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

 

Don’t be ashamed…….

Hello Everyone, 

As I get ready to do some travelling for work, and go to some training I am reminded of my anxiety and worries as they sneak up on my again. I am a very independent person and I pride myself in being able to live a life that I want to live without letting my disability or people’s perception of capability dictate how I live my life. There are times though when we have to face anxiety, fear, worry and all the ugly. 

When I have to go somewhere new a lot of the ugly shows up for me. I am someone who needs to know all the details, everything from the set up of the venue, the layout of the course, if there is a buffet for meals. The more information I have the better I feel. Now that is not always possible and realistic. So that is when I find myself dealing with anxiety, I worry about all the logistical things like, is there going to be someone to assist me with orientation to the new space, will I have assistance with the buffet (buffets are a blind persons worst nightmare), will I seem like I am incapable if I need to ask for help, will I have access to all the materials being used. There are so many things that people who are not blind or partially sighted don’t think about that we have to and the biggest anxiety for me is making a good impression. What I mean by this is when you are at an event you want to meet new people and network, make a good impression. I find it really hard to network in a large group when I am alone because I can not tell where people are, it makes it hard to approach someone and strike up a conversation. I have been in situations where I am left standing there and probably looking a little pathetic because I can not figure out where people are and if they are alone or who they are or any of these things. Then there is the issue of people thinking I am being rude because I am not looking them in the eye when I am not I just can’t see. 

I have anxiety about these things but it does not stop me from doing the things I want to do. It makes me a stronger person on the other end, I used to be embarrassed to talk about it and I felt so alone when I had anxieties like this. Now I know that I am not alone and if I talk about it, it makes it better because I hear myself and can realize I am going to be fine. My friends are also a great support to reassure me that I will be fine it will all work out and that I am more than capable. 

We all doubt ourselves and have anxiety around different things. People who don’t have a disability struggle with anxiety and worry. It is not something to be embarrassed about it is something to own and know that the more you deal with it, the stronger it will make you. The only thing having the ugly show up every once in a while says, is that you are human.

Until Next Time, 

Ashley and Rick  

How A Blind Mom Cleans

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all doing well.

I get many questions around whether I clean my house or if I have a cleaning person or does my husband do it. The answer is I wish I had a cleaning person but unfortunately, it is me who does the majority of the cleaning. I do have a husband who helps out and three kids who have chores (I know I am a horrible mom) but the bulk of it falls to me.

The main thing that people don’t think that I do is clean the bathroom so today we are going to discuss how I am able to do this. First of all, I know the set up of the bathroom so I am able to locate the loo very easily same with the bathtub and sink.

I have a caddy that has all my cleaning supplies in it, I carry that to the bathroom and then start the process. I really hate cleaning the bathrooms just thought I would throw that out there. I usually start with the mirrors and I touch them and then spray the cleaning on the mirror. I am sure I leave streaks behind every once in a while but I am not using them so that is ok they look clear to me.

 

In the pictures above you can see my caddy as well as how I tell apart the two bottles that feel identical. One is Windex and one is Multi-purpose cleaner, I have two bump on dots on the multi-purpose and one bump on dot on the Windex. This really helps to make sure that I am using the cleaner that I want. The other bottles have a shape or defining feature that I have memorized so I am able to tell which one is which.

Next is the sink and counter, I spray the sink and counter surface with cleaner and then I wipe it down systematically. I start at the one side and work my way down and over the counter in small sections so that I get the whole thing.  I do it almost like a search and rescue crew would search for someone who is missing it is very methodical.

Next is the toilet and I do the same as the sink I just spray down the part of the toilet that I want to start with and work my way around the toilet. Toilets are nasty, I wear gloves to do the toilet because I am blind so I do use my hands to check if I missed any cleaner or if I can feel anything. The bathtub and shower are done the same way.

I try to clean the bathrooms more often so that if I did miss something hopefully I will get it next time. It is possible to do all the cleaning in the house if you do it systematically.

I know it may seem impossible to some that a person who is blind cleans and does all of these “normal” tasks but when blindness is your reality it really isn’t that out there; it needs to be done and we do it. The way we do it is probably different but we definitely do it. In fact, my husband will tell you even though I can not see the world around me, I am a clean freak, it drives him and the kids nuts. If it is out of place I will find it, it must be my super power!

Until Next Time,

Ashley and Rick

What Defines Independence?

What makes you independent?

Are you independent if you can do everything on your own and not need any help? Are you less independent if you need to ask for help? What if we looked at independence in another way, what if we were more independent if we were confident enough to know when to ask for help.

There is this presumption that people with disabilities are not as independent as able-bodied people because there are aspects of our lives and days that we need to ask for assistance.

I truly believe that I am more independent because I am confident enough to ask for help. I will give you an example. In order for me to cook meals for my family, I need to be able to go and get groceries. So let me walk you through how this works ad show you that me asking for help makes me more independent than if I was to not ask.

I make my list at home, print it out and head to the store. When I reach the store with my guide dog I then find a counter and ask if there is someone that is able to help me get the items on my list. I will hand them the list and follow them around the store picking up my items. I then pay for the items and head home. After getting home I am able to make meals for my family.

If I did not ask for help I would have to wait for my husband to be able to take me to the store and help me pick out the items that I need. So, me knowing that I need help at the store makes me more independent and able to be like any other parent out there, going to the store and getting groceries to make supper.

Learning to ask for help when you need it does not make you weaker it makes you stronger. It also makes you the most independent version of you! So please never be ashamed or feel less than because you need help with something.

Until Next Time!

