Call of the wandering boy

“Cool-guy?” I called out, looking around. Where was my boyfriend? He was standing right next to me a minute ago.

People turned to see what I was yelling for. I know. I was causing a commotion at the garden festival and they wanted to know why. I yelled again, not knowing how else to find him.

I looked back the way I had come. Ok. Blue shirt. He’s wearing a blue shirt. And he’s tall with a closely shaven beard. I know what he looks like because I’ve memorized his attributes. Now if only I could recognize him when I see him again.

“COOL-GUY?”

Not one of the curious people who turned when I called was tall with a blue shirt. Great. This is the one time not having a visual memory annoys me the most. When my boyfriend might be three feet from me and I can’t find him. I slowly scanned the crowd for people wearing blue shirts. Remind me to dress him in a long, dotted caftan with a ten-gallon hat next time.

I leaned against a pole. There were jillions of people walking around the garden show, so finding my man was going to be a chore. Oh. I know. He could find me. His visual memory was perfect. And he knew the moment he stepped away, my brain promptly forgot what he looked like. I couldn’t remember faces at all. My epileptic seizures had burned out my visual memory long ago which made all people look basically the same. If three men with closely shaven beards walked up to me and they were all wearing blue shirts, I would have to wait for a voice to be able to tell which one was my boyfriend.

Oh. Sure. I know. My neurologist constantly reminds me to switch to auditory when I lose someone in a crowd. I keep begging my doctor for more practical help. Isn’t there a drug I can take to help me locate my boyfriend in a crowd? Something that would make our magnetic pull an optical reality? But my sweet neurologist doesn’t seem to understand that auditory doesn’t help locate a missing man in a blue shirt. I wonder if I could learn some kind of echolocation like bats use?

I tensed. I hate losing Cool-guy. If I could find him right now, before he knew I was lost, he’d never know my disability had separated us yet again. I started the nonchalant scan. He couldn’t have gone too far.

Sure. There might be methods for us to find each other quickly. Everyone and his brother had suggestions. At a recent party several of my closest friends excitedly gathered around and shared their top three ideas for me finding Cool-guy in a crowd.

“Ok.” Pete said. “The top three ways to find each other when lost in a crowd.”

I looked at Cool-guy. Was it too late to opt out of this game?

“Number three: Use an electric dog collar that can send out small shocks.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” I tried to back away. “You’re trying to be funny, right?”

Pete grabbed my hand. “Think about it.” He said, excitedly. “You could press a button and send out a SHOCK to let Cool-guy know you’re looking for him.”

“Do you have anything kinder?” Cool-guy asked.

“You could hold the collar in your hand.” Pete continued. “Think about it.”

“Is number two any better?” I asked. “I need a drink. Number one has me craving alcohol.”

Angela smiled. “Number two: Carry a flag around and wave it back and forth when you get lost.”

“No.” I said. “Everyone will think I’m leading a parade. You guys are scaring me. I thought your top three were going to be a joke. You’re serious? Could you lighten up?”

“We won’t need a flag.” Cool-guy added.

“Ok.” Pete said. “The number one suggestion for identifying your man when you don’t have a visual memory…”

I cut in. “I’m thirsty.”

“Me too.” Cool-guy said. “Let’s find a drink.”

Pete continued. “Have him wear a hat with a big X on top. And whenever you can’t find him, climb onto something tall and look DOWN.”

Cool-guy took my hand. “White or red wine?”

“Vodka.” I said. “Straight up.”

“Twist?”

“Already had one, but thanks.”

Cool-guy led me to a quiet spot in a garden. “I’ve never lost you yet. I’m not worried about it.”

“Me neither.” I lied.

Ok. That was last month. Now. Here I was wondering how long it would be before he realized I didn’t stop to look at the street musician or art exhibit or whatever grabbed his attention. How long until he would retrace his steps to find me? Because if he didn’t I might have to live here forever in this garden festival and get a job watering the grass, because they’d never trust me to go near the flowers.

Maybe I should have paid attention to where we left the car. We had absolutely no plan for finding each other. Wonder if they have laws against adults showing up at the missing children’s tent. What other option would I have?

I tried to even out my breathing. Ok. Enough of all this worrying. He’d figure it out. Eventually.

I heard a high pitched call. “Who-dee-hoo” It was a human voice that was mimicking a bird’s call. I heard it again. And again.

Hey. Was that Cool-guy’s voice?

I heard the call again. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.” I turned towards the voice and saw a tall man in a blue shirt with a close shaven beard waving his arms back and forth over his head. I laughed and walked towards him.

“Who-dee-hoo.”

As I made my way through the crowd, I noticed not one person around us turned to see where the noise was coming from. Couldn’t they hear him?

“Who-dee-hoo.” Cool-guy called again.

I laughed my way up to him. “Where’d you get the wild call?”

“Barney Fife. He used it once during a steak-out.”

“Really?”

“Yup.” He handed me the freshly squeezed lemonade he had stopped to buy. “Barney said when the bad guys were coming, they would use the secret call, ‘Who-dee-hoo.” It worked for them, so I figured it would work for me, too.”

I laughed at our new secret code.

Later we stopped for a sorbet. I turned after buying mine and Cool-guy was gone. Where was he? Ok. Fine. Blue shirt. Tall man. Close shaven beard. Where was he? I didn’t see him. I exhaled slowly and shook my head fast. Again? Twice in one day? Again?

“Who-dee-hoo.” Came the call from across the street.

