Things That Won’t Surprise Me In 2020

It’s been a crazy year so far. I mean, yes, the pandemic, but all the other things, too. Murder hornets. The government releasing and confirming UFO sighting videos (note: i mean the acronym literally, I’m not trying to tell you that aliens came a-calling, just that there were flying objects that could not be identified). Dust storms from the Sahara hitting the US. As I write this, there is not one but two potential hurricanes brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.

I think I’ve reached a point where my suspension of disbelief is at an all time high. So here’s a few things that, if they come across my news feed, might not make me do much more than shrug and continue on with my day.

Big Foot comes down out of the hills and wanders into Los Angeles. Just make sure the guy has a super sized mask and keeps six bigfeet away from everyone else, okay?

Psychotic Beavers on the rampage. Well. We already have murder hornets, what’s one more creature with a scary name? Watch out for the big teeth.

Atlantis rises from the sea. Someone should probably tell them to go back down for a few more years, though, until they don’t have to worry about quarantine.

First contact with aliens. Just because I told you that I wasn’t claiming this had already happened doesn’t mean that I’d be surprised if it did. Well. I might question their poor timing, but other than that, not so much.

Snowstorms in September. Actually. This one isn’t so far out there when you live in Nova Scotia. I’ve never seen it, but I think I’ve seen snow in June once. Either that, or I’m remembering a dream. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised, we’ve had some bizarre weather this year.

Tropical Christmas in Canada. Oh, wait, never mind, that one happened just a few years ago. AC and open windows and everything.

Lizard People take over world governments. I’m not naming names, but I can think of a few places where that sounds like an improvement.

My phone develops independant artificial intelligence. So long as it doesn’t try to tell me about 5G, scamdemics or other conspiracy theories, I’m okay with this.

Obviously, I’m kidding. Sort of. Mostly. Still, I have absolutely reached a point where news that might normally have struck me as being really noteworthy is just another thing on the pile. And I don’t even read the news religiously. What strange happenings would you fail to blink at? Let me know in the comments.

(Note: my mother told me to write this one after I made a wisecrack comment along the lines of the Bigfoot one. I was also instructed to inform you all that she told me to do it. This week is her birthday, so she’s getting what she wants.)

Be kind to yourselves, and be kind to those you encounter, even if they’re aliens, lizard people, psychotic beavers, Atlantians or a very confused sasquatch. And especially if they are your suddenly intelligent phone.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

What It’s Like: Guide Dog Training

I will never forget how I got my guide dog. Including filling out the application form. Mostly, though, that’s because I was, at the time, living with a roommate and her two kids and Hurricane Juan had just ransacked our city. We had been without power for four days, and couldn’t get anything done while the kids were awake, so we sat down one night and filled it out by candlelight. And almost as soon as we finished, the power came back on. Because of course it did.

Basically, it was just a form with questions about my eyesight, mobility, living situation, etc. Nothing weird.

Not too long after I sent that off, a trainer came to Halifax to assess me. This involved watching me walk with my cane, guiding me to see if I was any good at picking up on cues that way and taking a look at my living situation to ensure that it was a safe environment for a dog. And that was it. I was then assigned a class in March of the following year, and flew out there.

The school itself was pretty cool. It housed the kennels for all the dogs in training, offices for staff, dorms for the students, kitchen facilities, dining room, recreation area and enclosed area for the dogs to run around. We each got our own room, and they were surprisingly spacious and comfy.

On our first day, we met the dogs, but weren’t assigned one specific dog. We were a class of seven, and there were ten dogs assigned to us. That first day, we met them, got to spend time with all ten, play with them, have them sit with us and learn how to put the harness on.

The next day we started actually working with the dogs. They had sort of matched us up with a few dogs, and we cycled between them. I mostly worked with Aggie, an extremely hyper but very pretty golden lab with this sort of white gold fur and an exceedingly chill and sweet black lab named Bandit.

I liked them both, but I’ll be honest with you, Bandit stole my heart. They warned us not to do that, but I sort of did.

After a few days, they had made their decision on who would get paired up with who, and brought our dogs to us, one by one, while we waited in our rooms. It was almost like a ceremony, they did make the moment seem very serious. They brought me Aggie.

I was disappointed, but it was just a small degree of disappointment, as I did really like her, too. Aggie was a sweet girl, and fun, but hyper and a bit stubborn. Training with her was challenging, but I persevered.

Right up until the first day they had us walk around the block solo. Or, well, solo with two trainers about fifteen feet behind us. Aggie took it into her head to ignore me and wander off in some random direction on her own, and it was the last straw for the trainers. They sat me down and explained that this wasn’t my fault, that they had paired me with Aggie because they thought I was the only one in my class who had the chance to actually make her listen. They told me that they planned to try her once more with the next class, and if that didn’t work she’d be retired and go be a pet. I suspect that’s probably what happened. She’d make a really great pet, but not a guide dog.

