Joy and I took a little “holiday” from blogging at the end of 2016.  We were busy enjoying a family visit together in the Northwest filled with snow shoeing, aerial yoga with our girls (including Roja!), and ringing in the new year at “pretend midnight” for the kids and then official midnight for the adults.

Photo Description: Scenic winter picture of our family snow shoeing.

Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, mountain, sky, snow, outdoor and nature

Photo Description: Aerial yoga swings hanging from the ceiling with red mats underneath.  Roja is laying on a red yoga mat in the left corner of the picture.

Fast forward to January.  The egg nog is long gone, the holiday decor packed away, and it’s back to the routines of daily life.  In many ways it feels refreshing.  A new year offers new beginnings, and yet old habits often follow us into new years. I’m choosing to share one of my on-going challenges knowing that many of us struggle with our inner critic.  I invite you to try some self-compassion exercises along with me as a step towards a healthy 2017.

This “self-compassion lesson” begins with a story followed by some self-compassion exercises.

The sun streamed brightly through the trees, illuminating the large piles of crisp white snow as I rushed out the front  door.  I chatted distractedly with Joy on my cell while grabbing the long blue sled from the front porch and tossing my son’s after school snacks and snow gear onto it before zipping off.  Joy and I finished up our conversation as I walked the 1/2 mile to Benny’s preschool.  I quickly plucked his lunch box from the sled to prepare for his famished after school snack requests, and discovered that the bag of snow gear I had packed him was no longer in the sled.  I’ll just retrace my steps and find it on the way home, I thought, and signed Benny out of school.  I knew finding a white plastic grocery bag against white snow would be challenging, but Benny is a good little helper and I figured we’d stumble on it eventually.  But soon we were home with no bag of snow gear.  My husband. who works from home most days, had just started his lunch break and offered to take the car out and look for the missing gear.

Meanwhile, I started making lunch, but was so distracted with texting friends and neighbors about the missing items, that I forgot about the sauce simmering and burnt it to a crisp.  My husband used his entire one hour lunch break searching for the items with no luck.  I felt defeated as I recalled how much money snow gear costs, especially the brand new high quality Burton mittens that just arrived from Amazon the day before.  I could feel the tight knots in my empty stomach as I scrounged around the fridge, trying to put together a new lunch, and I snapped at my husband when he asked me a question.  He retreated back to his home office, likely relieved to escape the presence of his edgy wife.  Tears started rolling down my cheek as I thought about how much I had screwed up that day.

My pity party was interrupted by my phone ringing.  It was my Uncle Mark calling.  Joy has written about our uncle in previous posts.  He calls each day from his room at the nursing home to read us the AA prayer of the day.  Though Mark’s developmental disability keeps his mind at the age of an adolescent, his intuition often exceeds his mental capabilities.

I sniffled as I picked up the phone. “Hi, Uncle Mark.  I’m kind of having a bad day.”

I proceeded to tell him about my lost items, burnt lunch, and cranky behavior..

“I’m sorry you burnt lunch.” he stated in a flat tone.

“Thanks,” More sniffles.

“I’m sorry you lost your son’s snow pants.” he continued, still mono-tone.

A few more tears rolled down my cheek as I muttered another “thanks” into the phone.

“I’m sorry you lost your son’s hat.” he offered.  Oh man, is he going to say sorry for every damn item I lost?
I wondered to myself, feeling grumpier by the second.

“I’m sorry you lost your son’s new mittens.” he added.

I was about to mutter another bland thank you when I heard him say, “But you’re still a good mom.”  Now the hot salty tears came flooding out of my eyes as I sobbed,”Thank you, Uncle Mark! I really needed to hear that right now.”

Uncle Mark’s words cut right to the heart of why I was crying.  I wasn’t shedding tears over lost stuff, or martial tension, or burnt lunch.  I was feeling inadequate as a mom, and I was beating myself up over my mistakes.  Mark’s simple affirmation caused me to remember all that I have learned about the importance of self-compassion.  I first learned this concept from Brene Brown and Kristen Neff, and was able to put it into practice at the Daring Sisters women’s retreat last summer.  For yesterday’s fiasco, I chose to write myself a self-compassion letter, which is far less complicated and hokey than it may sound.  Other times, I’ve chosen a guided meditation.  There are lots of great tools to choose from on Dr. Neff’s website. 

