“Fan”tastical Friday: Helen Keller

 

I’ve never really gave much notice to the term “fandom” until I looked up the meaning of the word in a dictionary:

-“the state or condition of being a fan of someone or something.”

This definition made me chuckle as it sounds like something out of a psychology textbook.  So, I looked at what Wikipedia had to say:

-“a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.”

Meaning, you can be a “fan” of not just individuals or movies or a particular kind of music; but, also of an ideal, an interest, motive, etc..  I think you get the idea.

I suppose now that I’m thinking (oh, so dangerous) I am a fan of multiple things.

For today, I will focus on one of them.

Women with great inner strength.

Helen Keller.  Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Mother Teresa. Anne Frank. Maya Angelou.

There are just too many to list here but the one who has been the greatest inspiration to me was Helen Keller.

Although I am legally blind and deaf, I still have enough of both to manage.  But Helen had none of both and she still got around!  There are days when I get frustrated at my shortcomings and limitations to the point I just want to quit and throw in the towel (and I’ve done this before which brought only misery for me),  but I have to remind myself that there are (and have been) others who persevered and thrived despite their disabilities.

Which gives me hope.

And some days, that is all I need to continue on.

 

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

-Helen Keller

 

 

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What Happens When A Writer Stops Writing?

Click on the image to access this group’s official page

This month’s question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

 

I wrote an essay on this last year, and today I took and created a video from it.

 

 

 

 

Story Sunday: Journal of Life

 

January 15th

Where to begin? Because of so and so, and of something that happened, I’m to start keeping a journal of my thoughts and feelings and whatever else I care to share. WTH.

Okay, let’s start from the beginning. My name is Carla Jones. I’m twenty-five, and I live with my parents. Eh, that sounds like an opener for one of those Alcoholics Anonymous sessions. I’m not an alcoholic, but I am a screw-up.

Damn. That sounds pretty harsh now that it’s out there. But this is what my shrink wants to read, so there you go.

I lived a fairly normal life, I guess. Grew up in a small town in the mountains. Mom was a telephone operator for many years before switching to being an administrative assistance at a local community college. Dad’s a salesperson at a hardware store.  I have two sisters. Trish, the eldest, moved out of the house when she was eighteen. She joined the Navy. I hardly ever see her. Mandy, the baby, is off to college, studying power engineering. She’s the brains, like Dad.

Me? I’m the oddball. The one with all the problems.

Heck, I’m not even related to these people. Not by blood anyway. You see, my parents tried to have another baby after Trish was born, but nothing happened after four years.  So, they adopted me. Mandy came along as a complete surprise three years later. That left me, a brunette with blue eyes, sandwiched between these blonde-haired, brown-eyed individuals. Yep, like an oddball.

We lived next to Mom’s parents (Dad’s parents died when he was a boy).  Nana and Papa to Trish and Mandy, but not to me. They made that well known as soon as I was old enough to understand. I was to call them Pat and Dave.

Ugh.

Trish and Mandy were always into sports. I tried, but I was deemed too klutzy to play on any team. So, I turned to running. I never competed, though. All that hardcore training and competing in meets or races never interested me.

I never excelled in anything in school. It’s not for the lack of trying…it’s just that I really didn’t care. I studied just enough to pass the exams. That’s it. Mom and Dad never really pushed me. They pretty much let me do my own thing. They rode the other two daily, though. They accepted nothing less than As or Bs from them.

When it came time to head off to college, I had no clue what to major in. I wasn’t interested in science or math or business. I ended up picking a major in Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. I had always doodled with poetry and wrote in my journal, so why not take them one step further, right? Boy, my Dad was not happy with that. I asked, what’s wrong with being a writer or a journalist?   He said that those weren’t respectable fields. So, in order to appease him, I switched to a major in Kinesiology with a minor in Athletic Training.

I got as far as sophomore year before dropping out. I sucked in science classes and ended up failing them.

I refused to move back home—didn’t want to endure the daily scorn from Pat and Dave or the disappointed looks from my parents. Instead, I moved to a small city an hour from home and got a job working as a writer for the city’s newspaper. I rented a tiny, run-down apartment downtown that robbed me of over half of my monthly salary. I had no furniture, slept on an air mattress, and ate meals on the grungy carpet.

I guess I got too carried away with my sudden independence, or perhaps I was just overly desperate to be accepted for who I was. The people I ended up hanging out with liked to smoke pot. Personally, I hated pot, but these people made me feel like I was a somebody, like I actually mattered, so I just went with it.

Anyway, I ended up getting caught with some weed and was sent to jail. Lost my job and my apartment. Dad bailed me out and took me back home. Not sure what he did, but he somehow got the charges against me reduced so that there was no court or jail time for me. However, the judge ordered me to see this shrink, and since I liked to write, this same shrink gave me this ridiculous journal assignment.

