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Jeopardy!

December 26, 20072 CommentsPosted in Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized

seeing-eye-logo.gifQuestion: “Over the past 78 years, This Morris County organization has matched over 14,000 specially bred and trained dogs as guides for persons who are blind or visually impaired.”
Answer: “What is The Seeing Eye?”

Jeopardy! America’s Favorite Quiz Show®” (and, by the way, Beth Finke’s favorite TV quiz show) is featuring the Seeing Eye during today’s “Clue Crew” segment. The Clue Crew is a group of correspondents who bring clues to life by visiting places and showing them on “Jeopardy!” Past Clue Crew destinations include the pyramids of Egypt and ancient Greek ruins. I guess they view the Seeing Eye as one of the Wonders of the World, too!
My friend Bonnie Lannum uses a Seeing Eye dog and works for the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. She is quoted in the press release about the show:
“We were delighted when the producers of ‘Jeopardy’ approached us about filming clues here at The Seeing Eye last summer,” said The Seeing Eye’s Communications.
Associate Bonnie Lannom. “We were able to represent all aspects of the Seeing Eye program, from puppy raising and dogs in training all the way up to a working dog.”
Back to me. “Jeopardy!” airs in the afternoon here in Chicago, but check your local listings for the time and station in your area. Tune in and test your knowledge along with Hanni and me — and 23 million other viewers!

Hanni and Beth: On the Air

December 19, 20074 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, guide dogs, Hanni, radio, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized

It’s SHOW TIME!Wanna hear what we sound like on the radio? Here’s your chance! Hanni and I were interviewed — not just once, but TWICE — on Chicago radio stations this week.
First, we were on the Betsy and Sal Show on WGN-AM Radio on Sunday, December 16. You might remember Betsy and Sal from my “Walking on Air” blog post. Betsy and Sal are sisters and have a syndicated show on a small station in the Chicago suburbs. For the last two Sundays, however, they broadcast from WGN in Chicago – a kind of “audition” for the big time.
And if you ask me, they passed the audition! They interviewed me over the phone, and the time seemed to fly by.
Unfortunately, Betsy and Sal’s WGN radio show from last Sunday is not available online. The interview Hanni and I did December 18 is available online, though: we were on Chicago Public Radio! I heard the rebroadcast of that show on Tuesday night, and must say: it’s one of the best interviews we’ve ever recorded for radio. I remembered to take my Time, breathe, not rush answers, and most important…I remembered to smile.
I’ve been told it’s good to smile while you are talking on the radio. A smile comes through even when you can’t see the person who is smiling. Even if you are saying something that isn’t exactly funny, you should smile: it engages listeners.
I’ve known that’s true in real life for years, of course. But for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me that a smile would transfer over radio, too. After listening to Tuesday’s broadcast, I’m convinced. We sounded good.
Oh, but please forgive me. I keep saying “we” — I keep talking about how you can hear “us” on the radio. Truth is, hanni doesn’t bark; guide dogs are trained not to bark. Hanni is a public figure, after all — she is highly trained to present herself in a professional manner. She just smiles.

Mom's Best Friend

December 16, 200714 CommentsPosted in book tour, guide dogs, Hanni, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized

Ladies and gentleman…meet the lovely, wonderful, brave, and caring (I could go on), Flo!There’s Jenny-she’s the best!                             Sign and stamp…sign and stamp!The line just wouldn’t end…yay!Another satisfied customer…I had a good feeling that a lot of people might show up to see Hanni and me at The Bookstore in Glen Ellyn yesterday. Rick Kogan had mentioned our Glen Ellyn appearance on his WGN radio show in Chicago, there was an article about hanni and me on the cover of the Glen Ellyn Sun the day before, and my friend Jenny (who works at The Bookstore) had done a lot to promote the event in the store.
Only problem was, I wasn’t so sure I’d be in the mood to chat with a lot of people. My mom –I call her by her fabulous first name, Flo — is in the hospital, and that’s been weighing heavy on my mind. She took a fall last week, fractured her pelvis in two places and fractured a rib, too.
Hanni led me to Flo’s hospital room on our visits earlier this week. Flo has never been particularly fond of dogs, but for some reason she has really taken to Hanni. She talks to Hanni, tells her friends about Hanni, and on the rare occasion I am out and about without my dog, Flo is the first to ask, “Where’s Hanni?”
Guide dogs are allowed in hospitals, of course, and Flo was glad to seeHanni on our visits this week. So were a lot of people we passed in the hallways — A dog is a welcome distraction in a place so full of tension.
Flo is a real trooper. By Tuesday she was taking baby steps with a walker and sitting up in a chair. Already By Thursday they moved her out of ICU and into the rehab unit. But then later in the week, just as Flo was getting into the physical therapy groove, she got sick. That can happen when you’re in the hospital for a while – lots of germs going around. She was released from the rehab unit, sent back to the emergency room, then re-admitted into the hospital. Her sickness made me sick –with worry.
And so, Mike and I made a detour on our way to the book signing at The Bookstore yesterday. We stopped at the hospital to see Flo. She has a single room now, and we knew we’d have to wear gowns to get in – to prevent infection. I decided to leave Hanni in the car. We were sure Flo would be wiped out – we didn’t even know if she’d be awake during our visit.
My sister Bev was waiting when we arrived. We put our blue gowns on, entered, and were all delighted to find Flo awake and talking. “You’ve got color in your cheeks!” Mike told her. “You look good!”
She was happy to hear that, but disappointed when she looked on the floor beside me. “Where’s Hanni?”
We didn’t stay long. I blew Flo a kiss as we left, and she wished me luck at The Bookstore. I was buoyed.
Flo’s good wishes worked. The event at The Bookstore was terrific. It was great to be with Jenny again – you might remember her from my blog about the Illinois Library Association conference. I’ve known Jenny – and her sister Jill, who threw a scrumptious dinner party for us after the signing – since high school. It felt good to be able to talk about Flo with friends who have known her for so long. Flo would have been at the signing with us if she hadn’t been in the hospital, but we certainly felt her confident and supportive spirit. So many people came to The Bookstore to meet my Mom’s Best Friend, Hanni that we ran out of books!

