The Wednesday HodgePodge (March 16, 2022)

Hi everyone. I have been discovering some great new memes/blog hops lately. One of them is The Wednesday HodgePodge. The idea of this meme is to answer five (semi-)random questions and then add your own random thought at the end. I say the questions are semi-random, because they do seem to have been inspired by a theme. I loved this week’s questions, so here goes.

1. It’s March 15th (Tuesday) and as the saying goes-“Beware the Ides of March”…have you read/studied much Shakespeare? Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play? How do you feel about a Caesar salad?
I haven’t studied Shakespeare at all. In fact, I don’t think I’ve actually read any of his plays and the only exposure I got to them was watching a school play of Romeo and Juliet in high school. As a result, I had no idea the expression about the Ides of March didn’t actually originate with Julius Caesar himself.

As for a Caesar salad, I do like it on occasion, but it isn’t my favorite at all.

2. Have you ever been to Rome? If so what do you love about the city? If not, any desire to go?
Well, I went to grammar school, so of course we had to visit Rome. The best aspect of it was visiting the Capitoline Museums, but only because a very daring teacher asked one of the museum employees whether I could touch the sculptures, because I am blind. Somehow we actually got permission for me to touch them with one hand. I mean, for those not familiar with them, these are 2000-year-old sculptures, for real! Two years later, when my sister, who is sighted, visited Rome, they had created replicas for blind people so that they could actually get the full experience of touching the sculptures.

3. What’s your favorite place to ‘roam’?
Switzerland. I’ve only been there once, but it’s by far my favorite place to wander about. My husband and I went there on our delayed honeymoon in the summer of 2012 and we’re fully intending on going back once COVID restrictions are lifted there.

Other than that, I’d just say my own neighborhood. I love going on walks and taking pictures as I go.

4. Do you like pizza? Thick or thin? Red sauce-white sauce-other? Your favorite toppings? How do you feel about pineapple on a pizza?
I love pizza! Usually I prefer a thick crust, but I love a good Italian-style pizza too. I love both red and white sauce. My favorite toppings include salami, chicken, bell peppers, red onions, red peppers, etc. I don’t care for pineapple on a pizza but it’s not that I wouldn’t eat it either.

5. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’…tell us how this expression applies to something in your home-life-job currently (or recently)?
Well, I have a ton of larger craft projects that I’ve gotten started on and that I really wish I could’ve finished in a day, but that’s just not working.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
All this talk about pizza has me craving good food, even though I just had lunch. Thankfully, I’m going to cook pilav later this afternoon. I also had the most amazing Indonesian takeout food yesterday. A staff brought me some and it was truly the best Asian food I’d ever had.

Sunday Ramble: Books

E.M. Kingston started a prompt called Sunday Ramble a few weeks ago and today’s topic is “books”. The idea of the Sunday Ramble is that she poses five questions on the topic and you’re allowed to ramble as you please. By this she seems to mean that you don’t need to answer the questions in order, but can turn them into an essay too. I am just going to answer her questions though. Here they are.

1. Do you prefer digital, paperback, or hard bound books?
This is a no-brainer: digital! The reason is simple: I am blind and cannot read print. Back in the days before eBooks became accessible with screen readers, when I’d still have to digitalize my own books, I preferred hard bound books because they were easier to place on the scanner. Then again, I never liked the process of scanning my own books.

2. Do you have a library full of books or just your favorite tales?
Library of books! I have a Bookshare membership, which is like a library service for the print disabled which lets you download an almost unlimited number of books for $50 per year. You can also keep them as long as you’re a member of the service as far as I’m aware. I currently have roughly 260 books downloaded off there. That is, I have 263 books in Voice Dream Reader, the app I use to access Bookshare books, but that includes some PDFs I downloaded elsewhere and DAISY books from the Dutch library for the blind too.

In addition to using Bookshare, I occasionally buy Kindle books or eBooks off Apple Books. I also like to use BookBub to get free books on Kindle or Apple Books. So if the question had been about number of books bought rather than number of books I have on my shelves, the answer would be quite different, since most books I get either free through BookBub or via my Bookshare membership.

