Hey! We’ve made it to the double digits of the #UltimateBlogChallenge! I am so happy that, despite my reservations, I am doing this and truly enjoying just writing and giving you all my thoughts. It has FINALLY stopped raining and the sun is sort of peeking through the clouds. There’s a small breeze, the dog is happy, and while my body is feeling a bit under the weather, I have Novo Amor playing, I’m having good happy conversation, and I’m just loving this moment. I wish I could capture it in a small snow globe and keep it on my dresser, a scene of peace and contentment.
Today I bring to you a topic that some people may find controversial. While I have no qualms with being blind, some find it difficult to talk about what they’d wish to see if they could have one more chance. Mine aren’t so unique, but they are things that I have either thought about a lot or have made me feel wistful over the years.
To start my list, I will have to go back to 2017 when I first lost my sight. As some may recall, I don’t have any recollection of the exact moment that I did lose my vision, but I do know it was after my nephew Elijah was born and right before I got to meet him. He’s grown so much over the years, as has his vocabulary and his personality, so much like my brother’s. I remember when I first held him, I laughed because he reminded me of little Tweety Bird. Small body, big head, big feet. He was a good kiddo that often napped beside me while I did work or tore across the house in his walker. My mom even witnessed him walking with his eyes closed in perfect imitation of me, toddling his way through the house. It was in one of those moments of just pure joy where I felt my stomach twist because I wished so much that I could see my nephew. A lot of people at school swore he was mine, we looked so similar. But to be completely honest, I have no idea what he looks like. I only know that he has very curly hair and a loud, explosive personality with a touch of sweet caring big brother to his little sister, another addition to the family that I never got the chance to see.
Another one of these experiences was when I met Dodson, (this should be a given.) So many people fell in love with him for multiple reasons, his coloring being one of them. Some have described him to me as butterscotch yellow, while others have said he’s nearly white blond. His paperwork, however, classifies him as a “medium gold”, which I have no idea what that could even mean! The only thing about him that any of us have ever been able to agree on is that his eyes are dark brown, he sheds A LOT, and he is well loved and such a great boy. (I think we’re biased.) There’s almost a disconnect for me when people complain about being able to see his fur on everything, because I can never tell if they’re exaggerating or my dog is a walking snowfall. His fur ends up on my clothes, inevitably, but I also spend most of my time with him, so I can’t judge how much fur is everywhere. All I know is that Rhemy, my Roomba named by my friend Meka, is cleaning up after him twice or three times a day.
We all know those scenes in movies or books where a character is speeding down the freeway or the desert, windows down on a hot summer’s day, music blasting, hair blowing. Usually, they involve trucks or Jeeps. For me, I’d love to be able to drive a Jeep in the desert. I know plenty of people who don’t enjoy driving, but as someone who does enjoy wearing her headphones and just sitting in the passenger seat, I do wish I was able to have the experience of being behind the wheel. People take being able to yell at other drivers and honking at big trucks for granted; I’d love to roll down my window and call someone some made up silly name that literally means nothing. I want to be able to have that feeling of barely making the red light and accidentally cutting off some poor unsuspecting driver while trying to merge on the 405. This dream isn’t something I constantly think of, but I do reflect sometimes how my life would be different if I had some sight back.
This last one might be a little odd, but I wished I for sure knew what I looked like. Not in the sense of my body, but my hair, eye, and skin color are something no one seems to be able to agree on. Whenever I ask family what color my hair is, they tell me it’s like my mom’s hair. When I could see, my mom’s hair was a pretty brown that I couldn’t place a name on it then, and to this day, I still can’t place a name to it. My eye color has consistently been bright blue, sky blue, or blue gray, which again, can be really confusing to me if I’m just trying to fill out paperwork for my state ID. By default, I always say blue gray, because it’s just the safest bet since the color is due to my eye condition. And lastly, my skin color. Holy crap this is a hard one! Surprisingly, people have not been able to decide whether I’m light, dark, or in the middle! It drives me crazy! I KNOW I’m not white, but I’m also not as dark as my brother, so again I have always begged the question…. What color am I? It sounds kind of ridiculous in hindsight, but when people spend time telling you that you look pale or you’re turning white, if you’re like me, you start wondering just what the actual hell you are. Some may consider this vain, but I don’t think the sighted world understands that many of their descriptive words have literally no meaning to blind individuals like myself. I prefer descriptive words that I can reference to in dictionaries or books. Telling someone they’re light or have dark hair… isn’t descriptive. For all you know, there’s some poor soul out there who thinks they look like Edward Cullen. Descriptive, is, key.
