reading with my ears [part two]: hello, technology.

You can find “reading with my ears: part one” here.

 

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Reading with VoiceDream reader on my iPhone – a PDF or electronic text document is read in fairly life-like synthesized voices. Also shown, my Bose noise cancelling earphones.

 

Unlike many people with learning disabilities, I have always enjoyed reading. However, enjoyed is probably somewhat of a loose term. I read constantly, but remembered very little of what I actually read. (Bonus: buy books once, reread them a bunch because you don’t remember what happened). This all started to make more sense when, in 2013, I was diagnosed with a learning disability affecting my processing and memory of information acquired visually, and my processing speed, among other things. In the few years since gaining this information I’ve found a lot of resources that have helped me in ways I hadn’t realized were actually a struggle for me. Now I almost exclusively read audiobooks, retaining far more information with my ears (and allowing me to keep my hands busy at the same time).

 

Fortunately, audiobook or eText access goes beyond costly audiobooks at Chapters and Audible subscriptions (look, I’d rarely spend $14.95 on a print book a month!), and there are more options out there if you are a person with a disability. To this day, I’ve not touched an audiobook on CD, although I’ve experienced some technology oddities I now avoid (looking at you, Direct-to-Player app of last year!)

Upon learning of my newfound love of audiobooks, my friend Stephen told me about CELA–the Centre for Equitable Library Access, also/formerly known as the CNIB Library.

CELA membership is available to Canadians with a library card to a participating library, who also have a print disability. My learning disability, as well as visual impairment or physical disabilities that prevent people from reading print books, are classified as print disabilities under Canadian copyright law, which also allows people to access works in an alternate format. Signing up for CELA was easy, as it was based on self-disclosure. Other services sometime require proof of disability from a doctor, psychologist, teacher, or other “authority”, as in the case with the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS – Canada) or Bookshare (Canada/US). (I’ve got forms for both stacked up beside me for my yearly appointment with the psychiatrist later this week!) Each of these services provides electronic books either as a recorded mp3 or that can be read by the right technology, such as a screen reader or app. 

 

CELA opened a whole new world for me in reading, in tandem with the audiobooks available through my public library. As well, assistive technology, such as Voice Dream Reader and iOS speak screen (a recent find compatible with kindle eBooks!), has helped me rediscover reading, and allowing me to access longer or more complicated texts without just being completely lost. Now, I don’t just read books–I enjoy them. I remember more of what I’ve read. I can recommend books to people because I remember things about them. It’s exciting. 

 

And because of audiobooks, because of CELA, because of assistive technology?

I hit my 2017 GoodReads reading goal of 52 books before August 9, 2017.

 

With 144 days to spare.

Edit: My doctor got so damn excited when I told her that. (It was amazing. She’s amazing.)

 

After failing my 25 or 30 book reading goals in years past, that feels pretty awesome. Because even if it works better for me to read in a different way… I’m still reading.

archery + adhd: on target.

The sign outside my friend Diane’s archery range (AKA Heights Outdoors and Archery if you’re a local), at one point read “ARCHERY IS FUN. TRY IT.” 

The sign is not lying. Even though Diane has had to teach me how to do everything properly like three times (so far), ARCHERY IS FUN. I think I maybe mastered orienting the bow tonight finally (trickster ambidexterity-allowing recurves), and yes, when they say to draw your hand back to your face, they mean it and it actually does help significantly, thank-you-very-much.

It may just be me, but as I posted some photos of our archery Special Olympics wind-up on Facebook, I became aware of many parallels between archery and ADHD (and undoubtedly, the archery experience with ADHD). 

To preface this, I must say: Diane is awesome. She and I have a great rapport, and she puts up with my pestering (and returns it!), sarcasm, and repeated need for instruction well. She likes fun and I like fun and that is what matters, people. And although she says archery is like riding a bike and you don’t forget, I can say with some confidence I don’t think I’ve ever gotten on my bike backward like I’ve tried to hold the bow backward or upside down ;). Other than that, everything else she tells me I believe to be accurate. (If you’re in the Peg, you should do archery with Diane.)

I’ve done archery with Diane a good number of times now. The thing is, thanks ADHD, I remember safety instructions because not-death is a motivator, but it takes me quite awhile to get other stuff down. I am just about there, maybe.

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One of the first rounds of the night where I hit a decent number of arrows on the target. And two in that pretty gold area, though not quite centre.

