The Library in a Blind Mans Head

I don’t think most people can fathom how much a blind person reads. I have a dear (seeing) friend I term a ‘reader’ because she reads a lot. I remember when we were little she would read with a flashlight under her covers so she wouldn’t get caught reading instead of sleeping. I loved stories and always lived writing, but I was never a reader like my BFF.

But even a born reader is no match for a blind man.

“How many books do you have?” I ask him.

“Lemme check,” he says, and then types away on his computer to get to the right directory. “I have at least 1,016 ebooks in TXT format. And a few hundred more in PDF and CHM formats.”  But he doesn’t stop there, just letting me know how many books he has, he goes on.  “What I do is if I find a name that isn’t in one of my books, I combine it with several other names (or places or whatever) and see if I can find a comprehensive history about it. It’s a really good way to collect information. Like, I just now found a history of art and science innovations.”


My BFF has several hundred books and recycles them regularly. I only keep my very favorite, those i know i will want to read again. Sometimes I make do with audiobooks because I am a practical and they save space–especially if you can keep them online storage.

Books in Braille are incredibly cumbersome and impractical for space, but the blind are just as space conscious as I am. They keep audiobooks the same way I do, though this doesn’t make sense for my husband since he is also deaf. But technology allows the blind a great advantage. Ebooks and books in text are easily translated by Braille devices. These are like Kindles for the blind and have been around a lot longer than e-readers. The only limit to how many books you can keep or have available is your storage capacity–and my hubby has two terabytes on external drives. That isn’t counting his hard drive.

He has more than a thousand ebooks, not counting encyclopedias in volumes but as an entire book. (btw, when I have a question and need an encyclopedia definition, I always ask my hubby who is sure to have the right encyclopedia for said question ) I know other blindies who hoard audiobooks the same way. You can usually count on them to have several versions of Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, with at least one by BBC. But they don’t just hoard them, they remember them and reread them and quote them and read them again.

Blind men (and women for that matter) are treasure troves of literary information. Those like my husband go beyond mere reader (no offense to my BFF) to a human research machine just waiting to be utilized though they rarely are used to even the minimal of their abilities. What a shame that is.

If you want a book recommendation, help on your research paper, ideas for your thesis or just have a question about quantum mechanics as it applies to your time travel fantasy novel in progress, look up a blind person and make a new friend with a vast amount of knowledge to impart.

Mad Blind Man Skillz

So… The Chinese try to suppress a blind man and get embarrassed when he escapes.  Why did they do this?  Did they not see any of the episodes of Kung Fu where a full band of ninja’s can’t beat a single blind man?  Have they not read a single Daredevil comic?  And what about Star Trek: the Next Generation?  Don’t they know the mad engineering skills of the blind?

I have seen the mad skills of the blind for myself.  My husband was talked into a game of horseshoes just a few weeks ago.  His first shot was a ringer.  He played the sighted man to a draw.  Those are mad blind man skilz.

There are many more skills, of course: the ability to find a way to break just about anything AND they can find almost anything… usually things they don’t really want to find, and almost always with their (bare) feet.

Can you imagine the power of a unit entirely composed of blind men.  They don’t need daggers or guns, just a cane.  I don’t know why the military has never harnessed the power of the blind into an entire unit of such destruction and elite power of empathy that even the hardened veterans of the Navy Seals would have to tremble–or at least stand back from the swinging blind cane while trying to decide what is to be done.

Blind men have powarz and skilz that should not be misunderestimated.

It’s Not Really Punny in ASL

We had the ASL Missionaries over (LDS) for dinner the other night and my husband had just been studying gorilla’s in Anthropology.  He went on and on about Koko the Gorilla who had been taught ASL.  He kept wondering if the gorilla really did learn ASL or if she was just responding the way that she knew her handlers wanted her to.   He discussed this with the deaf missionary and ended with ” If I was deaf, I would wonder if Koko could really understand ASL.”  And that’s when I had to tell my husband the horrible truth:  “You ARE deaf.”