I thought at this point that they’d surely pair me with Bandit. He was the other dog that I had worked with the most. However, the day prior one member of our class had decided that this just wasn’t working for him and left the program. He had been paired with Wilson, an adorable chocolate lab that I’d worked with myself once or twice before they shunted him to this other person, and it was Wilson that I was paired with.

Again, I was disappointed, but it didn’t last long. Wilson had this endless capacity to just love everyone and everything he met. The first night I had him with me, he tried to climb into my lap as I sat in my room watching television. He was, at that point, about sixty pounds. That didn’t matter, he wanted snuggles. It pretty much sealed the deal for me.

Working with Wilson was much, much easier. He actually listened and took me where I wanted to go. Wilson had an endless desire to please, and to be glued to my side.

Now, to back track a little bit, when you start learning how to work with your canine companion, it starts off simple: they lead you down a straight hallway, turn around and lead you back. Next, the trainers put up barriers in the hallway that the dog has to weave its way through, with you learning both to follow its lead and actually trust. It’s harder than it sounds. Then, they add a short flight of stairs into the mix so you learn to read the signals.

At that point, you’re ready to go outside. It starts off with you just walking up and down the sidewalk outside the school, then to the end of the block, then around the block with the trainer by your side, then around the block alone, and then you start going on full routes with turns and crosswalks and traffic lights.

Finally, they pile you and your doggo into a van, take you on a wee drive and drop you off somewhere. They don’t tell you where. You need to first find out (by asking) where you are, and then find your way back to school on your own. I know that sounds horrifying, but the van is trailing after you the whole way, so you’re not really on your own. It does feel that way, though.

All the while this training is going on, there’s plenty of time to socialize with your fellow classmates and to take your dog outside to the courtyard and play with them. The month is just as much about forming a bond with your dog as it is about learning how to work with them. There’s also lessons on dog grooming, dog relieving, dog feeding, talks about our rights with the dog… lots of things.

And finally, graduation. Which is an actual ceremony, where the foster families of the graduating dogs are invited, those students with family in the area (or in my case, a mother who just decided to make a road trip to see me graduate from guide dog school), speeches and everything. And a video montage of our training to a Hillary Duff song.

And then… well. Then, I flew back home and started my life with Wilson, my sweet boy. Who grew to 80 lbs, was eternally sweet but not perfect, loved to show off his toys to anyone who would listen, and literally guided me through several big changes in my life. I had him for eight years until he retired, which is fairly standard.

And that is how you get a guide dog.

As always, please be kind to yourself and those you encounter. This year continues to be challenging, and we could all use some kindness. Just don’t forget that that includes yourselves.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

hat It’s Like: Guide Dog TrainingWhat It’s Like: Guide Dog Training

The Altered Ballad, a short story

Narissa stepped up onto the small stage set up in the great hall, clutching her lute nervously as she looked out upon the throng.

Nervousness wasn’t generally an issue when the time came for her to perform. But this night was different.

She had but one set, allotted to her to prove herself worthy of a court position, and she knew which song the crowd wanted. She also knew to make them wait. So she performed a smattering of older classics everyone knew with a few of her lesser known compositions until she had used up almost all her time.

Then, she looked up, as if just realizing something. “Oh! My Lords and Ladies, I suppose upon reflection that there’s one more song you wish to hear. Or am I wrong? I could always close with Amongst The daisies.”

This, naturally, got a roar of negation and she flashed a quick grin, her face concealing how nervous she was. Training would do that. “Alright, alright.”

Then, she held up a hand. “This is a serious song, gentles all. A solemn song. A lament.” Her hand lowered, strumming at her lute. “As you know, I was blessed to travel with the late Sir Henry, Champion of His Royal Majesty, as his bard, making record of his many exploits. I was there the day he died, and indeed, the days leading up to it. This is his last song.”

Her fingers guided the melody of the lute into a minor, mournful chord, and Narissa began to sing.

“Twas ten years or more ago
when last he rode away.
And none have seen his brave face
since that sad gloomy day.

“Bright was his hair, blue his eyes,
his countenance so fair
He left broken hearts in his wake
a fate that I do share.

“On that day, Sir Henry rode
to avenge his murdered wife,
He rode away to Capartan
and there he lost his life.”

Narissa let her gaze sweep the crowd of nobles, taking in their rapt faces. Even the serving men and women had ceased, spellbound. Finally, she saw him. The one she needed to be there. Rage burned in her heart, but she kept it from her face and voice.

“He did not ride alone that day,
I, his Bard was at his side.
I witnessed full that fateful duel
and held him as he died.

