It is the holiday season that so many look forward to. It is also the holiday season which so many dread for various reasons.
There are many people who dread the family gatherings, many parties and things that are expected of people. Why, because they are chronically ill. You may not see it, because most of those living with chronic illness are so good at masking the pain with a smile. Most will not say how much pain they are in or how awful they are feeling because they want to make their family and friends happy. They want to participate, but then they pay for it sometimes for days.
I think one of the blessings that has come for many this Christmas season is that in many places they are saying to not visit and stay within your household. So as much as they will miss their families and friends they will not have to stay in bed for 2-2 days after one Christmas party because they over did it.
Having the ability to stay home and not explain why you are not able to make it, is like a blessing for so many. Now this year it is acceptable for people to connect via zoom or other online ways. Making it much more bearable and accessible for individuals who are chronically ill.
I have always really enjoyed Christmas but over the last few years it has gotten harder and harder. The houses full of family finding it hard to navigate around homes that are not yours. The pain from spending time in the car to get to different places, and the fatigue that hits you out of no where. The migraines that pop up….. There is just so much that goes into being sick.
Like so many I have always just smiled and laughed and hid the pain and feeling awful from those around me. I don’t want the pity and I don’t want to ruin Christmas so it has been hard. But this year I get to connect with family online, and relax on Christmas with my family doing what I need to do for me without having to feel guilty or explaining to anyone.
I love my family and friends but I want to be the best me when I am with them and enjoy their company and sometimes that isn’t possible if I am having a flare up and not feeling well. There are so many people who live the same experience that i do and I hope they are able to do what they need to do for them this year!
Hello everyone, it has been a while. I have been on social media for a few years now and have worked really hard to grow my blog and online presence educating and being a part of the change for those who are blind or partially sighted.
Social media has allowed me to be able to reach thousands of people that I never thought possible. But it also took its toll on my mental health little but little. I think with everything that is going on with Covid-19 and all the extra stress that has been in all of our lives I just hit a spot in my journey where I needed to make a change and a drastic one.
I have had a lot going on in my personal life, work life, momma life, guide dog life, chronic illness, trying to go to school life. There was just so much on my plate that it started to crack. The one place that was negotiable in relieving some of that stress was my online life. I do not share all of my life online so it was the easiest place to step back and just let it go. So November 14th that is what I did.
I had made my last post on instagram and never said anything about leaving, I just did. I put a post on my personal Facebook page that if friends wanted to keep in touch to reach out as I was taking a break and didn’t know when I would be back.
There are few things that we can really step away from and re-assess how it is affecting us, and social media and the online world is the one that we have so much control over. I would spend hours trying to stay relevant in the online world and make sure that I was sharing content that would always go towards the things I was passionate about, like disability, chronic illness, educating those who would read my content. But in all of that I lost myself.
There is so much more to me than my disabilities and even though I still am very very passionate about all of those things and want to continue to share and educate and create change. I am also very aware of the effects of social media and what that can do to us.
When you are online it is not always a nice place and you have to consciously ignore and leave behind that negativity that is so easy for individuals to spew when they are not in a good space themselves. And when we are not feeling the greatest ourselves that becomes almost impossible.
Over the last couple of weeks I deleted all social media platforms, youtube, my blog everything from my phone. I have seen a huge change in my mental health (I still have a long ways to go) that I can do it and that I need to reevaluate what role social media has in my life.
I found that even though I have built a community of people online I was feeling more lonely than I ever have. Building true friendships is something that I have always said didn’t matter to me, but that was because I have always struggled with friendships and even more so as an adult. But now I know that I am someone who needs those real connections to people. I need to be able to pick up the phone and chat with someone or send a hundred text messages back and forth during a week because those relationships are what make me feel whole. And I was not finding those scrolling online,
We all have a journey that we are on and this is just a portion of my journey. I have no idea where it will take me or where it will end up, but I do know that I love to write, educate, engage and create change, so I will never stoop doing those things. But how I do it, is really up in the air.
