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Post Breakup: How I Survived The First Six Months

“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind … when a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”

Alice Munro, too Much Happiness

Just Breathe: Keep Breathing
Six things I’ve used to help get through.

I gravitate towards song lyrics which expressly tell me to breathe, right there in the song, over and over again. I literally need this reminder, at least once a day. In addition, I have found six more things that have made the months just a little more bearable, six techniques, one for each month I have found myself single once more and just trying to move on. I like symmetry and so here are six things, one for each month so far.

1.
Family and Friends.

Where would I have been in those initial first days, when I was in a fog of denial and disbelief, if I hadn’t had my siblings to rant to.

From my oldest brother’s calm wisdom, to my sister’s been-there advice, to my younger brother’s patience as I railed in anger. A reminder that I was not alone with a single unexpected delivery of flowers from a friend. The comfort from my parents and their unwavering support and love. I would be nowhere without these people. Nowhere!

2.
Music.

There are only so many times a girl can hear John Legend’s hit song All of Me and not want to throw something. This is where these soulful ladies came in.

Of course there’s no shortage of weepy breakup songs out there. I found the ones that spoke to me. How could I ever have gotten through the feelings of anger and loss without such artistes as Ingrid Michaelson, Lily Allen, and

Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness?.

These women’s strong voices were just what I needed to push through the heartbreak and make sense of the nonsensical.

3.
Animals.

I had a dog already, but my family were surprised, to-say-the-least, when one day out-of-the-blue I announced I was getting a kitten. Was I crazy, they demanded? Did I really want this or was I simply making a rash decision that I would regret later, when I realized all the responsibility?

What they didn’t understand was that I needed something. I needed to feel loved and be able to give love in return. Dobby and Lumos gave me something to get up for in the morning, because I knew someone or something needed me.

4.
Chocolate.

Because…come on!

5.
Writing.

Whether it was my rambling release of anger I directed toward the end of the life I thought I had and toward the one who hurt me or the catharsis of writing just because I love it and it keeps me sane. I was able to filter what I wanted or needed to say in any particular moment, by saving the really harsh stuff for a private journal. This was a friend’s idea, (see Number 1).

Or my blog, where I could express myself in a more constructive and appropriate way. I would have been lost without both. Just hope I never switch the two accidentally.

🙂

6.
Being surrounded by the memories every day.

This last one might sound strange, given all that advice out there to burn absolutely every item of his so you don’t have to look at it and be reminded. Well, that’s a little tough, considering I am living there still, in my house, the house we lived in together.

He packed up all his clothes and computers and left. Wherever he is, he is able to not have to look at the memories all the time, but this is my house and I wake up and go to bed surrounded by the things we did and had and the images are unavoidable. Sure, I could have moved and run from all of it, but that just wasn’t practical.

I did little things to deal with the in-your-face reality of my situation, such as sleeping in another room that wasn’t ours. I still can’t sleep in our bed, but I know (with a little help from a new set of sheets and pillows) that I will reclaim the master bedroom as my own. By staying behind I am forced to confront the past every day and to let it make me strong again.

I reclaim a spot on the couch or a shelf in the bathroom and I take back my power. The ghosts of the relationship linger, sure, but I face them and I grow from that and keep moving forward.

Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve months and a year.

After six months I am doing my very best, by finding all the things that make life bearable, that make life better.

These last six months have been some of the hardest of my life, but they have also been some of the most character-building.

Who knows what the next six months and beyond will bring, but I hope within that time I will continue, no matter how fast or slow, to heal.

We don’t get to choose how fast we recover from heartbreak and move on with life, but I will continue to focus on myself and on doing what’s right for me.

How long did it take you to get over heartbreak? What are some of the things you used to cope? What music do you listen to when dealing with life’s struggles?

Ingrid Michaelson, Keep Breathing, Youtube

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir Monday

All They’ve Ever Known

A new week and I bring some new perspectives to the table.

Last week I wrote about school and work,

Here.

This week I return to the subject of family.

***

Q: Is your family life affected by disability? In what ways?

A:
I have shown the strength and character of my parents in past answers:

Literally,

Special Magnificence,

and

Diagnosis and Treatment.

This time I thought, with the word “family”, in the question that I would ask the other two I have not asked yet: my older brother and sister.

I have two amazing parents and a younger brother who knows what it’s like because he was born visually impaired too.

My two older siblings have been there from the start and I wanted to share their point-of-view because if anyone was affected, good or bad, it would be them.

I ask my brother and then my sister this question and this is what they said:

***

P: That is a tough question to answer.

At first I wanted to say yes. Mainly because I always felt like I needed to protect/help you growing up and even today though I don’t see you guys very often.
But I would imagine that every big brother would feel that way about younger siblings. Worrying when you were sick or going into the O.R.

Honestly I cannot think of a particular situation.

The only scenario that comes to mind is while viewing a movie or television program, I’d always try to describe in as much detail as possible what you were missing. I’ve always wanted to make sure that you and your brother never miss out on anything that sighted people take for granted.

