Ireland Part 2: Galway Days 1-4

Once again, I am on the train. I wanted to write as things happened, but the travelling life is a surprisingly busy life.  Time simultaneously seems to go by very slowly and very quickly.  So much has happened that it feels like I’ve been in Galway for much longer than a week, and at the same time, it feels as though I just got here yesterday.  Needless to say, both Tiffany and I are exhausted! I am actually very sad to be leaving Galway, it is a beautiful and vibrant town.  On to the details:

Friday, October 7 – Dublin to Galway by train

I finally arrived in Galway late afternoon on Friday.  After checking into Barnacle’s Galway Hostel, I headed for the next most important thing, food.  The hostel had a “free drink with entree” card for Busker Browne’s, so I went there and ordered a delicious lasagna and a glass of red wine.  The meal was delicious! That was pretty much it for the day, Tiffany and I were off to bed early. 

Saturday, October 8 – Rest Day
Saturday was a delegated “rest” day.  I slept in and missed the hostel breakfast, so I went to a lovely gourmet grocery & cafe  called McCambridge’s and had a very yummy breakfast – overnight oats with raspberry and almond milk, and a scone with butter and jam.  Yum! I think the jet lag had started to catch up to both Tiffany and I.  I was noticing some small behavioural things in Tiffany that worried me, so we pretty much just napped and cuddled all day in our adorable little private room.  I was a bit worried, because Tiffany was noticeably exhausted, but on top of that she seemed sad and dejected, so I just gave her lots of kibble and love for the day.  I  went to the corner store with my cane to get a frozen pizza to cook in the hostel kitchen and booked a tour for the next day.  

A delicious breakfast at McCambridge’s in Galway. Raspberry overnight oats with almond milk and maple syrup, and a scone with butter and jam.

Sunday, October 9 – Connemara

The next day, we went on a day tour to Connemara with the Galway Tour Company.  Mike O’Malley was our driver and tour guide for the day, and his quirky humour and charm entertained us for the day.  We spend the day exploring the Irish countryside north of Galway, stopping at a 14th Century Fanciscan Monastery, Kylemore Abbey, and the town of Cong.  
My favourite stop was, by far, Kylemore Abbey.  It was built by Mitchell Henry for his wife, and they later lost the castle after tragedy struck their family.  It was vacant for some time, before the Benedictine Sisters bought it for a fraction of what it would have cost to build and they revitalized the castle and turned it into a school. Since I was traveling alone, I asked for a guided tour of Kylemore Abbey, and I met a wonderful woman, Eileen, who was an excellent tour guide and a lovely human.  At one point, I remarked: “Can you imagine going to school here?!” And Eileen replied “Actually yes, I did!”  It turned out that her family had a long history of involvement at the Abbey. I feel so lucky to have met Eileen and had the opportunity to learn from her.  

A view of Kylemore Abbey from across the lake

Tiffany and I standing in front of the little church at Kylemore Abbey

Three types of Irish marble: Kilkenny (Black), Cork (Red), and Connemara (Green)

A stunning view of the lake at Kylemore Abbey

 

The ruins of Ross Errily Friary, the 14th century monastery, were also quite spectacular! 

Ross Errily Friary

Inside Ross Errily Friary – tombstones and archways

 

Monday, October 10 – Galway Cathedral
Monday was another quiet day.  I had met a friend, Erin, in the hostel, and we explored Galway Cathedral together. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I did for the rest of the day, other than booking a tour for the following day.  

The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas

Beautiful Ceiling and Stained Glass in the Galway Cathedral

Massive organ in the Galway Cathedral

Tiffany looking cute in front of an altar with a flame background. She is sitting on a floor made of the green Connemara marble


Update: This was all I was able to get done on the train ride, yesterday (Friday, October 14), so posting it now as is, and will write all about my last few days in Galway later! 

