Category Archives: NaBloPoMo 2012

Dear Evan Longoria,

Last night I lay in bed contemplating a writing prompt I recently read inviting me to picture the one person I wished was reading my blog and write him or her a letter. You immediately popped into my mind and last night as I thought about writing such a letter, I found myself in tears.

On April 24, 2008, I went blind very quickly and unexpectedly. I wish I knew the exact date I heard your name for the first time but it must have been nearing the end of the 2008 season. I heard Down and Out, a song I loved, and asked my boyfriend why it was playing. He explained all about you and your amazing rookie season and the Rays and how Joe Maddon had taken you guys out of the cellar and it looked like you might just make the playoffs.

I was not a baseball fan. I wasn’t a sports fan period, unless the Arizona Wildcats were playing. I thought baseball was the most boring game in the world but as I listened to the game on TV, unable to see it, relying on the broadcasters and my boyfriend, I was riveted by you and your team’s story. At the beginning of the season, before I went blind, my boyfriend got the MLB Extra Innings package and I rolled my eyes at the cost. He had said he would pay it don’t worry, unless he caught me in the bedroom with baseball on. Little did we know that would be exactly what he would discover several months later.

When I found out how much better baseball was on the radio and that the playoff games were broadcast locally, that cinched it. My little radio went with me as I listened to you and the Rays make it all the way to the World Series. I cried and cried when it was over.

I wasn’t just sad the baseball season was done. I was saddened to lose this newfound passion I had had so briefly. Evan you gave me something incredible that year and I’ve wanted you to know it ever since. You gave me something to look forward to! You opened up an interest in me that I was able to feed and dive into when I had nothing else to hold on to. I had no access to technology in those first dark months. I had nothing but books on CD that friends brought me. Until I heard Down and Out that day and found out about you.

It wasn’t long before I had a full blown crush, especially after my girl friend described you. I fantasized about meeting you, most of those fantasies not for public consumption. These days when I think about meeting you the scene always ends up with me in tears trying to tell you what you mean to me. You saved my life!

Not only am I now a rabid Rays fan who looks forward to the season every year but I have so many friends in the Twitterverse because of you and the Rays. You were the second person I followed when I joined and now I have a host of friends, fellow Rays fans, who have become family to me. I am never alone, even on my darkest days they are there. You started this Evan, you did. You were just doing your thing, playing your game, being you and you had no idea you were doing this for me, saving some woman’s life clear across the country! Thank you so much. A thank you is nowhere near enough.

You’ll probably never read this but hey, stranger things have happened right? You tweeted me once, after you were bribed, I wonder if you remember that.

I think that’s all I have. I know the chances of you reading this are rare but the thought that maybe someday you’ll know what you mean to me makes me smile. You also have no idea how much sometimes I wish I was Jaime! You know, because she can see. Right sure uh huh that’s it.

Love,

Ro

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Filed under Adjustment to blindness, baseball, evan longoria, gratitude, letters, misty eyes, My story, NaBloPoMo 2012, twitter me this

San Diego Recap Part One

I will be writing about our little trip while in a hungry, tired and poisonous antibiotics induced stupor. This should be fun! Last week I started feeling a pang in the same area of my abdomen as the first diverticulitis attack. I prayed it would go away and I wouldn’t feel it for a bit and then there it was again. Finally on Saturday there was no denying it. Luckily the on-call doctor for my doctor was able to call in the antibiotics I had discussed with my physician at the follow-up appointment. I decided I would start the liquid diet upon returning from San Diego and luckily the medicine wasn’t too awful on food like it is on an empty stomach. Armed with Dramamine, Immodium, Flagyl and Cipro, I set out on Monday with B and Jayden on what would surely be an adventure.

