Day Four

Well, folks today has been super busy, but I am extremely exhausted, so I’ll condense this post as much as possible, and sorry for the abbreviated description of the day.

It was hard to sleep last night, probably because of having a dog in my room for the first time combined with anticipation for the upcoming day. After getting a shower, my dog and I went out for the 6:00 am “park” (bathroom) time. Can’t remember if my dog did anything. After the park time, I fed and watered her, and it was back outside for another ppark. Once the bathroom break was over, it was off to alumni hall for obedience, with an actual dog for the first time.

After obedience was breakfast at 7:00, back to the room to put the working harness on my dog, grab a few things, and we loaded into the van to head to White Plains.

We each took two walks with our dogs, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. I was last in line before lunch, so I sat on the balcony for a while. Then it was back downstairs for another bathroom break for the dog, and out we went.

The walk was great, surreal almost. My creature led me around strollers, people with umbrellas, outdoor seating areas, through narrow sidewalks, and to each and every curb. We crossed streets with ease, the pup (ahhh it’s so hard not to say her name) slowing when necessary to avoid turning cars. It is a truly incredible experience. The only downside to today’s walk was that it was a good 90 degrees out, and the poor dog was hot. Poor dog, I should be saying poor instructors. The each had to have walked 10 miles over the course of the day’s training.

Lunch was grilled cheese and tomato soup. Delicious. All of our dogs were so much better behaved at the meal than yesterday. After lunch, the walks began again. I was the last one out before we departed. Once again, my sweetie was wonderful. She walked like a trooper, even though it was so hot and she was tired. Afterwards, we headed back to campus for a quick rest, and then it was out to park again.

Dinner was amazing. I had baked tilapia and string beans…mmmm. Again, the dogs were much better behaved than yesterday, lying beside the chairs nearly the whole time without getting up. After dinner, a couple of friends and I decided to explore the upstairs areas of the buildings with our dogs. That was a doozy! None of us could get our dogs to heel. They kept surging towards offices and areas they knew well. All training was lost at that point haha, but not completely. So, we quickly went back downstairs, and then it was time for the evening lecture.

The lecture covered tons of material. Tons. I have no clue how I am going to remember it all. Once the lecture was over, we watered and parked the dogs, and then I learned how to groom my friend. It was really easy, simply stroking the back and sides with a comb, followed by a brush. After the grooming, I loved on my pal for a few minutes, and then I got to test leaving her alone in the room while I left for about 10 minutes. This was a bit of a relief for me, it’s been a journey the past couple days. I’m sure it was nice for the dog too. She must be so stressed with this human who doesn’t know what she’s doing handling her at all times. She did great, no whining, and actually I don’t think she really wanted to hang out when I came back, ha.

After a final bathroom break, it was time for bed. And here I am now. I apologize for the rundowns of my day being a bunch of “and then”s! I’m too tired to embellish right now though. You’ll have to bear with me over the next several posts.

I am exhausted, overwhelmed, and mentally drained. I am loving learning so much, but right now, I don’t know how I’m ever going to remember it all. Tomorrow is a new day. I know I’ll get the hang of it, it just takes time. Hopefully I get it over the next 2.5 weeks!

Day Three – Dog Day

Day Three

**Warning: long post ahead***

You’d think I wouldn’t be able to sleep last night, but I slept like a baby, and stumbled grumpily out of bed at 5:40. Soon after my sleepy fog lifted, my mind began to pulse with nervous excitement. Today is DOG DAY! Omigosh, in just a few hours, I will have my furry companion for years to come…

After my shower, I headed down to Alumni (Lecture) Hall for obedience training. It was similar to yesterday. We went over the commands of sit, down, and stay, and then I came back to my room to finish preparing for the day. Breakfast was at 7:00, where I had AMAZING gluten free pancakes (I really can’t believe how accommodating they’ve been with the gf stuff) and then there was a meeting at Alumni Hall about some general services, like volunteer shoppers, volunteers to take people to church, etc.

After the meeting, the waiting began. I hit up the coffee room for a café mocha, and then settled into a big recliner to browse Facebook and pass the time. At just after 9:00, a voice came over the intercom instructing us to go down to Alumni Hall for the big reveal. The 11 of us sat in the hall, excitedly chatting. My heart fluttered in excitement as I waited. Once the meeting was called to order, the instructors went over handling the dog, what we were going to be doing today, how to interact in certain ways, and how the process would go when we would receive the dog. We would find out the name, sex, and color of the dog now, and then would go to our rooms, where our dogs would be brought to us individually. They also told us how the dogs have bonded very closely to their trainers, so don’t worry if they don’t immediately bond with us, or whine when the trainers left, and other bonding related things.