3. Harry Potter, Narnia, or Twilight? (You can choose all three or pick and choose.)
Uhm, am I going to get laughed at if I say I haven’t read any of these at all? If I have to choose though, I’m going with Narnia because it’s Christian-based.

4. Do you like when books are turned into movies? Why or why not?
I don’t really ever watch movies, so I consider that a no.

5. What is a book that you have read over and over again?
I hardly ever reread books now. As a teen though, in the days of scanning books, I had fewer books to choose from. That is, of course I was a member of the Dutch library for the blind then too, but I didn’t like listening to audiobooks. Anyway, I could read Caja Cazemier’s Dutch young adult novels over and over again. My favorite was probably Iris, about a girl who runs away from her mother and is placed in a youth home.

Activities I Do When I’m Alone

I have been struggling more with alone time and the fear of being left to my own resources lately. For this reason, Carol Anne of Therapy Bits’ question yesterday comes at the right time. She asks what things we like to do when we’re alone.
Here’s a list of things I can do by myself.

1. Go online. I can read other people’s blog posts, be it in my feed reader or through link parties.

I can also go on Facebook and other social media. I don’t personally use Twitter, Instagram etc. much at this point, but I still like to scroll through it.

I also recently developed an interest in watching YouTube videos in the areas of crafting and faith.

2. Read. The only goal I set for myself this year that I truly, definitely haven’t reached, is my reading goal. I’ve so far only finished six books out of my goal of 20. That being said, I do like to read the occasional short story or chapter in a self-help book.

3. Write. I am currently on an eight-day streak with this blog (including this post). I can also write in my private diary, for which I use an app called Day One. I use this app for freewrites and gratitude lists too.

4. Pray and read my Bible. I sometimes slack out on my Bible reading a little, opening the app and only reading the verse of the dday. Today, I did pretty well, having actually finished a plan I had been doing for a while and also having read up some in the book of Judges (because someone I follow mentioned a verse from there).

Besides filling my time, Bible study and prayer will bring me closer to God and will hopefully make me realize that I am never truly alone, even when I am physically alone. I am also never left to my own resources, even if it feels that way.

5. Listen to music and dance. The word “dance” should really be put between scare quotes, since my sense of rhythm is nonexistent. However, I enjoy listening to country, southern rock and contemporary Christian music while moving.

In addition, I also like to listen to calming music while lying in bed. Then, I prefer nature sounds and harp, guitar or piano music. I also occasionally listen to contemporary Christian music when I’m neither resting nor dancing. Then, I’m digesting the lyrics.

Do you struggle with alone time? What activities do you do when you’re alone?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

I’d Rather Not Ask

This week’s prompt for #LifeThisWeek is “Questions”. Denyse writes in her original post that she tended to be a question-asker until she was faced with a cancer diagnosis, when she felt too overwhelmed to ask questions. And maybe, I’m assuming here, also a little too self-conscious. She was able to ask some of her questions eventually but even still encounters things she didn’t even know she wanted to know.

I am not a huge question-asker. Like, over the past week, I’ve been asking lots of polymer clay-related questions, but I’ve felt self-conscious each time. I’d rather solve my own problems than ask for help.

Unfortunately, with me being multiply-disabled, that’s often hard. Even when my only recognized disability was blindness, I struggled with asking for help for those things that those who are just blind usually get help with. I’d rather figure things out on my own, only to get frustrated and distressed when things didn’t work out. I considered myself fiercely independent, but I really wasn’t.

As my father at one point said: “You have an issue with only saying when you think people should have helped you.” I realize that’s rather disrespectful indeed, because, well, other people are not mind readers and cannot have guessed that I wanted to ask for help. Then again, I didn’t necessarily want to ask for help.