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Ireland Part 1: Dublin

Day 1: Arrived in Dublin 

After a long, overnight plane ride,  I landed in Dublin at 10:45 in the morning on Wednesday, October 5th.  I received assistance navigating through the Dublin Airport from a lovely girl and I was greeted by a representative of Agriculture Ireland.  The paperwork to get my guide dog, Tiffany, into Ireland was all in order, and the rep even brought the correct microchip scanner, even though I had brought my own – just in case.  I was on the bus to downtown Dublin by 11:30 and I was at the hostel in Dublin by 1pm.  I wasn’t able to check into the hostel until 2:30 so I had some time to go and get my Ireland SIM card from the Tesco down the road and voila… I had a working phone in Ireland! I was impressed by the prepaid plan – 15 euros for unlimited local calling, texting and 10gigs of data! Unheard of in Canada! 

I went back to the hostel to hang out until I could check in and I met my first friend! A nice guy from Texas who was in Ireland for a week celebrating his 30th birthday.  After we were able to check in, we went out for dinner, where I had a Smithwics and a Cottage Pie.  My first introduction to Irish cuisine.  It was delicious! (Side note: my new friend, Donnie, had a Corona… Blasphemy!) 

After our lunch/dinner in the middle of the afternoon, I took a nap, and the rest of the evening was a bit of a write-off.  I went for a late night walk before bed and got some delicious pastries and then promptly went to bed.  

Day 2: Howth

My first full day in Ireland started early – around 5am.  My roommates in the hostel both had to wake up early, and once I woke up, I was awake.  So, I figured I would just start my day.  I grabbed a few eggs at the hostel breakfast and hopped on the DART (Dublin Area Rail) north to a small fishing town called Howth.  I was in Howth by 10am and had a second breakfast of Porridge and fresh fruit with honey before walking around the harbours and down each of the three long piers. Unfortunately, it was too windy for the ferries to Ireland’s Eye, so I wasn’t able to make it out to the island.  I got some great pictures though! I also discovered the secret breach behind the train station and Tiffany got to have a romp! I was so tempted to take her off leash, but with the rest of my trip left, I didn’t want to get her totally dirty and smelly! After all that exploring, I was hungry again.  Of course, I had to get fish and chips while I was in a small fishing town and they were unbelievably delicious!  So delicious, in fact, that I forgot to take a picture until I was done. Yum! 

I took the DART back to Dublin and took another jet lagged nap.  I then went out for dinner with my new roommate and friend from Australia.  She is travelling for 6 months straight, and was already three months in, I can’t imagine!  I thought it was going to be a nice, early evening, but then I ended up going for a walk and drink.  Sarah, a friend from a Facebook group for guide dog users, lives in Dublin and has been the absolute best in helping me with planning my trip.  I met her husband, Paul, who was in city centre for a drink, and we went for a lovely walk to find good relieving places for Tiffany and  then had a drink.  I didn’t get to bed until 1am and then I was woken up again when my roommate had to get up at 6am.  I am. A tired girl! 

Day 3: Irish Breakfast and Train to Galway

Although I was woken up at 6am, I went back to bed after relieving the dog.  I woke up again when my alarm went off at 9am, since I had to get packed and check out of my room by 10:30.  I was pretty out of sorts and it seemed to take me forever to find a breakfast place, but eventually I did and I got my first full Irish Breakfast.  Egg, Bacon, Sausage, Beans, Hashbrown, Tomatoes, and Black & White pudding.  I also tried to find a place to get on the Hop Hop off bus, but by the time I figured it out, I didn’t have enough time before I had to catch the train to Galway.  Getting to the train station proved to be just as round-about and stressful as trying to find breakfast and figure out the Dublin bus tours.  By the time I was waiting for the bus to the train ration, I thought I was going to miss the train. It turned out the train was actually running 45 minuter later  than I had thought and I even had a nice Irish gentleman offer to buy my bus fare for me!  It all worked out surprisingly well at the end! 

So, as I hit send on this, I am pulling into the train station in Galway.  Signing off for another adventure in another city! At least this time I have a working phone with maps to help me find my hostel! 🙂 I will add photos later! 

