Tell us a little about your blog (or business).
Hi, I’m Meg, pleased to meet you.
I have a blog called Blind Mama: Life and Other Catastrophes. It documents my days as a new mum while hopefully dispelling some of the pauper or princess mythology shrouding blindness in all her guises. I try to keep the gloss and glamour to a minimum which is code for there are always typos in my work, and usually an unedited edge to my words. My style is more of a brambly and scrambly type thing, as I literally bumble and fumble through the haziness of it all. I am doing my best to say it how it is, or at least how it is in my mad as a hatter tea party world. Although, between you and me, I would like to swear more but my ToastMasters training has drummed the use of such brilliantly timed bold and brash profanity out of me, at least on the page.
I save such snide and snarky comments for the dickhead driver who accelerates over the zebra crossing as I am about to step out, the self-important wanker who trips over my cane and doesn’t even give me a cursory glance let alone an apology, or the stupid bitch who literally runs into me at full tilt because she is text-walking and not holding up her end of the bargain – that being watching the hell where she is going.
But I love being a mama. As in absolutely am head over heels, sickly syrupy sugary sweet, love love love my new role and blogging is my way of solidifying the experience, or experimenting with it. Although as much as I compose for myself, there is a part of me, which writes in the hopes of creating something entertaining, educational, and empathetic for anyone who is gracious enough to take the time to read it. However as I type, I realise I need to tap into my bigger voice more, because there is so much I want to say but have been afraid to say it in the fear of causing offence.
We also have a start-up company called Taylored Thinking, which is on a mission to revolutionise how people who are blind or vision impaired see themselves. Getting it off the ground is painfully slow, but not for any other reason than I am struggling with the logistical barriers of not being able to see. However, explaining what exactly that entails is a long and arduous story, one of which, if I want my fairy tale ending, I have a feeling I am going to have to swallow my pride, and get some help.
Ouch! Epiphanies hurt.
At heart, I am a writer. And it is through the physical act of putting words to the page, where my thoughts, like wild butterflies, can roam free, and be and do as they please. Ok so well they are not always that pretty or graceful.
Actually, they are often fairly stilted and chunky clunky at times. But not in that cool necklace kind of way.
What do you love most about your blog (or business)?
The Blind Mama blog provides me a sense of place, space, and connectedness. Be it connectedness to others, connectedness to Little, or most importantly connectedness to myself.
I have always run from and avoided my past, thinking it was something, which needed to be feared and kept at arm’s length, but writing is a way of ensuring I stay present in the weaving of this beautiful tapestry of parenting we are creating. I started the blog because I wanted, no needed to document the micro movements, madness, and motion of our lives. My posts are monumental in length, and this is how I like them.
I have always written, but usually for private consumption – Much the way one breathes in oxygen. A modern day Samuel Pepys if you will accept for one tiny detail; that of I am not a naval administrator or a politician. And no, I do not complain about my scullery maids refusing my sexual advances.
I have always journaled on and off, but the difference is, throughout most of my life, at least, up into my late thirties I would write a page then rip a page. Thereby locking the vault with my musings, and bitching inside it forever. So this writing gig is fairly new, at least in my own name.
Sure, I have a thousand or so pictures of our baby girl, and my husband has a thousand more, but I am a storyteller. I love them, I live them, I write them down. I write them in all their delicious glorious dirty detail.
I write them so I can soak them up later. After I have forgotten what it feels like to hold peace in my arms as my baby sleeps or how sad I was the winter afternoon I couldn’t put her in the pram and take her for a walk like I had spent years envisaging. Or how much fun we had flinging sweet potato puree across the kitchen, all the while knowing daddy would good-humouredly clean it up for us later. Or any number of mundane tasks, discoveries, sleep-deprived ideas, and broken pre-parenting promises. There is so much of my life I do not recall, but I want to remember this for her, I owe her that because one day she will ask me. She will ask me what she was like when she was born, what she was like at one-year-old, what was her favourite colour when she was five and so on. So I write as a reminder and I write to respect her curious nature, but most of all I write because I love it.
My secret hope is that she will want to read it when she is older, perhaps when she has her own daughter, my aim is to provide her an insight into the intricacies and nuances of my universe.
I am absolutely blown away that other people take the time to read it, let alone comment and engage with my writing.The feedback I receive is beautiful, amazing, humbling, surprising, and heart-warming.
Thank you to everyone who is a part of my village.
But what I love about the business, or, at least, the concept, is the potential it has to change lives. I mean really change lives. And what is not to love about that?
