Category Archives: accomplishment

I’m Home

It wasn’t a geographical in the AA sense of things, since I wasn’t running away from something, I was running to something. And I think I’ve found way more than I bargained for.

That was the thought running through my head this morning that made me run to my computer after refilling my coffee, knowing I needed to write a blog post. I got out of bed early today since I lay awake thinking of how close I was to finishing the first draft of the memoir – finally. I used NaNoWriMo this year to fully commit to the memoir. I studied memoir in October, reading “The Memoir Project” by Marion Roach. The book was recommended on Twitter by Josh Hanagarne @JoshHanagarne), author of “The World’s Strongest Librarian”, and I will be forever grateful to him for that recommendation. The book showed me how to structure the memoir and how to plan to write it. It showed me to find the message I wanted to convey, and that helped me narrow down which parts of my life were relevant.

What I have is a 50,550 (cool number, eh?) word sketch draft of this memoir, with the ending I imagined while doing my prep work.

I have a finished, first terrible draft of a book!

I’m pretty sure it’ll be longer than what I have now, because as I wrote, I would remember things that will need to go in, but I just jotted those down as notes to be added during rewrites. I’ll be learning Windows and Jaws *gulp* for the editing process, because the Mac and Voiceover is sorely lacking in the word processing department. Luckily, I’m in the right place with a Windows geek who can help me with that. Pray for him. *wink wink*

When last I posted, I listed all the challenges I’d been through with my benefits. I had planned to post again with fun stories about moving here, and I’ll still do that, but not in this post. Today I just wanted to post about finishing my first draft, because the feeling is incredible. I’ve finished multiple drafts of two short stories now, and those felt great, but finishing the first draft of this memoir, a book that’s been fighting to get out since way back when I had a Blogger blog, feels absolutely incredible.

I think it’s this move to Washington. It felt like home before I ever got here, and I’m so grateful it has felt more and more like home the longer I’ve been here. My creativity has grown in leaps and bounds here. I can stand outside in the front yard and just be, just listen and feel and smell. It’s so alive here! Everything is alive. Grass, trees, the nearby ocean that I smell when I step outside, everything is living, including me.

Without a doubt, I know this is home now. though I suppose we’ll see what I say in February, eh?

I’ve had to put some money down on warm stuff, but not much. I got thermal underwear on Amazon that I wear every day under my sweats and three tops, ha! David’s, and now my, friend took me to Value Village for a member’s only sale. This woman knows how to bargain hunt! I got two winter coats and a bunch of warm stuff to wear around the house. I’m currently wearing wool socks, thermal pants, sweats, a tight tank top, thermal shirt, fleece shirt, hoodie, NaNoWriMo beanie, and fingerless gloves. I’m pretty much warm, ha! I freaking love it!

It’s not so fun when it’s wet, but I’m getting used to it. The raincoat I bought for guide dog school hangs in the mud room, ready to grab to keep dry, and I’m waiting on a rain coat I ordered from GDB for Jayden. I certainly never expected to be buying a doggy raincoat. I never expected to move to Washington, either, so it just goes to show how unreliable expectations are. Tip: don’t have expectations, and prepare yourself for the unexpected.

Near the end of October, while I was preparing for NaNoWriMo and taking a fiction writing class, we met up with some of David’s family and went to the Hobuck beach at Neah Bay. David, his son, and cousins, all surfed. In the cold. I’ll be trying it in the summer if all goes as planned. Hey now, watch those expectations.

For Thanksgiving, we went to David’s parents’s house for salmon dinner. A lot of Salmon is eaten here, which is excellent, because salmon is a good anti-inflammatory food. Antiinflammation food? Hmmm. Anyway, we eat a lot of salmon and I love it.

There have been challenges. I’m still ironing out all the benefits stuff. It turns out that Medicare does follow you from state to state, but if you have a Medicare advantage plan like I had in Arizona, tying Medicaid and Medicare together with an insurance company like United Healthcare, you have to do more than just cancel your state’s Medicaid. Unbeknownst to me, my Medicare stuck to Arizona even after I cancelled Medicaid, and the only reason I found out was because when my new doctor tried to write a neurology referral, my new health group didn’t take my Arizona insurance, which I thought I had cancelled. Long story short, I had to call Medicare and get on a basic plan, and get on a prescription drug plan. As far as I understand it, everything should be straightened out on December 1, and I’ll officially be a Washingtonian, *knock on wood*.

I wasn’t planning on going into all that, but the fingers write what the fingers write. I have another call to make about my Medicaid, because I have a navigator woman with my medical group, who said I should not be on that ridiculous spend down thing. So fingers crossed she’s right.

So there’s another update for you, my one dear reader *cough* Torie *cough*. I’m thinking as I revise the memoir, maybe I’ll post things that end up on the cutting room floor. Though perhaps not until I know for sure. Better safe than sorry.

***Tip*** When taking your dog to the beach, no matter how short a leash you have him on, he’s still at risk for beach gut. Did you know that’s a thing? Yup, that’s a thing. My did Jayden get sick. Silver lining: I took him to the neighbor’s vet, which I really liked.

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Filed under accomplishment, coffeeholic, family, GDB, gratitude, holiday, Jaws, Jayden, Microsoft, num num food, twitter me this, vet visit, Voiceover, weather, writing

Moving State with a Disability

I’ve needed to write a post about moving and simply have not gotten around to it. Then this morning, it occurred to me how I can sum it all up with the aid of lists. So let’s see how this works. I’ll attempt to briefly sum up the reason for the move, and then add some lists. Ready? Here we go.

I’ll not give details, but B and I split up and tried to stay in the house in Tucson as roommates, since I didn’t exactly have easy options for moving out. Life tends to offer little choice when living on disability, as I’ve learned all too well. Our lease was up at the end of September, and we were going to go month-to-month while I figured out what I was going to do.

I had a plane ticket to Washington to test things out. Doctors have told me for years to move to a cooler climate, and it seemed as though the Universe were nudging me to finally act on that advice. I had met someone on an iPhone app called Vorail, which is a voice only social network. You can see why the blind flocked to it, ha! His name is David and we quickly formed an intense friendship. He came to Tucson in early July and we clicked.

So, August 15 was to be the start of a test here in Washington, but then it turned out that B and I would not be going month-to-month after the lease was up, so I had nothing to return to.

I packed everything up and put it into storage in Tucson and brought with me to Washington, three suitcases, a backpack, and Jayden.

Crazy right?

I could drone on about the travel day, but really there’s not much to say, other than I bawled my eyes out that morning after the movers came back and took my bed and my friend picked me up to drive me to the airport. Thanks Maritza, miss you! Leaving Tucson, the only city in which I’ve ever lived, for good? I didn’t yet know. Tears rolled down my face as the plane taxied and a man behind me told stories to his son about the things he saw out the window, how the airport had looked decades ago. I cried as I thought about my grandpa having been the accountant for the airport and how, at his retirement party, he was presented with two cakes made up to look like Alka-Seltzer tablets.

The roller coaster of emotion I had been on for months was taking another loop-the-loop. I was so excited to get here to David, to meet his nine year-old son, to see the house I’d heard so much of over vorail and FaceTime, to meet his family, to be near the ocean, but I was leaving my entire life behind. I was so grateful I had Jayden with me.

So that, in a nutshell, is the how and why I have been in Washington state for two months. Now for the lists of things I’ve experienced and learned that I think will be valuable for other disabled people contemplating a move to a different state. *Disclaimer: The following experiences have been my own and may not be the same for every state and/or every person with a disability.

Moving state when you live on disability

• Transferring your benefits is nerve wracking and scary, especially if you have a chronic condition like I do.

You can’t have benefits in two different states, but you’re limited as to how long you can be out of the state where you have current benefits. In other words, if you have an emergency situation, your hospital is covered by Medicare, but any medications are covered by your state, in my case AZ. I had a bout of diverticulitis after being here two weeks, Medicare covered my hospital but my medications weren’t covered. While I was recovering and sick from antibiotics, I was helping the hospital via the phone to get my AZ insurance stuff settled.

Rule of thumb: as far as I can tell Medicare is national and follows you. Medicaid is by state.

• Refill your medications before you go, and try to have more than a month on you.

Luckily, I was able to get three months of my meds before i left Tucson, all but my MS medication Gilenya. That’s been another scary thing, since I knew I’d be between insurance coverage. Luckily, I can get Gilenya straight from the pharma company temporarily until I get my insurance stuff settled, which is still a work in progress but will take a second post to explain. Maybe next Sunday ha!

• Do all this insurance research stuff before you leave your state.

I did not. Everything was happening so fast before I left Tucson, that figuring out benefits wasn’t high on my to do list. I thought, how different can it be? Mistake. Big mistake. Don’t assume anything. Medicare and your Social Security benefits are the only things that stay the same, but the majority of your day-to-day medical care, like doctors appointments, medications, and medical tests are covered by your new state’s Medicaid and those programs are vastly different. Luckily I now have Washington state benefits and the application process was much less of a headache than it was in Arizona, that’s for sure. But, their program is much, much more confusing than AZ.

* Be prepared for stress as you learn your new benefits plan.

Because I was honest about the chunk of my inheritance from Gamma I get every month, and because I can’t pay David rent lest his benefits get affected, I am not considered medically needy, which means I have a deductible of $3,400. Which resets every six months. I need to keep track of all my medical receipts and submit them to Medicaid every six months to prove I’ve met the deductible, or spend down as they call it. This means my Gilenya would need to be paid for out of pocket before the spend down is met. Thank God the Pharma company is helping, because I cannot miss a dose, and I don’t have $1,200 laying around every month.

• You’ll need a credit card.

I should say that all this is just one person’s experience, so don’t take what I write here as fact for everyone in every state with every disability. I could have done all this with no credit card, had I had plenty of time to get everything arranged, but I needed to put my stuff in storage and had no credit card. I don’t know what people do who don’t have a good support system, I really don’t. I’m also pretty scared about what’s going to happen with my medical stuff with no credit card and this spend down thing, but luckily there’s an agency here whose primary purpose is to help the disabled navigate the system. It’s called the Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement (WAHA), and they helped me feel a little better about how I’m going to handle things.

