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Life Arts    H3'ed 3/16/14

Meet Michelle Friedman: Always on the Lookout for New Challenges

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I loved it and recently that same brave crazy friend was showing me a lovely dress she made her granddaughter. I naively asked if she would make my granddaughter a dress to which she said, "No, but I'll teach you to sew" so off we went to buy patterns, material and a few things to adapt my sewing. And I've sewn a few things for my kids and my grandkids. Far be it for me to pass up a challenge!

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It's sort of how I've decided to live my life these last 20 years, once I got over the first year after I went blind and had a mini breakdown.

JB: You've definitely rebounded, Michelle. Share with our readers some of your adventures since then, please.

MF: You have no idea! I actually went from being too afraid to even leave my house that first year or so to challenging myself to do things I really wanted to do even though I was blind. I had never skied before I went blind. I regretted that I hadn't, especially when my friends talked about skiing with my kids. So about nine years ago, I decided I was done wishing I could ski. On a family trip when my kids and friends of ours were going skiing, I decided it was time. I asked at the ski place if there were instructors who had some experience with blind skiers and fortunately for me, after a little waiting, I had the opportunity to learn to ski and then ski alongside a sighted guide skier.

It was fun and I was so glad I had done it. But skiing wasn't my thing; I actually don't like being cold.

What was my thing, though, was horseback riding. I had done it before I went blind. I had a friend who was an equestrian and I felt so envious of her that she could ride. Then, she mentioned to me about these therapeutic equestrian programs for disabled kids. It got me thinking and I found one about 45 minutes from my home. I took riding lessons once a week for about two years. Although I loved it, I was getting very close to 50 and when my friend took a dangerous tumble, I realized that my progressing with riding made it fairly inevitable that I would fall. My fear of hip surgery outweighed my love of the riding and I "hung up my saddle' though I have ridden a time or two since then. But that was an aging fear, not a blindness fear.

Challenging myself to do those things led me to need to find the next challenge. I have always thought I would want to parachute out of a plane. When my husband and then 12 year old son were on a vacation in Florida a few years ago, my son found a terminal velocity place. It's just like sky diving but it's indoors and no plane. The skydivers who are getting certified actually go there to put in their hours because it is cheaper than renting a plane.

So while we were signing up my son, I was drooling at the thought of it. I asked and indeed they had no problem except they wanted to give me a little extra orientation. So after getting suited up in the skydiving garb, we had to go up in this building. When everyone is in, they close the doors and a bell goes off to tell you no-one can come in or leave. I turned to my 12 year old who was practically jumping out of his skin, he was so excited. And I said, " I can't do this; I have to get out of here." But, when my turn came, I got up and walked to the edge of the deck and jumped into basically 120 mile an hour winds and skydived for a full minute. I don't actually know how high up off the ground I was but the wind is blowing from these enormous fans and you have no choice but to float. It was an unbelievable, exhilarating feeling and I'm so glad I didn't give in to my momentary panic. I had a lucid moment and realized I could not do this to my adolescent son. I said to myself, "What is the worst that can happen? And once you have done it, you will be glad you did it."

JB: Admirable sentiment, but definitely easier said than done! What else?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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