Friday, October 30, 2015

Pantera

Today is my first guide dog's birthday. (October 30, 1995 - March 22, 2008.) She lived a long, beautiful life doing what she loved -- serving and helping. She had grit, tenacity and emerged as a strong, driven guide dog. She was focused and loved to work. She helped me do a lot in my 30's with grit and tenacity and focus. She also gave me much confidence as a visually impaired wife, mother, and grad student. As I celebrate her life today, I am going to try to stay focused and get some much needed tasks accomplished :).
She was 'dog of honor' at Meg, her puppy raiser's wedding.
The picture above is the night before she died - sitting on the floor with Cricket. I love this picture because it really represents Pantera. She was classy up until the day she died. As I retired her, she stepped back and graciously let Cricket take over guide dog duties. It was like she shared her wisdom with her.

A few nights ago I led a support group for GDB:  Paws and Remember.  We ended with this quote that represents Pantera.  She gave me strength and courage.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,
whle loving someone deeply gives you courage. -- Lao Tzu


Monday, October 26, 2015

Bring your love

I've been thinking about a client years ago from the Moran Eye Center. He was 92 years old and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit him in his home as well as call him each week. I learned a lot from him. He lived a very simple life. When I called he would pick up the phone on the first ring and let me know he had been waiting for my call. He would put the phone to his tape player so I could hear the music he was listening to and would share what he knew about the artist. Our visits were delightful and a reminder to appreciate life and the simple joys in the day. He was so appreciative with my calls and visits. I remember his 'end table' where he kept his magazines, his magnifier and his tape player was a cardboard box. I knew on the other hand, he was generous with his money helping and giving to others. One day when I called him letting him know I would be coming for a visit with my guide dog, Pantera, I asked him what I could bring for lunch. His response has stayed with me for many years. He said, Becky, just bring your love. I recall asking him what did he say. He repeated himself - Just bring your love. I don't need anything else. He taught me again on that day. I did bring him a sandwich as well and we ate it in his apartment. After we were finished, he walked down to the front of his apartment building with me while I waited for my cab. He brought with him a couple magazines. As we went outside he set his magazines on the ledge before he sat down on them. He planned to enjoy the sunshine for a while before going back inside. As I got in the cab, I waved to him. I didn't want to leave him. He had reminded me to Appreciate. to Give. to Slow Down. to be present. to Just bring love. This was my last visit before he died. I reflect on him often and grateful for him in my life and what he taught me.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bloom

I posted this on our work facebook page -- like us at Resilient Solutions, Inc. and we have had so many 'likes' and 'shares'. Love its message!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

LOL

I love to laugh. Most of the time I see the positive and joy in the situation. I love life.  That isn't to say there isn't challenges.  Life is not easy.  However, I have found seeing the joy, the positive, the humor in each day brings lightness and gratitude.  This doesn't always come right away.  Sometimes we need a little distance.

Today as Steve was dropping me off to work he commented on them removing the big tree in front of the office.  I said -- I didn't know there was a big tree in front of the office!  For some reason we both found this funny and had a good laugh.  We could have cried that I didn't see the landscape around the office ... humor felt right.  I took a picture of Georgie by the area where the tree had been dug up :).
Another funny story.  I arrived at the office yesterday.  I went inside the breakroom to gather some items for the day.  Georgie walked into the room with her bed.  She knows the routine.  On this particular morning I was earlier than usual and it was a time when I didn't have scheduled appointments. One of my colleagues uses the office but wasn't there so Georgie went into the room.  While I was upstairs my colleague went in with her client to the office and they started their session.  A few moments later they realized that Georgie was in the corner on her bed.  My colleague reassured her client that Georgie was great at keeping everything confidential :).  I needed to walk across the street so after a few moments I knocked on the door and requested I get my transportation :).  

May you have a weekend of joy and laughter.  My colleague sent me a text encouraging my weekend to have brave and playful in it.  It is so fun to be a part of a team of therapists!  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Shopping Experience

We have been enjoying Cricket the past week while her family is in Hawaii.  I love how Georgie likes to have something in her mouth for picture time :).  Even in their playfulness - feel such a deepn sense of gratitude for these two and their gift of love and service to me and my family.

