My key to independence was in my hand the whole time !

I remember the day that I was handed my very first white cane. I was in grade 8 and all I could think was ” you don’t think my huge giant sized textbooks, my magnifying glass, and computer don’t make me stick out enough. Oh wait it was the Teachers Aid that was following me around to every class that kept my blindness incognito right? ” I remember thinking there is no way I am going to use this, I mean if I tripped I just made a joke of it and went on about life, and if I was running with my friends and hanging out at night girls who are 13 and 14 hang onto each other all the time so that was easy enough.

There was a point when I was in grade 10 when I decided ok maybe I need it a little bit and did a little bit of a trial and started using it at school and it did just what I thought it would. It brought more negative attention to me, and god knows I was receiving plenty without it.

I never used my cane on a consistent basis until I was in University. I really found that when I transitioned to University I had a hard time navigating alone and with the transition from High School to University was also the transition of living with my parents on the farm to living in the city alone.

I never used my cane outside of school when I was with friends because I hated feeling like I was the odd one out and I always felt like people were staring at me. It wasn’t until I had a major change in vision that I had to use my white cane no matter what there was no other option.

I was not happy that I had to start using my cane every day all day and rely on it but it was only a few months into my significant vision loss that i realized that I had been really looking at the white cane with the wrong attitude. The white cane did not stand for disability, difference, and inequality but it stood for Independence, confidence and the key to a life that I wanted to live.

Once I opened up to looking at my cane differently my whole world opened up. I was able to travel where I wanted when I wanted, it gave me the confidence to take on new adventures and really tackle the world. I had always thought growing up that my blindness was something to be hidden to be ashamed of, yet that wasn’t the case at all. It is something to embrace, be proud of and live the life I want despite being blind.

After finally embracing my cane it felt like it opened up a whole new world, and a whole new person. I slowly became more confident, more vocal, more social, and found the person that I wanted to be which was always hidden away trying to keep this secret that no one could ever know. When really my blindness is what makes me me, it is a part of me like my eyes are green and my hair is blonde or red depending on the time in my life ha ha ha.

I wish that someone would have told me that I was holding the key to independence every time I picked up my white cane much sooner, or that I had figured it out much sooner. Now to show the world, this week is White Cane week a time to educate the world on what the White Cane is and what it stands for, do not fold up your cane and hide it in your closet walk with your head high and proud that you are able to live the life that you want because of that white cane.

Until Next Time

Ashley and Rick

Morning Routine

I am not a morning person, I have never been a morning person. In fact there was many days where I started my day with profanity, just dragging my sorry butt out of bed was horrible.

I have always envied those that were able to get out of bed and enjoy their mornings, who were happy and could speak with people within the first 2 hours of getting up with out bitting their head off.

Now that we have moved and I am in the same city that I work in, I my friends have become a morning person ! I know; if you know me personally you are thinking “pigs have started flying, the rainbows have aligned, and unicorns are landing in your back yard.” But, I am telling you it is true.

1E16BBC3-6E2E-4D7A-870C-47F1620482DB An early morning selfie !

So I thought I would take some time to share my morning routine with you not only to prove that this is true but because I think sharing these mundane parts of my life show, that living life as someone who is blind is no different than someone who is sighted.

My routine starts the night before, with having the boys help me make their lunch. And going up to bed by 9pm, where I listen to a book for about half an hour. I am usually turning the book off and nodding off to sleep at about 9:30 p.m.

My night before is critical to this new morning routine working. Without a good nighttime routine and getting to bed at a decent hour I will be dragging my sorry butt the next day for sure. One would think I would have had this figured out before the age of 33 but sometimes I am a slow learner.

I set my alarm for 4:25 a.m. I usually get out of bed by 4:30 a.m. first stop is the shower. I like to shower in the morning first because it wakes me up and second because I have short hair so it needs to be washed everyday. After a quick shower it is hair, makeup and getting dressed.

Once I get dressed I go to my side of the bed and grab my Apple Watch and my phone and Rick knows that is the get up sign for him. He jumps out of his bed and bounces around, I tell him every morning “shhhh” so he does not wake the whole house. That would ruin my purpose of getting up so early.

I go downstairs and feed Rick my Guide Dog and let him outside to do his business. Then the boys lunches they made the night before go from the fridge to their bags along with anything else I need to put in. I don’t make my daughters lunch she is 14 she is more than capable of making her lunch and deciding what she wants to eat.

