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On Shoveling Snow During a Blizzard and Writing Memoir at 26

I started writing my “autobiography,” on my heavy duty Perkins Brailler, when I was fourteen. No technology because I didn’t rely on computers then. I soon changed the name of what I was writing from “autobiography” to “memoir” because I felt like I didn’t need to keep defending what I was writing, as memoir is about memory and living. We’re all in the process of living and all of us have the right to write about it. I look younger than I am often too. I still obtain wisdom and intend to use it, to share it, but I still (deservedly or not) get out of shovelling snow, though I like how the writer of this piece uses it as example for real writing life and struggle.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Katie HS Square (3 of 1) (1).jpgBy Katie Simon

“What kind of writing do you do?” It is snowing heavily outside, and I am at a party, ice flaking off my quilted boots and melting into puddles on the hardwood floor. I get asked this question frequently, not just by buzz-cut, twenty-something, plaid-wearing, men like the one in front of me, but by people of all hairstyles, ages, and clothing preferences. I know what this man expects me to say: short stories; poetry; hot takes on pop culture trends. I am 26 years old, and anything I write must be imaginary or ephemeral.

I squirm in my boots, stare out the window at the weather I just escaped. I hate this question. “Memoir,” I say.

“Huh.” He looks at me skeptically. Even without asking my age, he has a general idea. I look younger than I am. “Kind of funny for somebody your age, don’t you…

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TToT: Lightbulbs and Lightning Strikes, #LookBackMarchForward #10Thankful

January isn’t making anything easy on me, but it too shall pass.

Somehow, I’ve had Billie Holiday on my mind as this month stretches on, painfully on and on.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for the never ending list of ideas that come to me, as potential topics to write about.

Writer’s block, no way, at least not in the usual way of things.

When I am given the job of writing something, I may get a block, but that’s more from my fear of not being able to do the job I was asked to do, not being good enough.

I’m thankful for a return to my writing group in 2018.

It was a difficult day/week/month, but those people are there for me.

I wrote about a young woman, musician, who was hearing the news that Kurt Cobain had died, and wondering how to navigate the perils of fame.

It is a question on my mind. The group listened to my clumsy story and seemed curious, as curious as I am about what I’ve been thinking since I heard Dolores O’Riordan was gone.

I did smile and even laugh, with my group of local writer friends. Worth it.

I’m thankful for a list of tough questions to answer, to better know myself.

I am a writer, but I have a lot to learn. Sometimes, it requires that I look deep into myself, to find the truth. Otherwise, my writing will not keep on the forward momentum I hope to have.

It’s hard work, difficult and painful and sensitive stuff, but I am determined to see things more clearly on the other side.

I’m thankful for a first successful meeting of
The Canadian Federation of the Blind,
Ontario, in 2018.

I’m thankful for a contract opportunity to write about something so important to me.

Braille is not a well understood thing, for many, even as technology takes on bigger parts of all our lives.

My early literacy is thanks to my parents and to the school I was in and braille is a large part of all that.

So, to share about the value of braille is so important to me. I just hope I can do it justice and give to it as much as it has given me.

I’m thankful Canada’s government didn’t shut down.

Disfunction at the highest level.

I know very little about trade agreements, but Canada is doing the work and staying involved with other countries, while moving away from what the US seems to be heading for.

They are being run by someone who only pitches America, America First, or whatever, all things made in America. Whatever, to bring more jobs. I guess that is left to themselves, in their own country. Isolation.

If his government can’t even work together, to stay open a year after his inauguration, how well will they do, on their own, if that is what they prefer?

I’m thankful I could be in on a meeting to discuss traveling out west, for a convention in British Columbia.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind have a convention, every May, where issues important to blind Canadians are discussed.

This year, Ontario is coming to western Canada and we are going to make our mark.

I was only in B.C. in the airport, changing flights to the Yukon. I intend to go back, to speak about the project to make audio description in movie theatres a common thing, and I will see the Pacific Ocean while I’m at it.

I’m thankful that the marching continued, one year later, with all the more reason to do so.

I wondered, did worry, that it was a one year hit action/movement and those who like to criticize would be able to point at the one time visual as a sign that making our voices heard isn’t needed or productive.

