Updates, Second Anniversary of Accident and Thanksgiving Break

November 20, 2011

Hi everyone,

I’m very sorry I haven’t posted for over a month. School has kept me very busy this semester. Like I tell everyone I’m only taking 12 hours, but since I have a lot of reading and writing for all of my classes I’m busy most of the time. Usually I have at least one or two essays due each week, plus a lot of reading and other small assignments. It seems like when I think I don’t have anything to do something always comes up! Here’s a list of everything I have to do by the end of the semester: a 12-15 page research paper, a 4-7 page paper, a 1000 word essay and a 2500 word essay. I’ll also have a final exam that’ll be 50 multiple choice questions and two essays!

I’ve also been involved in a lot of disability awareness presentations across campus and other things including socializing with my friends! Everything’s fine though. In fact this has been one of my best semesters so far!

I got home for Thanksgiving break yesterday. My parents picked me up yesterday morning. Then we spent most of the day outside with my mom. We went to the mall and other stores.

Today is the second anniversary of the accident and Chris’s death. As you might imagine this time of year brings back many memories. Our grief is still the same, but we’re slowly learning to cope with it. To most people we probably don’t appear nearly as sad as we used to, but the sadness is still there regardless of how much time has passed.

My parents went to Mexico a few weeks ago; they were there for a week. Chris’s ashes are in Mexico, so that’s one of the reasons they went. They went to celebrate “el dia de los muertos,” a tradition that’s celebrated throughout Mexico and in other Latin American countries; the English translation is the day of the dead. During that day families have altars in their homes with the favorite foods and drinks of their deceased relatives. The belief is that the souls of the dead come to earth during that day. Families also go to the cemetery (or in my brother’s case, the church where his ashes are) and spend the entire day there. It sounds like a sad celebration, but it’s actually the opposite. It’s a way for us to remember the life of our deceased relatives in a happy way.

I can tell that this trip to Mexico really helped my parents a lot. We had a long talk with my mom today, and she told me that while she is still sad to remember everything that happened two years ago, she has found a lot of emotional strength after she went to Mexico.

The three of us are having a great time catching up on our lives! Unfortunately I’ll only be home for a week, but I have a feeling it’ll go by very fast! 😦 I only have three more weeks of classes after Thanksgiving break, and then the semester is over. So it sounds like I’ll be very busy the next few weeks!

Well, take care! I will try hard to blog more often, but if I don’t get a chance to blog in the next couple of days, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Important Updates

October 9, 2011

Hi everyone,

Sorry for not updating my blog more often. This semester it seems like I have essays and articles due at least once a week, so I’ve been very busy with that. By the time I’m done writing all of those essays I don’t feel like writing anymore! Since I don’t have anything due until Thursday this week I decided to update my blog now while I have time!

I do however update my Facebook page almost every day. Those of you who have Facebook pages know that we can update our “status” by writing short blurbs about what we’ve been up to, so I usually do that once a day.

I’ve decided to compile (and edit) some of the more important status updates on my blog posts. That way those who don’t have Facebook pages can still keep up with my life by reading this blog! So, here are some of the more important updates/events from the last few weeks!

• I had a midterm for my PolySci class a couple of weeks ago. I just got my grade on Monday, I got a B!

• A few weeks ago I was walking back from class. Once I’m familiar with a particular area I walk pretty fast. Anyway, I was using the shoreline technique with my cane, since that particular area has many little sidewalks. For those of you who don’t know what shoreline means, it simple means that we touch things like walls, grass or curbs with our cane when we are walking. This will help us have a point of reference so we don’t veer in the wrong direction. I was walking near the edge of the sidewalk close to the grass, when all of a sudden a girl comes up to me freaking out! I guess she thought I was going to fall and twist my ankle or something since I was so close to the edge. I told her I had received special training since I was little, and that this is what I had been taught to do because I might veer in the wrong direction if I didn’t have a point of reference when walking on the sidewalk. I had another incident like that last Thursday.

• A couple of weeks ago I went to my journalism class at Greg Hall, but when I got there I found out there had been a power outage! Since the computers in the journalism computer labs didn’t work our class was dismissed early. I told my classmates that I was the one who should be guiding them around since sighted people don’t function so well in the dark!