Now that you’ve endured hearing about my top 4 “if I could see again, what would it be” list, tell me what your top anything is! If I were given one wish, I can tell you, I wouldn’t be asking to see again. While these are wistful thoughts, I’m perfectly happy being myself. As a general disclaimer, do not begrudge the blind people in the world who do wish they could see again. In the grand scheme of things, being blind is rough for a lot of people; we must give them the room to grieve that they won’t be able to see. Some may succumb to bitterness, some may not. Regardless, just hug them and tell them it’s alright. As for me, I need to go chase down my medium gold/blond/white/butterscotch yellow dog, so until tomorrow!

He’s sick, I’m sick, and we’re both miserable. Howdy everyone. Welcome to day 6 of the #UltimateBlogChallenge. I am writing to you from the comfort of my bed, where I’ve been pretty much all day. I’ve been blessed, (AKA cursed), with the continuation of that same infection I mentioned in last night’s post, but it seems to have moved to my ears, which for me, is not fun.
Aside from that, Dodson, who had been having some poop problems for the past few days, had seemed to recover, deciding that being sick with me was better than being healthy. Yep, he’s sick again. So not only are we sick together, we both have medical stuff going on tomorrow to hopefully get ourselves sorted. In the meantime, he, ever the happy pup, is happy to inform you that he has a Nyla bone, whereas I, his human, have discovered my dislike for the ending of the movie Whiplash.
One of my biggest supports during this time has been my mom. I know I talk about her often, but sometimes having a stellar mom requires you to brag. She went to Petco to grab Dodson’s special food; she went to the pharmacy to get my meds a few weeks back… she’s been the ultimate multitasker that I am forever grateful for. She tries to defy the odds in the most sasstastic ways possible: with a spitfire attitude, a love for coffee, and a hard worker’s mindset.
Growing up, it’s sad to say that my mom and I fought, a lot. She was extremely overprotective, something I didn’t understand, sort of in-your-face about accessibility and advocacy, but most of all… she was raised in Mexico during a time where your children obeyed you 100 percent of the time, no questions asked. If you know me or my siblings, you know we asked a LOT of questions. My mom could be scary when her temper flared, but I was also an anxious shy kid who didn’t know any better. Still, she was my greatest support and I clung to her for dear life. Unless of course, I was off camping, rafting, or horseback riding.
My mom was overprotective in the sense that she had no idea what she was going to do with a blind child. She wanted to help me, but for the first few years of my life, a lot of it was guesswork. No one told her of the available resources to her. Hell, when she asked the government for assistance or resources, they told her no because of my dad’s earnings as a nurse. But of course, the government couldn’t point a worried parent to any available resources, riiight? It was only when I went to pre-K that she learned about IEPs, advocacy, tools to help me learn. With this info, my mom and the district of Los Angeles Unified became fast friends… or not.
My mom is an amazing advocate. One who doesn’t give one single damn if you disagree or don’t think her daughter needs this accommodation, you are going to give it to her and do, your, damn, job. She enforced that she didn’t care if the other kids didn’t need an in-class aide, she wouldn’t be leaving until I got one. Spoiler, I did.
A very vivid memory that I have that I still remember is my first IEP. I wasn’t required to be in the room while all the adults were making decisions on my educational goals going forward, but she had entrusted the teachers to watch me during recess. (Oh yeah man, she went to school every day with me for the first few years and still took care of my brothers. She’s that awesome.) When recess ended, all the kids filed back inside and my little four-year-old self, not knowing that the teacher had come and gone, wondered where everyone had gone off to. I remember wandering off the school property, only to come back and try to find the entrance. I had no mobility training, so I was relying on my wit and my poor vision at the time to figure out where I was.
When I eventually made it inside, I couldn’t figure out where in the heck the classroom was. It’s worth noting that the people in charge of the class didn’t notice the blind four-year-old missing, but hey who needs details, right? I wandered down the halls of that building, looking for any possible sign of where my mom could be. I was scared, lost, and no amount of times I called out did anyone answer. Plenty of adults saw me pass by, but no one bothered to stop the crying little kid to ask if they were lost or confused. The education system in the early 2000s was simply stellar, I tell you.
