Surviving

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

2015 09 13 Accessibility, And Then Some September 13, 2015

Accessibility, and Then Some

I love digital technology. Always have, always will. Probably the first taste of it I can remember is sitting in the bowling alley with my little brother Scott, playing a duck shooting game that completely hypnotized me. You see, you could sit all the way across the bowling alley with a gun controller in your hand, point at a screen on the other side of the alley, and point and shoot the little plastic gun to nail those little duckies flying across the screen. Digital technology at its finest.

This was around 1972 or so, and from there, the innovations came charging at us with a fervor that has never looked back.

From television, to cruise control, cell phones, video games, refrigerators, washers, dryers, baby monitors, pool pumps, LED lighting, hospital monitoring equipment, wheelchairs, Bluetooth headphones, answering machines, and so on and on and on, the new gadgets just keep coming and coming, right? It seems as soon as you purchase that new computer, or smart television, then get it home and out of the box, there’s a newer version waiting to take its place. Cheaper, better, faster, stronger, smarter and so on it goes. Gotta have it, have always needed it, been waiting for it, just bought it, waiting for them to deliver it, wondering why I bought it. I’ve been there. Read the book, saw the movie and bought the t-shirt.

Did I say I love digital technology? Did I ever tell you that I couldn’t have picked a better time to lose my vision? Do you know that the advancements in assistive technology these past five years has totally amazed me? It’s true, you know?

I am blessed beyond belief at the incredible stuff that’s available to lend help to those who can’t see, and it’s only getting started. Now, don’t get me wrong. Assistive technology isn’t always a bowl full of chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cups and hot fudge. Oh no sir it surely isn’t. Assistive technology can give you a helping hand, but it can sometimes smack you upside the head, rending you completely flustered and totally annoyed. I’ve tasted both sides of the story, and I much prefer the tasty chocolate side myself, but there’s no avoiding the unpopular other side, as I have found out this past week.

I am finished with week one of my fall semester at community college. I am taking two online courses, which means that I am totally relying on digital technology to be able to get at and do my course work. I have been up against it from the get go, and have learned probably more in one week than any other week since I saw the color purple for the last time. I love the challenge, but this kind of challenge can quickly let the air out of your balloon. Good thing I have my handy dandy personal life support pump only a few feet away in the form of Mrs. Dunster’s chocolate sugared donuts in the fridge.

Thank you and may I have another please?

I came, I saw, figuratively speaking, I dove in, I jumped out, I ran to the help desk, I asked for help, I received an amazing array of assistance, I ran back to the pool, I jumped back in head first, I jumped back out and shook off, I stepped back and thought for a moment, I again asked for help, I figured and pondered and worried and growled and scratched my head and then I dove back in.

Week one is finished and as the dust settles down I can dig my heels in and ready myself for week 2.

Do goats really growl?

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2015 07 20 One Down, Fifty Something To Go July 20, 2015

Well I did it. One down and fifty something to go.

A couple days ago I finished up with my first online class at KVCC, and I’m here to tell you that although Blackboard was a nightmare, I did it. Grin

Back last April and early May, I was having fits. I never thought I would be able to figure out the Blackboard program. It just seemed so cumbersome to learn, and as the weeks winded down towards the first day of class, things started falling into place. A lot of hard work and determination ended up making the difference. My wife giving me rides to campus for some pre course tutoring didn’t hurt either. She never gets enough credit for how she has helped me these past few years, and hopefully if I can pull my head out of my butt for a while, I can appropriately show her my appreciation.

Well, there I was this past May, heading into week one of the course which was Sociology 101. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I felt as prepared as I could. The work load wasn’t that bad, some reading, some writing, some more reading and writing, and voila! Course complete!

I only had a couple incidents of incorrect posts and disappearing assignments, but the work load wasn’t as overwhelming as I had first anticipated. There was a ton of writing, but me and writing seem to get along fairly well. I sit down, I start to type and before I know it, three or four pages are staring back at me. Piece of cake. Piece of crumb cake.

So here I am, taking a break for a week or two, and then it’s time to gear up and head towards two more online classes for this fall. I already have one of my text books ready to go on my Learning Ally ap, but I have to get some help for the second book, which is available on a different platform that I’ve never used before. One more thing to learn.