• Take plenty of time to plan a move to a different state.

That’s my advice to anyone on benefits due to their disability. Give yourself plenty of time if possible. Moving is expensive for anyone, and when you have to worry about your benefits, the whole thing gets very overwhelming. Disabled housing takes years to get, so you’ll need to have a place to stay where you’re welcome for an extended period of time. If your temporary address is with another person on benefits, be aware that your presence might very much affect their benefits, which will affect yours since you won’t be considered to have shelter expenses.

Those bullet points are the things I can think of today that other folks on benefits might benefit (haha) from knowing before a big move. The most disheartening thing about all this has been feeling like I’m not supposed to fall in love with a blind guy. I’ve known that benefits are not family friendly, and now I really know it. I feel like, oh you’re disabled? Oh we forgot to tell you that you don’t have the freedom to pick up and move where you like, or to fall in love with who you like. I’ll be applying for disabled housing since combining incomes when you’re on benefits just does not work. How lovely.

and for Heaven’s sake, if you get a little extra from a family inheritance, be prepared for it to hinder more than help. Do I use it to buy the things I need for life in a cold climate that’s good for my health, or to pay my medical bills I’ll wrack up thanks to my health? My dad said, honesty is the best policy, unless it isn’t.

I wanted to end this post with more entertaining facts about my move, but I’m feeling rather mentally unstable today. Writing fun stuff would probably help, but I’m so tired after writing the frustrating stuff. I suppose this is motivation to write again soon, eh? I realized today that I’ve neglected the blog so much because I wasn’t living life. Now that I’ve moved, I’m living again! I know I was meant to move here, know it with all my being and I won’t let all the red tape kill my happiness. Not totally anyway. I need to have days like today to remind myself of how good I have it.

My next post will include pointers for moving from a hot climate to a cold one, and a story about a drone that nearly drove my dog insane.

***Parting thoughts: If your poop bag malfunctions first thing on Sunday morning, be prepared to have a shitty day.***

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Filed under accomplishment, family, fellowship, Gamma, gratitude, humor as coping skill, Jayden, transitioning

Link as Catalyst for Quick Post

Hello from Ro Land. This is just a quick post to say that a huge update, I mean HUGE, is needed here, but the catalyst for my posting this quickly is to share a link about five people who have made the best of their vision loss and found great careers. I was contacted here and given this link, and I always love positive stories about people deciding not to lay down and give up. So, please enjoy this article.

Speaking of people not giving up when they experience vision loss, have I got a story for you! Guess who’s not in Arizona right now? This girl!

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Filed under accomplishment, Adjustment to blindness, plugs, They landed here

November’s Audio Books and NaNoWriMo

Well, I did it! I got my first NaNoWriMo win! I wrote at least two thousand words a day for fifteen days straight before I practically collapsed from exhaustion and took a day off. I think the writing advice that one must write every day is absurd and dangerous. Writing is exhausting work since the mind is going non-stop while creating a novel.

I have learned so much about what kind of writer I am, from before the month of November and then even more so during it. NanOWriMo suits me well since I’m a drafter, meaning I write non stop until something is finished and then go back and edit. So, I’ve got 50,300 words of Vivian and the King and I passed the midpoint of my outline. I’m guessing the novel is about half complete, or maybe three-quarters complete. the first draft that is. Then I’ll go back and revise revise revise.

I’m in love with the story and the characters. They have taken me to places I never imagined when I began outlining and brainstorming the idea for Vivian and the King. I wasn’t sure if it would be a stand-alone novel or a series, and while I worked on it and worked out plot holes and problemes, I decided it will be a trilogy. I am so, so excited!

for those who followed my journey on Twitter and Facebook, you saw my excitement when I realized how to make it a trilogy. Presently, I’m a little too tired to convey that excitement here.

I crossed the finish line on Saturday while sprinting with someone I met on Twitter, after the virtual write-in I was expecting didn’t happen. What I mean by sprinting is, we agreed on a thirty minute sprint and set a timer. the point is to write write write and see how much you can write in thirty minutes. I did 1,300, which pushed me over the finish line. then I collapsed on the floor, sobbing. Not really, but I’m just slightly exhausted, ha!

I was keeping track of books I read this month but put no effort into working on this post. I read out of genre, meaning I stayed away from anything similar to Vivian and the King. I took today, the thirtieth, off of any sort of writing and forgot I wanted to fill in the details of this post after having gathered links yesterday. Oops! I am so cogfogged! Pardon the lack of details for most of these. You forgive me, right?

Ok, on to books.

*Eleven books this month*

99. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte – narrated by Emma Messenger

Finished November 30

I can’t remember if I read this in high school but I really don’t think I did. I think I would have remembered it. I picked it up since one of my favorite authors, Lyndsay Faye, has a book out in March that’s a retelling of Jane Eyre called Jane Stele.

wow is Jane Eyre good! I had no idea what to expect going into it. I avoid publisher’s summaries whenever possible. The above linked version is super inexpensive since it’s a public domain work. The narration is wonderful. What a good book!

98. “Legend” (Legend book 1) by Marie Lu – narrated by Mariel Stern and Steven Kaplan

Finished November 25

My author friend on Twitter turned crack dealer I mean gift giver gifted me this book and it was so good except there are two more in the trilogy and I have to wait fore Audible credits to finish the trilogy and my dealer ahem Twitter pal keeps talking about the other books and OMG make it stop! I think she gets a cut from the publisher. Kidding, kidding.

Good book though. YA dystopia. Since I mentioned above that I read out of genre of my novel, you now know my novel is not a YA dystopia. Pay attention to the clue, folks. *wink wink*

@Marie_Lu

97.“The Promise” by Robert Crais – narrated by MacLeod Andrews and Luke Daniels

Finished November 23

*Note I jotted while reading:

Close to current events.

*End note

by current events, I mean Paris. This book is the sequel to the bbook, suspect, which has a k9 officer. The follow-up definitely did not disappoint.

96. “All the Stars in the Sky” (Until the end of the World book 3) by Sarah Lyons Fleming – narrated by Julia Whelan

finished November 20

This is the third book in a trilogy so read on. OMG these books. So good! I mean so good! Zombies are not the worst thing about the zombie apocalypse. And the author is quite friendly on Twitter. I can’t wait for her next series. More zombies!

@SLyonsFleming

95. “And After” (Until the end of the World book 2) by Sarah Lyons Fleming – narrated by Julia Whelan

Finished November 18

Have someone to talk to when you read these books. I kept tweeting the author but I had to be spoiler free. Oh and have the tissues handy.

94. “Until the End of the World” (Until the End of the World book 1) by Sarah Lyons Fleming – narrated by Julia Whelan

Finished November 16

*Squeak*

93. “So Long, Lollipops”(The free ‘Until the End of the World’ Novella) by Sarah Lyons Fleming – narrated by Julia Whelan

Finished November 13

Note I jotted after finishing:

I am so getting the rest of this series! How brilliant of Audible to give this one away for free. I’m hooked!

*end Note

And I immediately went and got the rest of the series after listening to the preview of book one at the end of the novella. I picked up the free one because my fav Julia Whelan narrates. I needed more of her when Paris happened and she does the whole series.

92. “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler – narrated by Ray Porter

Finished November 12

good book. I didn’t like it as much as I did “The Long Goodbye”. Good though.

91.“Blind” by Rachel Dewoskin narrated by Annalie Gernert d

Finished November 11

I’m supposed to be reviewing this for Disability in Kid Lit but I haven’t heard back from them. If my review goes live, I’ll link to it here.

I will say I don’t recommend the book unless you’re blind and want to laugh at the inaccurasies.

90. “the Golden City” (fourth Realm book 3) by John Twelve Hawks – narrated by Scott Brick

Finished November 8

*Note jotted while reading:

Total gut punch moment holy crap. Wow. Just wow.
*And then when gdone:

Underwhelming ending.

*end note.

That quick note sums up my feelings on the trilogy. It was so good until the second half of the third book, and then nothing was resolved. Very disappointing.

89. “The Dark River” (fourth Realm book 2) by John Twelve Hawks – narrated by Scott Brick

finished November 4

Gulliver’s travels similarity.

I don’t remember why I jotted that note down. I didn’t even finish that book. For the review of the first book in this trilogy, it’s in last month’s post, the first heading level four.

So, have you narrowed it down to what genre Vivian and the King may be? Ha! Let’s play a game. I know people are still reading since I have hits in my stat counter. Leave me a comment and I’ll start talking about my novel if people are interested. 🙂

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Filed under 2015 Monthly Audio Book Lists, accomplishment, Audio books, NaNoWriMo, twitter me this, writing

July’s Audio Books, Jimmy Kimmel and Writing

What an absolutely crazy month July was, let me just get that out of the way ha! Crazy in a very good way. I was successful in submitting my first polished fiction. You can read about that in my last post. I’m waiting to hear back on that. There’s a submissions page where I can go to check on it and it’s just listed as “in progress”. If I remember correctly, the call for submissions said selected authors should know by the end of July. I can’t double-check that since the page has been taken down. so I’m not sure what it means that it’s still listed as “in progress”. At least it’s not listed as “rejected”. ha!

Jayden and I went to LA to a live taping of Jimmy Kimmel life, which was awesome. the guests were Owen Wilson (awesome!), The Bachelorette and her fiance (whatevs) and Juanez, who my friend and I checked out on Apple Music on the road between Indio and LA. Very cool Latin music. He passed us just outside the green room and said my dog is beautiful. Yeah he is. His segment of the show was performed outside. I’m not going into too much detail about this trip on my blog because—

—the afternoon before the Kimmel show I got an email in response to something I submitted months ago that involves non-fiction writing. Paid non-fiction writing. paid! I’m currently working with the person who selected me as one of the new freelance writers and I might be writing about the LA trip so I’m keeping details under wraps for now. The writing thing is really starting to feel real now. It’s kinda nice to write something totally stress free on my own blog ha!

What else about life? I’ll be ramping up research for the Egyptian book I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo. I want to get it all mapped out but I need more information first. I’ve developed a few of the characters which was totally fun. I love developing characters. What else? Oh yes, I mentioned reading a book for a book club and I said I’d include it in with my book post, however I’m going to wait and write about that when I’m done with it. We’re halfway through the book. In fact I need to ask if we should start reading the next half. Ok, on to books!

