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Women On The Move: Virginia Maze

It’s Not a Curse

Recent picture of Virginia Maze sitting in a car smiling for the camera wearing Aviator sunglasses.
Recent picture of Virginia Maze

Losing one’s sight is no walk in the park and I think it’s safe to say that no one would argue against that. In fact, many sighted people probably would consider it a curse. I know the younger me certainly thought so.

When I was 13, I was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome. This diagnosis explained my congenital moderate to severe hearing loss, something that was no big deal to me. In fact, I have embraced my deafness as a beautiful gift. A blessing. I enjoy being a part of two unique worlds: the deaf and hearing. I also love being able to turn off my hearing aids to shut out annoying sounds, like the roar of a vacuum, or when I just need some peace and quiet. But the diagnosis also revealed something else. Something that was looming on the horizon: I was slowly going blind.

Blind? How? Why? I could not see any good coming from my impending gradual sight loss. No, this was a curse.

Virginia is straddling the equator in Uganda. She is standing with arms outstretched in an upright circle that has "Equator" in bold lettering at the top of the circle.
Virginia straddling the equator in Uganda.

My vision has now progressed to the point where I am deemed legally blind due to no peripheral vision. And though it has been a difficult adjusting to my ever-changing sight, I no longer view it as a curse. I certainly still experience feelings of disheartenment, anxiety, and a desire for restoration, but through it all, I have been blessed with opportunities and friends that I would have missed out on if I did not have Usher Syndrome. Opportunities like advocating on Capitol Hill on behalf of deafblind individuals nationwide, standing in the Oval Office to meet one of the presidents of the United States, straddling the equator while in attendance at the World Federation of the Deafblind conference in Uganda, and of course the many friends I’ve met all along the way. I can confidently say that I have lived a fulfilled and satisfying life and I plan to continue to live a joy-filled life even when and if my vision completely fades away.

Photo of Virginia at a strawberry picking farm. She is standing in a field of strawberries holding a bucket of the fruit.
Virginia at a strawberry picking farm.

Blindness does not have to be a curse. No struggle or trial has to be viewed as a curse. In fact, it will only a curse if you make it one. The trials we face are real, but it’s important to take a step back and find the blessings among them. They are there, even if they are small.

 

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Women On The Move: Taylor Papadopoulos

My name is Taylor Hosea-Papadopoulos and I am twenty-eight years old. A little under two years ago I was diagnosed with posterior uveitis; this condition is similar to wet macular degeneration.

Posterior uveitis causes inflammation in the back of the eye near the macula; the inflammation causes choroidal neovascularization which ultimately causes vision loss. I have a small amount of vision loss in my right eye due to neovascularization causing scar tissue near my macula. Even though facing posterior uveitis is daunting I remain hopeful that with science, a positive attitude and faith that a cure will be found for myself and for many others living with vision threatening conditions/vision loss.


The initial blow of finding out that I had a sight threatening condition was completely devastating and I found myself in total fear of the future. After finding support through my family, husband, friends and various people who I had met that were experiencing similar struggles I realized that life was not over, it was just beginning.

Although dealing with the loss of vision in my right eye has been less than easy I have not let this hold me back from anything. I have realized that when we are put in certain situations we are stronger than we ever imagined possible.

In any bad experience in life the best thing to do is to try and make the best of it in any way possible and that is what I have done with my eye condition. ~Taylor

Since I was diagnosed two years ago I have gotten married, graduated with my Associate’s Degree and have now moved on to work on my Bachelor’s Degree, seen 9 different countries in Europe, made the Dean’s List every semester in school, worked full-time, been a full-time wife, friend, daughter and sister among other things.

I have really used what is going on with my vision as motivation and drive to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be and to accomplish every goal that I have set my mind on. ~Taylor

My appreciation and zest for life has grown immensely and I wake each morning with relentless gratitude.

In two years, I hope to be graduating from Cal State Dominguez Hills and applying to grad school so that I can obtain my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and begin my career. I cannot wait to be in a field where I will be able to truly help people who are in need.

In a world that has become so hateful, I want to be able to spread love and compassion through sharing my experiences with others. If you are going through a hard time whether it be vision loss or something completely unrelated keep putting one foot in front of the other and I promise it will get easier; positive thoughts breed positive outcomes.

You can follow Taylor on Instagram at @mrspapadopoulos.

 

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Woman On The Move: Maria Johnson

I Got This!

A smiling Maria is showing off her "good hair day" for the camera wearing a black and white v-neck top
Maria Johnson

Each person’s walk through the loss of eyesight is different. Today’s Woman On The Move, Maria Johnson, of Girl Gone Blind, is a powerhouse who you get to personally meet by way of her podcast interview with Thomas Reid of Reid My Mind Radio.

