Monday, December 12, 2016

"Thriving" with Vision Loss

After a recent invite to talk on this topic again .. sharing a blog post from a few years ago on

Thriving with Retinitis Pigmentosa

Several years ago I had the opportunity to present on the topic Tools for Coping with Retinitis Pigmentosa in Chicago. I felt like I was sharing some positive tools in the adjustment process.   A few minutes into my presentation a woman spoke up and said something that I have always remembered.  I don't want to cope.  That sounds like I am just getting by.  I want to thrive.  I thanked her and wholeheartedly agree and shifted my presentation to thriving tools.

Today Cricket and I went to the Moran Eye Center for an eye exam.  I have incredible support in my home, but chose to go alone to this appointment.  It becomes a looong appointment by the time they do all the work and didn't want Steve to have to take a day off for this -- he has done so many, many times and will do so in the future many times, I'm sure.  I would much rather us be able to take the late afternoon off tomorrow and get on the bike.  Perhaps, that is thriving.

Some thoughts on the appointment today.   I sat in the waiting room with many other people visiting a retina specialist.  Spending all morning together we got to know each other infact, when one patient finished he said good bye to those of us in the waiting area.  I visited with one patient - his first visit just learning he had a degenerative eye disease.  I listened to his story and hopefully offered some hope that he would indeed thrive and continue to enjoy life.  His wife indicated to me -- you seem happy.  Perhaps, that is thriving.  Another woman had a friend that had RP and didn't know much about Guide Dogs - I offered my number to share and told her many stories of the joy of a guide dog.  Perhaps that is thriving.  We wished each other well as we went into our eye exam, back for photographs, over to get a visual field , or an injection.  It seemed we had a sense of understanding of what this journey was like and were cheering each other on.   We were thriving in our own way.  The retina specialist encouraged me to be healthy and active and take my omega-3.  He liked that I was running.  He liked that I was using my iphone when he came in the room :).  I shared some of the unique symptoms that I have been experiencing and he confirmed that is part of RP.  I liked that and felt validated.

The cab picked me up.   He was impressed with Cricket's ability to find the door.   He asked me about my eyes, and I said I had an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa.  He said -- disease -- oh that's bad.  (It was funny because generally I don't use the word disease rather condition and after his reaction I know why!)  He was chatty and soon was telling me about he just had given up on his dreams.  I said - oh that's sad!  I encouraged him to not give up on his dreams!  He said he was here just making the best of each day.  I told him he was resilient.  He liked my word :).   I realized I missed a little bit my days of riding a cab frequently in the city.  As he dropped me off at Gateway in front of the cookie shop for a raspberry cookie I asked him to wait a minute.  Cricket and I ran in (well the best we can run in :) and bought him a raspberry cookie.
Time to crash for a bit after all those bright lights and various drops put in my eyes.  Perhaps it is thriving to also take some down time after an exhausting day :).

I wrote more about this experience in my book:  Look up, move forward.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Marathon Run Dedicated to my Dad

As I put my race gear out for the morning, feel so much gratitude. Grateful for remarkable friends that run as my guides. Hard to put those thoughts into words. You are remarkable Alanna and such an example to me of courage, love, and service. (If you've read my book - Look up, move forward, this is the amazing Alanna I am running with tomorrow!).
We have planned and prepared and will show up and do our best. The weather outlook is scheduled to be beautiful and it's a nice course.
Each marathon has a story and a lesson learned and memories made for me. This is marathon #8.
This, the CIM marathon, is dedicated to my dad. He's running the marathon of cancer. It's not a marathon you sign up to do yet he continues to fight and share his gratitude and sense of humor. He is such an amazing example to me. He has always believed in me, makes me laugh, is such an example of optimism, kindness, goodness, and love. Some of my very first memories of running are with my dad.
When it gets hard tomorrow, I'm going to think of you dad. We can do hard things. When it is beautiful and fun. I'm going to think of you. We appreciate the beauty and joy in the day. When something is funny, I will think of you dad. We love to laugh together. When those last few miles seem like much more, I'll think of your optimism and belief in me and know that I can do it one step at a time. We will both keep on fighting one step at a time. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
My shoes have tags on that say:
Life is a marathon not a sprint
Look up, move forward

Update:  We qualified for the Boston Marathon!!  Throughout the run I found myself reflecting on my dad a lot.  Dig deep was a frequent thought when it got tough.  Visualizing once again the amazing starting line of the Boston Marathon.  Singing the words to Sweet Caroline in my mind as I remembered this song playing the last time I was at the Boston Marathon.