• For my creativity class we have to do a final project where we develop a service or product. There are 20 people in my class, and we all had to submit a proposal for the project. Since we’re working in groups of four, only five of the projects will be done – the class had to vote for the projects we were interested in doing. Anyway, my project was very popular among my class! We’re going to build a website to educate the public about the disability services and programs U of I offers. DRES already has a website explaining the different things they offer, but our website will consist mainly of testimonies from students who receive such services. We also plan to post things like short videos profiling some of the athletes in wheelchairs. Illinois has some of the best wheelchair basketball players and track racers, yet many people from the general public are unaware of the wheelchair sport teams. So, our main plan is to spread disability awareness throughout campus by developing this website.

• Finally, my parents came again last weekend. They brought me plenty of homemade food. They also brought me a very comfy leather chair, which I really love! We had a great time going out and catching up on our lives!

Well, those are the most important updates for now. For those of you who have a Facebook page, please feel free to add me as a friend so you can read my updates. I actually post some English and Spanish updates on that page since a lot of my friends and family are reading.

Enjoy!

I’m Back!

September 16, 2011

Hi everyone,

As the title says, “I’m Back!” These past couple of weeks have been very crazy as far as school. Keep in mind this is only the beginning of the semester! I don’t even want to think about how hectic it’ll get by November and December!

Classes are going fine. The Reporting II class has kept me very busy. We’ll need to write seven news stories about a particular topic. I chose to write my stories about the increase of Hispanic immigrants in the Urbana-Champaign area in the last 10 years. I’m focusing on the services offered to them as well as the struggles they face as immigrants. My professor really liked that topic when I suggested it to him and the class – we first had to explain what topic we wanted and what kinds of stories we would write. It’s a very interesting topic to me, so that should make it more enjoyable. Our first story is an overview story about the topic we’re going to focus on, and it’s supposed to be 1200 words. For some reason I thought it was due this afternoon, but when I looked at the syllabus I realized it isn’t due till next Friday! Don’t ask why I was so off on the date – I’ve just had a lot of things going on! Oh well, at least that’ll give me time to carefully write and organize the story.

My creativity class has been very interesting and, well, different in a good way. For example, one of our assignments last week was to write a diary of our dreams for seven nights. We’ll need to do that again in October I think. The concept they’re trying to teach us with that assignment is that we are always thinking even though we’re dreaming.

We also did an assignment that involved art. We had to pick out an art piece from the Krannert Art Museum here at U of I beforehand. Yesterday we had to show it to three other classmates and explain what we saw in the art. Since the KAM mostly has paintings, I had to do my assignment a little differently. After talking with Angie Anderson, my case manager at DRES, she suggested I contact Sheila Schneider, the first visually impaired student at U of I to get a Bachelor’s degree in art design. She’s currently a graduate student, and we hope she’ll become the first visually impaired person in the country to get a Master’s degree in industrial design. Sheila was kind enough to show me one of the tactile sculptures she made. Since I didn’t have the sculpture yesterday when my class and I met at the KAM, Sheila e-mailed me some pictures to show my classmates. I liked the sculpture Sheila showed me because it was made of limestone, and she designed it so that it would have different tactile features and patterns. My other option was to look at some of the bronze statues they have at the KAM, but honestly I don’t think I would’ve gotten as much out of those as I got from Sheila’s sculpture. The purpose of this assignment was to show us that we all look at and interpret art very differently.

Well, that’s what’s been going on with me in the last couple of weeks – just thought I’d update everyone on my whereabouts!

Labor Day Weekend

September 4, 2011

Hi,

Hope all of you are having a good Labor Day Weekend! I didn’t go home, but my parents came to visit me today. They were here for a good chunk of the day, so we definitely had enough time to talk and catch up on our lives!

I thought we’d go out for lunch, but they had something better in store for me. Before coming my parents always ask me if I’d like them to bring any particular foods or snacks. Eating dorm food can get very boring, so I absolutely love that they always bring homemade food, or even other foods I can’t find here easily. Anyway, I asked my mom if they could bring some carnitas tacos. Carnitas is roasted pork and it is a very common dish in Mexico. I know: it’s not the healthiest food, but it sure is good! Well, it turned out that my parents stopped at a Mexican store when they were on their way here so that the carnitas would be freshly made. A lot of Mexican stores sell freshly cooked carnitas on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Carnitas is a complex dish to make, so they opted to get them the easy way!