I’ve been told before that I need more consistency to keep my ADHD brain in check. Like, to schedule my life a bit more. Here’s the thing: what is consistency? Also, not exactly interested. I should be, obviously. Had I external motivators, well, I likely would be. 

As well, consistency takes practice. Guess what? I’m not expecting to have consistent archery performance when the last time I shot was six weeks ago. Although, each round today got a bit better (inconsistently, mind you), as I repeated my way through the things that work, and on occasion, totally forgetting. Which is both an ADHD thing and a thing in learning how to coexist with ADHD—being consistently inconsistent or inconsistently consistent about just about everything. (Don’t tell me that doesn’t make sense. ADHDers, you get me.)

Note: I realized later I was like half the distance from the target this time compared to last time. That helps. 

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Hey, I did get two in the gold… Just not where I was aiming on one, mind you…

Especially when I realized when they tell you to put your draw hand against your face basically for a reason. And especially when I actually remembered this part of the instructions. Archery has a lot of damn steps to remember—kind of like life. And attention problems? Yeah, here’s an unexpected area for where executive functioning issues randomly interfere!

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Sometimes, you are all over that shit, without exactly realizing how, even though you are trying pretty hard.

…And sometimes, trying equally hard, less on the mark but still close.
Or… Way off. (…That top arrow ;).)

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And sometimes? You’re THERE and all over it, literally, but you still don’t quite hit the damn balloon. Even though you’ve done it before.

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Who knew a two hour progression through a few dozen arrows could summarize the inconsistency of ADHD life so well? 😉

I’m joining the Manitoba Blind Sport archery program next Fall, because hey, why not? Given I’m already paying a membership fee, the add-on athlete fee is a great deal for archery. Plus, while I’m not visually impaired, I don’t see all that well. Look, I could not exactly see my arrows from halfway down the range, never mind the full distance. And people will know how to deal with my questionable vision. And given I roll around on the floor and announce every ridiculous thing I do at goalball, the same will happen at archery, except not the rolling on the floor part. Except maybe if Guide Dog Murray is there.

My attention issues? Well, I roll with that pretty well, too, since it’s just who I am. And yeah, practice sort-of makes perfect there, too. At least in terms of semi-patience and laughing at myself. And I know this particular archery group, is good at that, too ;).

even stumbling is moving forward

I spent a good quarter of my time in university learning about how you shouldn’t make too many life changes at once. (I spent another quarter in anatomy or stressing out about anatomy, another quarter dropping classes possibly due to the unknown learning disability and ADHD, and the last quarter probably actually “focused”. This is not an accurate, nor mathematical, representation of university for me.) Yet, here I am, doing just that, because FULL SPEED AHEAD is the only way I know how to go.

So here I am. 13 days into logging with MyFitnessPal. That is nearly TWO WEEKS people, that’s an accomplishment.
I’ve opened up the Coach.Me app again last night and set up some goal in there—go for a walk twice a week, exercise three days a week, meditate daily, pray daily, and write a blog post [here] weekly (hi!). 

And today, I went for a walk. Just to the mailbox, to send a letter to my Member of Parliament. Have I mentioned I’ve gotten all politically engaged since we last spoke in depth? This is not actually a byproduct of that but still, could be why I was more interested in the Asthma Society’s Hill Day stuff in the end. Honestly, it’s a wonder to me that given the state of this world and our neighbours to the south, how the eff people can ignore this! I digress (but likely not forever, and would be happy to grab a [decaf] [not-]coffee with you and discuss. And also I am thinking about going back to school to do political science and no I don’t actually know what’s currently wrong with me.)

This is not significant. The walk, I mean. It was hot (27-feels-like-29 and heat and I are not friends—my lungs and my whole body) and slow and except whatever I GOT OUT THERE.

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Because here’s the thing. I have to start all over again. And so I am. I downloaded some bodyweight exercise app to my phone even. I’m LOOKING AT my Fitbit. Quantified self is one of those things that’s sort of engrained in my being one way or another so I need to USE that data. 