#HowEyeSeeIt

Until now, I haven’t jumped into the conversation around the #HowEyeSeeIt campaign. I have seen many individuals get excited about participating in this fundraising initiative, without understanding the consequences. While it seems great on the surface, blindness simulation is far from an accurate portrayal of how individuals who are blind function in their day to day life. We have learned, over time and through experience, how to compensate for our lack of sight. Our other senses, and tools like adaptive technology, enable us to function just as well as our sighted peers. 

There has been a lot of discussion within the blind community regarding the negative impact that blindness simulations have on how society perceives the abilities of individuals who are blind. This video portrays some of the common stigma & stereotypes faced by individuals who are blind.  These misconceptions about what blind individuals can and cannot do are far more disabling than a lack of sight. Please take a look.

California Adventures and Awaiting a New Partner

This morning started at 4am EST while it was rainy and three degrees outside and I was on my way to Toronto Pearson International Airport by 5am.  I had booked a ride to the airport with a company called Airport Limousines, but—much to my dismay—I was just riding in a normal town car, no fancy limo.  Upon getting to the airport, I wasn’t able to find someone who worked there to help me but there was an extremely kind lady, Diane, who approached me and offered her help.  It turned out she was on the same flight as me to San Francisco and she was awesome in getting me some help with Air Canada.  I made a new friend!

Once I finally got connected to Air Canada staff, I was extremely impressed by the service at Toronto Pearson International and they were extremely accommodating from check in to the gate.  I even got to bypass the customs and security lineups!  Unfortunately our flight was delayed leaving Toronto by an hour and a half, but somehow we were only around a half hour late getting into San Francisco.  Taylor, one of the Resident Counsellors at Guide Dogs for the Blind met me at the baggage claim, and I said goodbye to Diane and thanked her again for all her help.

I was the only one being picked up at that time, so I got to ride shotgun for the drive through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate bridge into Marin County.  This city is stunningly beautiful, and the Golden Gate Bridge is even more impressive in real life than it is in the pictures.  Taylor told me that the paint colour on the bridge is called “International Orange.”  It was times like this that I am extremely grateful for my remaining vision, so that I can really get an appreciation for these kinds of remarkable sights.

I arrived at GDB around 2pm PST this afternoon.  The campus is gorgeous and they are so incredibly well set up here.  I have an awesome, private room, with a small private patio that leads onto a communal relieving area.  The whole patio and relieving area is covered so that we can relieve our dogs comfortably in all weather.  Beyond that, there are three grassy fenced in paddocks for off-leash play with the dogs. Also in the residence building (alongside the dining hall, rooms, patios, and relieving areas) are free laundry facilities, a student lounge, a well equipped exercise room, and a hot tub! (I plan to take full advantage of that hot tub over the next few weeks!)  There is also a gorgeous lobby with a massive gas fireplace and grand piano, and a large assembly hall where the graduation ceremony will take place before going home.

After settling in, I met with the campus nurse and then took a much needed nap.  We met up as group and had a building tour & orientation.  After that we had dinner—salad with balsamic vinaigrette, garlic bread, and pasta with marinara sauce—and it was all absolutely delicious.  They were able to provide me with gluten free and dairy free alternatives, and after dinner, the chef went through the menu for tomorrow and we got to pick what we wanted to eat.  After dinner, we had a few more meetings to go over campus information, and then we took an informal outdoor tour of part of the campus.

Tomorrow, our day starts with breakfast at 7:30am.  We have some informational sessions in the morning, and then tomorrow afternoon I get to meet my pup.  I have been told to ask someone to record our first meeting for posterity’s sake.  Then, apparently the hard work starts on Tuesday.

I am still a bit in disbelief that I’m actually here.  I just finished my last paper for grad school this past Tuesday, and it was a whirlwind after that to get ready to leave for this trip.  I have been excited for weeks (months, really) and, leading up to this trip, I was so busy that I didn’t really have time to sit and process until last night.  After I was packed and just getting ready for bed, the nerves kicked in and I definitely wasn’t sure of what I was getting myself into! Regardless, I’m here and this is really happening!

