Adventure Three with My NEW Four Footed Friend

Hello again from Morristown, New Jersey.

If you couldn’t see, and you had to team up with your dog to walk to a certain bus stop, take the bus to the train station, and ride the train to another destination, what preparations would you make? Close your eyes and imagine…. What thoughts fears, or emotions might you have? Or, would you consider the trip a huge adventure and go for it?

On a beautiful, Sunny day, two of us left with our instructor to practice the bus and metro link with our dogs. We walked about four blocks and waited at the bus stop for the bus. Our instructor gave us some direction, and when it finally came, we hopped on and found our seats close to the driver. We tucked our dogs under the seats, putting one foot on our leash, holding the leash loop in our hand, our dogs’ heads and front legs firmly between our legs. During the 15 minute ride to the train station, my thoughts flashed back to a time when Velda, my first Seeing Eye dog and I were riding the bus. When I started to get off the bus I realized Velda’s harness was half off. Somehow, she had begun wiggling out of it under the seat. I had to quickly put it back in place, buckle it again, and exit the bus. We were safe, and I learned a valuable lesson– Always be aware of what my dog is doing.

When we arrived at our stop, we got off the bus and walked several blocks to the station. With the aid of our dogs, and instructions from our instructor, K.O., We found the stairs and took them to the platform. After climbing to the platform, K.O. showed us where the train would come. In fact, she asked us to face the track, with our dog, and tell the dog to “hup up”. Our dogs did not budge. That’s because if they would have, we would have fallen onto the track several feet below. If we have pushed their harnesses to make them go, we could have been seriously injured. Another valuable lesson—K.O. reminded us we are the navigators, our dogs are our guides. We can’t just put our dogs on auto pilot and think they will take us where we need to go. The train came, we got on, found our seats and our dogs lay at our feat, their leashes securely under our foot and loops in our hand. At our destination, we got off, and walked joyfully back to our starting point. Mission accomplished, and new skills under our belts. Here’s our picture at the metro link station.

Another adventure with my NEW four-footed friend. You’ll hear from us again, soon.

Adventure Two with My NEW Four Footed Friend

Hello from Morristown New Jersey. We’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to send you any new adventures until now.

Let me tell you about our team. As I mentioned in the previous adventure, there are 21 students in our class. We have four persons in our team with one instructor.

We ate meals together the first week, and we work together as a team, in pairs, or separately with our instructor for the duration of the training. Training for those who have already been Seeing Eye dog handlers is 17 days. New students get an additional week, either at the school or in their home town.

On Wednesday, when we received our dogs, we spent time getting to know them individually in our rooms. After lunch, we started on our first route. This was a 9 block route in downtown Morristown. Each of us went individually with our instructor to learn the route. We walked the route with dog and instructor 5 more times in subsequent days, familiarizing ourselves with it. Our instructor gave less instructions each time. We concentrated on traffic flow, both parallel and perpendicular. We learned which streets had controlled lights, and which had none. As our trust grew in each other, the route became easier and we began to enjoy the sounds of spring and fresh Morristown air as we walked swiftly along.

On Sunday, in the pouring rain, we soloed our route. That means we did it on our own, with our instructor following at a distance, only giving instruction if our lives were in danger. Thelma and I could not avoid the 3 inch puddle at the beginning of one street crossing. We also got unexpected traffic checks, when a car came out of a driveway in front of us. A block further, we politely stopped to let passengers get out of their car and go into a building next to us. We then continued on our way. As we turned the corner onto our last street, we increased our pace anticipating our route’s end. We turned left into the alley. Soon, I told Thelma “left, left”. Obeying, in a bit, Thelma stopped and her nose was right under the door handle. I gave her lots of praise as I had become accustomed to doing. We went inside, wet, but triumphant. What was a little water when you together conquered the challenge? Maybe, just maybe, this yellow lab would walk with me another 6,000 miles like Velda did!

Another adventure with my NEW four-footed friend. You’ll hear from us again, soon, and a picture.

Adventure One with My NEW Four Footed Friend

As I flew to New Jersey on Monday to spend the next 18 days training at the Seeing Eye School with my new dog, I remembered 12 years ago when I made the same trek. It was in March then and a bit colder. The same excitement flooded me then that surged through me on Monday. What would my new dog be like? Would she be like Velda, who served me for 9 and ¾ years? Would she be a lab, or a golden retriever, or a German Shepherd, or a cross lab golden?

