Christmas With Chronic Illness

It is the holiday season that so many look forward to. It is also the holiday season which so many dread for various reasons.

There are many people who dread the family gatherings, many parties and things that are expected of people. Why, because they are chronically ill. You may not see it, because most of those living with chronic illness are so good at masking the pain with a smile. Most will not say how much pain they are in or how awful they are feeling because they want to make their family and friends happy. They want to participate, but then they pay for it sometimes for days.

I think one of the blessings that has come for many this Christmas season is that in many places they are saying to not visit and stay within your household. So as much as they will miss their families and friends they will not have to stay in bed for 2-2 days after one Christmas party because they over did it.

Having the ability to stay home and not explain why you are not able to make it, is like a blessing for so many. Now this year it is acceptable for people to connect via zoom or other online ways. Making it much more bearable and accessible for individuals who are chronically ill.

I have always really enjoyed Christmas but over the last few years it has gotten harder and harder. The houses full of family finding it hard to navigate around homes that are not yours. The pain from spending time in the car to get to different places, and the fatigue that hits you out of no where. The migraines that pop up….. There is just so much that goes into being sick.

Like so many I have always just smiled and laughed and hid the pain and feeling awful from those around me. I don’t want the pity and I don’t want to ruin Christmas so it has been hard. But this year I get to connect with family online, and relax on Christmas with my family doing what I need to do for me without having to feel guilty or explaining to anyone.

Lounging with my feet on the coffee table a candle lit and the Christmas Tree lit up. In this photo you only see my feet with cozy slippers the candle on the coffee table and the Christmas tree beyond.

I love my family and friends but I want to be the best me when I am with them and enjoy their company and sometimes that isn’t possible if I am having a flare up and not feeling well. There are so many people who live the same experience that i do and I hope they are able to do what they need to do for them this year!

Merry Christmas

Ashley and Danson

No Social Media………For 2 weeks!

Hello everyone, it has been a while. I have been on social media for a few years now and have worked really hard to grow my blog and online presence educating and being a part of the change for those who are blind or partially sighted.

Social media has allowed me to be able to reach thousands of people that I never thought possible. But it also took its toll on my mental health little but little. I think with everything that is going on with Covid-19 and all the extra stress that has been in all of our lives I just hit a spot in my journey where I needed to make a change and a drastic one.

I have had a lot going on in my personal life, work life, momma life, guide dog life, chronic illness, trying to go to school life. There was just so much on my plate that it started to crack. The one place that was negotiable in relieving some of that stress was my online life. I do not share all of my life online so it was the easiest place to step back and just let it go. So November 14th that is what I did.

I had made my last post on instagram and never said anything about leaving, I just did. I put a post on my personal Facebook page that if friends wanted to keep in touch to reach out as I was taking a break and didn’t know when I would be back.

There are few things that we can really step away from and re-assess how it is affecting us, and social media and the online world is the one that we have so much control over. I would spend hours trying to stay relevant in the online world and make sure that I was sharing content that would always go towards the things I was passionate about, like disability, chronic illness, educating those who would read my content. But in all of that I lost myself.

There is so much more to me than my disabilities and even though I still am very very passionate about all of those things and want to continue to share and educate and create change. I am also very aware of the effects of social media and what that can do to us.

When you are online it is not always a nice place and you have to consciously ignore and leave behind that negativity that is so easy for individuals to spew when they are not in a good space themselves. And when we are not feeling the greatest ourselves that becomes almost impossible.

Over the last couple of weeks I deleted all social media platforms, youtube, my blog everything from my phone. I have seen a huge change in my mental health (I still have a long ways to go) that I can do it and that I need to reevaluate what role social media has in my life.

I found that even though I have built a community of people online I was feeling more lonely than I ever have. Building true friendships is something that I have always said didn’t matter to me, but that was because I have always struggled with friendships and even more so as an adult. But now I know that I am someone who needs those real connections to people. I need to be able to pick up the phone and chat with someone or send a hundred text messages back and forth during a week because those relationships are what make me feel whole. And I was not finding those scrolling online,

We all have a journey that we are on and this is just a portion of my journey. I have no idea where it will take me or where it will end up, but I do know that I love to write, educate, engage and create change, so I will never stoop doing those things. But how I do it, is really up in the air.

