Are Jigsaw Puzzles and Writing Alike? Checkout These 13 Similarities

Woman working on puzzle. She is seated at a table in front of a puzzle filling in the bottom section, while the middle and top are completed.

Jigsaw Puzzles Were Part of Childhood

When I was a kid, assembling jigsaw puzzles were a big part of my playtime. I started out with big puzzle pieces and as I got older advanced to the small pieces. You know the ones with the 1,000 pieces and more. It was my dad who introduced me. Jigsaw puzzles  and board games  were  played regularly in my household. We would sit  at the table for hours working on them. We would use large pieces of cardboard  to keep the pieces together as we assemble the puzzle. While the loose pieces would safely stay in the box.

A display of various accessible games on a table. Games include Connect Four, Braille Uno cards and Braille Dominos.

Today, I don’t work on jigsaw puzzles any more but they taught me a lot about life  and even more about writing.  Listed below are  some interesting similarities.

1. Assembling a jigsaw puzzle requires one piece at a time.

When I tackle a writing project I do it one step at a time. Writing an outline, doing the research, coming up with a catchy headline and on and on all require  organization and concentration. Well, at least for me. I mean I have juggled more than one writing assignment  but withing those assignments I focused on one piece of it at a time.

2. Assemble boarders first.

Young Black man sitting on bench in front of a building writing in a notebook

When I  jump into my writing I think broad then noodle the idea down. Also, borders  reflect boundaries and  structure. Creating boundaries help me with staying on track and being focus. It can be easy  to start off with one idea and then the next thing you are Alice going down the rabbit hole. Sometimes it is nice to let my mind wander, letting those creative juices flow  but once  I get the idea I need to pay attention to complete the writing assignment.

3. Try new things and don’t be rigid.

When assembling a jigsaw puzzle you have to make several attempts  with various pieces. If one doesn’t fit try another piece. There were times I was  too loyal to a writing idea, holding on for dear life. Everything around me is telling me to stop and try something else. I have to listen  and do  what my intuition says. I will keep the idea for future but move on to something new. This helps save time and mental exertion. When I let go I am energized to move in that new direction.

4.  Every piece is important.

You need all the pieces of the puzzle to finish it. This means every piece is critical and has its place. So it is with the writing process. The creative brainstorming, the topical research, the editing  and of course the actual writing. All these pieces  are valuable when writing  and can’t be left out.

5. Know what the end result looks like.

The front of any jigsaw puzzle box displays the finished work. You know  from the very beginning what the puzzle will look like after completion. As with writing I know what my assignment  is from the beginning. I know the number of words, the topic  and the expectations  from my client. All of that is ironed out in advance.

6. Pace yourself and be patient.

Close up of a clock

Working on a jigsaw puzzle takes time and attention. The more the pieces  the more the time. As with writing the bigger the assignment the more  the time. So, I don’t procrastinate rather I pace myself. Doing a little each day. This ensures a quality  product as a result.

7. Persevere to the end.

After the boarder is complete the real works starts with the inside pieces. It takes several attempts with  jigsaw pieces to find the correct fit. Perseverance and patience is the key. Even  taking a break, refresh yourself and come back. This tends to show up in crafting my headline or title. Many times I hit a brick wall and had to start over again. However, persevering  has resulted in some wonderful article and/or blog headlines I have been proud to write.

8. Visualize the completed picture.

Although you have the top of the jigsaw puzzle to see the end result, you still have to go a step farther. You got to visualize it in your mind and keep that image there the whole time you are assembling the puzzle. Forgetting and the work will become harder. You got to keep looking at the picture  to stay motivated and imagining the end result. Much like writing, visualize the completed article or post in your mind. What is the target or goal? How will it look in the end? Even what graphics, photos or images  will go along with the written words. What headline you will use. It is not just the physical writing but mental imagining.

9. Shut out negative talk and challenge yourself.

Empish is pulling a stretch band between both her hands. She has a grimice on her face as she attempts to pull and stretch out the band.

Ever tackled a large piece jigsaw puzzle? The 1,000 pieces or more? It can be overwhelming if it is your first time. People might discourage you  or your own negative thoughts might get in the way. But don’t listen and do it anyway. . . I have had to challenge and stretch my writing in order to get to the next level. Staying in the same spot will not produce growth.

10. Pay attention to details.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces are various shapes. Some are straight on one side while curvy on others. At first glance some pieces look identical but after closer inspection  you see the differences. These  differences  are what makes the pieces fit perfectly in their designated slots. So it is with writing. Pay  attention  not just to the writing process, but the specific words used. There are words  spelled  similar but have different meanings. Or words that sound the same  but don’t mean the same thing. Look closely when editing. Over the years I have improved my relationships with editors because I took the time to carefully comb over  my work before submission.

11. Got to use your hands.

Hands are writing with pen and notepad. They are using an accessible clipboard for the blind with a metal bar to slide down for each line on paper.

