Where to start? How to begin? Hmm. Expect more stories from my travels, in the weeks ahead.
I’ve been absent from this blogging stuff for a while, but I’ve had travel as my reason for said absence.
I was out east, here in Canada, throughout the Maritimes when I was two. Of course, no memories of the trip. So, I simply had to return.
This is me (thirty-two years later) and I’m waiting on old photos of my first trip to these parts, which my mom probably has tucked away somewhere.
This is me, using my white cane as a detection tool, to explore and reach out, further than my arm ever could. I feel the rocky ground underfoot and I can’t quite believe the tides of this bay bring in and then take out such a volume of sea water. Where I stand, rock having been cut into by the tides that have always and will continue to come and go.
No matter what crap goes on in the world, human caused crap, nature kicks ass and I’m reminded of that. I ponder, as I walk, about those who could visit such a spot of wonder and not be awed by its power. Sad.
I feel the structure of rock and the indents made and the seaweed clinging to it. I will be gone, long before the mighty tide returns here, but somehow I wish I could stay. It shapes these rocks, just like life has shaped me, from a two-year-old to the woman I am today.
This photo is at Hopewell Rocks
and I’m loving walking along the ocean floor – Atlantic Ocean and my unforgettable visit to the Bay of Fundy,
in stunning Atlantic Canada.
It’s just past midnight as I write this and so obviously it’s dark out, right?
I am headed to a routine eye appointment next week and nothing feels like it is routine. It feels much more like I am hurtling towards darkness.
There are all kinds of darkness.
People are scared of that, the dark, and “blindness” means darkness. Thus, most of the sighted world is more afraid of blindness and what that would mean, what that might look like, as the case may be, than being buried alive.
Okay, well I hear that was the case in one of those “what would you rather?” games. Since I am a definite clausterphobic, I thought that unbelievable. To be buried alive would be my worst fear.
I could never be a coal miner, for several reasons.
I am not afraid of the dark however. People are afraid of it because they are afraid of the unknown, all they cannot see, and afraid, in the practical sense, of falling down a flight of stairs or running into the wall.
There are ways we who are blind or mostly so learn to adapt to such practical concerns. I did run into the corner of a wall once, bleeding and leaving a scab in my eyebrow for weeks, but that doesn’t happen with any semblance of regularity because I try to take my time and move slowly. I don’t remember my hurry that day my eyebrow made such forceful contact with that wall.
I slide my feet, if a floor is messy. I know when there are stairs, in a familiar place, or I walk so slow because it isn’t familiar enough, unless I use my cane.
It isn’t always so easy to accept the need for a white cane or any kind of cane, for mobility or assistance because that cane is a visible symbol of perceived human weakness.
I need help and I keep learning to ask for it, to not be afraid of it, as some are afraid of the dark.
I am afraid too. I lived with some vision for my childhood, then lost a lot as I grew into an adult, and now here I am.
I don’t use my little remaining vision, as blurry as it is these days, but then it hits me how much I still do use it, as I contemplate the darkness that could be in my future.
The eye doctor might see something during his tests, but it’s more likely he will not. That is a good thing, but like with the invisible chronic pain I live with, sometimes there is nothing to see. This is both good and bad too. Nothing urgent showing up to attack with modern medicine.
I am drawn to the north, far up from the part of Canada I live in, where darkness means something different. I went to check out Yukon skies and June’s extended light. Strange to see vestiges of daylight at midnight.
I hope to return to Canada’s north in winter. I want to experience all that darkness, as a representation of that darkness that means blindness to so many.
I think it’s more like a fallen screen of dimness, fuzzy, foggy, twilight, which wouldn’t be all bad, but the fear still hovers there in my own head.
And so I count down the final days until my eye apt and, though I know it won’t probably be the giant thing I tend to build up in my own brain, I know these topics will continue to attract me, always giving me something more to say and to write about.
I didn’t even get into the symbolism of darkness and light in terms of contamination vs purity, good vs bad. It’s tied up in religion and in so many things, but so much negative is in the news every day and I think about all that far too much.
It’s this appointment that’s on my mind, front and centre.
