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A clinic in optimism

I’ve just finished quasi-watching the political hijinx known as a U.S. presidential debate, and this could well be the reason that I’m filled with a perverse desire to justify my extended hiatus from this space. In homage to my motivator, I will therefore gloss over my past history and evident shortcomings and focus instead on the silver linings in my extended blogging absence, no matter how tarnished they may be:
1. I’m still alive. Perhaps a little weary from a period of considerable personal turbulence, but kicking nonetheless
2. I haven’t exhausted the running list of prospective blog topics that still resides on my desktop. Not even close, actually.
3. I haven’t been spamming your blog readers or twitter feeds
4??? No, that’s about it, I’m afraid. :p It’s pretty clear now that I’m really not so hot at this whole consistent blogging thing, and any readers I had could well be forgiven for jumping ship. But perhaps against all odds there are some intrepid souls who have stood their ground on
the shifting sands of my blog commitment. If that’s you, I’m very sorry. And I will try to get back in gear.
So…anyone out there??? Bueller??? :p

So 2011 has come and gone (happy new year to all y’all who celebrated this turnover in the past couple of days). This was not a high water-mark in my blogging history, as revealed by the annual report that indicated I’d put up a lowly six entries in the past 12 months. I swear that’s not right! Right or wrong, though, I neglected this space to a shameful degree. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this tidbit in the 2011 compilation of vital stats:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Those are hilariously low numbers in the blogging universe — Potatoes so small they’re not even worth seasoning. Still, they surprised the hell out of me in the best possible way. Who knew that more than a handful of people were stopping by this little web knook of mine? It’s a hell of a better turnout than my pathetic efforts deserve, and I’m grateful to you all. For all of our sakes, I pledge to blog better in 2012.

If you want to shape your own reading experience by offering input into Eyeronic’s focus, layout or content, Drop a line in the Suggestion Box or take 10 seconds to fill out this brief feedback survey

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful 2012!

Edited to add: I did a quick tally, and by my count the number of 2011 blog posts cracked double digits at 10. That’s still pretty damn lame, but someone’s gotta say it…SUCK IT, WordPress Agrigator! :)

Presents of Mind

Christmas is almost upon us (or at least me), and we all know what that means. ‘Tis the season of brightly coloured boxes, eye-catching holiday cards, dazzling lights, beautiful bows and all things aesthetically pleasing. What’s not to love? Plenty, if you’re me, since the emphasis on appearance seems to shift into overdrive during this time of rampant consumerism…I mean quality contemplative congress with the ones you love. :)

Trouble is, I love Christmas. Almost everything aboutt the season mmakes me happy, possibly due to the many years I spent belting John Rutter descants in concert venues around my city. I also hail from a family that decks the halls from floor to ceiling when December rolls around. No light fixture is left unadorned, no ornament left unpacked. In such a high-intensity festive home, a love of the season stubborn enough to overcome the more distasteful elements of the modern western Christmas couldn’t help but flourish. Unfortunately, so did a sense of propriety around Christmas gifts, inspired no doubt by the fact that I grew up around a woman who could make a lump of coal look attractive through sheer gift-wrapping talent. Take all these elements, plus a latent competitive streak and fairly high-pressure household, mix them all together and you have a conundrum for the blind Christmas shopper…or do you?

Not really, actually. To get too bogged down in the aesthetics of Christmas is to miss the point of the season entirely, in my humble opinion. Still, some effort is required to make the gift-giving part of Christmas as meaningful as it ought to be, at least according to my self-imposed standards. My effort is put into personalizing the present as much as possible.

