Posted in Uncategorized

$1 Buttons!

IMG_0231(Picture Caption:  Spool of blue thread with needle and loose buttons)


This was too good that I couldn’t help but pass it on. So, I’m not exactly domestically inclined when it comes to sewing. Partly because of the blindness, and partly because I just never learned. I even own a sewing machine but couldn’t tell you the first step in how to even turn it on. My mom however is great at it and had I shown an interest in it and maybe not needed to figure out alternative ways for learning to sew non-visually, I might be better at it too. Needless to say, when something rips or a button falls off, I feel a little bit of dread and slightly anxious because in the back of my mind I know that this is probably the end for that item of clothing. But, not wanting to be wasteful, I tell myself that I’ll sew the button back on or get it mended somehow. Fix it up wear it out, make it do, or do without right? Isn’t that the old adage? Let’s be realistic though, it takes me forever to do this. Not only am I not good at sewing, I usually can’t find my sewing kit, or if I do, I still have to buy a new button. So this means I have to remember to take the item with me on my next trip to Walmart or Target so I can match up the buttons with something from the store’s stock. This also requires using customer service to help me locate said buttons and/or matching thread since there’s not exactly a great nonvisual method for accomplishing this, and sometimes using customer service can be hit or miss. . In the event that I do finally buy what I need, the item in need of mending still sits for weeks more until I “get around to it.” Can you see why this stresses me out? I’ll admit in the interest of full disclosure that because of my nature, I’ve become really good at temporary fixes. For example, using pins and tape on the underside of a fallen hem, or a safety pin in the spot where a button has fallen off with no one being the wiser—hopefully. I even started a collection in my laundry room of things in need of mending and would save them up for my mom when she came to visit me from out of stae once a year. A few years ago I stumbled onto this great hack for people like me. I learned that most dry cleaners will mend items for you. This was game changing for me, the non-sewer. I felt like I just got an extension on my wardrobe. , so I started taking items into our local dry cleaner regularly—ripped seams, unraveling hems, broken straps on a sun dress, you name it.

I recently ripped the arm seam on my wool coat when trying to put my son into his carrying backpack. This is a nice coat and I’m not ready to toss it out yet, so I decided to take it over to the dry cleaner this week and see if it was something they could fix. I also remembered that one of the buttons had fallen off my son’s white church shirt (he’s been wearing a sweater over it for the last few weeks to hide this) I know, I know…don’t judge.   Anyway, I have had the best of intentions of sewing that silly little button back on because I know that while it might not be the best job, this is something I can do even nonvisually. But, I’ve been dragging my feet on it and frankly, it’s kind of low on the priority list until Sunday morning rolls around each week and I’m reminded of my negligence.   To my credit, I remembered the shirt as I was walking out the door to run some errands, including dropping off my coat at the dry cleaner. I grabbed it and took it along with me.

Later at the dry cleaner, I sheepishly asked the attendant if they sewed on buttons as if the admission of this might make my domestic maternal ancestors cringe. I was relieved to find out that they could repair the ripped seam on my coat and even more excited to learn they would replace the button. I think this was the first time I’ve ever taken anything in just for a button. I was even more excited to learn that they only charge $1 to sew on a button! $1? You mean, no more stressing about going to buy thread and buttons again? I’ll pay it! I couldn’t believe it! I joked with the attendant about how he had just made my day and that from this day forward I was never going to sew on a button again!

So, there you have it…a little hack for other non-sewers like me—blind or just a busy mom. . It’s life changing. No more guilt! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go dig around in my closet for a few button-less items to take back with me when I go pick these ones up.


Posted in Uncategorized

Making it to Elementary School


Last week I wrote about the logistics of getting to and from preschool. This week, I thought I’d share a little insight into our elementary school routine.

When we bought our house six years ago, one of the big factors of consideration was its location to schools, and our ability to get to and from them easily either by walking or public transit. . There is an elementary school just down the road from us—within walking distance, and a junior high the other direction, also within walking distance. Both are great schools too. I remember looking online to see the schools we would be zoned for, but apparently I either misread it or mixed up the address. So, it turns out that while we live really close to this one school, we actually are right on the dividing cross street and our neighborhood is bussed to another elementary school a few neighborhoods away. At first, this was a little disappointing even though our kids were not old enough to go to school. I thought being able to walk to their school would be so helpful, especially when I wanted to go volunteer, needed to drop something off to them, or if they stayed after for extra curricular activities. We decided that when the time came, if we still wanted to attend the closer school, we could always petition the district to give us a waiver. Well, when the time did come, we decided it best to keep our daughter with the neighborhood kids and that having a regular bus ride would really be helpful. The piles of snow in the winter and lack of shoveling along the main road we would have been traveling to the other school also helped make this decision easy. The other times we needed to get to or from the school would be easy enough to work out. It turns out that the school we do attend is also walkable when necessary, but not practical to walk to on a regular baisis. The walk takes about 20 minutes. When you’re used to walking places, it’s doable, but time consuming.