 

 

January 29th

I’m writing this from my hospital bed. Actually, I’m in a psych ward within the hospital. The day after I wrote the first entry to this journaling assignment, Dad and I got into a big fight. Apparently, I’m a hardship to him and Mom, and it’s starting to affect their health and job stability. I guess I just lost it. I yelled at him saying something like, well, if I’m such a hardship, perhaps I should just remove myself from their lives.

I ran into the only bathroom in the house and locked myself in. I grabbed a shaving razor and proceeded to slash the top of my hands. Freaking out, Mom called 911. From there on, everything’s just a blur. I remember waking up in a hospital room, strapped to the bed. My whole body felt bruised. Mom was sitting beside me, crying.  Dad, well, I haven’t seen him since that night. She said that it took three people tackling me to stop me from continuing to slice my wrists. I don’t remember that part, but she was right, both of my wrists are bandaged up. The top of my hands are also bandaged, so I can barely write this stupid entry.

This stupid assignment. Stupid shrink. I hate him. I hate them all.

 

 

February 3rd

I’m still here, in the psych ward. It seems that I’m not ready to be released yet. Or rather, my parents aren’t ready to take me back home. Either way, I don’t give a rip.

 

February 7th

Mandy visited me yesterday. She said she was worried about me. She then turned around and told me how angry she was with me. How could I be so selfish to have hurt Mom and Dad. I told her to get out of my face. I don’t need this from her or from anyone for that matter!

 

 

February 12th

Why is everyone against me? What have I done so wrong to be treated so? Pat stopped by for a few minutes. Long enough to tell me that my own parents were seriously considering having me permanently committed. She went on to tell me that she did some research on my biological parents. My mother gave birth to me at the age of 13. She had been raped by her 16-year-old cousin who then committed suicide shortly afterward. Pat said that I should never have been adopted and that I’ve been nothing but a heartache to Mom and Dad.

After she left, I just lied down on the bed and cried.

 

 

February 15th

The shrink told me that I was actually starting to make progress and that I should continue to journal. Whatever.

Today, I wrote my first poem in months. It’s called “Alone.”

Heart is the bridge to

one’s soul, break it in

pieces and it will

strand you, immerse you

with unspeakable loneliness

You know what? After writing this, I felt better. Purged. Does that make any sense? I’m looking back over it, and am wondering…where did this come from? Am I really that pathetic? Do I really feel that way?

The answer is yes.

 

 

March 2nd

It’s been a while since the last entry. I have a good reason. Well, make that twenty-five reasons, as that’s how many poems I’ve written. I’m somewhat amazed at how dark and desperate some sounded. I thought about rewriting a few so they don’t make me out to be some kind of psychotic bitch, but I didn’t.

I worked up the courage and gave some to the shrink to read. I felt certain that he would definitely have me permanently committed after reading those particular ones (that would just please the family wouldn’t it?). I was stunned when he said that they were really good. Then he had to ask if I had thought about submitting them to places to have them published.

Seriously?

Hmm…

 

 

March 27th

I’ve been released from the hospital/psych ward. Since I’m no longer welcome home, I’m now living in a halfway house of sorts. I’m working part-time as a dishwasher at a college. It’s nothing glamorous, just a no-brainer, tedious job. I did something last week that scared the crap out of me, though. I submitted a few of my poems to four literary journals. Shrink seems confident that one of these places will publish my work. I have serious doubts. I mean, who would want to read my stuff? They’re just stupid poems. Nothing special about them at all.

 

 

April 30th

I’m in disbelief. I received word yesterday that my poems have been accepted by Julienne Literary Journal to be published. Oh. My. God.

I think I may have even hyperventilated because I found myself on the floor breathing hysterically with a bag over my face. All those poor people at the post office. God bless them for not freaking out on me.

 

 

May 16th

Good news keeps rolling in. Apparently, Dad has been working with a judge to try and get my criminal/drug/psych ward incarceration expunged from my record since it was my first offense, and guess what? As of this morning, I’m a free woman with a clean record! I’ve a feeling that my shrink may have had a hand in this even though he vehemently denied it. I know better.

This will be my last entry for the journaling assignment—the psych sessions are ending. As I read through the earlier entries, I hadn’t realized just how full of anger I was, and rightfully so, but I’ve learned that I no longer need to be. There is so much more to life than holding on to the feeling of anger because people refused to accept me as I am. No more. I want to live my own life the way I feel is best for me. I no longer need to rely on others to help me feel worthy. I can do that for myself. Writing poems and journaling have shown me that. They became the keys to unlocking my true soul.

*First published with GFT Press March 2016

My Own Battle With Mental Illness

Doll Hospital is an art and literature print journal on mental health

Just a little blurb this week about an essay I have published with the current issue of Doll Hospital Journal.