I turned and saw a man in a blue shirt waving one arm over his head. I laughed. How could I get mad at a man with such ridiculous methods? Especially when nobody else was paying attention to all the hooting going on. Really. This call was going to work. We had found our way.

As I got closer, I heard what sounded like an echo. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.”

“OhmyGod.” I said, kissing his cheek. “Someone has stolen our secret call.”

Cool-guy smiled. “Listen to this.” He called out, “Who-dee-hoo.”

The birds in the trees repeated the call back to him. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.”

“You know.” He said. “Maybe I’d better be careful. When I step away and send the secret call, those birds could really mess us up by sending out false signals. We’ll get all turned around.”

“I like the hooting.” I said. “It’s better than hollering. But maybe we should match it with the electronic dog collar. I think a little shock therapy might help you remember not to wander.”

“Bad idea.” He said, handing me my second freshly squeezed lemonade of the day. “It could cut down on your lemonade supply.”


Love with forgetful eyes

I turn off the alarm and nestle back under the covers. Morning can wait. Isn’t there something I was going to do before I got out of bed? What was it? Something important, right? My eyes open. It had to be done first thing. Um… after the alarm but before I got up. Yes. That’s right. I wanted to remember my boyfriend’s face.

I close my eyes and try to envision him: close shaven beard. Blue eyes. Brown hair. Yes. Dark brown hair. My imagination paints a scruffy beard floating in a sea of black. I can’t do it.

I open my eyes and clench my fists. Come on. I’ve dated him for over a year. I must try harder. I close my eyes. What does he look like? Blackness. My boyfriend is a black cloud in my eyes.

I must see him. Right now. No more waiting. He is laying right behind me in bed, but since I can’t hold any image of him in my mind I feel strangely alone. Though he’s completely comfortable with my visual memory loss and knowing that I must see him to remember what he looks like, this morning I feel that I have something to prove. Maybe if I can summons his image from the nothingness in my head, then I can prove his importance in my life. Shouldn’t I remember the one I love?

I open my eyes and quietly roll over to my right side. If he wakes now, he’ll cuddle closer and I’ll miss this early morning chance to study his face. These stolen moments are important to me. This is the time when I work on what years of Epileptic seizures have stripped away from me: my visual memory.

His face is mashed into his pillow but I can see. Oh. I can see. My heart quickens as Cool-guy’s image fills the void in my head. I use my eyes to touch his lips. His beard. His nose. I trace the lines around his eyes as I drink him in. Yes. Dark brown hair. Ok. That’s what he looks like with his new haircut. Like he’s ten year’s younger.

His mouth is slightly open and as he breathes little, shallow breaths and I want to laugh out loud. Isn’t he cute? Look at him laying there with his little boy haircut! Yes. It’s him. My boyfriend with the short hair.

I want to tell someone. Who could I tell? Nobody at this hour. He really is gorgeous. I relax. Every morning I wonder about seeing him again, for the first time. What if I don’t like what I see one day? I want to laugh at the absurdity of this fear since it’s been a year and it hasn’t happened yet. But I don’t laugh. I need more time alone with the sleeping him.

I reach out my hand and gently rub the side of his face. Though this might wake most people up, it relaxes him into a deeper sleep. He moans slightly and sighs deeply. I smile and continue caressing his face and beard. His beautiful face. Maybe if I touch his face enough my hands will remember it.

I pull my hand back and spend some time memorizing him. When I’m sure I’ve committed every detail to memory, I close my eyes, willing myself to hold those details in my mind. One. Two. Three. Four. Gone. Four counts. I can hold his image for four counts before it dissolves completely and I’m back to black. Not bad. I’ll try again.

I open my eyes to find his blue eyes staring into mine.

“What’d you doing?” He asks in his early morning groggy voice. He searches my face, worried I’ve had a seizure.

I wait a minute, unsure how to express that I’m loving him with eyes that can’t remember. “You’re so cute.” I whisper, cuddling closer. “Do you have any idea how cute you are?”

He laughs. This is the millionth time he’s heard this. He closes his eyes. “Thanks, honey.”

I reach my hand up and stroke his beard. He sighs as he falls back into sleep.

I slip out of bed and step into the shower, ever reluctant to start my day while a cuddle opportunity lays in the next room. I dress and eat breakfast before I make my way back to the bedroom.

I hold my breath and silently creep up to the bed to study him for a moment. Yes. That’s right. Close shaven beard. Short hair. Cute. Very cute.

I kiss his cheek and arrange the covers around his shoulders. “Bye honey.”

“Bye.” He says, opening his eyes. “You’re ready for work, already?”

He thinks I need him to wake up and discuss our day and arrange our evening.

I kiss his cheek and whisper. “I’ll call you later.” My hand automatically rubs his face and he is back to relaxation. My eyes gather their last look.

As I walk away I count. One. Two. Three. Darn. Only three. He’s gone. I’ve just walked a few steps and already his image is gone. I’m tempted to go back. One last look. But I don’t let myself. He needs his sleep.

Besides. My eyes may have forgotten what he looks like, but I have nothing to prove to myself. Because my hands will remember all day.


Brown-eyed boy

“We should stop meeting like this.” Brown eyes said.

I smiled as I walked through the door. “Stop? I was just getting used to it.”

We walked into the coffee shop that was the neighborhood I was about to move into.

“You a coffee-girl or tea?”

“Tea. Herbal. No caffeine.”

“I’m a double caffeine man myself.” He smiled. “But tonight I’m thinking decaffeinated might work just fine.”

I almost blushed. What was it about his eyes? He had the ability to melt me with a simple look. That’s not so easy to do, but he seemed to have it down.