So to answer your question, are we affected?  Life may have been different for us growing than for most kids. But this is all I’ve ever known and couldn’t imagine it any other way.

***

K: Growing up having siblings with a disability is like anything in life, especially as a teenager, you can feel self conscious – even when it’s by association. No one likes to feel out of place. At the same time, it came with a strong urge to protect and defend.

That being said, that was only part of what it was like growing up in a family that visibly, can seem a little different. More importantly, I think it has helped to show how differently people can be whether outwardly or more under the surface. I think it made me a better person, more understanding and compassionate. It showed me that any disability, big or small, can be overcome by both those around you and those with the impairment.

My parents displayed this with their never ending ability to give my siblings the chance to take on the world with the least resistance possible. It also showed the power those with disabilities themselves can display when given the chance, that all people can thrive when given support and proper circumstances.

Mostly though, it was just my family, at the end of the day (and really at the beginning and in the middle of the day and all the moments in between). They’re just your little sister and brother – and as you get older you no longer notice those stares, and that feeling of self consciousness becomes an awareness that our differences need to be celebrated and not a cause for feeling out of place. All people have their own disability, some are just more obvious than others.

***

When I asked them this question I knew it could be a difficult one. You have to understand that this was a difficult question. Just think of anything or anyone in your life that has always been there. That is “normal” for you, in a way that might not be true for someone else.

As for my siblings, I wondered if it would be hard for them to think of any actual examples or if they could possibly be hesitant to say something that might hurt my feelings if I knew it because, honestly, I have felt guilty in the past.

I know people stare and I know, children especially, don’t like to feel out-of-place. I never wanted to be the source of resentment.

I know jealousy is just a part of being a sibling, at one time or another, and there were four of us. Being one of four in a family teaches you to wait your turn and to be patient and flexible.

I know that a lot of attention had to be given to me and my brother at certain times, and that couldn’t have been easy.

For me I can say it is comforting to no end to know there are at least two people in my life who accept me for me. I am just me to them. They know the little things about me, as I do them, good and bad. I feel a reassurance around my brother and sister that I do not get anywhere else. I have always been there for them and they for me and I hope that will never ever change.

My sister and I have real discussions about the things in life that really matter and that everyone goes through. She has helped me fit in with my surroundings and to feel like I am worth knowing and loving.

My brother, like he said, has always described anything visual in a way that I could understand, allowing me to enjoy such things like everyone else.

I hope I could have given them both even half of what they’ve given me.

No matter what, no matter what may happen, I know I will always have them, even if we go our own ways as adults and have our own lives.

To us, our childhoods were full of love, fun, and all the normal ups and downs that siblings have, but we did it all together and we have memories we will never forget and that have made us the people we are today.

Feeling a part of a family is something we all need. That is the first place we find acceptance and security. I hope we will always have each other to lean on.

***

Next Memoir Monday, for the

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge,

I will answer another question.

Are your leisure activities or hobbies affected by disability? How do you work around this?

What is “normal” for you that you think might not be that way for someone else?

I hope you all have a pleasant week and I hope you all have family to lean on like I do.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday, Special Occasions

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Last week I spoke on a strictly medical point-of-view with

Diagnosis and Treatment.

For this week’s post I thought I would highlight the need for integration and awareness, for a cause so important to me: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month in Canada.

Q: Do you think that its more important to emphasize medical treatment, life skills, community integration, or a combination of these things?

***

A: I am a big fan of not choosing one thing. In this case, just one won’t cut it.

Of course physical health is important. Any medical treatment that is required should not be ignored, whether through denial or fear.

In my case, eye doctors were vital when my remaining vision was in question and in danger.

Yet, there is so much more to the picture than eye health. Life skills and community integration are things that can not be ignored, or suffering and isolation follow.

I can’t express enough how vital my parents were in these elements. Once the medical condition of blindness was established it was time to get on with the business of living.

I do for myself as much as I can and those skills were taught to me as a child, as they were for any other.

Community integration brings me back to the start of this post.

Of course nothing is yet easy and simple. It is important to feel like you are a part of something bigger, community is that something. I know a lot of the work of integrating people with disabilities is still needed.

Nowhere is this as clear as in employment. We are not yet at a place where the numbers of people with disabilities, especially visual impairment, are high, integrated into the community and working alongside.

Integration can be a big and daunting word, for everyone. Both sides need to be able to communicate and play their part, if there is to be any real success. There needs to be an effort put forth by all involved.

My blindness doesn’t have to impede everything. There are certain jobs I could perform very well, if given the chance. This is really only possible because I was once taught many life skills others take for granted and don’t really think about.

The integration is then required to complete the process.

Medical treatment, life skills, and community integration are accomplished, for people with disabilities, in steps, one building on the other until the person is as well-off and well-adjusted as possible.

***

For more information on National Disability Employment Awareness Month, go

Here.

And next week on the

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge,

What are some significant moments/events in your life that connect to disability?

I am betting I will have a lot to say for that one.

