Saturday, December 31, 2011

Booklist for 2011

I read a total of 164 books this year. Mostly fantasy and fluffy Stephanie Plum mysteries. I read a lot of books about Deafblind people/culture. I really got into the Song of Ice and Fire series even though I found "game of thrones" kind of intimidating and confusing; I'm glad I came back to it.

The Chris Rose was by far, the very best book I read all year long and the very hardest. It was like ripping off all of the old scabs and I literally cried through 95% of the book. I don't think I can or will ever read it again. However because it was such a powerful read for me, I wanted to mention it. I think others will find it interesting but hopefully not as soul-shredding to read.
I do have one silly Urban Fantasy book on my list; the Molly Harper werewolf books. They are really excellent. Once again, Christopher Moore has two books on the list, because I read two of his books and they always make the list because he is wonderful.

My friend Doug, who took his own life in March was the first introduce me to them and I can't read them any more without my heart breaking a little. But I guess that's how life works. So here is my top fifteen best books for 2011. Note that a * means that the books are part of a larger series but I have read all of the series mentioned in this list.
Top 15 books for 2011
1. One Dead in Attic After Katrina by Chris Rose
2. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
3. Of Such Small Differences by Joanne Greenberg
4. Walking Free: The Nellie Zimmerman Story by Rosezelle Boggs-Qualls and Darryl C. Greene
5. Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore
6. The Story of Beautiful Girl By Rachel Simon
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins *
8. The Confession by John Grisham
9. The Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth *
10. Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey *
11. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin *
12. Prime by Poppy Z. Brite *
13. Independent Living Without Sight and Hearing by Richard Kinney
14. How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper *
15. Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Hero's Quest

Like the fearless explorers from years gone by, tomorrow I shall embark upon a great and noble quest; traveling to hostile and untamed lands in pursuit of a dream.

In layman's terms, this means that I'm going to the Apple Store, located in the m*ll to upgrade my iPhone. However, my initial description isn't far from the mark because doing this by myself (OK, with Laveau) will be epic, I can see it now.
I will have the following:
• Macbook so Apple Store employee can make sure the backup/restore from iTunes goes smoothly.
• USB braille display so I can read Macbook. My Macbook is still running Leopard which doesn't support bluetooth displays. I really need to fix this; it just hasn't happened yet.
• Easybraille braille display, which is connected to iPhone
• Braille Note with QWERTY keyboard and braille display so I can communicate with Apple Store staff.
• Old iPhone

This could get... well kind of tricky. I know I can read two displays at once; I do it all the time when working with both phone and Macbook. But add the 3rd one, the one for communication and it's going to be crazy; and yet again I will long to be transformed into an octopus so I can read more than two things at once. Also that ink thing would be cool, too. Also if I get lost in the mall, I'll need the Braille Note for communication so I can get directions. If I'm not out by Christmas; someone send a search party!
I'm very excited to get this new update to my much-beloved iPhone. Now hopefully Voiceover and my braille display will run much more smoothly than on my 3gs. Also Siri! I have about five million questions to ask her. like "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

take my hand, or maybe not!

Friday was my birthday, and since I've been under a bit of stress lately, I decided to party it up and have some fun. We started out at a rotisserie place called Zea. I had some pesto-crusted trout and two Mojitos, which are my new favorite drink. After that, some friends and I went to a party at a lawyer's house. I don't know this person but my friend goes to law school and was invited.

So we get there, and I have some rum and coke. I was chatting with a lady I know who works at the Advocacy Center, and then turned around to chat with my friend. I put my hand atop hers and tapped it, which means that I wanted her attention. She just laid her hand there and didn't give me any response, so I thought she must be talking to a hearing person. So I just laid my hand atop hers and sat there and waited. ... and waited, and waited, and waited. Then I tapped her hand again this time she wiggled it back and forth, in that universal gesture hearing people do when they want to talk to me but don't know how. I didn't know what she was doing. Suddenly, my friend tapped me on the shoulder and said that she had quick left and gotten another drink but didn't tell me because I was talking to someone else. So Another person had taken my friend's place-- one that didn't know us. Lol! I had been touching a stranger. Her hands were the same type and shape as my friends, and I didn't notice! Talk about embarrassing! Gotta love those Deafblind moments!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Today Bristol turns 14 years old. Because this is also December 14th, it makes it her golden birthday. So I guess we could say that it's the Golden's Golden Birthday. She celebrated it by going to the park and chewing on a cow foot, and taking a nap on my shoes. She got a tug rope for her gift and I am assuming we'll break it in shortly. The old lady does love tug of war.

I don't really have anything to say about her that I haven't said before about a million times. Our relationship is so hard to quantify, and explain to people; especially people who don't have an assistance dog. Even though she's retired, she is still the center of everything I do. From my first half-awake fumble for her Thyroid medication in the morning, even before my feet hit the floor, until I do her eye drops and give her one last snuggle before falling asleep at night. She is always in the back of my mind, and even more now, that she is older.