I did not see all the signs, but had a few read to me. Some smart sign writers in those marches.

This is a current US president thing, true, but it is bigger than that guy. It is a stand against what has been.

It leaves a bunch of us out, those who find marching in the streets difficult, but it is heartening to me anyway.

I want things to only get better, going forward, in the years to come. I have a vested interest in that, in compassion and in empathy, for not only one gender or class or whatever.

I understand the fatigue that can set in, but we all must keep doing something, however small. I am still working out what that something is for me.

I’m thankful for a chance to listen to a local orchestra, playing my kind of a symphony and to see a movie live, that I missed the first time around.

I saw Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the film, on a big screen at a sport stadium.

Then, I saw the soundtrack being played by live orchestra. It was a strange experience of my senses.

I heard parts of the soundtrack, differently than I’d ever heard them, when blended into the background of the movie on DVD at home.

Int was strange, seeing with a crowd of other major Harry Potter fans, with all the cheers and the comments made by nearby fans.

The bells and the percussion section and the other main instruments that make up that famously known and heard Harry Potter musical sound.

I’m thankful for things that happen (or don’t happen) for a reason.

Maybe I don’t get what I want, in one moment, but that leads me to something else. Maybe I am getting what I can handle, what I need to teach me what I need to know.

Who knows.

I resisted the “door/window” line of optimism.

I am ending, this week, with another comforting song from The Cranberries, the Irish band that was and is no more.

My brother generously added it to his playlist on the radio show he hosts, every Friday morning, on a college radio station in London, Ontario.

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Bumps Under Fingers #WorldBrailleDay #JusJoJan

January 4th is Louis Braille’s birthday, French inventor of the braille code.

UuQZ7dp.jpg

I think two of the best qualities any person can have are passion and compassion. I believe we’re all passionate about something.

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan

I am passionate about braille literacy, as an extension of literacy as a whole.

Braille is hard to learn for many people who lose their vision later in life. I’ve known braille since I started to slowly learn it in my first five-seven years.

I am practically allergic to math and numbers. I am deeply passionate about words and braille.

In this world of technology, there is less and less push for blind people today to need to learn braille at all. That, to me, would be like never learning to read. Though many prefer to listen to the talking programs on computers and phones, I still wouldn’t trade that for the feeling of those bumps beneath my fingertips.

Thank you, Louis Braille, for what you did so long ago.

This first-Thursday-of-the-month JusJoJan post comes from
Rosemary Carlson, Writer
with her prompt word-of-the-day: passionate.

What is it you’re passionate about?

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A Reckoning: 2018 and the next 100 years #Disability #Equality

Today I am giving a friend a platform. Since he no longer has a blog, and I do, I am sharing this here.

***

Today, I’m so angry, I can’t concentrate on my labs. This morning when I checked my email here is what I read:

“With sight loss, everything you have ever known becomes unfamiliar. Your favourite T.V. chair, your reading nook, your computer desk: all become symbols of the quality of life you feel vision loss has robbed you of.

When you donate to CNIB, you help give that quality of life back. You help people learn new ways to enjoy their favourite movie. To read a book. To connect with loved ones.

Friend, your donation today can give families back their life.”

This has been eating away at me for a while now, but I am finally sick of it and I have to say something.

My friends, everything in the quote above is an absolute lie. If you were to dress up as a beggar on weekends and hit people up for money even though you have a good job, it would be no different from what is happening here.

“With sight loss, everything you have ever known becomes unfamiliar.”

Wrong! In fact, just the opposite is usually true. In my experience serving hundreds of people over the years, I have found that familiar things take on special significance and offer tremendous comfort to the newly blind.

This email says that newly blind people resent familiar things, that those become unfamiliar, mocking, threatening, icons of a supposed life we have lost. Get that monkey off your heart strings for a minute and try and think about this logically.

If you undergo a major life change, no matter what that is, wouldn’t you rather be in your familiar home surrounded by your possessions?

This email says that sight robs people of their life, but that isn’t true at all.

