Enchanted Circle, Again

We loved driving through the Enchanted Circle, in New Mexico, so much so, we decided to do it again. But this time, we started from Taos instead of Questa. The scenery is so beautiful, I could never get tired of looking at it.

Well, not far into our trip, we had an “adventure” in the form of a flat tire. However, as Bill/papa was changing the flat tire, a very nice, older gentleman, stopped just to see if he could be of any help. Then, he gave us a great suggestion of where to go in Taos to buy some new tires. So off we went to get new tires, and while we waited, we walked next door and had lunch. Then, within 45 minutes, we were on our way again, to finish our Enchanted Circle drive.

The first time we came through here (going the other way), I hadn’t noticed this house that is set up to look like a big covered wagon. I thought that was very cool looking.

I love little country stores, so of course we had to stop in and check out this country store, located just outside of Angle Fire.

And, oh look, they happen to need camphosts! If we were looking for a hosting position for the summer, this could have been our home. The little store had all kinds of Native American sculptures and jewelry, and they even have a small restaurant adjacent to the store. I’m glad they are looking for help, because the lack of service we saw when we were there left a lot to be desired. No one greeted us when we entered the small store, but there was a woman on the phone (on a personal call) in the back of the store and she just kept talking even while ringing up our purchase. Another woman came from the opening to the adjacent restaurant, and asked if we needed help just as we were leaving, but no one said good-bye, thank-you, or come back again… I would for sure give better customer service than that. Ha!  I would even be happy to cook up, and sell, all kinds of homemade goodness in that little restaurant for the folks. Jambalaya, anyone?

The little RV Park, located right next to the country store, was nice and clean, and didn’t look like it would take too much to keep it up. We didn’t inquire about the positions, but it looked like a nice little gig to me, depending on the hours, and days, they would want you to work…

As we continued on our way, we saw two deer on the side of the road. We slowed down, and one of them turned and dashed across the road right in front of us, allowing me to snap two quick pictures.

 

The last time we came through this area, we saw the Big Horn Sheep right here. I just love the landscape in this particular area. I find it just so, so, beautiful.

Another fun-filled day on our summer celebration tour.

Stay Tuned!

 

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Dial-A-Ride, Or Dial-A Problem

As many of you already know, our daughter, Shantel, is totally blind. She recently was hired at a large company, that can accommodate her computer needs, and she is currently in training for a new position that will allow her to take “live calls” regarding declined purchases and/or reporting fraud… She loves her job and looks forward to getting to work everyday.

Because Shantel is blind, and cannot drive, Bill and I help her out by paying $65.00 a month to Dial-a-Ride that is supposed to allow unlimited trips for her to travel to and from any destination throughout the Valley for $4.00 each way…

However that is not always the case. And what happened this past week, is but one example of what continues to happen over and over again. And, I’m sure this type of thing is not only happening to our daughter, but to many other people that depend on Dail-a-Ride throughout the Valley. In fact, I know for a fact, that the other two blind co-workers that Shantel works with report the same type of poor service from Dial-a-Ride.

Here is what happened to Shantel just today: She scheduled a 4:30 a.m. pick-up that would allow her to get to work at 6:00 a.m. (allowing for all the other folks that have to be picked-up and delivered along the route) but, keep in mind, that when you schedule your ride in advance, you are supposed to be guaranteed delivery to your destination “on time”. But, today, Shantel didn’t get to work until 6:25 when she is supposed to start at 6:00 a.m.

Of course Shantel was upset that she was late for work, due to circumstances beyond her control, and of course she called Dial-a-Ride the first chance she could to make a complaint. She explained the situation to the person taking her call, letting them know that the person that scheduled this ride should have to be put into the same position to lose their job as she is put into when they cause her to be late.

Shantel went on to tell the person taking her complaint that on the return trip home, her pick-up time was supposed to be 3:00 p.m. but Dial-a-Ride notified her that they couldn’t get there until 4:45 -5:00 p.m. So Shantel decided to take Lift ride service home (costing her $30.00). She had already been riding Dial-a-Ride since 4:30 a.m. and just wanted to get home at this point… I don’t blame her.

