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.
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.
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?
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.
The one time of the day I always seemed to dread was when I would get home from work, and it was time to decide what we were going to have for supper and the kids were all asking “what is for supper”? The reaction I would always get from the kids was “ughhhh” or some version of that.
It seemed like no matter what I made no one was happy and I truly dreaded always trying to decide what we were going to eat. I would just wish that someone would give me an idea of what they wanted to eat, rather than when I asked “what should we have for supper?” getting the response “I don’t care, whatever you make.” Really!!! I am asking because I don’t know what to make. So to say this was a horrible time of night was an understatement. I was really just done with it.
I decided to try meal planning for a week at a time, hoping that this may help. I can not tell you how amazing this was! It really turned things around for us. I started to not dislike coming home after work to figure out what was for supper. The question of “what are we having?’ was getting easier and easier to deal with.
I have now started doing two week meal plans, and it is great. It is a really simple process and if you have not tried this, you need to.
I go through my pantry and freezer and have an idea of what we have on hand. Then I sit down with my iPad and write out the days of the week. I then start to just put together meals for supper that we have things for. Then once I have used up most of what we have without duplicating meals, I will start to look up recipes or think of things we have not had in a while.
I also allow the kids to write down suggestions on the white board. I will try to incorporate these things in our meal plan, as long as they are not “McDonalds, or anything eating out.” they really love to write those on my suggestion board. I guess they can keep hoping ha ha.
As I am making my meal plan I will also be making my grocery list as I go using my Alexa. I will add to our shopping list the things we will need to make the dinners that we are planning. One of the unexpected things that has changed drastically by doing this meal planning is that we spend almost half of what we used to on groceries because we have a plan and we are not just walking around the grocery store buying things that we think we will use.
I only plan out lunches for the weekend days, and then we just keep some staples on hand for during the week for the kids for when they come home for lunch. Things like sandwich meat, pizza pops (don’t judge), and instant noodles.
For my husband and I for lunches during the week I try to make a little extra for supper and we will take left overs. On the days we don’t have leftovers we have sandwiches or salad, and we keep some frozen dinners on hand in the freezer for those days when the kids have eaten all the left overs.
There is no more coming home and trying to figure out what the heck we are going to have, and then realizing we can’t make the things we are thinking because we don’t have some of the things to make that meal. Now I come home go to the fridge and get out the ingredients to make what is on the list for that night. It is so easy and nice, when the kids come in and ask what we are having all I have to say is look at the list on the fridge. There is no arguments about what we are going to eat, and we are saving a ton of money on groceries. I mean this has been a huge WIN!
I am going to share my meal plan for the upcoming two weeks. Please know that I am not a chef, we just cook what we like and try to eat a balanced diet. I am huge on sitting down as a family for supper every single night and this is what helps to make this more enjoyable.
Day of the week
Grandmas BBQ chicken, rice, salad
Cream of potato soup, toast
Homemade pizza, salad
Butter chicken, rice, Naan
Pork souvlaki, noodles, salad
Chicken lasagna, cesar salad, garlic toast
Chicken burgers, fries
Sausage, noodles, peas and carrots
Ground chicken tacos
Greek chicken, rice, greek salad
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn
Creamy garlic chicken, rice, peas
If you give this a try let me know, I think as parents we all struggle with dinner time. Life is busy and by that time of day you sometimes are running on fumes so if we can make it easier, by all means lets do it. I use my iPad to plan the meals and then have my husband write them on a white board, you do what works for you. If you are not blind this can easily just be done on a piece of paper or in a planner.
I am thinking of making an accessible PDF for my blind and partially sighted friends, (sighted people can use it too) would you guys like to see that?
There is something about being in a room full of women that support women who are not judging you for where you are at or where you want to go. But truly supporting you as a human being.
I have been someone who feels like I have never really found my people. I have people in my life that I love and who I have connected with on a deep level, but since moving I have struggled to find a social group of people. This has always been something I have struggled with if I am being honest, I seem to be one of those people you love me or you hate me. I am ok with that, it just makes it hard to find your people.
I had an add come across my feed one day and upon clicking found a convention that was for women no matter where you were, they wanted to build you up and support you in where ever you were headed. I thought this has to be too good to be true, but I sent them a message after some social media stalking of course! And asked the question I always ask. “Hey I would love to attend your event, I am blind and have a guide dog. Do you think this is something we can make work?” And the answer I got back made my week! “Of course we would love to have you, we don’t have braille but would be happy to provide someone to help with anything you may need.” All I could think was are you kidding me, that is never the answer I get.