I’m trying to learn to ask for both explanations and assistance when I need it now, but I often still feel very self-conscious. This happens especially online, where people can’t tell right away that I’m disabled. For example, people in the polymer clay Facebook groups often suggest I watch YouTube videos, so then I feel kind of obligated to say that those won’t work for me as I’m blind. I do tend to say that I’ll ask my support staff for help, because of course I can’t expect a random person online to explain everything in plain text. Each time I feel I have to mention my disabilities though, I feel some of my self-esteem go. I’m not sure that’s justified, but it’s the way it is.

Early Days Online

Yesterday, Rory asked whether we remember our first times online or with a computer in general. I certainly do. I may have shared some of these memories before, but just in case I haven’t, I’m going to dedicate a post to them.

I got my first computer at the age of eleven in January of 1998. That one didn’t have an Internet connection though. Its operating system, Windows 95 SP2 (which my father explained was like Windows 96), did support Internet Explorer, but my screen reader didn’t. That screen reader, Slimware Windows Bridge, was quite primitive. So was the Braille display, which I remember to be attached to my computer via the printer port. Though it did work with just Braille, without speech, if the speech unit in the Braille display malfunctioned, so did the entire thing.

In 2002, I got my second computer and my first JAWS version. For those who don’t know, JAWS is the most commonly-used screen reader today. This computer had Windows 98 installed on it and it did have Internet access.

My father at first was adamant that I use the Internet as much as I want, even though we had a dial-up connection back then (not the kind where you can’t phone and go online at the same time). He said that, if the bill got too expensive, we’d get broadband. Then when the bill did get to over €300 over the summer, it turned out broadband wasn’t available at our house. After a few months of my parents trying to restrict my Internet access and my trying to evade said restrictions, we eventually got cable.

I got my first online diary that fall of 2002. It was on DiaryLand if I remember correctly, though I often switched between DiaryLand, Diary-X, Teen Open Diary and whatever else was available. The only service I never actively used, was Xanga. I also had a Dutch online diary.

The worst mistake I made, looking back, was not taking care of other people’s privacy. I not only wrote out every argument I’d had with my parents in detail, but also referred to other people, such as my teachers, by their real names. One teacher in particular had a rather unusual last name and at one point was googling her name for genealogy purposes. Not surprisingly, she stumbled upon my Dutch diary. Though I (interestingly) had used a nickname there, she quickly found out it was me. She personally didn’t mind, but did caution me that others might.

What mistakes did you make in your early days online?

Truthful Tuesday: Birthdays

Hi all! It’s Tuesday and I’m feeling a little better still than I was yesterday. I’m still having a cold, but it’s mostly manageable now.

Today I’m participating in Truthful Tuesday. This week’s question is: as you have gotten older, do you still celebrate your birthday, or has it become just another day to you?

The presumption behind this question is that, as we get older and the effects of aging become less positive than they were when we were a child or teen, some people no longer appreciate their birthdays.

I find, and maybe this will change when I get even older, that the opposite is true. I will be 35 in June and have found that, with increased age, does come increased wisdom. I am probably not old enough yet to start feeling depressed about my life’s regrets. That doesn’t mean I don’t have many, but they don’t weigh me down that much as of yet. I hope that won’t come either, but I’m pretty sure it will.

In contrast, when I was a child, I feared growing up. My birthdays were fun because of the gifts I got, but that’s about it. I never felt that flash of excitement that some children and teens feel as they get older. No, not even (or especially not) when I turned twelve, sixteen or eighteen.

When I turned 30 in 2016, I did have some mixed feelings. I was excited to be allowed into the over-30s groups on Facebook but also felt that, at my age, I could no longer have emotional outbursts. I still did. That latter feeling subsided over time though as I realized a neurotypical ten-year-old wouldn’t have meltdowns like mine.

My birthday has always been an exciting yet stressful event. Now though, it’s more exciting than stressful usually. My parents don’t make a point of telling me to act grown-up anymore. For this reason, them visiting me for this occasion – usually the only time a year I see them in real life -, is mostly fun.

