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Monday, March 28, 2011

Driving

There are a lot of things I miss about my PVI life (Pre-Vision Loss.) I miss watching the creatures in my yard build their nests and gather food. I miss TV. It's just not the same when you have to sit 4 feet away. I miss reading real books with tiny print and intricate pictures to my nieces and nephews. I miss soccer games, especially when my nephews are playing. I miss using Post-Its. I miss making eye contact with my husband across the room. I miss eye contact period. I miss reading newspapers, coupons, directions, recipes, maps, the small print that no one usually reads, but I almost always do. The list goes on and on. But hands down the thing I miss most of all is driving.
Living over 15 miles from work, it was not uncommon for me to spend an hour and half or more in the car each day. I spent a large portion of my adult life complaining about the time I've spent in a car. I take back every single word. Traffic jams, construction delays, school buses, and the excessive number of traffic lights are all daily occurrences that I feel a sense of nostalgia for. I'd love to be behind the wheel of my (sold) CR-V, windows down, sun roof open, singing off-key to the radio, and driving anywhere. 

Driving is freedom, independence, spontaneity. Especially in suburbs of the Motor City. I do very few things on a regular basis in my own community. My friends and family don't live in my town, so I rarely hang out there. I don't work out nearby. My husband and I rarely even shop in our hometown. Until last June I never thought twice about my habits of driving several miles to accomplish everyday tasks. 

It's all different now. Without access to public transportation a person with a visual impairment loses their sense of independence pretty quickly. At least I have. It's very difficult to adjust to being driven everywhere and relying on other people to assist you in the completion of mundane errands. Even though I know my family and friends are willing to do anything they can to help, I can't get over the inconvenience my lack of mobility causes. Regardless of what they say, I know that everybody could find something more productive to do than spending the day chauffeuring me around. Additionally, relying on others for transportation is a complicated process. There are schedules to align, nap times to navigate, and traffic patterns to consider. The amount of planning required to take a simple trip to the Y or Library just doesn't seem worth the effort. So I stick to the essential trips. Grocery store. Pharmacy. Doctor's appointments. Everything else can wait until I have a system of travel that only affects me and Emy.

Spending the last month in Kalamazoo, I've really enjoyed the freedom I feel here. The city is very easy to navigate and has public transportation options galore.  It still requires more planning than hopping in the car used to, but it's completely worth the extra effort. To go wander around the library, or get coffee during a free hour are simple pleasures that I relish. Being in control of where I go and how I get there is so liberating the only thing I regularly still miss about driving is singing on the bus or train is frowned upon. There are certainly those who despite this choose to partake, but I'll save everyone the embarrassment by saving my off-key voice for the shower. 

I am Listening

I am pretty darn stubborn, and don't pick up on subtitles very often. Especially when they are about changing my behavior. But one doesn't need to be super observant to pick up on the not-so subtle signs the universe is sending my way. Evidently, I need to give myself a break. As if this is news to anyone. Dozens of friends and family members gently, but frequently, remind me that will work themselves out, I've been dealing with blindness for less than a year, things don't happen overnight, etc. . . . All things necessary for me to hear. Often. But like a lot of things this advice is easily given, and very hard to take. So I am pretty sure the universe has resorted to alternative forms of manipulation. Coincidence or not, in the past 4 hours I have seen the following:
  1. The yoga studio with a giant poster that read, "Just Breathe." 
  2. The salon/spa with their advertisement for chair massages reading, "Feeling Stressed?" 
  3. Perhaps the most obvious: The Anxiety Symposium being held at the hotel today. 
It became a little difficult to ignore the message when I ran smack into a giant sign that said, "Why We Worry."  The surprise of the physicality of the sign was nothing compared to the message. I was tempted to forgo my daily schedule and sneak in the back of the banquet hall. What a perfect opportunity. My presence would be mutually beneficial. I'd make an ideal specimen to analyze. An educated, self-aware individual who knows her anxiety is completely irrational but can't do a damn thing to rid herself of it. Perhaps if I subjected myself to 200 + professionals they might be able brainstorm a cure. 