Assembling a jigsaw puzzle  typically takes  a lot of hand work. Holding a piece, filling its shape and size and then pressing it into place all take finger and hand movements. So, does writing. I use a mechanical keyboard  which is better for writers because the keys spring back and apply less stress on the fingers. I also wear a wrist guard to protect from carpal tunnel. Lastly, I do wrist, finger and hand exercises regularly to build strength and flexibility.

12. a feeling of accomplishment.

After persevering and working hard on a jigsaw puzzle  there is a feeling of euphoria. That sense of pride. You have a tangible object of your handy work. It is a wonderful sensation. Just like writing an article or blog post, I have that same feeling. Particularly, if it was  challenging to craft.

13. Assembling jigsaw puzzles stimulates the brain.

As you work on a puzzle parts of the brain and mind  are opened. You  use creative and problem solving skills along with boosting short term memory. The fact National Puzzle Day  is on Jan. 29   was my excuse to write this post. If you love a good brain teaser  or like solving riddles  and word games, celebrate this national day.

Not All Blind People Read Braille and Here’s Why

Empish Reading Braille Calendar with Her Fingers

Braille Literacy  Month is almost over and I am sharing  another post on the topic. Most people think  if a person is blind, which includes low vision and total blindness, they must know and read braille. For those that think this, I am about to burst your bubble because not all blind people read braille.

Some might ask if braille is a useful tool for reading and writing why don’t all blind people use it? If it opens up literacy, employment and independence  what is the problem? Well, there are several reasons why a blind person might not access this tool. But before I give those reasons let me clarify one point.

Decrease in Braille Reading Overall

Empish Using an iPhone

Braille reading is decreasing  overall because of advancements in technology. Devices like smartphones, audiobooks, and screen readers  allow blind people to access information electronically  verses reading printed braille. However, there are electronic braille devices like note takers and refreshable braille displays but a knowledge of braille is still required for their usage.

5 Reasons Blind People Don’t Read Braille

1. Braille is harder to learn later in life. There is a saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, and there is a nugget of truth in that statement. Learning braille is much like learning to read when you were a kid. You learned alphabets and numbers. then move to words and phrases. Lastly sentences and paragraphs. Although you were young and could learn quickly, it still took work, time  and tons of practice. Braille is no different. So, some older adults find it hard because of the work  and practice it takes to be proficient.

A braille watch is on the wrist of one hand with the top open. While the other hand figures out the time by pressing a finger on the raised display.

2. Medical reasons make it hard to read braille. IF a person has diabetic retinopathy, stroke   side affects or other  issues with their fingers and hands braille is hard to learn and read. It takes a light touch to read the dot formations. Even though the dots are raised  they are small and a sensitive finger is needed to read properly.

3. There are social stigmas  and stereotypes about blindness. Much like using a white cane, reading braille is one of them. If a person is seen reading braille the assumption is they are blind. Some people don’t want to have that label or disclose their visual disability  in such a public way. So, they won’t access it.

Empish Holding White Cane at Street Intersection

4. Regardless of social perceptions, reading braille is a personal acceptance of  having a disability. If a blind person has a negative attitude or is in denial about their disability, braille will be the last thing on their mind. Braille has such a strong association with blindness. Only after embracement will they be more open minded.

5. IF a person has  some eyesight  they might not read braille. Some who are low vision and can read with large print or magnification  might not learn braille. The idea is they have enough vision to do without it. But if  they are increasing the magnification to the point only a few words are on the screen or in the book, reading becomes unenjoyable, laborious and difficult. Also, reading comprehension skills suffer. But because they are not totally blind  there is little encouragement to learn braille.

My Own Braille Journey

I have been a part of the blind community for about 25 years and spent 10 of them working at a vision rehabilitation center. From my own personal  journey with braille and work experience  these 5 reasons  are my observations  and answer to the question why  blind people don’t read braille.

A black and white braille label gun with turn dial displaying both braille and print letters and numbers.
A black and white braille label gun with turn dial displaying both braille and print letters and numbers.

I am not a strong proficient braille reader. I made several attempts over the years  but  was not successful. I have enough braille knowledge to do the things that I need to for my life. That being proficient in alphabetic Braille is enough for now. I realize that reading books and magazines is a great thing to want to achieve but in all honesty my life is busy and I don’t have the time. I have learned to be okay with that.

Social Pressure to Read Braille

I also discovered that part of wanting to be a strong braille reader was because of social pressure. As a blind person you are supposed to be proficient in braille. That is what everyone expects and even sometimes demands. People are genuinely surprise when they hand me a book or document and I tell them I am not able to fully read it. There is this perception that braille automatically goes with blindness-no questions asked.

So whether you want to or not. Whether it makes sense or not. Whether you can or not. You do it or die trying! HaHa! That is what I was doing. I was trying hard to live up to this expectation that really did not fit who and what I am. I was not being authentic and true to myself.