🙂

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday

Diagnosis and Treatment

Last week my parents answered a question about what it’s like having loved ones with disabilities in their lives and what that word means to them,

Here.

This week I will rejoin the discussion once more.

***

Q: What have your experiences been with medical treatment and/or therapy been like? Do you have positive, negative, or mixed feelings about your experiences?

A: I was diagnosed months after I was born and my vision remained stable for many years. I had the occasional eye check-up, but really I avoided the need for more treatments until my remaining vision began to suddenly and mysteriously slip away, when I was in the seventh grade.

I then found out, rather quickly and shockingly, what it was like to have lights constantly in my face. I would have been bothered by all the stinging drops and bright lights, if it weren’t for the fact that I was having terrible pain behind my eyes and I knew, even at age twelve, I was lucky to have some of the brightest minds in ophthalmology overseeing my case.

By this point I had wonderfully experienced parents who hadn’t been dragging me all over the place for miracle cures to my blindness. I didn’t see or experience a lot of negligence. I received excellent care.

As for my kidney failure I know how unexpected that all was and yet my parents still felt horribly that they didn’t do something sooner. How could they have known? They were raising their two blind children, but the rest kind of snuck up on us all.

***

It took us probably too long to diagnose your kidney disease because we thought it was because of stress and your blindness. Your previous diagnosis hampered finding your kidney failure.

When you feel something is different or not right, you search for the reason. Sometimes it can be a physical problem that can be fixed and it’s done. Other times you get a diagnosis that will affect you for the rest of your life. A diagnosis can be great relief because it explains all of your symptoms and you can focus on dealing with them and getting on with the rest of your life. Other times it can be overwhelming because it predicts possibly even more and complicated problems down the road.

***

Since I lost all that vision as a teenager I have kept the retinal specialist who treated me then. HE is the best at what he does, but I fear a future of undiagnosed and unpredictable vision loss. Things can only be handled with the right treatments and proper diagnosis up to a point.

***

Before I end today’s post I wanted to include something I found earlier, a post on a blog by another visually impaired blogger. It is a post about the topic of disabilities in the media and I know that is a big part of what Rose has been doing from the very start.

So please check out:

Adventures in Low Vision,

and

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge.

for more information and next Monday’s question:

Do you think that it’s more important to emphasize medical treatment, life skills, community integration, or a combination of these things?

I think I’ve kind of messed up the numbering of the Awareness Challenge questions from how Rose has them listed, only because I was doing a few in two parts.

🙂

I will try to get back on track or perhaps the numbering system went out the window long ago.

Such is life.

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IN YOUR FACE

Last Monday, for the

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge,

I shared a wonderful post from my very own parents, which I called:

Literally.

Last week’s question was answered by my parents, from the perspective of raising not one, but two children with a disability. They will be back again next week with another thoughtful response, but this week it is my turn once more.

🙂

Week Three: Part A

Q: If you have a medical diagnosis, do you see yourself as having a disability? Why or why not?

A: I probably would not be here answering these questions if my answer were no.

🙂

I have had several of these in my lifetime. The main one was the LCA, see

Here.

Then there was the Senior-Loken Syndrome, which included the renal failure and scoliosis.

These, to say the least, made my teen years interesting ones.

I have had many different diagnosis suggestions from neurologists with the headaches and chronic pain I have dealt with over the last ten to fifteen years now. However, unlike the obvious medical signs that I am blind or that my kidneys stopped working or when an x-ray clearly showed signs of a curvature in the spine, chronic pain shows no signs that can be clearly and medically spotted.

All of this is true and yet, I can not let any of it weigh, drag, or generally bring me down for very long. Whether it’s one medically diagnosed disability or multiple, if it is at all possible to get on with the business of living, I would highly recommend doing so, to myself and anyone else out there.

I did not come up with the term and I do my best to deal with it in this society of labels.

I am so pleased to participate in this awareness challenge of disability because I know I must live life, not just with disability, but in spite of it. I have had it in some form all my life and this makes it very difficult to live in any sort of denial, not that I haven’t had my moments. It just becomes a part of you and something that it would do no good to refute. It’s not that it wouldn’t occur to me because I am human and I have my bad days, but I know I must take control of my own life, to take the power away from the cruelty and the harshness that living with the label of disability often causes.

Yes, the short answer is that I have disability as a part of my life and the person I am. This is the cold, hard, in-your-face reality of the situation. I look forward to getting further into the issues surrounding life with disability, with some of the questions I have yet to answer, in the weeks to come.

Check back next Monday for more.

Next week my two parents will be answering the following, Part B:

If you don’t have one, how do you view the concept of disability and the people in your life who have them?

***

Speaking of in-your-face.

🙂

With September being Chronic Pain Awareness Month I wanted to share here an initiative being organized by the ones fighting to lessen the stigma surrounding chronic pain and a new way to hopefully bring attention to this silent and invisible scourge.

