Category Archives: working dog

Let it snow! Let it um, snow…oh crap it’s gonna snow

Happy holidays, everyone! Whoa wait, what? Who am I and what have you done with Ro? Yeah yeah yeah, so I’m not all bah humbug this year, what can I say? something about being a part of a happy family with a child, in the cold, with the scent of a pine candle on a warmer next to my computer has made me embrace the holidays like I haven’t done since I was newly sober and life was shiny and new. Hmmm, shiny new life, happy with the holidays. coincidence? I think not.

Anyway, snow. The first time it snowed here a week ago, it felt magical. We woke up to everything covered in sparkling white, at least that’s how I imagined it. The kids had the day off thanks to the once monthly teacher planning day, and the sounds of happy children filled the air.

I put on the heavy winter coat I bought at Value Village over my normal layers, added a heavy crochet scarf (granny squares sewed together that was supposed to be a bed coverlet that I gave up on) and my new fur lined boots and went outside with Jayden. We walked up and down the street with the kids and I marveled at the feel and sound of crunching underfoot. David’s ten year-old kept brushing piles of snow off Jayden’s nose. the kids filled a wheelbarrow full of snow from people’s cars to build an ice fort in the front yard of the house across the street from David’s. There was so much joy!

Then I started feeling the cold and my scarf was getting kind of gross since I had it wrapped around my nose and mouth and did you know that cold makes your nose run?

When we stepped into the house, my body instantly began baking in my layers, my boots squeaking as snow melted and I realized my feet, and Jayden’s, were wet and tracking snow into the house. Not so magical, I thought.

I peeled off layers and dried our feet and settled in to drink coffee and read some Twitter while the kids played outside. When it was time for Jayden to have a pee, I bundled up, wrapped the scarf around my face, laced my feet into my boots, and went back outside to enjoy the snow again. David’s son came into the yard and pelted me with a snowball. It was on!

I picked up the nicely packed snowball and rubbed it up, imagining red stitches against the white, my fingers across four seams. I narrowed my eyes at the giggling child at the plate, wound up and let fly. It went way left and was most definitely a wild pitch. A runner on third would have scored easily. All the ten year-old’s snowballs hit me squarely. Hmmm, this isn’t fun like I remember it the few times it snowed in Tucson when I was sighted, I thought, as a kid, or as an adult at the pool hall when we scooped snow off of cars to throw at each other since it didn’t stick on the ground. That night had been the first time I’d driven in the snow,, and last, unbeknownst to me. It looked like warp speed on the Starship Enterprise as the flakes were caught in the beams of my headlights.

This time, there was no snowball fight with friends in a parking lot and no warp speed stars. the kids went off to a friend’s house and with no happy little voices frolicking around, just Jayden and me crunching around in the snow alone, we went inside to where it was warm and where David, accustomed to the Washington weather, waited with coffee and a hug.

The snow turned to ice after some lovely freezing rain and temperatures, and I got used to bundling up for the minute it takes Jayden to relieve himself. Apparently, this weather hasn’t been normal around these parts for quite some time, though more snow is coming. Just in time for the frigid air, a big box full of winter clothes arrived on my doorstep from a Rays fan friend in Florida. She’d lived in the Pacific Northwest for awhile, and those clothes were going unused, so now I have a variety of sweaters to choose from, rather than this Rays shirt, or that Rays tank top, with this Rays hoodie, or that one. She even sent a hooded wool coat. thanks, friend!

I think I’ll wrap this up and go make some chocolate peanut butter candy to see how the boys like it. I get to make Mom’s old favorite holiday sweets now that there are plenty of people to enjoy them.

Merry Christmas!

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Filed under baseball, coffeeholic, crochet, family, gratitude, holiday, Jayden, mom, num num food, relieving, sobriety, twitter me this, weather, working dog

Carnival Post: I Will Not Regret the Past (Except for the Purpose of this Post)

Posts are being written and compiled for the next round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, the topic of which is regrets. I’m down to the wire on this one. The deadline is in just over an hour as I paste my post into WordPress.

the first idea to come to mind when I pondered what I regret about my first and current guide dog, Jayden, is that we didn’t go to Muir Woods when we were at school together at guide Dogs for the blind. As if to punctuate that thought the day I was considering what to write about for the blog carnival, I ran across this article about Muir Woods’s tallest tree.

I knew about the trip to Muir Woods before I went to GDB and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to. I imagined beams of sunlight sneaking through the canopy of tall, stately redwoods, the scene suffused with a warm golden glow, a lovely and peaceful walk with my dog through the beauty of nature, the quiet and meditative quality of the stroll with my new partner, it was going to be beautiful.

My first mistake was having that expectation. Never, never have expectations. Nothing is ever what we think it will be.

My training at GDB was hard on me emotionally and physically and when it came time for the Muir Woods trip at the end of the three weeks, I didn’t have it in my heart to go. All I could think about was returning home with my boy and settling back in to life where I was comfortable, without instructors popping out and telling me what to do. why wouldn’t they tell me what to do? Even major league baseball players still have hitting coaches.

