Independence

Independence

 

The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” Ayn Rand3

 

As a blind woman living in an area with little to no public transportation, I need to rely on others to get me from point A to point B. The good and bad of this is that rides are not always available when it is convenient for me. I have learned a great deal of patience and understanding but still get frustrated from time to time. Working around others schedules and waiting for rides has consumed my life but knowing how to deal with it is the key to happiness and more independence.

 

For example, if I am really in a mood to go for a run, go to the gym or go get a coffee, I cannot grab my car keys and do so. On the other hand, if someone wants to go for a run or go to the gym, I usually will tag along as that might be the only opportunity that I have to exercise even though it might not be at an optimal time for me.

 

When I was younger I would be embarrassed to ask for help whether it was assistance finding the restroom or having helped determine what color a piece of clothing is. Now, using the restroom is just a part of life and if I need a bit of help figuring out where it is then so be it. In terms of determining clothing colors, I use braille tags that safety pins to the tag of a piece of clothing and therefore I can identify my own clothes after doing a load of laundry.

 

There are multiple ways in which I can be more independent and take control of things in my life. It was not an easy process learning all of the various ways in which I can help myself but I am definitely a better and more independent person for it. Yes, I will always need assistance with some things in my life but now that I know that and accept it, I am perfectly fine asking for help. What’s the worst that could happen? Someone might say no? You just ask someone else because that is just what you need to do.

 

Being flexible, understanding, patient and grateful are all skills that I believe I have mastered due to my situation. On the other hand, having a network or support system of family and friends who understand this is crucial. A spouse who will work around my schedule as well as me working around his is extremely important and makes for a healthier relationship.

 

Sometimes I feel “stuck” or “trapped” when I am unable to come and go as I please but even being able to sit out on the porch with a book or sit in the sunshine is good enough for me. I always try to make the best of a particular situation and think positively about things. Always waiting or working around others schedules is my life but I have been blessed with an amazing support network that it usually works out and I do not feel like a Burdon to others.

 

I challenge you to think outside of the box and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

  • If you had a life change or lost your independence, what would help you?
  • What are the little things that someone could do to make your life easier?
  • What would make you happy?
  • Do you think you would feel like a Burdon to others?
  • Would you be embarrassed to ask for help?
  • What would help you make the best of your current situation?
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LIFE!

LIFE

 

The Golden Rule: “Do to others what you want them to do to you.”

 

As I reflect on 2017 and more importantly life in general, I would like to share some of the small but important lessons that I have learned throughout my 31 years on this earth.

 

  • Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • Do not sweat the small things.
  • Be kind, no matter what.
  • Never put off making a phone call, seeing a loved one or giving someone a hand.
  • Pick your battles.
  • The smallest gesture or phrase can put a smile on someone’s face.
  • Take time each day to reflect.
  • Smile often.
  • Make sure you are happy with yourself before trying to make others happy.
  • Donate to charities.
  • Dieting does not work, make healthier choices, and include cheat meals and exercise.
  • Save money but be sure to enjoy life too.
  • Your parents and siblings are your best friends and biggest support network.
  • Communicate, communicate communicate!
  • Volunteer.
  • Wear sunscreen; take care of your skin.
  • Keep in touch with extended family members.
  • Keep your mind fresh: take a class, read a book, learn a new skill, join a club.
  • Sing in the shower.
  • Jump in puddles.
  • Take pictures of rainbows, the ocean, sunsets and things that make you smile.
  • Understand that things happen for a reason even though we may never know what that reason is.
  • Have a firm handshake.
  • Get out of your comfort zone once and awhile. Do something that scares you.
  • Try not to worry about things that are not in your control. There are enough things that you can worry about that you can control and work on.
  • A few close friends are much better than many distant friends.
  • Park farther away from the store to get healthy steps.
  • Money does not guarantee happiness.
  • Laugh as much as you can.
  • Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help.
  • No question is a stupid question.
  • Think outside the box, keep an open mind and try everything once.

 

We never know what others are experiencing whether they are just plain having a bad day, are struggling with an illness or issue, have a sick family member, money troubles or lost their job. Before judging others or jumping to conclusions, take a step back and recognize that not everyone is perfect. We make mistakes and our struggles might not be visible to the public but we all have daily struggles and work through them differently than the person sitting beside us.

 

I laugh when I think about this topic because I have been the passenger in a car my whole life and have experienced this exact situation. Drivers honk their horns, give the middle finger or get road rage because of something that another driver did or did not do.

