Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Blessing In Disguise, By Teri

Where the Lord has taken away in one area he has over compensated in another. One of the greatest blessings Tom and I have been given (besides each other) is 5 exceptional children. They have had the opportunity to spend more time with their Father than most children do in two life times because of lack of gainful employment (30% of blind adults are employed, as it is often very difficult to compete). As a result of our family’s life experiences, they have gained character, compassion, independence, knowledge, strength, faith, and so on. Another great blessing is Tom has his college education paid for, and the technology he needs to be successful through his degree program. The kids say one advantage is that “Dad can part the Red Sea ” in a crowd of people with his cane. Let me not forget the handicapped parking sticker during the holidays (although it will not be abused). Tom has never opted to have one, but I am asking him to apply in the near future. He will occasionally go into the store alone and get something and if I am parked up front, it’s easier for both of us. The good certainly out weighs the bad, and maybe it’s not bad but just a blessing in disguise.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Braille?

Technology can overcome many of the challenges that blind people face. You have already seen how my cell phone can read documents to me by combining speech and OCR software with the built-in camera. (Blindness & Technology: KNFB Reader ) I use a screen-reading program called JAWS, Job Access With Speech, that enables me to read much faster that a sighted person. So if technology can do all this for me, why should I bother learning Braille? The answer is literacy. If a blind person uses audio only, they will become functionally illiterate. Without Braille a person is less likely to learn how to spell or master usage and syntax. Only 30% of all working –aged blind persons are employed. Of those who are working, 85% are literate in Braille.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Cheeseburger

I love cheeseburgers! I especially enjoy them when they are grilled outside and I don’t have to pay for them. So when I was invited to bring my family to a cookout sponsored by my school’s disability support group, I happily accepted the invitation. After all, who would turn down an opportunity to enjoy feeding your family for free? Soon after arriving at the park, the person who was assigned the task of cooking the burgers began his work. My anticipation grew when I discovered the cook had formerly owned a catering company. These were going to be good burgers! The aroma tantalized my olfactory senses as Teri and I mingled and visited with others. Finally, they were done. Teri graciously prepared a plate for me and brought it to where I was sitting. I carefully placed the burger together and took a bite and suddenly stopped. The burger tasted odd, it tasted sweet. I thought that perhaps the cook put some brown sugar on the meat and took another bite. It was nasty. In addition to being sweet and had a funny texture. I removed the top bun off and asked Teri if she could see anything wrong. There was something wrong, it had a chocolate chip cookie inside it! Apparently , in my haste to devour my delicacy, I assembled the burger with the cookie Teri put on my plate.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spectators Need Not Apply!

Note: This posting is a rare exception to my theme of coping with blindness.

Do you want to shape our nation’s history, or are you satisfied with merely being a spectator? If you are too busy playing with your Wii, texting your friends with insignificant messages that they don’t really care about, or if “Dancing with the Stars” is important to you, stop reading. On the other hand, if God, family and country mean something to you, then you might be able to make a difference. But this job is not for everyone and wanting is not enough, you must be willing to act. So what is the job?

Defending the Constitution.

Job Title- Patriot

Qualifications- Applicants must be a US citizen, (or working to be one) and want to be free.

Job Description- The successful candidate is willing to become familiar with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the difference between a republic and democracy and understand there are others opposing your work. The truly successful candidate will also teach others these concepts, and other concepts deemed necessary and appropriate to freedom.

Supervisor: Your conscience.

Compensation: The blessings of liberty.

Suggested training material: Bearing the Title of Liberty in the Latter Days, an e-book authored by Thomas Taylor, which can be found at

Does this job interest you? Keep in mind that the position is not easy and too few will apply. But also remember the words of Samuel Adams. “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in the people’s minds.”

If you decide to accept the position I promise two things. First, I will lead by example. Second, I will not waste your valuable time. The blogosphere has enough litter as it is.

Thank you for your interest in the position.