And, then…it was time. My heart raced faster and faster as each student’s name was announced, followed by the dog they would receive. One by one, my classmates learned their dogs’ names and sexes. Finally, last but not least, my name was called, and I was given my dog’s information.

Now, I’m sure you’re gripping your computer monitor or cell phone screen in in anticipation of finding out who my furry friend is…but, unfortunately I can’t tell you until Thursday. The folks here at GEB want to make sure they tell the puppy raisers who got their loveable pet of a year before it leaks through the streams of social media. Plus, I’m sure they’re making sure the dogs are working out with each of us before we’re to go telling the world…Believe me, I will be posting the dog’s name and pictures as soon as I can!!!

I sat on my bed, fiddling with the empty leash nervously. The wait time was about 15 minutes or so, I’d say. Then, a knock at my door, and my four legged friend was brought in. I was instructed to put my leash on the dog and immediately feed it five treats as the instructor walked out the door. Since labs love food, this would divert their attention from their human ignoring them and leaving, and also make the dog like me a bit better. I did so, and was left alone with a very energetic ball of fur.

The rest of the morning was spent petting the dog, getting used to its presence, and letting it get used to mine. At about 11:45, the instructor knocked on my door, and I walked into the hallway for my first heel with the dog. We walked to the lobby, where I learned how to put the dog below my seat, and then tried to keep it down while others walked through with their pets. Then, one by one, we were led into the lunch room.

Lunch was a trying time. We were all to get our dogs to lie beside us next to our chairs for the duration of the meal. Sounds easy, but every time there was a new noise or sight, a dog would jump up, which would cause others to jump up, and then we’d each have to go through the process of getting our dogs to lie down again. I can’t even remember how many times mine jumped up…at least 4, probably more. After lunch, it was more quiet time in the room with the dogs, until we were each called for our first official harness walk with our guide dogs (I suppose I should mention here that each dog has both a leash and a harness, the leash is used to heel and correct the dog, the harness is used for work).

When it was my turn, the instructor came into my room and showed me how to attach the harness. Then, we went outside. I was amazed how as soon as the harness is on the dog, it’s all work. It changes instantly from a squirmy ball of fuzz to an alert and steady worker. We walked a nearby road, crossed the driveway, practiced a right turn, and came back. My dog’s pace is brisk and determined. It was a fantastic walk.

After the walk, we went back to my room, until 3:30, where we learned how to feed, water, and take our dogs to the bathroom for the first time. After that, more free time. I used this opportunity to wander into the coffee room, and was pleasantly surprised at my dog for lying next to me while I drank the entire cup. Dinner was at 5:00. Again, the dogs had to lie beside us, this time facing away from the table. My dog probably got up about the same amount as lunch time, but I’m sure she’ll adjust. After dinner was the evening lecture. I went to the hall and got my dog settled under my chair, where she stayed with almost no problems for the entire lecture.

Then it was more free time, another water and bathroom break, and more free time. I hung out with a few classmates in the coffee room for a while, each of us periodically trying to settle our dogs. After free time was the final bathroom break for the night, followed by putting the dog to bed, and here I am.

Phew, that is a lot of stuff! I am exhausted, mentally more than physically (a little antsy there).

Sorry for the super long post…night!

Day Two – Trial Run

We hit the ground running today at 6 AM with an obedience training session in the lecture hall. During the training, an instructor acted like an imaginary dog “Juno,” and showed us one-on-one how to command the dog to heel, sit, lie down, and stay. After the training session, I had a few minutes to finish getting ready for the day, and then it was time for breakfast – a delicious meal of eggs, bacon, and fruit.

When breakfast was finished, I gathered my things and made a quick pit stop for coffee, and then it was off to the van to load up for a trip into White Plains. After a 30ish minute ride, we unloaded at the Lounge, and were given the schedule for the day. We would go out with the instructors in pairs and take a “Juno Walk,” which is a dog simulation walk with only a harness and the instructor pulling you along, and then….we would get to take a real dog for a spin!

I was third in line, so while I waited I took a tour of the Lounge, which has several comfortable sitting rooms, a large balcony, dining area (complete with another awesome coffee machine), and an outdoor area where the dogs will relieve themselves. After the tour, I sat and chatted with my lovely classmates while I waited for my turn.

About an hour or so later, my name was called, and off I went. My instructor coached me in the proper way to hold the harness/leash combo, how to stand, and how to give the forward command. Then we began the walk. It was stressed that students should walk their normal pace so the instructors can get a feel for our style. I walked briskly down the road, guided by the instructor, who was pulling the harness. We came to a few curbs, and I learned how to find the curb, turn left, and cross the road. We traveled a bit farther, and I learned how to turn right. After this (or maybe right before the right turn, I can’t remember), I was handed off to the other instructor, who guided me down a block or two.

