Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blind People Doing Big Things... Blind Water Skier

Who says blind people can’t take part in athletic activities? If anyone does they would definitely be wrong. This fact can in part be proven by a man named Steve Thiele. In an article on wire.com writer Erik Malinowski informed readers about this mans amazing achievements.

He is a 45 year old man from Audley England. He works as an IT engineer. An accident where he fell head first out of a tree has left him blind since age eight. Regardless of his disability he is now a true athlete. His sport? He enjoys to water ski and is quite good at it. The only special equipment he uses is a whistle that allows him to communicate with the boats driver audibly.

In the past, Thiele has been a competitor in the Disabled Water Ski World Championship. As if that wasn’t enough, he took his sport to new heights when he decided he was going to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest water-skiing distance by a blind person. Before his attempt the record stood at twenty miles. The only stipulation was he had to wear a blind fold like everyone else even though he is blind.
Thiele took this as an opportunity to raise money for two different charities. The charities included Cancer Research UK and Ghana Outlook. The second charity named, aids in the building of schools in Ghana. He was able to raise thousands of dollars for the two organizations. This alone is an outstanding achievement.

The blind athlete’s efforts did not go unrewarded. At the end of his trek the final distance calculated was 23.85 miles. He achieved this goal in 59 minutes and 45seconds. So not only did he make his goal but he did it in under an hour.

This is living proof that you can do anything you set your mind to despite your limitations. He is a role model for disabled people every where and should be very proud of himself. Below is a link to the video of this fantastic accomplishment that was posted on You Tube. Enjoy!

Sources: Erik Malinowski, “IT Manager Sets Blind Water-Skiing World Record”. Wire.com

Quote Of The Day

"Everything has it's wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am in, therein to be content"~Helen Keller

Monday, January 30, 2012

Funny Things Kids Say

Absolutely nothing beats the innocence of a child. When they are little they have little exposure to things that are considered “different”. The wonderful thing about a kid is they have no filter. They usually say exactly what they are thinking right when they think it. The children in my life are no exception to that rule.

My nephew once told me when he was little that he was going to buy me new eyes at wal Mart. He was going to make sure they were green because that’s what color my eyes are. He would make sure they weren’t broken this time and he was sorry they are broken now.

My niece once told me that she wished I could see her because she sure was pretty.

My daughter used to tell me on a regular basis that she loved playing hide and go seek with me especially when I was it.

The same nephew as above told me that he knew how to fix me. He went on to tell me that all I needed to do was blink. That always makes his eyes feel better.

Another one of my nieces tells me that I got ripped off on a regular basis and that I need to right a letter of complaint to someone.

My friend’s son said, “That would really suck to be blind. I don’t know how you eat.”

My other nephew used to make his own version of a Verizon slogan. “Can you see me now? … How about now?.... And now?...”

Another little boy told me that maybe if I cover one eye that would help me to see better.

A friend’s daughter was very upset. She said, “If she can’t see me how will she know who I am?”

My oldest nephew once told me that if he could he would give me his eyes… Or at least one of them he needed to at least see half of what was going on. But at least then we would be equal.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dressing In The Dark

Okay so obviously I can dress my children. Most of the time they are even matching. Nevertheless, this is a challenge that a lot of blind people go through every day. I have a few helpful tips to allow this to not become to big of a problem.

Whenever my girls try and dress themselves and try and leave the house wearing something that isn’t necessarily attractive I would fear the eyes would be on me again. For a long time in the beginning I was always afraid of that. I didn’t want people to think that just because I was blind, my children as well as I would look like we got dressed in the dark (no pun intended). When I would tell someone about my fear I would always say, “Everyone’s going to look at the girls! They are going to say poor little blind girl can’t dress her kids…” I figured that all parents thanks to my disability I had to work twice as hard to make sure they look good to fight against the stigma.

Before you say it, yes I know it’s irrational. Of course kids are not going to match all the time once they get to be the age where they want to dress themselves. I know that and you know that and pretty much everyone else knows that too. But, when they see the mismatched child with the tights on her head and me with my cane what do you think they think? In my defense I really don’t care about that anymore. I’m over it. If people are going to stare anyway I might as well give them something to stare at right?

My oldest daughter is ten and she helps out a lot with this dilemma. She tells me what colors things are and what kind of pattern they have on them. When my youngest who is three attempts some outlandish combination she clues me in before it’s too late. They drive me crazy but they really are the best kids in the whole world. Together we are a team… even if uncoordinated sometimes.

There is assistive technology to aid with colors. The main problem with this equipment is their price. They tend to be somewhat expensive so choose wisely. Also, remember cheaper isn’t always better in some cases. If you buy one and it isn’t right for you it may be a while before you can afford an upgrade. Always double check return policies for exchange and money back guarantees. I personally have one of these devices and it’s great in theory. The only trouble is that it doesn’t tell you if there are patterns on the clothing and it’s not always accurate. If you decide to go that route be sure you do your research. Check around and get the best quality product for your money.

Another solution for this is to ask for help! Of course not all of us have ready and able help at our every hearts desire or request. For those of you who do though, don’t be afraid to ask. I have my mom to help with matching issues. When it comes time to put clothes on the hanger she puts them on for me as matching sets. This saves me a lot of time and headaches in the choosing clothes department. She also helps me to treat the girl’s shirts for stains. Especially with my three year old this is a must. She tends to think it’s best to bathe in the food rather than simply put it into her mouth. I am very lucky to have a mom that is so willing to help with this no questions asked.

For clothes that are not meant to be mated pairs I just have to pay careful attention to what I’m choosing. I learn what things are by feel. After a while things are recognizable to my hands even if not to my eyes. I make sure her pants, pajamas and underclothes are all in their own separate drawers. If a particular pair of pants has embroidery or some other pattern that make they harder to match then they get hung up. This forces me to remember that these have to be matched more carefully then a plain Jane pair of jeans. In some cases I even put them in a certain area of the closet to help me remember what’s what.

This in turn brings me to my next personal preference. I try to mainly purchase pants that will go with any shirt combination. For instance, a regular pair of blue jeans will go with almost everything.

In addition to selective pants purchasing, I attempt to do the same with socks. It can be difficult for a blind person to mate a pair of socks once they are stretched or shrunk with continual wash and wear. And don’t get me started on colors! What I do is at least try and buy each member of the household their own individual style of socks. For example, for myself I might buy ankle socks. But since me and my oldest daughter wear close to the same size I could buy her mid length. My youngest daughter prefers ankle socks as well but that works because she of course has much smaller feet than me. The other thing I try and remember is that white socks are the best option. Once different colors get thrown in the mix it gets harder to fold them properly. This would then mean that someone in the house is going to end up with a striped green sock paired with a solid hot pink one. While this may not matter if you are wearing pants to hide them it wouldn’t work if you were wearing shorts.

