I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Write From the Soul and Visualeyes

Off visiting family in Boston and then up to New Hampshire to the snow and cold (but a warm fireplace and windows with views of the mountains.) Back blogging in the new year. Happy 2K10 to all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Visualeyes 9

Here it is.... not an extraordinary car, but a good one none the less.
Last Sunday I went out to brunch with my friends, then we came back, signed the papers, took the pictures, and took me to the grocery store for one last ride with "my baby!" Then it was goodbye car, and I watched as it drove out of sight. (Very heavy sigh...) The rest of the day, I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Normally on a weekend, I'd head over to the bookstore and find something calling my name. But, oops!
No  car. Monday morning, as is my habit, I checked outside to see what the weather was like, and there was a space, a parking space, where my car used to sit. No car.   By Tuesday, I HAD to get out of the house and bring some normalcy back into my life. So I made a list of errands I could do in the same general area- mail holiday cards and take small package to mail at UPS Store, pick up RX, drop off jewelry order at gift shop carrying my line. My determination was set and off I trekked, up- and I do mean UP- the street to wait for the bus. After the huffing and puffing and wheezing slowed down (and a hit off the old inhaler), I noticed that the weather was chillier than I thought. Did I have gloves with me? No. Did I have earmuffs or a scarf with me? No. Was my backpack checked for necessary things before I left? No. "The Planner" is going to have to plan better.

Got to the gift shop with jewelry-check- and then an uphill 3 minute walk to get the prescription. Two errands done. Now the steep, uphill "climb" to get to UPS for mailings-huff, puff, check- but I needed a stop to breathe. Saw the bus I needed at the stop about 200 yds. away so I took off at a slow run (remember I have a pack on my back) and made it there before he took off. Of course it turned out he wasn't leaving yet because this bus changes numbers mid route and it sits and waits at this particular stop for 15 minutes before it leaves with the new number on it! (Don't ask me why it changes, I don't get it.) This bus was , of course, going in the opposite direction from where I lived but it was chilly out, I was cold and the bus was warm, and I was tired from uphill walking. (I'm not in shape for all this mandatory exercise!)  I said to myself:  "Gail just go where the bus is going. You've never been to the end of this route; you'll learn where it goes for future reference. It's an adventure!!!" This adventure led me to one of the subway stations where I needed to take the subway to the next stop in order to pick up the bus that doesn't change it's number mid route. Note to self; wear thicker pants if you're going to be waiting for a train in the cold. The marble bench practically gave my bottom freezer burn! At the next stop, I had just missed the bus, so I had another outdoor wait, this time on a wrought iron bench. Hmmm... colder or warmer than the marble one? It's a TIE!!! The wind was whipping around and I was pretending to distract myself from a cold butt, frozen ears, and a runny nose by doing a sudoku puzzle. Might be good for the brain pathways and neurons, but every pathway I had was screaming GET ME ON A WARM BUS NOW!!!! Geez, it's amazing how long 20 minutes take when you're waiting for a bus in chilly weather! Yeah, yeah, I know it wasn't Michigan weather but it was about 39 and I was dressed for 65! I don't know where my internal heat went, but it must have been taking a coffee break someplace else.

Finally the bus arrived; I made it back to my street, walked the downhill (thank goodness) trek home. Still no car there. I guess I was kind of wishing it would magically be there. Up the flight of 14 stairs to my condo. Dumped the pack, threw off the shoes, and collapsed on the couch. Woke up 2 hours later. This no-car-take-bus-and-train routine is going to take some adjustment!

Here are my dear friends with their "new" car.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Write From The Soul 8

http://taralazar.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/piboidmowinner.jpgLook what I got for finishing in the PiBoIdMo month. My first real badge that I figured out how to place in the blog! (I can't help it, sometimes I am so techno-challenged that it's pitiful.)

I am looking forward to my visit with family during the holidays. We leave Boston for 4 days and go to the mountains of New Hampshire to stay in a great condo with picture windows looking out on the snowy mountains, a fireplace, and lots of down time to read and write. I don't have a laptop but I do have my writing notebooks and I don't mind writing longhand. Sometimes that makes me feel more connected to the writing- you know, being able to scratch through words you don't want, or draw an arrow from a paragraph to move it to another location. I'm starting a new middle grade novel and hope to make some real headway on it.

