Tuesday, January 1

Reflections and resolutions

Greetings. I guess that this update should have come yesterday since this is about the year in review. However, since yesterday didn’t feel like “New Year’s Eve” to me, its coming today. Besides, I can still look back on New Year’s Day as long as I throw in some observations, hopes, and dreams for this year. So here we go. Below are some highlights of 2007 in no particular order.

First, the recognition that I’ve gained from friends, colleagues, and students at my job. The two different but equally humbling awards I received, back in May from the students at graduation, and in October regarding the White Cane Day celebration. Not even counting the frequent mentions that I receive at graduation ceremonies by students, whether it be a simple, “Thanks Wayne,” to an elaborate thanks, which have included musings on my favorite food group (chocolate), to how I helped a student achieve the “… blazing fast speed of 22 words per minute in keyboarding.” All are welcome and much appreciated. I’ve also received some recognition publicly at staff meetings and privately from various staff members. In short, after going seemingly unnoticed, from my point of view, in my first year, is nice to be acknowledged for my service to others.

Next, though it ultimately came out of a bad circumstance which I may or may not go into on this blog, I’ve gotten back involved with horseback riding. I now go riding on pretty much a weekly basis, unless I can’t find a driver or have other personal reasons for skipping, such as being away for the Holidays. Horseback riding is the one thing that I’ve really gotten true relaxation from and have felt good about over the years. And, one of the few things that I think that I am really “good at,” aside from computers and perhaps other things I can’t think of right off hand.

The Victor Reader Stream. Okay, it may seem strange for someone to list a tech gadget in their year end wrap up, but then again, consider the blog you’re reading, :) Seriously though, I’ve not had this nifty device for very long, about 3 months and counting, but already I’ve read way more NLS talking books on it in that time than I have in the past few years on cassette. The digital revolution is truly here for the blind with this device, and its going to be cool watching what happens both with the Stream and the NLS digital program over the next 12 months.

System Access to Go. Here’s another “geek” item. However, it is a cool one. In short, this program is a web-based screen reader. To bring it up you can go to the Run dialog, a random website, or you could go to a shortcut on your desktop. The cool thing though is that once you shut it down, since its web-based, there’s no trace of the program on the computer. This means that a blind person can have computer access on their own computer, at a library, on someone else’s computer, at a coffee shop or Net café, or any number of other places. I’ve found this especially handy when visiting my parent’s in Dallas. They know about JAWS and know what it means for me and can do for me. However, since JAWS costs money, lots of money, they aren’t able to have it on their computers. I’m sure they would if they could, but as we all know in the AT world, not everyone can afford some of this nifty technology. That’s okay though because I’ve got a license for System Access to Go. That has been one of the coolest innovations of this year in the assistive tech industry, a web-based screen reader that can be used on any computer, whether it is “accessible” or not. This last week when I was in Dallas for Christmas, at least once a day, I’d get on their computers with System Access to Go and surf the web, check accounts, or look up other information. I simply needed them to get me on a website or in the start menu, and I was off and running. Now I don’t have to wait for them to get JAWS, hoping the price will come down. I can use their computers just as easily with S.A. to Go, and better yet, leave no trace of the software on their systems!

Another cool thing that has taken place is the change in philosophy that occurred at work back in June. At the risk of boring you with a big explanation, let me say that the training center has shifted from a departmental based approach to a team oriented one. The up shot of that is that I can get to know people that I didn’t know before, such as Steve. Steve’s in Career Guidance, but before the change back in June, that’s all I knew about him. Around August, I began combining and learning how technology and career guidance can merge. In the process, I began to get to know this guy in career guidance. Over the past 4 months, Steve and I have connected and bonded pretty well, to the point that I’ve asked him for a ride to work once (we had some interesting stuff happening at that time which prompted the question), and we’ve for whatever reason started sitting together at graduations and staff meetings. Neither of us are exactly sure how the “sitting together” aspect started, or continues for that matter, :) Seriously though, anyone who knows me well knows that I like bonding and connecting with people. And, if I can do that on the job, and still maintain an outward employment focus and learn about another area of the Center that I didn’t know about before, then all the better. Unfortunately, as of a few weeks ago, Steve will be moving onto another team in the Center. Currently though, there’s no one, or very few people, that can get me to laugh so quickly and so hard, like Steve. He and I seem to be on a similar humor wave length, of obvious humor and life stuff, and is one of the ways that we’ve connected so well. Anyway, Steve’s just one example of the bonding that’s happened at work. I’ve gotten opportunities to bond with other staff members and students as well. In one instance, I wasn’t aware of the bonding or impression that I made on a student until his girlfriend later told me that, in short, I helped him realize that a blind person really could use a computer and use the web.

There are probably other things that I’ve missed, but these are the ones that come to mind right away for 2007 highlights. And now, my 2008 resolutions and hopes.

My resolutions are always composed of the same things. This way, they are open for lots of interpretation and there’s little chance of not achieving them. They are, to increase my independence in some way, and to continue growing in my job. As for hopes, which could be labeled as resolutions, but aren’t for the fact that if they aren’t achieved, then there’s no loss, :) My 2008 hopes include: to continue bonding with staff and students; continue to figure out how to motivate students; and continue in my search for a spouse. I’ve gotten back into the dating scene, via online dating, and have had some pretty good success with it so far. Though the two people that I’ve met have ultimately moved away to other cities, I still count those in the success category. Online dating is not for everyone, and to be sure, if you’re considering getting into it, you should definitely take precautions. I’ve met both the people I referred to above and have talked with them not only online, but through email, via phone, and in person. The site that I use is eHarmony for several reasons. Mainly because it was started by a Christian psychologist, and that the site has several layers that you have to go through to get signed up, meet someone, and ultimately communicate with them. These processes make me feel better about the site, rather than one where you put a picture up and say something like, “Date me!” The layers also help weed out those who may not be as committed and may not want to go through the layers to get to the goal—a match. Anyway, its my hope and prayer, and the prayers of others, that I find a spouse. For me, and for now, that looks to be through online dating, but that could change. Though I hope that I’m one of those people who can say on their wedding day, “Wow, we met through eHarmony.”

It should be an exciting and cool year ahead. Here’s hoping that you and yours have a Happy New Year as well, and that your resolutions and hopes/dreams come true. If not, remember, there’s always next year. Here’s hoping also that we see some nifty advancements in technology, both in adaptive and mainstream tech. Happy New Year everyone, and go Cowboys!

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