At first, the car ride was great. I relaxed back with my iPod, listening to a Michael Connelly book, Jayden curled up at my feet on his cushy mat I bought. Any thing isn’t so bad when it first starts, right? When Jayden started getting restless, the relaxing was gone. He does fine in cars, but we’ve never been in the car for too long. At the first rest stop, we were all happy to get out of the car. Our reprieve was brief however and before long we were back on the road. Jayden would not settle for a long time and when he finally did, B announced another rest stop coming up. We both agreed to skip it. I did not want to get out of the car again. We stopped one more time before hitting the hills that go into San Diego and it was so very odd to step onto soft plush grass. The air was fresh and crisp with a hint of moisture. Definitely not Arizona air. There was another dog near the ladies’ room and by the time I got Jayden’s harness on to enter, we found the only handicapped stall occupied by the woman and her dog. Luckily she had figured out outside that I was blind and when she heard me talking to Jayden, she took her dog into a normal stall. When I told B about this, he said the dog was a tiny little poodle. She had said she was in the handicapped stall because of her dog. Really? Alrighty then. At least she realized her error and vacated it for us.

By the time we made it into San Diego and found the hotel, we were all pretty tired. B had found a deal on hotels.com for this place on Shelter Island near the airport. When we checked in I asked for a ground floor room and we got upgraded to accommodate this request. The bed was huge and old. Remember those old thin mattresses? It was so low to the ground I kept sitting down hard on it haha. It also made this squishy plastic-on-plastic sound when we sat on it. Apparently all the beds did this since I could hear the one above us through the paper thin ceiling. Aside from that, the room was nice. It had a microwave and little fridge. The microwave was a huge plus for me since I brought Starbucks instant coffee haha. B decided to find a take-out place for dinner so we ate seafood on the huge bed. I had fish tacos and sushi. It was delicious! Especially the fish tacos. Yummm! I went to sleep pretty early and slept hard after the day of travel. Tuesday was going to be busy.

Getting up and moving in a strange place is exhausting. Living out of bags on the floor is physically taxing with the constant up/down motions. Jayden must have wondered what the heck was going on, why it was taking me so long to get his food ready. Finally I got him fed, watered and relieved and was able to relax with my instant coffee and work on waking up. B and I watched the local news. It’s always interesting to me to watch local news in a strange place. Everything is so unfamiliar. Eventually we got ready to head out to the San Diego Zoo. Luckily I knew Jayden could go since Carin had told me service dogs were welcome. She had been to San Diego with work and had discovered this fact. I was glad to know this because originally I had thought I would just hang out in the hotel all day while B went to the zoo. Even though I had my laptop, the thought of that was not appealing once we had arrived in our room.

I’m going to split the trip recap into two posts and finish this tomorrow. After writing about the fish tacos, I am miserably hungry and grumpy haha! I think I’ll go drink some chicken broth and lay in bed with a book.

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Filed under apple Inc, Audio books, coffeeholic, Doggy Diaries, dogs, Jayden, NaBloPoMo 2012, sicky sick, working dog

Home Sweet Home

Taking a short trip was nice but man oh man is it good to be home! It is exhausting learning to live in a new space, having to pay close attention constantly, getting turned around easily. If you’re sighted, just imagine being blindfolded and put in a car for six hours and then being walked into a hotel room. It’s pretty intense! Naturally, when I had pretty much figured out the room, it was time to go.

I love being home in my space that I can move around with ease and confidence. It took some time for Jayden to relax too. He followed me around until just a bit ago, when I got my computer hooked back up and sat down on the couch with my keyboard. He’s curled up beside me now and I’m sure I speak for both of us when I say it’s wonderful to not be stuck in the car!

I’ll be writing about the trip soon but for now I’m just happy to be home and comfortable. B is the best travel companion! It was awesome but I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed tonight. Oh I haven’t mentioned that I did all this back on poisonous antibiotics since I got another attack of diverticulitis over the weekend. I get to start the liquid diet tomorrow Yay! Haha…at least I had the best food EVER last night. I mean, EVER. The best…food…EVER.

Oh and cats! It was so good to see the cats! Yay!

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Filed under cats, Jayden, NaBloPoMo 2012, num num food

Notes

I don’t have time to write an actual post because I’m exhausted so I’m just going to jot down things I want to write about about today.

Condor, scallops, chocolate, llama, donkey, Fran, wolf, howling, Jayden famous, kids doggy that last kid remember what the mom said, ocean, hippies, GPS, sand in leather shoes, sand in hotel room, cold, grass next to marina, all the boats, getting emotional at ocean, rocks, roar, scallops scallops scallops, sea lion or seal, almost dying, avoiding nurse’s station, rattle snake, tarantula, home, feel like a fraud but the scallops, China Mist tea, sore as hell, old bed.

