I met Amy Bovaird in my writer’s critique group. At the time, she was working on a ghostwriting project, and really learning the craft of writing. But this isn’t all she’s had to learn in her life traveling the world. An illness diagnosed at the age of 28 cut short the overseas teaching life she loved, and she’s now written a book to help others overcome the hurdles and follow her path to independence. MOBILITY MATTERS–STEPPING OUT IN FAITH. The book is available through Amazon.com and other online venues and can be ordered at your local indie bookstore!
1. Welcome, Amy! Tell my readers a bit about you.
I’ve always loved to write, travel, study foreign languages and share my faith. Teaching was the key to doing all that. Teaching overseas gave me the opportunity to experience all that on the mission field. I had a great life until my vision stopped cooperating.
2. How’s that?
For as long as I can remember, I had poor vision. I just thought I was clumsy. In 1988, after an eye examination, the doctor noticed something and sent me to a specialist. There, I was diagnosed with an incurable eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa, RP for short. Although it’s hereditary, no one in my family or any of my relatives has it. I’m like the Lone Ranger! It differs with everyone but some common characteristics are night blindness, a continual narrowing of peripheral vision, which leads to tunnel vision and ultimately, near complete blindness.
My vision loss was gradual. I lived it with it for years without telling anyone. People just thought, like I used to, that I was air-headed and clumsy when I ran into things and I let them think that. Aside from those minor inconveniences, I lived my life like anyone else. I naively thought perhaps I had lucked out with a “minor strain” of RP and it wouldn’t affect me like it did the others. Then it stopped cooperating!
3. At what point did your situation change?
The short answer to that question is a number of problems converged in 2009 and I realized that this was no minor strain of RP and, in fact, now I had hearing loss as well. This is where the book begins. Funny, when we realize we can’t do anything else on our own, that’s when we turn things over to God to intervene. He sent me a situation where I would have to seek help. Eventually, I discovered the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. Through their intervention, I regained confidence and move forward. That shift is what Mobility Matters is all about.
4. Okay, let’s talk about your book. What is the significance of your title? Is it a play on words?
Yes, it plays on the concept that mobility is important, and also focuses on my mobility lessons—thus, the double meaning. Mobility Matters is 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. The book chronicles my journey in accepting myself with my imperfections and in becoming comfortable with words like “blindness,” “vision-impaired,” and “cane.”
5. Exactly how mobile are you now with your cane? Can you get everywhere you need to with it?
I’m as mobile as I need to be at this point. I can get around well on foot. That doesn’t include the occasional truck trying to back over me!
6. Familiar places are probably easier to navigate? What about places where you’ve never been before?
I can travel on public transport like planes and trains without too much difficulty. It’s always a little strange because that’s when people assume I can’t see anything and want to do everything for me! It robbed me of my pride and made me feel more helpless than I really was. I’ve now taken control of that situation and let them know what I need.
7. How do you let people who see you with your cane know that you are not 100% blind? Or do you just let them assume that you can’t see anything?
That is a great question! And one I grapple with often. In fact, blindness is a continuum. It’s not like a meter with “Sighted” being one setting and “Blindness” the other. There is a range of vision loss in between! 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?” Depending on the situation, I may take the time to explain.
8. What is the take-away value of your book? What do you want readers to remember?
It doesn’t matter what kind of problem an individual struggles with. With God’s help, it can be overcome. He may not change the situation, but He will change the person. Also, it’s vital to have a good sense of humor to get through the mishaps 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 the same thing. 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 a person.
But Amy’s not going through this period alone. She’s got a partner, her dog Buddy, as seen in this excerpt from the book:
In this scene, I’m preparing to meet Bob, my mobility instructor for the first time and Buddy has been displaced against his will from his bed (my love-seat). When I leave the room, Buddy takes matters into his own hands–I mean “paws.”
Standing back, I gave my apartment a final walk-through. With my toe, I straightened a small throw carpet between the living room and kitchen. A stray dish towel cluttered the counter. That needed to go in the wash. The cupboard door under my sink hung askew. I scrounged in a drawer for a screwdriver to tighten it.
In the living room, I smoothed the bare cushion of my love-seat. The throw covering never came off unless it was washday or company visited because it served as Buddy’s bed. At least the cushions didn’t appear to have any dog hair.
“Stay down,” I ordered when Buddy looked longingly at his bed.
He knew that tone. But ever hopeful for a change of heart, his tail thumped against the floor. Seeing me leave, his tail slowed down and stopped all together. He looked pitiful stretched out on the hard floor.
***************Bob and I enter the apartment and I invite him to sit down**************
“Now, you’ll find a large tan love-seat.” Why on earth did I mention the color? He can’t see the color. Rub it in, Amy. This guiding stuff sure wasn’t easy. “You can have a seat there.” Just as Bob lowered himself onto the cushion, I caught a glimpse of Buddy’s tail. “Oh, uh, that’s uh, my, my….”
Oh my gosh, he just sat on my dog!
Bob jumped up. “Seems to be something….”
“Yeah, that’s Buddy.” I gulped. “My dog.” I glared at him. Bad boy!
I reached for his collar to lead him down. “Buddy, c’mon.” The dog made himself heavy and stayed put. He wouldn’t budge.
This calls for drastic measures. A treat might do the trick. I dashed into the kitchen to get a dog biscuit and tossed it onto the floor. Buddy eyed the treat and decided on the trade-off.
He jumped off the loveseat to retrieve it. I brushed any stray hairs off the cushion. “Okay, Buddy’s off the sofa. Now you can sit down.”
Bob took his seat and reached out a friendly hand in front of him. How did Bob know where Buddy was?
“What did you call this fella’?” Bob asked.
With a toothy smile at me, Buddy leaned forward for a head rub.
Gotta love the fur-babies. 🙂
Amy’s book officially launches this week! Buy it on Amazon.com in ebook or paperback. If you’re in Erie this weekend, she’ll be signing books at Erie Church of Christ Foyer
2317 West Grandview Blvd Sunday October 12 from 12:30-2:30. Meet this lovely woman in person, and see why she’ll inspire so many others with her positive attitude and faith.