Empish on Treadmill

Celebrating National Fitness Day by Exercising at Home

Today is National Fitness Day and the goal is to inspire others through the power of fitness. Fitness is more than just staying in shape, losing weight or completing exercise goals it is about being good to yourself and celebrating what your body can do. It is about finding joy and confidence as you support others. So, as I was reading the website about National Fitness Day I was thinking about my years of exercise and now what that looks like under Covid-19. I have not been impacted too much with sheltering in place and practicing social distancing when it comes to getting in a good workout because I had stop going to gyms long ago when I lost my vision. I created a home gym back in 2003.

All my equipment is placed right in front of my entertainment center so I can either watch TV or listen to my music CDs while I work out. I have even placed one of my audio book players nearby to listen while I exercise. On a typical week I work out about 3-4times alternating between my treadmill, exercise bike, floor mat and hand weights. I am still making efforts to lose weight but I feel so much better that I created my own home gym to exercise. Whether it rains, snows or is sunny outside it does not matter. Whether a friend comes to workout with me it does not matter. I have everything I need set up in my home so I can do it independently and when I want.

 

Now that the corona virus has hit us, I am even more aware of the importance of exercise.  I need to stay active to fin off medical and health problems. I want to stay strong both mentally and physically especially if I have to combat this virus. When I heard about Angel Eyes Fitness, a non-profit program that helps blind people stay in shape, I added that to my repertoire.  For April and May the class meets via Zoom videoconferencing each Saturday for an hour. We do a combination of aerobic type exercises. I am really loving the change in my routine plus the connection to others in my community. It has been a long time since I have been in an exercise class and I enjoy the camaraderie and working with an instructor.

So, what do you do to stay fit and active? What game plan have you created to exercise at home during this pandemic? Share your exercise regimen in the comment section below and let’s inspire each other to stay fit.

Empish Writing a Check

Annoyance Leads to Advocacy in Accessing Mobile Banking Apps

in January I decided to start depositing my checks from my freelance work through mobile banking. Up to this point I was going into my local branch and making those deposits bimonthly. But it was time for change, to stretch myself and learn something new. In the past I did very little financial transactions on my smartphone and was not familiar with mobile banking. Flicking, swiping and tapping on apps is just not my thing especially when it comes to dealing with money. But after downloading the bank’s app, I found it rather simple and straightforward. I got excited thinking this was going to be easy and that I should have done this a long time ago but I soon realized I was wrong.

After logging in, I went to my account and selected the “deposit a check” option. I had already written that information on the back of the check and got it ready for the camera. This is when the challenges began. The first problem was that the part where you type in the deposit amount did not speak with Voiceover Command. Voiceover is the accessible feature in my iPhone that allows me to use my phone since I am blind. As a result, I had no idea of what amount I was typing in the box until I went to the next screen only to discover that I typed the amount in wrong. I went back to the screen and typed in the correct amount. This is a major problem because you need to know if you are depositing one dollar or multiple dollars. Once I got that corrected, I tapped the button to take a picture of the front of my check and tried to position the camera. But I kept getting errors telling me to place the check on a dark background and/or add light.

Feeling very annoyed and frustrated  with this I called the bank on my landline and worked with a representative in the mobile banking department. She gave some tips for the scanning of the check which I followed but it still didn’t work. I told her I would have a sighted friend to assist me and follow up. When my sighted friend came to help, she saw the issues that I was having and agreed with me that the app had some accessibility problems. She told me that there was enough light and the check was laying on a dark background so she was perplexed about the errors. We both finally gave up and I turned off Voiceover and let her deposit the check on my behalf.

 

 

Empish Using an iPhone

 

The next time I got paid I tried again and got the same error messages. But this time we are deep in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and my bank has closed the lobby except for appointments only and drive thru.  So, I made an appointment and saw the branch manager who watched me try yet again to deposit this check. He observed the inability to hear the dollar amount and agreed with me. He also saw how the error messages kept popping up about the dark background and lack of light. He reassured me that there was plenty of light in his office and that his desk was dark. so, he was puzzled why the app was giving that kind of message. After several attempts I gave up and had him deposit my check.

