Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why is it always the woman?

Recently, one of my friends told me about an experience with a date. He pinned her wrists and pressured her for sex. She told him to stop and it was making her uncomfortable, yet he told her that she wanted it and to relax.
Some people say it’s the woman’s responsibility for her actions as well as the man’s. Not true! A woman has the right, at any time, to say stop and that she doesn’t like it, and the man will ideally respect her wishes. That also goes the other way around if the man is uncomfortable.
It is a form of victim blaming. “if she didn’t want to have sex, she shouldn’t have started something.” I think the question should be, “why is it automatically the woman’s fault, and why does the man not have to have self-control?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

tired as usual

I woke up at 7:30 when someone east coast time called my phone. After that, I tried to scan mail, but of course it kept freezing every two minutes. Eventually, I fed and relieved Dee, vacuumed, did laundry, and ran out the door to go to my practicum. It wasn't a bad drive; my professor is a nice person to talk to, and she gave me good advice about working with the student. She said I need to be friendly with the secretary and the principal as well as the child's teacher, so they can realize I am a competent person and that I am helping him.
Whenever someone sighted is with me, other people tend to talk to that person and assume I can't do anything. For example, one of the staff I spoke with asked my adviser if "how will she get here every day?" I responded that I have a driver and that I will be calling every morning to make sure he is there before making the trip.
This is the hard part for me; I am a business kind of person. I'm not good with small talk and doing the social niceties; I'm there to do a job and would like to get on with it. It's also my north mentality. I've noticed in the South that people like to have long conversations. For example, I went to the scrapbooking store a few weeks ago. The lady wanted to show us books her daughter made as well as cards and other things she designed; she also told us all about her wedding and her daughter's boyfriend and other things. All I wanted to do was get my paper and go; I also had a major headache which was not helping my patience.
Anyway, after we drove back to campus, I worked with another blind girl. We are reading the Barenstein Bears book, and we are half way through. She is having trouble with the ou sign which stands for out when written alone as well as the sh sign and the ch sign.
After that, I came home and attempted to make fudge. What a disaster. I didn't read closely enough to see that it said "powdered" sugar and used white sugar instead. I feel kind of nauseated from eating a piece of that fudge.

Monday, November 28, 2011

first field experience

I have five years of experience working with blind kids and adults, helping them learn to use the computer, elelectronic Braille devices, cooking, and other independent living things. But tomorrow is my first time working alone with a student. I have always worked alone with the adults, but with the kids, there was a Braille teacher and a travel teacher. Now, I am the only one. I am nervous; what if I don’t do well helping him learn to read? What if I have no idea how to teach? I’ll be dressed in a nice blouse with wool pants and my hair braided. Sometimes I feel as if I am playing at being an adult and more as if I am playing at being a teacher. Please God, help me to do well with this student.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Three wise women

There are many people who have affected me regarding my blindness and life in general.
One was Rose; she was my parapro from seventh through the middle of tenth grade. She helped me orient myself to the school, brailled things, made accessible pictures for math and science, ETC. I was terrified of entering junior high; elementary school was small, and I knew how to find everything. Suddenly, I was going into a junior high with four floors and 1,000 other students trying to get to class before the 3 minute bell rang. As I’ve written before, I was terribly shy and didn’t want to say anything to anyone in authority. She was always asking me questions. “you read that poem for English; what do you think the symbols mean? You talked about the death penalty in class; are you for or against, why?” At first, I just kept saying, “I don’t know,” and she said you have to have an opinion in there somewhere. Eventually, I began sharing my thoughts, even if I didn’t tell anyone else. We talked about race and racism, how I didn’t enjoy being catholic, family, ETC. She had high expectations for me academically and independence. I slowly gained confidence traveling the halls of the school, even when she was not walking with me
Another one is Doreen. She was my parapro after Rose took a different job. Besides all the scanning, editing, and brailling with AP Euro and three foreign languages, along with four other subjects she had to Braille, she listened to me as well. By this time, I knew how to be articulate with my feelings and beliefs and wasn’t afraid to share, even if they went against others around me. I talk to her about my mom problems. I told her my point of view on politics and religion. She is liberal and Methodist, so we have the same points of view. It was nice to find someone to share these ideas with and not have them be angry because of my beliefs. I told her about what I wanted to do in the future. Back then, I absolutely loved foreign languages, especially Spanish. I was born in Paraguay South America, where Spanish is the native language. I had four years in high school, and I planned to minor in it in college. I eventually wanted to live in a Spanish-speaking area to write and live in a bilingual community. When I told her that, she was like, that's great; I think you can do it. When I told my mom, she was like, why do you want to move so far away, to get away from me? Why do you want to live where there is Spanish culture; what's wrong with English.
Besides problems, I talked to her about things that were happy. When I got my first guide Valerie, she was the first person, besides Beckie, that I called. When I completed my first solo, I talked to her about it. When I got my AP scores, scholarships, my first job at kids camp, being able to go to Texas for NFB national convention, joined clubs, I told Doreen. She went with me to foreign language competition, where I was the top winner in Spanish for our region. The top winner in each language gets an Oxford dictionary for that language. It is a HUGE book!!! When I told my mom, she was like, what are you going to do with a print dictionary? I was like, that's not the point; the point is that is a prize for winning. We also went to New York to see hairspray. My mom was llike, what is soo great about new York and musicals; they are borring. We still talk every six months or so; I tell her about my life, and she tells me about hers.
Finally, there is Cheryl. I had posted on the NFB national association of blind students e-mail list that I was interested in being a journalist; Allison, one of the board members, emailed with contact info for a totally blind journalist from Michigan. I was so excited; finally there was someone who worked in the business for 30 years I could ask technical questions, writing help, and how to complete aspects of the job related to blindness. I was unsure what to say in the email, so I just said I was a 16-year-old blind student looking to talk. I think I wanted to know if I could do page layouts and how I could edit stories in class since everyone turned them in in print. To my surprise and happiness, she wrote back. “Dear Martha,
Well, I have a little more time to write and think about your
questions. I got your e-mail last night while I was at work to write
a story for Monday's paper, and I had to scoot pretty quickly, so I
didn't write much.

I was thinking - is there any way you can print up the dummies to a
braille embosser? That would be a pretty cool thing if you had one at
school and it could interface with the print printer.
I'll try to get information on a woman who edits and does design layout for a newsletter.
Unfortunately, you might have to have a little adaptation for your editing, and perform those tasks on a computer exclusively. I edit on my computer, but really don't know of any other way except the
braille embosser idea. I have one at home, not at work.
What I most want to tell you is that, yes, a totally blind person can
work at a newspaper. I never had anyone to tell me that when I was in
school, so i planned on getting two college majors just in case the
journalism one didn't work out. But it did!
As a professional, the biggest thing you need is a good support
system of several people who can drive for you if your local bus
system doesn't go everywhere you want it to. It's a good idea to get
retired people who are strongly civic minded; they know how important
it is for you to get there on time and come off as the class act that
I bet you are.
Where do you live? Would you ever be interested in coming up here and
job shadowing with me? It'd be swell!
By the way, I took graphics, but I worked with a reader and told her
verbally what I needed done, and she did it. That's the only way I
could think of at the time to get through it. I also took editing. I,
too, worked on the literary magazine as a high school sophomore. What
I never did is yearbook - I'd love to hear about that.
This probably is the most challenging job you'll ever have. Get ready!

After that, we exchanged many more emails. We expanded to talking about guide dogs, other aspects of blindness, religion, and just life. We met some time when she came to my hometown for a Christian conference and again when I went to Michigan for a dog scout camp in 2008.
That first email was 8 years ago; we both are now on different paths; I had depression as well as journalism burn out, so I went to grad school to become a teacher of blind students. The field is ever changing, and she also went back to grad school to become a rehab counselor. Even though I am no longer interested in journalism, we are still good friends. We email and have 2-hour long phone conversations. She listens to my dog ramblings and omg I don’t know if I can do this’s! She talks to me, and sometimes I have no idea what to say, so I listen and hope that is enough.
Writing is not as easy for me as it once was; it is hard for me to put things together with good detail and descriptions, especially when it is an emotional subject like this one. Being an inspiration and being thankful often brings up feelings associated with negativity, gratitude for accommodations, or pity disguised as compliments from the able-bodied public. However, in this case, I raise my virtual glass to these three women. Thank you for your overflowing cup of kindness and always treading lightly on my dreams.
This is my submission for this month’s edition of the disability blog carnival Please consider reading the other submissions and leaving comments for the authors.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

no pet bottles

I try to find ways to minimize my carbon footprint. One way I do this is to not buy disposable waterbottles. They are made from petroleum, which is disasterous for the environment. They are made of PET which is harmful plastic. I can tell because it smells funny when I open it, and the water has a disgusting plastic taste if it is a few weeks old.
Having a reusable water bottle saves me money. I also have a britta pitcher; while it is also a plastic item, one plastic item with a one-time expense is much better than putting hundereds of bottles in the trash because where I live does not have a recycling program. I drink at least 80 oz of water per day; I love how it tastes, and I love knowing that no matter how long it is in my stainless steel klean kantine bottle that it will stay cold and not taste or smell awful when I drink.

