Thursday Book Feature: Campbell’s Rambles

Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life

By Patty L. Fletcher

Copyright 2014.

 

In 2011, Patty Fletcher, a totally blind single mother, acquired Campbell, a black Labrador seeing eye dog, from the facility in Morristown, New Jersey, and brought him home to Kingsport, Tennessee. She first explains how a friend with a guide dog and an incident in a shopping mall inspired her to apply for a dog of her own. She then talks about her boyfriend’s initial reaction, a good foreshadowing of what’s to come. She goes on to describe, in great detail, the trip to New Jersey and the rigorous training process, made more difficult by her fibromyalgia and side effects from her medications. She discusses how one particular trainer influenced her during her training and afterward.

After describing the arduous trip home, she gives the reader a sense of what it’s like to acclimate a new guide dog to new surroundings. She details her disintegrating relationship with her boyfriend, including some instances of abuse, and touches on how that and her bipolar disorder affected her relationships with family and friends. The book has a positive ending.

Once I got into Campbell’s Rambles, I couldn’t put it down. Many anecdotes about her training experiences made me laugh, and I felt her frustration and depression when she messed up. Close to the end of the book, I was virtually on the edge of my seat.

Patty is a remarkable woman. I’ve known her for years, after first meeting her through Behind Our Eyes, an organization of writers with disabilities to which I belong. After acquiring Campbell and her experiences with domestic violence and bipolar disorder and other medical issues, she now runs Tell It to the World Marketing, promoting writers and other entrepreneurs. She has a blog, Campbell’s World, and other social media pages where her clients’ writing can be found. She’s written a second book, Bubba Tails from the Puppy Nursery at The Seeing Eye, and is working on a third.

She’s a survivor. If you take anything at all away from Campbell’s Rambles, it’s this piece of advice her dog trainer at The Seeing Eye repeatedly gave her. “Take a chance. There’s a fifty percent chance you’ll be right.” This applies to all aspects of life, not just the use of a guide dog.

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My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Walking to School

One thing on many parents’ minds is how their children will get to and from school now that classes are in full swing. Some students take the bus while others are driven, but how many children walk to school anymore?

During the first six years of my education in the 1960’s and early 70’s, we were living in Tucson, Arizona. Because of my visual impairment, I spent the first five and a half years at a state school for the blind before being mainstreamed into a public school. Because these facilities were too far to walk, and there was no bus, my parents drove me to and from school each day. However, I read stories about other children walking to and from school and longed to be able to do that.

When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973, my wish came true. For the first couple of years we lived there, our house was at the top of a hill, and the elementary school my brother and I attended was at the bottom. During sixth-grade, I delighted in walking to and from school with other kids.
When I started seventh grade, the junior high school was farther away. Dad wanted me to walk, but Mother prevailed, and I took the bus. I did walk half a mile to and from the bus stop each day, and that was fun.

In the spring of my eighth grade year, we moved to another house that was not within a school bus route. This time, Dad said I could walk, and Mother didn’t argue. It was a mile, the longest I’d ever walked. The route took me through downtown, so when Dad walked with me, he showed me how to cross busy streets with traffic lights by listening and watching the direction the vehicles were traveling.

Once I got the hang of it, I loved the long walk to and from school. I often stopped downtown, either at Brown Drug or The Palace Café, and had a milkshake. That was my after-school snack.

High school was a different matter. My main obstacle was a busy street with no four-way stop sign or light. At this point, I was given a cane that I held in front of me while standing at the corner in the hope that someone would stop. Hardly anyone did, and I often waited a long time for a break in traffic before dashing across.

After that, it was smooth sailing, through the park and up the hill. Thanks to that intersection, though, I soon lost interest in walking, especially in winter when the boardwalk up the hill was slick with snow and ice, and there was no railing. I was only too happy when my parents started driving me to and from school each day, although I could tell my father was disappointed.