And then… she went and got a real, live dog! I greeted the little yellow lab, who returned my affection with a quick lick on the face. After the little love fest, I was set into position, and upon instruction, gave the dog the forward command, and we were rockin’!

It was truly an amazing experience feeling this four legged creature lead me exactly to every curb, guide me around obstacles, and follow my commands. After every successful command, I gave the dog a treat, which she inhaled out of my hand, leaving a residue of saliva. Although I’ve never been a fan of dog slime, I didn’t mind so much this squirmy bundle of energy leaving me a little wet. Besides, there’s always hand washing and sanitizer.

Once our walk was finished, I headed back into the lounge, buzzing with excitement. Boy, that dog was absolutely adorable! None of us were told the dogs’ names, nor will we ever be told if the dog we end up getting is the same one we walked with today…but I really hope I get that one, and I feel like, somehow, I will know it’s her.

Lunch was at 12:00, and then I basically lounged with the other folks who had already gone out until all the others had their walks, and we loaded back into the vans and headed back to Yorktown Heights.

We had a meet and greet with the staff in the afternoon, then dinner was served, followed by a lecture full of information about the dogs, and what we will be doing tomorrow…

And what is tomorrow? DOG DAY! Yep, starting tomorrow, I will be the proud new companion to my new guide dog: D

I’m just chilling for the rest of the night. We’ve been warned many times that after tomorrow, there won’t be much chill time, as we’ll be learning to live with our new friends. I’m really excited, but really nervous. There was a ton of info covered, and right now, I’m not sure how I’ll remember it all. But, I’m sure I will.

Stay tuned!

Day One

And so the journey begins…

The day started out beautifully. Got up, finished packing, and Adam and I were out the door just after 10 AM. Although I usually am pretty good about what to pack, this time I believe I may have over packed a bit…Who knows what I’m going to want to wear for the next 3 weeks? Not me. So, Adam, being awesome, carried my large suitcase and backpack to the subway. 😀

The subway journey was slightly tumultuous. The trains were all messed up, and so Adam had to lug my giant suitcase, and me, through the Times Square station (for you non-New Yorkers, that is pretty much the most insane station). On the way up a staircase, I tripped and landed on the toe I broke earlier this summer. OUCH. I’m pretty sure I broke it again. Great, on the first day of class. Now, I’m limping and freaking out about my stupid toe, we have yet another two transfers, and it looks like I may be late.
Amazingly, I was not. Made it on the van, and to Yorktown Heights. I could go into much more detail about my journey, but I am sleepy, and more interested in telling about the school.

This place is awesome!!!

Upon arrival, we (there were two others in the van) were met by the instructors, who gave each student a tour of their room and the building.

My room has more closet space than my apartment, no joke. It is spacious, and has all the bells and whistles of a hotel room. There is a large, comfy bed, a mini-fridge, TV, desk, and phone that can make local and long distance calls. There are two doors to the room- one from the hall, and the other leading to outside. This is the door I will use to take my dog to the bathroom. The room already has dog food, bowls, a bed/crate, and chew toy.

The building is fabulous. There is a game room, exercise room, laundry room, computer lab, living room with couches, and my favorite place, the coffee room. The coffee room is equipped with everything you could ever want. The coffee machine, at the push of a few buttons, will instantly give you regular, decaf, or half/half coffee, or if you choose, hot chocolate, café mocha, or hot water for tea. OHHHHHH YEAHHHHH. The fridge is stocked with 4 types of milk, several juices, fruit, and yogurt. There is also cereal and a water cooler. I love that place.

Speaking of food…the it is amazing. Dinner is prepared on site, and is healthy, and conscious of diet. I told them I was gluten free before coming, and they have gf bread, cookies, and make sure any of my plates are absent of the substance. I had an amazing dinner of roasted chicken, potatoes, and squash, with a side salad. While we were finishing up dinner, one of the staff came around and gave us a huge list of choices for breakfast, and took our orders. I chose eggs, bacon, and fruit. Awesome.

After dinner was a lecture in, for lack of a better term, the lecture hall (can’t remember the actual name), where we went over the rules of the school, some scheduling things (some of it I’ve forgotten already), and handled some equipment, including two collars, the harness, and the leash.

After the lecture we had free time. There is a nice outdoor space just to the left of my room that has a couple of benches. It’s a lovely place to sit and chat.

Everybody here is great! I love the staff, and can already feel new friendships forming with my classmates. Speaking of classmates, this group is compiled of people from all over the country, as well as Canada, and even two students from Hong Kong.