Then I take my medication make myself a coffee and sit on the couch and listen to my book and write in my journal. I am usually sitting on the couch by about 5:10 a.m. The next 50 minutes are mine all mine.

2D0EFA16-5E99-4B12-84F7-AA8CD11923B1 A photo of my journal and my coffee with Rick sleeping on his bed. He is not a morning doggy.

After the first time when I got out of bed early and was ready and had this time to myself I was hooked. It is the one time of the day that the house is silent (except for Rick chewing his bone) and there is no one that is needing me or asking me something. That I can sit and take some time for me and not feel guilty. And it is ohhhhh so GLORIOUS ! In this time I do not check emails or do anything work related, I have to be very intentional about this part because I am kind of a workaholic and I know this so I am working on that.

Having this time to myself in the morning makes my whole day just go so much better, I find I am happier and start my day off the right way. This makes me love this time and inadvertently I have become a morning person.

At 6:00 a.m. I go upstairs and wake up my daughter and get her out of bed, she is not a morning person ! Then it is time to make coffee and get ready to leave the house. Off to the bus at 6:20 a.m. some days I am lucky and my husband drives me to the bus stop as he goes right by it and leaves at the same time or I walk the 10 minutes to the bus and begin my commute to work. The commute now takes me about 40 minutes from the time I leave the house. It is a nice commute I take 2 buses to get to work and just enjoy sitting listening to my book or a podcast.

4D6CCCA7-7BC8-428D-BC6D-D26D022E37BE An early morning photo at the bus stop of me and Rick. I am kneeled down next to Rick wearing a winter coat and pink and grey scarf.

7:00 a.m. if my transfer works out and times are all good I am at work. I then have 30 minutes to get everything ready to start the work day and I also take this time to study. I am currently taking a management course so it works out well to have this time in the morning while the office is quiet to get some studying in.

8E7B5330-FFF5-4874-BB9E-ADE7E7B5FDFB Photo of my iPad, computer and coffee while I study.

It is hard to believe even as I write this that I am a morning person now and actually enjoy my mornings. I also realize how mundane and boring this may seem but it is a good way to show people that my days are no different than yours even though I live with a disability my life is just as mundane and boring  as the next person.

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Rick

 

World Braille Day…. Grateful

Hello Everyone,

Today is World Braille Day. We celebrate the birthday of Louis Braille on this day January 4th every year because Braille is literacy for people who are blind or partially sighted.

Growing up partially sighted and losing all of my vision later in life I have been beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to learn braille in high school. My transition to life as a totally blind person would have been very different without it. With the skill of reading braille I have every option open to me to access literature. Access to literacy is the key for so many young children who are blind or partially sighted. I truly believe in giving our children all the tools that they may need and letting them choose which ones will work best for them. Sometimes there is a misperception that only people who are totally blind use braille and that is just not the case. I used to use braille even when I could read large print somewhat because it was not so straining on my eyes and it was faster than trying to use my vision, and I did not get headaches from reading with my fingers. And not to mention when you are light sensitive being able to read in the dark is great.

I use braille in my every day life and thought today on world braille day 2018 I would share some of the times that I use braille in my life.

At work I use a braille display hooked up to my computer and use this for when I just want a break from the computer talking to me constantly, imagine listening to every key stroke and all the information on your computer and phone for a 8 hour work day plus anything you do in your time, it will drive you nuts sometimes. I use braille for lots of my presentation notes, as well as studying for courses that I take to enhance my skills in my job, I use it for phone lists on my desk and to communicate to the participants in some of the programs I run.

In my home I use it for grocery lists, cook books, general reading, labels on things in my kitchen, Landry room and bathroom on things like makeup. I also love braille for being able to read books to my children, this was essential in me being a part of them learning to read. I do braille the kids spelling tests so that we can practice and I can remember all the words for the week.

I am grateful for Braille and the opportunities it has given me as well as the access to literature throughout my life.

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Rick

Out with 2017…. In with 2018

 

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all well and have had an amazing Holiday Season. It seems crazy that the holidays are coming to a close already, that seems to be the theme for this year – “Where has the time gone?”.

This past year has been an amazing year with so many exciting times. I am so grateful for everything that has happened over the last year. I thought since it is New Year’s Eve I would take some time to thank you all for your continued support and patience while my life has been a little crazy.

