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It was a typical night at the movies, except for one thing..

I could “see” the endearing Paddington Bear, with all of his slapstick British humor, thanks to audio descriptions at a nearby theater.

Audio Description is commentary and narration which guides the listener through the movie or play with concise, objective descriptions of new scenes, settings, costumes, body language, and “sight gags,” all slipped in between portions of dialogue or songs. Continue reading

For as lovely as words can look on a screen, life can really blur them all together when you’re trying to live them out.

I hosted a Mother’s Day brunch at my house today for some of my extended family, which was filled with sunshine, great food and beautiful people.  It was also filled with crap.  Literally.

I won’t get graphic or anything, but I do want to share a little piece of this scenario to give you an idea of how very challenging it can be to place relationships and people first.  I have a family member who is developmentally disabled and sometimes has bathroom issues.  Well, let’s just say that today he had major bathroom issues.  In both our bathrooms.  And on the new bathroom rug.  And even on the freshly-painted walls, discovered by my poor husband hours later.

When I first walked from the outside fresh air into our house and caught a whiff of this accident, my gag reflex went off, and I stepped right back out.  Another family member graciously helped him clean everything up, though further setbacks and clean-ups seemed to continue for quite awhile.  I found myself feeling disgusted and frustrated that this was all happening on Mother’s Day.  And I found that I acted less than gracious and spoke in irritated tones.

As my family members were leaving, I told a couple of them about my blogpost on placing people first and how I couldn’t even post it because I felt like such a hypocrite acting like I care way more about people than my house but then feeling like I wanted everyone to just go away when it got messy.  They smiled with understanding and joked that they wouldn’t tell anyone.  I thanked my helpful uncle for all his clean-up work dealing with the other family member’s mess, to which he replied, “all small stuff”.  And really, in the grand scheme of things, it is, and I know that as a whole.

And I tried to remind myself of that as my husband and I continued to do some aftermath clean-up later.

But the house still smelled like you-know-what, and I just wanted the nice scent of my Mother’s Day bouquet to fill the house as it had before the brunch.

Since we had to be at another gathering, we decided to just open up all the windows, and even left our front doors leading to the screened-in porch open in hopes that it would air out while we were gone.

And it did.

When we walked through the door this evening, the faint smell of cleaning supplies drifted,but mostly just the aroma of evening spring air filled the house.  And it reminded me that sometimes all it takes is a few open windows.  And there are windows I forget to open all the time.  Not just in my house, but in my life.

I know I’m hovering on cheesy here, but it’s true.  I remember to open the windows of all my thoughts, ideals, and insights to the world as I write this blog, but sometimes I forget to open the windows of acceptance to my own family members.  Yes, I don’t have to love some of the things they do, and there are definitely boundaries I need to set with certain people who choose not to work on their issues, but there’s usually room for more kindness and acceptance even when setting boundaries.

For example, this particular family members was mentally capable of taking some medication that could have prevented these accidents today but chose not to, and he also chose to eat food that he knows upset his stomach, and because of that, he will not be asked to the next gathering at my house.  But at the same time, I didn’t even take the time to say goodbye to him today.  I could have still hugged him good-bye and shown love despite my frustration.

I think in order to place people first in our lives, we need to challenge ourselves in the ways that we think about others and act toward them, especially with the difficult people.

There are always more windows that can be opened.  And always more fresh air we can let in.

 

I want to freeze time.  To capture the light blonde and brown tendrils that fly all wispy as my daughters dance around the kitchen putting on “dinner entertainment” for daddy . He eats and laughs, more amused by these two under 4 ft. tall than he probably ever imagined he’d be.  I want to put their little sing-song voices in my leftover packing boxes with heavy packing tape so that they will never escape me.  I want these little years– the ones when they want to play all day – and beg me to stop doing laundry so they can just be with me for 5 minutes — to last.

As I was trudging up the stairs exhausted the other night, I tried to recap in my mind all the things I had accomplished during the day.  I became a little agitated because I couldn’t think of many things I had crossed off my growing to-do list.  But then I remembered the important 2 hours I’d spent crawling on colored carpet squares.

The girls and I had gone with Ben to the church where he works because I was meeting some friends there, and since we needed to wait for his meetings to end before leaving, we spent the whole day there.

We went into the K-5 room which has these fun, colorful carpet circles and began inventing all different kinds of games.  I was a chomping alligator in hot lava while they were toads hopping from circle to circle.  I was the leader of a secret “flower” club up on the little play balcony.  We were robots that could only jump to certain colored islands.

We ran and laughed and played till we were slap-happy with fatigue.  And while those 2 hours of fun were clearly not on my list of things that really needed to get done, I went to bed feeling satisfied that night.

I’ve noticed that since living in a walkable area and having the ability to run a lot more of the errands during the day, my days are sometimes packed.  I also took on a part-time job scoring essays from home this month, so the to-do lists seem to be multiplying.

I ended up needing to create a separate list of things entitled “important things”, and I try to make sure that even if some of the things on my regular to-do lists don’t get accomplished, I at least do the important things each week.

Most of the important things involve people, and one of those is my 82-year-old grandmother who lives  3 blocks away and recently was told to stop driving.  This a little more difficult for her because she doesn’t have the strength of a 33-year-old to walk all over town like I do.  So one of the new “important things” on my list each week is to take the girls to visit her– not out of obligation or anything, but because I value time with her and know it helps lighten her day at a difficult time in her life.

Sometimes this means grabbing a 45-minute window of time, leaving the kitchen a mess or a chore undone, to go spend time with her. And while I wasn’t raised to be okay leaving a mess, I think sometimes in order to put people first in our lives– not our houses or material things– it’s necessary.  Obviously, there comes a time when things really do need to get cleaned up, and I don’t want us living in a disgusting mess or anything, but loosening our reigns on how perfect the house should look at all times can open up space for our relationships to grow.