Can You Bluff Being Blind? Read My Review on  James Tate Hill’s Memoire

a blind woman wearing sunglasses and holding a white cane

The definition of the word Bluff, according to WordHippo, is an attempt to deceive someone into believing that one can or is going to do something. It is bravado or bluster that is superficial or not backed up. So, can you successfully bluff your way through life? What about a particular situation? How long could you do it before exhaustion or reality sets in? Or what about someone discovering and calling you out? Lastly, why would you do it in the first place?

Emotionally Challenging Book

Empish holding book on Blind Tom

These are some of the questions that ran through my mind as I read the book, Blind Man’s Bluff   by James Tate Hill. I have read many books on blindness over the years, but I have to say this book frustrated and annoyed me the most. I struggled finishing but knew I needed to soldier through to write this review. When I write a book review I work hard to focus on the positive elements in the story and try to understand  the author’s perspective. However, this book was emotionally challenging.

I know most people have occasionally bluffed there way  through something. Me included. However, Hill’s story of his vision loss was a bit extreme. I am getting ahead of myself and haven’t even told you what the book is about. So, let me do that first and then share my review.

Book Summary

Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds
Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds

The audiobook is available at Bookshare and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Impaired . Bookshare says, Blind Man’s Bluff is a male writer’s humorous and often-heartbreaking tale of losing his sight—and how he hid it from the world. At age sixteen, Hill was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, a condition that left him legally blind. When high-school friends stopped calling and a disability counselor advised him to aim for C’s in his classes, he tried to escape the stigma by pretending he could still see.

In this unfailingly candid yet humorous memoir, Hill discloses the tricks he employed to pass for sighted, from displaying shelves of paperbacks he read on tape to arriving early on first dates so women would have to find him. He risked his life every time he crossed a street, doing his best to listen for approaching cars. A good memory and pop culture obsessions like Tom Cruise, Prince, and all things 1980s allowed him to steer conversations toward common experiences. For fifteen years, Hill hid his blindness from friends, colleagues, and lovers, even convincing himself that if he stared long enough, his blurry peripheral vision would bring the world into focus. Finally, at thirty, faced with a stalled writing career, a crumbling marriage, and a growing fear of leaving his apartment, he began to wonder if there was a better way.

Concept of Bluffing

Fifteen years is a long time to pretend to be something you are not. But I know people do it everyday. This book  caused me to think hard and deep about  the concept of bluffing. Hill spent Too much energy pretending, or some would call passing, as a sighted person. I was amazed  at the elaborate methods  and schemes he use to keep people from knowing how bad his vision really was. At one point in the book, he explained he would rather let people think he was a drunk butthole  than blind. Now that is pretty deep. It made me question what type of world do we live in when it is better to be a drunk butthole  than blind?

For the Benefit of Those Who See Book Cover

I have known for years vision loss is equivalent to the fear of public speaking. People feel they would rather die than go blind. There is an inherent fear of blindness in our society. So, I get it. After all I lost my vision after 25 years of seeing clearly. I do understand and have some empathy. But this is the thing. . Pretending to see when you can’t is dangerous. Not only physically but mentally. We live in a sighted world  and have to learn how to adjust. Perhaps bluffing is a form of adjustment? But for how long?

I remember when I first went blind, I did the whole “fake it to you make it.” That approach worked for a while but I couldn’t sustain it long. After a while it became mentally wearing and I had to disclose my vision impairment. No, it wasn’t easy. Yes, I had to explain more than I wanted. But at the end of the day people  got it and I was able to conduct my business and get my needs met. If you are pretending all the time I seriously doubt  the results will be in your favor.

People Looked the Other Way

Another aspect of the book that frustrated me was how complicit Hill’s family, friends, teachers and co-workers were in his bluffing. Over and over again there were examples when people in his life literally and figuratively looked the other way. People knew he had a vision problem   and really didn’t talk or confront him making the pretending last longer. Plus there was no mention of therapy or counseling. All of this were missed opportunities  for Hill to get needed support. A disabled life is hard and having a circle of support  is critical to being happy and successful.

Disability Visibility Book Cover

Reading about Hill’s life triggered this question-are societies ideas of the disabled that awful? Do we need more positive and real role models for people to see the possibilities? I’m not talking about inspirational porn rather images of people living their life as capable disabled people. We are lacking in this but I do see improvements.

Can’t Bluff Blindness

By the end of the story Hill is coming to an understanding. It is harder to pretend than just be real. He  is noticing how much he is losing in his life. So, the answer to my initial question, can you bluff being blind is no. Well, maybe for a while but it won’t last and you will miss out on the beauty of what life  has to offer.

