Thursday, December 31, 2015

Keep Going .. the Victories will come

At the beginning of 2015 Steve and I were driving home from St. George chatting about our hopes, dreams, plans for the new year.  I was beginning training for the Boston Marathon and Steve was anticipating some changes in his career.  I love the start of a new year!  One of my goals in 2015 was to write.  I had felt compelled to write my story.  So, after spending time trying to put it on paper; my daughter introduced me to Amy who has spent the last year helping me write my story.  We have spent time each week talking and reviewing different aspects of my life.  We've talked about victories, struggles, difficult times, funny experiences, times of persistence, grit, and lots of celebrations of life.    I didn't expect it to be such an amazing journey.  I have cheered on the younger Becky.  One day between clients, Amy sent me a draft of some writing.  As I read it, I started to cry.  I have gained a greater appreciation of writing and sharing our story ... even if it is simply for ourselves.  I've struggled with feeling like -- who do I think I am for wanting to write it down to owning and celebrating my story.  As we finish the year 2015, I had hoped it would be finished.  I've learned its a lot longer process than I realized.  I've learned patience.  It's coming.  Yesterday in the mail, a check for $20 came with an article I had written published in the Dialogue.  As the title says ... Keep Going -- the Victories will come.  This story is about my Boston Marathon experience.  I know as we keep going in this writing process .. the victory of completing the book will come!!  Stay tuned and  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!   


I've copied the article down below if you'd like to read.

Keep Going – The Victories will come.  By Becky Andrews, Bountiful, Utah
April 20, 2015.  It was a dream come true.  I was at the Boston Marathon with nearly 30,000 other runners.  There were 40 blind/visually impaired runners,  including 25 from our Team with a Vision.
Excitement was in the air.  It was raining and chilly, and I’d been up for hours,  yet my heart was warm with anticipation and gratitude for this moment.  As a visually impaired runner, I could have one guide on the course with me.  Brenda would begin the course and Suzette would run the second half. I felt tears coming to my eyes as Brenda and I approached the starting line and the announcer saying:  Welcome to the Boston Marathon…”
  I stayed near Brenda as we began to run.  It was so crowded with all the runners that we ran sighted guide.  We began to get in a stride and I reflected further on this amazing experience.   
            So much work had led to this moment including,  three marathons I’d already run to qualify for Boston.   There had been injuries along the way including a broken foot, a broken toe and an IT Band injury.  My guides and I had completed weeks of preparation and juggled work and family schedules to meet the commitments of long runs. 
             I loved hearing the sound of the runners’ feet hitting the pavement – that collective sound of individual training and preparation.  People were cheering from the sidelines – “You got this,” they called, “Thank you for coming to Boston, You can do this!”  It was inspiring to hear so many people cheering for others – most of whom they did not know.    
When I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa almost 32 years ago, it felt like many doors were closing in my life.   I felt overwhelmed and frightened, but learned to take each challenge as it came.  I thought about my journey of vision loss and how much it had been like a marathon.  Take it a step at a time.  Prepare as much as you can.  There will be times of hitting a ‘wall’ and feeling overwhelmed.  Be open-minded.  Listen to your heart.  Have faith.  Find the people around that will you support you and cheer you on.  Keep going.  The victories will come.   
As we continued to run, the rain changed from a drizzle to a downpour back to a drizzle with some wind.  We were making good time as the miles clicked by.  We navigated through the runners to reach our pace.  Brenda guided me as we ran, “To you right, diagonal to the left”  she’d say as we weaved through other runners and enjoyed the journey. We soon realized navigating through the puddles was impossible. 
Music played from speakers along the course.  At one point in the run we heard the song, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.  When I had been training with my third guide dog, Georgie, the year prior, this son had been playing in the van each morning as we waited to go on our route.  I couldn’t help but smile to think of my Georgie and I felt such gratitude for all three of my guide dogs:  Pantera, Cricket, and Georgie who have helped me navigate safely for the past 18 years.  Literally, being able to walk safely again helped me believe that I could run again, too.
  The crowd of runners had thinned as Suzette and I began to run, so we were able to use the tether.  Suzette was not only running as my eyes but also supporting me as I began to feel some physical fatigue of the marathon journey.  She offered some Gatorade, water, or other energy food.  As we ran, Suzette described what was around us – beautiful homes, signs from spectators, and other landmarks along the journey.   
At mile 15, Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline” was playing. Just two nights before my family and I had  enjoyed a baseball game at Fenway Park and had sung this song with the crowd.  As we continued to run, I sang the words in my head, as I’m sure many other runners were doing, too.  As we reched the point in the song, “So Good, So Good, So Good, “ we all sang out together.  This was so good.  I reflected on how hard times such as running a marathon bring such blessings and great experiences as well.  I found myself again thinking about the journey of losing my vision from Retinitis Pigmentosa.  The lessons, experiences, blessings, friendships have far outweighed the loss.      
Near mile 24 on the crest of a hill we had stopped to walk for a minute when, we heard our support team calling our names.  They lifted my spirits and reminded me that I could get to that finish line.  As we rounded the corner to run on Boylston Street to the finish line, the joy of the moment surpassed the exhaustion and physical pain I was feeling.  I had run the Boston Marathon.   I was wet and cold but my heart was warm and grateful for those who had shared it with me.