However, when she made her complaint, she was told the ride service was over 25 miles from her home  (which we have never been made aware of that making any difference ..) and “Rules are rules”,… and that perhaps she should move closer to work… then they hung up on her!!

Yes, this job is more than 25 miles from Shantel’s home, but that should not make any difference when we are paying a monthly fee to make sure she can get to and from her destinations on time… This is but one example of how our daughter, who is not the only person out there that could just sit home and collect Social Security Disability payments and food stamps every month and not work…, but wants to work, and earn her own way in life… but is met with more obstacles than you and I could ever imagine dealing with each and every day just to get to work..

There has to be a better way for people with disabilities that want to work to be able get to and from work safely, and  on time. Shantel can’t take a bus or light rail because that requires her being able to cross a street by herself, and because she lost hearing in both ears due to the chemo she received while being treated for the cancer that took her sight, she wears hearing aids in both ears so she is not able to pick up on the traffic surge when the light changes to cross an intersection safely, and now with the electric cars, she can not pick up on them at all.

Shantel, Papa and I continue be amazed at how hard you work to get to work… We love you and are so very proud of you, and we continue to pray that things get better for you and all people with disabilities that just want to work… Never give up on your dreams baby girl.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking For Common Sense

Anyone that knows me, or follows my blog, knows my husband, Bill, and I legally adopted our first granddaughter, Shantel. She had both eyes enucleated due to cancer before she was two years old. If anyone reading this doesn’t know what enucleated means. The dictionary says it means ” removal of an organ or other mass intact from its supporting tissue”. In layman terms, it means both of her eyes were taken out. I hate to be that blunt, but as you read this post you will understand why.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many people, from the time Shantel first lost her sight, to this very day, come up and ask what caused Shantel to be blind. When she, or I, explain she had to have both eyes removed due to cancer, and that what they are seeing when they look at her are prosthetic eyes… These folks will actually ask if she can see anything through her prosthetic eyes?I have to say, I think sometimes, the folks Shantel ,and/or Bill, and I come in contact with when we are out together, just don’t grasp what we are telling them about Shantel’s loss of sight. They ask questions before they really think about what they are saying…

But I will never, ever, excuse that kind of questioning from people in agencies, that are supposed to be there to help people in their time of need.

To say the very least, Shantel losing her sight, and all that followed trying to help her become the contributing member of our society she wants to be, was a horrific experience that I would not wish on anyone. But it was a journey both Bill and I were willing to take with Shantel to save her life and because we love her.

Because Shantel is totally blind, she can, and does, receive social security disability insurance from time to time. I say from time to time, because Shantel doesn’t want to depend on any government assistance. No, she wants to make her own way in life.

Shantel went to a Community College, and graduated with two AA degrees. One in psychology, and one in general studies. And, she also has a license to sell life and health insurance in Arizona…

All Shantel wants to do is work. When she graduated college, she made it her job to find a job. She went on endless interviews. I took her to these interviews, so I know first hand what she was told.

Over and over, Shantel was told ” you don’t have enough work experience… Of course not, when she was in High School, like all her High School peers, she applied for jobs in every burger joint etc. around our community, and not one place would hire her stating “we have more qualified applicants”…

Fast forward several years… Shantel is out on her own. Living in a one bedroom apartment. She finally got a job working in a Call Center. She LOVED working there even though they couldn’t support her need to have a screen reader on her workstation. She went through two training sessions, because they were not ready for her to take active calls after she graduated the first class… So, finally, she was assigned to listen in on calls with new employees and help them know what to say to the customer… She worked there for about nine months when the company was sold, and the people in the division Shantel worked in where let go.

So, what now for Shantel? Well, she applied for unemployment benefits, and was told she would have to go to get a note from a doctor that says she is “visually impaired” before she can receive unemployment benefits.  Shantel told the unemployment office she has a doctor’s letter from Social Security stating she had both eyes enucleated before she was two years old.