Eventually, I pressed my face up against the window of the door, sobbing because at this point, I had no idea where I was. I could see through the window that there were people in there, but I just wanted them to notice me and tell me where my mom was. It was by some miracle that my IEP meeting was happening in that room. (You go, four year old Nat), and my mom, having heard my crying, immediately flew out of the room and brought me in, hugging and positively raging at the sheer incompetence that occurred to allow her blind daughter to get lost. The adults at the table, no doubt furious at this woman for daring to say their administration was lacking, told her I didn’t need to be present and she let them know, under no circumstances, were they allowed to take me back with the other kids until this meeting was over. All I wanted was some one to tell me where I was, and they had ignored me. I sat in her lap and quietly stared at all the adults and even then, I knew, they had no clue who they were dealing with.
It was with this mentality that my mom followed me from school to school with. Where we lacked in communicating why we were upset with each other or why I did something the way I did, she made up in advocating for me. Without her, I wouldn’t have learned Braille, orientation and mobility, or even how to tie my shoes without her insistence. The school system is happy to let kids like me slip through the cracks because we require so much extra attention, but we deserve an equal education. And my mom, who came from a place where equality for people with disabilities isn’t common, did all that, for me.
The great thing about my mom is that she set aside her insecurities and overprotectiveness to allow me to take trips with Braille Institute of America and Junior Blind of America, (now known as Wayfinder Family Services.) She knew that I had to have these experiences, so she, under all motherly worries and pretenses, allowed me to go white water rafting, fishing, horseback riding, and snow and water skiing, just to name a few. With these two organizations, I found my love for nature and adventure, as well as tasting hints of freedom that, under other circumstances, I would never have. I camped for several weeks at a time during the summer, I stayed on a ranch for one weekend, I learned that rock climbing and I weren’t meant to be. But I wouldn’t have learned any of these things if my mom hadn’t been the one to push me to try it.
I write this all to say… that my mom is awesome. She’s funny, sassy, and can be overbearing, but she’s also loving, fierce, and strongly independent. I love her entirely. She taught me how to advocate for myself, how to push myself to be better, and through our little spats, she helped me discover who I am as a person. Don’t let kids with disabilities slip through the cracks just because a school district thinks it’s easier. Work with parents, give them resources, help them be a support system to their kids. School is not only there to teach your kid about geography and science, they exist to be a support for all the kids there. Just because your child might be blind or hard of hearing or otherwise disabled, doesn’t mean they don’t have a future. These kids deserve a fighting chance to succeed. Share resources, hold meetings, understand and validate fears and worries, but ultimately come out of those meetings with a game plan to help these children reach the potential they hold. Now is not forever and never is a load of crap.

Hello all you lovely humans. Welcome to Day 5 of the #UltimateBlogChallenge, wherein I am equally exhausted and equally stressed. This post is not going to be its normal cheerful one, but a check in to how I’m doing and hopefully getting to hear how you are.
It’s become increasingly difficult to avoid discussion of Covid-19 as news gets progressively worse. While I know some one who knows a few people fighting for their lives in the ICU, another acquaintance is posting on Facebook hoping for a miracle that their loved one survives. And here I am, sitting and watching it all happen, and enduring when it feels like the exact last thing I want to be doing.
A few weeks ago, I went to bed not feeling too hot. My head hurt, my jaw felt tense, flares of pain were going through my head. I felt like absolute crap, with what I thought was a fever. Immediately, the anxiety set in. Did I have Covid-19? Was I hallucinating the fever? Worst of all, how the hell can I talk to anyone when I feel like moving any muscle in my body was like fire.
I was able to get a telephone appointment the next day, and although I displayed signs of a sinus infection, the doctor over the line wasn’t 100 percent convinced since she couldn’t see my ears. I got a slew of medication to deal with it, and that’s how I’ve been. Dealing. Existing. But still mildly hurting. I am simply just tired. My ears and head hurt often, and I find myself sleeping to get away from it for a little. It keeps me up at night, as do the worries that I will somehow catch Covid-19, (knowing my luck), and accompanied by the aching loneliness sheltering in place has caused.