I do indeed still celebrate my birthday. Months in advance, my husband starts asking me what I want for my birthday. It’s also a bit of a tradition that he takes the week around my birthday off from work.

Most years, I spread out my birthday party over several days, as I don’t want to have the house full of visitors. Last year, the visiting restrictions due to COVID were lifted the day before my birthday. This meant that my parents could actually take me out for a ride in their car rather than having to sit in the care facility’s garden for the entirety of the visit.

My mother-in-law visited me the day before and brought me the giant bear soft toy. That’s another thing that makes birthdays fun: I love getting gifts. Of course, I can buy myself the things I really want too, but I actually like the fact that people give me something I wouldn’t buy myself.

Maybe, now that I’m inn my thirties and don’t have to act grown-up, as I’m on disability and in long-term care, I can finally feel the excitement of being a kid at heart.

My Twelve-Year-Old Self Would Be Surprised

Today, Emilia of My Inner MishMash had a very interesting question of the day. She asks what twelve-year-old you would never believe about your current self. This is the perfect question to get me reflecting on how I saw my life at age twelve.

Honestly, there is nothing about my current life that would be so far off that my twelve-year-old self wouldn’t believe it. I mean, I alternated between seeing my adult self as a professor and seeing her as a care facility resident. That first image, I saw as the “good” one. I would be a linguistics or mathematics professor. Never mind that, at least here in the Netherlands, mathematics isn’t a suitable university major for a blind person.

That second image, I saw as the “bad” one. I have probably written before about the sixteen-year-old girl in the media in around 1997 or 1998, when I was eleven or twelve. She had a low IQ, but not so low that she’d fit in with intellectual disability services. She also had severe challenging behavior. The reason she was portrayed in the media, was the fact that she was being restrained and held in solitary confinement in an adolescent psychiatric hospital. I totally identified with this girl.

Of course, currently, I’m not being restrained or secluded. I have some experience of manual restraint and seclusion, but not to the extent this girl did.

This gets me to the part that would probably surprise my twelve-year-old self most about my life right now: that I am relatively happy. For what it’s worth, I totally thought that, if I had to be in long-term care as an adult, I would be utterly desperate.

Another thing that would’ve totally surprised twelve-year-old me, is that I’m married. In truth, it still surprises me at times that my husband is willing to share his life with me. Though as a teen, I imagined becoming a mother later, I never quite considered a partner in my life. Besides, being married doesn’t at all fit in with the “bad” image of myself as a care facility resident.

Lastly, like I commented on Emilia’s post, the one thing that my twelve-year-old self wouldn’t believe about me, is that I found my faith in God. After all, I was raised atheist and was at age twelve clueless about faith. My teachers at the Christian school for the blind made me participate in prayer, something I had a huge aversion to. Honestly, till this day I struggle to pray at set times of the day because it feels more like a ritual than an investment in my relationship with God.

What would surprise twelve-year-old you most about your life right now?

Truthful Tuesday: This or That

Good evening all. I am finding that I struggle to keep the motivation and inspiration for so-called quality content. That doesn’t matter, as it’s my blog and I don’t write for my stats. That can’t keep me from being slightly frustrated by it though.

Today I’m participating once again in Truthful Tuesday. The questions this time are a series of rather lighthearted this-or-that choices. I like that! After all, we just heard here in the Netherlands that we’re in lockdown at least until February 9 and curfews or other harsher measures are being discussed. Still, I am so lucky to live here.

Anyway, here goes. I’ll explain some where I can.

1. Coffee or Hot Tea?
Coffee! I do like hot tea on occasion, but only green tea without lemon or other yucky additives.

2. Soda or Iced Tea?
I’m assuming that soda is always carbonated, so then I’d say iced tea. I prefer non-carbonated soft drinks though.

3. House or Condo?
House just because that’s what my husband and I have at the moment. I don’t mind living in a condo though.

4. Pie or Cobbler?
Pie! I had honestly never heard of cobbler and the first translation Google came up with had nothing to do with food. However, the second one made it pretty clear to me I prefer pie. In fact, I can’t stand cobbler.

