I’m sorry and other judgements

“I’m sorry,” is one of those phrases that can mean many things, and is often used as a catch-all for everything from, “what did you say?” when you misheard something, to “excuse me,” when you bump into someone, to “drop dead,” when you have been accused of something for which you should be apologetic, and are anything but. Seldom do the words “I’m sorry” express genuine contrition. Sometimes, the words “I’m sorry” are used as a way to pass a subtle judgement about the quality of our lives.

How many times have you needed to disclose your blindness in the context of facilitating assistance, only to hear: “Oh…I’m sorry.” For me, it’s been countless times. If, when explaining to a customer service representative over the phone that I cannot read them the product serial number because I am blind, they will respond with an embarrassed, “Oh, I’m sorry.” If I explain to the technical support person that I’m unable to click the green button at the bottom of the page because I cannot see the green button, I’m answered by, “Oh, I’m sorry.” When the counter clerk in a retail establishment, who hasn’t bothered to look at me when I ask for help finding something, waves a hand and says, “it’s over there,” and I must explain I need additional details because I’m blind, they will look up, and awkwardly mutter, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Of course, some of these apologies may be a sincere mea culpa for inconsideration, but often I find it’s an automatic response from people who otherwise do not know what to say. When speaking to someone over the phone, for example, and getting the “I’m sorry” response after disclosing my blindness, I often say, “why are you sorry? How were you supposed to know I’m blind.” After all, it’s not as though they can see me, either. Why is an apology necessary? They are not clairvoyant. Apologizing in this context makes about as much sense as saying to a caller, “Oh, I’m sorry you’re six foot two.”

Then there are those who take it one step further, even when in person. When I ask, “why are you sorry?” some have actually responded by saying they were sorry I am blind. Or, they’ll say something like, “it’s just such a shame. You’re so pretty.” or, “it’s just such a shame. It must be awful. I feel sorry for you.” Or, they’ll resort to the inevitable stories of known others with my “affliction,” or they ply me with flattery for what amounts to misplaced inspiration and undeserved admiration.

In an effort to give most people the benefit of the doubt, I recognize that often there is no intent of harm, and in my experience, I think most people really want to do the right thing, they just don’t know how. On the days I feel like crowning myself the poster child for blindness, I gently and patiently educate. On the days when I’m feeling no such patience, I’ll pop off with something like, “I suggest you save your energy.”

As I have lived my entire life with vision loss, to a greater or lesser degree, thanks to the degenerative nature of Retinitis Pigmentosa, the words, “I’m sorry” in the context of blindness has, at times, felt more like a judgement than anything else. It is possible to be well-meaning, but demeaning. It’s another way of saying, “How can you live like that? I sure couldn’t. I’d rather be dead than disabled.” Whether it’s said in a flip and dismissive way, such as, “Whatever…it’s your drama, your trauma,” or it is said as a way to express true sorrow for my so-called plight, I am presumed to be living a substandard quality of life.

We assess judgements on others in many ways, and in many contexts. The disability community certainly doesn’t have the market cornered on prejudgement, the soft bigotry of low expectations, or edicts as to what we should or should not find acceptable.

Years ago, before mandatory vehicle shoulder harnesses and passenger air bags, Susan was in a devastating car wreck. She and some girlfriends were to go out for a celebratory evening, and the designated driver, who apparently decided earlier that night to abdicate her responsibility, was already impaired when she picked up Sue and her friends. Sue got into the car, unaware that the driver had already been bar-hopping. Under the influence of alcohol, and at speed, the driver lost control of the vehicle, left the road, and plowed into a building. Buckled up, and in the back seat, Susan, who was wearing a seat belt which was still considered optional back then, was partly ejected, but still held in by the lap belt that nearly tore her abdomen in half. Along with a broken back and neck, many other internal injuries that necessitated the removal of part of her intestine, Susan found herself in full body traction and a skull halo for many long months. “My God,” her hospital bedside visitors would marvel, “You’re lucky to be alive.”

“Lucky?” Susan recalled to me. “there were many days I didn’t feel so lucky. But it was drilled into me by almost everyone who saw me that I should feel grateful. There were days when I was in such excruciating pain that I did not feel grateful about much of anything.” Sue went on to tell me how much she resented the way many well-intentioned, but thoughtless people would attempt to dictate to her how she was supposed to feel. She should be grateful her husband didn’t leave her. She should be grateful her children had not been taken from her while she was incapacitated. She should be grateful it wasn’t worse.

