Loss.

Hello Everyone! I wanted to put a trigger warning at the beginning of this post. If you are at all triggered or angered by the topic of death, please click off this post as it will be discussing the topic at length. Before I get into the post, I just want to say that the woman I am about to talk about was one whom brought a light to so many people’s lives. She was not only a happy and beautiful soul who saw light even in the darkest of times, but also someone who never lost her appreciation for what she had no matter her circumstances. Although it might be incredibly sad for me to write this post, I know it is something that needs to be said. this is important for the world to know what and how a chronic illness affects someone and the impact those people can have on the world.

On April 29, 2019, our community lost a friend, a warrior and wife and a service dog handler, Jaquie. You might know her as Chronically Jaquie on YouTube and if you have not had the pleasure of watching her yet, I highly recommend that you do so when you have the chance. Like many others in our world, Jaquie battled multiple invisible illnesses such as Mitochondrial Disease, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, POTS, Gastroparesis, Mast Cell Activation Disorder and a few others. She was constantly battling these illnesses, but with the incredible help of her husband, and her service dog, friends and family she was able to live a very successful life and one full of accomplishments.

To many people in the service dog community, Jaquie is the person that introduced them to the idea and made them aware of the benefits they too could receive from a service dog. Not only that, but she constantly advocated for her medical illnesses and showed the world that just because you are chronically ill does not mean you spend every moment in the hospital.

She was a friend to many, including myself. Although she was taken much too soon from this world, I know that God has just called yet another angel to join him in his kingdom. Jaquie may not be on this earth physically, but her spirit will continue to live on throughout the lives of the many people she has touched with her kindness and inspiration. It is not my place to be telling exactly how she passed away, but I know that no matter when she was taken, she was taken into the most peaceful place a person can go.

Loosing someone important in your life, but although I cried for hours yesterday, today I understand that instead of crying, Jaquie would want all of us to advocate for ourselves. She would ask us to carry on her legacy even if she didn’t have the chance to, so today I pledge to do exactly that. She may not be on this earth any longer, but if as a community keep the advocacy for chronic illness going, she will never be forgotten and always be remembered.

I ask that all of you understand that each family needs space and time. Please do not try and comment questions on her personal life or how she died on this post. It is not my business to be sharing information about her death, but know that she was someone who inspired so many people to be chronic illness warriors and to “keep moving forward”. We love you Jaquie and we hope that you finally are free of pain and suffering. Loss is difficult, but what makes it better is that fact that although a person is not with us any longer, they are no longer suffering.

Today is a Special Day!

Hello Everyone and welcome to today’s blog post! Sorry it has been awhile since I have posted anything, but life just got ahead of me.

If you were not aware then I would like to wish all of you a very happy International Guide Dog Day! Yes, today April 24, 2019 is International GD Day! We dedicate this day to all those Guide Dogs who have given people their independence and remember all those Guide Dogs who have completed their time and now lay in the hands of Jesus.

If you are new and reading my blog for the very first time, let me give you a little background so you are not too confused. My name is Zoe and I was born with a congenital eye condition called Bilateral Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. In short, my optic nerves are underdeveloped and therefore do not transfer signals between the eyes and the brain to let in enough light. I also recently applied to the Guide Dog Foundation in New York and was accepted 2 months ago. I am currently awaiting my perfect and so I thought what better way to honor my future pup by posting about this special day.

So many people do not understand the job of a Guide Dog and how they are considered service dogs for the blind. Basically, as many of you might infer, a Guide Dog is a dog that helps lead its visually impaired handler through obstacles, help find doors or entrances or even retrieve dropped and unseen items.

Many people do not realize it, but unlike other service dogs, Guide Dogs have to be spatially aware of their surroundings and therefore require the most amount of training. They legitimately are responsible for their handlers life.

This post is to honor all those Guide Dogs, deceased or currently working and congratulate them on their work. They have given so many who struggle their independence back including myself come July. They are the reason that many people get out of bed and make a life for themselves. Because, when you have a Guide Dog, it is not just about you anymore, but about you and your companion. From what I have heard, Guide Dogs are not just your eyes, but are your heart. What I mean by that is that yes, they help you be more independent, but they also are your built in best friend. Guide Dogs not only give independence but give confidence to their handler.

I hope you guys are as excited for a documentation of this journey as I am. I absolutely can not wait to be able to share this upcoming experience with all of you and tell you the ups and downs of having a Guide Dog. And although sometimes Guide Dogs and service dogs in general are a lot of work, the work you put in for them is given back to you by their life-saving guidance.