Friday, November 25, 2011

sometimes technology is not my friend

This is the ninth time I've tried to write and finish this. My pronto, a pda-like device with a braille disply, keeps freezing. The program I use to read my textbooks, mail, EtC doesn't let me do batches; I have to do each page individually. The internet at the apartment was down three days during finals week. My computer randomly stopped talking for three days. I'm hoping it all will work better soon.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I am glad to have friends to celebrate with and that we hadesome food!! I am also thankful for for the chance to get my masters degree in a program I absolutely love. I lobe my dog; she makes me smile every day! Finally, I am happy I am feeling somewhat better health wise, and I am hoping for continued improvement.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Food and more food

Today I went to stay at a friend's house to celebrate thanksgiving. For dinner, we had pasta with a whine and herb butter sauce as well as green beans with almonds. Tomorrow for the meal I am having Turkey and we are having stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, creamed corn, casserole, and pumpkin pie! We are sleeping in and cooking in our pjs. I can't wait; I am hungry already!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

comfort cocoa

Everyone has something that is a constant comfort item, and one of those for me is hot chocolate. I have had a mug or paper cup or travel bottle of it with me during some of the best and worst moments of my life.
When I got my first guide dog Valerie, we bet the instructor we all wouldn’t finish our routes by 11 am. I was the last one to go out of the four of us, and I finished at 10:29. Since she lost, she bought us a drink from star bucks. This was my first time there, and I loved the dark chocolate flavor, as opposed to the watery swiss miss I grew up drinking.
The next summer, I went to Guatemala. Kakao beans are a popular crop there, dating back to the time of the Mayans. As part of a museum tour, we got to watch them use a morter and pessel to grind the pods to cocoa, mix it with a little bit of sugar, and make them into round, flat cocoa bricks. That is my favorite kind of hot chocolate, a flavor I haven’t been able to duplicate since; it is rich, very dark, and not chemically processed. The closest I have come to finding a similar product is ah laska organic cocoa powder.
The next year, I went to starbucks on a cold, snowy February morning. I had just taken my last walk with Zorro. I bought the cocoa to have something to hold and drink so I wouldn’t sob in public as I signed the papers dissolving our partnership and returning him to the school.
Finally, last year, it was another freezing day. I was in Minneapolis. I started my trip at 8:30 walking to the bus, transferring to the lightrail, and getting off downtown. I walked a few blocks, went to the north side of Minneapolis, walked about a mile, spent 1.5 hours or more haplessly wandering around a park and river path before I found the bridge to cross over to northeast, and walked the rest of the 7 miles back to the south. By the time I finished, it was 3 pm; since the windchill made it feel like it was 0 degrees, I was freezing, even with my three layers, hat, scarf, and gloves. This was my final assignment for blind inc travel training, and the cup of chocolate I had when I got back warmed my hands and my insides.
I always have a can of godiva or ah laska chocolate mix wherever I live, and when I am miserable, want to celebrate, or need a constant in my routine, I have some.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hummus recipe

I first had hummus during my friend Michelle's large meal for 40 last May at blind inc. This is something I want to continue making because it is really good!
It sounds like it will be wonderful on naan, a flatbread originally from India.

1 can chick peas or garbanzo beans, or dried chick peas or garbanzo beans
1 tsp cumen
1 or 2 lemons (juiced)
Half cup olive oil
2 or 3 cloves garlic
Put all ingredients, except the beans, in the blender. Take off the top and stir occasionally to make sure ingredients don’t stick to the sides of the pitcher. Once all ingredients seem like they are mixed well, add the beans, and blend until smooth.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

fragrance free

A couple years ago, I realized that scented products bother me. I get a headache, and it is uncomfortable to breathe. I don’t like perfume, febreeze, Lysol, tylex, dryer sheets, downey, or any other scented cleaning or beauty products.
For laundry, I use soap nuts. They grow on a tree. I put them in a cotton or other natural cloth baggie, and when they are in hot or warm water, the sap releases. I can also make soap nuts liquid detergent for cold water by boiling them in water. To help with stains, I throw a half cup or so of baking soda in all of the clothes, especially the whites.
I use a fragrance free lip balm from organic essence; it comes in a cardboard tube, so it is better for the environment too.
Finally, I use fragrance free Dr. Bronner’s soap. I have a half gallon of it. It is shampoo, body wash, hand soap, and dish soap.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

first walk

A year ago today, I graduated from BLIND Inc an adjustment to independence training center in Minneapolis. For years, I had avoided going.
In the summer of 2005, I attended a training center program for high school students. It lasted 5 weeks, and since we were under 18, we had supervision 24 hours a day and weren’t allowed to have any alone time or go anywhere without a counselor and other students. That made me absolutely crazy. By the end, I was running out of patience and absolutely needed to get away from everyone. At that point, I was just starting to get comfortable with city travel. I think a part of me knew I should go for more training, but my thoughts then and for the next several years were “If 6 weeks with people made me crazy, I will never survive 6-9 months.”
After I had been in college and realized I was going to either have to go to grad school or get a new job, I knew I needed to go. Travel was, and still is, my weakest blindness skill. I think I would still get easily disoriented and be bad with directions if I were sighted.
I didn’t have good travel teaching when I was younger. As I’d written before, I wasn’t encouraged by my teachers in elementary school to walk by myself. As a result, I was one of the slowest moving people; because I was always in a group or hanging off of someone’s arm, I didn’t develop confidence to walk easily.
The first time I ever walked alone, without an adult supervising me or with a friend, I was in ninth grade. For some reason, my ride didn’t show up to pick me up from reading club after school. I was pretty sure I knew how to walk home once I got to the junior high school. I got there and walked the way I had learned with my travel instructor. I was fine till I got a block away from where I lived. I veered right into the street, and when I corrected myself, I didn’t know how to figure out where I was. Someone in a car saw me and gave me directions to get to Crawford, my street. I was so excited, and when I got home, I told my mom I had made it by myself.
After that, I practiced walking home with a travel instructor because I participated in 10 or so after school activities in high school and didn’t want to depend on a van. My mom saw something about kidnapping or something on TV, and after that, she was worried that I would be hurt and it wasn’t safe. So, I didn’t walk independently again until I got to college.

Friday, November 18, 2011

my health

The results of my bloodwork came back. I am anemic and vitamin deficient. I have to start taking iron pills and more vitamin b12.
My collesterol is also a little high, but nothing to really worry about.
I think I am going to increase my smoothy drinking to two per day instead of one. I think I’ll do 3 cups spinach to two cups lettuce instead of 2 and 2. I’ll also add more chia seeds because those are loaded with omega 3, which helps lower collesterol. I can also eat more walnuts; maybe I’ll make a waldorf salad.
Today’s meals were smoothie for breakfast. Applesauce for lunch. Celery with peanut butter for a snack, and carrots with an olive oil garlic dressing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

dog and cane charms

I just listened to a serotek podcast about accessorizing a cane or guide dog. Some people like to do this, and others think it is unprofessional.
I am one who likes to decorate. I have a purple harness for my guide dog; it is nylon. Not only is it padded and much lighter than the traditional leather harness, but is a nice color. I also have a dolphin-shaped collar bell. All of my dogs are good at moving silently, especially when they are doing something they aren’t supposed to. The bell helps me keep better track of my dog. She does not wear this when we go out because the noise bothers me, and I do not want to attract attention from neighborhood dogs.
I also like to put something on my cane. The cane is an extention of my body. When I went to the prom, I decorated it with bands of rhinestones. At blind inc., I had a guide dog charm on it; since everyone had one, it made it easy to tell which was mine. Now, I have a holly leaf-shaped charm for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ong Day

What a long day! This morning, I went to the doctor to have five tubes of blood drawn. Also, they cleaned my ears because I was having trouble hearing, and it took five minutes till they could uncover my eardrum. My sinus infection is almost gone, and I have ear drops for the ear one.
We also went out to dinner because one of the students in our program graduated and got a job. It took 4.5 hours to get served and get the checks. I’m never going back there again!
I have had Dee two years today. It’s bitter-sweet because I know she won’t be my guide much longer. She did amazing work for me, the best I’ve ever had, and I miss her guiding and will miss her as a dog whenever I have a new home for her.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One thanksgiving

I am exhausted as usual. Today was the thanksgiving meal at the Louisiana center for the blind. Blind inc. had a similar one last year.
I went a couple hours early and helped set up tables. I also stuffed deviled eggs with Jedi. They were good!!! They had Chinese five spice, chives, horse raddish, and something else.
There was so much food. I think they said they made four turkeys, lots of stuffing (they call it dressing here in the south), tator tott casserole, green bean casserole, mac and cheese, and lots of appetizers. There was also lemon fluff, something with fruit cocktail, strawberry pie, chocolate pie, chocolate chip cookies, and dirt cake. And that is just what I had; I missed lots of food but was too full to eat any of it. Not a good day on my healthier eating plan; I didn’t even drink the green smoothie today or take the supplements.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I'm on break between quarters in grad school, and I am bored. For some reason I decided to make chocolate surprise cookies. Besides the kisses from the recipe, I used dove chocolates or nutella in the middle. Instead of cocoa powder and powdered sugar, I used godiva hot chocolate mix for the top.