As much as I enjoy my solitude and quiet, the feeling isn’t exactly heavenly. I struggle to maintain a schedule, some normalcy, but it just isn’t capable when everything you used to do isn’t available right now. And trust me… I know it’s for my own good and the good of others. But you get tired of those same four walls, of your guide getting into trouble because it is the literal only thing he can do. The three closest people to me that isn’t directly family are all having to handle it the best they can, and I still worry. One is immunocompromised, another lives in Washington State, and another is on a mountain, where yes, people still are affected. It’s exhausting. I worry about them the way I worry about myself, because everything that seems to happen, just genuinely gets worse, and I can’t help in any way, shape or form.
Constantly pretending that I’m doing just fine in this shelter in place is asking for me to lie. Quite frankly, I am not okay. I am struggling to navigate these uncertain times, of wondering if this might be a sign of Covid-19 or if, somehow, I can limit the news I get about it. The answer? No. Because we’re all afraid and have absolutely no idea how to move forward.
I sincerely hope everyone is doing well. Let me know what I can do, how I can help. Let me know if you’re not okay, because it’s okay not to be okay. Know you’re not alone, even though it sincerely feels like solitary confinement at times. I hope to return tomorrow with more positiveness and less anxiety, but if you read this, I appreciate you. Stay safe.

In today’s day and age of social media being rife with pictures, memes, and GIF’s, the blind community has had an outpouring of requests for alternative text. For those who don’t know, alternative text is a description of what is taking place in the photo/meme/GIF of choice. Some of the sighted community has taken our requests to heart, letting us all join in on the laughter and memories captured on camera. Unfortunately, what I have also seen is parts of the blind community asking, but not reciprocating. As a gentle reminder to my fellow blindies… we can do better.
If you are confused by what I may mean, I have seen a number of people be bothered and upset when a sighted friend or equal has not provided image descriptions for their latest Instagram posts. While I understand the frustration, I want the community to remember that forcing Stacey to detail every detail of her latest Lush haul isn’t your God given right. It is a courtesy that people are extending and while we have the right to be upset when it doesn’t get received well, that doesn’t make them a terrible person. Maybe they’ll come around and change their mind, realizing that it isn’t quite as hard or time consuming as it seems, or they simply just don’t know how to do it correctly. All I know is that there are the same people asking for photo descriptions who, when it’s their turn to post a picture of their Lush haul, don’t provide a photo description to their blind followers. There exists a double standard that, as a blind person myself, I despair and abhor that it exists. We cannot metaphorically crucify the sighted world for not being courteous when we cannot in turn return that same courtesy to our blind friends and family members.
It’s time the blind community work together with the sighted community beyond technology, video/audio games, and making literature accessible. We need to learn to communicate in ways that are not immediately defensive and condescending. I know a few who would be offended that people don’t put image captions, but I also know people who will ask for descriptions. The response you get when you approach some one with kindness instead of hostility is immediate, I promise you. Save your offended feelings for when laws are broken and discrimination happens, not for when a friend or celebrity unwittingly leaves out an entire community by not knowing how to get there. Hell, my mom sometimes forgets to give me image descriptions when sending me photos. All it takes is a gentle reminder or a question to what the photo is, and she remembers that her daughter just happens to be blind. I don’t think less of her for it, nor should the blind community waste their time thinking the worst of every person when ignorance just exists from lack of knowledge.
The following is a short, yet simple guide to accessing the alternate text options on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I encourage everyone to take a look, read, and share this information with your sighted peers. Let’s spread inclusivity through knowledge.
Instagram
Open your camera inside the Instagram app and select the photo(s) that you wish to post. Then navigate past the filters to the caption and sharing screen. If you scroll down past the caption box and sharing options, you will see a button labeled ‘advanced settings. Click that button and scroll down to the choice labeled ‘alt text’. Instagram is amazing in that it briefly explains what this option does. Click on that option and write in what your image contains in the provided field. (E.G. In this photo, a young male golden retriever sits calmly in front of the camera with his tongue hanging out. He is wearing a red collar.)
Once you are done writing your photo description, click the ‘done’ button and it will return you to your caption/sharing screen. You are now free to post your photo to your feed and be assured that it will then display the description of the photo to your blind followers.

