Blind Lady Gets Sh*t Done, July: A Very Adulting Birthday to Me!

July was beautiful and soggy and hot and gloomy, flip-flopping uncomfortably almost every day. The yard work sorta kinda got done – whenever it was dry enough to get things done; even housework inside became unappealing. But July had so many bright spots – I’m looking forward to August!

 


July 1-10: The Drowned Rat Edition


Thunderstorms pop up seemingly at random. It’s time to do yard work in the evenings after my work day is done, but the skies regularly open up and dump rain on everything, followed by booms of thunder and flashes of lightning. Wolfie seems to be our storm forecaster, walking around the house and meowing whenever a storm is about an hour away. Thankfully the storms themselves don’t seem to bother any of the critters; they just annoy the humans with their unfortunate timing.

Saturday finally gives us a chance to get some work done outside. The fire pit needs to be moved. In our previous yard cleanup, we found a bunch of bricks that would make a perfect pad for the fire pit in its new location. We rip up some grass and lay the bricks down, but the fire pit doesn’t seem to be well suited to that location. The bricks are removed, the torn grass laid back down as best as we can, and the fire pit moved to the opposite side of the patio from where it had been originally. The barbecue is likewise slightly moved to accommodate it, and while it’s not exactly how we want it, it’s definitely a viable semi-temporary solution. After cleaning and relocating the fire pit, my partner is finally able to light a fire on stuff that he’s been trying unsuccessfully to burn for the past two months. Victory is ours!

 


July 11-17: How did I NEVER Do this?

 


The skies seem to open up in the evenings – my partner has taken to going out and doing yard work during the day while I am working from home – and I feel a certain sense of inequality about this. It doesn’t seem fair to me that he’s doing all the outside stuff while I’m nice and cozy inside. But right now, that’s how things are; I need to come to terms with it on some level.

Saturday, again, the weather gods cooperate. It’s nice and warm, and we’re able to do a few more tidying up things around the yard, such as moving the fire pit bricks we decided not to use into the ever-growing weed-infested dump that is what we’ve dubbed “The Ecopile.” My partner finishes up by mowing the yard, and taking the whipper snipper to get rid of some weeds. I’m feeling decidedly useless at doing things to maintain my yard, doubly so after awkwardly trying to use the whipper snipper myself. What tools can I use to maintain the yard well? I don’t even know where to start! Coming to terms with those thoughts is overwhelming.

Facebook comes to the rescue – in a couple of important ways. Even though my screen is cracked after dropping my phone on the sidewalk, I ask a question of my friends – both blind and sighted – about useful yard implements. A friend calls me from another friend’s house. My friend of a friend is an avid gardener – we all know where I stand on plants, so I decide to defer to her best judgment. The conversation flows easily, and without thinking I blurt out the words “Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this.” The instant I say it, I know that it’s true. As soon as I hang up the phone, my partner and I go back outside and I mow – for the first time in my life – the lawn on the south side of my house. It’s clunky and awkward, and my ability to keep myself going in a straight line is decidedly not present… but the yard got cut! By ME! And I feel… complicated. Will I ever get this right? Why did I never take the opportunity to do this before? Is there a way I can do this on my own without feeling like I’m just going to always suck at it?

Facebook, again, comes to the rescue. Another friend recommends a reel lawn mower – read: manual), and I like the sound of it. There’s no motor, so I can rely on sound cues to orient myself. Now, the big question? Where to get one! My upgraded phone arrives on Tuesday, and I post on my community league Facebook page asking if someone has one I can borrow or that they’re selling for cheap. A neighbor says I can come by and use hers, and even practice on her lawn! This person has met me a handful of times, and trusts me not to horribly mutilate her lawn? I realize I’m internalizing ablist ideas – “of course a blind person isn’t going to successfully mow a yard!” – and even though I know it’s not true, I can’t seem to stop myself. I’m simultaneously thrilled and full of trepidation, and when I walk over to her house on Friday – after once again the weather refuses to cooperate during the rest of the week – I’m ready to see how this goes.


It’s not smooth, it’s not straight, it’s not perfect. But I do it! I’m annoyed that I’m doing a thing for the second time in my life that her 7-year-old has done on the regular. But I do it! My years of experience playing goalball have me well-versed in moving forward and backward both quickly and in relatively straight lines; it’ll just take more practice holding something larger than a basketball. The lack of sound from a loud motor makes navigation so much easier, and I find by the time I’ve mostly trimmed their already-well-cut lawn, I need to get a reel mower of my own.



July 18-25: Tables, tables, Everywhere!

 

I search for reel mowers online, and I locate one I like. Unfortunately it’s not available to be shipped to me, and the local store doesn’t have it. I turn to the classifieds site Kijiji, and find to my delight that someone has the exact same lawn mower I’ve been looking at for half the price. They even deliver it to me free of charge (though I pay them a few bucks for their trouble). The mower goes into the shed, whose door is falling off because the base underneath it is slanting so badly – we need to get that replaced!

A friend from Bible school told me a few weeks ago that she has a small table that she’s not using. My partner and I spoke months ago about turning an area of our upstairs into a mini-games room – a small table, a few chairs, a mini fridge for drinks and snacks – and this table seems perfect! My friend texts me and says the table has been taken out of storage and can she drop it off? Of course I say yes! No sooner does she text me that she’s on our way than the skies open up, dumping so much water that even standing outside for fifteen seconds has my skirt plastered to my skin. My friend runs the table in two pieces from her car to the house, and my partner brings it upstairs so that we can put it together this weekend. By the time my friend leaves only a few minutes later, the sidewalks are soaked but the rain has slowed – she makes it to her car without further incident.

The table is reassembled on Saturday. It doesn’t take long, and it even suits the chairs from the kitchen set I’ve had for most of my life. My partner and I relocate that kitchen set – which has doubled as my “office” for my personal computer and other odds and ends for about a decade – into the room where he’s set up his computer. An old desk he bought when he first arrived here is no longer needed, and is in no shape to re-sell, so he breaks it down and we take it in pieces to the Ecopile. The new table sits proudly in the alcove upstairs where my old kitchen set used to be, and the whole space looks great, like it’s meant to look this way.

 

 

July 26-31: A Very Adulting Birthday to Me

 

 

I decide the carpet underneath the coffee table needs removal. It’s an old carpet, full of hair, and there’s no hope of making it serviceable. The coffee and end tables are removed, the couch and love seat are moved out of the way, and the living room is given a brush-up clean. The curtains are taken down and cleaned again, and the shelves that gave me so much anger six months ago are dusted off and starting to be repurposed. The floors are vacuumed and swiffered, the furniture is brought back and only slightly rearranged, and we call it a day.

 

Since I was ten years old, I wanted a hammock. I have no idea why that’s been one of those quiet things that sits in the back of my mind – those things you don’t talk about or even think about much but have always just sat there – but it’s my birthday this week, and by gosh I’m tired of just thinking about it and not making it happen. I price match hammocks, and find I can get one on sale for a price I can live with. It looks like it might even arrive on my birthday!

 

Jenny has shown her unwillingness to run long distances over the past few weeks. Mid-distances (6-8 km) are still doable for her, but longer distances such as half-marathons aren’t her jam anymore. My friend and guide runner, Ed, is guiding on my birthday half-marathon. It’s the virtual race where everything goes wrong. The short version of things that I learn? If you don’t remember when you bought it, it’s not good to eat on race day… and don’t try eating anything new on race day! Ed is endlessly patient; it’s not the race I wanted, including a nagging injury caused by a lopsided office desk chair, digestive issues due to the lessons learned listed above, heat and humidity, and a rolled ankle at the 19km mark. But I come home triumphant – I have one more medal I can add to my display. I walk through the door and am greeted by a wiggly Labrador, my cheerleading partner, and my seasonal housecleaner. Over the next few hours, my house is transformed into an oasis of tidied organization. My birthday concludes with a wonderful dinner and a relaxing evening of sunshine.

 

My hammock arrives the day after my birthday. My partner and I set it up successfully – after both misinterpreting how the hammock hangs over the stand. I get a chance to briefly try it out before heading over to the community league parking lot, where musicians from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra are playing a live show. I check people in – I’m the one who set up the Eventbright ticket reservations – along with another member of the community who has helped me get permits and physical distancing markers. The sounds of a bassoon, a French horn, and a harp, fill the summer evening air, and soothe my soul like nothing has in weeks. After the show, my partner and I walk home, and I drift off to sleep in my hammock as the sun sets on another trip around the sun.

Blind Lady Gets Sh*t Done, June: Feeling like I’m Drowning

There’s not a ton to report for June. It almost doesn’t deserve its own blog post, but hey… here I am.

In the land of fun happenings, the most hilarious occurs in early June. I wake up highly amused by my partner trying to negotiate treat distribution with a 6-pound cat (“You can have three more treats if you leave the rest for Wolfie”). Or maybe I’m mostly amused by walking a propane tank to the gas station for refilling in a lawn seeder.