Next Tuesday I'll be flying to Boston so no Write From the Soul. If I can wrestle the laptop away from my nephew at the condo in NH, I'll post an update and maybe upload a few photos.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Visualeyes 8 and a half

As I work through my personal challenges of vision loss, I appreciate the support and encouragement I get from friends, family, blog followers, local RP chapter, and the online discussion group, RPList. But what is available to provide support, encouragement, and "community" for kids and teens with visual impairments? Not much that I can find on the big ol' Web. So I decided to start a blog for tweens and teens. It's called Help U C  [help you see] which reminded me of texting shorthand and should appeal to youth.

The format is a topic discussed or a question posed relating to dealing with vision challenges. As the moderator, I share how I relate to the topic/question, giving an example from my life. My hope is that tweens/teens (I'm aiming for ages 8-18) will feel comfortable and safe posting a comment and sharing about their own lives. For those still in the denial phase-still trying to quietly fit in and "act normal"- it's possible to comment or ask a question anonymously. I want kids and teens to find out that it really doesn't matter how old you are, all of us are in the same boat when it comes to coping and adapting. Our choices are different depending on our age and maturity, but teens can learn from kids as well as kids can learn from teens.

In setting up the blog, the teacher in me insisted I post some guidelines to follow, things like no name-calling, swearing, use of vulgar language, and showing respect for everyone. I think "feeding the teacher"  is as much as reason for developing this blog as filling a need for youth with vision issues. Last year, my inner teacher was sated by tutoring a 3rd grader at my former school in reading. I guess I didn't realize that I missed that mentor-mentee connection from teaching. The new tween-teen blog is a great way to fill that gap for me. I also think, as I move into mobility training, [yes, I AM going to do it! See previous blog for this topic] this will become a motivator for me. I can show Help U C followers that even adults get scared, even adults have to learn new things and it will hopefully help bond all of us together.

Remember my post on the word vigor? I am approaching this new venture with vigor!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Visualeyes 8

I went to have a low vision evaluation. For those unfamiliar with the term "low vision" it's used to refer to people who obviously have difficulty seeing but can possibly be assisted with magnifiers, special types of lens, or computer hardware or software. This evaluation is really to assess the functionality of one's eyes rather than acuity. My acuity is still quite good so I'm able to read with my glasses and only use a magnifier to read at night, when my eyes are tired and might strain to see small print.

The women I worked with were all kind, supportive, and eager to see what they could do to help. They showed me various magnifiers and we discussed assistive technology, such as Acrobat which uses a small mounted camera-like magnifier that can turn 360 degrees and can be used for: doing close-up work (like my jewelry making), putting on makeup (but who really wants to see all those lines on your face?), projecting the TV images close to you even when it's across the room, writing in a notebook or computer (so I can still write children's books). All I need is a spare $2400 to get one! Someone want to buy it for me for my birthday this summer?????? Yeah, just kidding.

We also discussed the need for mobility training. Sometimes it's referred to a "safety and travel" but it comes back to the same thing- using a white cane. Now you would think that anything would be preferable to smashing your shins and knees into concrete benches, wastebaskets, low-lying coffee tables, small children, or smacking your shoulder into columns, walls, and SUV side mirrors. I would think that too, except that it means using a white cane, the universal symbol for being blind. It's not quite as bad as a neon sign flashing" blind person comin' through", but recognizable none the less. As much as I know I'm visually impaired and may end up totally blind, I don't feel I'm there YET. So my hesitation is purely emotionally based. (Geez, I feel like a goober even saying that I'm not ready. Using a cane is so helpful, I'm told) But somewhere inside, I have a memory of watching people stare at a blind person with a cane, and the look of pity on their faces. And the people who step quickly out of the way  of someone with a cane as if blindness was contagious NOT because they are trying to get out of the way. Those are vivid images that are tough to overcome.

I need to say that being open with everyone I meet about my visual impairment is still new to me. It's only in the last 3 years (out of 32 years knowing about the condition) that I've openly talked about RP. And maybe my reluctance to have a cane is still part of trying to appear "normal"  or sighted to the world. You know, as I write these things, I almost want to bang my head against the wall for acting so silly. This is my opportunity to stand up and say: "I'm not going to let this RP rule my life. Watch and see all that I can do!" I spent 30 years trying to be a role model for children & help them learn that you can't let difficulties hold you back. That's exactly what I'm doing though.

