Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Qwiki!

Qwiki is a multimedia encyclopedia containing more than three million narrated, illustrated, interactive reference entries. To use Qwiki, enter a topic in the search box or select a topic from the "featured" list on the homepage. Then watch, listen, and read the Qwiki entry for that topic.

Below your chosen Qwiki you will see a selection of related entries. If you've got some vision, you can also find related materials by clicking the "Q" symbol that appears at the end of the Qwiki play bar.

Qwikis can be embedded into your blog or website, and as the wiki implies, registered users can suggest videos and images to improve the reference entries. In the future, registered users will be able to create their own Qwiki entries.

Qwiki could be a fantastic way for students to receive all kinds of information. For a lot of "standard" curriculum topics, Qwiki's entries provide a more engaging format for learning about those topics than that offered by textbooks.

Click this link to look up something with http://www.qwiki.com.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Free Textbooks for College Students

Are you tired of spending too much money on textbooks, or selling books back to the bookstores at a fraction of the costs you paid for them?  Got a stack of old textbooks just taking up space?

Created by a student, Xoob is the perfect place to get rid of old textbooks and search for the ones you need- all for free! 

Xoob is a network designed to allow members to trade textbooks among one another free of charge.  Search before buying from bookstores, and use this website to get rid of that stack of used textbooks.  Simply join the Xoob community, list your available books, and begin trading immediately.  It's really that easy!

Click this link to start trading books with http://www.xoobbooks.com.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

IRS Provides Assistance for People with Disabilities

Hundreds of the most popular federal tax forms and publications are available for download from IRS.gov for sight impaired individuals. These products range from talking tax forms to Braille formats, and are accessible using screen reading software, refreshable Braille displays and voice recognition software. Click on the links below to download these forms and publications:

More Help is Available

The IRS also offers customer service assistance for persons who are deaf or who have hearing disabilities. People with TTY equipment may call 800-829-4059, which is a toll-free number, for assistance.

People who are unable to complete their tax return because of a physical disability may get assistance from an IRS office, or through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) sponsored by IRS. Taxpayers can find a nearby location by calling 1-800-906-9887.

Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues, and is available at IRS.gov.

Visit http://www.irs.gov and click on the word "accessibility" for further help and information. Click this link to watch on Youtube.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

APH OFFERS DIGITAL RECORDING STUDIO SERVICES

The American Printing House for the Blind operates state-of-the-art digital recording studios producing books, magazines, and other materials through audio cassettes, cds, and digital audio files.

We are pleased to announce that our studios and expert narrators are now available to consider new projects!

For additional information please contact Doug Trent in Contract Administration (dtrent@aph.org or 800/223-1839, ext. 267).

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
E-mail: info@aph.org
Web site: http://www.aph.org

Federal Quota Funds Help Purchase Materials for Students!

The federal Act to Promote the Education of the Blind provides funds for adapted educational materials for eligible students who meet the definition of blindness. An annual registration of eligible students determines a per capita amount of money designated for the purchase of educational materials produced by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). These funds are credited to Federal Quota accounts maintained and administered by APH and its Ex Officio Trustees throughout the country.

Who is Eligible?

In order for students to be eligible for registration in the Federal Quota Program, they MUST meet the following requirements:

  • meet the definition of blindness -- "central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting glasses or a peripheral field so contracted that the widest diameter of such field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees."

  • "be enrolled in a formally organized public or private, nonprofit educational program of less than college level"

  • be enrolled with the registering school or agency on the first Monday in January


Who are the Ex Officio Trustees?

For each residential school for the blind, state department of education, or agency for the blind that participates in the Federal Quota Program, an Ex Officio Trustee of the American Printing House for the Blind must be designated. Each Ex Officio Trustee is entrusted with the administration of the Federal Quota Program within his or her system.

Want more Info?

For more information about the Federal Quota Program, visit www.aph.org or call 1-800-223-1839.

On our web site, you can find contact information for the Ex Officio Trustees in your state. These Trustees can give you the specific information about whether your student may qualify for materials purchased with Federal Quota funds.


Opening Doors Through An Act to Promote the Education of the Blind

This 20 minute VHS video presents an overview of the 1879 Act to Promote the Education of the Blind. With students as the focus, this presentation concentrates on the Federal Quota Program, the annual census of blind students, and the role of Ex Officio Trustees in the administration of the Act. For more information, call the APH Department of Field Services, ext. 300.

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
E-mail: info@aph.org
Web site: http://www.aph.org

Teach Yourself Braille

After looking around the net, and the APH website, here's my idea of what would make a good "teach yourself braille kit" for the sighted or semi-sighted folks who may lose their vision later in life.

Visit http://www.hadley.edu and click on course offerings.

This should be enough to get someone started in learning braille. Do you have more suggestions? Please email me at fredshead@aph.org with your ideas.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tips to be Safe in the Kitchen

by Ruth Coleman

It is so important to be safe in the kitchen, especially when you have a visual imparity.  I wasn’t born blind, but in 1993 blindness began to creep up on me.  After having surgeries, and countless rounds of medications to which I had significant intolerances, I realized that blindness just might be something that I would experience.

I was enrolled in the Center for the Visually Impaired, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  There I learned, before I actually lost my sight, how to manage and live cautiously in a world without sight (If you even think that a diagnosis will leave you sightless or vision impaired, ask your physician to refer you to this wonderful knowledgeable institution).

I received my certificate from the center, and it has been a Godsend in my life.  While going through the gradual loss of my sight, I began to pull back from cooking, thinking that I would get my sight back and then take up cooking, which I loved, again.  Life doesn’t work like that.  One day I realized that I was hungry, and my diet was lacking, and I prayed.  My prayer was not only for my own belly’s contentment; but that I could continue to fix nutritious meals for my family.  After the prayer, I took on small projects with success.  Today, the only thing that I do not cook is open fried food (it is better for you to bake it anyway).

Here are a few tips:

  1. Choose an electric stove, if you have a choice.  Electric stoves have no open flame, and the burners are strategically placed.  My suggestions will assume that you are using an electric stove.
  2. Use the back burners, first.  Do not turn on the front burners, and reach across the hot elements to place something on the back burners.
  3. Keep your stove as clean as a plate.  After every use, clean the stove.  Raise the top, when it is cool, and wipe all food from the bottom of the stove. This will ensure that there is no grease, or food particles that can catch fire when you are in the midst of a grand cooking spree (vinegar and water cuts grease, and leaves the surface squeaky clean).
  4. Get yourself a collection of long handled wooden spoons.  They are excellent for stirring your pots, and they guarantee your hands are above the hot contents of the pot.  Last year, I even found some wooden spoons that had nice handles.
  5. Turn all pot handles the same way all of the time, and then when you go to reach for it, you won’t burn yourself.
  6. Listen to your food.  Listen for the boiling of water.  Be familiar with the very sound of food that is getting ready to stick and or scorch.
  7. Use as many small electric utensils as you can safely handle.  For instance: waffle iron, toaster oven, stand mixer, bread machine, toaster, etc.  Make sure that you have a working knowledge of how to use the utensil according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  8. Never start with your burners on.  Whenever you start a project on top of the stove, make sure that the burner is clean, and off.  Center your pot on the cool burner, and then turn it on.  If it is a recipe that calls for boiling water, fill the pot first, and then center it and place it on the cool burner. Make sure that the pot is centered on the burner.  It has been a bad day when a hot boiling pot tips off and sends its scalding contents scattering onto the floor (Avoid this accident by securing your pot while it is cool).
  9. If you happen to be sharing your kitchen with a sighted person, agree on which side of the top burners is yours, and respectively theirs.  If possible, don’t use the stove while another is cooking.  This is not to place enmity between you and the other.  It is to keep you safe because you can’t see where the sighted person lays hot equipment, or when the burners are left on, etc.
  10. Always keep an electric kettle with hot water with which to add to your boiling pots.  When boiling food, and the contents begin to stick, it is better to use hot water to keep up the temperature than to use cold water, and start the process over.

These are only a few tips that will help you to have a safer experience in the kitchen.  In fact, it would be fun to use these tips as soon as possible in the cooking of your next recipe.

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Friday, January 21, 2011

Record Phone Conversations

As the title suggests, this is an application that will let you record phone conversations. This can be done without any additional hardware and it's web-based, so there's nothing to download or install. All you have to do is call 877-395-3442 from your phone and follow the instructions.

The next call you make will be recorded. You will then be provided with a session code that you can use to retrieve the call.

This service is provided at no cost, the basic functionality of playing and recording phone conversations will remain free. Some premium features may be implemented at a later time.

Just in case you're wondering, all the recorded phone calls are stored on a secure server, you don't have to worry about the safety and privacy of what you record being compromised.

Click this link to learn more from http://www.recordableapp.com.

How to Be a Modern Gentleman


How to Be a Modern Gentleman

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
If it seems like chivalry is dead, you'd be incorrect in assuming such. However, women recognize that it is becoming harder and harder to find the type of man who has long been termed "a gentleman".[1] Men, let's be frank; this article is for you. If you haven’t scored a second date recently – or ever – it may be time to reevaluate your dating technique. There’s no need to be in the dark when it comes to the right way to treat women. Becoming a modern gentleman is just a few steps away.