It’s important for blind people to wake up and swallow that huge lump of pride that some of us have in our throats. Learn to laugh when you find out your child doesn’t look their best. It’s really no big deal. Even sighted people take their kids and themselves out in public wearing God offal combinations that others wouldn’t be caught dead in. The only difference between us and them is that they chose to look like that on purpose. We at least have an excuse. If you have the “blind card” at your disposal you might as well use it in this circumstance.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Blind Black Friday

Black Friday can be a treacherous shopping day no matter who you are. Its main objective... get everything on your list at rock bottom prices and of course survive the crazy at all cost. People rush, trample, scream, fight and generally forget all the manners and good grace they were ever taught during their entire lifetime.

So, do you have a mental image in your head yet? Perhaps a memory floating through your mind? Do you ever recall after the shopping day was finally done saying to yourself, “I’m never doing that again”? If you said yes to any of these then great! We are on the same page.

I tell myself every year I’m never ever under any circumstance going to do that again. Then, the following year roles around much too quickly and I find myself waiting in the long lines like everyone else. I know ridiculous but unfortunately they had me at “savings”.

Still have that mental nightmare in your head? Well now I’d like you to attempt to imagine the experience all over again but as a blind person. Ha Ha, got a headache yet?

Of course I should start off by saying I’ve never done Black Friday by myself. I honestly don’t think that prospect would ever occur to me. The night before, I gather my list and wait for my ride (who ever it may be that year) and sike myself up for the coming day’s events. I am going to share with you to help you discover the monumentous horrors… oops I meant joys of my Black Friday experiences.

Most of the time as I’ve mentioned in a prior post, people tend to give me a wide birth. I can’t explain it I think they think blindness is contagious. Sometimes I like to purposefully cough in their direction for good measure. Is that rude? Anyway as I was saying. If I start out at a store where you have to wait outside in a “line” it sucks just like for everyone else. It’s of course always freezing outside and the “line” tends to do a wrap around the entire store half the parking lot and a million blocks later you find the end where I tend to get the pleasure of standing. You know how some people camp out in line so they can be the lucky winner of a scarf for getting there first? Well, I’ve never been that person. I’ll just buy my own scarf thank you very much. Although, one year at Target I got to move to the front of the line because they didn’t want me to get trampled. Sure I can take care of myself but it was sure considerate of them to think of me (sarcasm). Personally, I think they just didn’t want the bad publicity in the paper. The headline would read: Blind Girl Smashed At Black Friday.

When stores allow you to be in the store from the beginning that is also interesting. When my companion for the day tries to walk down and aisle they sometimes leave me with the cart at the end so they can move through quicker. Sounds fine right? You would think so but nope. That’s always about the time someone else wants something from a shelf that I am of course blocking. They for whatever reason say nothing. They just stand there expecting me to use the force and know they are there. Sure I feel them staring but that’s a regular occurrence for me so it doesn’t normally occur to me someone might need to get by me until it’s much too late. Oh and besides, what am I supposed to do every time I feel eyes on me be like, “hello? I feel the eyes on me… am I in the way?” Um… probably not.

Another problem that tens to happen is when I’m rushing through the store by sighted guide I sort of get run in to a whole lot of people, shelves, displays, signs and the list goes on and on. In all fairness it’s not their fault. They are in a hurry. They want to get in and get out as quick and painless as possible. It just so happens that in the process of this my lack of pain tolerance is forgotten. I’ve never gotten seriously injured so really it can be categorized under “no blood, no foul”. When I run into a person there is usually one of two reactions. First, they and or I say excuse me and we then go about our business. Second and much more common the other person gets some what annoyed. The worst part is sometimes they stay annoyed even when they find out I can’t see them. Apparently those people are related to the staring people and think I have the Jedi mind tricks and extra human abilities.

While all this is going on my heart is racing and not with anticipation. I’m personally not a huge fan of shoulder to shoulder traffic where I can smell ten different kinds of bad breath and body odor at one time in the artificially confined space. It’s very overwhelming for me to have a million different people and conversations happening around me all at once and they become jumbled into one giant loud humming noise. On Black Friday there is definitely no avoiding the crowds. The things I do for my baby girls… hopefully some day they will appreciate my self sacrifice.

Once we have all our items and go to stand in line I’m totally relieved and over the stress (at least a little) because the excitement of getting my girls things they wanted for Christmas is powerful for me. I don’t have the money to go spending crazy on them all year so Christmas is my one big hoopla for the year.

The worst part of standing in the line is when my companion gets distracted in conversation or by browsing the impulse items that the store’s strategically place through out the line. I’ve actually had someone run into my back with their cart to get the point across that the line was moving. Boy do they usually feel bad once they fine out they just tried to run down a blind girl. Hahahaha! Some people seriously need to learn manners. Under what circumstance is it ever okay to just randomly ram your cart into someone? Haven’t they ever heard of saying “excuse me”?

The last part of the line is the check out. A person should be home free at this point right? Nope, of course not. Inevitably in my effort to hurry and get the heck out of there I punch in the wrong pin number for my debit card. Which as you probably know means you have to have the checker reset so you can rerun your card. This always embarrasses the crap out of me. It always makes me think that the people in line behind me assume I have no money and they’re about to watch me have to put all my stuff back. Not to mention they tend to get a little huffy when the line is held up. I can’t blame them though I’m not a very patient line waiter either.

As much of a hassle as Black Friday can be I do think it’s kind of fun. Obviously, why else would I keep coming back? I just wish the dropped prices wouldn’t bring out the animalistic blood lust in people. No item, no matter how cheap, is worth the loss of ones humanity.

PS… Do you have any horror stories from deep in the trenches of Black Friday? Share them down in the comment section.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

11 Worst Questions To Ask A Blind Person... Just In Case You Were Wondering

1. When encountering a person from high school that you haven’t seen since before you lost your sight they may ask you a question like “Are you blind?” Or even better dramatically ask, “OMG what happened to you?” An acceptable response to the first is “OMG am I? HOLY CRAP! How did I not know that?” An acceptable answer for the second might be, “I didn’t eat all my carrots? Do you eat enough carrots in a day?”

2. When someone asks how you text you should tell them your phone is brail capable and watch their reaction.

3. “How do you wipe your butt?” Okay, so this doesn’t really need a reaction. Just give the person a good strong glare and leave it at that because that’s just a rude and completely odd question to ask someone.

4. “How do you watch TV?” Personally, I usually just say, “well, how do you watch TV?” My favorite answer for this one is… “Well, I usually turn on the captions.” To this I actually had someone reply once “really?” They sounded totally amazed. Hahahaha

5. “Do you idolize Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles? Oh! And do you bob your head like them?” For this there is no real response because well… really? Why would you ask that?

