 at age 90.
We send condolences to the family of NDAB member Walfrid (Wally) Hankla of Minot. He passed away on December 9th, 2020 at age 90.
We also extend heartfelt sympathy to Rosie Landsem on the death of her husband. Lyman Landsem of West Fargo, ND passed away on December 3rd, 2020 at age 85.

Just Talking

The call scheduled for April 2021 will be our 36th call! Yes, soon we have been “Just Talking” every month for 3 years! We have talked about many different subjects and learned a lot about each other in the process. Some of our calls have been educational, some information and others just for fun.
Just Talking is the third Tuesday of each month from 7- 8 PM. You can join in the conversation too! Look for instructions below.

Future topics include:

  • February 16 – What is DIAL NDAB? What information is there? How can I use it? Learn all about our voicemail information system. It’s another way to keep up to date on what is going on in the organization. If you are feeling left out because you don’t email, be sure to attend this call.
  • March 16 – Let’s explore the options Zoom Webinar offers. It’s a cousin to Zoom Meetings so it will be somewhat familiar but slightly different. It doesn’t matter if you have never been on a Zoom call or if you are a pro, this call will serve to make you more comfortable with Zoom.
  • April 20 – Let’s have fun and celebrate 3 years of Just Talking by getting together and having some fun! The game is Jeopardy! The categories will all be vision related with topics like Famous Blind Authors, Famous Blind Movie Characters, or Low Vision Tools.

To suggest a topic, dial 701-493-2399.

Let’s keep talking!

Read with NDAB’s New Book Club

J.K. Rowling said, “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” Every month, we want to bring some magic to NDAB with our new Book Club. NDAB member Trampes Brown and Emily Stenberg from NDVS/SB are leading a book club each month. There are 2 opportunities to discuss each month’s book: You can join in during Coffee Chat on the first Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m., or discuss the book on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. Please refer to the weekly Sneak Peek emails from President Zelda Gebhard for the Zoom link to join in on the conversations. Below are the dates and book selections for March, April, and May.

  • March 3rd at 10 a.m. or March 8th at 7 p.m.
    Book: Crashing Through by Robert Kurson
    Available as a Talking Book or from BARD (DB 63747), Audible, and Bookshare.
    Synopsis: Writer Kurson tells the true story of one man’s heroic odyssey from blindness into sight. Blinded at age three, Mike May defied expectations by breaking world records in downhill speed skiing, joining the CIA and becoming a successful inventor, entrepreneur, and family man. He had never yearned for vision. Then, in 1999, a chance encounter: a revolutionary stem cell transplant surgery could restore May’s vision. There were countless reasons for May to pass up this opportunity. He could think of only a single reason to go forward: he knew it would change his life.
  • April 7th at 10 a.m. or April 12th at 7 p.m.
    Book: The Mountain between Us by Charles Martin
    Available as a Talking Book or from BARD (DB 89372), Audible, and Bookshare.
    Synopsis: When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.
  • May 5th at 10 a.m. or May 10th at 7 p.m.
    Book: The Shack by William P. Young
    Available as a Talking Book or from BARD (DB 67237), Audible, and Bookshare.
    Synopsis: Mackenzie Allen Phillips’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change his life forever.

If you have suggestions for future book choices, please reach out to Trampes at or Emily at We want to include a wide variety of genres to keep all kinds of readers interested and involved.
Happy Reading!

Make a Difference – Be a Donor

By Allan Peterson, NDAB Development Director

NDAB makes a difference is the theme chosen for the North Dakota Association of the Blind’s 2021 Giving Hearts Day Appeal. It seems very appropriate because this year we celebrate an 85-year history of making a difference in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.

The 2021 version of Giving Hearts Day is scheduled to happen on February 11, 2021. Many are busily making preparations so we can celebrate a great outcome for NDAB when we report the results from this year’s Giving Hearts Day Appeal.

You too can help NDAB make a difference! How is that possible? Donations you make for Giving Hearts Day will be doubled by matching your donation “dollar for dollar”. This is made possible because generous benefactors who like what we do have made Match Fund donations. The challenge for our Giving Hearts Day donors is to raise the other $12,500 so we will meet our goal of $25,000 total.

We are confident that with your generosity, we will be able to achieve our 2021 GHD goal. This goal can be achieved if we have 250 donors who give an average of $50 apiece, this then equals $12,500!