Steps

  1. Understand that equality doesn't mean throwing your manners and good taste out of the window. The dating game is still about captivating one another, impressing one another, and being on your best behavior. Behaving in an ungentlemanly manner might get some laughs in the retelling and it might even temporarily attract a woman who is into the date for a lark but it won't get you a long-term commitment and it definitely won't win you respect. Boldly stating that women are equal so they can jolly well pay and put up with you as you are is a blinkered approach to dating. The importance of indulging in a little etiquette when dating will be repaid by a dating experience that is considerate, caring, and most of all, more fun because your date will definitely be impressed by your manners and what used to be referred to as "good breeding". So, it's time to dress well, plan a decent date, and polish up your gentlemanly ways.
  2. Be on time. A gentleman never keeps his date waiting but is punctual and ready to go at the appointed hour. Set your alarm if needed, and plan how long it will take to arrive at your destination ahead of time.
    • Don't be late without a very good excuse and be sure to phone her to explain what has happened to hold you up. She may not wait long, especially if she's had previous experiences with non-gentleman types standing her up.
  3. Compliment your date. Women like reassurance when it comes to their appearance. A great way to make a positive first impression is by offering a compliment on your date’s appearance. Be cautious though. Using cliched pick-up lines and corny compliments would make most women sprint back to their apartments. Be careful not to come across as creepy. No girl likes to feel objectified. Keep the compliments light and innocent.
    • Never insult your date. One quick way to guarantee you don’t get a second date is to insult your date. If you recognize that you are a person prone to criticizing, try to hold back on even the slightest criticism. Making any criticism, no matter how constructive you feel it to be, will probably come across as an insult which will start the downhill spiral of your date. If you recognize that you are a sarcastic or humorous person, be careful not to take a joke too far. Even if you’re joking, a woman may take your joke the wrong way. It’s best to avoid anything resembling an insult or a sarcastic tone altogether, and if it's politically incorrect, volatile, or gossip, don't say it.
  4. Open doors for your date. Men, this is chivalry 101. When walking out of any door, make sure you hold the door open for your date and let her walk out first.[2] This will make your date feel special and respected. There's no need to do this with flamboyant gestures though; just do it subtly and thoughtfully.
    • Don't let the door slam on your date. This should be a given. When walking out of doors, it’s rude to walk out first, especially when that means letting the door close on your date. To women, this action signals selfishness. Men, if you’re afraid of looking like you care too much, don’t. It’s not a sign of weakness to open doors for your dates, in fact, it is just the opposite.
  5. Help your date to her chair before you sit down. This may seem odd because it doesn’t happen very often these days, but by pulling out the chair for your date so she can sit down first, this shows your date that you care about her interests before your own. It is also a very gentlemanly gesture liable to score you a big win in the manners stakes.
    • Don't pull the chair out so she falls down. Remember how old you are; this kind of prank didn’t work in the sixth grade, and it definitely won’t work now. Your date will be embarrassed or shocked and if she doesn’t leave right then and there, she definitely won’t stick around for a second date.
    • If you are eating with others at the table, wait until everyone is seated and ready to eat before beginning to eat. A gentleman does not bolt down his dinner.
  6. Ask questions about your date. Be a good conversationalist. Don’t be afraid of awkward silence; instead, keep the conversation rolling by coming prepared with plenty of things to talk about. Your date will feel respected if you listen to what she has to say and she will be impressed if you don’t let the conversation drop.
    • Don't play with your food, talk while chewing, yawn, etc. Being a modern gentleman means sitting up straight and looking your date in the eye when you’re talking to each other. Don’t spend too much time looking down at your plate – your mashed potatoes can’t talk back.
    • Don't flaunt being wealthy or talk derogatorily about people who are wealthy. Both approaches show a total lack of refinement and cause the listener to squirm uncomfortably, wondering what personal takeover or revolution you're planning next. If you are wealthy and you want to make this evident, wear quality clothing but don't brag.[3] On the other hand, no man needs to be wealthy to have good taste, so wear good, clean, and well-pressed clothing whatever your means.
    • Read How to make small talk for more ideas on finding topics to talk about.
  7. Be prepared to pay for you and your date’s meals. If she offers to pay, kindly refuse. Remind her that you are on a date and it is your pleasure to take the bill. There is a lot of confusion about this aspect of a date but a gentleman is never confused; a gentleman simply gets on with paying.
    • Don't use the ruse of leaving your wallet behind and expecting your date to pay. Even if you don’t "forget" your wallet, don’t expect your date to pay for her own meal. When the waitress comes by with the bill, don’t hesitate to grab it. By leaving it on the table for too long, your date might get nervous wondering if you’re going to pay.
  8. Offer your arm when walking with your date. This is a gentlemanly act and it is also one guaranteed to help your date when she's walking on uneven ground in her high heels. While it is an intimate act, it is perfectly acceptable for a gentleman and means nothing more than being respectful.[4] Always walk alongside a woman when walking down stairs, not behind her.[5]
    • It's also a good idea to help her to put on her coat when leaving a building during the colder weather.[6]
    • Always walk next to the road on a roadside; that way if there is any splashing from puddles, it'll hit you, not her.
  9. Let your date know how much fun you had and offer a possible second date. Keep your boundaries by being polite and respectful. Women don’t like to feel forced into a goodnight kiss or anything more.
    • Don't try to force any moves, especially if she seems unwilling. Treat her with respect. It is a huge turnoff when a man assumes his right to move in on his date.
    • Maintain her honor. Never kiss and tell.

Video

How to be a modern gentleman and to win your lady's heart with good manners!

Tips

  • If you want a second date, be respectful. Apologize if you err, such as bumping into her. Be polite and say "excuse me", or "I beg your pardon" by way of beginning or settling an apology.[7]
  • Let your date talk about herself, but don’t tune out! Women value a good listener. There is a good chance she’ll expect you to remember something she shared with you later.
  • Don’t be afraid to show interest – swallow your pride! Some men are afraid to show too much interest in a woman because they don’t want to come across as weak. This really just serves to harm you. Women like knowing that you’re interested. So while you don’t have to come out with an exuberant “I love you!” in the middle of your date, there’s no harm in showing a little interest.
  • Take initiative. Being a gentleman means being a leader. Women aren’t impressed with timid men who force them to make all the decisions.
  • Raining? Offer her your umbrella for shelter.
  • Avoid speaking ill of family members. This bodes poorly and a gentleman does not discuss his personal concerns on the initial date.
  • If dining with others, stand whenever a lady enters the room.[8] And never speak with food in your mouth!
  • A gentleman knows how to deal with a lady who cries; read How to comfort a crying woman for more information on what to do in this awkward situation.
  • If she smokes, light her cigarette. This can be a graceful, romantic touch of approval and acceptance for her habit. If you smoke too, offer her a cigarette. There's a whole series of romantic customs smokers share that non-smokers don't, easy to find them in 1940s movies. Not only is this romantic, it establishes that you're both on the same page where smoking is concerned.
  • Declarative statements are more intimate than questions - think about how you talk to close friends, for example - and so are an important counterpoint to quizzing your date. But do try to make the statements about something more than yourself.

Warnings

  • Don’t curse or speak crudely. This simply says that you lack respect for others and it shows that you haven't got the ability to articulate your feelings, thoughts, and opinions with real words.
  • Don’t get angry or show your temper. Showing this side of yourself will send your date running; who could possibly see a future with someone who needs babysitting, calming down, or having to always be deferent to?
  • Don't be a loud lout; gentlemen speak with a calm and even tone and do not need to raise their voices to be heard or heeded.
  • Don’t interrupt. Women hate to be interrupted. And, the interrupting rule should extend to everyone you speak to in front of your date. Show your date that you’re a gentleman by letting others finish their thoughts before interjecting your own.
  • Avoid staring; it's impolite at best, lewd at worst.
  • Don't pick your nose, scratch your ear, preen your hair, or perform any other personal grooming gestures in public, and especially not before your date.
  • Avoid smoking unless she invites you to do so. This is one thing that gentleman of the past probably did differently but today's etiquette requires consideration of the changing values surrounding the right time and place for puffing in another person's face.[9]

Things You'll Need

  • Quality clothing

Related wikiHows


Sources and Citations

  1. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful/41_success.html
  2. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful/41_success.html
  3. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman: Part II, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful_60/66_success.html
  4. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful/41_success.html
  5. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman: Part III, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful_100/117c_success.html
  6. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful/41_success.html
  7. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman: Part II, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful_60/66_success.html
  8. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful/41_success.html
  9. Ask Men.com, Etiquette of a Gentleman: Part II, http://au.askmen.com/money/successful_60/66_success.html
Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Be a Modern Gentleman. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

The SOLO V2 Talking Blood Glucose Management System Monthly Program

Today, the U.S. suffers from a national health crisis that directly affects millions of its citizens, whether blind, vision-impaired, deaf, hard-of-hearing, or sighted. This national health crisis is having a profound impact on family relationships, healthcare costs, and business productivity. Thirty-three percent of U.S. children are now considered overweight or obese. Studies show that 8 in 10 obese children will be an obese adult. One result of this epidemic of obesity is that 1 in 10 American adults now suffer with diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if current obesity trends don’t change, 1 in 3 American adults will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2050. In less than 40 years, 33 percent of the U.S. adult population will suffer with diabetes.

ila believes it’s time to “Know Your Numbers!”

It’s time to know your blood sugar (blood glucose) numbers so that you can take control of your health and prevent the potentially devastating effects of diabetes that can include blindness, kidney failure, and poor blood circulation leading to limb amputation.

ila has offered the premier SOLO V2 Talking Blood Glucose Management System for some time now. But they want to make it even easier for you to “Know Your Numbers!”

The SOLO V2 Talking Blood Glucose Management System Monthly Program makes it easier and more cost effective than ever to manage your blood sugar and maintain good health.

Once you begin the program, you will immediately receive the SOLO V2 Talking Blood Glucose Management System for FREE! No Gimmicks! The FREE system includes:

  • Premier talking blood glucose monitor ….. FREE!
  • Lancet device (pen style) ……………………. FREE!
  • 10 test strips ……………………………………… FREE!
  • 10 lancets …………………………………………. FREE!
  • Control solution ………………………………….. FREE!
  • Durable carrying case …………………………. FREE!
  • Batteries ……………………………………………. FREE!

YOU SAVE $59.95, the retail cost of these items.

Along with the FREE system, you will also receive your first month’s supply of:

  • 100 test strips
  • 100 twist-top lancets

For just $72.85. Each month thereafter, ila will automatically send you 100 test strips and 100 twist-top lancets for just $72.85. It couldn’t be any easier!

With the ila SOLO V2 Talking Blood Glucose Management System Monthly Program, you and your loved ones don’t have to worry about a thing. You don’t have to remind yourself every month to order test strips and lancets. Your 100 test strips and 100 lancets will arrive automatically every month. It couldn’t be more convenient!

When you start the SOLO V2 Talking Blood Glucose Management System Monthly Program, shipping your monthly test strips and lancets won’t cost you a penny

Knowledge is power. And with this program, knowledge is your first step to blood glucose health. ila believes it’s time to “Know Your Numbers.” It’s time to know your blood sugar (blood glucose) numbers so that you can take control of your health and prevent the potentially devastating effects of diabetes that can include blindness, kidney failure, and poor blood circulation leading to limb amputation. With the SOLO V2 Talking Blood Glucose Management System Monthly Program, and in consultation with your family physician, you can take charge of your health and manage your blood glucose health. Enroll in the ila SOLO V2 Talking Blood Glucose Management System Monthly Program today, “Know Your Numbers,” and SAVE MONEY.

Call ila today and let them show you how to "Live Life MAGNIFIED, AMPLIFIED, and SIMPLIFIED!" Call toll free, 800-537-2118. Remember, these special discounts are available only on their website: http://www.independentliving.com/Specials.asp.

Article Source: Email

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Financial Planning for Retirees with Disabilities

by Donna J. Jodhan

The financial planning sector needs to start paying more attention to the needs and demands of this particular group as it continues to grow both in size as well as in financial power. Retirees with disabilities have some very unique demands and I don't think that the financial planning sector will take too long to catch on.

What am I referring to? This particular group of clients are looking for such things as: Statements and information to be provided to them in formats that is easier for them to read. Formats such as large print, and electronic text. As more retirees gravitate towards computers, we are going to find that they and in particular those disabled retirees who are either print disabled or blind, will need to have their information and investment statements presented in formats that are easier for them to read.

