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.

Kind Vs. Nice

Kind
a: of a sympathetic or helpful nature
was helped by a kind neighbor
They were very kind to us.
b: of a forbearing nature : gentle
kind treatment of animals
c: arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance
a kind act

Nice
a: pleasing, agreeable
a nice time
a nice person
b: virtuous, respectable
… I met nice girls whose skirts reached the ground.
— Jack London

The above definitions are taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary (www.m-w.com). I did nab more examples of kind than of nice, but only because nice has a lot of meanings, and I didn’t think that being exact really fit the sort of niceness we’re talking about today.

So, in recent months I have taken to putting in a reminder at the end to be kind to yourself and kind to those you encounter. Times are difficult right now, the world could use a bit of kindness. I chose that word very deliberately. I just as deliberately have not been advising niceness.

To be frank, I have reached a point of saying “screw niceness”. To me, to be nice is to be polite, to be agreeable, to just get along and not cause waves. We, as a society, cannot do that anymore. I will no longer be nice.

If I see something that I disagree with, I will speak up. Now, I will do my utmost to do that in a respectful manner, I’m not out to verbally berate people who don’t agree with me, or badger anyone into compliance with my way of thinking. But I will speak my mind. Generally, this applies to the spreading of misinformation, fake facts, racism and statements of white privilege (such as “all lives matter”, because that statement does come from a place of privilege, even if you do mean it well) I’m not going to tear a strip off of you for not liking the same usic as I do.

On the other hand, now more than ever is a time to be kind. Be sympathetic and, more importantly, empathetic to those around you. Listen to what they say. And by listen, I don’t just mean “sit there and let them vent”. I mean actively listen. Think about what they’re saying and why they might be saying it.

If you have help to give, give it. This doesn’t mean “help people even at the cost of your own physical, financial or emotional well-being”. It just means that you can use the resources you have to help others.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is this: You should try your best to be kind, but you don’t always have to be nice.

So, be kind to yourself, and be kind to those around you.

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.

My Girl

Twelve years ago, I sat up late, all curled up on the sofa waiting for a phonecall from England. I was unwilling to go to bed for fear of sleeping through the ringing. When that phonecall finally came, I cried. My first niece had made her way into the world.

Three weeks later, I was on a plane to England to meet her, and it was love at first sight. She was so tiny and so, so perfect. I saw her again later in the summer when my sister brought her across the Atlantic to meet the clan. I remember singing her “Hippo In The Bathtub” when she cried, and every single time, she stopped. Possibly to wonder why I was making those weird noises.

Over the past twelve years, I’ve watched her grow. First into a rambunctious toddler, then into a doting big sister, then into a thoughtful, intelligent and creative young lady.

I’m so proud of her that sometimes, I feel like I might burst from it. As a kid, I was an avid reader, particularly of the fantasy genre. My niece has not only followed in her auntie’s footsteps, but surpassed me. Man. I thought I was an advanced reader, but this girl read the entire Harry Potter series by the time she turned seven.

I love giving her books, though it isn’t always what I go for. Actually, what I love the most is giving her books that I either loved at her age, or else ones I wish had been written when I was her age. A few summers back, she told me that her favourite books were the ones I gave her. I think it may be the best compliment I’ve ever been given.

She doesn’t just read, either. This girl can write. I think there may be some sort of genetic tendency for this endeavour, as her Mum is a published and talented poet. My neice has written both prose and poetry, and everything I’ve read from her has absolutely astounded me.

She’s a fantastic actress, too. Granted, I’ve never been lucky enough to attend a performance of hers, but I’ve been sent videos of her performances, and she treated me to a live rendition of a monologue (written by her, too) that had me laughing so hard.

Did I mention her musical ability? Because she’s got that, too. Before the current shutdown, she performed with some classmates in a band, and while I admit to auntly bias, they were really, really good.

She paints. She does synchronized swimming. She can rughook. And she’s only twelve years old. She blows my mind.

