Tag: challenges



4 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

Jose leads Randy up the Barranco Wall on a steep and rocky mountainside.“The Holman Prize is not meant to save the world or congratulate someone for leaving the house. This prize will spark unanticipated accomplishments in the blindness community. You will see blind people doing things that surprise and perhaps even confuse you. These new LightHouse prizes will change perceptions about what blind people are capable of doing.”

–Bryan Bashin, CEO at LightHouse 

I chose a life of independence and freedom based upon believing in possibility, problem solving, and perseverance. While my blindness slowed me on occasion and helped me stumble on several occasions, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by friends and a community which rarely even attempted to hold me back and more commonly joined efforts with me to help us all reach for our peak potential. In this, I’m incredibly fortunate as well as in the resolve to not allow those other times to overly impact my confidence or determination.

Along the path, I learned how much work remains to be accomplished in the area of awareness to encourage the vast majority to welcome these reasonable approaches. It is why I’m excited to share the news and to ask all of you to help me share this news as well with the sighted and visually impaired communities as well!

The Holman Prize: $25,000.00
The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition is an annual award to finance blind adventurers in pursuing their most ambitious projects. In January, the contest begins with a challenge: blind applicants must submit a first-round pitch, in the form of a 90-second YouTube video.

Deadline for submission: Feb. 28th at 12pm PST 

Click here to learn more.

I love several great aspects of this project. First, it emphasizes my sight-impaired peers to be creative in developing an adventurous goal emphasizing travel, communication, and connection towards the cause of demonstrating ability awareness. Second, it creates a stage for all of the world to see these goals and dreams as well as many of them hopefully coming to fruition. I’m so enthused by it that despite my many adventures I want to develop something beyond my prior scope to suggest in my own 90-second video.

So please, take a look at their message, their contest, and the results already underway! I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I’m just one person with the limitations of my own focus. It is a world full of talented people, some of whom might just need this push to reach for their own peak potential!

Man on a nighttime mountain: The Holman prize for blind ambition

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18 Dec 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Monroe.

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Monroe.

The plan suggested it was to be a demonstration of Ability Awareness. It was to be an appreciation of the diverse gifts provided by winter hiking. It was a chance to savor the easier footing I would experience as snow filled in those twisty, rocky, root-filled routes we call trails in the White Mountains of NH. The experience would prove to be far greater in scope than I ever realized and like so many things in life, the vastly heightened challenge enhanced the rewards received in like proportion.

The greatest gifts were the many friendships found along the trails from Greg Neault at the base of Hale to Justin Sylvester who took the photo to the right and Dina Sutin who filmed the teaser below as well as the accompanying film. Many friends were found and forged along those trails along with the lessons of perseverance, planning, and preparation. As winter arrives five years later, I’m so vastly different than I was when that first December 22 climb of Tecumseh began. I thought it worth a moment to look back and share a little with all of you who were with me and some who have joined us since those days.

I have so many thankful moments, so many delightful moments, and so many inspiring moments, I could fill a book well beyond the scope of this blog. As my holiday gift to the blog readers out here, I will share a tale in the blog comments for every person who comments and requests one. Similarly for our social media friends if you share our post and tag me so I can be aware of the share, I’ll give you a tale on your post as well. Happy Holidays and my thanks for the greatest gift of all that winter: Quinn’s incredible work, love, and dedication.

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5 Nov 16

By Randy Pierce

Have you ever wondered how a blind person votes? In the past, it has been more challenged than most would prefer. It has generally resulted in me, my dog guide, a volunteer to record my vote and a witness all climbing into one of those small booths together. Often they were wonderfully patient, open-minded and non-judgmental people with whom I had the good fortune to share the details of my voting choices… but not always. There was also a former phone/fax system installed in the polling locations which failed at an alarming rate.

But new this year is the “One4All” voting system which showed considerable promise in the primaries and is now ready for its full debut in our November elections. Let me make it clear for all my NH community, visually impaired or not: this new accessible method of voting needs as many testers as possible. I am inviting all of you to take whatever voting choices you have and enact them on the same voting system I’ve been asked to use.

The New Hampshire Association for the Blind wrote an excellent piece about it which I recommend for those wanting more information. They also created an introductory training video for those wanting to be a bit more prepared for the experience ahead:

In a highly contentious time, I’m proud to suggest the opportunity for each of us to  be guaranteed to vote together in a comfortable solidarity. This system needs to be tested by use. It needs feedback from those who can see where it struggles and those of us entirely trapped by the auditory aspects it provides.