Large print is naturally one of the formats, but electronic text or E text as it is more popularly known, is the other. The financial planning sector should not be afraid to meet this unique challenge head on; there are companies out there that are willing and ready to fulfill these demands. Companies that specialize in the production of all kinds of documents in alternate formats. Just Google them using keywords such as : Production of alternate formats, documents in alternate formats, and so on.

This demand is only going to grow as time marches on so the financial planning sector would be wise to grab the bull by the horns as soon as they can and go with it. There may even be a silver lining so to speak; for those who are quick off the mark to start providing these types of services.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

How I Do My Banking

by Donna J. Jodhan

There is no set way for a blind person to do their banking but here is how I do it: First, it is my preference not to use a banking machine. There are several talking banking machines in my area but I prefer to stay away from these. I go to the bank to do what most sighted persons use banking machines for; withdrawals and deposits. In addition, I go to the bank when I need to carry out electronic transfers. I use telephone banking for everything else.

I really like using the phone to conduct most of my banking business because I can do it from the comfort of my home, at my convenience, and in total privacy. I can do it at any time of the day and from anywhere. I do not use Internet banking because it is my preference not to do so. I know of several blind persons who use online banking but often time I find that the online banking facilities of some of our financial institutions are not very user friendly to blind persons. I receive my statements in braille and so I am able to keep tabs on my accounts.

Whenever I need to communicate with my investment adviser, I do so via email and he is very good at providing me with a lot of details in his emails. Whenever I need to have cheques written, I have my mom or a trusted friend do it or I go to the bank. I then use a signature guide to sign my name. My banking institution has also provided me with cheques that contain raised lines so that I can write my own cheques. The thing with this is however that I may not always know if my pen has enough ink in it and as a result I may sometimes write cheques that are difficult to decipher because of the faded ink.

There are companies that provide services to financial institutions so that customers can receive their statements in any of the following formats; braille, large print, or diskette. Visit http://www.tbase.com to learn more.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

New and Exciting APH Products

Greetings APH Friends!

Many new and exciting APH products recently became available and we couldn’t wait to share them with you!

Here are your new products for a new year, with links to their Shop.APH pages for additional information and ordering procedures! All are available with Quota funds.

NEW! Sense of Science: Astronomy

This is the third module in this tactile/visual science series. Unlike previous modules of this series, this set of materials is appropriate for a broader range of ages and grade levels of students with visual impairments and blindness. Activities incorporate a learning objective, a list of vocabulary and needed materials, a step-by-step procedure, extended activities, visual adaptations, math and language connections, and science tidbits. Activities are complemented by the included visual/tactile overlays and fold-out 2-dimensional displays.

Includes:

  • A large print guidebook (braille edition available separately) with easy-to-follow activities, a glossary, and a list of resources and related web sites.
  • A variety of visual and tactile overlays that can be used alone or with the optional APH Light Box or Mini-Lite Box (sold separately).
  • Two trays designed to slip under a light box ledge and provide a secure working area when using the overlays.
  • Astronomy Quick Fact Cards.
  • Astronomy Worksheets include print, braille, and CD-ROM files of the following worksheets for student completion. The CD-ROM contains the worksheets in these file formats: MS Word, PDF, and braille-ready (.brf).

Notes: Each overlay set is housed in its own protective and labeled clear-view folder. Braille labels are included for customer application.

Additional sets of Quick Fact Cards and Astronomy Worksheets are available for purchase separately.

Recommended ages: 8 years and up.

NEW! Building on Patterns: Primary Braille Literacy Program: First Grade Level: Unit 7

Building on Patterns (BOP) is a complete primary literacy program designed to teach beginning braille users all language arts -- reading, writing, and spelling.

Note: Building on Patterns: First Grade replaces Patterns Reading: Preprimer, Primer, and First Reader Levels. Other levels of Building on Patterns will be available in the future.

The Building on Patterns series addresses phonemic awareness (ability to hear and interpret sounds in speech), phonics (the association of written symbols with the sounds they represent), comprehension, fluency, and oral vocabulary, all of which have been identified as important for reading instruction. It addresses language development, sound discrimination, tactual discrimination, and concept development. Braille contractions are introduced from the beginning along with sound and letter associations.

Prerequisite: Building on Patterns: Kindergarten or equivalent skills. Age Range: 6 and Up

NEW! Test Ready: Plus Mathematics: Book 4, Student Book

Test Ready: Plus Mathematics: Book 4, Student Book

This test prep series offers practice for today's standards-based assessments for grade levels 3 through 12.

Test Ready: Plus Mathematics provides preparation and review, in as little as two weeks before testing day. It also provides a program of instruction and remediation.

Students practice problem solving for:

  • Data preparation
  • Geometry
  • Numeration
  • Number theory
  • Measurement
  • Pre-algebra/algebra

Objectives for each of the above key concepts have been aligned with the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics from the National Council for Teachers and Mathematics (NTCM). These lessons make use of routine, non-routine, and open-ended problems, with writing activities that require students to explain their solutions.

NEW! Moving Ahead: Tactile Graphic Storybooks: The Boy and the Wolf

This print/braille storybook series helps bridge the gap to abstract tactile graphics.

Moving Ahead: Tactile Graphic Storybooks are designed to be the next step for preschool and kindergarten students who have had some experience with simple tactile representations, such as those in APH's On the Way to Literacy series. Three Moving Ahead books are now available: The Boy and the Wolf, Splish the Fish, and Goin' on a Bear Hunt.

Each storybook includes a Large Print Reader’s Guide (braille edition sold separately) that contains general information, tips on using the storybook, and additional resources. Also included are braille words on customer-applied labels, allowing the reader to choose contracted or uncontracted braille.

The Boy and the Wolf

This rhyming story features a twist on the classic tale of the boy who cried wolf. Simple raised line symbols represent the Wolf, the Boy, and his small flock of sheep. As the story is read, the child is invited to tactually search the page for these characters, to count and compare like and different pairs of sheep, and notice differing orientations. The story and its graphics introduce a variety of concepts: left, right, top, bottom, near, far, first, last. A simple key presents the symbols used in the book. Includes a storyboard and symbols for the story’s characters, which permit the child to create his own tactile displays. As the child retells the story using the storyboard, he gains understanding of how tactile graphics can be used to symbolize objects and show spatial position.

Recommended ages: Preschool through 2nd grade.

NEW! Transition Tote Back Pack

This attractive, sturdy backpack is a perfect solution for organizing and transporting equipment and tools used by students and professionals with visual impairments. Developed as part of the revision of the Transition Tote System, this backpack is designed to serve the changing needs of persons with visual impairments.

Standing 18" tall and 12" wide, this backpack is constructed of durable, water resistant material, which holds up well under heavy daily use and provides the professional with a polished, efficient, and organized look. The four "feet" on the bottom ensure that it stands upright when not being worn, and the top handle allows it to be carried in the hand as well as on the shoulders. The shoulder straps are broad, padded, and adjustable and can be zipped neatly into a back compartment when the backpack is not being worn.

How to Order:

At the above Shop.APH link, please note the Handy Lists of Products, including lists of new products offered since the Spring APH Products Catalog and product suggestions by program categories. FAX ORDERS: 502-899-2274 or 502-899-2284

Contact us if we can assist you with your product purchase plan.

Your APH Partners

Sites Unseen: Traveling the World without Sight

Wendy David can't stay home.

Even with a rewarding job as a psychologist for the Veterans Administration in Seattle, she keeps her suitcase packed - just in case.

Together with her partner, Larry, who is also blind, they have been to Europe 6 times, Hawaii 4 times, and have traveled all over the United States and Canada, visiting glaciers, swimming with dolphins, even kissing sea lions.

Now she wants to share what she has learned along the way with other blind travelers in Sites Unseen: Traveling the World Without Sight.

"Every time I leave on another trip," says David, "blind friends and acquaintances pepper me with questions: 'How do you get around countries with no public transportation? How do you deal with different types and sizes of currency? How do you travel overseas with a guide dog? Who describes the unique sights to you?'"

In Sites Unseen, David covers the territory. Drawing on her extensive experience, she helps you decide where to go, when to go, how best to get there, how to find accessible travel websites and social networks; gives tips for navigating busy airports, sleeping overnight on trains, enjoying today's more comfortable bus lines, selecting a theme-based cruise, using accessible GPS, and more. "There are so many resources out there," says David. "People just don't know about them."

With this book, you can travel the world with confidence.

Note: "Sites Unseen" is available in braille, eBraille, accessible PDF, and DAISY (text-to-speech audio). Click this link to buy the book from National Braille Press: http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/TRAVEL.html.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Free Kindle Software with Accessibility Features

Amazon.com has released Kindle for PC that adds accessibility features designed for blind and low-vision customers.

Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin is a free, downloadable application for your Windows PC. It provides the following accessibility features: text-to-speech reading with adjustable voice settings, voice-guided menu navigation, large font sizes, high contrast reading mode, keyboard navigation, and accessible shortcuts.

With this software, for the first time ever, the entire collection of English language books in the Kindle Store can be read aloud. With over 750,000 English language titles, Amazon offers the largest selection of accessible ebooks. In order to use the text-to-speech feature, an external screen reader program must be installed and running on the Windows PC.

"We welcome your feedback at kindle-PC-accessibility-feedback@amazon.com".

The free download is available at http://www.amazon.com/kindle/accessibility. The download is large because it comes with Nuance Tom and Jenifer 22khz voices. Important keyboard shortcuts to know include:

  • ctrl-r, reads using the supplied voice, not your installed software synth.
  • ctrl-d, adds or deletes a bookmark
  • ctrl-shift-v, switches between Tom and Jenifer
  • ctrl-shift-c, switches between continuous and single page reading
  • F5 syncs reading position with a Kindle on your account
  • Left and right arrows move back and forth by page
  • ctrl-I provides limited instructions

Kindle version for PC also provides some significant advantages to low vision users. In addition to the larger fonts that were already available on the Kindle device, the PC version provides even larger fonts, more likely to help those with more than slight vision loss. Amazon has also added different color views. The sepia view cuts some of the glare, but the white on black view is perhaps the most helpful view.  The PC version also lets the user pick the width of the page (and the approximate number of words per line). With all this, the new version will be useful to the low vision reader wanting to get access to the Kindle library, not only because of its inherent features, but because the PC platform will let those who use magnification software benefit from it as well as the Kindle features. Magnification software will also help the user locate the controls for the app, which don’t respond to the changes in font or color scheme. With that in mind, it is the fact that the Kindle books can now always be read by the consumer’s text-to-speech, rather than the magnification, that can really help a low vision reader be more efficient when reading longer texts.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ten Essential iTunes Keyboard Shortcuts

Most applications let you interact with and control them in several ways: by clicking on-screen buttons, choosing menu items, and using your keyboard. Using menu items is probably the slowest way, but it doesn’t tax your memory; you just need to know in which menu to look for the function you seek. Clicking buttons is easy, for those buttons that are present, but requires that you use your mouse or trackpad to move your cursor. But keyboard shortcuts can be the fastest way to perform actions, as long as you can remember them. Here are 10 great keyboard shortcuts that can save you time as you work with iTunes.