P.S. Please visit the blog regularly as I will post at least once a week. Also, please tell a friend about this exciting, challenging and rewarding position!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One of a Kind

While visiting with my eye doctor on Monday I learned something new. I learned that my doctor, who is one of the best specialists in the state, has no other patients like myself. While discussing treatment options (the lack thereof) he indicated that he had a few Styklers patients (Styklers syndrome is the condition that affected my eyes.) and had treated hundreds of patients with macular edema, (The condition that is currently causing my remaining vision to deteriorate.) he has never treated anyone with both problems. This means he has nothing to compare treatments too. The situation is further complicated by his inability to take an accurate picture of my retina. (Since the central part of my vision is messed up, I cannot focus on the “crosshairs” while looking into the machine that photographs my retina.) The bottom line is that the one possible treatment, not covered by my insurance, probably would not suppress the fluid leaking underneath my retina and definitely would not reverse the damage already done. He advised us to go home and discuss our options. I didn’t bother scheduling a return appointment. The upside is that I asked my doctor to send me some pictures of my retina taken during my previous visit. He has to print and mail them to me. He can’t just email them because of HIPA. I will post them on the blog when I get them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I am so very sad right now. Tom had an eye appointment yesterday, with one of the best retina specialists in our state, his doctor. Neither of us went with big expectations, but we were both hoping….. The appointment was basically a recap of the appointment in February, but this time we were not in shock, the doctor was more together (how difficult it must have been for him to tell us), I didn’t cry, and we did not make another appointment. Afterwards to drown our sorrow we went and got ice cream, I felt better after a hot fudge sundae and Tom his chocolate shake. It was painful to watch him deep in thought, and imagine how he was feeling. We talked about how it could be so much worse, and the great life that we have. Tom seems to be handling this experience well, even slept better last night. Not sure why yesterday/today is such a trauma, we have been dealing with this since February. One thing that stood out in my mind was the little children we saw at the doctor's office. The waiting room was mostly full of elderly people, Tom and then occasionally a child. I told Tom he knew how those little children felt (because his eye problems started when he was a child), and he could talk to them or anyone and share his experience and hope.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tough Week

As you can imagine, going blind is a frustrating experience and this has been a tough week because the distortion in my eye (I can only see out of my right eye.) is slowly but surely getting worse. I used to wonder what was more difficult, going blind all at once or slowly. To some, this may seem like a strange statement. But my visual distortion is a constant reminder that my eyesight is diminishing and there have been times I wanted to just get it over with. I prefer to take my pain quickly rather than have it dragged out. But my vision loss does not only affect me, it impacts my family as well. However, I have concluded that it is better to go blind slowly rather than all at once. The slow deterioration gives me more time to develop necessary skills that will enable me to function as I want. Specifically, braille and my computer screen-reading software, JAWS. (Job Access With Speech) On Monday I will see my eye doctor for the first time since he told me there was nothing to be done to prevent my vision from diminishing. But I do not need him to tell me it is getting worse, that is obvious to me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Bit of Humor

First, the bad jokes.

Why can't Helen Keller drive? (If you don't know who Helen Keller is, skip to the next joke.)
Because she is a woman.

Why did the orange go blind?
Because it didn't have enough vitamin see.

Last week I woke up late for class and Teri offered to drive me to school so I hurriedly got ready . She drops me off and I almost ran to class. (Imagine you are on the campus of University of Central Oklahoma and you see this blind guy rushing past you as he taps his cane back and forth!) I get to the building, go up the stairs and discover that the students are just then entering the room. As I enter the room, I place my cane in the corner by the door, walk to a desk, sit down and begin to prepare for the lecture. And then I notice the professor is a lot younger. I muse to myself "Perhaps he is a substitute". Then he asks me if I was a new student in the class. I was in the wrong classroom! My embarrassment was tempered with the knowledge that the students would see me retreiv my cane as I left and would think "That poor blind guy entered the wrong class." In my career as a college student, I had never before gone to the wrong classroom. Three days later I get to class early, take my seat and then leave for the men's room. I return to the class and again place my cane in the corner as I entered. But someone was sitting in my seat. Unfortunately it was not my seat because I had once again entered the wrong classroom. It was the same class that I had accidentally entered a few days earlier. I couldn't help notice the snickering as I once again retrieved my cane and made a hasty exit from the classroom.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Someone Please Knock Me Out!

The last couple of weeks have been challenging. As you know, my eyesight is not that great. What you don’t know is it is affecting my ability to sleep. In fact, I have gone days when I averaged three hours of sleep per day, sometimes less. Teri (my wife) did some research and discovered that blindness can mess up a person’s sleep cycles. As I told Teri, I can handle going blind but the sleep depravation is killing me. But what do you do when life gives you a lemon? You make lemonade. (Please, no more lemonade.) Sometimes I will sit on my couch at 2:00 am and practice my braille. In fact, I have been able to practice my braille so much lately that I might be able to finish Grade 1 braille in less than two weeks. I can only practice Braille for about two hours at a time. After that, I am unable to concentrate effectively. The down side to the lack of sleep is it is affecting my schooling. By the way, since my last posting, I have returned to school so I can finish my prerequisites for my Masters in History.