Alright universe. You win. I am listening and will try to develop a plan for handling my anxiety in a more productive way. Ironically, attempting to do this is making me quite anxious.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Update

Hi All,
It's been a hectic week, and I am trying desperately to finish a bunch of posts. Most of them have to do with the drastic change my life underwent last May. This has been much more difficult to write than I anticipated. I will try to have Part 1 posted by tomorrow. I also have several anecdotes from the week to share and an update on my progress here at MCBTC. Thank you for your patience and your support!

XOXOXO
Christy


Monday, March 21, 2011

Blind vs. Blindish

I've always been extremely near-sighted and have worn glasses since I was 6 years old and contacts since I was 12. Without either of these corrections I was self-proclaimed, "blind as a bat." For the last 10 months I've become acutely aware of how inadequate this frequently used hyperbole describes blindness.(Digression - Bat Fact: The majority of bats have much better vision, especially at night, than most people with vision impairments, due to echolocation. And apparently, fruit bats aren't blind at all.)

Over the last nine months I've learned how little people who aren't affected with vision-loss know about the variations and degrees of blindness. Although I am learning, I still count myself among this population. Prior to last June when (if ever) I thought of the continuum of vision loss I envisioned blind (no sight) on one end, 20/20 (perfect vision) on the other, and legally blind somewhere in between. While not incorrect, I certainly wasn't completely accurate either. After attempting to clarify my newly gained knowledge and describe it succinctly, I finally caved and turned to the Internet. 

Currently there are approximately 20 students here at the MCBTC.  A question that comes up FREQUENTLY in conversation, especially with newcomers is, "So. . . What can you see?" The answers vary from person to person, and often from situation to situation. We run the gambit from completely blind (having no vision), seeing light and shadows, utilizing primarily central vision, relying heavily on peripheral vision, to everything in between. 

So . . . What can I see?

I consider myself blindish. There is a lot I can see and there is a lot that I can't.

As of November 2010, my visual acuity (sharpness) measured 20/500 in my left eye and 20/200 in my right eye. My field of vision is unknown but definitely obscured due to the damage in the center of my retinas. This means that no matter how close or large an object is, I can't see it clearly. It's as if I am constantly viewing the world through smudged glasses. Light passes through the smudges but there is no definition. I've described these smudges as being blind spots, but really they are more similar to lines or stripes. The "lines" intersect at strange angles, forming vague translucent V-shapes. By shifting my eyes, using my peripheral vision I can fill in the pieces in an image. But in order to do this I need to look off center in various directions continuously, because every time I shift my eyes, another part of the image loses focus. It is terribly time consuming. 

The amount of light and contrast in my surroundings impacts my vision greatly. On one hand bright sunny days are great because increased light enhances my ability to see objects at a distance. But when the light reflects off surfaces the glare causes me to squint, my "blind spots" seem to increase in size. Environments with dim, artificial lighting are very difficult and make reading or analyzing detail almost impossible. Clear nights without a lot of outside light from traffic or street lamps are ideal. I feel a comfort in these situations because my blind spots almost disappear. In the dark I forget for a moment about my vision loss entirely. That doesn't mean it's very easy to navigate at night, just that I feel a lot like "my old self" during these rare moments of night time clarity.

Can I read? Yes. 18 or 24 point font seems to be the size least strenuous on my eyes. Too large of font I can only see parts of letters. Too small and the words blur and spaces between letters and words become almost indistinguishable. High contrast text - black lettering on white background or the reverse are by far the easiest to read. High contrast colors in pictures or on websites allow me to see more detail than tones of gray or brown. 

As I continue to figure out my preferences for color, contrast, size, and font I'll have a much easier time using technology to access a wide variety of texts. 

