THE CONSUMER VISION

May, 2016

Address: 359 Coggeshall St., New Bedford, MA 02746

Phone: 508-994-4972

Email: bobbranco93@gmail.com

Website: www.consumervisionmagazine.com

Publisher: Bob Branco

Editor: Terri Winaught

Proofreader: Leonore Dvorkin

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The title of each article will be separated from its author by three asterisks ***. To make using your browser's search feature easier, three asterisks *** will also be used between each article.

1. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR *** by Terri Winaught

2. IS TRUE INDEPENDENCE FOR THE BLIND A MYTH? *** by Stephen Theberge

3. MEMORIES OF PERKINS *** by Alan Dalton

4. IN THE SPOTLIGHT

*** by Bob Branco (originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com, and followed by "Computer Funnies")

5. SAFETY AT THE BALL PARK *** by Bob Branco (originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)

6. THE WHITE CANE IS YOUR FRIEND *** by Casandra Xavier

7. MUSINGS AND RESPONSE *** by James R. Campbell

8. WHAT GRINDS YOUR GEARS? *** A Submission from Terri Winaught

9. INTERRUPTED FLOW *** by James R. Campbell

10. THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION *** by Bob Branco (originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)

11. A DAY I'LL NEVER FORGET *** by Ernie Jones

12. BARIATRIC SURGERY: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE *** by John Justice

13. A WONDERFUL SPRING REUNION *** by Karen Crowder

14. WHAT I LEARNED FROM SOMETHING LOST AND FOUND *** by Leonore Dvorkin

15. SLICES OF PITTSBURGH SOUNDS *** by Terri Winaught

16. SPECIAL NOTICES *** Submitted by readers and compiled by Bob Branco

17. TIPS FOR VIPS (Because Visually Impaired People Are Important, Too) *** by Penny Fleckenstein

18. RECIPE COLUMN *** by Karen Crowder

19. READERS' FORUM *** Submitted by readers and compiled by Bob Branco

20. CONSUMER VISION TRIVIA CONTEST (Answer to April's question; congratulations to those who knew it, and May's question) *** by Bob Branco

21. A CONCLUDING NOTE FROM THE PROOFREADER*** by Leonore Dvorkin

***

1. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

by Terri Winaught

In December 2015, the weather was unusually warm. As much as I loved that unseasonable warmth, because I hate cold weather, I commented to some friends that we would probably pay for this in spring. Pay for it we did here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When I attended a Pirates baseball game on April 13th, for example, it was so cold that I felt like I was at a Steelers game. (The Pirates lost, by the way.)

As I write this letter on April 17, 2016, the weather is beautiful, and the forecast is for it to stay that way.

When I think of May, I think of weather getting warmer, flowers blooming in a riot of color and fragrance, mothers being celebrated, and veterans' ultimate sacrifices being remembered. In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is a month for extra veneration of the Virgin Mary.

Regarding Mother's Day, which will be on the 8th, I wish you heaping helpings of happiness whether you are an adoptive, biological, or foster mother, a godmother, or a grandmother. For those whose mothers have died, may you remember them fondly in your thoughts and prayers.

When you celebrate Memorial Day, heartily enjoy the time off from work or school, some pleasing picnic fare, and the unofficial beginning of summer. While you have a fun-filled holiday, I would also encourage you to take the time to remember veterans who have died and to reach out to the resilient men and women who are veterans and family members.

If you know a veteran who seems overwhelmed by the stressors of conflict or the difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life, encourage that individual to share his or her story.

Before I leave you to enjoy another creatively written and informative issue of Consumer Vision, I'd like to wish our Jewish friends a Happy Passover and our Orthodox Christian readers a Happy Easter.

Ongoing thanks to our talented writers, publisher Bob Branco, proofreader Leonore Dvorkin, original editor Janet Marcley—and especially to you, the readers, whose feedback I always welcome and encourage. To make suggestions or express opinions, phone 412-263-2022 or email: twinaught@comcast.net. You can also find me on Facebook.

***

2. IS TRUE INDEPENDENCE FOR THE BLIND A MYTH?

by Stephen Theberge

We are all excited about being independent. I have been especially concerned about being employed and the issues that go along with it. We can find a few examples of blind people being self-sufficient, employed, and seemingly living the American Dream. I think the biggest barriers to being truly independent are housing and transportation.

Housing often finds many blind people living with parents, partners, or friends, or in subsidized housing. Moving one's household is a struggle for anyone, especially for our community, as we need much more assistance than the average person. In the case of those living with parents or relatives, one must think of the reality of what happens when that support system is gone, or more bluntly, what happens when the person you are living with passes away.

Let us look at those in public housing. Many people, understandably, don't work simply due to not wanting to lose their housing when their income is too high. I was just informed by my housing authority that if I made more than $26,000 a year, I'd no longer be eligible for this housing. Basically, that means that if I had a $12-an-hour job for 40 hours a week, I'd have to move. This, in and of itself, isn't an issue. The problem is that if that job didn't pan out, I'd have to re-apply for subsidized housing, or get lucky and find a friend, partner, or family member to live with. This situation is true for everybody else, to a certain extent, but we face additional challenges. We have to contend with how we are viewed by employers and society in general.

I don't advocate that we should have unlimited income requirements for subsidized housing. I mean, who would want to live there if they had sufficient means? Vocational Rehabilitation counselors are very good at trying to get folks motivated and taking the path to being self- sufficient, but the disincentive of an income cap is a real concern to many. Also, people in general do not like change, and we will all stay in our comfort zone rather than stress ourselves out. Moving, getting new jobs, and the "normal" challenges of the "real world" are of concern to everyone, but more magnified in our community.

That outlines the major concerns, but I haven't looked at the transportation problems or difficulties we face here. It amazes me that people at Commissions for the Blind are very good at firing up people to take public transportation or Paratransit options to be independent, but they get their own personal drivers. Kind of makes a mockery when you are so proud of this blind person for being so self-sufficient, and then you realize they are just as trapped in the hypocrisy as everyone else.

So, is there a solution? I suppose it is a personal choice, like everything else. We are getting mixed messages. On the one hand, we are told we have an equal chance, like everybody else. On the other hand, we are told to use all the services available to us, and not be afraid to avail ourselves of what we are entitled to. It seems to me that the "State" wants us to remain dependent on services. Don't get me wrong, I find that services can be very helpful, and they have a place. I also feel that the status quo is promulgated by the legislators. Keep that tax money coming in for the services. Keep that payroll of workers going. Yes, there are a few success stories, but I'm feeling that true change, discussion of these issues, and all the ramifications they bring are somehow taboo. I have been trying to find a solution that would satisfy the majority, but really can't come up with anything at this point.

Note:

Stephen A. Theberge is the author of the recently published novel The MetSche Message. It is available in e-book and print formats on Amazon.com and several other online buying sites. Full details and a good-sized text preview can be found at: http://www.dvorkin.com/stephentheberge/

***

3. MEMORIES OF PERKINS

by Alan Dalton

First off, let me say, for almost the first 14 years of my life, I had perfect sight, and overnight from an accident, I lost my sight. From perfect sight, to no sight, is quite an adjustment for a young teenager. My accident happened in August of 1961, and for the remainder of that school year, I was in and out of the hospital with one operation after another on both my eyes and my ears. In the early 1960s, Vermont's school system wasn't geared to handle a newly blinded child, and consequently, that school year was wasted. Also, during that year, if I wanted to go anywhere, I went sighted guide: I had absolutely no skills in which to cope with blindness. 

From my State Counselor, I heard of this school in Boston: Perkins School for the Blind, and I knew that if I wanted an education, I would have to attend Perkins. As I said, that first year was quite an adjustment for me. I couldn't allow myself to show emotion; I think it was harder for my mother to cope with a son who was blind than it was for me. Many a night I'd go to bed hearing my mother crying, and also, more times than I'd like to remember, I would hear her asking my relatives, and friends, "What are we going to do with a blind child?"

I really didn't have a choice: I knew I couldn't continue to live as a blind person unless I had the necessary coping skills, so that's what really gave me the determination to go to Perkins. The following school year, 1962, I found myself there. After my parents got me settled in my cottage, they left to go back to Vermont, and for the first time in my life, I was totally alone. Remember, up to this point, I had always had someone to take me sighted guide, and now, like it or not, it was up to me and only me to figure things out.