This is where I’m looking for  “common sense”. .. The unemployment agency actually told Shantel,  “you need to have a letter stating that you are still blind today”. Apparently the unemployment agency does not understand what enucleated means…

So Shantel had to go to yet another Doctor today, just to give her a letter saying… YES, YOU ARE TOTALLY BLIND, and your EYES ARE NEVER GOING TO GROW BACK!!!

OMG, as her parents, and going through all that we have gone through just to get Shantel where she is today, which is where we are so PROUD of her to be… We just can’t believe she still has to deal with this kind of incompetence …

If you know where common sense is… please let me know!

Beyond belief…

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Friend!

Bill and I have met so many wonderful people since we have been here at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. All of the staff, and hosts, are so welcoming and friendly. But I want to dedicate this post to my new “huggie” girlfriend, Bonnie.

Bonnie, and her husband, Craig, have been hosts here for about 10 years. They are both very friendly and willing to help in any way they can. Craig always stops by the visitor center when Bill and I are working and asks if we need anything, and always tells us to call him if/when we do need anything. He is really a great guy and we appreciate all he does.

Bonnie is one of those people you meet, and immediately feel a connection, and just know it won’t be long before you become friends. Bonnie is beautiful inside and out, and she has a personality that just lights up any room she enters.

Bonnie trained me to make camping reservations and/or changes to reservations for our guests that visit our park. She has the patience of a saint and never seemed to mind the endless questions I had while I was being trained.

Bill and I were scheduled to work Christmas Eve. We didn’t mind because we are one of the new host couples here and we know we all need to “pay our dues” and take our turn working holiday’s… However, Bonnie knew Bill and I were going to spend Christmas Eve at our daughter, Shantel’s home, in Phoenix, and a big storm, with heavy rain, was predicted to arrive in our area within a few hours of the time we would finish our shift at 4:00. The problem with big storms with heavy rain in this area is that we have three washes to go through to get out of the park and make our way to the highway to get to Phoenix.

Bonnie and her husband were not planning to leave the park on Christmas Eve, they were going to have a little after hours gathering at the visitor center with some of the other park hosts. Bonnie had already worked her scheduled hours for the week. But, Bonnie knew Bill and I were a bit worried about getting out of the park before the heavy rains came that could flood the washes we needed to cross. So, Bonnie, being Bonnie, sent me a text around 11:30 yesterday morning letting me know that she was going to come in around 3:15 and take over so Bill and I could leave and get to Shantel’s home to start our Christmas celebration!

Both Bill and I were very happy to be getting off a little early. Now, imagine our surprise when Bonnie walks in at about 2:00 and said she had finished up the things she wanted to get done and decided she would just come on in and let us go even earlier!! OMG, both Bill and I were so surprised, happy, and very appreciative. We both hugged Bonnie, and told her how much we appreciate her, and wanted her to know what a great person we think she is. I mean how many folks do you know that would give up their Christmas Eve afternoon off to go and let people they just recently met get off early…? I’m sure there are a few folks out there like Bonnie that would do that, but let me just say, Bill and I have found that those kind of people are few, and sometimes hard to find… And when we meet people like Bonnie and become friends, we never for one minute that that friendship for granted!

So, a BIG shout out to my new girlfriend, Bonnie. THANK-YOU for being the beautiful, fun-loving, kind-hearted person you are. We were blessed the day we met you, and we look forward to many years of friendship.

Merry Christmas!

Kindness

As most of you know our daughter, Shantel, lost both eyes to cancer when she was two years old. If you follow my blog you also know how hard she has worked to become a strong, independent, contributing member of society. She is entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits (which isn’t even enough to pay the rent and utility bill for her small one bedroom apartment), and she receives a small ($77.00) monthly food allotment which she can only use for what she can eat. She cannot buy personal care items, cleaning items etc. Only what she can consume… I don’t know how they expect anyone to live on that… And for those that say “get a job” well, again if you read and/or follow my blog, you also know how hard Shantel works at trying to “get a job”. She has two college degrees, and a licence to sell health, life, and medical insurance in the state of Arizona, and still she can’t get a full-time job even answering phones in a Call Center… But, Shantel is determined that she is not going to live on Social Security benefits for the rest of her life. She is tenacious, and she never gives up. She recently was offered a sessional position in a Call Center working through the end of the year, helping people choose the Medicare plan that is right for them… She gave up her Social Security benefits and food allotment card when she accepted this temporary position hoping it will turn into a full-time job, but if not, at least it will give her more work experience for her resume…

