MY NOMINATIONS FOR THE SUNSHINE BLOGGERS AWARD 2018

The Sunshine Blogger Award

To my absolute surprise, this blog has been nominated for The Sunshine Blogger Award; which recognizes and celebrates the creativity, positivity and inspirations of blogger’s work. I was nominated by Emma Purcell, the fantastic blogger from RockForDisability https://rockfordisability.com/.

Thank you so much for the Nomination Emma.

I am thrilled to be nominated and hope you get to know me a little bit better in this post.

Rules

1              List the rules and display The Sunshine Blogger Award badge in your post.

2              Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.

3              Answer the 10 questions that the person who nominated you asked you.

4              Nominate up to 12 other bloggers to receive the award and ask them 10 new questions.

  1. Why did you become a blogger?

I wanted to share my experiences of life as a blind person in the hope that others can relate and accept that disabled people are pretty awesome but pretty ordinary too. I thought it would be a good way to show people who are not disabled that we are capable and competent human beings and to attempt to bridge the divide between disabled and non-disabled people.

  1. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy reading, watching series, drinking coffee and having long phone conversations with friends and family,  spending time with my boyfriend and playing with our dogs.

  1. Who is your favourite band or musician and why?

I mostly listen to rock music with bands such as Breaking Benjamin, Red, Three Doors Down, and many others on my favorite playlist. I love the depth and emotion in the songs, You can feel the music, like it’s in your soul or part of you. I also like some cover artists like Madilyn Bailey, mostly because I love piano covers.

  1. If you could meet any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be and why!

Marilyn Monroe… She lived life on her own terms, she was witty and a little ahead of her time, I think. As for the living, I’d like to have a conversation with Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jim Dale. I don’t want to say anything, I just want to listen to their voices.

If you had a time machine that could take you forward or back, which time period would you go to and why?

I quite like the present. Technology is a blind person’s best friend.

  1. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

Perhaps an owl, infinite wisdom and all that or maybe a dog, so someone can scratch my head all day long.

  1. You’re on a deserted island and you are allowed to bring one item with you? What item would you bring and why?

Sunscreen… I burn easily and anything else would be kind of pointless, wouldn’t it?

  1. What is your dream job?

Working for the UN or other similar international organisation, trying to make the world a better place for people with disabilities.

  1. What is your most popular blog post?

I’m not sure actually. A SERIES OF AWKWARD ENCOUNTERS WITH A GIRL ON THE EDGE OF ORDINARY, I think. It was a post about the weird things that happen to me, written between the lines of sarcasm and humor, which is exactly who I am and I think it was relatable.

10 What advice would you give to other bloggers?

Don’t lose yourself in an attempt to gain a few of followers, stay true to your voice and what you want to accomplish with your blog. Quality is always better, write because it makes you happy, because it is therapeutic and because you have an opinion. It shouldn’t feel like a chore or a popularity contest.

MY NOMINATIONS

In south Africa, we are in the month of celebrating women and because I believe that women are more powerful than we give ourselves credit for, I nominate the following bloggers:

•ENGLISHWITHKIRSTYY

https://englishwithkirsty.com/

•blindzanygirl

http://blindwilderness.wordpress.com/

•Katrin

http://maplewoodblog.wordpress.com///

•eirlysgwenllian http://myinnermishmash.wordpress.com/

•floweringink

http://floweringink.wordpress.com/

•Confessions of a teenage mutent

http://maddi1paige.wordpress.com/

 

MY QUESTIONS:

  • What is your favorite part of blogging?
  • What was the blog post you enjoyed writing most?
  • What is your idea of the perfect day?
  • Who inspires you?
  • What is your greatest strength and how does it make your life better?
  • If you could speak to the world beyond social media through one of your blog posts, which one would you choose and why?
  • What have you done, outside your comfort zone that you are proud of?
  • What makes you happy to be alive even when things are tough?
  • If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
  • What do you want fellow bloggers to know about you and/or your blog?

 

Thanks again Emma.

 

 

IT’S NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE

In my last year of school, I decided to go to a university far from home. I wanted to know whether I could survive on my own. I decided that it was time to learn to look after myself, do my own laundry, cooking and so on. Back then I had limited access to the internet and accessible websites were the stuff of fantasies… Needless to say, I was completely unprepared for the consequences of my decisions.