*7.5 books this month*

62. “Between You and Me: Confessions of Comma Queen” by Mary Norris – narrated by Mary Norris

Finished July 31

One of the authors I follow on Twitter retweeted an article that referenced this book but I can’t remember who tweeted it or where the article was. blame my addled brain this month, which was more addled than normal. This book bloody rocked. That’s all I got. I don’t know if it would interest a person not into words and writing like me, but I just loved this book. Notes I jotted today when nearly finished with it:

Pencils, #1, oh the memories. The way of doing things before computers. the store with all the office supplies and how she loved it. Mom and I in the stationary isle forever, the smell, the possibility. Office Max? Heaven. Her talking about pencils and erasors is freaking awesome. Mom’s mechanical eraser, I had forgotten all about that. Our electric pencil sharpener, I can still picture it.

end notes.

the author narrated which is usually pretty bad. She didn’t do a terrible job though and hearing her dry humor from her own lips was pretty awesome. Jokes sped by like a guy driving his mid-life-crisis car on the highway, so if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss the kitchy custom license plate.

Mary Norris sounded like my old choir director’s voice after a lot of singing and shouting during rehearsals. It was comforting haha. I just freaking loved this book.

Twitter: @marynorristny

61. “In the Unlikely Event” by Judy Blume – narrated by Kathleen McInerney

Finished July 28

A book by Judy Blume for adults? yes please. Judy Bloom is part of my childhood so I was super excited to hear that she wrote a book for adults. I had no idea this book was historical fiction, that the three plane crashes which the story is centered around really happened. I try not to read publisher’s summaries of books unless I’m checking out a daily deal or something. I just read the summary for ‘Unlikely Event’ and I have to wonder if knowing about the historical aspect would have changed the way I felt about the book.

There were parts that were downright creepy and I thought, wow, Bloom has one creepy imagination. She added a paranormal element to the story that may or may not have been part of what really happened in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the early 1950’s. It was a sometimes entertaining read with semi-interesting characters going through a truly terrible time in their lives.

It was crazy to read about what it was like for girls and women in the fifties. I mean we all know what it was like back then but Bloom’s writing made it seem so real. I’d recommend if you like stories about people and want to see Judy Bloom write about sex and use swear words, ha! Though really, this book is more along the lines of young adult than adult in my opinion. It was also rather soap opera-y at times.

I’m not a fan of this narrator. I read another book with dual narrators awhile back and she was one of them. I think she’d be great for children’s books. ‘Unlikely Event’ has many jewish characters and the narrator doesn’t even sound slightly Jewish when she says Jewish words. She’s also way too sugary sweet. This was a young adult book with a few adult situations and she sounds like a child trying to sound grown up.

@JudyBlume

60. “Paranoia: A Novel” by Joseph Finder – narrated by Scott Brick

finished July 21

This book took me a little longer than my usual reads since I was working on getting “That Meddling Dog” finished by deadline and also reading a book for a book club. I’ve decided to withdraw my campaign for president since it would cut into my writing, reading and baseball time.

“Paranoia” was not very believable unless I just don’t want to believe in corporate espionage. I mean I know it happens but I doubt it does to this extreme. None of the characters were likable and for the first few hours of the book I started wondering what I’d read next.

But then…

All of the sudden I was like yeah, that could happen, yeah, I’m rooting for this guy now, I dislike the people I’m supposed to dislike and mistrust the ones I’m supposed to mistrust. Right? When it was over I wasn’t ready to be done with the main characters. Now I think I’ll try and find the movie. they made a movie out of it right? This book was a daily deal and I think I remember Audible making it a daily deal because the movie was coming out or something. Really all I remember is that it was a Scott Brick narrated daily deal which means I get it no matter what it is.

Fun, entertaining, fast-paced read. *checks out Finder’s other books* Ooooh found another one narrated by Scott Brick. This is what I’m doing to help me get through a Rays game.

@joefinder

59. “Lexicon” by Max Barry – narrated by Heather Corrigan and Zach Appelman

finished July 14

Um, what? No really, what? What was this book about? I um, what? Can you please just click the above link and read the publisher’s summary? Because I don’t know what I read. I didn’t know what I was reading when I read it. What? It was good. the narration was good, especially Zach.

the book? Huh? Words. Yes. Words. Do I recommend? Huh? Action. Definitely action. Who what when where why? Huh? Whatevs.

Seriously though, there was something missing. I’m not sure what, but something was missing. There were also times of being completely lost that I did not enjoy, and edits I wanted to make. Beyond those things, it was an entertaining read.

@maxbarry

58. “The Long Goodbye” by Raymond Chandler – narrated by Ray Porter

Finished July 11

And I thought Michael Connelly was good. Wow. Raymond Chandler comes up in writerly circles as one to study so when this book came up as a daily deal, and narrated by Ray Porter, I snatched it up without a second thought.

I think I found the style of book to which Ray Porter isn’t quite well suited. Shocker, I know. I think someone like Scott Brick would have been a better Phillip Marlowe. Not to say Ray Porter was bad, that’s impossible. He’s just too current. He doesn’t have that noir sound. There is some Spanish though, which he’s really good at. So maybe that’s what got him the job.

Notes I jotted:

Comment to the writer, how’s the book coming?

*The writer in the book found this comment very annoying and I must say I agree with that sentiment, though when people don’t ask how the writing is coming, I feel like they don’t care, so there’s just no pleasing the writer.

“Maybe it’s the TV commercials. They make you hate everything they try to sell.

*This is me with radio commercials during game broadcasts. I am actively boycotting Subway as a result of their terrible commercials.

I loved this book. I’ll be reading more Chandler for sure.”

57. “Looking for Alaska” by John Green – narrated by Jeff Woodman

Finished July 8

I’m glad I watched a video (which is now unfortunately not available, sorry) of John Green talking about “Looking for Alaska” becoming a movie before I read the book, which Audible put up as a daily deal right around the time of the youtube video which I don’t think is a coincidence. Green says in the video that the book is very personal to him and when he sold the rights for the movie a decade ago, he had his misgivings but the money put his wife through college so yay and now he’s excited about the possibility of the movie because it has the same screenwriter as the movies for both “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns”. I read both those books and watched the TFIOS movie which I thought was wonderful and which made me cry just as much as the book.

I’ll probably watch the Paper towns movie since it’s John Green though I didn’t have a strong response to the book which I read last year on my Florida trip.

There were many similarities between “Paper Towns” and “Looking for Alaska” I think. I enjoyed ‘Alaska’ more, so I sure hope they make a movie of it for sure. And I just used the word sure twice. Oops.

Oh here, have some famous last words.

Twitter: @JohnGreen

56. “The Wrath and the Dawn” by Renee Ahdieh – narrated by Ariana Delawari

Finished July 7

I follow an author on Twitter named Lauren DeStefano. (@LaurenDeStefano) I haven’t yet read her books, but follow her because I think she’s hilarious. One of my favorite authors, Samantha Shannon, (@Say_Shannon) retweeted her at some point and that’s how I began following her. Lauren DeStefano did not write ‘Wrath’, she just forced all her followers to read it. No really, she did. She tweeted about it non-stop and when I looked it up and found it on Audible, the publisher’s summary intrigued me so I put it on my wish list. I bought it as a reward when I finished writing my piece of short fiction. I swear, it did not inspire the Egyptian novel I’m planning to write for NaNoWriMo this November haha. The setting is similar, but that’s about it. I couldn’t help smiling though, when parts of ‘Wrath’ made me think about the novel I’m developing.

If you enjoy young adult fiction, I highly recommend this book. It has everything from ancient royalty to teen marriage, to sword fights to curses and oh yes, a love triangle full of “YA hotness”.

The narrator is good, though I thought she had a rather harsh, serious tone to her voice, even during light hearted moments. She wasn’t whiny though, which can really ruin YA teen angst.

I hope there’s a sequel! I’ll read some Lauren DeStefano now as a thank you for the recommendation.

Twitter: @rahdieh

55. “The Winds of War” (winds of War book 1) by Herman Wouk – narrated by Kevin Pariseau

finished July 5

This book was split evenly between June and July. I’ve noticed I’m starting to prefer books in the fifteen hour range. These forty-five hour books can get tedious and book two in this series is even longer. Oy vey.

There were many times I almost took a break and moved on to something else. I’m not a fan of how this novel was written. Some chapters began with long excerpts from a fictional book written by a German who one of the narrators of ‘winds’, Pug, translates. The point of these excerpts is to sort of summarize what happened historically that is about to happen to the fictional characters. These chapters were tedious though, and for me, interrupted the flow of the narrative. ‘winds’ follows one family through World War II and just when something gets interesting with one branch of the family, we’re suddenly stuck with the fictional German book. It’s distracting.

There are also sudden changes in the style of the writing. Wouk gets all poetic and artful out of the blue, following the rise of the sun as it touches “our heroes”, or however he puts it. It’s such a sudden change in style, I found it jarring. I’m writing this on July 2, before I’ve finished the book and at this point, I’m just counting down for it to end. Parts of it are really fun but it’s just too long and my mind wanders often. I crave a good fast paced mystery.

Ok, finished this book last night. I had already written the above since I was going to include this book in last month’s post but changed my mind. There’s a second book but I need a break and it’s even longer than this one was. I’m not sure I can handle another one. So often it just felt like nothing was happening, and I wanted to urge it on like a song being played at too slow a tempo. I can’t say I recommend this book. There are so many excellent historical fiction novels around the second world war.

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My First Submitted Fiction – What A Ride

I need to just free write a post while my body calms down. I just submitted my final draft of ‘That Meddling Dog’ for the YA anthology. Now I wait. Will it be chosen? Will I get my first real rejection? What happens next?

I began work on the story on May 30 and received the final draft from my volunteer copy editor yesterday. the writing and revising was awesome, ending up five hundred words over the limit and getting it down to the six thousand, sending new revisions off to my friends and getting their feedback and talking about things that happened and how the story affected each reader differently and change this word for that and get rid of that story line all together because there’s no room for it and I wasn’t ready to introduce that character anyway but oh I still need to reference him ok let me just change his name.

