photo description: Joy speaking on stage at GDB Legacy Luncheon with Roja by her side.

photo description: Joy speaking on stage at GDB Legacy Luncheon with Roja by her side. [Photo credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind]

Just when I thought Joy was finished with all her little surprises (i.e. relocating me from Santa Barbara to Chicago, dressing me in lion costumes, and parading my stellar guide work skills all over schools), she pulled out the big one: a stage.  Yep, an actual stage with a bunch of humans staring at me (more than usual, that is).

The bonus?  It was back where I was born. In fact, we even stayed in a room that looked just like the one I first met Joy in, back in training (if I weren’t at the top of my game, I would have been nervous she was exchanging me!  But nope, she needs me too much. Yep, I’m THAT good….)

Anywho, I settled right back into our room and even humored Joy by doing my business on the cement like old times.

Right before the whole stage thing, Joy took me to this fancy lunch.  Not only did it smell good under those tables, but there were tons of other dogs— some with harnesses like mine and other small dogs with vests like I used to wear.  They were SOOOOO cute!  All I wanted to do was play with them, but Joy was being quite the killjoy and kept trying to get me to just sit there.  I mean, it was one thing when we were up on that big stage (I stayed right at the very furthest edge of the stage, just to keep my old pal from training, Mick on his toes, as he was emceeing the whole thing. Mick, buddy, I know you’d stage dive for me if I started to fall…you’re the only one who can pronounce my name with the proper dramatic roll of the “r”….), but quite another thing when the little puppies are right next to us!

After the speech, people clapped a lot.  Even though Joy was the one speaking, I knew the applause were for her furry sidekick.  Then Joy talked and talked and talked with a bunch of people while I tried to get some puppy play time in whenever she was too distracted to do anything about it.

After everyone left, we walked around the city while a lady with a camera followed us around.  She took us to this flower stand, and I thought surely Joy was buying me my very own bouquet, but as soon as I started to sniff (okay, fine and maybe a lil’ nibble. Can you blame a dog for tryin’?), Joy yanked the flowers away.  That lady’s got some nerve.

Once we got on that plane home, I curled up and slept like one of those pups in a vest.

Back on the homefront in SoCal (oh, did I mention Joy’s other recent stunt?  Moving me from my cozy new Chicago home with the large, yummy sticks and cold, fun snow all the way back to the area I played in with my 2 raisers growing up?  Go figure!)

One thing about Joy is that she doesn’t really slow down, so it was right back to work after the big move, which meant more new routes for us.  Parks, pools, classes, stores, libraries, art fairs, and even a church last week (some church where they sit and stand a lot…up, down, up ,down, up, down, and so on.  Can you just stick with one, humans?)

This whole month has been strange.  Joy takes me on more walks, and it’s warm like I remember, but there’s no yard to run around in anymore.  There’s not tons of kids over after school either.  I’m not even sure Joy’s kids even go to school anymore.  They take a few classes but mostly do school stuff at home. Joy looks like she loves being with the girls so much, and they do a lot of neat things (today they made soap!)  They run around with me in the middle of the day, which I love since Joy can be kind of boring when they’re not around.  It’s like the kids make her more fun

We do this one “tug of war” circus show, in which Joy pulls one end of a long colored thing with rings while I pull the other.  She hums circus music, and Ii really ham it up, growling and spinning and making everyone laugh

But when the girls are upstairs, I catch Joy crying a lot, which isn’t really like her, especially in the middle of the day.  I try to make her feel better by staying close to her and giving her some of my famous Roja hugs.  It makes me think that being human must be hard.

I’m glad I’m a dog.  I eat and sleep and play and work and relax in the sun and try to enjoy each day.  If Joy could just manage to be more like me, not thinking so much about yesterday or tomorrow, I think she’d have an easier time.  But I can only do so much for her.  After all, I do physically guide her al over Orange County (not to mention all over the country lately!)  Some things she’ll just need to figure out on her own, and I think it may take some time.

Okay friends, Joy’s chattiness is obviously rubbing off on me, and I have some bones to chew.  Adios!

Joy Thomas-2

photo description: Roja leading Joy across a busy street via crosswalk in San Francisco. [Photo credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind]

Joy Thomas-4

Roja photo description: Roja leading Joy down a busy, tree-lined street. [Photo credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind]

Joy Thomas-5

photo description: Roja leading Joy down a sidewalk through a park. [Photo credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind]

Joy Thomas-6

photo description: Joy laughing with Roja at a flower stand in the city. [Photo credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day from Doublevision Blog! In honor of Mother’s Day, we are sharing words of wisdom from mothers we respect and admire.