“So.” He said. “How close to this herbal-tea house are you going to live?”

“Round the corner. And you?”

“Three blocks away. That’s unless I feel like driving.”

“It will be great to live near such a cool place.”

“Yeah.” He said, looking around. “Cool if you like drinking hot stuff.”

I laughed and left him to order our tea while I searched for the bathroom. There was plenty of time before our tea was brewed. But, I hurried. I didn’t want to lose him in the shop. Oh. Man. What was he wearing?

As I returned to the counter my worst fear was realized. He wasn’t standing at the counter any more. Um. Where was he? Oh. No. Man. What did he look like, again? Brown eyes. Um. That wasn’t going to be enough of a clue for me to find him.

I had lost my visual memory from all the epileptic seizures I had endured over the years. Once I walked away, my brain would forget any face it wasn’t still looking at. I couldn’t hold any image for more than a few seconds. Great. What had he been wearing? What color was his jacket?

I walked slowly towards the counter, willing him to call out my name. Surely he would call me over to the table? Nope. No chance. I was on my own. Great.

I stood at the counter and pretended to look at the list of decaffeinated teas again. Where was he? OhmyGod. I hate dating anyone new. At some point I would divulge the fact that I suffer from a strange blindness that would keep me from finding him in a crowd. But I rarely tell my story on the second date.

I leaned into the girl at the counter and whispered. “Where’s the cute guy I walked in with?”

She scrunched up her face and whispered back. “You’re kidding, right?”

I slowed down my breathing and stared into her eyes. She pointed to a table roughly two feet from where we were standing. I slowly turned my head and waved to my confused date who was close enough to the whispering to hear all of it.

“So.” I said light heartedly, as I approached the table. “You’re hiding from me?”

He gave a confused laugh. “Here I thought I’d found us the perfect table.”

Leather jacket. Black pants. Brown hair, short. Kind of looked like one of my brothers. Holding a large cup of tea. Ok. I wouldn’t lose him again.

After several stories and tea sipping we headed for the shmancy fish restaurant down the street. Now it was his turn to find a bathroom while I sat on a bench.

I read through the menu while I waited for him. I saw him approaching. Leather coat. Brown hair. Black pants. I smiled as he sat down next to me.

“Been waiting long?” He asked.

“Um. No.” I said, slowly. Was that his voice?

“Well. We have. We’ve been here for half an hour and they keep putting us off. Why don’t you come with us over to the Asian Grill?”

OhmyGod. Wrong leather coat? I looked around and saw my date watching me closely.

I turned to the man sitting next to me on the bench. “No. Thanks. We think we have a good chance of making it in, here. We’re going to wait it out.”

He nodded his head as he stood. “Didn’t mean to cut in on anything…”

I bit my lip. Bad move, on my part. Bad, bad move. He’s going to think I’m on the make. Bad, bad move.

Our table was called moments later.

“How’d you get us a table so fast?” Ok. I was impressed.

“Figured I might lose you in the crowd, so I took drastic measures.”

“Oh.” I bit my lip again. “Sorry about that.”

We sat next to the window and watched the people walk down the street. I laughed as a little boy jumped into a puddle, soaking his mother and father in his excitement.

Brown eyes was watching me closely. “Ok.” He said slowly. “So. You can see.”

“Yes.” I said, slowly. “I can see.”

“And you can read a menu.” He continued.

“Yes.”

“But you can’t see me? Or is it all men?”

I laughed and laughed. “Well. Nobody has ever put it to me that way before.” I laughed harder. “And nobody has ever noticed. I’ve always been able to hide it.”

“Well. You’re slacking on the hiding department.” He said, sourly. “That guy who sat next to you was balding. I have a full head of hair.”

I nodded. “Yes, you do. But. You were both wearing a leather jacket and you both have dark hair. That’s a pretty good start for me, when we’ve just met.”

He rested his head in his chin. “You have to memorize people by their clothes?”

I laughed. “Yes. I don’t have a visual memory. I can’t remember faces, or clothes or anything. But. I can memorize a list of what clothes you are wearing to find you.”

“That won’t be necessary.” He said, with a wave of his hand.

My face fell. No more smile. Ok. Well. It was bound to happen. A man who didn’t want to deal with my little game of not remembering what he looked like. A man who would rather date a woman who could spot him in a crowd. I couldn’t blame him. There are so many women out there, why date one with a disability? “I understand.” I said, reaching for my purse.”

He ignored my retreat. “You won’t have to memorize what I’m wearing or what I look like.” he started “because now that I know, I won’t step away from you again.”


Antler drama

I stood outside the coffee shop and nonchalantly leaned against the window. Was he inside waiting for me? Hadn’t we agreed to meet outside?

A man with a fur collar on his coat waved to me and pointed to the seat next to his.

No. That wasn’t Brown-eyes. He’d never wear fur on his coat. He’s a pure leather man. I mouthed “No thanks.” And kept looking.

“Over here!” Brown-eyes called from the bench on the corner. “Figured I wouldn’t block the door from over here.”

He was wearing a large brown hat. Two reindeer antlers sprung several feet into the air from the top of the hat, making my date appear to be even taller than he was.

“Oh my God.” I smiled. “Hope you didn’t kill a reindeer to land that hat.”

“Nah.” He said, reaching up to stroke the antlers. “Santa gave it to me.”

I laughed. “Santa doesn’t like you, does he?”

Two four-year-old children ran up to him, pointed to his hat, and started singing, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

“Yup.” He nodded, as he kissed my cheek. “Kids love this hat.”

