(with adaptations for moms who are visually impaired)

I’m not a crafty mom.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not even on Pinterest.  I’m usually too tired for big projects that involve more than one or two steps.  I also have a visual impairment, which doesn’t help.  Basically, if I can do this with my kids, so can you!
Why the sudden desire to do a homemade project?

Well, I recently started homeschooling my 2 creative, amazing daughters, ages 6 and 9, and I feel like they deserve some fun, interactive projects.

So I found an easy soap recipe and turned it into an educational activity that my kids and I really got into.  My favorite part about it is that it’s multi-disciplinary, covering math, science, health, reading, writing and art (and I’m sure you could relate it to social studies and other subjects too)!

Supplies needed:

-pure castile soap (I purchased one gallon from Amazon for $44.00. Dr. Bonner also makes a fair trade, organic castile soap for $59 for a gallon).

-distilled water (I actually didn’t have any the first time I made this recipe, so I simply used filtered water, which means we need to use the soap within a few weeks).

-essential oil of your choice (We made 3 kinds for our first batch using the following oils from Young Living: lemon, peppermint and wintergreen.  We found, however, that wintergreen is too expensive for future batches, so we plan to replace that with lavender next time.)  The cost of essential oils can vary greatly, depending on whether you purchase on Amazon, wholesale, or are a consultant for companies such as Young Living or DoTerra.  You can also purchase peppermint castile soap and skip the oils altogether, although I think the quality of the oils makes a difference!

-vitamin E drops (optional)

-empty 10 oz. soap dispenser(s) (I ordered this 3-pack of foaming soap dispensers for $13.95, as foaming soap saves money and prevents sinks from clogging up over time.  The initial cost of these bottles may seem high, but the benefit will pay off when re-using for future batches.  You can also find regular soap dispensers at the dollar store, or simply use an empty dispenser from a store-bought one your family has used up.)

-mailing labels to decorate soap dispensers (I used 4″ labels because they were sitting in my office supply bin, but you can use whatever size you’d like).

-markers, stamps, or other art supplies to decorate bottles

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Step 1:
  Lay out all supplies and get your kids excited about the project by having them look over everything, read all the labels, and choose which essential oil they’d like to use to flavor their soap.  Upon seeing the giant bottle of castile soap and all the fun supplies, my kids were immediately engaged.

Step 2:  Pour 4 ounces of the pure castile soap into a 10 oz soap dispenser.  Have children figure out how much to pour in based on whatever measuring tools you have (i.e. we used measuring cups, so they had to look up how many ounces equal a cup, but you could also use tablespoons or a glass measuring jar with ounces (cheat: 8 ounces =1 cup, so you’d need 1/2 cup of soap for this recipe). Since the gallon bottle is so heavy, I did the pouring and had the kids hold the measuring cup. (Adaptation:  place your finger near the top of the measuring tool so that you can feel when the soap hits it.  Pour over a sink just in case!)

Step 3:  Fill the bottle with water, making sure not to fill too close to the top to prevent spillage.  Screw the pump lid on tightly.  Your kids can do this part themselves.

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Step 4:  Shake, shake, shake (the younger ones love this part!)

Step 5:  Add 1/2 ml. of the essential oil of your choice.  Older students can look up how many drops are in a ml (cheat:  5-10 drops!).  (Adaptation: your kids can probably see the drops just fine, but if your child is also VI, they can count to 5 as the drops fall in, which will allow the right amount to fall in, give or take a few!)

Step 6:  Shake again

Step 7:  Use markers and any other decorations to create bright, fun labels. My kids simply wrote “lemon” or “peppermint” and drew pictures of lemons or mints, but you could also add the name of your “family’s soap company” or do more intricate artwork using stencils or the computer.  Let the kids have fun with this part!

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Step 8:  Incorporate “lessons” to coincide with the project.  My 10-year-old spent time figuring out the cost breakdown for each soap that we made, which required measurement conversions, multiplication and division.  She typically dislikes word problems, but she was completely engaged in these real-life, multi-step equations, working really hard to set up and solve equations.  She figured out the entire cost breakdown of the soap, including the price of each individual mailing label, each ml of essential oils, each ounce of castile soap, and each dispenser.  She figured out how many bottles of soap we could make based on all of the supplies we had on hand.  Once we determine how long each bottle of soap lasts us, she can do even more equations, such as how many months (or years!) the supplies will last.

