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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge, Travel

What’s on Kenyavision?

This was a tad painful for me to read, hearing what blindness is for those living in a different country than my own, but what a thing she’s doing here. I was travelling in Mexico the same week she was in Africa. I know our stories are so much different, but travelling truly opens your eyes. It’s what you allow yourself to see next that is up to you.u

Considerings

I stepped off the plane into the Nairobi night, expecting to be hit by a wall of heat, like I’d read in books. I was waiting for something akin to opening the door of a blast furnace and stepping inside, the cool, air-conditioned plane switched for a boiling inferno in spite of the late hour.

It was warm. Pleasantly so, but only warm.

I confess, I was the tiniest smidgen disappointed, but thought to myself that I would nonetheless make the best of things. I snuggled my jacket closer around me and descended the stairs, lugging my bag at the end of my tired arm. Walking across the tarmac, I breathed deeply – great lungfuls of warm air that smelled of heat and dust and fuel and…something almost spicy; an underlying, faint but very distinct difference to the air in England.

I grinned widely in spite of my tiredness. I…

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Dangling On The Edge

Thanks Steph. Since this, I’ve learned, there are scarier things than hanging off the side of a tall tower. Still, this was a thrill I will never forget. I’d go back up there tomorrow if I could.

Bold Blind Beauty

“I get a little stuck on titles like meet the blind. I can’t help but feel that I am more than “the blind.” ~Kerry Kijewski, The Insightful Wanderer

Description is in the body of the post.Here’s a photo of my friend Kerry doing the EdgeWalk on the CN Tower in Toronto. The EdgeWalk is “the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk on a 5 ft (1.5 m) wide ledge encircling the top of the Tower’s main pod, 356 m/1168 ft (116 stories) above the ground.”

I get that most people who don’t have disabilities don’t want to do anything to offend those of us who do. However, when we refer to a group or an individual by their disability it’s demeaning because it takes away our personhood. “People First Language describes what the person HAS, not what the person IS.”

Image Description: Kerry, strapped into a harness and smiling, is literally hanging backward over the edge with her feet…

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Agents of Change

I can’t think of a more perfect thing to share on #WhiteCaneWeek this month.

Adventures in Low Vision

Photo shows blind women huddled in a circle stretching their hands out to come together.Hey Everyone,

I’m going to be straightforward. Last month, I started working on a project I care about deeply. And I’m going to need your help for it to be effective. At times it’s hard to speak up and ask for things, but we can’t do it all alone.

Remember that therapeutic retreat for women living with blindness I attended last year, the one I wrote about passionately because it was a life-changing experience? Well, additional programs through the Oasis Center for Hope (OCH), a nonprofit organization, are available this summer. I chose to make some tough decisions and scrutinize my priorities in order to sign up.

I know it’s not easy to balance family, work, and other obligations. When you’re living with a disability, it’s vital to have peer support as you meet challenges. The retreats the OCH team coordinate offer peer connection, empowerment, and coping tools. Every woman…

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Ten Things of Thankful and Then Some: Sunny San Miguel, Siempre! #TakingChances #Mexico #FTSF #10Thankful

I have missed my thankful posts for a few weeks now, but I had a good reason for that: Sunny San Miguel!

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(Photo taken by my new friend from the writing workshop in Mexico. Thank you Lisa. I love your viewpoint from right where you are.)

San Miguel, I miss you.

Speaking of missing things…I also missed last week’s
Song Lyric Sunday
because I was traveling back to Canada and the frigid winter temperatures, but the theme of the sun played a big part in my week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxaAfaCln8

This song is the feeling I felt when the bright Mexican sunshine was full on my face while I sat writing up on my balcony, overlooking my small bit of the city of San Miguel de Allende. It was hard work, the writing part, but I couldn’t have asked to be doing it anywhere better.

I felt alive. This is my first thankful. I could write many more.

I am thankful that I got to discover a spot I never would have known of before. San Miguel de Allende is an interesting place and it is just one of many in such a spectacular country of Mexico, so unknown and unfamiliar to me, such a short time ago, So much more to learn about and explore, I can tell. I just barely scratched the surface.

