By Sila Miller
Hello FCB Members, friends, and White Cane Bulletin Readers. Meet Greg Lindberg, the new Editor of our White Cane Bulletin! It was my privilege to get to know Greg just a bit during our recent phone call. After much phone tag, he agreed to carve out a little time from his busy schedule for me. Thanks much, Greg! You are a delightful interviewee and a true rising star! I can’t wait to read the next edition of the WCB and look forward to getting to know this multi-talented but humble young man better!
Born August 26, 1986 in Palm Harbor, Gregory John Lindberg is the youngest child of David and Marsha Lindberg. “Yep, I’m 29 years old now so I’ve got my ‘big 30’ coming this year, which I’m not looking forward to,” bemoans Greg. “Oh would you just shut up!” was my unpitying retort! And we laughed and were off to a great beginning!
Greg’s dad, David Jr. is a physician, specializing in Internal Medicine. Marsha is a nurse with a passion for helping others. “Both my parents are very supportive. They’ve pushed me and helped me so much to get to where I am today,” says Greg. Greg grew up with an older brother, David III. “He’s given me guidance, both literally and figuratively throughout my life whenever I’ve needed it. We have a very close relationship. He was working in the corporate world for a few years and thought, ‘Y’know, this is not what I want to do—I don’t like this. I want to go into education—maybe teach.’ So he quit his job and went back to school. I give him a lot of credit for that. He’s currently obtaining his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Florida,” Greg proudly says. “I can’t say enough about my family’s support and being there for me when I’ve needed them.” Greg is an animal lover. Lily, a 10-year-old ball of joy Maltese, completes the Lindberg family circle.
Greg enjoyed a busy and challenging childhood, joining a bowling league when he was only six and beginning piano lessons around the same age. He played for several years, enjoying bluesy-jazz type pieces until it became “uncool” to play the piano, and his musical interest segued into guitar. “I kind of got out of it when I was in high school—thought it really wasn’t the most cool thing to play the piano,” Greg sheepishly confesses. “I kind of regret that in a way. But, then again, it has benefited me in learning the guitar and being able to really enjoy that now,” he reasons. Recently Greg performed in a few recitals, playing and singing such greats as “American Pie” by Don McLean, “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett, and “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. He continues to be a bowling enthusiast, sometimes joining members of his Pinellas Council chapter for a game at a local bowling alley.
Greg has partial sight—he describes as “kind of like tunnel vision – like looking through binoculars. I’m very fortunate. I know there are people out there with no vision. Mine’s pretty stable. I use a white cane for travel,” he explains. Greg was diagnosed about four years ago by a specialist at the University of Florida with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) following a battery of tests including genetic assessment with his parents. “I always thought I had Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP),” says Greg. LCA is a term given to a group of diseases caused by mutations or changes in one of a number of genes. These diseases are rare genetic eye conditions that appear at birth or in the first few months of life. The extent of vision loss varies from person to person, but it can be quite severe. The gene mutations lead to failure in function of the photoreceptor cells (rods and cone cells that receive light), ultimately causing cell degeneration. The extent of degeneration depends on the type of LCA. For some types of LCA, the vision (or lack of vision) remains stable. By early adolescence, various changes in the retinas of patients with LCA become readily apparent. A variety of pigmentary (color) changes can also occur in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), the supportive tissue underlying the retina. Sometimes, pigmentary changes are similar to another retinal degenerative disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosa—likely the reason for Greg’s initial misdiagnosis. Symptoms of LCA include nystagmus (involuntary jerky rhythmic eye movement), photophobia (sensitivity to light) and slow pupillary response to light.
Throughout school, Greg sat near the front of the class and some of his teachers would copy what was on the blackboard for him. “I had a vision teacher who would help me, as far as accommodations—getting large print textbooks. I remember having to go to Kinko’s and copy my own textbooks to make them large print—that was quite an adventure—probably exactly what copyright law is designed to prevent,” he chuckles. “But, that’s when I just had to do what I had to do!” Greg takes full advantage of the wealth of adaptive alternatives available. He uses an Acrobat Close-Circuit TV (CCTV) and a Mac laptop with speech and magnification. “I like to think I was born in the best time because of all the technology out there. It’s just really neat. And as far as my job goes, that’s just a breeze with the help of adaptive technology,” Greg states.
Greg attended Palm Harbor University High School and graduated in 2005. He was involved with PHUHS’ Mu Alpha Theta organization, a group of math-minded students. Mu sponsors an annual math competition, and Greg did quite well in that area. “My brother, being a math whiz, kinda pushed me in that direction,” says Greg. “So we’d go to different math competitions, and here I am, more the writer type in this math club. That was kind of interesting. But I did fairly well—I don’t know if I ever won any trophies but it was a nice outlet, and I met some friends that way.”
Greg’s sincere passion is writing. “Early on, it was kind of the fiction type writing—just writing short stories—nothing that deep or complicated. Then probably when I was in high school and getting into college, I was more interested in journalism and, y’know, storytelling, and writing about actual people—more of a non-fiction type writing,” Greg relates. “So that’s what actually convinced me to go into journalism—what I actually studied in college.”