From my room, I needed help to find the bathroom and dining room, and from my cottage, the main school building. I was scared as hell, and I wish I had a penny for every time I got lost just doing the most basic things. I didn't have very much time to feel sorry for myself, because, on that Monday, I had to go to school and find my way from classroom to classroom. I had only three minutes between classes, and on several occasions, I missed entire classes because I got so lost trying to find my way to the correct room. 

Talk about overload, shell shock, call it what you will, but all at once I had to learn orientation and mobility, Braille, and personal typing. In my cottage, I had to make my bed, do my laundry, and learn to eat without making a total mess. And then we were also given other chores. Each week, when it was my turn, I had to mop the halls and stairs, wait on tables, do the dishes, etc., so without even realizing it, I was being given independent living skills. Only when I finally graduated from Perkins and looked back on my education there did I realize that Perkins gave me a damned good education, as well as the necessary coping skills I really needed. 

Remember, too, that before I went to Perkins, I had never met and did not know any other blind person, and then I began to wonder what kind of place I had put myself in. I saw students rocking constantly, putting their fingers in their eyes, all the various blindisms, and I wanted no part of that. I needed cane travel badly. Because I was newly blinded, Perkins said could wait for cane travel lessons, and that was totally unacceptable to me. I had to get my State Counselor involved, and that summer, for as many as 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, for the entire summer, I learned how to use a cane. By the end of the summer, I was able to go anywhere confidently and safely. 

When I went back to Perkins for the school year, I took every opportunity I could to get myself back into the sighted world. I left campus after hours, hoping no one would notice I was gone. Oops, I was at various high school dances, going to pizza shops, and finding a few bars that would sell me a beer. I came from the sighted world, and I figured, if the blind kids wanted to sit on their ass in their own little world, let them, but this kid was going to get back into life. As a way to get off campus more, I also joined various youth groups at the churches, so it gave me an excuse to mix with the local kids, and it was through these youth groups that I found out what was happening in town. I also wanted more in the way of education, like taking advanced math and chemistry, courses Perkins didn't offer, but I took them at local high schools while I was at Perkins. Trust me, I was never so glad to graduate in my life, and as I said, it was only in later years that I really appreciated what Perkins had done for me in terms of giving me all the skills I would need to be successful in life. 

So, soon after graduation, I got married. I needed to be able to support a wife and family, so I took a course in real estate and insurance, got my license, and bought and sold houses. If people needed insurance, well, I just happened to be able to sell them some. During this time, too, I went to university, graduated, went on for my Master's, and eventually received my Ph.D. Since then, I've been teaching university courses for just short of 50 years, and at the same time, I also taught courses at the local middle school and high school. Shortly after I got married, my wife and I got involved in the Foster Child program, and now, for more than 40 years, I've been a foster parent, raising more than 380 children over the years. And yes, I did it blind. Since 1978, I've been divorced. 

So that's my Perkins experience in a nutshell.

***

4. IN THE SPOTLIGHT

by Bob Branco (originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)

Once again, I will make a brief reference to George Orwell, the author who accurately predicted in 1948 that we would be under a watchful eye. Based on the natural order of things, such as more government, the Internet, social media, and sophisticated video technology, it's happening now. Our personal business is more public than ever. Our behavior is closely monitored, and websites such as Google Earth reveal our own neighborhoods on a computer screen.

With that said, and with more violence going on in the world, do we need to be watched over by technology? I suppose the better question is: Do you feel it's worth letting the public know our personal business so that we can be protected?

First, let's talk about school. It seems as though every time I turn around, kids are being shot at, teachers are assaulted, and drugs are smuggled into the classroom. This bad trend has encouraged society to consider more video cameras in class. If you have a child in school who is extremely well behaved, knowing what you know about all of this criminal activity, how would you feel about your child's behavior being publicized?

Perhaps you don't have a problem with it, because the end result is to detect those people who are misbehaving. Banks have added more technical video equipment. At the place where I bowl, video equipment was installed in order to monitor activity in certain sections of the bowling facility. Our local bus company has put cameras on some of its vehicles in case a company clerk has to review the footage at the end of the day in order to find a problem that was reported. I have a friend who purchased a video system for his home in order to keep track of his nine-year-old son in case he did something wrong.

So there you have it. Big Brother is here to stay, and we need to deal with him one way or the other. Our lives will never be the same. We can't even scratch an itch without social media making it a national story. We know much more about the very personal lives of professional athletes and other celebrities than we ever did. However, this technology also makes it easier to find out who shot someone, tossed a chair at a teacher, or caused fights among fellow students.

Our world is under a spotlight, and it's growing by the day.

Proofreader's Note:

This seems to be a good spot to mention one of the many books by my husband, David Dvorkin.  This particular nonfiction book is DUST NET – The Future of Surveillance, Privacy, and Communication: Why Drones Are Just the Beginning (C 2013). It's in e-book and print on Amazon.com and other online buying sites. Full details and a good-sized text preview are at: http://www.dvorkin.com/dn/index.html     

 

Computer Funnies

What did the spider do on the computer? — It made a website!

What did the computer do at lunch time? — It had a byte!

What does a baby computer call his father? — Data!

Why was the computer cold? — It left its Windows open!

What do you get when you cross a computer and a lifeguard? — A screensaver!

***

5. SAFETY AT BALL PARKS

by Bob Branco

This year, baseball officials will be putting up safety netting at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. The reason for this is to protect people from getting injured by flying bats and baseballs. I later learned that this safety measure was a mandate by the baseball commissioner to have it done at all Major League stadiums, and not just Fenway.

When I first heard about this, I asked myself why it took so long for Major League baseball to protect the fans this way. After all, baseball is what it is, and once in a while, a ball or bat will fly into the stands, causing serious injury or even death. A very popular theory being discussed is that many fans who go to ball parks today are spending a lot of time looking at their cell phones instead of what's going on during the game.

Let's face it. If a ball is coming at you while you're looking at your phone, you may not see it in time. Is this another example of how modern technology is forcing our environment to change? I am sure that many fans who go to baseball games would rather not see a safety net in front of them. They would rather have a completely clear view of the field.

If the cell phone is not the reason for the erection of this netting, then I have to wonder why it took over a hundred years for Major League baseball to do it. When I was a child in the 1960s, I heard about fans getting hit on the head by baseballs. Nobody thought about safety netting back then. Perhaps they should have, whether the fans liked it or not.

I would also like to find out how the safety netting is going to be shaped and what it is made of. If this netting is designed for a baseball not to penetrate it, then how much of the view will be obscured unless it's clear netting? There are a lot of practical questions while we speculate on how successful this project is going to be. Even though it took over a hundred years for Major League baseball to figure out a way to prevent injury to the fans, I'm glad this new commissioner is being proactive.

***

6. THE WHITE CANE IS YOUR FRIEND

by Casandra Xavier

Use your cane even if you have residual vision and you are on the cusp of being legally blind. You know deep in your mind that you would be better off using that cane. It will help you in the long run. You may not see that now, but you will soon—as soon as you have bumped into more people than walked a straight line. Even if you think you could go on not using your cane or anything that is helpful to you, put aside that stubborn attitude and use your cane. The cane is your friend, especially after a few traditional orientation and mobility lessons around the block. Gather up the nerve one day without your instructor and take yourself out for a walk—with your cane, of course. Even if you've reached only as far as the end of the block, that's a step forward from being in denial and trying to hide blindness. You cannot hide blindness, so don't hide your cane. Your cane is a part of you, and it is your friend.

Unfortunately I cannot hide my blindness. The moment anyone looks at me, they can see the blindness as clear as day. I have what is called congenital blindness, blindness from birth. I would wear sunglasses and that would not hide my lack of vision. People do all kinds of things to hide what is obvious. I wear the shades because I have things going on with my eyes that I would rather keep hidden. When the issues are fixed, I will start going out without my sunglasses again. I was born without one of my eyes, and the other eye looks crazy. I want to keep them covered to avoid the millions of questions the public eye may have.

I was born with Anophthalmos and Microtia Atresia, meaning I was born with blindness and deafness. Those conditions come with other things as well. Fortunately, I did not get the other health issues. I only had blindness and deafness. Thank goodness.

