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You can find all of my articles including those on the now-closed Homeschool Mosaics site at Tactile View.org . The adventures of my life in the Dark Silence continues there with a few surprises, too. Follow along! I would love to see there.

Touch Points

By Renée K. Walker

A Tribute

Summer has arrived and, along with it, my 25th wedding anniversary and my 50th birthday. I was married 25 years ago on June 22, 1986 just before my 25th birthday (which is on June 26). My husband and I have raised two wonderful boys who are now 30 and 23 years old. They are both out on their own fulfilling dreams and being responsible men of integrity. Each has a wonderful girlfriend who seems to enrich his life. I am very proud of them both. My husband and I have worked together to build a good home and lives that are used to serve our Lord Jesus. That is something I am proud of, too.

It hasn’t always been easy because life is never easy for anyone. Unexpected hurdles and just happenstance can unravel the best of plans made for a life. One must learn to flow with the changes. Among other of life’s normal struggles, we had a few unusual ones thrown in for me. Though profoundly deaf for most of my life, the process was still gradual, and I learned to do a lot with what sound I had. When it was gone, my lip reading skills still allowed me to go about my daily activities seemingly as if I could hear. I found it to be an annoyance at most, but I mostly just never thought about it. It just wasn’t a problem. I was also night blind from an early age, but I just kept bright lights on at night and drove carefully on familiar and short routes if I drove at all. I managed just fine doing what I have always done which is raising a family, teaching, and serving others.

A few years after our wedding, the vision issues decreased rapidly to the point that I could no longer ignore them. As I have said here before, the diagnosis was Retinitis Pigmentosa exhibited as Usher Syndrome Type III. When the vision dimmed, my life drastically changed. My articles here have depicted many of the struggles of being deaf and blind. We have coped as well as we could and, sometimes even risen above expectations. Learning braille, tactual ASL, and assistive technology use has made a chaotic life more ordered. Struggles still prevail, and the world is not always a bright, cheery, or safe place. With my husband by my side and a few very close friends, life is more than just bearable. It is wonderful, and I am living it to the fullest.

All people who are disabled, but especially people who are DeafBlind, need that one person -whether it is a spouse, family member, or good friend – who is there for them daily despite the struggles. Someone who can overlook your frequent moments of frustration over what you can’t do. Someone who can look deep within you, and see the truth. Someone who can dig deep within themselves and know that truth. Someone who will understand that the frustration, irritability, and sometimes even hostility, comes from knowing you can be a burden and you hate it. Someone who can show that it may be a burden at times, but it is always worth it. Someone who works tirelessly to help you access the world, but somehow makes it feel almost effortless. All people need that special someone. A person who is DeafBlind will only thrive if they find that person.

My husband, Scott, is my special someone. He does all of these things and more. I’m sure he often feels unappreciated as life becomes chaotic and stressful, but I do appreciate him. I also respect him because he has truly honored our wedding vows. It is one of the many reasons why I love him. Happy 25th Anniversary, Scott.

I pray that you, my readers, have found that special someone who supports you in your weaknesses and celebrates your strengths. I pray that my DeafBlind friends have, or will find, that special someone who helps them not only survive, but thrive. I also pray that those readers who may not be disabled (but know someone who is disabled) will consider what you may be for that person. Yes, it can be a burden, but the rewards of seeing that person thrive are worth it. God bless these special people.

 

If you have comments about this topic, you may write a letter in braille or print to Renée Walker, 143 Williamson Dr, Macon, GA 31210; or you may email me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org. You can also read and comment on my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com. You can also check me out at www.facebook.com/reneekwalker.

 

Touch Points

By Renée K. Walker

Spring is here, and it has come in roaring for the South where I live. We have experienced the deadliest day of tornadoes since the depression. F3 and F4 tornadoes touched down within just a few miles of my home. Other tornadoes just as strong or stronger touched down in my state and surrounding states killing hundreds. I am so thankful that my family and I are safe. I also pray for my neighbors and others in the South whose families weren’t so fortunate. My topic of choice before the storm and even more so after has been of safety. I have experienced some incidents recently and in the past that have frightened me or at least unnerved this former law enforcement and prison teacher which at one time was very hard to do. Being DeafBlind is enough, of course, to shake the steel nerves of most anyone, but there should be some feeling of safety in one’s surroundings.

