Surviving

Feeling the warmth of the sun on a cloudy day. A glimpse into a blind billy goat's unique, ever changing perspectives.

2014 11 22 Week 12 Thanks November 22, 2014

Week 12 and a Holiday to Boot

Yes, that’s right. Week 12 has ventured in, made itself known and quietly stepped aside. Do I feel smarter? Should I be smarter? Do I look smarter?

Don’t answer that last one, and here we go.

It’s been a dozen weeks of text book prep. It’s been a dozen weeks of recording discussion. It’s been 84 days of trying to find the handles of the double doors. Let’s see. 12 times 7, carry the, yup! 84! It’s been 3 months of banging down through the aisles, trying to find my seat, setting up my laptop, grabbing my ear buds from my bag, setting my digital recorder on my desk, making a few friends, making a few more, learning a little, learning just a little bit more, recapturing abandoned brain cells, weaving down through the halls, listening to the echoes of my cane in the stairwells, receiving mobility assistance, receiving more mobility assistance, shaking hands, laughing at my instructors, laughing with my instructors, finding out that my recorder wasn’t recording, finding out that my laptop wasn’t connected to the school’s Wi-Fi, listening to my stomach growl in math class and listening for the wonderful sound of my wife tapping the horn in the Chevy at 12:22.

We’re heading into the home stretch of the semester, and I can’t believe it. The days have gone by so fast that it’s hard to remember all that’s happened. From the discussions with my DBVI VRCounselor Annette, to the futures planning meeting, to the first phone calls with the college, to the summer long mobility lessons, to having my picture taken in August with a KVCC t-shirt on, it’s been a marvelous experience, wrapped in the layers of so many amazingly inspirational people within the halls of KVCC.

There’s so many different ways to do what I have done, but none of it is possible without the help, guidance and assistance that I have received. I am blessed with family and friends who have shown their belief in me. This itself is worth celebrating. To have such positivity surrounding me is a gift that never stops giving. Every time I realize you all are there, your presence grows even larger.

With the holidays approaching quickly, there’s no time better than right now to thank you all for your help and support. In the true fashion of seasonal spirit, deep down inside there’s a warm fire burning that just plain feels good. The smiles and laughter of the season always seems to grab hold of me. I never know when it’s going to happen. I never know when the emotions will come flooding in. I never know how many ways there is to be thankful, until they all gang up on me. I just never know, but I do know one thing, I know that I’m going to keep my feet moving towards the spring semester with an even wider outlook than I had in August. I’m going to take my place in one of the seats, in one of the classrooms on the campus of KVCC.

I had a spammed post comment on my blog saying that that particular post was negative and led the reader to think that I was looking for pity, that I was feeling sorry for myself. I went back and read the post he was talking about, and although I did point out some difficulties I had been having, I also showed a sense of humility that had always been hard for me to face. I have been humbled on more than one occasion at school, and each time I have had the opportunity to absorb, adapt and advance my way towards the next opportunity to learn and grow. You see, I have listened and studied the friends I have made in the blind community, and I have learned from them that nothing is perfect, and if it seems perfect, then just wait a second, because it’s subject to change, just like everything else. I also learned that with these changes, I can also change with them. Such a brilliant concept that we all have the ability of taking advantage of.

Pretty cool, huh?

I want to wish you all the happiest Thanksgiving ever. I hope your day brings you smiles, laughter and love.

Don’t look now, but I hear week 13 knocking at the door.

Take care and stay warm.

 

2014 11 13 Week Eleven Reflections November 13, 2014

Week 11 Reflections

Did I hear someone say, “Week 11:? How can that be? How can it have been eleven weeks already? How can so much time have passed since my first day of college? Who paints all those little M’s on all those M&M’s?

Ok, ok, I’m sorry. I lost focus, and now I’m back.

I talked with one of the counselors in Trio today, and she would like to talk with me next week about how I’m doing in Math class. She seems very interested in learning how I am handling the accessibility of the school work, and what my opinion is with the whole picture. I have to admit that I don’t really think about the accessibility much, other than trying to figure out how to actually do the work that’s placed in front of me. It all revolves around accessibility, in one way or another, but you see, I do so much accessibilityzing that it just seems second nature to me now. From the time I step out of our car in the morning, until I climb back in after classes, all there is is accessibility. The biggest key to it all is being able to recognize it and utilize it to the best of my ability. The term comes in so many different forms these days, and all of it is geared towards making things, well, accessible.