In the essay,  In Search of Hope, I recount my struggles through various losses and disabilities that brought me close to suicide as well as my battle with anxiety and depression.   Mental illness also runs in my family.

What helped me through all these?

Writing, and the love for my family.

For those of you struggling with mental illness, just know that you’re not alone, and to never give up!

*To read this digital issue, click on the Doll Hospital’s image on top and this will take you to the site to download the item.  It will ask for $5.00 but this is only a suggested donation amount. 

Author Interview: Judy Walters

We have a very special guest today!  Please welcome Women’s Fiction author, Judy Walters! 

Tell us what first drew you to writing.

I’ve always written, since I was a little girl. I always knew I wanted to be a writer.  It’s just something I’ve always done, and I don’t know why, but I don’t feel complete without my writing.

What do you write?

 Women’s Fiction, stories about common people struggling with uncommon situations, many of my novels have some kind of medical twist.  

You were an editor in your previous life. How much has the publishing industry changed since you left?

I was an editor a long time ago — I stopped working in publishing about 19 years ago, right before my younger daughter was born. At that time, and people will laugh now, my office was just setting up email and I was afraid I would never learn how to use it!  

What seems to be the recurring theme(s) in your stories?

I like to write about families struggling with unusual but not unheard of problems. In A Million Ordinary Days, a woman is struggling with Multiple Sclerosis, and that struggle extends to her family. Other books I’ve written focus on families struggling with Autism, adoption, and infertility.

You have a new book coming out soon. Tell us about it.

My latest book is called A Million Ordinary Days, and it’s due out March 14. It’s the story of one woman’s fight against Multiple Sclerosis to try to live a normal life both with her career — working with pregnant teenagers — and raising her teenage daughter.

Which do you prefer: traditional, self publishing, or both?

I’m not one of those people who strongly prefers one way or another. Both are valid ways to publish. All of my books have been self published so far, but if I ever had the chance to have the traditional publishing experience, I think that would be great, too.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing writers today?

One of the biggest obstacles is the ability to get published. People with wonderful novels can’t find publishers and feel uncomfortable or unsure of self publishing.  People who had great publishers lose their contracts for a variety of reasons and then don’t know how to publish their next books.

Allison Wheeler is fighting a war inside her body, a war with Multiple Sclerosis that she doesn’t want to acknowledge and certainly doesn’t want other people to see.

As Allison’s health deteriorates, she tries desperately to hold on to all that is important to her – her family, her career as a social worker for pregnant teens, and most of all, her independence. As her ex-husband and two daughters rally around her, they’re fighting their own demons – Glenn, in a new relationship, is afraid of shifting the comfortable companionship that he and Allison have built since their divorce fifteen years back. Melanie, whose sad past haunts her, is an adult realizing that adult life is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Hailey, a junior in high school, is debating how she can go off  to college knowing that even though she desperately wants to spread her wings and fly, her mother may be too ill for her to go. Just when they all think they’ve made peace with their lives, they must readjust to a “new” normal – or risk losing everything they’ve struggled to hold onto.

Release Date: March 14th, 2017

Want more info on this book?  Go to Judy’s website

Mental Health and Artistic Endeavors (Polls)

 

 

**More posts to follow on this subject.  Stay tuned.

Writing: Looking Way Ahead

Click on the image to access this group's official page

Click on the image to access this group’s official page

The question for December: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Wow, my first month with the group and they just had to ask this question.  What is a writing career?  I have always considered a career as something you get paid for while you pursue a passion or an occupational path which leads to promotions and higher pay grades.

I have hung up that “hat” in January 2015.  You see, I have a progressive disability called Usher Syndrome (where I’m slowly losing my vision coupled with moderate hearing loss); and because of this, I “retired” and went on Social Security.  And because I receive the SS disability benefits, I’m not to earn an income.

I’m only 45.

And believe me, I still have lots to live for!

So, back to the question.

In order to clear my conscience and help me figure out my answer, I consulted a dictionary and here what it had to say about the word, career:

“An occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework.”

Hmm, still having trouble with applying this word to my situation.  Let’s see what else I can find.

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.”-Maya Angelou

That’s it!  A writing career to me isn’t about “making a living” but “making a life.”

Now that I’m feeling better about things, let’s move on.

For the first part of the question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now?

Though I’ve been regularly writing and publishing (short stuff) since 2007, I still haven’t found that niche. I desire to have a book of some sort traditionally published in five years, but whether it’ll be the fiction or nonfiction sort, I haven’t a clue.  I have dabbled in all forms and nearly all genres, and I’m still in the dark.

Does this mean I should try to be one of those multi-genre/format kind of writer?

Or, should I continue to try and narrow down the area or areas of “expertise” for myself?