I could not pass as a sighted person, but I have walked the streets of Boston without a cane. When I did that, I landed myself in lots of trouble. I did this for many years until I started using a cane. I was not scared of using a cane; I just did not know how to use one. I learned, and I had fewer issues getting around after that. I missed out on a lot of good things because I could not get around without having trouble traveling. I kept myself in a bubble from going out. When I started using a cane, my ability to get around safely improved. The limitations were decreased instantly.

I would not ever want to go back to a time when I did not have a cane. I believe it was the worst experience that anyone with visual impairments could have. The cane allowed me to be more on my own than having to tell people about my vision. The cane says it all.

I have not been in situations where I was constantly being told to use my cane. I knew better than that. I also had that stigma about the cane when I first got mine. I was asking professionals who specialized in cane usage about the proper way to go about it all. When I got registered with the Commission for the Blind, my sister's friend showed me how to swipe with the cane. From then on, I was more comfortable with using the cane until I worked with my assigned orientation and mobility teacher. I remember going to the park across the street from my house to work on my cane techniques for most of the morning and afternoon around the entire playground, working on going up and down the stairs safely as well.

I attended a training center for the blind in Newton, Massachusetts for ten weeks, and it was a good intro to blindness. I made friends and networks. I was tempted to stop and go home. I couldn't believe this was true. I actually got access to training and anything related to blindness.  I had been kept out of getting help for so long that I felt that I would never get help. This felt like a horrible prank after I got started. It was real. I was locked in with services.

I fell through the cracks when it came to getting help for my blindness and deafness. Now that I've had the time to advocate for myself, I feel better about my situation. To anyone reading this, please use your cane if you have one and need to use it.

The last time I stayed without my cane was the day I fell on both knees to chase my dog from barking at the Jehovah's Witnesses. He got away and barked at them, but they thought he was cute and patted him instead of being scared. From that day, I had my cane even just to walk the dogs. If I went out without my cane, I would be in serious trouble.

***

7. MUSINGS AND RESPONSE

by James R. Campbell

I thoroughly enjoyed Bob Branco's article about gambling that appeared on Ernest Dempsey's blog (www.ernestdempsey.com) last weekend. He made some very good points that I think are worth some expansion.

In states where the lottery is played, some people on welfare will take the money they receive and buy lottery tickets. Many have been known to sell their food stamps for that purpose. The end result is that the children suffer. Food stamps were never intended for sale to the highest bidder; they are given for the benefit of the children. Yet many will sell them and also spend the welfare checks they receive on lottery tickets. In states where the lottery is still illegal, the welfare checks and food stamps are used for the purpose for which they were intended.

Texas voted in favor of the lottery in 1991. Many churches were concerned enough that they spent considerable time and effort spreading the word in order to encourage people to vote against it. Despite their best efforts, the lottery was voted in on November 5, 1991. Since that time, many people have spent a fortune on lottery tickets. In its first year, the Texas lottery sold a billion dollars worth of tickets. The big pay-out is very attractive, and vulnerable people will pay any price to get it, even at the expense of the welfare of their families.

According to a CBS News investigation, Americans gamble over 54 billion dollars a year on lotteries, yet the majority of the 42 states that run lotteries claim that the proceeds go toward education. Yet, only a fraction of the money makes it to the classroom, even when it is earmarked for that purpose. In Texas, one-fiftieth goes to education, roughly two cents on the dollar. Yet many people are fooled by the promise that the money will better the education of their children.

In 2013, the Texas legislature voted not to recommission the Texas lottery commission, a vote that would have ended the lottery in Texas. But they took a second vote, in which that decision was reversed. If my personal opinion matters much, that second vote was a grave mistake. The lottery is a way that people get taken at the expense of their families. The lottery won't improve education; the basics will. Teach the kids how to read and write, and you feed them for a lifetime.

The ever-expanding field of neuroscience has given us a window into how gambling addiction works. There is a part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, a primitive system that is the reward center of the brain. This center is responsible for the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in response to pleasant stimuli. This is the basis of all addiction, be it to alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling. Each time a person wins a pay-out from the lottery or the gaming tables, the pleasure center is activated. The thrill of chasing the dragon becomes its own focus. The harmful effects of gambling are compounded by this neural activity. The compulsive gambler spends even more money in hopes of getting the pay-out he seeks. Often, the result is heartbreaking.

One of my friends told me a story that brings this truth into sharp relief. His stepdad worked for the airlines at one time. His routes often took him to Vegas. Some of the casinos have stained glass windows that feature stories of people who lost everything they ever owned to gambling, up to and including their families. Some have even lost their lives; the mob has its hands fist deep in gambling and loan sharking. Failure to pay your bookmaker can, and sometimes does, end in death in such cases.

Some gambling operations are still illegal in Texas; the police often raid game rooms for activities associated with gambling. Even here in Odessa, there are raids conducted by law enforcement in an effort to shut down this type of illegal operation. Whenever one of these raids takes place, it's big news. I was shocked when Oklahoma voted in favor of gambling. There is a casino in or near the town of Durant, where my cousins live. I could hardly believe what I was hearing; Oklahoma is one of the most conservative states in the Union. It's hardly conceivable that they would vote for this kind of activity.

The whole idea of gambling goes against the traditional work ethic. By allowing this kind of activity, we are producing a generation of over-indulged people who will be sorely disappointed. When you figure in the crime, broken homes, and impoverished families that will be the end result, any wise person would hopefully assume that gambling is a harmful activity that we as a society can't afford. How do you, the readers, feel? And once again, thanks for your time.

***

8. WHAT GRINDS YOUR GEARS?

A Submission from Terri Winaught

Recently, a close friend of mine was admitted to a Pittsburgh hospital for surgery after breaking her leg in two places.

To assist my friend upon her return home, the gentleman she is dating came to Pittsburgh from his home in Philadelphia. When my friend, who is blind, told the young hospital social worker that her boyfriend, also blind, would be providing much of her home-based care, this "professional's" perspective was, "Oh, no! That just won't do! My recommended discharge plan is a nursing home placement before you go home."

My friend did not want to be in a nursing home, and she informed the social worker that her boyfriend, though blind, cared for her after two hip replacements.

Although this resilient woman is now recovering at home with the help of an aide, visiting nurses, physical therapists, and her boyfriend, it really "grinds my gears" when so-called "trained professionals" who may know little to nothing about blindness are sure that they "know" what's best for us. Whether or not this grinds your gears, I'd love to hear from you and welcome your feedback.

***

9. INTERRUPTED FLOW

by James R. Campbell

How many times in one's life does a person come up with an idea for a product, only to find themselves at a loss as to what the next step should be?

I suspect that the answer may be more often than we know. I am certain that any of us would not be able to count the number of ideas we have had for useful goods and services, only to forget them or put them on the back burner for any number of reasons.

Such has been the case with me for the last two years. While I was in the hospital recovering from my accident, I had little to do but think. One of the more positive things that I thought about was inspired by the work of the CNAs (certified nursing assistants) who worked at the hospital. Among other tasks, these workers are responsible for taking a patient's vital signs: blood pressure, oxygen level, and body temperature. These visits, while short, were enjoyable, if for no other reason than the fact that there was another person in the room, if only for a brief time. Dear came to the hospital every day, but she left at night. I was alone, devoid of companionship except for the cable TV, which was limited to extended basic service.

My circumstances gave me a lot of time to ponder. As I paid attention to the CNAs as they went about their work, I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't have talking thermometers and other assistive devices for the blind patients.

Maybe there are so few of us in any community that the hospital districts don't think that it would be worth the money that they would have to spend for the items. A talking glucometer costs $50.00, but then there is the cost of the supplies to go with it. The talking thermometer costs roughly $18.00, and a talking blood pressure kit costs $95.00. But again, from the hospital's perspective, how many people would use it? Would the number of blind patients justify the cost?

From a personal perspective, I believe every hospital would benefit from this equipment. If the CNA uses it for one patient, so much the better; that patient no longer needs the CNA to read that information to him or her.