I hope you are all staying safe and I hope you take some time to think about what is bringing you joy this time of year and always.
Here in Canada and many other places winter is upon us. It is this time of year that I am reminded of how much my independence relies of the generosity of strangers to shovel the snow.
Being blind many people think is such a barrier to me living the life that I want and that my life must be so hard and awful because I am blind. However my life is just like anyone else’s, I have to do things differently in some cases but I work, I am a mom, sister, daughter, and so much more just like you are.
I love winter it is a beautiful season, I love the sports that come along with winter as well. I am itching to get to the ski hill if we are being honest and strapping on my snowboard. As much as I love winter, it can also be a challenge.
When I travel with my guide dog or my cane I am relying on the built environment around me to give me clues and landmarks to tell me where I am and that I am on the right track to where I am going. If I feel grass under my feet then I know I have veered from the sidewalk. Or I feel the dip in the side walk and the tactile cuts in the curb, I know I am at the intersection. There are many things that I use to help me navigate independently.
However, when the snow starts to fly, as beautiful it is it also covers up the built environment and erases everything tactile that I use to navigate. It can make is really stressful to get around and to be independent.
I am not someone who wants to sit around and not be able to go out because there is no one around to come with me. And I am not alone in this in the blind community. There are so many blind individuals who are fiercely independent.
When I walk around my neighbourhood and people take the time to shovel the sidewalk in front of their home, I am so grateful. It means that I can enjoy my walk and relax just a little bit.
A shovel can give some individuals the ability to go out and enjoy a walk or get groceries independently. When I was a cane user I was not able to travel alone in many cases because the snow and unshoveled sidewalks made my world too inaccessible.
If you take the few minutes to shovel your sidewalk in front of your home it will mean that someone who is blind or partially sighted is able to get out of their home more easily and be more independent. It helps so many and is always very much appreciated.
Imagine how that would impact your daily life if you needed to rely on the hearts of strangers to run your errands or enjoy a walk independently.
If you want to check out how Danson and I are able to navigate this weather check out my latest video on my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/YwygEegRfIY
COVID has had an impact on all of us in one way or another, in fact probably more than one way for all of us. From family, work, routine, children, and so much more. Now for some of us it has also made a world that was pretty inaccessible even more so.
We are all trying our best to keep ourselves and others safe in our personal lives and in our professional ones. In turn that has become an excuse to not be accessible to those who require it.
When I go out in public my hands are my eyes, there is no way for me to change that. It is my reality. I cannot see the lines or arrows or any of the signage that people feel the need to point out incessantly. People right now I am sure are stressed but it does not give you the right to call someone out for touching things, or not following arrows. It might be hard to believe but the stress we feel is high, the anxiety we fell is up there, do we want to touch things nope! But unfortunately for you that is my reality.
I have had many instances when I have gone into a store to try and find something and stood near where I could hear people and waited to see if someone would offer to help. I am trying my best to stay away from people. But in one instance I stood and waited for 20 minutes, then when I overheard two possible employees saying “how do we help that one?” then giggling and the young man saying I have just been watcher her, but she has touched so many f**** things”. Needless to say I left.
I get it people don’t want to be close to people, but I require the assistance of others when I am out and about. I am conscious of people’s discomfort so I make a point to wear a mask, constantly hand sanitize, but people just do not want to help. Unfortunately that is one way that I was able to be as independent as I wanted and needed to be.
There have been instances where people have been needing to purchase a new cell phone or a new computer and have been told they are not allowed to touch the demos. Which for the bulk of the population that is fine, for someone who is blind, it doesn’t work. Would you buy something without seeing it at all or being able to test it? Probably not but that is what we are being made to do. When there are safe ways to be able to allow people who are blind or partially sighted to have the same access.
Being told that your guide dog is not welcome and using COVID as a reason is also happening, letting someone not have a sighted guide, so many things have been made inaccessible. In no way is COVID an excuse to not allow people to have equal access to the world around them. We should be moving forward in disability and accessibility not backwards, and in so many senses that is what COVID has felt like.