I regret being so damned willful.

What an experience that would have been, to stroll through those woods, to smell the trees, to take a break from the honking, humming and thumping of cars but I was just so tired. I was tired and I did not want to ride on the bus for an hour on a winding road, worrying about limiting my fluids, not just Jayden’s. Not being able to smoke. I regret that I used to be held hostage by nicotine.

Looking back, I always think Muir Woods would have been the perfect place to have that first amazing walk with jayden; our other walks were stressful for both of us while in class. I deeply regret letting the physical and mental fatigue win.

One of the ways I live today is not regretting the past, yet here I am doing just that. Jayden and I did have that first awesome walk together the day we arrived home in tucson and he guided me out of the airport, around concrete poles, following B through cold rain and biting wind to the car. I grinned the entire time even though it wasn’t majestic redwoods he guided me through.

Thinking about regrets is dangerous territory unless we look at regrets not as regrets, but as mistakes.

I made a mistake by not going to Muir Woods and I won’t make that mistake again. I learned my lesson. I have not turned down a trip since then and Jayden and I have had some pretty awesome experiences together.

If you wrote your own post on regrets for this blog carnival and if that post dredged up painful feelings, just remember the past cannot be changed and we only grow by making mistakes and learning from them.

On a lighter note,another regret I have is not teaching Jayden to stay out of the kitchen. I envy my friend Carin that she did with her guide and you can bet I won’t make that mistake again. This is a small regret, but it’s the only thing that can grow into a big thing when He won’t get out from under-foot. I’ve been able to teach him to stay on the couch when I put him there however, so I found a solution.

Oh and one more thing speaking of the couch, I regret that he was taught such good house manners with regards to furniture because here at home, he does not need permission every single time he wants up on the couch. It’s your couch too, buddy!

(Ok, that’s not really a regret since I’m incredibly grateful for his house manners. thank you to his puppy raisers!)

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Filed under blog carnival, doggy school, fellowship, GDB, guide dogs, Jayden, jayden quirks, puppy raisers, sobriety, spoons, working dog

My Not So fiery Thursday

Picture it: Sicily I mean Tucson, a beautiful day in mid April, a 1950’s era home with doors and windows flung wide, a breeze full of deliciously fresh spring air dancing from door to door and door to window.

It was about 12:30pm on Thursday and I was contemplating making my lunch while doing something on the laptop, probably reading Twitter,while Jayden snuggled beside me on the couch. All was quiet and lovely and I was in a wonderful mood after a surprise from iTunes that morning.

After preordering the new Josh groban album, Stages, I was confused to hear the tritone chime alerting me to new downloads. Since the album isn’t out until the twenty-eighth I wasn’t expecting a download. Was it because I preordered the deluxe version? I knew some of the songs were out in the wild since I’d read tweets from people commenting on them. I have avoided reading the song list or listening to any of the new ones, wanting to experience the album song by song, sight unseen.

Curious, I searched my library for Stages and had songs! What was this magic? I didn’t check how many, wondering which songs they would be, anticipation building as I grabbed my bluetooth speaker and settled in to listen.

I had four new Josh Groban songs! four! Is it April 28 yet? April has been an awesome month for books and music, I must say.

So a few hours later as I contemplated making my turkey and radish sandwich before my Thursday call, relaxed back on the couch with my laptop, it took me a few seconds to understand the sudden horrible blaring screeching noise, Jayden bounding off the couch and running, cats running, everyone running and the blaring, was it coming from outside? No. In the house? yes. Do I smell smoke? No. Jayden was leaping around, nails clicking on the tile floor, if the screeching was hurting me it must be killing him.

Follow the sound, it was bouncing off tile and walls, bedroom? windows open in there, the only windows with screens. Neighbor burning weeds again? blaring. I can’t hear myself think. I can’t see. I can’t hear, anything but the blaring. Is something on fire? I don’t smell smoke. Are we ok? I don’t smell smoke. Bedroom, it would be up near the ceiling. run my hands along the rough brick of what used to be the outside of the house. I mutter the word help. A neighbor will hear the blaring and come to help. I can’t reach it. Run out of the bedroom, close the door.

Hurry away from the sound. Pull my phone from my pocket. B might be taking a lunch break. He has working eyes. He can come make the sound stop.

Ding ding: Call B.

Siri: Calling B.

ring ring. Ring ring. ring ring. voicemail.

Hi, um everything is fine and nothing is on fire but the fire alarm thing is going and I can’t stop it but you didn’t answer, think I’ll call the fire department just in case.

Ding ding: Call 911.

Siri: calling emergency in five seconds.

Blaring fire alarm. Head pounding. Nervous giggles threatening.

Silicon Sally: What is your emergency?

Silicone Sally? Seriously?

Um, fire alarm is going off.

Dispatcher, a real woman.

Your fire alarm is going off?

Yes and I’m blind. I don’t smell smoke.

Her voice takes on an edge. You’re blind? Ok sending a truck right now. What is your address?

I tell her, beginning to spell the street name and she interrupts.

I’ve got the spelling. Go outside and wait for the truck ok?

Ok. We hang up.

I freeze in the living room. I usually put timmy in a room when I go outside so he won’t escape. No time. No time to find timmy. He freaked out with the other animals anyway and is probably hiding. Go to back door, grab Jayden’s leash , go to front door, put leash on, step right outside the door, stop.

Wait. In school we always had to walk away from the building. Jayden’s harness is right inside the door. Step back in, grab his harness, step out, put it on, direct him to the curb.

The distant siren growing closer and then the sound of a heavy engine turning the corner. I waved, feeling so happy to hear them so fast. Even though I knew nothing was burning, I was running on pure adrenaline, and that blaring, so loud, hurting my ears…I had known what it was like to lose that all important sense, at least in a way.

the men stomped towards me and cheerfully said hello and I followed one back to the house. Jayden stopped at the door and a fireman behind me said the door was closed.

“I thought he went in ahead of me.”

“He did, he left you in the dust,” a fireman said with a chuckle. We all tromped into the house and the blaring suddenly stopped.

“Did you have anything on the stove?”

“No.”

“Did you have a candle burning in the bedroom?”

“No.”

“We could smell something sweet in there,” he prompted.

“Oh well I have a Plug-In in there.”

They went on to tell me the fire alarms were all rather old. I said I would call the landlord. the first fireman said he left the detecter on the dresser next to the fan. I mentioned the neighbor burning grass and I could hear the eye roll in the first guy’s voice.

“He shouldn’t be doing that.”

I was so wishing he were, so he would get caught at no fault of mine. It was the smoke alarm’s fault.

The men left and I sent a thank you behind them.

Firemen. Even without vision I could tell they were hot. I was suddenly aware of the fact that I was wearing no braw under a t-shirt and men’s pajama bottoms. At least my hair was freshly cut!

B arrived five minutes after the men left and it was good he did because the smoke detector started chirping. We walked around the house thinking it must be one of the other ones but no, it was the same one. The fireman had pulled it off the wall and stopped the screeching but it still had its battery, which B promptly popped out. I left a message for the landlord, b went back to work, and I had my Thursday chat.

Not to worry, if I had smelled smoke, B would not have been my first call. It was a good learning experience. I will get another leash to keep by the front door and will grab Jayden’s harness in the event of an emergency so we can walk to the curb just like I learned in elementary school. The day was interesting, to say the least. And one word: firemen.

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Filed under apple Inc, cats, fellowship, gratitude, Jayden, music, Silicone Sally, Timmy, twitter me this, working dog

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

Walking and Writing

I’ve gotten a lot of work done on the novel today and I really want to get back to it but I need to write today’s post. Dang NaBloPoMo haha.

This afternoon B walked with Jayden and me to check out our street. It’s a nice residential street but unfortunately there are no sidewalks. We walked down our side almost to the end before turning back towards home. Jayden was very distracted by smells along the curb but he did a decent job of staying on the curb. I had to recall my sidewalkless street training from GDB and do a curb check every once in awhile. We crossed the street to go back and he was obsessed with trying to go up driveways. There’s an area near the house where there’s a complex of duplexes and there’s a sidewalk in front of them that Jayden happily took me to. It curves around alongside the main road so we followed it for a bit but there’s houses along there and B didn’t like the driveways. I think I’m going to check with GDB and see when there might be a representative out this way to do a refresher and help me learn the area. It was nice to take a walk with B though! He just sees the world as a sighted person with every danger a sighted person sees for the blind without the training to know what the blind can use their ears and guide dog to “see”.

I had started work on the novel this morning, taking a break for the walk, and then got right back to it. I got a few chapters done today. I’m learning I like to write by chapter. I’m taking out bits of the novel I had written years ago and refining it and shaping it. I’m getting good feedback from my test reader so it’s very exciting! Ok, back to it. Not editing this post. I want to get back to work.

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Filed under GDB, Jayden, NaBloPoMo 2014, working dog, writing

Tampa Bay Trip – Day Five: Ducky’s , Field passes and TV oh my!

*Just previewed this post and there are mucho mistakes but I’m tired so I’m not fixing them.*

I certainly didn’t mean to take a few days to get back to the trip posts but life doesn’t care about your plans eh? Anyway, onward we go to day five.

Knowing what was going to happen on this day was a big part of all the nerves I was feeling. It was April 2 and I knew I would be going on the field for batting practice. I knew I would be meeting players and I knew I needed to tell Evan Longoria that he saved my life. I had one chance and if I chickened out and didn’t tell him, I might not ever get the chance again. Just think back and pick out a certain athlete or musician or whatever it may be that was a part of your life during a huge turning point. Now imagine you knew there was a really good chance you would meet them. Imagine the fear that you wouldn’t, like when it could have happened the year before but didn’t, that fear mixed with excitement. No wonder I had a hard time eating haha!

