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!

Cheryl”
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

Thankful

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.

Hummus
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

cookies

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.

CHOCOLATE SURPRISE COOKIES
(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

applications

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 audible.com.
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.