We truly are a family redefined. We are husband, wife, son, daughter, step children, biological and adopted children and most importantly, Children of God.

A friend pointed out that I needed to update my blog header. After our adoption from Ethiopia, I had updated it stating how the adoption of Sara Joy completed our family. Well... the journey continues. After much prayer, we have decided to follow what we feel is God's calling for us...we went to Ghana with the intention of adopting a four year old girl, Isabella Hope. Little did we know that she would be the catalyst to bringing home not only her, but her half brother and sister. We will now be adding not only Isabella Hope to our family, but also Mary Grace (9) and Gilbert (6) who we will transition to the name Nathaniel Timothy. The shock is wearing off and the JOY and EXCITEMENT are overwhelming. Now truly, our family is complete. The great part of journeying with God, is that it's always an adventure. He knows where we are going, and for us it is all a marvelous surprise. Looking forward to sharing our family adventures as we walk daily through life and as we venture off to Ghana to bring home Mary, Nate and Isabella! It's always an adventure redefining our family!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Soap Box

As you can see by the title of this post, this is my "soap box" post.  I don't get on a soap box very often, but when something gets under my skin, I sometimes just have to say something about it.  If you don't like "soap boxes" you can feel free to stop reading.  Also, if you don't like my opinion on what I am about to say, then feel free to share that in the comments, but please do it politely.  Also, if you have not walked a mile in my shoes (or someone like me) and have a strong opinion, you might want to consider what life might be like from "this" side... at least consider it before you share how my thoughts are wrong.

Anyone who knows me, obviously knows about my eye condition.  I mean, I had to quit working recently, I have not driven a car in almost 12 years (except for a few "joy rides" through the neighborhood - but it's been awhile for those) and I have a Leader Dog.  It's no secret that I'm "blind".  

First, let's start with "blind".  Most people, when they think of blind think of Mary on Little House on the Prairie, or Helen Keller.  Well, to tell you the truth, most blind people are not like either one of them.  I am no exception.  Most "blind" people are not completely blind, unable to see anything.  Most blind people have some residual sight.  Many can see colors and/or shapes, distinguish people from one another... In my case, I have about 20/40 vision in the visual field that I have.  The problem for me is, that my visual field is very small.  I have about 8-10 degrees of vision compared to about 180 degrees for a normal sighted person.  So "blind" doesn't always mean blind!

Because of the fact that I don't drive, I tend to walk places a lot.  I walk anywhere from  8-10 miles a day, and that is just what I walk for exercise.  If I need to go somewhere, and I want to go on my own, and if I can, I will walk there.  Many times my husband will take me, or a friend, but sometimes I just like to go places on my own.  There is a gym that I go to by our home.  It is about 2 1/2 miles from our house.  I can get to the gym on the rail trail behind our home, through a wooded area that ends on a track at the gym.  I go to the gym almost every day, so I'm on this trail frequently.  Many times I am alone.  I sometimes walk the trail with Chara (if I'm going a shorter distance) and many times I'm with my children.  Sometimes Tim will go with me on the weekends, but for the most part, during the summer, I walk alone.  It's too hot here for Chara to walk as far as I want to walk.

The other day a friend was telling me that she heard about some things that had happened on the rail trail recently.  I had not heard anything about it.  I don't know if it's true or not, but if it is, it's pretty bad.  It got me to thinking.  The fact that I walk alone on the trail started to bother me.  I feel as though it is pretty safe, especially because there are always plenty of people on the trail - but still, it made me think.  If something were to happen with me or the children, what would I do?  There was also an event that happened a few weeks ago when I was walking.  I had gone to the gym and took Sara with me.  She goes to the childcare area while I take a class.  On the way home, we got onto the trail and up ahead of us I saw police on 4 wheelers, police cars, police on foot as well as some running dogs.  A gentleman stopped me and told me what was going on.  There was someone that attempted to break into a house in a neighborhood that backs up to the trail.  Someone caught him in the middle of trying to break in and he took off and used the rail trail as a way to escape.  So, we stayed around the police cars until they cleared the area and opened up the trail again.  Again, that made me think.