If everyone just remembers that we all just want to be able to live a safe, happy, healthy life and if we work together we can. It would be a much better place to be. If you see someone who looks like they need help, please for the love of god ask.
“People who are differently abled….” This is something that I have heard more and more. All I have to say is NO! How is this something that is ok to call people who have disabilities. Some might be comfortable with this label but please never call me differently abled.
The only reason I would be differently abled from you is if it is not accessible and then that is not my fault. i am more than able to do what you do. I work full time, I have three children, I snowboard, I golf, I hike, I cry, I laugh, I live my life, I have opinions that are unpopular, I get sad, I get angry. Tell me how that is any different than anyone else.
I may be blind but that is like you having brown hair and me having blond. It is a trait but it certainly does not affect my ability to do things. I am capable and do live a very full life. When the world around me is set up so that it is not EQUAL TO ALL that creates barriers but my abilities DO NOT create barriers.
When society thinks that I am not as capable that creates barriers but my actual skills and abilities far outstretch what society says I am capable of. I am not one to stand and shout out my accomplishments but if we look at the last 5 years I have done some pretty amazing things.
I have been named one of the future 40 under 40 in Saskatchewan, I have completed my Certified Management Degree, I have reached more than 1 million people through this blog, I have had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, I have spoken at many different events, I was named as a Women of Change in Saskatchewan on International Women’s Day. I was a judge in a beauty pagent, I ran in a provincial election, I was nominated as a YWCA Woman of Distinction. I am raising three amazing children!
These are just a few of the things I have accomplished because I am a smart, strong, independent woman. I have the ability to achieve whatever I set out to achieve, without the limits of what a label like “Differently Abled” place on those with disabilities. A barrier that society has placed on me not a barrier that is actually there.
When I advocate I am not advocating for special treatment or for more than what others get, I am advocating and demanding EQUAL ACCESS to the world we live in.
Never underestimate my abilities and call me differently abled!
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.
As someone who for so many years needed to be busy, busy all the time I am finding that I am really enjoying the piece and quiet. I still keep busy I suppose I mean I work full time, have three kids and a husband (so almost 4 kids sometimes), I also go to school, and have a YouTube Channel and this blog. I mean I suppose when I write it all out it sounds busy. But I used to sit on a lot of boards and be a part of many different things and now I find myself doing more for me.
I know there are times that I feel a little selfish for prioritizing the things that I love like reading, blogging, YouTube, furthering my education. Those are all the things that I chose to take on, because they make me feel good. When we say that we prioritize ourself and the things that we want so many times people will make us feel bad for that.
The major difference that I have found over the last year or two is that when I prioritize myself and the things that I want to do, my mental health is what wins at the end of the day. I can be a very stressed person, I want things to go my way, I want to plan, I want to know exactly what is happening. But taking the tine to do things for me has really helped to curb that in my down time. Now at my 9-5 job….well…..we are all a work in progress………right……….?
I have often talked about how I love to read and one of the other things that I have always loved to do and have been doing since I was a kid is writing. Hence the blog. I find that when I am in the mood I can sit down and write multiple blog posts, and articles in a matter of a couple of hours. Are my blogs perfect? Nope not at all, but they are a true image of me, imperfect but perfectly ok with that! I have always been that type of person that when I sit down to write it just flows. I have been really thinking about this and being mindful when I get in the head space for writing and it is my therapy in some ways. It is the only time that I am not thinking about anything else except what I am writing. It is the only time that I feel at complete peace, it is the time when I feel like I can express myself in the way that I want to.
I think we all need to have that thing that is our quite time. That thing that is simply for us, and brings us a great amount of joy that after we are finished doing it, you can think, wow I needed that. In this time of life and society with social media and the notion that we need to be as busy as we can possibly be or you are lazy, or unproductive, or you won’t amount to anything, is craziness. I think more than ever we need those times of quiet, those times of absolute selfishness where we prioritize ourselves and what we need as human beings.
What is your go to quiet time, what is that one thing that brings you the most joy just for you?
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