I arrived on a campus, in a city that has neither heard of, nor embraced the concept of public transport. I had to walk everywhere and everywhere was usually between 2-4 kilometers from where I stayed. This does not sound like much, until you add an 8 kilogram bag of dog food and some other necessities like coffee and milk to the load that had to get home. This trip took my boyfriend and I across insanely busy roads and uneven sidewalks. It took forever and we normally laughed ourselves all the way home, imagining what people driving by must have thought of us. We made that trip in the wind and the rain. him being the one that had to carry that bag,  normally had nothing but blisters to show for the effort and I usually had a bruise or 2 on account of gravity having such a strong hold on me. It is safe to say that it was a less enjoyable adventure.

If I didn’t want to do something on my own or couldn’t, I had to rely on sighted people, to drive and assist me.

I made lots of “sort of” friends that way, but I am glad that those days are mostly behind me. It’s not necessarily that public transport have gotten better or more accessible, but rather that technology improved and people became aware of disabled people in a way they never have before and what follows is a few things that improved my life beyond measure:

  • Online shopping;
    Gone are the days I had to wait for someone to pick me up and walk through a store with me to buy my groceries for the month. I still occasionally go to shops with sighted people, but now it’s more for some retail therapy than an actual need to go and buy basic things. My life is not only better because I have more independence this way, but now I also know about all the products available and I can make informed choices.

    • Uber;
      You had to know that this one would be on top of my list. It is just so convenient to have a way to come and go, at the tap of a button.
  • Screen reading software;
    This is not a new thing and has been around for years. However, over the last few years, it has become so much better than I ever imagined it could be. It used to be almost impossible to afford and very few blind people had the means to pay for it but today, you can download a more than adequate screen reader without it costing anything and unlike when I was still in school, visually impaired people have access to information and opportunities that we previously would have been denied.
  • “talking” everything;
    It started with talking watches and calculators, today, you can get yourself anything from bathroom and kitchen scales to microwaves, lifts, thermometers and the list goes on… If it wasn’t for online banking, I would have been disgusted that South Africa has not joined the world of accessible ATMs.

    • Text and character recognition software;
      There was a time when a picture containing text, a powerpoint presentation or a screenshot would have irritated me to no end, because I had no way of reading the text. Now I simply use apps like Seeing AI, and KNFB reader, to make text accessible. There are many other programs like these to choose from and it won’t always work, but at least now, there is an 80% chance that it might.

Technology and innovative ideas have not magically made all the challenges faced by blind people disappear, but the quality of our lives are improved by it every day and on the days where it feels like we live in a society that doesn’t care about our needs at all, it’s good to remind myself that 11 years ago, I didn’t have a cellphone with a screen reader and sighted people still had to read my messages to me.

BLINDNESS IN A NUTSHELL.

Blindness is not something that can be explained. There’s a difference between seeing only black and seeing nothing which in itself is not something that can really be understood by sighted people, but I think that trying to define partial sight is even more difficult.

I have been told that I have about 7% sight in both my eyes. It does not sound like much and in reality, it’s probably even less. I think the best way to explain my sight, is to imagine that my entire world is shades of light and dark. My light perception is good, so I can see that it is sunny or overcast, streetlights and the moon have often looked like the same thing to me, but once I know what I am looking at or where too look, I can usually tell the difference.

Doctors have explained to my parents that my sight is a bit like looking through a dirty lens. I am not quite sure what that looks like, but I’m pretty sure they were wrong. My sight is not blurred at all and I don’t have blind spots either. My sight is quite clear, it’s just really bad. I can see the outline of things, but I can’t fill in the details. I am completely color blind so most things are either very light, very dark or somewhere in between. I think my imagination also completes most of the details of objects I look at, because if I look at it without knowing what it is, it often just looks like a big blob, but once I know what it is, I can see the outline or shape quite clearly.

As a child, grown-ups used to blindfold sighted children in order to give them an idea of what blindness is like and while I appreciated the sentiment, it was actually a little bit pointless.
While blindfolded, those children would be led around in environments they knew well or were familiar with, they were warned of steps and told of their surroundings and it gave them a false sense of actually understanding visual impairments. Afterwards, I would trip and fall and they would just laugh and tease me about being stupid, because it didn’t happen to them while being blindfolded…

The truth is, that they were blindfolded under perfect circumstances and in the real world, conditions are hardly ever perfect, but if doctors have trouble understanding blindness, how do you explain it to a child?

The other problem with this little experiment, is that those children knew that it was only temporary. If they felt scared or unsure or they were simply tired of seeing nothing and when the game got boring, they could remove the blindfold and go back to a world of color and depth and distance… For a blind person, that is obviously not possible and enduring blindness, is much easier if you know that you can make it end when you need sight.