Schooling someone as to how they should feel about something is tantamount to saying, you’ll eat it, and like it. Can you imagine going out to dinner, and the server judging you for not liking a menu item? The conversation might go something like this:

You: “Would it be possible to have green beans instead of broccoli?”

Server: “What? You don’t like broccoli? What’s the matter with you? This is the best broccoli on the planet.”

You: “No, really, I don’t care much for broccoli. I’d really appreciate it if I could have something else instead.”

Server: “Do you know how long it took to grow that broccoli? How hard we worked to make it for you? It’s good enough for everyone else. No one else has claimed they dislike it. What’s wrong with you that you don’t? Are you crazy? You’d rather have green beans? Isn’t that asking a bit much? I don’t have green beans to give you. Broccoli should be good enough, and if it isn’t, that’s just too bad. Do you think you’re something special, that you think you should have green beans? You have no right to want green beans. What do you think this is, the Ritz Carlton? People like you are never satisfied. let me list the innumerable things we’ve done to serve you this broccoli. You’ll eat the broccoli, and like it.”

Well,. I doubt that scene would ever play itself out for real, but it is not all that uncommmon in relationships. How many times have you been told that you can’t have what you want, because you ask for too much, want more than the other person can give, and should feel grateful for the way you are being treated, and if not, then there is either something wrong with you, or that you shouldn’t want what you want? Look at all the other person has done for you. You should be satisfied with how things are, good enough should be good enough. After all, are yu sure you are really qualified to decide what constitutes a satisfying quality of life?

Who are you to decide? You are the only one who CAN decide. No one else has the right to judge what should be good enough for you. No one else has the right to dictate to you what you should be willing to accept, whether that’s the choice to use “ghetto” assistive technology, being treated as a priority, or a serving of green beans instead of broccoli.

Recently, I saw a news story about a lifelong relationship between two friends who met as young boys, a friendship that had lasted through trials and tribulations, including the accidental paralysis of one of the young men, who then spent his days using a wheelchair. The story lauded the non-disabled man as a hero for not only continuing the friendship, but for later becoming his disabled buddy’s caregiver. Why was it that the non-disabled friend was held up as the hero? Because he was making some sort of sacrifice? Because he wanted to remain friends, even though the guy’s wheelchair…what? Cramped his style? Why wasn’t there any mention of what the non-disabled friend was getting from the relationship? How do we know that the non-disabled friend wasn’t some kind of supreme ass hat who had no other friends, and it was the guy in the wheelchair who was the hero for being the only person in his life willing to put up with his crap? For that matter, why would the guy in the wheelchair be a hero, either? Why would one or the other, and not both, be a hero? Why not consider both men as heroes for being stellar humans?

Because there is an implied judgement that someone in a wheelchair lives a reduced quality of life, and anyone who is non-disabled, who extends a friendship, or provides care, is doing them a favor. After all, who would willingly compromise the awesomeness that is able–bodied life, complete with better quality, able-bodied friends, unless they were magnanimous and self-sacrificing? Ridiculous. For all we know, it was a paid gig. But the audience is left ignorant, manipulated by the producers who were really working that hero angle hard.

There are certain responses that I can always count on when interacting with most non-disabled people. Some are borne out of curiosity: “So, have you always been this way?” Others stem from a desire to find commmon ground: “My sister-in-law has a co-worker who has a cousin who knows a blind guy.” Still others are offensive, in an effort to be ingratiating: “Hey, would it be okay if I told you a joke? A blind guy and a dog walked into a bar…” Hint: If you have to ask if it’s okay, it probably isn’t. Of all of these not so endearing, tried-andtrue conversations starters, one of my least favorites is, “I’m sorry,” because I’m sorry, and other judgements, place me in an imaginary hierarchy on which I do not belong.

Once, when interacting with someone who uttered the inevitable “I’m sorry,” after learning I am blind, I responded with, “that’s all right. I’m sorry you’re a brunette.” There was a few long seconds of silence, then she said, “I’m not a brunette.” “Oh,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

I don’t think she got it.


