A Month Without a Laptop

I am writing this post on my new computer. I love it. Definitely a PC is much more user-friendly than a Mac if you are not too tech-savvy. My mother-in-law would say the opposite, but oh well. I’m just glad I got to sell her my Macbook.

Today, when I read on another blog about someone having to do without a laptop for a few days, I was reminded of the month I spent without a computer. Of course, people older than me will remember the years they spent without a computer and, in fact, I didn’t get my first computer till I was eleven and didn’t have access to the Internet till nearly sixteen. I quickly became addicted though, so when my laptop broke down in 2009, I was lost.

I had at the time just transferred from the locked psych unit to the open resocialization unit. The locked unit didn’t have a patient computer. This got me to consider getting a wireless cellphone-like modem for my laptop. However, at the time, I was too scared of getting Alzheimer’s from electromagnetic radiation. This meant that, in the early months of my hospitalization, before I was allowed on leave, I didn’t have access to the Internet. I had a computer though.

The resocialization unit did have a patient computer that was connected to the Internet. It didn’t have a screen reader on it, of course, but I just removed the network cable from the computer and plugged it into my laptop. And then one day my laptop crashed. This was, obviously, before accessible smartphones. In fact, though I had a phone that could connect to the Internet, I could only use it to make phone calls.

I was frustrated, but not as frustrated as I’d be now if I lost access to the Internet. For an entire month, I typed up my diary in Braille and listened to audio books and magazines on my digital talking book player. I do still have my Braille typerwriter and my digital talking book player, but both are pretty much useless.

Since having no computer for an entire month, I usually make sure I have at least two devices that connect to the Internet. Currently these are my PC and my iPhone. My old PC could probably be revived if need be too.

I also did finally get myself a wireless modem. I just threw it away yesterday, as I’ve not paid f or the data that goes with it in years.

I guess I could technically (no pun intended) deal without going online for a while now. However, I am always very happy to discover that a potential new living faciltiy has WiFi. I guess some people take this for granted, but the psych hospital didn’t have WiFi till 2015 and even then it was very limited.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (July 14, 2019)

Yay, it’s Sunday! I am once again joining in with the #WeekendCoffeeShare fun. It’s relatively early for me to write this post, so the most recent drink I had was actually coffee. I usually drink only one cup of coffee at breakfast )or lunch, as it was nearly afternoon), but my husband made me a second cup saying it’s good for the heart. I don’t know whether that’s true, but oh well.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my husband picked up my new Windows laptop on Monday and installed it on Tuesday. The adaptive tech guy came by on Wednesday to bring me a new Braille display and install the JAWS screen reader on my computer, so that I could actually use it. I have been playing with my computer ever since. I hope the tech company will get me training on the screen reader and Windows 10, but even without training, I like this computer much better than my Mac. Right now, my husband is resetting my Mac, so that my mother-in-law can have it. I think I just closed the tab with instructions on it from my iPhone.

My mother-in-law offered to pay more for the Mac than the Windows laptop had cost, but we refused. I don’t want to get extra money from switching computers.

If we were having coffee, I’d also share that I visited the living facility in Raalte that’s with my current care agency on Wednesday. It was great. There’s tons of sensory equipment in both the house and day center. The staff are also really nice. The house they felt was the most suitable for me, has twelve clients living there. There are two staff during the day and an extra staff during times the clients get showered and such. The manager and care consultant were a bit vague about the waiting list to move in, but I hope to hear more about that soon.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that yesterday, my husband had the yearly driver’s day at his work. He is a truck driver for a large transporting company and the driver’s day is sort-of-mandatory. I spent the day at my in-laws. Well, my father-in-law had just left for vacation, so I was alone with my mother-in-law. We went for a walk with her dog. Wow, it was hot and humid! My husband came to my in-laws’ house after a few hours when he’d had enough of the event at work. My mother-in-law cooked us dinner, although she was interrupted to pick up a kitten from the animal shelter. She volunteers to bottle-feed kittns that are too young to be kept at the shelter. The kitten was lovely!

How was your week?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (July 7, 2019)

Ugh, I’m feeling so off. I want to write so bad. Words are spinning through my mind, but somehow I cannot put them down onto the keyboard.