I shook my head. “I’m glad to know where you get your fashion sense.”

“This has nothing to do with fashion, though, you have to admit, I look pretty good with antlers, don’t I?”

I laughed.

“I wore the hat so you wouldn’t lose me in a crowd.”

I melted. Right there. Right then. Wow. He had dressed differently for me?

He continued. “I almost lost you on our last date, so I wanted to be sure that you wouldn’t confuse me some other guy.”

I melted a bit more. Wow. How cool was that? He knew I didn’t have a visual memory. In fact he had figured out that I couldn’t hold people’s images in my head once they had left my sight when I mistook someone else for him on our last date.

I bit my lip. “Thanks. Thanks for understanding.”

He waved his hand at me. “Do you have any idea what a relief it is to have a place to wear this hat?”

I laughed. “What did you buy it for?”

“For tonight.”

I inhaled quickly. Yeah. We’d better talk before we went to dinner. “Um. Just so you know. I agreed to see Cool-guy tomorrow night.”

He was quiet for a moment. “How’d he talk you into that?”

I shrugged.

“He wasn’t wearing antlers, was he?”

I laughed. “No. I’m sure he hasn’t even considered antlers.”

“Good.” He said, watching my face. “Because I don’t want to play second fiddle. I’d take these antlers off in a second if I thought he was playing the same game.”

“No antlers. We’re exchanging Christmas gifts. Well. I mean. He has a gift for me.”

“Yeah? Well. That’s not till tomorrow.” He said as we started walking down the street. “And, tomorrow’s so far away.”

A shop owner came out of her store and hung a small red ornament from one of the antlers.

Brown-eyes bowed to her. “Ok. I’ll put in a good word to Santa. I’m guessing you want more diamonds in your stocking?”

“How did you know?” She laughed.

We walked down to my favorite restaurant.

“I love it here.” I said. “Did you make reservations?”

“But, of course.” He said, holding the door.

The host wasn’t so sure. “Sir. We have a ‘No Hat’ rule in our dinning room.”

“Good.” Brown-eyes said. “I agree with that rule.” He stood up straight. “Is our reservation ready?”

The host shook his head back and forth rapidly as if he was trying to shake away a bad image. “I’m sorry sir, but you will have to remove your hat before you can enter this dinning room.”

Brown-eyes pointed, dramatically, to his hat. “This hat is fulfilling a medical need.”

“OhGodno.” I whispered, tugging on his arm.

Brown-eyes stood his ground.

“Do you have a doctor’s note?” Host smiled the biggest smile he may have produced in years.

“Can you give me ten minutes?” Brown-eyes countered.

“OhGodno.” I whispered.

Brown-eyes turned to me. “We need to fight this.” The antlers swayed back and forth with anger. “How dare they take away your ability to find me amongst strangers.”

“Comeon.” I said, tugging on his sleeve. “Let’s go across the street. They’re a lot nicer over there.” I softened my voice. “Or, you could take off the hat.”

“No.” Brown-eyes said, locking eyes with the host. “I want to see the manager. NOW.”

My eyes got big. Um. Oh God. No. No. No. My visual memory isn’t the kind of thing I tell many people. And. Now. He’s going to shout it out in a restaurant? This’s a little too much antler drama for me.

I turned to my date. “I don’t usually go on about my disability.”

He looked at me. “You don’t? You don’t fight for your rights?”

“Not when it comes to antlers.”

“Ok.” He said. “Don’t worry.” He patted my arm.

In a few moments a man with an expensive suit was standing in front of us.

Brown-eyes met the man’s stare, then turned up the volume of his voice so the whole restaurant could hear him. “Am I to understand you don’t let people with disabilities eat here? Isn’t that against the law?”

I blushed a deep red and looked at my feet. Were they all going to think the ridiculous hat was some kind of therapy tool for me?

The manager sent a confused look towards the host, who lost his smug look. “Please, seat them immediately.”

Brown-eyes burned triumph from his eyes like torches as he followed the host to our table.

I followed behind them wishing there was a way I could make a mad dash for home. But. If I tried to escape, I was pretty sure Brown-eyes would chase after me, wondering what was wrong.

Um. Not sure I could take any more Antler Drama tonight.


My invisible infliction

I stood at the window and watched the students run towards my special education classroom, behind the elementary school. Which kid was in the lead today? Must be R. Small with short black hair. He was usually first. Another student was close behind him. Was that A? I watched as ten fourth graders raced towards an hour of tortuous work that would help diminish their reading and writing disabilities.

It was hard to decide what was more baffling; the fact that they ran as fast as they could towards an hour of difficult work, or that we were sixth months into the school year and I still couldn’t pin my students’ names to their faces. Being able to call your students by name is expected of a teacher on the first day of class. And here I was, over a hundred days into the year, and I still couldn’t do it.

Years of epileptic seizures have erased my visual memory, so it is impossible for me to recognize my students by their appearance. I have zero memory for faces. Luckily, I have learned to discern them by their voices, mannerisms, and where they sit in class. The irony of a special education teacher working to erase students’ reading and writing disabilities who is plagued with her own invisible disability has never eluded me.

“First,” a boy yelled as he burst through the door. “I’m always first.”

Yes. This was R. I recognized his breathless, voice. “You do run fast, don’t you, R?”

“Fastest in the school,” He puffed, as he walked over to get his notebook off the shelf.

Tall-girl with dark hair entered, lips pressed together. This must be B, the quiet one.

“Ms. Winter.” She whispered to me. “Last night my father and mother let me use the computer to do extra homework.” She handed me a packet of papers with hours of stories stamped out on them.