When this problem occurred in January, I filed a complaint immediately with the mobile banking department. They responded too fast to tell me that the app was accessible. I was very annoyed and irritated because I knew that was not true. After 20 years of blindness I have gotten replies like this before where people quickly tell me that things are accessible to the blind when they are not. I have learned to push back and use my advocacy skills. I explained to the mobile banking department that I couldn’t hear the dollar amount and there were problems with scanning the check. I also shared that there are buttons on the scanning screen that don’t respond when Voiceover is turned on. I told them that I even went into a branch and worked with a bank employee who saw me try and use the app and saw that it wasn’t working properly. I even went as far to ask did they ever have blind or visually impaired people help test the app before they launched it?

Not to be outdone, I even tried my credit union’s mobile app and had similar problems too. I was able to hear the dollar amount but again the scanning process for the check didn’t work. After all of this you might be thinking, “Maybe something is wrong with your iPhone?” Well, I thought that too. But my iPhone is only a year old. It is a fairly new model and has the latest software downloaded on it. I also reached out to Apple disability tech support and did a screen share to look at my camera settings. I explained to them the problems I was having with mobile banking and they reassured me that the issue was not with my phone.

So, what happens now? Good question. It is the end of April and I am still working on my complaint with the bank but in the meantime, I am using Lyft to ride and go through the drive thru. Just this week I left my home wearing a facemask and gloves riding in a Lyft car to the bank.  I am also continuing to talk with my freelance client about electronic payment alternatives. As a contract employee I have shared my struggles with getting to the bank and my concerns especially that we are in the midst of a pandemic. They have heard me and other freelancers and are working on a better solution.

I believe in advocacy and speaking up for myself. Even if I don’t get an immediate resolution to my problem my voice has been heard. It can be frustrating, annoying and exhausting but there is power in speaking up and speaking out.

 

Empish Rinsing Containers in Sink

Observing Earth Day Everyday

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This annual observance marks the beginning of the modern environmental movement and was created to mobilize people for greater protections for our planet. I have understood the importance of not being wasteful and recycling from the time I was a little girl. My parents and grandparents would reuse old household items. Things like jelly jars would easily substitute as drinking glasses. Old brown paper grocery bags would be reused to cover my school paperback books to keep them from damage.  My parents would also take bags of old clothes and furniture to donate them to non-profits like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Earth Day is an opportunity for me to continue these practices and more. But instead of observing one day annually, I honor Earth Day every day. I feel it is important that I do what I can to protect the planet that I live on. I know that I can’t do everything but I can do something.

I don’t allow my visual disability to stop me from participating in this significant event. How can a visually impaired person participate in the mission of Earth Day? You have asked the right question to the right person. Check out the list of things I do every day as part of my life routine.

1.  I use cloth earth bags for grocery shopping.  These bags work better than the plastic ones in the store. Plastic bags are filling our landfills and don’t decompose well. When I use my cloth, earth bags I have a lot more room for my purchases and I can use them over and over again. I even have a couple with insulation for refrigerated or frozen foods and it keeps the food cold until I get it home. I keep them handy by hanging them on the pantry doorknob in my kitchen.

2.  I take old electronics to a recycle center. I don’t place these items in the trash. Taking items like this to a recycle center is better because they will be properly disposed of. For computer equipment I give to my IT guy for disposal or reuse. I have given him old monitors, printers and keyboards that don’t work anymore.

3.  I use a white cane for travel and they can break and fall  apart after  extensive usage. So, I give  them to a local orientation & mobility instructor. She takes the cane and cane parts to make new canes. My donation is used for people who can’t afford a white cane.

4.  When it comes to old clothes, I have a couple of non-profits I donate to. Professional clothes such as blouses, skirts, slacks and suits I donate to Dress for Success because they help low income women get on their feet and return to work. They have even worked with blind and visually impaired women. I also donate clothes and household items to the American Kidney Fund because they will come to my home to pick up items. Furniture I donate to the Salvation Army and Friends of Disabled Adults and Children. I like donating items to non-profits that have been around for a long time and who also assist people with disabilities in my local community.

5.  I use to participate in my county’s recycling program. Last year they made some changes that made it difficult and complicated for me to participate.  But what I have done is suspend paper statements. I now get virtually all my statements electronically. That means my bank statements, credit cards and household bills no longer come in the mail. I don’t have to shred them anymore and try and recycle that paper. Additionally, I have cut down the junk mail too. When I get unsolicited catalogs, I called the company and immediately ask to be removed off the list. All of these measures have helped decrease the volume of mail coming to my home.

My list is short, and there are probably tons of more things that can be done. But my list is a great way to get started in helping our planet and others too.  I am sure after reading it you might realize you are already doing some of these things. Or you might realize maybe you can add some of my habits to your life too. But regardless there are ways to observe earth Day every day!

 

Empish Holding Shopping Cart

Online Grocery Shopping Difficult During Covid-19 Pandemic

The Covid-19 virus has  hampered my ability to do online grocery shopping. It has virtually come to a standstill. I have been purchasing my groceries this way for the last couple of years and loving the ease and convenience. Plus, as a person with a disability it has been a God sent. No more dealing with public transportation or trying to get a ride or paying for an Uber. No more waiting patiently for a store representative to take me up and down the aisles to help me find items.           I even had same day delivery so I could order in the morning and my groceries be at my home by late afternoon or early evening. What a breeze!

But now my favorite grocery store app is no longer working because of the high demand. Each time I tried the app an alert would say items are no longer available and pick a substitute but sometimes the substitute is not available either. Or the item appears to be available but when I tap on it for some strange reason it won’t go into my cart.  I have to have a $30 minimum to checkout and I can’t get enough in the cart to make the purchase. I had even signed up for their annual subscription for delivery thinking with Covid-19 happening this would be a wise thing to do. But during the 15-day trial period I cancelled it without penalty.

I am back in the store again. But this time feeling a little stressed because we are dealing with a pandemic and I should be at home sheltering in place and practicing social distancing. It is kind of hard to do that in the grocery store as a blind person because you need assistance. A friend took me and we both dawned our gloves and homemade scarf masks. We got there first thing in the morning when the store opened in hopes of avoiding large crowds. I held on to the shopping cart while she pulled it from the other end. This would give some distance although it was not completely 6 feet. As we went down the aisles, I began to get hot. I had worn a sweater because it was a cool day. I took the sweater off thinking that would help. But I remained hot and began to sweat. I realized the scarf mask was the problem. While taking a tissue to wipe my face; I am thinking that people are going to see me and think I got the virus! Then I really began to sweat! LOL! I finally had to take my scarf mask off because I was just getting too hot and feeling agitated. I needed to calm down and breathe. Relax and clear my mind. Tell myself that everything was going to be okay and that I would get through this. My friend was encouraging as she told me to do what made me comfortable.

We were amazed at the lack of body soap on the shelf in the health and beauty section. there literally was little to no soap! What was up with that? Of course, we had to hunt around for toilet tissue. We finally found some no-name brand. But who can be picky? We grabbed 3 packets and asked at the checkout how many because we didn’t want to hog. All the food items I needed I was able to find and I was grateful for that. At the checkout my friend explained the 6 feet distance markers on the floor. I had heard about that. I also had heard several ways to keep my credit card clean–from wiping it down with sanitizer to using a tissue to wearing gloves. I opted to just clean my hands with sanitizer and go from there. I brought my own cloth earth bags I had washed beforehand and we loaded up my groceries in them and headed out of the store. Once I got home, I changed my clothes, ate breakfast and then began the process to sanitize my groceries before putting them away.

Beside dealing with my Scarfe mask situation the experience was not too bad. It was more mentally exhausting than I realized. Perhaps just because of everything going on and trying to keep social distancing and being blind and touching things too. But what else could I do? This is all new, different and challenging. How are you grocery shopping now? Are you shopping online or physically going into the store? What has the experience been like for you?

Empish Using a Landline Phone

Still Using a Landline Phone in 2020

Yes, you read the title correctly. Your eyes didn’t deceive you. I am still using a landline phone in the year 2020. Even though I am in my late-forties, I am a bit old fashion and thoroughly enjoy my landline phone. You would think that with the advancements in technology I would have cut the cord a long time ago and got rid of my landline phone. In 2017 the Centers for Disease Control, CDC did a survey showing that over 50% of people use a cell phone   only and I would think those numbers are even higher today. So, why continue to have a landline? Well, I can give you at least eight reasons.