I have seen this countless times for myself. A newly blind person is not going to deny themselves their morning coffee just because they went blind. No, they are going to fiddle and futs and do what comes naturally until they get their coffee. They may not be confident of making coffee at a family member’s house, but they aren’t going to go without at home. In fact, something as simple as fixing coffee for a guest can be an outstanding source of pride and self-confidence for someone. There are always variations in situations, experiences, and coping mechanisms, but generally speaking, people take pride and comfort from being surrounded by familiar things.

Losing sight requires a person to develop new skills and use new tools, but it doesn’t rob most people of their life.

Only a very small percentage of us actually commit suicide because of losing sight. Many of us are turned away from daily activities because of the fears, low expectations and preferences of the sighted.

“don’t pour that coffee! It’s hot! you’ll burn yourself.”

We can damage some one’s fragile outlook by so denigrating something they take pride in. The newly blind person pours coffee for himself every day when the sighted person isn’t there, but it’s too much for the sighted person to watch. Thus, something the blind person worked hard to accomplish and may have been looking forward to sharing with the sighted person is diminished because of the low expectation of the sighted person.

Low expectations are the damaging factor here, not blindness.

Promotions like this one add insult to injury by demeaning the actual bereavement process people go through because of something like vision loss. As much as people learn, adapt, and go on to lead full lives, being blind in a world designed by and for the sighted is not without it’s sense of loss, of being singled out in a negative way.

We get through it, not because of money, but because of family and peer support, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

Playing on the natural grieving process of the newly blind to tragify us and scare you into giving money is an insult.

According to
Charity Intelligence
there are an estimated 500,000 blind Canadians, and CNIB provides approximately 560,000 hours of service delivery across canada each year. You can do the math in your head.

That’s just over one service hour per blind Canadian.

The annual budget of CNIB is just under $30,000,000 per year

– 54 cents of every dollar goes to programs.

The top ten earners at CNIB earn approximately $2,000,000 per year collectively, with the president earning $350,000 per year.

I believe this aspect of the pay structure is not reflective of the income experience of most blind Canadians, and I choose to be insulted that this one person makes so much money from the blind while the actual state of the blind continues to be abysmal and expectations continue to be oppressively low.

Can we do better? I think we can.

Is CNIB the answer? Maybe at one time they provided real value, but in my view that value is at an end.

How can the blind achieve dignity, respect, inclusion, equality, and increased quality of life if people who haven’t experienced blindness believe life ends with blindness?

If blindness is an irrevocable, life shattering tragedy, why will a human resources person want to hire someone who is blind?

How can we convince people to design all things inclusively, …that including every one in design benefits every one?

How can we convince people to rent us places to live, include us in social orders other than those specifically for the blind, or let us raise our own children in freedom?

If blind people are viewed as perpetually broken, how will we ever have our ideas, accomplishments, and opinions respected?

How can we lie to people and beg for money and expect to teach those same people that blindness is not hopeless, …that blind people are successful in their own right and deserve equal participation in society?

Please be angry. It is time. As long as we channel that anger properly, it can be a source of passion and determination blind people can use to build a future for ourselves where-in we are included as equals, not tagging along as third class citizens.

It would mean more to me as a blind person, if you would take the money you would have donated to CNIB, buy yourself some beer and pizza, and spend an hour or two a month coming to CFB meetings where we can work together to find sustainable ways of delivering needed services that don’t require us to lie, grovle, and debase ourselves to get the crumbs left over from sighted executives.

The blind community is not made up of deficient and damaged people. We have creators, innovators, educators, technology, legal, medical, and financial professionals, and thousands of hard working talented people who can be successful in their own right with real support, tools, reduced societal barriers, and sustainable services.

The blind community has society, culture, political agendas, philosophies, all intertwined with, having things in common with, connected to but not completely the same as those of the sighted or any other social political group.

Let’s build our own movement large enough to provide a valid alternative the state we have now that sells us at a premium, yet far short of our true abilities.

***

Here is my take!

I was born with vision loss (blind) and so was my brother. We grew up with the CNIB who sent us braille/audio books and where we learned how to properly use a white cane to get around safely.

The CNIB is the organization most people would name if asked, have heard of here in Canada, mostly because it has been around the longest. It is celebrating its 100th birthday next year, but things aren’t the same as they were back in 1918 and that can reflect how things are, here and now in this moment.

I don’t want to just be angry either, to demand without being willing to listen, but I do think there has been a reckoning.