Last year we raised close to $19,000 from the Giving Hearts Day Appeal. This will be our 5th year of participation in Giving Hearts Day. Thankfully, every year both the number of donors and the amount of donations have increased.

A Guide for 2021 NDAB Giving Hearts Day Donors:

  • Giving Hearts Day (GHD) 2021 is Thursday, February 11, 2021. It is a one-day, regional giving appeal.
  • To make an online Giving Hearts Day donation, go to on February 11, click on the Donate Button, and search for North Dakota Association of the Blind from the listed charities. A credit or debit card can be used to donate. The minimum donation is $10 to be counted toward the match.
  • Donations may also be made by check. Checks must be made payable to North Dakota Association of the Blind or NDAB, & dated February 11, 2021 or have “Giving Hearts Day” written in the memo line. Add an accompanying note if postdating the check is not possible. Checks must be received by NDAB by February 11 to count towards Giving Hearts Day. Please mail checks to NDAB, PO Box 824, West Fargo, ND 58078.
  • To schedule a donation before GHD create a donor account at before February 9, 2021. Before completing the gift transaction, review your cart to ensure that the “Schedule This Gift” box is checked. Scheduled gifts will be processed on Giving Hearts Day, February 11.

Please share this information about “Giving Hearts Day” with family and friends who also potentially could choose to “Double their gift to NDAB on Giving Hearts Day” and join with us in our quest to help people with vision loss lead a more productive, fulfilled life.

Please direct any questions about NDAB’s participation in Giving Hearts Day to Allan Peterson at (701)429-7209 or

Ugly Suit

Submitted by Stan and Kathy Larson

When the store manager returned from lunch, he noticed his clerk’s hand was bandaged, but before he could ask about the bandage, the clerk had some very good news for him. “Guess what sir?” the clerk said. “I finally sold that terrible, ugly suit we had so long!“ “Do you mean that repulsive pink and blue breasted thing?” the manager asked. “That’s the one!” “That’s great!” the manager cried. “I thought we’d never get rid of that monstrosity! That had to be the ugliest suit we’ve ever had! But tell me, why is your hand bandaged?” “Oh,” the clerk replied, “after I sold the guy that suit, his seeing-eye dog bit me.”

Conventions Go Virtual in 2021

Because of concern for the health and wellbeing of members, both ACB and NDAB have decided to have virtual conventions in 2021. There are both positive and negative aspects resulting from these decisions. We will not be gathering in person and that interaction will be greatly missed. There also will be no transportation or lodging expenses as you will be able to attend each of these conventions from the comfort of your home at minimal cost to you. Stay tuned for information about both.

Save the Dates:
The ACB Conference and Convention will be July 16th through July 23rd.
Stay in touch regarding the convention plans by reading articles in the ACB Braille Forum or joining the ACB convention e-mail list. Send a blank e-mail to
For convention-related questions, contact Janet Dickelman, convention chair, at (651) 428-5059 or via e-mail,

The NDAB Convention will be held Saturday, June 12th and Sunday, June 13th.
More information about our NDAB convention will be shared with you as decisions are made. Places to look for information: this and the May editions of the Promoter, Facebook, website at, DIAL NDAB 773-572-6306 or by emails from our NDAB Membership announce list. Each member will also receive the Call to Convention with registration and other important information.

2021 NDAB State Convention via Zoom

While the 2021 State Convention is six months away, we must start to talk about it now, because this year will be different from earlier conventions.
As we all know, the membership must conduct essential business at each convention. Since we had to cancel the 2020 Convention, we must meet this year. However, we are living through a pandemic. We simply cannot put our members at greater risk by asking them to meet in person.
With the safety and the health of our membership in mind, the NDAB Executive Board voted unanimously to convene the 2021 State Convention virtually via Zoom. On Sunday, December 13th, NDAB members joined the Board, and all attendees shared their thoughts and perspectives before reaching a consensus. The decision was made in December to allow sufficient time to plan the event.
A virtual convention will be both a challenge and an opportunity. Although we are not the first organization to hold a virtual convention, it will be a new experience for us.
Members will find that there are benefits to attending a virtual convention. First, there is no travel and no accommodation expenses. Also, there is no chance of ‘Convention COVID.’ Attendees will be able to set themselves up to participate from the comfort of their couch surrounded by their favorite snacks. Furthermore, some of us who would never be able to attend in person, now have the opportunity to take part. Lastly, this is an opportunity for us to try something new. A crisis means that something novel is required to see us through. We have a golden opportunity to experiment and learn.
Since our convention will not be at a specific location, we created a committee of volunteers from across the state. This committee met for the first time on January 3rd and our options are now being actively considered. Therefore, in this time of innovation, we must approach 2021 State Convention with an open mind and a sense of adventure.

