#WeekendCoffeeShare (September 19, 2021)

Hi all on this late Sunday evening! Boy, am I late joining #WeekendCoffeeShare. I’ve had all my coffee for the day and even had my last soft drink. If you’d like one, I’m sure I can still pass you one through the Internet though. Let’s have a cup of coffee or another drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that the weather is still pretty good for September here. Temperatures rose to roughly 20°C in the afternoon and it’s been mostly dry with some sunshine and some clouds. Today while in the car being taken back to the care facility from Lobith, my husband even said I had to wear sunglasses. Now sadly the sunlight wasn’t particularly bright to my (almost) totally blind eyes, but yesterday I’d gotten a headache from what might’ve been exposure to bright sunlight that I wasn’t consciously detecting.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my husband and I had our tenth wedding anniversary today. We celebrated it yesterday with a large Domino’s pizza. We each had a milkshake too, but it was far too thick for my liking. I couldn’t finish drinking it, whether I tried the paper straw that came with it or my own silicone straw.

If we were having coffee, I would finally show you the picture of the present I gave my husband for our anniversary. It’s a polymer clay heart with the text “Assie houdt van je” stamped into it. Assie is my nickname (and no, in Dutch, there is no connotation to asses) and “houdt van je” is Dutch for “loves you”. There is magnetic tape at the back so that my husband could hang it on the fridge.

Polymer Clay Heart for My Husband

My husband really appreciated the gift.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the rest of my week was okay. I was a little sad and grieving the loss of my eyesight, as well as worrying about my upcoming care plan review. The review won’t be until September 30 and of course it doesn’t involve judgment and it isn’t a test.

However, I have been increasingly aware of my inner fight regarding my wish to stay here in Raalte and yet my feeling that I ought to be looking for another care facility or working towards living with my husband. In my paragraph about the bright sunshine, I almost wrote I was taken “home to the care facility” rather than “back”, as if our house in Lobith is less of a home to me than the care facility. My support staff would consider this progress, in that I’m beginning to feel safe here at the care facility. However, there’s an inner voice that tells me that this is betraying my husband. I know he supports me staying here for now, but I also know he struggles with the distance. Ugh, this is so hard.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I’m very curious about iOS 15, which will be out tomorrow. Like almost every year, there is one critic on the Dutch VoiceOver E-mail group who warns all of us to wait because it’ll be drama. This year though, the accessibility bugs seem not as serious as last year and especially the year before. Still, I’ll probably wait at least a couple of weeks until at least some of the other members of the group have actually installed the official release. I am really curious about live text in photos and improved VoiceOver image recognition though.

How have you been?

App Review: Diarium for Windows 10 and iOS

As regular readers of this blog may know, I’m perpetually looking for an offline diary to keep. The problem doesn’t seem to be the lack of apps available, though I find fault with each of them. Rather, it seems to be the lack of commitment to actually keeping a daily journal.

That being said, I’ve tried a lot of apps. Until very recently, the iOS app Day One was by far my favorite. Now, it seems to have gotten a strong competitor in Diarium.

Diarium was originally developed as a Windows 10 app. This was before I had a Windows 10 computer. At some point roughly three years ago, they however launched the iOS app. It was still far from ideal at the time. If I remember correctly, most buttons weren’t labeled and there was no timeline view.

In the current iOS version, the tabs in the bottom right corner allow you to switch between timeline, calendar, search, map and tags. I really love this.

In the top left corner of the screen is the button to add an entry. This will open a calendar with an ability to pick the date. Diarium, though it does seem to support multiple entries per day, does not automatically include the timestamp. Rather, you have to click a button while typing your entry to insert it. You can also add images (not sure if you can add just one image per entry or multiple), audio or files.

Also in the top left corner are buttons to sync your diary with OneDrive, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, WebDav or Dropbox. This is a paid feature, but the positive about Diarium’s paid plan as opposed to for example Day One’s, is that it’s €5,99 (if I’m correct) and is a one-time purchase rather than the €37,99 per year for Day One. To Day One’s credit, it does offer more features.