The Value of Gratuitous Controversy

Based upon the barrage of upsetting, demoralizing, or downright horrifying news to which we are subjected these days, it is no wonder why some people avoid daily news. With the ubiquity of social media, and the insistence that we pay attention, by way of tech device alerts and notifications, a purposeful, thorough ignorance of all current events may be hard to achieve. Sometimes, it seems as though there is simply no good news anymore. Sometimes, it seems as though the entire world has collectively gone mad.

With the many ways in which we are confronted by calamitous events and other generally bad news, it is understandable that we might want to take refuge in a world of our own creation, where we are surrounded, even virtually, by friends and like-minded others, and that it would be disadvantageous to invite sources of negativity into that world. Yet, it seems like a losing battle to bar the virtual door of any and all aggravating things. So, I wonder, why is it that some people seem to revel in controversy, to deliberately agitate, irritate, or inflame?

While I cannot pretend to know the answer, I can only opine based upon my observations. There seems to be two types of people who incite controversy for controversy’s sake: Those who genuinely enjoy the sport of it, and those who pretend they don’t.

Shock jocks,, radio personalities, and editorial writers are paid to create controversy so as to attract an audience. Some of these media dwellers have openly claimed that, if they have not made everyone on every side of an issue angry, then they simply have not done their job. There are others, however, not bound by lucrative contracts with multinational media corporations, who engage in this practice for a far less enriching payoff. Some of these people are part of our own community.

Before I continue, I will digress long enough to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it goes without saying that we are governed by our first amendment rights as to free speech. Say what you will, and let the chips fall where they may, as I am exercising my right to free speech here. What I question, sometimes, is the mind-set of those who seek to create controversy under the guise of “opening up a dialogue,” or, “inviting discussion,” or “information gathering.” I question the value of controversy for controversy’s sake.

I am acquainted with a small handful of people who genuinely enjoy putting a spin on the ball and then walking away. They love to sit back and watch the reaction they get, they welcome the opportunity to engage in heated exchanges where they relish any excuse to let fly savage retorts, vicious name-calling, or poisonous epithets. They hold most others in low regard, believing that others are mentally or philosophically inferior. Creating controversy flexes their rhetorical muscles. It maintains their intellectual superiority. It sharpens their edge. They are validation-addicted adrenaline junkies who find satisfaction in knowing they have the power to elicit reactions in others. It’s a twisted version of a Pavlovian type conditioned response to stimulus, where the antagonistic “scientist” rings a bell, the audience “rats” repeatedly depress the lever, but it is the scientist who gets the reward pellet.

The question I find myself asking, when I become aware of such an instance, which seems almost constantly, is, “is this really necessary?”

Again, let me reiterate, because some of you may be thinking that I am veering dangerously close to advocating for forfeiture of our right to express an opinion, that there is a difference between the soliciting of alternate views with the desire for rational social discourse, and stirring up trouble for one’s own amusement.

Some of the weightiest issues debated upon by our founding fathers were done so with infinite regard for opposing views, butt with no less passion. In reading some of the writings of our nation’s builders, I have found myself in awe of the inner turmoil, moral conflict, and penetrating consideration paid to the most profound of human experiences, that of freedom and self-determination. Yet I couldn’t help but be moved by the eloquence and artfulness with which the founders painted their perspectives on a canvas of conviction.

Here I go again, about to express my own opinion: We are either contributing to the well-being, education, or advancement of others, or we are poisoning the well. While I agree that there is a certain amount of interpretation as to when, if, or to what degree this occurs, I think it is generally recognizable when one is being gratuitously controversial, with no greater purpose other than to fan the embers of dissatisfaction. In my opinion, it is a conceit. It is self-important. In most cases, I find it unnecessary.

My name is Laura Legendary, and I approve this message.


Still passing notes after all these years: A love letter to my best friend

We met when I was just eleven, and he was twelve years old. He was sitting next to the window on the school bus that would be taking us on a school field trip to an ice skating rink. I sat down next to him, and asked his name. It was Dan. I excitedly told him that I used to ice skate when I was little, and that I wanted to be an Olympic ice skater when I grew up. He didn’t know how to skate, he said, he had never done it before. Proudly, I told him I would teach him, show him how to turn, and skate backwards, and everything.