  1. The space bar

    This is probably the most practical iTunes keyboard shortcut. If you have an item selected (song, video, audiobook, podcast, and so on), press the space bar to start playing it; press the space bar again to pause.

  2. Command-L

    You may sometimes be listening to music, then want to look around in your iTunes library, or browse the iTunes Store. If you want to get back to the currently playing track, you may need to click a lot to find where you were; or you can just press Command-L. iTunes will take you to the item in the location where you started playing it: your library, a playlist, iTunes DJ, or a shared library.

  3. Command-B

    This shows or hides the Column Browser. The feature is a great way to view the contents of your libraries or playlists.

  4. Command-I

    When you rip new files, or add files you’ve obtained in digital form, you may need to edit their tags. Command-I brings up the info window for either single or multiple tracks, depending on whether you’ve selected one file or many. The info window gives you access to the various tabs you use when tagging files.

  5. Command-1 through Command-7

    If you look at the iTunes tagging window, you’ll note that there are seven tabs. The Command-number shortcuts for this window are very practical when you are tagging files: just press the Command key along with a number for each tab: 1 for the first tab (Summary), 2 for Info, and so on. You can zip through the tabs with speed and precision.

  6. Command-P and Command-N

    As you tag files, and have the window open for individual tracks, you may need to change, say, titles for a number of tracks. At the bottom of the window there are Previous and Next buttons, but we keyboard mavens know that there’s no need to reach for the mouse when we want to move through tracks; just press Command-P to go to the previous track, and Command-N for the next track.

  7. Command-Shift-N

    If you’ve selected a bunch of tracks, and want to make a new playlist with those tracks, just press this shortcut combo. The playlist gets added to your sidebar, and the name is highlighted so you can change it. You can do this with tracks that are contiguous (sequential), or non-contiguous; for the latter, click on one track, then hold down the Command key, and click on others to select them.

  8. Command-Shift-M

    The iTunes Mini Player gives you quick access to basic controls. You can set it to float above all your other windows. The iTunes Mini Player is a small, unobtrusive window that you can keep visible at all times if you wish, giving you access to basic iTunes controls. To display it, just press Command-Shift-M. To go back to the full-sized window, press the same shortcut. Go to the big window to choose the music you want to play, then switch to the Mini Player as you listen while you work.

  9. Command-Option-3, Command-Option-4, Command-Option-5 and Command-Option-6

    These are the four shortcuts that let you switch among the different views in the iTunes window: List, Album List, Grid, and Cover Flow.

  10. Command-T

    This shortcut brings up the iTunes visualizer, which gives you trippy visuals while you listen to your music. You may not want to use this all the time, but it can be fun for parties.

Finally, one bonus keyboard shortcut: Command-Q, which quits iTunes (and most every other app out there). Because silence can be music too.

Article Source:
Macworld

Top 10 Apps by a Teacher of the Visually Impaired specializing in CVI

From a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) specializing in working with infants and toddlers with cortical visual impairment. Article Source:
Babies with iPads

Friday, January 14, 2011

Inaccessible Surveys

by Donna J. Jodhan

For the past few months, I have been receiving a lot of feedback from both readers and clients on the subject of inaccessible surveys. Here is the problem: Many survey companies invite participants to complete surveys online but according to what I am hearing, many of these surveys have not been designed with the accessibility factor in mind. Accordingly, the feedback and comments of blind, deaf/blind, vision impaired, and print disabled participants are being left out.

I would like to think that this is not a purposeful admission; rather a grave and inadvertent admission. I have been told that when the survey companies are asked about the accessibility factor the majority of them admit to not having thought about it. With a rapidly aging population and an increase in the number of persons being afflicted with vision, hearing, and physical challenges, it may not be a bad idea for research and survey companies to start looking into the accessibility factor. In other words, how to make their surveys and research such that persons with disabilities are included. For after all, their voices and opinions should count as well should it not?

It seems to be an unfortunate and common occurrence for surveyors and researchers to exclude the voices and opinions of persons with disabilities. I am not sure why; I do have my own opinions but I'll leave it up to you to be the judge.

What do I mean when I talk about the accessibility factor? In short; designing research studies and surveys so that persons with disabilities can participate. That they could have the ability to complete forms without having to depend on sighted assistance and that they do not need to ask for help when reading the related information. Time for researchers and surveyors to start changing their methods of information gathering.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

A Sighted Guest

by Donna J. Jodhan

In the normal scheme of things, much of society is used to greeting each other in the mainstream way of shaking hands, hugging and/or kissing each other, and waving and/or smiling to each other. However, it can be different when it comes to how blind and visually impaired persons greet each other at functions and this was brought home very clearly to me recently when my sister-in-law reminded me of a time when she attended a luncheon with me.

She told me that at first, she found the room to be so noisy because people were calling to each other in order to determine where their friends were sitting. She remembers how someone called out at the top of their voice: "Donna! Where are you?" Then when I responded my friend and I both got up and proceeded to find each other by sound and greet each other. It took my sister-in-law a few minutes to understand the whole thing but when she did so, she had to smile and nod in understanding.

This is one thing that much of the sighted world is not familiar with; the level of noise that prevails at functions for blind and sighted persons and if you stop and think for a minute you'll understand why. The sighted world greets each other after they have recognized each other visually. We as blind persons do it through sound. First, we use sound to identify if any of our friends are close by and when we do our next step is to identify where they are; and we do all of this through sound.

True it is that the noise level is extremely high but it is unavoidable and necessary. We also use sound to help each other find objects. Many times, we would bang an object on the table to help each other know where something is; like the salt and pepper shakers, and so on.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eight Benefits Of Using Silicone Bakeware

by Helen Rolo

Here are eight benefits of why you should consider this type of bakeware:

  1. You can easily purchase the baking pans at your local stores and for an economical price. Many will come with a multi-year warranty, which makes them a great investment.
  2. You will get even heat distribution, completely baked centers and even browning of your baked goods.
  3. Silicone bakeware does not rust, dent or stain. Your bakeware will look beautiful for many years, with the proper care.
  4. The majority of silicone baking pans are dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, conventional oven and convection oven safe, up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Please read manufacturers instructions as this can vary.
  5. You will save time and calories because these types of baking pans do not need any greasing or flouring. They are made from a nonstick material, making the removal of your baked item, quick and easy.
  6. Once they are removed from the oven, they cool down quickly. This can be especially important to those of us who are blind or visually impaired.
  7. Thanks to the material they are constructed from, you can easily fold the baking pans in half or collapse them for storage which saves on kitchen and cabinet space.
  8. Clean up is a snap! You can place them on the top rack of your dishwasher or easily hand wash them in hot soapy water.

In closing, I think once you try a piece or two, you will be > pleasantly surprised at how silicone bakeware will out perform your metal and glass baking pans. Your baked goods will bake better, taste delicious and clean up will be a snap.

Article Source:
Cooking in the Dark Email List

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

GYPSY Girl (Story and Activities)

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

"If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours. If they don’t, they never were.” Richard Bach

Gypsy Girl

by: Jamille C. Smith

Her one goal in life
Is to spread joy and cheer
To children and adults –
And to all who come near.

Filled with magical qualities,
And a temper so mild,
She moves easily about
From child to child.

With a scar on her arm,
And a smile on her face,
She’s ready to work magic
Any time - any place.

Gypsy Girl looks very poor,
But to me, she’s so fine.
And the best part about her
Is she’s mine – all mine !!!

Kate Anderson was a little girl who was richer than any other little girl in the country. Even at nine years old, she was richer than most adults. Kate could buy anything that she wanted for herself and others. Unfortunately, Kate usually just bought for herself. She had dolls, video games, a large swimming pool with a very large water slide, a mansion, her own movie theater, a tennis court, horses, and her own very large bedroom that was bigger and nicer than Toys ‘R Us.

However, even with all of Kate’s toys, the children in her neighborhood and neighborhoods all over the country stayed away from Kate. She was what they called a ‘spoiled brat’, and meaner than the bullies on the street. She would scream at the other children if they did not do what she wanted them to do.

“You are mean” she would scream at anyone who dared to try and play at the magical house.

"Yes, they are mean!” her blonde and thin mother, Janet would agree. “Come along, Darling, let’s go shopping and we’ll find someone else to play with you later on.”

The insulted ex-friend would walk away and never return to the mansion where the best toys in the world lived.

Kate’s dad, Jonathan, would not say such things to Kate because he was always gone making the money so that Kate and Janet could have whatever their hearts desired. At least that’s what he told himself. If the truth was to be told, Jonathan could not stand to be with his wife or daughter any more than the rest of the world.

Two days before Christmas Eve, Kate became bored with all of her toys and wanted a beautiful new doll. One specially designed for her.

“I want the most beautiful doll ever, and I want it to look exactly like me,” Kate demanded.

“Then, Darling, you shall have it!” Janet stated. “We’ll go to the toy manufacturer today and demand that they make a ‘Kate’ doll and put them all on the shelves by next week.”

“I want it now!” Kate screamed stomped her feet and slammed the huge door that led from the outdoor fireplace into the grand house.

Janet immediately called one of her husband’s clients who made the most beautiful and specialized toys at Toys for Tots.

Janet called and threatened the floor salesman who was unfortunate to have answered the phone.

“Toys for Tots. This is Rebecca. How may I help you?”

“Well, Rebecca. Do you know to whom you are speaking?” Janet barked.

“No?” questioned Rebecca.

“Get your manager on the phone. And, Rebecca, I hope you enjoyed your job at Toys for Tots because tomorrow you will be fired for your bad attitude!”

“What did I do?” questioned Rebecca.

“Get your manager now!” Janet screamed.

Poor Mr. Metzler came to the phone after he settled Rebecca down and assured her that she would not be fired.

“Yes, Mrs. Anderson. No, Mrs. Anderson. Sure. Bring little Kate in today, and we’ll make something nice for her.”

Mr. Metzler hung up the phone and took four aspirin. Then he found Albert, the best toy maker in the factory, and told him for whom he would be making a doll.

“Oh, no!” Albert screamed. “That is the meanest and most snobbish kid on the planet. Can’t Earl do it?”

“I am sorry, Albert,” Mr. Metzler began. “But you are the best. You create something special every time you invent a toy.”

“What does the little brat- I mean little princess want this time?” Albert asked.

“She seems to want a doll that looks just like her; one that is different from all of her other toys. A doll with large dark eyes, like hers and a fluffy dark ponytail, and wearing a spectacular pink party dress with lacey socks and beautiful bows in her hair.”

“Hmmmmm. I know just what she needs,” smiled Albert.