I have Diarium on both my iPhone and Windows 10 PC now. At first, I had no clue how to use the Windows 10 app, because it doesn’t work like Word or Notepad or any of the older Windows programs at all. For example, Alt or Shift+F10 doesn’t work to open a menu at all (there doesn’t seem to be a menu). I’m still figuring things out a little, but it seems most buttons at least are clearly labeled. When I tap the button to add an entry though, I have yet to figure out how to get back to my diary without closing and relaunching the entire app.

Diarium allows integration with several services, including your weather app, Twitter, Facebook and Fitbit. I so far only have integration set up with the iPhone’s weather app and Fitbit. I love how that way, my daily step count is included with each day’s entry. Unlike apps like Momento, Diarium as far as I know doesn’t create separate entries for your integrations, but rather includes them on each day’s main entry. This may be both a drawback and an advantage depending on your perspective.

There are two things I find slightly annoying about Diarium. The first is the fact that each entry is auto-titled something like “Dear diary” and auto-formatted to start with “Today I …”. It does look like you can delete or ignore this though. The other thing is the fact that, despite the fact that I turned it off in settings, my entire entries are still shown in the timeline. This might be a bug, so I’m going to contact the developer about this.

Overall, I really like Diarium. If, like me, you’ve been using Day One and would like to migrate, there’s an easy way to do that by exporting your Day One journal into a .Zip file and importing it into Diarium. Some of the preformatted stuff from Day One looks weird in Diarium, but it’s still readable.

Things That Made Me Smile (August 30, 2021) #WeeklySmile

Hi everyone on this beautiful Monday evening. I was feeling a bit down in the dumps earlier today. The reason is the fact that I had a vision screening by the blindness agency this morning. The result was more or less as I expected: I only have a tiny bit of light perception in the central visual field of my left eye. It however was a bit of a bummer too, in that I’d hoped to perform slightly better.

To cheer myself up, I thought I’d join The Weekly Smile and share how amazingly far assistive technology has come. It may not replace actual vision, but, combined with my imagination, it can go a long way.

What I mean by assistive tech specifically is VoiceOver Recognition, the iPhone’s built-in image description functionality that was released first in iOS 14 not even a year ago. Last month, I already mentioned that it can recognize some basic shapes and colors (such as my pink, heart-shaped polymer clay ornament.

on Wednesday though, my father-in-law posted a picture of a statue to the family’s WhatsApp group and asked us to guess who it was. Without VoiceOver Recognition or similar third-party apps, I would have lost out on the fun. VoiceOver Recognition though immediately described the image as a statue of a bear on a water fountain. I replied with this answer in the group and was asked to name the bear. A little Googling revealed that it was “Berend Botje” from the nursery rhyme by that name.

My husband told me that, from the picture, he hadn’t made out that the statue was of a bear. I ran the image through VoiceOver Recognition and Seeing AI, one of the more commonly-used third-party apps for image description, just now and neither recognized it as a bear specifically this time. However, the fact that I “won” my family’s very visual riddle despite being totally blind, definitely makes me smile.

I’m also joining in with #LifeThisWeek and #SeniSal.

Gratitude List (May 28, 2021) #TToT

It’s really been forever since I last did a gratitude post. I’m not too happy at the moment, but maybe doing one will cheer me up. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT.

1. I am grateful for a sunny and warm day today. After weeks and weeks of cold and rainy weather, the sun is finally shining and the temperature rose to 18°C this afternoon. The weekend and next week are supposed to be even better.

2. I am grateful my Braille display will be fixed and hopeful the company won’t claim it’s my fault that it’s broken yet again. Like I said before, they originally claimed I had caused my original Braille display water damage, but they couldn’t prove it, since it’d been lying in their storage for a year. Now this one has similar issues to the other one, but again I have no recollection of ever getting water on it. For now, they are saying there is no reason to think it’s water damage this time around. The problem if it were wouldn’t even have been the one-time expense of getting it fixed (€1500), but the precise fact that I have no recollection of ever getting water on my Braille display and so I can’t prevent the same problem happening again. For now though, I am thankful it will be fixed.