Last night I had such an amazing time with three great friends:  Lisa, Monica and Lisa.  We met at Blue Lemon for dinner - fantastic food and beautiful night sitting outside.  Then, we had a shopping appointment with Alicia Richmond - Chic on a Shoestring.  It was so much fun!  We started at Macy's.  We all had a dressing room and Georgie was in the middle - so cute, wish I had of gotten a picture!  We laughed, danced, tried on clothes and Alicia helped us know what styles worked good for each of us.  We then put our clothes on hold -- went to Ann Taylor Loft and Nordstroms and then back to Macys.  She helped us all find some really cute outfits. Not being able to see, it was so amazing to have someone give such great feedback on what to wear and not, etc.    
Some take aways from the experience.  She suggested with my size I wear fitted clothes -- avoid loose fitting styles, skirts just above the knee, skinny jeans and bright colors, avoid beige were some of what I remember.  She encouraged us to not buy something unless we absolutely loved it and felt great in it.  It was such a fun evening with great friends!  I'll post the outfits as I wear them :).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Celebrating White Cane Day

Celebrating White Cane Day.  Some words that come to mind when describing the cane and what it means to me: authenticity, freedom, independence, adventures. My phone call to the blind center to begin cane training (orientation and mobility) came after I walked into a stop sign in 1996. Yep. I guess I needed to be smacked in the head to know it was time. I was walking along the side walk - took a little short cut across the grass and ... bam. Several stitches later it was a wake up call that it was time to seek out the help that could help me be safe and independent. I needed a cane for my own safety, independence  and also so others could be aware.

I learned to walk throughout Salt Lake City and began to regain my confidence.  Just what I needed as a young mom.  I felt empowered.  I learned to cross streets safely, navigate through crowds, assertively ask for help, and orient myself in new surroundings.  Amongst this new found freedom I also felt some awkwardness.  I will always remember a conversation with my O & M Instructor at the basement of what was then the Crossroads Mall.   I was trying to navigate the questions that were being asked to me by strangers and wondering if I really needed this cane. (Seriously, Becky - so many examples of your need for a cane!) She was patient with me.  She asked me:  Did I feel more confident and able to go out and be independent with the cane?  YES.  We talked about the time that I had walked into the lone woman sitting on the soccer field because I did not see her and how difficult that was to explain and apologize.  A cane would alleviate this type of situation.  My O & M instructor then said,  Well I think you need to be true to yourself and use this tool that will help you live an active, independent life.  Done.  She was right.  I didn't need any more run ins with people or objects to remind me of the need for the cane.  I needed to get out there and enjoy life. The white cane was going to be a very helpful tool for me to do that.

One of my favorite stories about the cane. I was working at the Moran Eye Center: I got on the elevator with my cane and navigated my way inside, turned around to push the button to the desired floor. A man on the elevator began to question my 'blindness' -- asking why I needed a cane if I could find the elevator button. To his surprise, my opthalmologist - retina specialist was on the elevator and found the conversation very amusing.   He knew my lack of vision and was thrilled I was finally using a cane!

The cane became an opportunity to grow - to do what was right and helpful to me and embrace my blindness and who I am.  I don't use it a lot as the majority of the time for the past 18 years I walk with my guide dog.  However, there are those times where it is amazing to have it in my purse to help navigate in a new situation or  a place where I don't have my guide dog.  I will always appreciate the white cane and the freedom, independence it has given me and so many others.  Happy White Cane Day.
Becky with white cane at the American Mother's Convention.  (Cricket, my second guide dog had retired and  I was soon leaving for training with Georgie.)
Becky with white cane at a stop while on a tandem bike ride.  I usually have it strapped on the bike.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Disability is one part of who I am

Resilient Solutions, Inc. is approaching its ten-year anniversary!  I am super excited to celebrate this milestone.  Ten years ago we were remodeling - pulling up flooring, creating a break room, adding cabinets, repainting -- working lots of late nights to make our dream happen. The furniture arrived in the morning and I saw clients that evening.  I am so grateful to be doing just what I love and fun to be thinking of a way to celebrate!

The theme of National Disability Employment Month is:  My disability is one part of who I am.  -- Love it.  We have set up some simple adaptations at the office to help with my disability - visual impairment.  Its just an attribute of who I am and is rarely a discussion with my clients after the first visit when I explain why there is a sweet dog usually sleeping in the corner. It's just part of who I am.  My colleagues and I laugh about some of the humor in blindness.

Before becoming blind myself, I didn't know a lot of people who were blind.  At the age of 18 as I was diagnosed I began to meet people who were blind.  I quickly learned they were engaged in various careers, multitude of different interests and activities and many leading active, busy lives.   Today I have many, many friends who are blind.  As the theme says -- Their disability is one part of who they are.

