Many of us have seen that stereotypical image of a blind person wearing sunglasses and carrying a white cane. For years I wrongly assumed that wearing sunglasses was because the person either had no vision or their eyes didn’t look natural. It wasn’t until I lost my own vision that I learned otherwise.
Now blind people wear sunglasses for a host of reasons. Some might be because of total blindness or appearance of their eyes. Or it could be they have trouble making continuous eye contact.
National Sunglasses Day
Since June 27, is National Sunglasses Day it’s perfect timing to talk about this topic. The Vision Council started this day in 2014. The idea was to encourage people to wear sunglasses in order to protect their eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays. But let’s explore other reasons why the blind wear sunglasses.
Sunglasses Help Improve Vision
1. Again, not all blind people are totally blind. Actually, the majority have some level of vision. They might see light, shadows, shapes, or objects with magnification. Sunglasses reduce glare and help improve vision. A glare that only takes up a small portion of a seeing person’s visual field may take up nearly all of our visual field.
People with vision loss commonly experience photophobia, also known as light sensitivity. Sunglasses can decrease discomfort or further vision loss from bright lights. When I went blind I experience photophobia. Actually, it was what prompted me to seek medical attention. I couldn’t stand light of any kind; indoor or out. My eyes burned and I had severe migraines.
Sunglasses Protect From the Sun
2. When outside we all need to wear sunglasses whether sighted or blind because of the sun’s harsh UV rays. The blind are just as vulnerable as the sighted. Exposure to these rays can cause eye damage. UV rays increases the risk of developing conditions like cataracts or macular degeneration.
Sunglasses Provide Protection
3. All kinds of foreign objects can enter the eye and sunglasses provide a protective shield. Damage to the eye can be caused by dust, dirt, pollen and debris. Then there is possible eye injury from open cupboard doors, things flying around outside, or tree branches. Ouch!
Sunglasses Communicate Blindness
4. As I mentioned earlier, seeing a person wearing sunglasses and carrying a white cane is often recognized as a sign of blindness. Yet, some people who are not totally blind may choose to wear sunglasses to easily communicate blindness in certain situations. This encourages people to adopt helpful responses. For example, keeping a safe distance to not cause injury or harm, or to extend help when offered.
Bonus fact. We are fashionable and look for trendy sunglasses not just the typical black wrap around styles. For years I wore red trimmed sunglasses and alternated with ones with rhinestones.
Learn something? I sure hope so. Now you know why the blind wear sunglasses and it’s not just because we are blind.
Tuesday, June 21 is my birthday and I am breaking tradition. I am celebrating by writing gifts to myself. I know you are supposed to receive gifts from others and I will happily take them. I just wanted to do something a little different this year. After all the birthdays I have had, and there has been plenty. You got to spruce things up a bit and get a little more creative.
Now you may be asking, “What is a writing gift?” I am not talking about physical gifts like fancy or expensive writing pens or decorative writing paper. Not even cute little paperweights with witty writing sayings or slogans. Or a writer T-shirt with matching tote bag or coffee mug. What I am talking about are gifts that bring sparkle and joy to my creative process as a writer. These gifts are not covered in shiny paper and bows. Rather they are internal and part of the process of a writing life and routine.
1. Gift of calling myself a writer
No imposter syndrome here! Although I am currently not on the writing payroll, I do consider myself a writer. I am writing this post, aren’t I?
Publication and payment are not sole determinations of a true writer. Writing takes work, energy and perseverance but it is also fun and exciting.
Whether I get paid or see my byline writing is a gift. Not everyone can do it. Coming up with creative and interesting content, and writing compelling prose is a real talent. Nothing to sneeze at! The actual acknowledgement it matters is Honoring the time and talent to my craft.
Thinking of myself as a writer is a gift because half of the writing process is mental. I am the first person to make my work legit. If I don’t believe I am a writer then I can’t expect anyone else to believe it either.
2. Gift of time to write
My lifestyle affords me the time to write. I don’t have to squeeze it in between work and family. I don’t have to get up early before the kids wake up. I don’t have to leave my home for a quiet place to concentrate. I can write at any time I want. Morning, noon or night. I have even gotten spirts of writing inspiration in the wee hours of the morning. Booted up my computer and got to typing.
And because I am very organized I can plan and prepare in advance. Well, you know, as much as humanly possible. Things can come up unexpectedly. I can schedule my time, giving space for life, friends and social activities along with moments to write.
3. Gift of letting go
I am a perfectionist by nature and it comes out in my writing. I will ruminate over a piece of work, nick picking before pressing the submit or publish button. I am learning to let go and that this is a gift to myself. I don’t have control over how my work is received by others. I don’t have control if an editor will publish it or not. I don’t have control of reactions from a social media post. I can just control what I write on the page.