3. I am grateful for my staff, who help me through the hard times I’m going through lately. I experience a lot of triggers and resulting flashbacks. Thankfully, my staff keep reassuring me and all my inner parts, that we’re safe now.

4. I am grateful for my nurse practitioner and community psychiatric nurse. They both help me too.

5. I am grateful for wraps for lunch today.

6. I am grateful for a shopping trip to get some candy and fruit this afternoon.

7. I am grateful for a private WordPress site that I can use as my diary. I still like the iPhone app Day One too, but prefer to type my entries on my computer.

8. I am grateful for horses. Yesterday, some other care facility clients apparently went riding in some type of carriage. While the woman guiding the horses was preparing the wagon, my day activities staff asked whether I could pet the horses and I could! The littles had so much fun!

9. I am grateful for beautiful and nice-smelling flowers.

10. I am grateful for the myNoise and Spotify apps on my iPhone and the ability to listen to beautiful soundscapes and all kinds of music using my AirPods.

Okay, this was easier than I thought it would be. Thank you for reading.

What are you grateful for?

A Recent Purchase: Apple AirPods Pro

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to write about a recent purchase. Like I said last week, I was seriously considering getting Apple AirPods Pro once my vacation allowance landed in my bank account. At the time, I had not yet seen the payment details of it, so I was still unsure I’d get it at all, or how much I’d get.

By Monday, my payment details from the benefits authority arrived in my government inbox. I wouldn’t be getting the money until Friday, but on Wednesday, I was so excited I decided to buy the AirPods anyway.

I ordered them from Bol.com at 1PM Wednesday. They gave me the option of selecting to get the AirPods delivered the same evening, so I was like: “Yes please!” Unfortunately, my screen reader wouldn’t let me toggle the button, so I got a staff to do that for me. My brand new Apple AirPods Pro arrived at 6:30PM that evening.

I struggled a little to get the AirPods connected and the medium-sized earmuffs felt uncomfortably large to me even though the fitting test on my iPhone said they fit. Then I struggled to remove the medium earmuffs and replace them with the small ones, but my staff eventually found out how to do this.

The AirPods came with a wireless charging case. As is the norm with current Apple products, they also came with a lightning to USB-c charging cable but no charger. I have an iPhone SE 2020, which still came with a regular USB charger. For this reason, I wondered whether I could charge the case with my iPhone charger or I needed to buy a USB-c charger. It might be faster with that one, but my iPhone’s charger works at least.

It also took me a little figuring out where the force sensor was located and how to use it. Once I figured it out though, it’s really intuitive. It works similar to the home button on my iPhone, really. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to take incoming calls using just my AirPods, but today I found out I can.

The AirPods Pro have really good noise-canceling, which was one reason I wanted the Pro ones specifically. When I have noise cancellation on, I feel quite well shut off from my surroundings, even when I’m not listening to music. When I do want to hear what’s happening around me, I easily switch to the transparency mode and can hear everything just fine even while still listening to music.

I originally wanted the AirPods so that I can fall asleep while listening to soothing sounds, for example from the myNoise app on my iPhone. That, unfortunately, isn’t working yet, as I haven’t found a way to make the AirPods feel comfortable when I’m trying to sleep. That might be a good thing though, as I have no idea whether the AirPods will really be able to withstand a sleeping me. Overall, however, I really like my new AirPods.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Reading Wrap-Up (April 12, 2021) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. It’s a cold, windy and rainy Monday here. Perfect for reading. Not that I’ve done a huge amount of it, but I’d still like to join in with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? or #IMWAYR. Let me share some of my bookish thoughts.

Life Update

I’m feeling okay today. Not bad, not great. I am loving looking through my tons of writing prompts, but none seem to inspire me right now. That is, I did open the app Drafts on my iPhone again yesterday and discovered a number of freewrites and poems I’d written. That did inspire me a little.

What I’m Currently Reading

Well, honestly, too many books to count. I’ve mostly been reading bits here and there and then putting down a book again.

I picked up the second book in the Church Dogs of Charleston series by Melissa Storm a few weeks ago, as it was free. It’s a cute read.

Then I’m still reading The Choices We Make by Karma Brown. I finally read a bit in this novel again a few days back, but well, I don’t think I’m in the mood for complicated adult novels at this point.