We start work on the yard – preparing it to relocate the fire pit – but evenings in June prove to be wet, and weekends are either far too rainy or I’m far too unmotivated – or both.

More happens to me personally, rather than on the home-improvement/maintenance front. Wolf is here to stay permanently; she’s keeping Annie young and is happy to be here. The city starts to open – restaurants, malls, etc. – but I’m disinclined to go out when not strictly necessary (even though our first outing to a restaurant includes the staff having an ’80s sing-along). I sign up for a HUGE running challenge, and hope that I have the physical and mental strength to run/walk/move for more than 2000 km… by the end of the year…

Happy Plant looks a little unhappy


Happy Plant is…. not happy. It’s flowers dry out – which I think is related to its exposure to direct sunlight. It gets relocated to the dining room table, but its flowers lose their colour and continue to dry out. It looks a lot like I feel right now, actually. I hope July is better, more productive, less drippy…

Blind Lady Gets Sh*t Done, May: Back on my Feet Again

May has always been one of my favourite months. The mornings tend to be cool, the birds are chirping and announcing their happiness to the world, afternoons are perfect for sitting on my front steps or back patio, and we occasionally get evening thunderstorms that clear all the yucky energy out of the air.

This May has had all of these, and a couple great surprises – which made some of the crappy stuff a little easier to deal. But while my foot is healing from the bird bath incident last month, my heart got pretty beat up. May was book-ended by bad news, but the bright spots made it better.


May 1-8: (Mostly) Welcomed Additions


I get an email on May 1 that I’ve awaited nearly 4 years to receive. I took a company that wouldn’t hire me to the Human Rights Tribunal in January (three and a half years after filing the complaint). The ruling is not in my favor. To say that I am disappointed doesn’t even begin to cover it. I throw myself into productivity, because it channels some of my frustration and disappointment. My partner and I load a wheelbarrow with leaves from the yard (I load, he transports), then put everything we can into the fire pit in the back yard. It’s too wet to burn right now, but it will burn… eventually. What isn’t burn-able at all goes into the ever-growing pile of stuff to go to the Ecostation. We’re tired of looking at it, so we hire a couple guys to haul it all away for us – and now that it’s gone, there’ll be a new pile of junk to take its place.

Wolf comes over for a visit. From her first night – where she begs for attention until 3:00 AM – to just two days later – where she relocates her kitty cave and snuggles in to get away from Annie and Jenny – it’s like she’s never left. She provides an additional level of kitty quirkiness, and a ton of laughter at her antics.

The barbecue out back is in such bad shape that my partner and I agree that it’s time to buy a new one. It takes two orders – the first being canceled with no explanation – and a package delivery from friends to get the new one over here. My partner spends Thursday afternoon while I’m working to put it together, getting it finished just before the rain comes. It’s time for me to get over my fear around fire, and make some food!


May 9-16: FIRE!!!


I’ve barbecued once before, at a summer camp for the blind where we were taught safe barbecuing techniques. My skills are about 20 years out of date. My partner and I barbecue our first meal, and it’s a rousing success! I’m still a little squeamish around fire, but I honestly think I will get the hang of this and some day feel confident enough to barbecue independently. I’m not there yet, but maybe that’s OK.

In the land of things that are weird and tangentially related, that carbon monoxide detector in the kitchen gives up the ghost. I move the one I installed upstairs two months ago down to the kitchen, where the beep-beep-beep of the dead one mercifully stops. The smoke detector at the bottom of the stairs likewise dies when we take it down so it will shut up when we’re cooking bacon. I guess it’s time for us to buy new stuff, but the fact that all of it is dying at the same time weirds us both out, if nothing else… but the house is still standing, and all of us are alive, and haven’t had food poisoning, so there’s a plus… right?

 

This week is the first week my foot feels strong enough to do anything more than casual running. I find a perfect 3km loop around my neighborhood, and log multiple 6km runs, each with less pain and swelling in my foot. It gets me and Jenny out of the house – even though Thursday’s lifting of some public health restrictions means that more shops and restaurants are open – and for this, I am grateful.

 

The first day it’s dry and calm enough, my partner lights a fire in the fire pit, burning some of the yard waste we had loaded into the wheelbarrow. I turn on the hose that leaks like crazy to make sure there’s enough water to keep the area around the pit wet enough to act as a barrier. We discover quite quickly that we need a new hose, pronto. And maybe a new tap… but we hope it’s just the hose – replacing the tap on the side of the house just sounds like an exercise in frustration.

 

We add more backyard leaves to the wheelbarrow – more stuff to burn! – and start yet another Ecostation pile. The shed has been completely sorted, if not completely organized. My backyard no longer looks quite as much like the scary nexus of doom that it has for the past little while, but there’s still a lot of work left to do. And we’re so lucky to be able to barbecue regularly and sit outside and enjoy the beat-up patio table while we can.

 

 

May 17-24: Cohort

 

 

It’s a quiet week here, really. The weather is mostly gloomy and grey, and while I’m able to get out for a run a couple times, my motivation seems to be in direct correlation with the sunshine. The yard can generally wait, though we do pick up a new hose and some extra supplies – we realize there’s no seal on the hose, but it looks like we won’t need a new tap. The new hose seems to have solved the problem of leaking – I can stand by the tap and not get absolutely drenched along with the patio! – and the new nozzle works like a charm!

 

The air conditioner I fought to price-match arrives on Thursday – the soggiest day all week. My partner takes delivery of the package and puts it together while I’m at work. I hope that it will make my upstairs less like an oven than it’s been for the past several years; it looks like I’ll find out next week!

 

We have been generally doing so much stuff outside that inside has looked a bit neglected lately. With the exception of taking care of the aloe and Happy Plant, which are both thriving, we’ve let the inside of the house generally be ignored. So Friday night we do a moderate clean – floors, counters, carpets, furniture. My partner locates and dislodges a blockage in the vacuum, which makes cleaning so much easier. The tables and floors and couches look suitable for company, even the idea of which fills me with boundless joy.

 

Public health measures here in Alberta include the concept of a cohort household or family. This is a family or household who primarily socializes with another family or household, without as much attention required for physical distancing. Obviously, certain considerations such as frequent handwashing and not sharing utensils or common food items (like chips or dips) are still recommended and followed, but the recommended six foot distance isn’t required in cohort families. Our cohort household arrives on Sunday afternoon, and we sit at the beat-up patio table in the sunny afternoon, with drinks and food (barbecued, of course) and laughter that feeds all of our souls.

 

 

May 25-31: Sadness and Hope

 

We’ve got a problem in our house: a shortage of doors, a need for some sort of barrier, and a strong dislike for the closed-off feeling of traditional doors. Last week, we ordered a couple of bamboo beaded curtains to cover a couple door frames. One takes less than fifteen minutes to install, and they suit the spaces perfectly. There’s something about that transition that both provides a separate space and a feeling that you are welcome in that space even as it “belongs” to someone else.

 

The weekend is glorious and sunny. The air conditioner gets its first couple of uses, and it’s already worth the investment. We take advantage of the warm weather to clean the yard some more, burn more of the leaves in the fire pit, and barbecue some yummy food. But my mood is dark, and in some ways I don’t feel like I can enjoy the perfect spring days.

 

I got a call on Tuesday afternoon. A friend passed away suddenly, with no known cause. The shock has sent me reeling, the grief so intense that I have no place to put it. I somehow finished off the work day, then slept for hours. Over the coming days, I waffled between numbness and sadness and anger, sometimes without warning. I curled up under the afghan she made for me – and hurriedly dropped off when the Human Rights decision arrived, because she “knew I was having a bad afternoon” – and talked about her. I laugh at the time we went to Dairy Queen (something we did regularly over the past year or so) and the pop machine refused to dispense my Dr. Pepper, then wouldn’t stop once it started, and then she threw her drink into the garbage can instead of the straw wrapper. I talk about her kindness, because she was truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. I want to scream at all my wonderful supportive people who say all the right things just because I want some place to direct the anger I feel. I know it isn’t fair, and the people in my world are nothing short of supportive and amazing; I would like to think she’d understand, but a part of me thinks that in her gentle way she would show me grace while kindly checking me and telling me to smarten up.

 

A succulent plant in a pot, with blossoming pinkish flowers on it.

Happy plant is happy happy happy!

 

On Fridays, we give the aloe and Happy Plant some extra water. For some reason we’ve noticed this makes them happy. I’m watering Happy Plant and I realize something: my friend who passed away earlier this week was the same friend who was with me when I picked up Happy Plant. I stand at the table where Happy Plant blossoms merrily, and I think for a moment that my friend would be proud, that she’d tell me I might just have a green thumb after all. I’m still sad, but I realize that little pieces of her story are woven with pieces of mine. It’s now up to make to take the lessons she quietly taught me and extend kindness and optimism and generosity. The world lost a great person – I just wish I could’ve told her.