I hope you are all staying safe and I hope you take some time to think about what is bringing you joy this time of year and always.

Until Next Time!

Ashley and Danson

Imagine Helping Thousands with One Shovel!

Here in Canada and many other places winter is upon us. It is this time of year that I am reminded of how much my independence relies of the generosity of strangers to shovel the snow.

Being blind many people think is such a barrier to me living the life that I want and that my life must be so hard and awful because I am blind. However my life is just like anyone else’s, I have to do things differently in some cases but I work, I am a mom, sister, daughter, and so much more just like you are.

I love winter it is a beautiful season, I love the sports that come along with winter as well. I am itching to get to the ski hill if we are being honest and strapping on my snowboard. As much as I love winter, it can also be a challenge.

When I travel with my guide dog or my cane I am relying on the built environment around me to give me clues and landmarks to tell me where I am and that I am on the right track to where I am going. If I feel grass under my feet then I know I have veered from the sidewalk. Or I feel the dip in the side walk and the tactile cuts in the curb, I know I am at the intersection. There are many things that I use to help me navigate independently.

However, when the snow starts to fly, as beautiful it is it also covers up the built environment and erases everything tactile that I use to navigate. It can make is really stressful to get around and to be independent.

Black lab Danson walking through snow on the sidewalk.

I am not someone who wants to sit around and not be able to go out because there is no one around to come with me. And I am not alone in this in the blind community. There are so many blind individuals who are fiercely independent.

When I walk around my neighbourhood and people take the time to shovel the sidewalk in front of their home, I am so grateful. It means that I can enjoy my walk and relax just a little bit.

A shovel can give some individuals the ability to go out and enjoy a walk or get groceries independently. When I was a cane user I was not able to travel alone in many cases because the snow and unshoveled sidewalks made my world too inaccessible.

Black lab Danson walking on a sidewalk that has been cleared of snow.

If you take the few minutes to shovel your sidewalk in front of your home it will mean that someone who is blind or partially sighted is able to get out of their home more easily and be more independent. It helps so many and is always very much appreciated.

Imagine how that would impact your daily life if you needed to rely on the hearts of strangers to run your errands or enjoy a walk independently.

If you want to check out how Danson and I are able to navigate this weather check out my latest video on my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/YwygEegRfIY

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Danson

COVID is Not an Excuse for Lack of Accessibility

COVID has had an impact on all of us in one way or another, in fact probably more than one way for all of us. From family, work, routine, children, and so much more. Now for some of us it has also made a world that was pretty inaccessible even more so.

We are all trying our best to keep ourselves and others safe in our personal lives and in our professional ones. In turn that has become an excuse to not be accessible to those who require it.

When I go out in public my hands are my eyes, there is no way for me to change that. It is my reality. I cannot see the lines or arrows or any of the signage that people feel the need to point out incessantly. People right now I am sure are stressed but it does not give you the right to call someone out for touching things, or not following arrows. It might be hard to believe but the stress we feel is high, the anxiety we fell is up there, do we want to touch things nope! But unfortunately for you that is my reality.

I have had many instances when I have gone into a store to try and find something and stood near where I could hear people and waited to see if someone would offer to help. I am trying my best to stay away from people. But in one instance I stood and waited for 20 minutes, then when I overheard two possible employees saying “how do we help that one?” then giggling and the young man saying I have just been watcher her, but she has touched so many f**** things”. Needless to say I left.

I get it people don’t want to be close to people, but I require the assistance of others when I am out and about. I am conscious of people’s discomfort so I make a point to wear a mask, constantly hand sanitize, but people just do not want to help. Unfortunately that is one way that I was able to be as independent as I wanted and needed to be.

There have been instances where people have been needing to purchase a new cell phone or a new computer and have been told they are not allowed to touch the demos. Which for the bulk of the population that is fine, for someone who is blind, it doesn’t work. Would you buy something without seeing it at all or being able to test it? Probably not but that is what we are being made to do. When there are safe ways to be able to allow people who are blind or partially sighted to have the same access.