Below is a step by step guide to writing a self-compassion letter that I found on Berkeley’s Greater Good In Action site.

Time Required:15 minutes. Try to do this practice once per week, or at least once per month

First, identify something about yourself that makes you feel ashamed, insecure, or not good enough. It could be something related to your personality, behavior, abilities, relationships, or any other part of your life.

Once you identify something, write it down and describe how it makes you feel. Sad? Embarrassed? Angry? Try to be as honest as possible, keeping in mind that no one but you will see what you write.

The next step is to write a letter to yourself expressing compassion, understanding, and acceptance for the part of yourself that you dislike.

As you write, follow these guidelines:

  1. Imagine that there is someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally for who you are. What would that person say to you about this part of yourself?
  2. Remind yourself that everyone has things about themselves that they don’t like, and that no one is without flaws. Think about how many other people in the world are struggling with the same thing that you’re struggling with.
  3. Consider the ways in which events that have happened in your life, the family environment you grew up in, or even your genes may have contributed to this negative aspect of yourself.
  4. In a compassionate way, ask yourself whether there are things that you could do to improve or better cope with this negative aspect. Focus on how constructive changes could make you feel happier, healthier, or more fulfilled, and avoid judging yourself.
  5. After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back to it later and read it again. It may be especially helpful to read it whenever you’re feeling bad about this aspect of yourself, as a reminder to be more self-compassionate.
 Another tip I learned from Dr. Neff is to add “I love you. I love you. I love you.” at the bottom of your letter.

Given the holiday that’s right around the corner, and the political tension in the air, I find gratitude and attitude are two words to focus on this month.

I’ll start with attitude because if that’s not in the right place, then it’s difficult to approach gratitude.  While this is by no means a ground-breaking message, I believe it is a message we need to hear again and again.

I was reminded of the impact attitude can have on life at church on Sunday.  As I scrambled into the last pew (late as usual, two rowdy kids in tow), I wondered what Pastor Denise would preach about, given the recent election.  Similar to the country at large, our congregation is divided on many topics, including the recent election.  Yet Pastor Denise chose to deliver a message about attitude.  Not exactly what I was expecting, yet exactly what I needed to hear.

The sermon reminded me of how my vision loss has given me an on-going opportunity to choose my attitude.  For example, it often takes a whole lot of juggling to figure out transportation for my kids and me, and I feel angry and discouraged that this part of my life takes so much effort.  I sometimes find myself caving to a negative attitude, grumbling ”I’ll just stay home rather than hassle with all this.”  While I allow myself to feel sad and frustrated, I don’t allow myself to stay in that space.  I choose to move forward.  I choose to participate fully in all that life has to offer.

While choosing a positive attitude is not always easy, it ultimately brings more fulfillment.

Which brings me to gratitude.  It turns out that saying “thank you” is more than just polite manners.  Expressing gratitude leads to a healthier, happier life.  All this according to research compiled by my sister, Joy.  Read all about it in her latest Crixeo article, “6 Daily Gratitude Practices That Can Change Your Life”.  Perhaps Thanksgiving should be a year round holiday – for health reasons, of course.  Bring on the turkey, gravy, and pumpkin pie! And if someone (who shall remain nameless) accidentally dumps the entire gravy bowl into the sink right as dinner is being served, choose a good attitude.

Photo Description: Turkey on a computer with a farmer walking behind him holding an ax.  The turkey has a thought bubble that reads, “I wonder what it means when the farmer unfriends me on Facebook?”

Image result for funny thanksgiving images

When you live with a rare degenerative eye disease, it can feel isolating at times, as if no one understands what it feels like to be you.  Then, one day, you open up a book and read a story that makes you feel as if you’re reading your own diary.  This is how I felt when I read Look Up, Move Forward, a recent memoir by Becky Andrews.  While the connection I felt to the author drew me in, your life doesn’t need to mirror Becky’s in order for this book to captivate your attention.      

I first met the author, Becky Andrews, last fall when a mutual dream of creating retreats for blind and visually impaired women brought our paths together.  We connected online, and the majority of our correspondence focused on details for the “Daring to Own Your Story” retreats that launched last summer.  When I finally met Becky in person at the first retreat, she struck me as the type of person you just want to sit down with near a cozy fireplace and talk for hours.  The intensity of the retreat didn’t leave time for fireside chats, and I went home from the retreat wishing I had more time to get to know this energetic woman.   Continue reading

Following an epic 3 day yard sale (a pathetic yet lucrative way to spend Labor Day weekend), my eyesight appears to be at it’s best.  No, I have not discovered a cure for Retinitis Pigmentosa.  But I have discovered the cure for not being able to find what I’m looking for.  

