Category Archives: white cane

Blind People Can’t Do That – Changing our Expectations

My friend @BigBadEd sent me a link to a This American Life podcast episode this morning. I told him I’d listen while eating my serial, I mean cereal.

I had seen a retweet from Ed for a podcast asking the question, can expectations make blind people see. I gave it a split second thought about listening and then just kept reading tweets about the Golden globes and skipping passed pictures of cats. But then Ed specifically sent me a mention with a link to the podcast so I changed my mind and decided to listen. Why the initial hesitation? I had contempt prior to investigation and figured it was just more sighted people talking about something they think they know about even though they don’t. I trust Ed though and since he made it a point to bring my attention to the podcast, I decided it must be good. Especially since it’s a This American Life podcast and they brought us Serial which I loved. Also, the episode was called Batman. Huh? Did I hear that right? Yep, it’s called Batman and you can play it here.

I opened the tweet on my iPad and started the episode while I poured a bowl of chocolate frosted mini wheats. Shut up, they’re good.

The podcast begins with some fun science about rats that I found interesting. Maybe science is the wrong word. It was a social experiment with rats. Then it moved on to talking about this blind guy and I was like oh great a blind guy. A blind guy who clicks. This was nothing knew to me but it was entertainment while I ate my mini wheats.

This guy has been on the news showing off his clicking and I was like what’s special about him? He’s riding a bike which he can do because he can click? Before I went blind I saw a Dateline show or 20/20, one of those shows, about a blind kid who rode his bike and played basketball, all by clicking. Just the way this guy in the podcast rides his bike. the podcast acted like this had never been seen before and I just kept thinking about that kid I saw, literally months before I went blind. I even told B I should learn that clicking thing in case my other eye ever went blind. I clicked my tongue a few times, we had a laugh, I moved on. Just FYI, that is a really hard skill to learn, the clicking thing. He’s lucky he figured it out when he was a kid.

But then I warmed up to this guy on the podcast when he admitted how much he hates showing off his bike riding skills. It’s like, yeah I can ride a bike or bake cookies or take a computer apart or insert whatever it is that I or you or your kid or sister, blind or sighted, does. It’s like so what? That was this guy’s attitude.

One of the first blind people I met when I started getting my “blind education” at Saavi all those years ago is a guy just like this clicking guy except he doesn’t click. I was amazed by him, that he could get around the blind center without a cane. I was amazed by him because I was newly blind and didn’t have that confidence yet. Granted, I still would not walk around the blind center without a cane or Jayden like he does, but he was blind since he was a baby just like this clicking guy. When you learn skills as a child, it sticks.

*Aside* You know what’s weird? I had a dream about that guy just last night. The day before Ed sends me a podcast about a clicker guy who reminds me of dream guy. I was getting a manicure and the guy from Saavi walked in to tell me he got a Mac. He wanted to shake my hand but my nails were wet. Huh?*End aside*

So the podcast went on to talk about just that, and they talked to clicking guy’s mother and how she let him just be when he was a child. She let him climb trees and fences even when neighbors and the police told her oh no, he could get hurt. I was thinking, any kid could get hurt climbing a tree. I sure did when I was a kid. I remember watching a friend fall off our fence right on her face. We were all sighted. clicking guy’s mom let him be a normal kid and he’s grown up with the ability to see even though he has no eyes. The point was that her expectations for him were that he would be independent, especially when she saw how he developed ways of doing things without sight.

Ding ding ding! That’s when I got excited and thought about how my own blind life has been influenced by other people’s expectations for me. The point of the podcast was that we can see in our ways when the sighted stop putting expectations on us. There were interviews with other blind people, with professionals who work in the blind field etc. It turned out to be a very good podcast.

It got me thinking about how Saavi treated me when I started going there for training. They eased me into getting around there independently. On the podcast, they talked about how so many blind kids and newly blind adults are led around constantly, how food is brought to them etc. I thought back to my experience at Saavi and at Guide Dogs for the blind and they would certainly help you get around if you asked but they didn’t force the issue. After I learned how to use the white cane, I got around on my own at Saavi and actually led other blind people around who didn’t know the center yet. yes, the blind leading the blind. Saavi taught me how to safely use a knife and a stove. They taught by showing and then having us do. How else can one learn? I joke about Dave, my old orientation and mobility teacher, locking me in an elevator at the mall. Yes, it was a scary experience when he told me to go to the bottom floor and then come back up and then he walked out. My heart raced and I couldn’t believe he left me but how else was I to learn to do things on my own without him?

However out in the real world, people aren’t like the people at Saavi and GDB. They see a blind person getting near the street and freak the freak out. They don’t realize that being blind means we have to get up close and personal to something a sighted person can see from hundreds of feet away. I have to find a curb with my cane that you can see from way over there. Jayden can see it from way over there too but he has to take me right to it so I can feel it with my foot.

This is where the problem is and the podcast pointed that out when the clicking guy was working with a five year-old who had to find a curb by walking right up to it. His godmother freaked out and stopped the kid from learning how to do it his way.

Damn but this helped me understand the people in my life! When I’m on my own, I just do things. When I’m with B, the way I do things change. His expectations bleed on to me. When I’m out on my own I figure stuff out in my own way, the way I’ve had to learn to do. There’s no way sighted people can read my mind and know how I’m going to do something and the expectation is that “blind people can’t do that”.

Wow.

I never thought I would learn something about sighted people by listening to that podcast when it first started. Since I’ve gone blind I try to be an open book, to answer questions people have without getting offended because I remember when I was sighted being amazed by blind people. I don’t ever want to stop being open, but I did find myself being closed with that pesky contempt prior to investigation. I’m so glad I listened to it.