Years later, Dan would tell me that he liked me because he liked the way I talked. “I liked the way you pronounced your ‘s’s,'” he said. “They were very…crisp. You talked like a grown-up.”

Dan has been my best friend ever since. There have been years when we were inseparable, and there have been years when we didn’t connect. There has never been another soul who has made me laugh as hard, as long, or as uncontrollably as Dan, and there has never been anyone less deserving of pancreatic cancer.

He was there for every first day of school. he was there at every lunch, every school assembly, every after school afternoon from 2:45 to 3:45, when we rehashed in gossipy, teenage detail on the phone about the day just concluded. When it turned out that my eye disease meant I would never drive, he drove me home from school in his green Honda Civic every day. He took me out on my first date, on my sixteenth birthday. When he couldn’t be there at various times over the years, he found a way to make his presence felt, like the day I moved from my lifelong home state to another, when an enormous box of housewarming gifts and supplies awaited my arrival, with a sign on it that read, “welcome home.” He flew two thousand miles and trekked through a forest trail of redwood trees, to stand with me on my wedding day. Then, he wrote me a letter after my husband passed away, less than six months later, a letter he had written for me as a journal on my wedding day, with all of his observations about all the little details he knew I would have missed for being busy and distracted with wedding day events. He read the journal to me, over the phone, and I recorded the call.

If a more misfit, oddly precocious, ugly little duckling ever needed a best friend, it was me. It is truly stunning what fully accepting another human being for exactly who they are, and loving them just the same, can bring about in the life of another. Because of Dan, I took chances, I ventured forth. I learned the meaning of quiet generosity and climbed to a new altitude so as to gain a better perspective. Because of Dan, I learned how to make a place for myself in a world where I didn’t believe I belonged. I laughed. At nothing. At everything. At what he said, at what I said, at the notes we passed in class, at what we thought of every stupid little thing, that laugh that is so out of control you can’t breathe, can’t even make a sound. I am who I am today because Dan’s influence has been so powerful, I have aspired to be like him.

Dan lost his father to pancreatic cancer when we were just teenagers. Dan lived in terror of the day it would be his turn, his entire life since. When I got the call two years ago this coming thanksgiving that Dan had been diagnosed with the same cancer, I was haunted by all of the times over the years Dan had expressed this fear. But now, it’s different, I thought. Now, treatments are better, health care is so much more sophisticated, surely, there’s something…something.

One might think that this sort of news would bring about a closeness and renewed bond between lifelong best friends, but sadly, it has not come to pass. Dan has been unable to see me, to say goodbye. he has chosen to speak with me only on a handful of occasions since the diagnosis. the only explanation that I have been comforted by is that he is trying to protect me from the pain. I can only cling to that, because nothing else makes any sense at all.

Today, I got the news that Dan has been placed with hospice. He is nearing the end of a process that has robbed him of absolutely everything that makes life worth living. If he can be loved more, I surely cannot imagine how. He is surrounded by his family, his mother and his sister and his partner, and they have taken one grueling step after another, walking in faith, and with hope that the son will not retrace the steps of the father. I am writing this now in hopes that he will be read the words here, and that he will take my love with him tonight, and every night for the rest of his life. I’ll have his love, his laughter, his joy of life in me for the rest of mine.

I love you, Dan.

Your Joybird,

Author’s note: Dan passed away on Sunday, September 21st, 2014. The world has become dimmer today, as the irrepressible spirit of a beautiful human being has moved on. My condolences to Dan’s family, Fran, Teresa, Philip, and all those he loved and made laugh.

Posted in Random Ramblings. 1 Comment »

Accessible Insights blog to take a hiatus. See you on the other side, precious humans.

Another year, another of life’s paths down which to wander. Some we choose to explore, some we abandon, some are chosen for us. It’s time for me to take a break, to regroup and catch my breath.

Until further notice, I will not be available online. I will not post any articles to the blog, nor will I post to the corresponding Twitter accounts. It seems that taking a tech break and living in the so-called real world of my immediate is the best way to soothe my restless spirit.

While I’m away, I will be thinking of you. Thank you to my loyal readers and Twitter followers. I will miss my friends, and I’ll be wishing you well. Thank you for your understanding. Thank you for being the ray of sunshine that lights my every day.