All the creative stuff was awesome, naturally, then it was coming down to the wire, the story pretty much done, the surface so shiny from all the polishing that I could see my reflection and all that was left was formatting. the visual part.

I’ve known I have a trigger happy thumb. I’m sure it’s evident in this post since I’m not being careful at all, just getting thoughts down. I enter way too many spaces. There’s no way with Voiceover and my word processing program, Pages, to easily tighten up spacing issues. So I went character by character of a six thousand word document, deleting spaces.

Wanna hear a sample of that process?

After I got done deleting extra spaces, I went through and added all my paragraph indents. I do all my first drafts in a basic app called Text Edit, kinda like Notepad for Windows, since it’s the easiest for me to use with voiceover. When I’m writing my first drafts of a fiction story, I never remember to tab for paragraphs and dialogue and I’m not sure that would copy over to Pages anyway.

So I went through and added my tabs and then I counted the new lines of a blank document. fifty lines. I wanted to do that thing with new chapters so the chapter would begin halfway down the page, right? So I’d find the new chapter and press enter twenty-five times. In my head, there’s the white space for the chapters.

I exported the Pages document, was it twenty-seven pages or seventeen I can’t remember. Anyway, converted it to Word for my volunteer copy editor and sent it off Wednesday. Deadline Sunday. today is Saturday. Are you with me?

I’m feeling so good about it. Really good. I feel like the story is solid, the protagonist being a secondary character in the main novel I’ve had in my heart and have worked on for years, and the protag from that novel in the story too. I feel great about it. I’ve had fun hanging out with my kids and creating new ones.

Then Thursday morning, before I’ve had coffee, before I’ve played Trivia Crack, I check email on my phone.

Don’t check email on your phone when you haven’t had coffee or played Trivia Crack and you’re already a bundle of nerves from this whole process oh and when Brian is in Sedona for a conference and your sleep is all messed up from staying up all night on Tuesday in a Google hangout with your besties.

email from copy editor lets me know he found extra spaces and other formatting stuff. Extra spaces. After I spent two days going character by character to get rid of them. Words that aren’t capitalized, crazy stuff. Stuff I know I fixed right?

turns out, when you export from Pages to Word and vice versa, formatting errors occur. So I can’t just go through, read his comments, fix what I agree with, stet the rest. this isn’t going to work. I can’t fix those visual errors. I can’t figure out how to make his comments correspond to the area of the manuscript which they refer. I start to panic. I’ve worked so hard. I love this story.

I’m reminded that I’m blind.

later I talk to Ricardo on the phone. He looks at the document with voiceover on his Mac. We try and figure out the comments thing. It’s all so overwhelming. It’s Thursday and the deadline is Sunday. Should I send the manuscript to Amanda who is also blind but uses Jaws with Word? She can fix the formatting issues, keep it in the blind family. but then I still can’t convert back to Pages.

Oh crap I totally left out the cathartic screaming crying fit from earlier in the day. I threw myself on the bed and screamed into my pillow so hard it hurt. I sobbed and sobbed. the cats piled on the bed with me. All I want to be is a writer and there’s all these barriers.

When I’m talking to Ricardo I’m trying so hard not to let the tears come but they do because I can’t do this. I can’t be a writer. There are too many challenges. I need Jaws and Word. All those things I’ve heard for years about Mac and voiceover not working well for professionals, all those things are true. Who am I kidding? I’m a blind disabled nobody and that’s who I’ll stay.

No.

Fuck that.

Deep breath.

Talking to Ricardo. He’s saying all the things I know in my heart, all the things my doubts want to kill. Sure it’s hard. Sure there are barriers. But there are also resources. Amanda told me to use my tools. What are my tools.

Email from the Professor. He can fix the visual stuff. He can just do it, we can talk in the morning, Friday, then he sends me the Word file, I don’t touch it, I submit that.

I tell Ricardo. Should I do that?

Hell yeah!

Weight lifts from my shoulders. People. People are my tools. People are more than happy to help a person who’s doing as much of the hard work as she can on her own.

I think back to the meetings. God will do for me what I can’t do for myself. For me right now, god is those people.

I’m going to be a published writer. I know this. This experience has been so valuable. Even if TMD doesn’t get picked for the anthology, the things I’ve learned from making it the best story it could be are invaluable.

And if it does get published? It could be a launching point.

I struggled with whether to include in my bio that I’m blind. I don’t want to be picked because I’m blind I want to be picked based on the merit of the work. But then I thought back to my last job, the one voc rehab helped me get and they told me not to disclose my MS. Look where that got me? I didn’t get any of the help I needed to be successful while working with a debilitating disability and I went blind.

so I chose to disclose. If I’m going to use the resources available as a blind writer, I can’t pretend I’m not. Hey look at that, tense change. I’m really bad at staying in tense. Hehe! Wait, in tense. Hahaha. Oh but I am so intense at times. In tense. intense. I love freaking words.

I thought back to an essay I read years ago that pissed me off so bad I almost wrote about it here but chose not to. the essay was written by a visually impaired woman who had kept her impairment secret for the same reasons I almost did. She had to admit it though, because she was loosing more and more of her vision.

I was so angry at her at the time but now I get it. It sucks to have to look your weakness full in the face. it sucks to admit oh crap, I can’t do this all on my own. It sucks. It’s painful. I understand now why she wanted to hide it and how much pain she must have been in the day she decided to post that essay.

I have put myself out there now. Until today, five people read TMD. Two blind friends, a young adult friend, and two sighted friends. Friends. All people who care about me. Now the story is in the hands of strangers.

It’s like bearing your soul, which Strunk prepared me for when I read his book.

I slept and slept and slept last night. I woke up at eleven this morning, an hour into the Rays game. So not like me! I was, and still am, exhausted.

After the Rays won (yay!) I opened the submission manager. Deep breath. Heart began racing.

“My heart is racing,” I say.

“Why, because you guys won?” Brian asks.

“No, I’m about to submit the story.”

“Oh!”

He knows what a journey this has been. He’s heard me mumbling during revisions, that doesn’t sound right, how can I reword that, he knows how important this is to me.

Of course I ran into a quick technical issue while looking for the file, the only one on my desktop, to submit. Silly mac.

I clicked submit. There goes the bio I wrote, there goes my baby, bye!

“Your submission has been sent.”

Oy vey, right? Holy crap. I mean holy crap! I tweeted, then grabbed Timmy and went to cuddle him in bed. His purring soothes me. I lay in bed, collecting my thoughts, the feeling slowly returning to my feet.

Now we wait. I posted on Facebook that I’m equal parts sure it will be accepted and that I’ll get my first real rejection.

Whatever happens, I’ll keep writing. Ren and georgie insist on it and their story isn’t done. They’ve got at least an entire novel to appear in, if not two or three. And my friend Dulce made her appearance in TMD when I had to work in a flashback to explain something. We find out she had her first kiss. And Dulce the character needs to meet Jedi the dog, who will love her as much as Jayden loves the real Dulce.

This story isn’t over. It’s just beginning!

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Filed under accessibility, accomplishment, Adjustment to blindness, apple Inc, assistive technologies, baseball, cats, coffeeholic, faith, fellowship, gratitude, Jaws, Jayden, Microsoft, misty eyes, screen reader, silly girl, spoons, Timmy, twitter me this, Voiceover, writing

June’s Audio Books, Writing, Etc

I’m late on June’s post because I was going to include the book I’m currently reading which is seriously long and which I’m now half done with, but while working on the post today, I decided I’d just put that in with July’s books.

It’s a very busy writing time for me since I’ve been working on a piece of short fiction for this call for submissions for a YA anthology. Did I write about this last month? anyway, I’m super excited about it and the story is done (I wrote, The End, Lyndsay Faye!). I’m working on my second revision, third draft. The story is a prequel of sorts to the main YA novel I’ve had in my head for ages now. The deadline is the nineteenth and I’ll make it, for sure. I just need to trim around five hundred words or so to meet the word count limit, so sorry Thomas, the character I made up on the fly, you gawn. You’re not important to this story. Kill those darlings! though actually, he was a little shit anyway, and I’m not ready to develop that particular character who will indeed be in the main novel.

I’m also developing a new novel for this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which I’ll be doing for real. Between finishing the YA short story, working title “That Meddling Dog”, and November when NaNoWriMo starts, I’ll be mapping out the new novel and doing research once I decide in which direction I’ll be taking it. I already know about my protagonist and main plot device, but I don’t yet know if it will be Alternate history, historical fiction or a dystopian future. I’ll also be working on finishing the memoir so I can begin revisions. I’m pretty much writing full time now, though nothing yet to show for it other than pride, which is worth more than any dollar. too bad I can’t pay bills with pride. Ha! the money will come.

On to the books for June. Reading is all part of honing the craft. yay books! Oh right, also joined a baseball book club this month, so I’ll be adding the chapters we read in with my normal reads. All this while trying to keep up an exercise regime. At least I’m feeling pretty good, *knock on wood*!

Oh right, baseball. The Rays were in first place of the American League East for several weeks despite their many injuries. they’re slumping right now, so fell out of first, but they’ll be back at the top in no time, believe you me.

Ok, to the books for real. This post is not revised and polished like my fiction haha. I’d never get these monthly posts done if I spent all the time polishing that I do on my fiction.
*7.5 books this month*

54. “Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian” by E. L. James – narrated by Zachary Webber

Finished June 21

Ah, but how fun it is to read the Sharknados of literature. It’s like flipping through channels and pausing to watch some trashy movie one has seen a million times. That’s how I feel about these books.

The first three were truly terribly written, yet they kept my attention and wiled away the hours just like Sharknado and “Grey’ was no exception. Honestly, I just want to copy edit the entire collection and solve instances of, hey, wasn’t Christian just in that room? How is he now at the office Or, wait, is he leaning against the chair or the desk? James, do you not believe in revisions?

Still, no matter those flaws, and perhaps in spite of them, I find the books endearing.