During my stay, I became familiar with two pieces of equipment the hospital had. One is the spirometer, a device that consists of two chambers with a bridge in the middle. A plastic tube is attached, and when the patient inserts the mouthpiece and inhales and then exhales, the force of the breaths moves a series of balls inside the unit up a numbered grid. The greater the force of inhalation and exhalation, the further the balls move up the grid. The idea is to increase lung strength. To my knowledge, there are no talking spirometers. Another gadget I am familiar with is the pulse oximeter, which measures the oxygen in a person's blood. The CNA places the unit on a patient's finger in order to get a reading. It looks like a clamp, attached to a wire of thin tubing. The CNA or nurse can determine whether a patient needs supplemental oxygen.

The question becomes one of reasonable accommodation. How does a patient get this information without sighted help? I guess that when a blind person is exposed to this equipment for any length of time, these issues become pertinent.

How does a person with limited resources get these things on the market, or even into consideration for development? The technology is there; it is a matter of the cost of research and development, and then the marketing of the equipment once it has been patented and tested.

I have no doubt that this equipment would be of the greatest benefit to the blind patients who find themselves in the care of the nurses and CNAs for whatever reason. As much as we may hope that we won't need it, the truth is, we can never be sure. I never thought that I would need it, just as surely as I never dreamed that I would endure a one-month hospital stay, let alone the numerous surgeries that I have had since. Anything can happen, and in the blink of an eye. I can only hope that there will be a day when this equipment will be available when it is needed by the next blind patient.    

***

10. THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION

by Bob Branco (originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)

Let's bring this whole education issue into perspective once and for all. Politicians want our children to have high stakes testing. Did the politicians receive high stakes testing when they were in school, or were they successful without it? Why do politicians, superintendents, and other school administrators want our generation to do things they never did, especially when their own personal experiences worked for them? I don't get it. Maybe you do.

I also want to add one more thing about education. Common Core is terrible. It's very rewarding for me to hear about parents who want to help their children do homework, but Common Core makes it impossible. I know a mother who is extremely frustrated because she can't help her 9-year-old daughter with math. Her daughter was taught differently, and the mother, who is a well-educated adult, can't understand what her daughter is talking about. This is shameful.

Whose bright idea was it to change all the wonderful ways we were taught in school? One and one is two, and will always be two. Furthermore, when did watered-down education and millions of dollars mean the same thing? Who is paying whom to make sure watered-down education is instituted in public schools, and why?

***

11. A DAY HE WILL NEVER FORGET

by Ernie Jones

I got the phone call a few minutes after 1:00 in the afternoon, yesterday, Sunday. A longtime friend was out for a walk with his guide dog when the Pit Bull struck. My friend thought the dog was going after him, but his guide dog intercepted the attack. Regardless of the dog's main victim, the beautiful, devoted guide dog took the brunt of the attack. The Pit Bull grabbed the guide dog's neck and clamped down, and the sound of tearing flesh could be heard amidst the growling and the hurt dog's crying for help.

I also had a dog that was a Pit Bull cross attack my devoted guide some years back, and I felt this attack all over again, like it was just yesterday.

I talked to my friend for probably one and a half hours as he sat in the emergency waiting room while the vet worked at sewing up the deep rips in the neck of his guide, Scarlet, while memory and anger flowed through me. When I bid my friend goodbye, the surgery was still in progress. For sure, several incisions had to be sutured closed, but a large one would need a drainage tube in it for some time as Scarlet, we hoped, recovered. Due to the deep wounds, there was a chance that Scarlet would need a feeding tube in place while she healed. The vet was still not sure that Scarlet would even live, although he hoped she would. But even if Scarlet lives, will she ever again be a fearless guide dog? Will she once again guide my friend through his neighborhood, or will this trauma cause her to not be able to guide again?

Today, I am still angry at dog owners who keep such dogs. This dog had already in the past attacked several other dogs; still, it was loose. The owner said it was tied with a chain, but it broke the chain; still, there wasn't any chain dangling from its neck.

The authorities took the attack dog in, but what will happen to it, we still don't know.

Thinking back to the attack on my guide, the attack dog had also already attacked two other dogs. The law sort of slapped the owner's hands and ordered her dogs contained. Yet day after day, her dogs continued to run free, until I was forced to take action before another dog—or worse, a small child—was injured. In my case, it took her homeowner's insurance to convince her to get rid of the dog. But she still allowed the remaining dog, plus another she soon had, to run free.

I am trying to forget the past, to let the anger at this new case go, but there are times that it resurfaces. But life goes on. I must continue to encourage and support, thus anger must be driven back. Today will be a beautiful day even if outside the rain is falling.

May today be a good day for all of you.

God bless you,

Ernie

Ernest Jones

Author of Onesimus, the Run-Away Slave

Encouraging the blind

Greater love hath no man than this

***

12. BARIATRIC SURGERY: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

by John Justice

 After fighting a continuous battle with my weight, I finally decided to undergo surgery which is designed to assist the patient with that serious issue. There were many factors which impacted that final decision, and I will do my best to share some of them with our readers in hopes that the information might help someone who isn't sure whether surgery is the right decision for them.

First of all, surgery is always something which should be considered only when all other options have failed. There is always a risk involved with anything that requires that a doctor open the body and make changes in the natural daily functions. Although medical insurance carriers do cover these procedures, they do so only under certain pre-determined conditions. A Body Mass Index (BMI) is used, which can specifically measure how much extra weight any person carries. The BMI is based on height, body structure, gender, age, and racial origin. If the patient has a BMI which is greater than 40, they are initially eligible for coverage under most insurance guidelines. At the time of surgery, my BMI was 47. At my height, age, and so on, I should have weighed approximately 160 to 180 pounds. I weighed 305 pounds. In addition, I was a Type 2 diabetic with high blood pressure. The bariatric surgeon would take all of those factors into consideration. Based on that information, I was definitely a candidate for surgery.

There are several types of surgery which would be considered. The surgeon would make a decision based on my age and overall physical condition, as well as his projected target, the correct weight for me. Each person is examined and a final decision is reached. My particular surgical procedure was a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. In this particular process, 85% of my stomach was removed. The remaining 15% was surgically altered to form a smaller area, still capable of digesting food and supporting my health, but I would be able to eat much less than I did originally. Any doctor will tell his patients that the best way to lose weight is to eat less. With that kind of reduction in my stomach, there was no doubt that I wouldn't be eating as much as I did.

The actual surgery was performed using laparoscopic procedures. Very small incisions were made at several points, and the healing process was relatively painless. I was in the hospital for two days, kept one additional day because of my visual impairment. Normally, a sighted patient would be instructed to watch for the condition of the incisions, checking for excessive reddening, seeping and so on. None of those problems appeared in my case.

I'm going to quote my surgeon here. He said it much better than I could. "The problem is in the preparation, not the actual surgery." In order to make this operation a success, changes must be made before and after the actual surgery. The body must be prepared as much as possible to assure that the actual procedure is successful. The preparation begins as much as two weeks before the scheduled date. The patient must alter his or her diet and eat only what is specifically indicated.

For the last three days before surgery, the only thing the person consumes is water and protein drinks. These are available in many forms. There is enough protein in each of these drinks to maintain the patient's health while reducing the size of the liver. That is essential, since the surgeon would be working in an area adjacent to the liver. The reduced diet also clears the body of waste, making it possible for the operation to be performed with minimal complications. The protein drinks can be purchased in a pre-measured form, which is much easier to deal with. Protein powder is also available, but it has to be measured, and the material is very light and difficult to handle. In short, it makes a mess if you aren't careful. We found that buying the readymade drinks was a much better option, even though the cost was somewhat higher. I'm not going to provide brand names, here, since the suppliers might be different in your own part of the country. We found what we needed at our local discount stores such as Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club. The pre-mixed protein drinks were also available at large corporate drugstores like Walgreen's and CVS, but the cost was higher.

Once the surgery has been completed, the patient must work through a special diet designed to allow the stomach to heal while still maintaining enough input to assure continuing health. For example, you will start off with clear liquids such as broths, clear soups, and so on. The next step is food which is pureed. The consistency is a bit heavier but doesn't result in digestion problems for the patient's stomach. Many patients turn to baby food at this step in the process. It's easy to use, readily available, and already in pureed form. Little by little, the food increases in texture until normal eating is resumed. Each step will be clearly indicated by the dietician and nursing staff at the doctor's office. I recommend that you bring along a digital recorder and make notes which you can use later on. All of this data is available in an electronic format, but I found that making notes was a much more efficient way to handle the information. 