I've never let my vision impairment interfere or alter my life in any way that was not absolutely necessary.  I defied the directive of the doctors who told me that I should change my career field (Chemistry) only six months after graduating from college.  I didn't listen to them and had 20 years of a successful, responsible career.  I only recently had to leave my job due to the vision loss.  I understand though my limitations and only embrace them when it's appropriate.  For example, I understand my inability to drive.  I don't like it, but I have accepted it.  In fact, I stopped driving about six months before I actually had to - I did not want to jeopardize the life of someone else for a selfish reason like wanting to maintain my ability to drive.  I'm a very responsible person and would never put others in danger. 

I talked to a friend of mine whose husband works in law enforcement.  I asked him if, due to my eye condition, if I would be able to qualify for a concealed weapon permit (CWP).  He talked to some people and told me that no, I could not get a CWP because of my vision loss.  The state finds it too risky to assume liability in the case where I might inadvertently shoot the wrong person because of my vision loss.  

It kind of made me mad.  I have a right to bear arms.  I have a right to be able to defend myself and the state is haphazardly taking that right away.  In order to qualify for a CWP you need a valid driver's license, you need to take a class, pass a written test, pass a field shooting test and have a clear criminal record.  The only issue I have is that I don't have a valid driver's license.  I do however have a valid state issued ID.  

I know some people would think "I think the state is right!  I don't want someone with a visual impairment to have a concealed weapon"!

For those who feel that way, please let me enlighten you.  It wasn't long ago that I was a hunter.  I hunted deer and I was very successful.  I quit several years ago because I no longer felt it was safe for me to be out in the woods with a gun... NOT because I could no longer use a gun, but because in addition to  my vision loss, I also have limited night vision.  Traveling in and out of the woods at dawn and dusk became difficult and I ran the risk of tripping on something, falling and hurting myself.  So, I quit.  When I shot though, I was a GREAT shot.  I know, I know... it was with a rifle and not a pistol, but still, I was a good shot.  I was more accurate and precise than people who were shooting for literally at least a decade longer than I had been.

Also, did you know that competitive shooters often wear blinders when they are shooting?  They do this to eliminate the distraction of the things that are going on around them while they are shooting, so they can focus solely on the target.  Well guess what?  I have built in blinders!  I think I missed my calling as a professional competitive shooter because God gave me the built in blinders.  I think it would give me too much of an unfair advantage though - and I don't think it's a very lucrative job :)

So, here's my point.  If I have a valid state issued ID, I take a class, pass a written test, have a clear criminal record and pass the field shooting test - why is it that I can't have a CWP?  What would be the reason?  I understand, and would even submit to the fact that my vision could change more frequently than an average person's vision, so I would be willing to have to renew my CWP more frequently, but if I can pass, I see no reason to deny me a permit and the right to defend myself and my family.

And with regard to the liability... I wonder how liable the state will feel when something happens to me or my family, and I could not defend us because I was not given the right to carry a weapon outside of my home.  What will the liability for the state be then?  From my perspective, they would be very liable.  I hope I never have to find that out.

Oh, and the person who tries to do something to us on the trail... my guess is that they don't have a permit for the weapon that they are going to pull out and assault us with.  Yet it would be so awful for someone with a vision impairment to have a permit to defend themselves from someone with criminal intent?  I don't think so.

This issue feels to me like discrimination.  People with disabilities should have the same rights as others, unless there is a good reason to deny them their rights.  If giving them their rights would put others in harms way, or deny others their rights, then it shouldn't happen.  Giving me a CWP, assuming I can pass the same acceptance criteria that is used to judge the suitability of every other person that has a permit, would not put anyone in harms way or deny them their rights!  I'm not asking for special treatment - I'm just asking for equal treatment.  If I can pass an equal test, why not give me equal rights.  

I was so bothered by this fact, that as we were sitting at the dinner table one evening, I told Tim that I should file a lawsuit against the state for denying me the opportunity to my right to bear arms.  Cameron chimed in and was horrified - "you are not really going to do that, are you mom".  Ok, probably not - but then I thought, why not?  I don't feel as though the state is acting in a reasonable manner.  If I sit back and just let it happen, things will never change.  I will have accepted something that in my eyes is incredibly wrong.  I feel like it's a bad example for my kids for me to just sit back and accept something that is wrong.  It would take a lot of thinking for me to go the route of challenging the state though.  It isn't out of the realm of possibility though.