Hopefully I've painted a somewhat decent picture of what it is like to look at the world through my eyes. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more detail about how I see. I in turn, will probably respond by asking you how you see your world. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Temporary Setback

Today was the first day that an interaction with people on the street left me feeling anxious and self-conscious about my lack of vision. This morning my O&M class consisted of being dropped off on Michigan Avenue with the assignment of finding a particular restaurant on my own. Not a problem. I have always been very good with directions and even with my limited vision if I travel past particular locations or down streets more than once, I can almost always find them again. Providing I've been paying attention to my surroundings. Just to be sure I was properly following my assignment; I did verify its location with a very helpful water delivery man. 

A few minutes later, after walking into the very cozy Theo & Stacy's restaurant and checking out their delicious looking desserts, I was on my way to finding the next location. A parked radio station van broadcasting live in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. (Side note: Even though today was St. Patty's Day, it was early enough, around 8:30 A.M., that the streets of downtown were quiet.) Approximately half a block down from where I was I could see two figures approaching me on the sidewalk. I checked my position on the sidewalk to be sure I was walking on the right so there would be enough space for us to pass. I slowed my pace as I noticed they were veering to their right. Purposely. As they passed, approximately only 8-10 inches from my left shoulder, the guy closest to me said VERY loudly, "Don't TRIP me!" I kept my gaze straight ahead and continued on my way as their raucous laughter got quieter as the distance between us increased. 

As far as I could tell these young men weren't drunk, so I am stymied by this interaction. After speaking with my O&M instructor and the other students in my class about weird situations they have found themselves in; I firmly believe that by ignoring them I handled the situation correctly. I was advised not to let it bother me but I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Being well aware that I can't control other people's reactions, I am quite irritated with how far this 10 second interaction with two insensitive people set me back confidence wise. For the rest of the class I was hesitant and could no longer easily embrace the freedom that carrying a cane allows me. I felt simultaneously embarrassed about my perceived vulnerability and furious at how ignorant people can be. To be honest, I was also scared. If it had been dark out I would have felt downright terrified. I have enough issues with anxiety that I certainly don't need some idiotic, twenty- something pranksters adding to it. It wasn't until I got back to the Center surrounded by people that I identify with and trust that I was able to relax and let my guard down

As I become more comfortable with myself and my vision loss I will be less and less likely to let a tiny minority of people bother me so much. Until then, I will have to settle with giving myself the permission to let this bother me for today only. Tomorrow, I vow not to be embarrassed by my cane. I also vow not to be annoyed with idiots who don't understand that if I had wanted to trip them my vision loss wouldn't have stopped me one bit.  

The Cane (Written 3-15-2011)

As I mentioned here I have been having a difficult time adjusting to using a cane. Especially in public. The technique and rhythm itself was tricky pick up. My third day here my mobility instructor gave me a new cane. This cane was lighter, longer, and designed easily manipulate with a flick of your fingers and wrist. All of sudden, it began to come together. I was amazed at how much easier and natural my movements began to feel. 


I was sold. This was the cane for me. The only down side was it wasn't telescopic or any way collapsible so that it could be easily stowed a purse or diaper bag when not in use. Or when I might want to hide it. There is no hiding this new cane. It's five feet long, white, and completely rigid. This makes it difficult to store and often I forget it's beneath my feet until I am reminded quickly as I trip it.


Regardless of which cane I prefer, I am getting used to the idea of carrying one. Monday through Friday, I carry my cane everywhere; using it properly, even outside the comfort of the Center. In my Orientation and Mobility (O&M) class we frequently go on outings to various points of interest in downtown Kalamazoo. I am no longer the least bit self-conscious during these trips.  At first I believed this was because using it was part of the class and I was with others who also use a cane.


I've still been very reluctant to use my cane when I've gone home on the weekends. In most situations in my everyday life I don't need a cane to get around. I am in familiar territory and very rarely find myself out and about without a friend or family member. 