You, see, Albert was quitting his job at the factory by the end of the week. He signed a contract with an even bigger and better company than Toys for Tots.

“I’ll teach that Miss Smarty-Pants a thing or two,” laughed Albert to himself.

Albert went to work. When the doll was complete, he smiled to himself and stuffed her into a shoebox.

“Good Luck, Dolly,” laughed Albert. “You are going to need it tomorrow!”

Albert packed his tools and desk, turned out the lights in the factory and went home never to return.

The next day Kate and her beautiful but hateful mother got out of their limousine. They knocked down three children on their way into the store.

“Well, Mr. Metzler,” Janet screamed. “Where is my daughter’s new doll? I have a hair appointment in thirty minutes, so I need it now!”

“Yes, yes, Mrs. Anderson, I have it right here.”

Mr. Metzler looked puzzled for a moment when he saw the shoebox with the Anderson’s name written on it with a crayon.

“Hmmmm. Yes, I believe this is it.”

Janet handed the shoebox to little Kate with a confused and scared look on her face. Both Mr. Metzler and Janet waited on Kate’s response when she drew the doll out of the shoebox.

The doll made from cloth laid in the shoebox with her soft skinny legs bent behind her. She looked up at Kate with hope in her large button blue eyes, scruffy blonde hair that stood straight up in the air and a crooked smile. She was wearing blue jean overalls like a farmer wears, with patches sewn all over the material. One stocking-leg was red and white stripe while the other one was black and white with large polka dots, and one foot was shorter than the other one. The patches were all different colors: red, green, yellow, and brown.

Kate took one look at the doll and screamed, “You are terrible! I hate her! She is the ugliest doll in the world, and she looks nothing like me!”

Kate grabbed the ragdoll, threw her down on the ground and began stomping her like she would a nasty bug that got in her way.

Was it Mr. Metzler’s imagination or did he spy a tear rolling down the ragdoll’s face? She looked so sad.

“Calm down, Miss Kate,” Mr. Metzler said in a voice that was trembling. “I will personally look into this matter for me, in the mean time, please pick any doll that you would like.”

“I want a Kate doll!” she screamed, kicking Mr. Metzler right in the shin.

“You are finished, Metzler!” shouted Janet.

“Both of you just get out of here! I don’t care if we ever have your business again. Now go!”

“You haven’t heard the last from us!” Janet proclaimed. “Come along Kate, we’ll find someone who knows what they are doing to make a Kate doll just for you.”

The two bratty human beings- if you could call them that- stomped out of the store, knocking down anyone who got in their way.

Mr. Metzler rubbed his head. He was getting too old for this and he was tired.

“It’s time for Christmas with the family,” he said to himself. “I need to be with my warm family. Even though we don’t have much, we are happy- unlike those two miserable people. Come on, Dolly, I am afraid that no one will want you.”

Mr. Metzler got his belongings, locked the door, put the ragdoll back into the shoebox and tossed her into the trashcan outside of the shop.

Breanna Day was a schoolteacher, and a great one at that. She taught fourth grade and simply loved all children. When a child had problems with behavior or their schoolwork, the principal always sent them to Breanna because of her extra-large heart.

Breanna was beautiful with her dark skin, large dark eyes, black short curly hair and a smile that was miles- wide. She was a single mom to a wonderful daughter, Skye and a young son, Bryson. Bryson was a bit older than Skye; he was ten and Skye was eight years old. Bryson was a kind boy with muscles bigger than his fifteen-year-old cousin, Taylor, and Skye was a duplicate of her mother. “Breanna, Skye looks like your mini-twin,” people would often say.

Even though Breanna, Skye, and Bryson did not have much money they created a house, as small as it was, that was filled with happiness and love for each other. Every night Breanna would tuck her children into the beds, listen to Skye and Bryson say their prayers, and then read them a good night story.

Christmas snuck up on Breanna this year. She had been so busy tutoring children at school, taking care of her own children and attending all of the school’s Christmas programs that she found herself rushing to do her Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve.

"Hello, Ms. Dewberry,” Breanna smiled at the clerk. “I need a doll that Skye would like. I had to wait until I got my paycheck to even shop this year. Do you have anything unusual or special this year?”

“Yes, Breanna. Wait right here.”

Ms. Dewberry came back with many beautiful dolls of all sizes, shapes and colors. However there was one major problem. All of the dolls were way too expensive. After all, Breanna had two children to buy for and only one salary.

“They are all very lovely, Ms. Dewberry, but I don’t think they are what we are looking for.” Breanna smiled weakly and left the shop feeling dejected. She was thinking about how kind and caring her children were and only wished that she could afford something special for each of them.

Fortunately for Bryson, the neighbor across the street sold her one of the hottest electronic games of the season for half the price. Frank (the neighbor) worked at the store that purchased the games and got great discounts on items. He was so fond of the single parent family that he looked for opportunities to help Breanna and her two great kids.

Breanna was close to tears walking down the street with her eyes looking at the concrete below. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a shoebox stuffed into a trashcan by the Toys for Tots toy store. Breanna, Skye and Bryson never went inside Toys for Tots because the store was way overpriced. Only people with high incomes could afford to even walk into the store.

Breanna noticed a cloth striped leg sticking out of the shoebox. The box was only inches from old ketchup-stained stained french fries that were tossed after the lunch crowd left Barry’s Burgers.

Breanna reached into the trashcan and pulled the shoebox out of the garbage. She took off the lid and saw a smiling ragdoll that warmed her heart.

“Now where did you come from, Precious?” she asked the ragdoll, not really expecting an answer. “Why don’t you come home with me? I know a very special little girl who is wanting a doll badly, and you are right in my price range.”

Breanna tucked the shoebox into her empty bag and skipped all the way home.

Christmas Eve was always so much fun at Breanna’s house. Even though the house was tiny, the entire family loved to spend Christmas Eve at Breanna’s cozy home. Her sister, Kary and her five children: Kamryn, Peyton, Brennan, Gianna, and Karis all came along with Grandmother Jamie and Grandpa RR. Breanna’s other two sisters: Carrie and Shawna came every year bringing the Christmas Eve feast.

After church and dinner at Breanna’s everyone began opening presents. The children were ‘oooooinggg’ and ‘aaahhhhhing’ with every present they ripped into.

Finally, it was Skye’s turn. Breanna felt nervous when Skye began unwrapping the present for fear that she would be terribly disappointed.

Skye shook the box with a confused look on her face. She ripped the paper off of the box and said, “Did you get me a pair of shoes?” Without answering, Breanna just smiled.

Skye lifted off the top of the shoebox and screamed with delight.

“She’s beautiful. Oh, Mom! I love her! What is her name?”

Breanna thought quickly and said, “Gypsy Girl is her name. She has been traveling around and hasn’t had a home until now.”

Skye was thrilled to have such a lovable doll like Gypsy Girl. The really cool thing about the rag doll was that when Skye laid her on her shoulder, the doll would drop her head and rest it on Skye.

“Come on Kamryn, Gianna, and Peyton,” Skye screamed. “Let’s go have a tea party with our new dolls.”

Peyton and Kamryn were also thrilled with their new dolls, but for the life of them, they could not see why Skye was so thrilled with Gypsy Girl. They were nonetheless happy for her.

That night and for the next three years Gypsy Girl slept with Skye every night and went everywhere Skye went.

“Come on Gypsy Girl. Let’s go to school with Mom,” Skye said. Breanna was going to school to decorate her room earlier this year before the children came in on the first day of school.

“Are you sure you won’t be bored hanging around with me all day?” Breanna asked Skye.

"No, Ms. Jones said that I could play in her room today because she is leaving and going to a meeting.”

Skye was thrilled about having an empty classroom to herself and Gypsy Girl. She was a little embarrassed about bringing her doll to the school, so she tucked her inside of a paper bag until they closed the door behind in Ms. Jones’ classroom. Gypsy Girl and Skye played school all day inside of the classroom and only stopped briefly when Mom took them to lunch.

One day Skye met a new girl in the neighborhood named Brette. For some reason Skye had some misgivings about Brette but felt sorry that she was new to the neighborhood and did not have any friends.

“Bring your doll, Brette, and I’ll bring mine,” Skye told her. “ We can meet for a wonderful picnic by the lake. I’ll see you there around 2:00. You bring the blanket and I’ll bring some sandwiches, and don’t forget to bring your favorite doll.”

When 2:00 arrived, Brette was waiting on Skye and Gypsy Girl.

“Your doll is funny-looking,” Brette blurted out.

“Well, yeah, sort of, but she’s my favorite and she is the sweetest doll ever,” Skye said sweetly but with an edge of defensiveness.

“I said she was ugly!” barked Brette. “Look at my doll. She’s wearing a beautiful pink dress and has beautiful dark curly hair with pretty dark skin. My doll is rich, but yours is only for poor dirty kids,” Brette screamed.

“I don’t think Gypsy Girl and I want to have a lunch with you anymore, so we’ll see you later,” Skye replied. Gypsy Girl was not happy with this new so-called friend.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Brette screamed. “I am going to put you and that doll out of your misery.” The next thing that happened was simply awful. Brette jerked Gypsy Girl out of Skye’s arms and ripped the doll’s arm off. Skye jumped on top of Brette, grabbed the doll and the broken -off arm and began crying.

“You are so mean! I never want to play with you again,” Skye began crying really hard and ran home.

Once inside her house, Skye slammed her bedroom door and began sobbing so loudly that Mom and Bryson came running into her room.

“What happened?” they both asked.

“Brette ruined Gypsy Girl,” Skye cried. “Her arm has been ripped off and now she’s sad!”

“It’s okay,” Breanna told her. “I can fix her arm for her and she’ll be better than new.”

“You can?” asked Skye.

“She’ll be fine,” Bryson reassured Skye and Gypsy Girl.

That night Skye, Gypsy Girl with her new sewn-on arm, Bryson and Breanna had a delicious dinner. Breanna even served her hot chocolate brownies to make Gypsy Girl feel better.

For the next two years Gypsy Girl traveled with Skye to Florida to visit cousins, California to visit her grandmother and anytime she spent the night with one of her friends. Gypsy Girl had never been happier. However, lately Skye was spending more time at school and more time with her new friends, which meant Gypsy Girl was spending more and more time on the bed. Not that she minded because late at night Skye would grab Gypsy Girl and hold her tightly while she slept.

As the following school year approached, Skye began decorating her room to look like a teenager’s room. Gypsy Girl did not approve but of course said nothing. The next week after the room was painted, Skye kissed Gypsy Girl on the cheek and then shoved the doll back into the shoebox and placed it on a shelf in the closet. Even though she did not enjoy being in the closet, Gypsy Girl had all of her friends with her: the stuffed brown horse named Mr. Peabody, the beautiful ballerina doll who twirled for Gypsy Girl and frequently made her laugh, and the sweet stained teddy bear named Theodore were all placed in the closet. And of course the kindest but scariest looking one of them all, Bucky the Bull Dog. Even though Bucky was really kind with a huge heart, he had been hit a few times with an ‘ugly’ stick. He was a bulldog with huge two front teeth and had an ear missing. Gypsy Girl knew him well, and he was simply the nicest of all of the toys.