So many times when I ask about events I get answers like I you can’t bring your dog, or we are not set up to accommodate people with disabilities. The only reason I ask this question is to see if these are people I want to be around. Not because I need their permission.
I went to the event and fell in love with this group of women. The support and love that they all gave off was amazing. There are not very many times in my life that I have not felt a little like the odd duck out. (I mean I am a little odd and that is cool with me). This amazing girl gang of the best women you could ever ask for is RaiseHer Co. here in Regina Saskatchewan.
Skylar, Talitha, Gwen, and Marlene are a two daughters and their mothers who have founded this great organization. Both Talitha and Skylar were fortunate to have amazing mentors and leaders growing up in their mothers Gwen and Marlene. They wanted to share that experience with other women in the area. They found that there was not a circle or group that was geared to all women no matter what your career status, career goals, or where you were in your journey. They began RaiseHER Community to bring women together to help them to find their mentors and support each other.
The mission of RaiseHER Co is “to unleash the leadership potential of women through meaningful connections, professional growth, and inspiring experiences.” Along with their vision ” to build communities rich in female leadership that empower future generations to do the same.”
Their values speak to everything I am about and I can not be happier to have found this group of women. With their Lead Her Circles I have met some amazing women from all backgrounds and professions, the connections are real, authentic and meaningful.
Inclusion is top of mind for these women and in a society that many feel like they are always battling stigma to find a truly inclusive place is so meaningful.
If you would like more information or want to join this amazing girl gang check out their website at RaiseHerco.com
It is hard to believe that it is 2020. I have some pretty good blind jokes about this 2020 business but I will save you from my horrible humour.
I have been reflecting on the last year and in turn the last decade. So much has happened in that time. As so many of us it has been an up and down journey to get to where we are today.
When I look bak on the last 10 years I am grateful for where I am now and I am also proud of where I am today. It was a rough 10 years. I lost my dad, and many other very important people to me. I also lost all of my vision. I lost friends and a lot of the life that I had. It is so easy to recall all of the tough times. But when I sit down and really think about what I have all accomplished this last 10 years I am really taken back, and so proud of myself.
I have learned to live a life that I never thought possible. I am a stronger woman than I ever thought possible. I was nominated for the YWCA Women of Distinction awards, I ran in a provincial election, I was named one of CBC Saskatchewans 40 under 40. I had a piece I wrote published in a magazine. I have spoken to thousands of people educating them about blindness and sharing my story. I have had success professionally. I have three kids that have grown into teenagers and pretty amazing people over the last 10 years. I have been blessed with 2 amazing guide dogs who showed me so much and continue to teach me more than i could ever teach them.
I have also learned so much over the last decade. The lessons I learned shaped where I am at today and they taught me how to love more, embrace my emotions no matter what they are, to walk with confidence and not hide, to embrace fear and use it to take on the world. The lessons that we learn are so important, they come from failing , succeeding, saying yes and being scared.
There were times in the last decade that really stand out as hard. When I say hard I mean in the moment and for some time after I thought there is no way I can do this; I am never going to come out on the other end. Some of those times for me were definitely the loss of my dad, the loss of my vision, the early retirement of my first guide dog. Looking back on these times, I am still surprised to be walking on the other side. But they also remind me that life is not going to be easy, it is going to be hard, it is going to be messy, it is going to suck; but coming out on the other side happens even when we can’t imagine how.
I have had the opportunity to speak to so many people that have reached out after reading my blog, and have said how I have helped them, or showed them what is possible, and that I have inspired them. This is something that I am so grateful for. When I was walking in those dark places and trying to come out on the other side of vision loss I wanted someone to tell me it would be ok. Someone who was walking the same journey and who could show me what was possible. So thank you to all of my readers, with the help of you we have given that space to so many.
Now for the first time in my life with 2020 clarity (ha ha I could not help myself) we can make the next 10 years even better!
Being blind is something that so many people will say ” I would rather die”, ” I don’t know how you do it, I could never do that”. But why is that. Why is blindness such a feared disability. Whenever I hear someone say those things to me I think; if only they could see the possibilities.
There is not much in life that I cannot do. I mean I can’t legally drive a car or fly a plane, and you probably don’t want me to be your surgeon, although I could be a good find the bullet helper because I can do it by feel. But to be honest, even if I wasn’t blind I have no desire to fly a plane or be a surgeon. Drive, well I grew up in rural Saskatchewan do you really think that I have never driven? The truth is being blind has helped me to find my passion in life, and to live an amazing life.