1.  I can get to my landline quickly and easily. In each room of my town house I have a landline phone. Two are cordless and two are connected to a phone wall jack. One in the kitchen, one in the bedroom, one in my home office, and one in the living room. No matter where I am in my home I can quickly and easily get to a phone. Whereas with my cell phone I can’t do the same., If I leave it upstairs in the bedroom, I have to run back up the steps to get it when it starts ringing. Or I would have to wear my cell phone on my body while moving around the house in order to keep it close. Neither option is very feasible or convenient.

2.  In case of an emergency, I can get to a landline phone a lot faster than my cell. If there is some small emergency and I am downstairs I can quickly grab one of my landline phones if my cell phone is upstairs. Every minute counts when dealing with a crisis.

3.  My landline phone is more comfortable to actually talk on. Especially now with the Covid-19 virus I am talking on the phone even more to friends and family  checking on their well- being. Trying to hold these conversations on a smartphone is very challenging. the shape and design of a smartphone is not practical to fit snuggly between my ear and shoulder like a traditional landline. While talking, my smartphone slips off my ear onto my cheek or shoulder. Also, the phone gets hot and damp then I have to shift it from ear to ear to keep dry. I don’t have these problems on my land line phone.

4.  My landline phones have easy to press buttons. All the phones in my home, especially in my home office have easy to press buttons on the keypad. I don’t have to figure out with flicks, taps or swipes where the numbers are. I don’t have to figure out how to maneuver call waiting.  I have an answering machine option built into my landline phone. And yes, I have an answering machine! It works well for those pesky robo calls because I can listen to the actual caller and decide if I want to pick up or not. Whereas with voice mail my talking caller ID would announce the number leaving me to wonder who was calling.

5.  My landlines have lasted for years and don’t need to be upgraded.  Unlike my smartphone that I have had to upgrade a couple of times to stay on top of the latest advancements, my landlines require none of this. They have lasted for several years with little to no maintenance.

6.  I don’t want to be available constantly. If I had just a cell phone then my personal and business calls would come to the same phone and it would be ringing too often. I don’t want to constantly be on call all the time. I want to be able to separate home from work life. The fact that I have a home number and cell number helps to keep the two separated and my life more balanced.

7.  If my cell phone is lost, stolen or damaged I might be up the creek. Fortunately, I have a landline so I don’t have to worry. If something were to happen to my cell phone, I have another phone to make my calls and handle my affairs. If my cell phone were damaged and I needed to ship it off for repairs what would I do in the meantime? What would be the backup plan to make calls and connect with people?

8.  The last reason why I still have a landline phone is because of my home security alarm system. I know that alarm systems can be connected to your cell phones but they are more expensive. I called my security company and they gave me a higher quote for monitoring service than my current plan. In addition, they would have to come out to my home and install a receiver box that would pick up the signal with the cell tower in my area. This too is an extra expense. I politely said “Thanks but no thanks” and hung up the phone-my landline phone that is.

My reasons for keeping my landline phone are not to persuade you but just to share my personal experience. You decide what works best for your home and family. I have looked and weighed the pros and cons and will keep my landline. Do you have a landline phone? If so why or why not. Share your thoughts and comments below.

Watching Movies at Home During Covid-19

People Watching Movies at Home

People Watching Movies at Home

This weekend I would normally be out of the house watching a movie at my local movie theater. I would have already checked the listing of new releases earlier in the week and started making plans. I would have gone online reading the reviews and ratings on the films I wanted to see. But because of the Covid-19 pandemic I am at home.    The theaters are closed until further notice and I am watching more movies at home than ever before.

Prior to Covid-19 I would watch movies occasionally through streaming and mostly on DVD. My primary place to do this is Netflix. I have been a subscriber for many years and used it as a backup to going to the actual movie theater. If I missed a movie or wanted to watch it again, I would rent the DVD and catch it at home. In the last year or so I upgraded my subscription and added streaming.  On my iPhone I can watch all kinds of movies from miniseries, classics, blockbusters and Netflix’s own original content. the thing I love the most is that a lot of Netflix content is accessible to the blind and a large amount of their movies are available in audio description.

