Monday, January 30, 2012

Adicted to blogging. Going to start another blog.

I'm going to start another blog this week.  This one will be filled with resources for people who are blind.  So now, I have four blogs.  I do love them and love writing in them although this one gets the most attention.  Will post the link to the new blog once it is set up.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Working as a team.

I spent the weekend with 18 other storytellers.  We are working together on a huge epic adventure.  We will all be performing the whole odyssey by Homer.  The performance will last for a whole day and each of us gets a part of it.  We had a whole weekend long workshop working on it together.  What a great and rich experience it was.  What a wonderful group of people they all are.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Detailed directions

Someone sent me directions to their place the other day.  How wonderful they were.  They told me what bus to catch.  And from which stop.  They described which way to turn after I got off the bus.  How many streets to cross.  How to find their house using landmarks I could follow.  And, this person is sighted.  I was unbelieveably impressed.  They e-mailed them to me and I put them on my ipod and followed along as I traveled.  They were perfect.  How wonderful good, precise directions are.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Afraid of dogs?

I met someone yesterday who said she was terrified of dogs.  My guide dog was out of harness and others were patting her.  This lady came right up to her too.  I don't know if she patted her but she didn't run the other way.  Over my years of having guide dogs, I've met several dog phobic people who tolerated and even grew to love my guides.  One person even made quilts for them.  I am not sure if it is their training, their calmness, their ability to read people, or why exactly these dog afraid people warm up to my girls.  Of course, there are some who don't.  But, there are more who do.  Here's to the guide dog making friends wherever she goes!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The challenges of research

I have been spending some time this morning doing various bits of research.  Some for stories I am creating, some for a grant I am working on, some for prices and products, and all done from the comfort of home.  Doing research for me used to be extremely difficult.  I could not research an essay or assignment without having someone sighted along.  They had to read book titles and skim through books for me.  Then, they had to read the parts of the books I needed out loud into a recording device.  They had to spell out names and unfamiliar words and remember to put in page numbers in case I had to quote something.  I couldn't look things up in a dictionary.  Well, at school for the blind they had a major encyclopedia and dictionary but they each took  up shelves and shelves of space and may have been out of date almost as soon as they were purchased.  Now, I can look things up on line, with my dictionary ap, through google.  I can scan and read books myself.  I can write down book titles to order or try to find electronic versions of them.  How times have changed. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Robbie Burns and haggis

It is Robby burns day.  I am not a fan of haggis.  But every time I think of it, it reminds me of the first and last time I tried it.  I was working in a day program for seniors.  There was a lady in her late 90s from Scotland originally and she loved all things Scotish.  She recited Burns poetry.  She talked excitedly about Robbie Burns day and also about Haggis.  She wanted us to have a celebration and so we did.  We actually bought haggis.  We played and sang music, talked about the country, heard folk tales.  Lunch time came.  The lady proudly recited the poem that you say before eating haggis and we tried it.  I had a bite and didn't care for it.  But, my scotish friend was sitting beside me and kept saying, "Come on now!  You can't tell me you don't like haggis?"  So I continued to eat it the best I could.  I did not like it but I loved her and I loved the day.  I have very fond memories of her accent, her scrabble playing, her singing, her reciting, and her love of haggis.  Happy Robbie burns day to her and to everyone celebrating today.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The dangerous fruit

As I wrote yesterday, in order for me to identify anything and this includes fruits and vegetables, I  have to touch it.  I have to get to know things by feel, shape, smell, texture.  My family was very good always at letting me touch everything.  It can take a long time for a blind person to examine something thoroughly.  If you think about looking at something, you can take in its features at a glance.  I cannot do this.  I need to examine it by running my hands over it which can take some time.  By the time I was 12 or 13, I thought I had touched most grocery items.  One day, I was looking on the kitchen counter for a fruit to snack on.  I ran my hands all around the counter.  Then, I touched something.  Something hairy.  It must be some kind of animal!  Some hairy beast!  When I touched it, it moved.  I screamed for my mom to come and see. 
"There is an animal here.  On the counter." 
"I can't see any animal." 
"It was there.  All hairy and it moved when I touched it." 
She started to laugh. 
"Is it this?" she asked placing something in my hand. 
Oh it was the hairy thing!  I hated the feel of it. 
I screamed again.  "Yes that's it."  She laughed and laughed and told me it was a kiwi fruit.  I had eaten kiwi fruit but I had never touched a whole and unpeeled one.  When I touched it, it must have rolled away slightly.  I'm not afraid of them anymore.  But, whenever I peel one, I laugh to myself.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Finding fruit by feel