 

The next time you want to lay on your horn because the car ahead of you did not immediately accelerate when the light turned green, give it another thought. That driver may have just received a phone call or text message that his or her child is sick at school, they might be having a flashback of an event in their life, or they might be putting makeup on because they are running late for work due to car troubles.

 

Life is entirely too short and to fully understand that concept, let’s live each day as if it were our last. This does not mean you should go sky diving and accomplish all of your bucket list items in one week, but reflect on each day before you close your eyes in bed. Ask yourself if you did everything in your power to have a good day, make someone smile, and be the best “you” that you could have been that day.

 

Below are the lyrics of a song that I both enjoy and try to follow each day.

 

Nickelback

-If Today Was Your Last Day

 

My best friend gave me the best advice

He said each day’s a gift and not a given right

Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind

And try to take the path less traveled by

That first step you take is the longest stride

 

If today was your last day

And tomorrow was too late

Could you say goodbye to yesterday?

Would you live each moment like your last?

Leave old pictures in the past

Donate every dime you have?

If today was your last day

(If today was your last day)

 

Against the grain should be a way of life

What’s worth the prize is always worth the fight

Every second counts ’cause there’s no second try

So live like you’ll never live it twice

Don’t take the free ride in your own life

 

If today was your last day

And tomorrow was too late

Could you…

If today was your last day

And tomorrow was too late

Could you say goodbye to yesterday?

Would you live each moment like your last?

Leave old pictures in the past

Donate every dime you have?

Would you call old friends you never see?

Reminisce old memories

Would you forgive your enemies?

Would you find that one you’re dreamin’ of?

Swear up and down to God above

That you finally fall in love

If today was your last day

 

If today was your last day

Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?

You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars

Regardless of who you are

So do whatever it takes Cause you can’t rewind a moment in this life

Let nothin’ stand in your way

Cause the hands of time are never on your side

 

If today was your last day

And tomorrow was too late

Could you say goodbye to yesterday?

Would you live each moment like your last?

Leave old pictures in the past

Donate every dime you have?

Would you call old friends you never see?

Reminisce old memories

Would you forgive your enemies?

Would you find that one you’re dreamin’ of?

Swear up and down to God above

That you finally fall in love

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Take Time for Yourself

“Taking time out each day to relax and renew is essential to living well.”

-Judith Hanson Lasater

 

I recently discovered yoga nidra which translates to night yoga. This is yoga you can do alone either sitting up in a dark quiet spot or while lying in bed. I have always had trouble sleeping for one reason or another. Some of the reasons for my difficulty falling asleep are related to my mind constantly racing.

 

I am currently 3 weeks away from getting married but as any of you know who have been through the wedding planning process, it is never ending and there are always things that need to be accomplished or decided on. I have stayed up all night racking my brain over these things numerous times.

 

There are youtube videos for yoga nidra that I listen to sometimes but other times I make it up myself and it has actually worked.

 

When I am lying in bed I visualize a white board and I write all of the things that are bothering me or on my mind on that board. You can visually write them or use your finger in the air to write on the imaginary board. I then think about the items on the list which are usually all things that I have no control over. I then take a deep breath and wipe from right to left while erasing all of the items listed.

 

This represents a clean slate and therefore reminding myself that everything I had listed are things that I cannot fix, change or do much about and therefore not worth my anxiety, stress or lack of sleep.

 

I continue taking deep breaths while focusing on each breath. Sometimes I think about things that make me happy like my family, sports or the beach. After a while, my mind empties and I am able to fall asleep and remain asleep.

 

As I mentioned in a previous blog entitled “try not to worry about things that are out of your control,” you will drive yourself nuts trying to fix things that you have no control over. Instead, try to relax, empty your mind of your thoughts and think positive. I suggest trying yoga nidra or even trying to think positive about your day, your future or things that simply make you smile.

 

I guarantee that each one of you has something in your life that you cannot control but we let it run our lives. Some examples could be the car breaking down, financial issues, getting sick, a cell phone breaking, the stock market, a sports game, or life in general. Understanding the things in our lives that we cannot control will help determine what things to write on our white board and erase from our minds for the moment.

 

A short description of yoga nidra for those who are interested in learning more about it.

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-benefits-of-yoga-nidra

 

“There are times in life when there’s absolutely nothing you can do, also known as a chance to relax.”

-Robert Brault

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What Fuels You?