When I’m 82-years old like my grandma, I hope that my phrase of satisfaction reads something like this:  “My life is full because I put first things first in my life.  I put relationships and people in front of my stuff.” as opposed to, “Wow, I have had a perfectly clean house for the past 82 years– how full and satisfying life is.”

So this post used to end right here, and there was no “part 1” in the title.  That was a week ago when I thought that this was the easiest, simplest concept in the world…… when  sunny strolls to grandma’s house trumped dirty dishes in the sink (okay, they still totally do, only I’ve realized that sometimes extra complications arise that challenge our ideals…. and that’s why there’s a part 2, so stay tuned if you can relate!)

 

So last week my daughter was the first one to the bus stop. I knew we were running ahead of schedule (a rare novelty), but I still wondered if maybe school had been cancelled (or was it Saturday?) as my kindergarterner, toddler and I stood by ourselves at the bus stop.  No seriously– where was everyone?

Worry turned to amusement as a 3rd-grade-boy approached the bus stop and said “Good job being first, Lucy!”  My 5-and-a-half-year-old could barely contain her excitement at being first as she pranced around the bus stop.  And honestly, for a little girl who must be coaxed out of bed every morning and dresses herself in slow motion, I myself felt like prancing around in celebration of her feat.
Soon, the rest of the herd arrived and the 3rd-grade-boy began telling each kid where to stand in line (just because Lucy was first to the bus stop did not mean she’d be first on the bus– the 3rd-grader had organized a system to allow each kid a turn to get on the bus first…he’s quite the organizer).
As we heard the squeaky groaning of our giant yellow friend rounding the corner, 3rd-grade-bus-stop-organizer asks, “Lucy, where is your backpack?”  Oh gosh.  Panic  “Mom– it’s by the back door!” Lucy yells.  Without missing a beat, I turn to the other moms and say, “I’m running for it!”
I begin sprinting toward the house (take note, VIPs reading this are WINCING because they just KNOW that an injury is about to be had, for rushing + low vision almost always equals an accident). Lucy’s princess bike lay in front of the door inside the garage leading to the house, and even as I trip over it, the pain in my ankle does not fully register because the backpack mission is still underway.
I then hear shouting from the bus stop as I open the door to the house.  I hear Lucy yell something that sounds like “I found it!” I feel quickly around the front door, try to scan around the room to see if the backpack is there, and then decide that she must have, indeed, found it since I don’t see it anywhere.
I race back to the corner. All the kids are on the bus waiting, and Lucy is standing there staring at me, asking for the backpack.  Apparently she had yelled “hurry”, not “I found it” (yes, I know– those two phrases sound nothing alike….)
Lucy starts to walk back toward the house, unaware that she is about to make 30-40 children late for school, so I turn her back around and tell her it’s too late and that she needs to get on the bus without the backpack.  She hangs her head and looks like she is going to cry.  I try to think of something–anything–to say that will make her get on the bus.  “I’ll drop your backpack off at school!” I blurt out, despite the fact that I had no idea how I would actually get to her school. She slumps onto the bus, and I slump home with Elli, limping on my swollen ankle (this was a week ago, and I STILL have a giant bruise from it!)
Of course, when I walked back into the house, the backpack was sitting right by the garage door, in plain view, taunting me “I-was-right-here-all-along!”
Fortunately, I ended up getting a ride to deliver the backpack from my good friend who took pity on my description of poor Lucy slinking onto the bus.  But the stress of the morning– silly as it sounds now– stuck with me throughout the day.  Why didn’t I notice that she wasn’t carrying her backpack?  I was tempted to get all upset about how RP loves to wreak havoc on my day but then remembered a conversation I had recently with a friend and loyal blog reader.
After reading my last post “Good Grief/Dear RP“, she told me how there were a number of things in my “hate letter” to RP that she finds herself doing, unrelated to vision, and pointed out that some of the incidents I end up feeling embarrassed about are things fully-sighted people do too.
As Jenelle and I talked about this conversation later, she said “Yeah, I have had friends not see props at yoga class or need me to point things out to them that I would have been too self-conscious to ask about, thinking it was because of my vision.  I think sometimes we give RP too much….something”.  Yes, too much credit or blame.  Sure, it does result in a number of accidents that are clearly vision-related.  But some mistakes, mishaps and embarrassing incidents are just from being human, and if we are constantly embarrassed, thinking that every little thing that goes wrong is due to RP, I imagine that we could become pretty darn paranoid, not to mention a complete drag to be around.
There are, of course, certain precautions that we VIPs should take.  Like using mobility training or asking for assistance.  And, clearly, slowing down (but again, this is a lesson that non-VIPs sometimes need to learn as well).
A VIP-friend of mine just told me about how she was rushing the other day and knocked a glass off the counter, cutting her hand in the process.  She said that she cried because she was mad at RP and really hates the idea of it slowing her down.  I remember telling her that I sometimes feel thankful when it slows me down– when I’m stuck without a ride and have to miss something and stay home instead– it sometimes keeps me sane…. the slowing…..  It also allows me to be more aware of my surroundings and to fall in love with the small joys in my day.  It reminds me of a line that keeps repeating in a new favorite book I’m reading:  “Life is not an emergency.”  Truly, it is not, but I often act like it is when I panic over forgotten backpacks.
VIPs and non-VIPs alike– be gentle on yourself today– you’re allowed to make mistakes once in awhile, and to slow down your pace and pay attention to the subtle joys.