As a teacher in juvenile and adult facilities, I have been in very dangerous situations before and even had my life threatened on more than one occasion. The training I received helped me to stay calm and do my job following certain protocols to maintain safety for staff and clients of the facilities. If you fell apart, you did it well after the fact, but you learn to deal with the adrenaline and often become a little addicted to it. Even staring down the barrel of gun didn’t have me shivering in fear when I had a student with me several years ago. The fact that I didn’t react with such uncontrollable fear actually became a negative during the man’s trial because defense attorneys could twist that to reduce the man’s charges and eventually his sentence terms. But becoming Deaf and Blind, my steel-hardened nerves melted quickly, and I suffered panic attacks for the first several years. Even when I was relatively calm, my personality was changed to a more withdrawn and fearful demeanor. Though deaf for many years, the vision change was subtle and slow until the very end when I first realized the loss by a drastic and sudden loss leaving me in a dark and silent world. My fear and personality changes were understandable. The changes were further heightened by the reactions of those I would meet in my new world. People I knew and loved often withdrew or left completely unable to handle the changes in our relationship. Strangers either avoided me or drew close to see the novelty, and a few times sought to deceive or even harm.

I have had cashiers steal my money. People on the street come up to me and wave their hands up close in my face, or if they notice that I sign or can’t understand that someone is speaking to me, come up near me and scream or make a loud noise. People can be very weird. These can be annoying if I even notice them, but I am not particularly frightened of these strange people.  The ones that frightened me are like the group of young children who spotted us or actually my guide dog in this case and began to run circles around me screaming. I was later told they were screaming about the “bad dog” and “Get the mean dog out of here.” They ran around us and would swoop in kicking my dog or me. I was punched in the back. My dog was kicked and punched on his back and in his side. These were just children ranging in age from about 4 to 8, but children can be quite strong. Adults around us did nothing and that included store personnel. I kept screaming for someone to grab their kids. No one moved. No one came to my rescue. My husband was with me, but we were raising another guide dog puppy at the time, and he had Anchor. Anchor had been showing signs of really needing to get outside, so my husband was trying to do that thinking I was very close behind him. When my husband realized I wasn’t there, he put Anchor in his kennel in the van and ran back to me where I was doing my best to calm my frightened guide and move out of the store. My husband spoke firmly to the children who ran off towards an adult about 10 feet away who seemed to be glaring at him. My husband didn’t give the adult time to say or do anything and led me quickly out of the store. My guide was traumatized and for several months I couldn’t work him because if children came near he panicked. Southeastern Guide Dogs, where I had gotten the dog, worked tirelessly trying to help me get my beloved dog back to working state. Little Joe is now fine, but it took a lot of work from both of us.

In the years since, I have had other incidents happen, too. Once, on vacation in Florida, my life was verbally threatened at a hotel by several people who took offense to my dog. It isn’t all about my dog, either. A few years ago, someone rang my doorbell. I was expecting a friend at that time, so I opened the door. I normally block the door with my body because I had four dogs at the time and one of them tends to bite when people arrive for some reason. I felt a shove of the door into my shoulder as I instinctively resisted realizing my friend wouldn’t do that. My dogs reacted loudly and physically and within seconds the shoving stopped, and I slammed the door shut. Was that someone trying to harm me or just get my attention in the wrong way? I really didn’t know. I couldn’t call the sheriff because I was totally deaf at the time. It happened very quickly, so I didn’t have a lot of time to get very scared. I was able to convince myself afterwards that it was no big deal. After that, we invested in an emergency call system with 24/7 monitoring for other health reasons. I used it just a few months ago when the doorbell rang, and I wasn’t expecting anyone. Since the first incident, I had learned to not open the door at all if I wasn’t expecting someone. I also ask all my visitors to email or text me as they arrive or develop another signal with them to let me know the person is who I am expecting. When this person or persons didn’t leave quickly and I noticed the dogs acting like people were in the back of the house, I used my system. Sheriff was called and arrived. It turned out to be a friend, but a friend I hadn’t seen in several years and was unaware of my health changes. The sheriff’s deputy actually stated that I should be in an institution or not allowed to ever be alone at the very least. That was humiliating. Getting an emergency call system had been tough for me, since I felt elderly and incompetent, but it was useful, so you learn to deal with it. Now I was being told that I shouldn’t be taking care of myself at all and possibly locked away.

