Posted in Dealing with Challenges, Gratitude Challenge, Uncategorized

November Gratitude Challenge: Days 4-7

So, as I mentioned last week, I’m trying to take the Gratitude Challenge this month but with a little bit of a twist. All my posts are going to focus on something I’m thankful for related to blindness. This past year, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed and often put a lot of pressure on myself and feel very inadequate. Blindness plays a big part of this because I feel like it often presents a lot of extra challenges. I don’t mean to say I’m resentful or bitter; rather, just that I feel like I can’t keep up with it all sometimes. To counteract some of my negative thinking, I’m trying to focus on my blessings. So, here are my daily doses of gratitude.

 

Day 4: I’m grateful for this complete stranger who offered to give me a ride to our church’s temple today. My ward (congregation) was having a special temple day today and I wanted to participate. One of the individual’s helping to coordinate the events of the day (encouraging people to attend, and arranging rides, and lunch logistics, etc.) connected me with this woman who is new to the area and only here temporarily. She gave me a ride and I also made a new friend.

 

Day 5: I’m grateful for neighbors who knock on your door and offer a ride in bad weather without you even having to ask for one. I’m also thankful for Twin Vision books that allow me to read, even if I’m slow, in braille to my children.

 

Day 6: I’m thankful for delivery services. We purchased an item from Lowe’s over the weekend. It was small enough that had we had our own vehicle, I could have brought it home right then (with a little extra muscle power) and we could have assembled it ourselves. But, it was a bit too heavy to carry and I’m not sure I could have convinced an Uber driver to help me load and unload it, not to mention it may not have even fit in their vehicle. So, I paid a little more to have it assembled and delivered today, but it was worth it to get the item and not have the stress of having to figure out how I’d get it home.

 

Day 7: its days like today when I really need to practice gratitude because it is so easy to complain and feel sorry for myself. Today is one of those really ugly, rainy days. I walked my son to preschool this morning, but later when it was time to pick him up, I looked outside to see that it was pouring down rain! I quickly requested a Lyft ride and was able to go over and pick him up. Even though I was frustrated with the situation, had to wrestle my infant and his car seat into the car while being rained on, and was a bit annoyed at the driver who sat practically reclined in his seat munching chips while all this went on, making it extremely difficult for me to get the car seat in and resulting in me taking it out and putting it on the other side. The bottom line is that I have access to resources like this and was able to accomplish the task at hand. Okay, so I’m not perfect but I am trying to be grateful.

 

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Posted in Activities with Children, Dealing with Challenges, Parenting Essentials

The Perils of Apple Picking


Picture: B sitting in his car seat enjoying the world’s biggest apple. He gnawed on it with only four teeth for nearly an hour. .

I love fall! One of my favorite fall must-do’s is to go apple picking. It’s become a family favorite. Shortly after moving to Maryland (pre-marriage and kids), my friend Betsy and I started making it a yearly thing. Now, it’s like a family tradition and it’s so fun to share with my children. We missed last year too on account of the factthat Betsy was in grad school, so we all were especially excited to go this year.

My two older children are six and four, so this was one of the first times that both of them could help with the picking. I usually do it, with a little verbal guidance from Betsy as to where to feel on the tree for an apple, but this year I welcomed the change from picker to pack mule. Upon our arrival at the farm, I realized I had forgotten my Ergo (baby carrier backpack). This was a very big deal as I would need to carry our one-year-old, new walker around. I’ve been carrying my kids this way when we’ve gone apple picking for years. I was so mad at myself for forgetting this! It’s not like we could go home and get it (we drove over an hour up to an orchard on the other side of the border into Delaware), and it wasn’t like there was a Walmart near-by for us to just zip down to either for a temporary replacement one. So, not wanting to ruin our day, I did the next best thing. I couldn’t realistically carry big bags of apples and my twenty pound son, nor could Betsy and the kids carry them all either, so we took the Sit n’ Stroll with us. Just a note, the Sit n’ Stroll is our car seat/stroller combo. The wheels retract into the base while being used as a car seat. It’s worth its weight in gold and one of my favorite baby products as a blind parent. (See my post on this gem) but it’s not really the most road worthy as it’s mostly designed for airport or mall travel. Definitely not farm land.