4 Ways Pharmacists Provide Accessible Prescriptions to the Blind

Empish standing at the counter of her local pharmacy

The last two  weeks I have been struggling to get a prescription filled. Usually when I call my doctor my medication is ready in a couple of days for pickup from my local pharmacy. However, a new computer system  is causing the delay. As of this writing I am still without my medication. Going through this has caused me to reflect on the importance of  pharmacies and the people who work there. Yesterday, Jan. 12, was National Pharmacist day. I have been fortunate to have a good working relationship with my local pharmacy  and they know me by name.

Pharmacist Helped During Pandemic

Even when COVID  was at its peak the pharmacist  was very helpful and considerate of my disability. For example, when  the vaccine was first available the online forms to get a COVID shot were complicated. The online form also was timed which made it hard to complete quickly with my screen reader. My pharmacist  allowed me to bypass  this process and schedule my vaccines over the phone.

A prescription bottle laying on the side with medication spilling out.

My pharmacist also personally assisted me with  finding supplies to make it through  COVID. Products like Ibuprofen, rubbing alcohol  and hydrogen peroxide  were items highly recommended during those hard and difficult days. All of those supplies came in handy when I was overcoming the side affects of my COVID vaccine  and booster shots.

Pharmacist Sensitive to My Disability

I remember many years ago one of my regular meds changed. The shape and feel of the pill was different. My pharmacist alerted me. She was sensitive and aware of my visual disability and wanted me to be mindful so I could be confident I was taking the correct medication.

Besides these efforts to provide accommodations directly to me, pharmacies  offer free  accessible  prescription labels and info  to the blind community. This form of accessibility was established by the US Access Board’s Working Group on Accessible Prescription Labels and the FDA Safety & Innovation Act. Pharmacies responded to this government mandate  with the following measures:

1. Walgreens

Pill Reminder Device for prescriptions

Walgreen’s exclusively provides the Talking Pill Reminder. It’s a plastic disc with adhesive stickers to securely attach to the bottom of a prescription medicine bottle. The pharmacist records the info and  sticks the device to the medication bottle.

2. Envision America

Envision America provides an electronic medication label  called ScripTalk. This label is scanned and read from an app on a smartphone or the ScripTalk device.

Pill Reminder with labels

3. CVS  Pharmacy

CVS provides SpokenRX. Much like ScripTalk, this option also uses an audio label placed onto your prescriptions that are scanned and read by the CVS SpokenRX app from a  smartphone.

4. Accessible Pharmacy

Accessible Pharmacy sends medications and supplies through mail order. They deliver accessible devices, such as ScripTalk, large print  and braille labels; and special packaging options.

A prescription bottle with medication and a Pill Reminder attached to the top.

All of these efforts to make prescription drugs accessible gives blind folks independence and privacy. Plus avoiding serious problems like an overdose  or missed dosage. We all want to stay healthy and well so be sure to thank  your pharmacist.

How Much Do You Know About Braille? Learn More Reading These 15 Facts

Empish Reading Braille

January is the time we, in the blind community, celebrate Braille Literacy Month. Braille is a code created for reading and writing. This code, which is a series of raised dots on paper, has revolutionized the lives of people with vision loss because it has opened doors of literacy, education, employment, and independence.

History of Braille

Additionally, Louis Braille’s birthday was on Jan. 4 and this date is recognized internationally as World Braille Day. Braille was a Frenchman who lost his vision from an accident as a small child. His family enrolled him in the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. As a teenager there, Braille began the process to create a reading and writing system by touch. He continued to perfect the system and as an adult became an instructor at the Institution. Unfortunately, Braille’s method was not accepted by the sighted instructors and he died in 1852 never seeing his creation used by the blind.

Eventually, the code was accepted and today this system of raised dots is used all over the world. Yet, people still don’t know the story of the braille code  and why it is important. So, let’s get ready to learn more facts. Here are some interesting tidbits provided by the Perkins School for the Blind. Let’s see how much you really know about this writing and reading code.

15 Facts About Braille

Empish Reading Braill Bathroom Sign

1. Did you know braille was originally used by the French military not the blind? It was called “night writing.” Developed in 1819 by Charles Barbier and the French army, this system allowed soldiers to communicate at night without being detected.

2. Did you know Braille is a tactile code not a language? Many languages like Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew and of course, English can be written and read in braille.

3. Did you know braille is made up of 6 raised dots? Braille words and symbols are composed in a cell with a variation of those 6 dots.

4. Did you know every letter, number, punctuation and symbol can be written in braille? This also includes music , mathematical and scientific symbols.

5. Did you know braille labeling  and info is available for prescription drugs? A clear braille overlay is added by the pharmacist on top of the existing prescription medication label. This form of accessibility was set by the US Access Board’s Working Group on Accessible Prescription Labels and the FDA Safety & Innovation Act.

A display of various accessible games on a table. Games include Connect Four, Braille Uno cards and Braille Dominos.