Each year, for instance, I’ve been tasked with putting together a stocking for a family member selected through a draw (this year it’s Mom). Most people devote time and energy to selecting just the right gift, but must focus what’s left of their attention on packaging the present just so. Being the world’s biggest quad when it comes to gift-wrapping, my efforts go elsewhere. I take the gift selection process a step further and try to present it creatively. My mom will be receiving a theme stocking entitled “around the world in eight packages.” Each item, selected according to Mom’s tastes, preferences and history, will represent a country and be labelled with a short verse spelling out the connection and providing a hint as to what the item might be. The moroccan spice blend she’ll enjoy for her culinary experiment is pretty self-explanatory, as is the Julia Child “French Chef cookbook” that she specifically asked to have replaced. The espresso beans are a more oblique tie to Italy, while the Benazir Bhutto biography could stand in for any of the locales where that fascinating lady once lived but will likely represent Pakistan. An audio soundtrack for a book she loves will honour India, after the author’s nationality (read An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, it’s excellent). Her favourite bronzer will give her the sunkissed look of a tropical locale, a spanish glass angel figurine will make a nice addition to the collection she displays on her mantle piece, and some obnoxiously red lipstick will hearken back to family jokes past and represent a return to Canada. I’m seriously considering writing this all up in the form of a travel itinerary that she’ll have to follow.

It’s been my experience that a little creativity will thoroughly distract even the aesthetically minded from any deficiencies of packaging. It also salves my conscience as I try to be more eco-conscious in my day-to-day life. When the creative wellspring runs dry, however, it’s time for more practical strategies that help out blind and sighted alike. They’re called gift bags and in-store gift-wrapping, and they’re the best thing since sliced shortbread. :)

How do you cope with the aesthetic demands of your holiday obligations? Do you find you have any? Sound off below! Oh, and now that I’ve set up this blog’s very own Twitter account, you can keep up with me there. Follow @eyeronicblog

A day to forget

First things first — thank you all so much for the incredibly kind responses to my guest post on Inside Out Style. The comments came from perfect strangers, long-time friends, role models like Angie> and bloggers I’ve long admired like Sal from Already Pretty. I value them all equally and can’t properly express how much it all means. For those who are new to my blog, I love fielding questions from my readers about pretty much anything blindness-related. If you’ve got some, please drop by the suggestion box and ask away!

Did you know that yesterday was special? I sure didn’t until I conducted my daily purge of the work inbox (Yeah, that’s how I roll on Saturdays :) ). I came across a handful of statements from various political entities all offering fulsome praise for something called International Day of Persons With Disabilities. That’s a special occasion alright — an occasion for me to vent my long-festering distaste for stuff just like this.

Hang on a sec. A blind woman who believes in equality and has devoted much of her efforts to achieving it for herself is foaming at the mouth because of an international initiative that aspires to give others the same shot? What’s going on? You may well ask, but the best you may get is a fumbling attempt to defend a position that could rightly be called selfish. In fact I have not the slightest issue with the UN’s stated aims in launching this so-called day. Raising awareness of the chronic underemployment and marginalization many disability groups face is about as praiseworthy goal as you can find, and the agency certainly grasps the severity of the problem. The vision, though vague, is above reproach:

Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to mainstream disability in all aspects of development, as well as to further the participation
of persons with disabilities in social life and development on the basis of equality. Highlight progress and obstacles in implementing disability-sensitive
policies, as well as promote public awareness of barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in their societies.

It’s the way in which the vision is executed that draws forth my wrath. While the UN undoubtedly means for this day to kickstart a dialog that would last the year round, it’s lucky if it generates something resembling cocktail party chit-chat. More often than not, these 24-hour-long calls to action do nothing more than pay lip service to the concept, mirroring the treatment the target population receives during the other 364 days of the year. What good is a day of platitudes that simultaneously celebrates individual successes while stoking the fires of powerlessness with a litany of depressing facts and figures? There’s no fear-mongering, since the issues under discussion are very real and are likely under-reported, if anything. There’s just an ineffectual approach that leads to the sort of patronizing behaviour that characterizes so many dealings with the disabled, both individually and from the organizations that profess to help. The takeaway message from days like this is easily distilled from these mixed signals — “Oh dear, how horrible for them! They are so much less fortunate than most — let’s be extra nice and understanding.”