‘Grey’ is just the first fifty Shades book retold from Christian’s perspective. It was fun to see what he was up to when the couple was not together, and the thoughts going through his mind. It was also nice being out of Ana’s head and not hearing about her stupid inner goddess. the male narrator was nice, too. Wait, nice? Is this nice?

This was simply a for fun book and I very much enjoyed talking about it with my friends. I’m also grateful I’ve read these books so when they are discussed on social media as being about abuse and rape, I can roll my eyes and think, have you *read* the books?

53. “The Fatal Flame” (Timothy Wilde book 3) by Lyndsay Faye – narrated by Kirby Heyborne

finished June 17

*sob* the end of a trilogy *sob* nooooooo! Damn, but can Lyndsay Faye write. She’s most definitely up there with my favorite authors and Timothy and Valentine Wilde are characters who will be with me forever. I’m going to miss them terribly!

What more is there to say about this book? I highly recommend the series so since I want you to read them, I don’t want to give anything away. Just go read them. My friend Brooke did and she loved them too.

Lyndsay Faye also very much inspired me as a writer when I listened to a podcast she did about the trilogy and her Sherlock Holmes book and her writing. I literally cheered out loud because neither of us were formally trained in writing, we both had a teacher in high school who was instrumental in the way we write and self edit and since all it took for her to become an author was dedication and hard work, I know it will happen for me, too. So cheers to Lyndsay Faye! I can’t wait for her next book which she talked about in the podcast which I’m not linking to because it’s spoilery for the timothy Wilde trilogy, so there. Just go read her books.

52. “The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving – narrated by Bob Asky (? Talking Books recording)

Finished June 14

This book is not available in English on Audible, which is interesting since it’s an American book. The copy I have is an old Library of Congress talking book, that’s why I put a question mark next to the narrator’s name above since I have no way to check spelling. The audio quality of this book was really bad, but I’m grateful for it since I remember enjoying the movie years ago and wanted to read the book. My friend Chupa loved the book as well, so now we can talk about it. I don’t want to go into detail about the book in case it makes you want to read it. Perhaps it’s easily available in print.

I’m not really sure how I feel about it, if I liked it. Parts of it were good and there were some laugh-out-loud moments but I’m not sure how I feel about taking such dark matters as rape and incest and spinning it into a tale of quirky humor. Then again, maybe that’s the only way some people are able to digest such serious topics. I’m definitely not depressed like I have been with other books about terrible things written without levity. So maybe I did like this book. Maybe I’m still digesting it since I just finished it this morning.

“Keep passing the open windows.”
“Get obsessed and stay obsessed.”

51. “The Coroner’s Lunch”(Dr. Siri Investigations book 1) by Colin Cotterill – narrated by Clive Chafer

Finished June 10

Several laugh-out-loud moments. Dry humor, deadpan narrator, coroner turned Sherlock Holmes with a paranormal element.

Good luck instead of cheers?

Those were the notes I jotted about this book while I was reading it. Very fun book, and part of a series which I will definitely be interested in checking out. I really thought perhaps it was translated because they kept saying “good luck” instead of “cheers” when they toasted. Maybe that was normal for the time and place in which this book was set, Laos, 1975. Good read, I recommend.

50. “The Killer Next Door” by Alex Marwood – narrated by Imogen Church

Finished June 8

This book gives Stephen King a run for his money. I’ve never had a weak stomach, but several times I wished I had not been eating while listening to it. It reminded me of the movie Seven with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. It had that sort of feeling of wrongness about it. It’s shiver making. It gave me the heebie jeebies and made me want to walk quickly away, put it in the freezer, hurry and get back to it…

I jotted those notes down yesterday and today I could not put the book down. Wow. I applauded when it was over. This book was filled with unimaginable, and unfortunately imaginable, horrors, yet I don’t want it to be over. I’m going to miss these characters. Every single one of them were real and relatable, even the um ok what is wrong with you characcters. I felt as though I could just as easily find myself in their situations. Well, maybe not all of their situations…

A freaking plus. I think I’ll start grading books as of now. Man, what on earth will I read next? I’m not at all sure what can follow this one.

*Note written July 3 – my paratransit driver creeped me out yesterday and I didn’t know why until I realized he reminded me of a character from this book. I tweeted this to the author, who replied with an evil laugh that her job was done. Authors, *fond shake of the head*.

Twitter: @AlexMarwood1

49. “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, E. B. White – narrated by Frank McCourt

Finished June 5

I immediately replayed this book after finishing it. Only being four hours long, it took no time at all and the information gathered was invaluable. The book was also just entertaining. The older I get, the more I enjoy educational books as long as I’m interested in the topic.

Stephen King recommended this in his book ‘On Writing’. That book was a huge influence on my writing. This one changed my life. It brought everything back to basics. Most invaluable? Write for an audience of one. Myself.

I felt like I was back in school and loved every minute of it. A lot of it was refresher, like continuing education. Many times during the listening, I felt invigorated as a writer. Nodding my head I thought, yes, that is what I do, or, no, I don’t make that mistake. On the other hand, I learned to “omit useless words” and never write, “the fact that”. Great fun for a word nerd!

48. “New York: the Novel” by Edward Rutherfurd – narrated by Mark Bramhall

Finished June 3

The first thing I noticed about this book was Rutherfurd’s tremendous understanding of human nature, making the characters and their emotions feel real. The book follows the stories of several generations of many families from before the Revolutionary War into the twenty-first century. The constant family is the Master family and it encounters members of other families throughout the decades, the lives of everyone weaving together seamlessly. I couldn’t help feeling a little sad when the female lines of the families faded out, but that’s reality.

The tone of the book shifted with the times, the thirties becoming looser than the late eighteen hundreds, the women becoming bolder, the social rules loosening.

An Italian family immigrates to the US and we arrive at Ellis Island with them. I rarely feel an overwhelming sense of pride for my country the way I did when the Italian immigrants saw the Statue of Liberty on their way to Ellis Island. There was a sense of majesty as Lady Liberty was discussed excitedly between the members of the family.
I was never bored. Not once. The passage of time blended together seamlessly. Time passed in the book the way it does in life – one experience after another. Absolutely brilliant. How Rutherfurd managed the pacing in such a monster of an undertaking astounds me.

I love historical fiction novels because even though I’m in my mid-thirties, I know very little about history. I’m working on changing that and historical novels are huge in that endeavor.

Twitter: @ERutherfurd

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Tampa Bay Trip – Day Three: Don Zimmer and Opening Day

My feelings as I mentally map this post are mixed. Today is the day I write the Opening Day post. My First Opening Day and Don Zimmer’s last. He passed away peacefully last night and the evening became full of Don Zimmer memories from all over baseball. My eyes would dry and then another tweet would come through with another story, Dave and Andy would call a play and tell a story, pictures were imagined, Zim with Longoria’s fiance Jaime and baby Elle, Zim on the golf course with Jackie Robinson, my eyes were in a constant state of damp. The post-game show was a Life and Times of Don Zimmer and when they played the interview with Joe Maddon tearing up I couldn’t hold back the sobs. At the end of the show they interviewed Longoria and the heartbreak in his voice rang like a ball squared up just right before sailing out of the park. He and Zim were very close as was the entire Rays organization. Zim was their senior baseball advisor for the last eleven years. This was his sixty-sixth season in baseball.

This morning I read many wonderful articles about this baseball icon and I would like to share a few before I get to recounting my experience on Opening Day.

Don Zimmer, a baseball icon who was one of us, dies at 83 – Tampa Bay Times

Rays advisor Don Zimmer, widely seen as a baseball treasure, dies – Tampa Bay Times

Statement from Don Zimmer’s Family – Tampa Bay Times

Don Zimmer Tributes – Tampa Bay Times

Don Zimmer simply loved baseball – ESPN (Autoplaying media)

Don Zimmer was baseball icon: had fans everywhere, even an unusual place – Arizona Daily Star

I obviously did not know Don Zimmer. I heard several people last night say they could imagine him smacking them upside the heads and telling them to get on with it and call the game/play the game write about the game so that is what I will now do. It was not lost on me last night that I was due to write about my first Opening Day which was also Don Zimmer’s last.

So the morning of Opening Day 2014 wasn’t separated from March 30 by even a wink of sleep. Was it excitement that kept me awake all night? The fact that I had a sixty-five pound dog with me in the double bed? Jet lag? Looking back I’m sure it was a combination of all of it.

I was laying in bed when I heard the first seagulls start screaming. I remember laying there, checking my phone , thinking I should stay in bed and rest since I hadn’t slept but it was Opening Day!

I made some lukewarm coffee before feeding Jayden. I decided I would take him out on my own since Manda wouldn’t be at my room until around 10:30. Jayden found his litter box just fine but then we couldn’t find the room again. We walked around for awhile, not having much luck. The kids weren’t in the pool yet which was too bad since that was a great sound source. Luckily a jogger came buy and I called out when I heard the footsteps and heavy breathing. He stopped to help and I told him what room I was in. I didn’t like the idea of giving a passerby my room number but when I had tried to call the hotel, I got no answer. What was I supposed to do?

“This must be horrible for you,” he said as he led us to the pool area.

“No one likes getting lost,” I said. Um. Wow. Too late I wished I had launched into this amazing experience that was happening because I went blind. That was such a long story and honestly when the sighted say things like that, it’s just their own fear coming out. It wasn’t that he was saying it was horrible for me, he was saying it would be horrible if it happened to him. He probably didn’t know that was what he meant, but that’s what he meant. but I’m getting way off topic.

I thanked him for his help. (At least he didn’t try to take my arm or Jayden’s harness) I decided I might as well get ready for the day. Manda was going to bring Egg McMuffins! I showered in the tiny bathroom. How good that hot water felt. It was very odd to be standing in the shower and hear seagulls outside the window. Wouldn’t that have been a scary scene in The Birds? Ooh ooh The Birds and Psycho mashup!

By the time Manda got to my room I was in pretty ugly shape. Starbucks instant coffee on an empty stomach and no sleep is a very bad combination. Oh and nerves. Gee I wonder what exacerbated those? Lukewarm coffee anyone? We can’t forget the nerves. I remember telling her that I was being a bitch and apologizing and her saying something like this is you being a bitch? It was all rather blurry at that point.