6. “How did you know you were blind?” A good reaction for this one is as follows. “It was the funniest thing; suddenly I heard a voice in my head like a loud speaker. It said hey guess what you’re going blind and the person you’re talking to right now is an idiot”. How do you not know you’ve lost your sight? Okay, so I know it was kind of rude of me to call them an idiot but they caught me on an off day.
7. “If I take you to see a silent film, could I get you in for free?” Response: just walk away shaking your head.

8. “What does (insert object) look like?” My favorite response to this is to describe something as though I see it then laugh at their reaction.

9. “Since you can’t see a book to read it anymore did you forget how?” Just say “it’s like riding a bike”. Then, when they ask, “you can do that?” you can say, “Sure can I borrow yours?”

10. “Why don’t you wear sun glasses?” This one is probably one of my favs. I usually say, “They’re too hard for me to see through.” When you say this make sure to sound as serious as possible with a straight face… reactions can be comical.

11.  As odd as it sounds, someone may randomly come up to you while you’re holding your cane in plain sight and say, “Do you know where the Febreeze is?” To this you smile and say, “oh yeah sure.” Turn down the aisle and point vaguely off into the distance. “Do you see that sign down there?” There will probably be hesitation while they attempt to look. Eventually they say, “No, I don’t.” Their voice is strained in concentration. Then you look in their direction and reply, “Neither do I. You may want to ask someone else.” Then hold up your cane toward them.
PS… Believe it or not all of these questions have been asked at one point or another. They are perfect examples of why it’s imperative to have a good sense of humor. Don’t let things bother you just roll with it. Don’t forget to click the “Follow” link to be updated when future lists are published. Also, if you like this list be sure to share it with your friends on Face Book, Twitter and or e-mail. If you have anything to add to this list, let me know in the comment section for future posts like this one. I hope I made you smile.

Blind People Doing Big Things...Blind Hunter

A lot of sighted and even some of the sightless people pigeon hole the blind community as merely part of the vast group of disabled population in the world. Some people may even assume that certain activities are beyond a blind or low vision person’s capabilities. In pretty much all cases this is completely untrue. As long as the word “can’t” is not a part of their active vocabulary there’s very little they are unable to accomplish. All they need is the drive and motivation to get the task done.

While perusing the internet I found a man with just that kind of motivation. I came across this video last week on You Tube. It is a great example that blind people can do anything they set their mind to regardless of their limitations. In this video you will see a man named Mike Sanders. It was taken August 1, 2008.

The video captures Sanders and company on a hunt at 6:50 am. He used a .308 caliber rifle. Before watching be sure to turn your speakers up. You can hear the two men whispering while they prepare.

In the beginning, Sanders’s companion tells him where to aim the rifle. The desired target was an antelope off in the distance. You can hear the companion telling him in which direction to point the gun. They do this until the aim is exactly how they want it.

Once given the go ahead Sanders makes his shot. His companion and the person behind the camera informed him that the antelope was down. He made his kill. The pride his friends felt for him was evident even in just listening to the video.

Sanders was elated at the news. He sounds as though he was totally astounded by his own accomplishment. He even asks his friends more than once, “Did I get it?” His feeling of victory was very powerful.

Several people commented on the video of Sanders. One commenter said, “What a fantastic story, you are a true inspiration!! Your excitement after the shot is absolutely priceless. Congrats!!!”. Most of all the comments were similar models to this one. There’s even a comment from a blind user asking for hunting tips on sighting a gun.

I myself am not a hunter, but I too was moved by what I heard. His excitement was infectious. Check out the video and see what I mean.

PS… No worries for anyone with a weak stomach. The clip does not show the antelope fall.  Also, to my brother Bob... See! I told you I could go with you! :)

Disclaimer: I hold no rights to this video. I’m merely posting it as a fan.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Born Blind Vs. Becoming Blind

There is definitely a difference between being born blind and becoming blind later in life. I myself was born legally blind but was not fully without sight. Over the course of my life so far I’ve met people from both categories.

Some of the people I have met who were born blind say they would rather have it that way because then they don’t know what they are missing. Others are on the other side of the fence and say they wish they could have had sighted experiences to reflect back on. A definet advantage to being born blind is the ability to learn necessary activities at a young age.

When a child is young their little mind is like a sponge absorbing everything around them all at once. Their ability to retain and recall information is quite high compared to that of an adult. For instance, a child at the age of two or three living in a bilingual household learns two different languages at the same time. They can transition between the two easily because they are around both languages every day. This applies to the blind community as well.

If born blind, the child has the opportunity to adapt to their surroundings easily because the situation is a constant in their life. Teaching mobility with a cane can be done while they are learning to walk. Learning to use other senses such as touch and smell helps them to observe the world around them. They can learn brail at the same time they are learning their letters and sounds. Learning all of these things at a younger age helps make them become second nature to a child. To them it’s normal. They’ve never known any other way.

On the flip side of the spectrum however, a person that’s born blind has no mental images to compare to at times when it would be helpful. When learning geometry, they may have trouble visualizing the model they are assigned to find the area of. In addition, Algebra for some is tricky because it’s hard for them to visualize a problem or formula they’ve never seen. Colors can also be an interesting prospect. If a person has never seen a leaf as it’s changing in the Fall, how can the colors be adequately described? There’s no mental recall of the visual attributes required to fully grasp the way something appears.

A person who became blind later in life has the exact opposite effect. Depending on at what age they lost their vision they may have a plethora of visual memories to reflect back on as needed. They may already be familiar with colors, shapes, physical features, etc. While a person who was born blind may be able to feel a shape the mental picture of the image may prove to be more difficult.

If a person describes to me a squirrel running up a tree, my mind immediately processes and displays a memory of having seen this myself at one point or another. When I went back to college I had to take a remedial level math class. When my instructor or note taker told me a math equation, geometric shape, graph, etc I was able to picture it clearly in my mind from before I lost my sight. This made it much easier to do the problems in my head.

When learning to navigate my town, the fact that I had already seen the layout assisted in this tremendously. I already had certain routes mapped out in my head. I could recall where in a parking lot a store was located which allowed me to get there quicker and more safely.

Nevertheless, as mentioned before being able to learn necessary tools such as mobility by cane and brail is much more ideal at a young age. It is common for a person to have little warning that they are going to be blind. Some lose their vision in an accident. Or, maybe they are like me and knew of their poor vision but didn’t expect blindness.

Learning these tools once sighted methods are set in stone in your mind can be overwhelmingly difficult. Reading by touch instead of sight is challenging for some people (me included). It’s like learning to read all over again times two. Not only do you have to learn the way each letter is configured in the raised dot system; you have to acquire a sensitivity to be able to feel each individual dot of a letter at the same time. If a person has rough callused hands it can be harder for them to feel the dots as separate bumps. One letter in brail can be made up of as many as six of the raised dots.