I’m going to be taking English 101 and, get this, The History of Rock and Roll. Yup. You heard it right. As much as I love music, this is one class that feels like it fell down from the musical part of the heavens. Makes me wonder if all of heaven is under the influence of music. I suppose it depends on the person, right?

I’d like to thank my tutor and mentor at the college. His name is Nick, and he really has made the difference with being able to learn and work through some difficult items, like the Blackboard.

Thanks Nick.

Oh ya, I’ve been asked to be part of a mentor program for first year students this fall. I was humbled beyond belief when I was asked, and with much honor, I accepted the position. I’m not sure how much mentoring I’ll be able to do, but if I can pass along a little piece of what has been given to me then I’ll be one extremely humbled and happy goat.

I hope your summers are going well. The muggy weather is here for a couple days, but overall it hasn’t been that bad.

Thanks for stopping by, and please take care, or else!

dp

 

2014 12 18 Week 17 – A Big, Beautiful Blur December 18, 2014

Week 17: A Big, Beautiful Blur

Excuse me? Have you seen my fall semester? I was sure I set it down right over, umm, hmm, that’s weird. I know it was right over here just a little bit ago.

Could it be? Is it possible? Perhaps the fall semester is over and done with? Perhaps it came, it became and it went riding off into my past? Perhaps I typed that last phrase in my last post?

To tell you the truth, I don’t think I have ever had four months go by so fast in my life, let alone the whole year. It’s like, here you go, and there it was, gone. I remember hitting the mid term and thinking that I couldn’t believe how fast the first half of the semester seemed to have chugged right by. Now? Well, let’s just say I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how time can speed by so fast.

The semester is finished. The final tests and papers have been turned in. The laptop bag is slung over the chair until a few weeks into the New Year. The time is at hand to take a look back, and reflect. So much has happened these past four months. So many things have spun me around sideways as they came hurdling by. So many times during the past few months I have had to step back and keep telling myself that indeed, I was in college.

Overall, it was an incredible learning opportunity for me. At the onset, I tried to get in touch with as many people at the college as I could. I needed so much information, and I also needed reassurances that I had all the bases covered, leaving nothing behind that I would wind up needing later on. The accessibility challenges were hard, the work was even harder, and the ability to look past my own inhibitions proved to be the biggest achievement of all.

I remember a month or so into the semester, as I worked on a 3 section homework assignment in Tech Math. I sat and listened to my audio version of the text book, and the gentleman reading the problems to me, and then I remember asking myself why I would think I could do all this work. I asked myself how I was ever going to finish all of this incredibly, long, hard, demanding work. I looked down, shook my head, chuckled to myself, then started in on the next exercise. I think I worked on Math about six or seven hours that afternoon and into the evening, and as I finished the last problem, a sense of accomplishment swept through me that seemed to chase all the doubt away. Each time, during the semester when I ran up against the odds, I found myself continuously putting my head down and moving forward, and with each time, there seemed to be a calming, quiet tone inside that kept telling me that everything would work itself out if I just keep trying. And try I did. There were a few moments of second guessing, but determination reigned supreme, and coupled with the amount of assistance I received from the school, well, one semester down, and a few more to go.

My mobility with the campus only caused me a few embarrassing moments, like over shooting the main entrance at the Hinckley Campus, or not being able to find the door to my math class, or walking straight across the hallway without knowing it and entering the book store. There were ups and downs and ins and outs, but all of them added together equaled a semester full of first time experiences.

I know I’ve said this a few times, but it really is true that I owe so many, so much. None of it though would have been possible without one ingredient. Me! I have accomplished something that will be with me until my time here is done, and then probably even longer.

I’ll end this post by thanking all those who had a hand in helping me in my college quest. It has been a most remarkable experience, and I owe so much of it to you all.

May you have a wonderful and Merry Christmas, and here’s hoping the New Year brings you a year’s worth of magical memories that last you until 2016.

Be well all, and I’ll see you next semester.

dp

 

2014 12 09 Sweet Sixteen December 9, 2014

Sweet Sixteen

Some might think it’s just another week on the calendar. Some might not notice the significance of what this past week meant to some others. Some people just considered it the first week of December, and the start of the holiday season. For me, this past week took on a whole new meaning that I have never experienced before. It represented a path in my life that I never thought could ever exist. It represented sixteen weeks of testing me in a totally different way. It represented a reachable goal, a surmountable task and a purpose I began to understand. It defined the willingness to lay it all out there in the wide open, and coming away with an unbelievable prize that I still haven’t fully understood.