There is so much more I could say, but I am getting pretty sleepy, and the day starts with a bang at6 AM. Oh yeah, my toe is feeling much better. Although still a bit painful, I can now walk briskly without limping: D Guess tomorrow I’ll wear a stiffer pair of shoes than usual to protect it.

Sorry this post is not up to my normal standards, but I wanted to make sure I posted, and am too tired to tighten it up.
Until tomorrow…

The Final Countdown

Wow…Summer is almost gone and dog school is quickly approaching! On Sunday, I will be shipped off to Yorktown Heights for training with my “Paws.”

When I started this blog in February, I had just sent out my application for training at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It has always been my intention to share with folks my experience throughout this journey, and I simply cannot believe the day is almost here…

Right now, I am a ball of emotions (on the inside). Excitement, anxiety, apprehension, anticipation, what-ifs, what-abouts, how-will-Is, can’t wait, want to chicken out….all surging through my veins simultaneously. The dog, the stay, the introverted person set in an unfamiliar place for 21 days. The awkward training trips, the standing out, the being away from home and work for three weeks. The coming home, and everything has changed…

Nevertheless, I will face my fears! Why? Because you don’t grow unless you step out of your comfort zone. And, I’ve found that when I do, the end result is usually better than I could’ve imagined 

I’ve received some information from the school. It looks to be a pretty structured schedule. I’m hoping to spend a few minutes nightly typing away at the keys to fill you all in on what’s going down up here (notice that word play? Ha.) Keep checking back, because this blog famine will soon turn into a feast (I hope)

On a side note, I wish I could recap for you my entire summer. The past few months alone have brought so much growth. It appears my shoe journey really did start something on the inside of me. A few notable moments include:
-Detouring to grab a cup of coffee, just because. I know that looks insignificant…but it is not.
-Utilizing Bob to make my journey through the airport easier
– Finding my way home on at least 2 occasions through large stations that I’ve never been in or rarely are in.
-Moving and now walking 6 blocks, instead of my old 1.5 blocks on the way home from work.

I know to the average person the above statements look trivial, but to me, they are huge. I have definitely grown more okay with standing out than I was even a few short months ago.

Onward and Upward!

Huge Step

I bet you all thought I had abandoned this blog like I do with everything else I start after 3 months. But, HA, I’m still here 😀 Sorry for the huge delay in posting (two months!!!)

A lot has happened since my last post. Many things in the personal realm (but I won’t bore you with those details). I did want to give a shout out to my husband, who graduated with his MFA in late May: GO ADAM!

Anyhoo, I wrote the following post about a month and a half ago, after an exciting-to-me overcoming myself experience. After writing it, I spent the next few weeks debating if I should even post it, or if it made me look like a coward, and then I lost track of time. But, I eventually decided that, yes, I will post this entry, because it has caused a chain reaction of other small triumphs, and therefore, is significant enough to take a little space in the world wide web. So, without further ado, here’s the entry:

6/4/2014

I took a huge step today. Well, huge for me anyway…I left the house for a want…not a need.

Let me preface this. Those who know me extremely well (Mom and Adam) know that I have fought, and engage daily, a tremendous mind battle with the thought of going out with “Bob” (aka stick). I mean World War of the mind kind of battle. I waited probably 3 years longer than I should’ve before humbling myself enough to even consider picking up the thing. Since I’ve learned the *ahem* art of traveling with Bob, I have only done so out of absolute necessity.

I know, I know. I can’t tell you the number of times mobility instructors (the people that train you in stick-walking) have told me I need to just get out there and take a walk…But my manner of approaching, well almost everything, consists of a sort of cost/benefit analysis. Will the benefit outweigh the discomfort I must go through in order to attain? Usually, with Bob, it’s a no. Sure, going to work and work related things are one thing. There the benefit definitely outweighs the cost. I’d rather deal with a little embarrassment and enjoy a meaningful career. Likewise, there has been various “necessity” instances where I ventured out, but when it comes to simply wanting something, the cost of a Bob walk always overshadows the benefit.

That brings me to today…

So, I came across a pair of shoes in Aldo the other day that were quite awesome. Simple, flat canvas-like shoes with a multi-colored pattern…. funky shoes to wear in the summer that are not sandals. Anyway, I went back for a second look when walking with Adam one day, and they happened to be on sale at a really good deal…but there was only one pair left in the store (they must be popular). I ordered a pair in my size to the store and went about my merry way.

Now, I am jetting off to visit my family this weekend, and my shoes are in transit. I really want to get them before I go to have a chance to break them in and see if I can find any outfits to go along with them. I cross my fingers that they come in by today…and they do! Ahhhhhh!!! Shoes!