“Mothers don’t need to “see” in order to love; we simply “feel” it.  The depths of emotion we have for our children takes root within each of our souls. Never let another person’s words cause you to doubt this unshakable bond. Always remember, loving your child requires no “special” accommodations.”
Holly Bonner
Staten Island, NY
www.blindmotherhood.com

Continue reading

As a mother, I am guilty of comparing myself to other mothers, and sometimes judgement follows.  Sometimes it is judgement towards myself (Why can’t I be more patient with my kids like that other mother at the park?), and sometimes my judgement is directed towards another mom (Wow, she sure lets her kids run the show!) But when I’m in a good healthy state of mind, I focus on learning from the mothers around me.  I observe their empathetic language and attempt to use that same tone when my child is having a meltdown rather than fueling the tantrum with my own frustration.  I observe how they put away their cell phones, and get down in the sand to build a sand castle with their child at the beach, and I feel encouraged to fully engage with my own children.

Most recently, I’ve been learning some amazing lessons about motherhood from a fellow blogger, Holly Bonner, author of “Blind Motherhood”.  I’ve gleaned so much from this honest, witty, unstoppable mama, and knew instantly that our readers would want to meet her, too.  If you haven’t met before, I’m pleased to introduce you to Holly Bonner.

Blind Motherhood by Holly Bonner

Welcome to Blindmotherhood.com! I’m Holly Bonner, a 36 year old, wife, mother and social worker! After completing chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2012, I became legally blind from a neurological condition. Thrust into a much darker world, I went from the role of social work practitioner to the part of disabled client in need of services. With months of training in technology, mobility and ADL (adult daily living) skills; I finally began to feel like I could confidently rejoin the land of the living with my trusty white cane by my side. Then, what doctors had said was impossible happened, I got pregnant! Doctors….LOL! What do they know, right? Continue reading

After a 4-day cross-country road trip, our family moved into our new home in Southern California last week.  Moving into a new space is exciting, as it’s a chance to reorganize, switch out furniture and experiment with new decorating styles.  It can be a tad stressful, however, especially for someone with low vision.  Learning and memorizing new layouts while trying to figure out the most functional aesthetic way to set up all of your things can feel daunting, particularly when you are accustomed to having a very specific place for each item.

In our case, we had to fit all of our belongings in a 16 ft. storage pod prior to moving, which meant that we had to part with a lot of stuff, including our couches and kitchen table.  Hence, we’ve spent the first week both unpacking and re-buying furniture and organizational items.  I’ve definitely learned a few things this week that I’d like to pass on to our readers.

Whether you’re reorganizing while spring cleaning or moving into a new home, here are some tips to get you started:

1 – Clear the floors of all clutter.  Visually impaired or not, visual clutter sucks the life out of life.  During the first few days here, I kept tripping over shoes, leashes and purses (most of which were mine!), as all of these items seemed to congregate in our living room by the front door.  I knew that tossing all of our shoes into the small hall closet would be disastrous when it came time to locate the shoes and head out the front door.  So we just kept leaving the shoes out, but even when they were nicely lined up by the door, they were taking up coveted floor space and stressing me out (first world problems, I know!)  On one particularly cranky evening, on our 4th or 5th evening here, I grabbed my purse and announced, “I’ve had enough of this!  We’re going out shopping and not returning without a hanging shoe rack!”  And now our shoes hang quietly in the closet, not daring to bother this clutter buster.

IMG_2850

Photo description: Closet with an organizer for shoes

2 – Call in the troops!  Fortunately, my parents came to town the day after we moved in, so they were with us for the first week’s transition and helped out a TON!  Whether helping to set up shelving, playing with the kids, or unpacking and organizing bins, they definitely earned their “free” room during their 11-day visit!  If you have neighbors, friends or family who are willing to lend a hand, take them up on it!  And don’t be shy about reaching out to ask for help.  Moving is not the time for prideful independence!

Photo description: Joy and family with Joy's parents, eating at a table in a scenic outdoor setting.

Photo description: Joy and family with Joy’s parents, eating at a table in a scenic outdoor setting.

IMG_2852

Photo description: shelves waiting to be filled in a garage

IMG_2855

Photo description: microwave with tactile bumps placed on certain buttons.