When I took a brail class through the Washington Department Of Services For The Blind, there was someone in attendance that this was a problem for. They said a letter that contained more than two dots felt like one big bump when they scanned it with their fingers. It took them extra time to fine tune their sense of touch to be able to feel the dots properly as individual letters.

I have been asked on countless occasions whether or not I would have preferred to have been born blind. To answer that question is simple for me. No, I’m glad I was able to see even if only for a little while. The visual memories I have are precious to me and I can’t imagine not having them. I was able to see all my childhood experiences.

I got to see all my friends and family. The only pitfalls there are the family members I haven’t got to see yet. I still had sight when my family went to Disneyland, Knots Berry Farm and Universal Studios. I’ve seen Mt. St. Helen’s in real life and pictures of when it blew. Ocean waves crashing into the shore is a beautiful sight I’ve witnessed on more than one occasion. I rode as well as saw an elephant. When I sit around a camp fire in the summer I have comfort in knowing I’ve seen that too. I’ve watched lots of big thunder and lightning shows. I had about twenty-two years before I couldn’t see fireworks anymore. I was able to see the whale from Free Willy when he was at the Oregon Coast. I’ve seen huge mansions and old dilapidated shacks.

Even with all of these memories there are just two that I hold closest to my heart. I was able to have four wonderful years of seeing my oldest daughters face before the view got too distorted that I couldn’t make her out anymore. I will never forget the way she looked the day she was born. The pictures of her first day of school are engraved in my mind along with the way she looked the first time she laughed at my mom. The other memory I cherish is the way my Uncle Donny looked before I couldn’t see him anymore. He unfortunately is no longer with us. Even if they come up with a cure for my eye conditions that allow me to see 20/20 I will never see him again until I join him in heaven. I can still imagine his blue eyes and crooked grin as though he were right in front of me. Those two faces I will never ever as long as I live forget.

So as far as the answer to which would be preferred? My answer is simple. It depends on who you ask. Everyone is different and all have unique and individual opinions. That being said if you want to know how someone feels about it… ask them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

28 Life Lessons Learned In 10 Years Of Blindness

1. Being Blind doesn’t always mean pitch blackness. There are numerous classifications of blindness. There is definetly a grey area.

2. A sighted person should not take anything they see for granted. Normal day to day activities that you normally wouldn't think twice about are missed so much by a blind person. What I wouldn't give to see a car back fire, the wierd people you find in a Wal Mart or even a funny bumper sticker.

3. When learning to walk around an environment wearing flip flops are not a good option. You would be absolutely amazed at how many times my toes probably should have been broken from running into a table or corner.

4. Wear ear plugs because interactions may come to you as though you are deaf and not blind.

5. The work industry will treat you as though you have leprosy if you are located in a small town.

6. Friends as well as some family may also suddenly treat you as though you have leprosy.

7. People will become aggravated because suddenly you can hear things behind your back.

8. Walking around the block without your cane may not be the best choice.

9. When people try to hand you things assuming you can see them it’s important to laugh when they get discouraged.

10. If someone comes up to you and asks if you are faking your blindness; a good reply is “why yes doesn’t everyone do that to get ahead?”

11. Wearing the nonprescription glasses for fashion while holding your cane will make you look kind of stupid.

12. Did you know car insurance doesn’t cover the blind???

13. Watching a silent film is sorta pointless.

14. You can sometimes get preferential seating at a concert.

15. If you know you could go blind before you get out of the public school system learn brail then while it’s a free resource. Unless you live in a big city it is almost impossible to find somewhere that can teach you.

16. Never ever assume a retailer is going to give you correct change back. It is equally important to make sure you’re handing over the right bills.

17. A signature stamp or signature guide will come in handy. This is unless you don’t mind having a signature that trails either up or down and is not always on the line.

18. People in public places will suddenly see you as a two year old since you can’t see them. When this happens don’t be afraid to hurl yourself down on the floor and throw a big fit to get your way. After all, they asked for it right?

19. Buying the new release of your fav author in paper back will get you nowhere. Although, it does make your book shelf look more functional if nothing else.

20. Blind hunters may have access to special hunting areas depending on their location.

21. Finger foods are a lot less messy.
22. Figuring out exactly what you own in your closet is a must for matching purposes. Not realizing you’re not wearing matching clothes until you’re already in public is never fun.

23. Never fully trust someone guiding you to not run you into bushes, signs, poles, etc…

24. You are suddenly a rock star at the game Marco polo

25. Since you have to do most activities by feel be sure to keep hand sanitizer with you at all times.

26. Having a heightened sense of smell is not always a good thing when in public or changing a diaper.

27. Having a phone that talks so you can text is fabulous but when in public headphones are sometimes crucial. This is mainly when you get the odd text from someone that uses profanity or other explicit language you may not want the person next to you over hearing.

28. Above all else a sense of humor is a must. It will help you get through the good, the bad, the sad and the annoying better than anything else.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Note to Readers :)

Hey guys! I hope all is well with you! So, I'm experiencing a bit of technical difficulty with the site. For some reason, It's not indenting my paragraphs in the last few posts. I've attempted to remedy the problem with no success. I hope to have it fixed soon. I just didn't want you all to think I lacked in proper writing skills. Have a great day! xoxoxo

Helping To Teach Tolerance

One good aspect of being the only blind member in your family is your ability to teach tolerance. It’s the perfect way for a “normal” person to have positive interactions with a disabled person. Most of all problems start from lack of knowledge. Having a disabled person in the family is a chance to learn that different is beautiful.

Many people react strongly when face to face with someone who is different than what they are used to. For some it’s hard to even approach a disabled person. They may even give them a wide birth and simply stare from a distance. Unfortunately, there is a multitude of complications with this reaction. First, by not approaching the person you may be missing out on a meaningful interaction that could form a long lasting friendship. Second, the person you’re staring at probably is well aware of the fact that you are staring at them. Third, you’re missing out on a chance to answer your own inquiries about the type of disability the person has.

Another common reaction is to treat the disabled person as though they are not mentally capable of holding an intelegent conversation/dialogue. For example: It’s never necessary to treat a thirty year old blind man as though he has the mental capacity of a three year old. All this will cause is a negative response from the person you’re attempting to interact with. The only incidence you should talk to a person as though they are a child is if they are one.
If you see a blind person (or any other type of disabled person) don’t be afraid to approach them. They wont bite, at least not mormaly. If you like their shirt tell them. If you have a question ask it of them. If asked appropriately the question will more than likely receive a positive reaction and maybe you will learn something about the person in the process. The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask. I myself would much rather have someone ask me a question about my blindness then have them sit there and stare at me wondering silently.

When a disabled person is in your family that allows you to have normal day to day interactions with that person. It unconsciously teaches you that there’s a person behind the disability. They are not just a label from a pigeon hole stereotype. They have feelings, thoughts, opinions and knowledge that are valuable if just given the chance to express them. Instead of saying “this is my cousin Nikki and she’s blind”, maybe you’ll learn to say “this is my cousin Nikki and she’s a funny, intelegent wonderful person who just happens to be blind”. A disability is a very small part of someone. It is in no way, shape, or form the defining factor of their character.