6. Did you know there are toys and games with braille? Some of the biggest classic family games like Uno, Monopoly and LEGO are all available in braille. Even when Mattel added the  Helen Keller doll to their Inspiring Women Series Keller was holding a braille book.

7. Did you know the original braille code didn’t include the letter “w”? The French alphabet doesn’t have the letter “w” but it was added later when using other languages.

8. Did you know some braille readers  can read faster than a sighted person? While a sighted person can read 300 words per minute, some fast braille readers can speed through a book at 400 words per minute. This is because of a light touch  and using both hands-one hand reads while the other is positioned to start on the next line.

Empish wearing red top with matching red braille facemask

9. Did you know braille is on consumer goods? Online you can purchase braille greeting cards, facemasks, jewelry, beauty supplies and candy. Just do a simple search and explore the options.

10. Did you know Braille takes up more space than print? One page of print is about 2 pages of braille. When I had a braille Bible it was like a set of printed encyclopedias.

11. Did you know there are two forms  of braille? uncontracted braille , Grade 1 or Alphabetic Braille, uses all 26 letters of the alphabet and is often used by children or people who are first learning to read and write. Contracted braille , Grade 2 or Literary Braille, is more complex  and most commonly used. It is a shorter version of braille

12. Did you know the word braille is not capitalized? Only when referring to Louis Braille is the word in caps. Although, some blind people disagree and capitalize braille regardless.

13. Did you know there’s an asteroid named Braille? In 1999, NASA’s Deep Space 1 probe flew past an asteroid while on its way to photograph the Borrelly comet. NASA named the asteroid 9969 Braille in honor of Louis Braille.

Empish at ATM

14. Did you know braille is on the keypad of  bank ATMs including their drive-throughs? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates all ATMs must be accessible to people with visual impairments. This includes drive-through ATMs  even though blind people can’t drive. This directive ensures blind passengers sitting in a vehicle’s back seat can reach the ATM and independently make a transaction.

15. Did you know most blind people don’t read braille? Many people who lose vision as  adults may not know braille. You can learn even more about this in my next post on braille later this month.

Be honest. How much did you know about braille before reading this post? A whole lot or very little? Well, hopefully you learned more than you did before reading. It is important that all people regardless of vision level learn about the importance and power of braille.

Need Reminding? Never Forget with Accessible Technology Devices

Empish using iPhone
A closeup of various newspaper headlines

This past week I read a news article about the increase in people sending text messages to themselves as reminders. I had to smile  and nod my head  while reading the article because I have been doing something similar for years. Plus, today, Jan. 6 is National Technology Day and I use accessible technology  to never forget important  tasks I need to do.

Writing Reminders From Childhood and College

I am an organized person and like to create lists and reminders to track all  my activities. It started from  childhood. Everyday when I got home from school there  was a note  from my mother. She would leave me a to do list to complete before she got home from work.

Then in college I got a  day planner. It was in a beautiful 5×7 size red leather  carrying case. There I would keep up with  reminders and things to do. I toted that day planner around all the time constantly writing myself reminders.

Clipboard  for Reminders and Notes

As I slowly  started losing my vision, I moved to low vision tools. They included magnification software and devices. But more importantly was writing supplies like bold lined notebook paper and pens. I used them all the time  because of the high contrast and to compose reminders.

Hands are writing with pen and notepad. They are using an accessible clipboard for the blind with a metal bar to slide down for each line on paper.

I used a specialized clipboard to securely hold paper or  a notepad  . This  particular clipboard was designed with a metal bar on the left side for accessibility. I used it to write straight on the line otherwise my writing would go allover the place. It would be up and down or it would be on top of what I had already written. The metal bar has an open space for writing directly on the paper. As I wrote I could move the metal bar down a notch to proceed to the next line.

Phone and Email  for Reminders

Empish Using a Landline Phone

After I went totally blind, I didn’t use the clipboard with the metal bar as much. I moved to leaving reminder messages on my answering machine and voice mail. I would leave reminders  of things to do  when I got home while I was at work. I would also do the opposite by leaving work reminders while I was at home. One of my first things to do at work, besides turning on my computer, was to check voice mail. The reminder messages would be there for me to listen and take note.

I would also do this same with emails. Sending messages to myself back and forth from home to work. So, when I checked my messages those reminder emails would be right there in my in box.

Other Technology Devices

Empish Working in Home Office

Today, I work from home so sending myself reminders via phone and email doesn’t apply. Instead I keep a Microsoft Word document open titled, “things to do.” There I jot down notes and reminders. I also use my smartphone. There are many reminder apps on the market. But I just use my calendar app which provides a reminder feature. I can add an alert to a calendar event  sending me an audible notification. I also use my voice memo app to record  those brilliant writing ideas I get at 3 a.m. in the morning. This post was one of them. HaHa!