I recently spoke with Maria by phone and was immediately taken with her energy and how much we share in common. We are in the same age bracket, we are parents, and we are passionate about our missions.

“I realized I needed to get my head wrapped around this whole “I’m now blind” thing!” ~Maria Johnson

Maria, who suddenly lost her eyesight to Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) a condition that can cause the optic nerve to atrophy, began to publicly share her journey three months after sight loss. Three and a half years later she’s attained a huge following and is featured weekly on RNIB Connect Radio.

When you have a moment take a listen to the podcast and visit Maria over at Girl Gone Blind. Additionally, you can connect with Maria on social media at:

 

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Women on the Move: Jo Pinto

“The Bright Side of Darkness”

Jo Pinto Receives the 2016 Colorado Independent Publishers Association Award. She is seen here posing for the camera holding her award in both hands with her white cane under her right arm. Jo is looking very stylish in a blue, black & white abstract floral print dress and black boots.
Jo Pinto Receives the 2016 Colorado Independent Publishers Association Award

My name is Jo Elizabeth Pinto. I was born three months too early in 1971 and lost my eyesight to retinopathy of prematurity. I grew up on braille and Talking Books from the National Library Service. Like many blind children, I spent my childhood waiting eagerly for bulky black boxes and square plastic cases to arrive in the mail, holding braille books and 4-track cassettes that brought me familiar voices such as Mitzi Friedlander and Roy Avers. I devoured all the great writers children should discover—Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl, Hans Christian Anderson and Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, John Steinbeck and William Shakespeare.

Jo with her yellow Labrador guide dog Anlyn walking on leaf strewn tree-lined sidewalk with gold, red and orange autumn trees.
Jo with her guide dog Anlyn a yellow Labrador

And I knew I wanted to be an author. From the time I figured out words could be written down in books and enjoyed, again and again, I knew someday I would write. When I was in elementary school, supposedly doing math assignments or studying spelling words, I’d often be busy at my Perkins brailler, pounding out poetry or creating title pages and back cover descriptions for books I dreamed of one-day publishing.

My novel, “The Bright Side of Darkness”, began as a short story assignment for a high school English class. I got an A on the assignment and fell in love with the characters who came to life in my imagination.

Bright Side of Darkness book cover illustrated as a corner room that has a bar covered window and light shining through. There is a silhouette of a person seated with their arms on their knees and head in their hands. In the upper left corner of the book is a bright red bow.
Bright Side of Darkness book cover

I never forgot those characters. In my twenties, in order to learn how to use a word processor, I dragged out that old short story and typed it into my first computer—a DOS machine with 5-inch floppy disks and no Internet. The writing needed a lot of work, but the characters still captivated me. I added to the story, changed and deleted weak parts and moved paragraphs and chapters around. I picked the project up and put it down many times over the next twenty-some years as life happened. I took advice and editing from countless people. I went to writing workshops and joined critique groups to hone my craft, and I never gave up on my dream. In June of 2015, I finally published my book.

Second photo of Jo with Anlyn walking on the leaf strewn tree-lined sidewalk with gold, red and orange autumn trees.
Jo Pinto and Anlyn

As I’ve marketed my novel over the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people, blind and sighted, and to be drawn out of my comfort zone. I’m a natural introvert and a recluse at heart. But introversion and reclusiveness are diametrically opposed to book marketing, so I’ve had my limits stretched in exciting ways as “The Bright Side of Darkness” finds its place in the world.

The novel won two First Place 2016 Next Generation Independent Book Awards, one for First Novel Over 80,000 Words, and one for Inspirational Fiction. It also won several 2016 awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association: First Place for Inspirational Fiction, Second Place for Audiobook Production, and First Place for Literary and Contemporary Fiction.

Besides writing, I work from home as a braille proofreader and hang out with my family, which includes my nine-year-old daughter and her dad, and my guide dog Anlyn.

Author links:

Image Descriptions:

  1. Jo Pinto Receives the 2016 Colorado Independent Publishers Association Award. She is seen here posing for the camera holding her award in both hands with her white cane under her right arm. Jo is looking very stylish in a blue, black & white abstract floral print dress and black boots.
  2. Jo with her yellow Labrador guide dog Anlyn walking on a leaf-strewn tree-lined sidewalk with gold, red and orange autumn trees.
  3. “Bright Side of Darkness” book cover illustrated as a corner room that has a bar covered window and light shining through. There is a silhouette of a person seated with their arms on their knees and head in their hands. In the upper left corner of the book is a bright red bow.
  4. Second photo of Jo and Anlyn walking on the sidewalk in autumn.