I asked to do what I could to help migraine, headache, and chronic pain ambassador JP Summers, and this is what she had to say:

“Here is the information for the Pie Challenge. I hope we get some media attention for the sake of all of us that are tired of our condition not being considered severe.”

Please check out the links below to see what’s being done:

Twitter,

Facebook,

and

Website.

Of course this is a take on the:

Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS,

because every person has their own unique story of suffering and deserves to be heard and helped, whether it’s by way of ice cold water being poured over the head or a pie in the face.

Whatever works and get’s peoples’ attention, right?

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Literally

For this week’s instalment of

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge

I thought it might be helpful to ask the next question to the two people in my life who could best answer it.

These two were, if you believe in that sort of thing, meant to be mine and my brother’s parents. Whether you call it God or fate or whatever, I believe it to be true. They had no previous experience with children with “special needs” when I was born and they had no choice but to dive into the world of specialists and specialty teachers and programs, to give me the best possible chance at a happy and successful life.

As if that weren’t enough. They didn’t just do this at home. They go out into the world and make a difference in people’s lives every single day. Here is more on how they care.

Week Two: Part B
(Part A can be found here

Awareness.

Q: Do you have loved ones who live with disabilities? Do you work with people who have disabilities?

A: (My mother was a stay-at-home mother while I was growing up. It wasn’t easy for her to jump into the working world after so many years removed, but she stepped up to the plate and used her skills wisely. She does a job each day that not a lot of people could or would be willing to do. She makes lives better and she treats her clients like human beings, doing all she can to bring light and fun into their lives.)

I work in a group home with individuals with both physical and developmental disabilities. Our job is to give them a home and help them contribute. Whatever each person is able to do, look after each of them and help meet whatever their special needs may be. 

For example: food and Meals.
Some individuals can help shop for groceries, one can do a great job of barbecuing, some can make their own breakfast, one needs assistance to steady their hand in order to get a spoon of food to their mouth, and one needs to be spoon fed every bite. Everyone is unique and you assist each special need and even more important is to promote each ability.

(My father worked in a retail setting for over twenty years, until he grew weary of the long hours and high demands and went in search of more meaningful work. He did something I will forever be in awe of: he walked away from a highly stressful situation, left a steady paycheque, and regained his sanity and his self through the unknown of a future career he did not yet know he would find. This leap of faith brought him to the necessary and valuable work he has done for over ten years now.)

I’m the owner and driver of a wheelchair cab. About 20% of my clients have disabilities such as strokes, amputees, MS and the elderly. My service gives these individuals the ability and access to travel  in their community, anywhere that they may need or want to go.
Having had two children with disabilities, this is my way of feeling good about a job that contributes to the special needs of others.

My parents are the two best examples I know. They do what they can, in every aspect of their lives, to help others. They are selfless and kind, generous souls, literally working every day to make the world a better place.

Next week’s two-part question starts with: If you have a medical diagnosis, do you see yourself as having a disability? Why or why not? If you don’t have one, how do you view the concept of disability or the people in your life who have them?

***

Happy International Literacy Day

Rilke wrote:

“You ask whether your verses are any good. you ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. you compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now I beg you to stop that sort of thing. You are looking outside and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you. No one. there is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. this most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

I MUST!!!

As I read this quote, deciding to include it in today’s post, I stopped and looked at the individual words that made up each thought. I felt a wild connection and a fierce excitement about how each little word can come together to create something so powerful and meaningful. I was in awe of the written word and I thanked all of this for enriching my life and making it a better place every day.

I know I am lucky to have it, to have the gift of literacy. Where would I be without it? I would be lost.

So on this day and every other I appreciate the fact that I have this most precious entity and I realize that not all my fellow humans on this planet are as lucky as I am. For all the girls and young women around the world who are being denied the chance of literacy I write this. For every child who can not go to school for whatever reason, I speak up here today.

On this important day I owe everything I have to literacy. Go

Here.

I can never thank those enough who brought the gift of literacy into my life.

What does International Literacy Day and literacy in general mean to you? How has it impacted your own life?

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Memoir and Reflections, Special Occasions, Spotlight Sunday, Uncategorized

Grandparents: Our Greatest Teachers

Today is National Grandparent’s Day and I wanted to speak about the great teachers they become in our lives.

Firstly, if we are lucky we all have them. I learned so very much from my four grandparents and was blessed to have them all for from ten to twenty-six years of my life.

Opa was a fun presence in my young life. He was a storyteller and a partner in crime. My memories of him are vague mostly, but several memories do stand out and always will. I miss the sound of his voice and his accent. I miss his total love and approval, which I realize now not everyone else received from him in the same way. That is what grandparents are for. They should love you unconditionally and always represent the lighter side of life.

Grandma was my secret confidant. She was the only one who ever truly understood. She was sweet and loving and always there to listen. She was even more naive than even I can be with life sometimes, but that is what made her the fair and generous lady she was. I miss her uncanny way of making me feel better about the things that life throws at you. I cling to the presence and the connection we had and I will never fully let go of that.

