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Sierra Services for the Blind Newsletter

January 2024

The depth of a civilization is not found in the artifacts it leaves behind,

but in the knowledge and ideals once held by the people that they lost.


Looking to the Future

W. C. Fields once said that, “Sometimes you have to take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”  Sierra Services is at that point.  We are at the most critical financial time that we have been in the past 15 years, and we are going to explain our financial situation as clearly as we can.

Our operating expenses are mainly employee salaries, payroll taxes, rent, and utilities which make up 90% of our $203,000 annual expense budget.  With no change in staff or facility, the economy has increased that budget by 25%.  Our annual income varies greatly due to occasional larger generous donations.  Excluding those larger donations, our reliable income is around $40,000 from clients and regular annual donors and members.  Fundraising events that we host, like dinners or golf, net around $5,000 to $10,000 annually.  So we are looking at around $50,000 of reliable annual income against $200,000 of expenses.  That gives us an annual deficit of around $150,000.

Over the years we've received many large one-time donations.  These usually come from our clients' estates when they pass.  An especially large and generous estate donation of $400,000 in 2007 when invested put us on solid financial footing for a 17 years.  And in the past four years we've had a number of estate donations that made a difference as well.  But we always operated at a cash flow deficit as fixed annual expenses were higher than annual income.

Our present situation is that without the generous larger gifts that are sometimes made, we can continue to provide services at this level for another 15 months or so.  And we may have to make painful reductions before that time.

We provide our services without any cost to the client.  Many are on a fixed income and could not afford to come for the education, counseling and transportation to medical appointments and other services we provide.  Simply stated, we either have to increase annual donations, or in the near future we will have to reduce staffing, which means service to the client and our common community will be negatively affected.

So if you have the ability to be more generous, now is the time to dig deeper for us.  We, the staff, and especially the clients, thank you for your generous support.


You only become a victim when you accept the idea

 you are one, and then do not make the choice to move on.


Talking Books and Phantom Vision

We have had and influx of new clients recently and it is not uncommon for another family member to be at the intake meeting.  What we have noticed that makes them smile is learning that the talking book library is available and their love of books and reading can continue.  There are two reasons for their smile, one is knowing they are not going to be shut out of being able to read with the loss of vision, but they will have something to do all day.  And having something to do is the key to keeping the mind and body active and healthy.

The second one is that when they learn about phantom vision and they learn they are not losing their mind when they see things that are not real.  The eye sends a message to the brain which converts it into what we “See”.  When the eye has trouble sending messages the brain wants to see things and starts making them up.  It is similar to dreaming when we sleep, only it happens when you are awake.  It can be as simple as thinking something just passed to one side of you or the other and you look and they are not there.  It could also be just a shadow passing.  But it can also be a full blown dream, and even a nightmare.  It is a vision issue, not a mind issue.  Family is particularly pleased knowing you have not lost your mind.

They also realized that vision loss raises questions, but often the answers are very simple.  And that is the main message we have to new clients.  You will have to make adjustments, and many of them will be of your own invention.  Different people handle situations differently, and the loss of vision is much the same.  When confronted with a new hurdle to climb over, take a moment, and then use your common sense to come up with a solution that you are comfortable with.  We were just kids the first time someone told us to get ourselves up when we fell.  By now we should be very good at it.


When one turns to live in the memories of the past

one has to turn their back on the future.


Membership Drive Starts

Each year we begin the membership drive in February, and this year it is more critical than it has been for years.  In fact it was the memberships that gave us the money to start the organization 42 years ago.  It is our largest fund raising event in that other than paper and postage there is no expense to cover.  Each donation is a direct donation, especially for life members.

As it has been since the beginning Annual Memberships are only $10 due to the fact that we want our clients to be able to participate.  Annual members often add a little something which is most appreciated.  If annual members give $50, ten goes to the membership and forty a donation and is deductible.  There is also a $100 life membership.  Those members can use this opportunity to make a donation that is all tax deductible.  We also remind you that any money donated locally circulates in the local economy six times within a year.  And, each client we help remain independent remains a part of the community and the local economy as well.

Our membership is a voting membership.  We have an annual meeting of the members every year, which is a time for the client and the community to make sure we are doing what we say we are doing.  If the agency begins to drift from its stated purpose to provide education, counseling, and health related transportation to the blind and visually impaired of our common community, the membership can put it back on track.  The board and staff cannot make a change in the by-laws and direction of the agency without the permission of the membership.  The board must declare its intention to make a change, and it takes a vote of the membership to allow that change.