Maybe you have a different opinion.  If so, please feel free to share it.  Again though - please just do it politely.  No one can understand blindness until you have lived with it.  There are so many issues associated with it, you could never touch the surface in a simple blog post.  Blindness impacts every area of your life - independence, work, family, freedom - and apparently some of your rights as well.  I understand the necessary restrictions.... it's the unnecessary restrictions that I have a problem with.  I don't give into "limitations" lightly.  I do all that I can do, until the minute I literally CAN'T do it anymore.  There are enough areas of my life where I do not have the right or freedom to do something.  This should NOT be one of them.  

I'm now stepping down from my soap box.  I don't get on the box often, but I feel it's an important enough issue to discuss.

And for anyone on the trail who decides they can mess with me because they now know that I do not have the right to carry a concealed weapon - just for the record, I am allowed to carry a taser, and it's not too comfortable if I use it on you.  Apparently I have the right to disable you for a period of time, but not the right to remove you as a threat to my life or the life of my family.  Also for the record - when Tim is with me, he has the right to carry a weapon.... just sayin'

In Christ,


Julie & Patrick said...

I can't begin to imagine what it feels like to have major parts of one's independence taken away, especially when the reasons for it have nothing to do with negligence, but rather an unfortunate set of circumstances. I once had foot surgery that rendered me unable to drive and do various things for a long period of time and I thought I would go crazy. That said, I do have issue with owning a gun. Hunting is one thing because in many cases it allows one to provide for one's family, but in my opinion, owning a pistol with intentions of shooting another human equates to wanting to kill another human, not just injure them. While you may be an excellent shot, in frantic times that occur in a scuffle, no one's shot could possibly be accurate. For those reasons, for protection purposes, I am much more in favor of pepper spray or some other hand held method of defense. Also, it saddens me that a neighborhood trail that you once thought of as only a means of safe transportation is now cause for concern. I am sorry for that.


Charity Roach said...

It's more than an issue of owning / carrying a gun or not. My intent and my desire would NEVER be to harm someone. However, if put in a situation to defend my life or the life of a family member, I would certainly do so. I have considered pepper spray, etc, but if you are down wind of the person, pepper spray will do you no good and could actually harm you instead of the other person. I actually wanted to use pepper spray when I rode a road bike - to ward off dogs. NOT a great idea when riding a bike! The issue isn't to own a gun or not own a gun. I really think that is a personal decision that in my opinion has nothing to do with the desire to kill someone. My personal desire would be to never have to use a gun. The issue that i heard about on the trail were an issue of rape - if I had to kill someone to stop them from assaulting me in that way, I certainly would. For someone to advance in light of a gun being pulled on them, it means they are certainly there to harm you.

The issue really is the fact that, whether I want a gun or not, I can't have one. I could carry one illegally - which I never would, but I am unable to carry one legally. In my opinion, I have every right to carry one, just like the rest of the US population, if I meet the same acceptance criteria for issuing a hand gun that they do.

I am a strong Christian. EVERY day I walk on that trail, I say a prayer - to protect me and my children (if they are walking with me). If I am alone, I pray for God to keep me safe, and if I'm in harms way, to walk with me - so when someone sees me walking, they do not see me walking alone, but with God by my side. Sounds strange I know, but I believe it can happen.

In an ideal world, I'd never have to carry a gun. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. I have to use the means of transportation that i can, and it means that I often have to do it alone. I LOVE my time walking on the trail, and should not have to walk in fear, because I can't defend myself.

I disagree that owning a pistol with the intention of shooting another human equates to wanting to kill another human. I have no desire to kill someone. It would probably sicken me, even if they had intentions to harm me. It's about protecting myself, not a desire to harm someone else. And actually, this post, is more about my rights being taken away. Everyone has a right to make their own decision as to whether or not it is right (for them) to carry a gun. Apparently I do not have that right. I think it's wrong that I don't have a choice.


Anonymous said...

If you can fulfill the SLED requirement of 20/40 corrected vision within six months via documentation, I see nothing that should hinder you. A DL is not required but a state issued ID is a valid option and is thus stated on the CWP form.