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 www.nfbmd.org 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 www.paypal.com.  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: tlcchapter@gmail.com 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!

 

 

 

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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.

Posted in Everyday Life and Routines, Uncategorized

Ballet, Soccer, and Doughnuts #HartleSaturdayMornings

I wrote this earlier this fall for The Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog.  I wanted to share it here before the season is over.

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Oh Christmas Tree! (repost)

 

This weekend, it’s typically our tradition to put up our Christmas decorations. So, in honor of that, I thought I’d repost this story of “our first Christmas tree.”

 

This story took place the first Christmas my husband and I were married (2009). We received a number of gift cards to Target as wedding presents earlier that summer which we hadn’t used yet, so we decided to redeem them as well as hit a local furniture store on “Black Friday” in order to capitalize on some of the sales. So, we set out that morning on a very long bus ride from downtown Baltimore where we lived out to the county where the nearest Target was located, with a nice furniture store nearby. We decided to go to the furniture store first so we wouldn’t have to carry any shopping bags with us while looking at furniture. Unfortunately, the bus driver didn’t have the audio stop announcements turned on, so we had to rely on him to let us know when we got to our stop. After a while, we began to worry we had gone too far, so my husband asked the driver where we were. Of course, the driver had forgotten and passed up our stop by about a dozen stops. But, this driver feeling so guilty that he’d passed up our stop, turned his bus around, deviated from the route, and took us back as close as he could get us to at least the street we needed. Kind of sounds like we hi-jacked the MTA doesn’t it? WE then walked several blocks through this subdivision to the intersecting street where the furniture store was located and finally started shopping. WE managed to find some great items there, arrange for their deliveries, and left there ready to set out for phase two of our shopping extravaganza. We knew that the Target was relatively close to the furniture store, so we decided to just walk as the bus to there was a bit out of the way. WE got better directions from the clerk who had helped us with our purchases. She assured us that the Target was only about ten minutes—just down the road through two stop lights in another shopping plaza. So, we set off walking. We learned a valuable lesson that day—when people who usually drive say something only takes about ten minutes to walk to, you’d better triple it. And, as a side note, getting lost together and going for long walks whether you mean to or not is great marriage therapy. A half hour later we finally made it to Target.

 

We decided to use our Target gift cards to buy our Christmas tree that year. After finding the perfect tree, we went to pay for it. You can imagine how the next few minutes played out:

 

Us: “Hi, we want to pay for our tree

 

Cashier: Great. That will be $XXX.

 

Us: Okay. (Transaction takes place.)

 

Cashier: Can I get someone to help you get this out to your car?

 

Us: (momentary pause)” um, well, actually, we can’t drive, so we are going to take the bus home. Do you think you can hold this somewhere for us while we go locate the bus stop?

 

Cashier: (Seeming a little stunned) “Sure. I can do that.”

 

I should probably point out a few things to you at this point. #1: My husband is the biggest cheap skate ever and refused to take a cab home as it would have cost about $40 to get from the Target to our apartment at the time. #2, the Target was located in this huge shopping center with mile-long parking lots. WE had never been there before so we didn’t know where the bus stop was, and neither did the cashier, so we wanted to find it before hauling the tree outside with us.

About twenty minutes later, we were returning to the store when we ran into two employees carrying our tree on a flatbed cart. They said they had heard what we were doing and wanted to help us get our tree to the bus stop. The stop wasn’t far, actually pretty much straight across from the main entrance of the store, but there wasn’t really a direct path to get through the parking lot because of various obstructions, and there were four lanes of traffic to cross over as well unless you walked about a block up the parking lot to the driveway where the intersection with the crosswalk was located. So, we welcomed the use of the cart and the extra hands. After helping us carry our tree to the bus stop, we thanked the two guys and told them we could manage from there.

When the bus arrived, the bus driver laughed out loud and told us we’d really taken the shopping day seriously. The hour bus ride home was a bit amusing and I know we made quite the scene on the bus–confirmed by all the comments and smiles from other passengers–but everyone seemed to be good natured about it and didn’t seem to mind how much space we were taking up at the front of the bus. The driver even seemed tickled to think that she played a role in helping to “make our Christmas.” Thankfully, we only had to carry the tree about a block from the bus stop to our apartment.   IN any

Case, it makes for a fun story and we look forward to telling our children about how we drug the Christmas tree home on the bus one year.