Bill and I could not be more PROUD of how hard Shantel works to be independent, and it just absolutely breaks my heart when I hear how sometimes people that she is forced to depend on to get her to and from work, to and from the grocery store etc. can sometimes be so unkind.

Shantel uses Dial-a-Ride when she can, meaning if she has the time to schedule Dial-a-Ride in advance… But, sometimes she is forced to use other transportation services like cabs, which are very expensive, so she recently started using Uber which only charges her $11.00 to take her to work and $11.00 to take her home from work as opposed to paying $28.00 for the same distance using a cab. And the $11.00 charge for Uber includes the tip!

Shantel told me Uber offers two types of services. Regular Uber and Uber assist. Uber assist drivers are trained to help people with disabilities and are required to offer to walk a blind person to their door. The only drawback to using Uber assist is that like Dial-a-ride, there is a bit of a wait time if you can’t schedule the service well in advance… Regular Uber drivers are not “required” to walk customers to the door. However, Shantel told me that every time she has used the regular Uber service, the driver has always offered to walk her to her door which she very much appreciates. One of the regular Uber drivers even told her that if she can’t get Uber assist in a timely manner not to worry about it because most regular Uber drivers will get out and assist a blind or disabled person to their door. He went on to say “if they don’t then they have to be a complete moron…”

Why am I sharing all this with you, you might ask? Well last week, Shantel was called into work early so she had no choice but to call the regular Uber service to take her to work. When she got off work that day, she needed to stop at the grocery store to get her food for the following week. She called the regular Uber service to take her from work to the grocery store. That driver walked her into customer services where she asked for someone to help her select her groceries. Then, after she purchased her groceries, she called for Uber assist but was told she would have a long wait time. Since she had some cold and frozen food in her bags she decided to call the regular Uber service. That driver, a woman, picked her up at the grocery store, drove her to her apartment complex and told her the ride was over and she needed to get her groceries and leave the car. Shantel asked the driver if she would help her to her door, which is approx 75 yards from the parking lot (not a real long way, but a long way for a blind girl carrying four bags of groceries, her purse, lunch bag, and trying to use her long cane…). The driver told Shantel it wasn’t her job to help her to her door and that if she wanted that kind of service she should have called Uber assist!

Now, I understand that that Uber driver wasn’t “required” to help Shantel…or any other disabled person… But for the love of God, what happened to kindness, understanding, empathy, and compassion for our fellow human beings…?

Both Bill and I have spent most of our lives doing things that “were not our jobs”, or were not our responsibility etc., but we always try to step up and do the right thing when we see someone in need.

I can’t even begin to explain how it made me feel when Shantel told me how hard it was for her to make her way to her apartment carrying four bags of groceries which made it impossible for her to use her cane so she had to try to follow the walkway with her foot until she got to her door. Then she had to put all the groceries down so she could find her key in her purse and open the door. Then she had to go back outside and try to make sure she found all her groceries off the door step because some food rolled out of the grocery bags… It broke my heart and still brings tears to my eyes as I write this just thinking about what all Shantel has to go through just to get through her day doing what so many of us take for granted.

I started writing this blog years ago, mainly for Shantel, as a way to document our lives for her so she can read back on our lives when I’m gone. Because of course, being blind, photo albums would be of no use to Shantel.. But sometimes, like today, I share this story as a way to bring awareness to others of the difficulties people with disabilities face each and everyday, and to perhaps encourage you, if you don’t already, to step up and do the right thing next time you see someone in need, even if it is not your responsibility. It costs nothing to practice kindness!

Stay Tuned!