After a quick perusal of the craft displays and a visit to the port-a-potty, we headed down the road to catch our tractor wagon down to the orchard. You can imagine the sight of me helping the other two kids onto the wagon, passing one of them my cane to hold, and then climbing up myself while hoisting B strapped into his car seat in front of me. But, we made it and soon we were all excitedly picking some of the biggest apples I’ve ever seen and enjoying a little snack along the way.
After a while, we had three large backs (about 50 lbs.) between Betsy and me, and the kids had enjoyed themselves. Thankfully, the car seat had hung in there only getting stuck occasionally. We decided to load the car seat with the bags of apples and that I would carry B back to the wagon. WE thought this would work easier. And then it happened! One of the wheels got stuck in a rut and we were a bit too forceful in trying to free it when it suddenly snapped at the shaft of the wheel. I could have cried! Not only are these car seat stroller combos expensive and hard to repair, but I rely so much on it since I have to transport car seats so often from car to car and place to place. The other frustrating thing is that the same thing happened to our first Sit n’ Stroll which we practically wore out because we used it so often for our first two children. In that case, however, the wheel must have had a crack or something and already been compromised because it snapped off in the same way one night when I was pulling it up our driveway. I was never able to contact customer service to find out how to repair it as all the website contact info was outdated. I ended up finding a used one on Amazon and just purchasing a second one. The thought of having to go through the same process again, or purchasing another one was so disheartening.

Somehow we made it back to the wagon, though it was rough going. I carried B, one large bag of apples and sheparded the other two kids while Betsy manhandled the stroller with the other two bags of apples trying her best to keep it level so we could at least push it with the three wheels on the uneven ground. I’m sure her arms ached the next day. We finally made it back to the wagon and loaded everyone on. When we got back to the drop off in the parking lot, the kids, apples, and I stayed there waiting while Betsy went and got her car and drove it back to pick us up. Did I mention she’s a really, really great friend? Everyone needs a Betsy in their lives.

Picture: K standing with head and hands out from behind a wooden cut out photo prop of stocks with thought bubble that reads: “I shouldn’t have taken the apple off the trees at Milburns!”

By this point, the kids were cranky and so was I. It was time for a late lunch and to head home.
Upon leaving, we stopped off for lunch at Wendy’s where I tried drowning my sorrows in a chocolate frosty before calling Jesse to share the bad news with him. All in all, not my favorite apple picking adventure, but definitely one that will be remembered. Isn’t it funny how the things that go wrong later are the memories we look back on with a smile and fondness? I can’t wait until this feels that way because right now I’m still a little sad over the whole thing. It’s been a few weeks now and I’ve not yet replaced the stroller, but I’m going to have to as there is no way to send it in for repairs—at least to my knowledge. So, that will be dipping into the “Mary Jo shopping spree fund” (as if I really had one.  It’s also made some of our outings a bit more difficult, but I’m getting arms of steel from carrying the car seat when I’d normally pull it, and saving us a little money on rides on nice weather days since I’m more inclined to walk or take public transit so as to avoid having to juggle multiple car seats. So, I guess there are some small perks to be enjoyed. I’ll end on a positive note though and say that we’re still enjoying some delicious apple treats. Hopefully we’ll have better luck next year.

Posted in Dealing with Challenges, Uncategorized

Follow Up to “Memoirs of a Blind Mom”

 

 

I got such a flood of reactions to my post “Memoirs of a Blind Mom.” Nearly all were very positive and encouraging. I did however receive an email from a friend of my expressing great concern for me. Perhaps this post sounded like a cry for help or that I am struggling with some kind of depression. Neither of which are true. So, I will reiterate again that I wrote this post as a way to share something that is hard for me sometimes. While I don’t think we need to always be complaining or focused on how hard things are, I do think it’s helpful sometimes to admit our struggles and weaknesses. It is when we do this that we are able to start the process of learning from them and transforming them into strengths.