Thank you guys so much for reading todays post. I will be trying my very hardest to be getting back on track with boh my YouTube and my Blog. Remember to laugh everyday!

Blog Posting Schedule: Wednesdays, and Sundays.

YouTube Posting Schedule: Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.

I Was Unplanned…

Hello Everyone! Before getting into this blog post, I wanted to apologize for my recent absence from posting. Life just got away from me, and I didn’t have time to write up and thoughtfully think of a topic worth posting. So, I hope you guys can find it in your heart to forgive me for being terrible at keeping up with my schedule.

Also, I want to first add a disclaimer to this post. For some, this post may bring up difficult emotions or past experiences. I am not writing this to start any type of disagreements, in fact I am writing it for the opposite reason. Before starting, I also wanted to mention that in this post there will be details of the movie exposed, so if you are planning on seeing the film and don’t want it ruined, close your tab now.

The Story of Unplanned

As some of you might know, Unplanned, a movie about a woman’s journey from pro-choice to pro-life hit theatres this weekend. If you are unfamiliar with this film or what it is about, let me just start by giving you a little background.

Abby Johnson was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, a town outside of Houston. In college she was walking around a career fair when the bright pink signs and merchandise of Planned Parenthood caught her eye. She proceeded to walk over when the woman at the stand told her that “the goal of Planned Parenthood is to reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies by providing women with sex education classes and affordable birth control.” Basically she said “we are helping women in crisis.” Somewhat naive, Abby thought that helping women in crisis was something she was interested in pursuing, so she started as a volunteer escort, assisting clients who arrived inside and take their minds off the protesters outside of the clinic. Next, she became the head counselor of PP, a position where she used her degree in psychology to reassure women that what they were doing was not wrong and the baby felt no pain. After a few more years, Abby was promoted to Director of her clinic where she would monitor and track everything from abortions, to birth control distribution.

One day, after being invited to hold the probe for an ultrasound guided abortion, she decided she would never go back…..ever. This movie is the story of a woman who at Planned Parenthood over the course of 8 years, counseled women to have more than 22,000 babies terminated. Throughout the rest of this post, I will merely be explaining how this story relates to my own.

My Story

A while back, when my mom was just a young adult trying to find what she wanted to do with her life, one little “plus” sign changed her life. She was pregnant. Later, she would find out it was a little girl and two months after this girl was born, she and my dad learned that their little girl was blind. This girl is me, and this is my story.

For a woman like my mother, she was not expecting to be pregnant before she had her life plan figured out. She was young, and in college, and (per her) had no idea how she was going to make it work. Some people suggested abortion. “You’re not financially stable”, “You’re too young”, “you can’t provide a decent life for a baby”.  These are just some reasons people say that abortion is the right answer. The truth is, my parents were financially unstable, they were too young, and they did not know at all if they could provide a decent life for a baby. Is anyone ever really financially stable enough to raise a baby? My parents said they were not.

My mother believed that I was a real human being inside her, even early in her pregnancy, so she found the courage to tell her parents about me, and decide what to do next with their support, whether to put me up for adoption or start a family earlier than she expected. While my mom never did consider abortion, she did consider adoption in order to give me the best possible chance at a awesome future. My mom does not believe that people should raise children they do not feel they can raise.

My mother (and dad) decided to keep me and 17 years later I can assure you she is not regretting her decision.

Don’t get me wrong, it was no easy road these past 17 years. We were never really “financially well off” and it was hard for her to be a mother to a disabled child, but I think my story proves to people that raising a baby that was unplanned when you are financially unstable and young is not impossible, even if it is a little (or very) difficult.

Although some have tried hard to hurt this movie’s chances by banning the Twitter page for the movie, refusing to air the trailers on their station, and possibly blacklisting most of the actors, Unplanned hit theatres on March 29, 2019 and so far it has brought in more than double its estimates. Opening weekend, Unplanned earned 6 million dollars making it the second highest box office Christian film to hit the theatres.

Do not think that this film is not controversial, it definitely is, but it is a film that I recommend everyone to see because it is one of the few that really takes a look into the reality of abortion and its effects on the mind and body. This woman, Abby Johnson has inspired thousands already and with the release of this film, there will be thousands more to come. All those children who did not get a chance to speak, a chance to laugh or a chance to play because it would be inconvenient for someone else are up there in heaven looking down on us, forever loving.