The ability to release and let go reduces stress and anxiety I didn’t even know I had. When I let go I can focus on the pure joy of writing.
4. Gift of boredom
Taking time away from writing to just sit and think about nothing is a gift. I do this in the A.M. while listening to the bird’s chirp outside or rain pelting across my windowpane. I just lay in the bed and do nothing. Letting my mind scatter, thinking of nothing in particular.
We all know, children get scolded for letting their minds wander, not paying attention or listening. But actually, in this situation, being a kid is a good thing. Mental musing is a gift . It allows the brain to recharge and helps creative ideas to flow naturally.
5. Gift of community
The writing life is typically solitary. Yet having a community of fellow writers is not competition but friendships that feed and nourish creativity.
Having others to “talk shop” builds connection and a sense of belonging. I am not alone and having others to converse with is a wonderful gift to myself. Every writer needs a friend who truly gets it without having to explain. Support one another through this writing life because we are all in it together.
6. Gift of saying no
Saying no is a powerful gift to myself. I have to prioritize what writing I am going to do. Do I have the time? The energy? The head space? The knowledge? Sometimes I want to be Super Woman and do it all. I don’t have to feel guilty or obligated to write a piece or take an assignment that doesn’t fit. Can you relate? I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have looked over writing opportunities trying to decide if I should take the gig or not. Sometimes you find yourself compromising for the money, the opportunity, the prestige. Or fill in the blank. This is the time to weigh the cost and use the gift of saying no. It will free you for that yes coming around the corner.
7. Gift of saying yes
Understanding the powerful gift of saying no, leads to the time to say yes. I am imagining that moment when this amazing writing assignment comes to me out of nowhere. The one I have been waiting for and didn’t even realize it. The one I was a little shy and afraid of. This is when I will use my gift of saying yes.
What Are Your Writing Gifts?
These seven writing gifts are included in my self care regiment and writing toolkit. They are great reminders of who I am and motivate me to keep going. Now, that you know my writing gifts, what are yours? Share in the comments and let’s celebrate the power of gift giving.
Last month I contacted the courthouse to request a copy of my deed. For some reason I misplaced my original and needed to replace it. As I was reading the copy they sent, it dawned on me that it has been about 20 years since I purchased my house. Where has all the time gone? As they say, time moves fast when you’re having fun.
Reflections on Purchasing Decision
I reflected on the past. When and why, I made the decision in the first place. What was happening in my life at the time. The steps I took to finally get the house. The challenges and rewards along the way. And today, how happy I am now for my simple yet cute piece of real estate, which is truly a home sweet home.
Next to my college degree, home ownership is another thing I am the proudest. The ability to have a place to call your own and have total control over is powerful and self-gratifying. When I made the huge step to purchase property, rental rates were continuously increasing while mortgages were not.
Benefits and Challenges of Homeownership
I reasoned why not look more seriously at home ownership. I thought about all the possibilities and positive outcomes. Things like a stable monthly payment. No more surprises when the landlord increases the rent when time to renew the lease. The sense of permanence . The idea of something to call my own that was solely mine.
Then I also weighed the challenges. No more calling the landlord when the toilet needed fixing or to service the air conditioning system in the summer. I would have to handle those tasks.
Of course, my disability played a major role in the decision but it was not a deterrent. I already knew people with vision loss who were homeowners and doing well. So, I knew it was possible. It was just a matter of educating myself, getting my ducks in a row and going for it.
Planning and Preparation to Purchase
I did just that with taking home ownership classes, reading audiobooks from the library and talking to friends who were long time homeowners. Also, I got advice from my family because I grew up in a house. My family up to my great grandparents were all homeowners so this was not totally unfamiliar territory. I just needed to learn the nuts and bolts of home ownership. I needed to weigh the cost because once I signed the mortgage contract it would be over. Unlike a rental lease, you can more easily walk away.
More Challenges of Homeownership
There have been ups and downs over these 2 decades. Dealing with the housing and economic crash in 2008. That was pretty tuff with homes foreclosing all around me. At one time I was one of two owners on my short street in my subdivision. It took time but over the next few years things improved.
Then it was dealing with noisy neighbors which ended when they finally moved out.
Next it was the pandemic. I had already been working from home however others in my community were now as well. At first, this meant constant slow neighborhood internet and power outages which improved over time as we all adjusted to this medical crisis. But because I was working in my home office, I was able to keep plugging away with no more disruption to my life.
