Quiz show

November 20, 2014 • Posted in blindness, memoir writing, public speaking, questions kids ask, travel, Uncategorized, visiting schools, Whitney by

Last Thursday I spoke to a U of I class in Champaign. Monday morning I spoke with second graders at Chicago’s Francis Xavier Warde School. Yesterday I spoke to visually-impaired adults at Blind Service Association.

Each of these three presentations ended with a Q&A, which lead’s me to today’s quiz. Tell me if the following questions came from a college kid, a second-grader, or an adult with a visual impairment :

  1. How do you know what you’re wearing?
  2. How does it feel to be blind?
  3. What is the name of your book?
  4. What’s your favorite thing to do with your dog?
  5. What is it like to be blind?
  6. When you’re up there in front of us, do you picture what we look like?
  7. Do you know my girlfriend?
  8. So is there one thing that’s happened since you’ve been blind that you just can’t picture, you know, like instagram, or, like something like that?
  9. Is it sad to be blind?

That’s the quiz, now for the answers – let’s see how you did.

At Frances Xavier Warde last week.

At Frances Xavier Warde last week.

  1. A college girl asked this. I was wearing black shoes, black jeans, a gold sweater and a colorful scarf. The shoestrings on my black shoes feel different than the shoestrings on my gym shoes. I put a safety pin on the tag of my clothes that are black, and the gold sweater is the only one I own that has a cowl neck (so I just memorize that the one with the cowl neck is gold). My multi-colored scarf is the only one I own that has textured stripes I can feel, and the woman who sold it to me said it’d go with anything. “Does it?” I asked the class. They chorused a yes.
  2. A second-grader asked this one. I’ve been blind half my life now, I told her. “I know it’s hard to believe, but it usually just seems normal.”
  3. A visually-impaired adult asked this. My talk was about memoir writing, so gee, you’d think I might have mentioned the name of my book, huh! I’d forgotten, though, and when I told him my memoir is called Long Time, No See, he said he knew my story sounded familiar. “I read the audio version!”
  4.  The college talk I gave was to an animal sciences class, so you’d think this question would have come from a student there. But no, it came from a very cute second-grader. I’d never been asked this before, and I needed to take a few seconds to think before answering. “You probably guess I’ll say playing fetch with a ball, or having her chase a Frisbee,” I said. “But really, my favorite thing to do with Whitney is have her lead me to a place downtown, you know, get there by ourselves.” I explained how good it makes me feel to have confidence in my Seeing Eye dog.
  5. Another second-grader asked this question after I’d answered it the first time. She was no dummy: she didn’t buy my first answer! This time I admitted that being blind can be frustrating. “It can take longer to do certain things,” I conceded. “And I always have to remind myself to slow down so I won’t fumble around so much.” They seemed to like that fumble word.
  6. A college kid asked this, and I told them the last time I was able to see was 30 years ago. “So I picture you all dressed like college kids in the 80s.” They gasped, and then they laughed.
  7. An adult with a visual impairment asked this. “She’s from Champaign,” he said. And know what? I do know her.
  8. A guy in the college class asked this one. There are tons of things I can’t picture, but the one that stands out is 911. “The plane going into the building, the smoke, the people jumping,” I said, explaining that I went up in the Sears Tower and the Hancock Building in Chicago when I could still see. I remember how little the cars looked from up there, and how slowly they seemed to be travelling on the highways below. “But I just can’t picture how little the people who were trapped on top of those towers looked, or what it was like to see them jumping off the buildings, all of that.” It felt shameful to be intrigued by such a gruesome event, but I try to be honest when answering questions people ask at the presentations I give. I didn’t want the students to try to describe 911 to me – heck, they were only 6 or 7 years old when it happened. “Lots of people have tried explaining it all to me already, I’ve read books and articles, listened to TV shows and documentaries about that day,” I told them. . “I just can’t get it into my head.”
  9. This same question about my feelings came from yet another second-grader. At Francis Xavier Warde School the students spend a lot of their year in second grade learning about special needs, and I think these second graders were worried about me. “You’d think being blind might make me sad, or maybe lonely, but it really isn’t that bad,” I assured them, explaining some of the benefits of being blind. “One of them is that I can’t judge people by what they look like — I get to judge people by what they say, and what they do.” Judging from the concern those little kids showed about my feelings Monday, the second-graders at Francis Xavier Warde School in Chicago are beautiful.
Bev On November 20, 2014 at 7:33 am

5 out of 9 and I feel good about that. Love the QA bit. You never know who is going to ask what. And 911, well, that’s a tough one to get in one’s head, period.

bethfinke On November 20, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Five out of Nine? You’re about 500. Good work, Bev! _____

Hava On November 20, 2014 at 7:54 am

very interesting post. I enjoyed reading it!