CAUTION! The dietary instructions have been developed specifically for this process. Thanks to the help of my wife, I was able to follow the directions to the letter. If you try to push this process, you will be the one who suffers the consequences. Your stomach isn't what it was, and it never will be again. I have met people who went off of the reservation and regretted it. There are several rules to follow.

 Eat slowly and take small bites.

Chew your food well.

Take your time.

Do not drink during meals, as the liquid will fill your stomach and you won't be able to eat as much as you should.

Avoid junk food if possible. It has very little nutritional value and fills you up quickly.

What were the benefits of bariatric surgery for me? Although I have been a diabetic since 1984, my sugar counts have returned to normal and it is no longer necessary for me to take medication to control my glucose levels.

My blood pressure has returned to normal levels. I do have a talking blood pressure machine and test my pressure regularly, but it is now normal. Although I still take a small dosage of control medication, it is half of what I once used.

Since my surgery in January, I have lost 64 pounds.

There was a time when I was ravenous. These days, I eat regularly, but I no longer have that overwhelming desire for food. My portions are much smaller and my wife, God bless her, has been very supportive. She knows how much I can eat and gives me enough that when I'm finished, I no longer have an appetite. I don't raid cookies or candy at night these days. They aren't here, and that helps, but I no longer have a desire for late-night snacks. 

We have gone out to eat occasionally. When I get a normal order, I'm only able to eat about a third of it and I'm full. Some restaurants will not like that. The ones we go to just pack up the remainder and we take it home. We don't make a fuss about my eating limits. Most places will just box up the leftovers without a problem. Once in a while, a waitress or manager will ask if everything was okay. When a person doesn't finish something, they worry.

As blind people, we have a distinct advantage. My wife has a theory about this. When people see food on a plate, they will try to eat it all, even when they aren't hungry any longer. But we can't see the food. Maybe, for that reason, it's easier for us to turn it away.

For me, this was the best option. I have heard stories about people eating so much that they were able to stretch their stomachs and go back to their old habits. I can't imagine anyone going through this process and then ruining it all by overeating. This may not be the best solution for everyone, but it is working for me. My doctor tells me that I will add at least ten years to my lifespan because of the reduction in blood pressure and glucose levels. My kidney function is returning to almost normal, and that isn't something to fool with. I hope that this article will shed some light on the bariatric option.

Personal email for John and Linda Justice:

john_justice@verizon.net

A note from the proofreader:

My husband and I have a friend who had this same procedure. In a fairly short time, he lost almost 200 pounds (which he needed to), and his severe Type II diabetes disappeared completely right after the surgery. He, too, cannot imagine going back to the way he was. As far as eating out goes: Here in Denver, no one bats an eye if you ask to have three-quarters of your meal boxed up, but you can also just order an appetizer if you cannot eat a lot. – Leonore Dvorkin   

***

13. A WONDERFUL SPRING REUNION

by Karen Crowder

 Since 2000, Bob Branco has held numerous Perkins reunions. I began attending them in 2005. This was to be my tenth reunion.

Candice and I arrived at the Mount Vernon restaurant in Somerville at 11:30. With the din of conversation, we wondered if everyone had arrived.

My friend Tom verbally signaled that there was room at his table. There were no booths, yet the chairs were very comfortable. Bob Branco asked if he and his friend Michelle could sit with us. Brandy ran over, also asking to sit with us. I had met her on the Sunday night seven o'clock Perkins chat line. We were happy that the three of us were sitting together.

 At noon, Bob called the roll; there were already 45 people at the reunion. Friends I had not seen since the summer reunion in September were there. This reunion was special for me. It was the first time I was away for an entire weekend with my friend Candice since my ankle fracture in September 2014. I was staying with her until Monday morning at her apartment in Marlborough.

 Coffee was being served upon request. Soon there were delicious rolls, a cross between French and crescent rolls. I had two; they were irresistibly delicious.

 We all sat talking, with Bob, Brandy and I finding it coincidental that the three of us are on the same chat line.

Before our entrees, we had delicious tossed salads with cucumbers and a tangy, subtly sweet vinaigrette dressing. However, Candice did not share my appreciation for the salad, not liking cucumbers. I associate them with gardens and late summer days.

Our meals arrived, with the servers asking who wanted fish, chicken, or roast beef. The meals were served piping hot. My haddock had a crumb topping and was very tender, nearly falling apart. The portions of haddock, chicken, or roast beef were ample, accompanied with fluffy mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots. The quality of the food was exceptional. Tom enjoyed his roast beef but was not used to the thin gravy it was served in. Candice loved the chicken with the cranberry sauce, potatoes, peas, and carrots.

For dessert, we had small dishes of vanilla ice cream. The coffee was good, as was our conversation.

Walking around the room, I was able to talk with Diane. She had little knowledge about my recent injury. Some people I wished to speak with had left early.

All too soon, it was 3:30, and we all had to move to the bar area. I sat in a booth- like affair next to my friend John Christie; I had not seen him since September. After 4:00, our ride came; it was a beautiful, sunny, mild May afternoon. It was the end of another great spring reunion. This year, we are having it May 7th, at the Mount Vernon restaurant again. The restaurant is at 14 Broadway in Somerville, Massachusetts. The price for the fixed Saturday menu is $20, which includes tips. They are known for exceptional food and service.

***

14. WHAT I LEARNED FROM SOMETHING LOST AND FOUND

by Leonore H. Dvorkin, C 2016

A little over a year ago, I had my study and the adjoining guest bathroom painted. It was a huge job for both the painters and us, as we had to remove from my study the contents of 11 large bookcases and then the bookcases themselves before the ceiling and walls could be painted and the hard tile floor thoroughly cleaned. The furniture, which consisted of two big desks, two chairs, and two filing cabinets, just got shoved around as the men worked. In the bathroom, I emptied the cabinets, as they were being painted as well.

After several days of meticulous work, everything came out looking great. The resulting effect was well worth the time and money spent and the tremendous amount of effort on everyone's part. 

However, sometime later, to my great distress, I discovered that my two favorite decorative greeting cards were missing from the bathroom. Now, let me explain where and why I have greeting cards and postcards in a bathroom!

Above the toilet, we have a cabinet called a Johnny boy. It has two shelves behind its swing-out doors and an open, lower shelf about 18 inches above the top of the toilet. Thus the cabinet provides ample space for things like an extra roll of toilet paper, some decorative items, small paper cups for our guests, and much more.

On the lower shelf, I have four small decorative items: all black and white, to match the room's color scheme. In addition, something that I regularly do is prop a pretty greeting card or postcard up on the shelf, changing the cards according to the season or just on a whim, on no particular schedule. Two of them are perfect for the monthly Spanish conversation group meetings that I host. One of them depicts two smiling Mayan girls in very colorful clothing; one girl is welcoming the other to her home. The other is a lovely handmade card, featuring the words, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." The latter card was a gift from a longtime Spanish student of mine. Both of them are wonderful things to put out as an extra little welcome to my guests.  

When I discovered that precisely those two favorite cards were missing, I was horrified. My assumption was that someone—a guest, or maybe even a student—had at some point rummaged through the cabinet, had picked out those two cards, and had slipped them into his or her pocket or purse. (Another card had been on display for quite a while, so I did not notice the loss right away.) I searched everywhere for them; they were nowhere to be found.

Worst of all, what was then lost, in addition to the cards, was my trust in my own students and guests. I was filled with anger and suspicion, fearful that the same thief, or perhaps another, could at any time take something of much more value from my home. There are many pretty little items all over the house, things that could very quickly and easily be slipped into a pocket or purse, and I would never know which of the many people who are in my home on a regular basis had taken one or more of them.

In short, I was angry, disappointed, disillusioned, and very worried. Gradually, and especially after nothing else disappeared, those feelings faded, but it took a long, sad time for me to stop worrying about a possible additional theft.

Well, you can probably guess what eventually happened. Recently, I was doing some long overdue clutter-clearing, rummaging through one of many cardboard boxes whose jumbled contents I need to investigate and sort. And there, to my immense surprise and happiness, were the two precious cards, along with several others that I like. Obviously, at some point before the painting project, I myself had gathered up the cards and had placed them in that box. Why I had ever separated them from the others that I still had in the bathroom, I have no idea. Nor do I have any memory of having placed the cards in the box. But I must have; no one else would have done that. So now I have them again, and my suspicions have all been laid to rest. What a wonderful relief!