I also had to replace and purchase new appliances. First it was the dishwasher . Next some years later it was my gas stove that died during the holiday season. Cooking my Christmas dinner was a bit creative because I had no working oven and had to use my microwave more than usual. Recently it was my washer and dryer that I brought with me from my old apartment days.
Today, I am happy and at peace in my home sweet home. My little town house has served me well. I am proud of the decision I made to become a homeowner and I have no regrets.
National Homeownership Month
June is National Home Ownership Month and was created to celebrate the value and joy of owning property. Do you own a home? If so, how has the experience been for you? Would you encourage others to also become homeowners?
I came across another excellent audiobook read from the library by New York Times columnist and bestselling author, Frank Bruni. “The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found” is a wise and moving memoir about aging, affliction, and optimism after partially losing eyesight.
The first time I heard about Frank was listening to his interview with the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Print Impaired. Then again with Oprah as he was discussing this book. I knew, when the book was available in audio, I had to read about his vision loss journey .
The book Summary from Bookshare. One morning in late 2017, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni woke up with strangely blurred vision. He wondered at first if some goo or gunk had worked its way into his right eye. But this was no fleeting annoyance, no fixable inconvenience. Overnight, a rare stroke had cut off blood to one of his optic nerves, rendering him functionally blind in that eye—forever. And he soon learned from doctors that the same disorder could ravage his left eye, too. He could lose his sight altogether.
In The Beauty of Dusk, Bruni hauntingly recounts his adjustment to this daunting reality, a medical and spiritual odyssey that involved not only reappraising his own priorities but also reaching out to, and gathering wisdom from, longtime friends and new acquaintances who had navigated their own traumas and afflictions. The result is a poignant, probing, and ultimately uplifting examination of the limits that all of us inevitably encounter, the lenses through which we choose to evaluate them and the tools we have for perseverance.
Bruni’s world blurred in one sense, as he experienced his first real inklings that the day isn’t forever and that light inexorably fades but sharpened in another. Confronting unexpected hardship, he felt more blessed than ever before. There was vision lost. There was also vision found.
Initial diagnosis and Advocacy
His story was very relatable, especially in the beginning. The first doctor was reluctant to give a proper diagnosis of his sudden vision loss. It was all maybes and guessing which can send you down the rabbit hole of possibilities. He was referred to a specialist who gave the final diagnosis of a stroke and no cure. I recalled some of the same experiences talking to multiple eye doctors. Taking numerous tests and also telling me there was no cure.
Frank stresses the importance of being your own advocate when it comes to medical care. Doctors are busy and you are one of many patients. Be prepared to ask questions and do your own research. Also, bringing a friend or family member to appointments to help is useful as long as they understand their role and let you take the lead.
For example, Frank mentions not knowing about low vision services or opportunities for clinical trials. Or the doctor not asking questions about mental and emotional health. I can definitely relate. The same thing happened to me too. I had to find out about those resources from other people, and once Did, I chastise my eye doctor for not informing me. Fortunately, he took the constructive criticism well and promised to do better.
Why Not Me?
Frank poses the questions, “Why me?” Yet, there is a better question, “Why not me?” Why should any of us be spared struggle when it is a universal condition? Comfort and happiness are not automatic; we should expect some kind of difficulty to come into our lives. Having this mindset leaves us unprepared for pain and struggle. I have always been told just live long enough and pain and suffering will ultimately come into your life. I have also come to believe that perfect or even excellent health is not a guarantee until death. At some point something on our bodies will break down.
Millions of Americans have some form of vision loss and that doesn’t include hearing loss or other bodily functions especially as we get older. Frank’s viewpoint is not that he overcame an obstacle but lives a condition. I appreciate this statement in the sense that being disabled is not something that I have overcome but what I live every day. It is a part of who and what I am. Yes, there are difficult moments but sometimes an ending is a new beginning. Sometimes a limit or a loss is a gateway to a new encounter. Skills you wouldn’t have acquired, insights you wouldn’t have gleaned come to live during this time.
Career as a Journalist
Frank talks about his career as a journalist and his ability to write well. When he lost his vision he made tons of errors in his writing. This of course was devastating. But he began to focus on the ability and the gains. The fact he could still write in the first place. Editors who still wanted to work with him and readers who still wanted to read his work. I can identify. I too am a writer and lost vision immediately after receiving my journalism degree. I wondered what kind of career could I have as a blind writer? How would that work? I knew how to do the work as it was all in my head from my education and training (I graduated with 7 journalism internships under my belt). The access to assistive technology as allowed me to pursue this not only as a career but as a passion.