Blind Lady Gets Sh*t Done, March-April: I didn’t do Much, but I got a Lot Done

What is there to say?

When I started on this journey, I wanted to create a home where I could be proud to host guests, turn it into a sanctuary for myself and others to lay our heads, to put our feet up, to feel safe enough to laugh or cry or rage at what’s going on in the world. For the past six weeks, that’s been various levels of impossible, with new rules around physical distancing, shops being closed or on reduced hours, and a very real and present fear of a virus that strikes seemingly at random with varying levels of intensity.

I didn’t do lots in the months of March and April, but maybe I’ll just have to be OK with doing what I can and letting the rest go. Who knows when I’ll be able to have friends over again? But when I do, I’ll have done a ton of work behind the scenes.



March: “Say…. What?”

The world as north America has known it is altered drastically in the month of March. The first case of Coronavirus is announced in Alberta on March 5. Around this time, I’m contemplating buying a couple of low-maintenance plants – something that surprises almost anyone who’s met me. I kill plants. I don’t know what makes me think I can keep one plant – much less four – alive, but a friend and I go plant shopping. I bring home two aloes, an air plant, and an unspecified succulent I like. I alter their placement once or twice, settling on one aloe in the dining room and one in the Holey room, with the air plant and succulent in my beading room.

I get a brief rush from getting rid of a few objects that serve a practical purpose, but bring up seriously bad memories. But after that, I struggle to find the motivation to keep on top of even maintenance cleaning. My body is beat up from marathon training, and the more news I hear, the more likely it seems that the race in Vancouver will be canceled. When the announcement of the BMO marathon cancellation is made on March 13, I spiral down down down…

I spend ten days self-isolating – a word that’s become as common to me as “coffee”. I sleep a lot, I have a cough that’s not frequent, but when it hits it’s fierce. My other symptoms come and go in waves, and while they are mild, they are weird. I’m bored and restless and scared and confused and sad… and have no energy for anything besides feeding my cat and dog, sometimes feeding myself, remembering to water my plants. I am glad to get back to work after ten days of this nonsense, and am even more grateful to be symptom free. The streets of downtown Edmonton are ghostly quiet, and it takes a huge amount of energy to do my job, go home, and keep things going with some semblance of normalcy.

 

 

April: “We didn’t Do Much, but We Got a Lot Done”

My partner arrives in early April. It’s like he never left in February. I’m feeling more settled, more rested, more like I can take on things. But life is different. Physical distancing means I can’t run with a human guide, so I’m taking Jenny out for shorter runs and hoping we can build up her speed and endurance. Buses are run on decreased frequency, so commuting presents some interesting challenges. I find more stores that have reduced hours. I seem to luck out and find slots of time where I can order grocery delivery. Friends pick up groceries sometimes, too – for things that go bad prematurely, or things that couldn’t be found in big grocery runs.

Three of my four plants survive. One of the aloes appears to have gotten too much sun, and becomes crispy at the tips. The other is salvageable once it gets re-potted. If I kill an air plant, I’m not sure if I should be impressed or horrified. but the unnamed succulent – heretofore known as Happy Plant – is sprouting flowers almost daily and spreading out happily.

The last weekend in April, the snow is gone. My partner and I tackle the back yard. We move a bunch of stuff to a pile that’s meant to go to the Ecostation when we have access to a truck. We clear off the back patio so we can sweep all the winter gunk off of it. I drop part of a bird bath on my foot, which means I’m relegated to carrying things that are very light, and walking gingerly. The shed is cleared out, and an informal inventory taken. There’s an abundance of shovels and a scarcity of rakes. I discover I’m creeped out by wasps while removing the biggest (dead) wasp’s nest I’ve ever seen in my life. The back yard looks like a garden shed blew up on it…. but maybe it’s okay.

“You know,” my partner says that evening as we’re preparing a steak dinner, “we didn’t do a lot, but we got a lot done.” I ponder that sentiment for days, and there’s a lot of truth to it. Effort is important, but sometimes you can accomplish a lot by doing a few little things that make a big difference.


I can’t wait until the day when my home can contain the laughter of a group of friends around a communal table of food. But until then, I’m content. Spring is in the air. I’m healthy and happy and safe. A brand new coffee maker has taken up residence where a broken-down Keurig made it’s last pod of coffee this morning. I can make plants grow. The beading room has been converted into an office. I’m slightly less intimidated by my house itself, coming to compassionate terms with my part in its prior neglect. I have a feeling that things might just be okay.

Blind Lady Gets Sh*t Done, February: Creating a Strategy

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There’s something to be said about productivity. Tasks like cleaning and laundry and dishes never seem to end, but organization and de-cluttering feels like a million small victories. February beat me up a bit – both physically and emotionally – but one of the best things I did was to create a generally strategic plan for my house’s organization. it may shift and contract as tasks become more urgent, or if I need the assistance of another person, but February saw me moving from the front door, moving backward and outward. The basement of doom will probably take months to sort through, and I’ve had to make peace with that. There are places I believe are too emotional to handle in the moment, and I hope when the plan dictates I’ll be able to push through.
But February’s organizing was much much more… organized… than January. Maybe that’s all I needed.

 

February 1-8: This Might Hurt a Little

 

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m up early. I enjoy a cup of coffee and a snuggle with Annie, then harness up Jenny and take a walk to the thrift store with a bag of usable items. When we set out, there’s a slight mist in the air, with light snow falling almost imperceptibly from the sky. Within less than ten minutes, jenny and I are soaked, and being bombarded by little ice pellets. I decide to do some shopping at the thrift store after I drop off my donations – no sense getting pelted again. I come out with two pairs of pants and two shirts, and walk out the door to more snow – this stuff is less pellet-y, but it’s thick and heavy. Jenny and I just want to get home and hunker down and read books (me) and take a nap (her).
But why do that when I can de-clutter?
I decide to organize the front closet. All of the jackets on the rod are mine, but I put one or two that I haven’t worn in years into a bag to go back to the thrift shop at some later date. Now it’s time to tackle the top shelf. I organized the winter clothes box back in the summer, but there’s a bunch of other odds and ends that have been left up there, unsorted and unclaimed by anyone.
I move a chair over to the closet and bring everything down to the floor. I take a duster to the shelf and the little nooks and crannies, and it’s like my closet has been completely cleansed. I sort the winter clothes box again, putting a few items from it into the donation bag. My closet’s top shelf now contains two boxes – one with winter gear, the other with childhood mementos – and a motorcycle helmet. I find a container of spray foam insulator, and set it aside for a day when I’m feeling brave enough to fill in the gap by my sliding glass door. I love the new look, and I feel like I’ve taken on the world.

I take a break from closet organizing and vacuum my living room – floors and furniture. I do other odds and ends, like dusting and meal prep. Then I head back to tackle the boot rack in the main closet. I bend down to pick up a pair of shoes off the floor… and forget I’ve moved a chair over…

My bottom lip hits the corner of the back of the chair. Hard. There’s blood. I don’t feel so good. I call HealthLink and give the nurse on the phone an earful about how blindness isn’t a Greek tragedy. I sit on my couch, listen to a hockey game, and leave further organizing for another day.

 

* * *

 

It’s Sunday. I’m feeling OK, but my face hurts if I talk too long. After a morning run – where a bunch of people ask why I have a bandage on my lip and what does the other guy look like? – I head home and finish up the closet organizing. I group together running shoes on one shelf, work shoes on another, and boots of any variety on top. I vacuum the floor, relocate a couple of small signs to where they can be seen by visitors, hang a roll of jenny’s baggies on the mail keeper, and call it a day.

 

* * *

 

It’s been a funny week. A friend comes over to see if he can help me pinpoint why my dryer is squeaking. We find $1.35 stuck in the drum, and hope that will fix it. It’s not silent, but it’s much less rattle-y the next time I run a load of clothes through it.

 

Friday, I tackle the Stuff table. Everyone has a Stuff Table (or drawer, or room, or….) in their home. This stuff table hangs out in the main hallway, and it’s a great central repository for…. stuff! Back in August I organized the drawers – user manuals for appliances in the bottom, everyday tools and things in the middle, and assorted odds and ends in the top – but never seemed to get up the gumption to take care of the top.

it takes fifteen minutes. I sort, consider, and then realize that there’s very few things worth keeping up here. By the time I am done, I can set a dinner plate flat on the top of the Stuff Table if I wanted to – but decided against it… the table’s too short to eat at. And while I’m at it, I re-position the shoe rack so that it’s perpendicular to the coats in the closet. I’m not sure I like the look, but I am glad to have vacuumed out the area and taken ten-year-old painter’s tape off the baseboards.