We are all individuals of course and I don’t dare speak for all people with sight loss by any measure. This is only one woman’s opinion, mine, and my friend’s reaction to the status quo.

From what I’ve seen and experienced lately though, the disability community, as a whole, are declaring the intention for more equality and rights. I know some of it rests on our shoulders, and that’s why I believe it is time I used my abilities and talents to make life better for the next one hundred years and beyond.

I do wonder who wrote that bit for the newsletter though.

There are only a few weeks left in 2017, but this next year of 2018 is when I plan on becoming more active, both with the American Foundation and Canadian Federation of the Blind.

American Foundation for the Blind

We need to make more changes and to do that, we need to use our collective voice.

Canadian Federation of the Blind

Signed,

Chair and Secretary of the newly formed Ontario chapter of the CFB

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Pocket Full of Miracles, #Apple #iPhone #AtoZChallenge

I haven’t done this before. I likely won’t follow the rules because I sometimes like to break those.

i83WyMT.jpg

But I wanted to try this, to have fun with it, and so here I go.

My theme, on my first try, will be whatever I feel like, as random as random can be, though I am sure I missed the theme reveal.

An item I own that can do all my iPhone can do is a miracle, when I think back to technology growing up.

It is my communication with the outside world. Communication device in my pocket. It is my answer to most questions. It talks and I must use the touch screen, dictate, swipe left and swipe right.

Thank you, Apple, for giving me the keys to a world filled with possibility. And for being the first: “A” entry in
April’s A to Z Challenge
and I know I will miss something, but I am taking it one day at a time.

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Lamb vs Lion, #SoCS

This is supposed to be the time and place to just write, whatever it is that comes to miming, through my fingers on the keys.

Right? Yeah. I’m working through it all.

I focus on one month at a time, trying not to look too far ahead of myself in this year that feels vital somehow. It’s 2017 and it’s only the third month in. I still have a chance to do something great.

January was great. January was Mexico. So far, not much can top that. It’s hard when starting a new year with such an adventure, so long waited for, but I try to keep an open mind about the possibilities I could still discover are on the way.

I feel like I want to do something. As the day of that January
march
was taking place, I was not in the crowds of faces, all carrying signs and there to fight back.

I was in a hotel room, in Detroit Michigan and watching it all unfold on the television. I had other things on my mind, as I felt traveling alone was enough of a sign, symbolic that I would not hide away any longer. I would be seen and I would do something for me.

I, as a woman, I had my immediate goal of making it to Mexico by myself, which I didn’t know would turn out so well, not at the time.

I want to do something, since then, all the more. I will take steps, in this month of newness of a season.

With both Women’s History Month and recently it having been the International Women’s Day, I wonder still what we women should be, what we are expected to be from society.

Are we the gentle, feminine lamb or the strong, fierce lioness?

I fear being lost in those crowds. That day wasn’t only an U.S. thing. It was done all over the world. It’s sometimes like the U.S. is the only place that matters, or that’s how the world sees it coming from the centre of North America, but we all want justice and respect.

So, my inability to see my way through such massive bunches of people means I fight in other ways, I march in other manifestations.

I use technology to my advantage. I look to those who have seen more and are working to bring change.

We don’t have to be one or the other. We can be lambs and lions, as this month suggests, even when that scares some of the less enlightened among us.

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Peeps! #TGIF #FTSF

I went for the slang for my title this week, for people, but because Easter is near, all I thought about was the boyfriend from my past who loved those marshmallow bunny treats. He got so excited when he found coloured ones, and there could have been strange flavours too. He bought many packs and some went stale in the pantry.

I never could stand the things, those Peeps. Not my choice for an Easter treat. Give me some good old Easter chocolate, thank you very much.

But I like the alternative word for people.

The people we meet change us. At least, they have me, but choosing only some felt like an impossible task. Otherwise, I knew this post had the frightening potential of going on far too long and losing its impact on any perspective readers.

I started with my Easter story to begin with, to fit one more of those people in, ever so briefly, but this post isn’t about that. I simply could not neglect the connection between Peeps and peeps while I had it, right there and ready to go.

Whether it’s a chance meeting, one that lasts only minutes or hours, or one that develops into something longer term I could spend this post thanking people, as I did for my one year of blogging here.

