Thursday, September 18, 2014

HOW AN EDUCATIONAL AID BECAME A FUN GADGET

Being visually-impaired wasn't easy when I was in school. I had to learn aurally rather than from the blackboard. When I printed my words, I had to hold my head so close to the paper that my nose touched it. Then I was sent far away from home to a school for the blind. My level of vision meant that the teachers didn't know whether to teach me braille or writing. I also lacked a good hand-held magnifying glass then and when I was put back into the public system.

It was while I was being "mainstreamed" that counselors read book assignments on tape to me so I could write book reports and the like. The tape recorder, pictured above, was easy for me to operate. I also could rewind the tape if I didn't understand something or if I just wanted to hear a humorous part over again.

As with any gadget, it often becomes useful for fun pursuits as well as scholastic endeavors. Since a microphone was included with the machine, I began using it to record my silly stories on tapes which my family had.

Then I purchased a patch cord from a local stereo store and began taping shows from my radio onto a seven-inch reel which I also bought. Since the Sony machine had three speeds, I used the lowest one in order to record more material on my only tape reel. After all, money was tight then because I relied on my father for  food money.

In the mid seventies, I bought my own Sony TC-105. Again I had to scrounge money and cut back on treats. Even so, it was worth it. I could record whatever I wanted and I didn't have to return the machine to the CNIB.

Ten years later, my recorder began showing its age. It had trouble rewinding and fast-forwarding tapes. Near the end of the reels, it began slowing down too. So I replaced it with a second-hand model that a friend found at an auction. It worked well for a few years before succumbing to wear and tear. By then, nobody made open reel machines anymore.

I wrote about my educational struggles during high school and adult years in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. This story of God's marvelous providence in my life is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual bookworm Publishing in paperback and e-book form.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ANOTHER VENERABLE INSTITUTION VANISHES

In 1906, sight-impaired individuals had almost nothing in the way of entertainment. Unless some kind people took them to a concert or play, they remained at home. As I've experienced, sighted folks are busy and don't have much spare time to read news articles or books to folks such as myself.

Worse yet, braille books were few in number and costly to buy. People had to transcribe print books into braille, an effort that took many hours of tedious work. Even with the primitive braille presses of the time, only the most popular works were published.

The widow of a rich industrialist came to the rescue the next year. Matilda Ziegler read a letter to a local newspaper regarding the plight of the blind. She decided to create a braille quarterly magazine and fill it with news stories and the like.

As technology changed, so did the Matilda Ziegler magazine. In addition to braille, readers read it onto records which played on specially-built very slow speed players for the benefit of those who hadn't learned braille. Later on, cassette tapes were used. When the Internet became popular, digital copies were e-mailed to sight-impaired individuals. For a short while, the recorded version was available on special cartridges for digital audio machines provided by America's National Library Service.

Blind and partially-sighted folks have many different kinds of entertainment today. TV shows are becoming equipped with close captioning which special text-to-speech devices can translate into synthetic speech. Some programs have a narrator describing the action during breaks in dialogue. Amazon's Kindle has a screen-reading version which reads the text aloud. Screen reader programs allow sight-impaired folks to explore the Internet. Talking Books have been around for decades and now are being transcribed to NLS player cartridges.

With all this available access to amusements, and the rising costs of practically everything, the directors of the Ziegler estate realized that the magazine, which recently was only available as an e-mail message, was irrelevant. Furthermore, the expense, covered by the Ziegler estate,  couldn't be justified anymore. So after a hundred-and-seven years of publication, the magazine is now history.

Access to information, and especially the Bible, wasn't easy for me most of my life. I wrote about this problem in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Please check out my e-book and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

MY 'MOUNTAIN TOP' EXPERIENCE ON A REAL MOUNTAIN

From time to time, I hear Christians talking about their "mountain top" experience. What they mean is an exceptionally good spiritual event. It could be as varied as answered prayer or leading somebody to faith in Christ. It's all very well to have such experiences but we'd grow bored if they occurred daily.

I also had an experience on top of Sulphur Mountain which I treasure for its rareness. Having poor sight, I can't see wildlife plainly unless the creatures are close to me. At times, I was able to bribe animals to come to me, as in the case of the squirrels in Toronto back in 1975. Other times, I wasn't allowed to feed the creatures but they came close to me. Such was the case with the mountain sheep I saw while on vacation in 1988.