The other day, we bought a passion fruit.  I have had passion fruit flavoured things but I have never had the actual fruit before.  I didn't touch it in the grocery store and so was shocked when I removed from the grocery bag, something that felt like a wizened apple.  What in the world was this?  It was the passion fruit.  Smaller than I had thought.  And covered in plastic so it felt kind of like skin of an apple that was getting old.  I sniffed it and it didn't smell like much.  We tried to decide what to do with it.  We ended up cutting it open and scooping out the middle.  It tasted okay but I don't know that I would buy it again.  It reminded me of touching fruit as a kid.  When I was very small, my mom would take me to the grocery store and let me touch fruit and vegetables.  How else would I know what they were.  And I smelled them and shook them.  This way, I learned about bananas, oranges, apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapefruit, grapes, etc.  How else would a blind person know what these things are and how to pick them out.   By smell, by shape, by texture.  It was fun.  I loved it.  Tomorrow, the fruit that scared me to death on the counter.  You'll like the story I promise.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Finding my way around snow obstacles

After I wrote my blog post yesterday about icy sidewalks, someone asked me about how I found my way around snow obstacles.  How I figured out what they were and got around them.  Well, it is similar to other random obstacles in my path of travel.  The garbage can, the bike, the car parked across the sidewalk, the sandwich board, the shopping cart, etc.  I never know when I am about to come upon one of these things.  If I am using a white cane, I have to touch it, figure out what it is, and think about how to get around it.  With my guide dog, if there is room, she will usually take me around these things.  If not, she has to stop and show them to me.  Then, together we figure out our strategy.  Snow is similar.  It has fallen.  It has been shoveled or not.  It is in our path of travel.  Often there are large banks at corners or at the end of driveways.  Snow is tricky though.  Some snow is soft enough that we can just plough through it.  Some is hard and boulder like so you either have to climb over or get around it.  It can make for some mountaineering adventures for sure.  More winter travel adventures tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Icy sidewalks

People often ask me how I get around in the snow.  With banks to clamber over, mounds of snow in our path, icy sidewalks.  I tackle first, the icy sidewalk question.  I do wear ice grippers on my boots when I know it is going to be particularly icy.  These, I have to choose carefully though as they can hurt my guide dog's paws if I get ones that are too sharp.  I also have to remember to take them off quickly before going inside as they are dangerous when walking on floors.  If you wear them outside, you can fall inside with them on.  If you don't, you are safe inside but can fall outside!  I imagine that sighted people scan upcoming sidewalks for icy patches.  They watch others, watch the ground.  I listen.  Do I hear others slipping.  And, I walk carefully.  All of my guide dogs have gotten to the place where they recognize ice and slow down for it.  Unfortunately, I have had to fall with each dog before they figured this out.  I fell last year on ice with Tulia.  She instantly jumped into my lap and was concerned that she made a mistake.  This morning, some sidewalks were snow covered.  Some were icy.  It was terribly cold when we headed off for our yoga class.  We were walking along over snow covered sidewalks.  We turned a corner.  The sidewalk was shere ice.  I started to slide a little.  I wasn't wearing ice grippers.  Tulia slowed right down.  Then she curved herself in front of my legs and stopped, bracing me.  No one taught her to do that.  She stood there.  Her little black body against my legs.  Wagging.  I hugged her.  Then, as we carried on up the icy sidewalk, I heard the neat sound of doggy boots on the ground on a quiet saturday morning.  A pitter patter sound.  tulia remembers ice and has figured out what to do.  Slow down, be careful, and if necessary, provide a brace for moving legs.  Good good girl!  Lots of kibbles inhaled at the next corner.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Knows how to play the crowd