One thing that really stuck out as being a brain drainer was trying to think through the speculation that tormented me with all this college stuff. I have always been a pessimist by nature, and it never takes things long to run around inside my head more than they should. My cup of college was half empty, and the more I thought about it, the closer it sometimes got to becoming empty.

I understand that speculation is one of the biggest factors of pessimism, and I also started realizing that it wasn’t doing me a bit of good. As many times as I have stepped through a new door, it never became as bad an experience as what I played out in my head. With four plus years of walking in through unfamiliar doors, I have learned to take things as they come and give each incident all that I have to offer. It’s possible that not having the visual input has enabled me to pass by some of my old characteristics and personal traits. It’s possible that not seeing what’s coming allows me to take a deep breath and just experience the experience. It’s possible that with each new step, with each new door, with each new handshake, a new beginning to a new way of thinking and being is being born. It’s possible that the further along this new chapter I’m able to read, the further I am away from the last one. It’s possible that I’ve written the word “possible” a couple times too many.

Yes, that was week eleven that just flew by. With all the pages and documents and recordings and emails, I’m fairly certain that what I just witnessed was probably quite similar to what next week will bring.

Accessibility is the key. Digital technology holds the key. I don’t think I could have picked a better time to lose my vision. The wonderment of modern innovations has given so many tools to the blindness community. Independence starts within, but it is definitely enhanced by those who keep on creating their imaginations wildest dreams.

Speaking of the imagination’s wildest dreams, I do believe I’m just about to start week number twelve. Could this be true? Could this be possible? Could this be the start of something incredibly amazing?

I’m already eleven weeks past the start, so, I’ll let you figure that one out.

 

2014 11 08 So… November 8, 2014

So, this is life? This is what all those morning sun rises have brought? This is what a million smiles shedding a million tears wrapped in a million fears locked inside fifty years looks like?

Is this life of mine so different from anyone else’s? With all the people I have brushed up against, talked to, looked at, loved, cherished, frowned upon, laughed with, laughed at, admired, envied, pitied, and been inspired by experiencing this same life thing?

I wonder, as I think back and remember, as I look ahead and ponder, as I realize where I am and figure, what would life be like for everyone else if I hadn’t ever been around? No one would wonder what happened to me, because they wouldn’t be thinking of someone who never was. All my things would have belonged to someone else, or maybe they never would have existed? I always say that no matter where you go, there you are. I say that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I always say that I lost my sight so that I could learn how to see. What is it that I’m actually seeing these days? The dull, gray shadows must hold something that I could never have seen before, because their meaning seems so evident. An unfamiliar definition that finally made its way into the light to become something I probably never would have noticed if I could see it.

Everything in my life these days has taken on a new look, a new feel, a new meaning that I need to learn. Everything I can’t see continuously comes flooding in with a painted description, not only of what might be, but a description of what it could become. Amazing possibilities, filled with such emotion that seems to have eluded me until now.

How wonderful is life? How incredibly lucky are we to have a life full of wonderment and magic. How lucky am I to have a mind full of smiles that I can attach to a voice, a memory to put with an emotion, a tingle up my spine to place along side a first time experience.

I can’t argue with the logic so often used to describe life as being so short. In an instant, here I am, half a century old and shuffling even further down the line.

I wish I could have all the complacency back. I wish I could have all those minutes I wished away back, if only for a minute. I wish I knew just how fast the hands on a clock can move.

So, this is life. This is why they write songs. This is what stories are made of. This is the best scene of a movie, the unforgettable chapter of a favorite book, the chorus of a mind bending string of lyrics. This is why a child learns how to crawl, why the training wheels come off of a bicycle, why the tassel gets moved to the other side of the cap. why the car keys are grabbed from the bowl on the kitchen table. This life of ours is exactly that, ours. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. It can’t be lived by anyone else. It can’t start deep inside anyone else but ourselves. It belongs to us, because it is us. No matter how many times you might feel you need to start it over, it becomes part of you again. It’s unlike anything else on this earth, yet it’s the most familiar thing in the world.

I seem to be experiencing parts of my life that are instantly becoming who I am. I never knew it, but each new experience makes up my day before I know what’s going on. Sometimes it’s a little frightening, sometimes it’s a little uncertain, sometimes it’s unannounced and undeniably different, but no matter how it transforms, or develops or becomes, it’s always there, waiting to happen, waiting to become, waiting to write the script.

So, this is life? This is who I am? This is my future shaking my hand, today?

There’s so much amazing influence that has led me to here. If I keep my feet moving, there’s no telling who I will meet, who I will talk to, who I will look up to. If I look hard enough, long enough, I can learn something from everyone I meet. Imagine the knowledge that’s out there, waiting to find a home. Imagine the possibilities that each encounter brings to the table. Imagine the impact on, life.