“Twas Sir Robert that he fought,
brother of his love,
twas Sir Robert cut him down,
and sent him up above.”

So far so good. This was the song that had become famous throughout the land in the wake of the most popular knight the kingdom’s death.

But the court was about to hear the debut of Narissa’s new, altered ballad, and she let some of the anger bleed into her voice.

“And yet, where does fault lie?
In he who swung the sword?
Or in the villain, foul and bent,
who wispered deceitful words.

“Sir Robert loved his sister fair,
and approved of whom she wed,
it was with grief that Robert swung,
and struck Sir Henry dead.”

It was a pity that Sir Robert wasn’t here, but the events of that duel had left him as a social outcast. Perhaps she would play it for him one day.

“A jealous knight had told him false,
and sought to bring him low.
He sits and drinks here, even now,
his name is Sir Mardow.”

Mardow, shocked, leapt to his feet amidst gasps and a muttering of the crowd, and Narissa strengthened her voice.

“Sir Mardow wanted what was not his,
he wanted Henry’s wife.
He wanted Henry’s place in court,
he wanted Henry’s life.

And so, he killed the fair Eileen,
in fits of jealous rage,
and told Sir Henry falsehoods vile,
so to set the stage.”

Mardow was pushing through the crowd, making for the hallway that would lead him to the castle courtyard.

“Rise up, ye listeners all,
bar the passage out.
Bring down the vile, vile snake,
bring down the evil lout.”

Narissa all but shouted the final line, and as her lute fell into silence, the crowd surged forward. Hands reached for Mardow. Others reached for daggers. Mardow tried to run, and that sealed his fate. And Narissa watched, face impassive.

It was true, then. A Bard really did have the power to shape the opinions and actions of those who heard her song. So long as she got her court position, why, she could shape the very fate of the kingdom.

Sir Robert would be pleased.

(The above was one of the short stories I wrote during June. Yes, the poetry of the ballad is atrocious. I never said it was my best work, but I kind of like this one. Be kind to me. 😛 And, you know, yourself and those you encounter.)

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Deconstructing Ableist Statements

Ableism is kind of insidious. It’s one of those isms that are often perpetuated by very well-meaning people who intend to be kind. I think it’s often based not in hatred or fear, but in a lack of understanding. Well, okay, sometimes it’s fear, I’ve had a few people admit that I made them uncomfortable because of my disability. (And before anyone criticizes this, don’t, I admire the hell out of someone willing to admit their discomfort and talk to me about it so we can work through it)

That’s part of why I write about it with increasing frequency. If it’s based in misunderstanding, then the best tool I have to fight against it is to get folks to understand.

So, I’m going to talk about some well-meaning sentiments that I have encountered. A lot. By good people, by people doing their best to be kind, and not really thinking through what they’re saying. So, if you’ve said any of these to me or anyone else who is disabled, don’t feel bad, don’t apologize, just think about what I’m saying.

“If I lost my sight, I could never cope.”

When people say this to me, they think that they’re complimenting me on my ability to cope. They mean well. I’m convinced of this. But what does it really say? That the blind are, at base level, less able to live a fulfilling life.

It would be like me talking to someone who was 5’1″ and going “Gosh, if I were that short, I don’t think I could cope.”

It’s true that some people are better at learning coping mechanisms than others, but that’s true of all humanity. Also, I firmly believe that we are utter crap at determining what we can, and can’t, cope with.

“I’d rather lose (insert sense/function here) than lose my sight.”

This is the one I really, truly hate. Of the bunch, it is the one I’ve never been able to just shrug off. Is being blind ideal? Of course not. Of course it poses it’s own challenges. But it’s not the end of the world. It didn’t end my life. In fact, I have been far more of a contributing member of society since I lost the majority of my eyesight.

Loss of a sense or function is not a life sentance to misery. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to spend the rest of your life as some poor, pitiable thing that is less than human, but that is what this sentiment makes me feel like you see me as.

“Wow. You hold down a job? You’re so strong/brave/incredible.”

Uh. Would you say that to literally anyone who wasn’t somehow disabled? Unless they were already holding down a job (parenting included, that is absolutely a full time job). But would you say that to anyone else? I doubt it.

It’s not miraculous, though I was more or less led to believe that this was the case. I remember attending a week-long career thing for the visually impaired and blind, and the careers they introduced us to were not particularly aspirational. Or varied. It was not the encouraging, uplifting week they thought it was.

Yes. I work. Part-time, yes, but the reasons for that actually have nothing to do with being blind and everything to do with other health issues. The education for this career was challenging, but the job itself? Not at all.

“You’re so brave.”