3 – Make shelving a priority.  In an expensive, population-dense area like SoCal, every inch of space matters.  Even though we were accustomed to living in a small house in Illinois and are renting a decent-sized townhouse, we lost our basement and barn storage, so we’re relying heavily on our 2-car garage here (the upside of being a one-car family!).  My husband got some awesome, inexpensive shelves from Lowes, which have helped us get organized.  Shelving is always worth the extra money and effort because you can’t put a price tag on sanity!

4 – Tactile bumps are your appliances’ best friend.  Learning to operate my new appliances was one of my biggest visual challenge, which is probably why I waited several days before even attempting to tackle it (seriously, my parents did 5 or 6 loads of laundry the first several days here before I even ventured to find the lightswitch to the laundry room!)  Once ready, however, I mastered my appliances rapidly, one-by-one, beginning with the washer and dryer.  Since our previous basement washer and dryer were around 50 years old with no bells and whistles, the new sounds that chirped out of these appliances left me both intimidated and exhilarated.  Fortunately, none of them are touch-screen, so tactile bumps placed on certain key buttons are the perfect accessible solution. My mom carefully went through each button and setting with me, and I scoured over them as if preparing for an exam (those pop laundry quizzes really sneak up on you)  I put raised tactical stickers on the settings I would be choosing most often and memorized the buttons in between those.  And then I moved on to the kitchen, where my dad walked me through the stove, oven and microwave.  Since I have a double oven for the first time in my life, I felt pretty crafty putting all round raised dots to symbolize buttons that coincided with the top oven and square-shaped bumps for buttons associated with the lower oven.  The microwave was a bit trickier at first, but after affixing stickers to certain numbers, cook time, and the start button, it too became a cinch.  The dishwasher buttons proved to be the trickiest, as they’re located on top of the door where it closes, so raised bumps were not an option.  But the buttons themselves were slightly raised, and the “normal” cycle is 3 in from the left, and the “dry” button is 3 in from the right, so those ended up being easy to memorize.  I honestly don’t know what I’d do without these tactile bumps to orient my fingers and brain….such a simple accommodation that makes a huge difference!
5 – Take breaks, be grateful and have fun!   Moving is ranked among the top most stressful life events for a reason.  It’s hard.  You’re relocating a bunch of stuff that you didn’t realize you still had, you’re grieving the loss of neighbors, friends and family that you will no longer see daily, and you’re trying to figure out how to fit things in unfamiliar drawers and cabinets.  So be extra kind to yourself.  I know it’s cliche, and I am probably the worst example of taking the time to enjoy such tasks, but the few times that someone was able to convince me to take a walk (or an early morning ocean trip!), made such a difference in my energy and stress level.

Gratitude continues to be the way to navigate through any stressful scenario.  Yes, there is a new house to figure out, but be thankful that there is a house to figure out.  Yes, there are lots of belongings to unpack and organize, but be thankful that there are lots of belongings (or be so fed up that you give a bunch of them away!)  And yes, there are lots of changes and transitions to navigate, but be thankful that life would offer such adventure!

12376787_10153747095434807_2114032454473502200_nLike most guide dogs, Roja does great on car rides, though our family’s recent 4-day excursion from Illinois to California really put us to the test.  As we enter spring and summer and the season of road trips, I thought I’d pass along some travel tips I learned along the way!

1. Prep and pack well.  Lay the essentials out the night before you leave, to ensure you don’t forget any of your precious pup’s items.  Be sure to include:  food, dog bowls (collapsible travel bowls if you’re tight on car space), dog bed/rug/crate (depending on preference and space, harness, leash, grooming kit for teeth and hair, small toy or bone, gentle leader, a tie down, and poop bags.  You may also want to pack special high-reward treats if you foresee transition issues.  And if you don’t already have bottled water packed for yourself, make sure to at least pack some for your pup.  You can certainly get water at rest stops, but if you’re trying to make good time on the road, the stops might be few and far between.

I did remember to pack most of Roja’s items but I made the mistake of not condensing them to one bag, which made it difficult to locate items, such as the grooming kit, when I needed them.

2. Avoid areas that may contain ticks and fleas. One of my friend’s pet dogs contracted Lyme disease from a tick at a rest area en route to California a few years ago.  As you encounter new terrain, especially at rest stops in rural or wooded areas, ticks can be a concern.  The risk of pesky fleas or even Lyme diseases may be higher than you’re used to in your area.  If your  dog is  pretty good at relieving on pavement, that’s your best bet.  If they prefer grass or shrubs, try to stay close to the building and in lower, mowed grass.