(source: Great American Home Baking card)

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
25 solid chocolate candies (ie. chocolate kisses)
1 ½ tablespoons powdered sugar
¾ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter and brown sugar in medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer set on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Combine flour and cinnamon in another medium bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix well.
Shape dough into twenty five 1-inch balls. Flatten each ball into a 2-inch round. Place the rounds 1 inch apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets. Place 1 chocolate candy in the center of each round. Enclose candy with the dough, making sure the candy is completely sealed in the dough. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Combine powdered sugar and cocoa in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the hot cookies. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 25

Sunday, November 13, 2011

No more coke

As one of my things I am trying to be healthier and hopefully feel better, I am not drinking, soda, tea, or hot chocolate. The cravings for coke are pretty much gone; the first week or two, I kept thinking, I really really want a coke! Besides the reduction of soda and caffeine, I am avoiding harmful chemicals like BPA that lines the cans and bottles. To replace my need for something flavored, I am drinking club soda or water with lemon.
Now, if I could only reduce my cravings for things with flour and lots of carbs, I’d be doing really well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

cozy mysteries

I love reading books about politics, feminism, disability, but I also love fluffy mysteries, especially after a week of frantic textbook reading for finals.
Right now, I’m rereading the Hannah Swensen mysteries. Hannah is a 30-year-old bakery owner whose mother is constantly nagging her to find a man already and get married. Her younger sister is a real estate agent with a gifted four year old, and her husband is a detective for the county. In each of the books, one or two people die, and between dating and baking, Hannah bothers her neighbors and friends into giving her clues for the murder. These books are not gross in the details. They are predictable and formulaic, but they always make me smile, especially the recipes. The recipe I used for my ├ęclairs in my meal for six people at blind inc. came from this series.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I feel like I just did this, but’it’s been 2.5 years. I am once again filling out guide dog applications. All of them need medical forms, eye doctor’s reports, references from previous guide dog schools, my orientation and mobility instructor, and my rehab counselor. Two of them need videos of me walking with a dog or human guide as well as a cane walk independently, while two come to interview me in person.
I probably won’t be able to go into training till the end of may or some time during the summer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

finally done!

Today is a good day. I studied, read some of Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke, and went to class. After the professor talked for awhile, we took our final, my only one this quarter. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There were questions about who should read Braille, strategies for teaching children not to do repetitive behaviors, important social skills, information on studies about blind high school students. I think I missed two out of the 14 questions, but I’m hoping my 10 points for the scrapbook will make up for that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

making the book

I am not a crafty person; I love to look and buy handmade things, but this week, I reminded myself why I do not make anything.
Our professor said we could earn 10 extra credit points if we made a scrapbook. It needed to have 10 articles, movies, TV shows, songs, or something else from pop culture. We had to answer the question “would this be newsworthy if it were about a sighted person?” All except one I found had negative tones. They said blindness is a tragedy, blind people are incapable of doing simple tasks like picking up children from the bus stop, or that blind people are gifted with extra senses of insight and feelings.
Last week, we went to a scrapbooking store and picked out paper to mount the articles. Tuesday, we went to an even bigger craft store and picked up bling tape, sparkly tape that is used to border articles or photos. I didn’t think it would take me a long time to put it together, but I am slow at cutting the border. It didn’t want to stick on my pages or I put it on crooked, so I had to redo until it was right. I also made Braille headlines with dymo tape that I put at the top of the articles, so I could identify them quickly as I flipped through it.
I am so glad this project is finished; even though I hope to never make a scrapbook again, it Is totally worth it for the 10 extra points I will receive tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

separate is not equal

After buying glitter tape and binder rings for a scrapbook project, a friend, my roommate, and I went to International House of Pancakes. One of the people who greeted us nodded her head to one of the waiters and said have them sit away from the other customers. This was because we had our well-behaved guide dogs with us. After being seated, it took awhile to order. We realized that absolutely no one had been sitting near us or had been placed in our section after we arrived.
The manager, the same lady who made the comment about us sitting alone, came over to ask if everything was all right. When my roommate said we were concerned that she and the staff weren’t informed on service animals, she said she knew the law, and IHOP held that same standard. In fact, another restaurant where she previously worked, there was a regular group of service dog users. We asked why no one was sitting near us, and she said someone was but changed her mind.
It was as if she were just talking at us and missed the point entirely. Separate accommodations does not mean equal access to services. It didn’t mean that for African Americans before civil rights, and neither should it for disabled people.

Monday, November 7, 2011

wonderful world of books

I love to read!!!!!!! If I have a book i want to read for fun, i will probably read it over studying, like I am doing right now.
I have always enjoyed reading; my family read to me when i was very little, and there were always books, even if there weren't that many.
I started learning to read when I was three. I read with Braille, so it was important to start as soon as possible; my teacher wanted me to be able to read before i got to first grade, so i could follow along with the other students in my classes. I am soooooooo happy to have been taught Braille. Only TEN percent of blind people know how to read and write in the US; if this was the literacy rate for everyone, it would be a tragedy. Anyway, I started getting Braille books from the National Library for the Blind and Physically handicapped, and a Braille teacher would braille books for me, too. They were always like, you finished that one already?
Now, I still enjoy reading, but I use more than har-copy Braille. I will take books in any format I can get. NLS also has talking books; they have novels, classic lit, other fiction, and lots of other books. I also get books from learning ally; this is where I get some of my textbooks, well, if they actually have the book or the edition of the book that I want. There are commercial audio books from
I love having a computer and being able to download books. There is webBraille, where someone can download most Braille books from NLS. There is also bookshare, a library of Braille book files. My final sources for books are the kindle store, but only for pleasure reading because they only work when the computer reads to me; if I want a quote, I have to listen many times and transcribe.
If a book isn't in any Braille or audio format, I scan it. I have to do this for most textbooks, or for certain series books that I read.
Thanks to electronics, I am never without reading material. I put books in my pronto and read them in Braille. I have the victor stream that lets me listen to all of my books. And if that isn’t enough, I can put more on my iphone.
Being able to read is wonderful. Whether it is researching for a class or reading to pass the time on a 30-hour bus trip, I always have a great way to educate and entertain myself.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Teach them well

As teachers of blind students, we have so many tasks to complete. From making sure the students are literate in Braille and using a cane to reaching milestones for age appropriate expectations to taling to them about blindness, some things can easily slip through the cracks.
One of our most important jobs is to make sure the blind student can advocate for himself or herself. This could include anything from saying “I can pick up my book,” to asking a teacher for the list of textbooks for the next school year to see if any are available in accessible formats. As important as it is to teach the student to advocate, it is also crutial that the student knows that you and other members of the IEP team will be supportive and that he or she should talk to you if they are having difficulty with other teachers.
I was fortunate to grow up with a mother who believed in the National Federation of the Blind’s philosophy. She taught me that being blind didn’t mean I couldn’t be independent at home and at school.
As a first grader, I had a paraprofessional who stayed with me all day; her job was to help me with class assignments, go to lunch with me, and make materials accessible. However, she was overprotective and didn’t want me to walk by myself, run outside at recess, or cary my tray and open my milk at lunch. I eventually had enough of this treatment. One day, I exited the van to go into school, and as the tactless six-year-old I was, I pushed her hand off of my arm and said, “go away, I don’t want you, I can do it myself.” This made her upset; later the same day, we had peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches with tomato soup, and I said the same thing as she took the plastic tray from my arm.
I don’t know how much time passed; it could have been the next day or the next week, but my first grade teacher informed me that there was going to be a meeting in the afternoon to discuss my behavior. When I got there, my first grade teacher, paraprofessional, the special ed teacher, the school psychologist, the principal, and some other adult were sitting around a big table. I was scared, and I remember thinking “Why do all the grownups want to yell at me?” They told me to sit down, and I refused.
They talked at me, lecturing on how it wasn’t safe for me to get out of the van by myself, especially after I fell down the last step because my shoe was untied. I shouldn’t carry my tray, especially on soup days, because it was very hot, and I could burn myself. I couldn’t walk to class alone because I would geet lost. I shouldn’t sass my aid because she was doing her job and helping me. I needed to be a good girl and do what my teachers said because I was there to learn. It went on and on and on, and by the time it was over, my little legs were very tired, and they accomplished what they set out to do: silenced me.
After that meeting, and for the next six years I was an extremely quiet child. When my parapro asked me questions such as “do you like this?” or “Did you miss me?” I always nodded or whispered yes, even if I truly disagreed with her. I didn’t share my opinions with anyone because I was too afraid of getting in trouble again. I didn’t tell the teachers when I saw other students doing something wrong. And most importantly, until after my mother and others fought for a long time with the rest of the IEP team, I didn’t travel many places by myself and didn’t carry my tray at lunch because I had been discouraged and internally accepted that I couldn’t do it.
All it takes is one time to plant the seeds of uncertainty and doubt. I told my mother who fought for me, but it never occurred to me to tell my Braille teacher. To borrow words from Whitney Houston’s song, “I believe children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” Give them the tools so they can believe in themselves and fight for what they need. But, I hope you can also let them know that if they have fallen into silence, that you will be there to help them talk again and not because you feel obligated to but because you genuinely care about the future they can have if they have a positive attitude, proper training, and the chance to succeed in the classroom and in life.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

hands off please

I'm standing in line at the bus stop, and everyone has gotten off. I use the tip of my cane to lightly touch the person in front of me, so I can tell when it is time to move forward. Suddenly, someone squeezes their hand hard around my upper arm and propels me forward. I tell her "I'm fine thank you, yet she does not let go. I wiggle my arm signaling that I am uncomfortable, and she continues to hold.
While I sometimes ask for help with directions somewhere or other tasks, I want it to be on my terms, and grabbing me is not the way to be helpful.
First of all, I am not comfortable with a lot of people touching me, particularly random people I don’t know. Most people keep traditional American personal space manners, but when a person has a disability, that respectful boundary seems to disappear. Second, grabbing my hand/wrist/arm is sometimes physically painful and unbalancing. Some days, I am dizzy or my ankle and/or hip is locking, so grabbing me unexpectedly throws off my already unsteady balance. With that being said, if I am about to fall down a 10-foot manhole or something heavy is falling towards my head, than grabbing me to move me out of the way of danger would be greatly appreciated.
A better way, if you see a disabled person and want to help, is to ask “do you need help.” If the person says, yes, you can ask him or her the best way that you can assist. If the person says no, continue with whatever it was that you were doing, and please don’t feel offended with the no response.