I think that’s all I need to jot down at the moment. Road trippin it back home tomorrow! Thanks for a great time, Sandy go!

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Filed under Jayden, NaBloPoMo 2012, num num food

Tripping

Going on a trip during NaBloPoMo is a bummer. I’m wishing I had done scheduled posts so I wouldn’t have to think enough to write anything right now. B and I drove to San Diego today. The trip was uneventful except for going on a road trip for the first time with a guide dog haha. I had a nice mat that we bought at Petsmart down on the floor of the foot well so things were more padded for Jayden. He was probably more comfortable than I was since I wanted to make sure he had enough room. My feet and legs definitely found themselves in some awkward positions haha.

After the first rest stop Jayden was panting a lot and not wanting to settle. I started to get concerned until B moved all the air to the foot well and Jayden curled up and took a nap. I’m thinking about having both of us ride in the back seat together on the way back so he can stretch out and cuddle with me. We’ll see.

He’s happily napping now. B and I just had take out dinner in the room. Fish tacos and California rolls for me yum!

I’m exhausted so I’ll post this and lay back to relax. This is reminding me of when I posted from guide dog school haha!

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Filed under Jayden, NaBloPoMo 2012, num num food

Let’s talk about God, shall we? Don’t be scared.

I haven’t used a lot of the writing prompts suggested by a Twitter account I’m following but I liked this one and decided to see if I could do it with my one and only iBook. The prompt was to grab the nearest book, turn to page eight-two and work the third full sentence into a post. Since going blind, I can never participate in these sorts of things, grabbing a sentence from a certain page, since that isn’t possible with an audio book. Now however, I have an iBook and the ability to choose my page! I am pretty sure page eighty-two of my iBook isn’t the same as the print book, but it works.

When I found the desired sentence, I was torn about whether to do this. This sentence addresses the major controversy about the program that rescued me from the clutches of alcoholism – God.

When I first stumbled into my first meeting and saw God on the walls in the steps I thought, well I’ll do those steps because I don’t want to drink anymore, but don’t talk to me about God. Of course I knew they would talk to me about a higher power. I had known a guy who had made a band his higher power. Before I had ever started drinking, I hung out at a coffee shop with a bunch of young people who were newly sober and they talked about how they could make their higher power anything they wanted. Yet, it was God on the walls everywhere, not a higher power that was a door knob or a band.

I wanted what those people had though, so I trudged forward and decided to deal with the God thing when I came to it. I wanted to be happy like those other people, those people who didn’t drink and still smiled and laughed, genuinely laughed!

“When we became alcoholics,crushed by a self imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else he is nothing.”

I have read that sentence countless times this morning as I copied it down from my iBook word by word. Looking back on those early days over seven and a half years later, I see that I had already noticed that God is everything when I looked at those happy people and decided I would do whatever they had done to be like them. I didn’t know it yet, but it was their faith in something, call it whatever you want, that was pouring out and making me drunk with the desire to be happy with them.

The misconception about this program and God on the wall is that when you walk in the door they start throwing bibles at you and making you believe what they believe. That is so far from the truth I laugh when I hear it. You hear comedians talking about it, you see it online in every social networking group there is, it’s everywhere and it’s sad.

The chapter in the book, (yes there’s a book but it’s not a bible, it’s more a manual) this quote comes from is the chapter called “We Agnostics”. The writers of the book understood that in order for their program to save as many lives as possible, they would need to reach out to people of all faiths. All faiths include no faith. That is where the God of your understanding comes in and that’s what saved my life.

I craved having something to believe in. I needed it. I was frightened off of religion as a child though and never found anything I could believe in. I tried as a young adult. I went to supposed “cool churches” but they still preached hate. When I was told I could borrow my sponsor’s God, I was intrigued.