I wanted to end that post in a positive way by sharing how blessed I truly am despite some of the struggling feelings I have from time to time, but that wasn’t the purpose of the post. That post was designed to be real and authentic. It felt a little therapeutic to write it all and share it. Glossing over the hard things to share how blessed I am felt a bit to me like devaluing the hard things that I’ve learned from or that push me out of my comfort zone to teach me or humble me.

I’m not amazing or courageous. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what I’ve been dealt. And, if I can inspire or encourage someone along the way, so be it. That is why I shared it.

I truly am so blessed. First, I have a strong relationship with my Savior which gives me strength through the hard times, and provides countless blessings. . Second, I have great family and friends supporting me. I’ve been blessed in so many ways. I’ve been blessed to learn good blindness skills that give me confidence and abilities to problem solve solutions when faced with a challenge. I’ve been blessed with access to resources and technology that make things accessible. I have wonderful friends who call me up out of the blue to offer me rides to run errands or just to invite our family to join them at the park or beach that day without being solicited to do so. I could go on and on. Even though sometimes my blindness is a challenge, I’ve also had some great opportunities and unique learning experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, which make me appreciate my circumstances.

So, for what it’s worth, I wanted to make sure those reading this blog knew that that post wasn’t meant to be a pity party even though it may have sounded that way. It wasn’t meant to be a way of flashing the badge of a marter on my arm for sympathy, nor was it to toot my own horn to announce how “awesome” I am because “my life is so hard.” Thanks again for reading and sending your words of encouragement and support along.

 

Posted in Dealing with Challenges, Home is Where the Hartle Is

Memoirs of a Blind Mom…Sometimes It’s Just Hard

This is another repost from our family site.  I was very reluctant at first to post it there, but as I mention below, I think sometimes there is value in being true to ourselves and not always presenting the “Pinterest Version” to everyone.  I thihnk sometimes being authentic can be really valuable.  So, even though I’m feeling really vulnerable putting this out there, here goes as I hope maybe it will be helpful to someone.  (Originally posted in Fall 2015).

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I wrote this a few weeks ago and then started having second thoughts about posting it. I don’t want to be whiny or complain because I truly have so many blessings. I fear that this will sound like I am doing just that. But then I reconsidered because I think admitting our weaknesses is also important, and perhaps the sharing of my experiences will help another. Plus, sometimes having a good cry makes you just feel better. So with that, I share this post with you.

I had a major meltdown this week. I get frustrated and upset from time to time, but this was pretty out of character for me. I slammed my useless laptop hard with my hand after entertaining a brief but serious thought of throwing it out the back door, began yelling to my husband about my frustrations, stormed up the stairs to my room and flung myself down in a puddle of tears in our rocking chair for a self-imposed time out. Yes, I do have the occasional meltdown from time to time, particularly when I’m feeling especially frustrated, over extended, and over tired, but not like this one. I don’t usually get so upset. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this all now, so why am I writing it and posting it on the Internet for all to see? Good question.

 

On this particular afternoon, I became increasingly frustrated and impatient with a task I was trying to do on the computer. But, like any good parent knows, the meltdown is usually caused by some bigger underlying issue. Yes, I was feeling overwhelmed, and yes, I stayed up too late the night before, but the real issue was much deeper and has been growing for a while now. I was struggling with the computer because I was having difficulty once again accessing a website that was inaccessible for a screen reader. What should have or would have taken someone thirty seconds had been frustrating me for over ten minutes. It was a little thing, but this kind of “little thing” happens all the time. It seemed so unfair! I just wanted to read something really quick, but once again, because I was blind, I couldn’t access it. My anger really didn’t have anything to do with the computer, even though sometimes I joke that my personal “Hell” would be spending an eternity trying to fix them. Instead, it had to do more with the fact that sometimes it’s just hard to be blind and I hate it…yes, I actually just admitted that. Yes, me, Miss Positivity, blind organization chapter president and advocate for all things blindness thinks that. I never admit that, even really to myself. I don’t allow myself to. All my life I’ve been taught to be positive, find the silver lining, count my blessings, make lemons out of lemonade, and just “Pollyanna” up through the hard times. I’m supposed to be strong and not show my weakness, put on a good brave face and soldier on. But frankly, it’s just hard.   It’s something I can’t change and have no control over.