She is twelve today, and I don’t think I could be any more proud of her than I am. Of course, I’ve said that before, only for her to turn around and do some new, amazing thing, and I discover new depths of pride and love.

If I had one wish for her, it would be this: never, ever forget how special you are, and how many people love you. No matter where you go in life, no matter what you do, your Aunt Jenn is going to be right there, cheering you on. And bragging about you to anyone who will listen. (Seriously, kiddo, I do that. Like… all the time.)

Happy birthday, Clverkins. (That’s what I called you when you were tiny… I was right to do so, I see.)

((Note: If you are reading this and know my wonderful girl, and want to chime in to add your own praise in the comments, please do so, but I also ask you to protect her privacy. My choice to leave her name out of this was deliberate.)

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.

Words

I don’t know what to say, here.

Maybe that’s an ironic openning line in a blog that clearly has more words after it, but it’s true nonetheless.

I just don’t know what to say. Because if the senseless, brutal death of a man doesn’t open your eyes to the fact that things have to change, nothing I have to say will do so.

Why did it ever need to come to this? Why haven’t the past senseless, brutal murders of people been enough to change things? Why haven’t the voices of people of colour crying out that they were scared for their very lives if confronted by a police officer change things?

And if you are sitting there, reading this and thinking that this is a problem that only happens somewhere else… you are wrong. People with black and brown skin in your communities almost certainly are afraid. They have grounds to be afraid.

And it has to stop. I, as a white woman, live a life of extreme privilege. I can count on the police to be on my side. I can’t ever truly empathize with the plight of my fellow humans whose outer layer happens to not match the shade of my own. I can’t speak for them.

But I can speak. I can say “Enough.” I can say “No.” I am only one small voice, my words on their own don’t have much power, but that’s not the point. The point isn’t my lone voice. It’s all of ours. If you feel the same way, please say so. Not just in the comments section, either. Say it on any platform you have. Say it more than once. Say it when a friend or family member says something you don’t agree with.

Say it. Speak the hell up.

I guess I do have some words, after all.

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.

The Pain Of Exclusion

Were you ever picked last for a game when you were a kid?? Ever find out about a party that everyone but you seems to have been invited to? Been in a group of friends reminescing about an incredibly fun memory they shared that you weren’t there for? Remember how the feeling of exclusion felt?

For the blind, we face that almost everywhere we turn. This is a visual world. It always has been, but it seems to be getting more and more so every day.

Video game culture is on the rise, picture sharing platforms are extremely popular, places like Disney World have a plethora of simulator rides based on viewing a screen, even the education of online learning can rely heavily on pictures and videos.

And we can’t participate in that, or if we can we get only a very watered down version of it.

It hurts. It feels like a little jab every time it happens, leaving an inner six year old standing at the edge of the field wondering “What about me?”

The truly frustrating part of that for me is that it doesn’t even need to be this way. Images can be tagged with very descriptive text that would tell us precisely what is in the photo, but no one seems to do it. Rides can have audio tracks, and to be fair many at WDW and other similar theme parks do, but not all of them. Videos can have audio descriptions as well, or at least some sort of back up explination, and not all of them do. Some video games can even be made somewhat or entirely accessible, but designers don’t.

I do not expect the world to bend to meet my needs. I really don’t. The fact that I am blind is always going to limit some of the things I can participate in. But it doesn’t have to limit quite as much as it does, if only those behind designing these things would take a minute to think about the blind and visually impaired community. I’m sure the same goes for other groups as well, but I can only speak to my own experience.

I do want to send a very heartfelt thank you to anyone who has taken the time for accessibility, I’m not unaware of you, it’s just that sometimes the pain of not being able to participate in things that everyone else is doing hurts.

Like all those nifty Facebook avatars people are sharing. Like the buzzfeed personality test I saw yesterday that relied entirely on photos with no description. Like the online courses I’d like to take to maintain my status as a registered massage therapist that require me to see the video.

It sucks. It hurts. And it could be so much better. All society needs to do is take a little bit of time to consider those with disabilities during the design phase and if there is a solution that would include them, do it.

As always, 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.