Kind and Generous

My brother met a friend by being in an Apple store. The friend saw two blind guys looking at technology and made the decision to approach them and introduce herself. These were three people that never would have met each other and just so happened to be in that store at the same time.

I previously mentioned the kind woman and her husband who helped me out, in the Dallas Airport, out of the goodness of their hearts.

I want to write about the people I met at the writing workshop in Mexico in January. Each of them are fondly known to me now, all those I will never forget, for the things they taught me that week.

That, too, would take more than this here post. I am still working on the brevity thing. They all deserve their thanks and time. Perhaps this should be a “The People We Meet” series.

I like to sit and think, when I can’t decide which of them to write about first, on the people I’m still to meet in my life. It’s those I am not yet aware of that fascinate me, nearly as much as those I already know, because we are all unknown to one another until we’re not. Maybe that’s a sign of never being satisfied with what I have, with all those connections I’ve already been lucky to have made, but my curious mind can’t help it.

Every time a car passes I wonder who’s in it, what they like or dislike, or what they value in life. Though I may likely never know the answer to my questions about those currently passing my house in their vehicles, I will never stop wandering through life, open to any people, just as those I’ve already met were once unknown to me and me them.

So much of what is going on in the world is us all being scared, by perceived fears of terrorism or mass human migrations or whatever, but mostly by the fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar. We need to familiarize ourselves with other people. You just never know when a person you randomly meet could become one of your favourite peeps one day. This means I can capitalize the word, as mine in my own life certainly deserve that – a position to be in, so sweet, sweeter than any marshmallow.

They could eventually become someone who makes you laugh, makes you think, or makes you want to become a better human being yourself. I know all this is and has been true for me, with Mexico only one of the more recent prime examples.

For the sake of choosing one, I will focus this time on my writing mentor.

We met over social media and here online, developed a respect for each other and our writing, with a mentorship coming from that.

But it wasn’t until we met in person, were able to hug each other, and feel the physical presence of one another in the same place did I truly appreciate it all for what it was and what it could be. I will always have the greatest respect and admiration for her, with everything she does, no matter what else may happen or where life may take us.

Again, I resort to wanting to thank people, and so I wish I could lay out precisely how meeting so many of the people I’ve been privileged to meet has affected my life and the woman I am.

Most recently it’s neighbours. I am not the best neighbour, but I don’t play loud music – anymore.

I am not a bad person to live next to, especially if you like your peace and quiet. In fact, you might hardly even believe anyone (myself) even lived there.

I find it difficult, without seeing, to make first contact. It’s funny how you can be in the right place at the right time, one small window of it, and meet someone, but you could also live next door to people for years and never really speak to or know them. This time, my new neighbour introduced herself and seems to be looking out for me, before we’ve gotten to speak more than a handful of times. I take this to be a positive sign of things to come.

I may have blown it this time, with my Finish the Sentence Friday post being all over the place, but I blame that on a stomach ache and brain so full of swirling thought and a neurotic mind that thought I needed to write my FTSF post on a Friday, instead of giving it a day or two, in the hopes that I could ever possibly narrow down my stories of the people I’ve met to one lone blog post.

Plus, I had a violin lesson today and that always affects me. If it was a lesson where I couldn’t focus and nothing seemed to be working, I would feel dejected. In today’s case though, I felt it working and now I am feeling exhilarated, which both ways means I am all over the map.

While speaking of violin lessons, my violin teacher is another one of those cases of the people I am lucky to have met. Today we had a long talk about a lot, half deep violin discussion/related and assorted subject matter and half actual practicing.

I’m just glad I at least wrote something this week. I guess it’s easier sometimes to write about other people, while avoiding myself, but in the process I hope I show a glimpse of me in there somewhere too.

Thanks Kristi.

Finding Ninee is one of those peeps I have not yet met in person, but whom I feel a special bit of a bond with, just through this blogging thing and such, for the fighting she does for her son, as any parent should. I really need to write an article, one where I interview my own mother, Kristi, and other parents of children with disabilities or special needs. They are good peeps…some of the best out there.

Joining Kristi for this week’s FTSF is
Marda Sikora
who also writes about this subject.

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