When the kid’s godmother stopped him while he was trying to find the curb, I thought back to an experience I had at the hotel in Florida. Jayden and I got lost and no one jumped out to help. I don’t think anyone was around or if they were, they were very quiet. Jayden and I wandered around for awhile until I got sick of being lost and asked a jogger for help.

That’s how it should bee. Don’t jump in and help because you assume someone needs it or that “blind people can’t do that.”

I could go on and on about this but just go listen to the podcast whether you’re blind or sighted. For the blind, it might shed some light for you on why the sighted are the way they are. For the sighted, well I can’t say what it might shed light on for you.

This goes so much deeper than how the sighted people’s expectations effect the blind. How about expectations about men and women, black and white? Could the root cause of all the isms out there simply be caused by expectations? We expect a woman to be weaker than a man, a white person to be better than a black person? Is it all down to expectations causing groups of people to be what they are? B thinks it would be dangerous for me to walk in my neighborhood since there’s no sidewalk, or along the nearby street that has a sidewalk but lots of driveways because he can’t imagine doing it the way I do it so that fear has rubbed off on me and I haven’t gone exploring even though I have the needed skills to avoid getting hit by a car. Heck, i pay more attention than some sighted people walking down the street texting. The news and social media expected the destruction in Ferguson. Did that have an effect on the people there? We expect people to act in a certain way so they do?

Food for thought.

PS – I appreciated that clicking guy said anyone could learn that skill and use it to ride bikes and hike and stuff as long as they didn’t have another disability stopping them.

Random Link from a Random Tab

A tab I had open when I opened the podcast link had a Mental Floss article about why electrical plugs are different in Europe. I thought I’d share for your inner Arthur Weasley.

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Filed under Adjustment to blindness, blind opinion, dream, fellowship, GDB, Jayden, no no sightie, Orientation and Mobility, plugs, twitter me this, white cane, working dog

Hanging with Ro Episode 14 – New Year’s Eve in Flagstaff Style

On New Year’s Eve, B and Jayden and I piled into the car and drove up to Flagstaff, AZ. The band Quiet Riot was doing a show there so we had been planning the trip for about a month. When he first asked me if I’d want to go I thought it would be fun to chill in the hotel while he went to the concert, but then I considered going to the show. It had been years since I rang in the new year anywhere other than my bed haha! I ended up not going though because it would have just been too loud for Jayden and for me. I like my hearing, thank you very much.

The drive up was uneventful. I listened to Josh Groban non-stop. B started telling me about snow on the ground next to the highway the closer we got to Flagstaff. Snow! When we arrived at the hotel the temperature change was quite drastic and the breeze bit my skin as we walked to the lobby. Inside I quickly put my Rays hoodie on.

The room was great! It had a little kitchen with a full size coffee maker. I brewed the coffee they provided but it wasn’t good so we’d have to hit a Starbucks so I could get some instant.

We relaxed for a bit in the room and after I fed and relieved Jayden, we headed to the casino to eat. B had to pick up a player’s club card which was the ticket to the show. Sitting in a diner at a casino at 5pm is super creepy. Unless it was just this particular one. It sounded like the most depressing place. There was no laughing, no idle chatter, no music and I kept hearing what sounded to me like a zombified game of Marco Polo.

As we ate I listened and finally got that people were walking by the diner saying, “Kino,” and the staff at the diner parroted them back in a very lackluster voice. Alrighty then.

Then B noticed the band walking right by the diner! He named each member as they passed. The drummer was last, the only original member of Quiet Riot and B said he was the only one with an entourage. Me: Really? B: Yeah, two people.

They were carrying their own bags and everything. Life as a washed up old hair band? It was still cool though.

As we were walking onto the actual gaming floor to get B’s pass, a security guard stopped us. I couldn’t hear what he was saying so he spoke up. He was asking if Jayden had paperwork. I blurted that I have an ID for him but I think the guy could tell I was shocked at the question. He said something like, “what are those dogs called, I can never remember.”

“I’m blind and he’s my guide dog.”

He let us go then. It was bizarre.

The game floor was so smokey! It rather disgusted me and I couldn’t believe I used to do that. I guess I have become the grumpy ex-smoker haha! It’s not so bad outdoors but inside there? Whew!

B got his pass and we went back out into the cold. Wow cold. I mean, cold!

We headed back towards the hotel and I used Siri to locate a Starbucks. Now I had real coffee and was good to go. We hung out for a bit and B tried watching that awful duck show. He switched to New Year’s stuff and there was a year in review show that was rather interesting. We never watch TV other than sports, so it was an experience haha! They discussed things I had only read about on Twitter. Pop culture anyone? It’s lost on me.

After B left I decided on a whim to record a voice note and it morphed into a Hanging with Ro episode. It had been awhile since I recorded myself being a goofball haha!

Ok so now for Hanging with Ro Episode 14. How perfect is that? Episode 14, ringing in 2014. Whoa. *opera voice* Spoooooky! *end opera voice*

So there are two files. This first one is the longest. I think it’s around forty minutes or so. I had no idea where it was going when I started haha! Topics include but are not limited to:

*Breaking the rules with Jayden

*Being out on New Year’s Eve. I just remembered the last time. It was 2005/06 and Georgie and I went to an AA New Year’s event. We were both in our first year sober and we were so scared we’d get hit by a drunk driver.

*Muttmuffs

*B stands for…

*Getting distracted and laughing at the TV

*Seriously? That’s CNN? Anderson Cooper giggling.

*Remotes hate me.

*2013 year in review. Colorado to see Chupa and my first Rays game. Feeling fabulous in Colorado.

*Hip pack humiliation.

*Bad summer, bad health oh who’s singing?

*Josh Groban. How I love the Josh Groban.