“So, where should we go out for lunch”? I asked my mom.
“Well, we brought the carnitas, if you’d like we can have them now,” she said.
Since I craved carnitas very badly I agreed. When we were heating them in my microwave I couldn’t stop laughing. Carnitas have a very strong smell because of all the seasonings they contain. I was laughing because I knew that all of my floor would probably smell like carnitas. When my mom stepped out she confirmed what I already suspected.
“It smells like carnitas out in the hall too,” she said with a chuckle. We all thought that was funny because I’m sure my floor mates were wondering where the smell was coming from. Besides, the smell of carnitas is very pleasant and tempting, so I’m sure we made them hungry! My mom also made some guacamole, so that made the tacos taste even better.

After that we hung out in my room for a while and then we went to buy a few things I needed. We also went to the mall and had some ice cream.

Before I knew it it was time for my parents to leave. We all had a good time, and I’m glad my dad is finally able to tolerate the ride here and back much better. Last year he didn’t visit as often because he still had strong back pain from the accident. As a result it was painful for him to sit for the two hour ride here and back. He still struggles with some pain, but he says it has become a little more tolerable. Also, the weather was decent, so at least we got to spend some time outside.

Well, have a good remainder of the weekend!

Happy 25th Birthday Chris!!!

September 2, 2011

Hi everyone,

First, I hope everyone in Illinois is staying cool! We’ve had a heat wave the last few days, and it can be absolutely brutal walking to classes in this weather – it’s close to 100 degrees!!!

Today is a very special day for me and my parents because this would’ve been Chris’s 25th birthday. As you can imagine these past few days have been emotionally stressful for the three of us. Even though it’s been about 21 months since Chris’s death, we still can’t believe he will never return. Honestly I still occasionally dream that he comes back and tells us that he’s ok. Oh, how I wish those dreams were a reality. Like my mom said it’s also hard on us because we all wonder what he’d be doing right now if he were still alive.

To add to the emotional stress, our lawyer just contacted us because he wants to meet with me and my parents regarding the lawsuit. I can’t go into further details since that might interfere with the process, but I can tell you that everything is going fine.

Thanks to everyone who has e-mailed or called me and my parents these last few days. It really means a lot to us that you’ve kept us in your thoughts. We will always miss Chris, but your words of encouragement truly help us cope with the grief we will always experience.

Happy birthday Chris!!!

Today is definitely a hard day for me, but earlier I received an e-mail that really cheered me up! I got a message from the office of the Chancellor asking me to serve on U of I’s Access and Accommodations Committee!!! This is the committee on campus that is in charge of coming up with solutions to accessibility problems on campus. I’m definitely going to accept since I’m very passionate about advocating for people with disabilities! Honestly I don’t know how they select members, but I sure am glad they chose me! 🙂

Have a great weekend! My parents will be visiting me on Sunday, so at least I won’t have to eat dorm food that day because we’ll be going out for lunch.

Super Spoiled!!!

August 26, 2011

Yo, guess what day it is today? That’s right! It’s my 24th birthday! I have gotten a lot of calls and e-mails throughout the day from my family and friends. I also got *very* spoiled today because my parents and cousins surprised me with several goodies.

When I got up this morning I checked my voicemail – I do it every day to make sure I don’t miss any important messages. I had one message, and it was from my mom playing Las Mañanitas in the background. Las Mañanitas is the Spanish version of the happy birthday song in English (except it has a completely different tune and different lyrics).

When I checked my e-mail I saw that my friend Katie sent me an electronic gift card for Amazon.com. She knows this gift card will be useful for me because I order a lot of stuff from Amazon.

I only had my PolySci class this morning, and it was a 50 minute lecture, so my day wasn’t busy at all. Anyway, when I got home and checked my e-mail I had four messages from my dorm’s front desk. The workers in the front desk notify students when they have packages or important mail to pick up. We can be notified through e-mail or text messages. This was a huge surprise to me because I did not expect any mail or packages. I asked Angelica and Dulce – two of my friends on my floor – if they could go with me and help me with the packages. Again, I had four packages waiting for me, so I knew I’d need a couple of extra pairs of hands to help me with the stuff. After I opened the packages, I was surprised to find six chocolate cupcakes, a dozen chocolate covered strawberries, 10 chocolate covered cherries and some flowers!!! Talk about a wonderful surprise!!!