Cheryl On November 20, 2014 at 8:11 am

Great questions…..and wonderful answers.

Mary Rigdon On November 20, 2014 at 8:12 am


This is terrific! See you this afternoon !

Mary Rigdon

Sent from my iPhone


sallie wolf On November 20, 2014 at 8:49 am

Very interesting blog post and I think it is instructive in thinking about how to write/frame an interesting blog post. The Quiz idea pulled me in, and then your thoughtful take on each question had me totally hooked.

bethfinke On November 20, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Confession: All three presentations I gave this week were interesting. I realized I might have to focus on just one of them for my blog post this week, and I couldn’t narrow it down. Reassuring to hear that incorporating the questions from all three audiences on one blog post worked!


Laura Gale On November 20, 2014 at 9:42 am

This is a great post. Beth, I think one of the things that has impressed me most about your insights is the lack of judgment that comes when you cannot see what someone looks like. Your comment about judging people by what they say and do is so powerful, and I only wish more people could be that way.

Sheila A. Donovan On November 20, 2014 at 11:27 am

If only the rest of the world was “blind” to age, weight and race. Everyone would be judged by how they act. It would lovely.

bethfinke On November 20, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Sheila and Laura, Blindness doesn’t give many rewards, but thank you for recognizing that the inability to judge people by what they look like is truly a gift.


glivingston On November 20, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I never get tired of hearing about the questions all kinds of people ask you. And your answers are always so good. Such good stuff.

bethfinke On November 20, 2014 at 10:22 pm

This is reassuring, Livingston. I sometimes wonder if all the questions people ask me get tiresome to my blog readers!


Mary Rayis On November 20, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Beth, I love the frank answers you gave to these questions and the matter-of-fact way you address issues related to your blindness. I can see why you are a popular speaker.

bethfinke On November 20, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Another confession: It’s pretty easy to be frank and matter-of-fact when answering questions. When I visit an elementary school I often forget that the kids are so little== I answer them like they’re adults, and I’ve learned they really like that.


The Empty Pen On November 20, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I’m trying to figure out how you can get this to 500 words…would make a great entry for your new memoir.

bethfinke On November 20, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Hava, Cheryl, Empty Pen — Your comments are encouraging . In the past I’ haven’t revealed how I answer the questions kids/people ask me during presentations. After I published that post last month about the Sheboygan Book Festival, though, your comments led me to understand that people were interested in my answers. I gave that a try here, and your enthusiastic responses here tell me maybe I should keep on doing so. Thanks!


Doug On November 20, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Number 6 made me laugh. And gave some more perspective.
Thanks. Keep presenting and keep writing.

bethfinke On November 20, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Will do.


Tracy Carcione On November 23, 2014 at 9:54 am

I agree–my favorite thing to do with my dog is go some place with him by myself, especially some place challenging, like in Manhattan. It’s great to be free! I remember the joy I felt taking my first walk with my first dog 34 years ago, and I still feel that joy. Tracy and brand-new Seeing Eye dog Krokus

bethfinke On November 23, 2014 at 10:01 am

Krokus. Now that’s a guide dog name for sure. Almost beats out the weirdest guide dog name I ever came upon — my friend Richard was matched with a dog named Vogler. Seems Robert and Susan Vogler donated enough $$$ to the Seeing Eye to have them name a dog after them. I often wondered. Couldn’t they have had the dog named Robert? Susan? Richard loved Vogler, though, and didn’t mind the name. I bet the same is true of you and Krokus. Go, Tracey, go!


Colleen On November 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Enjoyed reading your post, as usual.

bethfinke On November 24, 2014 at 9:05 am

What a coincidence. I enjoyed reading your commet, as usual. Thanks, Colleen. !


Deborah Darsie On February 1, 2015 at 2:59 am

What an excellent way to combine your diverse audience AND leave us waiting on the answer!

I am in awe of the younger minds. And I am torn between #6 and #8 as my favorite response.

bethfinke On February 1, 2015 at 9:49 am

Well, I’ll tell you this, answer #8 was the most difficult to say out loud, it is indeed something I am a bit ashamed of but like I say, I feel it’s important to be honest when I’m asked questions.Maybe this year on Sept. 11 I’ll devote an entire blog post to answer #8, thanks for the inspiration, Deborah.


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