*We need to move. Teeth. Not move teeth. Ow.

*Gamma

*I don’t get TV.

*I make a cup of instant coffee but not in the closet.

*I sing la la la and the Josh Groban love begins with gusto.

*Flagstaff smells good.

*I try and describe the Grand Canyon.

*More Josh Groban drool only this time with songs on the iPad. I’m pathetic.

*Ok Josh maybe I didn’t hear that right from you I can’t be certain because you all talked a lot.

*Wow I was sniffling already. I got totally sick the next day.

*The song that made me cry in the car is a Stevie Wonder cover.

*Here is the translation to the song I was swooning over.

*I tell you to look up this clip on youtube so here it is.

*Ok wow I really am happy being me, trust me.

*Who’s outside the window?

*I wish I could shut up my humming.

*I waste time trying to play a song. I didn’t realize I had lost my wifi so I couldn’t get it from the cloud. Here’s the other Brave song by Sara Bareilles. You’ll probably recognize it from those Microsoft commercials.

*I wrap up this portion finally haha!

New Year’s Eve Part 1

And we’re back. This one is about sixteen minutes.

*I’m paranoid it’s not recording.

*Two minutes away from 2014.

*Loud upstairs neighbor.

*David DeJesus is mentioned. Baseball must be on the brain.

*Sleepy girl

*Midnight in New York phone call.

*A totally lame Arizona midnight but at least I checked the time at the exact right moment.

*Evan Longoria. He is seriously mentioned in every single one of my audios. You’d think I do nothing but talk about that man!

*I talk about the Phoenix trip I had forgotten to mention in my year review. Who got to go on the field at Chase Field? Thank you David Price!

*Phoenix killed me though. Well not really since I’m alive but you know.

*Disappointed girl in a Vanderbilt shirt.

*Dave and Andy!

*Learning from mistakes.

*Sleepy iPad scrolling. More talking about Josh Groban. Here’s the song I talk about where his voice becomes part of the instrumental. I really think that’s one of my favorites.

*Finally come to my senses and wrap it up. I also mess up a New Year blessing haha!

New Year’s Eve Part2

I was up when B got back. Just after I stopped recording, fireworks started and there were a lot of people outside the hotel. When I took Jayden out I couldn’t believe how cold it was! Wow. When I asked Siri she said, “brrrr, it’s twenty-two degrees.” B and I talked about the show and then I tried to sleep and failed miserably.

The next morning I woke up way too early and sat on the strange uncomfortable couch waiting for B to get up. Even he couldn’t sleep late. That hotel was so noisy!

We took our time getting ready and headed out to the Grand Canyon. I was sneezing a lot and wished I had taken some of the cold meds I brought with us. The Canyon was about an hour and a half from the hotel. On the road leading to the Canyon, there was suddenly a huge heard of elk! Do they roam in heards? Is it spelled that way? Hmmm.
Anyway, B had exclaimed, “deer! Wait, those are too big to be deer.”

“Are they elk?” I asked.

He said I was probably right and explained that a few crossed the road and several were on the side grazing on grass. Cool!

We parked and found the restroom and I had a total panic attack in there because it had hand dryers that sounded like freaking wind tunnels and they hurt my ears and Jayden was affected by them too and holy crap it was good to get out of there.

We made our way to where B could see the canyon and I listened to all the accents around us and children and different bird sounds. It was very cold and breezy. I did not feel well. There was much more walking than I had expected. I mean it’s a huge hole in the ground. It doesn’t seem like you should have to walk very much to find an edge. It had been sixteen years since I’d been there so couldn’t remember. I wanted to get to a good spot to get a picture with Jayden and me in front of the canyon but it was going to involve steps and there were too many people and yeah. Blah.

I snapped some pictures with my iPhone and sent one to Twitter and apparently it was lovely. Let me see if I can find the tweet. Ok I can’t find it so I asked Twitter. Might just have to upload it again. I should really figure out Word Press pictures haha. Here’s the picture. Thanks, @L_Squared!

So I just got sicker and sicker as we went back to the hotel. I collapsed for a bit and then we started trying to figure out food. The only two places that were open on New Year’s Day were The Outback and Sizzler. Sizzler? They still have those? That was my first ever job. I was a salad bar keeper. Fried shrimp entered my brain and that was all I could think about. So we went there and there was actually a huge snow drift in the parking lot! I had my fried shrimp but I was so miserable I hardly remember it. Bread pudding for dessert. I thought a rap in my head: I had dinner, at the Sizzler with my mister, on New year’s Day, while I had a fever. Wow. Um. Yeah hi. I won’t quit my day job. Oh wait, I don’t have one.

We went back to the hotel and I did some packing up and crashed. That was pretty much it! It was a really good time and I’m glad we did it. I felt pretty good there in Flagstaff, minus being sick of course. It was like how I felt better in Colorado. High elevation and cold, I tell ya. I used to think I’d like to live in Flagstaff but I don’t think so. Just too cold and there’s an odd feeling there. Just like in Sedona when I went with B several years ago. We both feel it in northern Arizona. Just an odd feeling. It’s a nice place to visit though!

Happy 2014 everyone! I hope you enjoyed the audio if you listened.

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Filed under apple Inc, baseball, coffeeholic, Dental Health, evan longoria, Gamma, gratitude, hanging with ro, holiday, Jayden, Microsoft, music, new year, num num food, plugs, random stuff, sicky sick, silly girl, sobriety, spoons, twitter me this, Voiceover, weather, white cane, wow, youtube

Zombies Are Good For Your Health

As of the first of the year, my awesome gym situation at the blind center ended. It’s a long story, basically the hours changed and it didn’t work for me anymore. I had decided I would join a gym and was going to wait until February for the resolution rush to die down before I picked a gym and signed my life and soul away in a contract. My apartments have a little fitness room but it only works for me this time of year because in the summer, it’s way too hot to walk there and the room isn’t cool enough.