BUT…..my guide-Adam happens to have a life, and isn’t available this evening. Crap. Hmmm. I could wait til tomorrow…but I really wanted to wear the shoes! I am home. I can go get them. Now comes the mind battle. The artillery comes out. I can definitely go get them, the store is only a couple blocks away. But, I have never gone to the store alone before and it is in a row of other doors, how will I find it? I could ask someone. I don’t want to ask someone. What if I make a fool of myself? C’mon Bekah, you do that on a daily basis. I really want those shoes…it’d be pretty pathetic not to get them because I chickened out….

It was looking like the cons were going to win…but then, scrolling through some notes on my phone on a deleting spree, I came across a note I wrote last year when my cat was sick and I had to step up to the plate (I’ll have to post it), and it inspired me. With one fell swoop, the pros won the battle, and I scampered out the door before I changed my mind.

The walk really wasn’t too bad. When I got to the busy road I had to cross, someone asked if I needed help, and I used the moment to ask where exactly the shoe store was (I knew the general vicinity on the street, but not exactly where). My luck, the guy just happened to be going that way, and walked along with me until I got to the store, where he showed me the door. I walked in, maneuvered to the counter, and secured my shoes! YES. Unfortunately, in my haste on the way out I ran into just about everything in the store, thoroughly embarrassing myself, but ah, well…they’ll probably remember me there. I got back across the road and journeyed back to my door, no problem.

Once inside, I commenced in the essential happy dance. I know this is a really small thing in the blind and sighted community both, but like I said in the beginning of this post, only those who know me extremely well understand the intense anxiety I have over such minute feats.

So, I end in pun…

My shoe journey was one small step for man, but one giant leap for Bekah-kind.

Beauty Tricks

I’ve been asked many times how I am able to do my makeup. This post is going to give the low-down of the tricks I’ve learned on how to do my daily makeup regimen. I figure most of the guys who have stumbled upon this post are already disinterested…maybe I’ll write a post about foreign cars, and how much I “care.” Ha.

I’ll break it down by category:

Face/foundation:
First I take some tweezers to the ol’ eyebrows. Now, obviously, I cannot see any eyebrow hairs that may not be where I want them. But, I can feel some of them. I basically tweeze randomly in areas I KNOW there is not supposed to be stray hairs and hope to hit a few. It generally works out, and I’ll get my eyebrows done about once every 6 weeks to keep them looking their best (thank goodness for $5 eyebrow jobs in Bay Ridge). Once I’ve grown tired of my random tweezings (or run out of time), I move on to foundation. Number one rule of doing makeup blind…NO liquids (except mascara). I use a pressed powder mineral foundation and a triangle sponge. I start off by applying some foundation to blemish areas. Then I take the flat part of the triangle and pat foundation over the rest of my face. I am careful about how much foundation I apply…better too little than too much. Once I’ve applied foundation, I pat my face with a clean triangle to ensure better blending and less cakiness. This usually does the job.

No blush for me. I never really blush in real life anyway, so not worried about it. I do use bronzer from time to time though.

Eyes:
This is the part where the most beauty tricks come into play. First, as much as I want to, I can no longer really see the color of any of my eye shadows. I still like to color-coordinate, however, so I’ve developed a way to tell the eye shadows apart. Lately, I’ve been using single color shadows that I’ve labeled on the bottom with Braille. I’m pretty amateur at reading the language, but I know all the letters and can get by slowly. So, I labeled the bottom of purple, for instance, with a Braille “P.” When applying daily eye shadow, I only use one color. It’s easier and more casual. I simply take my brush loaded what my preferred color and apply it to my lids up to the crease area, which is really easy to find since there’s a physical crease. I apply a bit of the same color in the crease and make a triangle at the end of the lid (toward my ear). Then I take a tissue and glide over the areas I don’t want shadow. Step one: done. Now it’s on to eyeliner. Again, liquid is OUT. I use a soft black pencil and dot along the bottom lash line (which again is super easy to find…because there are obviously lashes there. Then, using short strokes, I go over the entirety of my top lid line. Once this is complete, I use a smudge brush to even out the top line and make it softer, and run the same brush along my lower lid, from the lash line to the inner part of the eye, to give a soft black line. Step two: done. Mascara is a little tricky. I take the wand and slowly move it toward my eye, until I find the top lashes, and then coat them. Sometimes this results in me jabbing myself in the eye or acquiring a black dot that I may or may not notice, but it is worth it in my opinion.

Lips:
Generally, I slap some Burt’s Bees on and forget about applying any kind of lip color. When I do, it’s extremely easy. I’m sure you ladies have thrown lipstick or gloss on without a mirror, and that’s all I do.