I wish I could convince myself and other people that the darkness isn’t the worst thing in the world though, that we’ve made it that way in our own heads.
And so, the debate continues and the question goes on. I will continue to write about this. Stay tuned and look to the skies, but, if you can, watch where you’re going too.
I’m thrilled to be the provider of the Friday prompt word for Linda’s #JusJoJan
to end off a long week, as January passes us by, on its own time.
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.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I’ve been using flat, old, barely there pillows for a long while. It was time for something new.
I decided to go with two different levels of firmness and they look the same. This way, I can switch it up and I learned which one I preferred.
Never underestimate the luxury of a decent pillow.
I am thankful for the laughs we have at my writing group.
We do write, but it was another fun time with the gang. I don’t know if a story is destined to come from this one, not from me this time anyway, but other stories were shared and good times all around.
I am thankful for a surprise gift from my neighbour.
I heard a ticking sound as I sat out on my neighbour’s deck last week. I asked her if it was a clock and she showed me her little sun dial.
Well, she got me one with a sunflower on it. If you put it in the light it moves back and forth. She wanted to congratulate me on getting my writing accepted. It’s nice when someone does something like that, totally unexpectedly.
I am thankful the deal with my essay for Catapult was made official, with contracts and a likely date of publication and everything.
This made my day mid week. The editor wasn’t certain when it would get published, until she suddenly emailed me and said she’d had an opening. I try to stay patient these next four weeks or so and keep in mind that things could change, but this will be exciting when it does happen.
She worked, as my editor, and the final piece that came back had a few changes to the final product, but kept my overall message and voice.
And now there comes my least favourite part: the contracts and paperwork.
I am not complaining, really, but I am no good at all that. Has to be done though. Luckily I have a sister who is better at such things. I will definitely be including her here on the TToT when she helps me with all that here soon.
I am thankful I heard back from Hippocampus and may be getting a short piece published with them soon.
They are on my list of spots where I want to see my writing placed. This one is a small foot in the door, but it’s a step in the right direction at least.
I am thankful for a new yoga teacher who wants to learn from me as much as I learn from her.
She says she is very interested in learning, from me, about the best ways to teach visually impaired and blind students who want to take yoga like me.
There are so many ways to do yoga. I never could have imagined. Of course, like anything, you must be cautious that you don’t push things and cause more pain than that which you were working to help relieve in the first place.
I am highly conscious of this fact. I am taking it slow, but my back has a metal rod in it and might not be able to bend the same way as other people. I don’t want to be careless and make things worse, obviously, but this teacher seems open to suggestion and to not pushing me too hard.
It’s just a different situation for her, to try her best to describe the positions for my arms, legs, and whatever else, by being as specific as possible. Watching her simply isn’t an option for me. This is new to her just as to me.
I am thankful for more and more representation of visually impaired characters on television.
I caught the final episode of the second season of a show, filmed here, near to me, in Toronto: Private Eyes
What first drew me to checking it out was the fact that it was filmed in such a familiar place and then there was the reappearance of my favourite 90s television star: Jason Priestley
Then I discovered that Priestley’s teenage daughter on the show is visually impaired. She reads braille books, uses a computer that talks, and a white cane to get around. I try to watch her character, to follow how the creators write her visual impairment into the show. I am so glad there was a second season and that she was featured so often.
But I will be keeping a close “EYE” on how she is portrayed. It’s important blind people are shown in reality, even on screen and in fictional environments, because people have enough stereotypes and don’t need any more.
I will miss the show over the next year or so and cross my fingers a third season happens.
I am thankful to have family who can replace a roof now and again.
The rain has been finding ways in. It was in pretty good shape when I moved in, ten or eleven years ago. Now, however, the need is growing.
First step, install new water heater. Next my uncle and cousin will replace it, both house and garage. Apparently the second one badly needs it. Funny, I have no idea what everyone’s getting so bothered by. Though, I won’t even go inside that garage at all. Not my scene.
My neighbour asked if she could paint something on the side she has to look at from her deck, to help cover up the ugly. I had no problem with that.
Can you guess what this is?