No matter who you are or what your circumstances are, you are an overcomer and there are so many other good options out there in the world and, while you do have the option to make the choice, I urge you to consider my story and make the right one. I’m so thankful my mother did.

It Has Been a Year.

One year ago, March 20th was probably the biggest day of my life. Before I get into the details, I want to start by saying that even though this is super emotional to talk about, it is worth me talking about it.

A year ago today, my eyes were opened. Well, I guess in my case you could say my eye, but same difference, right? Thinking back to dark Zoe is a hard thing. It is hard for me to think about and talk about, but the truth is, it needs to be talked about. Before starting this blog I went through a time that no one should go through and one day, I just decided to stop. Stop being the person that constantly looking down on themselves. Stop being the person that only felt bad for themselves and pitied themselves and start being the person that has a smile on their face and who encourages and inspires. Although I always tried to look happy, until March 20, 2018, I felt dead. Saying that is hard. It takes everything I have to say that.

But I am here to tell all of you that the Zoe that most people know now is who I love being. I am happy, and healthy. I couldn’t be happier about my life and it is all thanks to Jesus and prayer. Because of the encouragement from those in my life, I was able to pick myself up from the floor and rise above. Rise above my problems, my fears and my sadness. To say this was easy would be a complete and utter lie. It might have been the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but it was the most worth it thing I ever did. Yes, the truth is that I still have bad days. Days where I doubt myself, my abilities, my worth, and my life. But, for the most part I am 1,000 times happier than I was a year ago.

The darkness, the hate and ugliness have disappeared. I am now happier than I have ever been and even though vision disabilities suck, living your entire life being pissed at something you can’t control just isn’t worth it. That goes for every disability. Sometimes, even in the darkest hour, there is a tiny speck of light. This is not to say you shouldn’t struggle, in fact struggling is a part of life, but to always be sad about something that is temporary is not a way to live. Earth is temporary, pain is temporary and in heaven our sins, pain and hardships are gone. What seems so far in the future, is just a step away. Through God and those we love we are able to take that step.

I want to thank everyone who have helped me reach my full potential and those who encouraged me to write this blog. I am eternally grateful. Your life is precious, you are precious. Never, ever forget that. I went through 16 years of self-doubt, self-hate and pity and now I live freely. I am here to tell you it can be done. No matter your disability, you are so worth it and I am here to encourage you always!

Remember to laugh everyday!

Always Remember…

Recently, on a Saturday, I went to go see a movie as one does. A movie, that would eventually change the way I acted, thought and spoke. Maybe if I had known the impact this film would have on my life, I would have been more prepared. Five Feet Apart hit the theatre on Friday, March 15 2019. Something that not many people realize is that the movie was inspired by the life and actions of a young girl named Claire Wineland. From the time she was born, Claire struggled with a disease called Cystic Fibrosis. For those of you who may not know what that is, it is a lung disease that causes unusually thick mucus build-up in the lungs making it extremely hard for those who have it to breathe.

With both her actions and words, Claire inspired so many and although she faced death everyday, she always had a smile on her face. If I had the chance to meet Claire personally before her death, I would have.

Like many Hollywood films, Five Feet Apart was a love story. One between two people, both with life threatening illnesses but unlike most films with a mushy love story, this film displayed the harsh truth of CF and in a recent article, the director said he was hoping this move would stay “grounded”. Only having seen the trailer and readd a few plot lines online, I went to see the movie. From watching the trailers, I had assumed this movie would be a tearjerker, but little did I know that it would change my heart and mind forever.

I am not going to go into detail because I believe that everyone should go and see it for themselves, but I do want to explain why I am writing about this when it has not the slightest bit about vision… or so I thought.

Although this movie has nothing to do with literal vision and/or vision disabilities, it touched on our mental vision and the way at which we look at and interpret the world. Both the main actors proved that with the right outlook, one can make a bad situation seem like one with hope. That is how they incorporated Claire into their story, because Claire had such zest for life and such happiness in her actions.

So, it was not the movie itself that changed my life, it the was the concept and the message of the movie that impacted me so much as to write about it. When you have something that is life-threatening or life-limiting, it is hard to see the good in the situation, but just like Will and Stella in Five Feet Apart, making good out of a bad situation is possible through hard work. This movie showed the reality: good and bad about CF and that is what made it something worth watching. It wasn’t about mushy love, but instead about true, tangible love. Although Claire is no longer with us, this movie and all she did is a reminder that those with disability can do the impossible.