Twitter
Unfortunately for Twitter, the platform has placed the alt text and general accessibility options in a place that is very out of the way for most to find. Luckily, I will explain just how to get there!
Navigate to your settings and privacy settings from your Twitter app. You will see links to your account, privacy, general, and content preferences, among other options. Scroll down to the ‘general’ heading, under which you will see options for display and sound, data usage, accessibility, and about Twitter. Click on the nifty accessibility link, which will bring you to options for VoiceOver, vision, motion, and web browser headings. Move to the ‘Vision’ heading, where toggles for increased color contrast, compose image descriptions, and a nifty learn more link will appear. Toggle the second option, (compose image descriptions), to ‘on’, being careful to note the brief but informative piece under the option that explains its purpose. Once done, close your settings and return to your normal Twitter feed. If that toggle is switched to ‘on’, you won’t have to worry about navigating there each time you want to post a funny meme of a celebrity.
To post a photo with an image description on Twitter, compose a Tweet, being mindful to select the photo you so choose to share with the Interwebs. Once you add the photo to your tweet, if the toggle has been switched on, you will see an option to ‘add a description to this photo’. Once selected, you will be put in a box where you have 420 characters to explain your image. If you are still confused, Twitter’s got you covered. Feel free to click the ‘What is alt text?’ link and read to your heart’s content!
Facebook
Unfortunately for Facebook users, the platform has not made adding image descriptions a smooth process. As far as I am aware, the only efficient way to add alternative text is to post your photos as normal, taking care to then go to your photo of choice and clicking the ‘edit/more’ button. Once there, you can choose to edit the image caption, which will remove the default description and replacing them with your far more descriptive and colorful descriptions.
I do hope someone has found these instructions helpful in making their photos more inclusive. If anyone has any idea on how to improve the instructions for Facebook, I will gladly edit this post with clearer instructions. Until then, please stay safe and remember to be kind and inclusive. For my blind peers, remember that not all ignorance is from lack of willingness to understand.

Hello! Welcome to day 2 of the #UltimateBlogChallenge! I am reposting a blog I wrote a while ago as today has been one of those days of sheer exhaustion. Dodson has an upset stomach and waking up in the middle of the night is draining on my already minimal sleep. For your reference, the Lee in this post is in fact the same Lee who helps with my Facebook page. He adds photo captions for my blind readers, as well as being the designer of the logo! I love him dearly and you’ll see he has never stopped being a wonderful friend. Please enjoy these memories I share with you in all their endless joy.
Ah, college. For most, these are the four golden years of youth, debauchery, and perhaps most memorable, student loans. Many think that being visually impaired, this would mean that my experiences are far and few in between. I can tell you, they certainly were not. The blindies can party hard, (and hardly party, but that’s beside the point!)
when I think of college, I fondly refer to my brief stint at UC Santa Cruz. I attended that beautiful; green campus for two quarters. Through torrential rain, demonic turkeys, and rising house prices, that campus embodied many things for me. It embodied a new chapter of my life, one filled with independence and problem solving of my own. I was living 320 some odd miles away from home, so I literally put myself in the middle of nowhere. And I loved it.
Whilst there, I became friends with this amazing human named Lee. He was everything you wanted in a college best friend: quirky, spontaneous, adventurous, and a Gilmore Girls fan. (he never finished the series, whereas I have watched it about four times now.) it was Lee that accompanied me in almost all my favorite college memories. I’m forever grateful to have him in my life. I’ll see if I can find that picture of us with the infamous Squiggle up on social media somehow.
The Night of the Slurpee
So, it looks like we’re starting backwards in storyland. The Night of the Slurpee happened two nights before Lee left UCSC, a whole week before I could leave. (he only stayed for two quarters as well.) one of his best friends from back home came to help us pack up his things, so instead of making this a sad, let’s-all-cry-and-pretend-our-lives-are-ending, we turned it into a party. We camped out in his cramped dorm room on the sixth floor, cramming three humans with WAY too much stuff and WAY too many energy drinks into a space that could barely fit one person. We gossiped and ate junk food, playing our favorite songs and generally not giving a damn about what was going on outside of room 611. we wanted to give Lee the best possible sendoff ever. we had PLANS! But those plans 1ladies and gentlemen, did not curb the sudden, unquenchable craving for Slurpee’s.