I have always liked to stir the pot, so what better way to accomplish that on a grand scale than by turning an industry on its head. Personally, I do not believe people with disabilities, particularly those who are blind or vision impaired should be dictated to regarding what colour their mobility aid ought to be. Tradition and histrionics are one thing, but they are no longer enough. And the fact this is legislated in certain parts of the world is ridiculous to me. We are already limited enough in what we can and cannot do, but this?
The truth of the matter is blindness sucks ass. But not all the time, and not in the ways you might think. Our basic premise is to create products, which encourage confidence, independents, empowerment, and, of course, a little bit of fashion and funk thrown in for good measure all the while providing a service, which is welcoming, fun, and easy to use. We want to create a happy streamline positive experience for everyone, something, which makes people feel special, and important, and as though they matter. Obviously, because they do. But without the sneaky subtext of belittlement or the slow stench of patronisation that often deserves as an all too familiar accompaniment to such intentions.
So often people with disabilities are left out, overlooked, undervalued, or seen as an inconvenient afterthought, particularly in the digital space. Sure it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time, but we could be doing more to create a more inclusive and flexible cyber environment.I do not even know how to explain how degrading it is to be considered a non-issue, and by non-issue, of course, I mean non-existent, which you think would be worse than not important enough, but they both suck equally when a web developer or app designer is building a product.
People have the right to source what they need or want in a positive, dignified and empowering way be it the smallest of things such as a social media interaction, a government service, a bottle of milk, or the best hairdresser ever! Or in my case a decent cup of coffee with a smokin’ hot barista who makes small talk with his adorable Italian accent while I wait.
I do not believe people should have to skulk off to a disability organisation, or spend hours trolling through an arduously set up independent living website in order to find what they need. Yep, that is what they are called. How much more demeaning can you get? If anything we want to create a boutique high-end experience for our clients, where they can have a good time, and feel great about what they are purchasing, and more importantly, why they are purchasing it in the first place.
Maya Angelou said it best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, forget what you did but they’ll never forget how you made them feel”.
By this, I mean, for example, although our crazy canes are the simplest of concepts, they can be the difference between someone feeling strong enough, confident enough, dignified enough, fabulous enough, or anything else enough about themselves and the unavoidable fact they have to use a mobility aid to navigate the built environment. And they’re possibly staying home feeling ashamed, isolated, and trapped by their disability, and all that it implies.
And while our other products are different, they each have the potential to create a greater sense of self-worth and assuredness for everyone who engages with them. People deserve choices, and this is what we aim to provide. Be it something as simple as being able to choose a cane to match your shoes, the way you would choose an accessory, read a simple tactile sign such as those found in lifts or amenities in order to maintain your dignity and sense of independence. Or safely go for a run with a friend with the minimal of fuss or restriction of movement, the way you used to, or the way you’ve always wanted.
Funnily enough, what I love the most about what we are aiming to achieve, has been the easiest project to get off the ground, that being our Run the World Campaign. For every Running Rope we sell, we send one to someone in need in Papua New Guinea as a matter of course.
We want to help people find hope and empowerment in the unexpected be it walking down the street, getting an education, or just totally kicking it the way one does, no matter where they are in the world.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned?
The hardest lesson I have learned, or am still learning is how to be myself. Sounds simple enough, right? But it is not. Being oneself is not easy. Well, it is easy when you get there, but good God finding what that means and is, while simultaneously navigating the unrelenting barrage of society’s judgements, assumptions, pressures, double standards, and contradictive craziness is difficult.
So often, I feel compelled to be the politically correct blind woman. Set a good example, be dignified when the situation is clearly anything but, understand and make allowances for ignorance, rudeness, and disrespect, Always be courteous, ignore the derogatory comments, put up with people’s condescension, try not to take up space or get in anyone’s way, don’t be too loud or too buoyant, fit in with other people’s agendas, be grateful for any opportunity which comes my way no matter how tokenistic, pathetic, or puny, deal with the many levels of exclusion without complaint, don’t be too capable because it makes others uncomfortable, and so on and so forth.
For years, I wore black in a bid to be invisible and stay under the radar. I didn’t want people looking at me any more than they already did. My blindness and other people’s reactions to it made me feel like a circus freak. Black was my safe colour, too bad my cane couldn’t have been the same.In fact, until my mum procured me a black one over the internet a couple of years ago, I refused to use it all together. I hated that thing. I hated what it meant, what it did, what it didn’t do, and what it said about me. Don’t get me wrong, there are days I still possess a healthy hate for it, but, at least, it looks good, and that softens the blow.
Right now, I am loving the leopard print. And those pink and white spots, red and white dots, the silver sheen, the Parisian cream…Oh, so many gorgeous colours and patterns to choose from.
