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WOTM 53 Featuring Ashley Neybert

Ashley Neybert Featured Image description is in the body of the post.

WOTM 53 Featuring Ashley Neybert

“Since I have discovered myself in my blindness things have been the very opposite of dark. I have made friends all over while working towards making science more accessible for the blind.” ~Ashley Neybert

Women On The Move | Ashley Neybert

#1 Ashley holding her white cane description is in the body of the post.
Image #1

When I was little I had nystagmus and amblyopia. I wore thick “coke bottle” glasses but my family never referred to me as blind. As a result, I would run into a wall, look confused, and potentially hit the same wall again. I just “couldn’t see well.” At least that’s what the adults whispered. This, as they quietly debated the likely cuteness factor of a toddler with big glasses running into walls.

At around 4 years old I had eye surgery that supposedly fixed my problems. Sure, I periodically had to wear eye patches while reading or playing a computer game. This was more pleasant as my grandmother made me beautiful fabric ones to wear, but it hurt though. I never liked this because trying to read like that always hurt and I was so sleepy afterward. However, my parents said this would help so I could maybe someday do things like driving or getting a job.

The eye patching was only supposed to last so long. My sight was supposed to stabilize and become permanent but it never did. I went to an eye specialist who said it was a long shot as patching was usually effective up to age 8. But, in my case, as long as it still seemed to help that was good. Apparently, my brain was special so it became a typical cycle:

  • I’d get a maximum vision level that lasted a little while
  • then I would notice my vision decreasing,
  • do the patching thing,
  • and repeat the process.

Eye Issues & Chemistry

Eventually, the longer I did this cycle, the shorter it became between times I’d have to wear eye patches again. Then the light sensitivity I had started increasing as well after my surgery.

Pretty soon I was wearing sunglasses and hats most of the time and having to use patches pretty often. By this time, I was in college and studying to be a chemist. The sunglasses caused some issues with goggles as everything polarized and I lived in a world full of rainbows. I learned ways of coping with a portfolio of colored papers to put behind things. I’d shuffle through them until I found the perfect one for that experiment but it was slow and ineffective.

#2 Ashley in black and white flower print shirt image description is in the body of the post.
Image #2

My advisor suggested I talk to Dr. Cary Supalo, a blind chemist, to learn adaptations to help me become more effective. I learned some non-visual techniques which greatly helped my productivity.

Over time, after my transfer to Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri I relied more on non-visual techniques. Everything looked strange to me. I noticed more issues until I ended up walking straight into the family car because I didn’t see it. At this point, for lack of better words, it hit me: I was going blind.

I started walking with a long white cane and learning braille. Then I joined the National Federation of the Blind and for the first time, it didn’t matter how much or little vision I had. There was no need to pretend I could see more than I could. I was accepted even though my doctors didn’t know what was going on.

An Answer And A Way Forward

Eventually, we learned I had a cortical visual impairmentMy doctor’s best guess was that when my eyes were physically fixed my brain didn’t fully get the message. Because of this, it was as if I never had surgery and my original conditions were left to progress. Despite this, I graduated with my Chemistry degree, then went to the Colorado Center for the Blind to learn more blindness skills. I am currently in graduate school working towards a PhD in Chemistry Education.

Since I have discovered myself in my blindness things have been the very opposite of dark. While working towards making science more accessible for the blind, I have made friends all over. In an effort to help others find confidence in themselves regardless of their situation, I have had the opportunity to do speaking engagements. I am also striving to do research to help the blind make their mark in science. In working towards my goals no matter what I have never been one to back down. I may do things differently, but as it turns out, different is not so bad.

Ashley Neybert Featured Image Description:

Ashley wears a cute black and white floral dress with a black cloche hat, sunglasses, and black ballet flats proudly holding her white cane. She is standing between two mole animals dressed as Chemists wearing lab coats and goggles. A pun on the Chemistry unit mols.

The photo of Ashley is in boldblindbeauty.com’s WOTM template. The entire template contains the photo and a transparent gray overlay with the quote in white text is near the bottom.

Additional Images:

  1. A headshot of Ashley holding her white cane. She wears a purple shirt, sunglasses, and a black cloche hat. Her cane is visible and she is sitting on a bench in Hawaii with tropical foliage behind her.
  2. Ashley in black and white flower print shirt and black cloche hat and shades feeling a tactile graph of voltage over time made from her Talking LabQuest equipment.
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WOTM 52 Featuring Suzanne Clarke

Suzanne Clarke Featured Image Description

Women On The Move Featuring Suzanne Clarke

“For me, my biggest fear was being seen. Not just on the outside, but on the inside… like really being seen. For as long as I can remember, I’d always kept myself small, blending in and not really wanting to stand out. 

Image 1 Suzanne Clarke image description is in the body of the text
Image 1

I’ve continually dimmed my light and played the wallflower. So much more comfortable than standing in the spotlight. Even though deep down, I knew there was something much bigger I could be doing. I didn’t know what it was, it was just an inner knowing that I’d been put on this earth for a much greater purpose.” ~Suzanne Clarke

Today we are pleased to share Suzanne’s story of grit and determination on receiving her devastating blinding eye disease diagnosis. Throughout this article are some of Suzanne’s favorite quotes that help to keep her grounded.

A Dream Fulfilled

I’d wanted to be a nurse since I was 4 years old. I achieved that dream and completed my Nurse training in 1987. I later found my niche in Hospice and community palliative care nursing. It wasn’t a job to me, I loved what I was doing. Yes, it was hard at times, but oh so rewarding.

2. Image description is in the body of the post
Image 2

In 2016 I relocated to Dorset. Another dream of mine to live near the sea. A year later, I had a job all lined up in a hospice there, and all was going great. Then I broke my ankle, so I was out of action for a good few weeks.

“There’s no need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.” ~Ziad K. Abdelnour 

Later I had a diagnosis of osteoporosis confirmed. During that time I was under the hospital ophthalmic team. The opticians had picked up something on my retinas. My Dad has RP (retinitis pigmentosa) and there was concern over whether I had inherited it. I was in denial, so put it to the back of my mind to deal with when the time came.

A Diagnosis Confirmed

That time came way too quickly! A series of tests confirmed that yes, I had RP. Shortly after that, the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) asked for my license back. I was emotionally crushed for quite a long time and turned into a hermit. I didn’t leave the house much, because what if I fell over again and broke something? Additionally, I couldn’t see in the dark without a torch. If I could fall over in daylight and break my ankle, what damage could I do at night? That made it an incredibly long and dark winter – and not just the long evenings, my emotions were in a dark space too…

“Don’t lose hope. When it gets dark the stars come out.”

I couldn’t take the job at the Hospice. It was ok to drive to, about 45 minutes away. It was too far and difficult by public transport – which doesn’t mix well with shift work!

Image 4 quote and description is in the body of the post.
Image 4

I didn’t know about the RNIB Access to Work scheme back then. So I moved back to Hertfordshire where I’d lived previously for 40 years. I was looking for security and familiarity. If I was going to lose my sight, I wanted to be somewhere I knew well.

A Destined Calling

Fast forwarding a few months, I found help and support where I least expected it. An RP Facebook group and an awesome poet, Dave Steele!

I’d also been doing some intense internal healing work, in groups and one to one— thanks to Denise Barbi and Anna Hunt. I’d reached my rock bottom—the only way back was up! Along with that returned the niggle of serving my purpose, of getting my story out there to help others. I’d suppressed this for so long, but I couldn’t keep it or me hidden anymore. It was fit to burst.

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” ~Stephen Hawking

The urge to help, guide, support, mentor and teach others was too strong. I knew I had to be seen to do this, but it just had to be done. It started with social media and has gone on from there.

I am now working as a volunteer for the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People). One of my many roles is to co-facilitate confidence building and living with sight loss courses. Also, a community connect role bringing people together and meeting up, so they feel part of a wider community and less isolated. I’m also going to be a roaming technical volunteer. Visiting blind/visually impaired people in their homes. Helping them with their technical equipment, which again helps them feel a sense of connection and belonging.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. ~Jellaludin Rumi

So I have now made friends with my RP. I had to in order to move on with my life. What at first felt like the end of my world, was actually a wake-up call that broke me open at the core. It showed me that, for me, my life had to be shaken up from my foundations and rebuilt on more solid ground. It’s actually been a beautiful transformation. As painful as it was at the time. After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs!

Suzanne Clarke Featured Image:

Suzanne smiles brightly for the camera wearing dark-framed eyeglasses and sporting her sassy short silver hairstyle. She is wearing a red and black floral v-neck top.

Additional Images:

  1. A selfie of Suzanne wearing eyeglasses and a white v-neck top.
  2. “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.” The image is an arrow above the quote on a yellow background.
  3. “True confidence doesn’t come from your not having any fear it comes from hurling yourself to act in spite of your fear.” ~Dr. Barbara De Angelis In this image the quote is above sand dunes against a dark purplish night sky.

