E is for Educate, F is for Farm

Marley, Jackson, and I under the McKee Ranch sign

Every day is a day to educate the world about blindness.  I especially love when I am given the opportunity to tell a child about my cane.  You see, I am not totally blind.  I have some vision, but not enough to read print, and prefer to use a cane if I want my steps to be confident instead of uncertain.  Not all blind people are totally blind.  Some may prefer to use the term visually impaired or having low vision.  Visual acuity measured at 20/200 is what is considered legally blind.  Not every blind person uses the same terminology, just like they may not use the same tools.   A person may choose to read Braille, while another person may choose to use magnification devices.  A person may choose to use a cane, while another person chooses to use a guide dog.

I walked around without a cane for 22 years of my life before being introduced to the National Federation of the Blind and attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind, what is commonly referred to as the Bootcamp for the Blind.  This was when I received my very first long white cane, where I learned how to read Braille, and was introduced to the NFB’s philosophy that whether blind or sighted, if a person is given the opportunity, and the training, they too can compete equally with their sighted peers.  This also,  was where I gained confidence to travel independently.  So, when a child asks me what that stick is, and the parents tell them to shush.  I jump at the opportunity togive a lesson about the cane and the common misconceptions about blindness.

E is for Educate.

A cane is a tool for independence.  The metal tip reverberates sound and vibrations of texture to allow the user to use echo location to gather information.  The fact that this cane, the long white cane, does not fold, means very little information is lost from the tip to the handle.  A simple tap can let you know if the building is in front of you or slightly to the left.  While walking through a parking lot, echo location from the metal tip informs you upon coming up to a parked car or even a shopping cart.

“What about those canes with the red handles?”

Those canes with the red handles are shorter, heavier, have a plastic or rolling tip, and since they fold into something that can be tucked into a desk drawer, backpack, or purse, are not what I’d prefer to choose for a mode for independent travel.

The long white cane allows me to travel with speed, accuracy, and confidence without the aid or assistance of a sighted person.

F is for Farm

Our most recent lesson on blindness was given to a family on a hay ride during a visit to our local neighborhood farm.

hay ride

You read that right.

hello Mr. GoatWe’ve got a fully functioning farm complete with all sorts of barnyard animals to pet and feed only two miles from our front door.

hello Mr. Horse

We visit McKee Ranch every October when it is transformed into a pumpkin patch.

hello Mr. chicken

We can’t forget about the old fashioned merry-go-round.

Jackson on the merry-go-round

The highlight this year were Marley and Jackson’s first time riding a pony.

Marley on the pony

Jackson on the pony

And Marley even got to meet Farmer McKee himself.

Marley and Farmer McKee

All in all, I’d say it was a great day!

Oh Miss Marley on the farm

Oh Miss Marley on the farm

E I E I O

And on the farm we had our canes

E I E I O

With a tap tap here

With a tap tap there

Here a tap

There a tap

Everywhere a tap tap

Oh Miss Marley on the farm

E I E I O

 

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October Reflections

As I looked at myself in the mirror this morning while I was brushing my teeth, it really hit me how much my life has changed.  I was slightly hung over from the margaritas I had at the concert the night before.  I had dark circles around my eyes, thanks to the lack of sleep that accompanies motherhood.  My husband was stretching on the bedroom floor, son babbling in his room down the hall, and daughter snoring in my bed.  I couldn’t help but smile and thank my lucky stars for such a wonderful way to start a day.

My first time in Las Vegas was in October of 2005.  My then boyfriend, now husband of five years, was moving here for work and I decided to keep him company on his drive out.  I was still in college, doing the clubbing, shopping, cramming, and sleeping in until noon on weekends lifestyle.  As he decided to leave Sacramento, I too decided that I was ready for a change.  I had just attended my first NFB of California State Convention and realized that my, “Fake it till you make it,” philosophy was not working as well as I wanted it too.  I decided that I was going to put the rest of college on hold and learn Braille, and did so by becoming a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind just a few months later.

In October of 2006, I left LCB and my safe bubble of friends who lived just a few doors away with positive blindness philosophy oozing out of my pores, and stepped off the plane into the next three years which would be filled with depression, denial, and distancing.

If you know me at all, then you know that I am a social butterfly.  I thrive with the company of others.  I am always smiling and love to share it with just about anyone.  But, I had know idea what moving to Las Vegas was going to be like.  I didn’t know anyone besides my husband and his twenty year old sister, who had her own social life that I had rather not tag along on.  All of the confidence that I’d gained in Louisiana seemed to disappear after a month or so.  I started to sink more and more into depression the more and more I allowed myself to stay isolated.  This is probably why I volunteered so much time and energy with the NFB.  So much time and energy that it started to take a real strain on my marriage.  I was gone all of the time.  I jumped at any chance to hop on a plane taking me to events all over the country.  I even left for a summer internship in Baltimore right after we got back from our honeymoon.

Then in October of 2009, I was just weeks from having a baby, house hunting, putting together a state convention, and feeling like I was the ball in the pinball machine getting tossed all over the place.  I didn’t realize how much having a baby would change my life, she was the anchor to steady me and keep me grounded,

On October 8, 2011 the last piece of the puzzle was put into place when my son was born.  Yes, exactly one year ago, I was holding my brand new baby boy wishing that time would stand still.

But of course it didn’t, and it is now October 2012.  My son has just turned one and tonight his big sister helped him blow out his candle on a mini cheesecake.  He is now walking, actually running all over the house chasing his sister and our dog, sometimes going so fast he forgets how to slow down or stop and runs into walls.  I have made so many incredible friends whom I love and consider like family.  And we will all be celebrating Jackson’s first birthday this Saturday in the form of a pirate party complete with bounce house and all.

I might not have a killer body, six digit pay check, drive a fancy car, or wear designer clothes, but this is the  life.  I could never possibly ask for anything more.  And I am so thankful for everything and everyone that I have in my life.