It may take you an extra moment or two at the polls, but if nobody is in that line, perhaps you’d consider giving it a try and ensuring the staff gets a little extra opportunity to test their equipment and that proper feedback can be provided going forward. Tell them you have a friend who is blind and has struggled at times with polling equipment and locations, and has friends who have heard enough horror stories they are intimidated to even attempt it until they hear enough good stories.

Wouldn’t it be comforting to be confident you are part of at least one good story this election cycle?

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30 Oct 16

We originally posted this a few years ago, but it’s still relevant. Happy Halloween!

***

The Scary Realities of Vision Loss

By Randy Pierce

Imagine reaching for the light switch in total darkness on an eerie Halloween evening. You flip the switch and nothing happens. You are surrounded by frightening noises as your hands find only unidentifiable objects. You’re trapped in a prison of manifested fear!

While there may be moments similar to this fright in the lives of someone newly blind, there is perhaps an even more powerful terror in the transitioning through vision loss towards blindness. Losing vision is challenging with the fear of the unknown and the anticipation of how much will become more difficult or seemingly impossible. Certainly any form of vision loss is going to present difficulty and each person’s experience will be different.

One fundamental part of our mission with 2020 Vision Quest is to demonstrate the possibilities of success despite vision loss, or, in my case, a transition to total blindness. This is not just intended for those dealing with the challenges directly, but also all those whose lives may be touched by these challenges despite living in a fully sighted life. So very much of a typical world is visual that it impacts many aspects of how we interact with the world and with each other. It can be tremendously isolating to have that common connection diminish in ways far too many people simply do not understand.

I do not for a moment pretend to have all the answers regarding life or vision loss. I still find many moments of significant frustration as I attempt to manage particularly difficult aspects of blindness and, not surprisingly, life. Just like anyone, there are challenges and they can at times seem to overwhelm any of us. As with any challenge, the right preparation, the right support, and a more educated world can vastly increase the chances of successful achievement through any adversity.

In thinking about the “Trick or Treat” of blindness, I acknowledge all the real and scary frustrations possible. I also welcome the incredibly powerful perspective it has brought to me as well. In losing my sight, I began to develop a more powerful vision for myself and my world. Paying attention to all the other aspects of our senses, environment, and interactions which are not visual can have a beneficial side. It’s forced me to “look” at the world differently, but has also inspired me to try to do so often in a variety of ways as I try to understand as much as possible outside the realm of the typical. While without question I do wish every day for the chance to have sight again, I know that I am glad for having lost my sight and the vision that blindness has helped bring to me.

Hopefully our charity efforts will provide education, inspiration and much more! I know that I’ve received a lot of both though the process thus far!

Happy Halloween!

See the original post here.

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22 Oct 16

By Greg Neault

Just over a year ago I was scurrying about making last minute preparations for what promised to be the adventure of a lifetime: a trip across the world to Africa with a group of people I respect and admire to scale the flanks of Kilimanjaro, to watch the sun rise from Stella Point, to stand at the continent’s highest vantage point and look out onto the cradle of civilization, and then to explore that region’s amazing natural splendor, a wildlife show like no other on earth.

The team hiking Kilimanjaro in September 2015.I remember very distinctly the eve of our departure. A torturous night spent memorizing the subtle nuances of ceiling tiles. My body calling for sleep, but my mind a flurry with myriad questions about the journey to come. A new continent, country, and culture.

What would the climb be like? Would I make it to the top? Did I forget to pack some critical item? Would Cathy Merrifield be eaten trying to pet a lion? Excited anticipation goes a great deal further than caffeinated beverages in terms of fending off the sandman.

Earlier this month, life found me once again being robbed of sleep by anticipation of a major event: a trip to the hospital with the girl I love to welcome our baby into the world. Fortunately, I had a whole new ceiling to explore as I pored over the questions of things to come.

Kilimanjaro is a giant, for sure, but I’m not unfamiliar with the ways of mountains. My experience and knowledge, acquired over a life of traveling through mountains, canyons, deserts and forests would serve me well in this endeavor. I’m quite accustomed to packing and traveling with the necessities of daily life outside the comforts of home, to living within nylon walls and staying warm on cold nights under starry skies.  Kilimanjaro was a new, exciting, and unique experience, but was still representative of a new chapter in a story that has been unfolding for decades.