When I first met her, I didn't want anything to do with her. My first guide dog had just died at age 3 from lymphoma. I wasn't ready to open my heart so fully to anyone. She didn't give me a choice about it. She was like a giant rock; waring down my hurt feelings and anger, and planting the seeds of great love in their place. She continued to be a rock, all through our working relationship, no matter what I threw at her. She handled everything with calm joy, and that sure-fire confidence that she could do anything that was asked of her. When I moved to New Orleans in 2003, I knew nobody. I had never been to the city before, so we spent days traveling the streets, getting lost, and then unlost together. No matter what happened, where I went, or what I had, or how I felt, she was always there. And that's the way it's always been.
I must confess, that a part of me wonders if this will be her last birthday. She can't live forever, I know this, but the wish is there just the same. The only thing I can do is to make sure that today, and the rest of her todays are all golden.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So this is my first Christmas without Christmas music. Ok, I should actually qualify that because I can still hear *some* music with my iPod and a device that hooks it up to my bluetooth hearing aid. But the funny thing about Christmas music-- at least for me-- was that its all-pervasiveness during the season is what really made it feel like the holiday.
I mean, how many people complain about that music in the grocery store, or the bathroom in the gas station, on the radio and in line at the post office. For a month, everywhere we go we are accompanied by St. Nick, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snow Man. Not to mention the Hippopotamus someone wants under their tree. It's a very quiet Christmas for me, and I really have to learn to appreciate the holidays in a new way.

I can smell evergreens when we walk toward the store. That smell immediately brings me back to my childhood, gathered around the tree with my sisters telling stories of each ornament we hung.

I love the smell of baking cookies, and cinnamon. The funny moving stuffed animal decorations, and the feeling of ribbon, garland and the hard cold metal ball of a bell in my hand.

When people express amazement that I have a real tree in my house, I smile. The tree is one of the few parts of the season which I can experience. I love the prickly branches, the scent of pine, and the tasks of every-day maintenance. And always there are the ornaments.

When I was a kid, my mother started giving me ornaments for the tree every year. When I moved out, I took the ornaments and hung them on many of my own trees. In August of 2005 they were lost, like so many things were, in the destruction brought on by hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levees.

Mister Pawpower and I had gone to Memphis and we had no ornaments. We decided to make our own and so we took a trip to a craft store for pipe cleaners, bulbs, buttons, and puff-paint.

We sat around our little table and created another chapter of our history. That was also the last Christmas I was able to hear any holiday music without amplification.

When we moved back here, we started collecting more ornaments. We still use the ones we made, because they remind me to persevere during the trying times. We have dog-statue ornaments, and many home-made ones from wonderful artist friends. We have funny ones shaped like Bigger (because he's a lot like Mill'E-Max), We have ones with big hearts (for Bristol), We have ones for Rudy, Gracy, and all the other dogs we have had in our lives. This year I believe we will have a striped ornament for our very special striped dog. As we decorate the tree, we tell the stories of how this particular bit of history came to us. So that by the time the tree is decorated, it is a story in its own right.

I have really been making an effort to find new ways to appreciate this time of year. However I can't seem to get away from the music! This morning, I was in Walmart with my SSP. I was surprised I could hear some kind of high pitched noise. I didn't know what it was and more and more, it sounded like someone moaning in pain, or a wounded farm animal. I asked my SSP if she could hear that moaning noise and she replied that that was not moaning, but that song "Angels We Have Heard on High." They were on the "glooooooooooooria" part, I guess. Only it didn't sound very glorious to me. We instead had a good laugh about barn yard animals singing Christmas music, because it really did sound like that! I've ruined Christmas music for her forever now!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tomboy Goes To Beauty School

So my friend texts me at work this morning and tells me that her friend, who works at a well known Beauty school here in New Orleans has invited us for facials and all of that stuff. I was kind of nonplused about this because I am a huge tomboy. For me, a clean pair of jeans and a shirt without Turmeric stains on it is good enough for anything I'm likely to encounter in my life. I do have long hair but I either wear it long or pull it back. I don't own any of that girl paint, or anything, and I've never had a facial in my life. Naturally I thought I should have the experience so I could know what all of the fuss was about.

We arrived and I had my nails done. I picked out dark purple polish and Kayla got right to work on my nails. Holding still for that was so, so hard. My hands are the world to me, and I know it probably seems obvious that it's this way for a deafblind person, I never really realized how disconnected with the world I become when I can not use my hands at will. I can't text or read, or talk, or listen, or reach down to pet my dog. It was very strange. I guess it helped me be mindful in the moment of having them done because I couldn't do anything else but relax and kind of space off into my own world.