Growing Old and Being Disabled
Privileges and blessings were so much greater than what was loss. It was eye-opening in Frank’s perception of the world around him. How he saw other people with disabilities and those who were elderly. These people were out here living their lives.
To grow old is to let things go. I see this more and more as I get older. But it first started when I went blind. My disability forced me to release the reins. I had to shift my focus and prioritize the things that really mattered. I pick and choose my battles because I want to live for another day. It takes energy to pay attention and/or push the envelope on everything.
Frank points out we are a country that focuses on youth. As a result, we miss the greatness of the accomplishments that people make later in life. People are still doing phenomenal things in the later stages of life. With aging comes wisdom and maturity. You feel more comfortable in your own skin. What determines people’s happiness is not their physical conditions but what they pay attention to. When it comes to being disabled you are not focused on that all day long. You are living your life, working, going to school, spending time with friends and family, etc. Frank finally muses there is beauty in every stage of the day, from dawn to dust
For some years now I have been interested in taking an origami class. I would see them advertised all the time at my local library. But thinking they were probably not accessible I didn’t pursue it until recently. The American Printing House for the Blind offered a virtual weekend origami class via Zoom. When I saw this opportunity I knew it was time to satisfy my curiosity and learn something new.
Surprise by Mental Benefits
Well, I was not disappointed. Not only did I learn how to make origamis but how to stimulate my brain in the process. And what a surprise! I had no idea that taking an art class would do so much to energize my cerebrum. It has been documented, tasks that challenge our minds strengthen our brains. Now, before I get to all the wonderful mental benefits I acquired let me pause and explain what an origami is and how things work.
What is an Origami
An origami is the Japanese art form of folding paper. When the paper is folded it creates either one- or two-dimensional objects. These objects can go from simple to the most complex depending on the numbers of folds. Typical origami objects are cranes, flowers, boxes, airplanes, boats, fish, rabbits and dogs.
Since I was taking a beginner class the instructor kept it simple. In other words, no complicated animals or other objects. During the 90-minute class I made two origamis. The first was a corner bookmark and second was a snack cup/pocket similar to the containers for fries at fast food restaurants. As I was creasing and folding my square piece of printer paper, it slowly dawned on me the mental benefits I was gaining from this class.
1. Mental Concentration
First was mental concentration. As I listened to the instructor, I had to pay close attention and focus on what I was doing. Making origamis are not to be done while multi-tasking. You have to focus on the direction of your fold, when to tuck or pull, when to crease or rip. You can’t be checking your social media or email, talking on the phone, or doing some other mind-numbing task. You need all hands-on deck. Literally and figuratively.
2. Persistence and Patience
Second was persistence and patience. Like two peas in a pod, these two traits are needed for successful origami creation. I quickly noticed the need to pace myself and breathe. I could feel some slight frustration creeping in as I was making my corner bookmark. I struggled with visualizing what the instructor was saying causing me to not understand her instructions. Then I fell behind and needed her to repeat the directions. fortunately, she was very encouraging, stopping to be sure everyone was understanding and not wanting anyone left behind. I was comforted by that gesture and it motivated me to keep going.
3. Problem Solving
Third was problem solving. Making origamis are similar to solving a jigsaw puzzle. You got to figure out where the pieces go. As you fold and tuck the paper; the pieces slowly slide together producing recognizable artwork.
4. Perfectionist by Nature
Forth was the wild card. I am a perfectionist by nature and this class exposed it. Yet it supported my creativity. It challenged me to aim for excellence not perfection. See, I wanted my design to be exact. I wanted it to be perfect but it wasn’t. The instructor told us to crease the paper and bend it back and forth to make it easy to rip off. This was excess paper we didn’t need. I followed her directions but when I ripped off the extra paper it was not smooth. The edge was jagged, not perfect.
I realized what was happening. This was my first attempt at making origamis. I needed to relax and just enjoy the process. I told myself this is an art class and remember to have fun.
Ready for a Brain Boost?
Need a brain boost? Looking for a mental challenge? Want to learn a new artistic craft? Consider creating origamis. It’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and why not explore this historical and cultural activity. You can learn more about accessible origamis by reading this blog post written by my instructor. Also , if you are a Facebook fan check out the group called Accessible Origami Project.
Even though archery is one of the oldest sports in existence, it is still practiced and played today. In recent years it has increased in popularity and is observed on May 14, the second Saturday in May-National Archery Day . In honor, I’m sharing about a woman who was disabled and very talented in archery. Her name was Neroli Fairhall and she was the first paraplegic athlete to compete in the Olympics. I initially heard about her listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Womannica. I was so intrigued I’m retelling her story. Hopefully after reading this post, you will feel the same. So, let’s get started.