Monday, December 21, 2015

A great day

I didn't have clients scheduled today until 1 PM so it was a perfect day to catch an Uber downtown to City Creek and pick up a few last minute Christmas gifts.  I walked outside my door as the Uber driver notified he was there.  He greeted me warmly and Georgie and I got in the back seat.  I enjoy hearing the Uber driver's stories of what led them to driving.  This driver was retired and just wanted to earn some extra money and help people.  I told him the Uber is almost like being able to drive again.  We returned a few calls on our way to City Creek.  I was a little nervous not sure if it was going to be a crazy busy day -- hopeful that we were going first thing and we might miss the crowd.   asked him to drop me off between Blue Lemon and Deseret Book -- an easy drop off spot and a place we are familiar with as our starting point.   Georgie and I walked to our first stop - Gap.  We had a shirt on hold.  We know the layout of City Creek well, now.   I told Georgie inside when we were near the Gap entrance -- then find the counter where we asked for some assistance.  We don't do a lot of browsing as much as focus on what we are looking for.  We love when we get a sales associate that is super helpful and willing to be our eyes around the store!  In Nordstrom I wanted to find Steve a sweater/shirt.  I walked into Nordstrom -- to the men's department (find the counter, Georgie) and we asked for some assistance.  It turns out the sales associate's father had recently lost his vision, and we had such a wonderful conversation.  We chatted all about guide dogs, different helps available and she told me I had given her so much hope.  Not sure about that ... but it was fun.  We called an Uber to go back to the office for afternoon/evening clients. As Georgie and I entered the Resilient Solutions, Inc. the waiting area was busy.  Each time I walk into the waiting area and people are waiting, I find myself so grateful.  I envisioned this ten years ago.  Two of my colleagues today gave me sweet gifts for Christmas -- I am so grateful to work with such an incredible group of people that are such great friends.  It was a busy day at the office -- many of my colleagues were fitting in clients before the holiday week began.  Resilient Solutions occupies a downstairs and upstairs office suite. Each office was full both upstairs and downstairs.

Throughout the day I managed my own clients and also questions/discussions with my colleagues and office management.  I have found some nice techniques that have helped me do it all as a therapist, office manager who is blind.  I love it.  At one point in the day, one of my colleagues had their insurance paperwork.  She began to hand it to me to ask some questions.  "I need your help with question #4 she said."  A brief moment of hesitation and then I asked .. and can you help me know what question 4 says.  She laughed and said oh yeah, I forget you are blind.  She read me the question and we discussed the way to best answer that question.

I reflected on one of my own sessions that day with a client.  This adolescent client was having a particularly tough day with the challenges of anxiety.  I explained the concept of self-compassion .. giving ourselves the same love, empathy and support that we would do a dear friend.  I then asked her to write a letter to herself.  Dear ________ -- I left the room as I had many times with this assignment.  This assignment is one that often the client questions .. you want me to do what?  Afterwards, the wisdom/kindness inside comes as they write.  When I returned I invited her to read her letter.  Something about saying it outloud can be helpful -- for us to hear our words.  As she read her letter, it wasn't kind or compassionate to herself.  It was what she was telling herself -- come on -- I can't believe you -- what's your problem, etc.  We talked a little more about Self-Compassion and what it looked like and how it felt when someone else gave us that and how it gives us space to move forward in a gentle, encouraging way.  I again  invited her to write a letter to herself.  I left the room to give her time to write.  As I returned she had written her letter and was enthusiastic to share.  It was encouraging, understanding, supportive for her journey and struggles.  I then asked her a question -- Which letter gives you more space and encouragement to go to school tomorrow?  Which letter gives you less anxiety?  Without hesitation, the second letter -- the one of compassion.  She tore up the first letter and took the second letter home to remember.  

I find myself so grateful to be in a space of experiencing others' growth, empowerment, and healing.