“Extra mile!” I shouted. “Do you have any idea how many extra points you’ll get for this? I can’t wait to read them…”

She nodded and walked to get her notebook.

Another Tall-girl with long, dark hair entered with her arms folded across her chest. I watched her get her notebook and move to her seat. Ok. This was M.

“Mornin’ M.” I smiled. Her family was going through a terrible divorce that was slowly pulling her inside out. “Glad you’re here.”

She frowned. “My brother’s birthday is coming in two weeks. We have to spend it with my dad.”

I didn’t flinch. “Will he have a cake with candles?”

She smiled big. “Yeah. He said he’d get some of those candles that won’t blow out. Won’t that be funny?”

“Is that what you’re going to write about?”

“Yup.”

Slowly I matched names to clothing as each of my students sat down and began writing.

I moved over to the computer where C was typing so I could edit his work. He would only write a few lines in the ten minute slot, but I wanted him to see how good his writing could look when it was cleaned up.

I fixed the misspellings and took away the extra spaces before I hit the print button. “There you go,” I smiled, handing him his printed page. “Looks good, doesn’t it?”

The fourth grader laughed into his work. “I can’t believe I wrote this much! It’s my new record, isn’t it?”

“Sure is.” I closed the computer file with his writing in it. I closed the file with the program we were using. As I was moving to the front of the classroom to start my lesson, he called to me.

“Hey, Ms. Winter. You put C’s name on this.”

Every muscle in my body tensed as I quickly scanned the classroom. There were three students in this class who looked identical: C, G and J. They were all the same height and same weight with spiked hair. Um. Wasn’t he C?

“The wrong name?” I asked, slowly.

“Yeah! Look.” He pointed to the name at the top of the paper.

Come on. I thought HE was C. Had he figured out I couldn’t recognize my students? Oh. Man. This was a test, wasn’t it? Was he going to ‘out’ me to the other students and their parents and my boss? What would happen when they found out I could only be sure who my students when they were sitting in their assigned seats? Would I be fired for having a disability like I was from my flight attendant job?

I searched the classroom for the other two boys who looked like the boy standing in front of me. Maybe I would know who he was if I saw the other students, too. But the students weren’t at their seats. They all looked like the same without a seating chart.

“Hmmm.” I said, dramatically, turning towards him. “Well? If you aren’t C, who ARE you?”

He put his hands on his hips. “I’m G. And you know it. You made a mistake with my name, again.”

I sat at the computer and flipped through computer files, until I found his saved piece of writing. I changed the name and hit the print button. “Ok.” I said, playfully. “If you’re sure.” I handed him his printed page.

He sighed. “Ms. Winter. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know, but the one thing I know for sure is my name.”

He dropped his writing on his desk and giggled his way to the front of the classroom, which gave me a moment to contemplate a nine-year-old boy who is completely comfortable with the stuff he knows, and the stuff he doesn’t know.

Um. Seeing how I spend enormous amounts of energy hiding my invisible disability, I wonder if he might give me lessons on being comfortable with my stuff?


My Appointment with the Brain Doc

“You can’t see the difference?” Brain-doctor studied the images on the screen.

I looked carefully as a house flashed onto his screen, then another. My job was to recognize if there was a difference between the two, which there wasn’t. “Nope.” I said, confidently. “No difference.” I clicked ‘N’ on the keypad to record there was ‘no’ difference in the photos.

Brain-doctor leaned closer to the computer as I studied the white house with green shutters that flashed for a second. The second white house came up; it was identical to the first image, green shutters and all.

“No difference.” I announced.

The doctor stared at me. “You really can’t see a difference?”

Oh. God. I was failing the test, wasn’t I? I mean. That was the whole idea of his visit; the examination of my visual memory. And. I agreed to the testing, knowing my disability well enough to expect failure. My rare form of epilepsy has burned away my visual memory, meaning I can’t recognize my friends, myself in a mirror or my car as my brain can’t hold any visual images.

But. Now that I was failing, the competitive side of me wanted to win. I wanted the high score. Losing suddenly seemed a painful end to a frustrating test. “Are they really different?”

“Yes.” He said slowly.

“But. It’s a white house and then another white house.” I clicked ‘N’ again. There wasn’t a difference.

He sat back in his chair.

Is there something I’m missing?

“Yes.”

Why did I agree to take this test? Oh. Yes. So I could learn more about my disability. But. I hadn’t considered how painful getting that information would be. It’d be one thing if I couldn’t do the test, but this exam seemed obvious to me. I was ready to bet a hundred dollars that there was NO difference between the houses, but there was something in the doctor’s voice stopping me from placing that bet: I so hated to lose money.

This would be my very first F on a test for my whole life. And even though it had nothing to do with lack of studying or trying, ancient survival skills from my long ago college days kicked into gear: “Concentrate. Try harder. Maybe you can bluff your way through with an essay.” I wasn’t going to lose a scholarship with low scores, but losing was new territory for me. Knowing I couldn’t brain my way to winning grades was sobering. This was me. This was the way I worked, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do any better.

I felt itchy and self-conscious as if this were the first time the truth was revealed to me: I have no visual memory: I can’t see houses once they’re gone. I would never again be able to trust things I saw, my eyes can’t be trusted.

Concentrate. I had to concentrate. A white house flashed onto the screen. The next house flashed up. No difference. ‘N.’ Again: House. House. No difference. ‘N.’