Oh yeah, and before all this I was going to Evan Longoria’s restaurant, Ducky’s. Man who gave me baseball and saved my life, dream maybe coming true later, going to his restaurant which was HIS dream come true, where he had his engagement party, going to his space, are you getting a taste of the level of my nerves? Am I doing a good job of describing it? My hands are shaking as I type the memories.

Dave Haller had told me to be at Tropicana Field at 4:30 for batting practice Ducky’s is in Tampa so Davis came to pick me up with Manda And butch at 1:00. How on earth did I kill time? I can’t remember. That whole day is a blur. Luckily the really awesome parts stand out in high definition.

We drove to Tampa and when we arrived at Ducky’s I felt so happy. I checked in on Foursquare. Coolest checkin next to the Trop? Probably haha. Some other friends were meeting us there so we sat at a big round table. The walls were nothing but big TVs. I got a Dr. Pepper and it came in a Rays glass. How cool! Davis said there wasn’t Rays memorabilia everywhere. The glasses were a nice touch. I pictured it very understated. It was quiet but I’m sure when people gather to watch games it’s loud. It was elegant though. Chic. I asked everyone if Longoria mentions a favorite food there. Manda named a few things and the pickled crab cakes stuck out so that’s what I ordered. I wondered if I’d even be able to eat.

while we were waiting for our food we wandered over to the mini bowling. Way back on Twitter when the trip was just a dream, someone (Professor Twain?) said I should try the bowling. There was no way I wouldn’t try it! The balls you roll are like Skeeball balls. Someone put the bumpers up and you can here me whine, “noo!” Hahaha. Hear me? Oh yeah, there’s video. We each had two turns.

My first turn didn’t start out so well.

Direct youtube link

My second turn was much better.

Direct youtube link

We didn’t finish our whole game since our food came out and friends got there. The pickled wait not pickled. Deviled? I can’t remember, crab. Crab cakes haha. they were so good! Can’t beat crab in a coastal town. I managed to eat them all and try a piece of Manda’s candied bacon. Oh my yum! I had some of Davis’ fries too. They remind me of In and Out fries. I wondered if Evan did that on purpose with the fries since he’s from California. I took a souvenir from Ducky’s – Evan’s sauce.

There was a monkey dish of spicy sauce on my plate and right as we were nearing the end of our visit to Ducky’s I knocked the dish off and spilled it on my pants, purse and #ROTOTROP jersey. Before I could even think, the girls at the table jumped up, stripped the jersey off me and ran away. Davis was at work getting the sauce off my purse and all I could do was laugh. I had Evan’s sauce on me. Too perfect. the girls got the stain off the white jersey like living Tide stain sticks. Yay!

I visited the restroom before we left and was even impressed by that. The stalls are completely enclosed. No gaps in the doors or doors that didn’t lock. They were like little closets with glass doors. Very nice. We took Jayden to pee in the grass and then headed back to St. Pete. Oh my! Would I meet Evan?

Tina was going to meet us at the Trop since she had to work and missed out on Duckeyss. We got to the Trop early and waited around outside the gate. When it was time to go in, there was a surprise. Everyone got to go on the field with me! Originally there were only supposed to be two passes but Davis had asked Dave Haller if everyone could come inside to kill time before gates actually opened. He wasn’t expecting everyone to be allowed on the field but Dave worked his magic again so Davis, Tina and butch came with Manda and me on the field! I was so happy they could all be there!

We walked into the Trop and it was pretty cool to be the only fans inside. It was just us and the team! Oh yeah, and the bluejays haha. We were led down a ramp and passed the Rays clubhouse! We passed Alex Cobb! Alex freaking Cobb! We said hi as we passed and I was told he waved. I love Alex Cobb! Too bad he didn’t stop to chat haha.

And then we were on the field! As soon as I felt the turf under my feet I hit my needs and ran my hands over the fake grass. It felt like real grass! It was short and tight and I could feel the filler they put in. I was touching the Tropicana Field grass! We were in the area behind home plate. We weren’t alowed to go very far. There was a rope set up like they have to form lines at the bank. There was no music on yet.I started a voice note on my phone and kept my phone in my pocket. I hoped to record everything that happened down there for my memories.The place was so quiet! When you stand on the field in a dome like that you can really feel the enormity of the place. I remember noticing that at Chase Field last year.

Eventually the players started coming out for batting practice and I started meeting them! They all asked Jayden’s name and gave him love. Jayden was in puppy heaven! I think Wil Myers wanted to take him home. Manda was telling me who the guys were as they came up. I got hugs from all of them! Wil Myers, Sean Rodriguez, James Loney, Matt Joyce, Yunel Escobar, Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, Jose Molina, and Logan Forsyth. Logan was the last one for me to meet that would round out the starting lineup for that night’s game. I also met reliever Joel Peralta. At one point a ball from batting practice rolled over and I had it in my hands when I met Loney and Forsyth so they both offered to sign it. Steve Carney came over and I asked for a real hug since we had only met briefly in the radio booth the night before.