The deaf call that ‘hearing in your head’ and it can be really useful in a hearing world that is full of puns and jokes that only translate if you understand the similarities in the words and the phrases.  My husband can understand the joke because he was verbal before he went deaf and was never discouraged from using his voice.  He also has a CI (Cochlear Implant) that allows him to ‘technically’ hear.  I say “technically” because it’s not the same as normal hearing and there are many problems that make it impractical for many social situations.  But he can understand jokes like: “What does a duck do when he flies upside down?– He quacks up,” because he can hear the similarities in the words.  Interpreting this joke into any other language (including ASL) makes it absolutely no sense.  Think about it in Spanish for a moment.

This is what I had to do last night for Cub Scouts.  I am the interpreter for the deaf parents at Cub Scouts for our pack and at this particular pack meeting, they thought they would recreate Prairie Home Companion by singing and telling jokes in between.  Here are two things, side by side, that the deaf parents can’t really get into.  The song I could at least interpret, though it was my own interpretation.  “Keep on the sunny side of life…” I was at first translating literally, but it came out more like “Stay in the part with the sun in your life” than what was originally intended (Stay positive, be positive always in your life), and then it was followed by a dozen jokes that made absolutely no sense when translated into ASL.  “How does a witch tell time?  A WITCH WATCH!”

It makes no sense in Spanish either, by the way.

I’m not a professional interpreter and if no one is looking at me, I don’t bother continuing to sign.  This night was particularly challenging because there was no way to make the jokes funny or understandable to the deaf.  After the third joke I told the person I was interpreting for that none of these jokes made any sense in ASL and we started talking about other things, occasionally distracted by the wild movements of 8-10 year old boys telling joke after pun after joke.

It’s not easy to make the deaf feel a part of a hearing crowd, but if you know they are going to be a part of the crowd, you could at least try to make them feel included.  Number one rule of including the deaf is pun’s make no sense in ASL.  If you can’t translate the joke into Spanish or your point can’t be illustrated without words, try something else.

It doesn’t have to be punny to be funny as Shaun the Sheep proves every day. When the deaf are involved, you may have to make adjustments, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun, be funny and include music.  I promise you that it will make more sense to a 8-10 year-old (who often miss the nuance of a witch watch, since everyone now uses their phone to tell time) too.

Life In Color

My husband has Ushers Syndrome and is slowly going completely blind.  Currently he has let us know that he is having trouble understanding what he is seeing (the signal isn’t getting to his brain) and almost everywhere he goes has to be either routine or at least familiar so he doesn’t get disoriented and lost.  You might think this an object of constant sorrow for him and us, but we take it in stride and enjoy the moments of laughter it affords us.

Laughter? You ask.  How can you laugh at being blind?

Well, I’ll tell you.

“What is the name of those orange flowers out in the front yard?” my husband asked me one day.  He loves orange.  Maybe it’s because he grew up in Florida and the memory of the color is so vivid in his mind he can still see it.  It is undoubtedly his favorite color.  (He may end up going to UT just to wear Orange)

“What orange flowers?” I ask confused.  We don’t have orange flowers in the front yard.  I put all the orange flowers in the back yard so that he could see them out the window or when he goes out on the patio.  We haven’t gotten new flowers for the front yet, though marigolds are coming in season again.

“The orange flowers!  The small bushy flowers.”

“Oooooh!  Those are pink carnations, love,” I explain to him.

Before we were married, my room was pink and black.  I love pink and many of the things I use and have are pink.  It is a tomboy’s way of making up for lost time. Now when I hold up a pink shirt for my husband to examine, he thinks it is orange.  I could dress my husband in pink if I wanted, and he would think it was orange.  That’s kinda funny, even to him.

He is always asking me for the blue towel (we don’t have blue towels) or the blue pillows (we don’t have blue pillows) and we laugh about it later.

If laughter is the best medicine, I think we will handle the transition to completely deaf/blind fairly well.  It’s one of the reasons I started this blog-to focus on the positive things than come out of daily life with a deaf-blind man.  Ushers Syndrome really isn’t something to laugh about, but what happens because of it often is.  And if we can remember that, and the vivid experiences of life in color, I think we will do OK.


Sometimes The Magic Works

They’re making fun of my underwear again…  But I guess that’s what happens when a Mormon runs for political office on a national stage.