If a slow, 17 minute walk is all I get, guess what? It’s better than nothing.
If a three minute meditation before I go to sleep is all I do, guess what? I’ve started.
If prayer is a jumbled mess of words or a poem or “hey Jesus”? Yeah, my God knows where I’m at, even before I do.
If I don’t eat with any semblance of decency (or even if I’m closer than I usually am but still totally imperfect) but I am at least mindful of that, guess what? I’m one step closer.
If I start to write a blog post and I write “Listening to my body. Means. Going to sleep. Instead of writing.” and close my laptop, yes, I have figured something out. At least this time.
And if I admit all of this to you in a blog post? I’ve written the blog post. And hopefully, you’ll join me in stumbling towards those goals you think are too big, too hard, the things you think you’ll be imperfect at. Feel free to join me in the imperfection, learning the things they can’t teach in school.

Or at least watch along—because even stumbling is moving forward. 

hello, there. again.

It’s been months, literally months since I’ve written here. Probably because I’m writing other places on the internet. So here I am, wrapping up May after I haven’t written since January 30th. I have half written posts around on adventures since then, and words that have been published elsewhere (aka asthma.net). And some things that’ll never see the internet, shitty circumstances where I was somewhat stabbed in the back where I’d trusted someone and then had to clean up a mess they made–which was even more mentally time consuming than physically time consuming (if that’s even a way to explain time, in a physical sense). 

March, April, May even have involved airplanes and time invested and spent and wasted and given. 

I’ve gotten really sucked into podcasts which take more time than I realize–and I am smarter if not necessarily better for it. I’m thinking of going back to school and taking, no word of a lie, political science, even though prior to six or so months ago I had no interest in politics although I’ve been strong on voting since I could vote. At the start of May I was in Ottawa for World Asthma Day, in April, I was in Palo Alto to present at Stanford Medicine X | ED, and in March, I was in St Louis, Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Toronto on a whirlwind adventure that happened t settle around two conferences.  

Here are some (a lot, but only a sample) pictures.

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar

[Also I can’t figure out what I’m doing so to see the flickr album if it doesn’t load, click here.]

Not to say there wasn’t more.

There surely was.

But without writing everything down–whether here or in a journal–I’m living through Facebook and instagram and Twitter and a camera, and being in the moment, but maybe not translating that into reconstructable memories as readily. And maybe that’s okay but I think maybe I want that to change too. 

So here I am again.
Back.
Hopefully more intentionally. (Therapy.)

Because I’m getting closer–checking my Fitbit, logging nutrition with myfitnesspal (for five days now), and I actually rode the stationary bike the other day.
Now I’m writing.
Next is meditation.

Getting back to who I really am. And some (small bit of) routine.

guest post! | parenting with your eyes closed: gerry’s story

A couple of years ago, I met Gerry (one of the many friends I made hanging out in the Accessibility Resource Centre my last year of university). Since Gerry recruited me to coach goalball, he and I have spent many goalball and Starbucks related hours together, and I’ve also gotten to know his kids. Today, Gerry shares his perspective on parenting with his eyes closed, and what it’s like to be a dad who is blind.

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Being a parent has its challenges. Add to that the fact that you can’t see what your children are up to and it gets more interesting, especially when they realize that if they are quiet dad won’t know what they are doing. Since I am able to work from home, I have the opportunity to keep the kids on track most days. My wife does an awesome job also, but her work is out of the home.

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So what is it like for a blind dad on a daily basis? I guess it is probably the same for any other parent who has their sight. You wake up early hoping for a few minutes of quiet time before the caos of getting ready for school begins. And then it begins…wake up the kids and get them ready and out the door in time to catch the bus, or else they are stuck taking transit with me and that is not a fun time. Fortunately my kids are pretty good at picking out what to wear for school, I just hope they have matching socks. I know mine don’t always match, but I am not usually looking at my feet anyway.

Once the kids are gone, there is a calm about the house…at least for about 8 hours. I turn into house husband doing dishes laundry and other chores around the house. Yes I do laundry! Our laundry hamper is divided so that you can put your clothes in the right section. If you don’t then I am not help responsible if something comes out a different color. So far so good, or at least no one has said anything. I will also take some time and work for a few hours as well, the bills don’t pay themselves.

There are always a few people amazed by what I can do. I have even had people wonder how I took the bus with one small child and then two children, and also a guide dog. Yes it might have been a bit of a production getting on and off the bus, but I didn’t really care. Why should I have to stay at home just because I can’t see where the hell I am going. But that is a rant for another time.

Well it is almost time for the peace and quiet to end. Now I just need to decide what to make for supper and then get the kids ready for when my wife picks us up for skating lessons.

Yes I may be blind but my day is just as busy as another parent and homemaker.