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Kel Smith | Blind Beauty 60

Blind Beauty 60 Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Kel Smith | Blind Beauty 60

“Losing your vision is like using the Yellow Pages, you just have to let your fingers do the walking”

~Kel Smith
Kel Smith image description is in the body of the post
#1

I once had 20/20 vision but began to lose it from too much pressure on my brain and optic nerves. The condition that occurred around 2007- 2008 was Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension which caused scarring on my optic nerves. During this time, I was working as a graphic designer and had no idea what to do.

A graphic designer’s main asset is vision and mine was failing. So, there were several years where I didn’t know how to cope with my newfound “disability.” It subsequently caused me to go into a great depression.

Eventually, I learned to use my hands and fingers to get by. I began to try crocheting and cooking again which I loved to do before my vision began to fail. What amazed me was how quickly my fingers knew what to do even though I had a hard time seeing the stitches.

My crocheting was BETTER than it was when I could see because my fingers were now able to keep perfect tension on the yarn! Now I create lovely crocheted blankets and beautiful fashion wraps with perfectly even stitching. Cooking was a bit more of a challenge but after burning myself a million times I got better. Now I move around my kitchen like I have perfect sight.

Collage of Kel Smith image description is in the body of the post
#2

Setbacks, Surgeries & Seeing A Way Forward

Kel Smith image description is in the body of the post
#3

In 2012 I had a series of failed surgeries that left me unable to do anything for the entire year. After 5 lumboperitoneal (LP) shunts that had to be revised or replaced I eventually got a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt. The VP shunt didn’t fail but I was still terribly depressed.

To handle my depression, I began making YouTube videos showing what it’s like to see through the eyes of someone with 20/400 vision. At the same time, I started taking online classes at Colorado Technical University. I did so well in school they wrote an article about me for their website to inspire others to get an education. Both outlets helped me deal with what was happening in my head. These activities, made me feel I wasn’t doomed to spend the rest of my life in the dark feeling bad for myself.

I eventually graduated with an Associate Degree in Business Administration and went back to earn a Bachelor’s in Digital Marketing. My education helped me to grow my Instagram account and I landed a job as an account manager in Denver, CO with a merchandising company. Working made my depression much better as I had previously felt I may never be able to work again. I excelled in this position and managed to juggle about 1000 accounts during my 2 years in this fast-paced position.

#4

Creativity Spawns A Positive Mindset

My YouTube channel is my source of fun because I love to be able to create and edit my own videos. The fact that I can edit my own videos despite my vision issues is a great source of personal pride. Not only does it make me feel better it helps to educate others on what it’s like to live seeing through my eyes. I haven’t been making as many videos as I’d like because life is so busy, but I have plans for my channel coming soon. You can check out my Through My Eyes series on my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/ksmith228

I also began writing music again and have completed several albums. One of my songs, Evangeline, has earned an honorable mention and stellar review from Music City SongStar. Creating and learning are my main passions and I wouldn’t have made it through the dark days without them.

I am currently taking time to focus on my creative endeavors and am the brand ambassador for 2 separate eyewear companies. Protecting your eyes from the sun is imperative and I wanted to make sure I represented companies that are attainable for all.

I represent Nora NYC which is a higher end sunglass brand that has very fashion-forward styles. I also represent Piranha Eyewear which is an affordable sunglass brand that offers classic and fashion-forward styles to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. You can find out more on these brands from my Instagram account @kelsonearth.

Blind Beauty 60 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Kel Smith is on the cover in black and white. The word that comes to mind when one looks at the dark-haired beauty is sultry. In her photos, she always manages to pull off a glamorous vibe like Hedy Lamar or Marlene Dietrich.