When I was younger and was just visually impaired or legally blind, I had such a hard time fitting in. I didn’t fit into the “blind” world (or so I thought) and I didn’t fit into the sighted world. But I wanted so badly to fit into the sighted world. I spent so many days just wishing that things were different, going to extreme lengths to prove that I could see (notice how I am not an actor; it is for good reason). Because I thought, that was the only way that I was going to be able to be happy and to live an amazing life.
And then it all started to disappear. The world as I saw it was gone. At this time, I thought this is not supposed to happen. But it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I never thought, I would rather die, then be blind at that point. It was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. There was no more faking it, I didn’t have to explain to people that I couldn’t see really well and no it wasn’t like when you take off your glasses. I didn’t have to come up with some reason why I tripped over things or bumped into the person I was walking with constantly, or order whatever the person I was with ordered. I could truly live life. It was a simple explanation, I am blind. And it felt so freeing to finally just be able to say to people “could you tell me what you have on the menu for chicken, I am blind”.
Sure people treat me like I am 5 sometimes and there are many things that are frustrating but my life does not suck. I experience the world in a different way than a sighted person for sure. But I am able to do the things that I love, I am able to laugh, cry, have successes and failures just like everyone else.
Through this journey I have been able to help and educate so many people. It has been a whirlwind and I never thought I would be where I am today. There isn’t a greater feeling then when someone reaches out and says “thank you, you have helped me to see that my disability is not going to hold me back anymore”. If I only help one person to see that they can live the life that they want, disability or not, then it will all be worth it.
As we move through our own journey in life no matter what that is, we can so easily get stuck comparing where we are at with those around us. Social media makes us compare our lives to what we see online. When the reality is that what we see online is not the reality.
I have had people come and tell me that they wish they were as confident and independent as I am in their blindness. The reality is that I have walked this journey in the good and the bad. I have those bad days, I have doubt, I have anxiety, I have break downs and there are sometimes tears and the feeling like I can’t keep going. We are all on our own journey and that journey will look very different for everyone.
The reality of those bad days are so important to share, and to be real about. Because those bad days make us so much more relatable and real. I never want anyone to think that it is sunshine and rainbows in my life. Because that is the farthest from the truth.
What I can tell you is how I am able to get through those hard days, the days that I just want things to be easier. I have days when I wish I could see and things would be easier. But then i take some time for me and I am reminded that my blindness makes me who I am good and bad.
My favourite things to do to bring me back to being in the moment and take the time to relax and just be are:
A hot bubble bath, I love having a good bubble bath. It is the time that I can just sit and relax and it is just for me and no one else. I even lock the bathroom door and turn on the fan to the highest setting so that I can’t hear what is going on outside the door and the kids can not come in and ask me if it is their turn on the xbox or tell me that someone touched them or who knows what other crisis will happen in that 30 minutes.
A good book, I love to read, this is a way that I can escape and take myself somewhere else. I am able to really just clear my head and enjoy the story unfolding. Depending on how I am feeling will depend on what I am reading, if I am trying to unwind and relax and just remove myself from my thoughts I will read something like fantasy, or contemporary. I also love to read non fiction but when I want to escape and take some time for myself I don’t like to read non fiction. That is saved for when I am in the mood to learn something new to conquer my goals.
A walk, a good walk can help to clear my head. I like to take my cane and take Danson just on leash. He loves getting out to just enjoy a non working walk. I try to go and walk on a path so that I don’t have to worry about traffic and other things.
A candle, I will lots of times light a candle and sit and just be in the quiet (this one has to wait until the house is empty). It can be nice to just be in the quiet and take the time to just slow down and be in the moment.
Taking the time to do things that make you feel better and help you to recharge can help you get through the rough times. Just talking about what you are experiencing and talk through the fears and frustrations with someone who can understand can be very helpful as well. I have a couple of friends who are walking through the journey of vision loss as well so they truly get it and there is nothing more comforting then to know you are not alone.
One of my favorite things to do is read, it is a time when I can escape into a whole new world and just relax. I have been known to get a little too caught up in a book and neglecting things like sleep when a book I am reading gets really good. This can be easily done especially when you are blind and do not need lights to read ever.
When I was a teenager I loved to read and used to give myself headaches and make my eyes throb with pain from trying to read print and then I just gave up. I started reading braille more and listening to books on C.D and this was a life saver. It allowed me to consume all the books I wanted with out the pain and frustration of trying to see them. And when I say print books I am talking large print books I have never been able to read a regular print book. I do sometimes wish I could read regular print books they are so portable, although this could be very dangerous.
I have read some amazing books over the years and I have also read some not so great books over the years. This year I set a goal on my GoodReads page to read 35 books, I wanted to make sure it was something attainable as I do work full time, have three kids, volunteer and I am taking classes as well. So as of August 1,2018 I have read 34 books, and still have 5 months to go.