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.  CC Scott

Much love to my parents in this difficult marathon and love to all reading this in your tough marathons.  

Cheering you on!!  You got this!  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advocating with my guide dog - The Mighty Article

It is wonderful to see this article I wrote being shared and shared:  When a store manager called the police

We keep on educating about the Americans with Disabilities Law .. it is there for us all.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

EMDR Training - Becky Andrews, LCMHC

This past weekend I attended Part One of EMDR Training -- ( Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing with my colleagues, Lisa Bradford and Nicole Wall.  We were thrilled to see our good friend and former colleague Shanna Gwilliam there as well.  We are now EMDR Therapy Providers with further training ahead.  Super excited!!  

I wanted to post a few additional thoughts on my experience as a therapist who is blind.  I had called a few years ago about this additional training and had been told that it would be really hard to do as a blind therapist -- you need to be able to observe the client's eye movement I was told.  Okay I thought.   I was plenty busy in my therapy practice so didn't pursue further.  

Then, more recently I kept thinking again about this and had a dear friend who recommended it highly.   Our office had several calls requesting it and two of my colleagues were interested.  I called again and explained my situation.  This time, I was greeted with - no problem you can totally do it! What format would you like the information in?  I signed up!

As the instructor described the process and put her hand out to the side it took me back to being diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and the doctor putting his hands out to the side .. how many fingers am I holding up?  I did not know!  I could not see his fingers.  In this training I shared this experience and even surprisingly shed some tears!  I learned that in the process as a client I could experience it through tapping rather than with the eye movement.  I experienced amazing supportive facilitators and fellow therapists in the training as I navigated the adaptive way for me to experience it.  I explained to the facilitator that I couldn't follow the eye movements of my clients.  Feeling a little nervous and for a moment reflecting back to the conversation when applying for grad school and the professor questioning my ability to do this work with a visual impairment.  I went up to the facilitator during the break and explained my situation.  I will always remember her response of reassurance and you can do this!  She asked me how I knew in my session what the client was experiencing and what was needed to process.  My amazing colleague who was by my side said -- she just knows - she has that intuition.  The facilitator said -- yes, you will have that in this process as well.  Simple reassurance that doing the process a little different would be just fine.  The past few days I have been incorporating this new process into my work with clients.  It is amazing and so grateful for starting on this journey on this additional training. 

As my colleague and I left the training, me still feeling a bit overwhelmed with the whole process, she said; I can't believe a few years ago they told you that you wouldn't be able to do this. You've totally got this!

Feeling not only grateful for this remarkable added training but for the incredible supportive people that surrounded me this weekend.  Excited for March and our next part in the journey.      

One day during lunch at this training we went to Pizza Rev - yummy pizza!  The manager told me I would need to sit in the outside seating because of my guide dog.  It was an interesting conversation as I explained the Americans with Disabilities Act and my right to be inside the restaurant.  She told me she had never heard of this law and would need to call their corporate office.  As she called corporate I sat down with my friends.  Somewhat unnerved that this experience was happening AGAIN.  No one was in at corporate on a Saturday and so she told me "I could stay there and she would call on Monday."   I tried again to explain to her it wasn't a corporate decision it was a law that my guide dog could enter any public place that I entered.  I came home and followed up with a letter and post to their facebook page.  Sometimes it is surprising where you get 'the chance' to educate.

Look up, move forward!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Doublevisionblog - Book Review of Lookup, move forward

Thank you Jenelle for this beautiful Book Review.  Oh how I hope we get an opportunity to sit down by a nice cozy fire and enjoy chatting sometime.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Funny blind moment

It was so fun to get a surprise text that Natalie would be in town for a couple days for her work at the Wall Street Journal.  It was a super busy trip for her so we were thrilled to get a couple hours on Saturday morning and Thursday evening after her meetings.  

Funny story about having a blind mom.  She was to come to our office, Resilient Solutions, Inc, at 9:30 on Saturday.  I had a client until 9 and Steve was upstairs working on some lighting for the office.  After my session I was in the breakroom when I heard the front door open.  I thought ... I wonder which of my colleagues is working today.  I expected them to walk around the corner and into the breakroom and say hi then I would recognize their voice and know who it was.  Instead, after a moment 'a lady' walked into the breakroom without saying anything.   I thought it must be a client so I said .. Hi ... 'this lady' started to talk and I quickly realized it was my daughter, Natalie!!! 