Greg’s post-secondary experience began with St. Petersburg College where he obtained his Associate of Arts degree. Then it was on to the University of South Florida (USF) at the St. Petersburg branch for the major stuff where he obtained both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in journalism. During college, Greg worked as the Sports Editor for The Crow’s Nest, the student newspaper at USF St. Petersburg. “I’ve always been a really big sports fan, always enjoyed following and watching. So that was kind of a dream job to be able to write about sports,” says Greg. Not only did Greg love the work, but he also enjoyed a few of the job-related perks, not the least of which was getting into the Press Box at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stadium where some of the USF games were played. “Yeah, to be able to get in that press box and have that experience was pretty cool too,” recalls Greg.
While still attending college, Greg interned with AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization for people age 50 and over. “I was there for about a year. I was a communications intern for them in their St. Petersburg office. That kind of opened my eyes to what I really wanted to do in my career,” says Greg. “Writing and communications work, marketing, public relations—kind of how all that ties together—crafting messages to communicate the goals of an organization—being able to write feature articles about some of their members and press releases. Looking back, I have a lot of fond memories, and it was a good experience. it was my first introduction to the real working world so to speak.”
Following the AARP internship, Greg did some freelance writing from home. “Honestly, I just had a real tough time finding work,” admits Greg. “I went through a ton of interviews. Gosh, probably 12 or 13. After about a year, I finally landed an unpaid internship—actually with my current employer, 1-800Accountant. At the time, I’d had my Master’s for over a year and I thought, ‘My gosh, do I really have to work for free and build my resume?’ And here I’d felt like I could just go out there and get a great job and move out and just have this great life! Come to find out, it’s a lot harder than that. It was quite a tough pill to swallow. But looking back, I’m very glad that I took that internship because almost four years later, here I am—still with 1-800Accountant, and I’ve been with the company the longest now in my office of 60 people.”
1-800Accountant provides accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, consulting, audit protection, and other business services to new and existing small businesses. Greg is the Editor-in-Chief for the company. “Basically, I manage all our website written content (anything from articles to blog posts). I do press releases for different news items and features about the company. I manage all of our social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, and Google plus). I write copy for a lot of our email campaigns, especially now, during tax season. It’s kind of a busy time of year to get new clients and find people to prepare taxes for,” explains Greg. For the last year, Greg has also managed a copywriter, overseeing her work and providing outline and direction for her.
“There are a lot of people out there—they look at someone walking in with a white cane for an interview, and they’re not sure what that person can really do and how that person would fit into the organization,” reflects Greg. “I mean, I had one experience where I did not mention my vision in the phone interview and then went in for the actual face-to-face interview. The guy actually got pretty upset—was very flustered, taken aback, asking, ‘Can you see anything? How can you see a computer?’ So that experience really kind of taught me, ‘Woe!—hopefully there’re not too many people out there like this, but obviously, there are some. And, hey, maybe I should approach this a little differently.’ Now, if I have an interview, I’ll definitely mention my vision in the phone interview. I know that is kind of a controversial thing—y’know, Do you mention that? Should you? Should you not disclose? But I think you really just have to let the person know that hey, this is what I’ve got, and if you don’t wanna hire me because of that, lets end it right now. If not, bring me in and give me a chance.”
Greg’s first contact with FCB was in 2005 when he was a senior in high school. “I actually received a scholarship for $500.00,” recalls Greg. “Then, about three years ago, I was doing some research online and typing things into Google and stumbled across the Pinellas Council of the Blind. I called up the president at the time (Florence) and she really sold me on it. I’ve definitely built some relationships within the group, and they kind of found out about my writing skills and asked if I’d be the Secretary. I’ve always looked for places and groups where I could fit in and really connect with others. And I thought, hey, what a great opportunity! I wish I’d have found it earlier.” Greg hit the ground ready to work. He was elected Secretary of the Pinellas Council of the Blind, an office he’s held for just over a year and writes their monthly newsletter. At the beginning of this year, Greg also accepted the Editorship of the White Cane Bulletin and looks forward to filling that role.
“I thoroughly enjoy beep baseball,” says Greg. “I mean the whole experience—the camaraderie of being able to play baseball and not having to see the ball, being able to just hear it.” Greg wants to get a beep ball team going and is currently investigating ways to raise money for the necessary equipment, a fairly expensive proposition. “Baseballs generally run about 50 bucks apiece, and beeping bases can run around a couple hundred apiece,” he reckons.
Greg is proud to have done some advertising work for the Blind Matters Radio Show and was a guest co-host on one of the shows. “It was a very cool experience to have my voice and perspectives heard by visually impaired listeners around the world,” he says.
“Never give up on your dreams,” advises this dynamic young man. “Always work hard and you should be rewarded for it at some point. Surround yourself with positive people, but also people who are smarter and more experienced at things than you are. Soak up their knowledge and advice.” True words of wisdom all would do well to heed.
One of Greg’s fervent dreams is to be the Editor-in-Chief of a well-known company where he can have his hand in all communications and writing aspects of the company in terms of editorial decisions. “I'd love to be surrounded by other talented writers, designers, and communications experts who are skilled at communicating the goals of an organization to the public,” he shares.
Not even 30 yet with a Masters, a great job, lots of talent, and a desire to share it with others, you’ve got the world at your feet. Here’s betting you won’t stay single long and that you’ll more than realize your dreams! Thank you, Greg, for sharing your time and talent with me and with FCB. Say, in this day and age of electronic writing, what does one get a writer in place of a Montblanc pen?
P.S. Thank you, Florence Pincus, for telling Greg about FCB. Thank you, Kathy Millican, for telling Greg about the need for an Editor for the WCB. What an asset!