This is close to the last one, but I want to talk about it specifically. Blindness in particular seems to have this weird mystique about it. Somehow, we are portrayed as noble martyrs. Poor, brave souls.

We’re not. I’ve known some blind people who are jerks. I’ve known some who are manipulative. Some who aren’t particularly brave or strong. Kind of like humanity as a whole.

At the end of the day, we’re just people.

Now. Here are some things that aren’t awful. Actually, I like hearing these.

“Here, look at this picture.”

People always react with such chagrin when they say this and either realize what they’ve said or had me gently explain it. And I try to be gentle, because I know they’re going to kick themselves about it. (Or laugh, the awesome people laugh)

Showing pics to friends and family is a normal thing. By automatically trying to show me one, you are telling me loud and clear that you think I’m normal.

I am normal. Weeeell. More or less.

“I keep forgetting that you’re blind.”

Good. I want you to. Or, if not forget, then not have it be the first thing you think of when you think of me. Think of me as a blogger, a massage therapist, the person who likes to dye their hair purple, the chick with the unicorn on her bag or just a friend.

“You’re good at (insert thing here).”

So long as “for a blind person” doesn’t come before or after that statement, I love it. If you want to compliment me, do it without any qualifying statements. This one absolutely applies to those outside of the disabled population. “For a woman” “For a gay man” “For a black person”. None of these should be included as qualifying statements. I’m a good massage therapist. Period. End of sentance. Not despite or because I’m blind.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to brush all of this off when you’re not living it. They’re just words, right? Does it really matter?

It does, because I hear this stuff all the time. Seriously. All. The. Time. The more you hear it, the easier it is to believe the undertones. I mean, I’m 44 years old and It’s only in the past year or two that I even started to question the validity of this kind of thing. Because I’d heard it so much, from so many people, that it must all be true.

All of those people meant well. You meant well, if you ever said these things. Meaning well doesn’t negate the impact, though. All I ask is that you think about what you’ve read, and perhaps start catching yourself before you say these things.

Like always, I urge you to be kind to yourself and to those around you. Times are hard. You deserve kindness. So do those you meet.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Inclusivity

I’ve written a lot about the importance of recognizing things like racism, ableism and the like. And it’s true. All the ism’s, all the phobias should be recognized and worked on eliminating.

So I would like to shine a spotlight on a television series that, in my opinion, is absolutely doing it right and having a great time doing so.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a series that ran on NBC, starting in January of 2020, with twelve episodes. The premise is, essentially, that the protagonist Zoey suddenly develops the ability to know people’s mental state/what’s on their minds, but only via an elaborate musical number (including dancers and backup singers) that only she can hear.

It’s hilarious. It’s often touching. And it’s also one of the most inclusive things I’ve seen in awhile.

For a one season, twelve episode show, it has managed to include a wide diversity of race, mixed race relationships, homosexual relationships, transgendered people, both women and men in positions of power, disability, mental illness, and terminally ill characters. Moreover, most of what I listed above fall into the realm of regularly occurring characters.

Let’s address the disabled character. She is one of the only ones on the list that was not a regular character, but even so I think they handled her story well. The character in question was a deaf young woman who was the daughter of one of the supporting cast. Her story showed her attending a prestigious school, kicking serious scholastic backside, and the plot revolved around her trying to convince her father that she was a fully capable individual completely able to follow her dream, which is an issue that many of us with disabilities do, in fact, face. I have, from more than one person who loved me and meant well.

The character was portrayed by Sandra Mae Frank, a deaf actress, and they did give her a song, one which she performed in sign (as did the backup performers), which I loved despite not being able to fully appreciate it. Now, I may not be able to fully understand what life is like for those with severe hearing impairments, but I do know what it’s like to be blind, and I absolutely identified with the character. I didn’t feel as if I was being pandered to, I didn’t feel like we were supposed to pity her, and they showed her intelligence and strength.

I feel like they did the same for all aspects of diversity that they included in the show, though as a white woman, I can only surmise on that score. Even more respect is given for appropriate casting. Alex Newell, who plays Mo, Zoey’s gender fluid next door neighbour and emotional sounding board, is themself genderfluid, in addition to Sandra Mae Frank actually being deaf.

The show is a fun romp that handled inclusivity and diversity as if it was no big thing. As if it were just normal. It should be normal.

Honestly, I love this show and can’t recommend it highly enough. Unless you hate musicals. You won’t like this if you don’t like people breaking into song suddenly. The only jarring aspect is that they do state outright in dialogue that it’s 2020, and what with the writers not actually being psychic there’s no pandemic, but that’s small.

Keep on being kind to yourself and to those you encounter.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Dear Me

Dear Me,

Hello from a year in your future. For you, it’s July 22, 2019. For me? It’s July 22, 2020.

