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Rebecca Holland | Blind Beauty #67

Rebecca Holland | Blind Beauty #67

“Poetry has always been connected to music. Blindness is not a reason for silence. My loss of vision has inspired me to keep singing out in a darkened world.”

~Rev. Rebecca L. Holland
Rebecca Holland in a bookstore image description is in the body of the post.
Rebecca Holland in a Bookstore

My name is Rebecca. I am a preacher, writer, and a musician. I also have low vision.

Growing up, I grew used to hearing people tell me, “You don’t look blind.” I struggled during my school years because many students, and even some teachers, accused me of feigning my poor vision.

During my college years as a music education major, one important professor informed me, “I’m sorry. I don’t teach students with disabilities.”

In graduate school, one of my supervisors told me, “I feel sorry for any congregation that you serve because they will have a blind pastor.”

After five years of effective ministry, I am still frequently told, “You don’t look like a preacher.”

This statement always dumbfounds me because I do not know what a preacher is supposed to look like. I have known preachers, both men and women, who are all ages, shapes, sizes, and skin colors.

In the same way, I have met people who are blind or disabled who are more varied in appearance than you can possibly imagine.

Just as there is no “right way,” to live life with a disability, there is no one “right way,” to pursue your dream.

Destination Love and Acceptance

At last, after my very long journey, I am beginning to start to feel love and acceptance for myself. I now view my sight loss as an important part of my identity.

I have been blessed to meet so many wonderfully supportive people along the way. For every negative voice, there were even more positive voices in my life that resounded just as loudly.

I want to be a positive voice who inspires other people the way others have inspired me. That is why I was decided to publish my chapbook, Through My Good Eye: A Memoir in Verse. This small book of poems is my love letter to my beloved church. It is also my statement to the world that people with disabilities can do anything that people without disabilities can do- we just do it a little differently.

Poetry has always been connected to music. Blindness is not a reason for silence. My loss of vision has inspired me to keep singing out in a darkened world.

About the Author:

Rev. Rebecca L. Holland holds a Bachelor of English Education and a Master of Divinity. She is especially passionate about working to make the church more inclusive for people who have been traditionally marginalized, especially people with disabilities. She blogs about faith, diverse books, and disability awareness at BeckieWrites.com

Rebecca Holland | Blind Beauty #67 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty is black & white. Rebecca sits on a plaid picnic blanket in a sunny park in front of a 1959 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. She is wearing a blue dress and smiling. She has long dark hair and wears glasses.

Blocks of text superimposed on Rebecca’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 Fall 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Complexion.”

Rebecca Holland And The Bookstore Image:

Rebecca stands on a stool in a bookstore in front of a large shelf full of books. She smiles as she takes a volume front the shelf. She wears a striped dress and denim jacket.

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Facing Sight Loss With Hope & Grace

Facing Sight Loss With Hope & Grace featured image description is in the body of the post.

Facing Sight Loss With Hope & Grace

My sight loss journey has been long and sometimes painful; however, it has also been full of hope and grace.

Rebecca In Front Of
A Historic Building

I was born with cataracts on both of my eyes (bilateral congenital cataracts). Before I was a year old, I had nine eye surgeries to remove my cataracts and secondary membranes that grew in their place. I also had muscle surgery to keep my eyes from crossing.

When I was four, I developed glaucoma as a complication of surgery. Since my right eye had issues focusing, my doctor recommended eye patching. As a result, I wore an eye patch over my dominant eye for an entire year.

I’ve had fifteen eye surgeries as an adult. The scar tissue from all of these surgeries sometimes causes pain and discomfort.

I can only see colors and shapes out of my right eye and the field of vision in my left eye is severely limited. In addition to having no peripheral vision or depth perception, I also have severe migraines that center around my eyes. My vision fluctuates. On a good day, I can see 20/30 in my good eye with best correction. On a bad day, all I can see are clouds and shapes.

A New Dream & A New Purpose

In college, I suffered a crushing loss. My dream was to become a music teacher; however, an important music professor refused to teach me because he “didn’t teach students with disabilities.” His ableism caused me to need to change my major.

At the time, I was crushed by the loss of my dream. Eventually, I changed my major to English Education because I have always loved words. Sadly, I met resistance there as well. When I was student teaching, I was told, “We’re afraid to leave the students alone with a blind teacher.”

I believe that God put a new dream on my heart and helped to form a beautiful mosaic from the broken pieces of my life. I attended seminary in Washington D.C. and I am blessed to be able to say that I have now completed five years of effective ministry.

In May, my church covenanted with me to always provide me with a job and a congregation to serve. We call this “ordination.” It was one of the most special days of my life. I couldn’t stop smiling. At last, it seemed that I had found my place in the world and that my life had a purpose.

Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Although I have been blessed to have benefitted from some of the best medical care in the country at Will’s Eye Institute in Philadelphia, my vision continues to wane. I take five eye drops four times a day and a pill three times a day in order to maintain my eye pressure.

Each year, I lose a little more vision. At thirty years of age, I’m unable to read a book with a regular sized font for any extended period of time. As a person who loves books, this loss is the most painful loss of all.

Beauty from Brokenness

Like many people who are disabled, I have a complicated relationship with my disability. I still have a long journey ahead of me to achieve full acceptance of my sight loss. For example, I only use my white cane when I travel because I need it for safety.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. I don’t know if I will someday become more comfortable using my white cane or if I will ever learn to read Braille; nevertheless, my heart is full of hope. The essence of my job is to share hope with a dark and broken world.

I am blessed to serve a congregation that I love dearly and a church that is striving to become a more inclusive place for people with disabilities. I am also blessed to have wonderfully supportive friends and a spouse who loves me very much.

One thing is for certain: Even with my blurry vision, I can see that the future is bright.

Rebecca Holland blogs about faith, diverse books, and disability awareness at BeckieWrites.com. She has written a chapbook entitled, Through My Good Eye: A Memoir in Verse.

Facing Sight Loss With Hope & Grace Featured Image Description:

Rebecca grins broadly with her hand on her hip as she stands on the Millennium Bridge in London. St. Paul’s Cathedral can be seen behind her. She wears a bright green coat.

Rebecca In Front Of A Historic Building

Rebecca smiles while standing on the stone steps of a historic building. She is framed by a large wooden door. She wears a blue and green A-line dress. 

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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: