Manat Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage love 1 million names in braille!

Look at this! Rons daughter Monique has helped me add to my 1 million names in braille by asking me to write the names of her colleagues at Manat Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage in braille!

All 30 of them!

She even got a photo!

Your braille cards were a brilliant success. I turned it into a brain game by having everybody take a card and decode the braille name.

Thanks Monique, you rock!

If anyone else wants to do this team building exercise then email me julie

And well do it!


And thanksMonique for sharing the braille story!

And helping fly the braille flag!

1 million braille hugs to you!

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A blind cartoonist – that’s nuts – or is it?

Meet Brent Harpur, a man who did some cane spotting at a workshop in Dunedin recently and as a result came up to say hello to this blind woman. Brent is legally blind and uses the 20% of vision he has in one eye along with his immense drawing skills to create images and caricatures of people. He cartoon busks in the street and we’re now lucky enough to have him in Dunedin!

Brent has been a cartoonist in Australia for several years and has recently done workshops with the Dunedin City Library and has loads more planned! He’s got cartooning in his blood so you can imagine what a thrill it was for Ron to get the chance to interview him on Otago Access Radio’s OARsome morning show yesterday. (here’s the link)

Brent has a Facebook page where he is currently posting 1 cartoon a day or you can email him at cartoonbrent

And of course I had to write Brent’s name in braille so he is now one in a million – in fact 593 out of 1 million!

You sure are one in a million Brent – I’m so pleased you came up and introduced yourself last weekend. I have always said that watching other blind people do the things I think I can’t is what makes me think I can do more than I think I can! Mind you, I can’t draw, not because I am blind, but because I can’t draw! Crikey!

Thanks for being one in a million!

p.s. Brent is the one in the photo without the pink or the grey hair!

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I have the name of my oldest person in braille – so far!

Well I guess when I started writing my 1 million names in braille Pippity Pop was the name of the oldest person I had written in braille, because, she was the first! But, since then, the age has crept up and yesterday it hit 99! Yes, I visited the wonderful rest home of Holmdene, in Balclutha where I spoke to the residents about my why not attitude and in the audience was 99 year old Gladys!

As you can imagine some of the residents live with vision loss and it was wonderful to connect with them.

I wrote 91 of their names in braille, including the staff, but before I went there I visited the Clutha Council where I wrote the name of the mayor Bryan Cadogan, Jean, Barry, Ruth and Richard, (Jean’s cat), along with the Clutha Leader reporter Mary Jo and the ODT reporter Sam! Attached is the article which appeared in the Otago Daily Times on page 10 today!

So, yesterday my total names in braille climbed from 443 to 541!

That’s 541 stars!

“Shoot for the moon,

Even if you miss it,

You’ll land among the stars!”

Les Brown

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The sound of silent snow!

I awoke to the sound of silence! What a magnificent sound that is. “I’m going to open the window” I told Ron.

As I did, I could hear the wind swirling gently, and then the sound of no cars. I don’t even know what time in the middle of the night that was. I do know, when I jumped out of bed finally and said “I’m going on the rooftop to take a photo of the snow” then Ron said “it’s still dark!”


Oh well, I headed up anyway, and because there is no snow without Punch, Ron followed me up. Now, before you think I’m completely nuts, we live in an apartment complex, so the rooftop is completely safe and free from slopes!

I walked out after opening the door, and was hit by a chilly blast, the feel and sound of crunch underneath my feet, and the sound of silence. I followed Ron over to the corner of the rooftop and positioned myself beside him, because he’s always going to get the best shot! So, pointing where I thought might be best , I took my photo on my iPhone and uploaded it to Facebook!

After a hot shower and a Weetbix breakfast, the buzzer at our front door went. “Hello, you must let me in” went the voice. “It’s Louise Bory and it’s mad out here.”

I pushed the button to let Louise in and heard all about her treacherous trip in the car, on her way in the snow to the bank and then the hairdressers. Thinking her hair must be particularly bad to come out in this weather, we offered her a cup of tea and our hospitality.

“Why don’t I write your name in braille” I offered. “I have a dream to write one million names in braille.”

“Oh that would be wonderful Julie”

As I wrote her name, she remembered other family members, in Canada and Tauranga, even a cat called Missy!

Who ever thought that snow and 1 million names in braille would everhave a connection!

Why not!

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Happy birthday Helen Keller – what you really saw at the top of the Empire State building!

Seeing in The New York Times a photograph of Helen Keller in the Observation Tower of the Empire State Building, Dr John Finlay wrote to her asking what she really "saw" from that height? This remarkable (and abridged) letter written by Helen came back and was published in The New York Times in January 1932.

Dear Dr Finlay

, "What Did I Think ‘of the Sight’ When I was on the Top of the Empire State Building?"

Frankly, I was so entranced "seeing" that I did not think about the sight.

If there was a subconscious thought of it, it was in the nature of gratitude to God for having given the blind seeing minds.