Well, the car will go this weekend and while I'm starting a new life chapter, I might as well try the mobility training too. I have empathy for Sisyphus in Greek mythology, pushing that boulder uphill. I certainly can relate. Some days, though, it feels like I've got ankle weights on as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Write From the Soul 7

My day started waaaay too early . I got up, showered, dressed, out the door to go to a hair appointment. The day was gray, cold, and rainy so there was a feeling that it was the kind of day to stay at home and hibernate. I got to the shop and it hit; I don't think the appointment is today. Guess what? I was right!!! It's tomorrow morning! I've been a step behind all day.

Then tonight I got an email from a friend titled "Randon Thoughts." I just howled as I read them because I have thought these same things...really! Enjoy some humor.

Random Thoughts for the Day:

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately
clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you
realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I
was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the heck are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm
pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how
the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I
don't want to have to restart my collection...again.

"Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this
-- ever. 

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks
me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page research paper that I
swear I did not make any changes to.

I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not
to answer when they call.

15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello?
Damn it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and
goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone
and run away?

16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not
seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

I think the freezer deserves a light as well..

Monday, December 7, 2009

Write From the Soul 6 and a half

Bloggers are frequently sending "awards" to each other- for being hysterical, helpful, true blue, honest- and these are often accompanied with questions to answer. I was sent one for being a loyal follower of someone's blog so now I feel like I'm part of the blogger club :-) As soon as I can figure out how to get the blasted picture to appear on my page, I'll add it in here! Then I can share it with someone else. Meanwhile, here are the questions with my answers.

1. Where is your cell phone? sitting on the table in the living room
2. Your hair? perm-less until tomorrow- right now it's scary looking!
3. Your mother? giving
4. Your father? funny, loved by all, unfortunately passed on
5. Your favorite food? pizza
6. Your dream last night? usually they are bizarre but I can't remember one from last night
7. Your favorite drink? beer-imports, non-alcoholic-water

8. Your dream/goal? to get a literary agent
9. What room are you in? guest bedroom where the 'puter is located
10. Your hobby? designing/making jewelry
11. Your fear? going completely blind
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? I want to be right here, well not still in this room!

13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something that you aren't? skinny, and mean-spirited
15. Muffins? blueberry, with fresh berries
16. Wish list item? JAWS assistive technology software, oh and a laptop!
17. Where did you grow up? Detroit, Michigan
18. Last thing you did? eat breakfast
19. What are you wearing? jammies(okay, I'm being lazy today)

20. Your TV? frequently "background noise"- that happens when you live alone!
21. Your pets? none, I'm waiting until I need a guide dog
22. Friends? they are the best and extremely important to me (extended family really)
23. Your life? it may not be perfect, but it's mine and I'm keeping it thank you
24. Your mood? content
25. Missing someone? friends who don't live in the same area
26. Vehicle? Corolla until 12/13/09, then no car
27. Something you're not wearing? shoes, coat, hat, jewelry- is that enough?
28. Your favorite store? toss-up between bookstore and bead store where I buy supplies
29. Your favorite color? purple
30. When was the last time you laughed? last night
31. Last time you cried? about a week ago
32. Your best friend? don't have just one, but first would be my sister who is fiercely loyal
33. One place that I go to over and over? bookstore instead of the library, also to the beach
34. One person who emails me regularly? Laura, and Lois
35. Favorite place to eat? Sweet Tomatoes- love salad bars, especially when I didn't have to cut up the salad!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Visualeyes 7

There are 10 days left. This is a deadline I could live without. In 10 days, my sweet, white Corolla will belong to someone else. Hey! I see you out there rolling your eyes like this is no big deal.  And truthfully, I thought I had "conquered" this and moved past it. Until yesterday....

Yesterday I took the baby in for her last "checkup", commonly called the 70,000 mile checkup. (Well actually they did the 80,000 mile checkup because it checks more things-not to mention costs more.) Since I'm selling my car to friends, I wanted to be sure it was in good shape. Nothing puts a major chasm in a friendship faster than a car that expires suddenly on the highway! I wanted all the belts, fluids,  doodahs and thing-a-ma-bobs checked (as you can see I have a grasp of the technical aspects of cars), and don't forget the tires. Turns out the serpentine belt had cracks (there goes $150) and needed to be replaced. One of the tires- still under warranty- had a nail in it and had to be replaced (of course I had to pay for the labor of putting the new one on, geez), and the windshield wipers were getting floppy and needed to be replaced. With replacement of the oil, balancing and rotating the tires, a suggested, but declined, alignment and $300, I got my baby back. (See it cost just like a checkup at the doctor!) There were also notes to flush the brake fluid line and something else I've blanked out. A call to my friends reassured me that they would take care of the alignment, flushing and the whatever.