People always want to know what it’s like to see through my eyes, what do I see, what do things look like and what do they look like… To me. However, those questions are peripheral to the real issues at hand. Is it possible to live a normal life in spite of your disability, how will you manage to function in a working environment specifically designed for non-disabled people and how can the quality of your life be improved?

Pretending to be blind, did not teach those children to actually take a walk in my shoes. It did not encourage them to really think about my life. It was merely a fun game to them. They didn’t walk into doors, stumble into thorn bushes, they did not have to let other people dish their food for them or have to be guided to a bathroom. They did not have to consider a life where people would treat them like children way passed adulthood or being shunned in their communities for being freaks. They removed those pieces of cloth from their faces and most of them became the people who never again gave disabled people or their lives a second thought.

I used to want people to understand what it’s like to be disabled, but that was the desires of a child who recognized that she was different in a way she didn’t choose to be… Today, I don’t care about other’s comprehension of my life any longer. Today, I care about inclusiveness and awareness. I go out and be around people who aren’t like me and teach them that for all our differences, like them I am also just human. My situation might be a bit strange, I often need assistance with things that make us a little uncomfortable, but just like that game of pretend, I always hope that  we can perhaps pretend that my situation is perfectly ordinary and eventually, my blindness and my often weird behavior and requests, can be looked over in exchange for relationships based on our personalities instead of pity, obligation or a morbid fascination with my life.

You don’t have to know what and how I see, the important thing is that you know who I am and that my disability has very little to do with that.

BLINDLY BLUNDERING ON…

The happy people, including myself, will tell you that when it’s impossible to change your circumstances, change how you react to them… Full disclosure, sometimes… No most of the time… all you can do is laugh!

As a blind person, everything in my life happens just a little bit slower than what you are probably used to. I have a mini tantrum every time someone moves things around in my house, not because I’m pedantic, but because it will most likely take me 20 minutes of feeling around with my hands, bumping things off table tops and generally just creating more chaos, before I locate it, 20 centimetres  from its usual place. The more irritated I get, the longer it takes me to find that object, well hidden in plain sight… and the truth is that I don’t need others to bring disaster to my life, I am completely capable of managing that, perfectly on my own.

It is no secret that I’m not a morning person. I normally get up long before I’m actually awake and my first cup of coffee is the most important part of my day. What you don’t know is that I also hate the smell of milk, so more than once, I have opened the fridge, grabbed like what felt like the milk bottle and ended up with peach flavoured Tropica in my cup of life… and friends, that’s how I know that peach coffee will never be a thing!

I have no idea how toothpaste always manages to be everywhere but on the actual toothbrush, I suppose I touch it when I put it on and then because you need to scrub your fingers for about 10 minutes before it’s washed off, [which I never do…] is how 20 years after being a toddler, I still go out in public with toothpaste in my hair, on my nose and on my clothes… Why does no one believe you when you explain that it’s just toothpaste???

At least I know I’m not the only one, in conversations with other blind people, eventually we get around to what we refer to as the blind moments and I finally feel better about wearing one green and one red sock when they tell me about the time Shower jell was mistaken for body lotion or spray-paint for insect repellent… and while I have never accidentally sprayed streaks of red or yellow paint all over my kitchen, I have put sugar into dishes that required salt and my boyfriend once put xylitol in his coffee instead of ordinary sugar… If you are not aware of the side effects of xylitol, now is the time to google it, before you make that mistake… unless of course you want a sick day!

While I was a student, I walked into so many classes where I most certainly did not belong and when you have a guide dog or even a cane, there’s just no way of quietly slipping out… Oh no, you are always stopped, asked if you need help, and explaining your mistake just never gets less awkward and years after, you still find people asking you if you manage to find your way around campus now…

You might think that nothing can be worse than public humiliation, which might be true, but things can always get a whole lot wetter! Last year I moved into a block of flats and where I take my dog for a busy, is a swimming pool… You have to walk on the side of it to get around it and so confidently, wearing a bright yellow t-shirt, I made my way to the grass, I tripped over a plant I wasn’t aware of and apart from going for my first swim for the season, I also had to do the walk of “nobody has to wonder what had happened” all the way to the top floor where I live.

I live through plenty of these moments in a day, I’ve addressed a woman as sir and had long conversations with mannequins and all I have learnt from all these experiences is how to laugh at myself and to move on. You can’t learn from these situations, because you are bound to step into the same traps more times than you can count. It is simply a part of living with blindness and it clearly happens to all of us so you are most definitely not alone.