We have moved into our new home, it has been one month since we moved in. Everyone is settling into their new schools and schedules. I am slowly figuring out our new neighborhood and bus routes to my favorite places and boring places like the bank and doctors too. But I definitely have the route to Starbucks cased so we are all good! Rick my Guide Dog has adjusted amazingly to the new area and the new routes so well too he amazes me every day.

The kids are loving their new schools and have made some new friends as well. One of the reasons that we moved was our daughter was having a hard time in the schools in our last community with fitting in and being bullied. She has made a complete 360 and seeing her happy is worth all of the struggles. The other reason for the move was to be able to spend more time with the kids we were commuting an hour each way every day and I was commuting an hour to my husband at the end of the day as well as the hour home. So now I commute 25 minutes to work on the bus, and we are home by 4:30 p.m. which gives us plenty of time to spend with the kids which has been great.

 

This year has been great in so many other ways like being recognized as one of Saskatchewan’s CBC Top 40 Under 40, and being nominated for the YWCA women of distinction awards, finally gaining employment and loving my job, being a contributor for AMI, and so much more.

I would like to wish you all the best in 2018 and Thank You all for your support over the last year with all of the changes and amazingness. This blog has been great and has grown so much and I want to thank you all for your support. Without you, there would be no Blind Moving On.

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Rick

Speaking Up Is NOT Wrong

I posted a video to my Facebook page about being kicked out of a business in my area because I had a service dog and they have a No Pet policy. I tried to educate the manager of the store and let him know that this was against the human rights legislation in Canada and that we had every right to be there. When I realized that he was not going to let us in, (us being my 2 children, my husband and myself) I started the video taping because I wanted to be able to take it to human rights and show them exactly what happened.

At first the response was great people supported me in wanting to educate the public about this issue. I was not trying to vilify the company or the employee I wanted to take the opportunity to educate and show the public that things like this happen every day. Most people were amazing and it did help spread some awareness around the issue and start the conversation.

Others however took to turning what happened to me and my children into my fault because I did not take into account that this employee was just doing what he was told. I can agree with that to a certain extent; but if my boss told me to do something that I knew was morally wrong you better believe I would say no. At some point in our lives we have control over what we do and say, this employee was not a teenager he was the manager of the store that night. However I do not think that he is a horrible person, nor do I believe that he should be punished in any way. What I do think is that education is the KEY. We can not fix what we do not acknowledge. If it makes you uncomfortable to watch the interaction ask yourself why ? Why does it make you uncomfortable ? How would you feel if you were not allowed where you have the right to be simply because you have a disability ? How would you explain to your kids they can’t enjoy some fun time because their mom is not allowed in because she has a disability ?

What we need is for more people to be willing to make some noise stand up for what is right and what is wrong. When you are the one that uses your voice for change not everyone is going to like that; and that is ok, because if you say nothing because you fear what others will say or think, who will stand up for you and your rights? No one !

When you use your voice to help bring about change and break down the stereotypes and misperceptions, it doesn’t matter what the keyboard warriors write because they are not the ones who are fighting for equality every day of their lives. They are not the ones who are being kicked out of businesses for having a disability, they are not the ones who get asked inappropriate questions in public, they are not the ones that are being stared at and talked to like they are 2 because they have a disability. They are the ones who want to make you feel less than and no one can do that to you because your voice will always be louder than their typing.

Until Next Time

Ashley and Rick

Moving on up !!! Well moving !!! 

Hello Everyone ! 

It has been a while!! I hope you are all well. 

I have been very busy, we have decided to take a leap and move our family from rural Saskatchewan into the city. It has been a huge decision to make the move and one that we have not taken lightly. There was a lot that had to go into this move, is it the best for our kids, our family, me as someone with a disability? There was a lot of questions to be answered. The process of deciding to take this leap took us about a year. 

Me being blind and wanting to have the most independence that I could is one of the reasons for our move. There is also many other reasons for the move like both my husband and I work in the city so we have been spending a lot of time in the car commuting, and I want to return some of that time to my kids and family. Also I am not able to get to work and events in the evening without my husband waiting around in the city for me or having him drive me in on the weekends. I am someone who prides myself in being super independent and it is a huge priority for me to be as independent as possible. There are many many other reasons for our move but the thing I want to talk about today is the process of moving and buying a house when you are blind. 