I left my office grateful for life and the opportunities that are mine each day.  While I was waiting for Steve to pick me up and was one of the last one's downstairs, I sprayed some Cranberry Febreze in the office.  Loved the fresh scent.  I smiled as I recalled one of the most embarrassing moments in the office for me.  I was spraying some Febreze without my cane and guide dog was in my office lying down.  I get pretty comfortable in familiar surroundings.  I didn't think anyone was in the waiting area .. spraying away the Febreze when suddenly, I got really close to a woman waiting for her therapist.  Yikes!!  I apologized, explained my situation and was so grateful she didn't get sprayed with Febreze!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Retreat for Women who are blind/visually impaired or diagnosed with an eye condition.

**I am so excited about this upcoming event we have planned!  If you know a woman that is blind or visually impaired that might like to join us, please share!!    

Daring to Own Your Story
A retreat for women
(who are blind or visually impaired)

Why attend a retreat specifically for visually impaired women? At times when facing vision loss, many women may feel isolated because they often don't know anyone who shares their unique challenges. This retreat is an opportunity to connect and share stories with other women experiencing vision loss.  You will also leave with empowering tools and new insight through the Brene Brown, www.brenebrown.com -- www.thedaringway.com,  experiential activities. This retreat is an experience to truly own and celebrate who you are and your story. 

Becky Andrews, LCMHC and Nicole Wall, LCMHC will lead you on an amazing journey of connection, learning, growth, adventure and laughter. 

Becky Andrews, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and owner and clinical Director of Resilient Solutions, Inc (blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa).

Nicole Wall, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Certified Daring Way Facilitator. Facilitates the Daring Way Course by Brene Brown. 


Retreat size is limited to 10.  Early registration by March 1st,  $195.          .
If there is still availability after March 1,  $295

When?  Thursday June 9 5 PM – Sunday 11 AM June 12, 2016, We will also hold a getting acquainted call with everyone prior to the retreat! 

Where?  Country Inn & Suites, Bountiful, Utah.  We will also be holding part of our retreat at Becky’s home and office in Bountiful and an afternoon/evening in Salt Lake City, Utah and an optional hike early Saturday morning.  All transportation while you are at the retreat will be provided.  Transportation from the airport to the hotel is available by requesting through the hotel prior to your stay ($15 charge).  Bountiful is 15 miles from SLC Airport. 


A special thank you to Joy Thomas and Jenelle Landgraf at Doublevisionblog.com for their collaboration.  We look forward to sharing this experience together and grateful for their support.  You can visit their blog at www.doublevisionblog.com and watch this amazing video that will give you further insight on our retreat: http://doublevisionblog.com/2015/10/01/1447/

Retreat Details:   

Retreat Includes: Retreat Thursday 5 PM – Sunday 10 AM.
Meals included:  Thursday Dinner/ Friday & Saturday Lunch and Saturday dinner.  Breakfast will be included at the hotel each morning. Friday evening after activities in Salt Lake City, we will eat at City Creek together – Attendees will purchase their own meal for this evening.  Additional optional activities include:  temple square garden tour, Sephora make-up session, and a hike to Ensign Peak. 

To reserve your room, call the hotel, 801.292.8100 and indicate Resilient Solutions rate.  The rate is $99/room and will be available Wed, June 8 – Monday, June 13.  Website:  http://hotels.countryinns.com/ut/bountiful/hotels_bountiful_ut_utwestb.html

You can have your own room or choose to share with another woman attending the retreat.  

Airfare, travel expenses, and hotel are the responsibility of the attendees. 

We are so excited to share in this experience.  If you have further questions, please feel free to contact Becky at becky.lpc@gmail.com.

We are grateful for Resilient Solutions, Inc for lending their office space.  www.resilientsolutionsinc.com

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Please send check payable to Oasis Center for Hope, $195 before March 1st to RSI, Attn:  Becky 1355 N. Main, Ste.1, Bountiful, Utah 84010 and this form.  If you would prefer to pay by Credit Card, email the following information to Becky and she will call to get credit card information.