There is also my stubborn belief that my vision remains effective enough to safely navigate the majority of situations I may find myself in. After all, my vision was significantly worse at the end of last summer and I managed okay. But using a cane is more than just getting by. My O&M instructor said something to this effect during our first class together. She explained that
Relying on the cane would better enable me to enjoy my surroundings, hold conversations easier, and ultimately increase the confidence I felt (and demonstrated) while walking.  Plus, it is an identifier to people that I don't see clearly.  Until she said this I wasn't even aware at how tentative I felt or how often I watched my feet and the ground. This unreliable technique has become a way to keep track of objects that might impede my path. 


Quickly after this realization I found myself identifying situations where using the cane would assist me feels very natural and for the first time since I've lost my vision I feel as if I am actually taking in my surroundings. Because Kalamazoo is such a blind friendly town I feel secure and confident while navigating unfamiliar streets. The majority of people I've encountered here, don’t notice the cane, don't care, or are very willing to assist in any way possible.  


I've been bringing both canes home with me over the weekend and carrying the fordable one around in my purse. I know it's there if I need it and I am pretty sure that when I do I'll use it. 



Monday, March 14, 2011

Hidden Blessings

Every Monday afternoon at the MCBTC during 8th hour, we have Seminar. All the students gather in the dining room and it is led by the Assistant Director or the Director of the Training Center. Sometimes speakers are invited to come and talk to students about various topics of interest or their personal success stories. Sometimes it is a chance for students to ask questions and/or discuss concerns. Other times, like today, a thought provoking question is asked and we share insights. Today the Director posed the question, "What hidden blessings have you discovered through your blindness?" She then explained that a former colleague of hers used to say that his life truly began when he became blind. It led to a career, marriage, and a life he had never imagined (in a very positive way) living. 

What is interesting is that just last night I was talking to mother-in-law about this same topic and it had been on my mind all day. It is so easy to focus on all of the negativity surrounding my illness and subsequent vision loss that blessings become easily forgotten. But they are there, hidden beneath the "I'll nevers" and the "I can'ts."

I've never been a big believer in destiny or that things happen for a reason. The idea that life is predetermined always seemed a little too passive for my tastes. I believe that while there are certainly aspects of life you have little to no control over, you always have a choice. Even if the only choice you have is how you handle a particular situation. I've always kind of pictured life like a giant road map that is created as you go along. The thousands of choices a person makes daily leads to other paths where thousands of other choices await. TA world of endless possibilities exist has always appealed to me. I find it reassuring that even when everything seems decided; a simple decision puts everything into motion once again. It seems kind of fanciful when articulated into words, but most days it works for me. 

With this idea in mind, my biggest challenge of adapting to being legally blind has been choosing a positive attitude and not let the anxiety, uncertainty, and depression swallow me alive. As a result, I spend a large portion of each day forcing myself to focus on the many good aspects of my life; or searching for those hidden blessings, if you will. 

One of these blessings is that I got a stronger sense of how much the love and support of friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers can hold you together during tough times. The support of my family has always been there for me. My parents are amazing and have always bent over backwards to assist me in any way they can. My friends have also supported me in so many ways throughout the years, but the outpouring of generosity and selflessness that people displayed this summer has left me in awe. Hundreds of people, many of them strangers, or mere acquaintances, took us in their hearts, and demonstrated their love through meals, chores, errands, transportation, childcare, gifts, cards, well-wishes, and prayers. The people in my life are absolutely amazing. I will never, be able to accurately demonstrate my gratitude, nor will I ever forget how important kindness is.