Who am I forgetting? I’m forgetting someone. Tee heeeee heeeeee YES I MET EVAN LONGORIA! Video or it didn’t happen right?


Direct youtube link

What Davis didn’t capture and I’m glad is me hitting my knees as Evan walked away and crying. He said he’d come back! I didn’t want him to walk away. I wanted to talk to him forever, to tell him that baseball saved my life and he started it and I wanted to ask him about Elle and tell him about Jayden and just talk and he walked away but I hugged him I hugged Evan Longoria!

Jayden licked my tears from my face and I stood up, pulled myself together and met more people. Players and coaches and media guys Marc topkin, Joe Smith, Roger Mooney, Todd Kalas, Dave and Andy again and Neil Solondz came over and I finally got to meet him. He also dropped a surprise on me. He wanted to interview me later for that Sunday’s episode of This Week In Rays Baseball!Whaaaaaat? Wow. Oh that wasn’t the only surprise for that day. Dave Haller had emailed me that morning to let me know to be back on the field at 6:30 for a surprise. Hmmm. I was already going to be back on the field at 6:00 because Kelly nash wanted to talk to me for TV. Neil was trying to pin me down for an interview, I had met Evan longoria, wow wow wow! Evan was supposed to come back, would he come back?


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I did get to tell him he saved my life! the picture that was taken of us was for the Times. Evan put his left arm around my shoulders and my right arm went around his waist. Luckiest girl ever! Well except maybe jaime. Jayden was on my left and that picture was in the paper. Davis cropped it for me so I could make it my Twitter profile picture. I’m told we both have big genuine smiles and look very happy. that picture captured my utter happiness. I’ll never change it!

I haven’t yet uploaded all the videos with the players but I uploaded to more two share in this post. First is my meeting with Ben Zobrist.


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He is so tall! I didn’t know that until I hugged him. He was so fun to talk to. My face hurts from grinning as I listened to that just now. What a great guy!

And my face hurts again from grinning as I listened to this next video.

Direct youtube link

Longoria, Zobrist and Maddon were all apart of that magical 2008 season that saved my life. I got to tell Joe too! How many people from Tucson can say they stood on a major league field and talked to Joe Maddon about scouting and Mexican food? I must be the only one right? Wow. You can here how happy I was to meet Joe. What a dream! I’m so grateful there’s video or I might not believe this all happened!

Oh yay, time for lunch and a break.

I remembered while I was eating to explain why I wrote a few posts ago that on the jersey the hashtag was in all caps, #ROToTrop. I showed the jersey to Marc topkin on the field and he pronounced the hash tag so it sounded like Robocop. It was funny but maybe you had to be there.

When the Rays were done with batting practice the Jays were coming out on the field. We started discussing whether to stay on the field when someone, I can’t remember who, said we could go check out the new 360 walkway before gates opened. We did talk to one Bluejay though, Jose Bautista. He strolled over to say hi and I asked for a picture since B is a blueJays fan.

We left the field and took a walk around the Trop. They opened up the walkway so you can walk around the whole place now. It was cool to still be the only fans inside. I could hear the Jays taking BP below us. Davis pointed things out like the gong and the TV area and stuff. We ran into Enrique Oliu again. He was talking with Orestes Destrade so I got to meet him too. Sweet!

Davis and I both walk really fast so before I knew it everyone else was left behind. We ran into someone from Twitter who works at the Trop and then Tina was there. We used the ladies and then went over to see the Ray tank. I was getting a little stressed about time since I had to be back on the field to talk to Kelly Nash. The visit to the tank was a quick one. They told me to put my hand in the water straight down and the ray would graze my fingers. When it happened I jumped and squealed since I couldn’t see it swim towards me haha! There was a sink to wash hands and then we were off again, hoffing it back to the field. I had wanted to swing by the suite for some water but there wasn’t time. We were getting in the elevator and Suddenly Manda was there. Butch was off to start letting people in since we had the tickets. We walked to the edge of the barrier again and Kelly Nash came over. it was wonderful to meet her! I exclaimed at how tiny she is. She might be tiny, but she’s a force! She prepped me on the interview we would do. she asked the questions so I could start thinking about them. Then it was time to head over to the dugout. wow! Manda came with us and I was sat in a chair facing the dugout with the field behind me. Kelly sat next to us and Jayden lay down between us. Kelly started prepping me again and then Manda was there with cold water. Oh sweet relief! At one point Kelly said Matt Moore walked behind us. matt Moore! He was starting that night.