I am once again joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. I had a delicious little apple pie with my cup of green tea this evening. Grab a cuppa and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that we decided to let go of one of the houses we were looking at this past week. It’s the house built in 1880 that my parents are totally in awe of, but we’d take a huge risk if we bought this. Inspecting the foundation for problems cost like 5000 euros and there is indeed a high risk that the foundation will be unstable. That amount of money is not something we want to invest before buying the house, yet we don’t want to risk finding out about it once it’s ours. I didn’t like the house to begin with, but my husband loved its appearance.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that next Wednesday, I am invited to go check out the living facility with my current care agency. It’s in Raalte, which is a little over an hour’s drive from my current home. My support coordinator was told not to get me too excited, so I predict the place has already almost certainly been taken, but oh well. We’ll see.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I bought some books on Amazon today. One is a collection of journaling prompts (yes, again!), which cost only 99 cents, but it’s still disappointing. It has a ton of typeos and characters VoiceOver makes out to be Chinese or Japanese in it. The other is Angels in Our Hearts by Casey Watson and Rosie Lewis. It’s a collection of previously published eShorts by these two foster carer writers. It sounds good.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that my husband ordered a new Windows computer for me today. My mother-in-law will pay for it, as she’ll get my Macbook. The computer he ordered is an HP Pavillion, which I’ve heard is quite a sturdy model. It doesn’t have a solid state drive like my Macbook, but it does have some type of thing attached to the hard drive that keeps stuff you use often in a sort of ready-access memory. The hard drive has 1tB of space, which is awesome. I no longer need to worry about getting it full and I can even copy all of my CDs to my PC now. I have a ton of CDs with music that’s hard to come by on streaming services, so that’s cool.

I think my husband will go collect the computer at the pick-up point near his work tomorrow. On Wednesday, the adaptive tech company is coming by to install JAWS, the screen reader, onto it. I called the company to let them know they’ll need to schedule the visit with me in the morning, as I’ll be off to Raalte at 2PM.

What’s been happening in your life lately?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (June 23, 2019)

A lot has been floating through my mind today, but until I decided to participate in #WeekendCoffeeShare again, I had no idea how I was going to convey my thoughts into a blog post.

Like last week, I’m having a cup of green tea as we catch up. I love green tea, more so than coffee. I must say though that I’ma bit addicted to coffee. I drink it more to get energized or out of habit than because I truly like it.

If we were having coffee (or green tea), I’d share how I’ve been doing with respect to finding a living facility. On Tuesday, I had an appt with the care consultant for a facility with my current care agency. Because he isn’t in a position to decide whether I’m a good fit, I’ll have to wait for him to discuss my case with the behavioral specialist and manager. He said he’d call my support coordinator next Tuesday, but wasn’t sure whether he’d have any news by then yet.

Because I wanted to remain active, my support coordinator has been contacting some other agencies. We started with the two national blindness agencies. Bartiméus has living facilities about an hour’s drive from my current home. Visio’s living facilities are all at least 90 minutes away. Visio was the first to return my support coordinator’s call and I have a meeting with them next week.

My husband was a little sad, as he thought I want to live in Visio’s facility that’s nearly a two-hour drive away. Of course, I want to be as close to my husband as possible, but I didn’t know how to go about finding a suitable living facility. My support coordinator is going to contact other agencies closer to my current home next week. These are not for the blind, but oh well.

If we were having coffee, I’d also share about our house-hunting experience. The visit to the house on Tuesday was okay, but after reading some reports on it, we decided not to go for it after all.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my husband and I had lunch at a pancake restaurant today. I had a pancake with blueberries, while my husband had one with raisins and bacon as always.

If we were having coffee, I’d also share that the screen reader company finally called to let me know I could get a new version of JAWS, my screen reader for Windows, covered by health insurance. It is also about time for a new Braille display, he said, and they could let health insurance pay for both in one go. This means that after an eighteen-months-long wait, I may finally be able to get a PC with Windows 10 and the screen reader I love. Of course, I already have a Mac and hence I told the company rep I had to think of it.

My husband was critical at first. He asked which I’d get rid of if I had to choose one: my Mac or a PC with Windows 10 and JAWS. I said I’d get rid of my Mac. I mean, I’ve had it for nearly half a year and still struggle to use it. Other blind people say that’s normal, but I really don’t want to spend that long getting used to a computer. I mean, that’s how long it took me to get used to my very first PC! So my husband offered to get me a laptop with Windows 10 and all if he can have my Mac.

I have been thinking it over and the only thing I can do with my Mac that was a pain on PC was using a good feed reader. Then again, I can’t get used to the way Safari works on Mac, so if I want to actually interact with feeds, I’ll still prefer my iPhone. I no longer use my PC, because it has two broken keys and its Windows 8.1 won’t properly update.