She asked if I believed she believed in her higher power. Well, yes I did. She asked if I wanted what she had, meaning her sobriety and her happiness. yes I did. So she said I could borrow her God. She called it God because that is a universal name and it’s easy to spell. So when I left her house, I pretended her God came with me. I started talking to her God, just asking for help staying sober, simple stuff in the beginning. I cannot describe the relief!

Whether that God was real or not didn’t matter. The point was I was so sick and broken that believing that her God was watching out for me and helping me stay sober brought me relief and took away some of the fear that I would go weak and buy a drink. It didn’t take long for me to morph that comfort into my own conception of my own God.

That faith that helped me stay sober in the beginning has helped me through so much more than I ever thought possible. Whatever it was that I talked to and begged for help when I was diagnosed with MS, kept me from drinking and got me through that adjustment. Whatever it was that I leaned on and relaxed into when I went blind on my three year sobriety anniversary helped me stay sober through a life altering ordeal and helped me through that adjustment. Whatever I sobbed to on my knees in the kitchen with a destroyed coffee maker and water and coffee grounds all over me, kept me from drinking and guided me towards getting help for my mental health.

So in my life, is God everything? You bet. Is my God a religious God? Not for me, but if that’s what you need, fantastic! Is my God always God? No. I don’t pretend to know what God is and sometimes my higher power is just the part of me that is sane, the part of me that knows what the next right thing is and does it, the part of me that knows right from wrong and cares about others. So you see, sometimes my God is me. If that isn’t everything or nothing, I don’t know what is.

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Filed under Adjustment to blindness, apple Inc, faith, fellowship, gratitude, mental health, My story, NaBloPoMo 2012, sobriety, spoons, twitter me this

Book fifty-two in 2012 – “Mocking Jay” (Book Three in the Hunger Games Trilogy) – Suzanne Collins

When I added “Catching Fire” to the book list, I was so stunned and confused that it was difficult to write it up. I remember thinking the post about it was totally lame.

I don’t think this post about “Mocking Jay” is going to be any better. These books were absolutely incredible! And to think I had originally had no interest in reading them because of my loyalty to Scott Westerfeld. How silly was that? Last night after I finished the trilogy I thought about how awesome it would be if Katniss Everdeen and Tally Youngblood got together for lunch. I then started thinking how cool it is that young women get characters like Katniss and Tally when they’re growing up when I had girls like Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield who taught me nothing except how to like boys and make me wonder why I couldn’t ride my bike to the mall too.

At the end of “Mocking Jay” there was an interview with Suzanne Collins. She talks about how the idea for these books came from her channel surfing one night. She was tired and the lines blurred as she flipped between a reality show where young people were competing for money and another channel covering the war where young people were fighting and dying. In the interview she lists questions she hopes young people will ask themselves when they read these books and I can’t remember what all the questions were but as she asked them, I had asked them myself.

One of the things that really stood out to me was when {they} are in the capitol and the citizens actually drink something that makes them purge so they can eat more of the delicious food. The rest of the country is starving and these people are vomiting to eat more. I couldn’t help but think about the attitude of so many during this campaign year, those who aren’t hungry who refuse to share, deciding instead to blame the hungry for their own lot in life, as if every hungry person is at fault.

There is a lot about this trilogy that is completely relevant, though I’m sure there are many who refuse to see it.

B came into the room last night as I was nearing the end. He found me breathing heavily, near tears. I clutched his hand and said, “no roses for like six months. No roses. I can’t smell roses.” He came in later just after I had finished the book and I said, “I just finished it.”

“You survived!”

“But not all of them did…” he couldn’t hear me, my voice was so low and trembling. I had to repeat myself.

“It’s just a book,” he said, laughing.

“But it’s going to be a movie.” That was all I could get out. There was no way I could launch into what felt so real about these books despite the totally different future they are set in.

Ok, so perhaps this post is better than the last one. I’m still reeling. I woke up this morning thinking about the books and all the characters. I will need to run to Michael Connelly tonight I think. I need my cops and bad guys. Normal. Harry isn’t hungry or killing his peers to survive.