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

 

Motivation is defined as the reasons why you are doing something, or the level of desire/enthusiasm you have to do in order to accomplish something. Motivation occurs when a person has the desire and willingness to do something and is internally motivated to do it.

 

Sometimes it seems impossible to wake up in the morning and achieve different tasks, or cook dinner after a long and stressful day. As humans, our lives are full with different activities and therefore we are inclined to put things off or procrastinate. We have all made excuses to not do certain things whether it is beginning a new exercise program, filling out important paperwork, or cleaning the house.

 

The fact is though, once we allow our minds and our bodies to get into a routine of doing certain things, they are no longer a struggle and might actually make us feel pretty good.

 

Lately, I feel like I have entered a slump. A slump in which I have lacked motivation to eat healthy or to go to the gym on a regular basis. I have noticed that I use the excuse that I am tired or I had a long day at work but when I actually force myself to go to the gym or take a walk, I feel like a million bucks afterwards.

 

There are various steps which have helped me and are currently helping me to regain that drive and motivation that I always had.

 

Here are a few steps that might help you as well:

  1. Figure out what your goal is. What is it that you want to work towards? Break that goal down into smaller steps that are both achievable and enjoyable.
  2. Always keep track of your progress whether it is in a journal or a Microsoft Word document. Looking at your progress can inspire you to see how far you have come.
  3. Keep in mind the reasons why you are achieving this specific goal. It could be health reasons, getting more organized, learning a new task etc.
  4. Make your goal a habit once you have achieved it. Make the steps that you took to reach your goal part of your daily life.
  5. Make it a point to walk away or take breaks once and awhile. If you over motivate yourself this might actually backfire and hinder your progress.

 

Sit and ask yourself the following:

  1. What motivates you?
  2. Who motivates or inspires you?
  3. Why does that person (s) motivate or inspire you?
  4. What excuses do you usually use to put off something?
  5. What are some ways in which you are going to work towards building your motivation and in return fueling your body to get into the routine or habit of accomplishing that goal?

 

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

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Play the Hand you are Dealt to the Absolute Fullest

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

-Michael Jordan

 

I attended a “Visions Conference” in Baltimore Maryland over the weekend which was hosted by the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Although I have attended many of these conferences since I was a little girl, this one seemed different than all of the others.

 

I am not that little girl anymore who expects my parents to gather all of the information as I doodle on a piece of paper in a session about vision research. I felt as if I had instantly warped into an adult both in hopes to learn new people, gain information, take notes, and share ideas and most of all…listen.

 

I attended the conference with my Dad, John and my fiancé, Tim. At times we would split and attend different meetings, we would sit at tables with strangers to hear their story and gain information as to why they were there, and we would act as sponges to soak up every bit of knowledge that was passed on.

 

It is always interesting participating in a conference in which most of the attendees are in the same boat. We all bump into each other, we all have different experiences to learn from, we all knock over glasses on the table, we all ask lots of questions and we are all there for the same reasons.

 

The individuals that I met this past weekend all have experienced and are experiencing different types of and different stages of vision loss and each person copes with these things in their own way. Some are very bitter while others try to hide that they have a visual impairment. Some embrace their vision loss while others are terrified to lose their vision.

 

My intention in life is not to inspire but to live life to the fullest with what God gave me, and in this case it is a great personality, a positive attitude, a drive to succeed and eyes that might not work so well. A few individuals at the conference came up to me to tell me that I was either inspiring or that I helped them a lot. This is a great feeling because I know what losing vision is like, I understand that others might look at me differently, I understand the daily struggle from the time my eyes open to the time that I close my eyes at night, I can relate to the various challenges in terms of transportation or employment and even though I still experience these struggles on a daily basis, it was nice to share my ways of coping or how I positively deal with these items.

 

We are all dealt a different hand. Some better than others, But what’s more important is how you play that hand.

 

I challenge all of you to play the hand you were dealt to the absolute fullest. Whether it means getting out of your comfort zone, crossing an item off of your bucket list, trying something new, searching for a new job, helping others, volunteering your time, overcoming a fear, or not putting off things that you can and should do today.

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It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth

 

When you think about a blind person playing sports what comes to mind? Some people think it is comical while others think there is no way a blind person could participate in a sporting event. If you are one of these people, let me tell you that you are absolutely incorrect.

 

I have had experience with many sports whether it was younger when my vision was much better or in my adult life as a blind woman.