Friday, November 4, 2011

call for submissions for the november disability blog carnival

Still accepting late submissions if anyone wants to write.
I know for me, and probably others as well, the word inspiration or inspirational mostly triggers a negative conotation. No one wants to be classified as "the supercrip" and all the stereotypes and misconceptions that entails. However, being inspired can be a good thing. Some suggestions could be was there a disabled character from a book or movie, fictional or nonfictional, who inspired you when you first became disabled? Is there someone whom you have met in real life or online who has had an impact on how you view your disability or disabled people in general? It doesn't have to be anything huge; it could be something as simple as before I didn't know I could dance from my wheelchair or this tip helped me save time on my low energy days.
When you submit, I'd like your name or screen name, the name of your blog, and the link to your post. Links are due by November 27.

my Christian privilege

As a woman who is Latina, blind, has depression, and an adoptee I am often in the minority when it comes to social issues and privilege. However, in one area, I am in the majority. I was raised as a Christian.
So many things in society have the Christian basis, and I unconsciously benefit from them. I get vacation from grad school for Christmas and Easter without having to request time off, and unlike Islamic or pagan holidays, I don’t have to explain what it means. At many conferences and conventions I attend, there is some kind of welcome benediction, and it is 95% of the time done by a Christian minister without thinking of the non-Christian or nonreligious members of the delegation.
I can have a cross or other Christian symbol charm, decoration, or tattoo without living in fear of persecution. I do not have to face judgment or criticism from others if I choose to wear the symbol in public.
And finally, the one that sparked this post, others can mention God in his/her life and relate it to mine, and I can say I know without feeling the need to go along with the conversation in order to avoid disapproval and discord. A few days ago, I went to the doctor and was telling her my medical history. I was born a little more than three months early and was less than two pounds. She said, “Lord, God must have had big plans for you to help you survive that! Modern medicine made it possible, but it’s ultimately through him that the miracle happened.” Going to the doctor is uncomfortable as it is, and I was fortunate that I could just smile and nod instead of dealing with the discomfort that my religious preference wasn’t even considered before she made the comment.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

reuseable menstrual products and hankies

Today, I’m going to write about a topic which some people might find disgusting: reusable menstrual products and handkerchiefs.
One of my favorite products is a menstrual cup. It is a bell-shaped medically safe silicon that captures the flow. On the heavy days, I empty it four times and on the lighter days, I only have to empty it once or twice. This might seem unsanitary, but the cup is easy to clean. I can either put some boiled water in a container along with some teatry oil and let it soak, or I can take it out in the shower, use some Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, and it is cleaned for use again.
I like this vs. using tampons; the price of tampons adds up over time, and I don’t trust how some are chemically treated. They are also known to cause toxic shock syndrome, which sounds horrible. It is also better on the environment because pounds of garbage are not going into the sewer system and possibly affecting the water supply.
Another product I use is handkerchiefs. I have some from picnic basket crafts on etsy, and a hankybook. Both of these are made from soft cotton or bamboo. Traditional tissues are made from virgin paper; that is, trees that are cut for the sole purpose of making disposeable paper products. The “green” tissues made from post-consumer product are too thin. What I love about handkerchiefs is that they do not cause tiny papercuts on my already sore nose when I have a cold or allergies. To clean these, I just throw them in with my whites when I do laundry, and I have clean tissues for the next time I need them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It makes me sad

I am currently going for my masters degree for teaching blind students, but my part-time job during undergrad was working with blind children and adults, helping them learn, Braille, technology, daily living skills, and talking about whatever they wanted or thought might help.
Many parents mean well; they love their children, so they think they are being helpful or protecting their blind child while they have fallen victim to low expectations.
For example, if they have other children, they would expect their five or six-year-old to tie shoes. I worked with a 10-year-old who still wore Velcro sneakers. A second grader should be allowed and able to call friends on the phone, or maybe family, and at the least know how to dial 911. A 12-year-old I worked with had no idea how to use a phone. I had to explain to him in which order the buttons were and that he had to dial numbers in a certain order so his aunt’s and grandmother’s phone would ring. When I asked his parent why he didn’t know, the person told me it was too hard to teach him. A teenager should know how to do basic kitchen things, I.E. making a frozen pizza, ramen noodles, making a sandwich, ETC. A 17-year-old I worked with didn’t know what measuring cups were and how milk got to her place at the table. She was exuberant after we made a frozen pizza and mixed a cup of instant hot chocolate. These are just a few examples of how low or no expectations hurt the children I will soon serve full-time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

what I'm trying

I’ve written here before that I have been struggling with depression for the past four years, so I’m going to start chronicling what I’m trying on my journey to recovery.
I’ve tried the conventional route with anti-depressants. Effexor made me hyper, and I couldn’t sleep. Prozac made me irritated with everything and everyone. Zoloft made me dizzy and disoriented, more than I usually am.
Now, I have consulted with a nutritionist. I am trying green smoothies in the morning; my roommate says they are an unpleasant green, and she sometimes watches the smoothie ooze down the sides of the pitcher. However, even though they look disgusting, they taste fine. I mix a cup of spinach, a cup of romain lettuce, a banana, and whatever other berries, grapes, apples, that happen to be around. I am also taking a multi-vitamin, a b-100 complex, and an omega 3 supplement. I think they help some, but it’s too soon to tell.
Later this week, because I finally have health insurance, I am going to have bloodwork to test for high cholesterol, b12 deficiency, anemia, and other fun things like that. I’m so tired.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

purse and leather treat pouch review

Ever since I've had a guide dog, I've been trying to find a treat pouch that works for me; but there was always something missing. I had the gentle leader pouch, but sometimes I couldn't quickly open it or it didn't close as easily as I needed it to. I had one that looked like a ruffwear bowl with a magnet in the middle, but if the pouch were too full, treats would pour out around the magnet if I leaned over. I had a square one with a magnetic flap, but it wouldn't close right and treats came out the top. None of them could make it through a downpour without leaving me with a wet pouch and soggie treat mush. Also, I prefer to support a person and a small business instead of a large company, so custom-made items were perfect for me.
I found Raw Dog Leather while doing a search for leather treat pouches, and I got all the features I wanted in a bag.
It is about the size of an index card. On the left side, there is a mini bolt snap, like those found on the leashes from guide dog school, and below that is an o-ring. On the main body of the treat pouch is a rain flap with a snap, and on that flap is a keyring. On the right side is an o-ring, a keyring, and a mini bolt snap. On the back are two snap tabs that can go around a belt or a shoulder strap. Once I fold the rain flap back behind the snap tabs, there is the main part. On the front is a small square pocket where I store poop bags. Inside is the cloth liner, wich is machine washable and removeable because of velcro. There are three pockets; in the front, soft, high-value treats; in the middle, kibble; and in the back, crunchy training treats. Five magnets on each side of of the liner keep it close.
It passed all of my tests: I kept the rain flap open while walking fast, and nothing fell out, even when i leaned over. I can slide a finger in, grab a treat, as well as remove my hand, and it closes without any extra movement from me. I took it out in a tourential downpour, and my treats stayed dry and whole.
I think there are pictures here

I also bought a purse. I have tried many bags; backpacks work well, but it is annoying to have to stop, have the dog sit, and take off the pack to get to water or my cell phone. This bag is 10 inches high, 8 inches wide, and 3 inches deep. It is tall enough for me to put a 18-oz klean kantine vertically in the bottle loop and close it without worrying about water leaking in the bottom. There is a zipper pocket on the front, a mini velcro pocket on the flap, a velcro pocket on the back, and the cloth, velcro liner inside with two pockets where I keep my wallet and business cards. It is big enough to hold a slate and stylus, telescoping cane, a snack bag, a basic first-aid kit, a dog bowl, and other random things. The shoulder strap is adjustable with a belt-buckle fastener. There are pictures here
The customer service was good; she sent me leather samples, so I could have an idea of the textures and colors of deer, elk, elk, moose, ETC. I love both of these bags and would buy from her again!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First major trip

In Feb. 2009, my second guide dog Zorro went back to Seeing Eye to be rematched with another handler. After that, I finished a semester, traveled some, and signed up to go to Urbana, a student global missions meeting in St. Louis starting the day after Christmas. I got Dee, my third guide dog, Nov. 16, 2009. She did an amazing job during our two-week training, better than either of my previous two guides. When applying for and being matched with a guide dog, it can sometimes take up to a year or more till the school finds one for you, so I thought I'd be attending with my cane. After I got Dee, I was a little nervous about how such a new guide would do there. I'd been to conventions with the National Federation of the Blind where 3,000 blind people gather to discuss important issues, but I had never been to a conference with over 20,000 college students.
We started our trip by riding 26 hours on greyhound with 3 bus transfers. I was exhausted by the time we got there, but Dee had boundless energy since she spent most of that time curled up under the seat sleeping. After dropping off my bags at the hotel and meeting one of my roommates, I think we took a local bus to register at the dome center. Travel in unfamiliar places was, and still is to some extent, difficult for me, especially when it is crowded. Dee was hesitant at first, not sure which paths to choose through the sea of people. After a quick dinner, we went to the welcome plenary session. The first event was worship with a live band and vocalists. This stressed Dee out; I could tell because she started continuously licking her paws and the floor. She settled down afterwards during the Native American dances and speeches. After the session ended, I followed some random people outside and asked for help finding the correct bus that went back to my hotel. On the way, Dee had an accident, again because of the stress. I was relieved to reach my room and go to bed, and I prayed the next day would be easier for Dee and me.
We started the next day by oversleeping, quickly running outside to relieve, grabbed granola bars from the buffet, and caught the bus 30 seconds before it pulled out. Since I was hanging out with my roommates, I had people to follow and ask for directions to all of the sessions. This time, and the other four days of the conference, Dee acted as if she guided in crowds every day. From the moment we got off the bus, her ears were forward and her whole butt was wagging. She did excellent obstacle clearance, and I only bumped into one person the whole time when she got distracted by someone with a peanutbutter sandwich.
Besides the week of guide dog training in Portland, I hadn't spent time in a city since 2005, so I wasn't used to that form of travel. All of my time was spent on campus paths or residential streets in my college town. Dee stopped for all of the curbs, traffic checked when necessary, and didn't sniff or eat food from the ground in restaurants or in the grocery store. She was also good during the evening meal when we got in line for the buffet.
By the end of the second day, the music, and people clapping, jumping, and singing didn't bother her, and she napped through the sessions. My roommates and random people commented on what a good dog I had, and I couldn't agree more. She showed me her best on New Year's Eve. We started at 7:30 AM as usual, and we didn't return to the hotel till 1:30 the next morning. We probably walked 4 miles that day between running from one end to the other of the two-block long building, wandering St. Louis looking for lunch and dinner, and stopping at the grocery store for snacks for the road. Dee was so excited as we were exiting the conference at 1 am because everyone was in a good mood, yelling happy new year, singing/jumping up and down, and blowing kazoos. She wiggled her whole body as she guided at a fast pace. At one point I had to have her sit, because she was trying to guide too quickly and was having trouble keeping her traction on the slippery tile floor. When we got back to the hotel, as she did every previous time we returned, she enthusiastically ran to each of us for pets and belly rubs before picking up her kong and running fast circles for two minutes before sighing and flopping down on the floor for a well-deserved few hours of rest.
This is just one of many times we have traveled together. She loved her guiding, played as hard as she worked, and again showed me what it was like to be part of a happy and effective guide dog team.
This is my contribution for The Fifth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