We’ve also been blessed with great neighbors or parents of classmates who give us rides to/from common school events like back to school nights, school carnivals, fairs, etc. For the other times, it’s convenient enough to use a ride service to get to the school. As for those times when my daughter forgets her lunch or homework, she has to learn a bit of tough love since I’m not always able to take forty-five minutes to make the round-trip walk or not inclined to pay $15 to run something up to her unless its really necessary. But we do our best to be prepared the night before and We make sure she has money on her lunch account just in case. OH yes, and I’ve really made it clear that missing the bus in the mornings is not a good option. ( I think we only have missed the bus once for being late in the year and a half that she’s been in elementary school,.) Anyway, its turned out to be a great arrangement for us and we really love the school and the community we are in.


Posted in Uncategorized

Making it to Preschool



Recently I was talking to a blind mom who was trying to figure out transportation to/from her daughter’s preschool. Transporting your children from place to place often requires a bit of logistical Olympics whether you’re blind or not, but even more if you can’t drive. so I thought this post might be helpful to share some of the things we’ve done with respect to getting our kids to preschool.


Thankfully, we have a really great preschool within walking distance of our home (about 10-15 minutes.) My daughter attended there three years ago and this year my son started there. The tuition is a bit higher than some other programs around us, but for us, the convenience of being able to walk there is worth it. IN walking there, I use some kind of combo of either taking my children in the double stroller, one in a carrying pack, one in the single stroller, or one walking, etc. Each time we’ve had a child there, it works out great for us until about late December/ early January when the snow starts to fall and the temps dip down. We get a lot of freezing rain here too which leaves the sidewalks like an ice rink and makes walking anywhere pretty impossible. On top of that, we’ve had years when the snow gets plowed onto the sidewalks from the road, or people just don’t shovel, making the sidewalks virtually impassable. So, here is what I’ve done in these circumstances.


First, I could take a ride service like Uber/Lyft/taxi, but this gets expensive if you’re doing it to and from a couple times a week. Not to mention, it’s sometimes a bit awkward or tricky getting drivers to pull up in the pickup line or to be willing to wait while you run in and pick up your child. So, this is an option I generally have saved as a last resort or in a pinch like today when the sky broke open with pouring down rain right as I was heading out the door.


My second and most practical recommendation is to find someone with whom you can carpool. When my daughter was attending preschool, I asked her teacher if she could connect me with a parent that lived near us or passed by us or who would just be willing to pick my daughter up for a few weeks in the winter. A sweet mom volunteered and this worked out great for us throughout the months of January and February when walking was most challenging. She would pick up my daughter along with our car seat and take my daughter to and from school for me. I offered to pay her, but she declined so instead, after this arrangement was finished, we gave her a gift card as a thank you. In my experience, a lot of parents are really open to carpooling. While I can’t take a turn driving, offering to pay or babysit in exchange goes a long way.


This year, before I started asking around, the assistant teacher offered to pick my son up for a few weeks on her way to work. She has been picking him up for us for the past few weeks. He gets to school a little early, but there are a couple of other kids who need to be dropped off early so he hangs out with them and looks at books in the receiving area with the teachers until school begins. This same teacher also got permission to leave work for a few minutes to drive him home. (It’s helpful that we live within a five minute drive of the school.) This arrangement has been so helpful for us. It’s been nice not to have to scramble around to find a ride for him at the last minute if the weather looks rough that morning, or take both my young boys out in such cold temps. The weather is starting to warm up and hopefully the worst is behind us, so we are getting back to walking regularly, but I want to thank this sweet teacher for her time and service to us. Thanks Mrs. George!


This fall, I will be starting over and trying to make some new transportation plans. Sadly, we did not enroll our son at this same school for next year as the tuition for the four-year-old class is about $1000 more than this year, so I did find another program close to us which several of our friends have attended or do attend. I didn’t go with this one initially because it’s not walkable and not accessible by public transit either, (I like to be as self reliant as I can) but after weeks of deliberating, I decided to go ahead and enroll for this next fall in the hopes that we can find a regular carpool situation or some kind of alternative solution. I feel pretty confident that we’ll be able to find another family with whom we could carpool or that I could find a neighbor or good friend to hire as a driver for this (still less expensive than the current preschool or taking ride services) which is why I went ahead and enrolled our son for the upcoming school year. . We’ll see how it works out. Fingers crossed!