It isn’t a resort. It isn’t on the ocean, but I admit, logically or not, my heart skipped a beat at the thought that I was closer to blue/grey whales at that moment in time, than I’d been in a long time.

My ears popped going through mountainous terrain to get to the city, but boy was I pleased when I stepped out of that shuttle and onto that uneven sidewalk and a whole new door was opened to me, both literally and figuratively. I will never, as long as I live, forget that moment.

I am thankful for the villa we had our writing workshop in and where I got to call my lodgings for the week.

I soon learned my way around, from my room to the kitchen and meeting area and to the lovely outdoor spot. I didn’t realize the way some houses are constructed in Mexico, was totally not expecting it, but was pleasantly surprised by the indoor/outdoor set-up.

I loved my room and its cool interior and the open balcony just a step out my doors.

I am thankful for my sunny writing spot, a day bed set up outside, by the railing. I would go there to write and to listen to the sounds of San Miguel, just outside of the wall of the villa.

I am thankful for the levels of emotion I went to with my writing during the week.

I didn’t expect it to get quite so emotional. It seemed like that for everyone in the class. We all dug deep and we shared a lot in one, much too short week.

I am thankful for the garden area of the villa and the peace and tranquility I found there.

There were so many plants and nature was there, right at my fingertips, in the middle of the city of SMA.

I am thankful for soundscapes.

We had to record somewhere in San Miguel and try and write from it. This was, perhaps, not so difficult for me as for some in the group, but I found a way to make it my own. A lot came from it.

I am thankful for special and unexpected experiences while traveling.

I was serenaded by some mariachis. It was uncomfortable for me, all that attention focused in my direction, but I recognize the special experience for what it was.

I am thankful for the chance to meet my writing mentor in person.

She made it possible that I even knew of San Miguel and she gave me some added strength and determination to try traveling by myself for the first time. She offered just the right incentive and I was determined to make it happen.

She took so much time out of her life and planned for me to be as safe as possible and to have the most enriching time imaginable.

She took me out in San Miguel one night and we had a lovely dinner, talking about Mexico, travel, writing, and so much more. She gave me her time and her knowledge, having been where I have not yet found myself.

She directed me safely, letting me figure things out for myself, with my own heart, mind and white cane. She was thoughtful in her descriptions, all from her creative writer’s mind. She spent time with me, more than she needed to, and showed me so many things I may have otherwise missed out on, with all the visual elements of travel and exploring new places.

I am thankful for so many things and I could keep listing them, but I am determined to write separate, individualized pieces about all the magical moments of my trip, including the amazing people I met and what they did for me, how they affected my life, in so many ways.

I am thankful for glimpses of the culture, architecture and religious beliefs of Mexico.

I am thankful, too, for the unforeseen spiritual awakening I had, in an unexpected place of vitality and passion. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

I am thankful for our day out, visiting makers. My writing mentor set out to show her class of writers that we too make something of value, even if it can’t be seen in as big a way or touched, like a statue or a piece of art.

I am thankful for the guide I had on our day out.

She spoke no English and I no Spanish, or very little if any. This presented a problem. But she was there, with a gentle, guiding hand and just in case, and we both got so much out of it through the silence, I can’t even express. I will never forget her and I will write about the way she affected my life too.

I am thankful for the wisdom and the inspiration and reassurances for the kind of life I can have in the years to come and for the truly fascinating stories I heard. I am thankful for a pizza night full of lively conversation and the best sharer of the villa I could have asked for. I am thankful for the radiant love freely given and the stories and the camaraderie of all. I am thankful for fruitful partnerships which fostered positive discussions I will never forget. I am thankful for those willing to listen. I am thankful for the laughs and the insightful talks and the likeminded writing companionship. I am thankful for steady arms on unfamiliar surfaces and much patient assistance with pesos and with my sparse Spanish. I am thankful for roof-top views, shared margaritas, and the invites to travel again, with new friends, in future.

I had to write about my thankfuls, but I am still processing so much of this. I am told I will have many more meaningful experiences like my week in Mexico and that more is to come, that this is the beginning of something and not the beginning and end of just one week. I hope this is true, but I will never forget this one as, in so many ways, my first, so many firsts.

I am thankful for all the help I had to travel alone and for the angel that watched over me while I went, as I was told by a kind and talented man.

I am thankful for all the food our mentor and leader of the class put out (including fruit, chocolate, tea/coffee/water) because she said she believed it helped inspire loads of creativity and the ladies who cooked for us and the flowers everywhere. The perfect environment for writing and creativity and all that needed inspiration.

I am thankful for what I came away with, the writing I did. I am working on it some more yet, but hope to publish my story at some point.

I am thankful for the last night, with the thematic musical entertainment, the fact that I vowed to try new things and ended my week of that by eating crickets, and for all the brilliant writing shared by everyone in the class. I am thankful for the support I received for my piece upon reading it aloud.

I am thankful for my family’s support, even though I know how hard it was, at times, for some of them more than others. I would be nowhere near where I am now if it weren’t for them.

I am thankful for the confidence I felt and, even more so, for the fear that persisted and fuelled me. It’s still feeling me.

I am thankful for the reaction from my cat and my dog upon arriving home. My cat made a long mewing sound like I’ve never heard. He sounded excited, to me anyway.

I’m not sure what good it will do in the concrete ways that matter, but I am thankful for all the protests I’ve seen happening against the cruelty, ignorance, and arrogance in the US government, especially these last few weeks since I was away.

Those judges and lawyers working to fight against such unfair actions taken without any care to those hurting. Those fighting are likely putting their butts on the line, some maybe even risking more than we realize at this given moment.

Canada is nowhere near perfect, not hardly, but I am thankful for the total difference in feeling I notice here. I love a lot of Americans, some I’ve met oh so recently, but the country as a whole makes me very uncomfortable now, feeling vulnerable, but it’s clearly the government I have a problem with. I hope this changes one day. May seen as though I’m generalizing here, but believe me, I wish I hadn’t felt that when traveling back through the US.

Sobbing over today’s newspaper – Carrie Snyder from Canada

Just put yourself in the place of someone coming to a new country because you feel in danger in your own.

How can you not help but try to understand what that must feel like? How can any of us avoid that, just because it’s an uncomfortable thought?

I can’t imagine having to leave my home, the only place I’ve known, so I am thankful to be back in my home of Canada. May it always be a place of peace, even when threatened by hate like the rest of the world finds itself, more and more.

There is so much happening, in my world and in the world at large. I am just trying to survive the helplessness of it all, and the best thing I can think of is to write through it all, through all the pain and the confusion and the uncertainties. This must include self care, right along with care for and of other people and our planet.

This taking new chances to hopefully produce new and eye-opening perspectives is about all I can think to do to appreciate life. Things can be hard, are rough, for a lot of people. I say, take a leap and step off that ledge, metaphorically of course, or use your best judgment. Just do something.

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I want to share more photos, but those can be a bit tricky for me. I asked for them, for the record of preservation, to show my family. I can’t quite keep them straight, never knowing if what I include and think is really what it is. I will do another post, once I get that straight. Most of them were posted on Facebook, but I never want to share without credit or explanation.

To be continued…

I also wanted to link up with
Finish The Sentence Friday, #FTSF
because it’s been a few weeks for that also and I love Kristi and how she finishes her sentences.

When it comes to self care, I am certain what I just did for myself, as illustrated here, definitely counts.

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I Am Brave Enough, #Travel #Mexico #Disability #kindnessofstrangers

It’s the name of Lindsey Stirling’s most recent work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOmc9uG1Ndg

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, it has been my question/statement to myself about 2017 and my own determination to make my life what I’d like it to be.

Well, I’m back. I made it. First, to start with how mind blowing Mexico was, but more about that later. I have a lot to say on it, as a writer, still trying to process.