Every night, Mr. Peabody would listen for Skye’s deep breathing signaling she was asleep. Then the toys would bounce out of the closet and play all night long.

“Hey Gypsy Girl, watch me twirl,” the ballerina doll would say. Gypsy Girl and Bucky could watch her dance all night. Even though the toys weren’t as happy as they once were they were still all a family.

“Let’s go outside,” Bucky, the adventurous one would shout. “Let’s go chase some cats in the neighborhood and scare the daylights out of them.” Bucky would then chuckle because he would never really want to scare anyone. Gypsy Girl would laugh at her best friend because she knew he was all bark and no bite.

Night after night, the toys played until one day while Skye was working on her math homework after school, Breanna came into the room and asked her daughter a tough question.

“Skye, you don’t play with Gypsy Girl much any more. Would you mind if I took her to a new student that I have? The little girl’s name is Jade, and she and her mom are now homeless. They live in the homeless shelter and have nothing or no one. Jade is really sad right now and could use something to cheer her up. She is small for her age, has cute little freckles and bright red hair. She is the kindest child in my class, and I would really like to help her.”

Skye did not say anything for a long time. She realized that what her mother was saying was correct, but how could she give up her favorite doll?

“But, Mom, I love Gypsy Girl. She is my favorite doll ever!”

“I know, Skye, but when you truly help others, you give them something that is valuable to you. This is what it means to make a true sacrifice for someone else. Now do not let me talk you into something that you do not want to do. I’ll let you think about it.”

Mom walked away with her sweet smile and allowed Skye to think about it. Skye kept wondering why her mother did not just go to the store and buy another rag doll, but then she realized that she and her mother both knew in their hearts that there was something special about Gypsy Girl. She was not your average rag doll. Gypsy Girl brightened up everybody that she encountered. So Skye thought for a while and found her mother in the kitchen.

“Mom, I want to help Jade,” Skye beamed. Breanna grabbed her daughter and hugged her tightly.

“Remember Skye, if you love someone set them free, and if they come back they are yours to keep.”

Skye gently lifted Gypsy Girl out of the shoebox, gave her a big kiss and quickly placed her back into the shoebox before she changed her mind. As the lid was being placed over Gypsy Girl’s face, the doll saw a stream of tears drift down Skye’s lovely face.

After school the following day, Breanna called Jade up to her desk. Breanna was tutoring her after school before she went back to the shelter. Jade was relieved because the shelter was a lonely place. Every night she and her mother would huddle together at night on a bed while wrapping each other tightly in a warm blanket. They held each other even tighter when they would hear the screams or loud sounds of others in the shelter. However, as bad as the shelter could be at times, it was still better than living with Jade’s dad who was often scary to be around.

“Jade, are you finished writing your composition?” asked Breanna one day after school.

“Yes, I am finished,” Jade said with a large beautiful smile on her freckled face. Breanna told Jade that the freckles were angel kisses. She would laugh and giggle when Breanna teased her.

“Come here. I want to show you something.” So, Jade walked up to the desk and saw a black and white polka dotted leg hanging out of a shoebox.

“This was my daughter’s doll, Gypsy Girl, but she’s outgrown her, and I was wondering if you would take care of her for us? She needs someone who will love her and take good care of her. Are you interested?”

Jade looked into the shoebox and saw a beautiful rag doll smiling up at her. There is something special about this doll Jade thought. She needs me. She needs me to take care of her, and I will! I will take great care of her.

“I love her so much!” Jade squealed and then she grabbed Breanna around the neck and hugged her tightly.

Later that night, as Jade and her mother, Violet huddled together in the dark hall of the shelter, she felt less frightened and more hopeful when she held on to Gypsy Girl. Jade’s mother adored Gypsy Girl when she saw how happy she made her only daughter.

There was another lonely old woman named Helen that Jade allowed to hold Gypsy Girl. Helen was small, very old and had a gray bun planted on top of her head. Helen would smile broadly when the little girl would allow her to hold the doll. Jade trusted Helen and knew that Helen was old and lonely.

“Now, hide Gypsy Girl underneath all of our blankets when you are gone to school,” Violet reminded. “I don’t anyone to hurt her while we are gone during the day. I am looking for a job, and you’ll be at school, so let’s keep her safe, too.” So during the long days when Jade and Violet were at school or looking for work, Gypsy Girl hid underneath the blankets until she saw Jade’s sweet smiling face with all of her adorable freckles.

“Come on, Gypsy Girl. Let’s work on our multiplication tables,” Jade said.

Gypsy Girl missed Skye and her family something awful, but she grew to love Jade. The doll had so much joy and love in her heart because she was making a difference in Jade’s life. Jade really needed her.

As the days went by, Breanna began to notice a change in Jade. She was becoming friendlier with the other children and was beginning to make straight A’s on her report card. Violet, too, was happier.

“It’s amazing, Jade, how our lives became better one day when that adorable little rag doll came into our lives,” Violet said. “ You’re not going to believe this, but today I got a job and will be working as a teacher assistant at the school. I will be able to be home with you during holidays, and we are moving out of the shelter next week and into our own apartment.”

Jade and Violet were so happy that they took Gypsy Girl out to eat with them that night. They ate at their favorite restaurant, Barry’s Burgers. Gypsy Girl was happy for Jade and Violet.

The next week when Jade and Violet began packing up the few items that they had, Jade screamed.

“Mom, I can’t find Gypsy Girl!”

“Oh, no,” Violet cried. “Let me help you look for her.” Jade was about to cry when she looked over and saw Helen holding onto Gypsy Girl.

“Jade, can I hold her for a little while? They are taking me to a nursing home tomorrow, and when I picked up Gypsy Girl, I didn’t feel so sad.”

“Oh, sure Helen, hold her as long as you need,” Jade smiled sweetly. When Jade looked across the room at her mother, she knew in her heart what she should do.

“Helen, I want you to have Gypsy Girl. I am getting a little old now for her now, and I know that you’ll take care of her and keep her warm at night for me.”

Helen was so thrilled at the news that she threw her frail, wrinkled arms around Jade and hugged her as tightly as she could.

The next day Helen and Gypsy Girl went to Meadows Creek Nursing Home. For some reason Helen was not afraid when she held on to Gypsy Girl. She was actually happy to be at the nursing home once she got situated into her room. Helen had a nice roommate named Agnes.

“Can I hold your doll?” Agnes asked Helen.

“Sure. Her name is Gypsy Girl, and she is a fine doll indeed.”

The next several weeks Agnes and Helen took Gypsy Girl with them to eat with the others at the nursing home. Gypsy Girl became the mascot for all of the residents.

“Hello, Gypsy Girl,” Hank and Peter, two older men who lived at the nursing home would holler out.

“She says hello,” Helen would tease. The nurses and doctors joined in with the others and even gave Gypsy Girl a check-up. When the entertainment crew would come into the room to sing for the guest, Gypsy Girl would sit in either Helen or Agnes’ lap and would have the best time. However, Gypsy Girl continued to hurt in her heart for Skye and her doll friends, but she knew that Skye was growing up and would probably keep her in the top of her closet.

One day Gypsy Girl woke up in the chair and noticed that Helen had several people gathered around her. All of the doctors and nurses seemed sad, but when Gypsy Girl looked out in the hallway, she saw a very young and beautiful Helen. Helen seemed to glow and was wearing a beautiful lavender dress. Gypsy Girl winked at Helen, and saw Helen blow a kiss her way. Then Helen simply disappeared and went to heaven.

That night the cleaning crew began cleaning and stuffed Gypsy Girl into a bag with old sweaters and clothes.

“Wait a minute,” Agnes yelled. “Helen’s doll is in there!” However, the crew did not hear Agnes’ soft voice and Gypsy Girl was carried out with all of Helen’s clothes. She felt a ‘bump’ and then a car moving. For the first time in her life, Gypsy Girl was frightened and wondered what would happen to her now that Helen and the others were gone. The car ride was long, and after a few hours Gypsy Girl fell asleep.

When Gypsy Girl awoke, a lady was unpacking the clothes and found Gypsy Girl.

“What a unique rag doll you are! I know someone who might be interested in buying a doll like you.” So the woman took Gypsy Girl to a used doll factory and sold Gypsy Girl to the owner, Bill.

“I’ll take her!” Bill said with enthusiasm. “I don’t know what it is, but there is something special about this doll. I can see her name has been painted on her back pocket. It says, ‘Gypsy Girl’. I think I’ll put her in the window.” And so the toy salesman put Gypsy Girl inside of the window beside an old stuffed snake and a toy stove and oven. Gypsy Girl never felt alone.

Month after month Gypsy Girl waited for that special someone to come and take her out of the window, but no one ever came, until one day right before the store closed.

Gypsy Girl was dozing off with the sun setting and shining in her painted blue eyes when she heard the most beautiful voice that she had ever heard.

“I would like to purchase the beautiful doll in the window. How much does she cost?”

“Well, you see, she’s pretty special to me Little Girl and is worth a hundred dollars, but I’ll give her to you for ten,” Bill stated seeing the desperate need in the teenager’s eyes.

“Wait here! Do not sell her. I will be right back.”

Gypsy Girl waited but no one came back to pick her up and take her home.

The next morning, Gypsy Girl woke up to the happiest sound ever.

“I have your money, Sir. Now, I would really like to have the doll in the window.”

Bill took the money and reached into the window and placed Gypsy Girl into the arms of Skye.

“Gypsy Girl! I love you and will never let you go!” Skye cried while she hugged her tightly. And Skye never did.

It did not matter how Gypsy Girl entered into the world; it only mattered that she made a difference.

Twenty years later Skye was married on a Hawaiian beach with her husband Scott, Breanna and her new husband, Matt, Bryson, his wife, and Gypsy Girl as her maid-of-honor.

As Gypsy Girl watched Skye walking off as a beautiful bride arm-in-arm with her groom, she remembered what Breanna had said so many years ago, and she now knew that Breanna was right. When you love someone you set them free and if they come back, they are yours.

GYPSY GIRL And The Toy House

One day after school, when Skye was in the third grade, she, Gianna and Gypsy Girl were having a tea party in Skye’s room.

“Gypsy Girl, would you pass me the tea?” laughed Gianna.

“Why certainly,” Skye would answer for Gypsy Girl.

Gianna who was in the same grade level as Skye was Skye’s favorite cousin. Skye and Gypsy Girl both thought that Gianna was the most beautiful girl. She had long, dark beautiful braids, the prettiest smile and was the color of coffee with cream. Skye would tell Gianna the color of her beautiful skin because Gianna was blind.