I am thankful for my parents and neighbour and their kind willingness to help me out with my dog who likes to bark.
He is also terribly attached to me.
My parents watch him when my head is particularly bad. They wouldn’t have to do this, to put up with it, but I hear he’s rather calm and good when he’s with them.
Also, my neighbour opens my door and brings him out when I am away, if she is at home, and ties him up on her deck. He usually is happy to sit quietly while she goes about her day.
Although, this last time, something odd occurred. She just happened to stop by (to give me her gift) right as I was leaving. So we thought she could get Dobby on his leash and just take him with her. Big mistake.
I followed them out the door and left a minute later. As I sat in the car, as we pulled out of the driveway, I could hear him still barking.
It turns out that when he sees me and she physically takes him from me (in his mind), he won’t settle down for her. She soon had to put him back inside my house and then come and get him like she usually does. And that time he settled down on her deck once more and laid quiet.
Huh … hmm. What a dog.
I am thankful for songs like this one, songs that have helped me through difficult times.
“One thing: I don’t know why…it doesn’t even matter how hard you try. Keep that in mind, I designed this rhyme, to explain in due time.”
“Time is a valuable thing. Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings. Watch it count down to the end of the day; The clock ticks life away.”
Back around the year 2000 I was in high school and struggling just to keep up. Finally, I couldn’t do it anymore. Daily headaches were making concentrating to do well in my classes supremely hard and nearing impossible. In the end, I took fewer and fewer classes and finally had to quit all together, without graduating. This is not an easy thing for me to speak about, but it’s nagged at me for years ever since and I do plan to finish sometime in my current decade of my thirties.
These lyrics are about getting so far (years and years of school, including missing over 100 days in seventh grade for dialysis and a kidney transplant, almost being held back), but then I ended up catching up in the eighth and graduating, starting high school with my friends and peers, before falling behind all over again. It was a year or so later that things grew worse once more.
“I tried so hard, and got so far. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter. I had to fall, to lose it all. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter.
It felt for years like no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t matter. I was still behind and stuck and lost. This song brings a tear to my eye, even today, even as I am working to jump start my life and writing and things.
In January, 2017, I was discovering a new place. While I was immersed in the culture of Mexico, where I attended a writing workshop, Lizzi, at the same time, was on her way to Africa, but not for vacation. She was going to help.
I kept up on her time there through social media and I could sense the profound affect it was having on her.
I knew I wanted to read one of her stories and one title, in particular, it jumped out at me.
I miss colours, a hard fact of life. I may go to Kenya one day, who knows, but I won’t ever see the colours of Kenya. I wanted to hear someone with a way with words tell me what they saw of Kenya’s colours.
Read the following story by Lizzi that I am honoured to be featuring on my blog today. It’s beautiful.
The Colours of Kenya
I had been travelling for what felt like a million hours, and in spite of having slept on both plane-rides, I was dropping with tiredness. It didn’t matter though, because I was in KENYA!
Getting there had been a long journey, literally and figuratively. The preceding months had been filled with emails back and forth to various Important Bods at the hospital, a cautious raising of hopes in October 2016 (only to have them dashed), and then a sudden YES, ten days before we were due to leave.
The four of us – a consultant, a senior nursing sister, an infection control nurse, and me (a buttinski retinal screener with her own agenda for gathering baseline information on the state of diabetes care on offer at the four hospitals we were linked with) – had been travelling since 11am UK time, arriving in Mombasa at 4.20am Kenyan time. We were at the end of our abilities to communicate clearly, and a sleep-haze had descended over all of us, reducing our words and movements to the very deliberate, or the not-at-all.
Still, landing in the thick, humid Kenyan morning (far hotter than Nairobi, a couple of hours earlier, and far more like the ‘stepping into an oven’ I had expected) at an airport which seemed almost deserted and (I noticed with interest) had not one pane of glass in the building, but a beautiful Byzantine cement filigree over each window-space, was definitely a fulfilment of my hope for adventure.
We piled into the waiting taxi and started off out of the airport, past the soldiers’ huts, and onto a road which wasn’t so much ‘road’, as potholes laced together with concrete. As we left the airport behind us, I was startled by a flash of deep magenta in the middle of a dusty patch of grass. Some kind of shrub with flaming red flowers held itself proudly in the pale morning light. I later discovered it was bougainvillea – a plant very suited to hot climates, with brightly coloured bracts near its flowers in every shade of pink, purple, red, and white – which seemed to grow proliferately throughout the region, providing beautiful splashes of colour in sunlit places.
‘Bougainvillea Kenyavision’ – a close-up of the bright magenta bracts of the bougainvillea flower, against a blue sky]
In spite of my snoozing colleagues, I couldn’t bear to close my eyes and miss out on my first glimpses of what was to become a familiar road between Mombasa (where the hospitals were) and Diani, where our hotel was.
My first impression was that there was paint EVERYWHERE! Many of the buildings were completely coated, often with advertising slogans painted on. In fact, many of the walls suggested ‘If you like it, CROWN it’, advertising the very paint they were (presumably) decorated with.
After a few days of travelling up and down the road, I decided that the predominant colours of Kenya were bright green, yellow, blue, and white, with splashes of orange and red thrown in. If anything could be painted or decorated, it was; from the riotously coloured tuk-tuks with their funny names (‘Jobless’, ‘Father’s Blessing’) and entertaining slogans (“Watch out for the devil – never mind!”), to entire sides of blocks of flats advertising pampers nappies! It seemed to me if anything was still for long enough, it was liable to get a bright coat of paint…or that it had been the case at some point, for nearly all the paintwork I saw was fading a little around the edges, with cracks in the surface and chips of paint beginning to flake away.
‘The Colours of Kenya’ – a man walks past a building painted pale green, with an advertisement for Pampers nappies emblazoned on its side. The ground is bright orange sand/dirt, and rocks lie strewn across what passes for pavement.]
The ground astonished me, too – partly, I think, because I’m not used to seeing so much of it, so close. The places in England where the ground next to the road is just…ground…as opposed to something tarmacked or concreted, are few and far between. In Kenya, the ground drifts onto the road and the tarmac crumbles into the edges of the dust, and everything swirls together as the traffic goes speeding by. The mud is hard and compacted with a layer of dust, which coats the shoes and ankles when walked on. Along the miles of road, it went through almost-white, to yellow, to ochre, to dark orange, to brown, to almost red. I don’t think I have ever seen so many colours of earth in one smallish area, and even though a lot of it was covered in plastic in various stages of disintegration (no council waste collections, no rubbish bins, no method, other than to sweep the trash into a pile and burn it), it was beautiful.
The people were bright as peacocks, or parrots, or any other vividly sparkling kind of bird you can think of. The colours and patterns on their clothes were incredible, mesmerizing geometric intricacies, which utterly delighted me, and made me feel very drab by comparison, in my muted olives and blues. Still, I considered, with my pinky-yellow skin, there probably weren’t many bright patterns which I could really carry off without looking sickly, but I did admire the many beautifully-dressed people I saw.
I realized as the week wore on, that the colours which would look utterly garish in the dismal light of England, were not overpowering in the equatorial sunlight. Rainbows of colour shimmered wherever crowds of people gathered, as the mirages shimmered above the surfaces of the roads. Each morning, I got up while it was still dark, and went for a swim in a pool of incredible azure blue, under a sky which lightened to pale blue, then stayed white for most of the day, fading to blue again as the sun went down.
Much of the rural landscape was dominated by the feathery green fronds of palm trees, with their tatty, browning leaf ends, which rattled drily in the wind, or when shaken by troupes of monkeys blundering through. Even the monkeys were surprisingly colourful – unassuming sandy-brown vervets, when male and in motion, showed bright, sky-blue balls!
The beach was pristine, as you’d expect a proud tropical resort beach to be – luminous white sand, cerulean water giving way to navy further out, sweeping, delicious waves, and green palms bending gracefully into the wind. There was even a delightful smattering of little grey frond-covered huts, to shelter tourists relaxing on their sun-loungers.
