2022 REFLECTIONS

The events of 2021 set in motion a domino-effect of transitions in my life, and transition is how I’ve come to define 2022.

Becoming a Mrs.

In October of 2021, the love of my life slipped an engagement ring onto my left hand. And six months later, I said “I do.” [So did he!] Before 30 of our close friends and family, we committed our lives together in a ceremony that was uniquely us, full of love and joyful giggles [on my part]. It wasn’t the wedding I’d dreamed about growing up. But it was the perfect wedding for who I have become and the people my husband and I are and hope to be in our marriage.

On The Move

But as wonderful as it was to begin the year becoming a wife in the beautiful, crisp, island sunshine, it also was just the beginning of what felt like constant change and unpredictability.

Six weeks after our wedding, my husband and I moved into our 2-bedroom condo that overlooks the creek. For me, this was the third official move in a year and a half. But it felt like just another one, since for the duration of my husband’s and my year-long relationship, I’d been commuting between our homes, an hour apart. I could feel in my body the unease and the anxiety of everything that comes with learning a new home, city, and routine–I had to learn the routes and teach them to my guide dog, I had to memorize a new layout and learn where we kept everything in the house [and teach my husband not to move everything on me!], and face the most daunting task of all–making friends.

It was a slow process. It took six months to even begin to feel at home here in our house. And I’m still in the midst of it. What used to come naturally takes an extraordinary amount of physical and mental energy. But I’m determined to keep moving forward, and reassuring my brain that this move is permanent, it won’t disappear, and we are safe here. But as with most things: easier said than done.

Alongside our move, my husband and I faced employment and financial challenges. I wrote a mini series on how the British Columbia government handles disability income after marriage, and how it’s designed not to lift people out of poverty, but actually keeps people in it. This weight is intensely heavy, and leaves both my husband and I feeling very devalued and like we are fighting a battle that we are destined to lose.

Just Keep Writing… Just Keep Writing

I celebrated my one-year blogging anniversary in May, and my passion for disability equality and accessibility is still going strong.

In July, I began the Authors with Disabilities Showcase, an online bookstore to highlight the talent of the disabled community. From memoirs to children’s books to stories about guide dogs, I’ve learned so much, not just about different disabilities, but about people. That’s why I began this bookstore–to learn and to grow in my understanding of others’ experiences and perspectives, and I’m excited to share it all with you.

In August, my husband, a former web designer, migrated my website to a new hosting platform. This was a major learning curve, but it also opened the door to many more opportunities to expand my online reach than I had previously. While the blog looks and feels much the same, behind the scenes is a different story, and one that I’m excited to keep exploring.

It was during this migration that I started toying with the idea of what would become the Writely Disabled Newsletter. While the newsletter only lasted four months [September-December], I’m grateful for the experience: While it taught me a bit about web design and marketing, it taught me to take what I perceive as failure and rebrand it. Though not easy, it is a life skill that I’m glad to be learning, and will undoubtedly, have to learn over and over again.

And all throughout, the idea for my memoir/non-fiction book had been building. This fall, I began a concerted effort to begin the journey. I have a long way to go, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come, and I have big dreams for this book and many others. I’m excited for where the events of 2022 will take me in 2023.

Back to Basics

But the most transitional moment of this year has been the re-embracing of my Christian faith. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour as a young child, and while it’s remained a defining feature of my life, it hasn’t always been my driving force.

In growing with my husband and deciding what kind of life we want to build together, I felt a profound, personal return to my faith and a desire to make it my center. I declared that I will not renounce the word Christian even when it makes others assume on my values and standards, but my faith is not about what others might think of me–it’s about God.

However, the decision to embrace my faith more deeply has caused friction in my relationships. I have been and continue to be accused of many things that I have not done and am not as a person, and it hurts. And I know I’ve hurt others, but in the spirit of the faith I’m trying to live out, I am trying to forgive, and hope that they can forgive me. I should have handled these conflicts with more grace and understanding. But I will not deny my faith or ignore its commands. And it’s my goal to continually learn how to stand firm in my faith and still be kind, but I know I’ve failed and will fail again. But I will never stop trying. That, I can promise.


2022 has been a year of transition. While many of these have been welcome and long prayed for changes, they haven’t come without conflict or inner struggle. I’ve cried out to God, felt lonely and lost, and believed I was worthless. The year feels less about marking events on the calendar as it does recalling the emotions and internal struggles I’ve endured. I’ve doubted myself and everything I’ve believed, and it has taken me into some dark places.

But the truth is that these are lies told to me by the Deceiver, and I’m hopeful, that with God’s help [and therapy], I can rid myself of them and start believing God’s truth about who I am.

And that’s my prayer for 2023, that I might not just believe, but truly become, a deeper, more faithful follower of God and embrace what He has for me in my life.

Happy 2023!

MY WRITING ESSENTIALS LIST

“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.

SIX WRITING DREAMS

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.