Name _______________________________  Phone ________________

Email _________________________ Preferred way to receive information: 

Print/Digital/Braille ______________________­­­­­­­­­__




Saturday, December 12, 2015

A friend who believed in me

I am having so much fun creating a 'memory book' of the journey of building Resilient Solutions, Inc.. Meet my friend, Kris Plummer, LCSW. She played such an important role in my profession and is a friend I treasure and SO grateful we are back working together! Twelve years ago after some wonderful experiences that had built my professional career, I was excited to start my private practice. I was interviewing with various agencies and private practices to find a good fit. After having a great conversation on the phone with a clinical director of a private practice office, I went in to finalize details. As I entered with my guide dog, he did an abrupt change to his tone when he realized I was blind with a guide dog. He went from being eager to hire me to not returning my calls. I was feeling a bit discouraged. One night Steve said let's look through (of all places!) the phonebook to find someone you can talk to. We pulled it out and we were looking at the agencies in our area. Kris' picture and name seemed to jump out from the page. I bravely called her the next day and she was SO nice and helpful. I explained my situation and she was simply encouraging and indicated she didn't see why that would make a difference at all. She helped me know who to contact in her office. She was warm, gentle, and genuine. I loved her the first time I met her. She truly helped me believe that I could be a therapist in private practice. As I opened Resilient Solutions, Inc ten years ago we definitely stayed in touch and both worked together at LDS Family Services. When I reflect back to that early time when I so wanted to be a therapist in private practice, her name always comes to mind .. she was so kind, supportive, encouraging and believed in me. We became friends and I love her. I am so grateful that for the past year we are now back working together at Resilient Solutions, Inc! She is such a wonderful friend who has supported me along the journey and is also an incredible therapist that I feel so grateful she is on our RSI team. Thank you Kris for your friendship, your mentoring, your love, and believing in me.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Reflections

Yesterday in the office amongst the pain, difficult life transitions, and loss our clients were experiencing; a message of patience was shared by many ...
Note to Self ...
Maybe the best thing you could do right now is just sit with it awhile.
Maybe the bravest thing you could do right now is just decide this will not defeat you.
Maybe the most productive thing you could do right now is just fold your hands in solitude.
Maybe the most sensible thing you could do right now is just laugh... laugh in the face of it all.
Maybe the most powerful thing you could do right now is just close your eyes and envision a positive outcome.
Maybe the most loving thing you could do right now is just give yourself room to breathe.
Maybe the best thing to do right now looks like nothing at all,
But it's not.
Because when you're gathering hope, it's patient.
Because when you're gathering strength, its quiet.
When you're gathering resilience, it's unnoticeable.
In the face of challenge and uncertainty,
Sometimes the best thing you can do right now is just hold on. --Rachel Macy Stafford, www.handsfreemamma.com

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Life Update

Congratulations Kendall!  Two time tournament winner this weekend in Arizona.  Steve and Kendall are having a nice time in Arizona with family.  Kendall was able to spend some time with a great friend, Ethan as well.  
These two girls -- Georgie and Cricket helped me get outside for a walk.  
Loved my time in Washington, DC recently with Natalie.  So grateful for the opportunities that life brings.  
Sweet Steve covered my mirror in gratitude notes.  I feel loved :).  
Cute Georgie LOVES her toys from West Paw.  They are so durable and fun.
A nice Thanksgiving dinner with Steve, Kendall, my parents, my grandma and Brad and Lori.

Life is good :).

Saturday, December 5, 2015

You can just call me Becky

Steve and I were recently at an event.  As we sat down at our table, the woman next to me leaned over and said ... how should I refer to you?  Do you like the term disabled?  For a second, I was not sure what she was talking about! (Then I recognized she saw my guide dog, Georgie.  I also recognized that she meant well and I wanted to CONNECT.)   So after a moment, I then said -- Oh, my name is Becky and yes, I am blind.  Turning to my left I said and this is my husband Steve.  She then shared her name and the conversation began to  flow. We had a lovely evening laughing and getting to know each other.  We  had so much fun sharing some of our different adventures with each other. It truly was an evening of connection.
Photo by Rick Egan/SL Tribune

I've reflected on that conversation and others throughout the years.  This week I had a phone conversation with a reporter and one of her questions was ... What would you like someone to know about interacting with a person who is blind.  In my mind for a moment I reflected on various lists that I have seen on the dos and don'ts of interacting with a person who is blind.  They have many valid points and can be helpful.  However, after a moment's hesitation and recalling this recent experience of connection -- I proceeded with --  "This may seem simple -  Just treat a person who is blind like anyone else.  Get to know me. Connect like you would with anyone else.   I have many attributes, interests and probably some things we have in common.  At times I may need some assistance and at times you do.  If you wonder, just ask me.  Be yourself, relax and just speak in your normal tone."  -- We'll see how that was interpreted and how it comes out in print.

It made me think of the need we each have to connect and reflected back to my Psychosocial Impacts of a Disability Course in Grad School (found that class fascinating!).  The challenge with a label is it doesn't create connection - it distances us from each other.  

Connection doesn't exist without giving and receiving .  We need to give and we need to need. - Brene Brown.