I would be fascinated to see Kenya in the rain (were it not for the risk of cholera, which increases considerably in the rainy season, due to the lack of sanitation systems). All of the buildings were spattered with earth, to about a metre high, where (presumably) the previous years’ rains had flung the dirt high against the walls and left it there, a stain bearing testament to time and dust. In England, the rain turns everything to grey, whether it is grey or not…in Kenya, I can only hope that the bright colours stand out more vividly against the gloom, a rainbow promise that the sun will shine again, and life will once more be, if not easy, still optimistically bright and beautiful.
And so I listened to Lizzi speak of what she saw and learned about blindness and eye disease in Africa. I thought of myself and my white cane and my conflicted feelings about having to use one, but then I realized the privilege I have for even having one where so many around the world, those who could really use them, do not.
I wanted to donate, even a small amount, to make sure a cane would be given to a person in need.
A small donation can buy someone a white cane, eye drops for a child, or a magnifying glass to better see the world. It doesn’t take much, but it is very much needed.
I live in Canada and have access to good medical care. I have had the best care when my remaining eyesight was threatened. I only want that for all people.
I want to thank word artist Lizzi for sharing this vivid retelling of her time in Kenya, for all of us who have never seen it for ourselves. That is why I love travel and a world so full of wonder and magic, everyday people going about their lives, the hard things and the struggles, but there is always beauty to be found somewhere.
Join the Deep Thinking, Truth Telling and Good-Seeking at Considerings
I like how Steph of Bold Blind Beauty
has gone the extra mile, trying to spread the message of strength and empowerment that a lot of the slogans on the shirts, bags, and mugs she has created show the world.
I am always happy to help spread this message with Steph. I chose this shirt because I myself still battle the feelings I have about my white cane. I know how others see it, don’t always understand it, but I don’t want it to make people wary. I just want to be able to use it to see more of the world safely.
I must admit, I do enjoy its sarcastic tone though. It’s my kind of humour.
I am thankful my friend Kerra was challenged to post any 80s song, for an entire week, on Facebook and that I took on that challenge from her.
I will include, throughout this TToT post, the seven songs I chose.
I am thankful I received a payment for work I did.
I have a lot of feelings around trying to contribute, to develop a career for myself, but in the arts nothing’s a sure thing. All my insecurities about not feeling useful have followed me for years, and I know this is just one fairly small amount, but it’s a big deal to me. I wrote something and I was paid for that service I provided. I created something and I am glad it was so well received. I hope to build on this.
This song fits the theme of the day. We are all just people, so why does misogyny continue on such a level as we currently see?
I wrote a piece, and the debate about what feminism is or isn’t or if it’s a good or a bad thing could go on forever, but I think International Women’s Day should just be a day to celebrate women and girls, and how far we’ve come, and are still going.
I am thankful for all the lessons having kidney disease has taught me in the last twenty years.
March 9th is World Kidney Day and every year I reflect on all that my journey through kidney failure taught me, the bad and less so.
I still want to write more extensively on that time in my life. I struggle to know how to go about this. I could blog about it forever, but a book is still my goal.
Now that I’m arriving at the 20 year mark, 1997 being the year I was taken off dialysis and went on to live with a working kidney once more.
World Kidney Day is to educate people on the symptoms of kidney failure, but mine was a bit of a unique case. It’s about my gratitude that I had good doctors and that a medical treatment like dialysis even exists, because without it, I don’t even like to think.
She sat and slept upright, wouldn’t straighten out any, so that’s how she stayed. I felt her steady breathing, in and out, and her faint newborn sounds. I didn’t sleep, but it was as close to a peaceful state as I have felt in a long time.
It was a feeling I never wanted to end, but eventually, the newborn must eat.
She is just so sweet though, like a little doll.
I will always be here for you Mya, whenever you need somebody, because what you’ve given me, in only the first few weeks of your life, this is impossible to calculate.
I’m thankful for more perspective on the state of racism today, with an in depth documentary that aired on TV here in Canada the other night.
Canadian journalist Desmond Cole has been an outspoken face for racial issues in our current climate. He pushes the limits, which is what good journalists do, but he has a deep personal iron in the fire that still burns, the tension that’s often revved up by events in the news, but he has experienced racism himself.