I know you’re feeling a bit under the weather right now. All that stuff with your thyroid. Then that radiation treatment you just got. And right now, you’re feeling a bit sorry for yourself because you’re stuck in a two week long quarantine until you stop being radioactive. Actually, you’re feeling a lot sorry for yourself, stuck inside for two whole weeks. No work, no socialization, no going out.

Oh, you sweet summer child.

Okay, so, let’s start with the good news. The radiation is going to work. I mean. More or less. You’re not really done with this, you’re going to lose some hair, but in a few months they’ll get you onto the right medication, and it will be better. So that’s good, right? Oh. And don’t freak out too badly about the hair, it’s just a bit of thinning, it’ll grow back. A year from now, you’ll see that it’s not important or particularly worth fussing over.

Oh, and your writing career is going to go somewhere unexpected, but I won’t spoil the surprise for you. Just be prepared to go for any opportunity that pops up.

Aside from that, you’ll find the rest of 2019 kind of uneventful. Girl, you enjoy that uneventfulness. Just… just trust me, okay?

2020 sounds like such a great year, doesn’t it? You like to play D&D, and hey, that’s two critical rolls. You’ll even make that comment on New Year’s day. Well. I did. Maybe… don’t. Or don’t make too big a deal out of it, okay?

While I’m giving some advice, can I suggest stocking up on some toilet paper in, oh, mid-February? And hand sanitizer. Oh, and lysol wipes. You might also want to try to sock away a bit of extra money, if you can. But not in cash.

And maybe don’t make any big plans for the year. Especially travel related ones. But you could look into streaming apps that you haven’t tried yet. Only don’t sign up just yet if there’s any sort of free trial. Just, you know, be aware of it. Except Disney Plus, I know you won’t be able to wait on that one. Yes, it’s as awesome as you think it’s going to be.

Try to brace for change. But also kind of brace for monotony. Look. Just trust me on this stuff, okay?

Oh, I forgot something in the good news front. You actually find a new D&D gaming group. On Zoom! Oh, wait, you’ve never heard of Zoom, have you? Trust me, you’ll learn. Hey. You don’t have any spare funds for buying Zoom stock do you? Shame. I joke, I have no idea if they even have stocks. Also, you’re going to join a choir for the first time in over twenty years! So that’s fun, right? I mean. It’s also on Zoom, but it’s fun.

Listen, me, it’s kind of going to be a bit of a rough ride. You’re going to get used to some crazy stuff happening. A lot of it’s bad. Some of it is really bad. Things you never thought you’d live to see. Generation defining stuff. Some of it is super sad. Some of it is going to lead to some changes that the world needed to make, though.

So I guess you can ignore all the earlier advice and just go with this: be kind to people. Be kind to yourself. Kindness has never been more important than it is now. You might want to start reminding other people of that, too.

Hang in there. You’re going to make it through.

love,
Me

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

It’s Still Okay

In many places, restrictions on our lives and movements are being lifted. Many of us who were out of work for months are returning to it. Many of those who worked from home are starting to be phased back into office life. We can go get a haircut, or a massage, or go eat in a restaurant.

Now, I’d never go so far as to say that life is returning to normal. It may never go entirely back to what we used to consider normal, but it is changing.

And hey, maybe we accepted, back in April, that it was okay not to be okay. It was alright if we felt overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, inexplicably cranky or depressed.

But surely, now that things are easing in some areas, we should also be feeling better, right? Wrong.

I’m here to tell you something. Yes, you. You reading this with your very own personal eyeballs. Or your own personal ears, or your own personal fingertips.

It is still okay not to be okay.

If logic helps, then here is some logic: you’ve just been through something you likely weren’t prepared for. Something that impacted your life in extremely personal ways. Perhaps you lost someone, or are friends with someone who has. Perhaps you lost your job. You definitely lost the sort of freedom you took for granted. You can’t just wave away the mental and emotional effects of that.

Also, though restrictions are easing, the grim truth is that this isn’t over. In some places, things aren’t even actually improving even if restrictions are lifting. We might be better prepared for it now than we were in March, and that is a very good thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s over.

So of course you’re not okay. Of course you feel anxiety and sadness.

Less logically… we’re humans. Our response to grief and stress is not a rational thing, so trying to force yourself to be entirely rational in your emotional reaction is so far from unfair to yourself that it might as well be one of those carnival games that hardly anyone wins.

This obviously doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try for emotional stability. Of course we should. We should make full use of every tool in our toolbox to try to cope, as best as we can, and be on the lookout for some new, shiny tools to tuck away in there. We just shouldn’t kick ourselves for not being entirely okay.