Blocks of text superimposed on Kel’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”

Additional Images:

  1. In this closeup of Kel’s face, her eyes are closed and her head is angled towards her shoulder. Her eyebrows are beautifully arched and she has flawless winged eyeliner paired with a light shade of lip color.
  2. A collage of four different poses in which Kel is wearing a black & white striped v-neck top. She’s paired the top with a black & white houndstooth tam. Dark red lip color looks great against her red fingernails.
  3. Kel looks so stylish as she stands in front of a red brick wall with one foot propped against it. She’s wearing a green fedora, chunky cream sweater, dark pants, and taupe suede boots. Aviator sunglasses complete her fabulous look.
  4. Kel’s face is slightly tilted to the right and her straight brown shoulder-length hair frames her face. Her arched eyebrows open up her face to show off her beautiful green eyes. She’s wearing a gray top with her left shoulder slightly exposed.

Connecting With Kel Smith:

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World Sight Day | A Road Well-Traveled

World Sight Day | A Road Well-Traveled featured image description is in the body of the post.

This road is where I had the most magical, moving epiphany of my life. 
You see, I had just been declared legally blind, turned in my license and quit work. Yeah, it was what you’d call a Shit-tastophe. But my legs still worked, so they were my transportation and I’d walk this road every day.

~Jennifer Dutrow

Today is World Sight Day and what better time to share this lovely piece written by my friend Jennifer Dutrow? What I love about this post is how Jen clearly demonstrates the power of choice and helping others, no matter our circumstances. Enjoy! 

World Sight Day | A Road Well-Traveled

I took this picture (featured image) in 2015, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not still brought to tears by it. This road is right behind my house. A country road for sure, since there are no lines. A road traveled often by horse and buggy people.

This road is where I had the most magical, moving epiphany of my life. 
You see, I had just been declared legally blind, turned in my license and quit work. Yeah, it was what you’d call a Shit-tastophe. But my legs still worked, so they were my transportation and I’d walk this road every day. 

Consider the road my state of mind at that point in time. The green field on the left was the life I had grown…work, family, success, purpose. The barren field on the right was what I thought my future would be without sight. Unless…unless. 

Unless I realized that life doesn’t end when my sight does. Unless I realized that my life is whatever I make it. It was on this road, on that day in 2015, that I decided to make that barren field green by staying active, learning all I could about fitness and nutrition, and making it my mission to help anyone I could to make their lives as incredible as possible.

World Sight Day Featured Image Description

As Jen described, the photo is an empty country road with lush green grass on one side and a barren field on the other. In the background are rolling tree-laden hills and the cloudless sky is a picture-perfect azure blue.

Connecting With Jennifer:

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Trading Car Keys For A White Cane

Trading Car Keys Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Thought of you today when meeting with an independent living specialist. I told her of your post when you finally grabbed “the cane” 🙂 She gave me some raised dot stickers to put on the kitchen appliances so I know which button is which. As much as I hated to admit it, I needed some help. Please know you are so inspiring and your insights and humor are appreciated. 

~Melissa Welch

Trading Car Keys For A White Cane

Image description is in the body of the post
Stephanae’s Mirror Selfie

October marks 10 years since I gave up my driving privileges. My last day of driving began like most days as I went through the ritual of preparing for work.

With laptop, handbag, and car keys in hand, I headed out the door to my sexy silver Jeep. Not an impulsive person by nature, I bought this SUV when I began having vision problems with my good eye. The Jeep purchase was one of the best impulsive decisions I ever made with no regrets. Heck, I even had a silver trench coat to match―no one could tell me nothin’ when I was behind the wheel.

On that crisp fall morning, I got in the Jeep, put down my belongings, slipped on my shades, started it up, and with music blaring pulled off. I swung by to pick up my colleague, best friend and carpooling buddy. Midway to the office, I matter of factly said to her: “I can’t drive anymore.” There were no theatrics, tears, or tantrums, it was time.

The Numbers Were In My Favor

When I look back at how my blindness evolved I can honestly say I knew. Even when the doctors were so sure I’d never end up where I am today, I knew. I remember bluntly asking each of them if I would go blind the answer was always “no you won’t Ms. McCoy.” 

Nothing that happened to me was supposed to happen, or at least that’s what the doctors said. When my first macular hole was diagnosed I was told there was a 95 to 99 percent chance my sight would be restored. Odds of it happening in the other eye was also very low. 