Empish Using an iPhone

Also current messaging apps integrate well  with the sharing menu on your phone making it simple to transfer  info. Plus, the article eluded to  a self text message feature in WhatsApp.

Got the Memory of an Elephant?

Not everyone has the memory of an elephant. I know sending reminders to yourself might sound strange or ridiculous yet it can be a good productivity  strategy. Most of us got a lot going on and distractions are constantly around. I believe in using accessible devices to make my life simpler, easier and more efficient.

What reminder devices or tools do you use? How do you keep up with your activities  so you don’t forget?

Start 2023 Off Right with 6 Audiobooks on Decluttering Your Life

A messy desktop

Start the New Year Off Right

It’s the beginning of the year   and Get Organized Month. What better way to  start off on the right foot than to clean, declutter and organize. It is hard for new  and exciting things to come into your life  when there is a lot of extra stuff hanging around. I don’t necessarily mean physical  things like your wardrobe , furniture  or housewares. Rather it could be emotional baggage, electronic clutter on your computer  or just plane old bad habits.

Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds
Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds

To help you move in the right direction, I found  6 books on getting organized. These are all in audio format and  can be found at the National Library for the Blind and Print Impaired, Bookshare and Hoopla. They are my go-to sources for great audio  reads. If you read print, I am sure these gems of wisdom are available  at your local library or where books are sold. Select one or two  and enjoy the journey of decluttering your home, workplace  and life.

6 Audiobooks on Getting Organized

A Caucasian woman is reading a book while holding it in her hands. The book covers most of her face where only her hair and eyes are visible. She is standing in front of a wall of books at the library.

1. Make Space for Happiness : How to Stop Attracting Clutter and Start Magnetizing the Life You Want by Tracy McCubbin

It’s time to make room in your life for happiness to blossom. Do you feel like you have too much stuff? A cluttered space isn’t just inconvenient. The truth is it’s hard to lead a joyful, purposeful life when the things around you detract from your relationships, habits, and goals.

But decluttering is more than getting rid of the stuff you already have. To make real change in your home, you need to look at how these excess possessions got there in the first place. This book examines the acquisition cycles that keep our homes overcrowded and distract us from going after the meaningful things we really want in our lives.

2. Making Space Clutter Free : The Last Book on Decluttering You’ll Ever Need by  Tracy McCubbin

Discover the freedom of a beautiful home, personal purpose, and joyful inner confidence Decluttering expert Tracy McCubbin offers revolutionary help to anyone who has repeatedly tried to break their clutter’s mysterious hold. Her powerful answer lies in the 7 Emotional Clutter Blocks, unconscious obstacles that stood between thousands of her clients. Once a Clutter Block is revealed—and healed—true transformation of home and life is possible.

3. Simple Organizing: 50 Ways to Clear the Clutter by  Melissa Michaels

Getting organized can feel like an impossible task. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. The things you actually use need a designated home. The rest of the stuff is clutter and needs to be removed. Once you’ve determined which is which, order can easily be maintained.

Empish selecting clothes in closet

4. Declutter Like a Mother : A Guilt-Free, No-Stress Way to Transform Your Home and Your Life by  Allie

Casazza

The author shares her powerful and proven method for clearing the clutter in our minds by first clearing the clutter in our homes, the place where transformation begins. When Casazza first became a mom, she found herself struggling to make it through each day. She battled fatigue, depression, and the unsettling feeling that she didn’t have what it took to do “this mom thing” well. When she realized the root of her burden was the overwhelm of physical clutter, she got intentional about what took up her space and time.

5. Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff : Declutter, Downsize and Move Forward with Your Life by Matt

Paxton

The author distills his fail proof approach to decluttering and downsizing. Your boxes of photos, family China and even the kids’ height charts are just stuff. They are attached to a lifetime of memories. Letting them go can be scary. With empathy, expertise, and humor, this book helps you sift through years of clutter, let go of what no longer serves you, and identify the items worth keeping so that you can focus on living in the present.

Empish mopping kitchen floor

6. How to Keep House While Drowning : A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by  KC Davis

This revolutionary approach to cleaning and organizing helps free you from feeling ashamed or overwhelmed by a messy home. If you are struggling to stay on top of your to-do list, you probably have a good reason: anxiety, fatigue, depression, ADHD, or lack of support.

For therapist KC Davis, the birth of her second child triggered a stress-mess cycle. The more behind she felt, the less motivated she was to start. She didn’t fold a single piece of laundry for seven months. One life-changing realization restored her sanity and the functionality of her home. You don’t work for your home; your home works for you. In other words, messiness is not a moral failing. A new sense of calm washed over her as she let go of the shame based messaging.

How I Got My Own Personal Audio Describer for  the Lion King

A lion head with a huge shaggy mane

While I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last month it was announced  the Lion King  was celebrating 25 years of its theatrical production. I recalled the first time I saw the Lion King. It was the animated version and I was totally sighted. I remember the incredible music and visual affects. A friend even purchased the original soundtrack and we would listen to it  during our car rides around town.

