Tag: challenges



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.

Share





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.

Share





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!

Share





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!”

Share





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.

Share





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.

Share





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:

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube

Share





23 Apr 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy running the Boston Marathon 2016, eyes closed, with Jose.As most hopefully are aware, Jose Acevedo and I just completed a particularly difficult battle of determination against my medical challenges and the Boston Marathon course. Although we fully understood my very present and worsening medical condition was going to make this experience exceedingly difficult, my reality is that I feel badly for that impact upon his experience. In response to that feeling, I wanted to apologize every moment I felt my situation affect our experience. I was so frustrated at not being able to prevent these effects that I ultimately wanted to take action in some way and this led to the many “I’m sorry”s, which were well meaning. Unfortunately it isn’t necessarily helpful to hear these apologies again and again, especially as Jose fully understood this was a likely part of the challenge and he too was unable to do anything to make it better for either of us. It wasn’t that I had less sincerity in each apology, or that he doubted that sincerity. It simply wasn’t helpful and didn’t do much to make either of us feel better.

Jose and Randy running together in the Boston Marathon 2016Somewhere in the Newton Hills as we talked our way through this aspect of our communication, we reached an epiphany. I had expressed my thankfulness for his understanding and acceptance of the challenge. I expressed this with the notion of the benefit I was trying to achieve for myself in taking some action. I mentioned that in truth I felt guilty about believing I was “causing” a negative aspect for him. I understood only a bit that my repeated apology was just another slight negative. Jose brought it to clarity for us both by welcoming my gratitude as a positive. How simple a notion!

It is obviously good and right to apologize when we have done something to cause detriment to someone, whether by intent or inadvertently. It is equally positive and proper to realize the expression of thankfulness for someone’s choices in managing the challenges we create for them. That approach puts the emphasis on something so much more beneficial for each of us that it will certainly get my consideration as I stride forward in life. There were many lessons shared on the path of the Marathon which will continue far beyond the route from Hopkinton to Boston. I hope this one may enhance some perspectives for some of you, as I know it will for Jose and me going forward!

Share





9 Apr 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running and determined

Jose and Randy are determined!

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of us will face times in our lives which challenge us to our very core. Sometimes this is of our own making and sometimes it is part of the world in which we live. I am embroiled in one of my more difficult medical challenges and the impact upon me physically, mentally and emotionally has been tremendous.

I’ve been asked when I’ll cancel my Boston Marathon participation and I understand the question as well as the intent behind it. The real answer is not yet, and hopefully not at all, which I suspect may cause those who do not truly know me to take umbrage with that response. I think those who know me–which includes my supportive wife Tracy and my Boston Marathon guide Jose–will understand I do not make any of those decisions without thorough investigation, competent advice and reasonable evaluation.

Another blog here talks about my medical situation, and the reality is that it will not be resolved in the short term and I will not be entirely healthy while undertaking the Boston Marathon this year. I have had to choose to forego much of the final weeks of training to properly tend the medical concerns and that means I’m unwell and insufficiently prepared to accomplish the Marathon in a traditional approach.

My doctors are very clear that the running will not put me at any increased detriment for my condition, and in fact they suggested exactly the opposite–that the perseverance, drive, and determination which have been my hallmark will be part of how this helps me overcome the present challenges. That confidence and the caring support of so many around me are a significant part of my decision to continue with the plan to run the Marathon unless something significant suggests that would be wrong.

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

This Marathon won’t be about trying to match last year’s time of 3:50:37, but rather something more powerful. It will be in part a celebration with my cherished friend Jose Acevedo for all that we’ve accomplished together. It will be a celebration of the most iconic Marathon. It will celebrate friendship, community, perseverance, and determination which we’ve each needed in our lives.

It will be all the more epic for all the setbacks and challenges that could have easily let us choose to not line up together in Hopkinton. There were many times that choosing to not run seemed likely or appropriate and we kept a calm focus that this would be acceptable, supporting each other no matter what. We remain equally committed to giving each other support and encouragement to keep the hope and potential present, as often as possible and for as long as we can.

Now that will pay dividends as it seems likely we have the opportunity to overcome all the adversity and savor one of life’s most rewarding experiences: the opportunity to be involved in a meaningful experience together.

I hope you’ll find a way to help be part of our team on that day and beyond.

Share





27 Mar 16

By Randy Pierce

“You get out what you put in!” – Oberto Beef Jerky slogan

Caught in the frustration and setback of my health challenges is hard. Even knowing this is the one-year anniversary of the Tough Mudder Los Angeles made famous by the Oberto Heroes of Summer video, it’s still easy for me to struggle amidst the present obstacles.

This past week was particularly challenging as more of the “deep brain seizures” took place along with some other neurological deteriorations which may in part be due to a significant cold which returned in force and became bronchitis and pneumonia. I’m particularly susceptible to these due to a neurological problem with my throat which impacts my ability to keep my airway clear. The week was spent largely being sick and attending medical tests, treatments, or appointments. There was one exception and it’s the heart of this post.

On Thursday, March 23, I attended the South Derry Elementary school and spoke to roughly 250 students from grades K-5. My invitation was initially a braille letter from a blind 5th grader. Our message is designed for everyone of all abilities and all ages. I adjust the approach and some of the concepts for desired points of emphasis to the target audience though the core resonates for most who share the presentation with us. Despite this I feel a slightly deeper connection when sight impairment is involved.

This single visit was the sum total of my week’s work and due to schedule adjustments it fell just short of a number goal I was hoping to share with all of you. With this visit we have presented to roughly 49,950 students just in schools. I had hoped to celebrate the announcement of 50,000 students and while we are short of that goal for the present moment, I cannot help being simply proud of how many young lives we have impacted so positively.

In that pride and appreciation is also the reminder of how much it helped my own spirits to feel I was contributing to the world in a meaningful way. Certainly I do know this but knowing isn’t always enough. In our most challenging moments, what we feel is more powerful than what we know. I needed the rest and recovery time tremendously this week and yet for me the best recovery derives from the feelings that visit gave to me.

I look forward to our future announcement of reaching more students and significant benchmarks. Most of all I look forward to working forward through the obstacles, surging past the setbacks, and getting my medical challenges sufficiently under control that my vision for where we are going remains as positive and clear of focus as the 2020 Vision Quest deserves. In the meanwhile a special thank-you to the team of volunteers who have kept things going and allowing me to step back for the short term goal. I hope to share some of their accomplishments on that end with next week’s blog but if you visit our homepage you’ll see some of the signs of that work!

Group shot at the LA Tough Mudder

On the one-year anniversary of this Tough Mudder, Randy still gets by with a little help from his friends.

Share



Bad Behavior has blocked 110 access attempts in the last 7 days.