A wonderful example of learned tolerance from my own life is that of my niece. She has grown up with a blind auntie pretty much all of her life. She has never known me with sight at least that she remembers. I lost my sight when she was far to young to have a strong recollection of me being able to see her.

When she was barely in grade school she was faced with a blind classmate that was in her grade. None of her other classmates played with the blind girl and she was always alone at recess other than her helper. A lot of the kids stared and whispered about her and rarely talked to her directly.

This of course changed with my niece. She was used to being around me, so she knew the right way to interact and assist a blind person. She took it apon herself to talk to the girl and get to know her. She assisted her when needed without doing so in a mocking way. They became good friends both at school and outside of it. My niece didn’t allow a small difference to influence her decision to make a knew friend. I am very proud of her for taking the chance and going against the grain.

If more people took this stand in life it would be a much more tolerant place for all. Difference IS beautiful and knowledge IS power. I challenge my readers to make an effort to connect with a person they would otherwise not interact with. I promise the result will be worth it and will have a meaningful impact on your life.

PS… I apologize for referring to the girl in my example as “the blind girl”. This was in no way intended to go against my advice and place a label on her. I don’t like to name names in my stories and it was simply a method of differentiating her in the story for clarification purposes only.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Did That really Just Happen 2

This story in particular is one of my favorites. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of the experience as I did. It happened several years ago and it still makes me laugh when I think about it…

A long time ago I used to live in a large apartment complex with roughly a hundred apartments. My building was three stories with eighteen apartments within it. I myself lived on the ground floor at the end of the building. The front door was located in a sort of corridor. It faced the door to my next door neighbor’s apartment.

One night I was relaxing in my apartment with my oldest daughter who was about two at the time. We were watching a movie cuddled up on the couch. I remember it was Toy Story. It was one of her obsessions back then we probably watched it a gazillion times a week.

About half way into it we were interrupted by a knock at the door. I pushed pause on the movie and listened carefully. I thought maybe it could have been on the neighbor’s door. It was fairly late and I wasn’t expecting anyone. It’s worth mentioning I hate when this happens. One of my irrational fears is that I’m going to open the door and get attacked since I can’t see it coming. I’m too short to reach a peep hole let alone be able to see out of one. Therefore, if I ask who it is and someone doesn’t answer, they don’t get in.

The knock sounded at the door again and I jumped. Slowly I made my way down the long hallway. Again, I know totally ridiculous but I used to always think if I didn’t walk cautiously the scary boogie man would get me for sure.
Once at the door I called, “Who is it?”


“Who is it?” This time I listened intently for any sign of who my visitor was.

Nothing. There wasn’t even so much as the sound of a shoe scuffing on the ground outside. The only noise was from the wind blowing through the corridor. Can I just say that totally added to the creep me out factor while I stood there.

I put my ear closer to the door. “Who is…”

Suddenly I was interrupted by another insistent knock at the door. I jumped back so fast as my heart violently thudding in my chest now. Why wasn’t who ever it was answering me? I wasn’t going to answer. It could have been a vicious serial killer waiting to bludgeon me to death. All though, you would think they would have been more stealthy. Pounding on my door would get the attention of the neighbors. At least you would think anyway. Not one door opened to see what the commotion was about.

My thoughts were interrupted by another knock more hurried this time. Now I was just getting irritated. Even if it was a psychopath they were just being rude.

In my most annoyed tone I said, “Seriously who is it? If you want me to open the door you gotta tell me who you are.”

Nothing again.

This was getting ridiculous. But as I was thinking that another stinkin knock sounded.

“Look a**hole! This isn’t funny! I’m not opening the door unless you tell me who you are!” As I roared out the response I held the phone up poised to dial. I may have sounded tough but it was all vibrato. I was shaking with both fear and irritation at this point. I had heard once that at these apartments someone had kicked in a door to break in. I of course was envisioning this while I stood there which help oh so much.

In the distance I heard a car door close. Finally, someone was going to observe what ever was going on here. Scuffling foot steps were walking into the corridor. Then there were mumbled voices behind my door. Ah hell, what was it my killers accomplice? Was that a laugh I just heard?

After a few seconds that stretched on like hours another knock came on my door. This time though it was much gentler and was followed by a voice.

“Excuse me?” The voice was polite. “It’s your neighbor from upstairs,” the voice called through to me.

I recognized the voice but had no idea who it was. “Who else is out there with you?” I asked shakily.

The stranger laughed. Actually laughed before replying. “It’s my boyfriend. He’s been knocking at your door for a while I guess. I’m Mat and his name is Antonio. I’ve seen you around, you’re blind right?”

Says the cat sweetly to the unsuspecting little mouse before he eats it. “Um…did you guys need something cuz if not I’m gonna call the cops.” I couldn’t help the acid in my voice. Sure this guy was being polite sort of but still. Why does he care if I’m blind? Why didn’t his boyfriend talk or at least go away when I didn’t answer? I wasn’t about to answer the door no matter how nice he was. And what did it matter that I was blind?

“Well… it seems the two of you are kind of a double edged sword,” he replied easily.

Okay so not the right metaphor to use with someone who is already freaked out. I didn’t say anything to him. Instead, I called my next door neighbor and asked her to come out and help me because these people were not leaving. The one called Mat seemed nice enough but I wasn’t taking that chance.

Once she came out she apparently was immediately clued into something I didn’t get.  “It’s alright Nick you can come out,” she said through laughter.

Tentatively I gave in and opened the door.

“Hi my name’s Mat.” The guy said in friendly tones. He took my hand and shook it.

“Hi? I’m Nikki?” I was so confused my words came out like a question. I wish someone would explain to me what the hell was going on.

As if hearing my thoughts Mat spoke in a soothing voice that barely masked the fact he was about to laugh. “I’m really sorry about this. I hope Antonio didn’t scare you. He wanted to know if you had some butter. He seen your light on and was sure you were home.”

“K…” I replied brilliantly.

Suddenly another hand was in mine shaking it. It felt smoother than Mat’s so I assumed it was Antonio’s. He didn’t speak though. He just made a noise that was between a grunt and a hum.

Then spoke Mat again, “This is Antonio. The reason he wasn’t answering you was because he’s deaf.”

Instantly my face floodd with red and I could feel it getting hotter by the second. “So he didn’t answer me because he’s… deaf?” My voice trailed off in bewilderment.

“Right,” said mat.

My next words came out slowly. I was still trying to figure it all out. “And I couldn’t see him so I wasn’t answering..?”

I asked the question more to myself then to Mat but he answered anyway.  “It would appear so.”