Over the years of my career I have had many experiences of employment and my disability.  Many wonderful experiences and others not so much.  I have learned a lot from both and each time the not so much experiences have occurred I have tried to learn how better to respond next time.  I believe each of these experiences have helped me become a better employer, advocate for myself and others and hopefully a kinder more understanding person.  I am grateful for the many opportunities that I have had to educate others and learn myself.  I reflect on the many wonderful conversations, presentations, and discussions I have had as people have wanted to learn more.

Then, there are those unique situations that fall into the following definition of stereotype - which if you've experienced it you know it feels very different.

In Brene Brown's new book:  Rising Strong, she identifies a stereotype as the following:  stories we make up based on our own lack of knowledge and experience, or stories handed down to us by people who had little exposure or understanding.  

As I read this quote by Brene Brown an experience that occurred several years ago came to mind.  We were in a meeting with all the other business owners in our complex.  As I recall there was eight men and me.  We were receiving an update on the maintenance of the building, etc.  Suddenly, the one speaking stopped and directed his question at me-- Did you have surgery on your eyes?  It was totally out of context and so I was surprised and searching for how to answer this personal and what felt totally inappropriate question at the time.  I had previous interesting encounters with him where he had questioned my blindness.  However, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe he had heard of some treatment he wanted to share.  I smiled and quickly said, "No there is not a surgery that treats Retinitis Pigmentosa at this time."  Hoping that he would move on.  Instead in the middle of this meeting with the other business owners of the building,  he began to press me further.  Noting that he had seen me 'skipping out to the mailbox'.  Surely I must not be blind.  I was put in a situation where I was explaining Retinitis Pigmentosa - my limited amount of vision and feeling very shamed in the way I was being treated.  Besides Steve speaking up and being my advocate no one in this meeting said a word during this dialogue.  As the conversation moved back to the agenda items I reflected on how I could handle that type of situation better next time and also giggled inside thinking a little bit about being called out for 'skipping to the mailbox.'

In the years to come, I continued to be friendly and say hi to him.  One time after I said hi -- he questioned me on how I knew he was coming.  After I received an award, he came up and said that he was shocked!  No matter how hard I tried,  I could not help him get past his own misunderstandings and story of what blindness/visual impairment looked like.  He was either questioning my blindness because I was skipping to the mailbox or feeling like I was amazing because I was recognized in my profession. At one conversation where he was further questioning me, I boldly told him to stop. Sigh ...

Incase, you are wondering the mailbox is an easy straight walk out from our office.  You can easy skip while trailing the curb.  Also, if someone is walking by me I am going to smile and say hi -- you don't need to recognize or see to be able to do so.

Years later I would have answered his question briefly and been much more assertive on saying, let's get back to the matters we are discussing as business owners.  I also recognize that he was one that no matter how much educating I did -- he was not open to learning or changing the crazy story he had made up in his mind of what 'blindness' looked like.

At times as I may tell one of my colleagues who knows this story that I am going out to get the mail .. they may say:  No Skipping :).  We laugh.   He can't take away my skip or smile.    


  

Monday, October 5, 2015

WE GOT THIS!!

What a wonderful extended weekend! Thursday morning started with this article in the newspaper: Blind Bountiful Woman thrives as an athlete ...  (I had to smile - I grew up cheering my amazing brothers on in their athletic endeavors - never thought of myself as an athlete.) I'll embrace it, right! Thank you to Rick Egan/photographer and videographer and Kristen Moulton/reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune.  It was a fun experience and wonderful to hear from people!

Then, staff meeting at Resilient Solutions, Inc. followed by seeing a few clients before Steve and I were on our way to St. George to meet Scott and Alanna and their family for the weekend.   Alanna and I had signed up to run the St. George Marathon.  A foot injury had gotten in the way of much of my training.  First, some time off to see if that would help it mend, then eventually the doctor put me in a boot for a four weeks.  During this time, I was cycling on the tandem when I could with Steve and going to the gym to my class (thank you Jenny!!).  The past few weeks I had experienced no pain in my foot and was back to adding miles to see if I could possibly run atleast part of the marathon with Alanna.  I was up to 7 miles on my long run and hoping that I could add some miles on marathon day and perhaps get up to 10 miles.

I had debated about whether to start the run with Alanna or meet her for the last ten miles and run. We decided we would look at the route and see which would be the easiest place to meet up.  It gets tricky with roads closed and marathon crowds. I thought I had a better chance of keeping up with her if I met her for the last portion when she was tired :), however, I also really loved the idea of starting with her - the crazy early bus ride to the start line and waiting.