Three simple words:

Own
Less
Stuff

I can hardly call myself a “minimalist”, and yet I’ve recently taken the minimalist approach in several categories, creating the illusion of improved vision.    Continue reading

June was a month filled with travel for me.  As I maneuvered my way around bustling airports and unfamiliar hotels, my marshmallow-tipped white cane leading the way, I encountered the joys and challenges of blind travel.  While the majority of the public are respectful and kind, there are some rare “gems” that inspired me to write another round of thank you notes.  

Dedicated to my Daring sisters who met me in Salt Lake City in early June and know how to find the humor in blind travel.  

Thank you public restrooms, for having such a variety of flushing mechanisms, causing me to fumble around in a small area where the dirtiest of germs are lurking on every possible surface.  I am especially grateful for the toilets that flush before I have even finished doing my business.

Yours Truly,
On the Go Joe

Thank you stranger on my left, for keeping pace with me as I walk to baggage claim.  Yes, YOU, the one who thinks that I cannot see you slowing down when I slow down, and speeding up when I speed up.  Thank you for being my silent companion, ensuring that I get safely to my destination.

Gratefully,
Peeping Back at You Tom

Dearest Airport Security, Words can hardly express how thankful I am for your awkward gestures, vague instructions, and patronizing tone.  I may not have graduated from the same Ivy League college as you, so I am grateful that you talk to me as if I am 5 years old.  The way you instantly turn on your baby voice and say “good girl, good girl” as I walk through the screening process makes me wonder if you are about to tickle my chin.  But instead, you swipe my palms and send me on my way with a look that assures me of your pity.

Fondly,
Lady GooGoo Gaga

 

Happy Mother’s Day from Doublevision Blog! In honor of Mother’s Day, we are sharing words of wisdom from mothers we respect and admire.

“Mothers don’t need to “see” in order to love; we simply “feel” it.  The depths of emotion we have for our children takes root within each of our souls. Never let another person’s words cause you to doubt this unshakable bond. Always remember, loving your child requires no “special” accommodations.”
Holly Bonner
Staten Island, NY
www.blindmotherhood.com

Continue reading

As a mother, I am guilty of comparing myself to other mothers, and sometimes judgement follows.  Sometimes it is judgement towards myself (Why can’t I be more patient with my kids like that other mother at the park?), and sometimes my judgement is directed towards another mom (Wow, she sure lets her kids run the show!) But when I’m in a good healthy state of mind, I focus on learning from the mothers around me.  I observe their empathetic language and attempt to use that same tone when my child is having a meltdown rather than fueling the tantrum with my own frustration.  I observe how they put away their cell phones, and get down in the sand to build a sand castle with their child at the beach, and I feel encouraged to fully engage with my own children.

Most recently, I’ve been learning some amazing lessons about motherhood from a fellow blogger, Holly Bonner, author of “Blind Motherhood”.  I’ve gleaned so much from this honest, witty, unstoppable mama, and knew instantly that our readers would want to meet her, too.  If you haven’t met before, I’m pleased to introduce you to Holly Bonner.

Blind Motherhood by Holly Bonner

Welcome to Blindmotherhood.com! I’m Holly Bonner, a 36 year old, wife, mother and social worker! After completing chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2012, I became legally blind from a neurological condition. Thrust into a much darker world, I went from the role of social work practitioner to the part of disabled client in need of services. With months of training in technology, mobility and ADL (adult daily living) skills; I finally began to feel like I could confidently rejoin the land of the living with my trusty white cane by my side. Then, what doctors had said was impossible happened, I got pregnant! Doctors….LOL! What do they know, right? Continue reading

We’ve done a lot of Q&A posts here at Double Vision Blog, but this is our first interview with an eye doctor.  I’m pleased to introduce Dr. Kierstyn Napier-Dovorany, OD, FAAO, Associate Professor, Western University of Health Sciences, College of Optometry   I didn’t just choose a random eye doctor to interview.  This is “Kier”, a dear friend going all the way back to our days at Naperville North High School. I love that I can ask her anything eye-related and she will respond with experience, research, and honesty. Continue reading