Riding Horses and Accident
Neroli was born in 1944 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Since childhood, she was very physically active and rode horses Even competing in local horse-riding events. But that all changed in 1969 when she was in a motorcycle accident. As a result, she was paralyzed from the waist down. She was 25 years old and it seemed her life and career was over. I could definitely relate to this experience because I lost my vision at 25 as well. When you go through a traumatic experience it can definitely appear that things are over for you. That all you knew and understood comes to a crashing halt. But this is not the end of the story.
Archery Becomes New Sport
Neroli reinvented herself and tried a new form of athletics. She got with Eve Rimmer, who was at the time New Zealand’s most famous disabled athlete. Eve was paraplegic too and encouraged her to try shot put. Neroli realized she could still participate in sports. She discovered she had the aptitude and personality for archery. In order to participate one must be focused and calm under pressure, have a good eye, And a competitive spirit. She had all the above.
First National Championship
In 1976, Neroli competed in her first national archery championship and placed third. Three years later, she was on the New Zealand national team. Just one year after that, she was at the Olympics, winning her first national title.
Although a historic accomplishment Neroli never made it to the archery range. No one from her team did. Led by the United States, 66 countries, plus New Zealand, boycotted the Moscow-hosted Olympics in protest of the Soviet-Afghan War. Neroli was heartbroken. But she quickly regrouped and went to the 1980 Paralympics in Holland. She won a gold medal and set a world record in the double FITA rounds, an intensive form of target shooting.
Competing at Brisbane
In 1981, Neroli won her second national title, and was named to the New Zealand team for the Brisbane Commonwealth Games. It was the first and only time that archery was included in these Games. And Neroli was the first disabled athlete to have ever competed in any event. She competed in the double FITA. The four-day event begins with each archer shooting 144 arrows. This means 36 each at four different distances. The top 24 competitors then enter a grand round. Nine arrows, at each distance. Winner takes all.
On Neroli’s first day at Brisbane, she fought with the wind, finishing twelfth. But she persisted, and the next day, pulled herself up to fourth. The third day, she was third. The final day there was a standoff between Neroli and Janet Yates, a teenager from Northern Ireland and the favorite.
Janet Yates led. most of the day but began to crack under pressure during her final 3 shots. Neroli stayed calm. After much deliberation and a recount, It was determined by officials Neroli won the gold medal.
Made the Olympic Team with Challenges
In 1984, Neroli’s Olympic dreams finally came true. She made the archery team. But being the Games’ first paraplegic athlete proved hugely difficult. First, her steel wheelchair set off multiple alarms at airports and competition venues. Resulting in an inspection of every part of her chair even the air-filled cushion she sat on. Second, reporters circled her , each trying to get the scoop on her historic appearance. Finally, her execution was lacking. Neroli finished 35th in a field of 47. Perhaps this less than stellar performance was partly due to the little support for disabled athletes competing internationally.
More Olympic Competitions and Final Years
Still, Neroli would go on to compete in four Paralympics, five world championships, and win a total of five national titles. A shoulder injury halted her final Olympic attempt in 1996. During the final years of her career, Neroli coached elite New Zealand archers, and served as an administrator for disabled sports. Neroli died in 2006, at the age of 61.
I’ve never been great at growing vegetation. Plants and flowers don’t seem to flourish around me. The idea of getting outside in the heat. Dealing with bugs of all kinds. Tilling soil and getting dirty. None of these are my thoughts of a fun and enjoyable activity. Then add my visual disability to the mix and my interest quickly wilts like leaves on an unwatered plant. Although there are blind gardeners they must have a passion I don’t possess. But what I have found fruitful is writing about the topic. Now, that is something I can do.
I have been reading a lot about spring and it has inspired me to write about the season as it relates to the writing craft. I can’t grow an actual green thumb but I can do it with words. Here is how I do it.
1. Start New Writing Habit
Spring is the time to rejuvenate. The time for rebirth. The time to try something new. With that in mind, start a new writing habit or ritual. I tried something new with writing this blog post. Before writing anything down or doing any research I wrote a list of keywords that communicated spring and growth. Words such as: nature, nurture, flourish, blooming, blossoming, petals, plants, leaves, stems, root, ground, dirt, soil and germinate. This writing exercise helped to get the creative juices flowing. It boosted my excitement about writing this piece. I felt energized . Also, it helped eliminate using the same standard, old words and phrases multiple times.
