A Decade of Change

Hello Everyone,

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.

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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! IMG_2296v2

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

“I would rather die than be blind” – Why?

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.

Until Next Time

Ashley and Danson

Self Care …. For Where You Are In Your Journey.

Hello Everyone,

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.

My Favorite Books and How I Read, Blind

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?

Until Next Time
Ashley

Independence Can Be Scary

Hello Everyone,

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.

YouTube video of me crossing a street and having a little chat with you and my dog Rick .

Until Next Time

Ashley and Rick

Blind Dreamer – “Do you see in your dreams?”

Hello Everyone,

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.

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Rick

Support Local – Reduce Waste

Hello Everyone,

I have been on a journey the last few months trying to cut back on my waste, adopting some zero waste alternatives in my home and in my personal life. I am far from zero waste at this point but I am definitely working to reduce my waste.

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I found this local granola company that I fell in love with last summer. I found them at the Farmers Market and loved their product. They make small batches of amazing vegan granola, my favorite is the Maple Pecan Olie Oil granola.

They recently have made a huge change on the suggestion of a customer and that was to offer growlers. So you purchase a growler full of granola and then you return the growler and receive a new growler full of granola. You only pay for the jar the first time. I think this is amazing, a small company that makes it a priority to listen to their customers and reduce their waste.

When we shop local and support our local businesses we are helping to support those that are in our communities and we are also supporting sustainable business. I tend to feel like we have become such a big box store kind of society, and not for the better.

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My parents owned a bakery for 26 years and it was a great way for our family to earn their living, it instilled a work ethic that I never would have received had we not owned a family business. It also taught me so many valuable skills at a young age, like management skills, problem-solving skills, customer service skills, and that quality matters. I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of a small family business that shaped me to be the person I am today. It is also the reason that I try to support as many local businesses as possible and I have a passion for business and management.

I believe that listening to your customers and doing business the way that you feel is right, not the way society tells you, you should, makes for an amazing business. There are so many times when the personal touches and ethics are taken out of business. We forget that morals, ethics, compassion, and passion is what will make an amazing company.

Check out this company they are amazing and have some Amazing granola. Small Batch Granola Mix , Instagram @mixsmallbatch, e-mail mixsmallbatch@gmail.com. Lets all show them some love.

Until Next Time!

Ashley and Rick