I’m starting to wonder if maybe I need to find a mentor to help guide me on this journey.

Sheesh, I’m all over the place.  See what you did, IWSG?  😉

On to the second part of the question: what’s your plan to get there?

At this juncture, I plan to continue what I’m currently doing: craft the kind of fictional stories that I’d want to read, and then find a home for them; plus write micropoems and essays about my various life experiences (have been dealt with a lot of losses that I’m still trying to work through).

Whew.

Survived this one.

What about you?  Where do you see yourself, as a writer, in five years?

 

 

Spilled Raisins and Paper Shreddings by Amy Bovaird

amy-bovaird

 

*Today I love to introduce to you a very special lady-Amy Bovaird, best-selling author of Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith.   She’s here to talk to us about her struggles and challenges with a progressive disease, and how she uses her faith and humor to persevere.

 

I was delighted when Carrie asked me to write a guest post for her blog back in the spring of this year. But first I was traveling and then I was working frantically to finish my new book, Cane Confessions, The Lighter Side to Mobility. It wasn’t until now that I had time to write the post. I’m grateful for Carrie’s flexibility and to have the opportunity today to share my story.

As someone losing her vision and hearing, I face many obstacles each day. The only constant is that I will continue to lose more vision and hearing. The variables change at different intervals of this disease I suffer: what I now know to be Usher Syndrome, the leading cause of deaf blindness in the world.

There are three types of Usher Syndrome: A, B and C. The first begins with hearing loss early in life, the second type is adolescence and the third, the type I have is discovered later and is characterized by a late onset of progressing hearing loss.

Vision loss is a challenge; hearing loss is a completely different challenge. Neither is like being born deaf or blind. Thus, the progressiveness of Usher is the biggest hurdle of all. One never quite adjusts because the losses are ongoing.

Probably my biggest struggle came about eight years ago when I faced using a white cane. To me and many others losing their vision, using a cane shouted “I am blind,” louder than any word. For some reason, being blind is viewed typically as a weakness or deficit by both society and the person who faces the cane.

I overcame the obstacles attached to using a white cane through my faith. Strangely enough, God used a completely blind mobility instructor to help me overcome my fears and to bring “blindness” into perspective. It’s only as negative or restrictive as the person facing it, permits it to be. This wowed me!

Now, it’s not what others think about me that challenges me. As a child of God, I believe have great value and that God has a plan for my life. If I hold to this truth, that becomes my constant and the changing visual and hearing perspectives are manageable. Instead of being overwhelmed with the frustrations I face every day, I look for the humor in these situations.

Once I dropped a box of raisins and no matter how many times I bent over to pick them up, I would turn back to the floor and see yet another raisin or two I missed. By the fifth time, it seemed I had gotten them all (but I found another a week later that I missed). That same day, I knocked over my paper shredder. I groaned as I bent to sweep the shred into a dust pan. Again, no matter how many times I tried to sweep them all up, I still found stray pieces outside my line of vision. It’s teaching me patience. These spilled raisins and paper shreddings represent my everyday difficulties, whatever they may actually be. It could be not seeing the top of a trash can, or like today, not seeing the recycle bin at the local grocery store though it was nearby. Humor and patience help me face up to the everyday vision hurdles.

Losing my hearing takes even more patience. With moderate to severe hearing loss, I am easily frustrated and have cried a few times. I hate to keep admitting when I can’t hear a person, especially after three or four attempts. One of the ways I cope is to pretend I’ve heard. But sometimes that gets me into hot water! God is working on my heart to bring about more honest communication and to let my pride go.

We all experience aggravation but ultimately, we choose how to cope with them. What has helped me in recent years is looking at positive role models of those who live with Usher Syndrome or Retinitis Pigmentosa (ongoing vision loss). I also journal and talk to others. I try to live a life of gratitude and appreciation for the acts of kindness others show me. Humor and it. Laughter helps me keep to continue picking up the spilled raison and paper shreddings each day. Most importantly, I’m learning to trust God’s plan for me, even when I can’t see or hear what’s coming around the bend.

 

Bio

As an international traveler and teacher, Amy was diagnosed several years ago with a dual disability—progressive vision and hearing loss due to Usher Syndrome—but continues to enjoy running, hiking and traveling. Amy is an accomplished public speaker on a variety of topics based on her life experiences and also volunteers with local and national animal rescue organizations. She has written two books: Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith (© 2014) and Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility, to be released in November 2016. She blogs about the challenges she faces as she loses more vision and hearing, shares the lessons God reveals to her through her difficulties and manages to find humor around almost every corner.

Links:

Website Facebook Page Amazon Audible

Writing and the Five Senses

five senses

 

 

These are questions I have posed in today’s Thursday Talk Shop over at We PAW Bloggers on Facebook.

They’re serious ones.  Thought-provoking.

Dare to continue?