Such sentiments are well-meant, but unproductive. Kindness and understanding, while valuable, won’t be enough to bring about change — particularly if they only manifest themselves on arbitrary days of action and the weeks immediately proceeding them. In my view, those estimable personal qualities can only have some impact on the community if they are used in service of conversation. Not idol chatter, but genuine engagement that has the potential to peel back layers of preconception and even misunderstanding to reveal core issues. Those issue Continue Reading »

A blind chick writing about fashion on her own blog is unlikely enough, but what are the odds of being asked to do a guest post for one of the web’s best style bloggers? That’s exactly what happened when Australian image consultant Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style approached me about contributing to her Stylish Thoughts series. I was stunned and flattered in equal measure and naturally agreed to do it. You can read the results right here.

Today’s post comes courtesy of Julie, who posed an interesting query in the Suggestion Box

I’m very curious to know how you have developed your style persona?
How did you know you prefer modern classic clothes and develop your old Hollywood look?

Most people I know developed their style identity through observing people, whether they were friends, family members, movie stars or just wworkaday folks going about their business. It’s natural to take a fancy to a look and decide to emulate it. If I tried to go that route, though, I’d have to embrace stripes in a big way, since my days would be spent doing jail time on groping charges. Tactile cues take the place of visual ones for me, and my sartorial choices stem directly from what I find pleasing under my hands. Except for that vital substitution, though, I suspect my style identity evolution followed much the same course as most people’s.

I’m not sure exactly how someone develops a sense of aesthetics or how they come to conclude that look A appeals to them more than look B. I only know that such preferences start to take root with most of us pretty early on. That was the case for me. some of my earliest recollections involve tracing shapes in books, handling household items and generally starting to furnish my mental picture gallery with images of how the world around me looked. The items I kept coming back to time and again were the ones that I could imagine clearly in my mind after feeling them. The vision I had in my infancy may have left me with some capacity to retain mental imagery, because that’s what I’ve done all my life. When I think of, say, an apple, I have two levels of recollection. One is to recall the exact shape of the fruit in my hand, the texture of its skin etc. The other is to actually picture how it would look sittig before me on a table. The image is based largely on the details I ascertained with my hands, as well as bits of information dropped by sighted friends (the mental picture will change whether the apple is red or green). The clearer my tactile impressions and the more detailed the visual descriptions, the more vivid my mental image becomes. This doesn’t matter in the least for apples, since they all wind up looking the same anyway, but the mental picture process is integral to my style evolution.

Essentially, I don’t feel comfortable wearing things that I can’t picture clearly in my head. My mental gallery is expanding all the time, pushing my stylistic boundaries as it does so, but when you get right down to it, I still struggle to embrace looks that fall outside of my tactile comfort zone. By definition, tailored, classic clothing with clearly defined lines are much more pleasing under my hands simply because they’re structured in a way that makes it easy to note garment details. They contour my body, which of course gives me an excellent idea of their shape. They lack excessive embellishments, which frequently feel distracting under the hand and compete with the flow of an outfit in my experience. The details I can make out, such as necklines, sleeve styling, collar type, pocket placement and the like, are important features to take note of in any garment and are particularly easy to pick out on garments with clean lines. And of course, many classic garments tend to be made in higher-quality fabrics, which can lure me in on their merits alone. I grew up with classic garments in the closets of all my family members and developed a discerning touch when it came to the types of details noted above. Classic was my comfort zone, and I had to reach adulthood before I developed any degree of curiosity about looks beyond this admittedly narrow scope.