Anyway, I’m going to call the company rep to let him know I’ll go for getting the Braille package as it’s called tomorrow.

If we were having coffee, I’d also share that it’s incredibly hot outside. In the coming week, it’s forecasted to get to 35 degrees Celsius or more. That’s no fun, as we don’t have air conditioning at home or at day activities.

The coming week should be exciting. Tomorrow, the day activities staff are taking some fellow clients and me to a local park and having lunch at a restaurant there.

Next Thursday is my birthday. I love it each year. We are going to eat at an Irish pub with my parents then. My sister and her husband are coming over for a visit on Saturday.

How have you been?

Travel: My Most Enjoyable Vacation #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 20 in the #AtoZChallenge. I am feeling a bit frustrated with myself at the moment and as a result not as inspired to write. I hope this mood will lift while I’m in the process of writing this post. Today’s topic is travel. I was inspired to write about this by a nightmare I had last night, which was about a summer camp I attended in Russia in 2000. I don’t want to revisit that right now, so will instead be writing about my most enjoyable vacation.

This was, incidentally, also a summer camp. I attended the International Computer Camp for blind and visually impaired students in England in 2002. Because of my negative experiences with the summer camp in Russia, I had my reservations about going to this camp. Of course, this time I wouldn’t be the only blind person, but I still worried that I wouldn’t fit in.

The computer camp was held at a college for the blind in Loughborough, a town in the East Midlands. For this reason, we also took a trip to the West Midlands to see the Black Country museum or that’s what I remember it being called. This was something about the industrialization of England, but I wasn’t able to follow it much.

For most days, we had two workshops we could attend on computers and technology. I at the time had just discovered the Internet and was excited to learn what cool tech there was out there. I attended some workshops on word processing, but also on music and audio. I was also lucky enough to be on the editorial staff for the camp newspaper. I loved this and this was probably one reason I later began an online diary.

The staff worked at various disability agencies in their respective countries. One person I remember well worked at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany. He helped visually impaired students find their way through college. He taught a workshop on studying abroad, though it was more of a general survival skills for blind students workshop. This was perhaps the best experience I had there. It helped me realize that I wasn’t the only blind person out there trying to follow her dreams.

This was also the general message I took home from the camp: I am not alone. I met lots of blind and visually impaired young people from across Europe who were facing the same issues I was.

I returned to the international computer camp in 2003, this time in Switzerland. I liked that a little less, possibly because the Dutch staff who attended this time were a bit more pushy about my independence. I still enjoyed it though.

Frustration: A Vent Post About My Mac #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day six in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I’m not in the mood for deep discussions, so I won’t write about something too meaningful. Rather, just allow me to vent a little.

I am increasingly frustrated with my Mac. My iPhone is still useful, but the Mac is very hard to get used to. Yes, I’ve had it for over two months and am still in the getting-used-to phase. To be honest, I rarely use my Mac, because it’s so hard to work.

Particularly Safari, Apple’s default browser, is hard to use. Navigating web pages, particularly large ones, is a pain. I am not in the mood to explain it in English and had some trouble explaining it in Dutch to my husband too. Suffice it to say that the issue is because of VoiceOver, Apple’s built-in screen reader, so Chrome or other browsers give me the exact same trouble.

I have been doubting whether my choice to buy a Mac was right ever since I got it. I know I can’t get JAWS, the good but expensive screen reader, because health insurance is giving me a hard time on covering it. This was the main reason I got a Mac, since it has a built-in sc reen reader.

Now I know I could be idealizing my old Windows PC. It didn’t work well in the end either. Two keys were broken. My rather outdated version of JAWS was giving me increasing trouble with an increasing number of programs. I had NVDA, JAWS’s open source alternative, installed, but was struggling using just Braille. Now I can’t do that on my Mac either. I have to always have speech on. This is okay with me.

I was probably idealizing the Mac before I bought it and this may be one reason I’m disappointed now. I’m not sure it was wrong to buy it, but I’m not 100% sure it was the right choice either. Ideally, I would’ve tried Windows 10 with NVDA on my old PC first, but I didn’t. Then again, my old PC isn’t useful now because of the broken keys.

Today, as I was discussing my concerns with my husband, he offered me his laptop to try. I may have to buy a Windows license, but that’s okay. I don’t like it that I can’t make just one device work fully, but that’s probably the thing with accessibility.

Gratitude List (February 23, 2019) #TToT

This week was a truly mixed bag. I am tempted to focus on the negative. I mean, even my Thankful Thursday post sounded more negative than grateful. For this reason, I’m going to write a gratitude list for this week. As always, I am linking up with #TToT

1. Nearly 14,000 steps on Monday! I had over 120 active minutes thanks to a long walk in the morning, another long walk in the afternoon and going on the elliptical.