We sat for awhile and then it was time for the interview. This was live TV! kelly let me know they were talking to her through her ear piece and then she was talking to me. It was over pretty fast. It’s cool to see how that stuff works behind the scenes! When I stood, Dave Haller was there and told me I’d be throwing out the first pitch! Wow! I had wondered if maybe that was what the surprise was since the timing was right. Beyond the first pitch though, I was to be inducted into the Super Fan Hall of Fame! Dave walked Jayden and me over to two other fans who were also getting inducted and handed me a ball. I remembered my pitching lesson with Adam Pendleton the day before and gripped the ball to throw a four seamer haha! They told me I’d be throwing the ball to Raymond, the Rays mascot. I could hear that the Trop was filling in and then the PA guy, I’m sure it was rusty, introduced each of us and told a little of our stories. There had been no preparation in my head for this haha! Cheers and cowbells rained down on us and we threw our pitches. Raymond missed the ball haha. I can’t remember who was there to tell me. Dave Haller? manda? Raymond came up to me and I think they got a picture of us. Talk about a blur! Jayden was like what is that thing and why is it hugging you? Then we were leaving the field. “Bye Field,” I said wistfully.

I was oh so ready to sit down in the suite and drink some water. It wasn’t over yet though. As we approached the suite, Neil Solondz was there ready to do my interview. We stood in the hall outside the suite as the game was starting. After the interview I mentioned having told Dave and Andy I’d stop by and bring cookies and Neil walked me to the booth. I had the first pitch ball with me and decided I would have everyone sign it. Dave and Andy were happy to see me again and during a break they wanted pictures. I asked them to sign the ball. I think I had Dave Haller sign it there too. It was tough to leave the booth again. the emotions of the day started welling big time and leaving Dave and andy was the cincher. I could feel tears spring to my eyes.

We were walking towards the suite and I was trying not to cry. I had a whole new group of people to meet that night and I was excited. Someone said my name and it was Professor Twain! That was it. I started bawling. Great way to meet someone for the first time eh? I through myself into his arms and my tears soaked his Tampa Smokies Jersey. Mrs. T was there too and we decided to take Jayden out for a potty break. He’d done a lot too! We almost lost Mrs. T coming back inside. Security stopped her. What? We called back to them that she was with us and they let her go. Crazy.

Finally we made it up and into the suite and I got to meet the others. Ed and his wife are from England and they brought me a bunch of British goodies! Not just for me either, goodies for Jayden, too! ed’s wife was telling me what everything was and I got a kick out of her saying “biscuits”. She’s so very British! That was a little later in the evening after I’d rested from the day and chugged water. I also desperately needed coffee which the suite didn’t have, so Ed ran out and got me a cup. Yay, friends!

I didn’t even use my radio during this game. Professor Twain sat next to me doing play-by-play. It was awesome! We thought we were going to be on the jumbotron for the seventh inning stretch but since I wasn’t with the other super fan hall of fame people, we weren’t. that was fine by me! There had been so much excitement that day, I’m not sure I could have handled more.

Mrs. T and I went and checked out the team store on the suite fllor. We had our own freaking team store! Butch came with us to by a hat. Mrs. T bought me a Longo shirt and a baseball bracelet! I swear I hardly spent any of my own money on that trip. While we were in the store I heard Metallica playing and knew that would be Grant Balfour coming into the game. Darnit, I was bummed to miss him. The Rays lost that night but they got him in for some work.

I was sad to leave the suite. It had been home for three games. They even let us keep stuff in there, like Jayden’s mat and stuff. A lot of pictures were taken with me and friends and Jayden and then it was time to go. “Bye suite, “I said wistfully.

What an amazing day! I’d be back the next day as a normal fan, sitting in normal seats. That hadn’t been the original plan, but I couldn’t be in St. Pete while the Rays were playing and not be at the Trop. So it was bye field and bye suite, but not bye Trop yet!

When I got back to my room I called B and got ready to pass out.

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Tampa Bay Trip – Day Four: Ferg’s and the Radio Booth

First let me thank Josh Groban for “cleansing my pallet” (my listening pallet?) so I could focus on happy memories. I’m currently reading the new Stephen King book and I had let it sour my mood. Music saved the day this morning, yay!

So Tuesday April 1, 2014. This day ranks right on top of all of the days. A bunch of us met at Ferg’s Sports Bar before the game. One can’t visit from away and not do the Ferg’s thing. I had been looking forward to it for months! Our group even had our own section reserved! The red carpet treatment was everywhere! I am just me, right?

I had slept great the night before thank goodness. So I was well rested and fresh. It was awesome to experience Ferg’s, a place I had heard so much about. It’s really cool. There’s different levels and wood floors that sound cool to walk on. There’s plenty of outdoor seating and that’s where our section was. The actual bar area is where the music is so it was quieter outside. I hear it gets pretty crazy at night after games so I was glad we went beforehand.

I was craving a burger with fries and an iced tea. I can’t remember what it was called, but I got a burger with blue cheese and bacon. It reminded me of a burger I used to get at The Diner, before it closed. It tasted similar too! Unfortunately I couldn’t eat it all. Nerves! I mean really?

Hanging out at Ferg’s was so relaxing. Hearing happy voices around me, music, fellow Rays fans, it was the best!