While I waited for February to roll around, I decided I’d do my TRX for strength training and dance for cardio. I get so bored with dance though. I don’t know enough moves haha! I decided to try this app I’d been hearing a lot about on Twitter. It had also been posted about at AppleVis so I knew it was mostly accessible. I remember reading something about the supplies part of the game not being accessible, but I just wanted the exercise part. I wanted to run from zombies.

Um, what? Did I read that right? Zombies?

You read that right. It’s an app called Zombies, run! and I absolutely love it! When I first started hearing about the app I didn’t think I could play it because I can’t go running outside and I have no treadmill but I started seeing other blind people talking about running around in their apartments or even just running in place. The more I heard about the app the more I wanted it and it has quickly become my favorite app aside from Fleksy.

Zombies, run! is basically an audio game. You can select the length of your missions, about thirty minutes or about an hour, you select your music playlists, choose whether you want it to shuffle or not, decide if you want to enable zombie chases, start your mission and begin pumping those legs.

The first story mission, (choose this mode to listen to a developing story you’re a part of with every run) starts with you riding in a helicopter. You are going to be dropped into a settlement where survivors of the zombie apocalypse need your help. Unfortunately your helicopter doesn’t quite make it and you have to run if you’re going to get to the settlement and safety. There is a man talking into your headphones, saying he can see you but he’s not sure you can hear him. I literally waved my arms above my head hahahaa!

EAch mission develops the story from there and you get to know the characters as you run each time. When the mission is over, radio mode is enabled and your music keeps playing along with fun voice clips. I do my long stretching sessions to radio mode. I love it!

Ok, wrote all that yesterday and now I’m writing tonight after doing a zombie run this morning. I jotted down some notes after today’s run so I wouldn’t forget. I finally got the hang of the zombie chases. For whatever reason my first several runs did not include any zombie chases even though I had GPS enabled. Then all of the sudden a few runs ago, I had a zombie chase, but I was caught even though I pumped my legs like crazy. To describe it exactly, I pretty much reenacted the Maniac scene in Flashdance. If you’ve never seen that movie, I’m sorry.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to read tutorials which I did not too long ago. I should have from the start. Oh well haha! I learned that when the zombie chase starts, your pace needs to pick up for up to a minute. Oh! So today I had two zombie chases and I evaded the mobs both times. Go me!

I also tried something new today. If you’re not blind, I’m sorry. If you are blind, chances are you have a white cane. This worked perfectly today to keep me running in one spot. I get the best results by mimicking running as best I can in one place in my apartment. It also happens to be right under an air vent. The problem was, I was drifting and bumping the walls if I didn’t hang on to a wall. But that seemed to constrict my movements. So today I jammed my white cane in the corner where the floor and wall meet and it worked like a charm! I was able to still pump the arm that held the cane but I didn’t drift and bump the walls.

Today I had to wonder if other runners get so into the game. I’ve really gotten in to the character of Runner 5. That’s who you are as a player. I wave at the guys when they say stuff, today I talked to them saying things like, “I’ll get that package!” Then I laugh at myself and think, I’d never have this much fun if I was doing this at the gym or on the streets. Then after the run was done and I was stretching while I took off my knee braces and sneakers, I was imagining the other inhabitants of Able Township walking by and patting my back since I had just returned from a mission with a very important box. I imagined that they all knew by now that I can’t really talk when I get back from a mission because I must cool down and stretch and stuff. Is it the goofy writer in me?

I really enjoyed radio mode today as I stretched. Jack and Sam I believe their names are, and today Janine got some talk time in which was funny. I just love radio mode! I have a playlist I created called Zombies Run that I have selected and Sam and Jack will talk a bit and then say they’ll play a song, so it’s like they’ve selected the songs you’ve selected. Today they said something like, this may or not be a Canadian we play next and I wanted so badly for one of the Canadian artists I have in the playlist to play, but alas, twas Abba.

Ok, That’s all I have for now. I adore this app! Oh, random funny from today, as the computer voice told me which supplies I picked up, “crutches” sounded an awful lot like “crotches”. Hahaha! Just imagine a robot computer voice saying, “collected too pairs of crotches”. Hmmm. Zombie crotches?

Oh wait! I can’t end this yet because I forgot the best part. The developers are working on Zombies, run! 2 and guess what? it’s going to be completely accessible. Do you know how excited I was to find out about this the other day? I’ve been able to manage supplies on the website which I found out after I got a mission that couldn’t be unlocked because I hadn’t supplied the hospital. I asked the @ZombiesRunGame Twitter account if there was some way around this and I got an answer immediately, that it should work on the website and sure enough it did. But in the next version of the game, the developers are making the supplies part of the phone app accessible. Yay! I adore developers who care! Needless to say that with my TRX and this app, I won’t be signing away my first born child to a gym. Yay!

Ok this turned into a monster post. Or rather a zombie post. Ba dum bum, ching!

*Addendum* this just in, click here to read about how Zombies,run! was born.

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Filed under accessibility, accomplishment, blind tips, cool product, funnies, gratitude, iPhone, music, plugs, silly girl, twitter me this, white cane, workouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doggy Diaries – Jayden the guide hiker dog

Yesterday B drove us out to Sabino Canyon, a great place with hiking trails. It might be just out of town or it might even be considered in town, I’m not sure. Point is, it’s close. I haven’t been out there in a very long time. I think the last time I hiked the trails was when I was in my early twenties. B took last week off so we decided to do something different on Friday. It wasn’t the all day event I was used to when it came to hiking. We didn’t go until after noon and only spent a little more than an hour there, but it was awesome nonetheless.