About Zoom

Zoom is a next-generation conference-calling platform. It allows us to do things that we could never do with the previous conference-call platform. NDAB has been using Zoom for the last few months, and many members who attend meetings and weekly social calls are quite comfortable with the software. They like how they can connect by calling in by phone, an app on their smartphones, or software on their computer. If you are not familiar with Zoom, then now is a great time to learn.

We can help! We want you to be able to attend the 2021 State Convention as well as the weekly program of calls.
What to do? Call me at 701-493-2399. I will connect you with someone in NDAB or someone else. We have several people willing to work with you individually to help get you set up. We also plan to have some practice sessions, like a dress rehearsal, before the convention.
If you need some help, but you want to learn on your own, you will find some short, step-by-step instructions through Hadley. See below.

Help from Hadley

Learn how to join a Zoom conference call, the basics of a Zoom invite, how to join by phone, computer, or smartphone app, and how to participate during a session.
Zoom: Before you join
Zoom: Before You Join | Hadley

Zoom: Join by App
Zoom: Join By App | Hadley

Join by Dialing the Phone
Zoom: Join By Dialing the Phone | Hadley

Join by using one-tap
Zoom: One-Tap Zoom | Hadley

Message from the Nominating Committee

It’s time to start the process of choosing our NDAB leaders. Because we were unable to have an election last year, there are more opportunities to serve in a leadership position than normal.
These are the positions that will need to be filled during the election at our 2021 NDAB Convention. Can you see yourself in one of them?
List of positions and the length of the term which is altered this year because of having no election in 2020.

  • President, 1-year term
  • Vice President, 1-year term
  • Treasurer, 1- year term
  • Secretary, 2-year term
  • Development Director, 2-year term
  • Director #3, 3-year term
  • Director #2, 2-year term
  • Editor, 1- year term
  • Delegate, none

Since the delegate who was to attend the 2020 convention did not attend because there was no in-person convention and there also will be no in-person convention in 2021, that delegate will attend the next in-person ACB Convention which will hopefully be in 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Remember, the following qualifications must be met if you intend to run for election:

  • Officers and directors must be a resident of ND or a city that shares a common border with its sister city in ND.
  • NDAB Officers may not hold office if serving as an officer in another consumer organization of the blind.
  • No more than one member from a household may serve concurrent terms.

If you can imagine yourself filling one of the positions listed above, call a member of the nominating committee so we can share information specific to the position you are seeking.

We are eager to hear from you!
NDAB Nominating Committee: Michelle 701-541-2970, Carol Scallon 701-572-4569, or Paula Anundson 701-490-0888.

Awards Committee Announcement

By Shereen Faber

We are looking for nominations for the Advocate of the Year Award. The criteria for this award is as follows:

  • Must be a member of NDAB in good standing.
  • Has demonstrated leadership skills in the organization and/or the community.
  • Has educated the public about the needs and capabilities of people with sight loss.
  • Has been involved in public relations and fundraising efforts of the organization.

If there are any nominations, please call Shereen at (701)552-3334 or send emails to The due date for these nominations is March 1, 2021.

Olga Neal Memorial

When I think of Olga Neal, the phrase, “Salt of the earth” comes to mind. She took part in building the foundation of NDAB on which we are now still privileged to stand. Each of us who knew her has our special memories. She was a teacher, encourager, mentor, and friend. She was a leader with common sense in her work with NDAB and a guiding compass as NDAB grew through the years. Her legacy lies in the many lives she touched during her well lived life. Her kind voice and warm smile will always be remembered.

She left us to our work on March 3, 2017. In her plan to continue to make a difference beyond her death, she included the North Dakota Association of the Blind in her will. We are grateful for her generosity and have the privilege and responsibility to decide how she can best be honored by using the almost $30,000 that now exists which is the gift and interest it has accrued.

To thoughtfully consider how this generous gift can best be used to impact lives the way Olga did, the NDAB Board formed a committee to look into this. In addition to those ideas, we invite you, the members, to share yours.

