My name is Cindi and I’m one of Janet’s ministry helpers. We’ve worked together for years and when you read one of these blog posts, I’m the one who posted it and sent the newsletter that comes to your inbox. (What? You’re not a newsletter subscriber but found this blog by some other means? Well, my friend, why not sign up so you never miss a single issue. They come out each Tuesday and are sent to your inbox. Just use the subscribe button on the right hand navigation bar and not only will you be signed up, but you’ll receive a free gift as well!)
Over the years, many have asked Janet questions about her life as an author and speaker. They have also asked questions about how she functions without the use of eyes. We thought we’d gather some of those questions and let Janet provide you the answers.
And what better time to do it than this week when we are all thinking about her just a bit more. Because it’s her birthday on the 27th. (But don’t you dare ask the year because that’s the one question we won’t answer!)
So here’s a list of frequently asked questions. And since we just know they will get your creative minds thinking, we invite you to use the reply button at the end and send in your own questions. Janet will answer each and every one. Happy reading everyone…and happy birthday Janet.
Let’s start with some of the everyday practical ones relating to her loss of sight and from there we will move to the questions about her life and career.
Do you apply your own make-up? It always looks pretty.
Yes; vanity was a flaw that never left me. I figured out how to apply eyeliner, and I memorize eye shadow colors and feel the areas of my eyelid. And lipstick and blush are pretty easy to apply. The great thing is I don’t need a light or a mirror. There’s always a good side to everything, right?
How do you choose your outfits without being able to see color? And how do you accessorize the shoes and jewelry so you match? (It always does in your videos.)
Some folks think I line all items in my closet by color. No, instead I remember the color, material, and style. With one brush of my hand I can tell if it’s a red business suit, for example. Then I know each blouse by the material and unique features. I know I have a black blouse with gold accents embroidered on the color. Black and red go together, so that’s the blouse I look for to go with the red suit.
I do something similar with my shoes and run my hands thought the rack to find a pair of black shoes. The search is simple because I go by the size, shape of heel, and style of each one.
For jewelry, I let my fingers do the talking. I “feel” each new piece of jewelry and its details. Before storing them in the jewelry box, I store those details in my memory. This way, one “feel” tells me what that item is.
How do you navigate your house and more specifically your kitchen? How do you find what you need and also manage to not trip over something that might be in the way?
When I first moved to this house, I had to use my hands to feel the location of the furniture, walls, counter tops in the kitchen, etc. It only took a few weeks for my senses to adjust and know how many steps it takes to head from the family room to the front of the house. The kitchen is easy to navigate as I know exactly where everything is. My body just turns and heads to the right direction as I reach for things because I know in my mind where I put all items.
I’ve watched your Cooking in the Dark videos. How are you able to manage the kitchen and cooking utensils?
The secret is never think about your limitations. I carry my own recipe in my head, bring out the ingredients from the pantry and fridge and begin tasting and “feeling” what I have. Tasting and feeling are a must for me to know how the preparation is progressing. My hubby is my guinea pig…and so far he’s still alive.
Speaking of cooking, how do you keep an eye on things you’re cooking on the stove top to know when they are done or when something you’re baking is finished? How do you know which control buttons to push on the microwave or stove?
When I put anything in the oven or the stove, I set a timer and when done, I taste to make sure. How I find the settings is by putting a small sticky plastic with a tiny dot on key places to be my reference for the oven, stove and microwave. The great thing is that I don’t need any light to cook!
How do you handle money and know the difference between different the bills? And how do you know which credit/debit card to use?
Right before I place bills in my purse, I ask hubby what they are. Then I place all ones in a specific pocket of my purse. And the other bills are folded differently: $20 in half, $10 in three, and $5 folded longwise. Credit cards have raised numbers, easy to run my fingers across. Each card has them slightly differently arranged. So I memorize how each feels like. And to make sure, right before using I ask the salesperson or hotel attendant to verify it’s the correct card.
Do you feel too dependent on other people to drive you to various places like the dentist, grocery store, airport, etc.?
No, not really. In fact, since I relish being with people, I enjoy visiting as I sit in the passenger’s seat. And hubby and my mom (who still drives at 88) never complain about being my chauffeur. I find folks like to help as long as I request transportation to needed places and not to those that are not necessary.
Do you remember colors, and associate them with specific things, such as blue for the sky, yellow for a lemon or sunshine, red for an apple?
Sure do. In fact, I still remember the shades of each color…navy blue, sky blue and dark blue, for example. And I also can imagine shades like blueish or greenish. It’s fun to recall them when someone points a certain shade or color such as in a sunset.
Do you ever experience a blue funk … meaning down in the dumps because you cannot drive a car, watch TV, enjoy browsing around in a library or going to a movie theater?
Actually, I do all those activities (and I even drove a car a few years back—I had a friend who truly had faith…or maybe foolishness). And when hubby takes us all to the library, I have my grand-kiddoes who describe everything to me and we go home with lots of fun books they read to me.
And going to the movies. Great fun! They now have a headset that enables blind folks to hear the narrative during silent scenes.
Do your two grandchildren quiz you about not being able to actually “see” them?
Yes, once my 4 year-old grandson said, “I wish you could see us, Nana, I mean really see us.”
