Book #1 Of 2012

I’ve observed a lot of people posting summaries and thoughts on books they’re reading, so I thought I’d do the same.

Almost a week ago now, I finished reading my first book of 2012!

I read all of my books in Braille and I am not a fast reader so, I probably won’t get even close to the numbers of books read this year that others do, but I still think it’s a neat idea to keep track and share the good and the bad points of books I’m reading.

In 2011, I read about seven books. This year I’m hoping to try doubling that, but we’ll see how things go.

The first book I read this year was “Birthright” by Nora Roberts.

This is my second book by Nora Roberts, and I really liked “Birthright” as much as I enjoyed her book “Blue Smoke”.

The book starts out with a young mother (Suzanne Cullen) and her two children (3 month old Jessica and 3 year old Douglas) lined up to see Santa. Doug really has to go to the washroom, but also really wants to see Santa so decides to wait until he’s done. As they approach Santa, Doug begins to feel nervous about the jolly man in red, but goes up and allows himself to be picked up and placed on Santa’s lap. Then, Santa lets out a loud, jolly “Ho, Ho, Ho” and Doug tries to get away, falling on the floor and wetting himself. Suzanne runs to comfort her son, leaving Jessica fast asleep in her stroller. Second later, Suzanne begins screaming because Jessica is gone.

The book then moves to a construction site where ancient bones are discovered.

Callie Dunbrooke, a successful, young archeologist is called in to head the excavation with her ex-husband Jacob Graystone, an accomplished anthropologist.

At first it seems as though the book will be similar to one by Kathy Reichs, but then there’s a twist. Callie is approached by Suzanne Cullen, who has seen her on television and believes she is her long-lost daughter, Jessica.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of science, mystery and romance, this book offered. I’m not usually one to appreciate romance novels, but felt Nora Roberts did an excellent job at blending the personal lives of each character into the twists and turns of the journey Callie embarks upon to solve the mystery of her past.

I couldn’t help wondering what I’d do if I were in Callie’s position.

Would I have the same burning desire to know the truth, even though it would almost certainly change every relationship I had ever known…?

Would I want to have a relationship with my biological family?

Would I be able to trust again?

The next book I’ve decided to tackle for 2012 is 4th Of July by James Patterson. I’ll post a summary and my thoughts when it’s complete.

No Thanks Cupid

Today is Valentine’s Day.

Historically, February 14th was a holiday meant to honour the Christian martyrs who were all named St. Valentine. According to a Google search, the holiday was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, but was removed from the Roman Calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

Around the 15th century, the holiday developed into one where lovers began to express their love for one another.

In the early 19th century hand written notes gave way to mass produced greeting cards. And in the mid-twentieth century additional gifts such as roses and chocolates were added. Finally in the 1980s, the diamond industry began marketing Valentine’s as a time to also give jewelry.

Valentine’s Day has become an overly commercialized holiday where we are bombarded for weeks with advertisements and messages telling us to make sure we get the perfect gift or we’ll be in the proverbial “doghouse”.

It’s no longer an opportunity to celebrate the special bond between significant others, but has become a day of stress and disappointment. Men rush from store to store, trying to find the perfect gift for their girlfriend/wife, while women imagine the ideal present, only to be disappointed when their husband/boyfriend arrives with flowers, chocolate or a cute little teddy.

Huib and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. We don’t see the need for a special day to say “I love you” or for giving one another a gift. We believe in saying “I love you” daily, and giving one another gifts when the opportunity presents itself.

Even though I love chocolate and could always use another teddy to add to my stuffed animal collection, I’d much rather have huib surprise me with one out of the blue, instead of being given one because it was expected.

So, instead of Happy Valentine’s Day, I say no thanks Cupid!

Fifty Three

Today would have been my mother’s 53rd birthday. Unfortunately though, as mentioned in this post from September, she left us at 39.

I often wonder what life would have been like for my mom if she had not gotten diabetes at the age of 11.

Would she still have become a nurse?
Would she have had me and Brandi?
Would our step-dad still be in our lives?

I often wonder what mom would be like if she hadn’t passed away at the age of 39.

Would she still have her long, thick, dark brown hair? Or would it be predominantly grey.
Would her and our step-dad still be together? Or would their paths have taken a different route.
Would she still live in a small apartment in Aurora? Or would she have bought a house in the country.

I often wonder what life would have been like if she had not left us so soon.

Would I have taken the same academic paths?
Would Brandi have had such a rough time growing up?
Would I be with Huib?

It’s days like this, when I stop and wonder, how different life could or would have been if we were celebrating mom’s birthday with her, instead of just remembering.