About the part that scared me silly though, traveling by myself:
It isn’t easy to have to wait to be taken from counter to counter, gate to gate, plane to plane. There are some advantages. It can be nice having someone push you around, along with your luggage, but I particularly liked the one transportation vehicle they used, specifically in the Detroit Airport. I liked that one. The two guys who took me, from the first to the last, they were friendly and pleasant.
You are first on the airplane (early boring) and last off. Different flight attendants and others likely know different things about how to help someone who is blind. Some are more hospitable than others. Sometimes I felt ignored and sometimes I felt well taken care of.

I honestly have to say I liked Dallas Airport the least. I didn’t realize how big it is there. The porters are different. Some easier to communicate with than others. It was a far distance to go, on my way there, and luckily I had a few hours because I was left at a gate, which changed. I sat there and suddenly heard them announcing a different flight than the one I knew I was there for. This was when I decided to speak up and get some help. Thankfully, another porter with a wheelchair was called and I was taken to the correct place. Unfortunately, then there was a problem with the plane and I sat there for more than an hour, nearly two. I was afraid I would miss the opening night festivities in Mexico, at my workshop. I didn’t.

I am writing about this, even with all the array of wonderful things I could be writing about my week in Mexico, because I feel there is a need to explain what it is like to travel when you have a disability. I doubt people realize.

The last time I flew anywhere I had a hand to hold tightly when my anxiety of lifting off the ground and into the air got too much. I felt kind of alone on my journey there this time, with no hand to hold, but I realized I needed to experience that. I needed to sit and be okay with being alone, right where I was, doing exactly what it was I was doing there.

I had all these images in my mind of all the strange and wonderful souls I would meet while traveling, in airports and such. I met hardly any on my trip to Mexico. That’s okay. I was on my own journey.

I met a lovely porter to start off my traveling, in Detroit. He told me his name and asked me about where I was going and what for. I told him of my fears of traveling by myself and he assured me it would all work out. He was right.
He got me a bottle of water and brought me safely to my gate. He made sure to park my luxury vehicle right next to the desk at the gate, so the people wouldn’t miss me there.
I tell you, you hear a lot of behind the scenes drama and things when you sit in that spot. Interesting.

So, I was the only one in my row on the first flight (Detroit to Dallas). It was an experience anyway. Behind my row there was a young woman, traveling from visiting her boyfriend, and the older woman beside her took an instant liking to her. The two of them then went on to talk the entire flight. The older asking the younger about her plans and her dreams. I secretly wanted that sort of experience from traveling. Would I make any connection like that? Did people resist approaching me? And did I shrink back from reaching out to anyone either?

It was still all so overwhelming, this traveling by myself. I was on constant alert, fearing I would end up lost or misplaced. I didn’t dare listen to my music or be distracted in any way. I was depending on other people for my very safe arrival, but how much of it all could I take on myself, to take my own power back?

I had help to find the check in desk at the airport in Mexico for my trip home, from the shuttle driver. He took my hand and brought me to them. I was so flustered I forgot to tip him. I felt so bad when I realized. I didn’t want to be so wrapped up in myself and my own worries that I did that sort of thing. I wish I could repay him somehow.

The porter they called to take me spoke no English and she asked if I could speak Spanish. At least, that much I could understand she said. I told her no and that one of the only words in Spanish I know was the one for water. Thanks to my niece who learned it from her Spanish speaking babysitter.

She had to go help someone else and found a woman who spoke English to stay with me. The woman then proceeded to tell me all about her life until I heard a familiar voice.

It was one of the women from the workshop. I could tell it was her, first, by the clunking sound of her shoes. She could keep me company, but the English speaking lady had to go. Still, you meet some interesting people when traveling.

I felt, at times, like the girl from the workshop was having to help me with my stuff, not relax while waiting for her flight, but that is all on me to not look at things life like that so much.

The porter returned and we went to our gate. She took me to the chairs while the girl from the workshop went into a special lounge for those with special bonuses from the airline. The porter then left me in the wheelchair. It probably seemed easier for her, in her mind, but I didn’t want to have to sit in it while waiting an hour or so for the flight. When the girl from workshop came back she agreed and we found two seats. This still required dealing with the wheelchair and my luggage, along with her things. She brought me a yogurt drink from that special lounge. It tasted so good in that moment.