2012 Audio Book List (all unabridged):

1. “IT” – Stephen King – Began end of 2011, finished 1/4/12

2. “The Concrete Blonde” – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/9/12

3. “Under the Dome” – Stephen King – Finished 1/22/12

4. “The Black Echo” (Harry Bosch #1) – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/24/12

5. “The Black Ice” (Harry Bosch #2) – Michael Connelly – Finished 1/27/12

6.* “The Concrete Blonde” (Harry Bosch #3) – Michael Connelly – Finished 2/2/12

7. “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” – Rob Lowe – Finished 2/6/12

8.** “So Yesterday” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 2/10/12

9.** “Peeps” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 2/15/12

10. “1Q84” – Haruki Murakami – Finished 3/12/12

11. “The Stand” – Stephen King – Finished 4/2/12

12.** “Uglies” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 4/9/12

13.** “Pretties” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 4/15/12

14. “The Last Coyote” (Harry Bosch #4) – Michael Connelly – Finished 4/20/12

15. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” – Seth Grahame-Smith – Finished 4/25/12

16. “Zero Day” – David Baldacci – Finished 5/1/12

17** “Specials” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 5/7/12

18.** “Extras” – Scott Westerfeld – Finished 5/13/12

19. “77 Shadow Street” – Dean Koontz – Finished 5/21/12

20. “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)” – Jenny Lawson – Finished 5/25/12

21. “Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars” – Paul Ingrassia Finished 6/1/12

22. “The Glory of Their Times: The Story Of The Early Days Of Baseball Told By The Men Who Played It” – Lawrence Ritter – Finished 6/3/12

23. “The Given Day – Dennis Lehane – Finished 6/17/12

24. “Trunk Music” (Harry Bosch #5) – Michael Connelly – Finished 6/22/12

25. “The Lincoln Lawyer” (Mickey Haller #1) – Michael Connelly – Finished 6/29/12

26. “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” – Norman Doidge – Finished 7/6/12

27. “A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans” – W. Bruce Cameron – Finished 7/11/12

28. “The Potato Factory” (The Australian Trilogy Part One) – Bryce Courtenay – Finished 7/25/12

29. “Tommo and Hawk” (The Australian Trilogy Part Two) – Bryce Courtenay – Finished 8/8/12

30.* “Fifty Shades of Grey” – E. L. James – Finished 8/11/12

31. “Fifty Shades Darker” – E. L. James – Finished 8/16=12

32. “Solomon’s Song” (The Australian Trilogy Part Three) – Bryce Courtenay – Finished 8/22/12

33. “Fifty Shades Freed” – E.L. James – Finished 8/25/12

34. “The Poet” (Jack McEvoy #1) – Michael Connelly Finished – 829/12

35. “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time” – Michael Brooks – Finished 9/4/12

36. “Angels Flight” (Harry Bosch #6) – Michael Connelly – Finished 9/8/12

37. “The Scarecrow” (Jack McEvoy #2) – Michael Connelly – Finished 9/13/12

38. “Blood Work” (Terry McCaleb #1) – Michael Connelly – Finished 9/20/12

39. “A Darkness More Than Night” (Terry McCaleb #2, Harry Bosch #7) – Michael Connelly – Finished 9/25/12

40. “City of Bones” (Harry Bosch #8) – Michael Connelly – Finished 101/12

41. “Defending Jacob” – William Landay – Finished 10/7/12

42. “The Next Right Thing” – Dan Barden – Finished 10/13/12

43. “Lost Light” (Harry Bosch #9) – Michael Connelly – finished 10/17/12

44. “The Narrows” (Harry Bosch #10) – Michael Connelly – finished 10/21/12

45. “Gone Girl” – Gillian Flynn – finished 10/25/12

46. “The Closers” (Harry Bosch #11) – Michael Connelly – Finished 10/27/12

47. “Echo Park: (Harry Bosch #12) -Finished – 10/31/12

48. “The Overlook” (Harry Bosch #13) – Michael Connelly – Finished 11/4/12

49. “The Hunger Games” (Book One of the Hunger Games Trilogy) – Suzanne Collins – Finished 11/9/12

50. “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Margaret Atwood – Finished 11/13/12

51. “Catching Fire” (Book Two of The Hunger Games Trilogy) – Suzanne Collins – Finished 11/18/12

52. “Mocking Jay” (Book Three of the Hunger Games Trilogy) – Suzanne Collins – Finished 11/23/12

*Audio book previously listened to.