Our HERO

This is a picture of our beautiful daughter, Shantel. For those of you that may not know, Shantel had cancer in both eyes and had to have both eyes removed when she was two years old, leaving her blind for life. Bill and I spent our lives helping Shantel accept her blindness, and learn to live blind in a sighted world. The beautiful smile you see on her face has never faded throughout all the years of challenges she faced and overcame. I never saw Shantel spend one minute complaining, or feeling sorry for herself, and she never wanted anyone else to feel sorry for her either.

shantel

Bill and I fought long and hard to ensure Shantel had everything she needed to get through her school years from Kindergarten through earning two degrees in College. We had to attend endless Individual Educational Plan (IEP) meetings, to get everyone on board with what would be expected of Shantel in the classroom, as well as what would be expected of the teacher, and the support team hired to braille Shantel’s books, worksheets, test papers, etc. All this was done to ensure Shantel’s rights were upheld in the classroom so she had a fair and level playing field to compete with her peers. I can tell you nothing we fought for, and won, to support her needs came easy, but neither Shantel, or Bill and I would ever give up.

Now, fast forward… Shantel is 23 years old, lives in her own apartment, and all Shantel wants is to obtain gainful and meaningful employment. She does receive Social Security Disability benefits which isn’t even enough to pay the rent on the one bedroom apartment she has, and she receives a very small food allotment card. Shantel could sit home and just draw her Social Security and food card benefits, but she wants to work. She spends her entire day applying for jobs, and going on interviews, only to be rejected over and over again. Keep in mind, she has not one, but two degrees, and can’t even get hired to work in a call center. All she needs to do a job working with computers is a voice over program installed that will read the information on the screen to her. Then she can do the very same job that any sighted person can do…

Finally, after months and months of searching, Shantel signed on with a temp staffing agency. The temp agency was able to get her a seasonal job in a call center not far from where she lives. Both the temp agency and the call center company know she is blind and agreed they could accommodate her needs with the voice over software. She is earning $14.00 an hour even as she goes through a six-week training class. Shantel was overjoyed to say the least. Of course she will need to give up her Social Security and food allotment benefits while she is working but she can have it reinstated if she gets laid off. She doesn’t even mind the fact that the training classes are from 4:00 p.m. till midnight which means she has to pay for a cab to take her home every night because Dail-a-Ride stops running at 10:00 p.m. I can tell you I pray her home every night because I’m so worried about her being out all alone at that time of night. Bill and I live over an hour and a half from Shantel or I would go pick her up and take her home myself.

When Shantel’s training class started, the very first thing she was told was that they did not have the voice over software installed on the computer she needs to use for training. They said it has been ordered but has not arrived yet. This is NOT good at all. Shantel cannot learn, and keep up with the class if she doesn’t have that software on her computer. The instructor told her to “just sit and listen and do the best she can to keep up… ” That is exactly the type of thing Bill and I had to fight the school system about when Shantel was still in school…. Promises made that were not kept and Shantel was the one that paid the price. As her mother, it just sends me over the top because it’s just not right!

I talked to Shantel yesterday, and she told me “mom, you’re not going to believe what happened last night at work.” I asked what happened, and she told me that the voice over software has arrived but now the ITD department said they are not going to install it twice which means they will not install it on the training class computer, only the production floor computer she will use once she completes her training.” Then she went on to say the training instructor said Shantel needs to repeat the six-week training class because if she goes out on the training floor at this point she will not be able to handle the call volume because she has not had a computer to practice on… Are you kidding me!! How is another six-week training class going to benefit Shantel if ITD won’t put the voice over software on the training class computer? I told Shantel to get a meeting with the training instructor and her supervisor/manager and the production floor supervisor/manager and ask if she can have someone on the production floor give her one-on-one training on the computer she will be using that has the voice over installed in it… I don’t know why, after all these years, it still amazes me that people that are managing companies, and people, can be so lacking in common sense!!

I asked Shantel if she thinks all she is going through to have this temporary job is worth it? Shantel said “mom, 70% of blind people never get a job, I’m going to be in the 30% of the blind people that do get a job. I don’t want to live on Social Security and food allotments, I want to be financially independent, and this job at least is paying me $14.00 an hour, and I’m hoping it just might work into a full-time position. But if not, at least I’m gaining more work experience…” My heart bursts with pride for her.

