Post Title: Navigating October Through the Years – International Blindness Awareness Month

Childhood Fall Days.

Even before I started using a white cane and began to observe international Blindness Awareness Month, October was an important time for me. Fall leaves billowed in the air. They crunched under my feet. Neighborhood residents burned them before all the ordinances came. My father raked leaves and as kids, we jumped in them. We went on hayrides. Carved pumpkins. Dressed up. Marched around our town firehall every year in original costumes. Someone in my family always won–usually the result of Dad’s box-man costumes. We drank apple cider and ate doughnuts. Best of all, in October we celebrated my birthday.  That meant a special meal, cake and ice cream, and usually a party … and presents!

“Momiji-gan” in Japan.

Living in Japan gave me another unique experience during the fall months. Momijigan (admiring autumn leaves) was an activity everyone there participated in. I lived on a naval base near Yokohama so I hit the hiking trails off base, visited shrines and temples with friends, and even traveled to Kyoto, which is one of the famous places to see leaves changing. Souvenirs year round include momiji-manju (bean paste maple leaf sweets) found at areas famous for their maple trees. I have an extraordinary memory of traveling to Fukushima prefecture to see the foliage with my Japanese boyfriend.  But it unexpectedly began to snow–and hard!  We took some photos at Goshikinuma (Five Colored Lakes).

Colorless Years.

In 2006 I returned back to my hometown for good. My father passed away a month later. Fall lost its vibrancy for me that year. But not only did it psychologically lose its colors, it also physically did. The only trees I noticed were the ones I ran into. I was losing my vision rapidly. Those years encapsulated uncertainty, stagnancy and fear. I was going blind. What would my life hold?

Cane-crunching Fall Leaves.

I learned to navigate with a white cane in the fall of 2008. The leaves crunched still beneath my feet and my cane whooshed them to one side with a crackling sound. Somehow the sounds of crisp leaves caught under my cane comforted me. Looking back, it meant that I wasn’t LOSING my autumn. As my mobility instructor said, I was learning to experience it in a new way.  Using my new cane felt odd and out-of-place, like a magnet for the world to view me differently. But I told myself if I persevered, the odd would replace the norm.

Emergence: October 2014.

In October 2014, I felt like one of the bright colorful leaves because I had gone through such a transformation–from uncertainty to the beginning of confidence. On October 3, 2014, I launched my first memoir: Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith. People would get to know the low vision version of me. But that was the only “low” aspect about me. I had “high” energy and drive. I exchanged teaching in the classroom to educating in small forums. I added a new set of special days to October–Blindness Awareness Month. And my birthday, of course, fell within the month.  But better for my birthday to fall than me!

Humor Prevails: October 2016.

In October I finished my second memoir, Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility with a planned November Launch. I had learned to feel at ease with my vision loss and to poke fun of myself when things didn’t turn out quite as I planned them — even with or perhaps because of, my white cane. I now became a tool to encourage others.

I started to refer to myself as the “The Low Vision High Expectation Motivator.” God gives us the free will to choose our response to our situation. For me, optimism, faith and laughter resumed.

October also brought about a children’s song and white cane video created by two musician friends and me to use as an education tool in schools. On October 1-5, I launched a free giveaway of my book, Cane Confessions, to share the message of how we can choose to overcome our obstacles and live a full life. My publisher describes my book in this way, “Determinedly sweeping away her fears, [Amy] starts to celebrate the reality of vision-impaired independence.”  From launching this promotional campaign, I learned to persist and to believe in myself.

Guess what?  Readers downloaded 801 free kindle books in five days. In that period, I became an Amazon bestseller in the US and the UK!! I would have never dreamed this possible with such a narrow writing niche. I feel humbled and honored.

Work in Progress, Second Sight.

Though my third memoir in the Mobility Series was supposed to be completed by this October, I am still working on it. The first part is a look back at my overseas days and how I managed my vision. The second part focuses on where I am at now, the challenges I am faced with and how I manage. I really want to give readers a feeling for the cultures I lived in as well as the impact of going through sight loss. I’m really excited about this memoir. I have a couple of different ideas how I will approach this book, and when I decide for sure, I’ll let you know.

Future Octobers.

I’m not sure what the future holds for me. With this pandemic, we have all learned our own lessons in adapting. But what I do know, as my vision continues to deteriorate, I will see less and less of the beautiful leaves that October produces. But I believe I will become more and more colorful myself. God will continue to use me to encourage others to embrace both the vulnerabilities and strengths we each have. I believe God uses those who make themselves accessible.

You and I can positively impact others when we believe in ourselves and persist in our goals. Where do you see yourself going in the future? As an advocate for change, what area interests you?

You have just read, “Navigating October Through the Years,” by Amy L. Bovaird. © October 6, 2020. All rights reserved. Don’t forget to leave a comment. I read and respond to them all!  You can also contact me directly!