It turned out that my cousins – my aunt Berta’s children – sent me the cupcakes, cherries and flowers. My parents sent me the strawberries! I was sooo spoiled! Since I got a lot of goodies I shared some of them with a few of the girls on my floor. I also went to have dinner with my friends Katie and Karen, so they also got to enjoy part of my birthday gift.

Thanks to my parents and cousins for this wonderful and thoughtful gift. They know that ever since Chris’s sudden death birthdays can be very hard on me because I miss Chris so much. He would always wish me a happy birthday and give me a gift. Also, thanks to everyone who has called or sent me a message through e-mail or Facebook. All of this made it possible for me to have a happy birthday!

On another note, classes are going fine. I’ll have a lot of reading and writing to do this semester. In fact, I have 19 required textbooks and novels, so that should say it all! I haven’t gotten lost, so apparently I did pay attention during my O&M lessons! I hope to write more about my classes in the upcoming days!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ready for Classes, I Think

August 19, 2011

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you know that O&M went great this week. I was able to practice the routes to all of the buildings/rooms I wasn’t familiar with, and I’m about 90 percent sure I won’t get lost next week. Laura had me practice each route at least three or four times so I’m sure I’ll be fine.

The lab section of my Reporting II class will be at Gregory Hall, and I’ve already had a class twice in that particular room. Also, my polySci class is at Wohlers Hall, and I had my meteorology class in the same lecture hall last semester. I just love it when I already know the locations of some of my classes!

Remember that a couple of weeks ago I said that I hoped none of my class locations changed at the last minute? Well, apparently I did jinx myself, but it’s not a huge change. Originally the lecture portion of my Reporting II class was going to be at Gregory Hall, but they changed it to Wohlers. Luckily for me that works out better than my old schedule. I have PolySci right before my Reporting II lecture. That meant that before I had to go from Wohlers to Greg in 10 minutes. The walk is only about three blocks, so it’s not bad at all. Now I don’t have to go to Greg because both classes will be at Wohler’s. Also, the classrooms are close to each other, yea!

I did have two new buildings to learn. My Contemporary Latino Lit class will be at David Kinley Hall (DKH). That building is only four or five blocks from my dorm, so it really doesn’t make much sense for me to take the bus. Honestly I’d be waiting longer for the bus than the time it takes me to get there walking. I was already familiar with about 50 percent of that route, so I just had to “expand” on it a little. The interesting thing was that while we were doing that route firefighters were arriving at DKH because apparently someone pulled the fire alarm. Luckily by the time we were about to work in the inside of the building the firefighters left. Also, when we were working on the outside route someone was mowing the lawn, and of course I happened to walk by the area that was being mowed several times while I was practicing. Seriously I was getting annoyed by the loud noise!

The second building I had to learn was the Digital Computer Laboratory (DCL) – that’s where my Engineering class will be held. I don’t know why it’s considered an engineering class since all we’ll be doing is a lot of reading (most of it is optional) and group work, but I’ll leave that for a different post. It took me a couple of hours to learn that route since it involves taking a bus and walking a few blocks to/from the building. There’s also a big intersection I have to cross to get there and back, so we worked a lot on those street crossings.

This intersection has an audible pedestrian signal, but it doesn’t work like it should. For those of you who don’t have a clue of what I’m talking about, audible pedestrian signals let blind people know when it’s safe to cross an intersection by making certain beeping sounds or by verbally announcing the street pedestrians can cross. Well, this pedestrian signal verbally announces that the “walk sign is on,” but it does not say for which street. In this instance I have to pay close attention to the movement of traffic. In other words, I can’t rely on the verbal announcement to know when to cross. Once I hear “walk sign is on” I have to pay attention to the flow of traffic. For example, when going to DCL Wright Street is in front of me and Springfield is on my left. Since I’m crossing Wright Street I know it’s my turn to cross when I hear the cars on Springfield beginning to move. Thankfully by yesterday I was able to do the route with absolutely no problems. Our main concern was the intersection, but I’m confident I’ll be fine.