** Audio book previously listened to multiple times.

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Filed under 2012 Book List, Audio books, in the news, misty eyes, NaBloPoMo 2012, politics

Pooch Ponderings – Sandy go?

Hi guys! It’s been like forever since I got a post all to myself huh? Anyway, something is going on and I don’t know what. It sounds like we’re going to a place called Sandy or something. Mom keeps saying Sandy go. So I guess we’re going somewhere. Maybe it’s just a sandy place? Does anyone know? It’s kinda sandy here though. Well not kinda, really. It’s more like dirt though. And no grass.

Today she started getting out the things she took when we left the school place and came here. She hasn’t gotten those things out since we came here. My other person has and he’s left before with those things but Mom never gets those things out and we’ve never gone with my other person. He’s not getting stuff out though. Does that mean he’s not going?

Today we went to the big place with other dogs where usually we come home and I get new things to chew on. I didn’t get anything new to chew on though! Mom touched a bunch of things and finally put one on the floor for me and asked if I wanted it. I can’t chew that. Whatever. Mom talked to a lady about my feet and clipping. Ooooh noooo I thought, leave my feet alone! They messed with my feet there once before long ago with Dude and that one lady in the big van messed with my feet not that long ago. But I guess the lady told mom something she didn’t like because we left and that’s when she asked if I wanted the flat thing. We took it when we left and then we stopped somewhere and my other person left and came back with yummy smelling things then we stopped at another place and mom got that smelly brown stuff she loves to drink so much.

We got home and Mom put the flat thing on the floor and Timmy went crazy running on it and jumping on it but I didn’t so Mom took me outside and then put the flat thing where my other flat thing is and put my chew bones on it and I lay on it and she told my other person it’ll be perfect for the hotel and even the car. Hotel?

Then she cut up one of the yummy smelling things and made noises like she was happy and she talked about Gamma a lot. Gamma? We haven’t seen Gamma in a long time. She said it was weird to be getting stuff ready to take to Gamma when we used to always bring stuff home from Gamma’s. Maybe we’re taking yummy stuff to Gamma? She used to always give me bananas and now Mom does.

So it was a strange day and I wonder what this Sandy go thing is she keeps talking about. I hope it’s fun though. Will there be other dogs? Does anyone know what Sandy go is?

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Filed under coffeeholic, Doggy Diaries, dogs, Gamma, Jayden, NaBloPoMo 2012, num num food, pooch ponderings, Timmy

“The Blanket” – My First Short Story

Back when I took the F2K Free Creative Writing course, I discovered how much I love writing short stories. After several lessons were under our belts, we were given a short story challenge. Participation was voluntary and if we so desired, we could try our hands at the guidelines. These were, write a story with a beginning, middle and end, one thousand words or less, containing these three objects: a blanket, a TV stand and an empty glass.

I couldn’t believe the ideas these three objects sparked. Long time readers of my blog will be familiar with this since I’ve asked you to submit these objects that I call sparks for a few short stories here. The first story I wrote is dear to my heart and I had originally posted it on the blog until a fellow writer told me if I ever wanted to publish the story, it couldn’t be published elsewhere. I contacted one publication that focuses on the kind of material this story is about but they don’t publish fiction.

I’ve decided the story doesn’t belong anywhere if not that publication or right here at the Roof. It has been just sitting in my computer collecting dust and a writer wants her creativity to be experienced by others. So, I decided Thanksgiving would be a good day to publish my first ever short story here. I hope you enjoy it!

Word Count: 993

“The Blanket”

The sun was setting as I left, a slight chill in the air. My name was called from the direction of the smokers, and as I turned, I saw Troy breaking free of the haze as he tossed his smoke and jogged toward me.

“Troy, congratulations my man.” I took him into a warm hug.

“Pat, thanks. And thank you for being a part of this last year. I have a favor to ask you…” he trailed off, as if afraid to continue. He often called me is sober mom, since I was old enough to be. When he walked into the rooms a year ago, he was the shell of a boy lingering on the threshold of manhood. How things change, I thought. I urged him to ask his question by saying nothing, only squeezing his hand.

