IMG_3648

So much has transpired in the last 5 years of blogging together.  Our perspectives have shifted dramatically.  If you look at one of our very first posts, “To Tell or Not to Tell”, about whether to disclose our vision loss in public, to more recent posts about guide dogs and canes, the shift is obvious.  But it didn’t happen overnight.  And it didn’t happen without a lot of input and support from friends we met in the online community.

2011-2012:  We’re not alone.  Between our readers, Facebook groups and fellow bloggers’ posts, we discovered a whole new “blogosphere” of people with Retinitis Pigmentosa and other conditions.  It was this connection that pushed us to keep writing, keep exploring, and keep discovering new things about ourselves and the unique world of vision loss.

2012-2013:  There’s a lot more to life than going blind.  If you look at our archives, you’ll notice this is the year we took a little hiatus.  Jenelle had her second baby, Joy started working on other writing projects, and life got busy.  We took a little break from both writing and reading vision-related blogs for awhile, realizing that there are so many more aspects to our lives than vision.  But when we picked back up and started writing consistently again, we were once again greeted with enthusiasm and encouragement.

2013-2014: The blind community is as diverse as the general population. Blindness is something that crosses all cultures, age groups, genders, and socioeconomic levels.  Consequently, the personalities, likes, dislikes, hobbies, views, etc. are extremely diverse.  This was the year we really began discovering the wide array of people in the blind blogosphere.  We have had the privilege of connecting with a multitude of interesting, yet often very different friends in the online blind community, including blind active mama friends, crafty comrades  adventurous, witty intellectualsartsy, clever New Yorkers, blind Canadian advocates, bold blind fashionistas, and let us not forget our guy-friend blogger and his amazing TEDtalk. And this just scratches the surfaces of interests, personalities and geographic locations.  IMG_3646

Even among assistive devices, people have their things; some like dogs, others canes, still others echolocation, some nothing, some braille, some hardware, some software. Under the umbrella of “blindness”, there are a select few who are in complete darkness (10 percent, like our friend and Youtube talent Joy Ross), others who have light perception, some shapes, some puzzle pieces, some just in daylight, some just at night, some large print, and even some who “drive blind“.

2014-2015:  The blind community has a strong, growing voice.  There is a growing voice in the blind community that is influencing culture.  This is the year we really started noticing an explosion of public awareness in the media: bloggers started popping up left and right (blind mamas, blind papas, blind professionals, you name it!).  These people have always existed, but it seems they have been growing in their public presence and confidence.  A major magazine, Real Simple, feature spread on blind moms with guide dogs, and reality tv producers have been seeking out blind talent.

Most of these efforts are positive and have the intention of educating the public, though this rise in media attention has created some controversy over whether people are overdoing it in regard to “inspiration”.  We in the blind community are, after all, just living our lives, and humans have a way of adapting to most anything.  It can be confusing when simple daily tasks are hailed as “amazing”.  On the other hand, there are unique challenges when it comes to sight loss, and the human capacity to overcome and move forward is, in itself, inspiring.  From our perspective, if it can help inspire others to do the same in their own lives, whatever their unique challenge happens to be, then it is noteworthy.

IMG_36472015-2016:  Shame is a common theme.  We used to think that we were the only ones who tried to hide our vision loss.  We have since discovered that this is actually a common phenomenon among people losing their eyesight.  Fortunately, amazing organizations such as the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind, are recognizing that this is an issue and have training, counseling and other programs available to help people get past the stigma.  “For those with changing vision, the daunting part is not usually the fear of darkness, but.the fear of admitting that you’re different.” – San Francisco Lighthouse For the Blind & Visually Impaired

 

IMG_1589

photo description: A woman’s face (Joy!) is morphed with a man’s beard and hairline (Ben!). If you cannot visually see this photo, consider yourself fortunate, as it is fairly disturbing!

I was reminded of Benjamina last night when a cable salesman came to our door.  Fortunately, we now use Netflix and don’t even have to deal with Giant Cable Company any longer, but friends still teasingly call me Benjamina from time to time, especially when there is trickery involved. Please enjoy the legendary tale of Benjamina..]

45 minutes on hold.

5th phone attempt this week.

Just want to downgrade my cable.

Please, Giant Cable Company, hire just one more person. I’ll forgive you for routing the call to India. Please, just someone pick up the phone. I hate taking the phone into the bathroom with me. Please just pick up.

Flush.

Speaker phone. Good idea.

Elevator version of Phil Collins song. Bad idea.

Fold laundry while on hold. Good idea.

Bump the phone with the laundry basket and lose call. Bad idea.

Re-dial Giant Cable Company.

