Archives - September, 2014



27 Sep 14

By Randy Pierce

Many people managing vision loss are uncomfortable with the word “blind.” Whether it’s a more horrific imagined final stop of their journey or some other reason, I’ve had enough conversations to understand the challenge some have in the term, far more than terminology of “visually impaired,” “sight-challenged,” or many others.

The reality for them is that change is difficult. I remember in my early transition how unsettling I found it to be labeled and to be different. I recall the many looks of pity from those who would part like the Red Sea as I tapped my cane along and learned to use the little vision I had to my best ability. I remember viewing (no pun intended) that as only “a little vision,” until I gradually came to have none left at all; my total blindness helped me realize how much perspective impacts our evaluation of everything. The truth is that it hurt to see reactions of others even as I was battling my own acceptance.

To my discredit, as soon as I’d learned to scan well enough with the limited vision I had before total blindness, I broke my white cane over my knee and threw it out. Why the emotional assault on the cane? It was a symbol of my feeling less than complete, inferior, and the warning sign for everyone else to see and realize that same notion. I’ve come a long way in acceptance and managing blindness with a bit more grace but I had a rough start and still have more bad moments than I wish.

So whether you are managing a transition yourself or know someone who is struggling with any facet of their life, please know it is hard and will often include some rougher moments. It can get better and everyone can have a hand in the improvement. For those in the midst of challenge, learn all you can about your challenge and how others before you may have succeeded. It’s a great way to begin the essential forward-moving work that’s at the heart of turning a challenge towards the positive.

For those wishing to better understand and help, do both of those things the best way possible. Consider the obvious and the subtle ways your interactions may impact someone. Treat them as close to your typical approach as possible and respect them as you ask what if anything you might do to help them. Well intended but unexpected help has walked me into a few doors, bumped a few heads, and made me feel I was thought of in a lesser way even when I knew the intent was so positive. Give encouragement, support, and accountability in equal measure but most of all give good exploration into truly understanding the reality of the challenge and the help which is wanted and necessary.

I strive to emphasize Ability Awareness and the notion we can solve problems to reach any destination that is important enough for us to be worth the perseverance required. In the midst of the challenge or transition, though, it is often hard to begin thinking of what we have ahead of us as we become tangled in how much we’ve lost. I have been there, will be there again I’m sure, and yet I know I can also come to an understanding and move forward again. Any of us may, though it helps if you are as well surrounded by people who are willing to share that approach and belief. This is true whether you are visually impaired, blind, or facing any of the multitude of challenges all of us will likely confront in our lives. The choice of how to respond is entirely up to you.

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20 Sep 14

By Randy Pierce

Autumn had previously climbed Mt. Agamenticus with students from S. Berwick Middle School, Pack Monadnock with a film crew for a documentary premiering in Maine this October, and Avalon, Field, and Tom with long-time friends. On this her fourth hike, she got to hike with Mom (Tracy!), John, Michelle, Kat, and of course that rather tall blind guy she kindly chooses to guide.

Perhaps of higher import to many of the team, Michelle’s dog Dina and John’s Guiding Eyes-released Frisco were also taking the journey with us. As the season of autumn draws ever closer, the mountains are already gifting cooler days which are ideal for hiking. The clouds were dramatic early while the weather only suggested a chance of rain showers later in the afternoon. We gathered a little later at the trailhead of Champney Falls and set to the gentle first miles of trail.

Autumn had been whining in excitement from the moment we stepped out of the car and had a bit too much eager determination to get into the woods. Putting the harness onto her calmed her down a bit, but not enough. A short but human-guided rock-stepping stream crossing started the trip and probably put her focus even a little further away, such that the first few hundred feet of work along the trail suggested she was tending her job but at a slightly more distracted level than is ideal.

I was making efforts to gain a better focus and enjoying that we were quickly traversing the easier footing when the first stumble arrived. She quickly was reminded that it was time to put her full attention on the job and aside from a few too tempting sniffs on the side she did this very well. Kat and Michelle had last seen my hiking when we finished our 48 on Mt. Liberty and Flume. Both quickly shared kind compliments on how far Autumn had come in such a short time. There’s no doubt that the learning and work done with Quinn enables me to be more aware of all the subtle aspects of possible Dog Guide communication through the harness. We glided nicely along for much of what many would struggle to believe is possible for a Dog Guide team. It does make me reflect in some appreciative humor on how many cues Quinn likely gave to me early which I was slow to learn. Despite this, Autumn doesn’t have it exactly easy as she not only fills big paw-prints but has some serious work.

Randy and Autumn at waterfall smilingThe cascading Champney Falls were a pretty side trail diversion which began the more challenging part of the route. Autumn’s confidence to guide forward no matter who is in front or behind paid some dividends as Tracy is freed to hike at her best comfort rather than needing to stay in front as Quinn effectively required.