Grandpa was the jokester and the wever of humorous tales. He had an endless string of jokes to tell and a mischievous spirit to make me laugh always.

Oma was the toughest woman I have ever met. She was a survivor of all things I could not comprehend. She bared widowhood with strength and resilience. Her love for me was unquestionable and the strongest thread I’ve ever felt. I miss her saying my name and her generosity with me always. She showered me with things, material and priceless, of which only an Oma could.

I love that my nephew has an oma of his own now. I know she and his parents will never let him forget he had an opa too.

I love to see my niece and nephews interacting with their grandparents. It makes me smile whenever I witness the bond they share.

So Happy Grandparent’s Day to all of you grandparents out there and I just want my parents to know what important roles they now play. I know they probably already realize, but I am here to repeat it anyway.

You are special people to your grandchildren, speaking from experience. You should never underestimate the influence you have on them and the adoration either. You are fun and light in a world full of day-to-day rules and responsibilities. You are a break in life and a place to just be kids. You imprint lessons and morals into their lives that nobody else can. Let them be free with you, free to just be kids and they will forever hold you in their hearts with a love like no other.

Lastly, I wanted to take a moment and share something about the importance of teachers Whether they are the life teachers that are grandparents or the ones in the classroom.

I found myself sitting on a slide, in a playground last week and thinking about school. As my little niece was to start her first day of school I imagined her playing where I sat, only days from then.

I saw my young self in the midst of a playground full of children, so long ago now it feels. It wasn’t always easy and it was downright tough at times, but I survived and learned so much from those years. I grew into the woman I am now and I am lucky to have gained those experiences. I hoped for only the best with my niece.

I think we were all scared for her, as myself and her grandparents pictured her there. The next time she appeared on this playground she would not have us there to protect her, and so we were afraid to picture our little girl set free in such a big big world. That image affected each of us in different ways. We saw her as that little baby still, but in front of our very eyes she had grown. Her independence can not be denied and so I knew in my heart she would knock em dead.

The other day I came across a video and I want to share it here now. I strongly urge you to take five minutes of your time and check out this speech by a truly inspiring teacher. She is well-spoken, humorous, and just the sort of teacher I hope my niece will have. Listening to this educator speak made me feel better about my niece’s new adventure and her step forward in life, which all who love her felt had come much too soon, but of which we all know she will learn so much.

Every Kid Needs a Champion

The teacher in this clip talks about the student-teacher relationship as a human thing, a connection, the building of relationships. It is hugely comforting and heart-warming to know there are teachers out there that care this much.

School is a series of learning and growth experiences and it effects every child in its own unique ways. There are lessons to learn academically and socially that not every child grasps the same. I want my niece to thrive and make friends, to learn what she is good at and what she can excel in. I hope she makes lasting connections throughout the years and that her teachers inspire in her a love of learning. I want teachers and students alike to see what an amazing girl she truly is.

So this post is dedicated to grandparents and teachers. Always remember and be mindful of the power you have in your hands.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday

Awareness

On this Labour Day it is the start of a new month and a new week. I have two subjects I want to address on this first day of the new month because they are both extremely important in my own life.

September is Pain Awareness Month and I could write forever on this issue. This is all based mostly in the US. Often times these things do not all fall on the same month, week, or days in other countries around the world, including Canada. I know there are months for every condition and having a blog and experience with so many of them gives me an endless stream of posting ideas, but I will take any chance to speak up and not remain silent anymore.

I have been dealing with different and widely varied forms of chronic pain for half my life. There hasn’t been a time where some part of my body hasn’t hurt, causing me great distress and misery.

So many nights I have spent up, mind racing, doing anything I could to distract myself out of my physical discomfort. I say discomfort, using a common word doctors throw out there on examination. I am doing this to highlight the solitary suffering that only the one experiencing the pain can truly know. All these buzz words to describe that suffering are just that, words; however, the best tools I have are words. I don’t know how to bring others into the loneliness I have felt over the past several years without using them.

I hope to post more on this important cause in the weeks and months to come.

You can learn more about what Canada is doing when, where, and how:

here

and

here.

Also, check out an amazing advocate’s Facebook page with a catchy title for a tricky and unwanted intruder in so many people’s lives.

STOP THE STIGMA.

***

Through my blog searches I came across a woman’s blog and a project she has been launching. I immediately wanted to take part.

Her name is Rose B. Fischer and she has started crucial discussions on topics of people with disabilities and characters with disabilities being better represented in story and in media.

I sometimes think we are doing well with all this, but as someone who has been blind all my life I don’t know if that’s really true. It mostly depends on the kind of day I’m having when I think about it.

I didn’t want to make this blog strictly about any disability, but I can’t sit back and say nothing.

Here is my first answer to the questions Rose has posed and I will be answering as many as I can for as many Mondays as I possibly can, to hopefully do my part and spread the word that we can do better to help make this world a more inclusive place.

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge: Week One, Part A

Q: What is your experience with disability? do you have disabilities?