Posted in Uncategorized

First Grade Field Trip Part 1



Last week my daughter presented me with a permission slip for an upcoming field trip to the science center. She then proceeded to beg me to sign up to be one of the chaperones. She really wanted me to sign it that night so she could take it back the next day since chaperones were going to be chosen on a “first come, first serve” basis. I will admit that initially I got a little flustered with her persistence. Given that she presented this to me also right in the middle of dinner clean up and bed time routines, I told her to put it on my desk and I’d think about it. Dejectedly, she did so. This is my sweet little six year old who is in first grade and been begging me to volunteer in her classroom or chaperone a field trip since she started Kindergarten. When she started school, , I had just had our third child, so I was less inclined to leave our newborn/nursing baby for long periods of time for things like that. I told her this year though that I might be able to help out a bit more, and this is one of the first real opportunities for that.


Being a stay-at-home mom does make helping in these ways a bit more possible, even though there are still logistics to work out like who will watch my two younger boys while I’m gone, especially since this is an “all day” field trip, making sure my calendar is clear for the day, oh yeah, and of course, there’s that little thing of blindness. Darn it for always complicating things. So, I felt like I needed some time to think this over before volunteering for anything.  Later that night, I did end up signing the form and checking the little box that I would be available to chaperone. Much to the delight of my beautiful daughter, but I felt a little anxiety in doing so. Not because I don’t think I would be a good chaperone—I have years of running summer and after school programs and am used to keeping track of a number of school-age children–not to mention, I have three of my own that I look after every day independently.  Rather, I worried about whether or not her teacher and the other school officials making the decision about who would go would believe me capable. Who knew something as simple as going on a field trip could carry so much weight? The other hard part of all of this is that I had to try and explain these grown up issues somehow to my daughter who was beaming with excitement at how fun it will be for me to join her that day. I explained that while she and I know that Mommy and daddy are capable of doing these kinds of things (did I mention we also have a membership to the science center and go there often?), it may still take some convincing her teachers about it. I explained to her that they may have some reservations about a blind mom coming along, but that we’d see what happened, so she shouldn’t get her hopes up just yet. Then, we still had to make it through the lottery of other parents signing up too.


It’s been a couple of days now and I haven’t heard anything from her teacher. I don’t know exactly how or when the chaperones were going to be selected and part of me feels like I should email her teacher and try to nip any concerns that may pop up in the bud before they do. I have this fear that while I may have been in the first batch of returnees, I won’t be selected and that it will just be told to us that we didn’t make the “lottery”. Guess I’ll never know. My one little saving hope right now is that we have been present at a number of school events so her teachers and other staff have seen us and hopefully have a favorable impression of our abilities. The other bright spot is that two weeks ago, my daughter’s teacher invited one of her best friends and neighbors to come and speak to the first grade . Her “best friend” happens to be a blind para-Olympian swimmer with whom I am also acquainted, so, maybe the teacher has some positive perspectives on blindness and my worries are all for not.

I’m feeling a little anxious about the whole thing. I really hope it works out as I know my daughter would love it. But then what if it does work out? That brings a whole other level of anziety to me in trying to prove myself. Why are these things never easy?   In any case, we’ll see what happens. To be continued….,

Posted in Uncategorized

NFB of MD TLC Chapter January Raffle

Happy New Year!  I have lots of great posts coming and new projects I’m working on for the next year which I am really excited about.  I’m keeping some of them under wraps for a bit longer as I’m not fully ready to make things public, but stay tuned.

As some of you may remember from my outreach efforts last year, this week marks the anniversary of when I went blind twenty-six years ago at the age of 12.  For the last couple of years, I have been trying to commemorate this time personally in a more positive light by doing something that “Pays it forward “to the blindness community as a way of saying thank you for the ways in which my life has been so blessed despite this challenge.  Last year I  started a campaign to raise money for the Louisiana Center for the Blind where I received my blindness skills training twelve years ago.  You can visit a post about that effort and read more of my story about how I became blind here on my blog .


Because of the success this had, I am reaching out to all of you again with a similar request this year, except this time there is more benefit to you for your generosity.  I also promise that this will be a one-time ask, so you don’t have to worry about me pestering you about this.


Our local chapter of the NFB—the Towson Lutherville, Cockeysville chapter of the NFB is holding a January fund raiser.  This is a chapter I helped organize, and of which I was president for a few years.  I now serve as treasurer and my husband Jesse is vice president.  Our chapter is holding a weekly drawing throughout the month of January to raise funds for local projects.  Funds raised will go towards things such as sponsoring local blind members to attend state and national NFB conventions where they can partner with blind mentors and learn about local resources for blind people, sponsor middle and high school students to attend summer training programs, and provide financial support for the Maryland Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning summer program for elementary children.