As I now recall the view I had from the Empire Tower, I am convinced that, until we have looked into darkness, we cannot know what a divine thing vision is.

Perhaps I beheld a brighter prospect than my companions with two good eyes.

I concede that my guides saw a thousand things that escaped me from the top of the Empire Building, but I am not envious. For imagination creates distances and horizons that reach to the end of the world.

It was a thrilling experience to be whizzed in a "lift" a quarter of a mile heavenward, and to see New York spread out like a marvellous tapestry beneath us.

There was the Hudson — more like the flash of a sword-blade than a noble river. The little island of Manhattan, set like a jewel in its nest of rainbow waters, stared up into my face, and the solar system circled about my head! Why, I thought, the sun and the stars are suburbs of New York, and I never knew it! I had a sort of wild desire to invest in a bit of real estate on one of the planets. All sense of depression and hard times vanished, I felt like being frivolous with the stars.

I see in the Empire Building, passionate skill, arduous and fearless idealism. The tallest building is a victory of imagination. Instead of crouching close to earth like a beast, the spirit of man soars to higher regions, and from this new point of vantage he looks upon the impossible with fortified courage and dreams yet more magnificent enterprises.

What did I "see and hear" from the Empire Tower? As I stood there ‘twixt earth and sky, I saw a romantic structure wrought by human brains and hands that is to the burning eye of the sun a rival luminary. I saw it stand erect and serene in the midst of storm and the tumult of elemental commotion. I heard the hammer of Thor ring when the shaft began to rise upward. I saw the unconquerable steel, the flash of testing flames, the sword-like rivets. I heard the steam drills in pandemonium. I saw countless skilled workers welding together that mighty symmetry. I looked upon the marvel of frail, yet indomitable hands that lifted the tower to its dominating height.

Beneath the surface are poetry, mysticism and inspiration that the Empire Building somehow symbolizes. In that giant shaft I see a groping toward beauty and spiritual vision. I am one of those who see and yet believe.

I hope I have not wearied you with my "screed" about sight and seeing. The length of this letter is a sign of long, long thoughts that bring me happiness. I am, with every good wish for the New Year,

Sincerely yours

Helen Keller

Happy 139th birthday Helen!

Your words inspire me every day!

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Come along to our Imagine 1 million workshop!

When I went blind I may have lost my sight but I got my vision back. To start with all these people were telling me what I couldn’t do now that I couldn’t see. But how did they know? I began to realise they were limiting me by their own lack of imagination and I could choose to be limited by what they thought or unlimited by what I thought! What was it going to be?

First stop was going to the Blind Foundation and meeting other blind people who were clearly not limited by the limited imagination of others, but instead living fruitful, productive and purposeful lives. Second stop coach training where I discovered that coaches loved imaginations and using them as a resource to create the life we want was indeed a great thing. Part of that imagining was creating a vision. Although I didn’t have physical sight, I had an imagination that came with a built in camera that enabled me to create images in my minds eye of what I wanted to create! I call this getting my vision back!

On March 27 this year I celebrated being 20 years blind! I realised that the best thing I had done in my first 20 years as a blind person was to say why not to opportunities that had come my way.

And the best question I had said why not to was “Do you want to learn braille?”

Now that I had been blind for 20 years what could I do with my best why not question. Or, what could I do with braille.

I had printed the braille alphabet on the front of my business cards in 2012 and since then I had started writing people’s names in braille, using a portable braille slate and stylus.

I did this when we travelled overseas as it was a great gift to give our guides.

When I came back from overseas kiwis seemed to love it too so I kept doing it and doing it and doing it.

Since I’ve been blind, I’ve always tried to do what I can and this is something I can do. Then I got imagining and started to think wouldn’t it be great to write 1 million names in braille.

So, on the 27 March 2017, celebrating 20 years as a blind person, I decided to write, on a little piece of paper “write 1 million names in braille”

A week later I get an email in my inbox, completely out of the blue, from a man called Bryan McIntyre who wants to meet up to talk about motivational speaking.

So we did, at Nova on April 6 and began talking about things motivational and things speaking.

I decided, even though I’d just met Bryan, to pluck up the courage to share with him my 1 million names in braille dream. It turns out Bryan had a 1 million dream too. His to get 1 million people to write one thing their grateful for to go in his giant gratitude jar!

Then we got to thinking how cool would it be to inspire others to imagine 1 million too!

So, we are now sharing our 1 million dreams story with you so you can dream your very own 1 million dream too!

Steve Jobs said “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, usually do.” You have the power to decide to change your world at any point, all it takes is a shift in thinking.

Join us for an hour workshop where we discuss our journey to 1 million names, and the importance of thinking big! We believe everyone is capable of achieving incredible things, powerful things, and making real change in the world, and we want you to come along for the ride!

Along with getting your name in braille, and writing 1 thing you are grateful for to go into Bryan’s giant gratitude jar, we’ll explore your 1 million too!

What’s your 1 million?