This past week marked the sixteenth week of my first semester of college. As the others before, it came, it became, and it went strolling into my past, leaving behind a plethora of memories and lessons that until this year, never ventured across my path, or should I say, I never noticed them venturing across my path.

‘Tis the season! “Tis the time to revel in the magic. “Tis the moments that make up this day, today, right now and there you have it.

When I walked through the double doors of Lunder last August, I sensed something in the air. It was all new, and strange, and different, and to say it was exciting is putting it mildly. I was entering the halls of college with a wide open mind, and a wide open heart. I was scared, unsure, anxious and full of doubt. What I was met with can only be described as a gift, for you see, what I encountered through these sixteen weeks can only be measured by my own achievements. I was handed something extraordinary, and through my own efforts I was able to make something of the opportunity. And what an opportunity it has become.

I have tried, through these sixteen weeks, to show my gratitude to those at KVCC, and to tell you the truth, I have run out of appropriate vocabulary to fully depict my appreciation. I have written time and time again how gracious my welcome was. I have written how the obstacles that being blind presents. I have written how the inspiration that I have felt has propelled me into and through a world of an unimaginable quest.

I have written about our incredible ability to absorb, adapt and advance. I have written how by placing one foot in front of the other can take you on a journey of the mind, body and soul. I have written how the gift of inspiration is something that never dies, and with it, our own ability to inspire others is born from within. I have written, I have experienced, and I have grown. Through it all, the reading, the writing, the mobility lessons, the anxiety and smiles and hand shakes, I have emerged with a knowledge that never existed before. I have learned so much, about so much, but I have learned even more about myself and what I’m capable of. The mind grows foggy and lazy through time if you don’t use it to its potential. It did take me a few days to recalibrate and oil the gears, but once the pistons started firing, what a ride I have had.

I’m half way through week seventeen, which is the final week. I have one more test to take, and one more report to submit. I have come a long way since those first days of late August, and I’m here to tell you that it’s far more than I ever imagined.

Sweet Sixteen. No matter how you say it, it holds a significance that will never die. With all the footsteps I have placed, one in front of the other, I still have many, many more to go. I am on a quest unlike anything I have ever done before. I am learning things I never knew before. I am meeting people that have never inspired me like this before.

One more test, one more research paper, one more lesson to learn.

And away we go.

 

2014 11 30 Week 15: Where Did It Go? November 30, 2014

Week 14: Where Did it Go?

And there it was, gone.

With all the commotion, with all the fanfare, with all the turkey legs and cranberry sauce and hot yeast rolls and mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and pies and pies and more pies, week 14 of college snuck in and disappeared around the corner into December. Not so much as a how do you do, or a catch ya later or it’s been nice knowing you. Nope. None of that. It came, it became and it went riding off into the past.

I’ve had a rather hectic week, but it was a week, none the less. You could say that if nothing else, week 14 prepared me for week number 15. Through it all, I’m here to tell you that with only three weeks of school to go, I’m sitting here, scratching my keypad, wondering how I made it through 14 weeks of college. I’m sitting here thinking that with all the hallways, with all the stairwells, with all the homework and studying and tests, it has most definitely been worth every ounce of hard work. You see, I have met such a diverse array of individuals these past few months that I can honestly say this has been one of the most enriching periods of time in my life. Is enriching a word? If it ain’t, it is now.

I can honestly also say that in my wildest dreams, I never thought I was cut out for this college thing. I can honestly say that every day as I walked through those double doors of Lunder, I secretly pinched myself just to make sure that it was really happening.

It hasn’t been easy, this college thing. It hasn’t been a smooth ride through the countryside on a breezy summer’s day. It has though, been such a rewarding experience, and I owe it all to the amazing openness of KVCC to help me learn. I have been met with a commitment from a school full of folks I didn’t even know. It’s as if they trusted me enough to make the effort. I owe this effort with as much drive and determination that I could muster. I owe all those involved as much as I could learn, and believe me, I have learned a great deal. I am also running out of ways to show you all my appreciation.

Week 15 is just around the corner. It’s time to buckle down and put the nose to the grindstone. It’s time to take what has been given to me and do as much with it as I can. It’s time to believe in my abilities, as others have believed in me.

It’s time for week 15.

 

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.

 

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.