Update: Sadly, this tree burned out about two years ago, but it served us well for about six Christmases. We ended up purchasing another pre-lit tree in its place one weekend when my mother-in-law was here with her SUV, so not as interesting of a story.  The new tree does however have  blue-tooth capability which my husband loves because he can control the lights and music from his phone using voice over which otherwise would be inaccessible to both of us.  Go technology!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

When God Closes a Window, He Provides a Shopping Cart

 

In honor of ”Black Friday”, I am reposting something I wrote a couple of years ago. I think of these stories every time Black Friday rolls around and they always bring a smile to my face. . Now with three small children, and access to Amazon and nearly all the retail world online, I don’t hit too many of the Black Friday sales anymore. And, to be honest, “Black Friday isn’t really what it used to be, especially when you see all the stores starting earlier and earlier each year. Plus, a lot of places offer just as many “deals” or fre-bee’s online now. Case in point, a couple of years ago, I drug Jesse out early and for the whole day looking for a few specific things. We hit several stores but came home empty handed. Upon getting home, he jumped on Amazon and within 20 minutes had purchased everything we couldn’t find that day. Even though we may not hit the stores anymore though, we do both now enjoy getting online early and watching all the “cyber deals. Once our shopping is done, we head out for lunch and a movie now which is a bit more fun. So, without further adue, here are two funny blindness related Black Friday stories. Enjoy!

********

I will admit I am one of those “crazy” people who love shopping on “Black Friday.” I find the crowds and the stores around this time exillerating, love the rush of feeling like I’m getting some great bargains, collecting the free -give-aways, and let’s face it…just having an excuse to go shopping never hurts either. So, when “Black Friday” rolled around this past weekend, I was begging my husband to join me in the madness. I know my husband loves me, especially since the two things he literally hates most in this world are shopping and crowds. (I did also have to promise to watch an entire football game with him in return).

You might not realize it, but being blind does add a little bit of a challenge–or at least requires a little bit of creativity–to the whole “Black Friday” shopping experience. For example, arriving at a store around 4 a.m. is a bit of a challenge when public transportation doesn’t usually run that early. Then there is the whole aspect of not having a trunk or car to put all the great finds you find in so that you can continue shopping.   Plus, if you want to hit multiple stores and aren’t going to a mall or something, it’s a little bit trickier to manage your time with public transportation or cabs so that you don’t cut into the shopping time too much. Maybe some blind individuals out there are fortunate to have a sighted friend or family member who is as insane as they are, but in my experience, these individuals are few and far between, or not around because it’s the holiday. AS result, I’ve had to learn some different ways of getting the job done.

 

This first story was probably my biggest, longest, and most expensive trip, but definitely one of the most fun and one that will live on as a legend in the “Black Friday” Hall of Fame. It was the year I moved to Baltimore (2005). My friend who is also blind and a die-hard shopper and I decided to hit the stores really early and make a day of it. I took the bus across town to where she and her husband live sometime around 5:30 or 6 that morning. WE then took a cab another fifteen or twenty minutes to the mall out in the county (both she and her husband are blind too.). We made it to the mall by about 7 a.m. I remember we were at the mall and ate breakfast in the food court at the only place that was crazy and brilliant enough ot be open that early capitalizing on the crowds. We then spent the bulk of the morning hitting various shops. AS you might expect, we began to acquire a lot of bags. most people would have taken their bags to the car, but this wasn’t an option for us, so we started asking the clerks if we could stash our bags behind the counter while we shopped. This worked great! After a few hours at the mall, we decided to leave there and walk up the street to the Pier 1 Imports store. WE had each been in Baltimore for only a few months, so we were still “setting up house” so we figured this was a great way to get some home furnishings. So, there we were, the three of us loaded up with shopping bags, bundled in our coats, and walking along the street with our canes. It turned out to be a little more of a hike (uphill about four blocks) to the Pier 1 Imports store than we anticipated, not to mention extremely cold, and we were carrying some heavy and awkward bags to boot. My friend, trying to lighten the situation, started talking about how we should write a story about our experience and said something like, “You have to be tough to be blind “,and how sighted shoppers were light weights. She then said she wished we had a shopping cart that could at least be helpful in carrying our bags. Remember she is blind or this next part won’t be as funny. I’m seriously not kidding, but moments after she said this, we discovered a stray shopping cart on the side of the side walk (we learned months later that there was a grocery store across the street). It was like a little humorous answer to prayers. WE all broke out laughing hysterically and loaded up our bags into the cart. WE then proceeded up the hill to the Pier 1 Imports store. We ended up coming in through an upstairs back entrance shared by another business with Pier 1 which saw little traffic. The main store entrance was downstairs on another street level. I think we actually took the cart inside and unloaded our bags and then left it outside that entrance, but I honestly don’t remember. Maybe we left it in the foyer? WE then hauled our bags downstairs to the store. , Once again, the clerks let us stash our stash behind the counter there too. Several hours later (literally), my friend, her husband, and I sat outside of the store entrance with this huge pile of stuff waiting for our cab. The contents of our pile included two area rugs, three lamps, several throw pillows, a couch cover, small end table, and some bags of other odds and ends, not to mention about four consolidated bags each from the mall. WE were met with exclamations of “Awesome!”, or “Now that’s how you shop!” and even some applause as we waited outside the store entrance for our cab.