Yesterday, I was having coffee with a friend.  Tulia had her boots on and I decided that I wouldn't take them off in the coffee shop.  If I did, I would have to put them back on again when we left.  If I am somewhere for a long time, I do take them off.  I probably should have as we were there for a while, but I didn't.  Tulia does not like being inside with her boots on.  She sat up and gave the eye to anyone who would look at her which probably included everyone in the coffee shop.  They would often say how cute she was.  How good she was.  I think she was begging that someone would come and remove her horrible purple boots.  They do keep her feet warm and salt free and she is grateful for that.  When I put them on before leaving the house, she immediately wants to charge out of the door so she can work and then get them off sooner maybe.  She does really like to work though so maybe it is just happiness about our next great adventure.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hearing the weather.

I heard the weather on the radio this morning.  Extremely cold and windy.  But, I always listen to the weather too.  What do I hear that might tell me something?  People scraping off their cars (snow has fallen or ice has built up on them over night) people having trouble starting cars (it is cold!  Really cold!)  When I open the front door, I can feel cold on my face,  hear rain or snow or wind.  I can hear other things too.  People walking by.  Are they strolling along?  If they are, the weather might be balmy and beautiful.  If they are all hurrying, maybe it is freezing or sizzling or raining, snowing or windy.  If I hear peope's shoes slipping and sliding, it is probably icy.  This is the equivalent I guess to someone taking a look outside before leaving the house.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gloves and mittens not friends to blind people.

so, it is still cold here.  You need gloves or mittens or something on your hands when you venture outside.  How I hate that!  How I hate wearing anything on my hands.  Think about it!   My hands are like your eyes if you can see.  I touch something to know what it is.  My keys, To feel for a door handle, to figure out what something is.  Of course to read braille.  My hands are as important as my ears to navigate the world.  And when I cover them up, I feel clumsy and awkward.  So, if I have to figure something out, off come the gloves so I can touch it and figure out what it is.  Then, back on go the gloves.  Tomorrow, the types of hand coverings I've tried.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wearing a hood or a hat.

It has been extremely cold here.  A while back, I did a few posts on dog and people boots.  Now, today, I talk about the hood of my winter coat.  Wearing a hood as a totally blind person can be a little dangerous.  It isn't as dangerous when I travel with my guide dog but certainly when using a cane it was.  I rely on my hearing and also sensing things with my face.  I think this is called echo location.  It is a bit  hard to explain except that I do feel things in the side of my face when objects are near me.  I can sense openings for doorways or parking lot entrances etc.  But, when my head is covered in a hood, it is harder to hear and to feel these things.  I can get disoriented.  Also, Isee a little bit of light in one eye and can't really see that when the hood is on.  But, when it is cold, I need to wear it.  Sometimes, I wear it as I travel down the block and then remove it so I can hear traffic to cross the street.  If it is snowing, when I pull it back up, snow slides down my neck sometimes.  But it is safer.  If anything is puzzling me, I remove the hood to listen and sense.  Then put it back on again.  Hats don't inhibit my hearing so much unless they really come down tightly over my ears.  But, they also aren't as warm.  Tomorrow, gloves.  How I hate them!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Adicted to different kinds of tea

I finished a box of tea yesterday.  It could be my irish heritage but I do love tea.  I find it relaxing to make.  I make it the way my irish gran told me to make it.  Heat the pot.  Heat the cup.  Milk in the cup first.  Steep the right amount of time.  The making of tea is so relaxing.  More than making coffee for some reason.  And the drinking of tea is relaxing.  It takes me ages to drink my tea.  Anyway, I am quite hooked on trying various kinds of tea.  Herbal and non-herbal.  Yesterday, after I finished my box of tea, I found in the cupboard a lot of small samples of tea I bought at a tea shop when we were on vacation.  I was so excited.  Peach, mango, chy, chocolate mint, another kind of mint.  Just enough probably for one or two cups from each sample but what a nice thing it was to find and sniff all the various samples.  It is minus 30 something with the wind chill here so about time to make some more tea and settle down to work.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Always happy to see you.