Missed First Production But Went to Second

Of course, this was many years ago and I am blind today. But my vision loss didn’t stop me. When I heard the theatrical production was coming to my local theater I had to go. The first time the production came I missed it waiting on a friend. By the time we got  to ordering the tickets it was sold out. I was very disappointed.

I promised myself next time to grab a ticket immediately and not wait around. So, when they came back again that is exactly what I did. Lesson learned. I was sitting on my sofa watching TV and the commercial came on announcing the Lion King was coming back to Atlanta. WooHoo! I ran to the phone and got out my credit card to buy a ticket. I didn’t even tell anyone, I just did it.

Excited About Live Audio Description

When I was purchasing my ticket the representative told me the production was available in audio description. I was elated. I was already familiar with how it brought movies and TV to life. I had also used audio description for plays  and musicals so I was aware of live audio description. It is very similar  to TV and movies but you get to engage with the audio describer right there in the theater. I would wear a headset to hear the description and the describer would be located nearby in the theater  giving me info on what was happening on stage. I was even more motivated to go. To see this wonderful production and then to have it audio described! Well, it just beat all.

Confusion About Audio Description

Two women have a sign language conversation at a table.

ON the day of the performance an usher guided me over to the deaf and hard of hearing section. I was confused because I am not deaf nor hard of hearing. Unfortunately, things like this happen all the time to me and my community. People lump the blind and deaf together as if we have the same disability. I have had friends  tell me of times people thought they needed a sign language interpreter. Or people talking really loud  to us as if we have  hearing loss. I mean it goes on and on. So, although I was confused I was not totally surprised.

I asked the usher about audio description and  now they were the one confused. I explained what audio description was and how it worked for the blind. The usher  didn’t know what to do so got a manager. While I waited I talked to the real time captioner for the deaf. I knew her from disability events where she  would do captioning. This type of technology reduces the need for multiple sign language interpreters  because the captioner would use a device to type and the words would appear on the screen for several deaf people to read at one time.

Got Personal  Describer

While we were chatting and catching up the manager came over to apologize. He told me there was a mistake and I was told wrong. There would be no audio description after all. He was deeply sorry for the misunderstanding and embarrassment. As I was processing this news another man came over to introduce himself. He told me he was a professional audio describer  and was here to observe the captioning process. He said he would be happy to audio describe the production for me. So, I went from major displeasure to major  happiness in a matter of a few minutes.

Described All the Sights and sounds

audience of people facing a stage watching a play. There is one person on stage surrounded by furniture.

We decided to move away from the crowd and sit closer to the corner of the room. It was a good spot for him to see everything  and to also talk in my ear without disturbing people around us. The production began with the animals coming down the aisle  moving toward the stage. It was just like in the movie  where all the animals  travel to Pride Rock for the ceremony of Simba. He described the vibrant and colorful costumes. He described the fluent body movements of the dancers  as animals. He described all the sights and sounds. It was amazing! Who knew I would have my own personal audio describer sitting right next to me.

He even described the dancers who pretended to be  grass and water. They were dressed in green. They had these fan-like objects in their hands also in green. This was to simulate the tall moving grass from the movie. It was the same set up for water. The dancers were in blue and moved their bodies simulating water flowing. He described other dancers dressed in animal costumes and how they moved around the stage just like the animal  they  mimicked.

A giraffe with an extended long neck

I was truly captivated by the creativity  of the production and talent of the dancers and actors. It was literally just like in the animated version. Since I was sighted when I saw the movie  I use my visual memories. Along with those memories and an excellent audio describer, I had a wonderful time. What started out as a disappointment turned into  an exciting moment for me.

Watched Movie on Disney+

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

This past week, to honor the 25th anniversary, I watched the movie again. It was available through Disney+ in audio description. Of course, it was different from the live theatrical production with my own personal describer. Who could match that? However, it was enjoyable all the same. Hakuna Matata!

Gaslighting is the Word for 2022 But It is not New to Me

A gaslight on the ground with an orange glow. It is outside at night with dark clouds above.

Gaslighting is the word for 2022. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced it last month. Gaslighting is not a new idea or concept. However, it has become more pronounced in the last couple of years with  the increase of misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news and  Twitter trolls.

Gaslighting Definition and History

So, what is gaslighting in the first place? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, gaslighting is “psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”

Gaslighting comes from the title of a 1938 play and the movie based on that play. The story is about a man attempting to make his wife believe she is going insane. He  intentionally causes the gas lights in their home to dim. While insisting to his wife that the lights are not dimming and that she can’t trust her own mind.

audience of people facing a stage watching a play. There is one person on stage surrounded by furniture.

