Well readers, it has been an eventful two months since my last post. The day after this post, my parents and I went to Indiana to celebrate my maternal grandma’s 90th birthday. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be the birthday everyone hoped for. My sister, knowing how much Granny loves Elvis, hired an Elvis impersonator to come to Granny’s assisted living facility for her birthday, but unfortunately, this had to be postponed because just three days before her birthday, a staff member and a couple residents tested positive for COVID-19, so Granny’s facility went on lockdown for ten days. If it weren’t her 90th birthday, we would have postponed our entire trip as well, but my parents and I all agreed it wouldn’t be right for her to be alone on her 90th birthday. So we made the trip and talked to Granny through her window. For a brief time, one wonderful staff member opened her window so we could hear her better. But most of the time, the window was closed and it was very difficult to hear her, especially when the air conditioning unit came on, so Mom ended up using FaceTime so that Granny could see us through her window, and we could hear her through the phone. When the COVID-19 vaccine first came out, Mom told Granny that she should be able to get it soon because they were prioritizing people in congregate care settings, and prison inmates. Granny, who I will always admire for finding the humor in difficult times said, “Well, I’m in prison!” I have never visited anyone in a real prison, but I have read about how visitation procedures often require the family to be in a separate room where they see their incarcerated loved one behind glass and talk to them on the phone, so as we stood outside Granny’s window on her birthday talking to her on the phone, the dark irony struck me that for all practical purposes, she really was in prison. Fortunately, the people with COVID-19 recovered, and the facility hasn’t had to lock down since. The Elvis impersonator was rescheduled for September 18. I didn’t go back to see him because I didn’t want to commit to a trip now that I am back in school. But Mom went down and met my sister, and they said the impersonator was excellent, and everyone had a blast!
On August 10, we had a storm in our area that knocked out our power for three days, in which time I gained some spiritual perspective that I will post about in the future. I also started my second year of seminary school August 25, where once again, my classes have been really interesting, especially a course on the history of the expansion of Christianity from the first century to the present. I will be posting about these courses in the near future too.
But the most exciting event that happened these past two months, and the event I want to focus on today, is that I self-published my second book! In 2014, I self-published my first book, Paws that Changed my Life, in which I recounted my experience training with my first guide dog, Gilbert. But even before this book, as early as 2012, I had been working on some essays that I dreamed of someday turning into a memoir, but I could never decide how to organize it or tie the essays together. But when we returned from Indiana, I got a huge burst of inspiration, updated and tweaked the essays I had already written, and wrote a couple more essays to tie everything together. This book does not contain the Song in my heart essay I wrote last year, although I already have ideas sprouting on how I could include this essay in a future book. But my current book is called The Rivers of my Life: Walking by Faith and Living Without Sight. The book is organized around the idea that life is like a river, sometimes smooth, sometimes very choppy, but always working out for good in the end. Part 1 begins at my graduation from Carroll University, and then flashes back to the challenges and joys of growing up totally blind. Part 2 is a testimony of my Christian faith journey, and how my faith life was a separate river that would eventually merge with the river of my whole life. Here is an excerpt to wet your whistle.
I think I heard The River, sung by Garth Brooks for the first time when I was in sixth grade. I always appreciated it for the beautiful sentiment that it is, and would stop whatever I was doing when it came on the radio to soak it in. But now as an adult, I have a much deeper, firsthand understanding of how true the sentiment of this song really is.
Some people have concrete, well-defined dreams, like the toddler who is a tennis prodigy, but I think most of us don’t have such clearly defined dreams. Our abstract dream is simply to find a fulfilling life with financial security to meet our practical needs, and a meaningful career that meets our spiritual need for a sense of purpose. We may study an area of interest in college, but after that, we are left to the mercy of an ever-changing river influenced by currents of economic conditions, chance encounters or unexpected circumstances which inspire us, and sometimes force us, to pursue a path we never imagined. We make mistakes and try to learn from them. We let opportunities slip away. There is so much we have no control over, so we are really all vessels that must ride the current of life wherever it takes us. Rough waters are inevitable, but with the good lord as our captain, we can handle whatever comes our way.
I feel compelled to reflect on the river currents that have shaped my life now because at the time I am writing this (August 2021), I have pretty much been in quarantine for a year and a half. It is the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, an international crisis that has permanently altered the course of many people’s rivers in ways never imagined when 2020 began. I am one of these people. I don’t want to minimize the hardship this pandemic has caused. At the time I am writing this, over 600,000 families are grieving the loss of loved ones to COVID-19. Small business owners who put their hearts and souls into their businesses, had to close at a moment’s notice, and many will not have the means to come back. For over 400 years, Black Americans have had to endure adversity far greater than anything I have experienced as a blind person, adversity which this pandemic has exacerbated. But in my case, the pandemic is the current that inspired me to pursue an exciting new course, one which God had been whispering to me about for a long time, but one which I might never have been brave enough to pursue if not for the pandemic.
In this collection of essays in the pages that follow, I will share the story of my life’s river so far. In Part 1, I will focus on how I navigated childhood and school as a blind person. In Part 2, I will focus on my faith journey. These two rivers of academic life and religious life were somewhat separate out of necessity, but are merging more and more as I progress through young adulthood. I have not always recognized that the good lord was trying to be my captain, and when I did recognize it, I wasn’t willing to give up control of my vessel at first. But now, I feel a wonderful sense of joy, hope and renewed purpose in my life. I recognize that even in this exciting new course, rough waters may come, and I recognize that in this ever-changing tumultuous world, the river’s course could change again. I suppose the only way to fully understand the river of one’s life is for a writer to wait until the end of his/her life to write a memoir like this. But I believe the adage is true that it is not the destination, but the journey that counts. I hope readers will find inspiration in reading about my journey so far, and that perhaps, it could change the course of someone else’s river for the better.
This book is available as a Kindle book for $5.99, although I cannot guarantee the visual attractiveness of it, especially the cover because Amazon’s independent publishing platform isn’t as blind-friendly as I wish it was. When I published Paws that Changed my Life, Mom sat next to me and helped me with the cover, but I really wanted to publish this book all by myself. For this reason, I decided to use another service, BookEmon, to create the paperback version of my book. This site is much more accessible because you can select from pre-created covers. But the disadvantage is that because I used their patented cover, I had to publish my book with them under their intellectual property terms, and I did not get to set the list price, which in my opinion is a little high when compared with similar memoirs. The list price is $17.15, and the actual price they charge is $15.44. In addition, unless you register with BookEmon and purchase a gold membership package, there is no free shipping. It is listed on Amazon, but orders are still fulfilled by BookEmon so there is no free shipping if you order the paperback on Amazon either. But I would be super delighted and appreciative to anyone who buys my book, not only because I really believe people will enjoy reading it, but also because–I’m not going to lie–a little extra income from book royalties would be exciting since I am not currently working. If you are a reader who lives locally, I am hoping to sell my books at Martha Merrell’s, an independent bookstore in my area at a couple art crawl events during the holiday season. Nothing is official yet, but I will keep you posted on that. Otherwise, here is the link to my book on BookEmon. Thank you, and happy reading!