2. Writing in a Different Genre
Another new habit worth trying is writing in a different genre. If you are a nonfiction writer try fiction. If you are an author enter a writing contest or pen an article for a newspaper or magazine. Just like growing the same crop every time the soil will lose nourishment, your writing can go stale. Your creativity can suffer. I have tried a new writing assignment. A submission I wrote was recently published in my local library’s anthology. it has motivated me to continue in this direction and I am working on another anthology submission for Black female writers.
3. Interact in Person
Spring is also the time to come out of the winter cave. During those cold months we stay at home and hibernate. Plus, the pandemic has made many of us hesitant to physically interact with each other. But this is the prime time to get out of the house. Slow down those numerous Zoom calls. Renew old friendships and meet new people. Whether it is a writing group, book club meeting, or just hanging out, these interactions boost positive energy perfect for growing creativity.
I am an introvert but love interaction. This spring I started attending live theatre again. I went to my first production last month and it was a wonderful experience. I will share more in a future post. Later this month, I will be meeting with my dinner book club in person for the first time since the pandemic started.
4. Write Down Ideas and Thoughts
Now, for the real dirty work. You must plant seeds in order for your writing green thumb to grow. Just like in a real garden, seeds must be sown in order for flowers, fruits or veggies to materialize. Something I do regularly is write down blogging ideas whether they turn into a published piece or not. This boosts my creativity and gets those little writing shoots growing. When you write a list of ideas you can refer back and it keeps your creative brain fertilize. You are giving your thoughts and ideas a safe place to grow and germinate.
The seeding stage is the most important of phases of a plant’s growth and can’t be rushed. In other words, you can’t speed up creativity. it has to sprout over time, and with water, sunlight and nurturing creative ideas will soon emerge through the soil.
5. Remember the Writing Process
Seeds are resilient to weather changes, fighting their way through the ground. You will see little spurts of green sprouts inching their way up. As a writer it is easy to focus on the victories and successes of our craft. The published article, blog or even book, without properly acknowledging the hard work it took to get there. There is real time and struggle in accomplishing any objective or success story. Remember the experience and don’t forget the writing process as you work toward your goals. Enjoy the journey not just the fruits of your labor.
6. Stop Writing If Burned Out
Are your writing seedlings not growing? Don’t see any shoots sprouting up? Experiencing creative burnout? Yes, I can relate. If you are Stuck on the next section of a story, unclear on a headline, struggling with a character. Then stop. Do something totally different than writing. Do something you enjoy but doesn’t require a lot of mental gymnastics. This gives your brain a break allowing creative ideas to blossom. For me exercise is my thing. Turning up the music loud and walking on my treadmill not only is good exercise but I can relax and enjoy the moment. usually by the time I am done I can get back to writing. Other times, I will sit on the piece and sleep on it. Then come back the next day and continue to write.
Spring is here and full of writing possibilities. Use my ideas to inspire and refresh your work. I am sure that one, two or maybe even all of them will help you grow that writing green thumb.
Today, Apr. 25, is National Telephone Day and I am feeling somewhat nostalgic. I am reflecting on my usage of this important communication device invented by Alexander Graham Bell. I remember my first telephone. It was a white Princess model purchased from Bellsouth. It sat on my nightstand next to my bed. I remember my parents and I going to our local shopping center where there was a Bellsouth store. In the store were a variety of makes and models of phones much like the cell phone stores of today.
In my hone, there was one in my parents’ bedroom and one more in the kitchen. The kitchen phone was a wall mounted version with a rotary dial. For those too young to remember or those who have forgotten a rotary dial was a type of phone where you had to place your finger in an open metal circle and turn to the corresponding number you wanted. You had to do this one digit at a time and it was a slow process but that is how we dial numbers back then. Also, there wasn’t a need for area codes unless you were calling long distance.
Now getting back to my Princess model. I can’t remember if it was a rotary dial or push button because it was so long ago. All I remember is that as a teenager I had my own phone and that is what counted.
But having my own phone quickly ended when I started college and lived in the dorms. It was the phone in the hall mounted on the wall . Someone would yell loudly, “Empish, you got a phone call!” Then later it was housemates in an apartment. Depending on the situation maybe I had a phone in my room or not.
Blindness and Using a Landline
When I went blind the importance of the telephone and my ability to use it really became critical. I didn’t realize how vital vision was until I couldn’t dial a number on my landline phone. Back then cell phones were not really happening quite yet. This was back in the mid-90s. People were still using landlines. But my vision loss kept me from seeing the small numbers on the keypad. Initially I got a large print phone with high contrast. The numbers were big and pronounced. The colors were black on white for better visibility. But as I lost more vision those features were not as helpful anymore. I began to totally rely on the small, raised dot on the number 5, slowly navigating around the keypad. I started memorizing the sequence and order of the numbers to know which one to press. I also began to be more particular about my phone purchases. Touching carefully the display models in the store before walking out with one. I duplicated this same method when cell phones became popular. Carefully touching the display models to be sure I could access the buttons.