It was freezing and I mean really freezing here yesterday. Today it is colder. Yesterday afternoon, we had to run errands and so I decided to leave Tulia home. We had to go to several places and she had been out with me all morning. When we got home and opened the door, there racing down the stairs, wagging, bouncing, so excited to see me, was tulia. People rarely get so excited to see you after a brief absence. No matter how short a time I am away, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or a couple of hours, the reaction is the same. Warms my heart on such a cold day.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Climbing over snow.

As I wrote yesterday, it was not a good day for drivers. It was quite lovely going for a walk with my guide dog though. Until we got to one intersection. There was a snow bank at the corner created from ploughing the street probably. tulia was unsure. After all, we would have to climb over it to cross the street and a snowbank looks like a barrier in your path. We couldn't get around it without going out into traffic. We haven't had much snow this winter so she stopped and looked at it. I encouraged forward. We did climb it and corss the street. A man had been watching us. He was crossing the street too. When we got across he started to tell me what street I was on. He didn't know. I did so I told him. We walked another block. He was still following us. When we got to the next corner, he again started to tell me where we were. He didn't know the street names. I did so I told them to him again. It happened a third time. And a fourth. And then, we lost him or he turned or we did. He was kind and friendly and I think trying to help and maybe I helped him with street names. The nicely falling snow was beautiful. It is freezing today though it is sunny. Dog boots and dog coat day for sure.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Glad I don't drive on a day like this.

It is freezing rain, snowing, windy, and miserable outside.  I feel a little smug sitting in my home office with a lovely guide dog on her bean bag bed and a cup of tea.  All nice and warm.  Early this morning while still lying in bed, I heard activity from the parking lot outside.  People scraping their vehicles.  Shoveling them out.  I never have to do that.  Mind you, I will have to take the bus later today and will have to stand outside waiting for it so I might not feel quite so smug then.  but, for now, I am glad I'm blind and don't drive and can work in my home office on a day like this.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Where do we find our curiosity?

At a meeting yesterday, we were talking about how we encourage blind people to know that they can learn, can adapt, can find ways to do things and live productive and happy lives.  It got me wondering.  How do we show people that they can do this?  How do we instill the curiosity?  The love of learning?  The feeling that things are still possible but must be adapted?  Leading by example is important perhaps.  But what if they say, "Well it is easy for you.  But I couldn't do it."  We went around this question a little and I think it is a key one for anyone adapting to a disability of any kind.  don't have answers really.  Just posing the question and glad for my endless curiosity, stubbornness, and thirst for knowledge.  They continue to help me all of the time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The dog who wears boots.

My current guide dog Tulia will wear her boots.  The very strange thing about it though is that she does not want to sit or lie down in them.
If we are in a restaurant, she will stand for a long time wearing her boots, leaning her head on me but not sitting or lying down.  I have heard that when dogs sit, they do so by sliding their feet.  When wearing boots, they sometimes can't quite figure out how to do it.  However, I know she knows how to sit in  her boots as she can do it.  If we are going to be somewhere for any length of time, I remove them and she is grateful.  Never had a dog before that would just stand there in their boots.  Tulia keeps them on though and that is wonderful for us both.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Another lost dog boot! A suspenseful tale.

On a freezing winter late afternoon, my guide dog and I were walking home from the bus stop.  Both of us thinking about dinner I'm sure and being inside a warm house.  The boots were all on before exiting the bus.  Since it was only a couple of blocks home and since it was freezing and I didn't want to remove gloves to check dog boots, we carried on.  About half way home, I heard footsteps behind me.  Was someone following me?  They were hurrying at first and then slowed down right behind me.  Should I turn and say something?  Should I go faster?  Was this a criminal going to grab my backpack?  I was tense!  "Excuse me," said a warm kind male voice.  I jumped.  "Excuse me but your dog lost one of her boots.  Here it is."  As he passed me the soggy boot and I thanked him, I reflected on whether or not I had been reading too many mystery books.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The dog boot saga continues. Lost boot recovery.