There are two books that have really stuck out for me this year. They were books that just really stuck with me and that I lost lots of sleep trying to cram in as much reading as possible while I could.
I don’t only read one kind of book or one genre, I love to try new things. Reading a large variety of genres and types of books it keeps things interesting. Just like the way that I access books keeps it interesting. Lately the number 1 way that I access books is through audio. I use Audible as well as Book Share which is a service for people who are print disabled. Being blind that makes me fall in the print disabled category because I can not access traditional print. But I also like to use iTunes to find audio books. Not all books are available in audio format.
I will also use Kindle, kobo, and e-books on iTunes as well as from the library through their app. This way can be a little more frustrating to read as I have to use my screen reader and it can be hard to listen to a whole book like that sometimes, or I use my braille display to read them as well which works pretty well.
I love a physical book and when I am needing to be able to sit down and have some quiet time and read and not have something talking to me I love to use Braille. I get braille books from a service called CELA. They mail me one book every two weeks right now and it is nice to go to the mail box and find a new book to read.
Both of my favorite books of the year so far have been in audio format and the narrators were really good. That is ne consideration when picking a audio book. You have to listen to the sample so that you know if you like the narrator, if you can not stand to listen to the person reading the story, no matter how good the book is you will not enjoy it.
My number 1 book of this year was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara this book really made you think and it was an amazing read. The beginning was a little slow but when I got a little ways in I am so glad I kept reading. It was one of those books that I could barely put down. This books is about 4 classmates who move to New York and try to make it work and it isn’t easy, there are pasts that will haunt them and get in the way of their success and it is a book that makes you want to turn the pages faster and faster.
My number 2 is The Butterfly Project by Emma Scott this book is about two people with pasts that are less than ideal and they find each other out of survival and end up being more alike than they could imagine. They find out that they need each other more than they would like to admit and it is a great story of sacrifice and triumph and overcoming the odds. I flew through this book staying up way too late just to finish it. And then when it was over wanting it to not be done.
What are your favorite books or must read authors?
I am a pretty confident blind person when it comes to getting around and traveling. There are so many times that people say to me, you are just so brave and are not scared I just can’t seem to get there. And they feel like they are failing, that they will never be independent because of it. So today let’s be real for a minute.
I am scared, I am terrified, I am anxious as all heck, I doubt myself, I doubt my abilities. These are all very real things in my world. It can be scary to stand at an intersection with all of the noises around you and trust that you are going to get yourself to the other side safely. There are many times where I doubt myself and stand there for two cycles of the light so that I can work up the courage to go.
When I go somewhere new for the first time in the same city, or a whole new city. I feel anxious and my brain gets pretty creative with what may happen on that journey. I plan it out, I talk my self through the process.
Fear is real and fear is ok. It is how we push ourselves to do the things that we feel like we can’t do. I feel like there is no one sighted or not who doesn’t have some sort of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt at some point or heck many points along the way.
Fear is what can drive us to work through it and prove to no one but ourselves that we can do it. You are not alone in fear and you are not alone in doubting that you will get to where you want to go, but you are supported to get there and you will get there. Believing that you will get there and telling your fear to “watch me” will get you to where you want to go. Whether that is crossing that busy intersection, riding the bus, moving out on your own, going for that new job or promotion, or just living the life you want to live; use all those feelings to propel you to where you want to be.
Do people who are blind dream? How do you dream if you don’t see in your daily life? These are questions that I get all the time. Now everyone is different but I can see how people would wonder about something like this so let’s chat about how I dream.
First of all, do I dream? The short answer is yes. Now how I dream has changed a little over the years. Why is that you may be thinking, well it is simple; because the way that I see has changed over the years.
When I was younger and had more vision I saw things in my dream the same way that I saw them in real life. So they were not clear, they were blurry and I could not always make out what I was seeing. Which makes sense because that was how I saw the world at that time. As my vision got worse over the years that is what was quite normal for me.
Now I have been totally blind now for about 5 years and that has really changed for me. For the first little while, I would dream like I had before. It was like I was dreaming from my visual memory. But over the last year, I have really noticed that I don’t have the visual memory that I used to. So now I really only dream with my other senses. I will hear things, or smell them and sometimes oddly enough taste or feel things.
I have found over about the last year that I don’t always remember how things looked or have a hard time pulling up an image of something in my mind. I was always told that your visual memory will sometimes fade, and I have definitely found that. Now I don’t think that this is for everyone, just like blindness the experience that one has when you are blind is a spectrum and not the same for everyone.
There isn’t a part of life that someone who is blind doesn’t experience they just experience it differently.