Being blind did not stop Gianna from having a great life, however. She was learning to read Braille and would gently take Gypsy Girl’s hands to glide along the bumpy dots.

Breanna walked into the room and smiled at the girls.

“Girls, I wanted to ask you about something. What do you think about me cleaning out the backyard storage building and make an after school place for kids in our neighborhood? It’s fairly large for storage, and we never use it.”

Gypsy Girl was happy to hear that Breanna was going to open up an after school place for the children because many of them had to go home alone after school. Most parents were working until 6:00 at night, and this made Gypsy Girl sad when she would see them going into houses alone.

“I love the idea,” Gianna beamed.

“Me, too, and I want to help the younger ones with their homework,” Skye smiled.

“Well, then it is settled,” Breanna smiled.

The next week, Skye, Gianna, Breanna, Bryson and of course, Gypsy Girl and Bucky all helped to create a beautiful room for children to learn and to feel safe after school until their parents came home. Gianna and Skye painted the walls a beautiful color of yellow, so that it would look and feel like happiness.

“My vision teacher, Mrs. Smith taught me that,” Gianna beamed. “When she taught me colors, she taught me their meaning through my other sense. Yellow was happiness, the sunshine on my back, a yellow lemon drop, and lemonade.” The girls painted while Breanna brought in a large table and covered it with a beautiful yellow and blue plastic tablecloth.

“We are going to need a plastic tablecloth because we’ll be doing several creative projects,” Breanna told the girls and Bucky.

Bucky was so happy to watch the old storage being turned into a beautiful place for the children to come to in the neighborhood. He looked over at Gypsy Girl and when no one was watching, he and Gypsy Girl gave each other a high-five.

When the room was complete, it was simply the prettiest room. Gypsy Girl and Bucky, Mr. Peabody and Maddy would all be a part of the ‘special’ place for children.

The yellow room had beautiful colorful flowers painted all over it. Bryson was a talented artist and when he painted flowers on the wall, it looked like live flowers in all colors: red, yellow, pink, green, purple, orange and blue. Bryson demonstrated to Gianna the colors by letting her smell of scented markers the colors of the flowers. There were also beautiful dark blue shelves that Breanna put together that were filled with books, puzzles, stuffed animals, and games galore. Except for Gypsy Girl and Bucky, the other animals were placed in a closet where it was nice and warm.

"Here, let me cover them up, so that they will stay warm,” Gianna smiled. Gianna used her cane and walk to where the animals were sleeping. The toys felt excited, and were waiting on the children to come to the toy house and play.

The parents in the neighborhood were so happy that their children would not be going home alone. Before the end of the day, Breanna had four children who would begin to come to the Toy House every day after school.

Since Breanna was a schoolteacher at the elementary school in the neighborhood, the principal allowed her to leave a few minutes early, so that Breanna could be waiting on the children when school was out.

The following Monday, Sam, Jared, Elle and Brette came to The Toy House. Sam was the smallest little one with red hair, a cute freckled face. However, he seemed to be unhappy most of the time. Jared had beautiful dark skin and was simply the smartest child that Breanna had ever taught. The two girls who would be coming to the Toy House were Elle and Brette. Elle was always the class clown and both the children and adults loved this brown haired blue- eyed girl. Brette was much harder to understand. With her beautiful dark hair, olive skin and dark eyes, she was pretty to look at, but no one knew what her smile was like simply because she never smiled.

“Wow,” Elle yelled. “This is the coolest place ever!”

“I know,” Jared screamed. “I can’t wait to play!” “I’m so happy everyone likes the house, but first, let’s finish any homework before we begin playing,” Breanna smiled.

Gianna, Skye and Bryson helped the younger students with their homework, and if they were finished with their homework, they worked on their reading, writing and math skills. Gianna would read from her Braille book while Elle would read print from the same reader. This was an easy thing to do because the two girls were in the same class at school. Bryson was really good at math, so he and Sam worked on adding and subtracting numbers while Skye and Brette worked together on their writing skills.

After the children worked for an hour, Breanna passed out delicious cookies that were coated with frosting.

“Kids, from now on our snacks will be healthier, but I thought that we would celebrate our first day together.”

Bucky was sitting in a really colorful beanbag chair that was blue, purple, green and pink. He was very comfortable in the chair although he did not like the color pink and tried to sit on the far side of the ‘girl’ color. Gypsy Girl was sitting on the ‘pink’ side of the beanbag chair.

Gypsy Girl and Bucky both noticed that Brette and Sam seemed sad and mad most of the time, but while Breanna was kind to the children, she could also be firm when she needed to be.

Brette was the little girl who once tore Gypsy Girl’s arm off, but Gypsy Girl forgave her and they were now friends.

“Brette, let’s share,” Breanna would say when Brette would grab more than her share of the cookies.

Bucky was also worried about Sam. Sam loved Bucky and would squeeze him tightly. Bucky felt so loved when he received one of the squeezes from Sam, but he also knew that Sam was frightened most of the time.

“Breanna, Sam and Brette need more love,” Gianna said one day.

“What makes you think that?” Breanna asked.

“I just know. Can you make them a Bucky and Gypsy Girl, so that they can hold on to someone at night, too?”

“Great idea, Gianna. I can create small toys that we can call Cuddely’s, so that the children can have their own Bucky and Gypsy Girl toy.”

Gypsy Girl and Bucky were so happy with this idea. Children needed toys and the toys needed them, so Breanna went to work and created the pancake dolls called Cuddely’s.

The following Tuesday after the children worked on their homework, Emily asked Breanna what she had in the bag.

“Because you all have been working so hard, I have made you your own toy to take home.” When the children saw the toys, they began to clap, yell and laugh.

“It’s my own Bucky!” Sam screamed.

“What are you going to name him?” Breanna asked.

“I am going to name him something strong like Spike.”

“I like that name.” Breanna said with a smile.

“I am naming my toy, Dimples,” laughed Brette. “See her pretty dimples. She has dimples just like you, Gianna.”

The ‘Cuddely’’s were small replicas of Bucky and Gypsy Girl, but they had different colored hair, eyes, and skin, so that everyone’s new friend would be different. Breanna knew that children were the best to appreciate differences in others.

Brette’s toy was the most beautiful in her eyes. She had lovely dark hair and great big brown eyes, just like Brette’s. Brette decided on the name Rosy Dimples because of the dolls red rosy cheeks and dimples.

At the end of the day, when all of the children had gone home, Gianna got her cane from the hook, and Skye and Breanna walked her home. It was only three doors down, so Skye and Breanna were back home within five minutes.

After they dropped off Gianna at her house Skye asked, “Mom, wants wrong with the clouds?” The sky had quickly turned from a dark blue to a scary green color.

“Bad weather is on its way. We better go outside and cover the Toy House in case the weather gets really bad. It looks like it could be a really bad rain storm.” So, Skye, Bryson and Mom covered the tiny schoolhouse in blue plastic and quickly went indoors.

Sure enough, an hour later, the wind and rain began to blow extremely hard. Skye, Breanna and Bryson jumped into the storage closet with blankets, a radio, candles, and of course, Gypsy Girl and Bucky.

The family huddled together and waited on the big storm to pass. In the meantime, they told funny stories to make each other laugh. Gypsy Girl and Bucky felt Skye squeeze them until they were barely able to breathe.

The next morning after the storm had passed, Breanna, Skye, and Bryson looked at the Toy House, and Skye began to cry.

Gypsy Girl heard Skye cry and felt so sad, but when she looked outside at the Toy House she felt a large lump form in her throat. The Toy House had been destroyed.

“Oh, no!” Skye yelled. “What about the children who come here after school? They are going to be sad.” Bryson held on to Skye while they looked at the broken up wood that was once the Toy House.

Gypsy Girl and Bucky were worried about the toys that were left in the closet of the Toy House, but the toys were safe after all. Gypsy Girl was so happy to see Mr. Peabody, Maddy and all of the toys that were left in the closet were safe, and it was all because Gianna covered them up with blankets.

“We can sit here and cry, or we can push up our sleeves and work to rebuild the house,” Breanna said simply.

So Gianna, Breanna, Skye, Bryson and many neighbors came to help rebuilt the Toy House, but this time, the Toy House was even bigger and nicer. Mr. Bailey who built houses came with a small crew of men and women and rebuilt the Toy House.

It was now painted to look like a schoolroom. They even put in a huge dry erase board, maps, and replaced all of the books from the storm. It was painted red, green, white, purple and yellow. There were beautiful new toys that the neighbors brought to the children all over the room.

Gypsy Girl couldn’t help but laugh when Skye, kissed Bucky and placed him in the nice PINK beanbag chair. Bucky after all, was not a fan of the color pink.

“See, Skye, Gianna and Bryson. Good things can come from really bad events. You just need to keep believing that everything will get better.”

The next Monday the children were so happy to see the new Toy House. Brette walked into the room holding Rosy Dimples and smiled. Sam came in with Spike and showed him around the new Toy House.

Gypsy Girl knew that when something bad happens then something good is right around the corner.

Gypsy Girl in “The Snow Day”

One day when Gypsy Girl and Skye woke up after a long night’s sleep, Skye began screaming. “Mom, Bryson, look outside! It’s snowing!” Skye was so excited that she grabbed Gypsy Girl and ran to the window. Gypsy Girl could not believe her eyes. The entire ground, trees and rooftops were all covered with beautiful white snow.

Skye grabbed Bucky from the beanbag chair and ran into the kitchen where Breanna and Bryson were sitting down at the table and eating their eggs and toast.

“Good news, Skye,” Bryson began. “Other than the snow that you were yelling about, we do not have school today. It’s been canceled because of the snow.” Skye was so excited that she ran to her room and grabbed her coat, gloves, hat and scarf, and then put on her long socks and rubber rain boots that were decorated with pink hearts. Gypsy Girl and Bucky were thrown on the bed and out ran Skye to play with her friends outside.

Mr. Peabody, the stuffed brown horse, watched closely to make sure Skye really went outside to throw snowballs and make a snowman in the snow before he told all of the toys to come out and play. Once he gave the okay, the toys leaped out of the closet and out from under the bed.

“Gypsy Girl, let’s watch the kids play by looking at them through the window,” Molly, the ballerina doll suggested.

“I want to go outside and throw snowballs,” laughed Bucky. Gypsy Girl was in agreement with Molly because she thought Bucky would be able to throw a really hard snowball. Mr. Peabody, Gypsy Girl, Bucky, Molly, the ballerina doll and a toy snake named Cecil all watched Skye, Bryson and Breanna make the cutest snowman. Since there was a pond behind Skye’s house, the family dressed the snowman in a man’s bathing suit, with sunglasses and a cap on his head and named him Sammy.

Gypsy Girl screamed for everyone to duck down when she saw Skye look towards the window and squint her eyes. Gypsy Girl thought Skye saw the toys peering out the window.