On a sunny afternoon in September, after the crowds had left, I stayed at a hotel in Banff National Park. There were only a few tourists but we enjoyed our ride in the gondola, both going to the top and back. As we walked on the wooden sidewalks provided for us, I watched as a few female mountain sheep wandered around the gondola station. I took plenty of photos of these beautiful animals, including the one at the top of this page.

At one point, one of them came up to the boardwalk with her lamb within three feet of me. As they stood gazing at me through the bars of the railing, I took their photo. For a brief second, it was like we had some sort of connection with each other. Then both mountain sheep wandered off to lie down in the late summer sunlight.

As with other sublime moments I've had, I'll never forget how special that meeting was. In the grand scheme of things, it's inconsequential. To me however, that day has profound meaning.

I've mentioned my love of God's wondrous creation in my three memoirs. The first two are available at the Bruce Atchison's books page. How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity is at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

IT WAS THE WORST SHOCK OF MY LIFE

What a shame that some folks minimize the suffering of others with sayings like, "There's people worse off than you." Though some folks whine about inconsequential matters, the suffering of many is a big deal to them. What I mean is that it's proportionally large. For instance, a broken toy can be traumatic to a child who highly valued it but the original cost of the item can easily be handled by an adult. I suffered a terrible psychological shock fifty years ago yesterday which might seem small to some, yet it devastated me.

It all began when my mom told me I was going to a new school in some place called Vancouver. Being only seven, I had no concept of distances. Consequentially, I felt that I could come home each day after school as I had always done.

The plane ride and staying at some place called a dorm seemed exciting to me. Having to march down to the dining hall seemed odd but I assumed I would be doing that just once. The school day didn't seem much different except that I was supposed to eat at that dining hall again. A teacher found me wandering the dorm's corridor as I wondered where everybody else was.

After school, I waited outside by the dorm as the other children played on the swings and teeter-totters. Surely I should be ready to go when the bus came to pick us up for our flight home.

A lady came out of the dorm and asked me if I would like to play on the playground equipment. I told her that I was all right waiting where I was. Little did I know what would happen next.

Growing impatient, I finally asked a boy when we'd be going home. "Christmas," was his astonishing reply. I thought he was joking but he assured me that we wouldn't see our families until the holidays.

The horror of what my parents did to me finally hit home. I was at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, a residential institution far from my beloved home. I didn't cry but I sure felt like it. The warm, sunny day and the picturesque mountains across English Bay didn't matter anymore. I was stranded with no way of returning to my family except to wait for those months to painfully pass.

Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School chronicles my experiences there. In a matter-of-fact way, I present what transpired as I struggled to cope with uncaring supervisors, bullies, and terrible food. Read more about this memoir at the Bruce Atchison's books page.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

OF BOOKS, MAGIC, AND MEMORIES

Have you ever dreamt that you could fly? I had many of those dreams when I was a child but they rarely come to me now. How nice if we really could fly like birds. Being in a pressurized metal tube with wings just isn't the same as having open sky all around your body and feeling the wind rush past.

This desire to fly is the basis for a wonderful book by Zilpha Keatley Snider called Black and Blue Magic. Though it was written for children, the story and humor still resonates with all who enjoy good stories.

And how did I find out about this book? My sister Diane bought the paperback version and read it to me during the Easter holidays of 1970. Because I lacked a good magnifying glass, she had to read the story aloud. Both of us loved this tale of a traveling salesman giving a lonely twelve-year-old San Fransisco boy a magic bottle of ointment. We delighted in his discovery of wings appearing on his back after he put a drop of the liquid on each shoulder, rubbing it well into his skin, and recited the incantation.

Harry, the boy in the story, was sworn to secrecy by the salesman regarding the bottle he gave him. This magical present complicated matters for him. Harry could only fly after midnight when practically everybody was a sleep. He had to avoid his concerned mother's watchful eye and make excuses for his sleepiness during the day. He also had some close calls with a few people who saw him.