After a brief awkward silence the corridor erupted with hysterical laughter. Everyone was in stitches over the irony of the situation. Even Antonio was laughing so either Mat was signing to him or my slow idiot take made for easy lip reading.

After that night any time Antonio wanted to come to my door he called first or got someone to knock with him. He obviously was not psycho serial killer intent on bludgeoning me to death. He actually turned out to be a very nice guy and a good friend. It was an interesting friendship I admit, but one I will never forget.

Blind Driver

    All my life there is one activity I’ve always wanted to be able to do.  Even when I could see my visual acuity wasn’t good enough to allow me to drive.  The optometrists said my vision had to be at least 20/60 with correction.  By the time I was between fifteen and sixteen my visual acuity was 20/200 in my left eye and 20/400 in my right without correction.  Unfortunately though, any type of correction wasn’t really any option for me at that point.  The doctors told me in fourth grade that my glasses were no longer making much difference in my vision.  Therefore, there wasn’t any point in wearing them which of course meant I couldn’t get my vision corrected enough to drive.
     To most people driving is a sort of right of passage helping the transition into adulthood.  Most young people dream of getting those keys and going anywhere they want to go.  It’s a form of freedom getting them one step closer to complete independence.  I admit that when I found out I wouldn’t be one of those who got to line up for their first revolting driver’s license picture I kinda lost it.  I was terribly depressed.  To me it seemed like the end of the world even though of course it wasn’t.  But that’s a story for another day.
    When I was seventeen I could still see relatively well.  Yes, I was legally blind but I could still get around on my own just fine.  Well, except for at night.  From the time I was little I always had night blindness.  Anyway, my family and I went camping to our favorite camping spot in Morton Washington during the summer.  There are several logging roads near the camp grounds that were rarely used at the time.  Well needless to say that was the first time I got to drive.  My wonderful dad took me out to those logging roads in his Ford truck and pulled over.  I remember being over the top elated with the prospect that I was about to be sitting behind the wheel.   I was going to drive even if only for a moment.
    Not to pat myself on the back or anything but I actually did pretty good.  There were a few speed issues and I was vibrating with fear and excitement but all in all it was okay.   There was one teensy weensy little problem though.  Apparently I was destined to be a driver on England soil and not American.  I preferred the left side of the rode to our customary right side.  I wasn’t trying to be a rebel or anything I promise.  My peripheral vision wasn’t up to par and I could see the rode side better if it was on my side of the truck.  I obviously don’t recommend this to anyone else’s driving practices but I had to do it in order to see what I was doing properly.  It was my first “don’t try this at home kids” moment and I loved it.  I loved it so much in fact that later that day I convinced my brave mom and gram to take me out again.  This time I was in my papa’s Chevy Blazer.  I liked driving it much better.  I could reach the pedals much easier then in dad’s Ford Truck.  This time around I was much more confident and had a few more speed problems then the first time but it went well.  No tree, deer, or ditch was injured during my attempt at freedom.
    Now as an adult, I’ve always thought it would be so much more convenient to be able to just pick up and go when ever I wanted.  I marvel at the idea of knowing I need a gallon of milk and being able to get into MY car and getting it myself.  But thankfully for the sighted community, I’ve never found an insurance company that is comfortable with insuring the blind.  I can’t imagine why (just kidding).

Now at the age of twenty-eight I have learned that my dream is closer to being a reality then I thought.  I always hoped some day they would invent a smart car that could get a person with visual impairment from one point to another completely unassisted by a sighted person.  Yesterday mourning I was perusing the web and found and article that informed me that had actually happened.  On another blog from blogspot.com called Vision Aware was an article about a Blind Driver Challenge.  Ironically, the car used in the challenge was a Ford Hybrid.  I love that the first type of truck I ever drove was also a Ford and that’s the type of car used.  Maybe it’s a sign that someday that will be me behind the wheel of a Ford Hybrid.  This article is very well written and probably the most exciting article I’ve read in a long time.  I am beyond thrilled at the prospect that someday hopefully sooner rather than later I will be able to drive all by myself without causing catastrophe.  Below is the link to the article.  I very much recommend it to the blind as well as the sighted.  It’s highly interesting.  Plus, it’s a sneak peak into our world’s future which is always fun.        

VisionAware: The NFB Blind Driver Challenge™: A Success!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What It's Like To Be Blind

Greetings Everyone! You would be absolutely amazed at how many times in my life I have been asked what it’s like to be blind. It’s happened so many times in fact that I’ve decided to blog about it. It’s not that it’s a dumb question because it’s not. The only question that is dumb is the one you didn’t ask. I actually encourage people to ask me anything they want to as long as they are respectful about it. Half the battle is getting the knowledge out there and if people don’t ask the knowledge is lost. Maybe if people asked more questions I would get stared at less and approached more. But that is a topic for another post. So as I was saying this particular post is to answer the above mentioned question to the best of my ability. It’s only my personal opinion and of course doesn’t in any way reflect the opinions of any other blind person. I’m going to answer this question in two ways because if you asked my answer would depend on the day.

On A Good Day: Normally being blind really isn’t a big deal. I’m not generally very negative about it because it’s just a fact of life. I’m blind so what? Being blind does not in any way define who I am. Blindness is just one small part of me. I don’t consider it a character trait or flaw.

I love my life and not missing much. I can still hear, feel and taste the world around me. I can still cook my girl’s dinner and clean my house. The only difference between me and a sighted person is the way I do things. Unfortunately, my vision does sometimes make an activity take longer to complete but I’ve gotten used to that so I don’t consider it a problem. One example of a simple task that sighted people can take for Granted is vacuuming. Most sighted people simply plug it in, turn it on and start moving around the house easily avoiding obstacles and not missing anything. For me it’s a bit different. When I go to plug something in I have to feel the wall in the facinity that I know the outlet is located. Next I feel the holes of the outlet to help me get my alignment right (PS… make sure your fingers are completely out of the way before putting the prongs in the outlet. I’ll explain later). Once the vacuum is plugged in I make sure the cord is out of the way so I don’t run it over. Oh I almost forgot. I vacuum completely bare foot. I do it this way because while I’m vacuuming I can feel with my feet as I walk things that I may have missed. In the areas of my house that I know are fairly open I can move at a decent pace. However, instead of gliding in one particular place say one or two times I do it four or five times to ensure it’s clean. I’m careful to move in strips and move to the next strip as straight as possible so again I don’t miss as much. In the areas that I know have the furniture I move slower and more carefully so not to slam the vacuum into them. I have to do it all in sections to be the most productive. When I’m done I try and walk through without the vacuum to feel for anything that was missed. If I know a particular area had crumbs spilled because of my wonderful slob children (just kidding… kinda) then I might even get on my knees and feel that spot with my hands. That’s a pretty good example of most tasks. I just take a little more time with them to at least attempt to ensure they are done properly. I also have a wonderful family support system that assists me with anything extra I need.