Tomorrow I meet my new furry, four-legged, partner, and I just can’t wait. 🙂

Till next time… peace, love, and puppies! ❤

P.S.:  Sorry for the wall of text and no photos! I pulled out my phone to snap some pictures of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, and I was so enraptured that I completely forgot.  Tomorrow, I hope to get some pictures of the campus and, of course, my new friend! 🙂

My Week in Nirvana

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It has been quite a while since I last wrote a blog post – three months seem to have flown by. I’m not sure if I haven’t been writing because I didn’t have much to say, or because I just didn’t have the language in which to say it.

Changing gears from previous posts related to vision, I want to tell you about my experience this past week – my week spent in Nirvana! Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Professional Training at the Omega Institute’s Rhinebeck campus in New York State. Nirvana was the name of the dorm in which I stayed, and I was quite amused asking people “How do I get to Nirvana?” and saying “I’m staying in Nirvana!” Nirvana is also a concept in Buddhism, referring to “a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self” (Google Definition), and considering that I spent a large portion of the week in silence, meditation, and reflection, it seems quite appropriate.

Nirvana - my dorm for the week

Nirvana – my dorm for the week.

I arrived at Omega on Friday evening, for two days of R&R (rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, recharging, take your pick!) before the MBCT workshop/retreat started on Sunday evening. I spent my time learning my way around campus, meditating in the Sanctuary, setting intentions, eating amazing food, lounging in hammocks by the beach, and I tried a Tai Chi class! I met some wonderful people that weekend, and then had to say goodbye on Sunday as that cohort of people left, and the new crowd arrived for the upcoming week.

A close encounter with a deer as I was heading to lunch from the lake one morning.

A close encounter with a deer as I was heading to lunch from the lake one morning.

Our MBCT workshop started on Sunday evening, and I met our instructors (Zindel Segal & Susan Woods!) and peers, and was presented with an overview of the week ahead. Our days started at 7am and went until 8:30pm, and on Wednesday we were to spend the whole morning in silence. Those of you who know me know that I really like to talk! Additionally, I was concerned that the nature of being visually impaired wouldn’t work so well with not being able to communicate verbally. I definitely hadn’t signed up for being “in silence” and I was feeling pretty anxious about that. We also ate many of our meals in silence, which was met with more trepidation, as the meals were buffet style and I often needed someone to help me identify and find certain things. Despite my worries and anxieties, the instructors were very understanding and supportive if I needed to break the silence, so I honoured it to the best of my abilities, and asked for help when I needed it.

Monday felt like the longest day, and when the end of Thursday rolled around, I couldn’t believe how fast the week had gone. Every morning we had a half hour of mindful movement or yoga, and a half hour of sitting meditation. Monday & Tuesday, we experienced the 8-week MBCT protocol as if we were participants. From 8:30pm on Tuesday evening until lunch on Wednesday, we were in silence, and Wednesday afternoon, we began “teachbacks” – we were guiding each other in meditations and facilitating parts of the MBCT program!

Friday morning we had our closing ceremony. We sat in a circle, and Zindel had a lovely ball of yarn that was brilliant shades of blue and purple. He held the end of the yarn, and tossed the ball into the middle of the circle. We sat in silence for some time, and finally someone went to the middle of the circle to get the ball of yarn. We were to reflect on three words to describe this past week while holding the ball, hold on to a portion of the yarn, and throw the ball to the next person. When it came to be my turn, my words were Gratitude, Compassion, and Strength: gratitude for this experience, a renewed sense of compassion for myself and others, and the discovery of a strength in me with which I hadn’t previously been in touch. After the last person had the ball, we held on to our string, stood up, admired the intricate network of connection we had formed, and one by one cut off our piece of string, severing the ties we had developed over the past week. It was sad, beautiful, and hopeful all at once.

Gemstone bracelets. Turquoise for connection, Amethyst for serenity, and Indian Agate for grounding.  The string is from the closing ceremony as a reminder of my experience.

Gemstone bracelets. Turquoise for connection, Amethyst for serenity, and Indian Agate for grounding. The string is from the closing ceremony as a reminder of my experience.