I don’t know how we ever managed to get everything into the cab. Luckily it was a driver we’d used a lot and who liked us. Otherwise, I don’t think he would have wasted his time trying to pack the cab and take us home. We even convinced him to stop off at Wendy’s for dinner with us (we treated him to some as well.) He then drove all of us home which was about another forty-five minutes by the time he dropped me off from where we had been shopping. I think he even gave me a little discount as he spilled coffee on my area rug. (Thankfully it came out.) WE laughed for weeks about this trip and still brag about it today.

********

The next story took place a year later. This time, we decided we wanted to hit up an outlet mall in Hagerstown, MD which is about an hour and a half from Baltimore. WE also wanted to get there early in the morning of course to get all the early-bird specials. We toyed with going at midnight, but decided a good night’s sleep would do us good after a long Thanksgiving Day. So, these same two friends, plus one more all stayed over at my house on Thanksgiving night. WE called up a cab driver friend and asked him what he would charge to drive the four of us to the outlet mall. WE worked out a deal, arranged for him to pick us up at 5:30 a.m., and agreed to split the cost between the four of us. WE also determined we would take the Greyhound bus back that evening when we were finished as it would be a little cheaper and not lock us into a time with the cab driver. (My second and last time ever taking Greyhound!) This time though, we were prepared with our own “trunks” (a.k.a.rolling suitcases) wherein we could put our shopping bags and make transporting our finds a bit easier. The shopping was great and I remember getting a lot of really good deals on some gifts for family members, clothes, and a couple of free-bees along the way. WE again stashed our suitcases behind counters as we shopped and prided ourselves on our ingenuity in thinking of bringing the suitcases along this time—a practice we used on subsequent shopping trips. the real “adventure” started after the shopping. Late that afternoon, we began the trek to the Greyhound bus station. It was about a mile from the outlet mall and required us to walk along the unpaved shoulder of this really busy frontage road to get to it. The bus stop was also on the opposite side of the road, which wasn’t that big of a deal except that the only place to cross was this really crazy-designed intersection with tons of traffic going through it. Think of the visual we must have made with all four of us tapping along with our long white canes, rolling suitcases in toe. .   A half hour later, with sore arms and ringing ears, we found ourselves standing in a small bus depot, easily passable for something straight out of Mayberry, except less clean, and were met with the disappointing news that our bus had been delayed. So, we had no choice but to hang out and wait. At one point we had to wait outside for some reason. There was an individual loitering outside the bus station who I am pretty sure converted the outdoors into his own restroom facilities while we were waiting outside thus making the air “Not so fresh.” In the end, the bus ended up being something like two hours late by the time it rolled into the station. WE anxiously boarded the bus only to sit there for another forty-five mins. Or so. When we first got on the bus, we heard some commotion in the back about someone stinking and another passenger not wanting to sit next to them. About ten minutes later (all this was taking place while the driver was loading up and doing paperwork) the bus started to wreak of Ax cologne, (this really disgusting, cheap cologne). Apparently stinky man from the station had been sprayed by another passenger with the cologne to cover up his smell. When the driver got on the bus to leave, she immediately started freaking out and protesting that she couldn’t leave until the bus had aired out because she had terrible asthma. So, we waited, and waited.

I was never so glad to get back to Baltimore as I was when we rolled into the Greyhound station at 10:30 that night. I caught a cab home and vowed I’d never take the Greyhound again. Now that I look back on that night, I realize how naive I was traipsing around the ghetto in Baltimore on a greyhound bus! (Don’t think my mom ever knew about that one and it’s probably just as well.