Here’s how the drawing works:

  • Winners will be drawn each Sunday throughout the month.  You can join at any time and will be eligible for the upcoming week’s drawing.  Your name will also stay in the drawing for the next week’s drawing if you are not selected, so you don’t have to re-enter the drawing.
  • The first drawing will be held on January 7th.
  • You will be notified via phone and or email if you win.  You also do not need to live in Maryland as we will send the prize to you should you win.
  • There is no limit to how many tickets you can enter into the drawing.
  • Tickets are 1-$3, 2-$5, and 5-$10
  • Winners will be posted each week at under the TLC Chapter page.


Now for the fun stuff.  Prizes include:

  • Gift cards to Starbucks, PF Chang, and the Bone Fish Grill
  • $100 gift card to Target
  • A Google Home
  • An Amazon Echo Dot
  • Grand Prize: NFL regulated football signed by players from the two-time Super bowl champions and AFC Champions, the Baltimore Raven’s.

So, if you are interested in participating, here are a couple of options for purchasing tickets:

  1.  Contact and pay me directly
  2. Purchase tickets through PayPal.

If you choose to buy tickets through PayPal, please visit  Upon logging in with your own PayPal account or as a guest, You will then select “Pay for goods and Services”.  You will then need to enter the email address: as the proprietor to whom you are sending money.  Next, select the amount you are paying to purchase the tickets.  Below the amount box, you will see a “Note” box.  In this box, please enter your name, phone, email, and the number of tickets you are purchasing.  Then hit submit.  I am the treasurer and keeping track of this, so I will contact you to let you know that we received your purchase.


  1.  Send a check directly to meNFB TLC Chapter30 Haddington Rd.
  2. Lutherville, MD 21093
  3. c/o Mary Jo Hartle
  4. You can send a check made out to the NFB TLC chapter   With a note stating how many tickets you would like to purchase.  Then mail it to my home address at:


Thank you for your consideration of this and for all the love, support, and encouragement you give me and my family.  It truly means so much and helps more than you know! Also, I invite you to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t done so yet, and to help me in my effort to educate others about the capabilities of the blind by sharing it with others.  A shameless plug I know. Happy New Year!




Posted in Blindness Bloopers, Public Attitudes, Misconceptions, and Advocacy

Initial Here Please…


A couple of weeks back, my daughter told me of a situation that had happened to her earlier that day at school which upset her. Based on her comments, I wrote the following email to her teacher.


(Note: Names have been changed to protect her teacher. I actually have been impressed with her teacher and think she’s doing a great job.)


Hi Ms. Smith,


I wanted to address a concern K brought up to me today regarding the signing of her homework page.  According to her, she said that you told her that you didn’t think she had done her work and that she had initialed for me on last Thursday’s homework page in her spiral notebook.  She was pretty upset about it also to think that you were disappointed with her and didn’t trust her.  She also was concerned that she lost some Jo Jo points for this.  I wanted to let you know that she did in fact do her Thursday homework.  She completed the activity to make a memory game but left the cards on our kitchen table, so had no showing of her work.  We actually played together at the table.  I also verified the initials today just to double check that I had remembered to sign it and to see if maybe she had in fact written something in.  It is my handwriting, even though it’s sloppy.  I don’t know if you remember me talking to you at back to school night, but both my husband and I are blind.  I have some usable vision and can read print with magnifiers.  Sometimes I read and write on a screen that I often use to read lots of text and fill out forms.   When I use this, my handwriting is legible because I can see what I’m writing.  So, you may have seen some times when my writing is clearer.  Sometimes however, I just sign a form without taking it down to my office and can’t read my writing.  I often just have K show me where to sign on her logs and I initial because I know she’s already done the work.  .  In these instances, my handwriting is not as clear because I cannot see what I’m writing.  I’ll admit sheepishly too that on Thursday night, I scribbled in haste because I was in the middle of making dinner.  Anyway, I wanted to make sure you knew that she was in fact telling the truth and did not lie to you about doing her assignment.  She did the memory game and we can send in her flash cards too if you would like to see them.


If there are concerns in the future about K’s telling of the truth or concerns about our signatures, please feel free to call or email me so that we can verify the situation.  I would appreciate it so that we can minimize misunderstandings between you and K.


Thanks so much for your help with this.