I understand his disappointment. Because he had to walk to school every day as a kid, it was only fair that his children should do the same. I wish I’d continued to brave that intersection. Better yet, I could have taken a longer route.

In the good old days, many children in rural areas walked over a mile to and from school each day. I remember reading in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder about Laura and her sister walking home from school one day during a raging blizard.

Nowadays, I see children getting off of school buses every day but rarely encounter them walking to or from school. Because of security concerns, real or imagined, many parents are too over-protective. This is sad. Whatever happened to the good old days?

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Re-Blog: Forward

On this anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington D.C., I’m pasting below a post I wrote several years ago about Michael Hingson and his book, Thunder Dog, The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero. Since this will be the topic of discussion by my regional talking book library’s group this afternoon, I thought it would be a great time to share this remarkable story once more.

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Forward

We’ve all heard accounts of people killed or seriously injured during the events of 9/11. Here’s a remarkable story about a man and his dog who survived at Ground Zero. Michael Hingson, blind since birth, was working in his office on the seventy-eighth floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 when the first plane hit. The plane crashed into the opposite end from where he was, and as a result, the tower tipped, then righted itself. If I were in that situation, the first thing I would have done was panic, but not Michael. After shutting down his computer, he took up his guide dog Roselle’s harness and said, “Forward.” This is the universal command guide dog owners issue to order their dogs to move in that direction. Along with co-workers and others, he proceeded down seventy-eight flights of stairs amid the stench of smoke and jet fuel and exited the building. As the towers crumbled and fell, he fled in the wake of dust and debris.

In his book, Thunder Dog, The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, Michael Hingson talks about his 9/11 experience and his life growing up in a society with low expectations of the blind. When he was born in Chicago in the 1950’s, a doctor suggested his parents send him to a home for the blind, but they refused, determining that Michael would be raised like any other child. As a kid, he rode his bike in the streets. He taught himself to detect obstacles by listening to his environment. When he was in elementary school, his family moved to a community in California where the school district suggested he be sent to a school for the blind. Again, his parents refused to have him segregated just because he couldn’t see, and eventually, the school district hired a resource teacher to help him learn braille and other skills. In high school, he acquired the first of many guide dogs and was banned from riding the school bus with his dog. His father argued his case before the school board, and when he lost, he appealed to California’s governor who intervened on Michael’s behalf. As an adult, despite many obstacles he faced in a society not set up for the blind, he managed to eventually acquire a sales job with a six-figure salary for a prestigious firm, the offices of which were located on the seventy-eighth floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center.

A year after the events of 9/11, he became a public affairs director for Guide Dogs for the Blind in California where he’d acquired his own dogs. In 2008, he formed the MichaelHingson Group to continue his career as a public speaker and consultant for organizations needing help with diversity and adaptive technology training. He still travels today, giving speeches in which he shares his own experiences and talks about blindness in general.

The book’s introduction was written by Larry King, a CNN talk show host and one of many journalists who interviewed Michael about his experience. Not only does he talk about his life in Thunder Dog, Michael also provides a wealth of information and resources about blindness. The book is available through Amazon and other online retailers. For those needing it in a more accessible format, it can be downloaded from the National Library Service’s braille and audio download site as well as from Bookshare.

After reading the book, I had an opportunity to talk to Michael Hingson when I attended a conference call meeting of a writers’ group to which I belong called Behind Our Eyes. He said that he originally wanted to call this book Forward. Instead, the publisher suggested the title Thunder Dog because of a thunderstorm that woke and frightened Michael’s dog Roselle the night before September 11th. There’s irony in the fact that a dog terrified of thunderstorms calmly guided her owner out of a burning building.

Thunder Dog isn’t just a 9/11 story. Although Michael’s experience during that time is a big part of the book, his story is about someone with a disability who faces curve balls society throws at him head on and says, “Forward.”

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature–The Star-Spangled Banner: Cornerstones of Freedom

The Star-Spangled Banner: Cornerstones of Freedom
by Deborah Kent
Copyright 1995.