One of the people who was there was Adam Pendleton. He had been signed by the Rays and reported to Spring Training and was so interesting to talk to! It was like an inside look at Spring Training! I don’t remember how we got on the subject of pitching grips but if I had been anticipating what would happen next, my nerves would have ratcheted up even more!


Direct youtube link

Thanks Davis for taking the video and having a spare baseball in the car! Adam signed the ball for me and it is now in a protective display box. That experience was going to be hard to top! The video didn’t capture Adam explaining the two and four seem fastballs but those were the easiest pitches to remember haha.

I had an idea about how a split finger was held thanks to Dave and Andy a few years back describing it on air and explaining how that can be tender around the elbow joint. I remember trying it, without a baseball, just spreading my index and middle fingers apart as far as they would go and it definitely hurt.

I remember asking B what a knuckleball was when I was first starting to study baseball and he showed me with a tennis ball. Those were my two experiences with pitching grips before I met Adam. Thanks to my Twitter friend Eric, for bringing your awesome son!

the food came after that and I was midway through when my friend Kaitlyn arrived. Did we scream? I can’t remember. She is my YOUNGIFIER on Twitter and that translated perfectly in person. She is like the sister I never had and I adore her!!!

After we settled up at Ferg’s, we were set to walk to the park. Ferg’s is across the street from Tropicana Field and there is a walkway under the street. So cool! It goes right up to the main gate.

I had Jayden’s dinner with me and Manda, Kaitlyn and I stopped along the way to feed and relieve the boy. I was giving everyone human guide lessons and today was kaitlyn’s turn haha. We met up with her mom outside the gate, went through security and into the main gate. I got a little panicky in there because there were tons of echoes. Echoes mess with my hearing which messes with my spatial reasoning. At the blind center here, they have foam “art” that gets rid of echoes. I don’t like echoes haha. Kaitlyn and I hustled it to the elevator. There was a picture of Jeremy Hellickson in the elevator and Kaitlyn is the biggest Helli fan alive. It was too funny!

Dave Haller had let me know that one of the Spanish radio broadcasters, Enrique Oliu, and his wife Debbie would be waiting for me in the suite. As soon as we walked in, he was there! Enrique is also blind . He’s got a great story! It was great to talk with him. When I said I would be visiting Dave and Andy during the game, he told me to be sure to stop by the Spanish booth.

Oh did I forget to mention that? Yep, I was scheduled to visit Dave {Wills} and Andy {Freed} in the radio booth during the third inning! I met them in Arizona last year when the Rays played the DBacks, but I was so excited to see them again and be in the booth!

We settled in to get ready for the game. Kaitlyn was on my right and I have to wonder if people thought we were a bit crazy hehehe. We had so much fun together! She truly is my YOUNGIFIER. I got to be my unbridled silly self with her. I tend to tone my silliness down. Most adults tone their silliness down. I guess I’m Peter Pan at heart.

She kept gazing at Hellickson in the Rays dugout haha. It was just too awesome. Oh and guess who else came by the suite? Tiffany! She’s the woman who keeps David Price in line. I’ve talked to her quite a bit on Twitter and it was so wonderful to meet her! I’m so glad she came by!

Dave Haller came to take me to the radio booth. Excited! Davis came with to get pictures and video. the radio booth was on the same floor as the suite and not far away. We got there and I could hear them talking as we stood outside the door to the booth. I had just been listening to them on my littler radio and there they were, in front of me! We stood silent until the second inning ended and as soon as they went to commercial they got up and came over to hug me. Happy reunion! There were two steps down to their desk and they were both very helpful helping me get to the seat they rolled over between them for me to sit. I got Jayden settled between them and Dave stuck a set of headphones on my head. I could hear the commercials. Dave was on my left, Andy on my right and I told them that’s how I always imagined them. I asked if they had ever mentioned that but they didn’t know. Later I figured out that the reason I probably always pictured them that way is because Dave is a lefty.

The top of the third inning started and I heard Dave and Andy in my headphones as I sat between them. What. An. Experience! Rays Radio emailed me a copy and told me I could share it, so so click to listen if you like. During the commercial break we talked and I met Steve Carney finally, getting an awkward hug.

I had forgotten to bring the cookies I was going to bring to the booth so they told me to come back the next day. Yes please! There were hugs all around and then I stopped by next door to listen to the Spanish broadcast. I don’t speak Spanish but I was pretty sure I heard “bonita” and “perro”. So I think they were saying I had a pretty dog haha. I recognize some words. Sometimes if the 620 WDAE feed is having problems in Gameday audio, I’ll tune into the Spanish broadcast just to keep an idea of what’s going on. Even when you only know one percent of the Spanish language, it’s amazing what you can pick up when you are a dedicated student of the game.

It was awesome to talk to Adam during the game and ask him what he thought was wrong with Alex Cobb. Cobb just wasn’t sharp on the second game of the season. It was too cool to talk the game with someone who had seriously played it. The rest of the game I was silly with Kaitlyn, mingled with my other friends and cheered the Rays to their first loss of the season. I definitely enjoyed the experience, if not the outcome.