A: My experience with disability has been going on my whole life. I live it and breathe it every single day, but work to make the most of life in spite of it. I sometimes long to dismantle the term “disability”, but then I realize that I can’t fight some things and try to work with what I’ve got and to just go with it.

I was born blind and so was my brother. I was born three years before he was, so my parents eventually had the two of us on their hands, not to mention their two sighted older children.

For many years my diagnosis was something called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis and my vision really didn’t change. I grew up and lived a pretty normal life with my family. I had a great mother and father from the start, which I think makes all the difference in the world.

I went to my neighbourhood schools with my sighted peers and that, although not without its challenges, made all the difference as well.

Once I hit twelve-years-old I had other health conditions come into the picture and the total diagnosis was changed, or expanded to include a rare set of conditions, grouped together and called

Senior-Loken Syndrome,

involving both the eyes and the kidneys.

Over the years I have lost more vision and I do not enjoy the amount of sight I once had. I have lost the ability to read large print and to see colours. This hasn’t been easy and I fear I will lose the little remaining sight I currently have.

More on my eye condition can be found:

Here.

But my experiences haven’t always been bad. I am lucky and I know it, to be a person with a disability or two, living in Canada because, no matter what, things could always be worse.

You can find more information on Rose’s challenge:

Here.

And stay tuned for next Monday’s answer (Part B) to the question:

Do you have loved ones with disabilities? Do you work with people who have disabilities?

This will be answered by my amazingly strong and brave parents.

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Memoir and Reflections, Special Occasions, Throw-back Thursday

Tornado: Part One, Whirlwind

For years after it happened my grandma would appear visibly shaken during any summer storm. When the sky would start to darken it was clear she couldn’t help flashing back to the day her world was turned up-side-down.

She was alone in the house on the evening of August 7th, 1979 while my grandfather and my uncle (a teenager at the time) were out in the barn.

My grandparents were simple people, a hard-working dairy farmer and his wife. Their farm was everything to them and a visible sign of all they had built together over the previous thirty years.

***

Woodstock – her electric clock stopped at twenty minutes before seven.
About five minutes after the power failure, the tornado struck.

“It was just terrible,”, Ruby Witzel said Wednesday, fighting back the tears.
“It was a horrible experience – you just can’t express it in words,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
She stood outside her rural home near Hickson, huddled in a red and black plaid jacket, her salt and pepper hair drawn back.

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***

My parents were newly-weds during the summer of 79 and had been married just under two months, barely settled into the home they had purchased on the other side of the town of Woodstock. It was a big enough move for them both, not being overly familiar with that area, away from the farm my mother grew up on. My father had been a city kid all his life.

My grandparents are no longer here to be included in this (although I am certain they would have done gladly). They loved to tell their story and I heard it several times growing up, but now I am left with only old newspaper articles from immediately afterward.

I asked my parents to retell their own sides of that day. My mom was at home and waiting for my dad to come home from work. She had no idea anything happened until after the havoc that spread through the area.

***

When did you first know anything was wrong? I got a phone call. The afternoon was really hot and it was extremely still.

I’m not even sure who it was that called me and said that the tornado had gone through mom and dads and destroyed the farm.
I called to see if dad had already left to tell him to come home right away and they said their electricity was out and they couldn’t use their PA system to page him, but they kind of thought he had already left, but they weren’t sure. So I just waited and I waited and I waited and he didn’t show up so after waiting so long I hopped in our car and I thought I’ll drive to Woolco and see if I can find him
So I get on the 401 and it is completely stopped with traffic and all backed up. I looked at my gas tank it was almost empty. I waited for a little while and my gas tank started going down so I thought what am I gonna do so I turned around and went the opposite way and got back off and tried to go into town but it was completely closed off. There were trees all over the road and wires down.
I had no idea where he was or what was going on. I had no idea where he was for at least two hours probably. He wasn’t coming home and nobody at work saw him. I was in tears driving back to our house not knowing, how to get anywhere. Scared all by myself.

***

What about you Dad. What first tipped you off to something not right? The power went out in the store. I was done work at six and I was ready to go home. I didn’t want to stick around in case they wanted me to do some more work. I went outside and, since my parents went to Europe, I had my dad’s car, a big old Chrysler. I looked north of the mall…I thought holy smokes they’re getting a real bad storm out that way. Down south looked fine, at least what I thought.

***

“It was like a white cloud whirling around. I couldn’t see anything else,” Mrs. Witzel recalled with tears in her eyes.
“I quickly ran down to the cellar and the garage was already blowing away.”

“The wind was really blowing against the cellar door.” she said.
“I could hardly push it open,” she said, leaning against the battered wreck of her son’s new Thunderbird parked in what was once the garage.

(My mother’s two older brothers were both married and had children. My twin cousins were born only weeks before, prematurely. It had been a busy summer of weddings and births and now this had happened. It was simple proof of how my family always pulled together for each other, in good times and in bad.)