And….VOILA! My daily makeup ritual is complete. AND……..I can do it in the dark: P

Speaking of beauty, I discovered a new trick a few days ago. I like to paint my toenails from time to time, and being the independent person I am, I like to try to do it myself, when possible. Unfortunately, this usually results in my toes looking like they’ve been massacred and are bleeding whatever color I’ve tried to apply…
The other day I had a “brilliant,” but time consuming idea. Using masking tape, I taped around every single toe. Then I went to town. Half an hour later, I peeled the tape off to find I had fairly decent looking toes (according to Adam). Sweet.

And there ya have it folks. The mystery of my of blind makeup application has been revealed…in excruciating detail. Sorry! :O

Social Phobias

We all have social phobias – from public speaking to smiling with spinach lodged between our teeth to walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to our shoes. I am no stranger to such phobias. Growing up, I was petrified of talking to cashiers, answering the phone, and mingling in any group of people. Many of these childhood phobias have stuck with me (though I have learned to deal with them).

Unfortunately, the blinder I get, the more social fears I experience. Imagine trying to exist in a world where communication is 90% nonverbal as the silent cues fade away? This, combined with intense concentration just to make it from one place to another in one piece can really put a strain on coexisting with society.

So, here a few of my most nerve-racking social phobias:

The Dreaded Handshake
The handshake – America’s way of greeting. From business meetings to church gatherings, the handshake makes an important first impression. In the same way, a handshake shunned makes an equally lasting impression. Sadly, the handshake makes 0 noise, and can be extended in a variety of ways. This is very bad for the blind person. I dread meeting new people for this reason.
Some instances are easier than others. If I am meeting someone one-on-one, I compensate by finding where the voice is coming from and extending my hand first. This usually works well when standing directly across from the other person. When standing in a triangle formation, circle, or random order, it can get tricky. If there is more than one person, I often find myself pre-extending the hand, getting embarrassed and removing it, only to find the person is now waiting to shake my hand. Dang.
Then there are parties, where some shake and others don’t. Of course, there is usually an overwhelming amount of ambient noise so I can’t tell if the person is talking to me or the person next to me…which can lead to awkward situations quick.
But the WORST of all is church greeting time. Sadly, I dread this small portion of time so much that I can’t concentrate on the service until the moment is over and I have lived through the ordeal. Boy, church service greetings. Dim light, loud background noise, and dozens of hands thrusting themselves at me randomly. Of course, those attending the service don’t know I can’t see them. I always leave Bob at home in favor of my husband…and even if I did tote Bob along, he’d long be tucked away before the onslaught of hands. I’ve often wondered if i can get around this predicament. But, no solutions. The best idea I can come up with is taping a huge sign on my shirt that reads “sorry if I don’t shake your hand, I’n blind.” But, that sign won’t happen any time soon. Until then, I will keep randomly extending my hand to find the person next to or in front of me is not looking my direction, and accidentally ignoring those who are. …And don’t even get me started on the huggers. I have accidentally kissed one too many cheeks trying to accept a hug.

Retail Settings
Yes, I still have the old fear of cashiers/employees/servers, but this time it’s for a totally different reason. Ordering food is super awkward. I can never tell where the cashier is, if they’re ready to take my order, or if they’re looking at me. This leaves me guessing and 95% of the time very embarrassed. If simply ordering isn’t hard enough, exchanging money is worse. I can never find the person’s hand. And forget it with credit card machines. They are all different and touch screen. Finally, most cashiers make close to minimum wage, so I can’t really expect them to be sympathetic toward my situation. Thankfully,I very often have my husband with me, who comes to the rescue and removes at least 50% of the awkwardness of this situation.
Another terrible retail moment is the fitting room experience. Again, I always have someone with me to shop for clothing (who is almost always my husband). He will usually nudge me toward the fitting room attendant, where I will look down and say the number of items, embarrassed. Then comes the worst part. Naturally, men aren’t usually allowed in fitting rooms. This is where I have to swallow my pride and quickly ask the hurried attendant for assistance through the maze. Good thing I like to dress presentably, I would have resorted to t shirts and bad fitting pants to avoid the drama.

Mingling
Yes, I still hate mingling…with a passion. But, now this dread is tenfold. Not only do I have the underlying feeling of bothering people, interrupting where I am not wanted, and generally going blank due to my fear of mingling, but in addition I now have to stay in one spot so as not to bump someone, constantly deal with being in the way (I could stand in a corner and someone would have to be there), try to see if the voices around me are talkingto me (no one addresses anyone by name, that’s all done with the EYES), and generally try to figure out what the heck the person talking to me is saying as there is almost always the drowning noise of a crowd or music to garble the voice. Sadly, I have lost the ability to read lips long ago (which is taken for granted until you lose it). All of these factors combined make parties and social gatherings exhausting rather than a great way to meet new friends.