A TALe OF TRUE STORIES

When I complained about having to do the dishes when I was young, my mom would tell me to put a smile on my face because dishes is only the first of things I will have to do in my life that I won’t like and it’s always best to approach these things with a positive attitude… Now like all moms, she is infinitely wise, but in this instance, she should also have told me to wear my armor, take a shot of something potent, phone a friend and draw up an escape plan with at least ten easy exits, in addition to this chirpy attitude before I face any of the unpleasant situations blind people occasionally get stuck in. The truly disturbing thing about all this, is that before I sign up for any of the things that make me uncomfortable, I ask myself “why are you doing this again? Don’t you remember what happened last time?” but the mind is a powerful thing and it convinces me that it wasn’t as bad as I remember and then the kicker… Wait for it… “THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT!” Spoiler alert, if anyone [the voice in your own head and present company included] ever tells you that it will be different, well… RUN FOREST RUN!!!
So before you write me off as an overly dramatic lunatic, let me take you on a journey of horrors and you can decide if Frankenstein is real or if I was just blowing smoke up your “chimney”.
I hardly ever feel blind, yes I do know that I really sound crazy now, but it’s true… I am quite good at finding my way around and doing things for myself with relative ease… and then I walked into a communal kitchen… “Hello darkness my old friend.” People stop what they’re doing and stare at me. The silence is deafening, but I can hear their minds working. “will she burn herself? Is she going to find the milk? Can she make coffee?” And then it’s like the spell is broken with someone very loudly and painfully slowly asking me if they should do it for me. Clapping my hands over my ears and in my most dramatic whisper, I very quickly inform them that I can do it thanks. Unfortunately the jinx has been activated, all the staring makes me nervous and suddenly I trip over my feet, I pore too much hot water into the cup, I burn my finger and revert to only speaking in profanities and as I leave the kitchen with the elixir of life clutched in my hand, I trip over someone’s feet and as the coffee flies out the mug in every direction, I promise myself for the thousandth time that next time I will turn around and make due without that stupid drink!
Oh how we all love an all you can eat buffet. All those dishes artfully placed on a very long table, a stack of precariously balanced plates on the one end and cutlery… wait where the bleep is the cutlery? Well perhaps this is one of those “back to basics” occasions and we are expected to put our fingers to good use… Or the more likely explanation, someone placed them behind the food. So after almost bumping all the plates off the table while trying to find the back of the line, fortuitus as I at least found a plate, I start moving to the front with all the others. Question: “how am I supposed to know what’s what here?” Do I just start lifting lids, take a whiff, perhaps stick a finger in it, just to be sure and if all else fails lick that finger? Finally someone takes pity on me and agrees to help, stutteringly and in a soft squeaky voice Neville Longbottom starts telling me about all the different offerings available, but just as we are about to get to the good stuff [I hope] someone calls mister Longbottom and forgetting that he was helping me, he grabs his plate and disappears. As the line clears and everyone sits down to eat, Neville suddenly remembers that he was trying his hand at being the worst good Samaritan ever… and pretending that it was the funniest thing, while pelting him with stink bombs in my mind, I finally get what’s left of everything no one else wanted and I sit down to start waging the war on chicken bones and an unidentified delicacy that refuses to bend to the will of my knife wielding dexterity.
Now that almost everyone has been fed, it’s time to move on to the socializing part of this fun time we’re all having. Not to be outdone again, Nevil grabs my hand, drags me outside where terrible music loudly entertains all the half-drunk attendees, slams a chare into the back of my knees and plonks a drink I didn’t ask for and probably won’t like, into my hand. I say thanks, but he is already gone. After what feels like two hours, but was probably 30 minutes or so, I sit with an empty glass and a desperate need to go to the bathroom, because guess what Nevil, us wallflowers have such needs too… Deciding that nothing can be worse than sitting there in the cold trying not to wet myself, I get up, temporarily pretending that I cannot remember what happened last time I tried this on my own, I start making my way to what I hope will be a bathroom, but by now I’m not picky, I’ll take whatever I can get! [really I’m kidding, it’s my bladder talking, just ignore it]. One minute I’m walking in what I believed was a straight line and the next I’m diving for cover as glass breaks all around me… I mean, you just can’t trust drunk people. Hah! Actually I was the culprit, I walked into the drinks table, I might actually have obliterated it and in my effort to get away from the carnage, I tripped right into a water feature… Sopping wet and back to speaking in my favorite language, which luckily no one heard over the music, Nevil in a final act of bravery shows me where to find the bathroom and as I could finally hear my phone, I used that opportune moment to get an Uber and got the heck out of dodge.
Well All these things have happened to me, perhaps not all at the same event, as it is described here, but you get the idea right?