A few months ago I happened upon the website, faceblind.org, which had a survey asking people to explain their visual memory problems. I was in a sarcastic mood, and filled the survey with saucy testimonial as to how life can be better if you can’t recognize your mother. I expected nothing for my efforts, except maybe a visit from my out-of-town mother demanding a retraction over lunch.

Brain-doctor, Dr. Brad Duchaine, e-mailed back, saying he’d like to test me and that he’d be in Denver and could test me at my apartment. I figured he’d import a hospital neurological unit with a staff of nurses who understood electrodes so he could peer into my synapses, but he assured me he only needed room for a laptop.

He didn’t use wires and he didn’t wear a white coat. He was a research doctor connected to Harvard University and University College London and let me know when he arrived that he didn’t know how to test me, because I was the only one he’d ever heard of with my specific visual memory loss. He had a series of tests: flashing houses, cars, and people, he used to examine people with a condition called Prosopagnosia, or Face Blindness. These people register blurs when they try to recall faces.

Me? I recall a big blank void when I try to recall faces, places or things. I knew my syndrome was far different from what Brain-doctor was used to testing, but figured those Face Blind people were kind of like my medical cousins. How cool is that? Finding family in the medical world.

I found comfort in being the only one with my bizarre set of conditions. My smug moment of superiority left by the time the Famous People test rolled around.

I was shown numerous images of famous people, and I had to give their name. Easy right? Well. No. I missed Marilyn Monroe, President Bush and Julia Roberts which confused me; I would have thought Marilyn would be an easy guess.

I did recognize a few people. Luckily I didn’t have to remember the exact name. “Ok. This guy is on TV. He’s really racist and has a wife named, Edith.”

“Yes.” Brain-doctor agreed. “Archie Bunker.”

I paused to let my embarrassment sink in. I didn’t recognize Lucille Ball, but knew Archie Bunker? Brains really are unreliable, aren’t they?

Testing took hours away from my otherwise predictable life. Work. Work out. Play. Write. Sleep. Brain-doctor hid his boredom by studying the hundreds of photos in my kitchen while I hit ‘Y’ and ‘N’ on his keyboard. He showed utmost decorum by gently reminding me not to cheat, which I unconsciously tried to do, repeatedly.

“Don’t turn your head.” He smiled from the corner of my eye.

I was trying to match upside down faces to faces that were right side up. “I’m not.” I wasn’t lying; I wasn’t aware that my head was practically upside down, trying to study the photos from the angle they were printed in.

Great. He’ll be able to add to his report that not only was I absent of a visual memory, but I wasn’t aware of what my body was doing. What’s the official definition of Tourette’s Syndrome?

Brain-doctor laughed at me. “You’re still turning your head.”

Hours after the testing started, he pulled out a notebook and printed my name at the bottom of a long list. “Time to get paid.”

Oh. Yes. The money. He said something about getting paid for letting them test me. I brightened. Even though I failed the test, I still got paid? I liked this system. Maybe others would pay to test me. Maybe I could make testing into a full time job.

He handed me twenty dollars and asked me to sign off on it.

After releasing the dream of a ten thousand dollar check, I accepted the twenty and took him out for Mexican food, a treat he can’t enjoy in London where he now lives. The restaurant is owned by the family of one of my students.

Fourth-grade-Student approached our table and answered the doctor’s questions about students I mix up in the classroom.

Brain-doctor leaned forward. “Do J and D look the same to you?”

“No.” Student shook his head. “They look exactly different.”

That was news to me. They look different to others?

I leaned back and listened to the doctor quiz student on my classroom behavior and I realized I’d been failing this visual memory test long before Brain-doctor came along. The principal of my school looks exactly like the orchestra teacher. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t confuse a fourth grade teacher with a sixth grade teacher. I’ve learned how to deal with my inability to recognize the people I work with by never calling anyone by name and initiating small talk before every conversation so I can discern who I’m talking to by voice.

The irony of students with learning disabilities being taught by a woman with such a debilitating disability isn’t lost on me. One day when my students who struggle with reading and writing learn of my disability, they’re going to feel a lot smarter. These ten, eleven, and twelve-year-old children can do things a teacher can’t do: tell J and D apart, call out a greeting to the principal before they hear her voice, and recognize their friends without memorizing their clothes. And just as my students’ inability to read or write has nothing to do with a lack of intelligence, maybe I’m not failing at anything either.

I’m just doing the best I can.


Why I love Drupal

I’m very excited…about some software. People who know me will be amazed (apart from my rather dubious attachment to Guitar Hero 3 for the Playstation, this has to be a first). I’ve just started building my website using the content management system Drupal and it’s the most fantastic tool for a content writer like me; in fact for anyone thinking of re-doing their company website. I can:

  • Produce, edit and input content to my site whenever I like
  • Change the images, navigation and menus with ease
  • Write news stories that publish at a click
  • Include feeds to my blog articles on my home page
  • Incorporate a whole host of extra features should I feel so inclined, including forums, newsletters, ecommerce and picture galleries.

I have always thought that content management solutions were for large organisations but now smaller professional companies and individuals can get control and change their content regularly too. Drupal is a free a software package that allows you to ‘easily publish, manage and organise a wide variety of content on a web site’. It’s an excellent framework for a dynamic business website.

Like any web project, a Drupal website still takes effort to set up. As usual, you’ll need a combination of:

  • Sound project management and planning to ensure the end result meets your business’ requirements: defining your audience, your message, and specifying the content you’ll need (now and in the future) to get this message across.
  • Specialist web design skills: someone who knows how to get your brand across visually on the web.
  • Technical expertise: to set up the site using Drupal, configuring it to your requirements, hosting and running it.
  • Great content that gets your message across to your readers in a way they’ll understand and respond to.

