Sunday, May 21, 2017

Next Chapter in vision loss

This past Monday I had scheduled an appointment with my retina specialist.  Just a routine exam to check in.  After a visit three years ago to a retinal specialist that was brisk with our appointment, I decided the next time I would return to my retina specialist that had helped me through some of the major transitions in the journey of Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition.  Diagnosed at age 18 I am not new to this journey of going into the opthalmologist and getting the news that my vision has declined further.  One would think perhaps that after 32 years it would get easier.  In many ways, it does.  I have learned to follow the appointment up with a fun lunch with a friend, tandem bike ride with my husband, or something else besides quickly returning back to work.  A day for self-care and breathe and recognize that losing your vision gradually at times isn't an easy journey.

This Monday was different.  Work was so hectic - there wasn't going to be time to take a day off.  It was going to be a quick visit to the retina specialist and then back to the office for a busy afternoon/evening.  I even told Steve, who is always by my side, drop me off and I'll go in while you visit your mom.  He said, I'll be there for you, Beck.  I know, I know. Its not a big deal.  I'll do this one on my own.  I told him.  I'm not sure why.  I just wanted to go to this appointment by myself.  

I entered and Dr. Swartz was so glad to see me.  He greeted me with kindness and immediately such a personal interest in how I was doing, how was work going, and how was the family.  I reflected back to my first visit to see him many years ago.  I still recall him turning to me as the patient and recognizing that he was going to see me through this.  

Now, many years later here I was back in his office.  I was giving him an update on the latest marathon run, my recent book published, my thriving private practice with 15 therapists and telling him his belief in me years ago made a big impact on my journey.  After a few moments, his tone shifted as he looked at the pictures of my eyes.  He was telling me my maculas were extremely swollen and this was very serious.  My eyes were at risk of a macula hole.  He also said we were going to fight to keep this last 3 degrees of fuzzy vision as long as we could.  We were going to try eye drops first and then would move on to a stronger diuretic if needed to try to avoid a macula hole.  

We completed our visit and scheduled again for two weeks with my promising to follow the eye drop regimen seriously.  I left there so grateful for this kind, caring and knowledgeable retina specialist.  I also left there recognizing that I needed to ramp up my blind skills.  

Its an interesting journey to experiencing gradual vision loss.  Each decrease brings feelings of loss to navigate and experience.  I get that and value the importance both personally and professionally as a licensed clinical mental health counselor.  This past week it has felt like the light is dimming.  I have felt an increased sense of gratitude once again for that light.    

In the morning I will contact the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired so that I can return and get some more training in computers and braille.  I feel a sense of gratitude that scheduling this additional training is not going to be easy - I work full-time with a busy caseload as well as manage a busy office -- Resilient Solutions, Inc and preparing two retreats this summer at - Oasis Center for Hope.  There is lots of tandem biking and travelling scheduled this summer with Steve.  My life is rich and full.  I have colleagues cheering me on and asking how they can help in this change.  Ironically, I have to present tomorrow with the topic they requested:  I can do hard things.  



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Resilience Plan ... Incorporating your Strengths

Love helping my client's identify their strengths and then incorporating into their resilience plan. Take the VIA Survey Signature Strength Test: (http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey). What are your top five strengths? How do you incorporate them into your life each day? Come back and share!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Be true to yourself