Because I am in a deaf branch of the LDS church (IE Mormon church), I get a lot of text messages from numbers I don’t recognize.  The deaf, in my experience, often change phones and numbers, and it is difficult to keep up with those changes.  So when I got a message from a random, out of town number, I didn’t think it very strange:

Since this was Family Home Evening night, a good deal of my family (my brother, his wife and son, and my father) were with me already, leaving only two sisters and two brothers this could possibly be.  But none of them had the name “Cales” in their family that I knew of.  I considered calling my mother, but decided that it was better just to ask for clarification first.

Kara is my best friend.  Erin is her sister.   Neither Kara nor Erin is deaf.  Both are members of the LDS Church (Mormons).

When it comes to “miracles” the definition from is:

1: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
2: an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
Most of the time, Mormons aren’t looking for the parting of the Red Sea, or fish turned into loaves, or manna from the sky.  What we usually recognize as a miracle is something like this:

My husband and I are perfectly willing to do temple work for friends.  Most of mine is completed as far as it can be done and my husband still has pedigree’s that need to be filled out.  We enjoy going to the temple and the spirit of peace we feel there.  It is the one place we can truly feel in the world and not of it.

Now that there are more questions about Mormons and temples and what we believe, there are also more criticisms, mockings and belittlings.  That’s okay, we are kinda used to it.  When I was still a teenager, The Godmakers came out.  I was told by many of my Protestant friends “Did you know you believe (fill in blanks with misinformation and propaganda)?”  Why no, I didn’t know that I believed that.  I did study my religion every day at seminary, and I had done baptisms for the dead.  I knew what it felt like to be IN the temple.

Because it is restricted to worthy members of the church, most people in the world do not know what it’s like to be in an LDS temple.  There are opportunities to visit a temple before it opens, called open houses, and you can always walk the grounds or go to the visitors centers.  Many people visit temple open houses and live to talk about it.  Even liberals are allowed to visit the temple at those times.

Lots of people mock Mormons.  Anti-Mormon sites are a dime a dozen.  We, as Mormons, take this all in stride, and sometimes even laugh along.  We are full of self deprecating humor.  But there are the rare occasions, like this article in the Huffpo, when people are evenhanded and fair and the members feel like there is a little more room to breathe.

You can mock Mormons and temples and garments, their belief that they are granted special blessings and protections for using them, but most of the people that wear garments and go to temples are true believers.  Call it ‘magic underwear’ if you want, but sometimes… the magic works.

Titanic Problems… or ‘Never let four twelve year-old girls plan an outing”

Last Wednesday was a half day for my kids at school.  Unscheduled (it’s not on the school or district calendar) half days are a headache for any parent.  It means kids are home for an extra three to four hours, and for twelve year-old girls, finding an extra four hours without parental supervision means it’s time to plan an outing.

My daughter and her friends planned to go see Titanic.  One problem-almost all the parents were at work and there was no transportation.  All of the moms who had to give approval agreed that the girls could not go to the movies without adult supervision, and since most of us didn’t get out of work until 5 and had other children that couldn’t be left alone and I had Cub Scouts to interpret for after and the Titanic is almost three hours long and it was a school day so everyone had to be back before 9–the girls had a serious flaw in their plan:  No parents available.

Just so you remember all the hype we faced when these twelve year-old girls were still too young to care anything about romance, here’s the teaser/trailer:

Enter Grandpa.

My father is a Vietnam Vet who raised his kids with military style punishments for non-completion of chores.  His favorite movies are war movies.  He raised us playing baseball, basketball, hunting, shooting and whatever manly thing he could think of.  Yes, even his daughters.  He doesn’t like when I say this, but… I was his firstborn son.

My mom is an angelic, artistic, feminine former beauty-queen, but he only goes to the movies she wants to see because it’s his “duty.”

Lets just say he’s not the type you ask to go to a chick flick.

But…  Being grandpa is also a “duty” he takes very seriously.

I didn’t really have time to imagine what it must have been like for a 60-something year old Vet to endure the company of almost a half dozen twelve year-old girls, I was too busy interpreting and fending off questions from two dozen boys under twelve.  My husband, the lucky deaf-blind guy who could have endured it all but isn’t exactly the right sort of chaperone for 12 year-old girls in a theater and someone has to be dad to my son at Scouts.