“They were in the milkhouse but it’s gone now,” Mrs. Witzel said, motioning to the east where a mound of hay and straw showed where the large wooden barn had been the day before.
“Just after they were inside the silo came down on top of the milkhouse,” Mrs Witzel said.
You can see that God really spared our lives – just by the margin that we escaped,” she said.

(This only served to cement my grandmother’s faith in God. She had come so close to losing more than property that August evening.)

***

So what did you do next? I got in the car and started driving. I got on the 401 and started driving toward home. It was getting darker and it was getting windier. Basically I got close to the cut-off and had the windows up, air on so it was nice and cool inside. I guess I wasn’t really paying attention and all of a sudden it got really windy and then it got dark and I saw something was going on ahead of me so I stopped. There were no other cars that I could see. I suddenly drove into this thing and before I knew it I was all alone. I still had it in drive but I had my foot on the break. Then it was getting worse and worse. I was getting worried and didn’t know what to do.

I just thought: I’m probably going to die. What’s going on here? It seemed like a long time it was doing this. Please stop, I thought I felt the car move, but it didn’t shift too much. I think it was more the pelting of stuff.; I was getting the debris. I didn’t get the tornado; it had already past. It was the swirl of bricks and trees and pieces of buildings.
If it was going on you’d think the car would have been moved, if it was the real thing I probably would have died. It had already gone across the 401 That’s what I believe happened. I didn’t drive into it and it hit me. I was in shock I guess. I didn’t realize what it was until later. Just married and am I going to die and never see my baby? You think the worst. When I laid down I was scared and thought I was going to die. It happened so fast but seemed like it was a long time.

I sat up. I sat for a bit, never getting out of the car, in a state of shock.
A car drove by on my ride hand side. They never stopped to help me, they were in shock too, I recall a kid looking out at me, shocked himself, I looked at him and he looked at me. That car drove slowly past.

***

The Woodstock tornado was actually three tornadoes spawned by the same storm. Two were powerful F4 twisters, with wind speeds of up to 400 kilometres and funnels two kilometres wide. The first one struck southeast of Stratford, Ont., at 6:18 p.m., carving up a path 33 kilometres long before it ended near the town of Bright.

A second, larger tornado touched down northwest of Woodstock at 6:52 p.m. It crossed Highway 401 and struck the city’s south end, cutting a swath 89 kilometres long before crossing Lake Erie and ending in New York State. A third, weaker twister struck south of Woodstock. Two people died in the tornadoes, 130 were injured and a thousand were left homeless.

***

When did you realize it was over and you were alright? I can’t tell you how long before it all died down and I sat up. Shortly after somebody from another car came running up to me and asked if I was okay. He asked me if I was hurt and I didn’t think so. He looked at me and I looked at myself. I didn’t see any cuts. He asked me if I could walk and he helped me out of my car and took me over to his. The men in the car said they were going to go back and see if the guy in another vehicle was alright.

They brought the truck driver and it looked like he was bleeding worse than I was.
They were taking him to hospital and they asked if I needed to go and I said I didn’t think I did.
They got off at the off ramp, next to the OPP station. They didn’t know what to do so they left me there and took the other man to the hospital.

At the station they were just getting lots of reports of what was happening around the county. They said something about up north area. It’s a big area, I thought, so who knows. At the police station I sat and listened, they were busy. “Yes we know there’s a tornado.” I heard them calling in off duty officers to come help. It got later and later so I used the phone. I thought I’d better call home. I called and got no answer. I think I called a few people, no answer. Any time I called I didn’t get an answer anywhere. I think I tried three or four different places.
Eventually I got a hold of your mother and she explained her parents farm had been hit, but everyone was okay, she said.
I was sitting there waiting and waiting and finally an officer said he was going out to a certain area, did I need a ride. I panicked. They were offering me a ride and so I thought I’d better take it.

He went to Oxford Centre first, which was also hit. There was a bunch of damage, getting dark by then. I must have been at the station quite a long time. He had to take another route because of the traffic tie-ups all over. I saw some of the damage. At one point he got out and told me to stay in the car because there were power lines all over the place, not wanting me to get electrocuted.

***

OPP were guarding the entrances to Oxford Centre, a hamlet 2 km south-east of the city, to stop sightseers and looters.
All but three or four of the 30 homes were severely damaged —  The worst concentration of damage outside of Woodstock.

Woodstock wasn’t the only populated area affected. Several tiny communities including Oxford Centre, Vanessa and New Durham were wiped off the map. Damage was estimated at $100 million.

***

When did you finally make it home? Eventually he took me back to our place. I pull in and see her there with the neighbour. I explained the situation. Then I took my shirt off and she cleaned my back because there were a lot of shards that had gone down my shirt. I don’t remember it being sore at all. She told me about her family and I took a shower and went to bed.

***

So Mom what did you do next? I went back home and then I think I got a phone call from Dad saying that he was at the police station and he asked me to come and get him. I said I didn’t know if I could so I said I would go over and ask the neighbour.

I knew them just barely. Maybe I had met them once before or maybe I had never met them. Maybe that was the first time I met them. I went over and their teenaged daughter was sitting on the porch. I told her that there was a tornado and I didn’t know how to get to my family. She went in and told her parents and they didn’t believe her at first, until they came out and went: Oh really!