So my conscience is clear. I'm handing over a car in good shape. But the reality has finally sunk in that in 10 days I will be using the bus and subway as my  mode of transportation  FOREVER. Sure I have some wonderful friends who offer rides. And there are rides to be had for money as well. It's just the finality in that word forever. Knowing that I will never go from point A to point B on my own again, unless it's by walking, comes with some sadness. Yes, I know the world will be a safer place without me behind the wheel of an automobile, but this is not about knowing, this is about feeling. And it just feels sad. I'm not angry anymore, just melancholy.

I know this will pass and I'll get to a place where I can relish and appreciate the challenge of planning my day around a timetable of buses and trains and walking segments. (Hmmmm, sounds kind of similar to planning a day of teaching around lunch, Music, recess, and bus schedule.) But right now, it just feels sad. It's like having a good friend who's lived in your town for years and suddenly tells you she's moving out of town in a month. Once you get over the shock of it, you try to act as if everything is the same; doing the same things together, spending time together. Until you get to the last week.  Visits become more poignant, a voice in your head says, "this is the last time you'll do blah-blah together" and you never want it to end but know that it must. And you start to feel sad, even though you know you'll see each other again. It's adjusting to a different normal, a new normal. You will because you have to.

I will adjust to being a non-driver because I have to. But for now, it's just sad and I am dealing with that sadness respectfully and with dignity....and kleenex!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Write From The Soul 6

I've been writing down ideas for books as they pop into my gray matter, but I haven't really had a block of time to sit down and actually write in about two weeks. And I've made a discovery.....I've missed writing! Now to those of you who are published authors, long time authors, or individuals who knew from a young age that you always wanted to be a writer the previous statement sounds absurd and you're saying: yeah, so? What's your point? My point is I'm surprised  and  thrilled  that I have made such a connection to writing. I'm the one who hated to write papers in school. I'd read anything just don't make me write about it. Then I turned into the person who wrote the best consumer letters to store managers or complaint letters to companies and airline customer service departments. And I still didn't like writing. Then I wanted to get back to my dream of writing children's books (of course when that dream started, I naively thought picture books would be a breeze to write-HA!). Now I discover that I enjoy writing, especially fiction. Oh, and now I know that writing children's books is definitely N-O-T a breeze!

I've noticed in the many blogs I've been reading, that other authors like to talk about enjoying writing too. In many "blog tours" (for the uninitiated that's cyberspeak for a printed interview with Q and A on someone's web site or blog), authors often share that they always were a writer, or that they came to writing later in life. Then of course, there's a shameless plug for their latest book! It looks like fun to me but as I haven't published yet, I guess I'm not ready to do a blog tour. So I decided to start off with an occasional interview of my own. In reading Jon Skovron's blog, http://jonnyskov.com/blog  I noticed he asks authors the same 3 questions, but nowhere had he answered those questions himself. A great way to begin my interviews, so I cajoled him into giving me the "exclusive" on his three answers  with the promise of inclusion in today's blog post. Thanks Jon! Here they are:

What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
My favorite part of writing is working on the first few chapters, when it's all fresh and new and I'm totally making it up as I go along, as well as the last few chapters when I know exactly what I'm doing and how it's all going to happen.
My least favorite part is writing that squishy middle bit where I actually have to figure out what the heck I'm doing.
What writing “gear” do you like (could be anything from your favorite tool to your favorite tchotchke).
I work on a Macbook Pro, usually on the couch with a little IKEA laptop tray and a coonhound curled up next to me. My favorite tchotchke on my desk (when I work at it) is a little plastic Riddler figurine in the pose of Rodin's The Thinker. I've had it since I was 18. It reminds me both to keep working hard and to not take myself so seriously.
Preference: Zombie, Pirate, Robot, or Ninja…you must chose one.
This is really is the question of the age:
Zombie = Culture
Pirate = Individualism
Robot = Progress
Ninja = Discipline

Each has strengths and weaknesses. The zombie offers community and solidarity (albeit stinky and gross). The Pirate offers freedom, although sometimes at the expense of others. Robot offers expanding possibilities and technological advancement, though offers no morality to contain it. Ninja offers skill and loyalty, but is stuck in traditionalism.
So which would I choose? Why, a zombie-infected ninja pirate cyborg, of course!

And now for the shameless plug of his latest YA book:
STRUTS & FRETS by Jon Skovron, published by Amulet Books