Be true to yourself


A visit to the ophthalmologist confirmed that I’d lost more vision, which wasn’t much of a surprise.  I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition. I still had good acuity at this time but my vision had narrowed like seeing through a paper towel roll.  Walking into a stop sign was certainly one of those dramatic times that brought to my attention the disparity between what I saw and reality.  If I’d been waiting for a sign that I needed a cane, well, I’d just walked into one. 
It was time to stop, literally, and face the truth:  I wasn’t safe without some kind of additional support.  I knew that it was time … perhaps past time.  My world and therefore my children’s world would get smaller if I didn’t seek additional training.  I wanted my children to know the world was full of possibilities and what a meaningful life could look like.  I couldn’t do that if I was afraid of getting hurt when I left the house. 
My desire to be out in the world  nudged me to make that call to the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  The  next day a friendly Orientation and Mobility Instructor greeted us and quickly showed me some simple techniques to help around our home and office.  He then took me to an open room, unfolded a cane and handed it to me.  I’d been afraid of this moment.  But as I grasped the black plastic handle and felt the weight of the long white pole in my hand, I decided it was time to embrace this opportunity.  The people I met that day at the Center were positive, motivated and capable.  They have given me a glimpse of my future that now didn’t scare me.  The O & M Instructor covered a few basics that day and we scheduled our first official training for later in the week.  Using the cane was like sending a messenger ahead to report back on obstacles, he said.  It wasn’t long before the rhythm felt routine.  As I made wide arcs down the street, I held my head high and began to feel confident in enjoying walking again.  “You know, he said, just having the cane out will help others be more aware of you.”  I knew he was right.  Yet, many times as I left training, I tucked my cane safely back into my purse and carefully walked back to the bus stop.  If I was feeling brace, I would carry it folded in my hand, ready to unfold it as needed.  Of course, I couldn’t know I needed it until too late.  I knew Bob had a point.  I reflected on occasions when having a cane would have helped people understand my behavior.  Perhaps flirting with the wrong man at the video store would have been less embarrassing.  Maybe there would be some benefits to having people know I was visually impaired.
              I continued to master my skills in a beautiful historic neighborhood in SLC with uneven sidewalks.  We met near the University of Utah where I had to locate a specific pizza place several streets away.  We went to the Crossroads Plaza Mall downtown, where I’d been shopping with the kids for years. 
              The crown jewel of our training was to train in my own neighborhood, and walk the places where I would regularly visit.  My nerves about running into someone I knew were a good indicator that I hadn’t quite adjusted to my identity as a visually impaired person.  Something about joining these two identities – Becky: neighbor, mother of two and Becky: visually impaired woman – was still unnerving.  Doing cane training at my local grocery store brough these two world together quickly. 
              As Bob and I worked our way through the grocery store, we approached my neighbor Sue.  It was bound to happen.
              “Uh … hi,”  I began awkwardly, pointing at Bob.  “This is my teacher … teaching me to use this cane.”  I pointed unnecessarily at the cane.
              “Oh, that’s nice,”  she said.  “Good to see you.”  And she went on her way, seemingly unfazed by the same encounter that was causing me to blush. 
              A few weeks later I requested some additional training at the Crossroads Mall.  I’d been back to the mall since my initial training and still had a few questions about navigating its unique layout.  This time the scheduling put me with a different O & M instructor, Susan.
              After our session, I gathered the courage to confess that I sometimes felt uncomfortable using the cane.  I didn’t like drawing attention to myself.  I didn’t like people looking at me.  I still wasn’t sure where I fit into this spectrum, with some vision left and people looking at me. 
              Susan simply asked some straightforward questions.
              “Is the cane helping keep you safe?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.
              “Yes.”  Without a doubt, I said.
              “Do you feel more confident about going out?  Do you feel more independent with the cane?”  She continued.
              “Yes, Absolutely.” Was my response.
              “You just told me you walked into a woman sitting alone in the middle of a soccer field.  Would that have happened if you’d had a cane?”
              I felt my face flush remember that experience.  “No.”
              Susan looked at me with her hands on her hips.  “Well, I think  you need to be true to yourself.  Use this tool that will help you live an independent life.”
              I knew she was right.  That day I let go of that worry.  It’s a heavy weight, wondering what people are thinking about you, but I hadn’t realized how heavy until I let it go. 
              I’d been so concerned about how I felt using the cane that I hadn’t acknowledged how much it served me, how much I needed it.  This wonderful tool allowed me to be safe and independent – what a gift!  Being honest that I needed the cane and that letting go of this worry  was accompanied by a beautiful feeling of self-acceptance.  I am visually impaired. 
              As I felt this acceptance and was true to myself I could embrace the cane fully.  I was ready to answer someone’s questions with confidence and feel at peace with  myself.      
Almost 25 years later, my cane is still a reminder to be true to myself. 


              The greatest act of courage is to be and own all that you are – without apology, without excuses and without masks to cover the truth of who you really are. – Debbie Ford 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Happy Anniversary, Georgie Girl

Three years ago today Georgina and I graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Georgina aka Georgie Girl and Gigi has taught me so much.  I am so very grateful for this sweet, playful, intelligent, joyful, loving, so smart, silly dog.

Some of my reflections on this day:

Leaving for class came at a time for our family where there was a lot going on in both our personal and professional lives.  Leaving for two weeks was difficult although necessary.

One of the sweet memories prior to leaving was my dear friend and colleague at the time, Melanie asked everyone at Resilient Solutions, Inc to write notes on 'why they love Becky'.  Arriving at the office to these notes and having her read them to me meant the world to me.  I treasure them to this day.  They all started with Becky is ...

Last week in our Rising Strong TM course we wrote an 'I am' poem about ourselves.  I have written one for Georgie.