So, there are a few of my social phobias. I could write a book detailing all the stresses my mind races through daily, but those are especially challenging. Until next time, Hooah! (hey, I had to say something lighthearted)

Potpourri

Hello Everyone! I apologize for my lack of posting as of late. Seems like every time I sit down to write, I get sidetracked. Very bad. Anyway, I don’t have a particular story for today (though I have some brewing), so this post will be a potpourri of sorts.

First, I’d like to update on my last post “Yes, I love Technology.” One of my readers, washknight, turned me on to a much better and faster way of typing on my iPhone/iPad. Yayyyyyyy! This new way is called “touch typing.” With touch typing, I simply place my finger on the touch screen keyboard. As I move my finger around, VoiceOver reads the particular key my finger is resting on. When I find the right letter, I simply remove my finger, and the letter is inserted. This makes writing much less torturous. It does add to the number of typos experienced, so I turned my auto-correct function back on, and have, once again, entered the social world.

Honestly, I can’t believe I never figured this out before. But maybe, there is someone like myself out there who hasn’t stumbled upon this awesome feature yet either, so I will quickly tell you the steps 
1. Have VoiceOver on.
2. Go to an editable document, such as Notes, and double tap “add new”
3. Once the text is editing, take your thumb and forefinger, place them on the screen above the keyboard (so, in the center or top of screen) and move them clockwise, as if you were turning a radio dial. This is the rotor
4. Continue moving your fingers in this fashion until you hear “typing.” Then swipe up with one finger. You will hear “touch typing,” and VOILA! Life will be much better for you.
5. Don’t feel silly for never figuring this out before, because some tech-loving chick in NYC didn’t find this option for nearly two years.
Next, I’ll give a quick update on the puppy process for those who are wondering:
As you all know, I got accepted at the end of February. Since then I’ve had to send in a little paperwork, and now I wait. I have about 4.5 months to go…time is flying already. So, still on the list, and just waiting for my turn 

Finally, thought I’d post a pretty cool link. These shoes use your smart phone to navigate you via vibration. Sound pretty cool to me. Get some of these and my Mercedes, and I’ll be set! They’d be my magic shoes…Mama said they’d take me anywhere I wanna go
http://gizmodo.com/these-smartshoes-help-the-blind-navigate-city-streets-1536067120

Interviews with the creator and testing for those interested:
http://www.healio.com/ophthalmology/neurosciences/news/print/ocular-surgery-news-europe-edition/%7B8bbadef6-a081-4609-963c-afc8071e4fdc%7D/haptic-shoe-provides-gps-directions-for-independent-motion-of-blind-visually-impaired

http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/03/soul-to-sole-eye-surgeon-anthony-vipin-das-has-developed-shoes-that-see-for-the-blind/
Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know I haven’t abandoned my blog, and I do have some stuff in the works. For all of you east coasters, enjoy this lovely weather. Looks like spring has FINALLY arrived!

Yes, I Love Technology

Hi ya’ll! First, I want to thank everyone who has commented or emailed me questions. I can’t wait to answer them, and hopefully, satisfy your curiosity. Keep them coming!

Today, I’m going to answer two questions that I’ve been asked by several people. The first is short, so I threw it in the post. The second is rather long, so, I apologize in advance. If you have insomnia, I suggest reading this post once or twice, and you won’t have to worry about counting sheep 😉

1. What do I do at my job/ what is my profession?
I am a Marketing and Development Associate at a non-profit cultural access organization in NYC. My organization’s mission is to remove barriers to arts and culture for traditionally isolated populations of the city. It’s a great place, with great people!
What I do is mainly a lot of writing. On the marketing side, I wrote a lot of text for the organization’s website when it was being overhauled. I also write posts for our blog, outreach materials for various programs, letters, and miscellaneous tasks. Though I’ve listed several marketing activities, my job leans heavily toward the development side. I spend at least 90% of the time writing proposals, letters, and requests for funding. I also research potential funders, and am the outreach person for city council activities, including funding requests, invites to events, and meeting schedule/attendance. That’s it in a nutshell.