I feel like I’m missing something. Wednesday was the truly crazy day so maybe my mind is already focusing on that haha! I might take a break and finish this trip remembrance Monday and give my arms a break. Though I don’t want to lose the momentum, so we shall see.

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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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Tampa Bay Trip – Day Two

Ok, so day two of the trip of a lifetime. This day was supposed to be a recovery day after traveling. It’s a good thing I planned a recovery day in case I needed it, but I didn’t need it. I must have slept hard after staying up late the night before talking with Manda. The Starbucks iced mocha after I landed in Tampa was probably partly to blame for staying up late haha. I would have slept later if not for the seagulls. Did you know those birds scream in the mornings? wow. Oh and my room was right next to the pool. And there were a lot of kids staying at the hotel. The combination of seagulls and kids screaming makes it pretty impossible to sleep too late. It’s a wonder I slept as long as I did. Thank you, ear plug.

I got up and for once Jayden didn’t get excited the second I got out of bed. I could imagine him laying on the bed, opening one eye to look at me and then deciding he was on vacation and didn’t need to budge. I used the coffee maker in the room to warm up water to make my Starbucks instant coffee. That is the best way to avoid nasty hotel coffee. At least it usually is. The coffee maker didn’t make very hot water so I woke up with some lukewarm coffee and checked email and Twitter on the iPad.

I had made plans with Davis for that morning. I had asked if he could bring Egg McMuffins since I can never get to a McDonald’s before they stop serving breakfast. Foiled again though, since I didn’t wake up until around 10am. Why couldn’t those meddling kids have woken me up earlier?

Davis came buy anyway because he wanted to see how Voiceover works on my iOS devices. Davis is blind in one eye and since meeting me, some of the fear of losing his good eye has gone. It was good for him to see how technology still works for me. I showed him some of the apps I use that help me identify objects and color and text. He’ll just need to switch to iOS from Android haha. Though I hear Android is making great strides in accessibility.

After the technology demo I was feeling a little hungry so Davis and I went to downtown St. Petersburg. I had decided I wanted to try the Tijuana Flats place he goes to all the time. The weather was absolutely beautiful! There was some car rase going on downtown and when I opened the car door I was greeted by the distant whine of racecars! So cool! Oh we had also driven by Tropicana Field. I’d finally be there the next day!

When we went to the counter they all knew Davis by name and after he introduced me, one of the girls started calling me Arizona. Nice! Like Alabama in the Quentin Tarantino movies!

I ordered nachos and got a plate big enough for Hagrid to eat. I check in on Foursquare where Davis is the mayor so in the comment on the checkin I wrote, “Lunch with the Mayor”. I think my dad thought I meant the actual mayor haha!

I don’t have a picture, but I VandalEyesed the napkin dispenser.

After we ate we walked over to Starbucks so I could get more of the Via instant coffee. It turns out the ones I bought in Tucson with my friend Lori were not the right kind even though Lori specifically tried to make sure they were. The barista had kept trying to give me decaf. The ones I finally got were caffeinated but they turned out to be the iced coffee blend, which I didn’t know until Manda read the package at the hotel. All that joking Lori and I did about my Florida friends not wanting to see me decaffeinated and I still ended up with the wrong coffee. So we got the right stuff and Davis drove back to Treasure Island.

We took Jayden to his litter box and then decided to walk down to the water. I took a couple videos. Too bad the iPhone can’t block wind sound. That’s loud! The first one is a little over two minutes as we were walking. I’m holding the phone so I bet it’s bouncy haha. The second one is about 45 seconds with feet in the water. I tried to get Jayden reacting to the waves.


Direct youtube link #1

Direct youtube link #2

The sand there is not like what I’m used to. It’s not fine like the sand in San Diego. There’s a lot of history about the Treasure Island beach that Manda told me about the night before but I can’t remember the details. There’s actually plants and trees on the beach which I can’t even begin to fathom. The waves didn’t roar like they do in SanDiego since Treasure Island is on the bay. I didn’t feel the power and enormity like I did in San Diego. It’s a gentle tied. It’s like a different world!

After Davis left I hung around for a little bit and then Manda came over so we could write in the cards I got from the Guide Dogs for the Blind store to put the tickets to the suite. I had the suite schedule for each of the three nights so I would tell Manda who the card was for and how many tickets and she’d describe the puppy pictures on the cards. It was good times! I told her what to write in the cards and several times I got emotional. The enormity of the trip had finally sunk in. Tomorrow I would be going to the Trop for the first time and I’d be meeting even more people. I was suddenly exhausted!

I don’t know how we got through all those cards. We took a break at one point and ordered Cheesesteak delivery.

Manda organized the cards into piles so we could keep them all straight. I don’t remember what time we finished and called it a night. I just remember being exhausted from getting so emotional. I thought I would sleep like the dead. I didn’t sleep at all. I rotated between trying to sleep, listening to my book, checking Twitter, but no sleep. How was I going to manage Opening Day on no sleep?

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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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