The game was starting at 4:10. I remember having to tell myself not to convert it to Arizona time. Davis and Butch were going to pick us up at the hotel at 1:00 I think. We wanted to get there when the gates opened. Why did we leave so early? I don’t remember.

Butch! He was the next friend for me to meet and I couldn’t wait! We talked quite a bit on Twitter.

After I ate my egg McMuffins I felt a little better. Manda had brought a blue beaded necklace and some blue bracelets for me to where. I dressed in jeans and one of my new Rays Tank tops. I had gotten my hair cut into a bob before leaving so it was quick and easy to style and the stylist had put this blue chalk stuff in my hair. I was ready!

When the guys got to the room I met butch and we all started to get ready to go. We took Jayden to his litter box, piled into the Ro To Trop Mobile and hit the road. As soon as the car began to move I could feel myself relax. All the preparation had come down to this and we were on our way!

Thanks to the Rays, my group had parking passes and tickets to the luxury suite the team had given me for the first three games. Back when we planned the trip, I didn’t know the opening series was a four game series, so I had only planned on going to the first three. Davis’ wife Tina had to work so she would be meeting us at the Trop.

Aside:

I’m listening to the pre-game show and they just replayed Joe Maddon’s interview from last night. It’s a rare 4:10 pm EST start today, a Thursday, and I’m writing about a game that began at 4:10 EST on March 31. some of this is getting weird. Awww Joe and Dave choked me up all over again and then I laughed when Dave echoed the sentiment I wrote above about getting on with it and writing the post.

End aside.

Davis dropped us off near gate 4. That was the gate closest to the suite and where we had planned to meet up with Dave Haller, the Rays Director of Communications, who had organized my red carpet treatment. He did a tremendous job! Thank you for everything, Dave!

When I got out of the car I heard upbeat music. Immediately I felt the celebratory energy. The weather was perfect and I was at the Trop! I was so happy to check in on Foursquare haha.

We were there before doors opened so we stood around and talked while I took it all in. I asked if there was one of those planes flying around dragging a banner. Those are unmistakeable even when they aren’t seen. The music continued. Every so often there was someone talking on a loud speaker and distant cheers. The party was at the main gate, not where we were, which was fine by me. There were people milling around but it wasn’t loud.

I heard cheering closer and was told the Fox Sports Florida girls were nearby. You should have heard it when they saw Jayden. How can I describe this? Ok you know when you’re watching college football and the broadcast comes back from commercial and they lead in with the cheerleaders crowding around the camera and cheering? It was that. The girls swarmed me and cooed and then I was taking a picture with them and then some guy came up and they were gone. Talk about surreal. I think I’m going to set up an Instagram account just to post all these photos.

Aside:

9-6 Marlins. Are the Rays coming back? I finally went back to working on this post as a distraction.

End aside.

Soon after a male voice introduced himself and said he was from a news station. Wha? I plastered a movie star smile on as he asked if he and his camera guy could follow me inside and up to the suite and then ask me a few Questions. Um, Sure? Haha!

Julie, when did I meet you? Before or after all this? Ok I was going to write when I met every single person but that will give me grey hairs so just know you were all incredibly important to me haha! (Julie tweeted me May 6 after the Rays win and reminded me how I met her. After the media guys walked away I heard someone say hi to Jayden. “Who knows Jayden?” I asked, and that’s how we met. As soon as I read her tweet it came back to me so I had to edit this post for memory’s sake. By the end of the trip, lots of people called out Jayden’s name, but Julie was the first!)

The newsman and camera guy walked away and soon after Dave Haller was there. Dave!!! He had my personalized jersey with him! I had known the Rays were going to give me a jersey but had completely forgotten. It has the Number 3 on the back for Evan Longoria and the name is the trip’s hashtag, #RoToTrop. Actually i found out later that it’s in all caps. #ROTOTROP. That is important in a future post. If a person didn’t read this post, they won’t get the joke. Bwah ha ha! Dave talked to us briefly and then said he would meet us inside the gate when doors opened. The newsman and camera guy were back not long after.

“Where’d you get that jersey?” the newsman asked. I explained. “Would you mind taking it off and putting it back on so we can film it?”

That really happened. It really did. I had put the jersey on unbuttoned on top of my tank top. I did as he asked so they could create their broadcast. I think the broadcast is online somewhere. I’ll try and get those details before I post this. Ok Heather to the rescue hours later. The segment is here. She said there are two links, and you have to click an arrow to get to mine. It’s so not blind friendly.

(9-6 Miami in the 8th)

Finally the gates opened! We went through the security check and the woman said she was calling ahead to my section to let them know a service dog was coming. I was aware of the camera crew behind me but I just tried to focus on walking into the Trop for the first time. Just after we walked in the doors I heard my name. It was Dave Haller and he was telling me someone was there waiting for me but I didn’t hear him.

“Who?”

Brandon Gomes.”

I don’t remember the sound I made but it was probably that sound you make in your throat when you are shocked . Then I was hugging him. My first Ray! I was laughing with happiness and I could hear people all around and then my friends wanted pictures so we posed and I got to keep touching him, haha! I wanted a picture with my phone so I could post on Facebook for my friends and Family. I bent over trying to hear my phone so I could bring up the camera and hand it off. I remember Brandon Gomes saying, “she’s pretty good with that thing.” *Squeal* I was no longer mentally thirty-five. I was fifteen meeting a player from my favorite baseball team. Was this really happening? All too soon I had to leave Mr. Gomes who I started calling “my lover”. I don’t know why hahaha! Maybe because I unabashedly kept touching him?

We had to go up in an elevator. Did you know they have elevator attendants? So cool! We got to the floor where the suite was and walked down a narrow hall. I suddenly had the fear that Jayden would do something really bad and it would be caught on camera. I was aware that everything i said to him was being recorded. Weird!

When we got to the suite Jayden turned right and we started exploring. On the wall where the door was, there was a sink. This was the back of the suite and there were bar tables with barstool chairs. There was a table with hotdogs and fixins and there were sodas and bottled waters. Towards the front of the suite, there were two rows of stadium seats. These couldn’t be accessed from the right side. The room was enclosed on three sides with the front being completely open to the field. Along the front row of seats was a handy shelf to set drinks. I made my way to the left side of the suite and there were two steps to go down to reach the front row of seats. I went down the steps and stood at the bottom, thinking about the fact that the field where my beloved team plays was right down there! The suite was along the left field line behind third base where Longoria plays and up a few levels. The Rays dugout is on the first base line so the sightlings could look into the dugout.

The newsman was there all of the sudden asking if he could interview me so my friends and I could enjoy the suite. thinking back on this, it’s still almost not believable. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me! I don’t remember what he asked me exactly. Something about how I became a Rays fan, how long I had been blind (“since she couldn’t see”), etc etc. I was instantly roasting under the light they shined in my face and I bumped the mic at one point while gesturing with my hands.

After they left I needed water. Someone went and got me a bottle and Manda was showing me the nice spot next to the first chair on the first row of seats. It was a perfect spot for Jayden. I put his mat down and had him settle there and I sat in the chair, taking off the jersey top so I could cool off. What a whirlwind!

I think Manda and I took Jayden to find the relieving area before the game started. Davis and Butch were busy running tickets down to other people who would be joining us in the suite. There was a nice fenced off area with grass for Jayden. Grass? Wow. Haha. He had also used a grassy patch near a tree back before we had gone into the Trop. He left his mark everywhere.

We made sure to be back inside for the festivities . They would be raising the 2013 Wild Card banner. I didn’t want to miss any of the Opening Day ceremony.

I got all settled into my seat with my jersey back on, my little radio and cowbell at the ready, Jayden wearing his Mutt Muffs and waited for everything to begin.

The first thing was that they did a bunch of video and audio highlights. It was so cool to hear things I had heard so many times at home coming through the speakers at Tropicana Field. The stadium rang with the clanking of cowbells. I wonder if I ever stopped smiling.

I can’t remember what made me decide to record a voice memo but I’m so glad I did. I got a recording of the National Anthems, both Oh Canada and the Star Spangled Banner. On the recording is the announcement of the entire Rays “staff” if you will. Right before the starting lineup, Don Zimmer was introduced and the place went wild. He was there down by the dugout in a golf cart, and as each player left the field the player stopped and talked to Zim. I am so grateful I was in the same building as a living legend.

If you would like to hear this voice memo, click here. I listened to it this morning and am totally embarrassed by how I sound but that is the sound of unbridled joy. Even though it makes me blush, I’m so glad I have it and I’m happy to share. Warning, the cowbells and screaming is quite loud haha! Listen at your own risk.

I had pointed to where I thought everything would be on the field and got confirmation from a sightling. As the game began I put on my radio and listened to Dave And Andy just like I would at home, my head turned toward where I heard the action go. I was in the zone, listening to my radio guys, listening to the barking sound effects from District K-9 when Price got a strike-out. I heard beer and ice cream calls in person that I always hear on the radio and I heard the whistling of Yunel Escobar at short. I was there. It was Opening Day and I was at Tropicana Field. I was the luckiest damn girl in the world.

If you managed to listen to that voice memo, you heard my friend Tina saying I was making her and Butch cry in the row behind me. I was full of good emotions and the music that played when the banner was raised was the soundtrack of my happiness. Until Evan Longoria came to bat, of course. There is nothing like hearing those electric violins loud and in person. I could feel the base in my heart as the song and man that started it all came to the plate. I can’t remember if he got a hit. I want to say he did but maybe that’s just the romantic in me.

One of the friends I got to meet in the suite that night was Aviatrixx (her Twitter name). She brought her three year-old daughter with her. She had asked me before I left Tucson what she and her daughter could bring for Jayden. I told her I trusted Nylabone and Goughnut products so she gave me a Romp and Chomp. This thing is so cool! It’s a Nylabone with a space inside to put what looks like a Slim Jim inside. It was the perfect gift for a dog who was bored at a baseball game! He loved it and there were enough refills for the rest of the games and some “O bones” as I started calling them when we got home. I need to order some refills for his birthday next month. Thank you, Aviatrixx!