If you lost one (or more) of your five senses, would this affect you as a writer (or as a poet or blogger)?  How so?

The loss of which sense(s) would you consider to be the most detrimental to you?

Could losing this sense make you a better writer (or poet or blogger)?  Or, worse?

Lets try an experiment.

The sense you deemed as essential NOT to lose…vision-blindfold yourself; hearing-wear earmuffs or plugs; smell-place a tape over both nostrils; sensation-wear thick clothing on your body (or anything that would dull the sensation); taste-nothing goes in your mouthenvision yourself without this particular sense.  Would you be able to write or blog WITHOUT this ability?  Would something be missing from your stories, poems, or articles?  What ways would you be able to compensate for this loss?

Now, find an artist, or any person of interest who is missing this sense…how did he or she overcome this “disability” and succeeded in spite of it?

 

“There are two kinds of ‘disabled’ persons: Those who dwell on what they have lost and those who concentrate on what they have left.” -Thomas Szasz

Usher Awareness: Own the Equinox

ushequx

 

 

In honor of Usher Syndrome Awareness Day on September 17th, I’m walking at least one mile a day for 25 days. I’ll then join my USH family around the world for the final 1.2 miles in this mile-a-thon.

If you can’t make a donation at this point, help me reach my goal by sharing this page on Facebook and Twitter!

Or, even better, send an e-mail to friends you think might be interested in contributing and include a link to my page!

Thanks so much for your generosity!

Help me own the Equinox. Together, we can make Usher syndrome history. #USHEQX
If you wish to follow my journey, please visit my page for updates.

The Dawning (Day One) Part One

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(*Note: In continuation to the Dusk (Arrival at the School for the Blind) post)

 

Day One

The first full day is done.  It was a good one, I think. Had three one-hour classes in the morning; and three one-hour classes in the afternoon.  My schedule will be the same for the rest of the week. One of the Vision Specialists made sure we were awake by 7:15am by knocking on each of our doors.  Breakfast was held in the kitchen/small dining area on the other side of the building from 8 till 8:30.  Since each one of the residents have varying degrees of visual loss and this was our first day,  Amy (one of the Visual Specialists) led us down a few different hallways to the kitchen/dining room area (also labeled as Daily Living Skills Center). Here we ate cereals and toasts.  It was a fairly quiet meal as we didn’t know each other.  I could sense that I wasn’t the only one feeling anxious about being here at the School.

My first class began at 8:30 with Ken (Daily Living Skills Specialist) so I stayed in the kitchen/dining area.  We just went over tidbits in regards to kitchen skills (which areas I like to work on throughout the week.  Guess I’ll be getting some cooking in too).  At 9:30 I met with Margo (Mobility Specialist).  She took me into an office and we discussed various aspects of mobility and the cane (I brought my own but have never used).  She took me out to a particular (long and wide) hallway and went over the basics of holding on the cane, and tips on how to use it.

parts of walking cane

 

For about 1/2 hour, I walked up and down this corridor, swinging the cane side to side (tip must always stay in contact to the surface), while Margo watched.  Every once in a while she’ll correct my form.

Today I didn’t have a 10:30 class (Specialist had a previous appointed event to attend) so I went to my room, and rested.

At 11:30 I headed back to the kitchen/dining area for lunch.  Again, we were quiet as we ate.

12:30 was a group meeting in a conference room.  From there I went to my 1pm class with the Technology Specialist, Tracey.  She showed me a little about various accessibility functions on a desktop computer (mainly Windows).  2pm I headed back to the kitchen/dining area for my second Daily Living Skills class with Amy.  I had the joy of preparing sliced potatoes and ham for supper.  Nah, it wasn’t that bad at all 🙂  At 3pm, I met with Candy at the Braille Center.  I learned what the alphabets A and B look like.  Oh man, this is like learning a totally new language!  The entire Braille language is based on these 6 dots.  See below:

braille letter z

 

“The braille alphabet is based upon a “cell” that is composed of 6 dots, arranged in two columns of 3 dots each. Each braille letter of the alphabet or other symbol, such as a comma, is formed by using one or more of the 6 dots that are contained in the braille cell. The chart below provides a good example of the design of the braille alphabet.”

braille dots

 

(Courtesy of Vision Aware)

 

Whew…am feeling exhausted after my first full day here; but, in a good way.  Margo told me that I am to be using the cane the entire time I’m here; meaning it has to stay “attached” to me no matter what.  I told her that I would.  Using the cane still makes me quite nervous (self-conscious is probably a better word); but, I think I’m getting a little more comfortable with it (better than earlier today anyway).

The others are a good group of people: Tara, Rosalinda (aka Linda), Marlene, David and Sarnoe.  Several of the Vision Specialists are vision impaired themselves.  I’m quite impressed.