I CHOOSE THE DARK SIDE

To better understand where I’m coming from, perhaps start here https://wp.me/p9MbFy-s

Do you remember when you were a child how your mom would threaten to leave you right there in the supermarket if you didn’t stop misbehaving right that second? Boy how that sobered you up real quick… Now that you are an adult, perhaps you say this to your children… but have you ever in the middle of an argument with your significant other or besty stopped and informed them that If they don’t cut the crap right now, you will leave them right there? Do you think it will have the desired effect? I mean, you drove but they can just hop on a train or a bus or get an Uber… So in all likelihood they will laugh at you and tell you to go ahead. For me on the other hand, this is merely another form of bullying. If I don’t have my guide dog with me, this is a terrifying yet effective threat because if you leave me there, I will be stuck, I won’t know how to get home, I will panic, I will be angry, but you would have made your point because I need you and you know you have the upper hand.
It’s the most degrading way to treat a blind person, because you will have used my blindness to make me feel like a child who did something naughty. If you think this doesn’t happen, you are wrong, it happens all the time.
This is why I am on team “pro blindness” when it comes to dating. I am fiercely independent, I am terribly opinionated, I want mutual respect and equality in a relationship, far more than I want to be cared for and coddled and most of all, I do not want to be treated like a child. I am not saying that this is bound to happen, only that as with many other blind people, it has happened to me and I can’t live like that.
A relationship should be a safe place, as a blind person, I face so many challenges in my daily life, I get pushed around and I must always be strong and put on a brave face. When I get home, I want to feel like I am valued as a person, that I am loved and respected and that my opinion matters. I want to be with someone that will call me out on my nonsense without making me feel 5 years old. I want someone who says that he believes in me and actually does, I don’t need to be placated or patronized… I want to be with someone who expects me to rise to the occasion. If I say I’ll make supper, he must know better than to take over, when I make coffee, he should ask me to make him a cup too, instead of grabbing the kettle out of my hand.
I want to be an equal in my relationship with the person I chose and who chose me. I am once again not saying that a sighted person won’t do all these things, merely that I am guaranteed these things with a blind person.

I want to watch audio described movies together, without complaints, I would rather read a book than go out and my idea of the perfect date, is not to go to a fancy restaurant and be subjected to 2 hours of public eating and people watching. I do not like crowded places, because I can’t hear when I’m being spoken too and clubs make me feel blind and deaf. If I go on holiday, I need adventure, sightseeing is my idea of a snooze fest and while I’m willing to do this with friends or family, this is not a compromise I can make in a relationship because we have far more days and months and years together and we will go on far more holidays together than I will with friends or family.
I don’t need the person I’m with to replace my parents, I am quite capable of taking care of myself… I therefore can’t be with someone who will forget this and 20 years down the line blame me for making him responsible for me. I did not ask you to do everything for me and I do not want you too either.
I have been blind for as long as I have lived, I know more than anyone how that changes things, it makes life complicated and not everyone is equipped to deal with all the ups and downs presented by being with a disabled person. Life will not always be easy, there are good days and bad days and on the bad days I need to be left alone. I have made peace with my disability a long time ago, but every now and then, I need a minute to come to terms with it all over again. There are times when I will feel hopeless and disillusioned and there will be moments when it will take me an eternity to do something that a sighted person could have done in a second. People will always stare at me, I will always have trouble finding jobs, I will complain about a lack of accessibility and accommodation until your ears bleed and you won’t be able to do a thing about it and more importantly, I will never change, I will never be able to see, this is it! this is me! and while there are many sighted/blind couples out there making it work, we all have to decide for ourselves what we want and what we can live with and then we need to find someone that can be that person for us and while I know that someone with sight might meet all my requirements, it is simply not what I need. It might seem like choosing to be with a blind person will make life harder, but it also makes my life easier because we both know what we are getting into and in this at least, we are equals. It is a support system like no other, we have the same struggles and triumphs we know when to laugh and when to let it go and we encourage each other to be stronger and more determined because there simply isn’t an easy way out for either of us. For me, being with a blind person, is the closest I’ll ever get to feeling normal.