The Me You May Not Know – Chapter One

Yesterday, with some trepidation, I committed to writing a post a day for the month of November as part of #NaBloPoMo for the first time.

Today, what I feel is more like panic.

What the hell do I talk about now?

I guess, for a start, what makes me, me. But the me that you don’t get from the About Me page.

I was born in Montreal, very prematurely and weighed in at two pounds. And that presented a challenge for the medical profession in the early 1950s. So, into an incubator I went, where a steady supply of oxygen kept my lungs and my brain going. But, in those days, the intense supply of pure oxygen destroyed the fragile eyes, and I lost most of my sight. I don’t see anything in the left eye but a vague sliver of light, and I see 10% in my right eye, which makes me legally blind.

Simply put, if I look at the standard eye chart with my ‘good’ eye, I can’t read the large E at the top. Mind you, I know it’s an E, it’s been an E for 60 years, but I don’t see it clearly. I’ve been telling ophthalmologists for years to change up their eye charts so I don’t feel so smug!

I grew up pretty well doing what every other ‘normal’ kid did, with the exception of riding bikes or go-karts, and went to ‘regular’ school, thanks to the determination of my mother, who resisted numerous attempts to persuade her to put me in a special school. I often call myself a good fake, and I credit my upbringing with that.

I went to McGill University, and got a First Class Honours degree in Classics, so I was proficient in Ancient Greek and Latin. I figured that with my knowledge of dead languages, I should go into teaching, so I applied to get my Masters in Education.

Imagine my shock and dismay when I was rejected, because I “wouldn’t be able to teach normal people”!

That’s when my life changed, forever and for the better.

Stay tuned for Chapter Two tomorrow:-)

Awesome Meets Reality

I had an amazing week on so many levels.

I was a roving photographer at Kerry Gibson’s fabulous Elevate and Celebrate event to raise funds to make elegant and historic Hycroft accessible to everyone.

Then, an unbelievable experience at my first SVI Women in Vancouver conference that brought together an incredible group of smart, talented, passionate and generous entrepreneurs for two and a half days. I was fortunate to gain admission as a volunteer photographer – and I poured my heart into producing a collection of photos that captured the intensity, joy and energy of the event through the eye of the lens. You can view all of the photos on my Flickr site. I’m pretty proud of them.

And, over this past week alone, my Flickr views have skyrocketed – up to an incredible (at least to me!) 28,300 views to almost 170,000 views! I know it’s probably not much of a leap to some, but that growth spurt means the world to me.

It’s given me a huge confidence boost at a point where I really, really need one.

It’s validated my belief that I can and do contribute to the success of an event by documenting it in my unique way.

I’m also hoping that it’s been an #EyeOpener for the people who’ve seen my photos.

Because I need more than an awesome week.

I need paid work. Badly. As much as I’ve loved all of these amazing experiences, and the people I’ve met along the way, real life and the need to make money can bugger up all the awesomeness.

So I’m putting it out there again.

If you or anyone you know needs a photographer, PR gal, writer, editor, community builder, accessibility consultant, public speaker, cat sitter, envelope licker or pretty well anything that doesn’t involve driving cars, waiting tables, or 20/20 vision – please feel free to contact me.

I have a hell of a lot to offer. Let me open your eyes.


Enhanced by Zemanta

On Stopping and Starting


I wasn’t prepared. But I did stop. For a whole year.

No writing except for Twitter and Facebook updates. And, frighteningly, when I look back, no photography except for spur-of-the-moment iPhone pics which caught fleeting glimpses of my life that I felt I could share.


A year ago today I left for Ottawa to be with my mother while she was in respite care, and to ease the caregiving burden that had weighed on both my sisters over the past few years. I figured I’d be there a month or so. It ended up being seven long, hard, sad months full of struggles, revelations, dramatic change and realities that continue to challenge our entire family.

The balance of the year also ended up bringing a lot of hardship, heartache and change for me back home in Vancouver, leaving me tired, listless, unmotivated and isolated, at least in my own head. Being away for so long left me with a pronounced ‘out of sight, out of mind’ feeling. A bad bug and an even worse fall had me laid up over most of Christmas and all of January. I also had to make the painful decision to leave my home of three and a half years at the end of February and move into a much smaller place that my limited finances could handle better. And then came March, with a bittersweet mix of the third anniversary of Dave’s death and my 60th birthday two days later. Quite the year, eh?

Good stuff did happen, of course. There was much laughter amid the tears and frustration. I re-connected with people I deeply care about back in Ottawa. My youngest sister and her oldest son both purchased their first homes. My youngest nephew announced his engagement. My nieces are beautiful, accomplished young women. My England family is thriving. And my friends, old and new, continued to be loving and supportive, no matter how defeated and bitchy I got.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that I’ve been stuck for a very long time. It’s time I unstuck myself. And the unsticking has begun, slowly but surely.

It started when I pulled out my camera again on a bright and sunny day two weeks ago and walked along the seawall and actually took pictures. Feel free to look at the full set, but this was a favourite from that day.

CAB_2038_2I can’t express how this short photo walk made me feel. The closest I can come to explaining it is to compare it to getting a blood transfusion. I was doing what I loved again. And it was only then that I realized how very much I missed – and needed – my photography.

And that, despite my own challenges as a legally blind person, I’m damn good. It’s time I reminded the world that this gal is talented.

I’m taking inspiration from my wonderful friend Marc Smith and his 30 Day Adventures blog he’s created and developed. He’s been dedicated, persistent, and committed to his vision, and I admire and respect that.

So, I’m taking some baby steps toward my new direction. Little by little, I’ll be where I want to be.