Finally, I was somehow interested in reading abuse survivor memoirs again, so downloaded the preview of You are Mine by Isabelle Eriksson. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to buy the actual book.

I’ve also been paging through a ton of books on journaling, but I don’t think that counts as actual reading.

What I Recently Finished Reading

I got Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart off Bookshare in an impulse a few weeks ago and raced through it. I wrote a review last Tuesday.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

Both Casey Watson and Maggie Hartley have a foster care memoir out this Thursday, so probably one of those. I also have been asking around in a Christian book group on Facebook about realistic contemporary fiction. I got a lot of replies and am still sorting through them, so I may want to buy a book by one of the recommended authors.

What have you been reading lately?

Learning Never Stops #Write28Days

Okay, here’s my post for #Write28Days for today. I know I already wrote a post today and at first I wasn’t inspired to write another. The prompt word for today is “Learn”. This at first didn’t inspire me, until I read Carrie Ann’s response. It completely resonates with me!

As regular readers of my blog will know, I did college for one year in 2006-2007, doing an orientation in psychological and social studies. I only passed the year because the communication skills instructor had given me a passing grade on the condition that I never continue into this field. I was diagnosed with autism a few weeks before the dreaded communication skills exam. Now I did poorly on the exam and don’t really want to use autism as an excuse. Other autistics, in fact, can become social workers or psychologists or work in other such fields the program would be training me for. But I cannot.

Then I transferred to university to become a linguistics major, only to drop out two months in. I took a few psychology classes at Open University in 2009, of course skipping the practice ones and doing only theoretical ones. I think that instructor back in 2007 was right, after all.

Despite the fact that I haven’t been in formal education in over eleven years, I however still learn. At times, it feels like I don’t. I mean, I am not in any type of training or education.

The last time I was in formal training, was to learn to use the iPhone in 2017. I fully expected I would no longer be capable, but thankfully I was.

And now, having become a Christian within the last two months, I am trying to learn all about the faith and memorize scripture. It’s hard, but I trust that with God’s help, it is possible.

Carrie Ann truly motivates me to keep trying to learn. I really want to learn to write better. I also still want to take some free classes. I mean, ideally I’d sign up for some university courses in education or psychology, but these usually require a prior college degree. Maybe I can use FutureLearn or the like. In any case, I really hope that, like Carrie Ann says, learning never grows old even when I do.

Journal #SoCS

SoCS Badge 2019-2020

Journaling is one of my favorite activities. That being said, I’ve taken forever to find the right means of doing it. I tried a regular Word document, at least twenty apps on my iPhone and a couple on my PC too. In fact, at one point I spent $100 on an app that didn’t even work.

I currently use an app called Day One on my iPhone. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can get so far. That is, at one point there was an app called Dyrii that was better, but they went into maintenance mode and at the last update, messed things up pretty bad.

In addition to journaling, I love to collect journaling prompts. I probably have about twenty collections of journaling prompts in my various book apps and on my PC. I don’t use prompts as much as I’d like, but just the thought of having them at hand is helpful. It may be a kind of autistic perseveration, but oh well.

In Day One, I have four different journals righ tnow. One is a general journal that I rarely update. The second is specifically for my alters to journal their thoughts. The third is a prompt-based journal and the fourth is a gratitude journal.

Just yesterday, I thought of starting another one, specifically for chronicling my recovery from compulsive overeating. I also may want to start a quote-based journal. I so far decided against either of these, but Day One allows unlimited journals if you have the Premium version. Which I’ve had a couple of times but each time deactivated again. I’m pretty sure I’ll keep the Premium subscription now though.

This post was written for #SoCS, for which the prompt today is “Jour”.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (October 25, 2020)

It’s already late Sunday evening. I was up real early today, but still didn’t get to blog so far. Today, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. We may still have some coffee, although our official evening coffee break has passed. Otherwise, I can offer you green tea or water. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would share that last week, I bought a new Fitbit Inspire 2. It’s pretty cool to be able to track not just my steps and distance walked, but also my minutes in active heart rate zones. I got more than twice the required number of minutes this week.