We had a good laugh :)!!  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Choice to thrive

Last Saturday I was a speaker at a lovely event at Zermatt Resort.  I was able to share my story of Look up, Move Forward.  I shared my experience on the porch as a young mom who was losing her eyesight and learning to use a cane.  That day years ago was a day of choosing to making it a great day and another and another ... 
My mission in life is not to survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.  Maya Angelou

Monday, October 10, 2016

19 years & 19 lessons from my guide dogs

Nineteen years ago today, October 11, 1997 I graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind with my first guide dog, Pantera.  It is a busy day starting with a run prepparing for an upcoming marathon, full day at the office and a book signing tonight.  In the middle there will be time to take a walk with Georgie.  Throughout the day I will also reflect that this is a special day!  I was reminded 19 years ago that many doors could open up in my life and to truly live like someone left the gate open :).   

I have learned so much from my three beautiful guide dogs: Pantera, Cricket and Georgina.

Celebrating 19 years with 19 life lessons from my guides:

1.  Help your friends get to the top. (Picture is Becky and Cricket near the top of Angel's Landing at Zions).

2.  Help another find what they love.  (Picture is Georgie by Becky's feet in the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Store.)

3.  Smile often. (Picture is Becky and Cricket on the Legacy Trail - Becky and Cricket have big smiles)
4.  Sometimes we help another gain wisdom from what we tell our guide - Look up, move forward. (Picture is Becky & Melanie with Georgie).

5.  Sometimes its time to step aside and let someone else lead.  (Picture is of Cricket (my second guide) and Pantera (my first guide - retired at the time) with Pantera stepping in the background.)

6.  Celebrate your story.  (Picture is Becky and Georgie at a book signing.)

7.  Enjoy the journey.  (Picture is Steve and Becky walking hand in hand and on the left side Becky holding on to Georgie's harness).
8.  Sometimes we support by cheering on from the sidelines.  (Picture is Suzette, Becky and Brenda running - while Georgie is home patiently waiting.)

9.  Take time to reflect.  (Picture is Becky and Cricket looking out at the ocean.)

10.  There are many ways to love and serve.  (Cricket after retirement walking with her new family.)
11.  Many wonderful friendships are made through the Guide Dogs for the Blind family.  (Picture is of Debi and Becky with Cricket.)  

12.  Embrace the opportunities to educate about the marvelous work of Guide Dogs. (Becky and Boy Scout Troop with Cricket)

13.   Patience.  Sometimes your people will wait in line for a long time for your Olympic Beret.  (Picture is the Andrews family and guide Pantera with their 2002 Olympic Berets).

14.   Treasure your friends.  (Picture is Cricket and friends Culver, Desma and Dakota).

15.   Keep learning.  (Picture of Georgie in harness).  

16.   Keep your sense of humor.  (Picture is Cricket surrounded by Poinsettias being taken to the office.)

17. Always be ready for an adventure.  (Picture of Becky, Natalie and Georgie at Mt. Vernon).
18.  Be a good listener.   (Picture is Cricket whispering into Morton's ear.)
19.  Be grateful for love, kindness, and encouraging words from others.  (Picture is Cricket in her bandage which the vet has written Good Luck Cricket)

I feel gratitude today and everyday for my beautiful guide dogs that have guided me safely day after day.  As Steve said 19 years ago to our kids at the airport after graduation .. mom has her pace back!  

Thank you Pantera, Cricket and Georgie ... you've changed my life for the better in so many ways!  

First picture is family picture just after I returned home with Pantera. We are all dressed in our Aggie gear.  Second picture is family picture several years later again in our Aggie attire sitting on the "A".  

Picture below is family and friends Brenda and Suzette after the Boston Marathon with Georgie.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A bend in the road

A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn -- Helen Keller

As I looked for a good quote to start my presentation on Resiliency -- this one came to mind. Resilience takes flexibility, willingness to be open to make those changes - make those turns.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Be your own Dorothy

This past week I had the opportunity to speak to the Young Women in our church. The theme was from the Wizard of Oz:  Be Your Own Dorothy.  The decorations, the message, the favors, the music, the people, and the food was all lovely!  I'm still singing Follow the Yellow Brick Road :).

You've always had the power my dear.  You just had to learn it for yourself.  Glinda - The Wizard of Oz

I wore a new dress that I love.  It was navy with white and had a fun twirly skirt :).