Nothing else specific stands out about the game. R.A. Dickey pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Rays won. I do remember it wasn’t a close game so it wasn’t tense. It was just plain old fun! My record for Rays games attended was now 1-3. It was my second David Price start. He is now 1-1 in games I’ve attended hehe..

When we got back to the hotel, everyone hung out for a bit while I fed and relieved Jayden. After they left I hung out on Twitter a bit, did a good foam roll session, called B, listened to my book and fell into a blessed sleep. I hope my next Opening Day is well rested!

(The Rays lost today’s game.)

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Filed under #RoToTrop, accomplishment, Adjustment to blindness, baseball, coffeeholic, evan longoria, fellowship, gratitude, Jayden, misty eyes, silly girl, Sleep Deprived Fun, twitter me this, video, working dog, wow

Tampa Bay Trip – Day One

I have a big top secret writing project planned but I have so many blog posts hanging over my head that I can’t focus on the big one. It’s silly right? Nothing says I need to post here at all but The Roof was my first writing project so I feel beholden to it somehow. So how does one catch up when so behind? One post at a time. Or one win at a time, in the Rays’ case. So I’m starting with day one of the Florida trip that took place forever ago.

So much preparation went in to this trip and not just on my part. So many people played a part in this once in a lifetime dream come true. There were the donors who made the trip completely financially stress free, there were friends planning transportation, there were groceries bought for my hotel room, every need I could have possibly had was met. So the day I left Tucson, March 29, was full of excitement, not stress. I had complete trust and faith in the people I was turning my life over to for a week. Did I mention I had never met any of these people in person? People were astounded when I told them I was flying by myself to a state I’d never been to and people I’d never met. As more of the story of how these people made the trip possible came out, my joy spread like wildfire. I had one paratransit driver say he couldn’t wait to tell his wife the story. Another driver shared a story about strangers helping her family after a tragic death. Everywhere I went, there were stories of the good in people. I couldn’t wait to get on the plane!

My flight was scheduled to leave Tucson about 11am. We got to the airport around 9:30 and I quickly realized Saturdays are not the day to travel. The Tucson airport is generally pretty quiet, a rather lazy airport. Not the day I left. I was so nervous that when we got to the ticket counter my hands were shaking as I handed the ticket agent my ID. “Why am I so nervous?” I asked B.

“You’re excited,” he said knowingly.

The ticket agent complimented my manicure. I had gotten my first ever shellack manicure in blue for my Rays. My ring fingernails were covered in glitter as an accent. It was so fun getting pampered in the week before the trip!

There was a long line at security. I just wanted to get on the plane so I could finally relax. As we reached the TSA agents a deep voice told us to go to him. I can’t remember what he asked me to do, oh I remember. Not everyone has to remove there shoes these days. He asked me to remove my shoes and I jokingly said, “is it because I’m blind?” He said yes so matter of factly that my mouth dropped open and finally he laughed and assured me I wasn’t being singled out. I like joking TSA agents. People are so boring when they’re serious all the time.

We finally got through security. B was allowed to come with me to the gate. It was so crowded that there wasn’t anywhere to sit so I plopped on the floor by Jayden and checked in on Foursquare.

– Aside –

I used to hate Foursquare so much that I had any mention of it muted in my Twitter client. People constantly shared every single place they ever visited. Why? Why do I need to know you’re getting gas at the Chevron? One day I was reading twitter on my iPhone where I had no mute filters set up and someone checked in at their child’s school! SeriouslY?

– End aside –

I wanted a good record of all the places I visited on the trip and Foursquare came in really handy for that. Not only was it great for my memories, my friends in Florida could track me as I came to them. I shared everything on Twitter and Facebook. It’s so much faster then sending texts to let everyone know you’ve arrived safely.

I felt so bad for Jayden since he couldn’t eat or drink the day we travelled. I gave him a small piece of cookie (dog biscuit) as we waited to board. We didn’t wait long. Soon it was announced that people with small children and disabilities were being pre-boarded so B kissed me goodbye, handed my carry-on suitcase to the helper and I was on my way! Weeeee!

As Jayden followed the helper through the jetway I was told it was a full flight. I hate those words haha. Full flight means they won’t be able to clear the seat next to us so Jayden will have to stay all scrunched up. I always get the bulkhead seat so there’s a little more leg room. We sit on the window so I can keep my leg position such that Jayden can curl up nicely between my leg and the window.

the helper handed me over to a flight attendant and she helped us to our seat. My carry-on was stowed and I got us settled as the plane began to fill up. I had bought a mini messenger bag that I could sling across my body in the hopes that they would let me keep that on me. The last time I flew, I used the hip pack I got from Guide Dogs so I could keep my phone and gum and stuff on me since there’s no under the seat space in bulkhead. Last time I flew however,I had gone to visit Chupa in Colorado and when we stopped for coffee after we left the airport, I was mortified to walk into Starbucks with my hip pack. It was a good laugh haha! I’m not a very vain person but something about a hip pack, you know?

they let me keep my messenger bag so I was all set for the flight with gum, Advil, granola bars and Jayden’s cookies. Let’s goooooo!

The seats next to me were empty for so long I started to feel hopeful but at the last minute a couple sat down next to me. The husband took the aisle seat and the wife wasn’t very vocal. She also had an incredibly smelly sandwich. As the plane taxied and started picking up speed she said, “I love this part!” I agreed and thrilled as the engines got louder and the moment of liftoff was felt as my back was pushed into the seat. Airborne! On my way!

(I’m so glad all the memories are coming back to me so vividly. I did not plan on waiting so long to write about the trip.)

I just got distracted by Mariah Carey singing Vision of Love.

As soon as we were allowed to use our electronics I got my iPad out and settled in to listen to “Code Zero” by Jonathan Maberry. Audio books are so great at passing time. Before I knew it we were making our final approach into Dallas. I thought about my friends Amanda and Taylor. I was so close to them!

When we landed and could come out of airplane mode I checked in on Foursquare and was told the place was swarming. Little did I know just how many flights came in and out of that airport!

We waited until everyone got off the plane and then a guy came to help us off. he got my carry-on and as we emerged from the jetway he asked if I wanted to ride on the cart that was at the gate. Remembering how much walking was involved at the Denver airport, I gratefully said yes. Jayden and I got on the cart and I grinned as the air hit my face. Inside. Air on my face inside. I reached down and touched Jayden’s head and could feel him trying to look at everything. There were so many passing sounds and smells. Snippets of conversation , the rolling of suitcases, food areas, the driver calmly making the cart’s presence known. We drove. And drove. And drove and soon the enormity of the airport dawned on me and my gratitude for the cart was overwhelming. Finally we were nearing the gate and I asked the driver if a restroom was near the gate. He stopped right outside the ladies room and waited for me to take me to the gate. Such service!

I found a seat and then remembered I liked to check in at the gate desk just to make sure Jayden and I were visible. I started heading in the direction of where I heard airport staff and a man asked if he could help us as I tried to drag my carry-on behind me. He was so nice! He helped us to the counter and back to a seat and then we sat and talked while I waited to board. Conversation began with questions about Jayden and where we were heading. I asked if he lived in Tampa since that was where the flight was going and he explained that he was hoping to get a standby flight and had stopped at that terminal to rest. that’s how huge this airport its! I can’t remember where he was traveling from but he was waiting on the last leg of a long journey. I want to say maybe he had been in South Africa doing church work. Wow. Just wow. He was waiting to get home. We talked a bit about the travel and he asked for more details about my trip of a lifetime. I asked if he had Twitter and he said he did, his son made him get an account but he didn’t use it often. I told him about the #RoToTrop hashtag and he said he would look it up. I wonder if he did!

Finally it was time to board again and I felt a bump of excitement. One more flight and I’d be there!

It was yet another full flight but the couple next to me were nice. I finished “Code Zero” and tried to hide my tears at one point. Joe Ledger books aren’t supposed to make me cry, Jonathan Maberry! *Shakes fist*

I decided to listen to some Josh Groban for the last bit of the flight and at one point Jayden moved so I bent to touch him and the music stopped. What? I took the headphones out and had volume. I tried the headphones on my iPhone and they worked. What the heck? Fine, I’ll listen to Josh on my iPhone. Crap. No I won’t. I had taken off all my music so I’d have plenty of room for media on the trip. Hmmm. I checked the audio books I keep on my phone for safe keeping. Old iTunes downloads that I got before I had Audible. Ah, “Silence of the Lambs”. That’s good. Are you about a size fourteen? Oh good good. Precious?

As we made our final approach into Tampa I couldn’t help it, I squealed with delight. “I’m so excited, you guys!” I said to my seat mates. I explained why and the man said, “Ah, I thought that was a Rays shirt you’re wearing.) this puzzled me because while he was correct, I was waring my Stripes for Archer shirt and I didn’t think it said Rays anywhere on it. I later confirmed this so the man had to know about the fan club! I was already among friends!

Ohmigod I’m in Tampa, I thought as the plane landed. I checked in on Foursquare and checked text messages. Manda had left a text saying they would be where the train stops, whatever that meant. Oh boy, another huge airport?

I not so patiently waited for everyone to get off the plane and finally my helper came for me and I was off. Ohmigod! We did indeed have to ride a train. It wasn’t far from the gate and suddenly we were getting off the train and I heard screaming and shouting and a very clear, “there she is!” Jayden had never met these people but he seemed to know they were friends and he was pulling pulling pulling towards them as my helper and I followed with my carry-on and then there were arms around me and laughing and Jayden was beside himself excited and I was meeting Manda, Davis and Tina. With all the commotion and noise we were making you’d have thought a lot more than three people had come to get me haha! Finally we calmed down and made our way towards baggage claim. I was in desperate need of coffee since I limit my fluids when traveling. I’d had a cup of water on each flight and that was it. Manda said she was pretty sure there was a Starbucks in the airport but in the end we decided to hit a drive thru on the way to St. Petersburg. I just wanted to get my suitcase and take care of my boy. Davis ran ahead to look for my suitcase but came back and told us it wasn’t there. Everyone else had come and gone so I felt a nudge of panic. We went to the baggage claim office and my claim ticket was checked and it showed that my suitcase had arrived. Just then some more luggage got to the area and yes! I had all of Jayden’s thinks with me in my carry-on as well as all the Snickerdoodle cookies I had baked the day before so I had the important stuff, but I was happy to have all my clothes haha.