Sometimes, we have to return to the beginning of everything, turn our face to the sun, and sail far enough out into the waters so that we cannot see either horizon. That is where I will remain, ever your Laura.

Posted in Random Ramblings. 1 Comment »

Gratefully yours, twice over, from the Accessible Insights Blog

Each year around this time, I like to take a minute to wish my readers a happy holiday, and this year, I get two for the price of one! Did you know that this year is a historical (an historical?) double-dip, in that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah occur simultaneously? It’s Thanksgivukkah! Check out this article: Why #Thanksgiving and #Hanukkah overlap this year http://t.co/J8nclRsjC8

Thank you for your continued support and readership, and have a safe and happy holiday, whatever you are celebrating.



Anatomy of a Kickstarter project: Photo phobia

In the first article I posted on my painful climb to kickstart my business, Elegant Insights Braille Creations (www.elegantinsightsjewelry.com), using Kicstarter, I described some of the basics behind posting a project.  As of that article, I had not yet finished the video that is supposed to accompany the business or project profile.  I found the process of video creation to be one of the most painful things I’ve ever done, and in the end, I chickened out. 

Ideally, you are supposed to put your best face forward, blow your own horn, talk up your talents, put it all on display.  You should craft a video showcasing you and your project in a way that is so compelling, your viewers simply cannot resist throwing money in your direction.  after all, who wants to pledge money to a project that does little more than elicit a yawn?  So, you either have to be personality plus, or pitch an irresistible offer.  Some videos are very low production value, just a person sitting and talking about their project in front of their laptop webcam.  Other videos are mini multi-media productions that make one wonder why they need the money in the first place.  Despite my best efforts to be interesting, I succumbed to my fear of being in front of the camera and made my video all about the product.  all you’ll get of me is my voice doing the narration.  it’s quite the cringe-worthy commercial.  But everyone has to play to their strengths, and my otherwise long list does not include being a media maven.  All I can hope for is that my plea for pledges will be appealing enough, and by extension, distracting enough, that viewers will overlook the fact that my face is nowhere to be seen.  I actually think forcing myself to be in front of a camera could be detrimental in the end.  For the life of me, I cannot seem to come across as anything other than a kidnap victim in a ransom demand video.  If I look as though I wish I were anywhere else, how is that going to convince potential pledgers to "feel the passion"?

Uploaded it will be, as is.  In a world where no one seems to be camera-shy, and everyone seems to strive for pseudo-stardom, it’s clear to me I live in the social media celebrity-obssessive stone age.


You can read part 1 here: Anatomy of a Kickstarter project:  Preliminary examination









A shopping tip for your next mall crawl

At the risk of publishing a post that reads suspiciously like a "what I did over Christmas vacation" essay, I wanted to pass along a tip that you may find useful next time you need to make a trip to the local mall.  It may be too late to benefit you now, but I’ll repost this next year in an effort to help you find a way to accomplish your holiday shopping if you are blind and in need of a holiday mall crawl. 

This year, I was all but overwhelmed by the task of getting orders filled and shipped for my Elegant Insights customers, so I did not begin my own holiday shopping until the Friday before Christmas.  As a person who is normally highly organized and efficient when it comes to planning and executing dinners, travel, decorating, shopping and so on, I found my procrastination appalling.  this was one of those years where everything I had planned in the way of transportation and assistance went horribly awry.  Every attempt I had made to leave the house was thwarted, every one of my employees were unavailable, friends had left town, and the commitment I had made to my own customers took up all my time and attention.  So, last minute it would have to be. 

Since I have not been living in this town very long, and do not normally spend a great deal of time in my local mall anyway, I was quite unfamiliar with the mall and it’s layout.  I had a short list of stores I needed to find, but I had no idea where in the mall they were located.  if I could get someone to guide me to the stores, I thought, I could easily dash inside, ask for assistance and quickly move on.  I knew exactly what I needed to buy, and thought I could blast through my list in relatively short order.  I could get to the mall on my own no problem.  But what to do once inside?  Here’s an idea that may help you next time you find yourself in a bind with a task at hand and no sighted guide, friend or employee to assist you. 