Connecting With Suzanne Clarke On Social Media:

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WOTM 51 Featuring Melody Goodspeed

Melody Goodspeed

Women On The Move Featuring Melody Goodspeed

“Watch Me!!!” ~Melody Goodspeed

From the moment I met Melody Goodspeed I fell in love with her energy and enthusiasm. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance via email. During our initial exchange, I could literally hear the excitement in her emails. When we spoke by phone I was not disappointed. 

Melody is such an accomplished person with huge expectations for herself and I absolutely love this about her. A real sweetheart and fellow lover of all things sparkly, I am so happy to call her my friend. And now I present to you, Melody:

The Uninvited Guest

Melody Goodspeed
Melody, hubby, and son

There I was minding my own business and enjoying my 20’s. I mean I was living pay check to pay check, but what 20 something isn’t?

In February 2003, I met a very nice guy and we started dating, I was finally getting into the groove of my new job as a special education teacher and making new friends. Then a few months later piercing headaches brought me to my knees. Multiple doctor visits and emergency room visits, with no diagnosis. Finally, the pain was just too much to bear and the MRI was ordered.

A blood clot, uninvited, was in a major vein in my brain. I was told if it ruptured there would be little to nothing they could do to stop the bleeding. Surgery was too risky and there I was, left alone in the worst fear I have ever felt. A few weeks went by and the treatment of blood thinners was showing improvement to the blood clot, but not to the pain.

What caused the uninvited guest you ask? I have a blood disorder that is mainly found in 70 to 80-year-old men. Basically, I make too many red blood cells. My body, trying to protect itself, reacted to the invader as if it were a tumor and increased fluid around my brain resulting in massive headaches.

A few more weeks and I wake up with pin-hole vision and a race to emergency surgery to get the increased fluid off my optic nerves…

The end result, a hopeful Melody, in pain, and totally blind…I felt like the person I was, died and hope no longer existed.

Melody & her children image description is in the body of the post.
Melody & her children at Easter
Melody & her children
Melody & her children
Melody is displaying some of her Touchstone Crystal. In the photo is her wrist and hand with a sparkly bracelet and ring.
Melody’s Touchstone Crystal

Detour To A Different Life

Fast forward a few years and finally, I decided no way! No way am I going to let this darkness take me down! Against all odds, I was determined to have the life I want. Is it different? A huge “YES!, however, that does not make it any less beautiful. I had to learn that Melody did not die, her life just went in a different direction.

Melody and her daughter at the Smithsonian National Zoo
Melody and her daughter at the Smithsonian National Zoo

I have met the most amazing people, experience love on every level and have made it a priority to give to others that may be experiencing life changes and navigate to a new freedom. I work a full-time job, married with 2 kids, have my own business on the side, as an independent consultant for Touchstone Crystal, and recently became a certified Co-Active Coach.

Your LIFE is what YOU want it to be. We all have struggles, we all face life changes, but it is the strength we find in ourselves that crushes all the doubts and fears you may be experiencing.  Run with your life and find what gives you joy in the darkest of places!

When I feel anxiety or doubt flirting with me, I mentally stare it down and say, “Watch Me!” You cannot have my joy! It is all mine…and then I flip my hair and give it the hand! Then I crush it!! Happiness is a choice, living for others is a choice, and believing in yourself, even when it seems hopeless is a choice.

Flip your hair, strut your stuff and say, “Watch Me!”

Check me out on Facebook, Sparkle with Melody or my website: www.touchstonecrystal.com/melodygoodspeed

Melody Goodspeed Featured Image:

In this photo, Melody is working a Touchstone Crystal party. She truly sparkles as she smiles brightly for the camera dressed in a camo print cold-should top. Melody’s shoulder-length light brown hair frames her face and she is sporting a Touchstone statement necklace.

Additional Photos:

  1. Melody, hubby, and son are at his birthday party at an ice-skating rink. Melody loves to skate!
  2. Photo of Melody, her son, and baby daughter together at Easter. In the picture, the baby is surrounded by colorful plastic eggs while her brother and mom are smiling on either side of her.
  3. Another family photo of Melody and the children sitting on a couch with the baby on her brother’s lap. The baby is a miniature fashionista in a black & white outfit with a headband adorned with a red flower. Melody is wearing a black sweater with a red flower that matches her daughter’s headband. Big brother is wearing a red shirt.
  4. Here’s a picture of Melody holding her daughter and being goofy at the Smithsonian National Zoo. They are standing next to a dinosaur and it looks as if they are about to be eaten.
  5. Photo of Melody’s wrist and hand. She is wearing some of her sparkly Touchstone Crystal bracelets and a ring.