Another blessing is the bonds I have formed with my husband’s family. I have always gotten along very well with his family, and truly enjoyed spending time with each and every one of them. I knew they would be willing to help whenever needed, but they were Josh's family and my in-laws. I no longer feel this way. Through the course of my various hospital stays, and the difficulties I've had adjusting to life as a visually-impaired mother they have been by side every step of the way. They’ve found ways to support me, all the while encouraging my independence and boosting my confidence. We've grown a lot closer over the last nine-months and I consider myself so lucky to have such a wonderful family. A family that includes all the members; both by blood and marriage. 

Of course my daughter is a blessing. I've spent quite a bit of time away from her during her short life, but I've also been able to spend time with her that I probably wouldn't have if I had returned to work last fall. This is very hard for me to view as a good thing because I am still having trouble coming to terms with all of the time I "lost" with her while I was sick and all of the moments I didn't get to see. Reconciling my ideas of the role of mother and my reality of it will continue to be a struggle for some time. 

There is one other blessing that I know has come from my blindness. The bond that has developed between my husband and my daughter. Josh was thrown head first into parenthood and not only figured out how to meet a baby's basic needs, but also how to help a baby thrive. Emeline is so well-adjusted. Her flexibility and ability to cope with constant changes of locale nap schedules, and various caretakers are a true testament to the adaptive nature of my husband. I couldn't ask for a better partner or father.

I am certain there are other blessings I have yet to uncover. For just a little over nine months into my journey of vision-loss and adjusting to blindness I am pretty pleased I can identify this many. I am interested in seeing what good that may come out of my vision loss, the choices I make throughout, and the experiences it will lead me to.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

We've All Been There

Today I am reminded at how fragile and temporary happiness can be. Tonight I witnessed another student breakdown after receiving devastating news about the long-term health of their eyes and their vision. I was so completely heart-broken for this person, whom I've just barely began to know, that tears immediately sprang to my eyes. I could identify with every feeling she was experiencing and I was by no means alone. Every other person here at the MCBTC has had this moment, in fact, The moment where a doctors words can yank all the  hope that you have been desperately clinging to from your grasp , causing a helpless spiral into the land of grim reality.  

I will never forget the moment where I knew with absolute certainty that my vision loss wasn't simply going to heal itself. It was August 19, 2010.  I was sitting in the exam room of my retinal specialist at the Kellogg Eye Center. My doctor sat down with me and patiently explained the medical details of Purtscher's Retinopathy (more about Purtscher's .) He made it very clear that while I could expect some vision to return for 1-2 years after the loss, it was highly unlikely my retinas would heal to the point where I'd be able to drive again. 

This was devastating to me and I took it very hard. Picturing a future where I couldn't watch my daughter grow up, take in the beauty of Michigan seasons, read voraciously, or teach I felt breathless and an eerie mixture of calm and panic began to rise in the back of my throat. 
What I appreciated so much about that moment is the doctor didn't remove hope from the outcome he projected, but he did speak to me realistically and honestly. That was the first time ANY doctor who treated me over the previous 3 months had done this. Every other doctor, even if they had NO experience with ophthalmology, pushed hope down my throat like it was just another pill I had to swallow. 

The plus side of being in a place like the MCBTC when this terrifying occurs is that you are surrounded by people who have experienced this exact moment for the exact reasons you have. Whether they have lost their vision slowly or suddenly, partially or completely, it doesn't really matter. The shared knowledge of how isolating it can feel to have the world literally disappear before your eyes is a bond that ties us all together. Not that this makes hearing any sort of devastating news any easier, but it does enforce the fact that you are not alone.

Things I've Learned In the Last Two Weeks

To be fair some of these items are newly learned and some of them have been reinforced. 