“I watch you crochet those blankets,” he began sheepishly, “and I wonder if you’d make me one. I’ll pay you.” His eyes filled with tears and for a second, I couldn’t speak. I hadn’t expected that, the question, nor the show of emotion.

“Of course I’ll make you a blanket but you can pay me by explaining why asking for it filled those beautiful baby blues with tears.” I grinned at him and he relaxed.

“Deal. Can you make it in shades of green?”

“You got it darlin.” He had no other requests as to the pattern or anything, just shades of green. Interesting, I thought as I walked to my car.

Over the next few weeks, I worked on his blanket. When I crochet something for someone,a little love goes in to every stitch. I thought about Troy and how far he had come, and a few tears even made their way into the strands of yarn. When the finishing touches were added, and the blanket washed, I called Troy and we met for coffee.

As we settled in, whisps of smoke in the air and Nirvana spilling from the speakers, the blanket tucked neatly into a bag at my feet, I faced Troy, sipping the bitter espresso. “Ok, you know the deal, spill.”

Troy sighed and took a long pull on his mocha. “My mother crocheted me a blanket when I was 16. I mean, sure it was nice and all, but hell, I was 16. I wanted cds and nudey mags, you know? I don’t think I ever even used it, but I always had it, even when I left at 18, immersed in my drinking. I started dating this girl who found it and washed it and draped it over my couch. It looked so stupid. A crocheted blanket in shades of green on my stained, beat up blue couch,” he laughed and took another long pull of his mocha.

“When I was 19, mom was killed in a drunk driving accident. She was the drunk one. I hated her for that.”

I sat there, the warmth slowly fading from my cup.

Troy continued, “ironically, I hated her for being what I was becoming. One night some buddies were over and we got loaded. One of the guys ended up puking everywhere. I was already blacked out by then. Another guy grabbed that blanket off the couch, mopped up the vomit, and took the blanket to the dumpster.”

“I woke up the next morning, sprawled on the floor by the tv. I reached up and touched my aching head and it was sticky with blood. I had fallen into the tv stand the night before and busted open my eyebrow. I remember staring at an empty glass next to the tv. Had that been my glass? I still don’t know. I don’t remember how I found out about the blanket, but I remember running to the dumpster, only to find it completely empty. The damn trash man had already been there. I drank even more in those last few months, eventually landing myself a good ol’ DUI and walking into my first meeting after a nudge from the judge. When my head started clearing, and I saw you making those blankets, I knew I needed one.”

He stopped talking and flopped back onto the couch, fishing in his pocket for a cigarette. He tried lighting it with shaking hands, until I took the lighter and lit it for him. I didn’t speak and neither did he. When he was done smoking, I reached down and handed him the bag. He gingerly removed the blanket from the bag, lovingly caressing the different textured yarns in many shades of green. Finally he broke down, leaning forward with his head in the folds of the blanket arms on his knees, shoulders wracking with sobs. Now a grown man, unabashedly sobbing in the coffee shop.

We could have looked like mother and son there in that hazy shop, as I set my cup down and wrapped him in my arms as the blanket soaked up his tears. When he had calmed, he sat up and gave me a winning smile, mouthing the words, thank you.

“No, thank you,” I whispered. Brushing his hair from his forehead I said, “I knew that story would be the best payment you could have given me for this blanket. You are a miracle my son. I’m so honored to be a part of your amends to your mom.”

His eyes widened. “Amends?”

I sat back and smiled. “How do we make amends to the dead? We live our lives with grace and dignity and maybe we recreate something we lost of them. Isn’t that what you did?” He laughed and said he hadn’t thought of it that way, but agreed that I was right.

The sun was setting as we left the coffee shop, hand in hand, mother and son in sobriety, his story still swimming in our minds, a part of both our pasts now, and pushing us forward into the future, one day at a time.