During the 2021 NDAB State Convention in June, the convention body will decide. To be considered, all proposals will need to be complete with full details. Please submit it in writing to the Olga Neal Memorial Committee by sending to Shereen Faber, 3001 Madison Ave, Fargo, ND 58102 or before Friday, April 2nd. We invite you to help us make the best decision possible.

Please see the following story previously written about Olga. It is being reprinted so those of you who did not have an opportunity to know and love Olga can get a good sense of the amazing woman she was and the life she led.

Co-authored by Janelle F. Olson and Zelda Gebhard

Embracing Life

By Ann Bailey, Herald Staff Writer

This article was printed in the “Best Years” section of the Grand Forks Herald on March 11, 2012.

Happy by nature, little gets Olga Neal down. Olga sees no need to let her blindness get in her way.

“I love to cook. I love to bake. I love to make fudge,” Neal said. At age 87, she also lives in her own home, does volunteer work and reads in her spare time. Neal didn’t let her visual impairment stop her from being an active child and she continues to live life that way as an adult.

“I am, by nature, a happy per-son,” Neal said. “Nothing much gets me down.”

She grew up on a farm near Hazelton, N.D., in a family with six brothers and sisters who also had varying degrees of visual impairment.

“I always told people we had a school for the blind at home,” she said, with a laugh. From a young age, Neal’s parents encouraged her to embrace life, she said, giving her chores to do and encouraging her to play outside with her brothers.

“I think I was a little daredevil as a child.”

Neal attended North Dakota School for the Blind in Bathgate, N.D., during elementary and high school. After she graduated from high school, she earned a teaching degree at Mayville (N.D.) Teacher’s College and then returned to the School for the Blind in Bathgate to teach.

She taught there for a few years, before marrying and moving to Mandan, N.D., and later, to Wyoming with her husband. In 1965, the couple moved to Grand Forks. Neal taught at the School for the Blind in Grand Forks from 1966 until she retired in 1990.

She and her husband raised two daughters, and Neal is proud that she instilled in them a love of reading.

“My girls would look at the print picture and I read them the story,” Neal said.

She still enjoys reading, checking out magazines written in Braille from the library and subscribing to monthly devotionals written in Braille.

Neal is a member of the North Dakota Association of the Blind and helped found its summer camp, serving as camp director for many years. The camp held, near Dawson, N.D., each summer, is designed to help adults who are newly blind to adjust to their loss of vision. She taught Braille at the camp, which also featured lessons in housekeeping and knitting.

Neal also belongs to the Red River Lions and volunteers at her church.

“I’ve enjoyed life,” Neal said. “I’ve never felt sorry for myself about losing my sight. I can’t do anything about it.
“Why bemoan something you can’t fix?” she asked.


Submitted by Loris Van Berkom & Rick Feldman, Co-Camp Directors

Are you wondering if our NDAB Summer Camp will occur this August? Jenny Hunt, the new director of the Elks Camp Grassick is certainly planning on it. The Elks Board has not met yet but her best guess for the dates of our camp is August 8-15. If those dates change, we will pass that along on the NDAB e-mail list. If anyone has any suggestions for new classes, please contact one of us. We look forward to being with all of you once again!

Memorials and Donations

October Donations Total $6,920.00
Lions Clubs $6,350.00
$6,250.00 Horace Lions
$100.00 Lake Metigoshe Lions
Memorials $245.00
In memory of Bernice Walther-
Dennis & Gerrie Walther, Linda Vollmer & Family, Family of Delbert Walther, Mr. & Mrs. Larry Walther, Jim Farnsworth,
Ken & Evelyn Silbernagel
In memory of Bev Austin-
Ruth Phalen
In memory of Elsie Friesz-
Sharon Johnson
Other Gifts
$325.00 Blackbaud Giving Group/Boeing

November Donations Total $5,100.83
Lions Clubs $750.00
$500.00 Korner Lions
$250.00 Gateway Lions-Bob LaPage Memorial
Memorials $83.97
In memory of Bernice Walther-
Aletha Schmidt, Wendy Walther
Other Gifts $4,266.86
$4,241.86 Anonymous
$ 25.00 MMS/ACB

December Donations Total $ 1,500.00
Lions Clubs
$150.00 Wishek Lions
Other Gifts $1,300.00
$1,000.00 Judy Geske
$250.00 Denise Karalis and John Weiss
$50.00 ML Ames
Charitable Gaming
$50.00 New Rockford Lions

Respectfully submitted,
Rebecca Anderson, Treasurer/Registered Agent

Legislative Report, winter 2021

By: Allan Peterson and Zelda Gebhard

Best of wishes for a Happy Healthy 2021 New Year. May 2021 be a much better year for all of us than 2020 has been.