Sometimes I am asked how do I choose my clothing?  I definitely get help ... I ask for input from my friends, family, and the sales associates.  This dress -- I'll take a picture next time I wear it :) - was texted to a couple friends, Steve and Natalie and the sales associate told me it looked great!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Self-Compassion. Look up, move forward

In the back of Look up, move forward is a Reader's Discussion Guide. It was one of the favorite parts of writing this book and I am SO excited to hear that it is being used for book clubs!
Join me in a virtual book club - todays's topic: Self-Compassion. Kristin Neff describes it here:
From Look up, move forward I share: 

"In the Prologue I talk about asking my client to write a self-compassionate letter to herself. The principles of self-compassion include loving and accepting ourselves ... Think about how much easier we are able to move forward when we are kind and compassionate to ourselves.
From one of my favorite books: Christopher Germer, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion:
"Some people worry that self-compassion will close them off from other people by making them selfish and self-centered. The reverse is actually the case: the more openhearted we are with ourselves, the closer we feel toward the rest of life. Self-compassion is the foundation for kindness toward others. When we're more accepting of our own idiosyncrasies, we become more accepting of others ... Full acceptance of ourselves, moment to moment, makes it easier to adapt and change in the direction we'd like to do."
What's a compassionate phrase you might use when you find yourself in difficulty?
Try writing a compassionate letter to yourself.
Share your experience.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Georgie Girl

Just returned home from a four-day adventure to San Francisco with two of my colleagues and dear friends.  We had SO much fun.  Georgina aka Georgie Girl, Gigi was amazing!!  She was so happy as she glided through the airport, weaved through the busy streets of San Francisco, walked across the golden gate bridge, etc, etc.  SO SO proud of her and our bond and trust just grew further.  

It was wonderful to have my colleagues experience this with me.  They loved watching Georgie work and had so many questions.  We've worked together for years but not often get the chance to see her navigating crowds in such a remarkable way. 

Thank you Georgie Girl.  With so much love and gratitude! 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dream Big

Our second retreat:  Daring to Own Your Story just completed.  I am feeling so grateful:  nine beautiful women that were part of this retreat, remarkable colleagues - dear friends that shared their hearts and expertise, a wonderful new intern for the semester that stepped in and was so helpful and an incredible husband.

Bringing a group of women together for a retreat like this has been a dream of mine for years.  To see it happen this summer has truly been amazing.

More details to follow on our next retreats here:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Caring deeply

Recently I was able to have breakfast with a dear friend and tell her how much she means to me.  Deborah and I served on the GDB Alumni Board together for several years.  I was drawn to her kindness, her ability to communicate so articulately, her sense of humor, her warmth, her love of life, her resilience ... could go on! I had the opportunity to learn from her in many ways - not only some great blind skills but being a loving, caring friend.

I reflect shortly after I experienced a concussion from running into the electric box.  Ouch!  I share about this experience in my book.  I had to miss an important board meeting call.  Deborah sent this incredibly kind, caring, validating email back to me.  She acknowledged my injury (it was a rough concussion); the challenges at times of losing your vision, and simply let me know she cared and was there for me.

Her kindness in such a way gave me that opportunity to 'look up' -- take a breath, acknowledge my wound both emotionally and physically, heal and then move forward.

Love you Deborah - appreciate your friendship, who you are and being such a beautiful example to me.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Stop. Pause. Move Forward.

Stop, pause ... look up and move forward.  Yesterday I had a dental appointment.  I had been to his new office just once.  He moved very near to my office so Georgie and I have a quick walk from Resilient Solutions, Inc to get there.  I walked in the front door of the office building and stopped.  As I peered around all I could see was white.  Oh the joys of a tiny peephole that sometimes you think is helpful, useable vision :).  I paused to think.  Georgie waited patiently.  Then, I remembered from my last time I had walked up some stairs.  Although I did not know where these stairs were I knew that much.  I told Georgie Find the stairs.  She enthusiastically understood this request and began to look for the stairs.  Soon she spotted the stairs around and took me to the first stair and stopped.  Good girl, Georgie.  We got this.

As we arrived up the stairs again we were confused!  Oh dear I really should have gotten some better directions.  Find the door Georgie.  She walked to the first door which was the women's restroom.  Good girl.  Although this wasn't the one I was searching for we were on a search mission together.  We were exploring.  We found the next door and entered in.  Hi Becky as I entered.  We found it.