“Hurry, everyone back to your place,” screamed Mr. Peabody. “Skye is coming in!” The toys jumped back into the closet and Gypsy Girl and Bucky took their place on the bed. Gypsy Girl could hear Skye enter the bedroom.

“Something is going on here, Gypsy Girl. I put you on the left side of the bed and Bucky on the right. Now why are you on the right side and he’s on the left.

Oops, thought Gypsy Girl, but of course, she simply looked at Skye with her crooked smile and said nothing. Bucky started to say something until Gypsy Girl shook her head no at him, so he closed his mouth.

“Come on, Skye,” Breanna yelled while she was coming through the door back inside of the house. “I want you to try something delicious. It’s called Snow ice cream.”

“Yummy!” Skye screamed and once again dropped the toys on the bed and ran out of the room.

Gypsy Girl and Bucky decided not to wake the toys in the closet because earlier they were almost caught being alive.

Bucky and Gypsy Girl gazed outside the window at the beautiful white and cold snow when they saw the snowman named Sammy frown.

“I can hear him saying something,” Bucky said. After all, Bucky’s one good ear could hear almost anything from miles away. Gypsy Girl looked out the window and Sammy was yelling at them.

“Skye is my family now! You and the other toys are history,” screamed Sammy at Gypsy Girl and Bucky.

“You don’t scare us,” Bucky barked. He did scare Gypsy Girl but she said nothing.

“Hey, One Ear and Ugly,” he yelled talking to Gypsy Girl and Bucky. “Come out here in the snow, and I’ll show you who is boss.”

Gypsy Girl wanted to ignore him, but Bucky did not.

“I’ll come out there when I am ready,” barked Bucky. Bucky turned to say something to Gypsy Girl, and when he looked back Sammy was right in the window staring them down and only a few inches away from the window.

Gypsy Girl wanted to scream but didn’t. Bucky was so frightened that he fell off the windowsill.

“Mom, the snow is falling really hard now,” Skye screamed from the other room. “I am going out to check on Sammy. He is so cute.” When Gypsy Girl looked back, Sammy was back in his place wearing a fake smile and holding a beach towel that Bryson placed in his hands.

Gypsy Girl was mad and then jealous. Why couldn’t Skye see that Sammy was mean? Why did Skye want to play with Sammy? As Gypsy Girl was asking herself these questions, Bucky came up with a great idea on how to teach Sammy a lesson. However, he had to wait until late tonight while Skye, Breanna and Bryson slept.

Later that night when Skye’s family was asleep, Bucky called the toys out of the closet and told them his plan. The next thing Gypsy Girl knew the toys were all walking outside and into the five -inch snow.

"Brrr,” Molly said. “I am wearing a ballerina costume and I am freezing.” Since Gypsy Girl was made from cloth, her feet were getting cold and a little wet from the snow. Crunch, crunch, crunch. The snow was making its own music as the toys approached Sammy.

"Well, look who is here,” Sammy laughed. “The toy parade from the Dime Store.”

Sammy and all of the newly created snowmen and women began laughing at the toys and gathering around them like a pile of ants to sugar.

“Bark, bark, bark,” Bucky screamed while the snow people continued to laugh.

“SSSssssssssssss,” Cecil tried to coil around the snow people and scare them off, but they only laughed harder.

The toys were greatly surprised when Gypsy Girl took off her bandana and waved it around like a flag. She began running toward the pond. The snow people began to follow her closely, so the other toys ran behind the snow people to help Gypsy Girl.

When Gypsy Girl got to the pond, she leapt high in the air, and she landed on piece of floating wood in the water. The snow people followed her into the water, and they all began to melt. Gypsy Girl remembered her science lesson that Skye taught her. Water comes in three forms: water, solid and air. Gypsy Girl remembered that when water is frozen it is a solid just like Sammy and the snow people but when it warms up, it melts and turns back to water.

“You don’t scare me,” Bucky barked as he watched Sammy slowing melting. Bucky saw Sammy’s frown and then he watched Sammy become nothing more than a piece of floating ice the size of an ice cube.

“Let’s hurry back to the closet,” screamed Mr. Peabody, and the toys did. Skye rolled over when Gypsy Girl was back in the bed.

“Why are your feet wet?” Skye wondered aloud. Gypsy Girl continued to smile with her crooked smile and said nothing.

The next morning when Skye and Bryson looked outside the window to check on the snowmen they noticed they were gone.

“What happened to our snowman, Sammy?” Skye wanted to know.

Breanna began to explain to her young daughter, “Skye, look up behind the clouds. Do you see the sun? The temperature is warming and so the snow is beginning to melt. Look, I see Sammy’s hat floating in the pond. Now, how did it get way over there?”

“But, Mom, I am going to miss Sammy,” Skye moaned.

Gypsy Girl and Bucky could not help but smile as they listened in on the conversation about Sammy.

“Don’t worry, Skye. Sammy will be back. It’s suppose to start snowing again Saturday.”

Bucky and Gypsy Girl looked over at each other. Bucky quickly pulled the shades down in Skye’s room. Even though Gypsy Girl was not happy to hear that there was more snow in the forecast, she could always count on the sun to shine and make everything good once again.

Gypsy Girl Activities

Gypsy Girl brings happiness to those around her. While her life began from a toymaker’s anger, to the trashcan before she was discovered by a loving and caring school teacher, Gypsy Girl keeps believing that everything turns out for the good.

Gypsy Girl and Bucky would love for children to complete the following activities. Their only rule is that kids have fun and use their imaginations to create a better world.

  • Illustrate the main characters from the story: Gypsy Girl, Bucky, Breanna, Skye and Bryson. Who is your favorite character? Explain why?
  • Do you believe that all things will turn out well? Write down examples of when something bad turned into something good.
  • Puppet Fun- Take construction and Manila paper, ice cream sticks, colors, glue and scissors. Make your own characters from Gypsy Girl, summarize the story and give a puppet show to younger children.
  • The Toy House was a wonderful place for children. Design your own Toy House from a shoebox. Fill the room up with items. Make children want to come to your afterschool house.
  • Make a map of Gypsy Girl’s travels from the first story. Illustrate how she was born and how she travels from person-to-person.
  • Breanna is a loving schoolteacher. Write a paragraph about your favorite teacher. Illustrate her/his picture.
  • Gypsy Girl and Bucky appreciate differences in others. Cut out pictures of people who are different in color, size and shapes. Make a fun ‘people’ collage.
  • Write a letter to the toymaker, Albert. Tell him about Gypsy Girl and her adventures.
  • Appreciating differences in others helps to appreciate our own differences. Children who cannot see use Braille to read and write. Louis Braille who was also blind created this great code for the blind and visually impaired. Go to the following website and learn the Braille alphabet. (http://www.braillebug.com)
  • People who cannot hear are deaf or hearing impaired. Sign language is the beautiful language of the hands. Search the internet, and learn the sign language alphabet.
  • I found the greatest website for kids called Simple Kid Recipes. Make a treat for a Bucky the Bulldog. Follow the simple recipe below and give it to your favorite dog.
    Homemade Dog Treats

    Here's what you'll need:

    • 2 cups oats
    • 2 cups wheat bran
    • 1 cup cooked liver
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 4 eggs

    Here's what to do:

    1. Mix everything together and stir well.
    2. Get one spoonful at a time and slide onto a greased cookie sheet with a dull knife like you're making cookies.
    3. Drop them about 1 inch apart. Shape with your hand or press down with the spoon.
    4. Bake in a 350F degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the treats are browned.

    Your dog will love these!

  • Gypsy Girl loves to make others happy. Write a letter to someone that you feel needs a smile. Illustrate your letters with colorful pictures.
  • Breanna gives the children in her afterschool program a delicious cookie treat. Spread your favorite type of frosting on a large sugar cookie. Decorate your cookie with sprinkles, raisins, and other yummy treats.
  • Gypsy Girl and Bucky are worried about their toy friends who are outside in the schoolhouse during a thunderstorm. Watch and record the weather for a week. How much does the weather change from day-to-day?
  • Go to utube and watch Severe Storm Steve, a fourth grader who is blind and loves to inform his school about the weekly weather.
  • Read Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by . Have children to write their own story where food becomes the weather.
  • Helen and Agnes were two old ladies who lived in a nursing home. Gypsy Girl brightened up their lives with her beautiful crooked smile. Visit someone who lives in a nursing home. Make them a ‘happy’ card, take them something good to eat, and give them a big hug.
  • Decorate a sack for children who live in a homeless or women’s shelter. Use paint, sparkles, stickers, etc. Be creative! Use toys from Happy Meals and place them in the sack. You will brighten up a child’s life.
  • Breanna made Brownies to make Gypsy Girl and Skye feel better after Gypsy Girl’s arm was ripped off. Serve a plate of Brownies to someone who has a bad day and cheer them up.
  • Make a healthy menu of snacks for Breanna to serve the children Monday-Friday.
  • Breanna, Skye and Bryson eat Snow ice cream. Follow this simple recipe for this delicious treat.

    Here's what you'll need:

    • 1 gallon snow
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 2 cups milk

    Here's what to do:

    1. When it starts to snow, place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes.
    2. When full, stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency.
    3. Serve at once. Yummy!
  • On a snowy day make your own collection of snow people. Give them names and dress them in fun and creative ways.
  • Make a beautiful snow scene. Simply take a long piece of glass, decorate it with aerosol snow or shaving cream. Add plastic trees and toy people to your snow scene.
  • On a wooden floor, take off your shoes, and skate around in your skates. You can have your own ice skating rink.
  • Gypsy Girl and her friends seek to make a difference in the lives of others. Do an internet search and look for ways to help other children in your community.
  • Read the wonderful story, The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats.
  • Sing the following song although I do not think that you would hear Gypsy Girl and her friends singing it. Gather children from the neighborhood and have a snow band. Have fun with various types of instruments.

    You Are My Snowman 
(Tune: You Are My Sunshine)

    You are my snowman, 
My only snowman. 
You make me happy, 
On days of gray. 
And when the sun's out, 
You'll hear us all shout. 
Please don't take our snowman away!
    ~ Author Unknown

  • Take a glue stick and spread it all over a large sheet of Manila paper. Sprinkle white rice all over the paper. You have created your own snow scene.
  • Search the internet and look for places around the world that has the most snowfall. Make a graph and compare the top five places with most snow.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about Gypsy Girl and her friends. Gypsy Girl wants everyone to know that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it only matters where you are going. She also wants to teach that the best way to be happy is to do as much as you can for others. This is the way to true happiness, according to Gypsy Girl, Bucky, and her friends.

Gypsy Girl was found in a trashcan (only inches away from old French fries and ketchup) yet she made a difference in the lives of every one she met.

Look around and see how you can make a difference in other people's lives. You will find that you will never want for a friend, and will find happiness in helping others.

As Gypsy Girl has proven, there is plenty of love for everyone.

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