It can be said that a new political chapter has begun. The 67th session of the North Dakota Legislature convened on January 4 and newly elected members of the 117th session of the U.S. Congress were sworn into office on January 3. As a consequence of last fall’s election and the new state and federal legislative sessions, the previous legislative slate is swept clean, in that all bills from any prior session are no longer viable. If legislative action on those issues is still needed or desired, they must be reintroduced as a new bill.

Republicans now hold an even firmer grip on control over the North Dakota Legislature. They enjoy a 40 to 7 majority in the State Senate and an 80 to 14 majority in the State House of Representatives. In addition, they continue to control allf our statewide elective offices. They also hold each of North Dakota’s 3 seats In Congress. Kelly Armstrong was reelected to North Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Senate seats that Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer occupy were not up for reelection in last fall’s general election cycle.

The issue that dominates each state legislative session is adopting the budget that authorizes operating funding for state government for the next 2-year biennium. The Governor’s budget serves as the template for the State Legislature to accept and/or modify. When all the deliberations on appropriations bills have been finalized, this determines how state spending will be allocated during the next 2021 – 2023 biennium.

We didn’t have an NDAB Convention this past June, so we didn’t have the opportunity to adopt resolutions that would help guide our advocacy during this state legislative session. In lieu of this reality, the NDAB Board considered and adopted 5 resolutions at its recent Board meeting. Four deal with appropriations that will be addressed by our North Dakota Legislature. They are: the state appropriation for North Dakota Vision Services / School for the Blind (NDVS/SB), the Talking Book Program at the State Library, the Older Individuals Who are Blind (OIB) Program, and the State Appropriation for public transit services that operate in North Dakota.

A fifth resolution passed by the Board deals with access to an accessible absentee ballot. The resolution urges the State Legislature and governor to amend the state’s election laws and invest in technology that would allow people, who cannot read print, to provide the technology for access to a secret, independent absentee ballot. The technology would allow people to vote using their personal computer or comparable electronic device to mark their ballot secretly and independently without assistance. Consequently, if this technology were available here in North Dakota, there wouldn’t be a need to find a way to a polling site to gain access to a secret, independent ballot. A number of states have already invested in this technology. Their voters who are blind do have the opportunity to vote independently using their personal access technology.

The technology is similar to the technology currently available at polling sites in North Dakota that allows people to listen to and mark their ballot secretly and independently without assistance. The voting equipment at polling sites in North Dakota that uses accessible technology is the ExpressVote machine. Some of our NDAB members used this machine to vote a secret, independent ballot in last fall’s November 3 general election. Both of us used this machine to vote and we can attest that it works very well. A post-election, NDAB voting survey was created and sent to the membership via email in November to gather data on your voting experiences. The purpose being that this information could be used for advocacy efforts. This was again sent to the membership in January. If you would like to report on your voting experience and you don’t have email, please call Zelda at (701)493-2399. She will put your information into the survey for you.

COVID has also had a significant influence on how public testimony will be delivered during this session of the North Dakota Legislature. Most, if not all, oral public testimony will be taken through a virtual connection with the various legislative committees in the State Senate and State House of Representatives.

The Leadership Meetings of the American Council of the Blind that happen annually in late February will be held virtually this year February 21-23. Thus, we will not be traveling to those meetings in Washington DC. We will attend them virtually using our electronic communication devices. If you so choose, you could attend these virtual meetings too. Please contact Zelda or Allan if you would like to attend either the virtual ACB meetings or be included in the meetings with Senators Hoeven and Cramer and Representative Armstrong.

AARP Award Recipient

Evelyn Hildebrand of Minot is the recipient of the 2020 AARP Andrus Award for Community Service – AARP’s most prestigious volunteer award.

The award recognizes outstanding community service and symbolizes that individuals have the power and ability to make a difference in the lives of others. The award is given to one North Dakotan annually.

Because of the pandemic, Hildebrand received the award during a virtual event on Nov. 24. You can watch a recording of the event by going here:

Hildebrand volunteers for many organizations and events, including the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. She is a client facilitator and assists people with setting up appointments. She volunteers in a number of other ways including delivering meals to shut-ins for her church and is a hospital volunteer.