Beyond that, though, there are some very good lessons to be taken from this combination of happenings. Here they are, as I see them:


1. Don't be suspicious of family members or friends unless you have proof, or something very close to it, that they have done you wrong in some way.


2. What was lost may yet be found again. Sometimes you know that the search is utterly hopeless, but most of the time, you do not. Try to keep hope alive, and keep searching!


3. You can never know what happy event a given day will bring. Sometimes it's something monumental, fantastic, even life-altering. But sometimes the event is small, perhaps quite trivial in the eyes of others, yet deeply meaningful—such as when you find a misplaced object that you really cared about.

Now I can go back to trusting all those who enter my home, as well as to displaying my two favorite cards. May the affection and joy that shine out from those images and words fill all of our hearts for a long time to come.         

 


***

15. SLICES OF PITTSBURGH SOUNDS

by Terri Winaught

As I stand outside on an April morning abounding in spring warmth, I hear a bus engine grumbling like an impatient parent. Another bus farther down the street releases its airbrakes, which sigh disgustedly at the mounting, slowing traffic.

Still waiting for my ride, I enjoy the friendly chatter of people standing in front of the 7-Eleven, a welcome reprieve from the blaring and swearing of "gangsta" rap.

Birds compete for the right to sing "hello" to the morning as they clamor to be called the best choir.

Finally, my ride arrives and whisks me off to work. Work starts out as a quiet place: a place to relax in the moment with a serenity prayer, a place where mindfulness makes its home, and a place that's a harbor of hope and healing.

Soon and very soon, my quiet place disappears into a river reeling with activity. Waters warmed by trust start flowing; streams of self-esteem spring up, and another day of work begins.

 ***     

16. SPECIAL NOTICES

VoiceOver is the out-of-the-box text-to-speech technology which the Apple Corporation utilizes to make its IOS products (iPhones and iPads) accessible.

The many ways to learn VoiceOver commands include Braille help cards from National Braille Press (www.nbp.org) and instruction from national libraries for the blind and physically handicapped. Yet another free way to learn this technology is the website http://www.voiceover-easy.net/. This site contains six free tutorials that are blind-friendly, with no diagrams or pictures, and constant updates. These tutorials assume no previous knowledge of or experience with VoiceOver. Also, one copy of each tutorial can be printed or embossed but not distributed in whole or in part without permission from the website's developer.

To learn more from this easy-to-navigate site, visit http://www.voiceover-easy.net/.

Terri Winaught

***

The Braille Forum is a quarterly publication of the American Council of the Blind (ACB). In the March 2016 issue, there was an article about a new magnifier and screen reader called MagWin. Available on a thumb drive, this program is described as "affordable and mobile."

If you would like to be a beta tester and receive what are described as "program perks," email: mailer@getmagwin.com.

This version of MagWin features a new user interface, compatibility with Windows 10, and enhanced performance.

***

This is Bob Branco, publisher of Consumer Vision. I would like to talk about my weekly conference program called Branco Broadcast. Each week, I invite a special guest to talk about his/her hobbies, profession, or other endeavors. Callers to the show listen in and then ask questions. Branco Broadcast is heard on free conference calling every Monday evening at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. If you are not on the mailing list to receive weekly reminders of who will be on the program, you may want to be added to the list. If so, please send an email to bobbranco93@gmail.com, and I will put you on the mailing list.

***

Hello, everyone! My name is Patty Fletcher, and I publish the online newsletter The Neighborhood News. I'm currently offering one month of free advertising to all new subscribers. Send subscription requests, advertising, literary submissions, or PayPal payments to me at: patty.volunteer1@gmail.com . To subscribe, send your first and last name and your email address. 

To place your ad, please send your ad plus contact info. Only one link per ad, please. Font and size: Times New Roman, size 12. There is a 200-word limit, with or without a photo. I accept PayPal or money order payments. If you wish to mail a payment, please email me, so I can send you my mailing address.

When your free month is up, if you wish to continue advertising with The Neighborhood News, the cost per year is only $15.00. With this, you can place an ad that meets the above requirements for an entire year.

Thank you for your business!

Also, we are currently looking for literary submissions, for which there is no charge or payment.  They can be short stories, narratives, or poems. They are not to exceed 2000 words. You must be a subscriber, and submissions must come edited.

My website: http://www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/  Here you will find full information about my autobiographical book, Campbell's Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life (C 2014). There's a preview of the text there, too.

My blog: http://campbellsworld.wordpress.com/

 

***

17. TIPS FOR VIPS (Because Visually Impaired People Are Important, Too)

by Penny Fleckenstein

I was an excruciatingly shy girl. I was determined and always knew what I wanted, but I rarely spoke up. I could force myself to strike up a conversation with anyone and socialize at parties, and I made friends. However, the difficulty of that was painful and embarrassing. I spent many hours crying, struggling, and feeling alone. I had an extreme identity crisis till I was 27.

When I was 12, we lived in San Francisco. We rode the bus to get everywhere. Mom told me that it only cost a dime for me to ride. She said it was because I was blind that I got this special rate and that I got to ride in the front seats in order to be closer to the bus driver. Riders would find me a seat to sit in so I didn't have to stand. I felt offended. Just because I'm blind?

Years later, after facing discrimination, I realize it's society's way of helping those of us who are visually and physically challenged. The same people won't hire us, give us problems about our guide dogs, don't want us as tenants, and don't want us as part of their organization. Now I encourage people to get the fast pass at amusement parks, use the handicapped fares, ride Access (which in some areas is called Paratransit), go to the front of the line when boarding airplanes, buses, and trains, and I even ask for help when shopping. I've become assertive while still remaining friendly and considerate. I've come a long way since I was that emotional, shy little girl. As with stage fright, though, the shyness and anxiety are always with you.

There was the time I went to a buffet without my children. I panicked because my daughter Natasha wasn't there to get my food. I was terrified. In a world filled with meat eaters, not everyone understands that I don't want a salad with "just a little bit of bacon" in it. I don't want to have a chicken patty when I ask for a veggie patty. I had to trust a total stranger to take me through the line.

I had another panic attack when my daughter Penny was going to leave me at her school to attend a meeting for the parents of the students in cross country. What I didn't know was that we were all meeting in the gym and would be asked to split up into different groups to travel to different areas of the school when our individual sports were announced. A flood of "what if's" took over my mind, and I started to shake and cry. I demanded my daughter take me home immediately.

So, when I tell you that it's important to develop a network, I know it's not easy. But really, when you think about it, we've been developing a network since the beginning of elementary school or before. Our parents dropped us off, and we were expected to develop a network: friends to play with, eat lunch with, work with, and talk to. I was dropped off as a totally blind child amongst many sighted children. I had to discover on my own who would help me and who would hurt me. It's not that much different when you're an adult. At some point, you learn that just because someone you trust says someone else is trustworthy, that is not always the case. Jesus warns us about wolves in sheep's clothing. There are manipulators, liars, users, takers, and haters. They don't have a problem taking advantage of a visually impaired person and some of them are visually impaired themselves.

"Well," you ask, "then how can I develop a network?"

Let me be honest with you. It's just as daunting as it was when you and I were kids. After my two panic attacks, I moved to a new city. I've made many moves in my life, but this time I had two little boys with me and one of my daughters, Katrina, joined me after I had lived here for a year and a half. I was blessed to move to a city filled with helpful and friendly people. It's a good thing, because as a VIP, there's an immense need for sighted assistance.

First and foremost, my two little boys needed friends. I spent hours sitting at the school playground after school while they played. I'd read a Braille book, bring snacks to share with their friends, and get into conversations with other parents. I also called a church and asked them to find people who could give me rides. Through church, I found people willing to help me shop and move and a lady who threw the best baby shower ever. I joined Cub Scouts and went to pack meetings, committee meetings, and even district meetings. My boys and I ate at restaurants. We mingled with people at the park and all around town. I was determined to make my family visible so we could get rides, find out useful information, and help others. My two boys are teenagers now, 19 and 17, but I still keep myself visible, always looking for new friends and sighted assistants. I met one of my best friends at a school board meeting. Now she is my aide. Some people will help temporarily and some become more permanent fixtures in your life.