A few stretches of trail were difficult enough and Autumn had worked hard enough that it made sense to give her a break and call upon a human Guide. Michelle undertook her first round of that leadership and adapted naturally to the many new perspectives and approaches required. I’ve become steadily more easy to guide as my understanding of trails and my own work grows but I’m always amazed by those willing to undertake the focus, effort, and attention to be a human Guide. Autumn was quite happy to resume her role and bring us ever closer to the summit.

The final half mile or so of the trail is up a moderately challenging summit cone and ensures all who travel get an appreciation for the work required. Here Autumn did some guiding and John did some guiding as we attempted to keep peak efficiency. Clouds were getting more dramatic and we wanted to enjoy the windy and cool summit prior to getting into tree cover for lunch. The summit was surprisingly crowded with hikers and dogs despite the trail having been lighter. Autumn’s distraction value was too high for safe work when combined with the realistic challenge we were facing. It was work to get her attention and a reminder why training is on-going in all facets of our work.

Group at summit

At the summit it was time to relax and appreciate the accomplishment, each of us in our own way. For Autumn it was a surprising indiscretion as she truly marked her territory in the ways of generations of the canine species!

For the generally more difficult descent, teamwork came in as three dogs were juggled on leash by Kat, Michelle, and Tracy while John helped me manage the most challenging of the down terrain. Lunch was a joyous celebration of food and pup interactions as we found a fairly private slab of stone to savor all that a mountain’s majesty inspires within us.

I attempted to work Autumn down the difficult dance of stopping for steps as I felt them out and then guided ahead. She did well for a bit but showed that mentally it was more demanding and she grew weary. John swooped in as the stunt double and Autumn was happy to be a bit of a dog as John’s skills at guiding enabled us to quickly traverse most trails. We kept up with the group for the most part and all had one of our strongest hikes.

When late on the trail rain began to pelt the tree canopy over us, we still kept sufficiently dry as to fully appreciate the day. Only as we cleared the final stream and reached our cars did the rain begin heavier and by then it was off to Flatbread Pizza Company and a guilt-free repast worthy of any hiker’s feast! Sometimes, it’s just about enjoying life and the friends with whom we share the trails.

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13 Sep 14

Randy sitting with Autumn curled at his feet.

Randy sitting with Autumn curled at his feet

By Randy Pierce

Today is Tuesday, September 9 – at least it is as I write this. After posting a couple of topic options on my Facebook feed the results quickly suggested people might prefer to get a glimpse into an ordinary day. While it’s not quite the Autumn day I suggest, in this house, every day is an Autumn day.

Still groggy from our late Monday night Hudson Lions Club meeting, the alarm tones at 5 a.m. since Tracy needs to be out early to avoid the traffic on her way to Duvine Bicycle Adventures in Somerville, MA. That’s all the signal Autumn needs to announce that her face licking, tail wagging energy will unleash upon me should I not begin the day with a trip outside for her needs and then her breakfast. This day, like many, will have a cup of coffee included as I sit by the computer and check messages to ensure the day is still on track. So why not join us for the day?

5:30 a.m.  Autumn relieved and fed first, then water, with banana and a quick breakfast for me at the PC. How many emails can I manage before the next tasks call?

6:00 a.m.  Dynamic warm-up and stretch in preparation for run training.

6:30 a.m.  5.45 mile run with Mary Guiding me and Autumn sulking at home.

7:30 a.m.  Shower and second breakfast for this calorie-counting (albeit tall) hobbit in training.

8:30 a.m.  Prioritize the To Do list which today includes:

  1. Response to Rick Stevenson on 2020 Vision Quest front page layout change in progress: School’s Back, Pet Tales E-book, Tuff Mudder, Corporate Presentation, TED Talk, UNH Award, Miles4Quinn and such!
  2. Response to Peak Potential auction donation.
  3. NHAB strategic planning update for Board of Directors.
  4. Sneak in a New England Patriot news update.
  5. Coordinate run training for rest of week.
  6. Finalize notes for Bank of NH keynote presentation scheduled for Thursday 9/11.
  7. Follow up on Kilimanjaro Preparations as team met on Mt. Monadnock last weekend and a few new members are being included. (Today is likely one year to the day from when we will summit Kilimanjaro, the tallest stand-alone mountain in the world. That’s pretty significant to me in many ways but a sign of just how every seemingly ordinary day can be connected to some very significant days as we choose to live our life in whatever experiences call to us.)
  8. Work with Sarah Toney via email to ensure 2020 Vision Quest social media plans are on track and she has the information she needs to best help our charity efforts online.
  9. Call Mom at her hospital room to coordinate her physical therapy plans and possibility of going home by end of week.
  10. Start draft of blog for Beth Foote and open up topic to Facebook.
  11. Check Status of Apple Watch in my search for a fully accessible wearable fitness device.
  12. Propose a new fundraising idea that has been on hold to a potential volunteer while giving an edit to a student’s note about what they believe we do as a 2020 Vision Quest team.
Autumn at play running with a toy.