We spoke a little and she helped me to the bathroom. We had to manage our luggage because leaving it unattended would not be a good idea.

My biggest concern, other than being left somewhere, was the bathroom situation. Anyone can find a bathroom in an airport if they need it. For me, I would have to depend on whichever porter I happen to be with if I needed to go. Many of those were men who hardly spoke English themselves. Not the best of situations, but best there was. Otherwise, I would be on my own and would have to find someone, a stranger or airport employee walking by, to help and show me where a bathroom was. Not fun.

I sat in my row, on my way home, and looked at a Mexico I could not see, through my oval airplane window. Suddenly, amongst the dozing I did and the boredom of sitting there in a row with a guy and girl I didn’t speak to, the familiar voice suddenly said my name, handing me a bag of warm mixed nuts. More perks from first class. That was the last I saw of her. I was truly on my own again.

The airport in Dallas was chaos. They had only one porter when I got off the plane and there was also a man in a wheelchair who needed assistance. His wife ended up guiding me, helping me with my luggage, while we followed the one porter and the husband through the lines and crowds. She did not have to do that, but she did. They were both very kind.

I suddenly heard protesting to my left. I couldn’t make out all they said, something about the US, no Trump, and no KKK.

It was a bit nerve racking as I followed the woman and her husband through customs and I forgot about the bottle of water in my bag still, from the girl from the workshop. I wish they didn’t have to take it from me. Silly regulations. I even got patted down at the airport in Mexico, by a girl who had to try to ask if it was okay first, but did not speak any English. Now I was having my bag inspected. Oh the joys of airline travel.

Finally we found our correct gates and the porter left me at mine. I thanked the mysterious couple, the ones who asked me about my time in San Miguel and told me about the house they rent there, and I sat and hoped for the best.

The people at the desk did their job. A nice lady helped me to the plane. I found my seat and a friendly woman, traveling alone for the first time too, she was feeling anxious and asked me if my folded up white cane was drum sticks. I liked her at once.

The flight went by a lot faster, long long day, with someone to talk to. She asked me about my writing and my blindness and family. I asked her about her five children and the plans they had to move from Detroit to Dallas. Her and her husband had just put an offer on a new house there. I wondered at the differences, the separate lives of so many, including this stranger who took the time to speak to me and I spoke back.

I was afraid, the entire time. I was afraid and still I didn’t want to let that stop me anymore. I did it once and I know I can and will do it again, until I am no longer so afraid. I know even sighted people can be afraid of such things, when traveling alone, when being afraid to fly or confused by flight numbers and gate changes. I know. I know we are all the same somehow while oh so different.

I appreciate all the help I received and all the assistance and the company kept. To all the strangers I will never see again. To the amazing souls I met in Mexico. To my amazing mentor for all she did for me. To my family who supported me. I say thanks. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I am brave enough.

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Humbled and Hopeful, #JusJoJan

Well, I’m back. I’m back to this blog and to join in with the final few days of
Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan.

I’m not particularly thrilled about it to be honest. It’s not anything other than myself.

I’m not blue exactly. I do think of this month as the dark blue month, but now the red month is fast approaching and I am so tired.

It’s a good tired of course. Those who know me, they would tell me to stop complaining. I just got back from a week in Mexico and I had something happen to me that was beyond description. I will still try though, as that’s what I do.

I just had a long travel day yesterday. The news here in Canada and around the world sucks. I am trying to take in all I did and all I saw and everything I experienced when I was away at my writing workshop paradise.

Yes, that is what it was for me. How can I feel blue at all when I so recently had such an enriching time?

I don’t know. I didn’t want the week to end truthfully. I had my own oasis, a beautiful and comfortable room and a perfect balcony place to go and write or just to take in the world from a magnificent viewpoint. I never wanted to leave that spot. I recorded, with my phone, simply the world from up there. No talking. Only birds singing, distant dogs barking, church bells clanging, and children and families going about their days in houses nearby. I heard a continuous rumble of the traffic out beyond and I knew the world didn’t stop while I was hidden away and writing with a group of the most intelligent, friendly, and compassionate people and other writers I’ve ever known.