I called the main mall number, and asked to speak to a manager or supervisor in Guest Services.  In my local mall, the Guest Services folks provide directions, sell gift bags and gift cards, and work with mall security to keep shoppers safe.  I explained that I am blind, and have a short list of purchases to make, and that I needed a sighted guide to escort me from store to store while I did some holiday shopping.  To my surprise, the person with whom I spoke said they have never been asked for assistance of this sort before.  "Really?"  I asked.  "Seems to me this would be a great service to provide your disabled clientele.  We need to shop, too, and we don’t always have someone available to help."  I offered a number of suggestions as to how this might be accomplished, given that a mall is a busy place, and understandably, there might not always be enough staff available to devote any one person to the task of being a personal shopper.  Still, I insisted, they might consider making such a service available once a month, or just at holiday times, as a way to encourage people who need some extra help to come to the mall and patronize local businesses. 

The management was extremely receptive and gracious, and agreed to assign me a security guard (lacking another available employee at the time) to guide me where I needed to go that day.  I raced inside each store, made my purchases, and moved on to the next retailer.  I was done in an hour. 

While I admit my timing could have been better with respect to approaching the mall management with the idea, they were helpful, sincere and understanding in their desire to assist.  A well-timed follow-up with the Guest Services and security staff might make possible a dialogue about ongoing services for people with disabilities to enjoy an accessible shopping experience. 

Yes, of course I could have done all my shopping online, which most of us do these days, but remember, I had waited until the last minute, so I was extremely grateful, and enthusiastic in my expressions of appreciation for those who went out of their way for me.  You should be, too, if you try this at your local mall.  Mine was packed with holiday shoppers, and I’m sure it was not the most convenient thing in the world for them to spare a security person just for me, on short notice.  Now that the holidays are over, give your own local mall a call and see what you can do to implement some sort of shopping assistance program.  Perhaps they might consider hiring a volunteer or two to be available periodically on assigned days to provide this service.  Or, maybe it would be more feasible only at holiday times.  It’s worth a try.

This wraps up my final post of 2012.  I hope all of my readers have the happiest, healthiest, and most abundant of new years, and I sincerely thank you for your comments, tweets, words of praise or encouragement, feedback and friendship this year.  I will work even harder to make this blog a place for you to find tips, tools, and camaraderie that will bring together a community of individuals in need of support and information.  Please feel free to use the accessible contact form on this page to contact me with any ideas you may have for future topic ideas.  if you would like to be interviewed for an upcoming event or promotional campaign, drop me a note.  if there is any way I may be of service to you, it would be my pleasure.  Simply reach out, and I’ll be there.

Warmest wishes,


Laura Legendary

Considering public speaking? Talk about confidence!

A number of my readers have noted, by way of my Linked In profile, that I have been a long-time member of an organization called Toastmasters International.  While I am not a     current member, my association with Toastmasters lasted over ten years.  Many have asked me to write about professional speaking, or have contacted me for tips and advice.  This interest has prompted me to post the article below.  I was invited to contribute the article after a number of others I had written appeared in a regional publication.  This article was first published in the Toastmasters International Magazine in 2005. 

Talk About Confidence

If you asked me to choose the single greatest benefit I could claim as the result of my Toastmasters experience, I would choose confidence.  With so many skills and techniques to be learned, confidence can be the most elusive.  Confidence is stealthy.  It creeps up on you, slowly at first, building in intensity until one day you realize it’s there.

Confidence is not the thing that propels you to the front of a room to give a talk.  That’s courage.  Confidence is not what gives you the ability to speak fluently and elegantly on your topic.  That’s expertise.  Nor is confidence the way in which you move about the platform, your emphatic gestures or your booming voice.  That’s presentation style.  The actual   substance of your contribution is derived from standing in your truth,  more subtle than mere flash.

Confidence is quieter.  It comes from the knowledge that no matter the calamity or crisis, you can trust your ability to cope gracefully. Confidence is that esoteric something that can be difficult to describe, yet you know it when you see it.

Confidence is acquired, not given.  It is an idiosyncrasy of our language that we say, “That really gave me a lot of confidence.”  I tend to think of confidence given gratuitously as that which is temporary, such as a compliment.  It can be fleeting, when, for example, you are the recipient of an unflattering remark ten minutes later.  Instead, think of confidence as the result of a simple mathematical equation:  Time plus experience equals confidence.