What kills me to this day is up to the point of that first macular hole I had the best vision of my life. Sure, I was using readers but my distance vision was corrected to 20/15. When I wore contact lenses my sight was so good I felt like I could see through things. Maybe it was a sign of things to come? 

Fear Of Blindness Blocks Progress & Independence

During the height of my sight loss, I was seeing no less than two or three eye doctors monthly for several months. A snowball effect of related and unrelated issues began cropping up. Cataracts, a torn retina, glaucoma, uveitis, not to mention how bizarre my vision was. With blank spots in my vision, people’s faces were disfigured to me and everything was distorted. 

Still, my retina specialist maintained his stance that he could “fix” me. After four years of back and forth, I’d had enough and went back to Cleveland Clinic. It was at this last appointment I found out I was legally blind and no more could be done for me medically.

My acceptance of being a blind person didn’t happen overnight and on many days I was a miserable mess. I think my doctor’s fear of blindness hindered me from a smoother transition i.e. low vision rehabilitation. He was opposed to me learning how to use the white cane and I allowed him to project his fear onto me. 

Blindness Isn’t Always Obvious

Trading Car Keys for A White Cane Image description is in the body of the post.
White Canes

When it comes to blindness we’ve been so conditioned to believe that people who are blind have no sight whatsoever. The societal expectation is that we all wear dark sunglasses and have vacant stares. For many of us who were born with sight, once we lose it some of us can still do things like making eye contact. It should be noted while we ‘appear’ to make eye contact, many of us can’t see faces or facial expressions.

Since my remaining sight is next to none, I need to use a white cane to navigate the world safely. I read books by listening to them, magnification and screen readers allow me to use my cell phone and computer. Thanks to technological advances there are always workarounds and adaptations to allow us to sustain our independence.

When I began Bold Blind Beauty it was to bring awareness to blindness in the hopes of changing perceptions. So many people who cannot see won’t disclose it because of shame or fear and this needs to change. Eyesight without a doubt is so precious, yet it shouldn’t be the determining factor in who we are as people. Blindness is another way of seeing.

The opening quote to this post was written by one of my followers and it is a reminder of why I do what I do. Some may think trading car keys for a white cane isn’t a fair trade but when independence is on the line I beg to differ. 

The turning point for me was understanding I had a choice in how to move forward in life. I could give up or give in and embrace my blindness. Today, I accept being a blind person, and wouldn’t want to trade places with the person I was for anything.

Trading Car Keys Featured Image Description:

Photo is an image of a black key fob with a car keys and two other keys.

Stephanae’s Mirror Selfie

In this photo, I’m wearing a black “Ready To Conquer” Tee-shirt. Fashion icon Abby is to the left of a checklist “Handbag, Heels, White Cane.” Directly under her and the checklist is the slogan: “Ready to Conquer”

White Canes

This photo is part of my collection of white canes. These three are different colors/types: slimline black, slimline gold, green, gold & white cane with a rolling marshmallow tip.

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Sky | Blind Beauty 56

Blind Beauty 56

Sky | Blind Beauty 56

“Some people might have taken the news of going blind as the end of the world. Most would have given up and thought their life was over. Well, it did the total opposite to me.” 

~Sky

I think Sky’s words in today’s post are especially meaningful with October being Blindness Awareness Month.

Did You Know?

The World Health Organization estimates that there are over 285 million visually impaired people, 245 million with low vision and 39 million totally blind people. Sixty-five million people have cataracts — and in the U.S. alone, over ten million people have retinal diseases that deteriorate peripheral and night vision. One of the major causes of blindness is uncorrected refractive errors causing blurred vision, leaving people unable to clearly see images on the retina. (source: nationaltoday.com)

I found strength and determination I never believe I had before sight loss. I have become the person God always knew I was. Becoming blind has saved my life. I see things differently literally. Having a great sense of humor is also a plus.

“Strength and growth come
only through continuous
effort and struggle” 

~Napoleon Hill 

Blind Beauty 56 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a new faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Sky’s image on the cover is black & white. She is wearing a white lace embellished top and has a floral head wrap tied in a bow on the top of her head.

Blocks of text superimposed on Sky’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”