More waiting.

More instrumental Phil Collins.

Then a small miracle.

“Thank you for calling Giant Cable Company, how may I assist you?” Smooth, articulate voice. Nice enunciation. Young guy. African-American, maybe?

Fumble to get phone off speaker. Careful…..you must not lose this call.

“Hello? Is anyone there?”

“Yes, yes, sorry….just switching off speaker phone. “

“Can I get your name and account number?”

“Yes, 5320150. Joy Thomas”

“What can I help you with today, ma’am?”

“I’d like to switch to the basic plan, please”.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, you’re not the main account holder. I would need to speak to Benjamin Thomas in order to make any changes to the account.”

Not the main holder?

“Seriously? I take care of all the bills and household logistics. Plus, Benjamin is the one who told me to call and downgrade because we just don’t watch enough TV to make it worth it. I’ve been trying to get in touch with someone the whole week and finally just got through.”

“Ma’am, I would need to speak to Benjamin about this matter. I am not authorized to discuss Benjamin’s account with you. He will need to call back to discuss any changes.”

We are still talking about cable, right?

Irritation turns to panic.

All those hours on hold. Wasted. All those Phil Collins nightmares. For naught.

Ben will never have time to stay on hold for an entire week.

This will not get done unless I do it now.

Think fast.

“Um…okay. Let me get my husband on the phone.”

Panic rising.

You cannot lose this call.

Just be Ben. Use a deep voice.

Heart beating outside of chest.

Deep breath.

(pathetically-deep Darth Vader voice) “Hi, this is Ben.”

Pause.

Crap.

(incredulous, no-nonsense half-laugh) “ma’am, this is still you.”

Mortification.

Am I in an SNL skit gone bad? Doesn’t this guy know how improv works? Play along, dude.

You cannot lose this call.

(more Vader voice) “No, this is Ben. I want to switch our cable to the basic plan.”

(ice-cold tone) “Okay, in that case…..you would lose your current special Internet pricing. So doing this would actually increase your cost.”

I don’t think so.

(steady, deep voice) “Then I think I need to cancel our cable altogether. “

(fierce) “Okay, you can do that by bringing in a valid photo id to any one of our Giant Cable Company locations.”

Since when?

(still trying to stay Vader but hitting a falsetto here and there) “So you’re saying I cannot cancel my cable unless I physically come in to one of your office locations?”

(Stony) “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

Heat.

Panic.

Click.

Nice one.

You lost the call.

Now what?

Think.

Think.

You need to use your own voice.

With a new name.

Dial Giant Cable Company Sales, not Customer Service.

Someone answers right away.

Don’t waste time.

“Hypothetically, if I were to sign up for cable, would I be able to cancel over the phone or would I need to go into your office to cancel?”

(sheepish) “Um, as far as I know, you can just cancel over the phone.”

I knew it.

“Okay, I’m actually a current customer and called sales because your department answers the phone quickly. Could you please transfer me to Customer Service?”

“Sure”.

Routing.

On hold again.

Time to think.

No more Deep Throat. You need a different identity.

Seemingly less hold time.

“Thank you for calling Giant Cable Company, how may I assist you?” Young guy. But different guy. Phew.

“Hi, I’m calling because there seems to be an error with the spelling of my name on my account. There’s actually an “a” at the end of my name, Benjamina. Sometimes people mistake it for a guy’s name.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, ma’am. I can change that for you.”

Was it really that easy?

“Thank you so much. I’d also like to talk about different package options.”

“Certainly, Benjamina, let me go over some of our current specials….”

Downgrade successful.

Lower price and all.

Go Benjamina.

Several hours later.

Text from Ben: Why am I getting e-mails from Giant Cable Company written to Benjamina Thomas?”

Originally posted on Bold Blind Beauty on June 7, 2016
View, comment on and share the original post here.

“I don’t understand why I didn’t get the job,”

I said to my supervising teacher, “You gave me such stellar reviews from my student teaching, and I feel like I described my teaching style and goals really well in my interview. I have a 4.0 GPA, and the students loved me!  Did the principal say anything to you about why he didn’t hire me?”

Thomas03142016-31

Photo Credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind

Continue reading

Originally posted on Bold Blind Beauty on May 3, 2016
View, comment on and share the original post here.

Freedom in Acceptance

Jenelle & JoyIt’s 1983, and two curly-haired 5 year-old girls sit on their dad’s lap, staring into a screen of flashing lights.  They hold their heads back as doctors place stinging drops into their matching hazel eyes, and they wonder what all the fuss is about. Continue reading

(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. Continue reading

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….) Continue reading

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!

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

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