Upon arriving at the airport, a rep from the Seeing Eye met me and introduced me to the other student riding back with us to Morristown N.J. On the ride back, Nolan and I chatted about our families, lives, and our dogs. Our instructors met us at the door, took us to our rooms, and helped us get oriented to it. I was even more amazed this time. The dorm had been renovated and there was Braille everywhere, including building lay-out maps. I remembered the raised wooden terrain street map they had last time so we could figure out our walking routs prior to taking them. I couldn’t wait to explore those maps again. We all ate a delicious lunch together. Other students had arrived already and some of them joined us for lunch.

Soon it was time for my Juno walk. This is when my instructor pretended she was the dog. She took the other end of my leash and the harness. She walked on my left, alongside me just like a dog would. She’d vary the pull and pace in order to solidify which dog would be the best match for me. Over the next day and a half, each of us 21 students did 4 Juno walks in all. We were divided into groups of 4 and each group was assigned an instructor. We eat together, have individualized training together and more. We also have class lectures, every evening.

Wednesday morning after breakfast, we received our dogs. Mine is a yellow lab with honey highlights. She’s the same size as Velda was when I got her in March, 2006. She’s a fun-loving dog who loves to serve. We did our first 8 block trip in downtown Morristown. Right now, as I’m writing this, she is sleeping in her crate after a long, exhausting day.

Since our day tomorrow begins at 5:30 a.m. I’m signing off, too. Will write more soon.

Going Back Through Yesteryear

This weekend I got a tub of old goodies out of the garage and set my sights on the dozens of floppy disks I found inside. Yes, floppy disks. For you millennials reading who have no clue what I’m talking about, floppy disks are 3 and a half inch square disks that hold 1.2 meg of data. They were used in the 90’s and preceded the CD (compact disk). For those of you in Generation Z who might be reading and wondering what a CD is… just Google it.

After pulling out my (seldom) handy external floppy disk drive, there were a few great “finds.” One was a paper my daughter had written in 2002, and the other a the book I started in 1996… 21 years ago. Wow! How had I forgotten all about it? And why hadn’t I finished it? My sister, Donna, edited it and gave me additional suggestions for improvement. Those two files made the cut, the rest didn’t.

Who knew I’d find those two gems when uncovering the box of junk in the garage. I felt a sense of accomplishment. Who knows, maybe this book might actually end up getting finished.

What are some old treasures you have laying around? I have phonograph records (in 3 sizes), reel to reel tapes, floppy disks, cassette tapes, mini disks, beta tapes, VCR tapes, CD’s, flash drives, floppy drives, etc… not to further date myself.

What criteria do you use in deciding what to save and what to discard? Leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts! Your creative strategy could help liberate those of us who “save” thinking our kids will appreciate all we leave behind. In reality, how many commercial sized dumpsters are rented to haul away one’s “fine treasures” when they are gone, leaving their kids too overwhelmed to sift through them?

Now Listen to Me on Bott Radio Network!

How do you feel when you are asked to do something that reflects one of your life’s passions? Does excitement well up within you? Does it confirm in you that you’re making a difference? Does it cause everything else in your life to become a little more bearable? That’s what happens to me. I can climb a higher mountain, go the extra mile.

When I was recently asked to be part of the KSIV Encounter radio show team, I knew the Lord was opening a door specifically for me. Bringing people thought provoking content, and helping folks tell their stories exhilarates me.

Listen to our Encounter team every weekday at 1:30 p.m. on KSIV Radio 1320 AM in the metro St. Louis area.

Listen online for interviews that will make you think, stories that will inspire and uplift you, and current events shared from a Christian World View. For questions about Encounter hosts or show topics, call KSIV Radio, 314-961-1320. Subscribe to my web site to get notified when new interviews are posted.

What is YOUR passion, and what are you doing to pursue your dreams?

LinkedIn might be great for some, but for most Screen Reader users – we feel LinkedOut!

Tonight a friend came over to update my LinkedIn summary. I tried using my screen reader, Jaws for Windows, but just couldn’t get everything in the right places. So my heroic friend, who designs sites for a living, began entering the data for me–with Jaws turned on. It took us an hour to do a fifteen minute project. She said “This site Is so flaky, no wonder you don’t update or post new things here.” It seems every time we conquer the quirks of this site, they change it. I Do know how to accept new friends on LinkedIn, but don’t know how to reply to any messages up there for me. So, if you are one of my LinkedIn friends, just email me at jredlichspeaks [at] att [dot] net instead. I’d love to hear from you. Contact me, too, if you’d like to be part of a petition drive aimed at sites who don’t have accessibility as one of their priorities.

Is it my brain, or the computer!