2. No more need for painkillers. It’s been five weeks since my collarbone fracture and I am now almost pain-free without medication.

3. Lovely weather. It’s been a lot warmer than is normal for February this past week and it’s supposed to get even warmer next week. I know this could be bad in terms of climate change, but I’m so grateful.

4. No weight gain. I had my annual physical check-up at the mental health agency last week and weighed the same as in late December. Since I’ve not been minding my diet at all, this is good news. My blood pressure was also pretty good.

5. PRN tranquilizers. I haven’t needed them anymore after Wednesday, but I’m still glad I have them.

6. My cynical sense of humor. By 2021, everything will be okay. I know really I can’t wait that long, but everytime I say these words, they still bring a grin to my face.

7. Horseback riding with my day activities group. Because two clients from my group are currently not capable of horseback riding, the staff asked me whether I want to ride in their place. I loved it.

8. My mother texting me. She rarely calls or texts me and I’d let it go and not contacted her after our visit last December. She asked how I’m doing. Of course, I still had to avoid the elephant in the room that is my going into long-term care, but oh well.

9. Getting more used to my Mac. Yesterday, I even started writing a blog post on it using an external blogging app (because WordPress is hard to use). I haven’t figured everything out, but I’m sure that I will.

10. My mood being slightly better thes elast few days. I am not nearly as anxious as I was early in the week.

What have you been grateful for lately?

My New Mac: First Impressions

One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s prompts for this week is to write about your most recent purchase. I don’t know what counts as a purchase, but I really want to write about my Mac, which I bought two weeks ago.

I started writing this post on my new Mac. It’s new to me, but it’s the MacBook Air 2017, so I didn’t expect it to be all that advanced. I also didn’t expect to use it much for the first while. I mean, even after fully installing my current Windows PC in July of 2014, it took me two weeks before I started using it and only because I had spilled tea over my old one. Each new version of Windows required me a lot of learning, so I expected that even more with my Mac.

My husband installed it last Saturday evening. I started exploring it and, within an hour, my husband asked whether I could browse the Internet yet. Safari is one of the clunkier apps on the Mac, so I wasn’t expecting it to work. That evening though, I was reading blogs and commenting using my WordPress account. Apparently, I had figured out some basic web browsing on Safari.

The next day, I explored the Mac further and was blissfully unaware of my incompetence with it. That awareness came Monday, when I couldn’t figure out Facebook or WordPress.com. In the evening, my husband tried to make the mail app work with my self-hosted E-mail account (is that what it’s called?). IMAP wouldn’t work, which caused me to melt down. I said I was going to buy a Windows PC the next day and go back to that. Thankfully, my husband talked me out of making any impulsive decisions.

The last few days have been better. I can more or less work any website that isn’t too chaotic, including Facebook. I finally figured out WordPress yesterday too, although I still prefer to type my blog posts on the iPhone.

Today, I spent my time on the Mac figuring out Apple Music. I have a Spotify premium subscription, but for some reason (them being competitors, I guess), Spotify isn’t available in the app store, or at least I couldn’t find it. I didn’t use to like iTunes on the PC, but so far, Apple Music is good on both iPhone and Mac.

I also decided to put my documents on my Mac. I rarely use offline documents nowadays, but I don’t want to lose them either. I have diaries dating back to like 1999 in my documents. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Dropbox in the app store either, so I had to retrieve my docs from my external hard drive. That’s a lot easier anyway.

I haven’t installed many apps yet. The only apps I installed so far, that aren’t recommended by Apple, are Kindle and ReadKit. I am not using either yet, because Kindle has a visual-only CAPTCHA to register and I would like to sync ReadKit with a feed reader that also syncs to the app I use on my phone. The most sensible choice for that is Feedly, but I have over 100 feeds I’m subscribed to and then a subscription costs like $65 a year. Maybe I could try Feedly with just a few feeds though to see if it works well with ReadKit and if I can use ReadKit like I want to.

As regular readers know, I am blind and so I use a screen reader. One of the main reasons I chose a Mac over another PC, is that the Mac has a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver. I had read up a lot about accessibility before buying the Mac, but there wasn’t much out there about Braille displays, which I use most of the time. Thankfully though, except for the login screen, everything works fine with my Focus Braille display.