First, I had no idea dogs weren’t allowed there. We stopped at the little booth where you pay five bucks for the day. Jayden was sitting between my feet and the ticket guy said no dogs were allowed. Luckily he was good at his job and understood when we said Jay was a service dog. He didn’t ask for any proof but did ask if he had a harness so other patrons wouldn’t give us any problems. He then told us that the disabled can get a pass and visit national parks for free. I had no idea. Pretty cool.

I was surprised how busy the parking lot was for a Friday. I’m sure it was mostly hikers leaving since most people do these things early. We stopped at the visitor center so I could use the restroom.

“Well hello, doggy!” cam a woman’s exclamation from the next stall. Jay and I had squeezed in since there wasn’t a big stall, or if there was, Jayden couldn’t find it since he always takes me to the big ones.

I found Jayden’s head under the dividing wall and started telling him no when the woman laughed and said it was ok, she was a dog person, a groomer. “How did you get in here, are you a service dog?” she asked Jayden.

I wonder what she would have done if Jayden had said yes while gazing up at her with his head under the partition between toilets.

We found B again and headed towards the trail. There’s a main trail and then different trails branch off of that. At the foot of the trails are signs explaining how far the trail goes and what it’s named. The first one was just a quarter mile loop, so we decided that would be a good starter.

I had Jayden heeling while B and I did human guide, just while I got used to my surroundings and I also thought Jayden might enjoy just walking and looking around. At first I thought this wasn’t going to work, that Jayden didn’t like being there or something because he was dragging like mad. I hitched is collar up under his ears and he heeled briefly and then he began dragging again. Hmmmm.

Once B and I were on the little loop I thought maybe Jayden hadn’t been comfortable at the quick pace B was walking. After all, this was brand new terrain and Jayden is very cautious with me. I let go of B and picked up the harness handle and Jayden began to walk no problem. I swear he had been protesting earlier hahaha! *I’m* her guide. What are *you* doing guiding her?

We did a rework once towards the beginning of the loop. There was a little foot bridge and I brushed something on my right. Jayden should have stopped anyway since it was a drastic change, from dirt to wood. After that rework, he was perfect. He showed me the edge of the bridge and then followed B perfectly throughout the loop.

B told me once about cactus on my right but Jayden walked past it slowly and without problems. When the dirt got a little rocky, not so much that I had to step over anything, but enough of a change, Jayden slowed down which reminded me to pick up my feet more. When it smoothed again he sped up. The boy was in the zone! He was in his element, making sure I was safe with all the challenges. He was panting and trotting and when I knelt to get water out of my bag for us, he gave me kisses. It was almost like he was telling me, “this is awesome!! Why haven’t we done this before?”

We made our way to the next trail which wasn’t a loop. We decided to give it a go, knowing we could always turn back if we had to. Almost immediately, Jayden stopped dead. I probed out with my foot. Definitely an obstacle I’d say haha! It was a jutting piece of rock I had to step over. B said he purposely didn’t say anything, wondering what Jayden would do. Jayden waited for me to investigate it and figure out how to clear it and didn’t move until I told him forward. There were several more of these little rock things that Jayden had to help me get over. We got to one that I couldn’t figure out with just my foot so I got my cane out to decipher the lenth of what I needed to get over. It worked perfectly, Jayden stopping, me investigating with the cane. We would have gone further because my confidence with all this was soaring. Jayden was being absolutely incredible. At one point I needed him to go forward a few steps so I could feel the depth of what I had to cross. It’s hard to explain. The teamwork was unbelievable. I needed no help from B, in fact when he tried to help, his descriptions didn’t even make any sense haha!

We would have continued but my knees gave massive protest. I had them wrapped in bandages, but it became clear I need actual braces to attempt hiking. The bandages work great for simple walking, but not making my way over rocks and stepping up and down like we had to do.

On our way back we took the loop again, going in the opposite direction. I could feel Jayden’s excitement traveling up through the harness handle. There’s a bounce in him when the work is different and challenging I just can’t explain.

I was disappointed to head back to the car but I knew it was probably a good idea. I haven’t been well for a few weeks so this was really my first bit of exercise in quite awhile.

Jayden passed out in the car. When we got home I showered and then did a long leg stretching session. Jayden was passed out on the floor on his mat next to where I stretch and I lay down with him for awhile. He only budged to eat dinner haha!

I’m not too sore today. A little tightness in the quads but nothing bad. When B got up he said his calves were pretty sore. He never exercises so I’m sure his body was going, what the heck?

It was awesome! I’d love to say I’ll get knee braces and we’ll go back but I know B too well. It won’t happen. He was off work last week and that’s why we went but as soon as he goes back to work the weekends won’t be free for hiking. Also, to attempt the harder trails we’d need to go earlier and that will never happen.

I’m going to ask Georgie though, since she loves exercising and hiking and stuff. Maybe she’ll have time to go there before it gets hot again.

I was just so impressed with jayden. That was the first time I had ever done anything like that since getting a guide dog. I didn’t go to that Miur Woods day while at GDB. I can never spell those woods haha! So this was the closest I’d had to that sort of experience. It was incredible to hike again. It really was just so amazing! I trusted him more out there than I do in the mall! What’s up with that? Haha!

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Filed under desert life, Doggy Diaries, Jayden, jayden quirks, white cane, working dog, wow

#NaBloPoMo – The Cats’ Room

I had another post in mind for today but I got busy and then I got a link on Twitter that I want to write about but I’m too fatigued for that either so I’m just going to write about why I was busy and this will be fairly pointless except for my own memories in a year when I look back on cleaning the cats’ room. How’s that for a run-on? Future self, I want you to ask yourself a question right now. How’s the cats’ room? Have you been keeping up on it? Please, oh please, tell me you have.