I remember how I went through a bit of a grieving period when I first went blind as a teenager. Over the years I’ve noticed that every time I encounter a new phase of life, I go through another sort of grieving process all over again—turning sixteen and not being able to get my license like my friends, watching my siblings get theirs, moving away to college and worrying how I’d find my way around campus, seeing friends of mine get engaged and wonder if I’d ever get married because after all, who would want to marry and raise a family with a blind girl? Failing an internship at a children’s hospital because I’d walk into hospital rooms to offer child life services to patients only to find I’d just given my shpill to an empty bed, and then wondering what kind of career I’d ever really be able to do? Now as a young mom I find myself going through this process once again, only this time it seems to be hitting me harder than usual.

 

As a mom, I greave now for little things like not being able to hold my child on my lap and read aloud to them. Instead we have to read at my desk with a magnifier, listen to someone else’s interpretation of how a story should be read on an audio book, or worse yet, try to read braille to them and hope they don’t get bored before I finish the first line. I miss that we can’t jump in the car after dark and go for a ride—something my family did all the time while I was growing up, especially at Christmas time to look at lights. I long to be able to take them on bike rides, hikes, camping trips, or or road trips cross country without having to worry about coordinating for a sighted guide or driver to accompany us and working around someone else’s schedule.

I hate that I sometimes dread taking my children for walks around the neighborhood or to the park because I have to be a little “extra vigilant than most parents so as not to lose them. What should be fun and enjoyable often ends up being extremely stressful for me. I constantly worry as I try to keep track of them and often feel quite anxious when they get more than a few feet away from me (out of my visual field) or out of ear shot with their bells on. I often come home with real headaches as result.

I leave playgroups with other moms feeling sad and sometimes embarrassed that I have to take the bus, or cab, or rely on the kindness of others to chauffer us around. I admit that I’ve even been jealous before of moms with their minivans or SUV’s full of properly and permanently installed car seats while I juggle mine on my arms and pray we’ll make it home safely without an anchor strap because I can’t remember all the various ways to properly attach it for every make and model of vehicle in which we may happen to ride on a given day.

 

I cringe every time I let my four-year-old daughter leave the house in a miss-match outfit of her own choosing for fear that others will look at her with pity that her “poor blind mom couldn’t match her clothes” rather than seeing how I’m really allowing her the freedom of self-expression. I fight off nagging fears in the back of my mind when one of my children has a bump or bruise that might be mistaken for negligence because of my “lack of sight and inability to care for them.”

 

It frustrates me sometimes that decisions such as where we live or how many children we will have are governed by blindness. It frustrates me that I worry about what others are thinking when we go out in public as a family. Do they look at our children with pity, or silently label us as irresponsible for bringing children into “our situation?” It frustrates me that I’m often reminded by passengers on the train that I’m carrying a small child on my back and to be careful when I sit down…as if I didn’t notice the extra weight on my back, or that I’ve had someone accuse me of suffocating my child in a front-carrying pack because he was afraid I couldn’t see if my child’s face was covered or not. . Frankly, it’s all a little emotionally exhausting sometimes.

 

So, despite my randtings, I know that deep down I truly am blessed and have so many wonderful things going for me. I could write pages about all the great things I still can enjoy despite my challenge, the blessings I enjoy, the wonderful acts of service that have been shown to us by others, or some of the unique experiences or opportunities I’ve been given because of my blindess, but for now, I just need others to know that it’s hard sometimes. I confess I am weak and occasionally host my own pity party. So for what it’s worth, thanks for listening.