 

* * *

 

It’s Saturday again, and I’m back in the basement. My partner is coming next week and we’ve decided to make that twelve-pound turkey that’s been hanging out in the basement freezer. In order to do that, I have to move the last shelving unit back into the furnace room.

It’s not nearly as bad as I think it is. I find all kinds of cool odds and ends – like wall hooks and enough screws to fill a 6-inch-cubed box and ceiling tiles that don’t contain Asbestos. Sorting this shelf takes less time than the Stuff Table yesterday, but the moving of things takes much more effort. (boxes tend to be unwieldy like that). I move the empty shelving unit to a perfectly sized spot, group together flooring (kitchen and upstairs) then ceiling tiles (just the one box) and a few odds and ends that go on the shelf I organized in January. I step back and admire my work. it is done. And I can get to the basement fridge/freezer and take out the turkey when it’s time.

One of my treasures is a new, still in the package, carbon monoxide detector. I knew it was around here somewhere – since I know we bought two but only ever installed one – but actually putting my hands on it feels like a huge victory. I put in a brand new battery, plug it in to an outlet upstairs, test it out… and somehow just know that I’ll sleep just that teensy bit better tonight.

 

February 9-15: All the little Things

 

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m back in the basement. There’s a bunch of mostly junk in here, so I make quick work of it. Some stuff is set aside to go to the Ecostation, but most of it goes to the garbage or recycling. I do, however, find the Nativity scene that’s been carted around with me since I was old enough to not break the figurines. I move it over to the top shelf of the unit I moved yesterday, haul bags of recycling to the back, and call it a successful night.

 

* * *

 

During the course of the work week, I’m not home much. But I’m finding out – as my home becomes more organized and more settled and less cluttered – that it’s easier to do a couple of cleaning tasks on the regular. They’re no longer relegated to the stuff I do on the weekends, but they’re more integrated into everyday habits. I doubt I’ll ever be a super motivated or super accomplished housekeeper, but I’m liking the changes.

 

My Mom and my partner both arrive on Friday. when I get home, they’re getting along like a house on fire. The three of us make a lovely dinner of steak and potatoes, then sample craft beers and play Scrabble. When it’s time for bed, Mom looks in the linen closet at the top of the stairs to find blankets and sheets and – I hope – enough pillows so that all three of us can sleep well. In the closet is a bag I thought contained a quilt. Instead, it has fitted sheets, a thin sheet or two, and PILLOWS! I’m so happy that my pillow count is up to five usable pillows (including mine) that I can’t stop myself from doing a little jig.

 

On Saturday morning, Mom suggests a trip to pick up a few things for the house. She tells me about these covers that go over your heat vents that divert the heat further into the room, rather than dispersing it up the walls. I wouldn’t have known what to call them, much less where to find them, and my previous exposure to such things were already built in to the vents themselves. Having ones that can be attached by magnets? I’m game! She also suggests getting runners for the front entryway of my house. In another “what do you call these?” moment six months ago, I searched for “indoor/outdoor rugs” on Amazon and got a cute little one that’s useful, but doesn’t cover a lot of ground, so I like the idea of runners to protect my floor from ice and salt and moisture and gouges from my ice cleats.

 

We pile in to Mom’s rental car and buy a bunch of stuff at Walmart. We discuss curtains, and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all the options. Mom suggests blinds instead, and I find myself feeling the need to defend why I really don’t like blinds. We leave the curtains/blinds debate (which is never a debate because we all know I’m getting curtains) for another day, locate runners for the front hall, and find a Swiffer so I can more easily clean my floors. They don’t have heat deflectors, but Home Depot (right next door!) has them. It’s an overwhelmingly successful trip!

 

We get home, and I almost instantly install the heat deflectors. It takes less than five minutes for me to install three of them – two in the living room, one in the dining room. The fourth one, I put in the hall closet until I can decide where to place it. I take the Swiffer for a spin around the kitchen, and even I can see my floor looks nice and shiny. I decide to move the garbage can so that I can install the fourth heat deflector in the kitchen, and make quick work of that. The brooms and the Swiffer make an uneasy home in the hall closet, but they balance precariously and fall down regularly – I’ll deal with it later, but for now they’re all out of the way. Mom, my partner, and I make ourselves useful installing the runners, and the difference in my entranceway is astounding. I’m thrilled with all the changes, and they’re so so simple.

 

Mom asks me why I don’t move the Stuff table into the entrance closet. To be honest up until a week ago there hasn’t been space. She says I could go to Ikea (the seventh circle of hell) and get different (shorter) shoe racks and put them and a Stuff table in the closet. I can’t seem to respond with anything but defensiveness. It’s just all too much – I’ve worked my ass off to get this closet to something uncluttered and useful for me, and I’m not even sure I like it the way it is now… but it’s not the way it was, so I feel like that should be enough. Suggestions of improvements feel overwhelming and dismissive, and I don’t have the words to spit that all out. But words fail me, and I just let it all go for now.

 

February 16-22: Big Bird made me clean my Kitchen

 

So… that turkey in my freezer? It’s not twelve pounds… It’s nineteen pounds!!! My partner and I discover this when I bring up the turkey so we can make it for Thanksgiving in February. My friend Meagan pitched the idea in the midst of some deep angsty conversation and we decided to run with it. We thaw the turkey Monday morning – thanks to advice from Mom before she headed back home – and pre-heat the oven. The turkey – heretofore nicknamed “Big Bird” is placed in a disposable roasting pan that looks like a blue race car, covered in spices and herbs and plenty of water. It smells so good even after fifteen minutes that my partner and I have to stop ourselves from opening the oven and devouring it as our last meal before we die horrible deaths from food poisoning.

 

Meagan and her husband arrive with a casserole dish of mashed potatoes. I steam a bunch of vegetables. My partner removes the turkey from the oven… and water goes everywhere. Somehow he manages to remove Big Bird from the pan, then takes the race car roasting pan full of hot water into the bathroom and dumps it in the bathtub. We take care of the urgent concerns – like the drawer underneath the oven, Big Bird itself – then all four of us sit down and eat a decent turkey dinner. Another 15-30 minutes in the oven would’ve made it even better, but for a first turkey, Big Bird is a pretty big success… though I think my next experiment with a bird will be a chicken.

 

My partner and I are horrible hosts. While Meagan and her husband lounge on my couch, we are cleaning. It’s not as bad as we thought, so we decline offers of assistance. But I’m not sure if it’s the water or the huge amount of cleaner that makes me have to use a bath towel to dry off my stove top. My partner swiffers the hallway between the kitchen and bathroom, and then the bathroom itself. When he’s done, I grab the Swiffer and clean out the area underneath the stove. With the drawer being cleaned in the bath tub, it’s the perfect opportunity to find new repositories for the four toy mice I’m pretty sure Wolfie shoved under there before she left. By the end of the evening, the kitchen is cleaned, leftovers are packed away, and the four of us try and solve the world’s problems one issue at a time. Thanks, Big Bird, you served us well!

 

* * *

 

Every day I’m at work this week, I come home to find that my partner has done some of the day-to-day cleaning. I never once asked him to do this; it’s just done when I get home. I do most of the cooking, and we split food prep duties, so I don’t protest too much that he’s taken some of this on himself. It’s a nice surprise, and frees us both up to visit friends or do other necessary things in the evenings.

 

It’s Saturday, and we’re back at the thrift store with a bulging bag of donations. Then  we head back to Walmart to pick up yet another thing I didn’t know existed – and wouldn’t have known what to call it if I did. I still don’t know what to call them – broom hangers? – but I purchase two of them. When we get home, we each install one on the back of the hall closet. Now, the brooms hang merrily and don’t fall over, and they’re accessible and out of the way.

 

I ordered a hanger for my race medals. It arrived on Friday, but I’m not sure where I want to hang it. The spot I’ve chosen is logical, but there’s already a wall hook there. My studfinder isn’t working properly – and it’s the stuff out of nightmares where you can’t get a thing to work properly and all you hear is “beep beep beep” – so I guess I need a new one. I find a wooden Coptic cross that was a gift from Egypt several years ago. It’s sat on the end table for as long as I can remember, and I don’t think I ever knew it had the ability to be hung on the wall. there’s a tiny loop that I thread the wall hook through, and it’s now on the wall above my love seat. It’s brilliant. It’s perfect. But where to hang my race medals now?

 

It’s not something that can be solved right now, so we tackle another task – one that requires two people. We get the stepladder from downstairs. My partner positions the ladder while I climb up and clean the tops of the cupboards I couldn’t access from the chair in January. Overall, it’s not as bad as I thought, though the spots that are bad are pretty gross. I got more than I thought cleaned in January, so I’m able to make quick work of the cabinets, with my partner moving the ladder and handing up cloths to clean and dry the cupboards. Another little thing – but a big thing, too.

 

It takes us thirty minutes to organize underneath the sink. I know most things are usable, because it hasn’t been long since I did a preemptive clean/organize under there. I find Jet Dry, even though I just purchased another bottle. I have more Windex than I know what to do with. And I doubt I’ll need to buy dish soap for a decade, thanks to the massive jug of it under the sink. I also notice a very small, almost imperceptible leak, so I make a mental note to buy teflon tape. I stand up from the sink, where I once again can lay hands on absolutely everything and/or know where to find anything I need (in the event I need one of a dozen disposable masks).

 

My partner’s a tall guy. Instead of me bringing a chair over to the fridge, he hands down items from the cupboard above the fridge/freezer. I sort, both mentally and physically, items to be kept and items to be donated. By the time fifteen minutes has passed, I’ve put everything I’m keeping on the bottom shelf of that cupboard, within easy-ish reach for my shorter frame. We stand back, and I’m amazed – the first room of my house has been completely cleaned, sorted, and de-cluttered. Okay, maybe the second (my bedroom got organized with the new floors), but the first high-traffic room. It feels like a huge victory, like I’ve climbed a mountain and reached the summit. Maybe, in some ways, I have.

 

February 23-29: Making it Mine

 

My partner goes home Sunday morning. I’m sad about this, but I know we’ll see each other soon. A running buddy buys me a bottle of white whine and gives me strict instructions to enjoy it with company (he also has no idea that I’ve got a serious case of the blues). A friend comes over and – for the first time in I don’t know how long – I don’t stress about the cleanliness of my house, or don’t feel the need to scramble to make my place presentable for company after days, weeks, or months of neglect. We don’t touch the bottle of wine, but we enjoy ragtime music and an impromptu dance around my kitchen to “The Entertainer”. The house and I are settling in to a new rhythm, and we’re both happy with people around.

 

* * *

 

I take a personal day off work on Tuesday. It’s that time of year again – time for my piano to be tuned. Josh, the piano tuner, arrives on time, and one of the first things he says is “You’ve done some organizing here.” No kidding! While he’s doing his thing, I go about doing mine.

 

The sun is streaming through the room I’m having a hard time calling “the beading room.” That hasn’t been it’s original purpose, but that’s what it is now. I moved my beading things there months ago, but I spend little time there. The sun streaming through the window stops me in my tracks, and I feel a heaviness, a need to enter and do something with that space. It’s hard… very very hard. I take a deep breath and tell myself I don’t have to do everything right now – but I need to do something. So I tackle an easy task – set up a garbage can. Then I organize the top of my beading table. And then I find it… the thing that will help make this room what I need it to be.

 

More than twenty years ago, a friend of mine went to Hawaii. We didn’t know each other well, but the day we met we talked for hours. I was surprised that she thought of me on her trip – enough to bring home a bamboo mat. This mat has moved with me no fewer than seven times. I’ve never brought myself to be able to use it, but I’ve never been able to get rid of it either. I cut the string holding it together and unroll the mat onto the floor. This may eventually ruin it – the edges are in rough shape – but maybe that’s OK. Setting that mat on the floor feels like staking a claim. I put essential oils in a defuser, and inhale the scents that bring me peace and joy. I stand in the doorway, listening as the piano’s pitch is corrected note by note by note, and feel like I’ve started something big today.

 

A friend arrives, and we make lunch. She drives me to the airport so I can get my Nexus card, and then helps me locate a space for my race medal hanger. We decide on a spot by the entrance to the kitchen – right by the frame for my first half-marathon bib. She makes sure everything is straight, maybe or maybe not putting a hole in the wall, then drags a chair over so that I can nail the wall hooks in at a decent angle. The hanger hangs proudly on that wall, and I’ve got another tangible reminder that this place is truly my home.

Delivery Services: Lifeline, or Laziness?

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A few days ago, a local radio show ran a segment that discussed SkiptheDishes – a food delivery service that predates Uber Eats‘ arrival in my part of the world by several years – branching out and now offering liquor delivery in Edmonton. There are several services that have popped up over the years to provide this service, a couple of which I’ve used myself. Even though I discovered just this past week that I’m only a handful of blocks from the closest new bottle of whiskey (knowledge my wallet and my liver both wish I don’t possess), I found myself excited about SkiptheDishes expanding their food delivery service in this way.
I missed parts of the discussion on the radio show, but there seemed to be two opinions on the proliferation of food delivery services such as SkiptheDishes and Uber Eats for takeout – either people pay too much for delivery and/or service fees, so they have more money than sense… or they’re too lazy to be bothered to cook at the end of the day.

These ideas sat really uncomfortably with me. I don’t eat out much – lately my eating out tends to be with my run crew after a Sunday run. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I had food delivered (my phone says October 29, but I know I ordered one pizza since then). Are there people who eat out too much, over-stretching their budgets? Sure. Are there times when people don’t want to cook at the end of the day, even if they have a fridge and a pantry stocked full of yummy food? No doubt. But chronic over-spending and eating unhealthy and/or over-priced food is a choice that people make, whether or not food is being delivered or purchased by an individual directly from a brick and mortar store, and the shaming conversations around food delivery services and choices leave out a whole swath of the population – those whose culinary experience and quality of life can be enhanced by equal access to choice.

I don’t drive. The whole wide world is grateful that I don’t drive – if you’re not, you should be. As such, my choices for restaurants have previously been limited to places I could walk or bus to from home or work, or access by car when a friend or family member or my husband drove. Not so long ago, the only food I could get delivered to my house was pizza or Chinese. Thanks to SkiptheDishes or Uber Eats or Door Dash, I for one am grateful for the amount of choice that’s now been opened up to me. I can try new foods and flavours, or I can order food from that great restaurant a friend and I ate at once, like five years ago, but it’s out on the far end of the city and buses are unreliable at best. Ordering delivery is cheaper than taking a taxi, so in some ways, given my options, food delivery is the best of all worlds, on the rare occasion I choose to use it. Some buildings aren’t accessible to people who use wheelchairs; other restaurants – with lighting and ambiance – could contribute to sensory overload, so some patrons may wish to enjoy the food without those little “extras.” There’s a hundred reasons why people – some with disabilities, many without – choose to use delivery services. There’s no shame in ordering a pizza once in a while – and I’ve never heard shaming language used about Friday night pizza night – so why is having food delivery at our fingertips viewed as a symbol of affluence, apathy, or laziness?

This is food, a basic requirement for life. Not having access to food is a big problem.

Even throwing out the arguments that takeout delivery services are expensive and a luxury and unhealthy… what if you had to use SkiptheDishes or Uber Eats or Door Dash because you couldn’t access a grocery store?

I could have found myself in that position this past week, and it further altered how I viewed the so-called “luxury” services that are becoming part of our everyday lives.

For the past year, I’ve used Instacart to buy groceries. Think of Instacart like the Uber Eats for grocery shopping. Sure, I’ve gone shopping with friends who are just picking up a couple things, and I’ve had friends or neighbours provide open invitations to drive or assist in getting my groceries. When I go alone to a grocery store and ask for shop assistance, it’s a gamble as to whether the person assisting me will be respectful (I was once asked if I was blinded in an accident) or knowledgeable about products (I once had to explain what salsa is). I prefer being able to select my own brands – if not the products themselves – independently, and actually have a little fun impulse-shopping, and a service like Instacart gives me that freedom.

Last week, the Instacart app broke. My screen reader would read aloud items only if they were on the main page. The instant I went into any section – canned goods, meat, produce – all that was read on the screen was  “back, canned goods” or “back deli.” I couldn’t even search for products.  Emails and messages to Instacart went ignored, after I provided a screen shot (even though visually the app functioned effectively). For nearly two weeks, I was able to access the electronic equivalent of the ends of the aisles, literally barred from going down every single one of them.

I’m fortunate. I have choices available to me – access to a desktop computer, whose version of the site wasn’t broken. Friends who were willing to take time out of their day – lots of time – to provide wheels and assistance to this disorganized grocery shopper. Enough food in my cupboards to make it through until the updated app that fixed the problem got pushed to my phone.

What if I didn’t have those choices?

This is food!

I realized how blessed and fortunate I am, in more ways than one. I have access to services like Instacart, but I can also walk into a grocery store if I need a few things. But when it looked like I had few options but to ask a friend to take time out of their day to help me out – or use inconsistent shop assistance – I realized the other things that I’ve somewhat taken for granted.

  • I don’t have to choose between privacy and need (there are just some things you don’t want to say out loud that you need)
  • I don’t have to impose on my friends… or at least I don’t have the feeling that I’m imposing on my friends
  • I don’t have to wait for shop assistance that may or may not be respectful or useful or knowledgeable. This saves an untold amount of mental energy.
  • I don’t have to juggle seven grocery bags and a pack of paper towels… and a guide dog… and worry about finding and paying for a taxi, which I also have to pay for.
  • I can flit around the electronic aisles, spending as much time as I want, and it doesn’t matter if I put eggs in my cart and forgot about the yogurt when I’m almost ready to check out.
  • I don’t have to squint because the bright grocery-store lights are hurting my eyes.
  • I can buy that cookie dough ice cream without thinking about possible judgment.
  • I can ultimately feel like I’m making all of my own food choices, in a way I didn’t realize I have never felt before.