You would think that the time being 2:30 A.M. would have deterred me from my best, yet worst, idea ever, right? Apparently not. I suggested to my two sighted, no car possessing friends that we make a trip to 7-Eleven in downtown Santa Cruz. It’s a twenty-five-minute walk in shady, unlit areas with tons of hills and plenty of terrors for two young women and their male friend. But hey, Slurpee’s, right? (we have priorities!) Either way, I convinced my friends to get dressed, (of course in our fluffy PJ’s, with one of us going so far as to wear reindeer fluffy slippers.) Those slippers defined us, I swear.
When we finally made it down to the ground floor, (we had to stop to “what are thoooose!” the iconic slippers. We were very much in 2017, I tell you. We quickly realized that buses stopped running, so that PROBABLY meant that our favorite bus driver was NOT driving Route 16. We quickly decided to catch an Uber, which would have been the safest thing to do, were it not for the fact that our driver was A: completely eerily silent, but B: sped off, leaving us in his literal dust when we arrived. (side note, at no point during this did we stop to consider that 7-Eleven might have been closed. The Slurpee cravings are real.) Needless to say, we got our Slurpees. The power of the reindeer slippers and our over energized entrance and complete takeover of that shady 7-Eleven was the only thing that deterred the store owner from possibly calling the cops on us. As most SC residents called it, we were “the problem slugs”.
Redwoods, Ghosts and Bongs
Another of my favorite memories occurred earlier in that same month with Lee. I may or may not have ditched class for the first day of spring. By this point, I had lost most of my vision, so I relied on him to tell me when to duck, dive, or otherwise avoid the treacherous terrain. We took a walk through the marvelous redwoods, and it was perhaps the most down-to-Earth experience I’d ever had. Being newly and completely blind, I was exposed to the many gifts that our redwood forest had to offer. The ground was thick with moss, everything was green, and it SMELLED so beautiful and clean, something living in Southern California for my entire life never offered me. I got to feel the dappled sunlight and hear the scurry of animals that are so often found in fantasy books. I felt like I had been transported to an entirely new world.
We trudged through the forest for what felt like hours but what was only about two. when we emerged in a clearing, we found ourselves in Porter Meadow. This meadow is not only famous for being haunted, but it’s also famous for being the den of most parties, drug exchanges, and hippie fun times. Being from a relatively drug-free lifestyle, I’d never really been exposed to weed, bongs, vapes, and all the other paraphernalia. So, when we stumbled across a shirtless hippie dude lounging with a boom box and a bong about two feet tall, boy was I amused. He was higher than possibly the nearest mountaintop, so he didn’t realize we were there, but he was so utterly calm, that the meadow itself felt somehow different from the rest of the forest.
From there, we somehow made our way back into downtown Santa Cruz, where we caught a bus and stumbled our way to the beach, where choppy waters raked the sandy beaches and tumbled rocks and wood haphazardly. So, in true Nat style, this meant that I had to roll up my jeans as far as they could go and charge into the ocean.
It’s at this point that I’d like to point out that I may have been very courageous, or just high on life. I like the latter, personally. I splashed around, getting myself completely soaked in clean fresh ocean water. Lee and I took pictures, grinning like idiots and simply…. lived. No phones, no worries about school, no expectations. Just the idea of living in that moment, basking in the sun and enjoying each other’s company.
I could go on and on about my adventures in Santa Cruz. Although I missed my family very much, including the birth of my nephew and several other personal things, my time away from SoCal taught me that certain parts of life were, ultimately, good. Wholesome. Meaningful. It taught me to not only appreciate my newfound independence, but to appreciate nature, friendships, and most importantly, it taught me to appreciate myself and to nurture my adventurous side. always, a banana slug, albeit more turtle now. Perhaps I will one day write about the time I ended up in a knee brace at UCSC, or my two no good, terrible, really bad roommates, or even my one really great roommate and her partner, but that will have to be for another day. Advocacy never stopped, not even in dreamy Santa Cruz, but I had an amazing support system ready to welcome me. But alas, another story for another day.

Why Advocacy Is Important (and Why I’m Tired)

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are all, (at least for us Californians), enjoying the rainy weather and staying safe during these trying times. I come to you this week Continue reading “Why Advocacy is Important (and Why I’m Tired)”