I don’t know about you, but sometime when I sit here to write something in my blog, I either forget my password to get into my web site, or how to get to the right place to add a new entry. So, by the time I get here, I’ve forgotten not only what I’ve wanted to write about, but the excitement about communicating here has faded. So, I ask myself, is it my brain, or my computer playing tricks on me? After polling others, I’ve come to the realization that no one knows everything about most computer software they use except maybe the program’s creator. We learn, especially if we are 50 or more, just what we must learn to keep afloat. Then when the software is upgraded or we must get a new computer, we tear our hair out because of the steepness of the learning curve. If we’re not careful, we want to take a hammer to the computer and forget we ever learned how to use it. How do YOU feel?

Now, add another component to this scenario. Some of us must use adaptive software to enable us to communicate with or operate our computer. I, for example, use a software program that reads my computer screen aloud to me. That software must be able to work hand in hand with each program I am running for me to accomplish each computer task. This means I must learn the commands of both my screen reader plus the commands to run a particular piece of software. I, and other blind persons, use key strokes rather than the mouse. If software creators don’t build their software, or web sites according to accessibility standards, the screen reader can not process the material properly. If you do a google search on “Where can I find accessibility standards?” not only do they show up for software developers but also web site developers. Some web site developers are trying very hard to make their sites accessible, and so are some software companies. For those of us who use adaptive technology, we really appreciate you for going the extra mile to accommodate us. I fear the only way developers will take the needs of persons with disabilities seriously and make “accommodation” a “must” is if companies refuse to buy their software, or patronize their web sites.

So, daily, my computer and I diligently work together to do our best, and with excellence. When I get frustrated because I just can’t figure something out, I pray and reassure myself that countless others are also asking themselves “Is it my brain playing tricks on me, or is it my computer?” Your thoughts?

Don’t Let Those Pesky Little Varmints Ruin Your Peace

I was putting the finishing touches on preparing for “the big day”, when the rod I had carefully been placing my clothing after it came out of the dryer bent under the weight of the clothing. I tried to spread it out evenly, but I guess the weight of this project had gotten to the rod, just like it was trying to get to me. Could I keep my peace till tomorrow,” I wondered, as my husband came to my rescue to help pick up my heap of clothing. They used to hang so nicely in my closet, matched, clean, and ready to wear. Now… well, at least I had followed instructions and should never have to do this again unless…..

It all started about 3 months ago. My husband and I began waking up with several new bites per night. Often, they were in clusters, but sometimes here and there. My husband claimed they were chiggers. He thought he was getting them from working out in the yard. But, chigger bites, I argued, are different. The bites continued and new ones only seemed to appear in the morning.

I mentioned to a friend about the rash I always seemed to have and she asked me a few questions. Bed bugs? Could it be? Where did we get them? The internet research began. Our startling findings showed these pesky, persistent critters were almost eradicated in the 1920’s because the chemical DDT was used to kill them. Then laws passed to no longer allow the use of pesticides containing DDT. Recently, within the past decade, these varmints have invaded bedrooms with a vengeance. People travel more, and so do the bed bugs. They could be your companions for the rest of your life if you don’t Aggressively treat them.

We read articles; read horror stories of other home invasions. We got bids from exterminators, and their treatment options varied. We heard more stories… They live in library books, too? Someone has them in their home and comes to work at a nursing home as a care giver.. He or she is around a patient in bed and… you guessed it. That house can also be a hiding place for those insidious little demons. They seem to come out between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. and they are drawn to the sleeping person because of the carbon dioxide they breathe. They attach themselves to the box spring and live in the mattress. They also crawl along the bed frame, and sometimes even up the bedroom wall. If you move to another room, because of the bites… they are your travelling companion. Wherever you sleep, they find you. They are no respecter of persons, and it matters not to them whether they reside in the poorest of poor dwellings, or in a million dollar mansion. We think ours might have come in a basket of Braille books given to me when someone moved. Or, my husband could have unknowingly taken one or more of them home with him from the homeless shelter where he works.

Wherever they came from… Tomorrow is our Big Day. Since we caught the infestation early, we are having one room treated, and the whole house treated around the base boards. We have to leave for 24 hours. During that time they will heat our bedroom to 140 degrees. They will do whatever other things they do and prayerfully the bugs will flee… for good.

We’ll keep you posted. We’ll also offer you some other tips, insights and great web sites to browse, about these invaders so you, too, can be on the look out.

**Feel free to share our story with friends, especially if you suspect they are sheltering bed bugs unaware.

You wouldn’t want them to share them with others—now would you?