The new house had to check many boxes for me and none of them were to do with paint colour or floooring. The house had to be in a neighborhood that had decent public transit. It had to be close to a  elementary school and have access to transit for a high school. There had to be a grocery store in the area that I could access without needing to take a bus ride or cab to get milk. It had to be walkable, it had to have sidewalks and be a really walking friendly neighborhood. The house had to make sense, I don’t like wide open space it complicates things for me. 

I also wanted a area that had some green space to take Rick my guide dog too and let him have some fun. And I wanted to feel safe, I wanted to feel safe letting my kids live life and play with their friends. 

Now that we have our move date, there is the other side of it which is now I need to learn the layout of the new house as well as all the routes to the schools, bus, mail box, grocery store, parks, and just learn the area in general. I find this stressful because I don’t like to rely on others. I have already started this process with an orientation and mobility specialist at CNIB. Then I will have to mark my appliances and learn the inside of the house. This is not a downside to moving it is simply my reality. There is more to me moving and it can be a little scary but it will be worth it for sure. 

The packing has begun and I am not a fan of packing but it needs to be done. And now that I am starting to change our address I realize how many places we have to change our address and holy cow. Moving when you are blind and have three kids 2 dogs, and way too much stuff is going to be an adventure. 

Until Next Time ! 

Ashley and Rick 

Pushing Stereotypes and Living Life 

Hello everyone, I hope you are all doing well and having a fabulous summer. 

We have been on holidays for the last couple of weeks and have really been relaxing and just spending lots of time with the kids. It has been a welcome break from the 4 a.m alarm. We didn’t go anywhere fancy this summer but enjoyed a staycation this year, it has been nice. 

While enjoying our staycation this summer it has reminded me of some of the things that I love to do that so many people think are not possible if you are blind or partially sighted. I never like to conform to stereotypes so I thought I would share them with you. I think when we hear blind or partially sighted we right away go to the fear of the unknown, and focus on the things that we assume one would not be able to do with vision loss. However with determination and creativity usually there is a way to do most things that one would want to do. 

One of the things that I really enjoy and it is my favourite relaxing activity is crocheting. I am not overly good at it and I do not make any fancy creations I stick to squares and rectangles. I love to make cozy blankets, scarfs and my specialty dish cloths. I will have dishcloths for the rest of eternity. I love to sit on the couch and watch TV or a good movie and give my hands something to do. That is the nice thing about being blind I don’t have to look at the TV to watch it and I don’t have to look at my hands to crochet. There truly are perks like reading in total darkness !! 

I have always liked baking and that is definitely still something that I love to do, it is something that brings me joy and makes me feel connected to my dad. But I also really enjoy canning and making pickles, or pickled beans and carrots. I enjoy my time in the kitchen preparing meals for my family, and friends.  There are many times when people ask if my husband does all the cooking and well that just would not work for me, I enjoy it too much. 

I really enjoy make up and fashion, a good day of shopping with my friends or my husband is always a good time for me. I like to try out new make up trends and see what I can make work. Just because I can’t see myself in the mirror does not mean that I don’t want to look nice or care about my appearance. I also have my husband paint my nails I feel much better when my nails and toes are painted and looking nice. Who am I kidding I love any kind of pampering. When I am shopping for clothes the only thing I need to take into consideration is dog hair,  man does Rick (my guide dog) shed. 

Social Media, I like to take part in Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, I enjoy social media and how it has made it possible to educate society on the abilities of those living with a disability from my living room. Advocating has taken a whole new role and I love being a part of it and using social media to propel change. From publishing my blog posts and posting super cute instagram photos, following the latest hashtags and showing the world my life, and what it truly is like to live life as a person who is blind. 

We have talked on my blog before about how I love to snowboard, and this is a given. I also enjoy other sports like swimming, I am very comfortable and in my element in the water. I like to hike and ride a bike, and a good game of golf is definitely right up my alley. I love so many things that one does not typically think that osmoenoe with vision loss likes to do. 

There are so many things a person who is blind or partially sighted likes to do, that we only briefly consider our vision loss before we dive in. We are all multi faceted people with varying interestes and skills. The more we push the stereotypes that are out there the more our abilities will shine through. 

Until Next Time, 

Ashley and Rick