We made our way outside and oh the humidity! I was warm from all the activity and when we hit the humidity I was instantly covered in sweat. We found a place for Jayden to pee, on this raised shrubbery thing that was not ideal. I was laughing at how hot I was, fanning myself with my shirt and they all laughed and said they were wearing sweaters. Are you crazy! It had rained all day and was like sixty degrees. Oh brrr haha! It was so humid because of the rain.

After relieving Jayden we made our way to the #RoToTrop Mobile, otherwise known as Davis’ SUV. He had shoe polished the hash tag on the back window. I got into my cary-on to get into Jayden’s food but I could not find the travel bowl I had brought with me. I’m usually good at remembering where I packed stuff but I could not find it. They all tried to think of what to put the food in and Davis lamented the fact that he’d had the car detailed. No loose trash to the rescue. Then a lightbulb went on over Manda’s head and she ran to her spot in the car. “Frisbee!” she shouted.

“Where did you find a frisbee in there?” Davis wondered.

turns out Manda had gone to a charity bowling event that day held by David Price and frisbees were part of the swag. It was perfect! Jayden happily ate and we both chugged water.

Finally we got settled in the car and set out to find Starbucks. There was a lot of laughing and I dropped an f-bomb and smacked my hands over my mouth. I have a sailor mouth but that rarely comes out on my blog or Twitter. Everyone laughed and started dropping their own f-bombs which made us laugh some more. It was good times! Oh and I got my Starbucks so the caffeine deprivation was over.

We got to the hotel on Treasure Island near where Manda lives and checked in. The room was in a great location. Jayden and I wouldn’t have to go far to get to some sand where he could relieve. I started calling it his litter box haha. They all carried in groceries! Gatorade and Pringles and bananas oh my! They are too sweet! Oh and lots of bottled water. There was a mini kitchen in the room. After a bit Davis and Tina left and Manda and I hung out as I started to settle into my room. There were two double beds which was nice since the second bed held my suitcases. There was a small table with two chairs, a dresser with a TV on it, and the little kitchen. It was cute! The table was perfect for my electronics.

We decided to order pizza and oh man was it delicious! I ate a ton which was good because I couldn’t eat much the rest of the trip. nerves, man!

We sat up and talked forever, took Jayden out and walked down to the ocean. That’s how close my room was to the water! Actually we didn’t get all the way to the water because Jayden did not want to walk anymore. We turned around and made our way back and Jayden left a present haha. No wonder he didn’t want to walk anymore! We picked it up and kept going. Manda freaked me out for a second when she said something like, “now if I can just figure out where the hotel is.” Wha! Turns out it’s really really dark on that beach at night. You aren’t even supposed to be out that far that late. Oops! Did you know there are birds that chirp at night? The sounds were so cool! the distant waves and the night birds. Awesome!

We got back and Manda left. Her house was within walking distance of the hotel. I got ready for bed, spent some time on Twitter, then curled up with Jayden and listened to my audio book. Jayden loved that bed haha! He doesn’t sleep in bed with me at home. He ended up taking up most of the bed himself haha!

So that was day one! My arms are just a tad sore from all the typing.

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Filed under #RoToTrop, accomplishment, apple Inc, Audio books, baseball, coffeeholic, fellowship, gratitude, iPhone, Jayden, jayden quirks, music, num num food, relieving, silly girl, twitter me this, working dog

Baking Blind Part 1 – Measuring

I decided to write some posts on how I bake blind. I asked on Twitter if anyone had any questions and the only response I got was from Davis:

@newspaper_man @Raynaadi yes…are you nuts? lol 🙂 i’ll think of something serious soon.

Davis is sighted and has always expressed interest when I tweet about cooking and such. Honestly, when people are impressed by something I do, it eggs me on and pushes me towards trying progressively harder things. I often think back on when I was first blind and my friend had to microwave my frozen tamales for me because my microwave wasn’t yet tactilly marked. Oh, how far I’ve come.

One of the classes I took at the blind center when I began my “blind education” as I used to refer to it, was basic cooking. We learned how to safely use a knife to cut, how to use hot things without burning ourselves, basically just how to do the things we used to do but this time without sight. We were given the recipes of the things we made in class and a friend of mine came over one day so we could make the stuffed mushrooms. Delicious! I had her put them in the oven though. I still wasn’t comfortable with that.

I think the stuffed mushrooms were probably the most complicated of the recipes. We made this awesome fruit dip, french toast, a microwave egg thing, different meats on the George Foreman grill, all with safety in mind.

When I decided a few months back to tackle baking, I combined what I knew about baking from Mom back in my sighted teenhood and added things I learned from the blind center. Practice began to make perfect and several batches (and another pant size up) later, I’ve come up with a system that works pretty well for me.

I was talking to my friend Chupa on the phone yesterday and we got around to talking about my desire to write baking posts. She laughed and said she almost suggested I write about baking when I asked for blog ideas on Twitter to help during NaBloPoMo. No one seemed to have any ideas in the Twitterverse haha. Anyway, on the phone she asked me how I measure things. So that’s what I’ll answer today.

Before I do anything, I move my coffee maker and paper towels off the largest part of my counters and wipe the entire surface down. Like a painter with a blank slate, I have to begin with a clean surface and tidy kitchen.

I had forgotten a lot of things about baking. I noticed this when I started again. I couldn’t remember if a measure of baking soda was heaping or level. Twitter helped a lot to refresh my memory, thanks bakers! It all came back to me. Baking is pretty precise in the measurements of things like baking soda/powder and flour. Those are the base ingredients that make a cookie a cookie or a cake a cake. Most recipes will call for whisking together all your dry ingredients in a bowl to be added later, which is nice because I like to measure all the dry stuff before my countertop gets wet. Measuring my flour etc first allows me to put the bowl away from the sink and any wet mess that happens.

The blind center gave us a handy tip for measuring small amounts of liquids and I’ve carried this tip over to my small amounts of dry ingredients. I use aluminum measuring spoons bent into miniature soup ladles. Wow, Voiceover can’t pronounce the plural of ladle haha!

We were taught to pour liquids into a dish so we could ladle out the proper amount. Vanilla extract for example. In class, we poured dry ingredients over the ladle, holding it over a bowl, and leveled off with the flat of a knife. We used a funnel to put the ingredient back into the jar.

I adapted this technique to fit my preference though. Instead of putting the dry ingredients back after measuring, I just took them all out of their original packaging.

I am my Gamma’s granddaughter. I save plastic containers. Small margarine container? This might come in handy. Cottage cheese container etc etc. So now my cinnamon and cream of tarter live in butter plastics (as I call all plastic containers). My baking soda is in a cottage cheese plastic. Oh I also keep some salt in a butter plastic. I keep that on top of the baking soda plastic so I don’t mistake it for cream of tarter. Ew! This makes it all super easy to just dip my ladle measure into the powder and level off with the flat of a knife.

To level I just hold the ladle over the container and run the flat side of a butter knife along the handle until I feel the spoon part and then I just run it across and the excess falls back into the plastic. Now I have a perfectly level ladle of the powder the recipe is calling for.

Back to the vanilla, I leave that in its original bottle. I have these little cups that came with my mom’s Corell dishes way back in the seventies haha! All the dishes are white with this green trim of flowers all around the edges. I don’t think I’ll ever use any other dishes. Anyway, one of the little cups has a pour spout on it. So I pour some vanilla into that cup and ladle the called for measurement into another dish. Then I slowly pour the vanilla back into the bottle. I do this over the sink in case I drip.

I jumped ahead a bit since I always do the vanilla and eggs after I’ve measured all my dry stuff, including flour and sugars. For those bigger amounts, I do it the same way I did when Mom taught me all those years ago. I still use her Tupperware measuring cups! They stack into each other nicely so it’s easy to feel the ascending order. I couldn’t remember what was what though so I did Facetime with Carol and she read what was what on the cup, wrote it down on her end, and then I typed the measurements into a text document. Only problem was, I kept having to check the document when a recipe called for something other than a 1/4 cup or 1 cup haha! Just the other day I was like ok I need to memorize these. There’s only six of them. Yes, I should just be able to think of them in terms of fractions and how they grow larger, but my brain doesn’t work that way. So now I just think to myself,4,3,2,3,4,1. That translates to 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 cup. That’s just what works for me.

So Mom taught me to put my cup on a plate and then add what I’m measuring to the cup, making it nice and heaping. Then I take the flat of the knife again and level off the cup, the plate catching the excess. I keep my ingredients in containers with openings wide enough to easily pour the excess back in. I use the same plate for all my ingredients, just making sure it stays dry. Flour is done first since I measure the other ingredients it’s usually mixed with first, like baking soda and salt and such. Granulated and brown sugars are usually mixed together so I do my brown sugar last since it’s stickier.

Recipes almost always call for your brown sugar to be packed so there’s an extra step when measuring it. I use a large soup spoon and after every scoop of brown sugar I add to my cup, I use the round side of the spoon to pack it into the cup. I don’t level the brown sugar, just scoop and pack until it’s at the top.

I think that pretty much wraps up the measuring part of baking blind. My rule of thumb is, baking soda/powder and flour should be measured precisely as the recipe says. Ingredients like cinnamon and salt and even the sugars can be tweaked a bit based on taste. Oh chunky ingredients like oats and raisins and chocolate chips and nuts (yummmm) I measure in the specified cup but they’re usually slightly heaping, especially raisins.

Who’s hungry? I am. If you have any questions about measuring, just leave a comment. If you’re curious how I do other parts of the baking process blind, please leave a comment. Also, if you have a different way of doing any of this, I’m curious to know! These are all just ways I’ve learned or adapted to suit me.

Oh last thing. Mom taught me to wash my hands before starting a thing and never to touch my face or hair or clothing with my clean hands. I am a stickler about this especially now that my hands are my eyes and I touch everything. Good hygiene in the kitchen is important to me, so if you ever eat any of my baked goods, rest assured nothing except ingredients will be inside haha! I don’t go so far as to wear a hair net but my hair is always pulled back. Ew, hairy cookies!

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