I’m not entirely okay. I’m crankier a lot of the time. I get scared. I get depressed. I have far less patience than I should. I’m doing my best not to let that negatively impact anything else, but I still feel those things, and that’s okay.

If you’re still feeling those things, it’s okay. If you’re not, then hey, please feel free to drop me a message and tell me the ways of your people.

In the meantime, and as always, for god’s sake be kind to yourself. And to others.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday

What It’s Like: Socializing

For those new to my blog, the “What It’s Like” posts are what things are like for me as a blind woman. While some generalizations could possibly be drawn from these, I would like to remind you that I am an individual. All of us with visual impairments are, so what is true for me may not be true for another.

This week, I want to talk about something that many people once took for granted. Many folks probably didn’t give any real thought to it. That has changed.

Socializing. Hanging out with friends, even dating. It used to be so easy, didn’t it? At least, it was easy for a lot of people. Not so much for those segments of the population with social anxiety, certain cognitive challenges and, yes, those of us with physical disabilities.

When one is in a wheelchair, the very act of getting where you want to go has to be considered. Once there, can you get in? If you can get in, are the tables, if tables are part of the place, at a good height? Is the bathroom accessible? For the hearing impaired, I have to assume that you need to take into account how loud a place is, to make sure that if you have some degree of hearing you’d be able to use it, or make sure that someone can understand sign language and interpret for you.

Now, for me at least, socializing with my particular disability of blindness is actually a mixed bag. There are a few good things about it. I’ll save those for the end, though. Mostly because I’d rather end on a good note.

So, first of all, let’s talk about social cues. Those ways we humans have of indicating any number of things. Like or dislike, interest or boredom, attraction or repulsion. Most social cues are non-verbal. Aside from tone of voice, the rest aren’t even audible. I quite literally have only my ears to guide me.

Ears aren’t enough. I know for a fact that I missed out on romantic interest being aimed at me from more than one source simply because I couldn’t see the other person. Couldn’t see the looks, the way they smiled at me, the position of their body. How do I know? At some point, they told me, but usually only after that ship had sailed.

I have also recently come to the sad realization that someone I thought was a friend, or at the least a friendly acquaintance, doesn’t actually like me much any longer, and I have no clue for how long that has been happening. I don’t bring this up for pity, this is a thing that happens in many friendships in time, it’s just an illustration of the fact that I missed it for awhile.

That makes socializing difficult. It’s a little bit easier one on one, but gets exponentially more difficult with every person added to a group I am in. Heck, I don’t even always know if I’m meant to be included in any given conversation, which sometimes makes me feel like I’m interrupting if I join in. Or, worse, sometimes I am interrupting and don’t realize it.

Secondly, there is the logistics of getting to places to meet folks. Generally, if meeting a group for, say, coffee or dinner, you meet inside. One person nabs a table, everyone else comes and joins upon arrival. I can’t. I can get there. I can get a cab. Sometimes, I can get a bus though the spot I live in isn’t great for that. But I can’t find them. That leaves the tactic of texting or calling someone and asking them to come fetch me, which is both awkward and does come with it that sense of helplessness that I so loathe.

Sometimes, I can’t even get there, though. What if you are meeting at a spot inside a building with multiple places, like a mall? I can get to the mall, but if I don’t have the layout memorized, finding the precise spot is tricky.

Third is the preconceptions of others. Well-meaning as people are, there is often this subconscious idea that I am the poor blind girl, not the fun friend. You want to ask your fun friend out for coffee, but do you want to ask the poor blind girl? I have found that I often have to get to know someone very well before I can shift out of “poor blind girl” and into “fun friend”. Unfortunately, without socializing, it’s really hard to do that getting to know of people, so that turns into a viscious circle quickly.

So, what’s good about it?

First, there’s less judgement of me towards others. This isn’t because I’m a better person than anyone else. Trust me, I’m not. But I can’t see your shoes. I don’t know if your clothing is some designer brand or thrift shop chique. Skin colour, degree of socially decided on levels of beauty, hair colour, state of your nails. I am oblivious, and I like it just fine that way. I’d rather make my judgements on a combination of actions and what is said.

Secondly… look, have you ever had one of those days when you’re getting ready, you glance in the mirror and can’t help but notice those one or two (or three, or six) flaws? Your hair isn’t quite how you want it. You look a bit pale. The shirt isn’t falling just right. Then, poof, there goes your confidence. I know that feeling, I used to fall into that trap a lot when I had sight. That never happens any longer. Not that I walk around thinking I’m the epitome of beauty or anything, I just don’t suffer from the false fear of not being as good as I could be.