The beauty of Drupal is that, once your website is up and running, you are in control of the content. You can update and create new content and add new features whenever you like, without having to go through an expensive site redesign process every time. I’ve been banging on about how a website should be dynamic (less like an online brochure and more like a regularly updated magazine) for ages. The process I’ve used to achieve this for my clients has been effective but cumbersome, usually involving a willing web designer updating the text as and when we need it; not the best use of a talented designer’s skills.

I can’t wait to introduce this to my clients. With Drupal the process of building and writing a website is easier. You can collaborate on writing the content, track changes and see To Do lists, all online. I have no doubt this would make the process of building and writing a website much quicker and more manageable for a busy small business.

Finally, websites have caught up with blogs and become easy and cheap to update. This is a whole new world. It puts content right where it should be; at the heart of any business web project, whatever the size of your business.

Do not miss this opportunity. Whether it is Drupal or another solution, if you are thinking about re-doing your website, why not invest in content management.

Anyway, must split. Got content to write.

I really welcome your feedback and will amend or add to the site if anyone comes up with useful suggestions.


Why I prefer Twitter to Facebook

I first set up a Twitter account in October last year, but to be honest I was fairly sceptical about its worth. I’d seen the cutesy Twitter logo on many of the blogs that I follow; I’d read about it in the Sunday papers; I’d heard Stephen Fry rave about in on radio 5. I was curious to know what the fuss was all about, but I was pretty sniffy about its value as a business tool. Our working days are busy enough. Do we really need yet another ego-massaging, time wasting social networking site?

Having said all this, I don’t like missing out on a party, even a bad one, so I thought I’d give it a go. Like most bewildered newcomers to Twitter (note: I refuse to use that hideous social networking phrase ‘newbie’) I was totally clueless about what to do with it. I signed up and my first post just read something ineffectual like ‘Help! How does this work?’. At that point I got cold feet and, feeling pretty idiotic, fled at top speed without looking back.

It was only in January, having read yet more glowing articles, that I resolved to restart my Twitter experiment.

What a revelation!

  • In just 5 weeks I’m pretty sure I’ve learned more about my field than I did in the whole of last year.
  • I’m now connected to 140 clued up marketing experts/business types around the world. I follow their ideas, read their resources, and share their thoughts.
  • I’ve had some well-informed answers to my questions about marketing small businesses, got instant feedback on my ideas and articles and stayed up-to-date with the latest news, often before it’s even broken on mainstream media.
  • It has prompted me to buy 3 new business books, which I was unlikely to discover otherwise (authors, take note!)
  • Yesterday, a brilliant Indian online training company contacted me about creating a ‘visual case study’ on my approach to marketing with content (no charge – we both benefit)
  • Oh, and I’ve got a meeting with a potential new client too.

If you too are curious about Twitter, and want the real low down on what it’s all about from a business perspective, here’s a quick resume of what I’ve found out to date:

twitter-re-3What is Twitter?

Twitter is a website www.twitter.com where you can broadcast very short messages (maximum 140 characters) to anyone who has signed up to receive them. It’s a communication tool; a bit like a cross between a blog and a chat room; kind of text messaging but to a larger audience. It’s free.

As you post on Twitter, you also get updates from all of the people that you are following. You control who you follow and can also block people you don’t want to receive your updates (useful function, if you make the mistake of following someone who continually tweets about what kind of pasta sauce they’re having for lunch!).

These short updates often contain links to articles and resources but they can also be questions, insights, thoughts, jokes – anything really. You can pay as much or as little attention to this stream of ‘tweets’ as you like. Unlike email, you aren’t expected to respond to, or even read, every message. You can dip in and out of the flow of the conversation as suits you.

So what?

Here’s a quote from a consultant and Twitter user which sums it up for me:

“We’ve always known that networking, connecting, mentoring and collaborating better are extremely valuable for business. You miss out – massively – when you dismiss stuff as new-fangled and faddish…The value (of Twitter) is not substantially different from the value of reading and writing articles, building business relationships, networking and surrounding yourself with successful people.” Laura Fitton

I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but this experiment with Twitter is yeilding unexpectedly positive results for me. It has broadened my reach to a wider network/community and is helping me learn a lot more about what I do, very quickly. I’m finding it a useful database of links to interesting articles and resources I want to remember. It may even get me work.

What to expect

To give you a bit of an idea about what to expect, here are a few ‘tweets’ that have landed on my Twitter page recently:

Useful:

  • “I knew nothing about about this industry prior! Read more about payday loans
  • “Thinking about “Why Architects should Twitter ” 
  • “B2B current trend: Social media makes sense for frugal CMOs Cost-effective, collaborative, authentically yours”

Not so much…

  • “Up and bouncing, ish. Must stick myself under a shower before biffing off into the morning traffic. Hope you’re not all triskaidekaphobic x” (Yup – this last one is from Stephen Fry!)

The more you give on Twitter, the more you’ll get. As in face-to-face networking if you share useful information, add value and participate regularly in the general conversation, you’ll attract more followers and get more value out of the experience.

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it

Twitter is difficult to describe unless you’ve seen it in action. Even when you’ve signed up it takes a bit of time to ‘get it’. Sure it can be a time-waster (it really is quite addictive – I’m having to ruthlessly ration Twitter time) but it can also be a great news source, a research assistant, a networking device and a very valuable business tool.

My advice? Don’t poo-pooh it until you’ve tried it. If you don’t see any value you can always choose to close it down, but it could just be useful to your business. At the very least, it’s a fascinating experiment. And it’s a lot less annoying than Facebook!