Another good thing that happened was that they finally put Braille on the elevators of DCL. Laura and I had already worked on learning the route to the building last semester and we discovered there weren’t Braille numbers on the elevator. I notified the maintenance people, and they put the Braille signs over the summer!

Overall, my O&M training went smoothly this year. It helped that I’m already familiar with some of the routes, so that definitely saved me time! This year it only took me three lessons to learn everything, so that’s impressive!

Well, have a nice weekend! I’ll blog more about my first impressions of my classes next week!

Back on Campus!

August 14, 2011

Hi,

I’m back on campus. My parents and I got here at around noon and it took us about two hours to get everything set up in my room. I’m staying in Barton Hall again this year. In fact, I think I’ll stay here until I graduate, which is in December of 2012!

Yesterday my mom and I were running around all over the place getting everything I needed. I think we went to at least four or five stores! Of course we had to treat ourselves to a pedicure and (in my case) a manicure. We also went to Starbucks at the end of all the shopping.

I’ll have the day off tomorrow – I won’t start O&M until Tuesday. I’ll write about my O&M lessons later on this week. Right now I just want to watch TV and relax!

O&M Training… Again!

August 4, 2011

Hi!

Has it been three weeks since I last posted already? Summer flew by this year – I think it went by faster than other summers for some odd reason! Probably because I was busy reading, writing and relaxing, all at the same time!

It looks like I’ll be returning to campus on August 14. Classes begin on Aug. 22 (a bit earlier than other years.). So if classes start on the 22nd, why am I returning a week earlier? Good question! I receive orientation and Mobility (O&M) classes before each semester. This is to make sure I don’t get lost on campus – well, we all get lost on a campus the size of U of I, but with O&M the chances of that happening are minimized for blind students.

Orientation and mobility is the instruction blind people receive to travel independently and safely. Orientation is knowing where you are by using your other senses (hearing, touch, etc.) as well as your knowledge of a given area to know where you are and where you want to go. Mobility is the actual movement used to get where you want to go. People who are totally blind are taught how to use a white cane to travel. If we use it properly the cane is able to tell us if there are things we might trip over.

I’ll begin working with Laura, my O&M instructor on 08/16. We scheduled three lessons for that week. Each lesson is usually two hours, so we should be able to get a lot done during that time. Besides, I only have two new routes to learn, and I already practiced them last May. The fact that I practiced them doesn’t mean I still remember everything though. When learning a new route I always take my Victor Reader Stream – a portable MP3 player and digital recorder – along so I can record the lesson. Due to the size of the campus and the length of some of the routes Laura suggested I do this just for my sake! Seriously I think that if I didn’t record the lessons I’d go insane trying to remember everything!

It helps that I already practiced these particular routes because that way I don’t have to learn everything from scratch right before classes start. That would be a little too overwhelming don’t you think? Remember that I have to memorize the routes, and if the route is particularly long it may take several times for me to learn it well. Since I already have a general knowledge of the route I’ll only be refreshing what I previously learned.

Let’s just hope that they don’t decide to change any of the class locations the first day of classes – that’s always my worst fear! This has never happened, but hopefully I’m not jinxing myself by writing these thoughts! Besides not being able to read the note on the classroom door, I might not know how to get to the new location. U of I is such a big campus that it is impossible for me to know how to get to every building. Ok, let’s hope that if that does happen at least I have a general idea of how to get to the new location.

Now that the semester is about to start I should be posting more often, so stay tuned!

Check Out These Articles In the Latest Issue of AccessWorld

July 14, 2011

I’ve been an AccessWorld subscriber for the past three or four years. This is a magazine produced by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). It provides many resources for people with vision loss.

Once again they’ve written a back to school issue. There are a few articles that I think are interesting and helpful for high school or college students who are blind or visually impaired. Seeing the Possibilities: An Analysis of STEM Resources Available for People with Vision Loss is a useful article for high school or college students taking science or math courses and for those who are considering a career in the math or science field. Tackling the Research Paper: Tips and Tools for Success for People with Vision Loss is another useful article for students. It provides tips on how to organize and obtain research materials. Finally, Note-Taking 101: How Blind and Visually Impaired People Capture Information talks about the different ways people with vision loss take and organize notes.

Check out the full issue for other interesting articles!

Enjoy!