Just a few weeks ago, a trip to a local college to walk with my guide dog and another family pet took a bit of a frightening turn. We were walking across a large field section of the campus. Due to construction, we were away from the usual path, but it was an easy field to walk. My husband was in front with our pet. I was behind with Little Joe. Suddenly Little Joe came to a dead stop. I stopped, but I couldn’t find any immediate obstacles. Little Joe didn’t try to move me in another direction. He just stood perfectly still. All of a sudden, I felt Little Joe move into me hard and then jump to the side and back of me. I also felt his body shiver with fear. This scared me considerably, since I had no way of knowing what was happening or about to happen. My husband reached for me and pulled me further to the side as I explained that something must have hit and scared Little Joe. My husband explained that a woman had approached us walking quickly in a power walk method carrying a large, broken tree branch like a walking stick. Instead of going around us, she plowed forward straight into us and begin swinging the large branch side to side very fast and loudly and forcefully saying, “Out of my way; Out of my way.” In the process, she had hit little Joe on the backside with the stick. I was frightened and angry, but I had no recourse as she just walked away ignoring our calls.

These incidents and others over the years have made me wary when I am out, but I have continued to try to explore further into my dark and silent world. I don’t want to be so frightened that I sit in my safe chair in my little room at home. I want to live my life and live it well. My husband and some friends worry about me and want to know how to handle these situations, but how? You don’t expect people to act this way, and you certainly don’t want to assume that everyone is out to get you and bully people who venture near me. Not only would that be wrong, but it would probably result in lawsuits or arrests. Now we remain on guard when out, but we have no idea what we really should do to handle these situations. We just will handle them as best we can as the situations arise being ever watchful. Life is stressful and even frightening in this dark and silent world just fearing the unknown objects, drop offs, and barriers. I should be able to find safe and helpful hands in the dark, don’t you think?

Yes, for every person that has tried to drive me into seclusion, there are dozens of others who shower Little Joe and me with blessings every day. Those are the people that keep me moving forward in strength through the dark silence.

If you have comments about this topic, you may write a letter in braille or print to Renée Walker, 143 Williamson Dr, Macon, GA 31210; or you may email me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org. You can also read and comment on my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com. You can also check me out at www.facebook.com/reneekwalker.

Published in the Spring 2011 edition of Good Cheer, an international magazine for the DeafBlind by the DeafBlind.

Last week The SchoolHouse Store set up residence at a new blog. You need to go on over and check it out at www.homeschoolblogger.com/storespotlight. They are going to have a lot of great stuff in store for you.

Last week they did a drawing and gave away 10 of the Homeschool Planners to some of their earliest subscribers to the blog. In addition, they are giving away a $100 store gift certificate once they reach 1,000 subscribers! And they are already over half way there!

The Store Spotlight blog offers midweek markdowns (a new item 1/2 off every week), interviews with the companies whose products they carry, and random FREE products!

Author Ed Dunlop has completed another title in the Terrestria world. The first book in his new Tales from Terrestria series is Quest for Thunder Mountain. The book was written to help young adult readers experience the wonder of finding and doing the will of the King. There is  The Old SchoolHouse review at www.Talesofcastles.com. To launch the book, there is a good, but simple contest that you can enter. The prize is one of 15 copies of the new book, Quest for Thunder Mountain. Head on over to http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/HSBCompanyBlog/610676/ to find out all about it. Good luck!!

Here’s a new easy way to raise money for Wynfield Christian Academy and DeafBlind Hope. Just start using Yahoo! powered GoodSearch.com as your search engine, and they’ll donate a penny to your favorite cause every time you do a search! In addition, do all of your shopping through their online shopping mall, GoodShop.com, where you can shop at more than 700 top online retailers and a percentage of your purchases will go to the charity or school of your choice. You pay the same price as you normally would, but a donation goes to your cause!

Here’s the web site — http://www.goodsearch.com. You can also read about GoodSearch in the NY Times, Oprah Magazine, CNN, ABC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Welcome to Wynfield Christian Academy’s homeschooling world. We are not here to turn homeschooling into a private school world. We want homeschooling to flourish as it is. Homeschooling is a wonderful way to fulfill the parents’ God-given responsibilities of educating children. Wynfield just wants to provide more resources to add spice to your teaching and to make it easier to for parents to get their children into colleges without having to limit the homeschooling way. We also help families with special needs children to have more resources to homeschool their children, as well.

Here on this blog we will give you teaching ideas, discuss homeschooling issues, and even review some products for you.  Give us your comments or ideas for discussion. We are always listening. If you are interested in learning more about our umbrella program, visit our web site at www.wynfieldca.org. We also have a DeafBlind program to help educate, train, and equip DeafBlind children and adults that you can learn more about, and even learn how to help us on that mission at www.wynfieldca.org/deafblind.html or visit our blog at www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com.

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