When Cub Scouts was over, we made it home to discover Grandpa and my daughter still weren’t home.  They didn’t arrive until almost ‘lights out’ was going to be called at 9 pm.  But like the good soldier he is, my Dad got my daughter home before the bugler played.

His words upon arrival said all I needed to know:

“Oh my GAWD that was horrible! … The only good part of that movie was when Leonardo DiCaprio died!”  He proclaimed that my daughter had to take HIM to a movie in return, a nice bang-em-up war movie would do (but not that new Nicholas Sparks thing, no, no).

I made my daughter thank him (again and again) and told her that next time her friends wanted to plan an outing, one of the MOMS had to be there to help with the plans.

And we all lived happily ever after… Except Leo… He was dead.

Number One Reason I Bring A Phone With Me Everywhere… Even at Home

I carry my phone with me at home for two main reasons:

1) I don’t like being locked out of my bedroom until my husband notices me missing so I carry my phone with me do I can text or email him that I am NOT in the bedroom and would like to enter. –funny side story, sometimes I can get his attention with pounding on the wall or window but I did this once an accidentally broke the window, cut my hand and still didn’t get his attention. I had forgotten my phone inside–

2) I need the flashlight app for when my husband turns off the light in the bathroom and closes the door while I am on the toilet. –of course, there have been lots of times I have been taking a shower (a place that phones are not allowed) and hubby has turned out the light on me. There is no solution to that particular predicament that I know of —

Dear God, thank you for texts and email and apps. Amen

Kamikaze Cockroaches

This morning i found a squished cockroach.  I know I didn’t squish it.  In fact, now that I think about it, my squeamishness about cockroaches has actually saved their lives several times.  Just the other day I stopped my supervisor from stepping on one that was crawling across the hall at work.  We ran across it going back too.  Still alive.

This is what happens in Southeast Texas when the rains start to come and flood everywhere.  The bugs start to move inside.

The roach I found this morning was squished flat.  The very strange thing about this is that it has happened more than once.  A week or two ago, I found a  squished cockroach behind my husbands chair.  It wasn’t as well squished as the one I found this morning, but that’s because it was much, much bigger. Maybe you don’t think this is very strange – a man squishing bugs-but these squishings are done completely by accident.

My husband can’t see the floor.

Our house is very “Spartan,” as my father calls it.  There is plenty of room for Sam to walk without having to use a cane, and all of us know not to leave things where he can trip on them.  We even have  what we call “fairy lights” in the hall for his occasional midnight trips to the fridge.  We put the lights on so that everyone else can sleep with the doors open, not be bothered by the light, keep the electric bill down (a big problem in the South in the summer) and my hubby still has a lighted hallway so he doesn’t walk into the door or turn too soon and hit a corner.

So, my husband can’t see the floor, but cockroaches are constantly walking directly under his feet to be squished.  They must be Kamikaze’s sacrificing themselves for the greater good of all roachdom. That is fine.  So long as they use my husband’s shoe to do their divine calling and not mine!



Natural Man Is An Enemy To God … or the benefits of being married to a blind man

Today at work we were joking how Michelle Obama could probably, literally, and legally, kick the Presidents arse.  We speculated that she kept him in line pretty well, but there were moments like these:

that you really can’t be to sure about.

In defense of the President, the only male involved in our conversation said,what many men  say about events like this, “It’s a natural male reaction.  You can’t blame him for looking”

Women have heard the “it’s natural” argument being made not just by men, but by lady shrinks who think that if a woman just understood and accepted a man’s ‘nature,’ everything would be better.  Why should women accept a man’s nature without comment?  Do men accept, without complaining, PMS, menstruation, not wanting sex, headaches, nagging, or anything else that comes ‘naturally’ to women?

I have heard this argument given through my first marriage, but now I am married to a man who is above that nature.  My husband doesn’t complain much about my nature  (or at least he’s smart enough not to let me see/hear it) and–here is one of the perks of being married to a blind man–he can’t see well enough to ogle women in public.  Sometimes he can barely tell if it’s me when I’m four feet from him, so he’s definitely not looking at the women as they pass by.