Ashley and Rick

Blind Caramel Corn

Baking is something that I have grown up loving to do. My parents owned a bakery for 26 years as I was growing up, so I grew up in a bakery really. I spent many hours there beside my dad and my mom baking and decorating and packaging. I loved to bake I helped my dad with everything from bread, buns, cakes, cookies, pies and donuts it was definitely something that I hold dear to my heart today.

My dad sadly passed from cancer 5 years ago, to this day when I bake it brings back such amazing memories of spending hours and hours with my dad baking up a storm. This is something that I really want to have with my kids as well. My children love to bake with me and we have so much fun doing it.

Being blind some people think that baking is not something that I would be able to do, but I learned to bake with low vision which meant I learned to do it with my hands and not my eyes. So even though I am totally blind today I am still able to enjoy it just as much as before.

Around the holidays I have many recipes that my children and I love to make. We love baking cookies, squares and especially love making many batches of caramel corn. So what a great way to share my love of baking with you then to share our quick and easy caramel corn recipe. It is always a hit around the holidays or any other time you whip up a batch.

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Carmel Corn Recipe
1 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup (I use about 3/4 cup)
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
20 cups popcorn

-Pre Heat oven to 200c
-In a saucepan combine margarine, brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup, and cream of tartar. Make sure the saucepan has some room as this will foam up and almost double.
-Bring to a boil while constantly stirring, once boiling let boil for 2 minutes.
-Remove from heat and stir in baking soda it will foam up a little.
-Pour over popcorn in a large roaster and stir until all the popcorn is coated.
-Bake for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes. Put onto cookie sheets once you remove it from the oven to cool. Enjoy !

I hope you enjoy making this easy recipe and enjoy making memories that will last a lifetime!

Until Next Time!
Ashley and Rick

Three Rules To Remember About Service Dogs…

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Rule One : IGNORE

So many times people will approach a service dog team and want to say hello to the dog. Or interact with the dog by talking to them and saying things about how good they are or how cute. The problem with this is that you are getting the dogs attention and when you have the dog’s attention they are not paying attention to the handler thus putting the handler in a dangerous situation. Simply ignore the dog if you think the dog is cute or doing a good job, by all means, make that comment to the handler. We love to get compliments about our dogs they are like our children we are proud mamas and papas.

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Rule Two: IGNORE

Petting a service animal is not ok ever. Even if my guide dog is laying under a table, if we are in public he is working. Never come up and just start petting them. Also saying things like, “I know I shouldn’t pet them, but he is just too darn cute.” does not make it okay, in fact, that is worse. If you absolutely can not walk by and feel the desire to pet them ask the handler first. Remembering that there is a person on the other end of the leash is key. Treat the person on the other end of the leash with the respect you would want to be treated with when you are in public.

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment; It is the end of a busy day and I need to grab a couple of things from the store, I run into the store and get stopped at least five times. People are stopping me because they are curious about my dog or they want to tell me about the lab they used to have as a kid, or even about a blind person they knew back in the day. I am glad that we can connect however I am in a rush to get home to my kids and make supper, I am exhausted and before coming into the store I have been stopped by prob 10 people before you today. It is exhausting sometimes we just want to run into the store and get some milk and leave, just like you. Could you imagine if you were stopped 10-15 times a day just for someone to make a random comment (not always nice) on the way you are traveling or about how cute your shoes are and could they touch them.

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Rule Three: IGNORE

Making comments or suggesting that we are treating our dogs poorly because we are out in the winter, or rain, or just working a dog, in general, is not ok. guide dogs and other service dogs are treated better than you could ever imagine. They are spoiled rotten, given more love, attention, and affection than you could ever imagine. They love to work and love being with their handler.

If you ever come across a guide dog or service dog know that they are treated like a king or queen and that we are more than grateful for what they do for us. Living with a disability is a challenge but being able to have the assistance of a dog makes all the difference in independence and freedom for those that choose to have a service dog.

Life with a service dog can be complicated when people do not ignore the dogs. When you see me and my Guide Dog act as if I am using a white cane. You would never pet, make kissy noises, stop me to talk about my white cane so if you act as if I was using a white cane, service dog handlers will be forever grateful.

I hope that these 3 simple rules make it easy for people to remember to respect and interact appropriately with service dogs of all types.

Blind Christmas Joy

Hello Everyone, I hope you are all doing well.

December is here and so Christmas is just around the corner. I love Christmas and everything that goes along with Christmas. All the memories that are made, time spent with friends and family, the decorations and sights and sounds everything.

I have been asked before if I decorate for Christmas since I can not see it, the answer is YES ! I do not think that you need to be able to see decorations to appreciate them.

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I may go about buying my decorations differently for sure but I sure love walking the Christmas isles in the stores and looking at all the decorations. I feel them all and I buy my decorations based on the way that they feel. I like to have lots of different textures, I do not buy a lot of lights and things like that as I do not see them however my kids love them so we do have some. My children also love Christmas and when we are looking at the decorations they always say things like “oh mom feel this one I think you will like it” then they will proceed to describe it to me. This is one of the best things about the holidays, having the descriptions of things going on around us from my children as they have grown is something I cherish and look forward to every year.

Having a blind mother has definitely made our holiday celebrations different but we take part in all the activities and my children are always describing the decorations on people homes, the lights on the poles around town, people Christmas trees. This is a memory that I will forever have with me. One of my other favorite things about the holidays is the smells and sounds, the smells of baking and trees and nutmeg, cinnamon, they all bring me a lot of joy. I love the sounds of the shopping malls during the holidays, with the music, the bells from Santa greeting children, the hustle, and bustle, the sound of joy in the voices of the children.

There are so many ways to experience the world around us, vision is only one way. Happy Holidays to all my readers and I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season !

Until Next Time
Ashley and Rick