“I see your heart,” I said, “and that’s more important. And I know when you’re smiling because your voice changes. Seeing with your heart is something you need to do, too.”
Is your husband an extra-patient man? (I certainly hope he is.)
Yes, Job…I mean Gene is the most patient man on earth. Why? Because I sometimes make demands that are tough, such as finding my most favorite fruit in the world which is “Cherimoya” in the grocery store. And even if no one carries it, he’ll find a way to get it. He does the same with any request I make of him.
Speaking of your husband, how and when did you two meet?
It was a blind date. God has a sense of humor, doesn’t He? During my last semester at Southeast Missouri State University, a friend in my dorm began the process. “You have to meet Gene,” she said. “He’s so nice, good looking, and has beautiful blue eyes.” My immediate thought was that If he is so handsome, with pretty eyes, and so nice, why doesn’t he have a girlfriend? Yep, I confess how shallow I was in those days. But when we went out on that first date, I saw the good qualities beyond his blue eyes. We got engaged three months later and one year after meeting we married.
You came to the United States from Bolivia when you were 12-years old. You didn’t know any English. How did you learn? And how did you manage school without knowing English?
After two days of arriving in the U.S. my brother and I went to school without knowing one word of English. Seated at my desk in my sixth grade classroom, girls circled me, pointed, whispered and giggled. A humiliating episode for me. Later, I learned that they found the fact I had pierced ears to be a bizarre thing. In 1964 it was indeed an odd practice in the U.S.
And as I took my turn to read out loud, each mispronounced word evoked laughter from my classmates. That’s when I decided to learn English, and learn it fast. With no ESL (English as a Second Language) help, I began to understand enough to get by. And in a year, I was speaking it. Fluency increased with each year and the honor roll list usually included my name.
When you were younger, what did you imagine your career path would look like?
I wanted to be a mom and then maybe become a secretary as my own mom strongly suggested to follow a path that could be used anywhere. Although I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea, I went on to get my Bachelor Degree in Business Administration. I’m not a secretary, but the fact I knew how to type before I lost my sight has made it easier to learn to operate the computer.
You have written many books and tons of articles. How did you get started writing?
When I first got my computer with the software that read the screen, I d4was thrilled with this new tool that allowed me to write. Since I never learned Braille, I was lost when it came to reading and writing. But now, with a screen reader, those two tasks became simple as can be.
I decided to write my journey, hoping my children and grandchildren would read it someday. Little did I know God would have women across the U.S. and abroad read it and be inspired. After receiving letters and testimonies of how my story helped them with their own struggles, I wrote some more.
And now after 32 stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul titles in Christian magazines and 17 anthologies, and my own 4 books, I think writing was a thing God had planned even before I lost my sight.
Writing is now part of me. I find all situations as lessons to learn, material to blog about, and insight that brings me back to God’s Word. I’m currently working on my next book and excited to see what God will do with it.
How do you actually write your books, blogs, and answer email? How do you read an email sent to you?
Technology is a wonderful blessing. My computer has a software installed called JAWS (Job Assistance With Speech). It reads the screen to me audibly. Thus, I can hear each key I press on the keyboard. I use a variety of key commands to navigate in the same way sighted folks do using the mouse.
The monitor is always off as I don’t need it. All I need is to hear as JAWS talk to me. I’ve been using this tool for over 20 years…so it’s part of my brain and so very easy to use.
How did you get started being an inspirational speaker?
“C’mon, Janet, tell them your story,” a friend nudged me about 17 years ago. I resisted, really resisted. I was a bit shy then. But with no sight, I couldn’t see the group and that made it easier. So, I began speaking to small groups, then to bigger ones. And now when I’m invited to speak nationally and internationally to hundreds and sometimes thousands, I think of that time when I resisted. That’s when I realized God had big plans for me.
Do you ever get stage-fright?
Not anymore. Since I cannot see the audience, I pretend I’m speaking at an empty room. But when applause thunders, then the feeling is not fright, but immense gratitude. And when laughter echoes, I grin with delight…my talks are always filled with some humor, inspiration and Scripture. So in essence, God’s the one speaking.
Did you ever find yourself in a tight spot during your travels and found no one to help?
Yes; once as I sat at the gate, the airline rep announced: “Flight 238 will not be departing from gate 2B. Please make your way quickly as the plane is waiting.” I heard a rush of folks take off. And there I sat, no one around me to help get to that gate. I stood up, with white cane in hand I took a deep breath and thanked God that He would help me. I waited and waited. Then, right when I thought the flight left, a rep came to rescue me.
Where is a dream destination you would like to visit?
Israel. To walk where Jesus walked. To breathe the air He breathed and to visit places where His miracles happened would be in turn, a miracle for me!
As a blind person you are entitled to collect disability from the government. Why have you chosen to work instead of receive this benefit?
When we arrived from Bolivia, my father made it clear that we’re here in the U.S. to contribute, to work and do our best to earn the privilege of being in this country. Choosing to work and contribute filled me much more than staying at home and collecting benefits.
What parting words of inspiration do you have for us?
Life will turn beautiful if you choose each day to spend at least five minutes in the presence of the Lord, giving thanks, truly pondering on appreciation, and on the good things which do exist even in the darkest times.
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