Today I am a master at my landline phone. Yes, I still use one . It has a large size keypad. A dot on the number 5. I can quickly dial numbers without even thinking much about it. I also have several cordless phones throughout my hone. All with distinctive keypads for easy dialing. I have these phones in case of an emergency because you never know when you need to quickly grab your phone. If you have a cell phone it could be anywhere in the house while you are someplace else.
Also Using a Smartphone
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my smartphone too. Unlike older cell phone models my iPhone is totally accessible with voiceover command. I just don’t make calls much on it. The shape and design is not made for holding up to my ear. Yes, I know I can get earbuds but for some reason I have been slow to get on that train. So, I use my smartphone for other things like reading my audiobooks, listening to podcasts and watching movies. I do some text messaging and store my contacts as a digital address book. I also find it helpful as a quick and handy dictionary and spellchecker.
The evolution of the telephone has come a long way. Who would have known that our phones would become minicomputers in our pockets or purses? The advancement of technology and what we can do with it is amazing. I wonder what Alexander Graham Bell would say if he could see how far his invention has come. I know he would say more to Mr. Watson than, “can you hear me now?”
Alexander Graham Bell and his helper, Thomas Watson, made the first phone call.
The first phone book only had 20 pages.
Mark Twain was the first person to own a phone.
In the United States, telephones expanded rapidly, from one phone in 1876 to 11 million phones countrywide by 1915.
By 1910, New York Telephone had 6,000 female telephone operators.
When Bell handed Watson the phone and said, “here, hold this,” the phrase “to put someone on hold” was named after them.
When Alexander Graham Bell died in 1922, all telephones were silenced for one minute with respect to the inventor.
In 1956, the first transatlantic telephone cable was laid. A telephone cable was laid across the ocean floor, reaching depths of 12,000 feet. The cable connects Canada and Scotland across the Atlantic Ocean.
There are around 150 million telephone lines in the world, with the number growing by thousands every day.
Suggestions for Celebrating National Telephone Day
Whether you still use a landline phone or only use a smartphone, or like me use both, celebrate National Telephone Day with these suggestions:
1. Call someone today you either rarely speak to or normally communicate with via text.
2. Who is your favorite person to talk on the phone with? Give them a call today and check-in to see how they are doing.
3. Feeling nostalgic? Inquire with your grandparents about the amount of energy required to “dial” a phone — and why they disliked numbers with a lot of zeroes.
4. And if you are really feeling musically inspired and bold call a friend or loved one and sing Stevie Wonder’s iconic song, “I Just Called To Say I Love You.”
As I’ve been watching the news on the war in Ukraine I have wondered what is happening to the people with disabilities there. Are they successfully escaping with their families? Or are they safely staying behind? I know war harms the lives, health and safety of all people involved. but the circumstances are far worse for the millions of people with disabilities and their families living in Ukraine. Getting reliable information in an accessible format must be challenging. Spotty transportation options and/or places to shelter safely are probably also difficult too. I know just thinking about the basic things of life like food, clothing and shelter, then add a disability to that equation has got to be incredibly tough.
Benefit Concert for Blind Ukrainians
As a disabled person living miles away from this devastation I was at a loss with what to do. Then a few weeks ago it was announced, on one of my favorite podcasts, Mosen at Large, a benefit concert would be held to help the blind people in Ukraine. This virtual concert would be an opportunity for the international blind community to contribute in two ways. First, of course, to give a monetary donation regardless of the amount. Second, to contribute our musical talents and skills to a very worthy cause. I thought this was a wonderful idea and blocked off the date and time on my calendar.
Well, the We’re With U concert was held Saturday, Apr. 16. It ran for about 11 hours or so, reminding me of the days of Live Aid, a benefit concert to help the famine in Ethiopia. It was fantastic! I was so proud of the incredible talent in the community . For hours I listen to singers and musicians. There was a classical guitarist, trombonist and poet. All varieties of music were performed from rock, gospel, classical, operatic, country, reggae and jazz. There were even some performances from the theatric productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Hamilton and the Phantom of the Opera. There literally was something for everyone. The performers came from all parts of the globe-the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Spain, Romania, Ireland, India, Singapore, Germany, the Caribbean and more. It truly was an international united front to help Ukraine.
Stories About Blind Ukrainians
Not only did I hear wonderful musical selections but stories from Ukrainians themselves. I got to learn a little bit about what people with disabilities are really dealing with, driving home the pressing need more. Stories were told about blind children trying to shelter in place. A story of a blind person with cerebral palsy escaping. Another about accessing braille books in Ukrainian’s native language.