I can maneuver around my house completely without the use of my Cane. I prefer this because sometimes I need both my hands. Nevertheless, as well as I do this I still run into things sometimes really hard. Believe it or not I sometimes forget myself that I am blind. When this happens I usually walk through the house as though I can perfectly see any obstacle, corner, piece of furniture or toy that may be lingering on the floor. I do trip and fall on occasion because my speed doesn’t always reflect that I can’t see. I do admit that when this happens I often verbalize the use of expletives to make myself feel better or to at least if nothing else get my point across. When I’m at my parent’s house I don’t use my Cane either. When I run into an object there my fathers favorite comment to make is “we haven’t move the furniture recently.” Or, “That wall has always been there.” To this he generally receives an obscene gesture that shall remain nameless but I’m sure you get the point.

I’m used to “watching” TV as a blind person. For the most part it doesn’t bother me. The only time I get discouraged is when I’m “watching” a movie and the talking stops and transitions into a music sequence. Once it’s over I sometimes have a hard time catching up to what just happened. For this reason I like re-runs. Most of them have been showing for so long that I probably was able to actually see them for real in the past. I have a really good memory and can usually remember what’s happening with out being told. I do watch new shows and sometimes the blindness is helpful. My oldest daughter loves the show Hoarders. I honestly think if I could see half of what went on during that show I would be traumatized. PS… It’s never funny when a blind person says that they watched something for someone to say “really? How did you watch it?” Those statements get very old very quickly just sayin.

Cooking and travel are all the same as cleaning as well. They just take a little longer and I have to rely heavily on my other senses. I do admit my cooking abilities aren’t as strong as what they used to be. I sometimes get paranoid that I am not going to cook the meat right. They do make technology to aid with this but of course thanks to supply and demand it is pretty expensive. Traveling isn’t much of a problem. I’m lucky. As I mentioned before I have a family who is willing to help me with rides pretty much any where I need to go. I do live in a neighborhood that allows me to walk to some places. I like to walk as long as the whether is nice. As mentioned in past posts I’m not a fan of the rain. Also, my youngest daughter absolutely despises anything that spills water of any kind on her head so that adds another complication.  She tends to have a meltdown in the rain so I try to avoid it if at all possible.

I have a strong belief in God and the fact that everyone has a purpose. There is a reason I’m blind even if I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe some day they will come up with a cure. If they do then that's wonderful. If they don’t then I’m not going to spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself. I have a life to live and I’m not going to let blindness or anything else stop me.

On A Bad Day: some days I can hardly get out of bed. I have pity party moments that make it hard to breathe. It’s hard for me to not see my girls. That is my one and only regret of my blindness. Sometimes when I listen to them play and acting silly, I have to swallow back the huge lump in my throat and blink back the tears even though I’m happy to at least hear them.

It’s unbearable to know that I won’t see them graduate. I won’t see them in their first formal dress for a dance posing next to their date. I won’t see their first terrible driver’s license picture. I won’t see the awkward puberty years when they start getting zits and their hair never seems to lay right. I won’t see them in their braces. I won’t see them in their wedding dress as they walk down the aisle.

If it wasn’t for these facts, I would be completely okay with my vision loss. Nevertheless, it’s because of my girls that I get up in the morning. It’s because of them that I strive to be a better person and set a good example for them. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be who I am today. Please don’t feel sorry for me because I’m not. These bad days are very few and far between but they are there on occasion. I try to put them on the back burner and most of the time I’m successful. Life is too short to stress about ones short comings.

In all actuality in some ways my blindness is a blessing in terms of the girls. It helps to teach them patience, tolerance and the ability to know it’s okay to be different. If everyone was the same in life it would be incredibly boring. I don’t look at my blindness as a hurtle. It’s simply a jumping block to help me get to new places in life.

Did That Really Just Happen

Greetings all! This time around I’m going to talk about an interesting thing that happened to me because of my blindness. You would be completely amazed how often these odd little incidences occur from day to day. Sometimes it’s annoying but usually it just makes me laugh. Sometimes, it leaves me thinking… did that just happen? Sometimes, I wish I could see so I could look someone in the eye properly while I give them the you’re an idiot look. But seriously, most of these things happen due to lack of knowledge and that’s one of the reasons I’ve started this blog in the first place. No not all of my writing will be about blindness but probably a good portion. I hope to add humor to the subject as well as put forth some pearls that will help someone interact with a blind person in their daily life. But anyway, back to the point… as you can tell I get distracted by myself.

Several years ago I walked down to the bus stop near where I lived. It was only two blocks away and I had walked the route several times while living there. It was a cold windy Washington day and believe it or not yes it was raining. This usually makes my travel a somewhat annoying experience. I must admit I absolutely hate walking in the rain. Yes I know, I so live in the wrong state. On this particular day I didn’t have my umbrella so my grouchy meter was climbing from the start.

I got to the stop about five minutes before the bus was scheduled to get there. I knew that gave me about a ten minute wait since the transit system was never ever under pretty much any circumstance on time. Please keep in mind I was standing by the pole that signifies the corner as a bus stop. There was even a clearly marked sign and everything. In fact, I was actually leaning on the pole patiently (well sort of) waiting for the bus. I had my backpack on and my cane in my hand. I should also mention I was playing with the cane before you later ask if I looked like I was getting ready to move. Also my head was pointed down not up at attention.

So about four minutes into my wait I hear a car pull over near me. Then I heard that car door open and a few seconds later it closed. Next, I hear quick footsteps coming toward me. I must admit I sort of freeze because my internal pessimist was screaming KIDNAPPER!! Obviously, I should have run but seriously what would have been the point? I probably would have just fallen or got hit by a car it was kind of a lose lose situation. All of these things raced through my mind in the split second I realized they were coming toward me.

The next thing I knew the person gently took my arm and started walking off the curb. I was so dumbfounded I didn’t say a word. And yes before you judge I know screaming would have been my best option. But in my defense it was the first time anything like this had ever happened to me and I panicked. It really kinda sucked because I actually do have a great girl scream. For the first time in my live my mouth didn’t work. For those of you who are reading this and know me I know that’s unlikely ha ha ha very funny.

Anyway. I quickly realized he wasn’t dragging me to his car where he would drive me to the sight of my untimely death. When he took me off the curb he went straight there was no turn towards his car at all. About the time we got to the curb across the street my idiocy finally dissolved and my lips unglued themselves.

“Um, what are you doing?” I asked stupidly and much too late.

My captor says casually, “Helping you across the street,” with no other explanation. His tone implied his action was obvious and I may be somewhat crazy for even asking such a question.

With a huge sigh of relief that I wasn’t going to die after all I replied, “Great thanks, now can you take me back cuz I wasn’t trying to cross.”