Alanna and I have become great friends.  I love her so much.  If you want to see our story - this clip captures some of our story together:  KSL Clip - Becky & Alanna

Friday morning we met Alanna and her daughter Makayla  to go to the Expo.  It was fun to be with them and feel the excitement of the marathon.  It brought back so many fun memories of our time at the NYC Marathon together. I didn't want to buy any marathon gear as I felt like I wasn't going to be doing the whole  When we looked at the map, we learned that the first place to really get picked up if I started the run was at mile 16.  This could also be the option where Steve could take me to start with Alanna and run the rest of the way.  Sixteen felt a little daunting. Alanna was super supportive and encouraging to tell me to do what felt good to me.  I didn't want to hold her back - She had trained and was ready to run a great marathon.  We left and were going to meet them for dinner.  I wasn't sure what to do.  I went back and forth feeling torn and not believing I could do the whole marathon yet also feeling like 'go for it'!

 

We met for dinner and by this time I was leaning towards meeting at mile 16 and running the last 10 miles with her.  Yet, that didn't quite feel right.   I didn't want to hold her back - have her not be able to finish if I wasn't able to.  She had trained and was ready to have a great run.  I tried to get her to agree to leave me if I couldn't finish ... not a chance!  
By the end of dinner,  I knew I needed to show up and run the marathon.  We were a team and although we would go slower than if she was going it alone ... we got this!  I felt her love and support and wanted to experience it with her.  Our sweet friend, Brenda had given us packages with yummy goodies to help along the journey.  We left dinner with the plan Steve would drive us to the bus in the morning. We would pick Alanna up at the hotel at 4:15 AM.  I tried to get myself in marathon thinking mode.  Okay, one step at a time.  You can do this.  Can I really?  I was going to show up and be brave.  I was not prepared in the typical way of training for a marathon.  All the marathons up to this point, I had followed a marked out course of how many miles to do each day/week. The following quote came to mind:  The miracle isn't that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.  -- John Bingham.  We had come across this quote when we were in Annapolis back in June when I originally had to quit training.  I would celebrate the courage to show up and enjoy the early early experience with a friend that I loved.  What would happen next, we would see.  The bus ride was probably 23 miles long - basically up the course we would come down except the part you wind down around the city.  We had fun chatting on the bus and I soon forgot that I wasn't really prepared for what I was about to do. It was chilly at the starting point and in between my potty stops (combination of drinking lots of fluids and nerves = several trips before we even started), we sat by the fire and talked further.  6:30 AM we began to inch our way to the start line.  It was still chilly and so I kept my outer layer on which covered my 'blind runner' vest.  As we started the run the runners were close together and many chances to trip over someone, I held on to Alanna's elbow.  After a couple miles, we started warming up and took off our outer layers and the run began to feel great!  We were running in stride -- hearing the footsteps of all the runners on the pavement.  LOVE that sound of runners in sync together.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  So many other runners encouraged us along - you guys are amazing, one of my favorites:  awesome teamwork, even you are scensational.  It does take a lot of teamwork and working together.  

A few miles further we began to run with a woman that started to talk to us.  It turns out her young grandson, age one, was blind.  She was such a loving grandma concerned and hoping he would have a good life.  We chatted for a few miles sharing our stories, ideas and encouraging her that indeed he could have a wonderful life.  We ran together until the next stop visiting.  As we got our next cup of gatorade, we hugged.  At the moment, I thought what if I hadn't of shown up.  She may not have run by the side of us and talked to us without my blind runner vest on.  After our conversation I was energized to run further.  

Along the way, so many other runners spoke to us.  The blind runner vest does bring out conversation in others.  One man told us he was running his first and last marathon to cross it off his bucket list.  Another woman was on her 37th run.  

Near mile 16 where Steve and Scott and family were, a woman had homemade cookies and candy.  That chocolate chip cookie tasted so good!  Having our family there gave us such an energy boost.  Steve asked me if I was going to continue on -- YES!  We got this, I said! We were still making decent time.  

Greeting Alanna's family at Mile 16.  Steve is taking picture. 
Trying to smile with a cookie in my mouth :).

The extras at the stops were amazing -- icy/hot and quick 10 second massages for our sore muscles, cold washcloths near mile 25 and kind people cheering us on all the way.  How can we not feel like "WE GOT THIS" with that kind of support.

Steve, Scott and their kids were near mile 26 and the boys ran with us to the finish line. Such an amazing day ... so glad I had the courage to show up and had amazing support of a woman I so love and admire -- thanks, Alanna.