Let me explain what I mean by that. When it comes to the DVD’s I can go to the Netflix website and check for audio description. Movies are usually labeled under the details section with the verbiage “video description English” or descriptive audio” or some similar terminology. Not all movies on Netflix are available in audio description. If it is something I still want to see I will do some research beforehand so when I do watch it, I understand what is happening.  Now, the tricky part of watching a movie on DVD in audio description is that I have to get sighted help.  The audio description track is inside of the menu options and is displayed on the TV monitor which of course I can’t see. To remedy this, I use an app called Be my Eyes that uses sighted volunteers via my iPhone’s camera. The volunteer will see my TV monitor and direct me through the menus to turn on the audio description for the movie. So, what I do is hold my phone in one hand with the camera facing the TV while in the other hand I hold my DVD remote to press the buttons for the menu options. You might be saying, “That seems like a lot of work just to watch a movie!” And I would say, “You are right!” But I love movies and so I do the work. I am also sharing this with you so that you understand what the blind community has to deal with just to do things that sighted people take for granted every day.

Now, streaming is a bit easier to manage. Through my iPhone I have audio speech settings turned on and when I launch the Netflix app audio description will automatically play if that is available for that particular movie. Again, Netflix will indicate on their website if the movie is available in audio description. Additionally, I can get a listing of  audio described titles from the Audio Description Project. each week the site provides an updated list of titles along with a listing in alphebetical order of movies available. I place those movies on my play list and watch when I get ready.

because of these two options I have the ease of curling up on my sofa, laying in my bed or relaxing in my recliner to watch a movie at home whenever I want. But today it seems that having Netflix is not just a luxury but a necessity to keep me entertained since I can’t go out.

Zoom Videoconferencing Helps Me Live Work and Play During Covid-19

Zoom Logo
Zoom Logo

I don’t know about you but I have seen an increase in the request to join a meeting through Zoom videoconferencing.  I would dare to say that almost daily if not weekly I get an email invite to a webinar, meeting, seminar, townhall or chat. If you have not gotten an invite for Zoom in your in box just wait it is coming! But for those who are not familiar with Zoom let me fill you in.  According to their website, Zoom brings teams together to get more done in a frictionless video environment. Our easy, reliable, and innovative video-first unified communications platform provides video meetings, voice, webinars, and chat across desktops, phones, mobile devices and conference room systems.

I have been using Zoom since last year but my usage has really ramped up with the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a great tool for those of us in the blind and visually impaired community because we can easily connect with each other without the stresses of transportation. The Zoom platform is also very accessible with our adaptive technology that we need to use on our computers, smartphones and tablets. So, when I saw this increase in Zoom invites, I had to smile and chuckle a little. As we shelter in place, practice social distancing and work from home the Zoom platform has become even more essential. As a result, I have found some ways that Zoom helps me live, work and play during Covid-19.

  1. Socialization-As I shared before I was using Zoom last year. It started when I joined the Bookshare book discussion. I talked about Bookshare in a previous post here on Triple E and how much I love reading their books on Voice Dream. Well, last summer I decided to join their Zoom book discussion and I have been participating ever since. Each month we get together for a live chat to share our thoughts on reads we like, love or can’t stand.
  1. Education and Technology-To keep up with my adaptive technology I listen to webinars and seminars through Zoom. Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Freedom Scientific offer a large volume of educational opportunities for me to learn about the latest technology advances for blind people. Recently I attended a webinar about Microsoft Teams as it related to a current blogging contract.
  1. Volunteering-For years I have been a peer advisor with VisionAware, a website that provides resources to the blind community. As peers we meet once a month via conference call to discuss ways we can enhance the website, contribute blog posts and respond to inquiries from the community. We recently switched to Zoom for our calls so that our international peers can participate easier and more often.
  1. Medical-Just last week I participated in my very first telemedicine Zoom call. One of my doctors opted to meet with me this way verses a face-to-face visit because of the Covid-19 virus. A link was sent to me and we talked during our pre-scheduled appointment time. Things went very well except for the video portion Since in my previous meetings I don’t use it. After a couple of tries I was not able to turn it on. I am currently reading a tutorial so I can correct this problem.
  1. Physical Fitness-I exercise on a regular basis in my home using a treadmill, recumbent bike, mat and weights. But I get bored and have been looking for a change. I came across Angel Eyes Fitness, which is a non-profit program that helps blind people stay in shape. They offer Zoom workout classes because of the challenges with transportation. So, this past weekend I went to the website and took advantage of the free Pilates class.