It was two o'clock in the morning. My water had just leaked, and I was calling down my list of people who had agreed to take me to the hospital. I got lucky on number three. When he walked out of the maternity ward, leaving me by myself, he got a lot of dirty looks from the nurses and staff. In the morning, I called three people who said they would help me with my birth. My friend Terri Winaught made special arrangements on access to come and spend a few hours with me during Zachary's birth, after she sang at her friend's funeral. We played games and sang songs, and her soothing voice helped keep me stay calm. I will always be grateful to Terri and my friend Anne, the one who threw me that baby shower, for being there for me. I have since lost track of Anne, who was an angel in an extreme time of need, but I continue to have a very close friendship with Terri. Terri and I continue to help each other out. My son Zachary is now seven years old.

Don't let your visual impairment hinder you from helping others.

I watch my friends' children, make phone calls, type, write, have helped pack, take care of electrical cords, offer whatever computer and BrailleNote assistance I can, lend people things, and give blindness presentations. My help is available for the sighted and the visually impaired. It feels good to give, and it helps me feel less guilty for needing all the help that I do.

Not everyone is going to want to be helpful, and not everyone who says they're willing to help actually will. Some will be with you short term and others for the long haul. Just try not to wear them out. Know who you can call at 2:00 in the morning for a trip to the emergency room and know who is good for a heavy duty shopping trip. Know who's good at doing paperwork and who will get you to appointments on time. Also, give your volunteers and aides some slack. They're human, too.

Building a network isn't just a blind person thing; it's an everybody thing. Remember to be pleasant, kind, appreciative, and polite. Remember to be their friend and do what you can for yourself, and be there for them. Some people are happy just to have your company. They feel glad to help you and are flattered that you have given them the opportunity to give. It is all right to need the help that you need. I say that if a sighted person can do it for you more quickly and easily than you can do it for yourself, go ahead and let them do whatever it is.

I said last month that I would spend time playing with my new Galaxy ID Mate. It's a barcode reader that can identify and tell you what a product is when you scan its UPC code. I use it in an emergency when there are no sighted children or friends or aides around. It hurts my hands, which have inflammation in the joints, but I've found it accurate so far. I haven't opened the wrong item yet because of the Galaxy ID Mate.

I use my money identifier, which I got from the Library for the Blind, quite regularly. My color identifier has gone by the wayside because of its unreliability. I meant to write more about products this month, but I felt a tug on my heart to write about building a network and keeping reliable assistants. Your family isn't always going to be there for you, and as we age, we need to rely on more people. Nobody is an island to themselves.

Please give me feedback at: goodthaimom@gmail.com

Tell me of any tips you would like to share, or if I've been helpful in any way. Happy May and happy search for new precious friends.

***

18. RECIPE COLUMN

by Karen Crowder

By May, daffodils and tulips are in full bloom. By Memorial Day, the fragrant lilacs are in yards across New England.

Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer. If weather permits, pools are opened. When Marshall and I lived on Marden Street in Fitchburg, Memorial Day was often the start of summer cookouts. My Seasoned Hamburgers, Old-Fashioned Coleslaw, and Memorial Day Fudge Brownies are good at barbecues, However, Tuna Melts are delicious on a cool May evening.

 

CONTENTS

a. Tuna Melt

b. Seasoned Hamburgers

c. Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

d. Memorial Day Fudge Brownies

 a. Tuna Melt

 I had my first tuna melt on Easter Sunday 1969 at Friendly's Restaurant. It was a new favorite meal; I often ordered one with fries. I discovered that homemade tuna melts were delicious. The guests I served them to loved them.

Ingredients:

Two six-ounce cans water-packed tuna

Four slices American or cheddar cheese

Two tiny sweet pearl onions or one-fourth sweet onion

Four spoonfuls of mayonnaise

Dashes of dried dill, curry powder, and salt.

One-half stick butter

Four slices Canadian white bread or whole wheat bread

Method:

Melt butter for five minutes in a large 12-inch skillet. I prefer cast iron: it cooks sandwiches slowly, retaining flavor.

In a small mixing bowl, put tuna, mayonnaise, chopped onion, and spices.

Combine tuna with spices, mayo, and onion, blending with a fork.

Place slices of bread on a large plate, putting one slice of cheese on each slice of bread.

Add several spoonfuls of tuna mixture on each slice.

Gently press top slices of bread on mixture.

Place sandwiches in skillet. Grill sandwiches for 10 to 14 minutes on each side on low heat. When turning sandwiches over, use a metal or plastic spatula. 

Slow heating helps sandwiches cook thoroughly, giving them that delicious flavor. Serve tuna melts alone or with cream of tomato soup, fries, or tossed salad.

 b. Seasoned Burgers

We always anticipated the tantalizing smell of hamburgers grilling on our charcoal grill. Often I liked seasoning them with spices, enhancing their flavor. Since our hamburger patties were from a frozen food company, their flavor was superior.

Ingredients:

16 to 20 hamburger patties: 4 or 5 ounces each, 80% lean

Dashes of dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder (optional), and salt.

Method:

On a large plate, rub seasonings on both sides of each hamburger patty. If they are not to be grilled right away, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate them.

Grill them for 5 to 7 minutes on each side on a gas or charcoal grill.

When you have to turn the patties, put requested American or cheddar cheese on the cooked side. Add condiments or other vegetables when serving them hot on rolls.

Everyone will ask for seconds. When these are combined with barbecued chicken, coleslaw, tossed salad, hotdogs, sunshine, and conversation, it will be a delightful day with family and friends.

c. Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

 Although I got Grandma's mayonnaise dressing from our New England Cookery, I made changes to it. This recipe was published in What We Love to Eat, a cookbook published by Bob Branco. The tangy sweet dressing is perfect for coleslaw. My young grandson always requested it because of the delicious dressing.

Salad ingredients:

One large head of green cabbage

One-half sweet onion

One grated carrot (optional)

Dressing ingredients:

One medium jar of Miracle Whip

Two tablespoons milk

Two tablespoons vinegar

Two tablespoons granulated sugar

Dashes of garlic powder, curry powder, dried or fresh dill weed, dried or fresh chives, and salt

Method:

If you are using whole cabbage, grate it into a large mixing bowl with a four-sided grater. If you are using a food processor, it will speed up your work.

Add onion and optional carrot and stir ingredients.

If using already prepared coleslaw from your supermarket, just add grated onion and optional carrot.

Put it in a large mixing bowl or container; add dressing.

In a small mixing bowl, combine Miracle Whip, sugar, vinegar, milk, and spices. Stir with a large spoon until ingredients are blended.

Add dressing to the coleslaw and stir with a large spoon until dressing is incorporated.

Put coleslaw in a large, airtight plastic container and refrigerate it until serving time. 

Note: You can make the coleslaw a day ahead, giving the flavors time to set.

This makes a large quantity.

d. Memorial Day Fudge Brownies

 The original name for this recipe is Super Fudge Brownies. It is from the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book cookbook. I made these often, especially at holiday celebrations. In 1998, I made them for our Memorial Day weekend barbecue. By the end of this delightful evening, most of the brownies were gone. I made changes to the original recipe, using margarine instead of butter, adding more chocolate, and using less vanilla. In later recipes, I used less sugar, adding bittersweet chocolate and using some cocoa for dusting the pan.

Ingredients:

Six large eggs

One and three-quarters cup granulated sugar

Two sticks margarine

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, or one bittersweet chocolate bar (Ghirardelli's 72% cacao bar is best.)

One-half cup flour

One teaspoon vanilla

A pinch of salt

12 ounces Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips

One tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

Method:

In a 3-quart saucepan or double boiler, melt unsweetened chocolate and two ounces of bittersweet chocolate (or half of the Ghirardelli's chocolate bar) on low heat. Stir occasionally with a large spoon to blend mixture.

Let margarine and chocolate mixture cool completely.

In a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar on medium speed for six minutes.  

Add chocolate/margarine mixture to the egg/sugar mixture.

Beat for two minutes, then add vanilla.

Beat for one minute, adding combined flour and salt.

Beat on low speed for one minute.

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

 Line a pan (13" x 9" or 7" x 11") with foil. Grease bottom and sides with Crisco shortening or cooking spray. Dust bottom and sides with the tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, adding a little flour.

 With a metal or plastic half cup, measure half the batter into the pan.