Perhaps some of you are now wondering if there’s anything you can do to make socializing easier for any friends with a disability. Yes and no. Honestly, understanding is the biggest thing you can do. It is sometimes enough to have a friend who understands that if I am reluctant to go somewhere, it’s not a reflection on my desire to be with them, and more that some times the greater effort it takes for me to do a thing that is easy for everyone else outweighs the fun of doing a thing. Try to work a bit more on your communication if dealing with a blind friend.

Aside from that? No. Understanding and communicating are the big things. And perhaps just noticing that it is more difficult. You don’t have to fix the world for us, but it helps if you’re aware that the problems exist.

And, as always, be kind to those you encounter out there, and be kind to yourself. Especially when glancing in the mirror before going out to socialize.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Rewriting The Magic – My Thoughts On Splash Mountain

Last Thursday, the good folks at Disney announced that a classic ride was going to be rethemed. Splash Mountain, currently themed to the movie Song Of The South, was going to be rehauled to a Princess And The Frog theme at an unspecified future date.

This announcement sparked controversy, as is the case with every single change Disney ever makes to the parks, though this one has some serious connotations.

For my thoughts on change in the parks, and I suppose in general, I invite you to read this post from last year: https://jennifermorash.com/2019/08/07/how-winnie-the-pooh-taught-me-to-let-go/ Actually, you should read it, it’s probably my favourite past post.

History Of Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain debuted at Disney Land in 1989, and at Disney World and Tokyo Disney in 1992. The California version reused animatronics from the America Sings attraction and was located in Critter Country near its border with New Orleans Square. In Disney World, they placed it in Frontier Land, while Tokyo Disney also placed their version in a Critter Country area.

Splash Mountain combines the traditional Disney dark ride in a boat system with a log flume, and follows the adventures of Br’er Rabbit and his encounters with Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. Most of the ride is slow, taking the rider through scenes with a few smallish drops, but comes outside at the end for the big drop.

Song Of The South

Released in 1946, Song Of The South is a combined live action and animation film based around the Uncle Remus books by Joel Chandler Harris. It takes place in Georgia during the Reconstruction Era.

The plot more or less centers around Uncle Remus, a freedman, telling stories to a wealthy young white boy staying at his grandparents’ plantation for the summer. Those stories are the animated segments.

I will make one clarification in the movie’s defense, and only one: it does not depict outright, actual slavery, as some people assume it does. It isn’t stated anywhere in the film that it takes place during Reconstruction, but it does, according to the book. It’s easy to think that it does, however, and that alone can be damaging.

That said… this movie is quite horrendously racist. It glorifies the relationship between black plantation workers and their white “employers”, picturing it as this idyllic utopia where master and worker were both just as happy as could be.

Moreover, it makes use of an African American dialect as interpretted by white men, which was neither accurate or complimentary. It takes traditional African American folk tales (the Uncle Remus tales were originally that before being transcribed into a book) and appropriates them for the use of white men.

The film is beautiful visually for its time, and I admit does have a charm if you view it without the lens of history, but at its core it is racist and really offensive to both black people and supporters of black people.

Back To The Mountain

So, like I said, Splash Mountain took its theme only from the animated segments, so you only see animatronic animals having a grand old time. There is nothing racist or particularly problematic in the ride itself. I think that may be part of why some people find it hard to understand why others find it so offensive.

It’s not what the ride shows that’s the problem, it’s the fact that it is based on a movie so problematic that Disney has completely pulled it from the public. It has not, and never will be released on DVD, Blue Ray or on Disney Plus. The only way one can watch it is to track down an old VHS copy. Given how much Disney likes to play on nostalgia for older films, that should tell you something.

Moreover, it’s showing a set of once beloved folk stories and twisting them into propaganda for white supremacy. Or at least showing the end result of that. I don’t think for a moment that the talented imagineers who initially designed and built the ride meant to do anything of the sort, but ignorance isn’t a good excuse to keep something that isn’t right.

New Theme

The announcement has stated that the new theme is going to be the Princess And The frog movie, with Disney’s first black princess. This is a movie that took the old fairy tale and gave it a closer to contemporary twist. It doesn’t take place during the present day, but it isn’t medieval times, either. To be specific, it’s in 1926 New Orleans.

The ride is going to follow a story that begins after the final kiss of the movie and follows Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen as they prepare for a Mardi Gras performance. Details are, at this time, pretty scarce.

Arguments and Counter-Arguments

I’ve been hearing a few arguments over and over against this retheming. I’ve answered a lot of them in various places, but I want to address them here. Actually, this is why I wrote this particular blog, I just wanted to go into the background above first.

  1. It doesn’t fit the theme of Frontier Land!

This one is, technically, true. Louisianna isn’t exactly the western frontier. However, you know what else isn’t the western frontier? Reconstruction Era Georgia. The funny thing about this one is that it never even crossed my mind that the current Splash Mountain is a bit out of place until this issue came up. And the Disney Land (no announcement at this time about Tokyo Disney) will have a very fitting area for it. There’s loads of critters in that movie and, well, New Orleans Square is right there.