I might have mentioned the spare room here recently since it is included in all the cleaning I’ve been doing. Basically it’s been the catch all room since B and I moved in here February of ’08. I haven’t tackled that room since going blind. You can imagine the clutter and dust, I’m sure. Add to that the fact that before I got Jayden, we moved the litter boxes in there so I could put a baby gate up. It was already pretty much the cats’ room, since there was an old chair from B’s old apartment in the corner, with an old comforter over it which created a nice little cave behind it. Spinelli had also enjoyed an old robe on top of a cabinet thing in the closet for a long time.

When L gave me a couch to replace the old and battered one I’d had forever, I decided to put that in the cats’ room as well, since they had already clawed it to high heaven and well, I spoil my animal kids. It had just gone into the room in front of the growing pile of clutter and eventually, there was just enough space in there to get to the litter boxes for cleaning. The closet wasn’t arranged in a way most conducive to space. Old clothes and scrubs from my days in medicine hung there, collecting dust and providing a medium for smells to cling to.

In a word, the room was gross. I was mortified at the thought of anyone seeing it and when B’s dad visited here the first time, I couldn’t believe B actually showed him the room. Why, oh why, would you purposely point out that room?

Now that I’ve begun work on it, and made a huge dent, I think what that room symbolized for me was the last of my sighted world. I put things in there when I could see, when I had plans for the room. Combine that with my tendency for pack rathood and what’s left is oh no, don’t go in there. Close the door. Don’t let anyone see.

It’s been liberating to clean out that room. Carol has been offering to help me with it for over a year now. I decided to make a start on it on my own though, to decrease what dust and clutter I could before allowing her to inhale that air. I’ve thrown out so much stuff. So much had been ruined by being left untouched and so much junk had been kept by the old sighted and sentimental me. I wish I had counted how many pens I threw away. Pens? Why did I keep so many pens?

The last time I worked in there I managed to move the couch along the wall to get it out of the way so I could get at what was behind it. I knew I needed to move the chair in the corner over a bit so the couch could move towards the corner and give us more than a six inch path between it and the wall so that was my goal today.

I found the Harry Potter braille book Georgie got me when I was about four months blind. That, along with a braille labeler, extra tape I had lost, which I also found today, and my white cane, was how she pushed me into action and put me on the road to learning how to live blind.

The book was in a cardboard box, the top volume covered in dust. I retrieved a plastic zipper bag, the one my bum cushion came in. It was perfect to store the book just in case I ever learn contracted braille. Maybe that will be a project after the room is done, to sign up for Grade 2 braille at Hadley.

Long story short, I had to kill Spinelli’s den behind the chair so I could vacuum. I hope she forgives me; it had to be done. I’m vacuuming every bit of carpet I end up freeing. There’s only one more corner left to tackle in the room, and then I can have Carol go through the stuff I’ve set aside. Most of it for possible donation, some of it because I can’t quite remember what it is. I had moved the bookcase that was taking up room into the closet, so now it’s perfectly set up for storage once I clear out the “Carol pile”, as we’ve been calling it.

Today I was able to reach the window. It was like a long awaited destination, to be able to straighten the blinds and scrub the glass. The room hardly even smells dusty now. What a hard job, but it’s leaving me with such an incredible feeling of accomplishment and liberation that I’m not even embarrassed to write the details of just how bad it was anymore. Look all you want! I think we might even be able to do away with the baby gate once I’m done. B found an igloo style litter box that seems pretty impossible for a dog to get to the contents.

After I met the goal for today I showered off the muck and finished reading ‘Carri’. That might be another post. It’s amazing how much I related to that book. I had to finish it because since I listened to music on the iPhone while cleaning, I lost my place in the book and it was just easier to find my place on the laptop. The book had been burned from CDs, so the iPhone doesn’t hold the place like it does an Audible book. Such a luxury problem. 🙂

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Filed under accomplishment, Adjustment to blindness, Audio books, braille, cats, fellowship, gratitude, iPhone, Jayden, NaBloPoMo 2011, Spinelli, white cane

A beeping cat has set me free

One of the best lessons I learned after getting sober is, keep it simple. After going blind, that simple statement became imperative. Combined with the lesson my dad taught me as a kid when I couldn’t find my keys, always keep them in the same place, I’ve found ways to keep my life simple to make being blind a lot easier. Everything stays in the same place and when possible, small items are kept in a tray or cup or clipped to something. I always know where my keys are. I remember where I put that chocolate…

With a cat however, this is impossible. Especially a cat with dreams of roaming the outside world.

When I used the white cane, I swept the door before coming in the house to keep Timmy the cat from escaping. When I first came home with Jayden, just the big yellow dog walking in the door kept Timmy from escaping. That all changed when Timmy convinced Jayden to help him escape.

That was almost a year ago and it’s been a major pain ever since. I had to start putting Timmy in the bedroom every time I wanted to leave the house or he’d get out on me. On the occasions that I couldn’t find him, I’d use the cane while trying to get Jayden out the door and keeping the cat inside. There have been several times that I’ve needed to do laundry and couldn’t find the cat and there’s no way to get Jayden, the laundry cart and myself out the door while sweeping the cane. There were so many times that I felt held hostage by a feline. Not at all fun and a pretty stressful existence.

On mornings when B got up at the same time as me, he could find Timmy and put him in the spare room. On weekends however, B sleeps late and there were several times I thought I might have a nervous breakdown trying to find Timmy so I could take Jayden out.