I cannot even begin to express how much this experience has touched me. It was not just a professional training, but also a deeply needed opportunity for personal growth and learning. This past week, I was able to reset in a way that the past month and a half of summer vacation hadn’t afforded me. I truly connected with myself, allowed myself to acknowledge how difficult this past year has been, and developed a renewed sense of hope and excitement for the future.

I have, once again, been reminded of the power of mindfulness and meditation.  I find myself inspired to maintain a daily sitting practice to keep me grounded, connected, and compassionate throughout this upcoming year and beyond.  I hope that the profound experiences of this past week, and the keepsakes I brought home with me will keep me motivated and serve as a reminder of my personal experience with the power of mindfulness.

Ganesh

A ganesh figurine – one of my keepsakes from the week.

My vision loss wasn’t a disability… until I allowed it to be.

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Yesterday, I didn’t leave my house.  While that may not seem shocking or horrible, it is problematic to me.  In the past, I have stayed home all day with Netflix marathons or reading a book, but it was always by choice.

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Toronto.  It was warm and sunny – the beginnings of a wonderful summer ahead.  I had grand designs of taking an audio book and reading in the park, or going for a stroll.  I had a whole, marvelous day ahead of me with no plans or obligations.  I woke up yesterday morning, sun streaming in the window, and planned all the ways that I could enjoy the lovely weather.

Instead, I didn’t leave my apartment.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because leaving my house seemed like an insurmountable obstacle.  I would have to deal with cars, and pedestrians, and cyclists.  I would have to try to discern meaningful sounds from the chaotic noise around me and use my limited vision to get around safely.  It was just too much.

Most days, I leave my house without thinking – I go to class, to the grocery store, to yoga class, and go out with friends.  Most days, I don’t allow my vision to limit me, to change the way I live my life.  Most days, I make the best out of my remaining vision regardless of how tiring it is.  Yesterday wasn’t most days.

Yesterday, my failing eyes became a barrier to how I want to live my life.  Yesterday, I gave into the fatigue, anxiety, and stress.  Yesterday, I let my vision loss become a disability.

Yesterday, I let my vision loss become a disability.  Today, my vision is still an obstacle, but I decided to keep living my life.

Have you ever let the barriers you face become a disability?

Descriptive Video & A runnning commentary on life…

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A brief apology and update before jumping in:  Huge apologies for the radio silence and lack of blog posts.  I am FINALLY finished my first year of Grad School! The last few weeks have been overwhelming with final papers and I simply couldn’t write anything non-academic.  I am starting to feel recovered and I’m excited to be back on the blogging bandwagon!

Without further ado:

Last night I had my first (well, recent) experience with descriptive video (DV; a.k.a. audio description or described video). There has been a flurry of news in the visually impaired community recently: Netflix has climbed aboard the descriptive video train starting with their new series, Marvel’s Daredevil.  While I take issue with the cliche of initiating audio description services starting with a show that’s about *drumroll* a person who is blind, I won’t get into that at the moment.

I have been a part of the visually impaired community my whole life, but I have had limited experience with descriptive video simply because I haven’t needed it.  Yes, I’ve been legally blind since birth, but I functioned pretty much like any sighted person until more recently.  I recall being at a camp for the visually impaired when I was a kid and we had a movie night where they screened Superman with descriptive video. At the time I found it distracting and didn’t like it one bit.

My experience last night was entirely different.  At first, I wasn’t able to find the descriptive video option on Netflix’s Android app, so I watched the first episode without DV.  The show is dimly lit and includes many action sequences, which are the two main things I have a hard time with visually.  I wasn’t able to follow a lot of the plot, so afterwards I found the DV option for Netflix from my computer’s browser and re-watched the whole episode.

I can’t even.  It was a completely different experience.  Now, I am tempted to hire someone to provide a running commentary and audio describe my life.  Any takers?

In all seriousness, I was amazed by how seamlessly integrated and informative the descriptive video was.  It provided me with all of the visual context I needed to understand exactly what was going on.  It described people’s actions, facial expressions (which I often miss), the intricate actions in fight scenes (again, which I can’t follow), the scenery, and much more.  It also explained who people were in the scenes, so I was able to keep track of who’s who (I found this very challenging when I watched the episode the first time without DV). Most importantly, the DV was inserted in the spaces between conversations and was timed perfectly.