Even though you’re not here physically, I know you’re here in spirit.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Married Six Years

Today Huib and I celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary.

I feel as though I’ve written everything possible about our wedding and can’t really think of anything new to add, so I thought I’d share six pieces of advice that have made our relationship work.

I’ll tell you now, our relationship is not perfect by any means, but these are some of the most important pieces of advice we were ever given.

1. Never go to bed angry.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
3. Never let a problem become to big to handle.
4. It’s not always necessary to be right. It’s okay to compromise.
5. Make sure to take time to just enjoy one another’s company.
6. Dinner doesn’t have to be on the table when you get home from work. We live in a time of shared responsibilities.

LOL, I made up the last one because some of the other pieces of advice we were offered aren’t really PG.

but in all seriousness, the other five I listed were given to us by some pretty amazing couples, so hopefully by following them we can be just as wonderful.

The past six years have been wonderful beyond my wildest dreams, so I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

Huib, I know you don’t read this blog often, but thank you for asking me to be your wife and thank you for continuing to provide me with never ending love and support.

Accepting Differences

Like my dogs, I am different. I do not follow the crowd. And I march to my own beat.

From a very young age, I have understood difference. I didn’t look like other children. My mom was not like other moms. And my childhood was not like that of other children.

But, that’s okay.

As I grew older, I began to understand difference in other ways. People not only looked and grew up differently, but also thought and behaved differently.

But, that’s okay.

I have friends from all walks of life. We look different. We grew up different. We think differently. And we behave differently. Most of my friends would never become friends with one another.

But, that’s okay.

After completing my Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Policy, I decided to work towards a Bachelor of Social work. I learned about even more differences between people. I learned of attitudinal differences. And of differences I cannot appropriately name.

But, that’s okay.

Because I’m different, I work extremely hard to accept the differences of others.

I try not to judge. I question, in an attempt to learn.

This is why, it really bothers me to see others judge and make assumptions about myself and others.

We’re all different. We all come from a different beginning. We’ll all end up in a different spot.

Why is this not okay?

Why must we stop talking about the differences? Why must we only acknowledge the similarities? Why can we not ask questions, learn from one another, and accept each others views?

It’s because we’re afraid to leave our own experiences and beliefs at the door.

And, that’s not okay.

International Day Of Mourning And Memory

Dave Hingsburger of Rolling Around In My Head, would like to start an annual event and has asked his readers to spread the word.

Here is a little quote from his announcement –

“I propose the ‘International Day for Mourning And Memory of the Lives of People With Disabilities’. The day would be one of remembrance of those whose lives were not celebrated or remembered, the lives of those who were slaughtered by care providers or brutalized to death by bullies. It would also be a day to remember the entire disability community – the elders who came before and who made the world different and better. It would be a day where a moment was taken to pause and reflect and remember.”

So, without further a due, I would like the readers of ruled by paws to help me help Dave in his quest to make January 23rd, 2012, the first annual ‘INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING AND MEMORY OF THE LIVES OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES!

A new Semester

On Monday, I started another online course through the University of Guelph. There weren’t too many options for winter semester, so I chose Business & Consumer Law, through the Department of Marketing and Commerce Studies.

From reading the course outline, it looks as though this course will be a little tougher than I had hoped. In addition to my online participation, there will be an assignment, a midterm and final examination. I’m not too worried about the online participation or assignment portions of the course, but am not too excited about the midterm or final because both will be multiple choice.

I’m hoping that as long as I study hard, that maybe I can defy the odds and for once, actually do well on a multiple choice exam.

Please wish me luck!

The Occupy Movement

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After participating in last month’s Disability blog Carnival, I decided to take part again. This round is being hosted by Sharon of After Gadget, and the topic is Occupy – as in the Occupy Movement.

When the Occupy Movement first began, I thought it was kind of an interesting concept. People joining together to “take back our democracy and build a new economy”.

As time has passed though…

I have found myself more and more skeptical of its effectiveness and continue to wonder if the ‘99%’ includes people like myself.

If the Movement were successful, would I benefit? Would the world become more accepting and accommodating of people with disabilities?

Or would we be pushed aside, and left to fend for ourselves in an even more undemocratic and economically unbalanced society.

I’ve given these questions a lot of thought. Though I do not feel my life is where I’d like it to be, I’m not sure I want to support a Movement that lacks clear direction and that has not explicitly told me how my life will be any better without the corrupt politicians and money-hungry corporations.

I wonder if Canadians realize that in order for the Occupy Movement to truly succeed we would have to agree to reduce our standard of living…

Maybe I’m wrong, but I really do not see that happening.

I have friends who are huge supporters of the Occupy Movement and feel that this is the beginning of something better, but I do not fully agree.