 

My groceries were delivered this morning. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful that I have choices in how I can access one of life’s most basic necessities, and that we all have choices. Maybe it’s time to recognize some people’s choices as the best (and sometimes only) good choice they have. For some, it means driving to the store and choosing that perfect roast for dinner. Sometimes it means sitting around a restaurant table with family and friends. For others, it means answering the door after clicking a few buttons and paying with a credit card. If you think your eating and shopping habits make you unmotivated and sluggish and unproductive, or prone to overspending, then perhaps it might be something worth changing. But one person’s convenience is another person’s lifeline and there should be space for both at the dinner table.

Every Race is a Journey: When Not Great is Enough

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A year ago, I ran my first Hypo Half – and my second half marathon. I had one goal for that race – to beat my first half marathon time – and I came through with flying colours. Right after that race, I hit the pavement and started training for my first marathon in June.

A year later, I’ve run two marathons, raced another half, and enjoyed a beautiful half marathon that was treated like an autumn training run. The runs I’ve raced, I’ve run faster than my previous race. Even when things hit the skids in Sacramento for my second marathon, I still managed to beat my first marathon time six months earlier by nearly ten minutes. I’ve got three marathons planned for 2020, and my goal is to run each one faster than the last. I’m glad I’ve got that planned – because I realize now that if I hadn’t, Sacramento might just have made me think twice about running marathon number three.

I decided to join the Kool Kids (a group of runners who trained together for the Sacramento/Honolulu clinic) in running the second Hypo half race in Edmonton this morning. A year ago, I ran that race with one goal (see above) and something to prove – that I was a bit of a badass and could tackle all that winter had to throw at me. This go-round, the Kool Kids wanted a training run (a 23 km run was slated for our training plan, so a bit more speed and a bit more effort provided the equivalents). Ed, my regular guide runner and training partner, was off on a cruise, so my friend and fellow Kool Kid Mike agreed to guide today, coming on the heels of his best-run marathon just a week ago. I decided to follow Mike’s lead – to wear my Hypo half toque backwards – then turn the logo to the front when we crossed the finish line. It’s a silly thing, I suppose, but we’re runners… enough said.

We started out strong – the first 4 km were solid. I could maintain that pace forever, with the light dusting of compact snow, some icy patches, but nothing to worry about. But the roads and sidewalks became progressively unstable and uncertain the further we went. We had half a kilometer of good footing, then about half a kilometer of snow that felt like running in brown sugar (Mike’s words, not mine). As time went on, I realized that my original hope (to beat last year’s Hypo time of 2:28:22) wasn’t going to happen. My legs got so tired in trying to keep me balanced. I drew encouragement as I waved at other runners who cheered as we passed (Mike says he wants to guide me on another race – he gets more people smiling and cheering for us than he ever has running solo).

“It’s a training run,” I kept telling myself.

But training runs don’t have cheer sections or water stations or music at speakers at the finish line. Training runs don’t trick my brain into thinking we’re RACING so we should run faster. Training runs don’t make me feel like crap… and this one was doing a spectacular job of that. I had to salvage this slow run somehow.

Seize the day! Take the opportunity to try different fuel and hydration options. After what happened in Sacramento, this seemed like a wise choice. I could run a half-marathon – I knew that – but what might be helpful on a race course? They had Gatorade at the water stations, and there’s no better time to try something new when you’re not expecting a speed record and there’s likely going to be parallels to a time in your not-too-distant future that you are. Kilometer 14 saw me with a paper cup of Gatorade – and while I’m not sure it positively impacted me, it definitely didn’t affect me negatively. Score one for Gatorade! Mike and I chatted, waved at more runners, kept pace with another runner and introduced ourselves after the fourth time we swapped positions on the race course.

The finish line drew near, after another kilometer of navigating across a dozen or so unshoveled driveways. I just wanted it to be over and to get inside for the bacon. I flipped my toque to show the logo on the front and crossed the finish line in what is truly the slowest half-marathon I’ve ever run – in fact I think even some walkers came in before I did.

It’s been a few hours now. I’ve had my fill of bacon and fruit – and realized once again that I don’t want potatoes after running a race. I’ve dissected the race, and my thoughts, and I realize I’m carrying some stuff that isn’t mine to carry.

I don’t want people to think that I’m a slow runner because I’m blind; I truly think I represented blind people badly. I realize I’m carrying this because often times I’m the only obviously blind runner on a race course. But I have always hated the idea that just being out there is enough. It’s a strange dichotomy – I didn’t throw everything I had behind this race, and in a way I wish I had. But that would’ve been foolish, truly a recipe for injury.

I need to let all that crap go!

I’ve had some time to think, and while I know people will think that my getting out there was inspirational because BLIND – or my speed (or lack thereof) was attributed to nonfuctioning eyeballs – I know the whole truth.

I went out there to run with the Kool Kids – and I did.

I went out there to finish – and I did.

I went out there to try free and different fueling options – and I did.

I went out there to train – and I did.

None of my actual goals today had anything to do with pushing myself to my limits for Hypo. None of my goals today included proving anything to myself as a runner – I’ve already done that. My goal wasn’t to race Hypo… my goal is to train for Vancouver Marathon in May.

And you know what?

I did that today, crappy footing and all.

So maybe the takeaway from this run – a training run with a medal and a brunch – is to realize the goal that you’ve set may not be for today. It may be a stepping stone, a building block for something further down the line, maybe months or years in the future.

And while I’m all for doing your best… sometimes your best in that moment is knowing when to step back and realize that maybe, just maybe, for a few moments in time, just getting out there and meeting your own objectives – whatever they are – is enough.

And it is enough.

 

Me and Mike at Hypo

Blind Lady Gets Sh*t Done, January: All over the Place

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Every journey starts with a single step. I didn’t set out to blog about boring stuff like cleaning, organization, and home maintenance. I just wanted to get this house whipped into shape, turning it into a sanctuary for myself and for others. I’ve had to confront some truths that haven’t always been pretty. But this simultaneous home- and self-improvement strategy seems to be taking, even with a setback or two… because I’ve got myself some momentum! And sharing this journey makes everyone feel less alone – because I now know I’m not the only one with a terrifying basement of doom and a strong avoidance strategy.

January saw me divest myself of extra flooring, a deep freeze, and a whole lot of paint. I searched for things I couldn’t find, and found things I didn’t realize I still had. Little “projects” turned into moderate bursts of productivity. I’ve felt a range of emotions – joyous to despondent, overwhelmed to productive, accomplished and…. something less.

January has been the warm-up I desperately needed… in more ways than one.

 

January 1-5: “Get that THING out of my House!”

 

There’s been a massive deep-freeze in my furnace room since we bought the place, and it’s so large that my Dad and I joke that they built the house around it.

I’m not eating as much meat – particularly beef – as I used to, and this thing is so large that I don’t have a hope of making much use of it. I’ve got enough freezer space that I’m using efficiently. That thing’s been empty for months… time for it to go.

I posted on my community league’s Facebook page months ago – something like “free to good home… you can move it? You can have it.” A friend and neighbour emailed me, telling me that she and her family could use it. I sent her the measurements and reiterated – you can move it, it’s yours!

It’s Saturday morning, and my friend is here with her husband and eldest son. Between the three of them, it takes just under an hour to divest my house of its largest most energy-deficient appliance. In the process, they have to move all of the shelving to some space out of the way of the furnace room. The shelving and other odds and ends wind up spread out over my basement bathroom and main area. There’s a path to the basement fridge/freezer, but I’m out of luck if I get the sudden urge to make a 12-pound turkey (the fridge/freezer doors are blocked by a shelving unit). Beyond that… it doesn’t immediately impact my life too much.

The only way I can move the shelving back in to the furnace room is to empty and organize.

So that’s what I do. I sweep the furnace room so that it doesn’t look as much like a drywall factory blew up, then pick a shelving unit to organize at random (okay, maybe not at random… but it’s the first one I come across when I enter the basement of doom). With the help of one or 2 Aira agents, I set six cans of paint aside to go to the Ecostation. I also discover that I own an auger (the thing that unclogs drains, not the thing that has anything to do with grain silos), wood floor cleaner, and a whole bunch of hand tools that have been buried for years. Within 18 hours another neighbour picks up a bunch of canning jars – I hope they get more use out of them than we did. I haul the shelving unit to the back corner where the deep freeze used to live. I can now name everything I have on every shelf – tools on one shelf, cleaning supplies on another – and lay my hands on all of it. My basement still looks moderately terrifying, but it’s a basement! So for right now, it can wait.

 

 

January 6-12: “This is Cross-training, right?”