So, by the looks of it, this really must be, my life.

 

10 24 2014 Four Times Twice October 24, 2014

Four Times Twice

It’s a good thing I’m taking a math class. That way, I can determine how many weeks I have been in school so far. Now then, let’s see. Four, times twice, well, that should be like, umm, double up on the four? Right? Which should be, umm, oh I don’t know, err, 8?

Ding, ding, ding! Tell him what he’s won Johnny!

It’s a brand new week of school! Yes, that’s right. I’ve won me another week on campus, full of people who want to learn just as much as me!

Eight weeks of school. Eight weeks of college behind me. Eight weeks of campus achievement that I never have to give back. Eight weeks, and it’s all mine.

Almost two whole months of higher education, surrounded by other people who want to help me get smarter. Fifty six days of mind bending aerobics, dipped in savory curricular sauce, and smothered onto the most intriguing tasting tid bit my world has ever seen. Give me a napkin and show me where the bowl of dipping sauce is, because I’m hungry!

I guess I always had a passion for learning. I remember when I was a little tyke back in Little Falls grade school. I had three friends in my class, all boys of course, and we were all constantly going at each other, trying to outsolve, out learn, out test each other. It was like our own private competition, and we were good at it. I got straight A’s up till junior high school. It’s something that I always did, and it didn’t seem like it was really that hard. Well, I guess it didn’t seem hard because I concentrated and applied myself to the level that I was capable of doing.

Time sure has a way of changing some things though, and sometimes it’s not for the best.

I’m not sure what happened to me, other than to tell you that outside influences seemed to latch onto me and yank me sideways, and I found myself not caring, not wanting, not understanding how important a good, well earned education was, or should be, or could have been. I got caught up in a world of influence and peer pressure and it wasn’t too long before I completely lost my drive, my passion and my urge to gain knowledge.

I started hanging around the wrong crowd, and even though it felt like the right thing to do, it led me down the wrong path that wound up convincing myself that dropping out of school was the proper thing to do.

There’s no doubt that drugs and alcohol were at the top of the list of things that persuaded me of stopping my creativity, ending my intuition, putting a halt to gaining every single day. Drugs and alcohol stripped me of so many things that I had been taking for granted, and it wasn’t long before a different young man was looking back from the mirror.

Needless to say, a spiraling trend downward left me dropping out of school my senior year, I guess so that I could go to work full time and make more money. More money to me meant only one thing. More Money to Party!

I don’t really need to go into the details. I imagine most of you can muster up a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about.

So much wasted time. So much wasted effort. So much for continued education. I never really thought of myself as someone who would ever go to college. Perhaps that’s why this seems so unbelievable to me. Perhaps that’s why I feel quite determined to prove my old way of thinking wrong. Perhaps I feel I have something to prove to myself. Perhaps.

We live our lives as we see fit. We go through the motions at times, unaware of any other motions that could, or should come into play. We live and learn, but there’s always room for improvement. What we don’t know, we have never known, or knew and forgot, or just thought they must have been talking about someone else. Whatever it is, for whatever reason, taking that initial step sometimes proves to be the hardest thing about the learning process. After that, it’s amazing how our instincts sometimes have a habit of taking over and having their way with this learning thing.

There’s quite a lot I don’t know. There’s quite a lot that I’d like to know. There’s a lot of time that I’ll never get back. There’s only so much time ahead of me.

There’s no time like the present. Right?

 

10 10 14 Seven Weeks October 10, 2014

Good Bye Week Seven

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in college for seven weeks now. Each week, from the time I climb up the staircase in Hinckley on Monday morning, to when my ride arrives to take me home on Thursday afternoon in Fairfield, it’s a blinding blur, brought on by a beautifully woven tapestry of campus activity. I don’t know where the time goes, but man oh man does it ever.

I’ve experienced many firsts in 45 days. I’ve soared through the highs, sidestepped along the lows, made a few friends, learned a few things, been reminded of a few more, and I have to keep telling myself that I’m just getting started.

I’ve had a few fits with my new laptop, or should I say, a few more than a few. I am gaining with Windows 8.1 though, and as far as Office 2013? Well, let’s just say I haven’t thought of anything nice to call a ribbon yet. I’m working on it though, and sooner or later, those pesky little buggers will pay!

I’ve had some days when my lack of vision hasn’t bothered me, and other days when it was all I could think of. What I’m able to see changes as quickly as the weather, and if it wasn’t for the hours and hours of mobility lessons I had this summer, I’d probably still be trying to find the staircase in the Averill building in Hinckley. Probably be trying to find the doorway into King 112 also. How much I can see through my fogged up, waxed paper view really determines how some of my days progress.