The first portion of the equation, time, is a constant.  Time elapses, whether you like it or not, and eventually you will have accumulated a substantial body of work upon which to draw.  The second part of the equation is the variable.  Experience is simply trial and error, trial and success.  You must have both, or there will be nothing that can be learned.  In any competition, it is the person who comes in at second place who gains the most from the experience.  It is the second place winner who picks apart his performance, analyzes every angle, and strategizes the next step to success. No one likes to lose, but if you are at all competitive you will use the next attempt and the experience of coming up short to win.  How many times have you said, "I won’t make that mistake again"?  Knowledge is one of the ingredients that makes experience a variable.  We choose to learn from our mistakes.

Confidence doesn’t come from being told that you are good, it lies in knowing that you are good.  From there, greatness is an exercise.  It’s up to you to use time and experience to your fullest potential.  This may require new choices, but by that time you will have earned the confidence you will need to go as far as you desire.  You will also possess the skills and experience that will enable you to teach others.  Talk about confidence!





Towering Tree, Power of Pi: A tribute.


Simply put, little stands that lacks a solid foundation.  Mine is my family.  What follows are a few words of appreciation.  Only a few words are necessary, because we share an abundance of understanding.  So many have so much less.


The towering tree is a redwood, who ascends to heights so lofty as to keep watch over all else.  A tree so tall he can see with clarity the unobstructed paths for me to follow, and can guide me through.  The towering tree is a massive oak, long-lived and wise.  His quiet strength and patience holds him in good stead against the forces that bring down lesser trees.  The towering tree is a willow, who weeps only with compassion, not pity.


As the ancient banyan extends its profusion of limbs beyond the perimeter of what seems  possible, providing shade, shelter and comfort, my brother is the towering tree.


The power of pi is the highest power in the universe.  She is an enigma, far more complex than she appears at first.  Pi is the constant from which I derive all strength, all love, all life.  She is the source of infinite spirit and growth.   In a world of variables, Pi has no end, and no equal.  Pi is my mother.


I’ve often heard it said that raising a child is the hardest job in the world.  In my opinion, the only job more difficult is that of raising a child with a disability.  It requires a foundation an order of magnitude more unshakeable than any other.  I should know, because I’ve been standing on it.  My foundation has never even trembled. 

Tomorrow marks a significant milestone in my life.  No, it is not my birthday, my birthday is in March.  Nor is it an anniversary of any kind.  It is a day no less special or important than these, however, as it is the sort of milestone only someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one can understand.  We count up our emotional souvenirs as we make inevitable comparisons of chronology,  and say things like, "it was at THIS time, THAT year, when we…"  All the while marveling at life’s continuum as we go on without them.  It is a day to gather up my memories and hold them close.  It is a day that marks a point at which the end begins to gain distance greater than that which marks the distance from the beginning.  It is a day I cannot face alone, and I will not have to.  There is no tribute adequate to express the gratitude and love I have for my family.  For me, little is possible without the towering tree, the power of pi. 

I love you.



On letting go of my visual life

A few years ago, I was offered a writing tip from a friend who was trying to advise me as to how to overcome writer’s block.  At the time, I was strung as tight as piano wire, unable to come up with a single creative word.  To add self-flagellation to injury, I was furious with myself for becoming the cliche of a writer who sat staring, paralyzed, at a blank computer screen.

Of course, in my case, "blank" is a relative term.  But I digress.

Anyway, my friend advised me that he used a technique that helped him when he found himself floundering.  He suggested that I forget about composing an introduction, working through the salient points and concluding with a profound thought or compelling call to action.  Instead, he advised, "Just begin writing, even if you begin in mid-sentence.  Write as if the thoughts had already been flowing for pages and pages.  Start in the middle of the document, and work your way back, or forward, it doesn’t matter.  This can trick your mind into believing that you have simply dropped into a continuum of free-flowing ideas, and before you know it, you’ll be able to begin at the beginning."

I was skeptical.  Frustrated, yet skeptical.

As it turns out, it is a trick I’ve used for awhile now.  Most of the time, it works well for me. 
it takes the pressure off of trying to come up with an attention-grabbing opening line, and I give myself permission to write in a more stream-of-consciousness manner, knowing that I can always go back and ruthlessly edit later.  another trick that has helped has been to keep a running open file of words, phrases, topic ideas and inspirational text from which I can draw when needed.