Being told that your guide dog is not welcome and using COVID as a reason is also happening, letting someone not have a sighted guide, so many things have been made inaccessible. In no way is COVID an excuse to not allow people to have equal access to the world around them. We should be moving forward in disability and accessibility not backwards, and in so many senses that is what COVID has felt like.

If everyone just remembers that we all just want to be able to live a safe, happy, healthy life and if we work together we can. It would be a much better place to be. If you see someone who looks like they need help, please for the love of god ask.

Photo of Ashley Nemeth

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

Differently Abled?…….NO!

“People who are differently abled….” This is something that I have heard more and more. All I have to say is NO! How is this something that is ok to call people who have disabilities. Some might be comfortable with this label but please never call me differently abled.

The only reason I would be differently abled from you is if it is not accessible and then that is not my fault. i am more than able to do what you do. I work full time, I have three children, I snowboard, I golf, I hike, I cry, I laugh, I live my life, I have opinions that are unpopular, I get sad, I get angry. Tell me how that is any different than anyone else.

Ashley and her 1st guide dog yellow lab Rick standing at the lodge at a ski hill while Ashley holds her snowboard.

I may be blind but that is like you having brown hair and me having blond. It is a trait but it certainly does not affect my ability to do things. I am capable and do live a very full life. When the world around me is set up so that it is not EQUAL TO ALL that creates barriers but my abilities DO NOT create barriers.

Ashley with the contestants of the Miss Canada Pagent.

When society thinks that I am not as capable that creates barriers but my actual skills and abilities far outstretch what society says I am capable of. I am not one to stand and shout out my accomplishments but if we look at the last 5 years I have done some pretty amazing things.

I have been named one of the future 40 under 40 in Saskatchewan, I have completed my Certified Management Degree, I have reached more than 1 million people through this blog, I have had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, I have spoken at many different events, I was named as a Women of Change in Saskatchewan on International Women’s Day. I was a judge in a beauty pagent, I ran in a provincial election, I was nominated as a YWCA Woman of Distinction. I am raising three amazing children!

Ashley and her current guide dog black lab golden cross Danson sitting looking at each other during training.

These are just a few of the things I have accomplished because I am a smart, strong, independent woman. I have the ability to achieve whatever I set out to achieve, without the limits of what a label like “Differently Abled” place on those with disabilities. A barrier that society has placed on me not a barrier that is actually there.

When I advocate I am not advocating for special treatment or for more than what others get, I am advocating and demanding EQUAL ACCESS to the world we live in.

Ashley and Danson lay on the grass in the park smiling at the camera. Danson is wearing his guide dog harness. Ashley is wearing a blue blouse with a black blazer and sunglasses.

Never underestimate my abilities and call me differently abled!

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Danson

Fear in Disability is Powerful

Being a part of the blind community and even the disability community as a whole I hear people say all the time how they are scared, or they are anxious about so many aspects of life as a disabled person.

One of the things that I have learnt in my journey to loving my life as a blind woman is that that fear you feel can be one of the most powerful feelings you have ever had. It can really change the way you live your life and can be the driving force in you living the life that you want to live.

Doing what makes uncomfortable creates comfort in new situations. Here I am navigating a space that created panic but now makes me feel strong and empowered. Photo description Ashley walking with her black lab guide dog on a path with her phone in her hand for navigation wearing sunglasses, cropped ripped jeans and a navy blue t-shirt.

So many times we see fear as a bad thing, something that holds us back, prevents us from doing the things that we want to do. In many cases that is the truth, but what if we looked at it from a different angle. What if instead of fearing what we cannot control we embraced it and used it as the driving force in our life to expend our world and our capabilities.

I feel fear almost daily, going somewhere new, putting myself out there, parenting as a disabled woman, etc. There are so many times when I feel fear and rather than letting that fear control me, I sit with it and analyze what I am scared of and I make the conscious decision to move forward, face that fear and show myself and the fear that it will only be motivation for me to go outside of my comfort zone.