Saturday, August 13, 2011

life update

I am moving to Ruston, Louisiana to atten La Tech for a Masters in teaching blind students. I applied to an apartment complex, and I found out that someone with assault and battery charges had used my social security number. After 3 weeks of filling identity varification papers and waiting and waiting, I finally got approved a couple days ago. I am frantically packing, and I am moving the 23.
Dee is doing well. The vet says the braces seem to be helping, and the lazer treatments do too. I'm just so tired of it all. I don't think she'll work again, but we'll finish the treatment so I can say for sure.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Dee Girl

This is International Assistance Dog week, so I thought I'd write about my current guide Dee. As I've written before, I was in a better headspace and had been anticipating my new guide since I had been dogless for 9 months. Here I am posting the journals from our first few days together.
Even though it says it is 10:14 pm, it feels like 1:14 am because of the three-hour time difference between east and west coast. I left my house at 11:10 am east coast time. My cab driver got lost for at least a half hour before she found the airport. No problems going through security. I hate hate hate small planes!!! My first flight was through Johnstown Pa. I had a six-hour flight from D.C. to Portland. I spent the time alternating between reading Princess in Training and listening to happy, upbeat music on my Ipod. Then, I had a 40-minute ride to Borring, with Doug and Marsha, two GDB volunteers. Kelly, the RA, with her 10-year-old guide July, oriented me to the dorm. Breakfast is at 7:30 tomorrow. I’m sleeping till 6:45 or so and getting a shower. I want one now, but that would require energy and movement, which I definitely don’t have right now. I haven’t even set up my computer or the wireless network, which tells you how tired I really am since that is usually one of the first thins I do in a new place. More tomorrow.

November 16, 2009 9:22 AM
I woke up at five this morning. My body is still on Eastern time and thought it was time to get up for school. My phone, computer, and Braillenote all had different times. My roommate Holly texted me this morning, and I had to ask her what time it was in Bloomsburg so I could appropriately set my stuff three hours back. This morning we had the managing your dog, retrain, praise and correction, and obedience lectures. Oh, for breakfast we had scrambled eggs, hash browns, apple slices, and toast. We have juno walks soon. I’m having trouble keeping everyone straight. There are two men and four, counting me, females in the class. The instructors are Sue Strong, Michelle, and Becky. There is also Kelly, Erin, the training specialist; Su Jung, an intern from San Fransisco University, and Scott, the dorm manager. Now, I’m waiting to go on my juno walk and learning how to put the harness on weeler, a stuffed dog on a skateboard.

10:36 am
We’re having obedience practice. Juno sit,, check, good juno. Juno stay. The leash in the heal grip in the middle of the leash. When the leash is moved to the right hand, the palm of the left hand faces the dog’s nose and juno stay. Walk slowly towards the end of the leash, which is still in the right hand. After the sit stay and the hitchhiker grip, thumb pointed up and fingers wrapped around the leash, it’s juno heal, where the dog comes to the left side of the body with its head at your knee. Then, we did sit/down. Sit is three pats and a happy sit. Down is the hitchhiker grip then a slow motion with your hand sideways. We also got our treat pouches; they are square with a magnetic closure. We bring the treat smoothly and quickly over to the dog’s nose.
The left door entrance or exit is different here than at TSE. At TSE, we put our backs against the door, push it open that way, and bring the dog in front of us. GDB’s way is to switch the leash to the right hand, juno over here happy voice pats, the dog comes to the right side, juno wait, open the door. Let the dog go inside first at the end of the leash. Juno let’s go! My corrections are too hard, and I had to practice softer ones and of course my tone of voice.

1:13 pm
Lunch was garlic/potato soup with homemade bread.
2:04 pm
I know the names!!! There is a Flute, Artie, Rora, Ogden, and Lincoln. I’ll tell mine later when I get it. Oh my God, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!!!!! I’m soooooo nervous and excited and happy all at the same time. I can’t wait to meet this dog!!!!

8:59 pm
I met her!!! Her name is Dee, and she’s a 55-pound black lab. Her birthday is Jan. 2, 2008, and she eats 1.5 cups of food in the morning and 1 cup at night. She is 23 inches at the shoulder, and she was issued with a martingale, Thank God!!! She reminds me of Valerie with her short body and very short neck. I love her already. She’s adorable. She has been sniffing my shirt and hands and headband. She’s done awesomely at staying still. I am teaching her to lie across my chair longways like her head on the right side and her butt to the left. She stayed like this for a half hour with only two or three reminders of Dee down.
I’m still trying to keep the schedule straight.
Tomorrow is:
7:00 feed water relieve
7:30 breakfast
8:15 instructor’s visitors center obedience
Guidework and juno
Greshim guidework practice
Relieve then water
12:30 lunch
1:30 discussion room street crossing
Destination route in greshim
4:30 FWR
5:30 dinner
7:00 water
Orientation and route learning lecture review
8:30 relieve

November 17, 2009 8:33 am
She peed and pooped at the afternoon feed time and this morning. Nothing at the 8:30 time. We just did dog distraction obedience with a sheltie. She sniffed a little but wasn’t uncontrollably distracted like Valerie orr Zorro. We go to Greshim to work the dogs for the first time today, and I’m soooo excited.
November 19, 2009 7:24 am
I'm writing this quickly before breakfast. I absolutely love working Dee. She moves quickly, with purpose. She's sometimes stopping with no reason but an encouraging hopp up seems to do the trick. Her curb approaches surprise me; you know how people run and slide into home base? That's what they feel like. She also steps out when I say forward; with Valerie and zorro it took a few steps to get that fast pace. Not Dee, once forward is said, it's let's go!!! She's soooo smart. I taught her under the desk, and after doing it only two times, she automatically goes under once i pull out the chair. We're still working on sit. She's having trouble sitting in the hallway or on the bus, but I think she'll get it.
Dinner yesterday was roasted chicken with dijon sauce, greenbeans, potatoes, and a roll. I'm so hungry!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

different beginnings

When I was younger, I didn't have a dog or any other pet. We couldn't afford one, but even if we could, my mother said she didn't know how to take care of a dog and she didn't like cats. When I went for my first guide, I was excited and nervous. I couldn't wait to travel differently, but I also had no idea what I was getting into on the journey. When I sat in the room and Jessie brought me Valerie, I put her on leash and brought her back to my room. I remember thinking, OMG, what am I supposed to do; she is bigger than I expected; why is she sniffing me and why doesn't she wag her tail? When we walked, I was surprised how fast we could move. I also never wanted to cry more, especially when we got completely turned around in the middle of an intersection in the pouring rain.
When I got Zorro, I was feeling horrible. Valerie had retired four months earlier, but I had just given her to her new family the day before. I was at peace with that decision, but I was so numb and apathetic; I didn't know it then, but it was the start of my depression. Looking back, I should have waited to get another guide, but I missed the fast-paced, obstacle-avoiding that I had with Valerie during the times she was working well. I really don't remember much from that class, but I know I was very anti-social and I wanted to go home.
When I got Dee, I was in a recovery period of the depression cycle, and I was getting physical therapy, which lessened my back and hip pain for the first time in at least four years. This time, I was anticipating the dog; I went nine months without a guide, and while I was an ok cane user then, I missed the smoothness of walking together down the sidewalk or in a crowd. After the first three days, I knew she was the best dog I've ever had, and I told the trainers so. We had an evaluation at the end of the first week to make sure I felt I had the right dog, since it was only a two-week class. I was feeling wonderful, but I was also anxious. My other two guides didn't work out for me because of Valerie's health issues and my health issues as well as behavioral ones on Zorro's end. I had been rejected from seeing eye, so I was anxious about doing well at Guide Dogs for the Blind because I wanted to show that I was a good handler who could take care of my dog. I was relieved when the trainer and supervisor assured me again and again that I was doing fine, and that I should trust my instincts when working with my dog and not second-guess every decision I needed to make.

my first dog

This is a post I wrote in 2006 about my first guide Valerie.

