Could you share a little bit about yourself with my readers.
Yes, certainly. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where most people knew each other. I’m the third of four siblings but most people think I’m the youngest because of my size. We’re a close family and on every holiday, traveled to my father’s mother house. It was like going back in time; it was such an old-fashioned town. For fun, I liked to read those Scholastic arrow and hang out at the library. I was so quiet. That’s probably why I surprised everyone by attending an out-of-state college and moving overseas to teach English.
Why did you choose to teach overseas?
A couple of reasons. I graduated with a new major: Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL). Back then, no one had heard of this, at least in Pennsylvania. Besides, I was drawn to missions. I thought teaching overseas would allow me to support myself and work in the mission field. In 1984, I went to a mission conference and found a job where I could do both!
Where did you teach?
In Latin America, the Far East and the Middle East over a twenty-five year period. I taught from pre-school to adult military, at language schools and at a women’s college. I don’t know if I was natural at it, but I loved my students and used to travel within the country I lived and to nearby countries during our school breaks. I was so blessed!
What is Retinitis Pigmentosa and how has it affected your life?
Retinitis Pigmentosa, RP for short is hereditary, although no one in my family or any of my relatives who suffered from it. As far as we knew, I was the only one. It’s different for everyone who has it but some common characteristics are night blindness, a continual narrowing of peripheral vision, which leads to tunnel vision and ultimately, blindness. I’ve been legally blind since 1988. For me, the progression of vision loss has been gradual, so it hasn’t affected me overnight. I lived it with it for years without telling anyone.
In 2006, my vision had deteriorated to the point I was stumbling and people thought I was drunk or on drugs, or something. I had returned to the United States and started noticing other problems connected to my hearing as well, especially over the phone. I still never talked about my RP. That year, I started two new teaching jobs. To maintain my jobs, I knew I had to check into help. That’s when I discovered the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and learned how to use a cane, and received hearing aids. I had 50% hearing loss at that point. My hearing loss is a condition that sometimes accompanies RP, and is marked with progressive hearing loss and ends in deafness.
That is a great question! And one I grapple with often. I’m getting much better when it comes to talking about my vision loss. Sometimes people don’t understand why they see me running without a cane but walking down the street on the same day with one. They don’t understand how I can see my cell phone and read a book but I need a cane to walk across the street. They might even think I’m faking it, especially if I have a good vision day. People often say, “But you’re making eye contact with me. How can you be blind?” It’s so understandable. I didn’t understand either until my vision got worse that there is a continuum of blindness from sighted to totally blind. Many, many people are in that continuum! Sometimes I tell them and sometimes I let them think what they want.
Okay, let’s talk about your book. What is the significance of your title? Is it a play on words?
Yes, it is. It’s all about how important it is to keep living life and being connected to others. I couldn’t do that without help in getting around. So, the book is about coming to terms with terminology like “blindness,” and “vision-impaired,” and using a cane. I share my mobility lessons with my readers so they can feel what it’s like to make the changes, both physically and in mindset I had to make in order to accept using a cane and becoming, ultimately independent. Read more about Amy's book here.
What is the take-away value of your book? What do you want readers to remember?
Really, it doesn’t matter what kind of problem you are struggling with, if you trust God to help you through the difficulties, you’ll get through it. He may not change your situation, but He will change you. Also, we need to have a good sense of humor to get through the mishaps, of which we all face. Those who don’t know much about vision-impairment will learn a lot about it through my experiences, and those who do know about it will be comforted that someone else is going through what they are. It’s dramatic, it’s funny, and it’s fast-paced. I want readers to look at blindness in a new way, without pity, instead, to view it as any other characteristic that a person has but not one that defines.