If we didn’t have the multinational companies such as Apple and Microsoft for example, people like me would not be able to be independent, participate in social media or even work in some cases. Do you really think a “Mom and Pop” shop would choose to invest in creating accessible products for people with disabilities? The products made by the multinationals are already expensive because the target user group is small, so why would a “Mom and Pop” shop choose to take such a risk?

When Steve Jobs passed away in October of this year, many disabled bloggers wrote posts on how he had changed their lives. Without companies like Apple, who have made accessibility out of the box a priority, many of us would not be able to enjoy cell phones that connect us with the world, or even communicate with others independently outside the home.

I couldn’t imagine a world without screen readers, Braille displays and accessible cell phones – could you?

Even though I think it’s wonderful to see people from all walks of life joining together for a ‘united’ cause, I’m not sure, a single person has stopped to think about the repercussions of such a movement succeeding.

I have, and this is why, I am not willing to support The Occupy Movement.

Independent Woman

I’ve never taken part in the Disability Blog Carnival, but after reading this round’s topic, I was inspired.

I lost my sight in the summer of 1993. I had just finished grade 8 and was excited to begin grade 9 at a new school. It was a total shock. My parents weren’t sure where to turn. I spent my summer indoors, trying to adapt to a life without 20/20 vision.

September arrived and students returned to school. My mom didn’t know what to do with me. She kept me home the first day, and called our region’s Board of Education. She talked to a woman in charge of organizing special services and was relieved to learn that there was a department of sorts designed to help visually impaired and blind students.

That afternoon, I met a woman who would forever change my life.

Stephanie Sommer arrived around noon. She sat with my mom and I, at the kitchen table and asked questions. She had come to assess whether I truly required her assistance. The phone rang at some point during our meeting and after watching me reach past the phone, she took my hand and placed it onto the receiver with a smile.

After mom was finished with the call, Stephanie told us she would start working with me the following day.

Over the next five years, Stephanie would teach me not only the usual lessons of Braille and getting around safely with a cane, but she would inspire me to be an independent woman.

Stephanie never once treated me like I had a disability.

She expected me to act appropriately and study just as hard as every other student in my high school.

She always expected me to give eye contact.

She wouldn’t help me unless I said please or thank you.

And if I got frustrated and attempted to give up, she’d walk away and wait for me to get over it.

Stephanie and I developed more than just a student-teacher bond, we became friends. She told me about her own vision problems and told me how she embarked on an educational journey that led her to working with students like me.

I remember the feeling of comfort that would come over me each time I smelled her perfume, and the smile that would sprout on my face, no matter how bad the day, when I heard her voice. Stephanie was my navigator, guiding me through a world I now found scary and full of unknowns.

She taught me how to read Braille and how to fully utilize the vision I still had.

She showed me how to travel safely throughout my community with a cane, and then when I told her I wanted to apply for a guide dog, she challenged me to first move outside of my comfort zone. I learned how to take the bus to a neighbouring town to attend movies and shop alone in their mall. Then, she gave me the biggest test of all, she asked me to learn how to take the bus to Toronto and then learn to take the subway to the largest mall of all (at the time) – the Eatons Centre.

Once I entered my final year of high school, Stephanie was there to help me reach my goal of attending university. She read through university brochures and program descriptions. Then she helped me fill out application, after application because I couldn’t decide on which one to attend. She was there when I received each of my letters of acceptance and then took it upon herself to arrange campus tours so that I could better decide upon the school for me.

After I began university, Stephanie and I talked a couple times a year, but after she attended my wedding in 2006, we sadly lost touch.

I still think about the lessons she taught me. She inspired me how to be the woman I am today, because when no one else did, she believed I could be better.

Mother’s Day

Tomorrow should be a day of celebration. A day to look back on the memories I shared with my mother.

Instead though, I want Monday to come as quickly as possible.

All week I’ve had to watch advertisements on TV and read messages via Twitter telling me what I should get my mother for Mother’s Day.

I’m sure this information has been helpful for some, but I find the constant bombardment to be emotionally draining.

I’m not expecting people to stop celebrating Mother’s Day. I’m not asking friends to stop talking about their mothers and how special they are. I don’t want Mother’s Day to become another politically incorrect topic, like Christmas, Easter or the use of husband and wife.

I just wish there were TV ads and Twitter feeds which suggested ways to honour the mothers who have passed away.

Or recommended ways to honour the men who have stepped up and taken on the roles of both “mother” and “father”.

My mother was a strong woman. She was a fighter. She tried to do what was best for her children. She didn’t always make the best choices.

But, she raised two strong women who will do their best to fulfill her dreams.