  1. There’s no waterfalls in Louisianna.

It’s true that the bayou isn’t exactly known for its waterfalls, but there actually is one in the movie. I only realized this today, though, while listening to the audio description of the end credits animation, but Tiana and Naveen do go over a waterfall there. Also, there is no reason that it needs to be a naturally occuring waterfall. Until we know where the drop portion fits into the story, I think we just have to trust Disney.

  1. But the ride isn’t racist.

Maybe, maybe not. I would say that being based on a very racist IP (intellectual property) does make it racist, but even if the ride shows no racism, it doesn’t change the fact that there is a ride at Disney that is extremely hurtful to a lot of people. Can you look me in the eye and tell me that you’d like to see people being hurt so you can keep your favourite ride? Can you look them in the eye?

  1. But it’s a classic.

So was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. So was The Scary Adventures of Snow White. So was Horizons. Those are all either gone or changed into something new, as are many other attractions. Walt never intended the parks to stay the same. Change is hard, but it’s going to keep happening. I get it, guys, I do. I loved Horizons and Mr. Toad quite dearly. I miss them. But I let them go. You can, too.

  1. Disney is just doing this to placate people.

Firstly, is that such a bad thing? If there is a public outcry for fixing something wrong, is it so bad to fix it? Secondly, while I think the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder may have spurred them to make the announcement, Disney stated in the press release that this has been in the works for over a year, and I believe them. There’s concept art, guys. Detailed concept art. You can’t whip up plans this detailed in that short of a time. I think they would have waited longer to announce it without recent events, but the plan was already there. This was going to happen.

  1. I’ll never get to ride my favourite ride again.

Yes, you will. I don’t think this is going to happen for awhile. Disney already has some enormous projects under construction, others that were announced but had their start delayed, and a whole bunch of lost revenue. There was no date or even vague time frame with the announcement, I don’t think that this thing is going to start being rethemed until at least 2022. Probably 2023. You may not want to go to the parks yet in our current Covid situation, but if you’re a diehard Disney fan you could likely get down there to say goodbye to Br’er Rabbit before the change begins.

Almost There

Whew. This has been a long one, but I’m almost done with my soapbox speech. Clearly, I’m in favour of this change. Actually, I’m excited about it. I’ve always loved the mechanics and ride system of Splash Mountain, and hated its theme. I saw Song Of The South as a child, though I couldn’t tell you what year. It must have been in its final theatrical run in the 80’s, as Disney used to re-release its old films to theatres every now and again before the rise of home media. Once I got old enough to understand what lay beneath that movie, I’ve been super uncomfortable with this ride. Did I ride it? Yes. Did I have fun? Yes, that drop is fun. Did I feel guilty? Yup.

This is a good thing. This is a right thing. The Princess And The Frog is a wonderful movie, and not just because it finally gave us a Princess that black kids could look at and see themselves in. It’s just plain great, and the music is fabulous.

And, hey, maybe now we’ll have beignets and mint julips in the Magic Kingdom, like they do out in California.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Prose Garden

This is not poetry.

Poetry has a rhythm buried at its core Like a heart beat. Prose does not.

This is not poetry.

This is prose. This is a prose garden. Where the buds are words that bloom, in time, into flowers of sentances and beds of paragraphs.

This is a story.

This is my story. This might be your story. If you see yourself in it, then it is yours. Every story that I write might be yours.

This is the story of why I need to create.

This is not poetry.

I am made up of seeds. Seeds as countless as the stars in the night sky. Seeds as numerous as cliches.

Too many seeds for one mind to contain. The more they grow, the more room they take. Roots burrow deep into all the corners of my mind. Stems reach for freedem. The only way to get the space back is to transplant them. So I dig them up, roots and all, with care and love and give them a new home.

It might be an excisement, save that I do it with love for these growing word plants. Save that I do not toss them away. Some, I keep in my own secret garden, and some I send out into the world, where the can cross pollinate with other stories and cause seeds to start to grow in other minds.

My prose garden is beautiful. Sometimes it has thorns, though. Words can hurt.

But I write in order to save my sanity. And I write to save my growing little plants from dying an unnourished, overcrowded death. I write for the sake of the stories, and for the sake of myself and maybe for the sake of the world, who needs more gardens.

This is my garden of proses.

And this is not poetry.

(Okay, okay, a little bit of explaining. This is a piece I wrote for my thirty day writing challenge. We had to create “visionary art”. I’m not sure this is visionary, but it does break all sorts of rules. It’s a sort of freeform writing around the idea of telling the story of why I write.)

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.