As inflation and the general economy has had a negative effect on our agency, this membership drive has more importance than it has had in years.  We have not changed who we are or what we are doing for the client, only the cost of operating has changed.  We need the help of the donations given to us by the membership to make up some of the immediate difference.


Laughter is good medicine

We always say you have to laugh at things when you are losing vision.  Well, you have to laugh anyway, and what better source than our great speakers and thinkers.  Even Winnie the Pooh took out his frustration by simply saying with a sigh, “Oh bother.”  He then moved on to something else he wanted to do.  We use quotes in our newsletters to shed light and get our own thoughts going.  A number of psychological studies have shown that sense of humor can be as important to health as medicines.

One form of humor is what is based on experience and has a sense of common sense.  Groucho Marx pointed out simply that, “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”  Another form is pointing at yourself.  Mark Twain once said that, “I wake up every morning at nine and grasp the morning paper.  I then look at the obituaries page.  If my name is not in it I get up.” Like grabbing the bull by the tail, other types of humor have a more active image to tweak the imagination and make the point in a more colorful way.  Will Rogers smiled, “Lettin’ the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier ‘n puttin’ it back in again.”

We have to be a little careful with our sense of humor though.  Using such examples makes us sound a little nuts, or dated.  There are softer more indirect ways to say, “no”.  Mother Goose was full of platitudes that used humor to teach children rather than commanding them.  If a kid starts to wish for too many things you could say, “If wishes were fishes we would have them to fry.”  Or the alternative if that doesn’t work if someone is saying they could only do something if something else was there the help and you said, “If is in the corner stiff.”  Mother Goose required context to work, which means you have to put the two together.  That means you have to be aware of what you are talking about.

One last type is the story with the moral.  The little boy who cried wolf.  Keep it short.  You have to have a generation to talk to that has some idea what you are talking about or we will indeed simply become colorful.  And once in a while you just have to be serious and give direct advice.  With a smile.


Remember to blink, or when not to blink

There have been many recent studies about vision in our kids.  For some reason they are having more vision problems than we did as kids.  There is, it turns out, a medical aspect, and a solution.  Video screens of all types and sizes have a down side.  It is more than glare or images made of pixels.  As the new generation spends their life staring at the small screen of their cell phone, and the larger computer or television, we concentrate on the images and forget to blink.  Blinking is what lubricates your eyes, and dry eye is a medical condition.  While it can be solved with the use of eye drops, there is no substitute for the eye drops your body possesses.

The other side effect of the constant use of cell phones and other video forms is that we begin to concentrate on the image in front of you.  This is why advertisers always have bright colors and people are always moving in commercials.  It is like dangling a shining object to keep your attention.  Also they use things like giggling babies and either excited dogs to sell something, or dogs with sad eyes to get you to donate.  This too has a side effect, people are mesmerized by the image and lose contact with anything else that is going on around them.  A recent shot of the crowd at a professional football game showed a father that had taken his two sons to the game.  He was watching the game, the two sons were on their cell phones.  When we concentrate on the image on the screen we also forget to blink.

A research project held over sixty years ago studied blink rates and found that people shopping in a market are wandering in a state close to those who are hypnotized.  That is why they went to bright colored boxes, change lighting in different rows to make you walk faster and slower, and place featured products at the end of a row and on the shelves in the middle that were easy to reach.  It is also why we always buy more at the store than we went there for.  Up to 40% more.  The book, ‘Hidden Persuaders’, written in the 1950’s will scare you with what advertisers know about you.

At the same time, there is an exception to blinking.  If you are using eye drops, especially for something like glaucoma, you have to put them in and keep your eyes closed for a moment or so.  Your eyelids are the best windshield wipers in the world and they wipe away the medicine.