I left things yesterday with us returning home with six boots instead of four.  But that fourth boot I lost remained lost for several months.  In the spring, my work colleague and friend was driving to work, when she spied something hanging on a bush.  Something that looked like one of Gia's dog boots.  She hurriedly stopped her car, jumped out, and grabbed it.  Sure enough, it was the missing boot.  We think that perhaps the boot was in the snow and the plough ploughed it further into the bank and it was only discovred in spring.  So, we then had seven boots instead of four.  More boot adventures tomorrow.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The day of acquiring dog boots.

I was so excited when I found that my third guide dog Gia would actually wear and keep on dog boots.. No more people walking past as we stood at bus stops in the cold saying, "That dog should be wearing boots." It was wonderful. Still, I had to check the boots but it would be great. She would be warm and comfortable in her red winter coat and red boots. One morning, we set off for work when I worked in a nursing home. We had to walk about five blocks to the bus stop. Take one bus, transfer to another one, then walk about three blocks on a sidewalk and one block on a sidewalkless road, through a big parking lot, and to the door. We made it all the way to the sidewalkless road with four boots on. I was so excited and proud. Here we were on the home stetch and all boots were accounted for. I didn't check again until we got to work. It was just one block after all. The snow was falling and it was very cold. I was horrified when I stepped inside and found that only two boots remained on. Work colleagues went and checked. One boot was found. but still, there were only three. In the afternoon, another work colleague went to a pet store. she found a pack of three boots on the shelf. She said, "You should just give these boots to my friend for her guide dg. You wouldn't want a guide dog getting cold and all hurt by the salt would you?" She was persuasive because they did it. Gave her the pakc of three boots for me. So I returned home with six boots instead of four. Tomorrow, how the remaining boot was found.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The dog boot saga continues with guide number 3

As I wrote in my blog post yesterday,  I decided that I would never buy another pair or rather set of dgo boots again.  It was too much trouble and too expensive.  Then, I met Gia.  My third guide dog and my first golden retriever.  After two dogs who hated wearing coats or boots or anything but their working harnesses, I was astonished in class to find that Gia enjoyed wearing her rain coat.  She modeled it.  She pranced.  She danced.  She wagged.  When I got her a winter coat (another story for another blog entry) she loved that too.  So, I decided perhaps I should loosen my restrictions on dog boots.  I bought her a pair.  She tolerated them being put on better than the others.  She walked in them well.  But, still we lost them sometimes.  Hear about a few of our spectacular boot adventures starting tomorrow!

Friday, January 6, 2012

dog boots continued

My second guide dog was a yellow labrador named Margaret and she also hated her dog boots.
I was determined though to persist with the boots as she also had very bad food allergies which made her feet particularly sensitive and she really hated the salt and limped a lot especially at bus stops where they always seem to really pile on thesalt.
I tried several kinds of boots but she managed to lose many of them no matter how careful I was.
The other complication is that often when you lose one boot, you have to buy four more. So, after Margaret, I was left with a drawer filled with odd dog boots. I decided that no more dog boots for any of my dogs but my next guide proved me wrong about this rule. stay tuned tomorrow.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Are the dog boots really on the dog paws?