In no particular order: 
  • How to crochet 
  • How to make Zesty Lasagna Roll-ups 
  • I am more stubborn, hard-headed, and tense than I like to admit
  • Everyone has a story to tell and heartbreak in their past 
  • How to make a clay ring-holder and a giant lower-case e
  • I don't like paczkis
  • Timed typing tests STRESS me out
  • Blind people can do anything 
  • White canes aren't as scary as they appear 
  • Hallway cane fights are quite amusing 
  • Blind jokes are hilarious, especially when told by/to other blind people
  • Hotel rooms can start to feel like home once you've been there long enough
  • How to read and write letters A-L and numbers 0-9 in Braille. 
  • There are so many apps and technical resources for the blind and visually impaired 
  • Customer service improves greatly, no matter where you are, when carrying a white cane
  • I really, really miss teaching 
  • I have the most supportive friends and family anyone could ask for
  • Perfectionism is a disease and requires a 12-step program 
  • How to read a bus schedule 
  • I can be both terrible and awesome at bowling during the SAME game 
  • Hotel keys can demagnetize whenever they feel like 
  • I need to be here 

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Difference A Week Makes

Last week, my Industrial Arts teacher told me, completely unprovoked, that the first week at the MCBTC is by far, the most stressful. He was reiterating what I was already feeling inside. In case, you haven't picked up on it, I am a little high-strung. Typically, my normal MO is pretty ramped up and anxious. Add stress to the mix and I could pass for a teenager who just mainlined four shots of espresso. So, needless to say, I was pretty (and apparently visibly) stressed. Logically, I knew as I got comfortable, I would feel better about the situation, but at that moment on Thursday afternoon becoming comfortable here seemed very, very far away. 


When Josh and Emy came to pick me up Friday afternoon, I literally felt as if I had been let out of prison. All the stress and pressure that I had been carrying around with me all week immediately evaporated the second I saw them. While I was traveling back Sunday evening, I could feel the pressure building and every muscle in my body tightening the closer we got to Kalamazoo. 


Cue to this morning. I ran into that same teacher before my first class and he remarked that I seemed awfully bright and sunny for a Monday morning. 


Surprisingly, I found myself agreeing that I was and joked that it was the leftover Mama Buzz I got from being with Emeline this weekend.  That feeling has lasted all day. My O&M class this morning went great, I am finally getting used to that darn cane and had some "real-world" experiences today, where we traveled to a local hospital, walked around downtown, and practiced the proper technique of riding escalators. Some of the worries I've been holding onto are becoming less of an issue. I am figuring out the way things work around here, getting used to interacting with the other students, and feeling a lot less stressed. I've set more reasonable goals for myself and can actually see the progress I am making. I am sure that my anxiety will continue to lessen with every passing day. Perhaps I'll return to my normal high-strung self sooner than I thought.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why Am I Here?

All last week, in every class I went to, I was asked the same two questions -
"Why are you here?" and "What goals do you want to accomplish during your stay?" The first couple of times I was asked these I was slightly taken aback. Technically, I am here at the MCBTC (Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center for Personal Adjustment Training. That's the program I am following while I am here in Kalamazoo. Other than that. . Hmmm. . . . I am supposed to know why? 
I thought I was here because it was strongly encouraged by my counselor and rehabilitation teacher assigned to me through the Commission. Didn't these teachers know this? Weren't they the experts? Shouldn't they be telling me the goals I need to meet to get out of here? 


After some reflection (and observation of other students) I began to realize that I was in charge of my program. These people don't know me at all, most of them didn't even know the basic facts about me - married, lost vision when had daughter, is a teacher, etc. . . . It's not like every person who works at the Training Center was presented with a case file regarding the intricate details of my life for the last 31 years. Additionally, every student was here for different reason. I was the only one here who truly knew why I had decided to come here and what I hoped to do after I left. The teachers' jobs were to help me get from Point A to Point B.


So here's why - I am here to complete the Personal Adjustment. I have been "adjusting" to my vision loss since the minute that I became aware that it had occurred. I have figured out a lot of tricks and shortcuts to make my everyday life manageable. In fact, I feel as if I have been quite successful in adapting as a visually impaired individual. As a result, I was initially quite skeptical about what the Commission could offer me that I couldn't figure out myself. What I didn't know was how to be a blind wife, mother, or teacher. Ultimately, I want to return to teaching (at least in some capacity) and to be successful in any of those roles, I can't just "get by."