As I lay waiting for the alarm to sound on the morning of October the 6th, my mind was a whirlwind of rumination. I have about as much experience with babies as I have with firearms: people have let me handle theirs, but I don’t think they’d be foolish enough to let me wander off with one unattended. We went to the birthing class, we had a baby shower, and I was confident that we possessed all of the equipment necessary for a baby to survive in our care, but once we leave that hospital, we’re it. We are now solely responsible for the survival, well being and healthy physical, mental and emotional development of a brand new human being.

We didn’t even know what sex the baby was and had no clue what we were going to name it! How would we fare in the transition from unfettered adventurers, traveling about the region, country, and world to find new places to run, jump, and climb on a whim, to being responsible for a tiny person in need of care for every necessity around the clock? Do I have what it takes to be a good father? What kind of person will our child grow into? What is up with common core math?

Any anxieties I had in relation to my imminent parenthood were put to rest the minute the nurse put that sweet little baby in my arms for the first time. She was tiny and cute and weighed not even eight pounds. At that moment I knew that I didn’t have to know all the answers to all of the questions swirling around in my mind.

Too few days have passed to declare our success in clearing the hurdle that is the transition from carefree youth to steadfast parental figures. Obviously only time will tell what kind of person she’ll grow to be. I still have no idea what common core is all about.

What I do know is that I’ve mastered the changing of the diaper. I know that, for the time being, if she’s crying, there are only three reasons why and the process of elimination is a short route to a happy baby. I know that a car ride is an even shorter route to a happy baby. I know that my chest is a very comfortable place to take a nap. I know that there are more problems with more complexity than poop in the pants coming our way, but I know that we only need to solve one problem at a time. I know that with the right amount of forethought and a little help from my people, that we can make it happen.

The Kilimanjaro expedition was billed as the adventure of a lifetime, and it did not disappoint. A trip to Peru to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu could be in our future, and that may bear the “adventure of a lifetime” moniker as well.

But raising our daughter, that will be an adventure that LASTS a lifetime. She wasn’t even two full weeks old when she went on her first hike. I’m pretty sure she slept through most of it, cuddled up in a bundle on my chest (like I said, she loves to nap there), but she seems to enjoy the fresh air. As her eyes develop, I bet she’ll grow to appreciate the scenery as well. I hope that one day Stella and I will stand on lofty peaks together, sharing in the types of adventure that I hold dear. But right now, only weeks old, she has a very long journey ahead of her and it’s my job to put her on the path.

Greg and baby Stella on the top of a mountain with a beautiful fall valley view in the background.

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30 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy sitting on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunrise, thinking about what's next.

Randy sitting on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunrise, thinking about what’s next.

I ask myself “what’s next?” often in part because despite my lack of sight, I do like to spend more time looking forward than back. I try not to get caught in a trap of devising grandiose depths of challenge to compare to prior challenges. Rather, I think about what inspires me for the present moment of my life. Let’s face it, Kilimanjaro was quite the experience last September and from Tough Mudder to TEDx talk I have plenty of experiences to savor already.

The year has been somewhat laden with medical challenges which we are still exploring and attempting to properly address. I’m excited to have achieved the freedom to return to so many of my training activities in very reasonable condition for them. So as August 2016 arrives, I’ve put three endurance goals into my autumn sights. Training has begun for all three and that’s quest enough for the short-term accompaniment to the work of 2020 Vision Quest, Lions, and life.

First up is a collaboration I hope to announce in more detail next week, but we’ve assembled an all visually impaired team to undertake an ultimate running relay called “Ragnar” or “Reach the Beach” in which with the help of our guide team, we will run from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach as a massive relay effort. I’ll be logging nearly 40 miles for my part in that. Pete Houde is my guide and inspiration for the undertaking.

A second quest reunites me with Brent Bell as we return for another century “tandem” bicycle ride, although rumors abound about whether we may turn the NH Seacoast Century ride into a triplet and celebrate in style.

My final quest takes me into October and allows me the opportunity to complete the Bay State Marathon which I departed at roughly mile 23 just two years ago. I hope to use this to earn my Boston Marathon qualifier as well. With better health ahead, I hope to continue my Boston Marathon streak in the future with the more solid ability I had my my first year instead of the determination and perseverance (but more health-related obstacles) highlighted by Jose and my efforts last April.

Training has already been silently underway. August training will ramp up and September and October will become interesting opportunities to return to some of the adventures which are so often a part of this 2020 Vision Quest. I hope you’ll be a partner in some way in our adventures ahead!