Younger children can do simpler equations or even read articles on the health benefits of hand washing.  For a great history lesson, kids could research when and where soap was first invented and the progression.
(Note:  soap may start to separate between uses.  If this happens, simply shake bottle.)
Some may see this project as more soap “mixing” than “making.”  It’s a great first start, however, and it really stretches the concentrated castile soap, requiring less trips to the store, and is more economical than the natural, scented soaps you’d find at stores like Whole Foods.

 

 

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!

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

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

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

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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

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!

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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

Roja YogaIf you or a loved one has a disability, you’ve probably encountered many wonderful, helpful people. You’ve probably also encountered some, shall, we say, overly helpful folks?

Being legally blind, I usually have no shortage of helpers while out in public with my cane or guide dog. “Can I get that door for you?” “Can I grab some silverware from the buffet for you?” “May I assist you with reading that menu?”

Most of these are what I’d consider helpful gestures, and I sometimes take people up on their offers if my hands are full juggling children and leashes, and other times I politely decline the offer, and all is well. Every once in awhile, however, I find myself in a code red, help-aholic situation.

Like a couple weeks ago at yoga. I was attending a class with an absolutely amazing teacher at a studio that I practice at regularly. I arrived two minutes before class was starting, which really isn’t ideal when you have a guide dog to get situated, a mat to roll out and yoga props to gather. To make matters more challenging, the tiny room was packed with people.

Upon our arrival, everyone began maneuvering themselves around to make room for us, and a couple of my classmates who know me well offered to grab my props while I got situated.

“Oh my gosh, thank you!” I breathed a sigh of relief. Just then a voice popped up next to me.

“Hi, I’m Marcy and I went ahead and folded your blanket and put your water bottle at 2 o’clock. I also took your dog’s leash and tucked it behind her because I didn’t want it to get in your way.”

“Oh thanks. Nice to meet you.” I stammered, slightly taken aback that she had touched my things without asking. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, however, so maybe she just saw others being helpful and thought she’d do the same. I got into Child’s Pose and hoped for the best.

“Today we’re going to start with a gentle twist,” stated Greg, our instructor, “Begin by crossing your right leg over…..”

“Here, like this!” Marcy interrupted loudly, touching my right leg. “Put that leg over the other one and wrap it around.”

Twists usually are confusing for me (so much leg criss-crossing, and I don’t listen very well for a blind chic!), but I usually eventually figure it out. Apparently I was not getting into the pose fast enough for Marcy.

I quickly got into the correct twist position, but then missed Greg’s next instruction while Marcy was loudly instructing me, and I couldn’t see what pose Greg was moving into.

“We are on all fours now!” Marcy did not excel at whispering.

Oh, Table Pose. I knew that one. “Now we’re going to go into a gentle downward dog,” Greg continued. Oh good, I know how to do that well, but I usually like to do a cat/cow or two before getting into my down dog. Greg always encourages his students to listen to what their bodies are telling them to do, so I make slight variations and add in poses at times.

“Downward dog is where you….” Marcy began. She was not okay with variations.

“Yeah I know,” I whispered, trying to get back into my yoga zone as I moved fluidly into my down-dog. There, now Marcy could see that I knew what I was doing.

But her little “helpful” interjections continued. I found myself trying to speed quickly into each pose, for fear that Marcy would loudly offer her assistance if I didn’t high-tail it into Warrior I. Occasionally, instructors come around and readjust students, and I really don’t mind when they adjust me or give reminders. They are, after all, the instructors, and most do it in a way that still honors the individual practice. But Marcy was not only not honoring my practice….she was missing out on her own.

“Remember to play with these poses and have fun,” Greg told our class gently, “It’s your own, individual practice, so try to go inward and sense what your body needs.”

Yo, Marcy, he’s talking to you.

But Marcy was too busy observing my Wounded Warrior to listen to Greg’s gentle reminder.

I, too, was having trouble focusing. All I could think about was how pushy Marcy was with her help. And the feelings it brought up were very familiar to me. It didn’t feel like Marcy’s help was about me at all. The whole thing felt like it was very much about her need to be a helper.

Marcy had a need to be needed, and I was filling that need perfectly.