Through the arm-twisting of my rehab teacher, I attended a Mini-Adjustment Seminar last November. It was a powerful and life changing experience. I met wonderful people who were going through different, but equally awful adjustments and I learned a lot from them and the staff who ran the Mini. Perhaps the most important things I took away with me was while there may different ways to do things, some are definitely better than others and by learning from people who have studied and/or experienced vision loss, I'll be able to be efficient and more confident in all that I do.   


So, my goal is to become comfortable with being legally blind and learn all about the technologies and resources that are available to assist me in every role I take on. I have so much to learn to meet this goal and it's going to be more complicated than I originally thought. I can't imagine trying to achieve this without the help of the Commission and the knowledgeable people here at the MCBTC. 


Hopefully, tomorrow someone will ask me those previously dreaded questions. I finally have some answers of my own.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First Impressions

First impressions have always been tricky for me. My first instinct is often to jump to conclusions and form a judgment immediately. I've never been okay with this. How can I teach children not to judge a book by its cover, and yet I continuously do just that. So through years of practice I have (for the most part) retrained my brain to keep an open mind, be patient, and let the situation (or person) reveal themself naturally. However, since losing my vision I seem to find myself reverting to old habits. 
 
Perhaps it's because, as I adjust to my vision loss, I often feel judged. While I am here at the Training Center I am required to carry a white cane. To me this is tremendously difficult on many, many levels. It feels unnatural, I can't keep the proper rhythm, and I trip over it more often than not. Namely though, it's been very challenging emotionally. It feels like a giant advertisement to the world that I am now BLIND. And not only am I now BLIND, I also am not very good at being BLIND. Everyone else here has had vision impairments for years, if not their whole lives, and knows how to do this. I am a newbie, and therefore subject to judgment. Most of this perception lies solely in my own feelings of inadequacy and ineptness. 


As ridiculous as it may sound, a secret part of me thought I could waltz in here, master everything, and be home in a week. I am a teacher for goodness sake, learning is what I do. Uh . . . not so much. This is hard, and I am slowly realizing that I am not the teacher in this situation and I have a LOT to learn.]


The first impression I leave of myself here doesn't have to be one of a confident, self-assured woman who is excelling at every skill she is asked to master. I am not, and why should I be? 


I have always been my biggest critic. If I thought it would cure my desperate need for excellence, I'd join a 12-step program, proudly stand up, and say, "Hi, my name is Christy, and I am a recovering perfectionist." 


Since this recovery program is not an option, today I need to be content with a  gentle reminder that I am new at this and if I am not mastering things as quickly as I (often unreasonably) expect myself to, it's okay. I am here to learn, just like every other student. They may be more proficient at cane skills than I am, but I may have a greater knowledge of computers, this is temporarily quieting my inner critic. But in a day or so, I may need a smack upside the head to drown out her voice.  


Until then, I'll keep trying, failing, and using my perfectionist self to provide the drive I'll need to try again. 

A Brief Overview

I've spent two full days here at the Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center. Two very full days. My days begin early; up at 6, breakfast begins at 7:00, classes start at 8:00. The day is broken into 8 "hours", 50 minutes each with an hour for lunch. Just like high school there are 5 minutes in between each class, and if you have 3 unexcused absences or tardies in a month you are suspended from the program. 


Class schedules can change weekly, and several of the classes last for 2 hours. This week my classes consist of Life Skills, Braille, Computers, Orientation and Mobility, Cooking, Fitness, Industrial Arts, Crafts, Bowling, Counseling. I have already "passed" two classes, Personal Management and Vocational Training. 


Some classes are more challenging than others - Braille is challenging, I have more to learn about computers than I thought. Others should be a lot of fun; I am looking forward to learning how to knit in Crafts. They all have a purpose though - even Bowling.