This is a chronicle, for young readers, of how our national anthem was written. The author starts by explaining how an elderly doctor in Maryland was arrested for mistreating British soldiers when he refused them wine and ordered townspeople to arrest them. She then describes how Francis Scott Key, a lawyer who wrote poetry on the side, came to represent the old doctor and ended up on a small boat tethered to one of the British ships during the battle at Fort McHenry near Baltimore. She talks about how Key was inspired to write the poem, as he observed bombs bursting in mid-air and marveled that the flag remained at full mast until dawn when the British retreated. She then explains how the poem became a song and how the song eventually became our national anthem. The book includes the lyrics with all four verses, a glossary, a timeline, and other information.

Since Deborah Kent was a recent guest speaker at a meeting of Behind our Eyes, a writers’ group to which I belong, I thought it a good idea to read one of her books, which are written primarily for children. This book’s language is such that it can be appreciated by adults. Being a poet and a musician who has performed the national anthem, I was intrigued by how Francis Scott Key jotted the poem on a piece of scratch paper while watching the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Although this song can be difficult to sing because of its wide vocal range, I can see now how fitting it is as our national anthem. This book not only teaches young people about that part of our history but can open their eyes to how a poet is inspired.

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Now here’s a little treat. Click this link to hear me sing our national anthem.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Hidden Figures

Hidden figures: the American dream and the untold story of the Black women mathematicians who helped win the space race Lee
Shatterly, Margot.Copyright 2016

This book follows the lives of four African American female mathematicians who worked in a Virginia aerospace lab during World War II. It provides background information about technical aspects of the war and how blacks were treated. In the prologue, the author talks about her life growing up with her father working at that same laboratory and how she was inspired to tell these women’s stories.

This was one of two titles my book club chose for discussion this month. Although the historical information was interesting, there was way too much of it. I would just get into the story of one of these women when the author would switch from storyteller mode to historian mode. I also think the subtitle should have been shortened. I got through about five chapters before realizing that these women’s stories, though interesting, are not worth slogging through all the unnecessary background information.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Reblog–Deliverance from Jericho

I read and reviewed this book several years ago. Recently, the author told me it’s now on Bookshare, an online service that makes books available in accessible formats for those like me with disabilities that prevent or make reading difficult. Since I haven’t had time to read anything new lately, I decided to post a link to this old review. Bruce is one of many children who had negative experiences at government-run schools for the blind in the U.S. and Canada before 1970. I hope you’ll find his story inspirational and thought-provoking.

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Deliverance from Jericho
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We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: News of the World

News of the World

By Paulette Jiles

Copyright 2016.

In Texas in 1870 after the Civil War, Captain Kidd travels around the state, presenting world news to paying audiences in rural communities with little or no access to newspapers. In Wichita Falls, he meets Johanna, a ten-year-old girl who was captured by Indians when she was six, then rescued by the Army. He reluctantly agrees to take her 500 miles across the state to her relatives near San Antonio. Along the way, he tries to domesticate her, and as they encounter outlaws and other interesting characters on their journey, they develop a bond, not unlike grandfather and grandchild. After delivering her to her uncle and aunt in a small farming community near San Antonio, he feels compelled to make a decision that affects her life and his.

One thing I didn’t like about this book is Captain Kidd’s back story, inserted smack dab in the middle of the action. By that time, I was more interested in his journey across Texas with Johanna and couldn’t care less about his battle experiences in the 1812 War and the conflict between Texas and Mexico and his marriage and family and printing business. Although this is, in a way, relevant to the story, a few paragraphs would have sufficed. An entire chapter devoted to this was not necessary.

Otherwise, I enjoyed reading about Captain Kid’s and Johanna’s adventures and loved the ending. Sadly, according to an author’s note, many children captured by Indians and later rescued and returned to their families during this time don’t adapt to their original white lifestyles, and no one seems to understand why.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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