One of the most difficult things for me about having dogs wear their boots, is knowing whether or not the boots are staying on the feet.  The story I told a couple of days ago, illustrates that the first time I tried them on my first guide, I had no idea that I had to check.  I thought that once they were on, they stayed on.  This is not always the case.  If someone with full sight puts boots on their dogs, they can glance down periodically at the paws.  Or perhpas they see a boot flying off or see it in the snow.  I can do none of these things.  One way to check on the status of boots is to feel them periodically.  Maybe at each street corner?  But, this is not an easy task.  Usually, when it is cold enough for my dog to need to wear boots, it is also cold enough that I need to wear thick warm gloves or mittens.  Once they are on, I can't feel the dog boots.  So, I need to stop, remove a mitten, hurriedly touch each foot to see if the boot is still on, and then put the glove back on.  And, if the boot is gone, where is it?  Do I wait outside in the freezing cold to ask someone to look for it?  Or do I just carry on?  I can sometimes hear if a boot is missing by the sound of the dog feet.  This is harder when there are many other sounds in the environment but I have caught this by sound a few times.  I did call my co workers on my cell phone one time to ask if they could keep an eye out on the way out to their cars for boots.  Stories of dog boot adventures continue tomorrow.  Two days of dog boot wearing this week and still all four pawz boots are in place.  Yay Tulia!  Yay me!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy birthday Louis Braille.

I interrupt my posts on dog boots and winter to say happy birthday to Louis Braille. It is hard to believe that braille is over 200 years old and in some ways has never changed. Yes, there are braille displays and braille printers now but braille itself has not changed. Some say in these days of computer programs that read aloud text on the screen, audio books, etc, that braille is dying. I sure hope it isn't. When given a choice, I will read in braille if I can. I have read studies that blind people who know braille are more likely to be employed. I would urge anyone going blind to try to learn at least a little of braille. I love braille. Happy happy birthday to you Louis Braille you have had a very huge effect on my life.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dog boots

Yesterday, I began a new series on this blog about challenges in the winter for me as a blind person.  I started by talking about my winter boots.  Today, I talk about my guide dog's winter boots.  Actually, this talk of dog boots will go on for a few days.  Today, my first experience with dog boots.  My first guide dog was a lovely black labrador girl named Gwenny.  She was raised in southern California and trained at guide dogs for the blind in San Rafael California. She had never seen snow or winter before I got her.  For the first few years we were together, we lived in British Columbia and so didn't see much snow then either.  When we moved back East, the first winter was a big shock to Gwenny.  She didn't like the salt burning her paws.  So, I went and bought boots for her.  Gwenny hated wearing anything other than her harness.  She would not walk in a rain coat even though she didn't like the rain.  She would sit herself down and refuse to move unless I removed the embarrassing coat.  My school and vet suggested to put the boots on, walk around the neighbourhood and praise her for wearing her boots.  I put them on, put the harness on, and set off.  Being new to this, I didn't think to check the boots.  I figured that once the boots were on, they stayed on.  I kept walking around saying,  "Aren't you good for wearing your boots."  When we got home, only one boot remained on.  Gwenny never would wear boots or coat and so I had to give up on them with her.  Tomorrow, more dog boot stories.  It is minus 20 something out today so dress warmly if you too are in the cold.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blindness and winter boots.

As I got all dressed up to take my dog outside this morning, I decided to blog about the challenges of being totally blind in a winter climate. Let's start today with winter boots. I also want to say that these views are mine and not all blind people would necessarily agree with them. So, winter boots. It gets cold here so I definitely need winter boots that are warm. For me, I don't want them with heels. I want to feel the ground beneath my feet. They need to be warm, good grippy soles, with good traction. but, walking in winter boots poses a few problems. First, when traveling around, I get a lot of information from all of my senses and my whole body. That starts with my feet. While wearing shoes, I can feel changes in surface. The bumpy pavement just before my mail box. The slight dip of the little driveway before a certain garbage can. With boots on, I still feel the big changes in elevation but not always these little cues for my environment. tomorrow, another installment. It is slippery out this morning. Be careful all.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What shall I blog about in 2012?

So, happy new year to all. May 2012 be wonderful for all of you. I'm wondering what to blog about this year. I'm thinking of blogging on different themes perhaps. Blindness and technology, blindness and traveling around, funny things about being blind, frustrating things about being blind, how tos. Myths and misconceptions. Any suggestions are welcome.