Next was the facial. Only it was more like neck/shoulders/face. Complete with the wearing of these robe things which was awkward, and kind of cold. I laid in a bed and a lady did things to my face. And if I thought I was disconnected from the world when my nails were being done, it was nothing compared to how I felt up in a high bed, without even my feet touching. It was so bizarre.

First, the lady doing my face asked me a bunch of questions. It is during times like these when I wished to please have the multiple choice version of the test life throws you
It went something like this.
Face lady: "How does your skin feel today?"
Me: "well, I mean... it feels like skin, and I can't really say that my skin feels different from day-to-day; it's just... skin, and stuff."
F L: "Well is it dry? oily? a combination of both?"
Me: "uhh? I mean... It is just how it is. I don't have any idea."
F L: "What products do you use to clean your face?"
Me: *thinks to self that dog spit is not the answer they're looking for. *
"Well, water? soap?... yeah, soap and water 'bout covers it."

So after the questioning was over, the greasing and massage and stuff began.
I had this stuff sprayed on my face, and then removed. Rinse, repeat. At one point she wanted to do the same thing to my feet, but I put my foot down. Ok, ok, that was a bad line but I really did. No feet facialing for me, thankyouvery much. I did get a hand and arm massage.

She put this cream on me with a sort of brush thing. I told her that I felt like a giant cake someone was frosting. Then she and another lady put a lamp over my face and studied it which made me feel like a science experiment, and Inwardly apologized to all of the bacterium I ever put under a hot light.

Laveau watched everything and couldn't wait for me to get out of the bed. Eventually I was done and my face smelled like a veritable botanical cornucopia with mint, lavander, citrus, rose water, and at least five other herbs were used on my face.
And it's still the same as it always was. It was an interesting experience to have, though, that was for sure!

I think I'm probably going to trot into the great blue beyond singing the song about being a "beauty school drop-out."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pizza!

Don't get me wrong; I love to cook. However sometimes I'm feeling lazy and just want to order in and have dinner in my PJ's. Most of the time Mister Pawpower is around to call in our order, but when he is away, I go through what can only be described as phone hell to order dinner. It usually goes something like this.
I call the restaurant using Relay, and the person on the other end picks up:
Person: "Hello?"
Relay Operator: *explains relay*
P: "We don't want any"
*hang up*
Me: "redial number"
RO: *explains relay*
P: "I told you! I'm busy and don't want any!"
*hangs up*
Me: *gritting teeth and wondering if I should just suck it up and cook.
Eventually I get someone who isn't an idiot and I order dinner. Sometimes they won't listen so I send a nastygram to corporate, CC'ing the local manager. This usually results in shamed-face apology, as it should.

However, while perusing the iPhone App store, I found that Domino's has an app where you can order your pizza. It's very accessible with voiceover and a braille display. Better yet, I don't have to talk to ignorant people who don't listen to learn what relay is. Even better still, the app has a "pizza tracker" and it tells you where your pizza is in the making process, e.g. being made, cooking, out for delivery, etc. This was a liberating experience and their chocolate lava cakes are to die for. Now I have been spoiled by Domino's, I think all restaurants should have an app. Everyone accept the greek place who actually doesn't give me relay guff.

Pizza, anyone?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Festive Friday

Friday was the annual Holiday Party for work. For the past three or so years, they have chosen to hold it at this buffet place. Why upper management would pick a buffet to be the party place for a bunch of blind people is beyond me, but whatever. I asked my SSP to come with me and then do some holiday shopping afterward.

We arrived a bit late and found a table with my friend Laura, and another Deafblind coworker and his interpreter. We all chatted and hung out until the festivities started. We always have to pray before we eat-- a practice that makes me extremely uncomfortable. Religion, like politics, are things that should stay out of the workplace. Along with the prayer, there was some rambling about how "Jesus is the reason for the season." I'm sure the Jews and Pagans, and others in the audience didn't quite agree with that statement.

After all of that was finished it was time to go to the buffet. The line was in a very narrow space, and I was squeezed in with my SSP and Laveau. I wasn't very hungry, so got a little food and then went back to my seat. I always feel like I have to eat at rapid speed at this thing if I want to be a part of any lunch conversation. I have yet to grow that extra set of arms which will allow me to eat and talk at the same time. After the meal, we received hats with the number of years we've worked there printed on the back. We also got an end of year gift check which will come in handy.

After the festivities, my SSP and I went shopping. I can't list the places where we went, because I wouldn't want to give anything away. We eventually made our way to our vets to get flea and hart-worm medication for the girls, and to snag Laveau's Proin, which is the medication she takes for spay incontinence. Laveau got weighed and she's 60 lbs. She could gain a couple of pounds and still be fine. At 26 inches tall, her height is mostly leg, but I've noticed her looking a bit ribbie lately, so have taken to upping her food amounts. She is quite thrilled about this.

That night, I gave Gracy back to my friend across the river. We went to dinner first and since I still wasn't hungry, I mostly sat around and chatted which was nice. All in all, it was a pretty busy day!