Multiple Ways to Donate
During the entire concert opportunities to donate were provided. In the US, people contacted the National Federation of the Blind who partnered with the World Blind Union. On their website there was a dedicated page about the concert and a form for your donation. The form was accessible and easy to complete. Once done I got an email confirmation of my donation.
For people outside the US, a donation form from the World Blind Union was available. According to their website, The WBU is the principal organization that represents and speaks on behalf of blind and partially sighted persons at the international level. The WBU derives its strength from its members in approximately 190 countries worldwide. The WBU reflects the aspirations of blind persons for equality and full participation.
The concert started at 2 p.m. with an amount of around $30,000. By the time I started yawning and nodding off at 1 a.m. the total was around $80,000. And this is not the grand total by any means. For people who didn’t have internet access a phone number was available to receive a call back. Also, there is probably opportunities to still give as the weeks progress. Again, I was immensely proud of all that we were doing to help blind and visually impaired Ukrainians.
Concert was an Opportunity to Give
I have no idea when this war will end but I do take some comfort in knowing that I helped in some small way. The We’re With U concert gave me the chance to give not only to those who are currently disabled but those who will become so because of this war. As we all know war injuries can result in PSD, amputations, deafness and blindness. I also am giving back by writing this post. Hopefully, you will read it. Share with friends and family. And most importantly, donate to the people of Ukraine.
Although this year’s tax filing deadline is right around the corner on April 18, I traditionally file my taxes in February or March. I figure the sooner the better and to just get the whole maddening business out of the way quickly. But more importantly I file early because things get pretty busy and hectic. This way I avoid the stress and anxiety as much as possible.
Before losing my vision I prepared my taxes myself. It was fairly simple and straightforward. But afterward, I lacked the confidence to do it on my own and some tax preparation products and tools were not very accessible or complicated. Even though tax filing has become more accessible over the years I still prefer to have a professional handle the paperwork. So, when I was recently in my tax guy’s office he was telling me once again how organized my paperwork was and how easy it was to file for me. He tells me this year after year, marveling at how I do this with vision loss. I just smile and say, “Thank you for the compliment.” But it got me thinking and led me to share some of my tax filing tips. The things that keep me stress-free and organized each tax year. Hopefully, you will feel the same after reading.
Make Excel Your Friend
The biggest tool I use to stay calm during tax filing is Excel. This software program is my friend. I use it daily for all kinds of things. To track my grocery spending. To track my Uber/Lyft ride amounts. To track my credit card payments. To track my out-of-pocket medical cost. Do you get my drift? Excel is a great way to track numbers for nearly anything you want. So, each year I track my freelance income and expenses. For example, on my freelance expense spreadsheet I create rows and columns for the date, company, expense description and amount. On a spreadsheet everything is laid out and easy to read. You can also sort and reorganize the columns and rows to crunch the numbers in different ways which my accountant loves.
Each year I create new spreadsheets with the year in the title so I know the difference. I usually will do a save as in Excel and just update the new one. I find this easier because the formula I use to calculate my totals stays the same each time. Then when I meet with my accountant I just hand him the thumb drive and he can clearly read and review the spreadsheets he needs for tax filing.
Create Email Receipt Folders
Now, how to deal with all those paper receipts. And no, I am not talking about stuffing them in a folder or shoebox. I have noticed nowadays most receipts are provided electronically. I can even get my grocery receipts sent via email. Now what I do is create folders in my email provider for receipts. I label the folder in accordance with what is in the folder. I use Outlook for this process. I have a folder for all my Amazon orders. Another one for house-related things. Another for medical. I refer back to these receipts for taxes when I need to. I can simply punch all the info into my spreadsheets and/or print out the receipt for verification if needed.
For receipts that are not electronic I store in a paper file folder for tax filing only. I have a dedicated folder strictly for this purpose. Throughout the year, as I get receipts, donation letters, home ownership tax statements and other documents, I place in this folder. Although the amount is minimal this step keeps me from getting stressed out later because everything is in one place and ready to go during tax time.
These paper receipts I store with a copy of my tax return and place in my water and fireproof safe. There I keep copies of previous tax returns for the future just in case the IRS comes calling.
There you go. My two biggest organizing tips for stress free tax filing. Some might be looking for a long laundry list of tips and tricks but for me it is really this simple. I have been doing this for years and it actually works. Hopefully, if tax season is stressing you out, my tips helped you feel better. With some organization and preparation this year’s filing could be your calmest ever.