This isn’t to say he wouldn’t like to, or that he doesn’t enjoy watching scantily clad women in movies even though he has to sit with his nose on the screen to see them and can’t possibly see both cleavage and exposed midsection at the same time unless there is some miraculous split screen.  I’m just saying it is SO much work for him to try and be a ‘natural’ man when it comes to ogling women, that he seems perfectly satisfied to let me be his focus when it comes to that ‘natural’ urge.

I do appreciate this and in return, I try not to be as ‘natural’ around him too.  AND… I never make him buy tampons.

Still, I can’t tell you how reassuring it is that when my husband says “you are the most beautiful woman I know,” that he is not just judging my looks – because he’s mostly blind – he’s judging me on those things a woman often vainly hopes a man will judge her for: What’s inside.

Food Desert clarification for ‘experts’ — IE “Give me Twinkies, or give me death!”

One of Michelle Obama’s pet projects is fighting childhood obesity. I like Michelle Obama, but I don’t like how she and other ‘experts’ continually think they know the reasons for the problems of the poor. Michelle and Barak have never been ‘poor’ as per Government poverty standards. (how many poor American kids are born in Hawaii, do a little globe trotting from Africa to Asia and then end up at Columbia University?)

The President and his wife think Obesity among the poor is caused by food deserts. This is because they live in a world where they have easy access to personal chefs, high end gyms with sitters, high end foods and fat wallets. They don’t have to worry about choosing between a gallon of gas and a gallon of milk or how much they can stuff in their face on their thirty minute lunch break.

The First Couple can afford and have been able to afford to go to theaters with valet parking, caviar and champagne. The parties they attend aren’t potluck. They are places where they try out gold plated truffles (real truffles, mind you, not the chocolate kind). I don’t mind this. I don’t even envy this. They can afford their pleasures and it keeps them away from dollar store candy and theater floors thick with old soda. Lucky people!

What I do mind is them trying to take the pleasures that poor people can afford – those chocolate truffles I was talking about – because it makes us FAT.

We don’t get to go out every night and hang with Snoop Dogg or Beyonce. What we can do is watch washed-up singers like Marie Osmond on Dancing with the Stars while we eat our frozen pizza. We go to Dollar Tree and stash boxes of Nerds and Milk Duds in our purse or diaper bag because we can’t afford to pay theater snack bar prices after shelling out 7.50 a pop for the family at matinee. We use whipped cream on jello because it’s too expensive to waste on sex (because as evidenced by birth rates among the poor we have way more than the rich and we don’t even pay for it). Those are the pleasures POOR people can afford.

It wasn’t long ago that smoking was one of the pleasures of the poor. Will Smith can still afford his cigars. Most actors and even the President can have their little vice but that was also regulated and taxed out of the realm of the poor’s expense by do gooders trying to save us from ourselves (because even after all the surgeon generals warnings, the poor were still smoking!). And they are trying to do the same thing with Happy Meals. A mom and dad who have been working all day and don’t want to slave over a hot stove or deal with kids that have more energy than parents. Parents (even stay at home moms) are glad for the cheap fast food. The trendy toy is just the bonus that makes a parent a hero and allows them to say: you just got a toy at McDonalds the next time they have to lug a kid along. Besides, doesn’t the play place time more than make up for the extra calories?

Parents like you and I know we were never going to get the kids to eat that vegetable lasagna anyway. Why should they? They can just eat the pink slime burgers they get for free at school. It’s not like they will starve. And you know what? That’s kinda the problem…

All I am saying is that experts should just stop doing these ‘food desert’ studies. I know why poor people are fat:  Because we can afford to be. We can’t pay for a gym membership, but we can buy a box of Twinkies.  We can’t afford a really great therapist and non generic Zoloft… but we can afford Crunch and Munch.  And as a generic substitute for anti depressants, Ding Dongs aren’t that bad!  The side effects from chocolate covered sweet cakes very rarely include death.

We are fat and happy, like hobbits. And like hobbits we will probably have to save your ass and the entire world soon because your experts are great at talking and postulating but they’re absolute crap on execution and action. So just leave us be and pass the Oreos.