Needless to say we both felt completely stupid. He somehow thought not talking to me first was the best option and I was a moron and just let it happen. Again, in my defense I was much younger at the time and quite a bit more ignorant not to mention a coward. I was a lot newer to my vision loss then, so any form of confrontation scared the crap out of me.

So the moral of this story is when someone randomly grabs you away from your bus stop no matter the reason scream your stinking head off. Or at least have enough courage to ask what the hell the person is doing. Also your cane isn’t just for mobility; it can be a great weapon if you actually attempt to use it as one. However, in this particular case my attacker was actually a Good Samaritan so a blow to his knee with my cane would have been kinda rude.

If you’re thinking this is too odd to be true, don’t. I promise you this actually happened and yes it’s embarrassing. Even still, it’s funny too and one of the points of this blog is to shed light on the subject of blindness. It isn’t always pretty but it’s my life and I wouldn’t change a minute of it. Stay tuned for further installments in this series.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Intro To Me

The land of blogs is completely new to me. I've always thought it would be cool but never thought to actually do it. I'm not really sure if this blog will have a set theme but hopefully as it takes shape it's purpose will present itself on it's own. Of course there are numerous things I could write about but for now with this post I will simply introduce myself. Well here goes nothing...

I'm twenty-eight years old and not sure if I like it. I miss the good old days sometimes when the biggest worry was getting a research paper turned in on time and what I was going to wear to school tomorrow. I miss the great friends I had in high school that I've since lost touch with other than on the wonderful world of Facebook. I of course don't miss curfews, punishments, bedtimes, phone restrictions and those annoying girls that always seemed to be in the way at school.

Now I'm a mom to two amazing girls that are in essence my entire life. They totaly drive me crazy but I can't possibly imagine life without them. There's quite an age gap between them so that of course makes for some interesting challanges sometimes but we manage. At least I think we do, would you call wanting to pull my hair out sometimes managing??? Well anyway back to my story.

I have the cutest little dog in the entire world who will be one year old at the end of this month. He is a shorky and we absolutely adore him.

We live in a typical house in a pretty good area of town in which it rains far to often. All in all it's a relatively good life. Like anyone else I have normal day to day drama, stress and chaos. Honestly, without at least a little of that life would seem boring.

Unfortunately, some of my stresses are made worse by my disability. Oh yeah, did I mention I'm blind? Well I am and most of the time it's no big deal but other times that fact is truely the bane of my existance. There is no cure for the conditions that I have as of yet. I have Retinitis Pigmentosis(RP) and C.O.A.T.S which is an acronym for a really big word that I sadly have no knowledge of how to properly pronounce let alone spell. Basically in a nut shell I was screwed right out of the gate.

I was born with both conditions but wasn't diagnosed until the age of five when I was starting school and went in for a regular eye exam. RP is a condition taht affects the perifial part of the eye and C.O.A.T.S covers the central portion of the eye. I didn't start really losing my vision until I turned eighteen. Up until then I was considered legaly blind but no one around me really knew the difference. I did things completely normally. I could play catch, read regular sized print, walk or run without assistance and yes before you ask I could even dress myself and tie my shoes.

I became pregnant my Junior year of high school. Wait, before you judge or comment I'm well aware it wasn't morally the most responsible act I've ever done. But, I have no regrets and wouldn't change a thing because it's helped to make me who I am today. Also before you ask yes I graduated high school with my class with an official diploma. Anyway as I was saying...

Towards the end of my pregnancy was when I started to notice some issues with my vision. So I guess that would have been slightly before I turned eighteen.

I was laying on my parent's bed watching TV one night when everything began to change. I went to itch my left eye and when I did that made me look with only my right. I remember this like it was yesterday. It scared the heck out of me. I was looking up at the time staring up at the ceiling fan/light. It had five lights in it modeling what a five would look like on a dice. When I itched my left eye making it close, suddenly I could only see two of the five lights. I didn't really know what to make of it. I was really wierded out and kept covering my left eye and then removing it to compare what I wasn't seeing.

I yelled for my mom and dad to see what they thought. They said that I was going to have to go see my specialist and get it checked out as soon as possible. They of course tried to do the parent thing and comfort me by saying oh it's no big deal I'm sure it's nothing.

I however was pretty sure something major was going on. The next day the doctor confirmed my fears. My retina had detached. The only way to stabalize the eye was to surgically fix the problem. Seems logical right?

The only problem was I was starting the last trimester of my pregnancy and couldn't have eye surgery. The doctor said I would have to wait until I delivered my baby girl. Meanwhile, the only thing we could do was hope and pray no other complication came up with my vision while I waited for the surgery.

Soon after that I learned that my baby was breach and I would have to have a C-section instead of a normal delivery. I must admit I was totaly freaked. I was barely eighteen and was going to have two surgeries done in a matter of months. Also, I'm sort of a baby when it comes to pain so the entire prospect scared the bejeases right out of me.

Since I had to have surgery in order to have my little girl that pushed the eye surgery out a little further. The doctor wanted me to recover fully before putting me under the knife again.  Which on one hand was cool with me because again, not a fan of pain or knives.

The birth of my beautiful baby girl went flawlessly and the recovery while bumpy, went pretty good. I was eager to get the eye surgery done and over with before something else went wrong in my eye. I didn't like the idea of someone tinkering with my eye but I braved through it and it went flawlessly too.

I don't really reccomend eye surgery as an elective though just sayin. It is seriously the wierdest thing I have ever experienced. When you first wake up afterward your eye is patched so you don't try and scratch or anything. Even though they tell you ahead of time that it's going to be like that it doesn't make the experience any easier. When you wake up and are all groggy from the knock out drugs all you know is you went in being able to see light and came out in pitch blackness. It's not very comforting let me tell you.

From then on life at least as far as my vision was concerned went down hill tremendously. I have now had about tenn eye surgeries (more or less) all together between both eyes. Some were serious and others were minor procedures that were done right in the doctors office. None of the surgeries made my vision any better though. Their main purpose was to keep the eye stable and keep me from losing what ever vision I had at the time of each surgery. The two pre-existing conditions that I started out with later stemmed into further trouble. In addition to those I'm now blessed with glaucoma, nystagmous and I had catteracts. These new conditions are also in both eyes and also have no cure, well accept for the catteracts of course.

I'm down to pretty much no vision in either eye. I have a very small amount of light perception in the left and can't even see shadows or shapes in either. It's been a roller coaster at best and an emotional wreck at worst. I like anyone else have my bad days where I don't even want to get out of my bed in the morning. But, I have more good days. I know that my little girls need me to be me and not be depressed lets have a pity party me.

So, I deal the best way I can even if some days it's just going through the motions. I make light of the situation and try to laugh it off as much as possible. I still have the use of all four limbs, a strong heart, a voice and I have really strong ears that sometimes hear more than I want them to. Reguardless of my vision I live a relatively normal life with mostly minor hiccups. But really it's the hiccups that make life exciting and I'm cool with that.