I have not dealt with racism, but I have experienced ablism. I try to understand because I know what it’s like to be judged on appearance. That’s how most people judge, on meeting someone, as the visual is the first thing most people have to go by. It’s far past the time to quit judging without hearing the individual stories first.
I am thankful for a violin lesson that focused on the art of practicing.
My teacher showed me some helpful techniques for the days I am on my own, but worrying I am setting myself back instead of making progress, by the ineffective practicing I may be doing.
I have felt like I am stuck, unable to overcome this hump I find myself blocked by. I needed to really and truly break down the song I’ve been playing, to strengthen the skills that most need to be strengthened.
I must admit, the title of this week’s post really has nothing whatsoever to do with any of my ten thankfuls. I just liked the peace I felt when I heard the caption on a post by National Geographic I came across the other day.
I am sneaking this in at the last possible moment because sometimes I feel sorry for myself and the idea of writing about why I am thankful feels like a giant task.
I’m thankful for her sharing her peace, which is oh so close to mine. I may not see the photos she features, but her descriptions of the beach she encounters are more than enough.
I am thankful for a writing circle (The Elsewhere Region) where a few more new members showed up.
It lead to a spur in conversation and dynamic in the group. Each new attendee brought with them their own story and reasons for why they decided to come, just like I did when I first showed up in that room.
Things were a little more lively than usual and some new writing styles and reading out loud styles. Some will be back and some won’t. That’s to-be-determined.
I am thankful my brother and his band had a successful first show…Riker, who have been practicing in my basement for months now.
I think it is bold to get up, in front of people, and put on such a kickass show as they did. I have had the pleasure of hearing those songs from inception, through all the repetitions needed to get good. Now I look forward to their EP with eager anticipation.
I am thankful for an eventful weekend of music.
This included some karaoke, not by me, but by two members of Riker. At least they chose songs from two worthy bands.
I am thankful a friend could join us for said musical weekend.
It’s been a while. It’s nice to know a friend, so long had, is one who will always have your back in any situation. I haven’t always been worthy of such friendship. I admire this friend’s attitude of not letting the world dictate so much, like I seem to.
I am thankful for my white cane.
I still fight my love/hate relationship with the white cane. I fought it this past weekend in fact. Even with how far it got me, among other things, all the way to my dream of a writing workshop in Mexico recently, I still battled feelings of embarrassment this last weekend.
I used it. It got me safely out to lunch and back. I crossed roads with it. I need it. When I was young I had enough sight to get by with not using it much, but that was then and this is my reality in 2017.
Then something came along to grab my attention and make me see what I have in that “stick,” as so many call it.
I am thankful I have even a little bit to give to someone with less.
I was looking for something, painfully moving through my week, and then this happened. I knew Lizzi had been on a work trip to Kenya and that it has had a profound affect on her ever since. I found out what she has been thinking about and I knew I needed to help.
I can’t help much, but with so much going on in the world, out of my control and making my heart hurt I needed to do this.
I am thankful for a brand new song by Lana Del Ray.
The girl doesn’t often brighten things up, not her style, but the music sure does have feeling.
It fit my mood at the time anyway.
And I am thankful for the show This Is Us because it helped me have a good cry, tonight, which I really needed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are so many more of us out here, only looking to have rich, full lives like anyone else, but what often stops us is not only society’s barriers, but our own.
Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been celebrated annually on 3 December around the world. The theme for this year’s International Day is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want” . This theme notes the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.
One note on the society part – some of you may not want to think a lot about it, if you don’t have to, because then it becomes clear that the possibility for anyone to become disabled is indeed a possibility for anyone..
I am a Canadian woman, living with a disability. I didn’t acquire my disability through an accident later in life. I did not develop it overtime, but from birth and still, who knows which direction my remaining vision might take.
I don’t know what, if anything, he will be able to tell me, offer me as hope that I won’t be completely blind one day. He will probably see no changes or signs of the mysterious eye disease that took my left eye twenty years ago. He will speak to me of gene therapies in various stages of development, but I don’t know what hope lies in that for me. Maybe it will be my future. Maybe not. I’ve learned not to bank on anything.