“It means I get to visit with and talk to and be with people that are real and have very busy lives whether they are shut in now because of COVID or because of a health condition. I become a richer person by becoming involved with them.”

“I still have my (car) keys and air in the tires, and I have the urge and the willingness to get out and do it!”

As the award recipient, Hildebrand has chosen the Ward County Historical Society to receive a $500 contribution from AARP in her name to go towards completion of the church at the Pioneer Village Historical Museum.

A panel of previous award recipients and AARP North Dakota volunteer leaders selected Hildebrand from among 11 nominations.

A Christmas Story

By Janelle F. Olson

Somewhere, there must exist a guidebook titled, “Things That Will Happen to You as You get older.” I have not run across it on Audible or the State Library listing, and no one has ever offered me a copy. Given the fact that I have three older sisters, other relatives, and friends, you would think that someone would have brought it to my attention; however, this has not been the case. It has been a learn-as-you-go type of proposition with each passing year and with each change in my body.

In 1971, as a legally blind senior in high school, I was beyond thrilled to trade in my thick lensed glasses for hard contact lenses and then eventually, soft lenses. Nobody told me then that fifteen years later, after fighting with numerous corneal abrasions, I would have to give them up. “It is a condition called dry eyes,” said Dr. Williams. “As we age, the quality of our tears deteriorate,” he added. There really is nothing to be done about this. Should I have found such a book, “You’re Going to Get Dry Eyes” would likely have been the title of the first chapter. Very reluctantly and with great angst, I gave up my contacts.

Chapter 10 would be “All about Your Face.” Somewhere in my early 50s, I noticed something growing on my right temple. In addition to its being a bit raised, I was told it also was slightly darker than the rest of my face. Great. I went to get it checked out. Upon examination, Dr. Anderson said, “I have good news and bad news.” He continued, “The good news is you are getting older and the bad news is you are getting older.” He didn’t call it “an age spot,” but he didn’t have to. It was removed. “These just show up,” he summarized. As I left his office, I pictured my eyes, mouth and nose appearing in the center of a lefse round covered with brown spots and feared this would be my fate going forward.

Chapter 15 would be “Your Bladder and You,” But further examination of this condition will not be addressed in this writing. I started taking pills.

In preparation for wrapping up my career, I completed the appropriate retirement paperwork and ensured social security and health insurance were in order. I had no idea that after a celebratory trip to Disney Land, the happiest place on earth, my plan to return home and begin my “happy” retirement would be clotheslined by one trip after another to our local clinic for doctor appointments, tests and bloodwork which resulted in me being sent out of town months later to a specialist. Chapter 20 in the book would be “Your Digestive System – The New Odyssey.”

Oh yes, of course it is true, I had seen commercials on TV over and over again which tout the importance of having enough fiber in one’s diet as the birthdays pile up. Haven’t you? The advertisers state should fiber be lacking, a supplement is readily available to be added to one’s daily regiment to help support this need. It comes in the form of either pills or powder, your choice. You see, just because I had seen these commercials did not lead me to conclude that I would ever be one of those folks who would be a card-carrying beneficiary. The out-of-town doctor thought otherwise. At the risk of repeating myself, nobody gave me the book.

It was concluded that one of my prescription medications should be discontinued, another one would be added and I was to begin taking…wait for it…Metamucil. Dear heavens, I said it! “I would like you to take ten capsules a day: five in the morning and five in the evening,” said Dr. Brown. In addition, she added two probiotics to the regiment which I threw into my already overflowing medication bucket where these bottles joined the eye drops (taken morning and evening), high blood pressure pills and the baby aspirin container. No, actually this is not the truth. One of the probiotics had to be refrigerated where it now lives in the door between the jelly jar and minced garlic. It is rather difficult to keep it all straight. Somewhere between chapters 15 and 20 is the chapter “What Memory?”

“Check back in with me in two weeks and let me know how things are going,” she said at the end of the appointment.

“Ten pills a day, really?” said one of my sisters with a slightly higher pitch in her voice after I filled her in on my appointment. She then added, “I think if I were you, I would work up to it.” I failed to ask how she knew anything about this and she didn’t offer. I conclude that many things in a Norwegian Lutheran family just aren’t discussed. That is that.