First, I’ll be taking the opportunity to show the world what I can do as a visually impaired photographer – and why my perspective matters. I’ll also shed light on my other talents as a communicator and advocate down the road, because everything I do is so closely entwined.

I’ve even come up with a new hashtag that I think captures what I want people to feel about the awesome things I do.

Introducing #EyeOpener. You’ll be seeing it a lot as I begin to tell my story, all over again.

I hope you enjoy the ride. I’m off to follow where my talents lead me.



On Resolutions – and Resolve

Well, it’s that time of year again. You know, when we all jot down our New Year’s resolutions for the dawning year.  And abandon so many of them within days, or weeks.

It’s not that we don’t want to stick to them, mind you. I think our hearts are in the right place. But resolutions are hard to keep. I know. I’ve broken so many over the years. Life, time, distractions, fears, sadness and yes, disinterest all get in the way. That’s where I feel I’m at this year, after many ups and downs in 2012.

I have a list of resolutions for 2013, some of which I mentioned on my Facebook account a few days ago.

“I need to intensify my job search. I’ve been fortunate to have a bit of part time work, but I need more certainty and stability in my life so I can plan for trips and the like.

I need to improve my photography skills – and that means I need to shoot more. I’ve been a bit slack. And I know I’ve still got a talent there.

I want to resurrect my sewing machine and get proper lessons on how to sew. I actually have some designs in mind for myself and I would love to extend my inner vision to real clothes.

And I need to see more people one-on-one. I want to actually get to know more about the many people I talk to online all the time. And I think it’s time more people knew me a bit better too.”

There are other things – like watching less TV, writing more, getting more exercise – lots of the usual.

I believe in each and every one of these resolutions. I know they’d all do me the world of good, emotionally, physically and mentally. What I need now is what I think is the flip side, the unbuttered side of the bread, the yin to the resolution yang.

I need resolve.

I need the strength and determination to stick to my guns. To not be distracted, or dissuaded, or intimidated into thinking I can’t do what I said I want to do. I need the determination to make real, honest-to-God changes in my life. I need to stop being lazy, apathetic, fearful, anxious and rudderless. I need to get mad at myself more, and give myself the ass-kicking I deserve.

So, when it comes right down to it, resolutions are all very well and good. But first, I need to work on me. Or all the resolutions in the world mean squat.

Right? Right.

How much work do you need to do before resolutions mean something?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Nothing but Good – On Random Acts of Kindness

For most of this month, my very good friend Marc Smith has been engaging himself and a number of like-minded organizations and individuals in what he calls his #30DaysofKindness – the latest round of his 30DayAdventures. So far, Marc and friends have brought cookies and cheer to seniors, given away warm toques and socks to needy people on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, handed out flowers to brighten up many commuters’ days, encouraged literacy among youth through book drives and writing tools, and so much more. This inspiring exercise in kindness is happening till mid-December, so feel free to visit Marc’s site, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook if you want to learn more.

I’ve  known Marc for several years now, and I know about his kind heart and giving nature first-hand. In December 2010, Marc was part of an amazing team of people who helped to organize a fund-raiser for my late husband Dave and me when he was desperately ill in the hospital. It was an event that touched me and my entire family and will always be one of my most treasured memories.

That experience, and Marc’s wonderful work came back to me this past Thanksgiving, when a horrible day was turned around by several acts of kindness from not only friends, but total strangers.

When I left you at the end of the last post, I was stranded in a wheelchair at LAX, having just been informed by the very nice airport police that my stolen  purse and all its contents had not been found. I was at the mercy of a negligent wheelchair attendant who wanted nothing else but to go home on a Thanksgiving afternoon. I was devastated, scared and shaken. It was a Very Bad Day.

But suddenly, happily, things began to turn around.

A very kind attendant did relieve my surly guy, who apparently did go home. She then got her supervisor involved. Her name was Diane, she was an angel, and she ROCKED. She first apologized for her employee’s attitude and neglect. She had me meet with her boss, a lovely man, who also apologized profusely and sincerely. She let me use her cell phone so I could do the best and most expedient thing I could think of. I tweeted my predicament.

But the random act that I’ll most remember from Diane was the fact that she reached into her purse, and handed me $10. I KNEW she didn’t have that much money. I knew it was a big sacrifice on her part.  I cried as I took the money and thanked her. And I hugged her tightly when she dropped me off at my departure gate and told her I’d never forget her.

In the meantime, and through that flight to SFO, my tweet had gotten the attention of friends and acquaintances, who offered help and moral support. My dear friends Lorraine and IdaRose sprang into action. Lorraine managed to cancel bank and credit cards, while IdaRose and her husband Neil arranged a cab (actually a white limo!) to pick me up at the airport to take me to their annual Thanksgiving feast. I was wined and dined and hugged many times that evening by a crowd of very supportive people, got to hang out with the family pe, and even had a night at a nearby hotel paid for so I could rest and recover from the day. I was so very lucky.

And after the initial shock and mourning for my possessions in that bag, I again remembered Marc, and what he and others were doing for their community. For people.

THAT is what I was thankful for on Thanksgiving – the reminder that things are just things, life has its scary moments and hard times, but it’s people, in person and online, those in hugging distance, and those who offer them from afar, that make life worthwhile. Thanks Marc.

Thanks Diane, for making me feel I mattered when all I felt was lost. Thanks, Lorraine, IdaRose, and Neil, for being there when I needed you the most. Thanks, Dick and Barbara, for always giving me a place to call home. Thanks everyone, from the bottom of my heart.  I won’t forget your love and support.

Enhanced by Zemanta