One step at a time can create the life you want to live! Photo description black lab’s feet with boots on in between Ashleys feet with wedged sandals that have two beige straps across the top. All you see in the photo is the guide dogs feet and Ashleys feet.

When we face our fears and succeed what that does for your confidence and life is something that no one else can provide for you. It is empowering beyond belief to know that in spite of your fear you did it anyway and succeeded.

Will there always be success in facing your fears? No you will fail but you will be failing forward when you are failing facing the things that you fear most. There is no failure only growth. I get it wrong all the tine but I also learn from that failure and when I face that fear again I do it with a new outlook.

What are the things that are holding you back? What are those fears that you feel? Do you wish you could learn to face your fears and take control of your life?

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

When Touching is a No Go!

There are so many things that have changed with the COVID and how we live our everyday lives. As people with disabilities we can sometimes be affected even more.

For myself as a blind person there is so many things that make me quite nervous about the province opening up. The biggest one for me is that I see my world through touch. I shop by touch, I interact with my world with everything like signs, finding door handles by touch.

I find that I have even more anxiety around being out and about or even the thought of going out now because of this. There are just so many logistical things that I feel like no one is talking about. Like are the sanitizing signs that have braille on them or am I just not supposed to know when I am going into the mens restroom. I mean I am ok with it, I can’t see anything anyway but the men inside may mind. Or even if I am at the right room for a meeting, should I just pop in “hey is there a Joe here for Ashley”? I mean that would totally be the professional option but I am hoping there are better ways.

It is always a challenge to have equal access to the world around me and now I feel like so much of my world is a NO TOUCH zone.

Having a guide dog does not make these things any easier at this time either. He has no idea that we should stay two meters away in fact he is not aware that it is rude to walk straight through a group of people talking, even if there is an opening. We have had many conversations about this but he is the decision maker in those instances so I just have learned to smile and say excuse my dog. There are also the instances of buses, where we live they are asking all passengers to utilize the back door to the bus, but if I teach my dog to go to the back door then he will be confused when it is time to use the front door and I want the consistency of knowing he will take me to the front door. So we have to utilize the front door it is the accessible and easiest entrance to navigate for us.

As we all learn to live in this new world we all have things that we never thought we would be thinking of, and I know in time it will feel like second nature to us all. In the meantime I hope that we all show everyone the kindness and empathy that they need.

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

Trying Not To Un-educate My Children……

We are all trying to figure out what our new normal is and what it is going to look like. For me, it has been a real rollercoaster; I am sure many of you are feeling the same.

I have had so much to say over the last 6 weeks or so but yet I would sit down to write and find that I just could not find the words that I was looking for to describe what I was feeling, how things were going, or just anything that made any sense.

The challenges that I am facing are the same as son many of you, transitioning to homeschooling my children, being in the house a lot, working from home, and just having a change in pace really. Most of these things for me are fine. There has been one that has been extremely hard for me; and that is homeschooling my children.

I have three children they are in grades 7, 8, and 11. They have transitioned to online school just like so many others. However this transition has been so much harder than I could have imagined with the accessibility for me as a parent. I have been frustrated with the inability to help to educate my children in the way that I should be able to because of the platforms that are being used snd the excessive amount of graphics, pdfs, and so many other barriers.

If education was accessible for all, all of the time there would be no issue for parents to come in and assist their children in learning. However the only time it is made accessible is when a child requires it. But here I am hoping that my children are not un-educated because of my lack of access to the materials to assist them in their education in these changing times.

In fact this week we have just taken a break, and that has not been easy for me. I feel so much guilt, anger, frustration, for not being able to access this material and help my children to learn yet I also feel guilt for feeling this way because I know that this is not easy for our teachers and everyone is having a hard time.

Getting used to a new normal can be hard, it can be a rollercoaster of emotions, it can include good days and bad days and that is perfectly okay. In fact, when there are times that you are going through major life changes like the lock out at your husbands work (that is a book, not a blog post lol), or changes in your employment, changes in health, changes in how we live our lives it is a good thing to reach out and say I am struggling. I have had to do that, it isn’t easy but at the end of the day making sure I can see the light at the end of the tunnel is very important for myself and my family.