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23 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy behind white canes, representing barsDespite all I’ve learned and achieved, there are still days I allow myself to be a prisoner of my blindness. Coming from the state of NH with the motto ”Live Free or Die” brought the imagery to the right playfully to mind even as the feeling of being restricted in many aspects of life is very real for most of us at one time or another. It is easy to see how I might let blindness trap me because it does make some things more challenging and it provides a ready-made excuse which many are more than willing to embrace or, at times, even attempt to force upon me.

I’ve long understood and espoused the idea that problem solving is a key to escape such chains. Frequently, I share how positive the experiences of prior problem-solvers can be for this–in my case, the knowledge and training of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind for my sight-related challenges.

What about the more perilous prison of drifting unaware into prisons crafted by ourselves or others? This could be as distracting as the excuses we embrace or the unhelpful habits which creep upon us. How many of us chain ourselves to Facebook, computers, or cell phones? There’s a fine line between having a tool we use to enrich our life and having a tool which uses us to trap us unwittingly.

The key here is learning to take opportunities to open our eyes and minds into a more broad awareness of our lives. It’s taking the time for mindful introspection on a regular basis and realizing where we might not be satisfied with choices which have become habit. It’s making the choice to stop the behaviors which trap us. It isn’t easy and sometimes it’s easier to supplant it with something healthier until a new and better habit is formed in place of the prior.

Ultimately, the key is that regular exploration of awareness to keep taking control of our lives and making the adjustments which let us out of our prisons.

Despite all these thoughts I still find myself behind the bars of my canes, at least metaphorically, on occasion. Expecting perfection is probably setting rather unrealistic expectations. I’ll strive for it and be as gently forgiving when I slip even as I start looking for my keys to make it better right away. I think as part of that reflection I’ll keep the first half of my state motto as the primary goal and wish that for all of you as well: “Live Free!”

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9 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

I had heard an old college friend was facing a challenge as his adult son was battling a particularly difficult form of cancer. A silent and stoic type from my recollections, the friend wasn’t reaching out very far and so when an anonymous but connected outreach came to me I was all to eager to lend help. It is often those who reach out the least who may need the support the most.

What I believe here, however, is that there is some healing in taking action. He took the action to ride the Pan Mass Challenge and to reach out and I’d like to share his outreach with all of you. Cancer is such an ugly challenge and there are so many worthy causes I urge you to consider that if this one can resonate for you.

Please support Jeff and Mitch.

Their blog post is reprinted below:

Why I PMC

Like almost everyone, cancer has touched my family. A cousin, uncle, and grandfather succumbed to this disease.  Other family members have been diagnosed and cured.  The disease is so pervasive they say if you live long enough everyone will eventually get it.

A year ago, my son Mitch was diagnosed with a rare form of soft tissue cancer at the age of 20. He has battled like a champion through aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments for a year and his fight will continue on until a cure is found.

I try to imagine the pain, fear, and anxiety felt by cancer patients every day, but it’s not possible.  Over the past year, we have met so many skilled and compassionate caregivers and witnessed first-hand the quality of care and effectiveness of available treatments.  Let’s help them continue to provide the best possible care, fund innovative research, and improve the prognosis of all afflicted with this horrible disease.

The Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) is a bike-a-thon that today raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country.  It is a two-day, 192 mile ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown, Mass.  The endurance required by the challenge is only a metaphor for that which is required by a cancer patient’s body and mind to fight the disease.  All of the proceeds go to support cancer research through the Dana-Farber cancer institute.

If not for Mitch, for someone effected who is close to you – Ride with me or support the battle by sponsoring my ride at http://profile.pmc.org/JL0432

See the original post here.

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5 Jun 16

By Randy Pierce

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
– Søren Kierkegaard

Man in a canoe at sunsetOn June 9, 2016 I’ll reach my 50th Birthday and accordingly a half-century of reflections. One aspect of these involves thinking of myself as a fully sighted person who became legally and eventually completely blind. Knowing my fully sighted years ended roughly on my 22nd birthday, this suggests the majority of my life has now occurred while under the label of blindness.

Yet I do not think of myself as a blind person who was once sighted. I could write a book on reflections of my life and in fact I am in the process of that very thing. Presently I am simply reflecting on a small portion of my self image regarding my blindness.

I am not a blind person but rather a person who happens to also be blind. That definition is sufficiently comfortable for me that I find no offense in those who express it differently. While it is a rare day my blindness doesn’t cause some form of minor frustration in my life, it simply does not feel like a defining feature for me. I’m similarly a person who is tall and while getting into a compact car or shopping for pants  may result in some challenge, I do not dwell negatively upon my height. Simply the realities of my blindness have resulted in my making some adjustments and accommodations to how I approach my days.