That’s a part of my DNA, just like the genetic eye disease. I am conditioned to either think the worst or simply not want to hope for the things I may really really want, always fearing that the disappointment from possibly not getting them will break me. It hasn’t broken me yet, which does give me reason to be optimistic though.
I wanted to be able to see the truly unique show violinist Lindsey Stirling put on recently. Instead, I listened to all I could and relied on my helpful sister to fill in the blanks. I wanted to throw my white cane away and yelled my displeasure, and through the wish, but instead I sat and listened even harder.
I want to draw like I used to when I saw colours and when everything in my world was more clearly and brightly defined. I can’t. I want to scream in frustration but I’m resigned instead.
I want to take up the latest craze of adult colouring books, but I don’t.
Of course, nothing is really stopping me. I may not, as an adult, see the lines I may have hardly seen as a child, which are now nearly invisible to me. I could still get myself a Harry Potter or any number of other themed colouring books with a theme which fits my interest, and be damned if I miss colouring in the lines by a mile.
But I don’t. I don’t scream or rail at the world in an uproar. I find other ways to spend my time.
I want to travel and to go through life with an independent spirit and loads of self confidence, but I don’t. I try and I work at it, but I’m scared.
I find a travel series, a BBC documentary, available to me on Netflix. It’s Stephen Fry, whom I love, and he is doing a road trip across the United States in his British cab. I know him from his narration of the Harry Potter books and for his intelligent and witty character. After watching him visit all 50 states I now know he hates being on a horse, dancing, and skiing. He loves science and culture and literature.
I watch him on his trip and I long to go on one of my own, but I fear getting lost in the big, expansive world and I worry that my white cane will attract only pity. I want to grip it with extra determination and go anyway. It’s all in my attitude, right?
I can’t drive a cab across the country. I want to believe I will see more of the world anyway, even without definition of sight.
I don’t try to revisit childhood experiences of mine by colouring. Instead, I watch a travel show which I’ve heard of but only now decided to give a chance.
The host speaks to one woman in her sixties, widowed after her late husband’s long battle with illness, but who has now found new love with a man from England. Her happiness is infectious. Her newly found love walks down the ramp in the arrivals terminal at Toronto Pearson International Airport and gets down on one knee. Love is lost and can be found again.
I feel warm just by watching and listening to her story.
The host also speaks to a young man and his parents. The son is on his way to participate in Rio, at the Paralympics. He was paralyzed from a diving accident and now plays wheelchair rugby.
And then there was the grandmother, daughter, and grandson saying their goodbyes. The young guy and his mother are heading back to Britain after a visit with Grandma. The mother has RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa). She carries a cane, but the son speaks of wanting his mother to have companionship with a guide dog, as he will soon be going out on his own and doesn’t want her to be alone. He has worried about her safety all his life. She admits to being unsure about going for a guide dog once they get back home, but her son’s words cause her to rethink things.
She grips her white cane. I grip mine. She has been losing sight for years. I’ve been blind since birth and losing since. Am I any further along in accepting my circumstances and my white cane than she is?
People ask me all the time if I am ever going to get another guide dog. I don’t quite know what to say. Yes, they may provide the necessary confidence boost for many. I consider it.
I don’t think any dog will ever compare to my Croche, But is that all it is?
I can’t put another animal through what I put Croche through. She was so well trained and so fittingly suited in temperament. She was given to me and I was trusted with her. A lot went into all that. We were a team, but I failed her.
My ever growing illnesses caused me to sleep and her to dutifully stay by my side, but she was prevented from shining. She was my pal, but I don’t take the responsibility of a working dog lightly. I don’t know what my future will bring and I can’t bring myself to bringing another animal into that.
I want to curse what stops me, but what often stops me is me. And so I would just end up cursing myself, again and again.
Or, I could take hold of my white cane and use it for betterment, for working for some of my dreams, and for hardening my resolve and building my often feeble confidence.
My feelings of shame when I walk with my cane are hard to describe and hard to fight off. I will never be happy if I don’t try. Fear and disappointment stop me from even trying. What a waste that would be.