I love my dog Valerie. The first time I really realized this was when we had our first solo route at Seeing Eye. We'd been there for a week, learning this route on five walks and learning all of the dog skills, forward, left, right, follow the harness handle, feel head turns through the leash, tone of voice for praise vs. correction, ETC. This seems simple in theory, but it was hard. One of my issues the first week was body language, which means a lot to the dog. Jess always told me, point your nose where you want to go and relax your right arm; the dog can feel the tention and will get confused and thinkyou want to turn if you aren't aligned correctly. She also said, nice and steady in the street. As a cane user, you walk as fast as you can to get across, but with a dog, there needs to be reaction time for traffic checks. During these walks, Jess would talk to us the whole time; during the solo, she walked a block back and had no contact with us during the route.
I was sooo nervous because mine was a total solo; Zanda and Cliff got to go in a pair. Now, I can walk and have a conversation or think about other things, classes, stuff I need to do ETC, gbut during that walk, I was totally concentrating on, did i just cross the second street or third and do i turn left after the first block or second. It was one of the first times that I didn't get lost while walking somewhere by myself. We had good street crossings; I was a little worried about that because the trainers would just tell us when to go, so I didn't really listen to traffic while walking with them. Blind people cross the street by listening ot traffic patterns, parallel vs. perpendicular traffic, near lane-far lane, near side of the street-other side, residential-lighted ETC. We made it through dog distraction with correction all the way, and I made it through the set up construction zone with cones I felt like I had been out there for a long time, but it was actually only 29 minutes. We had a bet with Jess; if all four of us finished by 10:30, she had to buy us starbucks, and we finished just after 10. All of us, Zanda, Cliff, Mike, and I were soooooooo happy after that walk!!! Jess said, How do you feel? I was like, I made it; that was awesome!!!!
Another great trip was New York City. It is crazy, lots of people, objects, interesting smells for the dog. We rode to NYC in Seeing Eye vans and walked awhile. We went to the Empire state Building, and that was really cool!! We got to practice going through security with our dogs, and we went up to the 86 floor, where we had an audio tour of the surroundings. Later, we took the subway and went to eat lunch, yay!!! We got to put four dogs and six people in a booth. When the waiter came over, because everyone watched us as we walked in with the dogs, asked, "where did your dogs go?. We laughed, and pointed under the table. Melissa, another trainer, was like, I guess he thought we were going to let them run around the restaurant stealing dood." Our longest part was walking from somewhere in Time Square to where the van was parked. It was amazing to walk through all of the people and objects at fast speed without running into them. I really loved that day, and I can't wait to go back to NYC to work with Valerie and do something fun again.
Then, there is just everyday stuff. I like getting up and seeing a really excited, playful dog. After I get out of bed, the first thing Valerie does is flop on me for a belly rub; then, she runs in a circle and wants to play with me. She is sooooo cute!! I love being able to miss all of the construction, trees, and holes in the sidewalk that you find with a cane. It is nice to just have a dog because I never had pets growing up. She loves my friends and anyone else who comes over to the room, even if they aren't visiting me, LOL. When she stops for me as a car turns quickly in front of us, when she stops at stairs and doesn't go forward till I realize why she stopped, when it is crowded and we walk through it without finding all of the people in it, when there is always a happy tail wag if you just say Valerie in a happy voice, when she gets really excited when we stop at a building she remembers: these are the times when I know that all the work of getting a dog is worth it, and our relationship will only get stronger as the years progress.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dee update

Yesterday, Dee and I went to the orthopedic vet specialist. They did a physical exam first, where the vet said she has discomfort in her neck and pain in both shoulders. They did x-rays, and they found some arthritis and shoulder instability. She is going to have hobbles, braces to restrict shoulder movement, and she will have exercises that I can help her do. She might have physical therapy too. I talked to GDB yesterday, and they authorized $1,200 and said to call when it's about to run out. Dr. Patty asked me if i was hoping GDB would fund partial or all of it. I told her all of it, and if that didn't happen, Dee wouldn't receive physical therapy. Each PT session is $1,500, and for the eight that the vet wants her to have, that is $12,000. There is no way I could afford even one session.
It doesn't look good. Dee is in pain; the vet says the three to four months not guiding, and not playing or moving much should fix it. But I am weary of it happening again, and I don't want to cause Dee further pain by forcing her to guide. There is too much pressure and strength needed from the shoulders and neck, and I don't know if it will be safe.
I'm starting to ask people I know if they would take Dee or know someone who would in the probability of her retirement. I also have half of my application submitted to GDF; I just have the eye doctor report and video to shoot before it can go for review.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

be thankful and shut up

In all of the communities where I find myself belonging, there is a theme of gratefulness and silence.
First, people with disabilities should be grateful for everything. If I refuse assistance from someone and am with able-bodied friends, some say I should be thankful for their kindness. Well, I'm not. If I say I do not want or need assistance, I expect the person to back off and say ok, not continue to grab my arm, push me, insist I can't do it by myself. I'd be grateful if able-bodied rules about personal space applied to me. There is also being grateful for services and access. At the beginning of my freshman year, well a week before it started, I put in a request for a reader for my French book and workbook. Since I had filled out accomodations forms with a reader as a possible accomodation, I didn't think it would be a problem. I went in to DSS my first week to see when I could have my reader, and the secretary happily hands me tapes. I ask her what these are, and she says, the first chapter of your French book and workbook. Me (in my mind) what? This is *not* what I meant by a reader. I tell her I thought I was going to have a reader. She says, "there is a reader on the tapes. He read the books and recorded them." I gave them back to her and explained that a reader is someone who will sit with me and read the book, spell words, describe photos, ETC. She said, "but they're already done." I told her that the tapes would not be helpful and I would like a reader. She proceeds to say they've never done that before, and the other blind students liked the tapes. I'm not all blind students. French is a language I've only had for a semester, and I need someone to spell new words and tell me which accent marks go on the letters. In this put upon tone, she says "i'll see what I can do." Three weeks later, they finally found a reader for me. Thank God the professor was understanding and gave me an extention because of accessibility issues. By that time, I had four chapters of workbook and lab work to do. Any time after that when I needed a reader, I found the person before the class started or the first couple days of class and sent them to DSS to fill out the paperwork to work for me.
Another area where I see the grateful attitude is adoption. I'm not bashing all adoptive parents; there are many awesome ones who are empathetic and do great work with their kids and the community. But there are many others who think adoption is the best thing and first moms and adoptees should share the same happy clappy emotions. Well that's not true for me and other adoptees. I started asking questions about Paraguay when I was in junior high; my mother says why do you want to know that stuff for, it's borring. She doesn't know anything about Latin America and has no desire to learn. I tell her I feel as if I'm missing culture and stuff and the feelings are dismissed because she says, "you're white and live in our family." I am allowed to have these feelings and questions, and they should not be invalidated because she is happy with everything. Then, there is adoption in conversations. It comes up with friends and strangers alike. I always say, there are many issues to be considered in adoption. I think they all look at me with surprise or something because they say, "huh? What issues?" There is whether people want open or closed adoptions. With domestic ones, that is a possibility. However, in international adoption, that is another whole kettle of fish. There are so many corrupt agencies who find children on the streets or take them from families and relatives who want them. There is so much money and agencies who are looking out for themselves and the children. there are often not records and a family history. I do not have a birth certificate, medical history, or anything from my time in Paraguay. It makes things complicated when I need to give official documents, like getting state Id and stuff. In the conversations, people are usually either I didn't think of that, or but you got adopted and don't live there anymore so be happy about it and don't worry about adoption issues.
But that is not who I am. I have always cared about justice and equality, and being a sociology major strengthened that part of me. Sometimes fighting for my rights is tiring, and it would be nice just to curl up in a ball and not think of them. However, I won't stop fighting for myself. I owe it to myself to make sure I have the access I need, not the access someone else thinks I need, to the materials and services that will allow me to be successful. Maybe the next student will not have as difficult a time because of something I said. I do it for my students, especially the children, because I want them to see that they do not have to settle just because someone offers a crumb of accommodation. I will not shut up about adoption because the system needs to change. I'm new to adoption advocacy, but I want to help in any way I can.