5. Cornbread or Biscuits (The US kind)?
Cornbread. I have no idea what U.S. biscuits taste like, but I do like cornbread.

6. Computer or Smart Phone?
I honestly can’t do without either. Does that sound weird? I mean, of course I can do without them, but if I want to accomplish everything I do on a daily basis, I certainly need both.

7. Hotel or Camping?
Hotel for sure. As a child, I often went camping with my family, but it got harder the more sight I lost. Now I don’t really think I can do it.

8. Swimming Pool or Ocean?
Swimming pool. I can swim in a lake or the ocean, but I don’t like it nearly as much as I like swimming in a pool.

9. TV Shows or Movies?
TV shows. I don’t have the attention span to follow a movie.

10. iOS (iPhone/iPad) or Android (Samsung, LG, et. al.)
Definitely iOS. It’s far more accessible for blind people than Android, although Android developers are making progress too. I started using a smartphone before Android could be used by not so tech savvy blind people. Though I might be able to make the transition to Android now, I just won’t.

Sunday Poser: Changes for 2021

Today’s post is going to be a relatively quick one. I hardly slept at all last night and really need to rest, but I’d also like to write something to wind down for the night. I’m joining Sadje’s Sunday Poser. The question is about the changes you wish to see in 2021. I traditionally write a post of personal hopes for the new year in early January, so I won’t make this too personal.

Like Sadje, I agree that I totally wish this COVID-19 crisis will end. I really hope the vaccine will be distributed fast. I’ve already heard that the staff of care facilities may get the vaccine in late January here. That being said, I doubt things will move as quickly as it looks now, because we have a rather slow-thinking health minister.

We’re due to have a national election here in the Netherlands in March. I really hope the right won’t win more seats in the Lower House than they have now, but I must say I don’t hope for a huge move to the left either. In this sense, I don’t hope much will change, although my leftist conscience does tell me I need to object to Mark Rutte getting yet another term as prime minister. My centrist intellect says he isn’t so bad after all.

Honestly, of course, I do think a lot needs to change on a larger scale. We need to truly show our stewardship towards the planet and we need to distribute wealth and health more evenly. That does make me worried for my own sake though, as I know I’m relatively healthy and wealthy considering the world at large. I shouldn’t be so selfish though.

Lastly, like Sadje, I definitely hope people become less divisive and extremist in their encounters with others. If COVID taught the world one thing, it should’ve been that it can affect us all.

Truthful Tuesday: Hobbies Other Than Blogging

I discovered Truthful Tuesday a few weeks ago already, but never participated before. Today I am joining in though. The idea behind Truthful Tuesday is to answer Frank’s weekly question(s) as truthfully as possible.

This week there is just one question:
With the exception of blogging (assuming it’s a hobby and not your profession), do you have any unique hobbies or pastimes?

Indeed, blogging is my main hobby. I at one point listed my old blog as my place of employment on Facebook, since I am unemployed. I however never intend on making any money from blogging.

So what are my other hobbies and pastimes? Here goes.

1. Walking. I go for two or three, sometimes four walks a day. They aren’t long walks – 20-30 minutes or so – and the scenery isn’t too interesting. I just enjoy the ability to move my body and clear my mind.

2. Essential oils. I love to research different diffuser blends. I need help actually counting the number of drops that go into my diffuser, but I try to come up with my own blends. In the near future, I’d also like to make my own aromatherapeutic massage oil.

3. Soap and bath and body product making. I am not as active with it as I used to be, but I like to make a melt and pour soap every once in a while.

4. Collecting books related to my other hobbies, such as journaling prompt collections or books on aromatherapy.

5. Reading. I haven’t been reading much lately, but usually it’s a main pastime of mine. I mostly read memoirs and young adult fiction about real issues, with the occasional thriller, romance novel or SciFi book thrown in.

This is it I think. There are many other things I have an interest in. In fact, my interests change a lot. However, these are my current main hobbies.