2. How do I operate technology, i.e. Computer, iPhone, iPad, blog and work?

iPhone/iPad:
First, I want to say that Apple is AWESOME and the mac daddy. Apple products are great because they are sensitive to making their products accessible, and include accessibility software hardwired into their devices (unlike Windows). I use a software called “Voice Over” on my iPhone and iPad. It sounds much like Siri. If you have one of these devices, you can check out Voice Over by doing the following:
Tap “settings” > tap “general” > tap “accessibility” > tap “Voice Over” > turn Voice Over on.
You will notice that turning Voice Over on changes how you have to use the touch screen. For instance, you have to select an item and then double tap to activate it, instead of just single tapping it. To move between screens, or scroll up or down, you have to swipe three fingers instead of one. You’ll also notice that Voice Over will read everything you select on the screen- hence, how I operate my phone.
Voice Over is great, but is not without its own flaws. It takes an excessively long time to write a text message (unless you’re using the dictate function) because you have to triple tap each letter, once to select, then double to insert the character into the message. Also, not all apps are accessible. I may have a totally awesome app, but because accessibility was not programmed into the app, I cannot operate it. This happens more often than I’d like. A lot of apps will create an image with text on it, but won’t program a text descriptor. Unfortunately, a text reader cannot read an image, so I will just hear a little thonk-like noise (yes, I did just make up the word “thonk”), and that’s as far as I get.
Another problem with any text-to-speech software is that it doesn’t function as fast as an eye. With an eye, you can skim over the material at a very fast pace. With text-to-speech, you have to listen to every word to skim. Being a little impatient, I’ve trained my ears to listen quickly and have Voice Over set to 90%. (Try changing the speech rate when you’re messing around on your phone for kicks).
One last thing is the software uses a lot more processing power, especially with the speech rate turned to 90%. This results in my phone/iPad randomly freezing and shutting down apps. It also makes some things take longer to load. BUT, all in all, I am SO blessed to have this kind of technology!!! I’d be lost without it.

Computer:
At work and at home, I have Windows computers. These computers require external software to operate. The software is called “Jaws.” It is an acronym for something, but I can’t remember what…
So, how to explain Jaws? Wow….
Okay, first, the voice is….interesting. Sounds like a cross between a robot and a nerd. Mid range pitch, and a bit monotone. I also have this buddy turned to around 85-90%…
Operating Jaws is actually a bit complicated. In fact, I took lessons in how to use the program a little over a year ago. The computer is controlled by a series of keyboard commands. There are many of these commands, and I am still learning as I go along. The mouse/pointer is not used at all. It’s actually a bit difficult to explain, but I will give you a quick example:
I want to search “cat” on the internet.
I hit the “windows” button on my keyboard. In the search box I type the beginning of either Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. Once my program says the name, I hit “enter.” Once the program is open, I use the keyboard combination “alt + D” to access the address bar. In this, I type “cat” and hit “enter.” Then I hit “tab” or “F6” to access the page displaying my results. Then I push “insert + F6,” which opens up the “headings list” (a heading is the title of each result). I use the arrow keys to find a heading that looks interesting, and hit “enter.” This puts my cursor over the title. I then hit “enter” again to go to the page.

This program, as annoying at it is, has made me functional in the electronic world once more, and for that I am incredibly grateful. It, again, is not without its flaws.
For one, sometimes the program has a hard time navigating. Even if I am doing everything right, it sometimes doesn’t want to select a link, or perform some other function. Not all elements on the computer are navigable. Many times, a random window or notification will pop up on screen, and my program simply will not let me navigate to the window to read it. Some very simple, very mainstream programs can give me trouble. PDFs can be tricky. Thank goodness at work I have the newest version of Adobe Reader, but older versions, and the one I have at home give me more than a little difficulty, and often won’t let me read the PDF. Additionally, sometimes the voice will simply stop working and I have to shut my computer off manually in order for me to be able to get things to work again. Finally, many websites can be quite a bear to navigate. Either they won’t work, or make my software skip over vital elements of the page or links won’t work because they are designed for a mouse to hover over them, and so, aren’t registered as links at all. If I have to do much typing, I have to use Internet Explorer. Google Chrome is great, but when I backspace, my software only says “blank” instead of the letters I am removing, which can get confusing really quick.

With these programs, I have had to become okay with doing nearly everything in a roundabout way. For instance, when posting a blog on the computer, I can only do it a certain way, or else, I will end up throwing my computer across the room in frustration. In fact, it took me hours to post my first couple blogs until I figured out the only way I could maneuver the site. Other than that, I move to the appropriate text fields, type the title, past the text (that I’ve created in Word), and add tags.

So, that is a basic overview on how I operate technology. I could fill hundreds of pages with more in depth information, but I think this post is already way too long and way too dry to drone on anymore. For those of you who are not slumped over your computer/tablet/phone drooling from this post putting you to sleep, I congratulate you! For those who are, I apologize for the wiping up of drool you’ll have to do when you wake up, but hey, at least you got a nap out of it 