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Well, this brings me to the end of my “Black Friday” reminiscing, at least the funny blindness-related ones. I hope you’ve found some of our tales amusing and even a little helpful. The bottom line is that being blind doesn’t mean you can’t do all the same things others do. We just have to find another way to work things out. Remember, when God closes a door, he provides a shopping cart. And, lastly, just remember, you’ve gotta be tough to be blind because only the strong survive.

 

 

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Fall in Philly-Part 2

 

h2017-09-22 13.49.54Photo caption:  K at Constitution Hall inside the chambers where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

One of the great things about living on the east coast is how close you are to so many amazing places. Jesse and I are trying to take advantage of this more, so this fall, we planned a semi-spontaneous long weekend trip to Philadelphia. This is the second part of my post. You can read the first part from last week here.

 

We spent a large part of our second day at Independence Mall where we were able to see the Liberty Bell and tour Independence Hall where the Constitution was signed. Experiencing these things was a bit of a sacred experience for me. We have so many freedoms that we take for granted, and so many people sacrificed so much for our liberties. It’s hard to put those feelings into words. Our experience at the Liberty Bell was also quite unique. Because we are blind, the park rangers let us actually go up and touch the bell. Otherwise, people just view it from behind a rope. This was quite special for us to actually handel a significant piece of history. Our kids got to touch it as well, and while they are too young to really appreciate the significance of this, I’m grateful for the story they’ll have to remember. Usually we don’t like to take special treatment like this, but I was willing to make the exception in this case.2017-09-22 12.29.06

Later that night, we once again implemented our structured discovery skills and found our way to the new LDS temple in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it closed for cleaning two days earlier. I had hoped to go to a temple session while we were there, but walking around the grounds and visiting it was still nice. Again, I’m grateful to share special places like this with my children.

Photo Captions Pic 1: LDS Philadelphia Temple

 

 

 

Photo Captions Pic 2: Hartle Family outside East doors of LDS Philadelphia temple

We got a little turned around going back to our hotel as we took a different way since the way we walked wasn’t very pedestrian friendly, and our four-year-old finally had a major meltdown from the long walks and almost gave up to fall asleep on the sidewalk. (WE kind of over did the long days and long walks even though we broke it up a lot.) But, with a piggy back from Daddy, he managed to get his second wind. Bonus points again to Jesse as it’s hard to hold onto a child on your back and use your cane at the same time. WE clocked a lot of steps that day.

We decided to take the Big Bus tour around the city on our last day. This was a double-decker open roof bus. There are several stops and you can jump on and off at various locations.   WE sat up on the top and thankfully, no tree branches hit us as the guide warned us may happen. WE decided to get off at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (a.k.a. the building used in the Rocky training montage where he runs up the stairs.) And yes, we did the Rocky Run. I took some video of Jesse and the kids running it. I did as well, and I’ll just say, going up was a lot easier than coming down. Thank you cane!2017-09-23 13.02.50

Photo Caption: J, K, and J.J. at the top of the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (oops, my thumb sort of got in the way of the pic and this is the only still we took there as the rest was video of us going up all those stairs!)

We finally made it home late Saturday night. The Mega bus was late, and we had trouble getting an uber XL home given some misleading uber practices which I’ll save for another post. (I’m boycotting them for a while for this practice.) Oh the joys of transportation! On our way home that night, feeling tired and a little overwhelmed by some of the challenges of the weekend, I asked Jesse if we were crazy to try to tackle things like this. This wasn’t our first time. He laughed and said we probably were but that it was worth it. We both agreed that if we knew how challenging it would be, we probably wouldn’t do it. I sat reflecting on the weekend and other things in our lives and felt really proud of us for sticking it out and continuing to try things like this despite how challenging they may be. Maybe it’s better not knowing sometimes. But, if you don’t try, you miss out on so many great experiences and happy memories.  I guess the message I want to convey with posts like this is that you don’t have to let challenges hold you back. We did not take a sighted guide along with us to help us find our way around and look after our children; and while I have some limited vision, it doesn’t help me read street signs, see oncoming cars, read a map, or see anything that is more than three feet away from me. With the right skills, a little bit of confidence, and a willing attitude, anyone can do hard things. So get out there and do them.