Zoom has become a great way for me to live, work and play while dealing with the Covid-19 virus. As I shelter in place and work from home, I anticipate I will be using Zoom more and more. I see Zoom as a way for all of us to stay connected and live as we move through this challenging time.

The 2020 Census is Totally Accessible

Census 2020
Census 2020

I found the 2020 Census totally accessible. In the past I would have to get a sighted person to read the questions and fill out the forms for me; but this time around I was able to handle the whole process independently. Historically people with disabilities have been under represented and so this year strong efforts are being made to make the census inclusive and accessible to everyone. A downloadable and printable Census Bureau fact sheet on accessibility is available to learn more about these efforts.

Once I got my census documents in the mail last week, I went on line to the census website. I use a screen reader called JAWS which stands for Job Access with Speech. This screen reader allows me to access the Windows operating system such as Word, Excel and Outlook. I can also access things like PDF files and get online with Google. I am even able to write this blog and manage this website in WordPress! It has allowed me to work, live and play as a blind person.

But back to the census. So, I went to the site and logged in with my census ID number. There was a series of questions I had to answer and it took me about 15-20 minutes or so. At the end they had the option to review your answers before submission. Strangely, for some reason that screen didn’t pop up and I could only press the submission button. Next, I got a confirmation screen with a confirmation number and the option to save and print; which I did. I called the census toll free number to alert them to the small hiccup I had with the verification screen and was told that others had had the same problem. They apologized and said they were working on that issue. Aside from that small glitch I found completing the 2020 census to be totally accessible. Additionally, I could have opted to call verses doing the census online. Now, that I am done I want to encourage you to do the same. If you haven’t already here are some reasons why.

Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities annually. That’s billions with a B! The results also determine how many seats in Congress each state receives. Community leaders and elected officials rely on accurate census data to make funding decisions about education, senior citizen and veteran supports, along with other community allocations. Therefore, it is important to have accurate numbers. Everyone must be counted including people with disabilities! The Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention (CDC) says nearly 1 in 4    people in the United States has a disability with nearly 5% having a visual impairment. This means that having some kind of a disability impacts all of us.

Census data plays a vital role in people’s everyday life Even though the census comes around once a decade. Specifically, census data determines allocations for real-life necessities like health care, public transportation, special education grants, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other benefits. In addition, the census helps advocates, community leaders and politicians address inequalities in housing, health care, employment and education.

Valid census data also helps ensure fair voting representation and enforcement of voting rights laws. Federal tax dollars cannot be distributed fairly and effectively without an accurate accounting of the population.

Lastly, when completing your census form you can feel confident that your information will be private. Your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. The law ensures that your private information is never published and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Additionally, no identifiable information about you, your home or business, even to law enforcement agencies can be released.

So, when you get your census form complete it. Go online, call the toll-free number (1-844-330-2020) or get a sighted person to assist you. This year the 2020 census is accessible so there is no excuse to not do your part and be counted.

My Blindness Doesn’t Determine My Happiness

Ever since I lost my vision in the late 1990s to Vogt–Koyanagi–Harada (VKH) syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic, bilateral uveitis, I made a decision that I would strive to live a happy life. I was determined that my blindness would not control me and I would figure out how to live and make peace with my situation. Now, let me tell you this was not an easy decision! I still have struggles with it to this day. But it is something that I work at on a regular basis. On March 20th we will be celebrating the International Day of Happiness where the theme is Happiness Together; focusing on what we have in common rather than what divides us. This theme ties right into my own personal philosophy of life. One of the things that has kept me going and staying happy as a blind person is the positive community of friends I have cultivated over the years.  I have worked on being a part of groups that feed me and fill me up. It is important to be around positive people but also people that are honest and will tell you the truth along with allowing you to vent and release your frustrations. It has been especially uplifting with the epidemic of the coronavirus/COVID-19 virus. I have been talking to friends daily as we have been checking on each other and having encouraging conversations.