By the way, I have at least fifty pairs of shoes, so you know where this is going, right? I have fifteen different canes so far. All different lengths and styles, for different purposes. Which is exactly how it should be. I mean, you would not wear your tennis shoes to a black tie event, so why should I be effectively expected to do so?
For a long long very long time I was the girl who nodded, smiled, and was very agreeable to everything. Turning myself inside out and upside down to fit in. Anything to fit in. Oh, God, it was horrible.
And although it may have seemingly worked on the outside, I was deeply unhappy. These days I am far sassier. And I am having so much more fun with my life. I apologise less, speak up more, wear brighter colours, take more chances, and own my disability – most of the time.
Do you believe women can have it all? Why or why not?
Having it all is a dagger cloaked in fairy floss. I mean, what does that even mean? “Having it all!”
If you mean can we live up to the contradictory hypercritical have our cake and simultaneously eat it too expectations assumptions judgements and ideals of society? Then no. I think a girl needs to define what “all” is for herself, and then maybe she can work toward it. It sounds simple enough, but when we examine these things more thoroughly it is amazing how many inner conflicts and value distortions we hold. And by we I mean me of course.
The trick is knowing how to untangle them, and then being able to let go of that which no longer serves us. At the moment, I am finding this really difficult, because, on the one hand, I want to be home with our daughter, but on the other, I have to keep a roof over our heads. The question is what am I willing to do?
If I don’t work, we don’t eat. If I do work, I miss the gorgeous fleeting moments of baby girl’s infanthood. For example, yesterday while I was away doing my job, she learned to crawl.
For the record, I haven’t figured out what my “all” is yet. But it does involve pretty shoes, good wine, and plenty of silliness.
Top time-management tip?
Given how long it has taken me to get this interview back to Eva, I am the last person who should be giving time management tips.I am one of the most disorganised, procrastination savvy, multi-tasking, chaotic people I know.
When I am overwhelmed, nothing gets done. And I mean nothing. I am not sure if there is a word, which means something bigger than overwhelmed, but if there is, I have been drowning under it lately. My day flows better if I am able to have an hour to myself first thing in the morning to either write, do yoga, or indulge in some guilt-free literary essay reading with a cup of tea – Preferably all of the above. It is almost as though if I can capture the time to clear my mind, and stretch my body, I am able to handle everything else with more graciousness, greater clarity, and perspective. Not to mention it is completely kick ass for my creativity.
I am a person who needs structure, and at the moment, my life is seriously lacking in that area. Over the years, I have found if I am on top of the housework, on top of the cooking, and my desk is clean, then I am so much more together. I mean it only takes two minutes to make the bed, but boy oh boy do I feel good each time I walk into the bedroom for the rest of the day and see it neat and tidy. However, the number of times I step over the washing basket instead of putting it away is ridiculous.
I mean it would only take five or so minutes to put it away, as opposed to the gazillion or so minutes I spend thinking about how I should do it, promising to get to it later, and feeling guilty about not doing it all together.
So I guess in terms of managing my moments, it is about getting those little things done which drain my energy and sap my will to live done first. Because as much as I am a bigger picture kind of girl, I also need the menial details taken care of in the here and now.
Somehow knowing the dishwasher is empty before I sit down at my computer makes everything better.
One of the almost counterintuitive strategies I have discovered, or rather rediscovered of late, is that if I spend my time reading a novel on the train instead of trawling social media I feel much more energised and accomplished by the time my commute is over than I otherwise do when I give into the modern day Minotaur.
What makes you happy?
Oh gosh, there are so many things, which bring me joy.
Chocolate definitely makes me happy. Along with good company, sunny afternoons, a crisp sauvignon blanc, time to write, swimming in a warm ocean, the sound of my daughter gurgling and cooing to herself, the sound of my husband gurgling and cooing to our daughter, fabulous shoes, clothes, hats, and bags, a good book, somebody else following their dreams, knowing I have contributed to making a difference in the world, conversations with my girlfriends, when my pastry works out perfectly, the smell of night jasmine, and especially having a healthy growing bank balance.
If I were prime minister of Australia for a day, I’d…
I have never been very good at this game. Ummm, take away all parliamentary perks, pensions, superannuation, and redistribute those funds back into the infrastructure of the country? And that is just before my morning coffee.
Describe yourself in five words.
Intuitive, clever, determined, able, and funny.
I actually had to ask my husband about this one, because I got stuck. So I confess to these being his words. Apart from that last one, because he said sexy, but I thought funny was more fitting for the context.
Well that, and I’m just not feeling the sexy at the moment.
Fave app: ANZ GoMoney.
Last person/page I followed on social media: Em Rusciano
Three things in my bag I can’t live without: Mobile phone, credit card, and bottle of water.
Last book I read: Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin
Quote I love: “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast” – Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland