Read Follow the Vision, Part One here.


Dusk curtains the monastery as Feidhelm traces a finger beneath Aibreann’s closed eyes, along her cheekbone and across the dimple of her chin. She is still warm, clinging to the last fragment of life that struggles within her. One more moment, one more breath. But no. Soon she will be cold and he will leave her, taking with him only the memory of a daughter that will fade too fast. She’ll become a phantom, a ghost—just like her mother did. A silent tear escapes his lashes and he follows its path down the crease of his nose to his chin and watches as it lands centered on the child’s forehead.

An icy breeze drifts in through the open window, bringing it with the last threads of daylight. Feidhelm shivers. A shadow falls on Aibreann’s face, highlighting her sunken cheeks in the dim light. He covers them with his hands; she is already feeling colder.

“Aibreann. How could they do this to you? Oh, my precious child.” A hand grazes Feidhelm’s shoulder and he lifts his head to see Dallán standing over him. The old man’s hands shake and he is unsteady on his feet, but the grief-stricken father minds this not, as he throws himself around his old master’s frail shell.

“She’s gone, Dallán. Gone.”

“I know.” Fragile as he is, Dallán holds the weeping father against him, whispering prayers of comfort against the backdrop of choked sobs. Gently, he leads Feidhelm to a seat across the room and helps him sink into the cushions. Feidhelm leans his head against the familiar cloaked shoulder.

“I lost someone very dear to me, Feidhelm. Twenty-five years ago, just a year before you became my scribe.” Feidhelm doesn’t move. Dallán continues, his voice low and smooth. “My sister was a beautiful woman, so gentle and kind. It was before her time but illness took her. So swiftly, nothing could be done.”

The silence rings in Feidhelm’s ears, Dallán’s words knocking fiercely to be let into his heart. “How did you go on without her?”

“It was God, my son. He took me by my hand and lead me forward, one step at a time. It was tortuous and beyond any pain I had experienced. But do you know what happens, Feidhelm, when you allow him to guide you in your grief?”

The last strands of light disappear from the window, replaced by a sheer layer of iced air that stings his skin. “No.”


One word. Its echo bounces off the walls of the room and ricochets against Feidhelm’s heart—but it cannot enter. It will not.

“I will not have peace. That is too much to expect.” Feidhelm pushes himself up by his hands and straightens his spine. Taking a hand, he wipes his tears from his eyes and dries his damp fingers on his tunic. He stands, suddenly shaky on his feet.

“Don’t expect it, Feidhelm. Just let it come. Let Christ be your guide, your vision.” He pauses, and Feidhelm turns to look at his face. Tears gather in the corners of Dallán’s eyes. Feidhelm moves to touch his hand to the man’s shoulder.

“Do you remember Druim Cett, Feidhelm?”

The question is so unexpected that Feidhelm cannot answer. He traces through his memories, searching for familiarity, and then, it comes. “Yes. I was injured then, during our fight to keep the filid from being exiled.”

“That’s right.” Dallán’s voice becomes even softer, and Feidhelm leans forward to hear. “Columba had a vision to preserve the bards and our art—the very heart of Ireland. His vision saved us, Feidhelm. And just as it was for Columba and the filid, so it will be with God. His vision will save you and guide you to freedom. Rest, Feidhelm, and allow him to lead you there.”


They come, as they stand, heads bowed, by the freshly dug grave. Feidhelm watches through his shower of tears as Adhamh and Harkin lower the coffin that contains his daughter’s remains into the earth. Dallán, standing at the head of the grave, speaks a eulogy, but Feidhelm cannot hear his words. His grief is too strong.

“And Lord, we submit Aibreann into your love now. She is safe with you now, Father; no more pain, no more tears. But as she is now without pain, we pray that you would come and be comfort to Feidhelm in his; be his strength in this time of grief. Help those who love him to comfort him as he needs, but knowing that the ultimate source of comfort is you. Lead us to yourself, Lord. Amen.” Feidhelm murmurs his amen with the gathered mourners, but the reverence of the moment is sliced by a scream.

Like owls with softened wings in pursuit of their midnight prey, they surround them; their swords glint in the soft light of the setting sun. Their beards are unshaven but cut short, and their dark-hued garb resembles the night in which they travel and pillage.


One pirate, a hefty man with hair layering his skin like a cloak, leads the charge, his sword protruding from his hand like a kitchen knife. Feidhelm is frozen where he stands, the utter disbelief of the scene before him rendering him motionless. It unfolds in rapid succession, body after body falling in murdered obedience, but to Feidhelm, each strike of the sword comes slowly. Such precision, such violence.

And he cannot move. Until that is, he sees the hairy pirate charge toward Dallán. Feidhelm’s heart gives a great jerk within his chest and his feet respond. Without a second’s delay, Feidhelm bursts from his stance, which until this moment has gone unnoticed by the raiders, and charges forward to his master’s side.

But it is too late. Dallán, gasping for breath and clutching his bloodied flank, collapses to the dirt. He does not rise. Feidhelm, forgetting his own danger, kneels down and presses his hands to his master’s temples. “No, Dallán. No. Stay with me. You must stay!”

It is in vain. As his friend’s breathing stills and his writhing body becomes motionless, Feidhelm collapses once more into tears. How could God allow such a thing to happen? First Aibreann, now Dallán.

A scream rouses Feidhelm from his renewed grief. He looks frantically about him, and sees just as Cathal, on the opposite side of the cemetery, is made to obey. Feidhelm turns back and comes face to face with the hairy one. In his desperation, Feidhelm wonders if it would be better to simply hand himself over to the inevitable. This way, he would be with Aibreann. And Dallán.

He does not have time to make a decision. It is made for him. He slumps to meet the earth and his maker, and as the world begins to dim into blackness.

Better to end with pain, than to live with unending sorrow.