Months ago, Carol found this pet locator on Amazon. One of the reviews is from a guy who uses it on his cat. I’ve lusted after this thing ever since and while it’s always been on sale, I didn’t want to spend the money, thinking maybe it was silly to spend money on something that would make Timmy beep.

It’s not that simple though. I think peace of mind is worth thirty five bucks, don’t you?

B finally ordered it for me last week after another incident of not being able to find Timmy. It arrived Monday but we had no collar. Wednesday I needed to do laundry and couldn’t find timmy for over two hours. I was totally freaking out. B stopped at the store on the way home but the only collars they had were flea and tick collars, which didn’t work since it needed a ring to attach the receiver to.

Yesterday Carol and I were running errands and we stopped by Petco to get a collar. All the cat collars were stupid! They all had rhinestones on them. I’m sorry, but I’m not Paris Hilton and Timmy is a boy cat. They also didn’t have rings on them, just bells. The bell would come off since neither B nor I wanted to hear a bell jingle around the house. A bell would never have worked for me since if Timmy wasn’t moving, the bell would be silent.

So Carol and I found a dog collar for small dogs. Perfect.

Timmy now beeps at my command! He doesn’t much care for the collar but he’s gotten used to it quickly. I know collars can be dangerous for cats, but since he’s an indoor cat, I don’t think there’s anything he can get hung up on in the house.

This morning when I got up, Timmy wasn’t on the couch. I pressed the button on my remote and followed the beeping. It came from the spare room. I beeped it again to make sure and closed the door to take Jayden out. Freedom!!!

Timmy has more freedom now because of the collar. Now I don’t need to keep him in the bedroom for the sake of not needing to find him again later. He would spend nearly all day in the bedroom when I had a lot of in and out to do. Now he’s in there for five minutes and set free again.

A little while ago I wanted to go outside again so I clicked the remote and found Timmy sitting on the cat tree. Perfection!!!

I am so, so relieved. The transmitter is a little larger than I would have liked. The description says there are flat ones that you affix to a cell phone or something, so I might see if I can figured out a way to attach that one to the collar.

Aside from that, it’s the perfect solution to the silly problem of being held hostage by a feline.

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Filed under Adjustment to blindness, Amazon, blind tips, cats, cool product, gratitude, Jayden, sobriety, Timmy, white cane

Doggy Diaries – Year ago recap 35 – Weight loss and clicker fun

Last year was our first independent trip to Saavi. I cracked up reading it because I was all excited over losing ten pounds. Little did I know then that by this time I would have lost over twenty. I love annoying my past self. Does that even make sense?

Today has been good so far. I got plenty of sleep last night thank God. It was a bit chilly this morning since we had a rain storm last night, so we didn’t go anywhere. I was on the phone awhile and then I had lunch and we went for a walk.

I wasn’t really feeling the walk moo since I’m still a tad fatigued from the no sleep incident, so when I heard people and dogs ahead, I turned us around. I just didn’t feel like dealing with it. We checked the mail and I got a big newspaper thing. I had asked B if he keeps the spam mail and he doesn’t, so I wanted to throw it away but wasn’t sure where the recycle trash was. I asked Jayden to find the trash and he was like, huh? He showed me a wall. Yeah no. So we went and got the clicker.

It had been awhile since we’d play’d clicker. It’s so much fun! I had him targeting the bin but when we back chained and I told him to find it, he took me to the wall. A few more clicks at targeting and we tried it again and he nailed it. We backed up a few more times, then pretended we had just checked the mail. So we were facing away from the bin when I told him to find it. He nailed it. Clicker is soooo fun!

After that I groomed him. He’s back to needing daily brushings since he’s throwing his winter coat. Then I wanted to give him some off duty outside sniffy time so I unfolded the stick but he was like, what are you doing? No, I don’t want to walk when you have that thing lol! He turned and pulled me in the direction of the door and I decided not to fight it. I was feeling pretty tired.

So we came in and now I’m writing this. Nice relaxing day.

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Filed under accomplishment, Doggy Diaries, Jayden, on this date, spoons, weather, white cane, working dog

O & M – Over & Mystifying

O & M actually stands for Orientation and Mobility, as most of you know, but today the letters have the meaning of over and mystifying to me because the lessons I’ve had with Dave nearly every week since November of 2008 have come to a close.

In the beginning, our lessons were all about teaching me to use the white cane, to know my position in space, to orient myself by sound and sometimes the position of the sun. Dave showed me how to be mobile again after I lost my vision. Having these skills led to me being able to use paratransit to get places like Saavi to work out or to be able to walk to my mail or take out the trash.

The independence I gained from the skills Dave taught me were the first things I grabbed ahold off to regain some semblance of normal life after going blind.

Dave was not only my O & M instructor, he was a mentor for me even though he is sighted. He told me about services Saavi offers and encouraged me to do anything I thought I might want to do. On our way to the locations of lessons, we’d talk about life, our pasts, our families, anything. I told him of my adventures, I rambled about the latest technologies I’d found, I bounced my wild ideas off of him. He became like an uncle or a big brother.

When B went out of town back in July, Dave turned our lessons into an opportunity to get whatever thing I might need. When my coffee pot died, we turned a lesson into going to Walgreens and when we got back home, he opened the box and made sure I could find my way around the coffee pot. He knows what a coffeeholic I am.

When I decided to get a guide dog, our lessons became all about preparation. Dave had done training for O & M instructors at GDB and even did my first ever Juno walk.

He made sure I knew what I was getting into, he listened to my fears. He gave me strength while I was in class, knowing I would be returning back to him, his mild mannered speech, his understanding of my fatigue, his faith in me.

He helped me adjust to life with jayden, taught me how to show Jayden new routes, took phone calls from me in the summer when Jayden’s heavy panting scared me, assured me Jayden was fine after every new dog thing occurred. Dave is a dog person so aside from being my instructor, he also helped me ease into being a dog mom.