Yet the many years of having chosen this path effectively hides those changes from my common consideration. Why then do I not identify more strongly with the blindness as a part of myself in these reflections? It could be that first impressions are often more lasting. It could be that I feel so normally and conventionally invested into the world that it takes a purposeful reflection to realize. Either way, as I cross this landmark birthday, I suspect I will finally escape from an inaccurate and all too common statement in which I’ve often suggested, “I’ve been fully sighted most of my life.” I’ve now been blind most of my life and while I still would love to see someday, hope to see someday, and perhaps will see again someday, I’m very happy with my vision of who I am regardless of sight.

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21 May 16

By Randy Pierce

“Today we are going to take a little hike and naturally you’re invited.”
— Willem Lange, host of “Windows to the Wild”

I am missing the mountains. My health has inhibited hiking opportunities recently and with a significant anniversary arriving, I took the opportunity to take a hike a little differently. I listened to the video of NHPTV’s Emmy Award-winning show “Hiking in the Dark.” Willem Lange, Quinn, and I took this hike in July of 2013 although the show was first broadcast in February of 2014 and received the New England Emmy Award just one year ago. It was a 1.6-mile journey to the summit of Mt. Willard and for me it was the reminder of many of the wonders which are my reward for choosing to be on the path.

Watch the episode above and savor the journey with us. Meanwhile I’ll share a few of my reflections from the day.

Willem’s introduction takes a playful jab which set the tone for our relaxed blend of playful banter and in-depth philosophy. The trailhead at old Crawford Station begins with a short water crossing. It’s shallow enough I probably could have walked carefully through without concern but I chose to work it as if that wasn’t the case. Without my normal guides along to help support the process with information or even a human guide, we took it extra cautiously. The sticks were arrayed such that I could have trapped Quinn’s paws and thus it was the two trekking pole tactic for that short stretch.

As we continued, Willem underwent the transformation many hikers experience when joining me. Initially he wanted to warn me about every possible obstacle and watched with concern as Quinn and I used our teamwork to traverse the trail successfully. In no time at all, Willem was sharing his insightful perspective with the many other hikers sharing the trail at various times along the way. I remember feeling my own pride as Willem seemed both appreciative and proud of Quinn’s incredible guide work.

The interlude which included Tedy Bruschi taking on the Mighty Quinn in a mountaintop tug of war was an excellent diversion. Hearing Kyle’s laughter as he filmed Tedy doing a Quinn voice over is infectious. It was during this time Willem recommended I read the book The Art of Racing in the Rain which is written from a dog’s perspective. Having spent years writing Quinn’s dog blog often from Quinn’s perspective, it likely inspired my first published short story which appeared in Pet Tales in July 2014 and details the Mighty Quinn’s life.

Another surprising revelation for me on my recent virtual hike came about as I heard myself reference my favorite mental picture. While I describe it in detail and it remains an incredibly potent image for me, I have often in my presentations discussed my two favorite photos, which are both Quinn images. I hadn’t realized my own transformative journey, for I have mental images of those two photos. The image I speak about is the last thing I ever saw with my eyes in this world–my first Guide Dog, Ostend–and remains a gift I’ll treasure all of my days.

As the show closes out, Willem shares the success of our climbing Quest and the sorrow of his passing. As that sadness began to take a little hold on my heart, one last treasure snuck out for me. At the end of the hike I’d brought out Quinn’s tug ring for a little reward. That ring was originally Ostend’s, though he never much cared for tug. Quinn, however, was the master and delighted in every opportunity to match strength and wit. The toy which had traversed so many mountains on our journeys fell to his might that day in Crawford Notch.  The end of the toy was a tribute to his might and the many many battles of Tug of War. It came at the end of the hike and far too close to the end, albeit unknown to us, of his life.

I do not love endings. I do love the notion of the present both in immediacy and generalities. It’s what makes the whole hike what I celebrate and not just the summit. It is why we call this blog “On the Path.” As I wrap up this week’s entry, I’m also reminded that our best journeys can be taken again with some different results even as was necessary for me this time, virtually. Thank you, Willem Lange, New Hampshire Public Television and the crew of “Windows to the Wild” for giving me the gift of a journey I can retake time and time again.

Learn more about New Hampshire Public Television:

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