The Wisdom of Longfellow

December 13, 20074 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, book tour, guide dogs, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Book Cover…sick of seeing it yet?Dora was the athletic type…Kids always have good questions!I’ve been visiting schools to talk about blindness and Seeing Eye dogs for years — ever since I got my first Seeing Eye dog, Dora, in 1991.
Now with my children’s book published, the visits are even more fun. Usually teachers have already read Safe & Sound out loud to their students before we arrive. That makes the questions the students ask all the more interesting. And detailed!
When it comes to the question and answer time, somehow every kids group I talk to gets caught up in a particular theme. When I talked to a group of Girl Scouts last year, one of them asked how I bake cookies. Every question after that was about the kitchen. How do you know where the stove is? How do you keep yourself from cutting your finger when you chop things? How do you know what you are eating?
Yesterday at Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park, IL the kids were intrigued with the idea of intruders coming into our apartment. How would Hanni react? How would I react? One student remembered a passage in the book about me learning to use a white cane before I started using a Seeing eye dog.
“Do you still have your cane?” he asked.
I do. Guide dog users are encouraged to use our white canes from time to time. By keeping our cane skills up, we know that if – God forbid – our dogs get sick or can’t work for a while we can still get around on our own.
“What if you heard a man in the house in the middle of the night,” the boy’s questioning continued. “And you got out your cane, and you hit him, and then you found out it was your husband?!”
Must admit, I had to think about that for a minute before answering! In the end, I dodged the question altogether by telling a story of how I really did inadvertently hit Mike once.
My first dog Dora was pretty athletic. When we were at home, and her harness was off, she loved jumping in the air to play catch. “One time I was whipping a ball across the room for her to fetch, and I didn’t realize Mike was there,” I said. “I hit him right in the head!”
The kids laughed and laughed at that one. We were, ahem, a hit.

Happy Hanni-kah

December 3, 20072 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, book tour, Uncategorized

Of course people come when there’s wine being served!Read. Drink. Be Merry.                                                  Photograph by Mike GrossenbacherToday was the very first time I’ve given a children’s book presentation in a bookstore while enjoying a glass of wine.
The Book Cellar lives up to its name. Get it? Book CELLAR? They sell books, and they sell wine.
It’s my kind of store.
And the crowd was my kind of crowd: co-workers, students from the senior citizen writing class I teach, friends who have known me a long time and new friends who just learned about my children’s book. Best of all, my entire book club showed up.
When Mike, Hanni and I moved to Chicago in 2003, my college friend Nancy invited me to join her Sunday morning book group – they meet at different houses on the northside of Chicago. I was eager to meet new people and welcomed the invite. After a few meetings, I made a formal announcement. I told them all how much I appreciated them welcoming me to the group. “You are just my type,” I said. “You’re all such fun, you put out such lavish spreads of food, you meet on Sundays, and none of you go to church!”
The room got very quiet. You didn’t have to be able to see to know they were staring at me, open-jawed.
Suddenly they all exploded with laughter. “Beth!” one of my new friends finally explained. “Don’t you know? We’re all Jewish!”
I had no idea.
I’ve been attending Jewish Book Group ever since, and have learned as much from my fellow book club members as I have from the books we read.
An example: Today they reminded me that Hanukah starts Tuesday.
So when I signed – and rubber-stamped Hanni’s paw print — onto books for their nieces and nephews, I also wrote out a special wish from my dog: Happy Hanni-kah!”