I hope that you are all able to reach out if you need it and support others in this difficult time. We are all strong and we will come out on the other side better people with a new found love for our family and ourselves.

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Danson

Ashley laying her head on Danson a black lab as he is laying on the floor.

Quiet Time…..

As someone who for so many years needed to be busy, busy all the time I am finding that I am really enjoying the piece and quiet. I still keep busy I suppose I mean I work full time, have three kids and a husband (so almost 4 kids sometimes), I also go to school, and have a YouTube Channel and this blog. I mean I suppose when I write it all out it sounds busy. But I used to sit on a lot of boards and be a part of many different things and now I find myself doing more for me.

I know there are times that I feel a little selfish for prioritizing the things that I love like reading, blogging, YouTube, furthering my education. Those are all the things that I chose to take on, because they make me feel good. When we say that we prioritize ourself and the things that we want so many times people will make us feel bad for that.

The major difference that I have found over the last year or two is that when I prioritize myself and the things that I want to do, my mental health is what wins at the end of the day. I can be a very stressed person, I want things to go my way, I want to plan, I want to know exactly what is happening. But taking the tine to do things for me has really helped to curb that in my down time. Now at my 9-5 job….well…..we are all a work in progress………right……….?

a close up dark image of a Mac laptop keyboard.
my computer is my happy place

I have often talked about how I love to read and one of the other things that I have always loved to do and have been doing since I was a kid is writing. Hence the blog. I find that when I am in the mood I can sit down and write multiple blog posts, and articles in a matter of a couple of hours. Are my blogs perfect? Nope not at all, but they are a true image of me, imperfect but perfectly ok with that! I have always been that type of person that when I sit down to write it just flows. I have been really thinking about this and being mindful when I get in the head space for writing and it is my therapy in some ways. It is the only time that I am not thinking about anything else except what I am writing. It is the only time that I feel at complete peace, it is the time when I feel like I can express myself in the way that I want to.

dark living room close up of a corner with a lamp not lit and a candle lit sitting on an end table.
there is always a light at the end of the tunnel

I think we all need to have that thing that is our quite time. That thing that is simply for us, and brings us a great amount of joy that after we are finished doing it, you can think, wow I needed that. In this time of life and society with social media and the notion that we need to be as busy as we can possibly be or you are lazy, or unproductive, or you won’t amount to anything, is craziness. I think more than ever we need those times of quiet, those times of absolute selfishness where we prioritize ourselves and what we need as human beings.

What is your go to quiet time, what is that one thing that brings you the most joy just for you?

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

International Women’s Day 2020

International Women’s Day! This is a day where we can celebrate women all around the world who are making a difference and driving change. I think all women should be celebrated every single day.

When we support women they are able to do amazing things. I am so lucky to have so many women in my life that I look up to and who inspire me to be the best that I can be. The strong amazing women in my life have really helped me to hone in on who I want to be and build my confidence and self esteem. Women supporting women can really be a game changer.

There are so many people who feel like they are not good enough, no pretty enough, not fit enough, not… We put so much emphasis as a society on reaching for perfect. Yet the reality is that everyone is perfect just as they are. You are beautiful, you are fit enough, you are amazing in all your glory.

I want all women to feel the freedom of loving yourself no matter what. Knowing that you are amazing just the way you are and embracing everything that you have to offer. I have not always had these feelings and really struggled with my confidence and my self esteem, and it feels so freeing to not have that hate and doubt for myself every day.

Thank you to all the women in my life who I look up to, and support me in all my crazy. There is not a greater feeling than people who get you, support you and love you no matter what, even when you have all the crazy ideas. They help me to see the good when it all seems so overwhelming. And they are just so darn amazing. They are my family, my mentors, my friends, my coworkers and they mean the world to me.

Happy international women’s day, I hope you know how amazing you are and what you have to offer this world is worth it.

Until Next Time!

Ashley and Danson