 

Below is a list of some sports that I have participated in both as a child and now as an adult.

 

  • Ice hockey
  • Cycling
  • Triathlons
  • Hiking
  • MMA/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Baseball
  • Snowboarding
  • Rollerblading
  • Running
  • Swimming (pool/open water)
  • Golf

 

You are probably asking yourself how an individual with no sight would be able to accomplish any of the above sports.

 

“When obstacles arise you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.”- Zig Ziglar

 

Similar to my daily life, when I face a challenge or a hardship I do not let it stop me from what I am doing or deter me from accomplishing a goal.

 

Some ways to adapt a sport (There are many ways to make a sport adaptable to an individual with limited or no sight).

 

  • Place bells in a soccer ball/baseball/basketball/football in order to hear it coming
  • Ask a coach to verbalize what he/she is doing to explain a certain position or tactic
  • Use a tether (small piece of rope held by yourself and a partner) to run/rollerblade
  • Utilize a tandem bike (bike built for 2) to cycle
  • Use a tether (rope/bungee type chord connected to you and a partner) in the water to swim and stay together
  • Utilize an earpiece on the mountain for your guide to properly direct you on a snowboard or downhill skis
  • Communicate when hiking to determine when to step up/down or navigate an obstacle
  • Ask a partner to describe the layout of a golf course hole, layout and setup

 

I am unable to put into words how excited I get when I play catch with my dad and I chase down a grounder, throw a football directly to my target, cruise down the mountain on my snowboard, bike 100 miles, run a half marathon, and complete a triathlon. It is a feeling of extreme happiness knowing that I can do anything that I put my mind to. I might go about things differently than someone with sight but being able to get out there and do the same things as others is beyond rewarding.

 

Sports have always been an important and influential part of my life from playing soccer and hockey as a young child to tandem biking and beep baseball as an adult. Being able to still play sports competitively is what drives me to try any and all sports. I can confidently tell you that life would not be challenging enough for me if I had perfect sight.

 

I challenge you to embrace being different, try something new even if it is out of your comfort zone and see what great things can come from a new experience.

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What Is It About Blindness that People Do Not Understand?

What Is It About Blindness That People Do Not Understand?

 

I recently attended a couple’s massage with my fiancé and we each had to go into our designated locker rooms. I had asked one of the employees to walk into the locker room to explain my surroundings and to show me where to put my belongings while we were getting our massages. This woman told me where the restroom was, the showers and literally left the locker room. When I tried asking her a question, no one was in the locker room. I had to search for the robe I was supposed to put on, she had placed my two sandals in two different locations and I had to feel around for the lockers and how to use them. I am not sure if this individual was intimidated or just did not know how to help me but seriously, what is it about blindness that people do not understand?

 

An old friend of mine, Worth Dalton, who has since passed away, once spoke to me about this exact subject. Blindness is a very simple concept; a person is unable to see his/her surroundings. It is irritating, embarrassing and entertaining all at the same time. I encourage you all to close your eyes while completing simple tasks throughout the day. Whether you are brushing your teeth, using the restroom, getting dressed or pouring milk for your cereal. Close your eyes to get an idea of how different it is and to gain an understanding as to why you might go about daily tasks differently with different abilities or challenges.

 

Some of the questions I have been asked over the years either by strangers, employers or kids. While some of the following are silly or funny, it boggles my mind.

  • Do you know how to use the stairs?
  • Do you know how to use a phone?
  • How come your eyes look normal?
  • Do you sleep with your eyes open since you are blind?
  • How do you butter your English muffin?
  • Did you not eat enough carrots as a kid?
  • How do you know how to use the bathroom?
  • Do you know sign language?
  • Do you want the gluten free restaurant menu (instead of asking if I want a braille menu)
  • Do you know Morse code?
  • Are you going to pay for that mop/shower rod/lacrosse stick? (when walking with my white cane at a store or the gym)
  • Are you stealing a pool stick? (when walking with my white cane out of a restaurant/bar that does not even have a pool table)

 

In life, we encounter things that we are unfamiliar with or that are unknown to us. I challenge you all to get to know someone with different abilities and to put yourself in his/her shoes for a few minutes. It will be an “eye opening” experience and make you understand what this individual might go through throughout their day. Any time you encounter a blind person and they ask you for help, please take a step back, close your eyes for a second and describe as if you were the blind person needing help. It will honestly mean the world to the individual that you are speaking with.

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