All in all, I am extremely impressed.  Last night was one of those moments where I realized just how much visual information I miss, both on screen and in real life.  While it’s tough to be faced with that reality, I am so grateful for services like descriptive video.  I’m even more excited that mainstream media like Netflix are realizing that this is a much needed service and are beginning to implement DV options.  I am looking forward to watching the rest of Daredevil and excited to see what accessible options they offer next!

I signed up for a 75km bike ride for charity… what did I get myself into?!

Last Tuesday, a friend invited me to a launch party for Cycle for Sight, an initiative to raise funds for the Foundation Fighting Blindness.  The FFB is an organization that supports research on a variety of eye diseases, including Retinitis Pigmentosa – what I have.  When I agreed to attend the party, I had no intention of signing up for this ordeal… but, of course, I got roped in! Who can say no to such a great cause and a fantastic group of people?

I participated in Cycle for Sight in Ottawa in 2010, but that was only a 40km bike ride.  At that point, I rode my own bike, and my mom and I did it together.  This year, I’m going to be riding a tandem bike with a captain.  She will be the steering wheel and I’ll be the engine! I’m feeling pretty daunted by the task in front of me!

Yesterday, I attended my first training ride to start the process of getting in shape.  It was a one-hour spin class at the Y near me.  After about 15 minutes in, I realized just how much work is ahead of me to get in shape for the ride on June 20th.  Let’s just say, I am feeling it today!

In addition to the physical training I have ahead of me, I have to raise a minimum of $600 (though I’m aiming for $1000!).  The money is going to an awesome cause.  If you are interested in helping me, and many others dealing with vision loss, please check out the link below.

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=2789376&langPref=en-CA#&panel1-4

Today, I get to recover from the yesterday’s training, and tomorrow evening I’m doing it all over again! I will keep this blog updated with my progress, and the awesome adventures Miya (my captain) and I are sure to have once we start cycling outside!

Happy Monday everyone, have a great week!

How I Learned to Love my White Cane

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Last summer, I signed up for Orientation & Mobility (O&M) lessons and asked for a full-length white cane.  Before this, I’d had an identity cane for several years, but I had hardly ever used it.  An identity cane is a short, light and portable version of the white cane which isn’t used for tactile feedback, but simply to identify the user as partially sighted.  The full length white cane is used with the traditional tapping or sweeping motion to detect obstacles and any changes in the ground’s surface.  I remember hesitantly trying out the full cane for the first time, feeling pretty ridiculous, and then immediately realizing that this cane did exactly what I had wanted out of my identity cane.  I hadn’t been using my ID cane because it was useless to me, and the tactile feedback from the full cane gave me so much more information and confidence!

Despite realizing the usefulness of the white cane, I didn’t embrace it with open arms right away.  I felt weird carrying it where anyone could recognize me… and that was pretty much everywhere.  Fortunately, I was moving to Toronto in a few months, and I made a deal with myself that I would carry it full time – no questions asked – when I moved to the new city.

And I did! I had learned the basic techniques while I was still in Ottawa, but carrying my cane in Toronto showed me that it can be an invaluable tool.  Other people were gracious, aware, and impressively helpful.  While I was learning how to navigate a new city, I had people approach me any time I looked remotely confused or disoriented… which was a LOT.  I began to realize how much extra work I took on while trying to navigate the world as a sighted person.  Now that I carried a cane, it allowed other people to help me out because my disability was obvious and my white cane disclosed my visual impairment everywhere I went.

I had begun to recognize the value and usefulness of carry a white cane.  However, I could have never predicted just how reliant on and attached I would become to an inanimate white stick.  Now, I don’t go anywhere without my cane, and I get anxious if I temporarily misplace it.  It has become an extension of myself whenever I leave my house.