 

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WOTM 50 Featuring Diane Krek

Dieane featured image description is in the body of the post.

Women On The Move Featuring Diane Krek

“Being an artist all of my life, I started to lose my vision over 25 years ago. But I was determined not to let my vision impairment let me down.” ~Diane Krek

An Artistic Calling

I was born in Mt. Lebanon Pennsylvania and after marriage, moved to Canonsburg in 1992. My sight was good all of my life until 1990. For many years my career as a graphic designer bloomed before noticing vision distortion and night-blindness.  

I was a self-taught artist when I was a young girl. My mother was an artist who excelled in oil paintings which inspired me to study under her. Having no patience with oils, I liked acrylics better.

While in school, I explored other variety of arts, including macramé, rug hooking, weaving, stitchery, pottery, pastels, and, pen and ink. My mainstream was painting.

In 1990, my brother and I both had minor accidents while driving. Our mother arranged an appointment with an eye specialist and we found that we both had Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). In 1994, my mother passed away suddenly before she was able to schedule blood tests to see if she was a gene carrier.

Life After Diagnosis

Like everyone else, my brother and I were told there is no cure. My sight remained stable for 10 years and I continued to work. Later my sight started failing quickly. Struggling at my job, I then found Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services (BVRS). BVRS trained and supplied me with special computer software programs, magnifiers, and a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) that extended my employment 5 more years.

In 2012, after I departed the working world I lost my brother of 49 years. Being at my lowest point, I didn’t know how to spend the rest of my life. My husband, Melvin, and I traveled with our RV, fished, and played our accordions, but there was an empty space in me.

After watching a television show in 2014 that featured blind artists, I told my husband I wanted to start painting again. He wasn’t sure how I could do this, but he thought we’ll give it a try. So for my birthday, he bought me a set of acrylic paints and a canvas. This is where “Lighthouse Cove” started. Melvin asked, “How did you do this”? I showed him my techniques – I outlined the special position of the object on my canvas using colored tape.

Diane Krek Image 1 description is in the body of the post.
Image #1
Diane Krek Image 2 description is in the body of the post
Image #2

Also, the brand of paint that I use never changed their color names. This enables me to know what color I want to use.

It was a challenge for me so I kept on painting, painting, and painting. Eight pieces later, each piece was more difficult being harder to add clever details with my sight diminishing over time. Using hand-held magnifiers and my CCTV helps me achieve the details in my paintings.

A Mission To Help Others

Helping others through my artwork was my vision, so I created a business called “BLT Art” for a Cause. I make and sell prints of my originals and donate a portion of the profits from every print sold to blind advocacy organizations, and research groups.

A “Where’s Waldo” style creative touch in each of my pieces includes a hidden bear, lighthouse, and train. By doing this, it creates an eye awareness for those fully sighted, to appreciate being able to find these objects, versus those visually impaired who can’t. Many of the great advancements today wouldn’t be possible without doctors, scientists, and engineers with good sight.

I devote most of my time serving the blind community. Currently, I am president of the local chapter of the Washington County Council of The Blind. In addition, I am active with Pennsylvania Council of the Blind’s (PCB) Vision Loss Resource Group.

I have met a lot of people and learned from them on how to survive independently. There is so much to find and learn from a support group. I encourage folks to not let their disabilities get them down. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Because you have a limitation doesn’t mean you can’t stop going. There is a talent in everyone…fulfill that dream!

You can read more about me and view my artwork at bltart.com.

If Diane’s name sounds familiar you may recall that she was recently featured in one of our local newspapers. She is also mentioned in a BBB article When We Connect We Are Stronger

Diane Krek Featured Image Description:

Diane is seated on a bar stool next to a table displaying her art at a show. She is wearing a floral v-neck top with black pants and is holding her white cane in front of her.

Diane’s Painting Process Images:

Image 1: This photo shows how Diane begins painting a blank canvas. She has used blue and green tape to mark off the main areas of her painting.

Image 2: This photo is near completion. Autumn foliage can be seen in the upper left corner and blue water in on the right. Bridge piers can be seen standing in the water. Strips of blue and green tape can be seen as guides to help Diane through her process.