For the last month or so, we’ve been grasping at straws to come up with ideas to do on our weekly lessons. After I arrived home with Jayden, Dave and I met twice a week, carrying over the pre dog schedule. Going down to once a week was an adjustment, but there wasn’t as much for me to do, so it was ok.

We both knew our lessons were coming to a close. We’ve known it since we first started inventing things to do, new places to pattern. This morning there just wasn’t anything. There was no new place to check out, no route to master. Finally I mentioned that I still felt uncomfortable finding the relieving area at Saavi so we went and did that. I had gotten help from other staff, but there’s just something about an O & M instructor’s brain that really helps you map things out in your head, especially when you know longer use a cane, which offers much more feedback than the gentle turns of a guide dog.

Upon arriving home, Dave said he thought we were done. As tears filled my eyes I had to agree. I don’t need him anymore. That fact is incredibly bittersweet, because the fact that I don’t need him anymore means I’ve accomplished a lot in the less than three years I’ve been blind.

He asked me if I could visualize how far I’ve come and all I could say is that it’s night and day. I won’t share anymore of our conversation because that’s between him and me.

I will say that I will greatly miss our Tuesdays. I’ll miss his jokes and his friendship. I’ll miss the confidence he had in me, which transmitted to my own self assuredness. He’ll still be there though, if there’s a new route to learn.

It’s completely mystifying to me that that I’ve graduated from O & M lessons. It’s overwhelming to look back on the last nearly three years. The difference between who I was when I first met Dave is not even comparable.

Orientation & Mobility. Over & Mystifying. Complete. Mission Accomplished. Independence acquired. A truly irreplaceable friendship made.

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Filed under accomplishment, Adjustment to blindness, coffeeholic, fellowship, GDB, gratitude, Jayden, Juno walk, misty eyes, Orientation and Mobility, spoons, white cane, working dog

Just Yesterday

Do you ever sit back and think, holy crap, where has the time gone? Do you ever have moments where you reflect on your life and think, wow, can one person really do all that changing? I simply can’t believe it’s the last day of 2010. How did that happen? Just yesterday I was throwing Barbie dolls into my trees, hoping they’d get stuck, then throwing Ken up after them, hoping to knock them down.

Just yesterday I was roller skating, on four wheels that weren’t inline, to Debbie Gibson, creating cool choreography to ‘Electric Youth’, or jumping from concrete to gravel like the ‘Solar Babies’.

Just yesterday I discovered Nirvana, after my best friend forced me to watch the video for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, urging me to forget about Mariah Carey and start listening to real music. It worked. Thanks Kurt.

Just yesterday I graduated from ‘Sweet Valley High’ to Stephen King novels and broke my back learning how to try to win the essay medal in Academic Decathlon, constructing the perfect five paragraph essay in one our or less after being given three prompts. I came in fourth overall. No medal, but the highest score in my high school’s history. I wonder if my record stands?

Just yesterday I was pre-med on a full scholarship and got drunk with a boy in a dorm room. Just yesterday I went with mom to chemo treatments. Just yesterday she died.

It seems like just yesterday I had an enormous New Year’s party for the year 2000 and got so drunk my boyfriend and I couldn’t manage to lose our virginities. Just yesterday I was only 21.

Wasn’t it just yesterday I walked into my first meeting after making a mess out of my life, never mourning mom’s death, being a terrible friend, not holding down jobs, going nowhere with my life?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I finally found the true meaning of happiness, to be happy joyous and free through life’s turmoils, with the help of a power greater than myself, a power that was not alcohol?

Just yesterday, I came out of that MRI machine with one eye blind and began to learn how to live with MS. Just yesterday I started dating B and my old cat, Combat was still alive.

Just yesterday I watched my vision slowly fade as I stared at B, just yesterday Combat died, Just yesterday my aunt died, just yesterday B’s mom was diagnosed with cancer.

Just yesterday I picked up a white cane and discovered audio books. Just yesterday I brought my Mac home and found my online fellowship of people who really and truly get it. Just yesterday that little iPod started it all.

Just yesterday I was on a plane going to meet Insert. Jayden. JayBay. Jay. Gooberhead. Just yesterday a dog became my eyes.

Just yesterday the little girl throwing Barbies into trees could never imagine the life she’d lead at the end of 2010. Just yesterday she turned 32. No really, I really did, just yesterday, turn 32.

It’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? To write your life down like that? To see it written like that, with just a few hundred words, really encompassing all the changes, all the phases, all the strife and all the joy.

Would I change any of it? Not a thing. Would I trade my recent sad times for happy times? Nope. For me, pain has and always will be, the cornerstone of spiritual growth. When I begin to emerge from sad times, I am like a rose opening her face to the sun, cleansed, grateful, joyous.

It seems like just yesterday I thought I’d never feel happy again. And then like that, like a firecracker in the night, the veil lifts and happiness glitters once again.

My old pool league operator once said words to me that I live by today. After I played a really terrible game of 9-ball and thought I’d never break my losing streak he said, “you can never fully appreciate victory until you experience defeat.”

The words were in reference to a game, but they are so true for my life. After I have been cleansed of sadness and melancholy, I can truly open my eyes to gratitude. How’s that for victory?

Happy New Year everyone! Be safe tonight and please, if you have a few drinks, call a cab.

See ya next year!

PS – I’ll be updating to Snow Leopard today, so if I’m not online for awhile, it means I screwed something up. 😉

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Filed under Adjustment to blindness, apple Inc, birthday, Combat, faith, family, fellowship, gratitude, holiday, Insert, Jayden, mom, new year, pool, proud geek, sobriety, white cane