I am
I am Georgina.  I am Georgie Girl.  I am Gigi. 

I am a happy guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind.  I am intelligent.  I am playful.  I am a doer.  I am sweet.  I am caring.  I am sensitive.  I am forgiving.  I am loving.  I am stubborn at times.  I am kind.  I am a frequent flyer.  I am an adventurer.  I am enduring.  I am a snuggler.  I am so playful.   I am an early riser and early to bed.  I am serving.  I am loving.  I am silly.  I am a hiker.  I am a cheerleader.  I am a light for one who cannot see.  I am a smiler and a tail wagger.

I am Georgina.  I am Georgie Girl.  I am Gigi.

Georgie you are my beautiful partner that adds laughter to my heart, gives me determination, blesses me with confidence, and makes me proud each day.  You are my beautiful guide dog that allows me to pick up the harness and GO.

I love, love sharing my life with you Georgie Girl.  Can't wait for many more years of adventures with you.  Whether it is a simple day of travelling to the office or a day of adventure of new places to discover you take it all in and give me your best.  I love when Steve drops us off at the airport and looks you in the eyes and tells you  Take good care of Becky.  You listen to him so intently while wagging your whole body.  And then, you do just that time and time again.

Happy Anniversary Georgina.  Hey there Georgie Girl, thanks for swinging down the streets so
fancy free with your tail happily wagging.

As I am each day, I am so very grateful for Guide Dogs for the Blind, - the incredible support we receive as a team, Georgie's puppy raisers and all the incredible raisers for each of my guides and all the guide dog teams,  It is such a remarkable community that creates and supports a guide dog team.

So grateful.  So blessed.  Selecting a guide dog almost 20 years ago was one of the best decisions in this journey that I have made.  Love you Pantera, Cricket and Georgie.  Thank you.
Thank you to Rick Egan of SL Tribune for this picture
You can watch the full clip here at:
I love living an active life

Monday, March 27, 2017

Face down moments

Preparing for a presentation where we will be talking about those 'face down' moments of our story. In those moments we learn and we grow. I am looking forward to this presentation. I am now grateful for those face down moments and the "opportunities to grow."

What has been a facedown moment for you that you reflect upon as a time of growth?  or learning?  

#lookupmoveforward #resilientjourney #rpjourney. This is the quote I share Chapter 19 of my book, Look up, move forward.
When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate.
When life is bitter, say thank you and grow. -- Shauna Niequest

Monday, March 20, 2017

Celebrating our Love Story Beginning. RP Journey

Thirty-three years ago, March 21, Steve and I were engaged. When we can, we return to the capital and celebrate this day! I'll be in Portland on the 21st so we enjoyed a beautiful spring evening at the State Capitol today.
From my book, Look up, move forward:
He (Steve) took me to Salt Lake, a little over an hour away, and on the drive he told me the story of his parents' engagement nearly forty years earlier. 
Wade and Kathryn met at a dance at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, where Kathryn lived for just a few months to study. Wade was a Captain in World War II, a bomber pilot who flew out the morning after they met. They wrote letters for nine months and fell in love.
After his service, Wade flew to Salt Lake and asked Kathryn where couples got engaged in town. She told him the Capital was the place to go, and he took her to the beautiful classical-style domes and pillared building that sits on a hill overlooking the city. That night in 1945 was the "once upon a time" of the Andrews family.
As Steve and I pulled up to the Capitol building just after dark, the city lights twinkled below us. He wanted to start out life together the same way his parents had begun theirs, and his admiration and respect for them made me love him even more. We climbed the stone steps and he led me to the third pillar.
He lifted me onto the huge stone base and took my hand. "Will you marry me?"
There was only one thing for me to say, "I'd love to."
#RPJourney #BlindMemoir #lookupmoveforward #Ourlovestory

Sunday, March 12, 2017

For Women who are Blind - Retreat.

Feeling so grateful to those who have supported our scholarship to help women attend our Rising Strong TM Retreat in June and future retreats.  If you know someone who might like to join one of our retreats, they can visit oasiscenterforhope.com/retreats/ -- or email me at:  oasiscenterforhope@gmail.com

One of my favorites from the curriculum we will be implementing in this retreat is: "When we deny our stories, they define us; when we own our stories, we get to write the ending." Brene Brown.
Check out Oasis Center for Hope on GiveGab. Donate to their cause, or help them through volunteering. To empower, support, and educate individuals, families and communities who are experiencing a loss. Oasis Center for Hope is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
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