I occasionally miss the anonymity of having the choice to disclose my disability, and I’m still not completely comfortable carrying my cane all the time.  I’m currently at home in Ottawa for March break, and I have to force myself to carry my cane when I’m running errands with my family.  I also still feel weird carrying my cane when I meet up with my Ottawa friends.  While my friends are the most amazing, accepting, and nonjudgmental people, I feel like a different person when I carry my cane and I miss being my “old self” around them.

Despite feeling uncomfortable in some situations, I do love my white cane.  It has given me a sense of independence and more confidence than I could have ever imagined.  While I don’t always love the stares and reactions I get from strangers, I am proud to carry my cane.  To me, it’s not a symbol of shame or disability, but rather a tool to help me maintain my independence and it allows me to live my life more fully.  Once, I was walking down Yonge St. on my way to a fitness class, and a man passing me commented, “Boy, you sure walk fast for a blind girl”.  Yes sir, I do.

The Secret of Gratitude

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Tonight I decided that I would write about gratitude, because, quite frankly, I need the reminder.  Today was a perfectly good day and yet I find myself feeling really angry, frustrated, and generally disenchanted with life.  I’m not going to go into these crappy feelings, but I am going to start making a list of everything I’m grateful for.  So, here goes… piglet_gratitude_winnie_the_pooh

  1. My friends and family.  Despite missing Ottawa terribly, I’m grateful for technology that keeps me in touch with my people back home, and I am also grateful for the lovely people I’ve met in Toronto so far.
  2. My cat. She keeps my feet warm while I sleep and is the reason I get up in the morning (she needs to be fed!)
  3. Mindfulness. This practice has been the one thing that has kept me sane over the last 6 months.
  4. Yoga. I could lump this in with mindfulness, but it’s so wonderful that it merits its own mention, and it adds another number to this list.
  5. Being on the right track.  This is a less definable thing… but I’m grateful for the path that I’m on in the grand scheme of things.  Despite my current frustrations and apathy, I am excited for where life is going to take me. Which brings me to…
  6. Being in Toronto. While being in Toronto is part of why I’m in the dumps (I miss Ottawa), I want to remind myself that Toronto is an awesome city.  I like living downtown, I love being able to walk everywhere, and it is amazing to have a subway a stone’s throw from my house when I don’t feel like walking.
  7. Doing my Master’s in Counselling Psychology. Similar to being in Toronto, doing my master’s is also a current source of frustration and apathy.  Despite currently being disenchanted, I want to remind myself that at this time last year, I was actually doing a happy dance when I receive my letter of acceptance.  While I may not be thrilled about being in the thick of it right now, I know my master’s is going to get me where I want to go (see # 5).
  8. The possibility of getting a guide dog. Although even this is a current source of stress in my life, and I don’t feel excited about it right now, I know that this opportunity is incredibly exciting and just might be the adventure I need to shake things up a little bit.  A guide dog could also potentially reduce a lot of my current stress when I’m out navigating the world.
  9. Kind and helpful strangers. I have recently noticed more and more people coming out of the woodwork to lend me a hand.  On one hand, I realize that this is in part due to the fact that I’m taking longer to assess situations, and it’s those moments that I look kind of helpless when people step up.  On the other hand, I don’t really care, and I’m just SO grateful for their help.
  10. Life. I figured I would end with a big one, and here’s where I’ll get cheesy.  While life is frustrating, sad, and exhausting sometimes, it is also happy, rewarding and exciting at other times.  You can’t appreciate the good as fully without having experienced the bad.  Although I’m currently in the dumps, I know I won’t always be.  This too shall pass.

Gratitude Bonuses!

  1. Tea. I have a mug that says “All you need is tea and warm socks.” Enough said… especially with this winter!
  2. Bubble baths.  Well, along with tea, the next crutch that I’ve relied on to keep me sane this winter are bubble baths.  What better way to wind down after a day!

gratitude-changes-everything Believe it or not… I actually feel better! It amazes me how a simple thing like gratitude can actually have an impact.  My goal this week has been to practice self-compassion, and this small exercise in gratitude is just part one for the night.  Now I am off for part two: tea and a bubble bath!