I’d like to say that I came up with some catch-all, perfect phrase to get Marcy off my case (or, more specifically, off my mat), but I couldn’t quite stop in the middle of class to hold a help-aholic intervention. If I was going to enjoy the rest of my yoga class, I knew I needed to do what the mighty yogis teach: Be mindful and ignore the chatter. Not just Marcy’s outward chatter, but the conversation going on in my mind about Marcy and how annoyingly helpful she was.

I began to listen only to the calming music playing through Greg’s iPod. I closed my eyes and listened to his instructions, and when Marcy would start doing her thing, I simply focused entirely on my breath and tuned her out. I didn’t whisper thank you. Nor did I whisper shut up. I just inhaled and exhaled. And you know what? After awhile, I didn’t have to ignore anything because Marcy had ceased her chatter.

I think there is a time to confront and be straightforward with people. But I also think there is a time to be quiet and remember that their issue with over-helping has nothing to do with you. It’s about them, and sometimes you need to allow them the space to figure it out on their own. After all, isn’t that what you want from them?

Thank you, Marcy, for teaching me an important lesson. Namasté.

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Last week, following the popular “8 Things” post we were contacted by the amazing folks at AMI Radio, based in Toronto, for a 10-minute LIVE chat! on Retinitis Pigmentosa.  With 5 million listeners, these guys don’t mess around!  Clearly, the hosts had done their research on our site, resulting in some fantastic questions! Joy did the interview, but they still found a way to include a few sound bytes from Jenelle’s “Thank you notes” Enjoy!

1. It usually occurs slowly. While there are some people who go blind overnight or in a matter of days, such as with detached retinas, following eye surgeries, or with certain types of Glaucoma, the vast majority of people with degenerative diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa and Macular Degeneration, lose their sight gradually, over a period of many years.

2. Just because our vision changes doesn’t mean our interests do. Some people assume that certain hobbies that are sight-related, such as sports, fashion, makeup, woodworking, etc are no longer interesting or feasible after vision loss.  This simply isn’t true.  There’s nothing worse than a group of friends assuming that you no longer want to go on your annual bike-riding trip, aren’t interested in watching a football game together, or don’t enjoy shopping with them anymore.  Yes, some things may change, such as needing to use a tandem bicycle or a tether for running side-by-side or audio descriptions for movies, but these activities can still be very fun.  There are always ways to compensate and adapt when it comes to the activities we love.  I have a friend who is completely blind from RP and recently refinished his basement alongside his son, even handcrafting a beautiful wet bar, all without sight.  I’ve heard of auto mechanics who can no longer drive but still find ways to work on cars.  When someone has a talent or interest, they find  a way to continue doing it.

3. It can feel socially isolating. Think of all the social interactions that you use your vision for, from greeting your neighbor across the way to commenting on someone’s clothing.  From college students bonding over late night activities around campus to parents observing their kids’ soccer games, some of these experiences can feel a bit awkward for people losing their vision.  While we can still participate in many of the same activities, some of the commentary involved in a shared visual experience is missed.  Sometimes we feel like we have to fake “ooh-ing” and “aw-ing” over that cute or funny scene everyone is pointing at, lest we feel out of the loop.  We can’t dart from person to person at a party, spotting friends across the room.  Some of this is unavoidable, but friends and family who go out of their way in social settings can make a huge difference.  Even when we can’t spot you in public, we still appreciate being acknowledged and greeted.  For example.  I love it when a parent of someone in my daughter’s kindergarten class comes up to me in the grocery store and tells me who they are, even if I’ve met them before, and starts a conversation.  I can’t stand it when someone tells me, after the fact, that they were near me in a public setting, “Oh, I saw you at the movie theater last week,” but didn’t make their presence known at the time. It’s a weird feeling when people can spot you but you’re not able to see them.  It can leave you feeling self-conscious and awkward. When someone passes me and just says, “Hi Joy!” without identifying themselves, I sometimes spend the next 10 minutes trying to figure out who it was.  On the flip side, when someone says, “Hi Joy, it’s Lindsay!” I can ask how her daughter is or spout off a relevant comment, which is what people who are fully sighted do regularly in their social lives without even thinking about it.