Empish Working in Home Office
Empish Working in Home Office

But during those early years I would have never realized that my life would have taken such a drastic turn. When I went blind, I had no idea that I would be permanently disabled and also working in the disability community. Today I am a writer, blogger and consultant in this arena. It is like what Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  My plans after college were to work in the public relations field, make lots of money, purchase a nice car and a beautiful home. It was not to go blind. I could have focused all my attention on what I lost. That would have been very easy and expected. No one would have hardly blamed me. But I decided to shift my mindset because I had a long life ahead of me and I wanted to be happy in the life I was going to have blind or not. It was a decision I had to make. So, I took lemons and made lemonade. I used my journalism degree and worked in the disability industry. That is where I am today. I realized that I am responsible for my own happiness. I can’t blame my blindness or other people for that.

So, as we celebrate International Day of Happiness, I encourage you to not only make a personal decision to be happy but find ways to help others be happy too. Be intentional in your acts of kindness. It doesn’t take much. It is easy for us to focus on the things that divide us but true happiness comes from seeking out the common ground and seeing our humanity.

How I Manage Anxiety Around the Coronavirus Virus

Picture of a Microscope
Picture of a Microscope

Each day more and more info comes out about the coronavirus/COVID-19 virus. I am sure you have heard and read the reports so I won’t go over it here on my blog. As a result, I could allow this constant bombardment of news and information to sweep me away causing me severe stress and anxiety. But I decided to empower myself, to not panic and maintain as much control of my life as possible. I want to share with you some things that I have done and will continue to do as we work through this global crisis.

1.  The very first thing I have done is pray. I am a spiritual person and believe in the power of prayer. I have found that this time of supplication helps to calm me and still my mind and soothe my soul. I can relieve my worries and fears and leave them with God.

2.  Reading news from reputable sources has helped me to stay calm. I look at websites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization. Since I live in the Atlanta-Metro area I also go to Emory Healthcare.  These sites have been great resources to gather accurate information on the Coronavirus/COVID-19  Virus.  I also read the news instead of watching it on TV. Broadcast programs can tend to dramatize and sensationalize information that traditional print media doesn’t. I read newspapers like the New York Times  and The Week. reading also gives you a fuller, deeper story than just a sound bite.

3.  I have been talking to friends and family for emotional support. I think it is a good idea to share fears, worries and concerns with people in your circle, and who you love. They can help you feel better and offer comfort and encouragement.

4.  This is an excellent time to focus on the things that I can control. I have no way to control the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Virus but their are things that I can. By focusing on those things, I have been able to keep myself calm and at peace. Some of the things that are in my control are recommendations by the CDC such as washing hands often, exercising regularly and eating healthy foods. All these things I can do. I have also made more efforts to get rest and sleep by going to bed a little earlier and/or sleeping in a little later. My work-from-home schedule allows me the flexibility to do this.

5.  Focusing on doing fun things helps me relieve stress and anxiety. If you have been reading my blog you know that I love reading and watching audio described movies. So, I am continuing to enjoy those things during this time. I am a believer in enjoying life and living to the full.

6.  I decided that I might not travel to visit family. I have a couple of trips coming up in the next month or two but I am not sure if I should travel or not so I had a talk with my mother about it. We talked it over and decided depending on how things go with the Coronavirus Virus that it would be okay not to come to the next family gatherings. My grandmother will be celebrating her 95th birthday and my nephew will be graduating from high school. Both events are very important to me but it might not be wise to go. I have made peace with the decision and will make alternative plans such as sending my grandmother a big bouquet of flowers and goodies instead. I have already started planning so that when the time comes around, I will be okay emotionally with whatever decision I need to make.

These six things are a part of my personal game plan to deal with the COVID-19 Virus.  I have no idea what the future holds but I will prepare and plan without panicking to the best of my ability. I will rely on facts not fear. I will look at evidence not depend on my emotions. This is all a day-by-day process. I believe with these strategies and my faith in God I will be able to successfully manage anxiety around the COVID-19 Virus.