I say all of the above to set up the manner in which I approached this essay.  I tend to be very private, and I rarely write about anything personal.  When first deciding to set up this blog, I was determined to write only about issues that pertained to accessibility and assistive technology, and not to write about personal feelings related to my own vision loss.  My thinking was that there are plenty of others who write about their trials and tribulations with their disability, why add to the chatter?  I didn’t feel that I could write about it in a way that was valuable.  I thought I could be of greater service to others if I kept my feelings out of my writing.

Still, there are a few posts here describing various adverse circumstances in which I’ve found myself on occasion, and to my surprise, all who have read my rants, missives and manifestos have been incredibly supportive.

It is understandable that my readers might, at least, every once in a while, like to hear from the human being behind the blog.  With the hope that this is the case, and I’m not aggrandizing myself, I thought I’d write about something a little more personal today.

I’ve only been living in the house I’m in now for about a year and a half.  A couple of weeks ago I found myself in spring cleaning mode, and decided it was time to unpack more of the boxes stacked up in the garage.  At the rate I’m going, I thought, I might as well just leave it all packed for when they come to move me into the senior living facility.  it will make it so much easier when they bring it all to the thrift store.

So, determined to be the master of my own donation destiny, I began going through boxes that hadn’t seen the light of day in years.  Most of us have had to suffer the madness of moving from one dwelling to another, and in the process, we’ve learned that we have too much stuff.  In fact, I wondered, as I pulled open a box that contained trinkets from my childhood, how many of us have boxes that we NEVER open, we just haul them from place to place, thinking we’ll get to it at some undetermined point in the future, only to realize that we have no place to put any of it?  Here I’m reminded of the comedy routine performed by  the brilliant George Carlin, who railed against the accumulation of belongings we move from one residence to another throughout our lives.  Remember the routine he did about the extinction of humanity, leaving behind "the Earth, plus plastic?"

Bent over one particular box, I could feel it was crumbling, the cardboard wrinkled, the tape peeling, the corners frayed.  This one must be a really old one, I thought.  Wonder what’s in it.

The box was full of photographs.  Loose photos, still in the envelopes with the negatives tucked inside (have you wrapped your mind around the fact that we’ll never have photo negatives again?), albums, and even school yearbooks.  Photographs taken over a lifetime of milestones…milestones that ceased to be recorded when I began to really lose my eyesight.

I do not remember the precise point at which I stopped taking pictures, but it was years ago.  Decades of my life have now passed without the cheery chastisement to "say cheese!" as I snapped a photo of some timeless moment.  I hadn’t even thought of it until right then, staring down into a box full of those memories imprinted on hundreds and hundreds of paper squares that I will never see again.  When is the last time I even looked at them?  Surely, there must be packages of photographs in here, picked up from the drugstore rack of developed rolls of film that I’ve never even opened.  Intending to place them lovingly in a photo album, I just assumed I’d get to it one day, but one day came and I could no longer recognize anything in a picture.  I just left the envelopes, unopened.  Now, I would never know what had been picture-worthy at the time.  There must be events recorded there that I’ve long forgotten.  That’s what the photos are for…to jog our memories, to refresh our recollection of an event, a celebration, that Christmas when…

But it’s all gone to me now.  I felt, standing over the box in my garage that day, as though I had a sort of Alzheimer’s disease, only instead of the blissful ignorance of memories lost, the past slips away while you stand by and experience every moment missed, conscious of the loss like the sensation of the sand pulling away from beneath your feet as the ocean waves rush to retreat from the shore.  What do I do with the photos now?

I have no one to give them to.  Who would care?  I cannot describe them to future generations, and what was significant to me at the time is surely meaningless to someone else.  There will be no reminiscing, no laughter over the dated hairdos, the outrageous outfits, the long-lost friends whose names just won’t come to mind.  Yet, throwing away all of my old photos, albums, yearbooks, school portraits, unopened envelopes emblazoned with that bright yellow Kodak logo seems like an act of assisted suicide.

I wonder what to do now.  This has me feeling uneasy.  I’ve long since let go of my visual life, yet disposing of a lifetime of happy birthdays, spectacular sunsets, foreign travel, forested trails, and rolling road trips would be a kind of amputation of the soul.  What should I do?  What would you do?  What have you done?  Tell me about a time when you let go of your visual life.