When you have a guide dog, you sometimes feel like a famous person getting stopped frequently to sign autographs, minus the actual signatures and paparazzi.  When I first got Roja last year, I loved it when people stopped me to ask questions.  I didn’t mind if it turned into a longer conversation, as long as I was able to share all about Roja and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

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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

 

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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. Continue reading

June was a month filled with travel for me.  As I maneuvered my way around bustling airports and unfamiliar hotels, my marshmallow-tipped white cane leading the way, I encountered the joys and challenges of blind travel.  While the majority of the public are respectful and kind, there are some rare “gems” that inspired me to write another round of thank you notes.  

Dedicated to my Daring sisters who met me in Salt Lake City in early June and know how to find the humor in blind travel.  

Thank you public restrooms, for having such a variety of flushing mechanisms, causing me to fumble around in a small area where the dirtiest of germs are lurking on every possible surface.  I am especially grateful for the toilets that flush before I have even finished doing my business.

Yours Truly,
On the Go Joe

Thank you stranger on my left, for keeping pace with me as I walk to baggage claim.  Yes, YOU, the one who thinks that I cannot see you slowing down when I slow down, and speeding up when I speed up.  Thank you for being my silent companion, ensuring that I get safely to my destination.

Gratefully,
Peeping Back at You Tom

Dearest Airport Security, Words can hardly express how thankful I am for your awkward gestures, vague instructions, and patronizing tone.  I may not have graduated from the same Ivy League college as you, so I am grateful that you talk to me as if I am 5 years old.  The way you instantly turn on your baby voice and say “good girl, good girl” as I walk through the screening process makes me wonder if you are about to tickle my chin.  But instead, you swipe my palms and send me on my way with a look that assures me of your pity.

Fondly,
Lady GooGoo Gaga

 

Originally posted on Bold Blind Beauty on June 7, 2016
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“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?”

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Photo Credit: Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind

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Originally posted on Bold Blind Beauty on May 3, 2016
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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