Autumn at play.

11:00 a.m.  Hey, where is the day going? Start laundry, water and relieve Autumn who is impatient and deservedly so. Take a 2-mile walk to appease the girl, my legs and our practice time together as training with a Dog Guide is an every day opportunity to learn and grow as a team. Today’s challenge was wanting more time outside as the weather is beautiful. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

12:00 p.m.  Autumn follows the Quinn rules of “Playment plans!” This means after every bit of harness work we break out a toy and reward her with play. She is eager and energetic while I’m thinking about my own lunch (see hobbit comment from above!)

1:00 p.m.  Back to the computer for more work. I’ll spare you the details save that Apple’s info release is followed via Twitter feed on my iPhone. This makes my work a little distracted but 2020 Vision Quest usually involves 10 hours of work for me during the day. We interrupted to confirm the consult with Mom’s medical team and plan her return trip home on Friday afternoon.

4:00 p.m.  Feed, water and relieve the Autumn after a play session entirely intended to break me away from work mode. A burst of home chores to precede Tracy’s arrival and set the stage for our various discussions of the evening. While Tracy will have her own run training evening plans, I must research the weekend’s hike of Mt. Chocorua, a potential first-time yoga class on Friday, our “Iso-Abs” workout for tonight and the plan for our Peak Potential Dinner and Auction meeting on Sunday.

Autumn lies on top of Randy, pinning him to the floor.

Autumn shows Randy the price for lying down on the job!

Usually around 100 new emails will arrive during the day, requiring me to sort and respond as appropriate for the scheduling and planning of school and corporate presentations as well as general charity management. All this and it’s voting day here in our home city of Nashua, NH. Tired, well be careful lying down as there’s plenty ahead with an impending Autumn season… as well as an exuberant Dog Guide who needs to ensure I know the price of lying down on the job!

You want real updates on any of those topics? That would take an entire blog post for each and the days ahead will no doubt include such so stay connected to us in all the ways possible and thanks for coming along with me today!

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6 Sep 14

By Randy Pierce

“People will forget what you say and what you do long before they will forget how you made them feel”
– Maya Angelou

Randy and Autumn present at Interlakes High School.

Randy and Autumn present at Interlakes High School.

Our first school presentation of the new academic year was a pair of presentations at Interlakes High School. We began at 7:30 am with a presentation to the entire freshman class of 85 students as they explored concepts of goal setting, cooperation, community, and perseverance. Their attention was highly focused and intense with eager responses to questions and challenges provided to them.

After a brief break with some inspired sharing, the 300 students representing sophomores through seniors arrived for another hour-long presentation which used the challenges of goal setting and adversity management as a means for reaching each of their own individual peak potential. Once again rapt attention, thunderous applause and moving testimonials highlighted the experience–yet the underlying motivation was probably far more hidden to most.

These seniors had been given a presentation in the fall of 2011 and this was a repeat of the revised programs available on our For Educators. They had overwhelmingly reported how much the messages had resonated for them and how grateful they were to reconnect with the message and methods as they begin their final year of high school. It was a powerful reminder to me just how worthy an impact we may have on students’ lives.

Randy and Autumn with an Interlakes teacher.

Randy and Autumn with an Interlakes teacher.

As students file out of the auditorium after a presentation, it is not uncommon for a thank you, handshake, or testimonial to be shared. Sometimes those points are what motivate me to work harder, encourage the 2020 team to understand the value of our work, and to expand our outreach to bring more students to our message. It is uplifting to hear the emotionally laden appreciation from students and often some staff surprises.

Such was the case when a teacher shared with the entire student body that a hiking story I had told about whether we focus on our feet upon a trail or the entire experience around us led to some changes and insight for her own life. This had so much impact that she embraced a few personal challenges from that day forward on the trails and in her life.

One such challenge culminated in a challenge she made to her fellow teachers. She refused to accept her technological limitations as she sought how to bring the perfect means to unite all teachers in sharing daily a positive experience which would uplift all of them each day. She found a mobile app to accomplish this and launched the school-wide program the day before our arrival to a resounding success in the young school year. Meanwhile all the students were challenged to set goals for September which would be reviewed as they learned skills around “positive adversity” and aiso reviewing the rewards our talks present for understanding challenges in a different way.

When you know you are changing lives and people share this with your project, it becomes the most powerful motivation. The 2020 Vision Quest team does many wonderful acts of community service. All have equal value and measure to those who receive them. The people who are touched by our message and in turn choose to touch our lives give us the inspiration, motivation, and dedication to continue our work. Thank you Interlakes and many future schools for inspiring our efforts to continue!

Autumn takes a well-deserved rest after a job well-done.

Autumn takes a well-deserved rest after a job well-done.

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