My health has been good though, which I should never take for granted.

I have some wonderful instructors who have bent over backwards to try and give me the materials in an accessible format. You have no idea how wonderful it is to know that you all have my best interest at heart. None of this would be possible without your accommodations and insight, and I thank you all.

There have been a few things that have sent me spiraling, but with each incident, I absorb, adapt and advance towards the next opportunity to experience and learn.

I have been offered help by a number of students in a number of different situations, and all of them have been met with a slice of humility that reminds me just how generous and compassionate the human heart is.

I have come a long way in seven weeks. I have learned a lot, but mostly I have discovered an unquenchable thirst to learn even more. I’ll never get back the years that have led me to this point, but without them, I probably would have ended up somewhere else, and I think I prefer being right where I am.

I’ve learned how to see things differently these past four years, these past seven weeks, and the gained insight can be measured only with my actions and abilities.

Accessibility has come a long, long ways over the years. I couldn’t have picked a better time to have lost my sight. With all the technological advances that the digital world has brought to the blind community, it’s exciting to think where it’s headed, and what will become the norm in probably just a few short years. I don’t take anything for granted any more. I can’t afford to.

It’s been seven short weeks of one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It’s been 45 days of highs and lows, surrounded by pure possibility.

I look forward to the next seven weeks with courage, faith and hope, thanks in part from the encouragement I continue to get from all around.

I am extremely blessed to have crossed paths with you all.

dp.

 

10 08 14 Blinding Speed October 8, 2014

I sat in the doctor’s office in Boston feeling absolutely sorry for myself. I hadn’t been blind long, but it seemed a thousand years of hell. I hadn’t been sightless long, but I couldn’t remember what it was like to see. I hadn’t been in the dark for very long, but it sure seemed long enough.

No matter how I approached my seemingly unavoidable demise, no matter how I tried to regroup, no matter how I tried to remain positive, the barrage of unanswerable questions kept pounding me down deeper into the mud. Every time I found the strength to slowly pick myself up, another unsuspecting question came along and threw me back down into the cold, wet, breathless mud. One minute I felt like I stood a small chance of figuring it all out, and the next minute I felt like a devastated beggar, standing in line for a zip loc baggie half full of stale bread crumbs. I hated where I was, and where I was was all that I had. My life was gone. My wife was talking to me, but it felt like she was a million lifetimes away. My job was over, my hobbies were lost, my house had disappeared, my garden had up and walked away, my ash tree out by the well cover, my two dogs, my work truck, my double row of spruce trees, my son, my grandson, everything that was what I called life was all taken from me in the blink of a sightless eye and hidden deep into the darkness. The same cold, endless darkness that swallowed the world that was spinning around me at blinding speed, laughing and poking and ridiculing me until I crawled into a corner and curled up into a surrendered ball of brutalized blindness. What I had was what I didn’t expect, and what I had to look forward to was what I could never want. The troubles of my past seemed laughable compared to the destruction that had broken into my house and devastated the foundations of my home.

It hurt when I tried to think. It hurt when I tried to smile. It hurt when I tried to breathe. It hurt when I tried to live. From time to time the surging tide of disaster would ease, but as quick as it lowered, it came rushing back in with twice the force, completely catching me by surprise every time and leaving me bruised and scarred. It resembled what I would only be able to describe as hell, and no matter how much I didn’t realize or agree with it, I was in complete control of it all.

Not until I realized this did my future seem possible without vision. Not until I figured out that life was a train, and I was the conductor did any of it make sense. Not until I remembered that this life we live is reflective of situations that present themselves, and the choices we make with them define our character and set in motion our futures. When I remembered that this precious thing that I had been experiencing for nearly fifty years was a gift, and that each day opened up a newly wrapped present to live and love, only then did my future start to whisper to me and tell me that just perhaps everything would be ok.

I had been through trials and tribulations throughout my life, and for the most part, I had always been able to shrug them off, learn from them and keep on chugging along. It’s who I had become and it’s what I became used to. We all go through our own ups and downs, and we all find ways to cope and live with and through it all. We always find a way to absorb, adapt and advance our way into tomorrow, and when tomorrow does finally come, there we are again, smack dab in the middle of another experience.

Four short years have gone by. Four trips around the calendar have grabbed me and pulled me into today. Four amazing years of first times, first tries, first firsts have grabbed hold of me and pulled me off to the side, just to show me something different about life.