There’s a level of comfort being here. I don’t have to constantly feel like I have to make an excuse for my “clumsiness;” or wonder what the others think of me as a “blind” person.  The other residents know. They understand and can completely relate.  I don’t feel so alone anymore.

Yet…I still feel quite a bit of hesitancy and uncertainty.  Not 100% sure why.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to bake banana bread.  Oh, boy…

 

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

Dusk (Arrival at the School for the Blind)

dusk in nd

 

“The pale stars were sliding into their places. The whispering of the leaves was almost hushed. All about them it was still and shadowy and sweet. It was that wonderful moment when, for lack of a visible horizon, the not yet darkened world seems infinitely greater—a moment when anything can happen, anything be believed in.”-Olivia Howard Dunbar, The Shell of Sense

(*The following is an excerpt from the journal I wrote during my week at the School for the Blind)

I decided I would journal about my week here at the School for the Blind.  Originally, I postponed the one I should have gone to back in March; but, because of anxiety issues, I opted out.  What finally enabled me to attend this particular week in June?  One, a passionate pep talk from my husband (if I don’t do this now, my anxiety would only get worse); and two, Pam’s-my Vision Specialist here at the School, gentle encouragements.

So, here I am.  Arrived at the School around 6pm.  Hubby and son left soon after I found my room.  Felt a little apprehensive so I busied myself by unpacking everything.  I was then summoned by one of the other Visual Specialists, Amy.  We sat at one of the round tables in the Common Area where she peppered me with various questions such as what are some of my goals for the coming week.  This session lasted for about 1/2 hour.   I was invited stay to have sandwiches with the others.

I couldn’t.

I’m back in my room now, in my jammies.  Have my tablet (no television in my room) so I think I’ll catch a few episodes of Bones.

I think there will be at least five other residents here with me for the week.  I’m sure I’ll be meeting them tomorrow.  I have no idea of what to expect here and that has me feeling quite nervous.  Hope I can get some sleep tonight.   I know I should have stayed to meet the others…this will keep nagging at me tonight.  Story of my life.

Should haves.  Regrets. Missed chances and opportunities.  Constantly self-sabotaging as punishment.  But, for what?

Okay, need to stop dwelling on the past.  Can’t change any of that now.

Time for Bones.

Fighting the Darkness

bare land

 

For a long time, I viewed my disabilities as weaknesses; and considered myself to be inferior to other able-bodied individuals.  I felt that by “accepting” my disabilities meant I was giving in to them.

So, anger settled in.

Instead of feeling propelled to do great things, I opted to feel sorry for myself and gave up on my dreams.

Years passed.  Regrets mounted.  Misery and loneliness hung on me like thick furs on a hot, muggy summer day.

Suffocating me ever so slowly.

Anxiety and depression visited intermittently until they decided to move in on a more permanent basis.  It got so bad I couldn’t step outside of my own home without having an episode.

I realized that I couldn’t go on living like this.

Something had to change.

It wasn’t too long after we moved to North Dakota when I learned there was a School for the Blind in Grand Forks (a short 45-minute drive from home); and that they offered Adult Weeks just about every quarter.  Pam, my Vision Services Specialist, encouraged me to come in March.  I had every intention of attending, but “chickened” out at the last moment.   She then encouraged me to attend one during the first week of June.

I actually went.

Finally.

 

*Will talk about my week at the School for the Blind in my next post.

 

 

Darkness Abound

dark valley

 

 

 

 

One of the most difficult challenges for me was accepting the fact that I have a progressive disease (Usher Syndrome).  The next challenge was admitting that I needed new skills/retraining.

Coming to terms to both of these took twenty-four years.

Better late than never, eh?

Even then, it was difficult.  It’s been like going through the grief process that spanned over two decades.

I was not only losing my vision while dealing with moderate hearing loss, I was also gradually losing my independence.  And that was the most painful part of all.

I felt diminished as a person. Inferior.

Worthless.

A liability to others rather than an asset.

I loathed feeling that way.

But, what could I do about it?

So…depression and anxiety invaded, and for a time, won.

 

Darkness

 

Darkness is my constant companion
Everything before me veiled
Stumbling I cannot find my path
The way is shrouded
Uncertainty fills my future
Which path to choose?
Dreams seem just beyond my reach
What is the point of even trying
When darkness is all that awaits me?

 

*Stay tuned for the next post on what I finally did about my situation

 

A Step Forward (Hopefully)

steps

 

Just a quick post to let my faithful readers know that I’m going out-of-town next week, and to expect the next new post to come by June 15th.

This trip is NOT a vacation; it’s something that I’ve been “dreading” to do and have already postponed it once.  It’s a step forward for me as I’m attempting to face some of my fears head on in regards to my progressive vision loss.

I hope to share more on this when I return.

Happy writing (and reading) everyone!