This all took a long time because it was a long way around and when we finally got to the police station they told me he wasn’t there.
So the neighbour took me back home and as we were coming over the hill by our place a police cruiser comes up from behind us with his lights flashing so we pulled over and let him pass and then he pulled into our driveway and let Dad out.
He had bits of glass in the side of his shirt and he had his story to tell.
by then it was almost getting dark.

***

Friends, neighbours and relatives rushed out Tues. night to help rescue trapped animals and personal effects. They were back again in force early Wed., sawing up broken trees, gathering up boards and twisted sheets of steel roofing scattered like confetti through the surrounding fields.

Hay, straw and surviving animals were loaded on to trucks and wagons and taken to those neighboring farms which escaped the crushing blow of the 200 km per hr winds.
****

What were you feeling by the end of all this, after Dad was home safe? I didn’t realize how bad it was I don’t think until we went out there the next morning. We said we would just come out the next morning, but we should have gone out already that night if I’d known how bad it was.
It was a long night. If I had to do it over again I would have gone out to the farm that night, but dad was exhausted. We were both tired by that point. I had just recently found out that I was pregnant so it was scary. I didn’t know what was going on with everybody.

***

At the Witzel farm, more than three dozen cars and trucks line the road.
As the men worked at sawing the huge spruce and weeping willow trees, women chatted or tried to comfort the shaken Mrs. Witzel.

***

Excerpts were taken from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, August 1979

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Memoir Monday, Special Occasions

Honey Moon

The term honeymoon refers to the trip a newly married couple takes after their wedding. Then there’s the term “honeymoon period” to describe the stage of anything which is overly happy and all loving, but of which usually does not last. Like the moon and its phases, this love, which starts out strong eventually fades.

The other day was Friday the 13th and it was accompanied by the full moon, Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, or Honey Moon. These two events coincided in a rare combination. I wrote a short story of fiction set around this and now I want to write about a real life occasion which I can not let pass without speaking about it.

The Honey Moon has a scientific explanation, but basically it has to do with the amber colour, the warm glow of the moon. Love, in its infatuation stage, causes strong feelings of glowing warmth and devotion.

Weddings were commonly held in the month of June, although now it is less common, but today I mark a milestone for the two greatest influences in my life: my parents. They were married thirty-five-years ago on this day, two days after my grandparents, who would have been married sixty-four years if they were both still alive. What better examples could I ask for than these?

It’s a sad thing these days that many marriages don’t last ten years, let alone thirty-five. The world seems to be changing at an alarming rate and marriage becomes harder and harder to sustain. People can not find happiness and contentment with just one person anymore. A lifetime of commitment is becoming too hard for people to hold onto. I ask myself every day why this is.

As a result, families are torn apart and lives forever changed. The examples for children as they become adults and find love are broken and lost forever. This has an effect on who they become and these cycles are repeated in their own lives.

It would be inaccurate to make it all seem so simple. Of course it is not and has not always been easy, but they demonstrate the best example I know of. They are a team through and through. They consult each other and lean on one another for support.

How have they done it? I really should have asked them, sat them down together and wrenched the secret out. I see their commitment in the life they have built together. It is clear to anyone who knows or meets them. They are in this for life.

They make me proud and I am constantly in awe to my core. I know about love because of them. I know how to love thanks to them. I know what is truly important and how to fight for all these things.

The day of their wedding was a hot one, like today. My mom and another from her wedding party went to pick up the cake and raced back, windows open and cake melting in the heat. I was not there, but I wish I had been. I wish I had seen it all begin, but I have seen it grow. Year by year and their bond was sealed.

They are role models to their children and to anyone who can see what they represent. I am who I am because they made me that way. They are a shining example of what true love means. The lessons in love they have provided are key to the stability I have had. Where would I be without that?

I ponder all this, all these questions today, but I hope They are celebrating in a big way. They deserve to experience the good things, what the world has to offer. A toast to you; I raise a glass to you both!

They’ve worked hard and will continue to do so. I strive to live my life like they have shown me to do. They give me hope to believe that a love of my own is indeed possible, not to dare settle for anything less than I deserve.

Nobody is perfect of course, but if I had to name two people, a couple who have it down, I would not have to look any further than Mom and Dad.

Mom, Dad, thank you for all you’ve shown me and for the love you share. It is a beautiful thing to behold and I am honoured to be one with a front row seat. You are everything to your children and grandchildren. You are the example you’ve set for us and we are proud of all you have done and continue to do.

Thanks Dad and Mom…thanks a lot! I count on words to help me express anything I feel, good or bad, but I am having trouble this time. I fall short as I write. I feel all you have taught me so strong, words fail me in every way. I am rendered nearly speechless at this moment, on this momentous day.

Every moon will wax and wane, as do the stages of life and love, but you are still here and still together.
June 16th belongs to you. Happy Anniversary from us all.

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