That being said, I’m already looking at someday buying myself an Apple Watch. I discovered just a few days after I’d purchased the Fitbit, that there’s a new Apple Watch SE that’s significantly cheaper (or should I say less expensive?) than the regular one. I’m really hoping I’ll be able to buy that one someday.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I had a health check on Tuesday. Like I said, it showed that my blood pressure was somewhat high and of course I’m significantly overweight.

I did find out on Friday that my blood pressure is actually pretty normal when resting, ie. just after waking up. It was 115 over 75 then, but rose to 129 over 91 after I had showered and gotten dressed. I have no clue of the significance of this, but my staff E-mailed my GP about it, as the nurse from the health check-up had recommended.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how frustrated I was when discussing my health check with my husband. He wanted me to go on a diet. I want that too, but it’s hard for me to follow through especially long-term and the staff refuse to enforce a healthy lifestyle.

After a sleepless night and some frustrated discussions with my staff, they talked to the behavior specialist. She recommended we make a food plan together, my staff and me. Then all of us know what I’m supposed to eat and not eat and the staff can redirect me when I want to overeat. So far, it’s going okay’ish. That is, the staff have still occasionally offered me food I’m not supposed to eat at that moment and then I struggled to refuse it. I did eventually talk to the staff about it and try to make up for my bad choices later on. I’ve not yet had a moment when I requested food I wasn’t supposed to eat, which according to my food plan would require the staff to tell me it’s not wise and to offer an alternative.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my husband came by for a quick visit today to take me on a walk. That was fun.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I finally updated my iPhone to iOS 14. I hadn’t expected iOS 14.1, which came out a few days ago, to solve any of the many accessibility bugs the original iOS 14 had come with. After all, the release notes didn’t mention VoiceOver at all. To be sure, I asked on a Dutch VoiceOver users group about it and got a reply from the most critical iPhone user on the list saying that the update had fixed most of the bugs. Practically all other list members had already updated, claiming that most bugs can be circumvened. I didn’t want to take the risk, but I do believe this particular member. So far, it’s all pretty good. I am having a play around with VoiceOver recognition, which describes images. It’s pretty cool so far.

What have you been up to?

Lovin’ Lately (September 11, 2020)

Hi everyone on this beautiful Friday! How are you all? I’m doing pretty well. I thought I’d share another edition of Lovin’ Lately. As usual, I’m linking up with Friday Favorites.

1. Cold tea. Last Saturday, a staff brought a bag of so-called cold tea. This is a new product from Pickwick (I believe). It’s herbal tea that you add to cold water instead of hot water. The staff brought me the pineapple and lime flavored one.

2. Fragrance oils. I decided for the first time to check out a webshop specializing in fragrance oils for candle and soap making or oil diffusers. I’d heard of this shop before, but never bought anything off it. This time, I ordered two fragrance oils: one pineapple and the other juicy yellow lemon. I got another fragrance oil as a gift. That one isn’t suited for soap or skin or hair care products, but I’ll try if I can diffuse it in my oil diffuser.

3. MyNoise. Emilia over at My Inner MishMash recommended this app (well, she didn’t name it until I asked). Like she says, it’s an app that lets you listen to various soundscapes and you can set the volume for each individual sound within the soundscape. I pretty soon decided to purchase the full version, which has like 150 different sounds. You can also somehow calibrate your own soundscapes or something, but I’m not sure how that works. I’ve so far been listening to a lot of nature-based soundscapes.

4. Soap making recipes. On Monday, I decided to check out YouWish, a Dutch soaping supplies store with a great blog. I really want to get into the soap making craft again. I haven’t yet tried out any of the recipes yet, but will next week. Some use micas, which are powdered colorants. I bought two at the fragrance oil store too.

5. Matcha green tea powder. When searching for more melt and pour soap making recipes, I saw a recipe that uses green tea powder as a colorant and additive. I immediately decided to order some matcha green tea powder. The site said that it’d arrive within a day, but it didn’t. It finally arrived today. I saw on the packaging that besides tea, you can also use this in smoothies. That sounds pretty cool!

What have you been lovin’ lately?