 

The first full work week after the holidays seems to drag on forEVER. My energy has been waning, but I’ve made it out to marathon training clinic, then decide to stay home and hunker down while snow blankets the city on Wednesday.

Once the snow stops falling on Thursday, I get out the shovel. I’m not particularly proficient at this task, but I get my walks shoveled – competently in the front, passably in the back. It takes forever – but the Edmonton Oilers game keeps me company – and straight lines seem to elude me. I hope I’ll get better at this with more practice, but for some reason I have my doubts. Also, I’ve got a snow rake that should get the snow off the roof, but I haven’t had an opportunity to use it – I feel like I need someone with me to give me directions so that I can get the snow off the roof without (1) scraping off a shingle, (2) missing the snow entirely, or (3) breaking a window. So the snow is still on my roof, but my sidewalks are navigable. I can at least take the garbage out back and walk out my front door to the sidewalk… so score one for accomplishment! But moving that snow? That should be cross-training! (Is it, Coach?)

 

* * *

 

Saturday dawns crisp and pretty cold – the kind of day that’s perfect for hunkering down and eating soup. A friend comes in to the city and has some time to kill. She tells me to consider her my Uber for any errands that need doing for the afternoon.

And I have errands!

I’ve got bottles that need to go to the bottle depot, a package to pick up at the post office (since I apparently can’t have cookie sheets left unattended on my front steps)…

And, oh yeah, I’ve got this flooring…

This fall, my Dad and I purchased some flooring for upstairs – I figured it was time to replace it when I could feel the subfloor underneath portions of the carpet, and there was a huge strip of duct tape where Wolfie clawed the carpet to shreds. Dad and I (mostly Dad) got the main upstairs area and one of the bedrooms done, and I hired professionals for the other two bedrooms. The excess flooring has been taking up space in my music room for a month, and I want it out.

I’ve set aside one box, plus the boards from a previously open box – just in case I need to replace anything – then lift and haul six boxes of flooring to my friend’s car. Who needs weights when you have flooring boxes? My friend pushes and directs the boxes in to position in the trunk of her car, and we return them to the store after a quick stop at the bottle depot. My music room seems almost empty now, but I can now walk to the piano without kicking a big heavy box! And my basement has been cleared of one of its sources of doom.

 

January 13-19: “I Just Need this one little thing…”

 

I need to find my birth certificate. The place I thought it’s lived for the past several years… apparently doesn’t have the document stating when and where I was born.

But there’s plenty of papers to sort through and what else am I going to do on a Monday night, when the windchill is hitting -40?

The papers have lived in the music room for a while now. And I am itching to sort them, if for no other reason than I need something, and this is the most likely place to find it. With a combination of apps, I make steady work out of a 6-inch thick stack of papers – some of it important, much of it not. I’ve whittled down six inches of paper and a functionally disorganized briefcase-esque filing “cabinet” into stuff for the house, stuff for Annie and Jenny, stuff for taxes. The rest goes in to recycling, and my hundreds of pages have been whittled down to an organized little pile of paper happiness (two inches, tops, including a binder).

But I still don’t have my birth certificate

 

* * *

 

This week has been cold. Unquantifiably, you should really stay home, cold! I had a non-specific cold/bug thing on Wednesday but realized my office was warmer than my house, so I worked all day and went to bed early that night.

The cold finally starts to break on Saturday. I’m back outside, shoveling my back pathway. I cannot shovel in a straight line to save my life… but again I have a clear-ish path to the garbage cans. My front walk and steps have been taken care of – what took me 20 minutes last week took Ed less than three while waiting for me to get ready for Run Club on Thursday. I may never get the hang of this shoveling thing!

There’s a wooden box in my bathroom. It’s a hold-over from my childhood, but for as long as I can remember it’s held various toiletries and body washes and the like. it takes me five minutes to pry open the latch – which gives you a pretty good idea how long it’s been since I last opened it. I take everything out, throw it into a garbage bag, and wipe it down. Mission: accomplished!

I’m just putting the box back into position when I notice – not for the first time – the vent cover behind it. I don’t think I can remember a time when that heating vent has been covered. The cover has just sat in front of the vent, allowing hot air to make the bathroom one of the most luxuriously warm rooms in my place. The drywall surrounding the vent is… crap. There’s no nice way to put it. I hold the cover up to the vent, cross my fingers, and get to work, because by God that vent will be covered today!

I start by scraping paint off the back of the cover. I start with my nails. I use water. I use a bit from a screwdriver. I use cleaner. Finally, I find a screw and use my handy-dandy screwdriver to push it through a tiny hole. Great! Now what? how am I going to get this cover to stay in place when the drywall around it is flaking off in my hands?

Get bigger screws.

It’s not pretty, it’s not straight (it’s only about 1/8″ off-center), but the long screws are screwed at odd angles into…. something. That vent is now covered. I sweep up the drywall, and do a happy little jig into my kitchen.

I just want to clear out the cupboard above my stove.

That’s literally the only thing I set out to do. I don’t think it’ll be too bad – I’ve done little bits of this off and on for the past little while – but I haven’t stood on a chair and reached in to the back and made sure there’s no growing or hardening things in the recesses of the cupboard.

I throw out an aged open box of Golden Grams, and some oatmeal I bought once upon a time with good intentions of eating more oatmeal.

It’s then that I realize the cupboard is gross, and needs a good wipe down.

So I grab a spray bottle and a cloth and get to work.

And it turns in to more cleaning and scrubbing, as the Edmonton Oilers play a high-scoring game against the Arizona Coyotes.

The stove cupboard is just the beginning. I move on to the next cupboard to the right, and start wiping down shelves. I reorganize it so that I can reach everything – because the old storage system wasn’t set up to be reachable by anyone shorter than six feet tall. All the wineglasses and shotglasses and bottles of booze all live together in harmony, all the Instant Pot accessories live with the Instant Pot… and so on. As I organize, I can feel little pieces of myself get put back together.

Then I reach up above the cupboards, wipe the surface as best I can (I need to find my stepladder to get to the back), and throw out everything that’s been up there collecting dust and grease and God knows what else for the past who knows how long.

I’m not sure when the anger hits, but it’s there. It’s red hot and present and intense. I’m angry that I’m dumping out perfectly good Captain Morgan. I’m angry that I’m able to use my fingers to write my name in the dust above my cupboards. I’m angry that it’s been allowed to get so bad that I don’t remember the last time I wiped out the crud from the lazy susan that holds my glasses and mugs.

On the plus side? I now have a clean and organized kitchen, and I found my big tall mug with the orange and white cat on it… the one I swore I lost at a job I was laid off from five years ago…

And I’m glad I’ve done all this today.

 

 

January 20-26: All the Little Pieces

 

It’s a hard week. The cold weather has broken after a week and a half of clasping the city in its frigid grip. I have little energy, and am exhausted preparing for – and then testifying in – my first (and hopefully last) Human Rights Tribunal. But I’m able to get a few things done. On Monday, I move the last of the spare flooring into the furnace room, and start to organize other items into groups. Once I have more energy, I’ll do more, but at least I have something done.

Saturday, a bag of kitchen items is donated to the thrift store. I sort through the odds and ends in my bathroom – throwing away more old things, organizing what’s left – and giving it a good clean. Then I decide to sweep, and am once again reminded how much I suck at it. More than one person has suggested vacuuming as a way to keep my floors clean. In a day or two, I’ll give it a try – anything’s better than what I’ve got now – a tall and unwieldy broom, a short useful broom for some spaces, and a hand-broom that broke in half when I tapped it to loosen the animal fur from its bristles.

On Sunday I notice that Annie’s thrown up a hairball on my living room curtains – something I’m noticing more these days. A friend helps me take the curtain rod down, and I take the curtains downstairs to wash. Once they’re dry, I put them on the curtain rod, standing on the couch so I can put the rod into the brackets. One of the end pieces doesn’t fit quite right, and I can’t tell if it’s always been that way or if I’m just useless at tightening things while my hands are above my head.

Then I notice the shelves.

They’re coated in dust, dust so thick I can write my name on them with my fingers. I take everything off the shelves and sort them into piles of things to donate, things to keep and things that I’ll deal with when I have the emotional energy.

I’m thrilled I’ve found things that I haven’t thought of in years – like the music box I’ve had for as long as I can remember. The top has a cat and a fiddle, and the base shows tactile representations of all the other lines in the song. I spend a long time dusting it off, then set it on the hutch – the same place it sat when I was growing up – and turn the dial so that I can hear the song.

It plays slowly – much more slowly than I remember. As I stand and listen, I’m hit with intense waves of sadness and rage. I don’t know if I’m sad or angry that I forgot all about this music box even as it’s sat in my living room for a decade. Why did we put it there, rather than on a place it can be picked up and enjoyed? Am I grateful or angry that I’ve got a belated opportunity to purge and cleanse and get to know my home? What the hell am I going to do with my wedding photos? Why didn’t I take more pride in this place before? Is it too late now, am I fighting an uphill losing battle?