4. The things we can and cannot see are sometimes confusing, even for us.  I can’t always explain why I can’t figure out what a picture that someone texts me is of but can read the print caption that goes along with the photo.  Perhaps it has something to do with visual memory of letters and how my brain fills in the gaps, even when parts of those letters are missing.  Or maybe it’s the contrast or the size and color of the photo that makes a difference.  Whatever it is, it can be difficult to explain to people and could even appear phony, like I have “selective sight”, but anyone who knows me well understands and doesn’t give it a second thought.  My younger sister, who works on a cruise ship, overheard one of her coworkers complaining about a passenger who had requested vision-related assistance but then appeared to be looking at something.  The co-worker assumed the person was lying about their poor eyesight, but my sister grew up watching her 2 older twin sisters struggle with vision loss and quickly told her co-worker that the passenger might need help seeing some things but not others.   Vision loss is not always a concrete, black-and-white picture for people losing their sight.  Take colors, for example, I can identify most colors in a general sense but often can’t distinguish between blue and green, red and orange, purple and brown, or even between yellow and white.

5. We can have “bad” and “good” vision days.  Sometimes it depends on how sunny or cloudy it is outside.  Other times it depends on eye strain, the time of day, lighting inside vs. outside, and even how many trees or landscaping are around casting shadows, causing my eyes to play lots and lots of tricks on me.

6. It’s not something most of us dwell on daily.  Gradual degeneration is a lot like aging.  You don’t look in the mirror every single day, inspecting every new wrinkle, exclaiming, “I’m getting older!” just like I don’t stare at eye charts constantly, noticing every little change.  Also similar to aging, most people don’t just wake up one day and realize that they’re a senior citizen….you realize that you’re aging at various points in your life, sometimes because of an event such as a milestone birthday, but other times you just notice yourself looking or feeling older from time to time.  Typically, vision loss is similar. There are times I’ve gone to the eye doctor and been surprised at my change in vision because I hadn’t noticed it happening to the extent that it dropped, despite the fact that I could tell it was worsening.  Other times, I notice the drop and am not surprised in the least when the Ophthalmologist shows me my test results.

7. Some of us use mobility aids like canes and dogs and some of us don’t.  There are people who have the exact same vision who move about the world completely differently. There can be 2 people who both have 19 degrees of vision, deeming them both “legally” blind, and one of them uses a white cane while the other walks around without any mobility tool.  If there is someone in your life who you feel like should be using a mobility assistance but doesn’t, it’s usually a realization they need to come to on their own, something through a few bumps, bruises and embarrassing moments.  No one can be persuaded through guilt or fear to get assistance.  Even among those who are completely blind, not everyone uses a cane or dog.  Some, for example, use echolocation.  It’s a personal preference.  A common misconception when someone begins using a cane is that they just had a major drop in their vision.  Sometimes this is the case, but many times the person is just sick of tripping over things and is ready for some help.

8. Most of us lead regular, happy lives.  After doing a presentation about my vision at my niece’s school recently, a couple of her classmates came up to her at recess and said, “We feel so bad for your aunt!  It’s so sad, and we almost cried during her talk!”  Hearing this made me feel like I didn’t really do a great job conveying how much I love my life during my presentation.  It made me decide to start my school presentations by telling the kids to smile and laugh because my story is not a sad one.  Yes, I have dealt with my share of sadness over having RP.  No one likes the idea of losing one of the 5 senses, especially the one that society places the most importance on, but sadness is definitely not the word that comes up for me when thinking about my life. Challenge? Sure.  Adventure? Yep. Fringe benefits? Yes please. Joy? Absolutely.

When you’re done crying over RP, there are so many things to laugh at. (i.e. On a recent trip to Chicago, I reached out to press the crosswalk signal button and began pressing on a man’s arm instead, much to his surprise.  You can’t tell me that’s not laugh-out-loud funny!)  While studies show that people who are blind or visually impaired do tend to have more nightmares, due to anxieties that sighted people don’t face, apparently these added anxieties do not have bearing on a happy, fulfilling life, as happiness studies find that blind people are just as happy as sighted folks.  Helen Keller sums this up best, “I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. “

by Roja Thomas (Joy’s guide dog)

When I wake up in the morning, I run in circles 90 mph until I almost fall over (don’t judge).  Joy and her kids laugh really hard when I do this, and hearing their laughter makes me prance around the house like an even bigger maniac.  I love when Joy’s kids are home, and especially when they have lots of friends over after school.  There’s nothing I love more than a house full of rowdy children.  Except when one of them pulls my tail (true story ahead!). Continue reading