Nowadays I’ve branched out considerably. I’ve come to enjoy and even sport looks you wouldn’t have found anywhere near my body in the past. Just as sighted fashionistas adjust their eye to knew looks, I’ve gained tactile familiarity with moto styling, slim-legged silhouettes, billowy blouses, empire tops, ruched dresses, handkerchief hems and even colour-blocking. All of these elements have crept into my style as I tried to keep myself from getting bored with my wardrobe and maintain a current vibe with my sighted friends and coworkers. Even so, it’s those mental images formed early in life that remain my benchmarks for fashion decisions. I have a turquoise bib necklace that I enjoy wearing, but still prefer my chunky or multilayered pearl necklaces best because they’re easier to picture. The jacket that warms my heart most at the moment is a tailored black blazer with interestingly-shaped buttons, easily styled cuffs and a subtle ruffle trim that elevate it from the status of a true basic. My leather moto jacket, which comes out to play at least three times a week, still can’t dislodge that more classic blazer from atop my favourites list, simply because the touch-friendly details make it that much more enjoyable to wear. In a similar vein, I’m slower to adopt of-the-moment patterns because they rarely appear in a form that I can touch. Is it any wonder that, when I first embraced animal print, I acquired a zebra dress with raised stripes over a leopard blouse whose design could not be felt?

I don’t know how accurate Julie’s incredibly kind description of my look may be, but I do know my style has a decidedly classic bent. I’m ok with this so long as I keep finding ways to stay current and have fun with the whole process. Hopefully I’ve done something to explain why my wardrobe and image have shaped up the way they have.

A picture of me in a black pencil skirt, black lace-trimmed camisole, low-cut teal top and grey blazer with contrast cuffs. I'm wearing a tripple-strand of pearls tied in a knot with the outfit.

Stil classic after all these years

Thanks for the great question, Julie! If any others want to follow her lead, I’d love to see more comments in the suggestion box. I’m not shy about questions, so if there’s a topic you’d be interested to see me cover or even something you’ve always wanted to ask a blind chick, fire away!

A picture of me in a calf-length cotton dress with a purple and yellow floral pattern on it. The dress is sleeveless, is cut fairly low in the neck and has a fairly traditional silhouette that fits through my torso and then flares out dramatically. To compensate for this traditional style, I'm wearing it with taupe faux-snakeskin sandals, silver and pewter dangly earrings and a bracelet of concentric silver leaves. I'm carrying a white shoulder bag.

My favourite dress silhouette...with requisite modern touches

Halloween humour

I’ve always been the first to poke fun at myself and my blindness, not always very tastefully (I know, big shock). :) As I sat here on this quiet Halloween night, trying to trick myself into not craving homemade apple caramel crisp and savouring the ultimate treat of having someone else do the dishes, I got to thinking of the various ways I’d have fun incorporating my blindness into a Halloween costume the next time I actually dress up. What better way to demystify the condition than by treating it as a subject you’re able to laugh about?
There are the obvious ones, of course, like donning a bat costume or putting together a getup to look like Daredevil, but my sense of humour tends more towards the irreverent. If you’re into the gorier aspects of the day, how much more fun would it be to go as a blind witch complete with broomstick mangled by the most recent crash? Or a blind zombie whose white cane becomes a distinctive and useful accessory in the rampage du jour? I could draw upon my seldom-used talent for looking dazed and confused/staring aimlessly in the wrong direction and play the role of zombie victim instead. Prosthetic eyes like mine could be used to great effect in any sort of haunted house-type setting or really take a corpse costume to the next level. :)

Gruesome isn’t my personal watchword at any time, including Halloween, so I’d be more likely to explore other avenues with any costumes I put together. Why not make my guide dog part of the ensemble and go for a Little Orphan Annie vibe? I have some coworkers that argue that I have all the makings of an effective NHL referee getup already, since they miss what’s going on right before their eyes anyway. I could find some sort of visual rendering of a solar eclipse, carry it around and keep staring at it. For a touch of whimsy, I kinda dig the idea of decking myself out like a super-professional-looking photographer, complete with top-notch gear and badass lenses…that would be totally wasted in my sightless hands. You’d get the same effect by dressing up as a Formula 1 driver.
No doubt you could find some way to work the blindness motif into your political cause of choice, either through satirical depictions of notable people or imaginative costumes illustrating an issue of the day (global warming deniers, anyone)?
Or you could keep it simple, as I would likely do…Pick up a double-edged sword and a set of scales and go as Justice> :)

See? “Disability” can be fun!

So? How would you incorporate a largely taboo subject into your Halloween ensemble? If you wore a more traditional guise this year, what was it? Sound off below!

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