When:Friday 30 June 7am – 8am

Where: Metro Indoor Sports and Inflatable World, 93 Crawford Street, Dunedin

How much: Free entry with Free tea, free coffee, free hot chocolate and a warm fire!

All you need to bring along is your imagination!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – Kieran’s blindfulllll moment!

At a local Dunedin Coaches Network meeting one Thursday night I was having a conversation about my upcoming trip to visit our 4th wonder of the world in India when the topic of diaries came up.

“I always keep a sensory diary” I explained to the group, “one thing that I smell, hear, taste and touch each day when I am traveling to other countries”

One of the members of the group Chris Le Breton then said “sensory gratitude, I love it!”

“So do I” I replied, “Sensory gratitude.”

Not only was I noticing those events, but by recording them I couldn’t help but be grateful for them too.

Chris then contacted me to ask if I would like to join him as part of a study group reading and working on a book aimed at healing the world called Active Hope.

In the book by Joanna Macy and Dr Chris Johnstone, they describe Gratitude as getting better at spotting what’s already there.

In their book they say more resources have been consumed in the last fifty years than in all preceding human history yet we’re not any happier, and depression has reached epidemic proportions. They claimed if a medication were invented with similar benefits, we’d probably see it described as a new wonder drug.

As part of the homework, we all began writing a gratitude list to each other. But I was already sending a gratitude list in the morning and I found sending another list in the evening repetitive. I wondered how I could do this differently so decided to apply my travel diary concept that Chris referred to as “sensory gratitude” to the process. Instead of writing general things I was grateful for, I would write 10 things I was grateful for smelling, hearing, tasting and touching.

This is what my first list looked like.

1 the smell of freshly cut flowers that Diane put on our hall table!

2 the sound of the voices on X factor last night! Incredible!

3 the taste of the strawberry jam on my toast this morning!

4 the feel of my walking rope that Jo holds one end of and I hold the other

5 the sound of Saturday mornings – I love that noise!

6 the feel of the rain that plopped on us when we were out walking!

7 the warmth and taste of my morning cuppa!

8 the feel of the blankets that keep me warm at night

9 the sound of a barking dog – they are so funny!

10 the sound in people’s voices when they start talking about what they’ve always dreamed of! I love that!

After I sent this first sensory gratitude list, the others in the group responded in kind. First Kieran, then Chris, then finally Robyn.

“The sound of birdsong when waking at Michelle’s”

“The hug with Woosh my horse when i got home”

“The sound of the rain smashing against the panes of the window this morning as I snuggled in bed”

“The kisses I blew at the man aggressively honking me as I cycled back from the pool”

“The crunchiness of the Organic apples from last Saturday’s farmers market”

“The taste of chilli con carne I cooked tonight for tea”

“Listening to the classical orchestral piece "Harold in Italy"

“The smell of the garlic ciabatta as i took it from the cabinet at new world supermarket”

“The smell of mum’s fire in the lounge last night”

“The warmth of the electric blanket when i woke up cold in the night”

“The feeling of sunshine on my face at the breakfast table this morning”

After Kieran had done his first list, he was about to go to sleep when he remembered the best experience of the day wasn’t on the list… Here’s what he wrote in a subsequent email:

“It happened whilst i was riding my bike.

I was coming home on my bike gliding downhill at a fast speed down the gravel road on the mountain. Wind on my bare face (I have shaved off the beard) the smell of pine needles in the air and my bum bumping on the soft bike seat and feeling the bumpy gravel under the tires with my feet on the pedals. All i can hear is the wind rushing past my bike helmet.

On either side of the gravel road is bush and scrub with a forest behind the scrub on the right hand side of the road.
I was literally gliding down the bumpy gravel road leaning low and forward to maintain speed enjoying the sensation of the wind on my face when suddenly 2 Rosella flew out of the bush on the left just in front of me and then they both swerved to straighten up heading in the same direction i was riding in right in front of me 1 chasing the other. The 1 that was chasing was just a few meters in front of me flying straight ahead of me and at the same speed as me so i got to see the stunning green feathers on its wings the bright red and white feathers on its neck and then it was like watching it in slow motion as it fluttered its beautifully green and blue coloured wings for more speed and swerved to keep straight then glided straight as an arrow.
It was an awesome and thrilling experience that seemed to have no timeframe… I was totally engulfed in the moments.
Like never before in my life I felt like i was a bird flying with them and time stood still…
Then suddenly they sharply turned right and flew up high in a pine tree in the forest.
I was close to tears of joy and wonder but too excited to cry!
Now that was an amazing sensory experience. Wind on my face bumpy bum from gravel road bike ride smell of pine needles and then the stunning Rosella arrived.

Bless you all for your gratitude’s which are enriching the way i experience life too.”

Kieran made the comment that to shut off from the visual world was a blessing, not a curse and in doing so it heightened his awareness of his other senses and made him look at the world in a brand new way. A way that wasn’t dominated by sight.

Thanks for seeing the beauty in being blindful Kieran!

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