“Come in, my son. Be welcomed in my name.” Light greets his eyes, a bright, inviting light that seems to emanate from every thread of air and strand of grass, even himself. He looks up, trying to find the source of the light, but is surprised to see a child, dressed in a white robe with a golden crown on her head, standing before him. Behind her, is a man, donning the same robe and crown. Their entire beings seem to sparkle.

“Welcome, friend.” The child’s voice is light and kind. Her smile is bright, and he returns it. Glancing about, he takes in his new surroundings—emerald fields meet turquoise seas, and the light, which first baffled him, now seems as though it has always been so.

He motions to the field, where at its end, is the sea’s beginning. “Does it go on forever?”

The child smiles, but it is the man who speaks. “It does, Feidhelm. It is the essence of the Lord’s vision, from creation to creation.” To his surprise, the robed man begins to sing, and as he does, it feels as though the world stops to listen.

“High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”

The child smiles and reaches out her hand to take his. “Isn’t it glorious?” Spreading her hands far and wide, she continues. “It does go on forever. As do you. And I. Here, together, we shall go on forever. Guided and protected by the vision of He who was and always will be.”


It’s Market Day in Wells the day we arrive. Cramped and weary from our road trip across southern England, the rising cathedral spires elicit something of an excited yawn as I strain, stretch and stare out the window in waking anticipation from an uncomfortably long sleep. Being squished between the door and my overstuffed suitcase was hard enough, being made to stay there for the duration of the trip from Canterbury to Wells—a good four hour drive—was almost intolerable. But as Wells Cathedral becomes taller and more grand with every kilometer, so does my excitement.

It was my first visit to the UK and I had gone to attend Bible College for a year up north just outside Lancaster. But before my parents dropped me off at school, we spent ten days travelling, beginning in London and moving our way across and up. And now, six days into our journey, we were arriving at Wells.

I imagine Wells might be a quiet, cozy town with historic streets wrapping around the cathedral, a town where life is lived simply and without the clutter of unnecessary modern amenities. This will be perfect, I think contentedly, for a simple girl like me, born and raised in a small town on the Canadian west coast. My Daddy told me that the more I expected, the more I would be disappointed. So as my mother calls out directions from the map in her hands and the streets become windier and closer to the city center, it takes all of my strength to dissolve my expectations. But I can’t help dreaming: What if Wells truly is what I imagine? How delightful!

“Park here. The cathedral is just down the street.” I lean against the window and feel the vibrations lessen as Daddy pulls alongside the curb and parks. Click click click. Our seat belts are off, and I fling open my door excitedly. And instantly, my expectations are shattered.

There are cars as far as I can see, parked on both sides of the street, making a rather tight aisle to pass between them. On the far side of the street, clusters of people are gathered around tables set up beneath tents. I hear modern pop music blasting from an outdoor sound system. So much for a simple, historic existence. But my excitement does not wither.

“Looks like a market over there,” Daddy observes, glancing toward the crowd. “Let’s go check it out.” I grab his arm for guidance and with Mama on my other side, we set out toward the market.

We are now engulfed in the crowd and I cling tighter to Daddy’s arm; crowds make me nervous. Slowly, we move to a table and peruse its contents.This first table is filled with wooden trinkets and I hesitantly reach my hands out to touch.

“Can my daughter touch this? She’s blind and it would mean a lot to her if she could.” My mother’s familiar request, though at the cost of a bit of my pride, has enough innocence and truth to turn the vendor’s favour on us.

The vendor in question, is a short, pudgy woman with round rosy cheeks beneath cheerful aqua eyes. Taking my hand, she places it on the top of a small, smooth box.

“This is cedar wood,” she explains, as she runs my hand across the surface of the lid. “It’s strong and durable wood which is why I use it. Have you ever seen before, dear?” At my nod, she continues. “I didn’t paint this box because I love the natural look of the wood. It’s light and very pretty. And here”—she moves my fingers to the front of the box to the latch—”is the latch that locks the box, and there’s a place for a key at the top.”

Taking the box in my hands, I stroke the sleek wood admiringly. “This is beautiful,” I say. Her smile is almost audible above the crowd. Shyly, I gesture to the price tag and look to Daddy for an answer. “It’s twenty,” he says under his breath. Translating pounds to dollars in my head, I come out at about thirty-eight. I sigh regretfully.

Setting the box down on the table, I reach across to the cheerful woman and shake her hand. “I love your work, it’s very beautiful. But I’m afraid I’ll have to pass this time. Thank you so much for showing me.” She squeezes my hand. Although I don’t know this woman at all, I feel inclined to give her a hug, but I restrain. Her kind and fearless personality touches me in a way that not many people can claim; friends who accept me for my blindness and don’t define me by it are wonderful, but a stranger who does the same only raises my faith in humanity and makes life all the more worthwhile.

From table to table we move, examining various scarves, soaps, bowls and other hand-made trinkets. Once we exhaust the outdoor market, we shift indoors to a room filled with clothing and echoes. We are not there more than ten minutes when I hear a clanging bell from outside.

“I bet that’s the town crier,” I joke. They don’t exist anymore, I think wistfully, though I wish they did.

“Do you want to go see?” my mother asks. We are all growing weary of the amplified sounds in the indoor market, and I am beginning to sport a headache. I nod.

Back in the street market, we follow a crowd moving toward the town square, and to my utter ecstasy, the town crier is there, ringing his bell and attracting quite a crowd of onlookers. I drag my parents to the front of the crowd.

“Wells is a beautiful city,” the town crier begins in a loud, dramatic voice. “Take in the breathtaking scenery, the market, and Wells Cathedral, built in 1175. Why not take a tour there or explore its beauty and historic stain glass images at your leisure?” With unmitigated delight, I realize that he is not only the town crier but also a tour guide! I am eighteen, but my childish excitement cannot be contained as I clap my hands and let out a high-pitched squeal.

“There’s actually a town crier! They have a town crier!” My shock and delight are repetitive, for as my parents and I walk down the street toward the entrance of the cathedral, it is all I am capable of saying in my amazement. As we draw closer, my former shrieks of delight change into quieted awe. Nothing makes one feel so small and insignificant than when faced with such immense beauty. I look up and take in its outward grandeur and wonder what greater beauty may lie inside.

What first greets my eyes is not what I expect. In the front entrance perched on the receptionist’s desk is a bony, black and grey cat. An identification tag hangs around his neck, and he sits stalk still next to the computer keyboard. As I approach, he scowls at me and flattens his ears. Despite his threatening demeanor, I laugh.

“This is Louis,” the middle-aged receptionist explains in a welcoming tone. “He kind of just lives here in the cathedral. You can pet him, but please don’t pick him up. He might claw a bit.” Smiling wide, I reach down and stroke Louis’s back. Just by one touch, I can see that Louis is an old cat, his bones sticking out at awkward angles all over his frail figure. His fur is a bit matted, but nonetheless, I fall in love. So it’s not just old cathedrals that have beauty, I think, old cats do too.

“Someone loves you, hey Louis?” The voice of the speaker I discover, is an elderly man with a thick British accent and spectacles to match. I nod happily and he moves beside me to scratch Louis’s head.

“Come on Rhi, we better get a move on into the rest of the cathedral,” Daddy says, and I know that I cannot stall. As I move to join my parents, the old man follows and shakes hands with my Daddy. “My name is Neil. I would love to show you and your daughter around the cathedral if you would like.”

“Oh, that is very generous of you. That would be wonderful.” The four of us set off down the main hall, and it is not long before Neil stops at a statue of the Virgin Mary. Taking my hand, he gently shows me the features of her face, veil and body, explaining how it was constructed and its significance to the cathedral.

I don’t say much as Neil explains, but I listen intently. I find it all fascinating and quite beyond me: As he takes my hands and shows me ancient statues, stain glass images, trunks and other relics of the Catholic faith, I feel as though I have travelled beyond anything of my own world and am in contact with things I am unworthy to touch. They are sacred, and I am not, but yet, I am with them, touching them, and experiencing them. And the experience is something I can hardly describe nor understand.

A good hour passes before Neil returns to the front desk and my parents and I exit the cathedral. To my disappointment, Louis is not at his post on the reception desk, but I’m told he is wandering about the cathedral. “It’s completely normal,” she assures me brightly, “he’s a cathedral cat.” I’m not quite sure what she means by a “cathedral cat” but I smile and wave farewell to Neil and the kind receptionist and wonder if Louis might be perched upon the Virgin’s shoulder or a thirteenth-century trunk.

I walk out of Wells Cathedral, down the street where the market is now closing down, back to our car and climb in. I am overcome with a sense of wonder; the woman selling the cedar boxes and kind old Neil in the cathedral both greeted me with kind and fearless smiles and took me in in ways many people are afraid to. What may have seemed like a mere moment to them became timeless to me, offering me more than trinkets or historical facts and stories—they gave me acceptance.

And as I lay back in the car and close my eyes, I think of Louis and his perpetual scowl, and smile. The spires fade from view, the crowd noise disappear and I fall into dreaming with the feeling that I have left home washing over me. But I know I am not alone as the car takes me farther and farther away from this delightfully unexpected city. For the most unexpected thing of all is still with me out of the corners of my eyes and at my fingertips: Louis, the cat in the cathedral.



“King Hugh, listen to me, I beg of you. To abolish the fild will be to abolish the very foundation of Ireland. Our identity as a nation owes itself to this order; the filid are the keepers of our history, the ones who preserve our culture. If they are exiled, who will ensure that Ireland and her people are not forgotten? Please, listen to my words.” Columba’s defense rises on the shimmering breeze and floats across the field, weaving in and amongst the courtiers, bards and laymen that are gathered in apprehensive numbers. The king’s entourage stand at rigid attention, their mouths pursed in a solemn line, fingers encircling the hilt of their weapons. It is a stark contrast to the men gathered to Columba’s cause—their wind-mussed hair, unshaven beards and muddied garments only escalate what Feidhelm fears most.

“You speak well of the filid, Columba,” King Hugh allows, a hint of mischief rising beneath his diplomacy, “but will you forget their misdeeds only to praise their achievements? One must recognize the fault to appreciate the good. Do you not agree?” A titter ripples across the royal company, the premature celebration of their king’s championing. Feidhelm bites his bottom lip in disgust—even at his young age, his blood boils at their arrogance. A frustrated sigh escapes through his now bloody lip.

“Do you grow weary of the convention, my son?” Dallán reaches a hand to his left and finds the youth’s shoulder. He gives it a gentle squeeze, then resumes entangling and disentangling his fingers in agonizing anticipation. Feidhelm doesn’t bother to meet his master’s vacant gaze.

“How much longer will they go on like this? What good can come from their quarreling?” As he speaks, his eyes find the king, his knuckles whitening from their grip on his sword.

“Perhaps nothing,” Dallán concedes. “Perhaps exile is our fate. But I do not believe the Almighty, nor Columba, will fail us. We are Irish, my boy, and in Ireland we will remain.” Feidhelm nods, forgetting his master’s blindness and returns to chewing his lip.

To the adolescent, it seems that the tension between the bards and the crown has been going on since he was in the cradle. Demands for tax exemption, more freedom, less responsibility… it stews in Feidhelm’s mind until it spills over and creates a foaming, frothy confusion. And, being the scribe for the Ollamh is no cure. When Master Dallán is not dictating his latest eulogy or epic, his waking hours are filled with such apprehension for the future of the filid—his future—that Feidhelm cannot escape its clutches.

Now, it has come to this. A crisp, April morning at Druim Cett to celebrate the return to their rightful place in Irish society, or perhaps, be banished altogether. If only for the sake of his master, he hopes for the former.

“Oh my King.” Columba spreads his hands in an arc before him, reaching, stretching, as though closing an invisible divide. “They do not hide their misdeeds from you. But exiling them will only wound our nation further. No. The answer is purification.” At this, Feidhelm raises his gaze to meet the man fighting for his people. Despite his best efforts to conceal it, he is curious.

His face is framed by flaming strands, which stands as the pinnacle of a mountainous build. Hands that have seen rougher days than Feidhelm’s reach out before him, palms to the heavens, the fate of the bardic order exposed for the taking. He waits, his expression one of fervent hope.

“By what means would you purify such a filthy body as the one you so admire?” A resounding cry of agreement fills Feidhelm’s ears. He clenches his jaw.

“Reform.” Silence falls like rain over the entirety of the convention’s attendants. All eyes, royal supporters and bards alike, turn inward to fix upon the peculiar diplomat. “Reform the filid as you see necessary and maintain their status as Ireland’s poets and minstrels. Allow them to carry on our traditions, but in a manner honouring to the crown. In this way, their demands will cease and they will once more be the treasured members of society as they once were. Is this agreeable to my lord the king?”

Dallán’s fingers dig into Feidhelm’s forearm, the force of his master’s nerves tangible in the air between them. “This is our moment, Feidhelm. Oh Lord God, may it be a favourable outcome.” Feidhelm wriggles himself out of the man’s grasp and takes a step forward. He sees what his master cannot, and at this moment, he is grateful for it.

King Hugh’s sword hangs in the air between himself and Columba, awaiting orders. The men at his back follow their commander and draw their weapons from their lairs. Columba is motionless, but his face betrays no anxiety. Feidhelm’s heart beats faster, anticipating, fearing for the next moment.

Dallán’s grip tightens around Feidhelm’s arm. “What is happening, Feidhelm? Tell me.” But he is silent, his eyes fixated on the impending battle. The sword inches nearer to Columba.

“Oh my master, I’m afraid it may be the—” Before Feidhelm can finish speaking, the field erupts into chaos. Shouts for “exile!” and “justice for Ireland!” fill the air, as King Hugh’s men surge forward into the defenseless filid.

Feidhelm rears back, stumbling against Dallán as the men in front of him retreat. Hooking his fingers around his master’s wrist, Feidhelm draws him back, slipping on the damp grass as they flee from their pursuers. Feidhelm chances a glance back; a mess of limbs lay entangled in the grass near to where they had stood moments before. Let it not be Columba, he prays silently. Scanning his surroundings, he searches for the diplomat, but his eyes find nothing.

Dallán tugs at him sharply. “Hurry, Feidhelm! Hurry! But be careful, the ground—” Dallan’s warning is interrupted as Feidhelm tumbles headfirst down the grassy slope and collides with the rock formation at its base.


The world goes black.


The fire dims and night grows ever nearer when Feidhelm begins to stir. Dallán leans over the youth, concern and relief wrapped up in his face.

“Feidhelm? Can you hear me?” He whispers the words at first, but when Feidhelm shows no response, he repeats himself, louder and louder until he is speaking at regular intervals.

Nothing. Feidhelm lays motionless before the blind poet, all metaphor and symbolism offering little comfort in the face of true peril. “Oh God,” he whispers, “revive him.”

Beneath his hand, Feidhelm shudders, a stronger movement than made thus far. Dallán squeezes his shoulder, his prayers ever more fervent for his healing.

“What, what has happened?”

Dallán resists the urge to fall on his friend with thankfulness. “Feidhelm, thank the Lord! Are you well?” Feidhelm shifts slightly, and moves to sit up. Weak, he falls back to the pillow.

“Stay still, my son. You were hurt in the battle.”

“What battle?”

Dallán’s memories of the day’s events are all too vivid, as he searches for the right words.

“Do you remember Columba?”

“Who is Columba?”

Dallán sighs, and tucks the blanket tighter around the patient. “Feidhelm, today you and I, and the other members of the filid gathered with King Hugh and his men to try and preserve our order. They sought to banish us from Ireland.”

“Banish? But why?” Again, Feidhelm attempts to sit up, but Dallán eases him back.

“You must rest, Feidhelm.” He does not argue.

“There was a battle, Feidhelm. And some of our members were killed.” He waits, but there is no response. Feidhelm’s eyes are open and attentive, so he continues. “We thought it was sure banishment. We were retreating, and that’s when you fell. You became unconscious from the fall, Feidhelm, and have been for several hours now. Cathal helped me bring you here. You’re in my home.”

“Thank you.”

“No need. You are like a son to me. It was all I could do.”

“So, are we banished then?” A slow smile creeps across Dallán’s face as he reaches out to set his other hand beside the first on Feidhelm’s shoulder. Seeing his smile, Feidhelm’s eyes light up, expectant.

“No. We are liberated, Feidhelm! God has seen us through this trial, and praise be to Him for his provision.”

Feidhelm’s face breaks out into a boyish grin. As if his strength comes back in the words of this revelation, Feidhelm sits up, removes Dallán’s hands from his shoulders and squeezes them tightly in his own. “Liberated! But how?”

“Columba! He was not among the dead, and Cathal told me later that upon seeing the spilled blood, went boldly up to the king and said: “My king, you are and always be my king. My heart’s desire is to honour you, and to have the filid honour you. Please, show us your mercy! Stop this bloodshed and allow us to repay you for our misdeeds, and to give you the honour you so deserve.” Dallan’s voice grows louder with excitement as he speaks; his words echo off the stone walls of the room.

“The king relented?”

“Yes. You see, it was his second-in-command, Dunstan, that provoked the battle. When the king heard Columba’s plea, he demanded Dunstan to cease the attack. I have heard since that Dunstan has been dismissed from the king’s service. But we are free, Feidhelm. Free! Columba has liberated us.”

They sit quiet for a moment, digesting the drastic turn of events. It is Dallán who breaks their silence.

“While you were, indisposed, I composed a poem I would like to dictate to you. When you are recovered, of course.”

“Another poem, master? What about?”

Dallán intertwines his fingers excitedly as he speaks. “About Columba, my boy. His valour and his courage. His vision to fight for the filid, against all potential dangers, is magnificent. We should seek to follow his footsteps. That vision shall be ours, Feidhelm, to hold, to preserve and to guide us. Columba is a treasure among men, loved by all and blessed by God. How can a man such as he live without a poem to honour him?”

The fire has ceased to glimmer and night has drawn its curtain across the sky. But the light burns bright in Dallán’s eyes, and Feidhelm’s strength begins to return.

Continue reading Follow the Vision, Part Two here.


To celebrate Disability Pride Month in July, I opened the Authors with Disabilities Showcase. This online bookstore began out of a deep desire to shed light on the diverse talent within the disabled community, and support a group of writers that often get marginalized and underrated. In my journey of searching for and adding new titles to the bookstore, I have collected many favourites along the way, and my TBR pile [To be Read] just keeps growing!

Now that 2022 is drawing to a close, I wanted to highlight a few of my favourite reads from the bookstore.
Disclaimer: The links in this post are affiliate links and I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson

There’s no such thing as being late to the party when it comes to a great book! Thunder Dog was published 10 years after the tragedy of 9/11, and I read it more than 10 years later. But we will never forget, and this book is a wonderfully, poignant reminder of that day.

“When one of four hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center’s North Tower on September 11, 2001, Michael Hingson, a district sales manager for a data protection and network security systems company, was sitting down for a meeting. His guide dog, Roselle, was at his feet.

Blind from birth, Michael could hear the sounds of shattering glass, falling debris, and terrified people flooding all around him. But Roselle sat calmly beside him. In that moment, Michael chose to trust Roselle’s judgment and not to panic. They were a team.”

Buy Thunder Dog on Amazon.

How to Lose Everything by Christa Couture

Grief is hard to feel, but even harder to understand. But it helps to hear a fellow human speak openly about their own grief and their journey through it. If nothing else, it can help us feel less alone, which is sometimes, all we need.

“From the amputation of her leg as a cure for bone cancer at a young age to her first child’s single day of life, the heart transplant and subsequent death of her second child, the divorce born of grief and then the thyroidectomy that threatened her career as a professional musician, How to Lose Everything delves into the heart of loss. Couture bears witness to the shift in perspective that comes with loss, and how it can deepen compassion for others, expand understanding, inspire a letting go of little things and plant a deeper feeling for what matters. At the same time, Couture’s writing evokes the joy and lightness that both precede and eventually follow grief, as well as the hope and resilience that grow from connections with others.”

Buy How to Lose Everything on Amazon.

Poster Child by Emily Rapp

Heartbreakingly vivid, raw and relatable, this memoir digs into the emotions we’d rather keep hidden, explores the parts of ourselves that are uncomfortable, and teaches that disability is only one part of who we are–and there’s so much more that defines a person and who they become.

“Emily Rapp was born with a congenital defect that required, at the age of four, that her left foot be amputated. By the time she was eight she’d had dozens of operations, had lost most of her leg, from just above the knee, and had become the smiling, indefatigable “poster child” for the March of Dimes. For years she made appearances at church suppers and rodeos, giving pep talks about how normal and happy she was. All the while she was learning to live with what she later described as “my grievous, irrevocable flaw,” and the paradox that being extraordinary was the only way to be ordinary.”

Buy Poster Child on Amazon.

Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig

I will confess: I haven’t finished this book. Though I’m well on my way, I can only read for about 10 minutes before I have to put it aside for days to digest what Rebekah has written. It touches parts of me that I didn’t know were there, challenges subconscious beliefs I held about myself, and offers, in personal and theoretical terms, a way to understand the world around me and find my place in it.

“Growing up as a paralyzed girl during the 90s and early 2000s, Rebekah Taussig only saw disability depicted as something monstrous (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), inspirational (Helen Keller), or angelic (Forrest Gump). None of this felt right; and as she got older, she longed for more stories that allowed disability to be complex and ordinary, uncomfortable and fine, painful and fulfilling.

Writing about the rhythms and textures of what it means to live in a body that doesn’t fit, Rebekah reflects on everything from the complications of kindness and charity, living both independently and dependently, experiencing intimacy, and how the pervasiveness of ableism in our everyday media directly translates to everyday life.”

Buy Sitting Pretty on Amazon.

Forward, Shakespeare by Jean Little

Jean Little had an uncanny ability to take disability and create something universally relatable in her books. Forward, Shakespeare, and its prequel, Rescue Pup, are no exception. Alongside learning about how guide dogs are trained to guide the blind, you’ll fall in love with Shakespeare and learn about how letting someone love you is the first step in learning to love and accept yourself for who you are.

“Seeing-eye pup, Shakespeare, conquered many fears in Rescue Pup. Now he is back, about to be matched up with a blind boy, ready to begin his working life. Tim is enraged by his blindness and wants nothing to do with a guide dog. But he is no match for Shakespeare.”

Buy Forward, Shakespeare on Amazon.

It’s Not What It Looks Like by Molly Burke

I have been a fan of Molly’s Youtube channel for years now, and her audiobook, It’s Not What It Looks Like, did not disappoint.

Molly and I are both blind, but our experiences and perspectives are sometimes poles apart. Our disabilities have shaped us in different ways, but that’s what makes this such a wonderful read. In her book, I saw myself clearly in her words and depictions of living as a blind woman, but I also learned a new way of perceiving blindness and how we can all appreciate the diversity of disability and a person’s individual journey.

“Close your eyes and get ready to see the world in a new and more positive way. As a child in Toronto, Molly Burke was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa and became completely sightless as a teenager. Now an award-winning YouTube star and global influencer, Molly shares what it’s like to be a purple-haired, pink-obsessed fashion and makeup lover in a seeing world. She speaks with authenticity and candor about how she tackles the preconceived notions we have around blindness; Molly has made it her mission to make us see her – and ourselves- in a wholly empowering way. Learn about her struggles with bullying and anxiety, her quest for inclusivity, how she built a successful influencer business (with more than 1.8 million followers), and what it’s really like to travel with the true star of this audio, her service dog, Gallop.”

Buy It’s Not What It Looks Like on Amazon.

What were your favourite books of 2022? Let me know in the comments!


I’m somewhere between four and six years old–no longer sighted but not quite blind–when I’m bullied for the first time. And though the details are lost to memory, the belittlement and fear has never left my body. And I know it never will.

This is that story, the moment when I first learned that I would not always be safe, protected or valued because I was disabled.

“Who am I?”

“Who am I?”

“Who am I?”

Their voices tumble over each other, the cascade of the same mocking, accusing question thundering like a waterfall in my ears. I close my eyes and try to drown it out, but I can’t.

“Who am I?”

“Who am I?”

I don’t remember how I got here. The grassy slope that inclines up to the soccer field was where I’d been rolling down gleefully–maybe not today, but I know I have before–but now, it’s my prison. I’m on my back, my feet above my head at the top of the slope, and like a sheep amongst wolves, I am in the middle of them.


No way to escape.

Their hands pin me to the field, their taunts unrelenting. I can’t see whose holding me down, my vision is already too blurry to make them out. They’re older kids, anyway. I’m too small to struggle, and I’d never win. But there has to be at least five or six.

“Who am I?” comes the mocking refrain. Over and over, they spit the question and laugh. Let the little blind girl figure it out.

But I don’t.

So I stay put.

I don’t know how I get free. But at some point, I’m released from their grip, able to stand and brush the grass and dirt from my shirt, and go inside. It doesn’t happen again, but it doesn’t have to–I’ll never forget.


I’m so excited to have my dear friend and fellow disability blogger, Anneliese, once more grace my blog with her wonderful, wordly presence. Anneliese is many things–many wonderful, wonderful things–but today, she brings her experience and wisdom as a two-time guide dog handler to the blog, and I’m so happy to share her perspective with you!

This post is part of a blog swap. Anneliese and I are each writing a post about advice we’d give to new guide dog handlers and publishing it on the other’s blog as a way to build community and share different perspectives. You can read my post on her blog and guess what… it’s another list!

Now, onto the post!

Dear future leash holders,

I hope you’re giddy. I could hardly keep my feet on the ground when I got the call. I hope you’re starry-eyed, that you see potential magic in every imagined future. Whether this has been a childhood dream come true, or a joyful consolation for a midlife complication, you’re at a very important threshold over which you won’t step alone. Your two feet will be joined by four paws, and so the journey begins.

It was 2009 when I began this journey, and that’s why I’m writing to you now. I’ve been around a few blocks with a couple of different dogs, and I’d like to share with you some wisdom I’ve tripped over along the way.

I thought about trying to organize this letter into something trendy like “Three Life Hacks for Guide Dog Users.” But I kept coming back to a single foundational principle: knowledge is power.

Scientia est Potentia

You’re going to receive several weeks of formal education. You’ll learn about laws and guidelines, and hear lessons presented as rules and stories meant to teach morals. They’re all very valuable, but they are just the beginning of your canine education. And, to be frank, not much of a beginning. There’s so much more to learn!

Food, grooming, discipline, fears, toys, social skills…you’ll learn about them all, and more. But it will merely be a vocabulary with which to frame more and more nuanced questions as your experiences and needs dictate. You must not stop learning. Not ever.

Your instructors will most likely tell you, quite honestly, that they can’t prepare you for every situation. But I doubt they’ll encourage you to do your own research beyond finding a local vet. They’ve been training dogs and users for a long time, so they think they’re pretty good at what they do.

They are, of course. But what they do isn’t what you do. They train dogs, and train users. You LIVE.

Living is different than teaching.

And so you must learn. You must learn, and keep learning. With every new dog you’ll live differently, and so you must continue to learn. Learn from other users, from blogs and books and podcasts. Learn from instructors and YouTube experts. Learn from your own instincts, and learn from your dog.

Knowledge is power. It’s the power to say “no,” the power to decide for yourself, the power to recover from mistakes and turn them into triumphs.

It takes power to say “no.”

No, others may not interfere with how you work your dog.

No, others may not take up your time and energy simply because you dared to bring a dog out in public.

No, that activity isn’t suitable for a dog guide, even if it is legal.

No, you don’t need to feel guilty for saying “no.” You know why these “no’s” are important, what the cost of ignoring them are, and how to execute them properly.

It takes power to decide.

In a world of hyper-availability we are inundated with advice and choices from every possible channel. Your school may provide you with a set of recommendations for how to find a vet, what food to give your dog, how often to groom, but doggy bodies are as varied as human bodies. Their minds and experiences, your environment and finances, and a hundred other variables all add up to this: what you need might change.

I’ve gone through half a dozen types of food, three vets, and a revolving door of treats and training techniques trying to meet my dogs’ needs. Between allergies, injuries, career and house changes, and the natural progression of a dog’s life, I’ve had to make an endless series of decisions I didn’t expect when my instructors gave me their formula for dog guide success.

I learned from each decision, but each decision required the will to deviate from that formula. I needed to know I was making the right decision. SO I learned, and then I chose. You can, and will, do the same. Your decisions will rest on the foundation of what you know, so build it strong.

Power of the Expert

Power is a hot topic these days. It seems people are obsessed with how much power they have in their personal lives, social lives, professional lives, in politics and finance. They’re even more obsessed with how much power they don’t have, and how much more power other people might have.

Whether your disability has been a life-long companion or a new acquisition, you’re likely very aware of the fact that people who can see seem to wield a great deal more social, economic, political, and personal power than you. This can be frustrating, limiting, and even dangerous at times. It’s probably one of the reasons you decided to ditch your cane in favor of a dog guide. I certainly preferred being “The girl with the German shepherd” to “the skinny white chick with the flimsy cane” walking around my college campus.

Social psychologists who study power have categorized it into several types: reverent (sometimes called referent), assigned, legitimate power, expert power, and so forth. What the instructors and trainers at your dog’s school have is expert power. Those with expert power have specialized knowledge about a particular subject that allows them to solve problems important to others.

But here’s the thing: those instructors got into their field of work because they are passionately dedicated to empowering you. They want to give you power. That’s why they train dogs, and give you lectures and coach you and offer support. And any rule or guideline they provide that seems constricting or less applicable to your particular situation is only given because you have less expertise than them.

The true realization of their dream, empowering blind people, would be for you to take the expertise they poured into you and multiply it so that the problematic guideline can be adapted to your unique lifestyle. Take the vocabulary they give you, enter it into Google and Amazon and Spotify and YouTube and other learning sources. And build your own expert power. These experts you learn from are giving you more than a well-trained dog and some basic education; they’re giving you the tools to learn more.

Recognizing this earlier in my dog-working career would have changed a lot about my dogs’ lifestyle, healthcare, and maybe even longevity. It would have saved me money, given me more networking and career advancement and educational opportunities. But I meekly submitted to the expert power around me, failing to realize its inspirational intent or potential.

I gained expert power out of desperation, but I won’t wait to be desperate again to follow any line of curiosity that comes my way.

Dear doggy-destined friend, remember you are at the beginning. Like a high school or college graduation, graduating with your dog guide is when real education begins.

May tails wag and treats flow freely in your future. May you stride with purpose and pleasure down busy streets and through crowded conferences. May you never walk alone again.

Love from Anneliese and Greta


During one of our weekly phone calls, my dear friend, Anneliese, blindfluencer and blogger from Look On the Dark Side, asked me to write down a list of dreams. As someone who has always classified myself as a big-idea, sky-high dreamer, this caught me off guard; I knew all my dreams… didn’t I?

Nope. Dreams, like people, change and evolve, and things you never thought you’d consider are now at the top of the list. It’s an exercise in self-discovery more than a list of things to check off. And I found that the process was totally and wonderfully unexpected!

Please allow me to share six of my writing dreams with you.

I. A Blog About My Experience with Blindness

Sound familiar? Though I may already be fulfilling this dream, it doesn’t mean my dream is complete.

Not Your Blind Writer began out of a desire to overcome my fear of being known only as a “blind” writer. Now, over a year since my very first post, I’m proud to be a blind writer and to use my experiences, struggles, celebrations and voice to further disability equality, accessibility and bring about a true, heartfelt understanding that disabled people are valuable and important.

II. A Memoir

I’m hesitant about this one as I feel like I haven’t had enough adventure in my life to warrant a memoir; after all, don’t people want to read memoirs about people like Helen Keller, Fanny Crosby, Michael Hingson, or so many other people who have lived and done more noteworthy things than me?

But it’s an idea that won’t go away, and I’ve learned to listen when that happens. So, I will wait and write and see what happens next.

III. A Biblical Fiction Novel

There’s one idea that’s been swirling about my brain for years–at least since I was a preteen–about writing the backstory of a character from the Bible whose story is stubbornly lacking any detail. I began to write my first novel in university, but dropped it when I became overwhelmed by the historical research needed. And while I love research, it became a hang up and my novel was shelved. But not forgotten. And there’s not only one! I’ve got many ideas along this track, but I owe it to my first book and the characters I’ve lived with for over a decade to write their story first.

IV. A Fantasy Novella

When I say fantasy, I’m not talking about an entirely new world like Middle Earth or Narnia, but rather, a story set in what looks like our world and acts like our world, but with a few magical additions–talking animals, for one [of course].

The prologue to one such novella sits ready and waiting on my laptop, and has for years now. But the story it was intended to precede has lost the “thing” that brings it to life. When the time is right, I’ll bring it back–maybe then, the characters and I will be ready to tell the story the way it was meant to be told.

V. An Anthology of Short Stories

I’ve begun in the way any writer does–by writing short story after short story. Three of my stories can be found here, and I have more than enough drafts to keep me busy for a while. And that, my friend, is a great feeling.

VI. A Picture Book About Guide Dogs

I won’t give much away about this one, but needless to say, the guide dog in question is a spunky, go-getter, yellow lab with a brilliant sense of humour and a heart of gold [entirely inspired by my current guide, Saint]. And while he has the job of being a guide dog to a high school girl named Tara, he has another job too, which takes him down many unexpected roads and nose-first into many adventures.

As with every idea that comes into my head, any of these may change. In fact, I’m sure they will. But that’s the wonderful part of being a writer; characters and places that at one time, only existed in my imagination, become alive and breathing and the story tells me where it should go, not the other way around.

Maybe I’ll fulfill these dreams, and maybe some of them will only live on this list. And that’s okay. The important thing is to keep dreaming. And let’s be real: that’s the fun part, anyway!

What are some of your dreams? Tell me in the comments. And no matter what they are or what happens, let’s keep dreaming.


“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar

Like taking a bath, brushing our teeth and drinking water, adopting regular habits that promote a healthy lifestyle not only improves our health–physical, mental, emotional and spiritual–but can also help us maximize our productivity.

With that said, here is another list, and another happy Rhianna. [Okay, I’m always happy when I blog, but you know my thing for lists!] These are my six writing essentials, my must-haves that kick up my motivation, get my writing fingers in gear and make writing a little easier and a lot more caffeinated.

I. BrailleSense U2

My first foray into the world of braille notetakers for the blind was in the fourth grade when I received my first PacMate from Freedom Scientific. With a refreshable, 20-cell braille display, it became home to my earliest writings—stories about my crushes and my journal of the houseboating trip my family took two summers later. In middle school, I upgraded to the BrailleNote Apex from Humanware,similar in that it used a refreshable braille display and was a fully functional unit, but with more advanced features.

And since grade 11, I have used the BrailleSense U2 by Hims Inc., which I have lovingly nicknamed George.

Braille is not merely a method of reading and writing for me; it’s freedom, independence and a love I can’t quite articulate. Reading words with my fingertips shows me a world I can’t touch through audio; it’s tactile, real, and the words come alive for me in a way they can’t do any other way. Whether reading someone else’s words or writing my own, it needs to be in braille. I focus better, I edit better, and I believe that I write better when the words trying to escape my brain have a physical outlet beneath my fingers.

But these devices are far from affordable. Often in the thousands, I find it tragically ironic that assistive technology is often too expensive for the very people its created to serve. That’s why I’ve held onto George for as long as I can, but his time is coming to an end. The BrailleSense U2 is no longer supported by the manufacturer, many of the functions I rely on stopped working a long time ago and mine has developed an eerie rattle. But I can’t buy a new one like I could a new notebook [something I’ve always longed to be able to write in].

This is why I have a GoFundMe campaign to raise financial support to purchase a new computer. You can read about my funraiser for a QBraille XL here and I’d appreciate any support so I don’t ever have to write without my beloved braille computer, George. Because yes, every braille computer has been and always will be called George!

II. My Couch/Bed

I’ve been told time and time again that my two favourite places to write are bad for my back—and it is, awful, in fact. But I can’t escape it. The familiarity, comfort and safety they bring allow my brain to relax and let my imagination and words flow.

My bed and my couch are my two havens of comfort and coziness. I find that I am most productive here, wrapped up in a blanket and surrounded by pillows. It’s the perfect recipe for a happy Rhianna.

I can write in coffee shops, on airplanes and wherever else I happen to be, but by far, these two spots are for me, my words, and of course, my dog [because he has to be comfy too, right?]

III. Music

Not a unique item for a list of writing essentials, but as I am rarely without music as it is, it is even moreso when I’m writing. Whether it’s blasting on my Amazon Echo Dot or in my headphones, there is always music around me.

I have written with almost everything from country tunes to acapella hymns on repeat in the background. One of the key words there is repeat; I do have to listen to songs on repeat or else my mind derails and I get distracted in the story, the rhyme, the instrumentation or whatever else my brain desires to use as an excuse for not writing. With songs on repeat, I don’t have to guess at what’s coming up, and if the song inspired my writing, it’ll continue to do so as long as I play it over and over and over again. Apologies to anyone in advance who ever wants to write with me!

IV. Coffee/Water

Before the last few weeks, this item would have only listed coffee. But I’ve been re-inspired to drink more water, so now coffee has to share the spotlight.

I recently bought this half-gallon water bottle with time markings and I carry it with me everywhere. I make it a habit to drink one bottleful before bedtime, and though I can’t see the time markings, which say things like “almost there” when the line reaches 7 PM, I find it motivating to push me on. Water helps keep me healthy and energized, and besides, I get the bonus of having a water bottle in my favourite colour—green [the pink was a somewhat unfortunate side effect].

But that can’t detract from my love of coffee. Hazelnut creamer is a staple in the fridge, and I know the way to the shops that serve hazelnut lattes like I know my own house. Yes, I love the taste, but coffee is also a comfort drink that brings me back to memories of people I love. And yes, I’m drinking a hazelnut latte as I write this. Would you expect anything else?

V. My Blog

In college, I heard a story about the lecturer’s two daughters; when they were small and on a family hike, the mother tried to motivate them to reach the top, but knew that each daughter was motivated by something different. For one, it was chocolate, and for the other, it was a few dollars. I don’t remember the point beyond the commentary that a person is either externally or internally motivated, but it stuck with me.

Like the two daughters, I am externally motivated. Money and chocolate both work, but another force I’ve found to be incredibly adept at motivating me is my blog.

Seeing my words, alive on the page and being read by others is magnetic, a strong, unrelenting pull that encourages me on when I get discouraged. Hitting “Publish” on a post gives me an adrenaline rush that I can’t quite describe, like the moment my feet lifted off the ground in my Hawaiian vacation paragliding expedition. That feeling alone is worth writing for.

VI. My Why

When I was a kid, I wrote because it was fun. I could make animals talk and do things that I couldn’t do. Later, I wrote because I was told that I had a talent for it, a skill that if I honed, could take me places. And in the awkward years between teenager and emerging adult, I wrote because of the question that niggled at the back of my mind, the one that whispered, “what if you can’t do anything else?” That’s not to say that I didn’t love writing, that I wasn’t head over heels for the craft or the way words on a page could say what I couldn’t out loud.

But it wasn’t until after I started blogging that I began to write for myself. I finally found my why, the “thing” that I wrote for, the pull, the draw, the passion that moved me to get up each and every day and write, even if no one would read it [or even if they might one day]. It’s what I lived for, what I longed to bring to life and what satisfied me in a way not much else has ever done.

I found my why, and without it, there’s no reason to write. That is an essential I never go into a project without, because it’s the only thing that makes the words live and breathe and make them worth writing.

What are your writing essentials? Are you externally or internally motivated to pursue your dreams? What keeps you going? Tell me in the comments.