After two weeks of a regimented schedule of trying to remember what got taken when, and drinking more water than perhaps is humanly possible, I actually began to feel somewhat better. I reported this back to the doctor. She was pleased. “I think I would like to add one more supplement,” she said. I pictured my already stuffed medication container in the cupboard and wondered if it would be a “fridge” pill or “bucket” pill. “I am recommending you begin taking Peppermint Oil; it comes in a pill form and you can pick it up at your pharmacy,” she explained. She added that peppermint has been a long-standing remedy used for years. It is very effective for soothing and calming the system. “One pill half an hour before meals is what I recommend,” she instructed.

“Hmmm, peppermint oil,” I pondered. The mention of peppermint brought me back to a fond memory of my grandparents’ candy dish filled with pink peppermint disks, sweet on the tongue and a delightful treat for a little girl. I smiled. For me, peppermint is the taste of Christmas. As a grade schooler, I looked forward to the discovery of the red and white striped candy cane buried amongst the nuts and ribbon candy deep in the brown paper bag given out after both the Sunday School and school Christmas programs. I often serve a scoop of peppermint ice cream as the dessert on Christmas Day just because this is my favorite. It could do no harm. I would give this peppermint oil a try.

The following day, I had depleted my stash of the “m” word pills and needed to get going on the peppermint oil. I went to the pharmacy. I held up my empty bottle, showing it to the counter worker, asking if she could please get me another bottle. I also said I needed a bottle of peppermint oil pills. She scooted away from behind the till and then returned in a blink. “I don’t have the Metamucil brand,” she said, “but I do have a different brand in a different bottle.” She placed the bottle in my hand. She was right; it was a different shaped bottle than what I had given her. The second bottle sat on the counter in front of me. To ensure my clear understanding of which was which, I held up the first bottle she gave me saying, “And this is the other Metamucil brand bottle?” She answered in the affirmative. Both bottles then went in a bag and I was on my way out the door.

For the next two weeks, I continued on with my pill-taking regiment, adding the two little peppermint oil friends before breakfast and the meal I had later in the day. The progress I had been enjoying the two previous weeks began to slowly unravel and I was concerned as to what could be happening.

At the end of my two-week peppermint oil experiment, while standing in the kitchen in front of the open cupboard door, I opened the cover of the off-brand Metamucil bottle, tipped it and the last two pills rolled out and into my hand. I announced to my husband, who was behind me dropping a slice of bread into the toaster, that we would have to make a trip downtown as my bottle was empty. I snapped the lid shut and shook it. No sound. “Which bottle?” he inquired. “My Metamucil,” I replied, holding the bottle over my shoulder for him to see. “Oh, peppermint oil you mean,” he said.

For the next few seconds, which felt like hours, I just stood, letting what I had just heard him say sink in. The next sound I heard was the pop of the toaster. I said nothing. He said nothing. In silence, I slowly placed the empty bottle down on the counter as my thoughts raced. As I stood in my kitchen, it all became very clear.

Oh sure, I am pretty confident at this point in my story, you are ready to jump in and give me all sorts of great advice. Yes, when I got home, I should have used one of my assistive technology tools to read the bottles myself. Yes, I could have asked my husband. Yes, I could have asked the counter worker about the bottle I was not holding. I wouldn’t be writing this if any of the above had happened. I believe this is where that phrase “hindsight is 20/20” applies.

On that morning when the light dawned and I set the empty bottle of Peppermint Oil pills on the counter, I realized for the previous two weeks I had been taking only two fiber pills each day and with them, a whopping ten peppermint pills, five times the recommended amount. I thought back to my earlier pondering that “It could do no harm.” Believe me, this stuff was not the same stuff from grandma’s candy dish or the brown treat bags.

What happens when one ingests that amount of peppermint oil pills in one day for a two-week period, you ask? I called my pharmacist. She suggested the occurrence of extreme heartburn. Boy howdy, she got that right, I am here to tell you!

Something else happened of which she made no reference. I wonder if it has been reported or documented in any medical journal. I would not call it a Christmas miracle. I would say it was a phenomenon, an oddity or just weird. While at this time of the year, Christmas Elves are to be located on shelves, I am here to tell you for two weeks my internal rocking and rolling produced more dancing, flipping, jumping Christmas Elves, marching behind me wherever I went, than are found in Santa’s workshop. Just saying.

I can hardly wait to discover the next chapter in the book. Let’s hope 2021 is not as mixed up as the year we are leaving behind.