Sprinkle batter with half the chocolate chips and part of the broken-up bittersweet bar.

Add the remaining brownie batter, making sure the pan is completely covered.

Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips and bittersweet bar on top.

Bake brownies for 55 to 60 minutes.

Let brownies cool in pan on counter for 15 minutes.

Lift the uncut brownies out of the pan onto a large dinner plate.

After letting them cool for another half hour, either cut them or refrigerate the uncut brownies, covering them with foil and plastic wrap. 

Note: Put uncut brownies on a cutting board still covered with foil. This makes cutting easier. You will have approximately 26 brownies.

If you cut them, cover them with plastic wrap and put them in a one-gallon Ziploc bag.

Although they are best served the same day they are baked, they taste delicious the next day, too. They will disappear, with everyone inquiring where you got that delicious recipe.

New England Cookery was published by the Massachusetts chapter of the NFB in 1982. Mrs. Fields Cookie Book may still be available from your regional library. It was available in the mid-1990s from the National Braille Press.

I hope all readers of Consumer Vision have enjoyed this recipe column.

***

 

19. READERS' FORUM

Dear Bob, Terri, and the rest of the great Consumer Vision Team!

I am very grateful for the latest Consumer Vision April issue, as I am for all issues arriving in my inbox here in Namibia, so I can be updated with my friends from America. Great job, and many thanks!

I would like to share my experience in summary of my experience in Internet dating, following the reading of your article entitled "The Dangers of Internet Dating."

What you write is very true, just as it is when you mentioned that sometimes it really works. I have a number of friends who tried it but did not have the good experience. However, I was lucky and really had a happy experience.

In 2009, following 25 years of marriage and eight lovely kids with my first wife, I found myself suddenly alone at age 46, and I did not like it at all. I have a farmhouse on 50-some acres in Eastern Canada. I was running a business and the last two kids still lived at home, but life suddenly was not the same, so I decided to do something about it.

A few years ago, I had a teaching contract in Mozambique with Humana, and kind of fell in love with the mystical nature of Africa. I also really loved the absence of cold weather, so I decided to try to find an Internet date in Namibia, a country I'd never visited, but at that time, it was one of the few that still didn't require a Canadian visiting visa, so cross-border travel was relatively uncomplicated.

I got on the site Afro-Introductions, which seemed more user friendly for screen readers than most sites, and searched Namibia for a suitable person who might be compatible with my interests. Only two profiles were active, and the one I found interesting was that of a school teacher in Swakopmund, a mid-sized town near the south of Namibia on the Atlantic coast. I sent an email introducing myself, as well as sending my business website for additional info. I received the reply the next day, very polite and appropriate. She introduced herself as a school teacher for a primary school, and she gave me the website of the school. I checked out the site and found her, Yolanda, on the list of staff members. A good start, I thought.

We exchanged emails about our interests, history, and challenges in life. She told me of her lovely child of eight years. I spoke of my kids, and we spoke of challenges; that is when I broke the news of my blindness. On my business site I have no mention of my blindness, so now I waited to see if she would be scared off by my news or take it in stride. It was difficult to know, as about a couple months before meeting Yolanda online, I was chatting with a mother from a nearby town in Canada. We were doing well until she found out I was blind, and she told me upfront that if I couldn't drive her daughter to school, then I wouldn't be a good match. So now I waited to see what Yolanda would say.

I was happy to find out that she was not afraid of continuing with our friendship. Yolanda had no driver's license, so we agreed it would be great for her to work on one once we meet. We spoke a lot of a dream of starting a school, as we both had teaching experience and really were interested in working on our own project in the future.

We spent two weeks more on daily, long, three-page emails, talking of the challenges of each of our countries, and then decided to concentrate on a possible relationship.

I thought it great for Yolanda and her child to see Canada, and she was excited about this. We established a Google Chat (called Google Talk at the time), which allowed us to speak via Internet for hours per day without it costing money. We planned the school project we hoped to work on, figuring it best to do it in Namibia rather than Canada, for economic reasons. And really, I didn't like the cold so much anyway.

I sent her a bit of money to get her and the child's passports so I could book my flight to visit her, then book all three return flights on the same flights to Canada. Once she got her passports, I could see she was for real for sure; if I had any doubt before, it was gone now, as her and her child's full names and other details had to be in place for the flights to be accepting of our boarding.

At the end of September 2009, I flew over to Namibia, boarding a bus in Johannesburg, South Africa and taking a 30-hour, pre-booked bus to the town of Swakopmund. It took four days of traveling by plane and bus. I was also toting a 100-lb. hockey bag with solar panels to try to do some business while I was there. Surprisingly, none of the panels broke.

When I stepped off the bus, Yolanda was waiting for me, as I had sent a picture of myself, and she recognized me. Up to that time, I had no idea what she looked like. We greeted one another nervously, and she helped me with my heavy bags to a taxi to go to her house in Tamariskia, where she made me a nice meal while we gingerly got to know one another.

It was surprising how we thought we'd be comfortable with one another after the hours of talking on the chat line, but when meeting in person, we were shy and careful.

I met her daughter at her house. I also noticed that she had an adult friend over. I supposed at the time that it was for support, should the first intro not go well. I slept for a long time that night, not having had a good sleep since leaving Canada four days before. The next day, Yolanda had to return early to her place of work. I did business via the Internet and got to know a few people in the neighborhood, who were very curious about me.

Yolanda and I had spoken of possibly pursuing a relationship leading to marriage, but not in a way that this was our firstmost objective; we met so we could start the school project together, even if we found ourselves not a good match as a couple. We spent the next days exploring the country, and I went up north to meet her parents and siblings for two more weeks before the three of us boarded a bus, drove the 30 hours to Johannesburg, and then flew to Canada.

We married nine months later, in August 2010. We lived at my farm in Canada until 2014, and then decided it was time to return to Namibia to start the school project. My lovely stepdaughter is now close to 16, and we are nearing our sixth year of marriage.

Things did work out for us via Internet dating; we did take advantage of being able to communicate via text, voice, and pictures long-distance. I know that our case is not the norm in this kind of dating, but this long distance cross-continental experience was extremely exciting. I guess the saying goes: "With great risks come great rewards."

Jens and Yolanda Naumann

 ***

 20. CONSUMER VISION TRIVIA CONTEST

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the April Consumer Vision. Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. Congratulations to the following winners:

Mark Blier of Sierra Vista, Arizona

David Faucheux of Lafayette, Louisiana

Don Hanson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Brian Sackrider of Port Huron, Michigan

Alan Dicey of Plantation, Florida

Susan Jones of Indianapolis, Indiana

Jack Walker of Bronx, New York

Terri Winaught of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

And now, here is your trivia question for the May Consumer Vision. In 1988, two songs with the same title entered the Top 40 in the same week. The songs were both entitled, "Don't Be Cruel." Who sang each one? If you know the answer, please email bobbranco93@gmail.com or call 508-994-4972.

***

21. A CONCLUDING NOTE FROM THE PROOFREADER

In this issue, as always, I have done my best to catch and correct any typos. I apologize if there are any remaining ones; this month, I was somewhat more pressed for time than usual. I also corrected the misspelled names of several products, a book, and a city. Thank goodness for Google, which allows me to check all such things very quickly online! I also made all the links live.

Once again, I did very light editing on many of the articles. All that was merely in an effort to make them clearer and to make them flow better. If you ever object to anything that I did to your article or ad, please contact me directly, and I will write an apology and a retraction in the following issue.

My contact information:

Leonore Dvorkin

Home phone: 303-985-2327

Email: leonore@leonoredvorkin.com

My husband is the very prolific author David Dvorkin, who has 27 books to his credit. Since 2009, he and I have been editing books for other authors and then helping them get those books self-published. Most of our clients, who include Bob Branco, Patty Fletcher, and Stephen Theberge, are blind. We have put out almost 30 books by other authors thus far, with several more books to come this year.

I am the author of three books of my own: a novel (Apart from You), a book about my 1998 breast cancer experience (Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor's Journey), and a short fantasy play (The Glass Family). The breast cancer book is also available in Spanish.

You can find full details about my books and our editing services at:

www.leonoredvorkin.com

Thanks to all for reading. Bob, Terri, and I all hope that you have enjoyed this issue of Consumer Vision. We have enjoyed producing it.