Back in the day it referred to a kind of deception like in the movie. But today, gaslighting describes  something simpler  and yet broader. For example, a patient is not believed when sharing concerns  with a doctor. The patient is told their concerns are  not as bad as what they think. It is not only seen in personal relationships  but in businesses, religious organizations  and politics.

Gaslighting Not New to Me

Although gaslighting is the word for this year it is not new to me and people in my community. Let me give you a scenario.

Many times I come across inaccessible websites. And being the advocate I am, I bring this to the attention of the company  and/or developer. Instead of responding with a thank you for bringing this to our attention and we will fix it, I get a reply like this one. “Well, no one else has complained about this before. This is the first time I have heard anyone mention this situation.”

Don’t Feel believed

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have heard this reply. When I do I feel  distressed and frustrated. I feel I am not believed  or don’t know what I am talking about. Sometimes I am left to feel it is all in my head and I am the one with the problem. My annoyance and even anger starts to rise. I feel duped and not believed. As if my complaint is not valid because I took the time and energy to say something about it.

Just because others, for whatever reason, choose not to speak up and speak out doesn’t mean my complaint or concern is not valid. The main ingredient of gaslighting is to make the person think and/or feel  they are confused or wrong. It is about slowly stripping away self-confidence  and lowering self-esteem. When instead the problem should be addressed and a solution found.

Have to Stay Calm

Empish sitting on mat in a yoga prayer pose

So, what do I do? I have to tell myself to breathe and stay calm. I  know I won’t get the result I want going off and being upset.

Faking My Blindness

Empish Holding White Cane at Street Intersection

Another scenario is when people don’t believe I am really blind as if I am faking it. In my mind, I’m thinking why in the world would I fake a major, permanent disability. My life is hard and challenging  enough so there is no good reason I would pretend to be blind. Perhaps  people think I got the hook up with all kinds of benefits and perks. But I’m  hear to tell you , disability don’t work that way. In some cases, it is the total opposite. I sometimes get the crumbs and the leftovers.

Again, I feel distressed, confused and annoyed. I am left to feel like I am the problem and that what they are saying to me is not an issue.

Educate People on Disability

My solution is to educate as much as possible. But I have to tell you it can be exhausting. I have to check my energy level and if the person is really willing to be educated in the first place. There are moments I don’t bother and just try to roll it off my back.

Recognize Gaslighting

Two white and gold lamps in a living room.

So here is the thing with gaslighting. I have learned to recognize it more. I even read an audiobook recommended by a friend on the topic title, “Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People–and Break Free” by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis. Now that I know more about it I can see it coming and prepare myself. I let people know up front pretty quick  that I  am a smart, capable person. I won’t be easily fooled. I let them know it will be hard to gaslight me.

What about you? What has been your experience with gaslighting? How do you handle  it?

Do You Stretch Regularly? Read My Reasons Why You Should

Empish is pulling a stretch band between both her hands. She has a grimice on her face as she attempts to pull and stretch out the band.

Didn’t Take Stretching Seriously

I have been exercising for many years but never put too much value in stretching. I mean, I knew it was important  and a good thing to do. Yet, I just didn’t bother until a few years ago. I would just do my routine workout of walking, biking  or aerobics  and call it a day. I did little to no stretching before  or after. I wrongly assumed my exercising was good enough  but now I know better.

Empish on Treadmill

Stretching Gives Better Flexibility and Removes Pain

I started noticing pain and stiffness  and was told stretching would help alleviate  that. Now  that I stretch on the regular, I can tell the difference when I stretch and when I don’t which motivates me to keep going.

Today, I know the need for and importance of stretching and have added it to every work out. When I stretch regularly , I increase my mobility and keep my muscles flexible and strong. Working from home has created a more sedentary life   and I am also growing older. So, stretching is even more necessary.

If I let too many days go by without some good stretching, I feel like a real old lady. Everyday movements like climbing the stairs in my home become more difficult, cumbersome and painful. This could lead to a compromise in my independence and quality of life resulting in a greater inability to move. And  I aint going out like that!

More Reasons to Stretch

Not fully convinced? Here are some more reasons why you should  stretch on a regular basis:

  1. Relieves stiffness and soreness in your joints.
  2. Increases and maintains your active range of motion.
  3. Improves circulation and blood flow.
  4. Mitigates muscle imbalances that can lead to poor posture. Strengthening and stretching specific muscle groups can assist in promoting proper alignment.
  5. Supports injury prevention
  6. Enhances athletic skills and improves your ability to do daily activities.
  7. Helps with stress reduction, calming the mind and decreasing tension headaches.
  8. And my personal favorite. It putts a little more pep in your step. You feel lighter and younger. No old lady over here!

National Stretching Day

Empish sitting on mat in a yoga prayer pose

Sunday, Dec. 11 is National Stretching Day. Use this observation to either get in a good stretch and/or make a future game plan to stretch regularly. Learn about the benefits  of stretching  and how it can improve your life.