Okay, I was a little embarrassed, but I know her teacher was even more so than me. She replied to me and told me that some of the students have in fact been dishonest about the signing of their homework lately, so she worried that this was the case. She also was very apologetic about the whole situation. I am embarrassed that my handwriting got mistaken for a first graders. Guess I need to work on my penmanship.

Posted in Activities with Children, Home is Where the Hartle Is, Uncategorized

Ballet, Soccer, and Doughnuts (#Hartlesaturdaymornings)

2017-09-16 11.02.14.jpgBallet, Soccer, and Doughnuts (#Hartlesaturdaymornings )

Fall is in full swing around here and I love it! We’ve also found ourselves entering into a different phase of life where our weekends revolve more around kids’ practices, birthday parties, or home projects and trips to Lowes. Ballet started up again and we also entered the world of soccer. You can’t be a true suburbanite without experiencing at least some time on the soccer field. Our soccer experience is still in its early phase, but we enrolled our son into a Soccer Shots clinic this fall. Having kids in multiple activities at the same time and a fuller schedule has presented some blindness related logistical challenges, but we’re working through them. I thought I’d share some of the ways we live our everyday life which is much like most families, with just a few exceptions.

A Saturday morning staple for us is getting Dunkin Doughnuts. I wouldn’t go quite as far to say it’s an addiction, but maybe close. Have you tried one of their pumpkin spice muffins yet? And as a hot chocolate connoisseur, I’d say they’re certainly on the top of the list. Definitely two simple pleasures on a crisp fall morning. One more side note—we were in Philly a few weeks ago and I don’t know what Jesse was more excited about—touching the Liberty Bell or the fact that we passed six DD’s in a one mile radius from our hotel. But I digress…Anyway, usually early on Saturday mornings, Jesse walks to DD which is a little over a half mile from our house (about a 15 min. walk each way) He also gets enough doughnuts to eat some on Sunday morning as this is supposed to help us get out the door to church faster.


My job is to get the rest of us ready for the day—tights, leotard, soccer jersey, and shorts—amidst sibling squabbles, missing shoes, and distractions of the one-year-old dropping the tv remote down the toilet. Around 10 a.m. One of us calls a Lyft or Uber and takes K to ballet. (Usually me.) Whomever goes to ballet takes B, the one-year-old since it’s easier to take two car seats into the school rather than down the hill and across a field to soccer practice. Once the car arrives, it takes about five minutes to install car seats and buckle up kids. When we arrive at ballet (a.k.a. K’s elementary school , K (6) is responsible for carrying her booster seat out of the car while I uninstall B’s car seat and take it, and him inside. Most often, drivers usually offer to help with this whole process, but we’ve kind of got it down to a science now and it’s just easier sometimes to do it ourselves. After ballet, we do the whole process again, sometimes substituting a Lyft with a ride home from a ballet friend.


Around 10:40, the other parent (usually Jesse) calls another Lyft/Uber and heads to a different elementary school with J.J. (4). Once there, Jesse carries J.J.’s full backed booster down the hill to the grassy area where Soccer shots takes place. He parks the booster next to a tree near the field and then kicks a soccer ball around with J.J. as the kids arrive and warm up. This is always a bit tricky when you’re not using a beeping ball, but they work it out. The first time we went to Soccer Shots, I took J.J. and we got dropped off at the other side of the school where other league soccer games were going on. It was a discovery learning experience for me as I trekked around the school with cane, child, and booster until we found the right field way down in the back on the opposite side. Thankfully there were a lot of parents and I could ask directions, but I’m pretty sure I got some curious looks walking around with my cane and a car seat.


A couple of weeks ago, my sister was visiting us and we rented a van for the weekend. It was such a luxury! Not only did we not have to install and uninstall car seats, but we were able to run an pick up DD while my daughter was at ballet, swing by and pick up J.J. and Jesse for soccer, drop them off, and head back to pick up K, and then back to soccer for all of us to watch the last twenty minutes of J.J.’s practice. (This was really fun for K and J.J. because it’s logistically difficult and costly with rides for us to go to his practices after ballet.) Afterward, we stayed and played on the playground at the school as a family just enjoying the beautiful fall morning. My sister does not have kids of her own yet, so I teased her about how she just had a crash course in suburban/family life.


So there you have a small glimpse into our Saturdays. I know as our children get older and more interested in other activities, these kinds of logistics will become a bit trickier. For example, juggling getting to different places at different times each week for games, weekly practices, lessons, scouts, etc. We will probably find ourselves incorporating more carpooling or using other drivers too. WE want to make sure our kids don’t miss out on opportunities or things they want to do because our blindness might present some challenge. I’m learning that being creative, flexible, and good at problem solving is the key.