Papa and I love you Shantel, we are so VERY proud of you. You face more challenges in one day than many people face in a lifetime, and you never give up! YOU are our HERO!!!

Stay Tuned!

That 1%

While Bill and I were working one of our shifts in the Fee Booth/Nature Center at San Tan Mountain Regional Park this week, I encountered a woman who became my 1% of the public that came in pissed off, and wanted to spew her hate and discontent on the first person she came in contact with, which just happened to be “yours truly…” me!

This woman received a “failure to pay notice on her car because she came into the park, parked her car, and went hiking the trails without paying the $6.00 fee. When she returned from her hike, she stormed into the Nature Center waving her failure to pay ticket in the air, and without regard to any of the other customers in the Nature Center, she started her rant about how do we expect people to pay when the fee booth wasn’t open (we open at 8:00 a.m.) and she didn’t have the cash because if we knew anything… we would know that no one carries cash these days…

Bill was working with another customer who was buying an annual pass, so I mentioned to the woman that when people don’t have the cash, they can put their credit card information on the self-pay envelope and deposit it into the self-pay locked box, or I told her that if she uses the park often perhaps she might want to purchase an annual pass. Well, that set her off like a cannon, and she threw her arms up in the air and shouted “oh no, you are not going to force me to buy your annual pass”. I said ” I’m not trying to force you to buy anything, I’m simply letting you know how you can use the park without paying in cash”. At that point she tossed her credit card on the counter and said “just process this ticket and let me get out of here”. I ran her credit card which failed to go through twice then I let her know her card failed to go through. She said “well I have another one and stormed out the door to her car. When she returned she literally threw the card at me and said just get this ticket paid and let me get out of here and I will never be back here again. She went on to say “I pay taxes and you still want to charge me to walk around in your park”. I tried to let her know that San Tan is a county park and is not supported by any tax dollars. All park fees go directly towards the upkeep and maintenance of the park. I also told her that most of the staff working in the park are volunteers. She said “well your volunteering your time for the wrong place” and out the door she went!

What I wanted to say to that woman was ” I can see that you are having a really bad day, and we want our customers to come here to this park and enjoy the experience, and nature…, so I’m going to let this ticket be on me and I will take care of it for you because it just isn’t worth $6.00 to let this ruin your day or mine… so if you will just go out and try to spread a little joy into your surroundings instead of leaving here with all the anger, I will pay your ticket myself”. However, before I could get a word in edgewise, she stormed out shouting that she would never be back again. All I could get out was “I hope the rest of your day is wonderful”. Thank God it really is only 1% of the public that ever come in acting like that woman. When someone acts like that, it not only makes your day less fun, but I would think she had to have left there feeling miserable within herself… I can’t imagine anyone acting like that and feeling good about it… Just my thoughts..

But, on a happy note…

The very next day Bill and I made a trip to Scottsdale to pick up our medications. While we were there we stopped off in Fountain Hills to pick up our mail, and have a quick visit with our dear friends Holly and Chuck. Chuck wasn’t there because he was working. Holly was working too, but she works from home and we made arrangements to arrive at her lunch hour so we could get a short visit in with her.

Just before we had to leave to get back to San Tan, Holly surprised me with this adorable birdcage welcome sign she got me as a gift for our new winter home outside space when we get back to McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills.

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And check this out… it lights up! How cute is that! Thank you Holly. I just love it, it makes me smile every time I look at it…, and I love you too!

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And speaking of things that make me smile, we got the word from the East Side County Parks Superintendent that we are needed back at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills. They are gearing up for their busy season… So, the Superintendent told the Supervisor here at San Tan that he needs to be ready to let us return to McDowell Mountain Regional Park by the end of October!

We were happy to come here to San Tan and help out while we could. But now we are anxious to get back to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, get settled in, and get our outside living space fixed up there, because that will be our winter home going forward.

Stay Tuned!

 

 

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