Forty-five years later, I finally found the e-book version on Amazon. Thanks to the Kindle developers, I have a version for PC which reads the text aloud to me. This brought back many pleasant memories of Diane reading the book to me. I also noticed things which were over my thirteen-year-old head at the time. Even so, the comical bits, such as how a robber wound up tied up in a pair of pink leotards, still had me laughing out loud.

I'm so glad this charming story is available in e-book form. My How I Was Razed book is also in that format as well as in paperback for those who enjoy the physical sensation of books. You can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

RELIVING YESTERDAY DOESN'T WORK

I'm sure you've visited a place a second time with the expectation that you'd enjoy being there as much as the first time you went. It never is quite the same, is it? This is what I found to be true, especially on August 21.

I felt in high spirits as the New Horizons Seniors Club road the Thorhild County bus to Edmonton. We had supper reserved aboard The River Queen paddle wheeler with a cruise on the river afterward. Every one chattered excitedly about the trip and caught up on local gossip.

The first thing unlike last year's trip was the weather. An Arctic high pressure system chilled the balmy summer weather we had enjoyed for six weeks. The forecast high was for sixteen Celsius, about sixty-two Fahrenheit. We knew from experience that the temperature on the water would be chillier than the ambient land reading so everybody wore jackets or sweaters.

Though the food was first class, we were all crowded into the main dining area of the ship. In fact, it was so cramped that everybody kept bumping elbows with each other. The aisles between the tables were so narrow that, even with my belly pressed against the table, people still had difficulty passing between the two rows of chairs. I don't remember the dining room being that crowded last year when I ate there.

Furthermore, the racket from the other diners hurt my ears. I don't remember the room being that noisy last year either. It was like after a Sunday service except that no children ran around the place. People spoke so loudly that I had to lean close to the diner next to me to hear what that person said. Speaking across the narrow table was almost impossible due to the noise.

Unlike the gentle summer breezes of last year, a chilly northeast wind gusted down the valley. I felt disappointed when I couldn't smell the scents of the river or the trees along the banks. Since the river was too shallow by the High Level bridge, we went the opposite way. Even so, I did take a few nice photos.

The tour was over before we realized it, partly due to the new course of the ship. The ride home was uneventful but I felt cheated because of what happened.

I wrote in all three of my books about unrepeatable life events. Check out my first two paperbacks at the Bruce Atchison's Books page. My new book is at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

PASTORS, FEED THOSE LAMBS!

One tragic mistake some vacation Bible school organizers make is to let their students go without following them up. Just as newborn animals and humans need milk, so do new believers need the basic nourishment of the gospel. Sadly, many children wander from Christianity or get sucked into cults because they aren't established in their new faith.

VBS was always an enjoyable time for me when I was young. We heard Bible stories, made crafts, and had lots of cookies to eat as well as Kool-Aid to wash them down. The Lutheran church kept us entertained but there was something important continually left out from the curriculum.

I found out what was missing in 1969. Having been kicked out of VBS the previous year for not being able to read the microscopic print in the Bibles, which the paster handed out, I went to a different one. It was organized by a local lady and she taught it in the basement of her home. When my sister's friend invited her and she invited me, I accepted.

Along with the Bible stories and goodies, Mrs Blacklock explained the gospel to us. I'd never heard about how I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Anglican and Lutheran churches mentioned nothing about this. When she asked us to give our hearts and lives to Jesus, I obeyed. After all, I was eager to be a good Christian and I didn't want to go to hell.

Sadly, nobody followed up with me regarding my commitment of my life to the Lord. Because church had been boring in the past, I felt reluctant to go. I also didn't know what to make of all those denominations who claimed their church was the best one. As a result of lacking discipleship, I got my theology fix from radio programs. One of those was The World Tomorrow, hosted by Garner Ted Armstrong. He seemed to know deeper truths in the Bible which other programs never taught. They seemed immature whereas The World Tomorrow appeared more advanced.

Because of this errant program's unbiblical doctrines, I easily became seduced by the cultic teachings of a rogue minister. For fifteen and a half years, I told others about his supposedly advanced teachings. And what was my reward for my devotion? The cult's elders continuous harping on my supposed lack of faith to be healed finally drove me away from them and God.

I wrote about how the heavenly Father led me to the truth about his nature and doctrine in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Read more about this amazing testimony of his wondrous guidance at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.