Stop.  Pause.  Look up. *Trust your guide* Move forward.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Being re-directed

This was the quote I chose to use for Chapter 9 of my book, Look up, move forward.  I reflect on those times of being re-directed to something better.

Any examples come to mind for you?  My journey to becoming a therapist took an added turn as being 'rejected' from my first application to grad school  It's good.  I learned a lot and felt very grateful when I received that diploma and licensure.  I met many new people along the way.  Grateful for the mentors, friendships, lessons learned along the way.

What does this quote mean to you?  Is there an experience that comes to mind for you?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Daring to Own Your Story Retreat

I have dreamed of putting together a retreat for women from around the country who are all experiencing vision loss.  I visualized it: Empowering.  Connecting.  Full of Adventures.  Great Food.  Affordable.  Lifetime memories.  Laughter.  Utilizing therapeutic tools that I love.

It happened with so many wanting to come that we scheduled a second one in August.  Here is what three of the attendees have shared on their own blogs:

Adventures in Low Vision -

Doublevisionblog - The Dare

Our next one is coming up in a few weeks and I have had several requests for our retreat next summer.  More details to follow.  I kept thinking - so grateful for support from my incredible husband (in this picture of us hiking he is the guide over the little tricky part on the trail); an office where we could hold our meetings,  training that allowed this to happen, colleagues who lended their training and skills and remarkable women that joined us on this journey.  SO GRATEFUL.  

It did not feel like a coincidence that my book - Look up, move forward came out just before this event that I had named:  Daring to Own Your Story.

I love Running

This past Monday I ran with my three dear friends - Alanna, Brenda and Suzette (in the order of the picture above). We ran the DesNews 10K and it was so much fun. This has become such a fun tradition. It is a beautiful, gradual downhill run that ends at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. We ran with the Achilles team. I love running. This is something I would not have dreamed I would be doing and loving after losing most of my vision. So grateful. Thank you dear friends. Thank you little red tether! What do you love?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Being a light for another

This is the quote I selected for the beginning of Chapter 6 of my book: Look up, move forward. Turning in my driver's license was looming. As a mom with two young children, the concerns of this life change felt overwhelming for both Steve and me. Friends came knocking at the door to let us know they would be there for us. A carpool list was arranged and suddenly this loss seemed manageable. They gave me some of their light to help me in this dark, difficult time. Who has given you light in a difficult time? Who has been there for you? Listened to you - laughed with you - cheered you on - reminded you could do it --Take a moment and write them a thank you letter. You will be glad you did and they will love to receive it.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Look up, move forward

The past two months have been very busy!  My book, Look up, move forward was ready June 1st just in time for a speaking event on June 2nd.  I worked with the remarkable writer Amy Hackworth for the past year on this project.  We laughed and cried as we talked each week about my life's experiences.  I am so grateful for her help in putting my thoughts into beautiful words.  This will be a memory I will forever cherish.  Thank you, Amy for a beautiful experience.  

Amy and Becky with guide dog, Georgie holding the final copy of the book:  Look up, move forward!  
This book title has become a favorite phrase.  How did I choose the title Look up, move forward?  I share this on page 164 of the book with an experience with my guide dog, Cricket and a dear friend Melanie.  

... "I thought you said, "Look up, move forward,"  Melanie said.  "That's exactly what I needed to hear."  She paused.  "Look up, move forward.  It's perfect."

     Melanie heard a gift in my instruction to Cricket, a bit of wisdom that has stuck with both of us.  Cricket gets all the credit for the insight that helped Melanie, and for teaching me a lesson I treasure.

     So often, we're encouraged to just move forward during difficult times or press on through challenging circumstances.  The frequently prescribed remedy is to get moving again, or to keep moving through pain.

     Obviously, I believe in movement - I love movement.  Moving forward does play a role in healing.  But just like I asked Cricket to 'hop up' or 'look up' first, real progress requires a period of refocus, a sort of pause in our lives.

     For me, looking up is often seeking spiritual help, but it can also be taking a moment to look for silver linings, or to bask in gratitude for the beauty in my life.  It's the quiet moment of contemplation or the consideration of my values.  When I take that moment to refocus and reflect on my motivation and desires I find the strength tomove forward with purpose and determination."

This blog is the journey of a therapist, wife, mother, friend, small business owner, author, partner of an amazing guide dog (Georgie), runner, cyclist, lover of shopping and lunches with friends - who happens to be blind.  I look forward to your comments and sharing.  I hope you'll join me in this journey.