I am now a college graduate!!! I graduated last saturday with a B.A. in sociology and a B.A. in journalism. It was a nice day, thank God! Bloomsburg had been getting torrential downpours for the past two weeks or so, but it was sunny all morning. I decided to wear a black dress under my gown and sparkly brown flats, because I just do not like heals; I already have ankle issues, and heels on the bricks on the quad would not have been a good idea. I also had a graduation cap for Dee; she was not happy having something on her head, but everyone thought she was adorable. We took the shuttle for the last time to campus, and we got in line to process. I wasn't really sure where I was supposed to go. dr. Samson, the chair of sociology, saw me and asked me if I knew what was happening. I said I didn't, so she offered to walk in front of me and tell me when to turn and stuff. Dee did well guiding in the procession; she didn't stop to sniff the people clapping and cheering on either side of the isle, and she wasn't distracted by all the noise. She had trouble following though, so I'm glad Dr. Samson was talking to me. We were at our seats; for some reason, Dee didn't want to back up for me, so it took a few seconds to get her into the row instead of lying on the walkway. After that, there were some borring speeches, and we finally got to go up and get our diplomas. Dr. Samson walked beside me this time, and we stood there chatting in line while we slowly moved forward. While I was in line, I saw Dr. Omori, the professor I had for statistics and quantitative research methods. She surprised me by coming over and giving me a hug and said great job I didn't know you were graduating! We made it up the stairs and across the stage without issue. It took me a few seconds longer than everyone else because we were supposed to cary the diploma in the left hand and shake people's hands with the right, but I had to stop each time, drop the harness handle, and switch. On the way down from the platform, I saw my English professor as well as the professor I had for Italian and Spanish. After some more borring speeches, we were allowed to leave.
I was kind of sad because my mom wasn't there; she was sick and couldn't come, so the other family who was going with her didn't come either. However, my boss and his wife were there, and I was so glad to see them. I've worked for him, teaching people Braille, assistive tech, and other blindness skills since October of my freshman year. He's seen me through all three dogs, my depression crash, and everything else. We've spent at least 100 hours on the road, so we've had a lot of time to talk. I'm glad he never gave up on me, even when I was in the worst part of my depression and barely speaking to anyone.
Now I'm back in Altoona at my mother's house. I hate being here!!! She treats me as if I am a child. She keeps asking me if I'm going to eat; I don't eat on her schedule. She eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner all within seven hours. I can't eat like that; if I eat breakfast at 11, I'm not hungry again till 6 or 7 at night. She says she's not a 24 hour kitchen, but I fix my own food so it shouldn't matter to her when I eat. She is also the same way about Dee. Does Dee have water; make sure you give her enough food. Does she need to relieve. I take her out four or five times per day, but my mother thinks she should go out every two or three hours.
We now have a possible idea what is wrong with Dee. When we went to the vet last week, I explained again that she was having trouble putting pressure into the chest strap, going uphills, ETC. They pushed on her and pulled her, but they said she wasn't yelping or flinching or anything; I said that didn't mean much since that wasn't her usual reaction. They took her outside and had her run circles in the parking lot; they came back inside all surprised because they said that was the first time they had a dog refuse to make left turns and run. After that, they took her to x-rays where she surprised them again by being perfectly still and not struggling in position. They found a pin-sized bone chip missing/floating in her left shoulder blade, and there is a separation between the servical vertibre 6 and 7, the ones from the neck to between the shoulder blades. Now, they want her to have a myelogram; they put her under anesthesia for awhile and put dye and stuff into her spine to see if the nerves are pinched. If they are, she will have to have surgery to have the disk removed so the two bones won't be separated anymore. Now that I'm $350 poorer and have to spend more of my scholarship money on vet costs, I might be staying here for the summer. I wanted to go to the NFB convention in Orlando, but if Dee has to have surgery, I won't be able to go. Please pray and send good thoughts for Dee; I miss having her work for me.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

selecting my spoons

Here is another post for blogging against disablism day.
Christine's spoons theory basically says that you start the day out with a certain number of spoons, choices energy, and everything else that goes into functioning. Unlike healthy, able-bodied people, it's about making choices of how to accomplish everything. I am totally blind, have mild scoliosis and joint pain, and have depression. The depression manifests itself as inability to concentrate, little motivation to do anything ensomnia and overall tiredness. Healthy people tell me just go and do it; it's no big deal. My response is always, if i could think myself emotional, energetic, and able to do whatever I want, I would do it in a second.
Here are some choices for the day.
First of all, do I want to get up; the answer to this one is always yes, even if it is only to feed and relieve my guide dog. Next is the choice to go to class; currently it's nearing the end of the semester, and I have to go to class to turn in papers, get final notes, and take exams. Do I want to take my cane, which could be painful depending if my muscles are stiff and my joints don't want to move as easily as they should, or do I want to take my guide dog, who has lately not been guiding well. Do I want to take the long way to class or take the shortcut which gives me an extra five minutes? If I am feeling disoriented, it has just snowed, there is noise and a lot of people around, I sometimes take the long way because it is a straight line and a right turn two blocks from the bus stop. If I have managed to sleep for more than four hours and have had water in the morning, I am more likely to take the zig-zag path across the quad and won't be confused by campus life. The second decision for the day is do I want to get lunch on campus, and if so, where? Sometimes I am just too exhausted by 1:30 that I just head straight to the bus to go to my apartment, even though it is not good for my health or concentration to skip a meal. If I decide to eat on campus, I usually end up at the pizza shop because it has only one line for ordering and checkout, unlike everywhere else that has food; this limits me to unhealthy pizza, strombolis, or wraps, but if i eat at all, it's a good sign. The other place I might choose is the husky lounge; this has sandwiches, grilled food, smoothies, entres, vegetables, and to-go food like apples and bananas. I just can't deal with all the people some days; I start panicking about it an hour or so before I have to go there. I sometimes feel dizzy and I have to keep asking people where the line is and if I am at the end of whatever line I want. Once I get my food from there, I have to find which, out of four registers, is open today, and I sometimes get lost in the place. Also, Dee is sometimes distracted by food on the ground and college students who think it is funny to throw things at her or anyone who wants to approach and ask invasive questions about my blindness or my dog or share info about some disabled person or their pet who died last month or last year. Once I get home with my food, I go to work; I help blind children and adults learn to read Braille, use technology, or learn daily activities like how to cook, tie their shoes, or use the phone. Most days it is children, who usually take the rest of my patience and energy. By the time I get home, do I want to eat dinner? Going to campus to get food is almost always a no; that is time waiting for the bus, a 10-minute ride to campus, at least a 10-minute walk to food, dealing with all the people, and the walk and bus back to the apartment. Since I was tired earlier and went to work, I didn't have time to find someone to take me grocery shopping, so I barely have food in the apartment. I pop in a frozen pizza or ramen noodles, more unhealthy chemically-laden food, or I place an order for delivery. Next is homework. I usually can't concentrate for more than a half hour at a time, which is exacerbated if I do not like the text of the books or research I am reading. It takes me at least an hour to write a page, and when I have to rescan articles, find all of my audio bookmarks, and figure out how to organize the info, I'm exhausted again. This leaves me no energy or time to socialize, which makes the depression worse since I've isolated myself from other people. My thoughts are racing like a hampster on a wheel, which means I get 5.5 hours of sleep on a good night and less than four on a bad one. The cycle of selecting which spoons I can give up starts all over again the next day, and able-bodied neurotypical classmates and friends wonder why some days I choose to sleep on the weekends and only leave to relieve and walk Dee.

sad Dee update

Dee is the best guide dog I've had. She has been my travel buddy and helper for the past 1.5 years. I got her NOvember 2009, and we went from Portland Oregon to school. Two weeks later, the semester ended, and we moved to my mother's house for a week for Christmas. After that, we traveled to St. Louis on a 26-hour greyhound buss ride to attend Urbana a global missions conference attended by 20,000 college students. That was the first time I saw Dee's wonderful skills. After the first few hours of being stressed, she handled everything beautifully. Her pace was fast, but she slowed when she needed to. Her head was up, and her whole body was wagging. My roommates and others were amazed at how calm and focused she stayed. She even slept through the worship music which was loud and many people were dancing and jumping up and down.
When Urbana ended, we went to Philly to see friends and moved back to school. In May 2010, I moved to Minneapolis to attend BLIND, Inc. I wrote before about her reactions to a close call with a bus. Also while in Minneapolis we went to the Minnesota fair, an 8-mile hike, and just did everyday activities like going to dinner and movies with friends and grocery shopping. We moved to four different apartments while there and camped in Wisconsin, flew to Dallas to a huge hotel with 3,000 other blind people, and traveled to Chicago and Harrisburg to speak about blindness training. Dee was wonderful through all of that travel and change, so I hated sending this email to Dee's puppy raisers.

Hi Shelley,
Dee is not doing well. She is still a wagging tail dog and glad to see people and be petted, but she isn't guiding. I think I told you we fell on the ice a couple months ago. We went to the vet where they gave her prednazone for the inflamation. It helped for a little while, but as soon as she was off of it she was walking funny again. We went to the dog chiropractor and he adjusted her; it gave her stronger pull in harness some of the time but not enough to be constant. We are having x-rays done; they think it is a nerve or disk injury since she is a little flinchy when they pull her paws forward and is jumpy when I pet her in the middle of her back. My roommates said it sometimes looks like her back legs are going to give out when she is playing with her kong. She is very slow all the time and has difficulty getting out of the way of fast-moving people and traffic. A couple weeks ago, cars were coming up right behind us and she didn't speed up at all. She also has difficulty going uphill and making turns. Right now I am waiting for GDB to decide whether they are sending an instructor here or if they want to bring her back to them for evaluation to see what is wrong and if she can continue working. This makes me sad; I miss my fast-paced energetic girl who had plenty of initiative for everything especially crowd and traffic work. I take her with me if I am going to one class, but if I am doing class and errands afterwards, I leave her home and bring my cane.
I graduate next weekend, and I can't wait to be done here. I got Dee a doggie graduation cap, and I am going to have her guide there since it will be a short walk.


I thought it might be her nails so I trimmed them. She had a paw pad issue before, so I added paw healing balm and musher's secret but that didn't help either. She is also taking joint supplements that I get from International Association of Assistance Dog Partners Part of me says the medical issue can be fixed; we just don't know what it all is yet and haven't found the right combination of treatment. The other, more practical, part of me says I know the signs of retirement and it won't be able to be fixed. She runs away from and actively avoids the harness. She wags her tail while working, but it isn't as much as it used to be. She doesn't take the initiative to go around obstacles or find a clearer pathway to somewhere. If it took us 10 minutes to get somewhere before, it now takes at least 15 on a good day. I can no longer trust the dog who saved my life from a bus that came too close on the relatively quiet streets of my small town, let alone in a city with all the traveling and moving I need to do in the next three months. Please pray for Dee and me to make the right decision for our partnership.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Unsent Thank yous, getting it right

Ablism can be defined as discriminating against or being prejudiced towards anyone with a visible or invisible disability. This can be shown from the words, such as crazy or lame, to the actions such as excluding someone from a social event or emotional and physical abuse. I'm sure many of the Blogging Against Disablism Day writers will have several posts about ablist language and actions, but that's not what I want to write about here. It is often so easy as a blind person to notice and remember all the times people have been rude, invaded my personal space, distracted my guide dog, denied us access, or didn't give me a chance once they realized I was blind and associated that with lack of ability and intelligence. However, there have been several people, especially in education, who gave me an opportunity with expectations that I would succeed.