So, if I am blue, it’s not for the fact that I don’t realize what I am lucky to have or having had just gotten to do with my week. It’s just that I had such a time that the rest of my life, in this moment, seems like it can never compare again. These are silly musings, perhaps, but I feel them right now. I can’t believe, when I reflect back, what I just did and I fear I will never do it again, though I’ve been told by many that I absolutely will and I know in my own heart that they are right.

Now I am home again. I am here and I am listening to my brother and his band playing superb music. I think about that beauty of art, the kind which was all the incredible works of writing that I heard the other night, and the visual art I was shown that is Mexico’s to share. I put that against all that is cruel and ugly and I grip the stunning bracelet I bought myself to remember Mexico by. It gives me strength to face life. I am humbled and hopeful.

I may allow these final days to be forever known as my two blue days and then I will begin a new month, a new birth year, to be the start of the rest of my life. What just happened to me in Mexico is proof positive that anything is possible.

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So So Close, #JusJoJan

Hmm. Let me think.

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan

Sure, I spent all that time coming up with over one hundred things I am thankful for just the other day, but coming up with the opposite is no problem, now that today is a new one.

New beginnings. New start. Starts and stalls and stops.

I can be restrained about it though. I won’t list quite so many things I am ungrateful about. I really still am grateful for everything I listed the other day. Promise. I am lucky to be me, right now especially, but since I am here…might as well jot down a few thoughts, after the day that just was.

I am keeping an open mind and heart. I am trying to let more of life roll off my back, as I am about to embark on one of those rare adventures in life.

If I had nothing today to write about especially, nothing to complain about, I would simply move along, right past this prompt in particular. Today was one of those tricky days though, and it just so happens that a complaint was what my day was all about, though I am still grateful for a brother who is happy to help me out. I can listen back to all this music, ready on my laptop, for my entertainment needs as I am soon to be on my way. He did that, made that possible.

I can receive and send email on my new phone. Yes, I had no choice. Not new, as far as the newest phones on the market, but new to me. After several years, even a slight upgrade is new.

It requires a lot of updating contacts and other prep crap. I can not complain because I have a portable electronic device to carry with me everywhere, to keep my family apprised of my whereabouts. They appreciate that too.

Sure, okay so I have a few little complaints. My contacts were updated, but not the names. It’s funny how we get so used to not needing to remember people’s actual phone numbers anymore. So, all these numbers in my phone, but ah…to whom do they belong?

Complaint number one.

Then there’s the fact that both myself and my brother received new braille displays that are meant to work with Bluetooth, with our phones. First, he tried to help me and he screwed himself in the process. My braille display can’t seem to recognize my phone, or is it the other way around? I don’t even know anymore. Long long longest of days.

I could complain that I don’t feel one hundred percent physically, but I could be grateful I have a doctor who is thorough and consistent and reliable and kind. She is doing her best to make sure I feel as well as possible for my adventure. She just feels bad she hasn’t been able to help me feel better still.

I could make a complaint that technology is awful, as it looks like my braille display won’t work, in time for my adventure, to work with my phone. Or, I could just be thankful it still works with my laptop. I need to be able to use it to read my writing out loud and that I can still do.

So, my brother is persistent too. He would and could work on something all day and night, until he had it figured out. So, did my silly newish phone do an update to the latest OS in the night, without my knowledge and permission, and could that be the reason it no longer recognized the braille display it recognized just a few days ago?

I don’t know all these answers. I don’t, unfortunately, have the time to get to the bottom of it all this week. I have things still to do to be ready for my adventure.

I have a complaint, sure, but I am trying to look on the brightest of bright sides. I don’t have to look very far for that, not today.

Thanks Willow,
Linda,
and Shan Jeniah’s Lovely Chaos,
for a place to register a formal complaint about technology and life in general.

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