Four years have shaped and molded me into something I never thought I would become. With all the new gray hairs and all of the broken white cane tips, I have come to realize that maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be ok. I won’t know until I try, that is, I won’t know until I grab my cane and head out the door to see what I can bump into, or trip over, or knock over. I’ve come a long way these past four years. I’ve felt a lot of things, heard a lot of things, learned a lot of things and even seen a lot of things. I always tell people that it’s as if I became blind so that I could finally see. I don’t know what I’m looking at half the time, but I always know what it is that I can see.

If you see me coming at you, it probably means I have some place to go, or I’m looking for more chocolate.

Life is so short. If we only knew just how short it actually is, perhaps our journey would look a little different. I think back on my own journey of the past 52 months. I think back and try to take it all in, but there’s just too much of it. If the last four years are any indication of what the next four will bring, I’m in for one hell of a ride.

 

2014 09 21 So Long Week Four September 21, 2014

So Long Week Four

Well here I am, smack dab at the end of week four, and all I can do is root through the ups and downs of some of the fastest four weeks of my life. Through the month, I have tried to remain as positive as possible, and for the most part, I have remained grateful. I have stepped back when I needed stepping back. I took advice and used it when advice was exactly what I needed. I asked for help when I learned it’s sometimes what I do best. I accepted help when it presented itself, and though sometimes I didn’t feel that I needed it, I graciously humbled my ego and grabbed an elbow.

I forgot my cane one day, my ear buds another, and my digital recorder made it with me every single day of the month. I’d say that ain’t too bad for a rusty, dusty, tattered, old billy goat from the ridge. Actually, I’d say it was frigging amazing. Grin

I have been tugged back and forth with accessibility issues, mostly having to do with my laptop. Thank you Mr. Tardif for your patience and understanding. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. One thing I did was make a promise to myself that I would do my part to go the extra mile and try not to be a burden on my classmates, instructors, tutors and whomever I come in contact with. I am old school, molded by the hands of an old school father, and although he might not know it, I am a chip off the old block.

It would have benefitted me if I would have started learning my Windows 8 laptop earlier in the summer, but it just didn’t happen. Neither did learning Office 2013. Did I ever tell you I hate ribbons? If not, then let me tell you, I most undoubtedly do. I suppose I had been able to cheat with my Office 2003. You see, my sight was still with me back when I used the old fashioned tab menus and drop lists. I could picture them in my mind and was comfortable with them. I was never much of an Office user, but I was familiar with how to go about using it. Not so with these pesky ribbons. Not so to the nth degree.

Did I ever tell you I hate ribbons? I’m not too fond of bows either, and it’s all Microsoft’s fault. I await the release of Windows 9 and pray it falls back upon some overdue logic.

I have had a few mishaps with my mobility, but not too many. I had a young girl graciously open the right door of a double door set for me a couple weeks ago, and I walked right into the door on the left. I can imagine how it looked. My hat flipped up on my head, my knee rattled the door’s frame and my foot kicked the door. The only thing that didn’t come in contact with the door, was my cane! Go figure. All I could do was mumble, “Well I guess I found that door alright.” I’m glad I couldn’t see, because I’d rather not know who was watching. That set me back for a half hour or so, but I eventually shrugged it off as just another one of those things that I probably could have avoided, but didn’t.

I have kicked a chair. Ok, ok, I have kicked several chairs. I have pounded a desk with my thigh a few times, knocked someone’s pencil, or pen, off their desk. I have walked into a parking slot when I thought it was a sidewalk. I have only walked into the wrong classroom four times though, and that is perty darn good for a cane smacker. I haven’t tripped anyone up with my cane yet, and care not to think about that day which surely do cometh.

I have been blessed to have both of my current text books available for the Learning Ally program. I am accessing them on my iPod Touch, and it is so much more accessible on that platform versus my desktop or laptop. I know there will come the day when I won’t be able to get a text book in this format, and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now though, I am smiling with the accessibility and praising those who deserve praising.

Week four is behind me now, and it seems almost too good to be true. I remember waddling around campus this summer, trying to figure out how on earth I was going to pull this college thing off. I didn’t have a clue where I was going to collect the courage from. Funny thing is, all I had to do was let the inspiration of the last four years settle in and take its place. I have found so much of it, and so many places where it comes to good use.

I know it’s only four weeks, but it’s four more weeks than I had just four weeks ago.

Thanks KVCC, the blind community, DBVI, Sarge, my family, friends and anyone else I haven’t tripped up with my cane yet.

Look out double doors! Here I come!

 

 
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