Dear Mrs. Lowe:
Thank you for being the first person to encourage my dreams of journalism. You not only saw my potential to write articles, but you assigned me to be the copy editor for the yearbook when I had no previous experience. This was my first time in a leadership position, where I learned the importance of speaking up to others as well as many of the rules for line, structural, and content editing. There were no problems; everyone gave me the work on disks, so the content was immediately accessible.

Dear Dr. Brasch:
Thank you for teaching me much about all aspects of journalism. I learned how to come up with more and more story ideas, even when I thought I was exhausted. When my story draft wasn't exactly what you wanted you made me go back and fix it to your specifications, even if it took six times to do it. You showed me how to promote the magazine in everything from baking and selling cookies to making balloons and painting with children at the local fair. You made me go to local businesses and get ads and distribute magazines, especially to places I've never been before. You made me copy editor and later a senior editor/main fact checker in charge of proofing all articles for accuracy. You told me I was going to lecture in front of your class of 250 students because I would be able to do a good job of discussing disability in the media and social justice. You came down hard on me when I missed deadlines and wasn't giving it my best because you knew I was capable of more than that. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of a team that had nothing to do with blindness.

Dear people on the study abroad trip to Guatemala,
Thank you for welcoming me as just another volunteer without the awkward, uncomfortable silence that so often greets me. On that trip, I learned to paint road lines, brick walls, and the ceiling of the medical clinic even though it terrified me to be so high up on a ladder. I went through the Mayan ruins, to the outdoor markets, and learned to make tortillas. After we went horseback riding up the mountain to see a volcano, thank you for helping me balance; after I dismounted, I was having severe hip pain because of my scoliosis and you helped me to walk the rest of the way to the lava without making a big deal.

Dear Dr. Podeschi,
Thank you for all the extra work you put into making the coding analysis program accessible. After having negative experiences with professors, especially one that semester who said I shouldn't bother him and he wasn't going to help me and should ask another student for computer assistance I was pleasantly shocked with your patience and creative solutions. It is one of the most visual-based programs that I have seen, and using a macro program to write computer scripts using keystrokes was a wonderful idea. You didn't have to spend at least 4 hours with the initial setup of Atlas TI and an additional 4 or five hours fixing all the bugs and crashes each time a new technical issue arose. Also, thanks for all the research project articles and suggestions for improving my independent study.

Dear Michael Collins,
Thank you for making intro to theater such a memorable and fun class. It was one of the best ones I've taken during my college career, and I loved your endless stories and the non-powerpoint way you lectured. I usually need to ask for accomodations, but you automatically gave me exams on a flash drive and emailed me any documents, ahead of time, that I would need for class that day. Finally, thank you for taking the initiative to auditorially describe the settings, costume, and actions in the plays and films we watched. I didn't even have to ask, you just came to sit near me and started talking about everything as if it were the most natural action in the world.

Martha, an appreciative student

Sunday, April 17, 2011

staying in touch

This is one of several upcoming posts I'm bringing over from my other blog.

Working with a guide dog involves many people: the people at the breeding station, the staff who cares for them in the kennels, and the trainers who teach them how to guide. However, the puppy raisers and the people who have them after they retire are an important part of the process.
I received my first guide Valerie in July 2006. At first I agreed with other students that I didn't want contact; I don't remember why, but that's how it started. A couple months later, I changed my mind. We received a puppy profile with basic info: name, age, what kind of environment, habbits of the puppy, how did the puppy let you know when it wanted to relieve ETC, but I wanted to know more. I also started to think that if I had raised a dog for a year, I would want to know how he or she was since it was like losing a family member with no idea what happened for the rest of his or her life. My puppy paper had the first names of the main raiser, her sister and brother, and the parents. I did a search online and found their last name. I found the main raiser on one of the social networking sites and sent her a message letting her know I had her former puppy and asking if she and her family would want to stay in contact. At first, she thought I had the wrong person, since Valerie's name didn't match. I knew that since Valerie was a reissue, a dog that had a previous handler, that she had another name. After we confirmed my information was correct, we started chatting on AIM, and I got to learn fun things about my dog. Valerie was the focus of her senior project for high school, so she was used to being busy and surrounded by lots of people. She went to volleyball games, bowling, the mall, and the airport. She had dog and cat friends, and she loved to cuddle with anyone who would hold her. She knew bed time, and she would come down the stairs to stair at people to come with her. I shared info about how it was to work with her in college. I told her how my French professor always pretended to offer Valerie coffee and tell me seeing her made him feel better on bad days. She loved to curl up in a beanbag chair and take a nap. She did a good job guiding through crowds of students, and I had never felt comfortable walking that fast before I got a guide dog. I also shared my struggles. How I got hopelessly lost for the first three weeks going to class on a new campus every day, how she would sometimes not move faster even with correction, and that she would scavenge for food on the ground.
Once we had been chatting for a couple of months, I said they could come visit Valerie and me if they wanted to. We met, and that was awesome. We talked for a couple of hours, while everyone petted Valerie and gave her beloved belly rubs. They took lots of pictures, and they gave us presents. There was a squeaky hamburger and a nylabone; Valerie of course has destroyed the nylabone, but she still has the burger. They also gave me a water bowl/bottle holder, a bone keychain, and my favorite, a photo album. It shows her from the day they got her at two months old to the postcard they received in the mail from when she was in training at The Seeing Eye; it is one of the things that is always with me, no matter how many times I have moved since 2006. We also met again a few months later when I went to their house for the weekend. It was great getting to see where Valerie was raised. I learned she loved to sit on a certain step and stare out the window at all the people passing by. She loved to chase snowballs with the other dogs in the family. She knew how to balance a treat on her nose, throw it up in the air, and catch it before it hit the floor. We went to the mall, a bookstore, and the movies, where they got to see Valerie guide and do her job well.
Over the next few months, I began to realize that we wouldn't make it long as a team. I called the school every three months or so with maor issues; they would straighten out for awhile, but then something new would happen. I also noticed her continuing health problems with infections and tiredness. It was eventually determined that she was stressed and had alergies to chicken, wheat, rice, and 17 other outdoor-related things. I was worried that they would be upset or angry that Valerie wasn't going to be working for a long time, but they were awesome and supportive.
When she retired, it took me a few months to find and decide on a final home for Valerie. The school would have gladly placed her in a loving home, but again, I wanted contact and would have had none if I had gone that route. She is now with one of my former roommates friend's parents about an hour away from where I go to school. I forwarded the puppy raisers the new contact info, and they went to visit her once she had been settled. The lady who has her now and I send emails every few months; I ask how she is, and she shares stories. Valerie goes for walks a couple times per day; I taught her with clicker and treats, and Valerie continues getting treats for sitting at the corner and other things. One day, she refused to move from the corner and cross the street till she received her reward. She chases grasshoppers, loves to steal tomatoes from the garden, and has dog and human friends, especially the little children in the family. I have seen Valerie twice since she retired almost 2.5 years ago. She is happy, healthy, and stress-free, and that is all I wanted for her.
As her raiser told me, "inside the heart of every dog guide beats the heart of a puppy raiser." I also say inside every former guide dog is the love of a handler who always tried to make the right decision for the dog based on his/her needs, even if it was hard hurt at the time.
This is my submission for The Second Assistance Dog Blog Carnival I hope you take the time to read posts by others who made decisions involving assistance dogs.

college reflections

At this time in three weeks, I will have graduated with my BA. I can't believe it is finally happening. College didn't go the way I had planned. At the end of high school, I was enthusiastic and eager to go. The first couple weeks were hard; I spent so much time getting lost, getting accustomed to my new guide dog, and scanning textbooks. I made friends in some of my classes. We started eating lunch together every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I loved my classes, and I made Dean's list both semesters my freshman year. I thought that pattern would continue, but it ididn't. I took summer classes, and I had an amazing intro to theater professor. He had endless stories about plays he had worked on and written. I also took a world politics class with a professor from Gana who used to do something with the United Nations. However, I was so alone. I didn't have a roommate, and no one I knew was taking classes.
Sophomore year started with a guide dog access issue, financial problems, and an 18-credit course load. I wrote before that is when my depression started. I didn't care about my work. The next semester, I sent Valerie to a new home, got my second guide dog Zorro, and finished the year. I was also alone my junior year when I crashed. I didn't get out of bed, skipped classes at least 50% of the time, and failed my internship. Zorro went back to the guide dog school and was reissued to a wonderful second handler.
I started to realize I hated journalism and didn't want to do it any more, but I was too many credits and too many lab hours in to change. Senior year was better. I got Dee, had awesome friends and roommates, and started to put my life back together. I took off the fall semester to go to blind inc; I think I will post my entries from there. this semester, I'm just biding my time; I'm already mentally gone from here.
I've learned a lot from college, some fun things and some serious.
Just because someone has a PHD does not mean he or she necessarily has common sense or tact
there are some unbelieveably kind and helpful professors who give me hope for education
It is ok to fail; sometimes it can lead to better opportunities
it is a good idea to eat food before drinking and not mix drinks
Sharing problems with a friend is wsonderful, even if they don't give advice and just listen
People lose their sense when they see dogs, or they scream bloody murder and run to the other side of the sidewalk
Walking at 2 am isn't as scarey as some people like to make it seam.
People who go to midnight pizza and bingo can be vicious.
Drunk students shouldn't be allowed to sing Sweet Caroline; they make up their own words and the song is never the same again.
Getting an education is a privilege, and I wish I could remember that more often.