Have you noticed that the image of a Nerd is someone with glasses?  It is partly from staring at the computer all day.  Glare is a problem, and not blinking makes it worse as well.  The same at work, a typewriter didn’t have the glaring screen a computer does.  Glasses are now a sign of an office worker.  And with the concentration it takes we are making, or creating a generation that not only can’t see as well, they also can’t walk and chew gum at the same time either.  Look at kids walking down the hall at a school with the cell phone on, or walking down the street on the cell phone and you have to move over and let them go by because they don’t see you, or they are bumping into each other.  In the end remember to blink and save your eyes when there is a screen you are looking at.  Blink when you turn the page on a book, or before you reach for that thing at the market.  Or for that matter, take a moment now and then to just close your eyes to let the natural lubrication of the eye take place.  You are also resting them from the glare.  Not just screens, glare from a window in a dark wall too.  Look out a window for a while, then close your eyes and you have an after image which is the eye recovering from the glare.  It damages the eye if you let your eyes dry out finishing that last sentence.

Who knows, sitting with your eyes closed for a minute might let your brain accomplish something else like making a decision.  Or, remembering why you are where you are and to look around a little more.  You might find out where you are going and have to wonder where it is taking you.  Like they say, often the best ideas arrive in the blink of an eye.  Pun intended.


It is difficult to see the wonders around us when the grindstone we have our nose to is in the way


Winter Emergencies

Winter is here, and that means fire season is over.  But that does not make rural living emergency free.  Fire is still an issue since so many of us use wood stoves.  Keep the chimney clean.

In winter the weather is the main factor.  Wind and snow close roads and we lose power for days, not hours.  This will isolate people rather than make them leave their home.  How we prepare for it is different.  Have several days of non-perishable food available.  And water, if you lose the power and have a well you lose the water too, and even the toilet won’t work.  If you are stranded, find a way to let someone know.  You would not be our first client to have to be rescued.  Let us know, we will be checking on people we know are in a hard hit area, and may be calling help if we can’t reach you.


Little things

Adjusting to the loss of vision is a major event for all of us.  What makes it interesting in the longer run is the little things we pick up or figure out for ourselves along the way.  Some are critical to safety.  Others are just kind of fun ways to do things.  Many we figure out for ourselves if we put our minds to it.

If you want to slice a potato evenly to make scalloped or fried potatoes, hold the potato down with a fork and cut between the tines.  Same with a tomato, sausage or anything you what to cut the same length.  For thicker cuts use every other tine or a serving fork which is larger.

If you are pouring coffee use a white cup so you can see the lever easier to know it is full.  If you pour milk, use a dark cup for the same reason.

If you have a gas stove role up your sleeves, or wear short sleeves reaching over to something on a back burner in case a front burner is on that could light the sleeve.  Turn pan handles to the side away from the center line so you are reaching for them off to the side of the stove.

If you have a dog, give them just one or two toys, they are things to trip on.  Stay away from ones like the hard rubber bones that cannot be seen on the floor.  They leave them where they last used them and often move them at night.  If you step on them you could fall or even break a bone in your foot stepping on it.  A ball will role away of you come to it.

Labels on clothes are now often printed and not a flap you can feel.  Feel the seam that runs on your shoulders from neck to arm to tell if the garment is inside out.  The longest piece of the neck between the two shoulder seams goes to the front.

Put raised dots on the top of the bottles your medications are in to tell you how many to take.  You can also notch the rim of the bottle.  Do both to separate day pills from the ones at night.  Notch and dot or those you take both day and night.  You can reuse the lids on refill bottles so you don’t have to do it again.  It also helps organize if someone is doing it for you.

When you pick up a cup put your finger in it to make sure it is open side up before you pour.  Same with plates.  Unless it is very hot or cold it will also tell you how much is in the cup.


We are looking for volunteer drivers! Interested? Please talk with Melissa,

(530) 265-2121

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Western Stories

When Virgil Cruz and his gang kidnap the woman he loves and threaten to kill her if he interferes with their plans, Sheriff Cotton Burke turns to Memphis Jack Stump, the only man he trusts to infiltrate Cruz's gang, for help. Some descriptions of sex, strong language, violence.


Smithsonian Magazine,

July 2018


The loss of the S.S. Titanic: its story and its lessons DB 91999

By Lawrence Beesley. Reading time 4 hours, 40 minutes.
Read by Steven Carpenter. A production of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.

Subjects: Travel

Description: The personal record of one of the 705 survivors of the Titanic disaster in 1912. His eyewitness account is augmented by those of other passengers who were spared, contributing to a general report of events and behavior the night the ship sank within three hours of colliding with an iceberg. 1912.

BARD is a National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.




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