3. Be wary of shady gas stations in the middle of nowhere. We learned this in the middle of New Mexico.  As we started to exit our Subaru, a stray dog came running up to Roja, and since my husband wasn’t sure whether this dog would be friendly with Roja (or was even vaccinated!), he quickly put Roja back in the car, closing her tail in the door.  Since Roja is so quiet, we didn’t even know it was stuck until our 6-year-old, who was next to Roja, started sobbing.  “Mom! Rojas tail is in the door!” Since my husband was using the restroom, I opened the door to free her tail, which was just enough time for the mangy stray to jump in our car.  I tried to lift the filthy dog out, but it wriggled out of my grasp.  I opened the door, and both dogs ran out.  I finally reigned Roja back in and then used the bathroom, which had the distinct smell of a barnyard.  Oh, and the gas pumped so slow at this station that it had only reached $5.00 worth of guess in the 20 minutes we were there!  And that’s what you may encounter in rural New Mexico!

4. Doggie breath mints and water should be within arm’s reach at all times. Roja doesn’t typically have very bad breath, at least not like some of my friends’ dogs.  But the combination of anxiety over traveling and the disruption of regular feeding/water schedule must produce some extra toxins because her breath was rancid!  Roja was directly behind me, at my daughters’ feet, and I could always tell when her velvety head had poked up between our seats to say hello, as the stench of dead fish wafted over the center console.  Unfortunately, I did not pack any greenies. I did brush her teeth one night at the hotel, which helped, but I wished I had something to just pop in her mouth in the car!

By day two, I learned to have her water dish with a bottle of water at my feet so that I could put water on the console at a moment’s notice, as she didn’t always want to drink at rest stops but then would end up panting between stops.  Originally, we were keeping her dog bowl in the very back behind the suitcases, which was impossible to access unless we were stopped.

 

Hope these are helpful!  Happy travels!

7134791B-7585-4DA8-BF28-6C26D23703B4

We’ve done a lot of Q&A posts here at Double Vision Blog, but this is our first interview with an eye doctor.  I’m pleased to introduce Dr. Kierstyn Napier-Dovorany, OD, FAAO, Associate Professor, Western University of Health Sciences, College of Optometry   I didn’t just choose a random eye doctor to interview.  This is “Kier”, a dear friend going all the way back to our days at Naperville North High School. I love that I can ask her anything eye-related and she will respond with experience, research, and honesty. Continue reading

There’s something deeply satisfying about completing a stack of thank you notes.  So I can’t help but continue to write more.  Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

Thank you mannequins, uh, I mean, excuse me.  I mean, I’m sorry I bumped you.  Wait.  You’re not a real person?

Bashfully,
Lady Who Was Not Just Talking to an Inanimate Object Continue reading

Visual art has never come to me intuitively, the way writing has, though I don’t think I can attribute this entirely to my eyesight.  I’ve met talented artists who are legally blind and still have a strong sense of spatial awareness on paper, and there are artists who are color blind who use brilliant color schemes.  For me, however, any type of art class has always felt like a foreign land in which I don’t understand the cultural norms.
So I surprised myself a bit when I signed up to take a painting class. Continue reading

My friends have always played an important part in my journey through life.  In college, time with girlfriends often involved dressing up in black pants paired with a flirty top to explore Seattle’s night life.  Over the years it evolved into meeting up for martinis after work, and flying to Vegas for bachelorette parties.  These days, we often opt for yoga pants and a bottle of wine in someone’s quiet, childless living room while pretending to discuss a book that no one actually finished reading.  And I picture my future self with these same “girls”, sharing photos of grandkids while drinking tea following a 4 o’clock supper date.   Continue reading

Last week, I reviewed Mobility Matters by Amy Bovaird.  This week, I am pleased to introduce a guest post by Ms. Bovaird, in which she takes a trip down memory lane to describe how night blindness led her into a very unique situation.  

With a quick wave to my housemate, I stepped out of the car. Early commuters sat on the bench under the flickering streetlights with the transit map behind them. Someone pointed and the bus lumbered into view. They fell into line just as the door opened. Hoisting my teaching bag over my shoulder, I showed the driver my pass and took a seat. Ingram Park Mall became smaller and disappeared altogether as the bus turned toward Loop 410. I settled in for the ride. My stop was last—Lackland Air Force Base. Continue reading