The dish ran away with the spoon… and I am so done. The rage and the helplessness and the anger all come gushing out into a wave that I seriously think is going to drown me.

And for a while, I let it.

 

 

January 27-31: Putting It Back Together

 

For the next few days, I’m a wreck. I can’t even get behind the everyday things that need doing. Dishes pile up in my sink, I’ve got a small load of laundry that needs folding. I don’t want to run, I don’t want company, and I certainly don’t want to talk about it.

On Monday after work, I therapeutically bake a batch of muffins – if for no other reason than the milk will go bad if I don’t use it. I pour a teeeeeeeny bit too much whiskey into the coffee I enjoy with my freshly-baked muffins. I start reading a trashy book that interests me in the beginning and then frustrates me with its implausible premise – which is when I know I’ll be OK.

Why I decide to re-reorganize the hall closet on Tuesday? Beats me! Maybe it’s because I have more space. Maybe because I don’t remember the last time it was organized completely. or maybe because most of the organizing was done in September, and it was a job I could complete with minimal effort but maximum results. Maybe all of the above. I spend half an hour sorting and reorganizing – all the towels and cloths on one shelf instead of the two they’ve occupied for nearly a decade. Pet stuff on the next shelf up – dog stuff on the right, cat stuff on the left. Various extra staples – paper bags, freezer bags, Kleenex, packing tape, light bulbs, etc., etc., etc. on the top shelf. The cubby underneath the bottom shelf is emptied of its contents and sorta swept with the broken hand-broom, and now all there is under there is a big bag of dog food.

I feel accomplished.

I feel better.

And I feel like my place is a bit less cluttered.

I know I have a lot of work ahead of me – tonight I plan on chipping away at the blocks of ice in my back yard – and I know January’s been all disorganized and kinda wobbly. Maybe February is when things will start to come together, when I start to form a more concrete plan of organization. But as far as January’s concerned…. this blind lady got sh*t done!

Blind Lady Gets Sh*t Done: Laying the Ground Work

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Life seems to have a way of changing us, and teaching us lessons along the way. Sometimes you’re forced to grow, sometimes you can choose to learn. Sometimes you start a thing and you realize along the way that you’re not the same person you were before you started.

I’ve been an adult for almost half as long as I’ve been alive. Over the years, I’ve rented apartments (alone, with a roommate, or with my husband), and have been a partial homeowner for nearly a decade. I’ve been out from under my parents’ roofs since I up and moved to Edmonton more than fifteen years ago. But if I’m completely honest with myself, I must acknowledge I can get by on my own… but I haven’t been as self-sufficient as I’ve told myself I am. That’s a bitter pill to swallow. It’s only been recently that I realized I spent a long time living in a house where – often times – things just didn’t get done. This is not a negative judgment, an assigning of blame, a falling on my sword. The reasons for this pattern are not important, it is simply a fact. Things just got let go.

And I’ve hit a point – and a stage in my life – where if I want something done, I do it myself. Because I’m the only one that can change how things are, so if I want things to be different, I’ve gotta make it happen.

I’ve been living on my own – for the first time in over a decade – for nearly six months, and I’m in a position to be able to make this house my home. I’ve always claimed it as my home, and it is, but I have felt I need to make the changes – big and small – to not just make it my home, but welcome others to it, too. It’s overwhelming – my place isn’t small, and needs a lot of work – but I have abdicated too much for too long. It’s time I take the bull by the horns and get sh*t done. It will be a work in progress – my house is not going to be a magical showplace. It will be imperfect – heaven knows I’m not the best housekeeper in the world (and, no, it’s not solely because I’m blind). I fully expect to fall on my face, to make mistakes, to just not wanna do this… but the time for changing of long-standing patterns is now.

My goal is to learn stuff, to be productive, to get to know the nooks and crannies of the home that I love. how I’ll get there is to tackle one non standard/maintenance project every week for 2020. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – in fact the big things usually are the strongest motivators – but it just has to be a thing that isn’t something that needs to be done on the regular, like laundry or dishes or whatever.

It’s taken months for this goal to take shape. This past fall, when I was cleaning eavestroughs (while my father held the ladder), washing the fridge, cleaning out the hall closet and the pantry (while my partner held open garbage bags and took them outside to the big garbage cans as I wiped down shelving)… I realized this place needs a ton of work. It felt so overwhelming, and like I didn’t know where or how to start. Between training, travel, racing, and life, I didn’t stay on top of things as much as I wanted to this past fall, but I was still maintaining some momentum on this front. A little momentum is better than stagnation. And I liked the feeling.

Then January hit, and with it came a burst of productivity. Call it a New Year’s resolution, or turning over a new leaf. It was happening, seemingly without my input. I was getting stuff done in January. Like just getting sick of how things were and quietly making changes. Why not continue? I like how it’s gone… so start a whole new pattern? Make the goal open enough to be flexible, but concrete enough to see measurable results? Doesn’t research say something about making goals/resolutions/whatever this way?

And as a way to chronicle my journey – the successes and setbacks, the motivation and the lack thereof – why not share my journey in a monthly series of blog posts… because this blind lady’s getting sh*t done! And she’s sure she’s not the only one who wants to be productive on her own terms. She could also use some tips, tricks, and encouragement along the way – no person is an island, and all that.

So, come with me… I’ll be getting dusty, buying stock in vinegar, “cross-training” by lifting things, conceptualizing space, and quite possibly growing up and learning unexpected lessons along the way.

2019: The Year of Blossoming

2019… What can I say about it?
I would have to say that 2019 was the year of blossoming. I grew in ways that I never knew that I could. I did things that I never thought I would. I’ve had experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life (and a couple that I don’t remember at all).
I chose to take a leap and run a marathon. Not only did I run one Marathon,
I ran two!
I decided to voice a dream that I’ve held quietly for the last five years, to run the Boston Marathon in 2021. And by my stating that goal out into the air, it means I now have to work at it. The work is not done, but I’m ready for 2020’s three scheduled marathons!

I’ve had opportunities to tell my story as a runner. Who knew that running a half marathon in an Edmonton February with my guide dog would lead to being dubbed the most badass woman with the most badass dog in Edmonton? That led to an explosion of texts and messages from my friends – “Call the reporters!” – so I did! Some interviews went better than others… but getting noticed in Canadian Running Magazine was pretty awesome!
I chose to open my heart to new love. It’s always a little scary, but it didn’t feel that way… And it feels like the most organic and powerful thing, making me realize my own strength, which brings more to the table and makes us stronger, which makes me realize my own strength and…
I chose to open my home, to make it a place of gathering and refuge and good conversation. And it has reminded me how much the house actually likes having people in it. Even if it’s just a couple of people sitting over a coffee and a chat, or a small group playing games, or a bunch of people coming and going and talking and eating and drinking and playing music.
I chose to be open about key parts of my identity. I chose to take power over raising awareness of it, because it’s my choice to do so. And in doing that I have made at least one person on this planet feel less alone. I became the person I wish I knew in the early part of 2018, when I was coming to terms with my identity myself. And I was met with so much love and support from all over, it still overwhelms me – nearly bringing me to tears – all these months later.
I chose to open up to friendships, restoring ones that have been dormant for a long time, meeting new people through different avenues, realizing that right now our lives are on the same journey. I’m so grateful to every single one of those people, whether I talk to you every day or just a few times a year. if you’re around and we’ve talked, you are important in my life.
I haven’t written as much as I would’ve liked on the Life Unscripted blog. My life has been jam-packed with races and community-building and flourishing and music and loving and asking myself some pretty deep questions. I hope to carve out some more time to dedicate to you, my faithful readers, in 2020.

But people still found my little corner of the world this year! Even in San Francisco just a few weeks ago, I ran in to someone who recognized me from this blog! I had intended to do some Christmas shopping that day, but I made a connection instead. I didn’t realize until I walked out the door that that connection was what I truly needed in that small slice of space and time.

Just for fun, here are the top 5 most visited posts of 2019!
5. This little sleeper of a book review.
4. The fact that this oldie is still getting this much interest shows me that there is a very serious service dog faker problem.
3. When you meet your people, it is so seamless. “You may not know what my life feels like, but you leave me plenty of open space so that I can fill in the gaps – not because I owe you an explanation, but because you know that so few people leave their agendas at the door.”
2. My little book review that could!
1. I wrote this post last year when I got tired of addressing the inspiration question. Instead of complaining, I figured I’d speak some truth into the air… and the fact it’s gotten more views than the rest of my blog combined… might tell you that it resonates with a lot of people

There’s been so much change and growth in me. I thought I grew in 2018, and I definitely did. But that growth spurred on this place of blossoming I find myself in today. 2019 has proven to be one of the best years of my life – bring on 2020!