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

Hello Everyone,

As we move through our own journey in life no matter what that is, we can so easily get stuck comparing where we are at with those around us. Social media makes us compare our lives to what we see online. When the reality is that what we see online is not the reality.

I have had people come and tell me that they wish they were as confident and independent as I am in their blindness. The reality is that I have walked this journey in the good and the bad. I have those bad days, I have doubt, I have anxiety, I have break downs and there are sometimes tears and the feeling like I can’t keep going. We are all on our own journey and that journey will look very different for everyone.

The reality of those bad days are so important to share, and to be real about. Because those bad days make us so much more relatable and real. I never want anyone to think that it is sunshine and rainbows in my life. Because that is the farthest from the truth.

What I can tell you is how I am able to get through those hard days, the days that I just want things to be easier. I have days when I wish I could see and things would be easier. But then i take some time for me and I am reminded that my blindness makes me who I am good and bad.

My favourite things to do to bring me back to being in the moment and take the time to relax and just be are:

A hot bubble bath, I love having a good bubble bath. It is the time that I can just sit and relax and it is just for me and no one else. I even lock the bathroom door and turn on the fan to the highest setting so that I can’t hear what is going on outside the door and the kids can not come in and ask me if it is their turn on the xbox or tell me that someone touched them or who knows what other crisis will happen in that 30 minutes.

A good book, I love to read, this is a way that I can escape and take myself somewhere else. I am able to really just clear my head and enjoy the story unfolding. Depending on how I am feeling will depend on what I am reading, if I am trying to unwind and relax and just remove myself from my thoughts I will read something like fantasy, or contemporary. I also love to read non fiction but when I want to escape and take some time for myself I don’t like to read non fiction. That is saved for when I am in the mood to learn something new to conquer my goals.

A walk, a good walk can help to clear my head. I like to take my cane and take Danson just on leash. He loves getting out to just enjoy a non working walk. I try to go and walk on a path so that I don’t have to worry about traffic and other things.

A candle, I will lots of times light a candle and sit and just be in the quiet (this one has to wait until the house is empty). It can be nice to just be in the quiet and take the time to just slow down and be in the moment.

Taking the time to do things that make you feel better and help you to recharge can help you get through the rough times. Just talking about what you are experiencing and talk through the fears and frustrations with someone who can understand can be very helpful as well. I have a couple of friends who are walking through the journey of vision loss as well so they truly get it and there is nothing more comforting then to know you are not alone.

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

 

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 Travel

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I have heard so many times that people who are blind or partially sighted can not travel alone or go sight seeing because they would be missing out on so much around them. I am all about proving people wrong so today I am going to give you a little insight into the trip I am currently on.

I left for the air port at 3:00 am on Wednesday June 1st 2016 and had my husband drop me off at the counter. After asking for some help from the air line I was at my gate and ready to go ! Rick and I got a coffee (which was a priority that early ) and waited for our plane. In Canada we are given a second seat so that your service animal has more room at your feet which is much appreciated by both Rick and I as he takes up a lot of room and does not fit under the seat in front of us. Rick travels really well and curls up at my feet and has a nap. This trip we had seats in the last row of the plane and there is no seat right beside the window which gave Rick much more room which was nice and he also enjoyed looking out the window !

Photo description – First photo is of Rick yellow lab laying on the floor waiting at the gate at the airport, photo two is of Rick curled up on the floor at my feet on the airplane and photo three is Rick sitting looking out the window of the plane.

I love to travel and I love to travel alone. I think there are stressful parts of travelling but that is the case even when you can see. The thing I love about it is that it is my choice, I can decide to go or not to go. Being able to live my life my way is very important to me. I want to go to new places and meet new people and visit friends and family and show people everywhere what I am capable of and the more I travel the more I will be able to do that.

I also quite enjoy sight seeing this may seem a little weird to some because I can’t see, but when people describe things to me I enjoy it, but I also experience the places a little differently. Like today my mom and I were able to go to Parliament Hill in Ottawa Ontario and tour the buildings and sit in on Question Period. I don’t feel like I missed anything! I enjoyed the sounds around me the smell of the library (which was heaven, I love books), the sound of the people around us the the feel of the brick on the walls and the texture of the statues. The energy during question period was great just listening in was a huge highlight for me. As the person giving us a tour was describing the things around me I was able to take it all in. My experience was no less exciting just because I could not see what was around me. I think that people forget that we have more than one sense.

Photo description – photo one is of Rick and I standing at the gate to parliament hill, photo two is Rick and I standing on the stairs under the peace tower, photo three is of Rick and I standing at the John A McDonald statue, photo four is of my mom, Rick and I standing in the beautiful library in the parliament building.

Walking down the streets of a new city is a great experience, hearing the sounds of the crowded streets, music and the smell of the restaurants and coffee shops. I can sniff out a good coffee shop like no ones business ! Going into new shops and browsing, even without sight I throughly enjoy shopping.

Our trip has just begun and we are going to be taking it all in and enjoying every moment !

Until Next Time !
Ashley and Rick