If you have not yet seen the movie, I totally recommend you see it. I am no movie guru or critic, but the connection between the actors was beyond inspiring and the message within brought something new to Hollywood. For a movie that is relatively similar to The Fault in Our Stars, it is much more realistic and grounded than that movie (I am sorry if you are a FIOS lover).

People Think They Know…

People in this world are judgemental. They like to compare their experiences to yours even though they are not even in the same ballpark. When people try and say how sorry they are or how they are praying for you, does that invoke some kind of anger? I know at least for me it does. When I have just told someone about my visual impairment and then they say something to the degree of “Oh my gosh, we are so sorry”, it lights a fire in my heart. These people have no idea what they are talking about.

Never say to someone that “I totally understand your pain”. Everyone struggles with some kind of pain. Whether that is emotional pain, physical pain or spiritual pain, it does not make a difference. Everyone in the world is struggling with something. Whether they feel comfortable to share it or not is the question. As for me, I feel totally comfortable telling the world about my disability, but many people do not feel that way.

When you say or someone says that they know your disability, unless they are struggling with the same one, that probably is not true. Every single life in this world is unique and no two are the same. Even if you and someone else are struggling with the same problem does not mean you are facing the same symptoms or the same emotional damage. Have compassion for everyone in this world because whether or not you think they need it, one kind word could change a bad day.

After being blind for 17 years now, I have gotten used to people saying that their sprained or broken ankle is the same as being blind. Although that is the opposite from the truth, I just end up rolling with the punches. It is better to be the person that can help console others than to be the person who is constantly telling people their disabilities mean noting.

Maybe someone’s problem is not as life threatening as yours. Maybe it’s not even as life-limiting, but to them it the biggest problem. Is it a real problem? Maybe not, but Jesus calls us to console those who are mourning and filled with sadness and to not bring them down. So, this lenten season I will be the light in people’s lives on the rainy days. Although someone’s problems might not be as physically life-limiting, they are a big deal to that person and therefore are a big deal to me.

Thank you guys so much for tuning into today’s blog post! I am so sorry that I have not been able to keep up with both the blog and the YouTube channel. The honest truth is that there is so much to do and not enough time to do it. I hope you guys can bear with me throughout these busy weeks and I probably won’t be able to upload on my regular schedule, but I will exert every effort to try.

Remember to laugh everyday!

My Life Will Officially Never Be The Same Ever Again…….

Hello Everyone! Today, I wanted to bring you a very exciting blog post! This might be the most exciting post I have ever uploaded. I don’t want to over hype it or anything, but I will just preface this post by saying I have had this title as a draft for months. I am finally allowed to give you guys an update on this and I could not be happier.

If this is your first time reading my blog, as with any of my other posts, I wanted to give a little back story to how this happened. Yesterday was Tuesday, February 26. Up until the drive home, it had been a pretty average day. I had gotten up at the same time I always did, gone to school, gone to the same classes I go to everyday and then hopped in the car with my friend for her to drive me home just like she does everyday. We had just pulled out of the school when I got an email. Thinking little of it, I decided to check it anyway because truth be told I am just that extra.

What I read next brought tears to my eyes. Yes, that is right, literal tears. The email read a little something like this:

“Hello Zoe, I’m pleased to inform you that your application for a guide Dog has been accepted. Please see the attached letter for details.”

This sentence was one I had been waiting to see for months. Ever since the day I submitted my online application in October, I knew that one day those words would make the entire process worth it. Have you ever wanted something so bad that is all you an think about? That is basically what happened to me!

I could not believe that something I had been praying for so long actually happened. Although I knew it was in the Lord’s hands this entire time, at some points I still had some doubts.

If for some reason you are not following what I am trying to say, I am getting a Guide Dog!!!! Many of you might be confused because I have mentioned here and there in the past, but that was because I had not actually been accepted to the program and could not give too much information away in case I did not get in.

Well, I have done it! I have gotten and you guys are some of the first people to know. This announcement might seem pretty lame to you, but to me it is one of the biggest things that has ever happened.

For any of you out there struggling with physical or mental disability and are possibly considering a service dog, let me be the first one to tell you that it is incredibly worth it, but things that are worth it usually require a lot of work! Service dogs are indeed a lot of work, but the work they can do for you is priceless.

Thank you guys so much for following me on this journey. This post has been a long time coming and applying for a service animal is anything but easy. But now I can say that I am at peace. Can’t wait to share more updates with you guys as the process moves along!

Until next time, remember to laugh everyday!