There are also a ton of keyboard shortcuts, both general and VoiceOver-based. I love that, but it is a learning curve. For example, when copying my files from my external hard drive to my Mac, I kept trying to press Enter to open the folders and then realized I had to press Command+O. I also keep trying to press Shift+F10 to open a context menu. I don’t know whether there isn’t such a thing or I haven’t figured it out yet.

This review may seem a bit negative, but it isn’t intended as such. Overall, my Mac is definitely useful. I’m pretty sure I’ll get used to it eventually.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Gratitude List (February 2, 2019) #TToT

I didn’t write much this past week. Not because I didn’t have anything to share, but because somehow the words wouldn’t make it onto the page. I had an extremely eventful week, which I will share more about later and which I already shared a bit about last Wednesday. Today, I’m going to write a gratitude list for the past week. As always, I’m linking up with #TToT.

1. My shoulder pain being almost over. Like I said two weeks ago, I suffered a small collarbone fracture. Yesterday was the last day of my strong painkillers. I had wanted to quit them earlier, but my husband said not to be too hard on myself. Today though, I only took two paracetamol and am more or less fine. Granted, I didn’t do a lot of repetitive work, so after I’ve finished this post, it’ll probably hurt more.

2. Being able to exercise again. I went on the elliptical for a total of 35 minutes yesterday. I did take breaks, but I felt my legs more than the injured arm.

3. Sensory activities. I already shared last Wednesday about the living facility I might go into that has lots of sensory supplies. Seeing this inspired me to explore the sensory equipment at day activities more. I found a large cylinder which you can roll on. I also spent time in the small (almost too small for my overweight body, but not yet) indoors cocoon swing.

4. Buying my Macbook. I haven’t unboxed it yet, but I’m glad I finally put one foot in front of the other and bought it.

5. Stuffed animals. Today, I experienced severe overload and had a meltdown while at my in-laws. My mother-in-law brought me a huge collection of Disney soft toys and other stuffed animals. I loved them.

6. Sleep. I didn’t sleep well early in the week. Thankfully, towards the end of the week, I slept better.

7. Getting some delicious treats for myself on Thursday. Some were healthy too, like blueberries. Some were not (liquorice!) but I loved them nonetheless.

8. The day activities staff treating us to some special food on Friday. She decided to spoil us, so for lunch on Friday, we had croissants and some salty crackers with cream cheese and olives. I went to the marketplace to buy them with this staff.

9. My husband. I need to be extra grateful for him because this past week has been stressful.

10. My support coordinator, whom I saw four times this week.

What have you been grateful for this past week?

My Hopes for 2019

Happy new year everyone! Today and hopefully throughout this month, I’ll be joining in with Just Jot It! January or #JusJoJan for short, organized by Linda G. Hill. Today’s prompt is to reflect back on 2018 or write about your plans or resolutions for 2019. since I already wrote about my 2018, I’m going to use this post to jot down my hopes, goals and plans for 2019. Here goes.

1. Find suitable supported housing. This is my main hope for 2019. Of course, given my experience with finding (or not finding) supported housing out of the mental institution, I don’t have my hopes up too high. However, I at least want to get long-term care funding approved. That way, even if I don’t find a housing place, I can get more support in my current home than I get now.

2. Get back on track with healthier living. I didn’t gain any weight over the holidays and in 2018, lost a pound or 500 grams, while I expected I’d gained. I’m proud of that, but I’m still obese. Knowing that I’ve experienced some time when my BMI was under 30 this past year, I badly want to lose those two or three pounds it takes to be back at just overweight.

More importantly though, I want to embrace a healthier lifestyle. I want to exercise regularly and eat at least somewhat healthfully.

3. Blog regularly. In January, participating in #JusJoJan means I’ll have something to write about each day, as Linda will be posting prompts. I plan on writing regularly throughout the year though.

4. Get a new computer. I have had this on my list of plans ever since 2017. This year, I’m serious about it though, as I finally convinced my husband too that my current PC is outdated. I am seriously considering getting a Mac, as that’d mean I could do without having to get a screen reader separate from the operating system. I already love my iPhone, but I feel I need a computer too.

5. Stay mentally stable. Over 2018, I’ve not had serious crises other than the one in January that eventually got me kickked out of my old day activities place. I’m still considering terminating mental health treatment once I’ve found suited supported housing. After all, I’m pretty confident that the depression I suffered early in 2018 and that required an increase in my antidepressant dose, was caused by my difficulties coping at home and at day activities. I do still experience trauma-related symptoms, but at this point, they’re manageable.

What are your hopes for 2019?