Our favourite apps for your mobile phone

We love our smartphone, you love your smartphone, so what better way to start the day then a blog post about our favourite apps for mobile and tablets.

YouTube: It is the best place for video’s full stop, it’s rated the world over and continuously tops the polls of people’s favourite apps. Simply sign in to get access to your playlists, downloads, subscriptions and more.

Features:

  • Voice search: Easy to search videos and channels
  • Vast video catalogue
  • With channel guide UI you can instantly access channels you are subscribed to, share video’s to Facebook, Twitter, email and Google+.
  • You can read comments, enable subtitles, browse related videos

Waze: This app was a breakthrough when first released, you can avoid traffic and get to your destination quicker, what more do you want? You can get traffic information and even the best gas prices. with this app. It helps you by routing you without getting stuck in the traffic. You can also share your map with the friends.

Features:

  • Boosting your social
  • Based on community input you will be directed to the least congested route
  • Voice guidance-navigation
  • Shows you details on cheapest gas stationz on your route
  • As you contribute details of the traffic in the community you can get points
  • You can join current community or create a new community
  • You can contribute information in the community like hazards, accidents, police traps and many

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CNN: News updates. Get the latest world news and views on the go. Stay tuned to news around the world, headlines or original stories. You can go in-depth into the stories you like.

Features:

  • Follow news as they develop
  • Get alerts instantly
  • Upload your views or stories to CCN directly from the app
  • You can add your image or video and send opinion to the iReport
  • Front can be adjusted
  • You can get beyond your expectations from this app such as politics, entertainment, international, tech and more stories

Find My Friend: You need to send a request to locate and find your friends. You can send your location to a group of friends but in a limited time. Through this you can view your kids leaving from school and family members arriving safely at home.

Features:

  • Location based alters
  • Easy to locate friends and family members
  • Temporary sharing option
  • Privacy controls Supports hundreds of languages

Find My Phone: If your phone is misplaced or lost or stolen you can easily locate your phone using this app. Simply sign in to this app you to locate your phone through a map, or a text message, or play a sound and you can even erase data if you have definitely lost the phone.

Features:

  • Find your lost phone
  • Even if the phone is in silent mode you can get a two minute full volume Battery charge indicator
  • Remotely lock your mobile
  • Display a custom text on the display
  • Driving directions to device location

Is Android now taking over the operating system market?

Google’s android has been steadily gaining popularity in the world’s mobile phone industry, especially in foreign markets such as China where it has long since overtaken the once ubiquitous iPhone.

Now the tech

This is largely because Android is a Linux based mobile operating system and an open source software for that matter. The Android system has proved to be a force to be reckoned with compared to other proprietary mobile systems like Nokia’s Symbian operating system, Samsung’s OBada operating system, BlackBerry’s operating system, and the Apple’s iOS system, just to mention a few.

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It’s no wimp!

Android has proved to be a robust system that can work with a number of devices, and of course, as mentioned is an open source system which makes it far cheaper for mobile phone companies to utilise.

Now we love Android and so here is our top ten of uses for this great open source platform:

  1. Android Watches
    It was quite unbelievable that at some point in time that smart watches would be a reality, now it is. MOTO ACTV is one among many Android based Watches; the watch incorporates a GPS system, MP3 Player, heart rate monitor, wireless connectivity, and can help you control your android smart phone remotely within the range of the wireless connectivity.
  2. Smart sunglasses
    Rumour has it that Google have invented the first ever, Smart Sunglasses. Until recently, this was only witnessed in movies. These pair of glasses has Heads up Display that displays the images on the field of view of the glasses, a GPS system, Google maps, goggles, latitudes and other services meaning useful in navigation, it uses voice commands. Technically the use of these smart glasses is virtually unlimited.
  3. Home appliances
    Android has surprisingly taken over a niche in the home appliances section. Recently LG and Samsung have made a few interesting smart Appliances. For example a refrigerator with a touchscreen built-in android system that helps you keep tabs of your food stock, notifications, and also read mails and other online services, other appliances are like washing machines, the essence of having android system in these appliances is that it makes them easier to control them remotely using android smart phone.
  4. Infotainment systems for Carsandroid-apps-topic
    Android is also taking an overwhelming popularity in the automobile industry, android based automobile infotainment system are increasing on demand by most auto making industry e.g. Ford’s OpenXC system that combines both Android and Arduino open source hardware platform.
  5. Home automation systems
    Home automation systems have been around for some while. Google offered a simple way to make home automation system that are supported by android, using Arduino open source hardware module, that will make easy for android app developers to create apps that controls lighting systems, and security systems.
  6. Cameras
    Samsung was recently awarded the best smart camera. Samsung’s galaxy camera is a hybrid of both android smart phone and a camera.
  7. Smart TV
    Android has proven itself to be the operating system of choice for most smart TV operating system. A good example is the Lenovo K91 smart TV model running android 4.0
  8. DECT phones
    Another wide reach of android run devices, a desk phone that can be synchronized with your smart phone to get all your contacts, it also allows you to video call and has inbuilt web browser.
  9. Game consoles
    The Gaming industry is at its peak, and android system is already at par with the rise. Android based Game console have seen a remarkable growth in the gaming industry, a good example is the portable JXD S7100 gaming tablet. And EVO gaming console.
  10. Mirrors
    The New Cybertecture smart mirror allows you mirror to be a display, android system using this system allows you to catch up on your social media sites, and read your mails as you are grooming.These are the some of the many other devices that use android system.

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