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

Top 10 Perks Of Not Driving Because You Are Blind

Hello everyone,

I can not tell you how many times someone has said to me “oh I couldn’t be blind and not drive”. Not being able to drive is a little bit of a pain in the rear but it definitely has its perks.

1. You never have to try and find your ride, or your car because they park in the same spot every time !

2. If your in a bad mood or just want to be left alone you can put in headphones and not hear “what is wrong with you?”, “why are you so grouchy today”, “what’s wrong?” On repeat like a broken record.

3. When people call you, they never want to talk long because of the background noise and all the people. Plus it is rude, so you can easily get out of talking to anyone!

4. You do not have to have road rage and you will get to your destination without almost needing bail money. I don’t know how you people do it to be honest, I swear like a trucker and I am not in traffic with people who have no idea how they even got there, let alone how they are supposed to get to where they are going!

5. If your bus gets a flat tire they come and pick you up with a different bus and you walk away from the broken one!

6. People make you feel like you are the most amazing thing every day simply because you got your blind behind to a bus stop and are on that thing alone! I mean you my friend deserve a Nobel prize!! And if you are not the biggest inspiration to someone, you may have someone pray over you or even get a marriage proposal because your guide dog will attract all the people you want to talk to.

7. It is the only place you can walk on and make someone move out of a seat simply because you want it and you are disabled so you can have it!

8. When your friends have to pay to fix their cars or put gas in them; you can justify as many pairs of shoes as you want! I mean you walk everywhere!!

9. When someone says to you “ma’am I need to see your drivers license.” And you say “I am blind”. The story and shovel they start digging the biggest hole with is quite comical!

10. If you are ever late for anything, all you have to say is “I had to take the bus” and no one will say anymore because they feel bad for you. If you drive they would say something like: ” well you should have left sooner I guess”.

There are many more perks I am sure I am missing, but I am sure you can now see why taking the bus isn’t the worst thing that could happen!

Until Next Time !

Ashley and Danson

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

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