This is a pretty specific gift idea and it’s only for ladies who are blind or visually-impaired.  Sorry to be exclusive on this one, but once you read more, you’ll understand.

In lieu of exchanging presents this year, Joy and I have decided to give each other the gifts of travel, mental health, and personal growth all rolled into one.  Merry Christmas!!! Continue reading

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Giselle in between her guide dog Muesli and dog Max. Both dogs are looking at each other.

I am thrilled to introduce you to Giselle, a college student from San Diego, who I met during guide dog training.  She graduated with her guide, Museli, the same day I graduated with Roja, and I have hilarious memories of our weekly trips to Sephora, Ulta and the Mack counter during our 2 weeks of training in San Rafael.

Our fab Resident Advisor., Mick, drove us to whatever stores we “needed” to go to, along with our tagalong classmate, Dale, who was basically there to provide comical entertainment.  The image of Dale and Mick spraying different colognes in Ulta while guessing the name of each scent, along with Dale unknowingly walking behind the checkout counter as if he were an employee still makes me laugh out loud. Continue reading

Boy did I have fun with the first graders at Holy Family School!  They asked Joy questions and she let them pet me!  They were so gentle, and I felt like a furry rock star.  I hope Joy brings me back to that school again sometime!

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Joy and Roja sitting in front of a group of children seated on the floor, during a question/asnwer time at the end of the presentations.

Do you know what I DON’T like?

Antlers.

I’m assuming this is another one of Joy’s ideas, similar to the Halloween cowardly lion abomination.   I guess I’ll cooperate in honor of Christmas.  Just as long as I don’t have to pull any sleighs.  That’s where I draw the line.  Dogs have their dignity to uphold, you know.

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Roja wearing a headband with antlers sticking up into the air.

I have always been proud of the fact that, though legally blind, I can find missing items better than fully sighted people.  My husband will literally spend an hour looking for his keys, and after 5 minutes of asking me,  I have them in my hands.  A friend once lost her wallet within her large purse and spent 45 minutes looking for it.  On a whim, I asked if I could try searching through her purse for the wallet.  Within 30 seconds of me feeling around, I found her wallet.  These aren’t lone incidents either. When my kids can’t find something, I’m the one they come to for help.

Along with finding lost items, I also pride myself on the fact that not much gets past me.  I can be downstairs cleaning the floor yet I know exactly what my girls are doing upstairs.  I run an after-school program out of my house, and the other day I told one of the kids to stop waving something in another child’s face even though he was out of my line of vision.  They joke that I have secret eyes all over.
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Many of you who follow Doublevisionblog on Facebook see all of Roja’s updates, but for those who aren’t Facebook fans, here are a couple recent posts and pictures that include Roja.

December 1st, 2015

December 1st started out rough for Roja’s household, beginning with an ER visit at 1:30am after months of my 9-year-old’s off-and-on stomach issues culminated into a scary mess. Fearing appendicitis, after talking to Lucy’s doctor, my husband took her in while I stayed with our sleeping 5-year-old. Not able to sleep, I paced the house and finally knelt on my knees in my bedroom. Updates from Ben were scarce, and I finally called his cell in desperation, just to hear my baby screaming hysterically in the background as the nurses poked her for the 8th time trying to find the right vein for the IV. I quickly hung up the phone and sobbed, wanting to be there with her and also not wanting to hear or know any of it. My nerves got the best of me and my body began shaking uncontrollably. 

And that’s when I heard the whack of a tail inside the dog crate next to me. Realizing Roja was awake, I opened the crate and she ran out and nuzzled into me with the fiercest hug she has ever given me. The time was 4am and the people in my life who would normally bring words of comfort were all sleeping, so my nerves were calmed by wags of comfort instead. I was able to doze off for several minutes before the next update. CT scan showed no inflammation near the appendix and the IV was replenishing fluids. Of course, in true ER fashion, the full test results took hours to come in and she wasn’t released until late morning. 

So this morning Roja and I set off on our 5 block walk to Walgreens for homecoming supplies, aided by my favorite 5-year-old helper who had convinced me to keep her home from school to wait for big sissy. Our main mission was carpet cleaner and more paper towels to help with the scary mess, as well as soup and jello. As we walked back with our small load of supplies, Roja turned at the wrong curve on the river walk, and I at first reprimanded her. But then my 5-year-old pointed out that we were right in front of a manger scene decoration that our town had just put up. I knelt down with my Walgreens bag and gave Roja a pat. I was reminded that, even on hard days like this, when you’re just a helpless mom who doubts her actions and has no idea how to help her sick child, there are still small moments to be thankful for. 

I used to think my new companion was placed in my life solely to be my eyes, but I am beginning to realize that it’s more than that. Roja leads me to the important things that I tend to forget about when I’m consumed with my own worries and sorrows, like the upcoming holiday and the hope and love that it brings. That little glimpse of gratitude and hope gave me what I needed to greet Lucy, as she returned home with her battle wounds, ready to tell me her war stories while holding up her bandaged arms and hand. I could confidently face her and say, “Sweetie, we still have no idea what’s going on with that tummy of yours, but we will figure it out and get you back to your happy, healthy self.”

P.S. I can tell Lucy is truly my daughter when, between bouts of pain, she is busily writing a story about her trip to the hospital for a school assignment tomorrow.  ‪#‎thatsmygirl

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I’ve always loved fashion, and I always will.  From trendy mishaps like the Blossom-inspired hats of my tween years, to the time I co-owned and operated Mapel Boutique, fashion has been an important part of my life.  But as my vision continues to deteriorate, I’ve often wondered how my relationship with fashion will be affected.  Can people still love fashion without sight? After chatting with fashion diva, Joy Ross, I know the answer is absolutely positively YES.  Not only is Joy Ross adorable, but she embodies everything I love about fashion – a strong sense of self expression and effortless style.

