My Tribute to My Mom, Ann Sims
by Susan Randall
The first thing I want you to know about my mom is that she IS my mom. The second thing is that she is blind. The third thing is she adopted me. In fact, my mom was the first blind person allowed to adopt children in the state of Georgia. The fourth thing is that the second and third things don’t matter.
Her being blind is as natural to us, my brother and me, as natural as anyone else’s mom being sighted. There were times I wish she weren’t blind; we would have gotten away with so much more, since everyone knew us and everyone watched us! No, we couldn’t get away with anything. It didn’t matter on what side of town we lived, and I grew up in Atlanta.
She always had the advantage at hide-and-seek. We didn’t understand that sound traveled; she’d placed bells on our shoes, and that was cheat number one. Cheat number two was when we no longer had the bells. She would just tell dog Paula, her four-legged eyes, to find us. And cheat number three was prayer. I remember one time she couldn’t find me because I had fallen asleep between the bed and the wall. When she couldn’t find me, she sat on my bed praying. I know this because I woke up as she was praying. I crawled up on my bed and got the biggest hug. She always won hide-and-seek.
I remember people telling me how nice it was for my mom to have me there to help her. I would have to look at them and ask what they meant. You see, she was there to help me: she was/ is my mom.
She has never been limited. My mom did everything any other mom does. She read me stories when she tucked me in (and she didn’t have to have the lights on!). I remember her playing basketball, miniature golf, bowling, and other sports with me. She took me on my first roller coaster, the Scream Machine, and we have been riding them ever since together as often as we can. We have camped, canoed, biked, fished, and walked. Boy, did we walk!
She is a thrill-seeker and daredevil. She is up for any challenge. She tackles new technologies that come out and she conquers them. True, her computer doesn’t have a monitor, but why does she need one? I honestly don’t know what my mom can’t do.
I have never viewed my mom different from any other mom. But now as I am older and I reflect, I realize the discrimination my mom faced. I remember as a child, when people realized my mom was blind, they would start talking to me with her there, as if she were no longer a person. I remember my mom having to stand up for herself and letting people know she can speak and think for herself. I look back and see the strength my mom had. She had to prove to the state of Georgia she was capable of being a mom, all because she couldn’t have natural children. She has had to overcome people’s unjustified stereotyping to get them to see her as an able person. She has had to put up with people’s ignorance and unnecessary pity.
My mom is a mom. She has taught me the lessons that all moms teach their kids. But, as I am naturally biased, I believe she has taught me, maybe, a little more.
What my mom has taught me...
- If you have limitations it is because you limit yourself.
- One is not disabled, one is just abled differently and there isn’t anything one can’t do; one just does it differently. And if one is abled differently and can do it then nothing should hold you back.
- A mom isn’t the one who gave birth to you. She is the one who was there through the good, bad, and ugly of your childhood and loved you through it all.
- We are not all created equal; God has given us all different talents and we need to use those talents to the fullest for His Glory. We are all created equal in God’s eyes. We are all sinners that need His gift of salvation.
- Don’t worry about what others think of you; just be the best you you can be.
- Always be up to new adventures and challenges. Never stop learning and working.
- There is always more than one way to accomplish a task. If plan A doesn’t work, move on to plans B, C, D, E, F, etc. Don’t give up. You will be amazed at what you will accomplish.
- Just because someone does a task differently doesn’t make them wrong; it is just different.
- Helping others is its own reward.
- GOD DOESN'T MAKE MISTAKES! It wasn’t a mistake that my mom was born blind and it wasn’t a mistake that I was put up for adoption. Just because I wasn’t born into my family, doesn’t make me less of a family member. I just joined my family differently.
- Being different is normal and what makes us all special.
- Get to know people because or in spite of their differences. They will enrich your life.
Tribute to Ann Sims
by Marj Schneider
Ann Sims passed at her home in Hapeville, Georgia on April 16, 2018. Born on August 31, 1938 in East Point, Georgia, Ann was two years younger than her brother, Otis Stephens. Otis was a past president of the American Council of the Blind and a loved and respected leader in the organization.
Both Ann and Otis attended the Georgia Academy for the Blind, and after graduating in 1955, Ann attended college at the University of Georgia, majoring in music education.
During the 1960s, she was employed at Fort Gillem in the Atlanta area, but when the responsibilities of the job changed, she was retired by the government because of her disability.
Beginning in the early 1980s, Ann worked for Atlanta’s Center for the Visually Impaired, teaching in the areas of Braille, technology and mobility. Ann was a strong advocate of Braille and motivated many of her students to develop Braille reading and writing skills. During her years at CVI, Ann was a role model for her students, showing them how someone who was blind could live a full, rewarding life. She tried several times to retire from CVI, but they always asked her to come back. She would agree to stay on until they found another Braille teacher. She eventually reduced her hours, but still enjoyed working with both youth and adults. After more than three decades, she did finally end her long career at CVI in 2015.
In the mid-1960s, Ann and her first husband began the process to adopt children, completing the application and going through interviews like other prospective adoptive parents, but for Ann there was the obstacle of additional scrutiny. She had to demonstrate how she completed household tasks and how she would be able to take care of any children when home alone. Ann became the first blind mother to adopt in the state of Georgia when Stephen, then only a few weeks old, joined the family in 1966. The state came to their home to check on things, which was normal, but Ann had to demonstrate to her case worker how she completed various tasks to take care of an infant, such as how she changed diapers.
Ann and her husband adopted a second child, Susan, in 1969. Thinking back on it now, Susan says of her mother, “I don’t think Momma minded the scrutiny. She was always confident in her abilities and always loved demonstrating that she was no different from anyone else. She always got a good chuckle at how people were amazed that she could do the most basic of domestic chores. She knew the only way to change people’s perspective or stereotype of the blind was to live her life as a confident, active individual. She loved people and knew that their ignorance was from a simple lack of being educated about the blind. She enjoyed taking the time to educate people.”
Ann’s membership in the Georgia Council of the Blind (GCB) dates back to the 1960s, the early days of the affiliate. She held many leadership positions in the Atlanta chapter and at the state level, the most demanding of which was her capable editorship for many years of the quarterly GCB Digest.
As a five-time graduate of The Seeing Eye, Ann was a founding member of Georgia Guide Dog Users in 2001, where she was a very active member. Ann and her second husband, John M. Sims, were always there at GCB meetings, were always people we could count on in the organization to help out where needed and to share ideas and wisdom.
Reflecting on another aspect of her mother’s life, Susan says of Ann, “Mom loved music and the Lord. She always found a way to use her talents for Him. She would serve in her church as either the pianist or organist. She didn’t join her church for that reason; she would just end up being asked and she didn’t say no. She would play for anyone that needed an accompanist. She would regularly visit nursing homes and play. I want to say music was her passion, but in truth, people were.”
Ann sent out several group emails during her cancer treatment this past year. She had an unwavering faith in God that she would be healed either here on Earth or in heaven. Though Ann has left us, surely she has been healed.