 

Reality Versus Writing

Ever had a time during your life when writing (or whatever your artistic passion is) has become incompatible with reality?

It sucked, didn’t it?

I hope that like anything else, this only lasted for a season and that you were able to go back to it.

I went through my “incompatible” period not too long ago.

Two years ago actually.

Hubby was unemployed but in college working towards a formal science degree.  I was the only one working full-time (in the banking industry).  My vision was deteriorating, but I somehow managed to put in over 40 hours each week while suffering from terrible eye strains and painful migraines.  I had a young son, and a house to also take care of.  Whenever I tried to sit down to write, hubby or son always needed me for something.  Or, if I spent “too much time” writing, hubby would complain that my priorities were to my family and job since I wasn’t making any money with writing.

Then, my father became ill with an aggressive lung disease.  I would allot whatever free time I had to spend time with him.

It was during this period of my life when I had to choose between “reality” and writing.

Writing had to be put away.  I felt like I’d lost a piece of myself for doing so; but, still the choice had to be made.

My Dad passed away a short time afterwards.  Hubby graduated from college with honors, and is now working full-time as a federal employee.  And I’m “retired” from the workforce, and am home full-time.

With these now behind me, I have ample time to write again.

 

tough times never last

If you’re going through an “incompatible” period, just remember this quote…

 

 

 

An Outsider (How I Became a Writer)

I was a 70s child, and spent the entire preteen and teen-aged years during the 80s.   There are some things to be said having grown up in the heart of Adirondack mountains during this period.

One, you only got four channels on the television, if you were lucky.  So, I didn’t experience MTV until much later in life.

Two, really good doctors were few and far between.

I was born seemingly healthy, in all appearance-wise that is. By the time I was about two years old, it became apparent to my parents that I wasn’t developing normally.

I startled easily.

I wasn’t responding to stimuli like a “normal” child would.

I got frustrated over the simplest things and threw frequent temper tantrums.

My speech development was on par, for an one-year old.

For the next few years, they took me to see various specialists across New York and Vermont, but no one could tell them what was really wrong with me.  One particular specialist blatantly told my parents that I had serious behavioral issues and should see a shrink.

On I went to Kindergarten.

It was probably a few months into the school year when the teacher, Mrs. Siglin, pulled my Mom aside and said that I was practically unteachable.   I wasn’t listening to anything she was saying during class.  I was abruptive, and rude to the other kids.

Mom, in tears, had to pull me from school.

As a last resort, my parents took me to see an audiologist, Ms. Audrey.

She put me through a series of tests, and then had me sit in a sound-proof room, with a headphone on. She then amplified the sound of my voice.

Something happened that hadn’t happened before.

I began to jabber incoherently at first, and then my words grew clearer and concise.

Ms. Audrey turned to my bewildered parents and explained that I had moderate hearing loss in both ears.

Nerve deafness. 

I was almost six years old, and for the first time in my life, I heard the sound of my own voice.

 

So, I was almost six years old when I was diagnosed with nerve deafness.  I received my first behind-the-ear hearing aid shortly after the initial visit with Ms. Audrey.   The device helped as I was finally able to hear the sounds around me more clearly.  I could finally hear myself talk as well as whoever was trying to talk to me.

I was now able to understand and learn in school.

It certainly was not a “cure-all” as I was still very much a loner.  An outsider.

I spent the next two or three years attending speech therapy at a distant school.  About twice a week, a transportation vehicle would come and pick me up at the tiny private school I attended, and took me fifteen miles away to a moderate size elementary public school where I met with my speech therapist for our one-hour sessions.   Then I would board a public school bus with kids I didn’t know which took me home.

The speech therapy sessions helped, but I still spoke funny.

My accent was odd.  Out-of-place.

People, kids looked at me with strange expressions.

I felt very much alone most of the time.

Imaginary friends helped me through this period, as they would throughout my life.  Even as an adult, I still have imaginary friends.

Does that make me strange?

An outsider who’s not quite all there?

Hmm…yeah, I guess so.

And you know the funny part about all this?

I’m fine with it.  Totally and completely.

Why?

Because I have an excuse to be strange and odd, and what’s that word that a coworker once used to describe me?

Eccentric.

However, by the time I was eleven I’d developed a slight problem with having imaginary friends.   I started to act out some of the things they wanted me to do or where they wanted me to go.

Adventures in other lands.  Or, more like misadventures.

Like this one time when I was playing with my various superhero friends when one of them convinced me that I was Wonder Woman and could leap over a line of six chairs.   I almost cleared them all.  I ended up straddling a rocking chair and spent that evening in the ER.

When I was eleven my best friend was Melanie.  She was a red-head with a fiery temper.  I can’t remember what sparked the idea but she put out a challenge to see who could write the best short story.  I took the challenge and wrote a story about a haunted house where a girl went in to explore and found a decapitated head in the fridge.  Pretty morbid, but this particular challenge altered my life forever.

That day I learned there were other ways of participating in adventures with my imaginary friends; not to mention, much safer.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the writer within me was born.

 
Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”-Margaret Chittenden

The Power of Spoken Words

I have a confession that I need to make:

I haven’t read a book in well over a year.

Am I proud of this fact?

Heck no!

Do I have a valid excuse for this?

Perhaps.

How can a writer be a true “writer” without reading books?

Probably still a writer, but not a very good one.

What I have been doing is reading lots of online magazine/news articles, and blog posts.

Would these count as productive reading?

I believe so; especially if one of my goals is to be a citizen journalist.  Oh, and a blogger as well.

But

I still consider myself a short-story writer, and a poet.  I also desire to complete a novel. Here’s where I run into difficulties.  With my waning vision, it’s a growing challenge to read books.  For some reason, I don’t have as much problem reading online than I do on paper.  It’s the lack of the right lighting.  The words seem to waver in print and after a few pages, my eyes are too exhausted to continue.

Out of frustration, I stopped reading books altogether.

As a result, I felt like I was short-changing myself and my readers.

Then I read a post on a particular blog aptly titled- Like to write but don’t like to read? Help is here.  After reading this, I was filled with hope and excitement.  The author, Lisa, talks about two types of writers: reader-writer, and writer-writer.  One writer reads lots and lots of books; while the other one does not.  Lisa considers herself to be a writer-writer. Her reason?

“I love words but have trouble reading them.”

What did she do?  She began to listen to audiobooks.

    “I find that hearing the words read aloud and visualizing them in my mind actually helps me to     find new ways to put my own thoughts together.”

So, I’m going to experiment with audiobooks on my own.  I recently discovered (and have signed up for) a program called Talking Books where audio books are provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).

Talking Books

In the near future, I will provide my own feedback on this.  Stay tuned!

What about you?  Do you think audiobooks can benefit writers?

 

Further readings:

Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading?

Are Audiobooks the Key to Better Writing?

5 Reasons Why Writers Should Listen to Audiobooks

 

We Are All Cowards

In the end, there will be no heroes. Only cowards. It’s only human so the sooner we accept that the sooner we can get to dying.

Kind of crude? Perhaps but reality is nothing like the movies. Sure, we all like to think that we will miraculously rise to the occasion and be that hero we long to emulate from the silver screens; but, like many horror and drama flicks, even the heroes have to die.

Get a grip. You’ll never be that hero so stop thinking about it and face the reality that you’ll never be a hero, only a coward.

Always.

I wonders if writers-for both screen and paper-ever wrote themselves into their stories allowing themselves to either be the good guy or the bad guy; the hero or the villain. But I can’t think of any writer off the top of my head who would write themselves as cowards. That would be just too close to the truth, don’t you think?

I for one am a writer and many times I do write myself in stories mostly as the main protagonist who usually ends up becoming a heroine/hero of some sorts. You see I try to find something within the main character, myself, that could be of some value to others, and of course in the hope of being able to save those who I cared about.

C’mon, let’s get real. Could I really stand in the face of mortal danger and risk my life for others? Honestly, I’d probably would break out in sweat and soil myself, and then I’d run.

Unlike my characters, I am a coward through and through. There is no hope for me.

Yes, I’m belittling myself but it’s the honest truth!

I am not a soldier. I am not a police officer. I am not a doctor. I am not a firefighter. I don’t put my life on the line day in and day out for the betterment of society. It was my choice NOT to. Well, perhaps that’s not the whole truth.

I wanted to remained hidden but noticed at the same time. I want to add value to others rather than be a burden.

But…

I’m a person with not just one disability but two. For these reasons, I feel like I am less than a whole human being. Inferior to those who are able-bodied.

For these reasons, I feel like a coward and not a hero. I will always be that one to slow others down, or the first to be killed.

And that scares me beyond anything. No, not of death…but to be cause of death of countless of others who come in contact with me.

Instead of coming to people’s rescue, or helping the wounded or the afflicted, I choose to turn away and flee. Not for my benefit but for theirs.

I fear that my disabilities would hurt others more than it would help them. I much rather sacrifice myself so that they would have the time and opportunity to get to safety. To save themselves. To live.

Does that make me a coward?

So be it.

A Call for Guest Posts (Do you have an inspiring story to share with others?)

guest blog

Are you in the Creative Arts industry (or you know someone who is) and have overcome difficult challenges (due to disability/disease/hardships) to achieve a specific dream?   I’d love to hear your story!  Go to the Contact page and send an overview of what you like to share with readers who may be struggling themselves to give them hope in that they too can achieve their dreams.

Can’t wait to hear from you!