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Filed under coffeeholic, crochet, gratitude, holiday, misty eyes, NaBloPoMo 2012, plugs, short story challenge, sobriety, writing

“Beginner’s Guide to Echolocation for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Learning to See With Your Ears” by Tim Johnson

When I began Orientation and Mobility lessons a few months after going blind, I was amazed to learn that using a white cane involved so much more than just interpreting sensations in the hand holding the cane. My instructor, Dave, taught me to begin paying attention to sounds outside my apartment. Hear that traffic? If you ever get turned around, listen for the traffic and use the sound to point yourself in the direction of your apartment. Years later I would use this skill after arriving home with my guide dog while he was learning the lay of the land.

Dave also taught me how to listen for buildings and hear the difference between a flat building front and an alcove or covered area. I used this a lot while learning my home area since those sounds became landmarks. Instead of the mailbox on the corner letting me know I was close to my destination, the different sound the cane made as I passed by an aluminum overhang became my landmark.

Dave taught me how to tell which lane a car was in as we stood next to a three lane road. He would stand me near a bend in a busy street and have me point to where I thought the intersection was. In buildings and stores he would have me stop and listen for the sounds of a cash register or talking. When I expressed fear of entering a public bathroom alone, he found a blind female coworker who told me to listen for the sounds of the sinks, the hand dryers, the paper towel dispensers, the flushing toilets. Remember those sounds in relation to the door and you’ll be fine.

As I learned all these skills I couldn’t help but remember a television documentary I had watched with B back when I was blind in just one eye. This documentary was about a boy who lost his eyes as a baby. B and I watched in amazement as this boy road his bike, skateboarded, shot basketballs and didn’t miss, all by clicking his tongue. When the program ended I turned to B and said, “I should learn that in case my other eye goes blind.” I clicked my tongue a few times but the thought of losing my other eye never seemed like a reality. Who knew a year later I would begin to learn the basics of echolocation without even knowing it.

When I read “Beginner’s Guide to Echolocation for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Learning to See With Your Ears” by Tim Johnson, I found myself remembering those early days of O & M Lessons with Dave and smiling. While learning to navigate the world without sight was frustrating and terrifying, there were also some really fun times. This book was a refresher for me in many ways but it also introduced new skills and concepts. It can be exhausting moving around the world with your ears. Johnson gives examples of relaxing exercises and techniques to practice to assist with honing your hearing, decipher sounds and open your mind. I think this is invaluable to help with energy conservation. I have found myself focusing on these things in the days since I read this book.

Johnson makes it clear that this book is not a replacement for O & M lessons with a qualified instructor. He also gives information about centers where one can go to specifically learn echolocation. I would love to be able to attend this kind of training! I remember when I was first blind, navigating around my apartment and stopping just before I hit a wall. I remember telling people, “I heard the freaking wall!” I really enjoyed reading this book and finding out in detail just how it worked that day I heard the wall.

Johnson explains sound waves and why certain objects sound the way they do when a click or clap bounces off of them and back to the ears. He explains how the visual cortex in the brains of the blind still function, allowing us to build images in our minds from the things we feel and hear. I ate this information up since I love brain science. When I finished this book I felt brain tired, just like I do when I read books about science. I love it! I also had an aching tongue from all the clicking I did as the book described different techniques. Johnson flawlessly uses descriptions to teach you all the different ways you can click.

I recommend this book for anyone, blind or sighted. Even if you are not interested in learning echolocation, it is still a fascinating read for anyone who enjoys learning something new. “The Beginner’s Guide to Echolocation” is available in print from Amazon with large print available and audio coming soon. You can also download the book in MS Word format to read with your screen reader.

We don’t think about the kinds of echolocation we use every day. Whether using a white cane or a guide dog, if we can hear, we can see our surroundings as we move through the world with our mobility aids. There are even some days I can tell when it’s cloudy, just based on how different the traffic sounds. I don’t know about you, but I am grateful to be able to sharpen all my tools as I continue trudging along on this sightless journey. My thanks to Tim Johnson, for devoting his time and skills to this book!

*Addendum* Exciting news! I heard from Tim Johnson and the audio book is now available for download here, and will soon be available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes!

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Filed under Adjustment to blindness, Amazon, blind opinion, cool product, gratitude, guide dogs, NaBloPoMo 2012, Orientation and Mobility, plugs, white cane