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Coco Chanel Continue reading

It was a bleak Seattle winter morning several years ago, and I shivered as I climbed into the yellow taxi cab.  I was dreading my appointment at the WA Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) for many reasons, but I had finally decided to see what kind of services might be helpful to me.  They had sent me a voucher for the taxi ride, so that transportation to DSB would be direct and free.

I handed the voucher to the cab driver, and noticed him eyeing me suspiciously in the rear view mirror.  I glanced down at the time on my phone to make sure I would be to my appointment on time.  When I looked back up, I saw that he was once again glancing at me in the rear view mirror.

I instructed myself to stop being paranoid, and focused on checking Facebook updates on my phone for the remainder of the ride.  As the driver pulled into the DSB parking lot, he asked in a thick Indian accent, “So, are you blind?”

I wasn’t expecting his question, so I paused briefly before saying, “Um…yes, I have a rare eye disease that is causing me to lose my sight.”

He did not say anything back to me, but shook his head from side to side, and made a “tisk, tisk tisk” sound, like he was tapping his tongue on the roof of his mouth.  I instantly felt my face flush with embarrassment.  I wasn’t sure if he was pitying me or shaming me.  I was relieved to step out of the taxi and out of the driver’s seemingly judgmental presence.  I didn’t give the incident further thought until recently when I read For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind. Continue reading

 
1. You hear yourself telling your 5-year-old to “Hop up!” when she is lagging behind.

2. While doing sighted guide with your spouse you find yourself patting him on the arm at every corner, saying “Good boy!” 

3. You open your wallet and, instead of cash, find kibble.

4. When you pick up your cane you instinctively give it a “forward” command.

5. You tell your friends you are going to “do your business” as you head to the lavatory.  

I met Amy via an online Retinitis Pigmentosa support group, and we instantly connected.  Reading this post, I think you’ll see why!  She writes an awesome blog and has a memoir that I’m looking forward to reading.  This is one of my favorite posts because it discusses the spectrum of blindness and how many people with vision loss do not appear so.

 

By Amy L. Bovaird

Real-Blind-Person-1024x1024Look at the picture. Who would you guess the blind one is?

You might think it’s the second photo because there is a little part of a cane sticking up. The truth is … each one of us in the photo is blind.

Blindness can’t be measured on a set of scales with a needle, one pointing to BLIND and the other SIGHTED. Yet, it’s often believed that it’s like that. Either you can see or you can’t. So when onlookers see an individual using a white cane, many times the thought that accompanies it is, “that person can’t see anything.”

But then the same blind person looks at a watch, checks messages on a cell phone, looks both ways when crossing the street, makes eye contact with the onlooker, orders off a table menu, walks around a number of barriers while dragging the cane behind, or simply smiles at him or herself in a mirror.

You can see! You’re faking it. You just want attention. You must want a free bus pass. You’re playing tricks. Snea-ky!  Hey, look this way. And the most famous response is … But you don’t LOOK blind!

People have often voiced these thoughts aloud to me – much later, of course when they can laugh at their misconceptions. Sometimes strangers even voice these thoughts out loud. While it might seem strange, some vision-impaired people may unconsciously follow these same fallacies. I don’t look blind. AM I faking it? Are people going to think I am? I struggled with it certainly. That’s one reason it is so hard to pick up a cane and use it.

Those who are not familiar with blindness often have a certain idea in their minds of what a blind person looks like. When I ask them what that is, their response might be, “Someone with thick glasses.”  The answers vary; sometimes silence follows.

The truth is, you can’t tell if someone is blind by looking.

I’ve had people try to “catch” me by snapping their fingers quickly to see if I notice the movement. It’s equivalent to “Look at me! Gotcha!”

I wonder why people want to catch us. What’s in it for them?

When I trained in Orientation and Mobility, I learned that “blindness” encompasses a whole continuum of varying degrees of sight to no sight. A lot of people are visually-impaired and no one even knows their struggle because they have enough vision to get around without a cane or a guide dog. But the struggle is real.

Yes, some people can make eye contact. Some can’t.

Some can look you straight in the eye one moment then turn around and spill a large glass of water the next. There’s a gap in their peripheral, or side, vision. Some can see where you’re standing, but not your hands. So you go to shake a hand and the person stands there unaware. “What a snob,” the thought is. Another gap.

In Erie, Pennsylvania, where I live, there are about 290,000 citizens. 15 % of those people are legally blind. That means there are about 43,500 people who cannot see what a typical person should be able to see. That’s a lot of people!

I never minded people thinking I was clumsy or air-headed. It was an easy blame. It was much harder to admit I couldn’t see. Maybe you know someone who is having some struggles. Maybe it’s his or her vision. Be kind. And if you see someone with a cane, don’t “test” them. Don’t “wonder.” It’s hard to pick up a cane, believe me.  If I wanted attention or a free bus pass, I could solve that in other ways.

Today’s truth: blindness is a continuum with a large span between legally blind and completely blind. There is no one look to being blind. – you can tweet this.

Do you know anyone who is visually-impaired or blind? If you could ask them one question about their vision, what would it be?

Amy3-4Bio

Amy Bovaird is an educator, an inspirational speaker and author of the bestselling memoir, Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith. Although Amy suffers from a dual —progressive vision and hearing loss—she continues to enjoy running, hiking and traveling. She also supports local and national animal rescue organizations. Amy blogs about international travel and the challenges she faces as she loses more vision and hearing. But more importantly, she shares the lessons God reveals to her through her difficulties. You can read about her experiences at http://amybovaird.com
Other ways to connect with Amy:

Facebook page

Author Facebook page

Amazon kindle, paperback and Large Print

Signed copy of book

Audio sample (book coming soon!)