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WOTM 18 Featuring Jill Khoury

Jill Khoury
Jill Khoury

Have you ever met a person who you were so in awe of you simply could not find the words to describe them? You know the type – they are so talented, intelligent, imaginative, and mesmerizing to the point of being almost other-worldly? I have a group of artist friends and acquaintances who are so unique and colorful their mere presence just blows me away – Jill Khoury is one of these people.

Before I go any further I should tell you while I haven’t met Jill in person (she crossed my radar when I featured Leigh Anne Focareta) to my delight I found that both she and Leigh Anne know another artsy friend of mine, Marcel Walker. So it shouldn’t have surprised me that Jill would share some of the same amazing characteristics of others within this circle of friends.

Like many of my other Fierce Friday’s interviewees, I contacted Jill by email and she granted me permission to write an article about her. I knew that Jill was a poet from my conversation with Leigh Anne so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I visited her blog at www.jillkhoury.com.

When I was a child I dreamt of falling
belly first, through the roof and into the attic
through the night sky and into the roof,
through an alien universe and into this one.

FROM “BODY ART” ~Jill Khoury

At first glance I knew I stumbled upon something extraordinary when I clicked on Jill’s Bio and saw her intriguing photo. Granted my imagination could be reading way more into the picture than what Jill intended but it immediately grabbed my attention because it was out of the ordinary in that it awakened within me questions.

From the upper left to the right, then the lower right corner of the photo is what appears to be autumn foliage in the forefront. In the background there is lots of sunshine, green grass, then in the distance trees as if looking out over a field. Then hiding among the leaves is who I assume is Jill. You can barely see her face as she’s partially hidden and my first thought was “genius, why didn’t I think of doing something like this?” Then a succession of rapid-fire thoughts: why is she hiding, what does it mean, what is she trying to say, was this intentional, why am I compelled to ask these questions? I finally settled on the photo is just as artistic and compelling as Jill’s writing and I wanted to know more.

I want to be apart. I want to be a part. I want to partake. I want to part ways. I want, I want to participate. ~Jill Khoury

Under the heading Blog (Visceral Poetics) I was not disappointed when I found Jill’s answers to the Tagged! Writing Process Blog Tour. In this section she talks about the projects in process, how her works differ from others, why she writes and her process. While this provided a snapshot of how Jill works what really got me was her raw honesty when she talks about her mother’s death in 2012 and the resulting aftermath. She gives us a glimpse into her fears and how she coped.

Reading further down in Dotting the I in activism Jill talks about her recent trip to Washington, DC where she attended the poetry festival Split This Rock. What I enjoyed most in reading this bit was how she would transition from giving highlights on the festival to “real-time” for example she speaks about issues with her fibromyalgia to a previous life’s situations, to her use of the white cane, disability and other tasty nuggets.

My poetry is more grounded in the body. It engages the senses. There is usually a subtle or not-subtle threat involved. ~Jill Khoury

Though I cannot claim to be a connoisseur of poetry (I hate to admit many times it’s over my head), I do appreciate Jill’s use of words. Her writing to me is magical but then I guess this in its simplest terms is poetry.

When you have a spare moment I’d like to invite you to experience for yourself the many layers of Jill Khoury.

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash”

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WOTM 17 Featuring Kerry Kijewski

Kerry Kijewski
Kerry Kijewski

I’ve said it before and as long as I continue to blog I will say it time and time again, I am so blessed to meet and write about some of the most phenomenal women. A couple of weeks before I moved I met Kerry Kijewski, a young woman who contacted me by email through Bold Blind Beauty. After we exchanged a few emails we set up a meeting via Skype to chat and we had such a great conversation.

Kerry, like other women that I’ve featured on Fierce Fridays was prompted to contact me after coming across my blog to give her feedback on the subject matter. We started out talking about make-up, fashion, beauty and how blind and vision impaired people are viewed as either uncaring or unconcerned about these topics and we both came to the same conclusion that nothing could be further from the truth.

My blog is where I hope to show the world what I have to offer and to do my part in hopes of making even the smallest difference. ~Kerry

Kerry went on to say just how good she feels when she buys a new outfit, it’s the same feeling shared by all women. You know the feeling of that initial rush of putting on new clothing especially depending on the occasion for which you are buying the apparel. For example a party, wedding, job interview, a date, vacation, the list goes on. Kerry affirmed that she is most definitely interested in fashion, trends and wanting to look her best.

On makeup Kerry told me that she tried wearing makeup when she was younger but since that time hasn’t really wanted to give it a go but since Bold Blind Beauty is here who knows? Just maybe she’ll give it another try. One of the things Kerry did share with me on dress is that she sometimes will get insight from her sister (who loves fashion) and can give Kerry helpful tips and advice.

As I write today’s post it just occurred to me that during our hour-long Skype conversation I neglected to ask Kerry the cause of her blindness and I now know why – it was irrelevant. It was also because though these Fierce Friday posts highlight extremely competent women, who happen to be blind or vision impaired, that isn’t the only reason. Kerry who is an aspiring writer is an extremely intelligent, caring, gifted and interesting person.

I want to bring attention to the issues that are most important to me: equal rights, organ donation, mental health awareness. ~Kerry

The one thing I do know as it relates to Kerry’s vision is that she was born blind and three years later so was her brother. Ironically the two siblings also have a shared experience of kidney transplants and in view of this they have a special bond between them that has assisted in their getting through the rough times. I mentioned that Kerry has a great love of writing and her brother found his gift in music.

When you have a chance I encourage you to visit her blog called Her Headache. On it you will find she writes about life, love, loss, family and all sorts of fascinating subjects including yesterday’s stirring tribute to Maya Angelou.

The things I’ve gone through and the experiences I’ve had have brought me to this place and I will never give up. ~Kerry

A love of all things literary, Kerry has found that books allow her to dream and provide an escape from reality. On her blog she has found a freedom like never before to come out of the comfort of her cocoon and to blossom into a beautiful butterfly charged with exploring this big world. Though she has expressed that she feels somewhat small in an out of control world, blogging has provided a platform for her to speak her mind.

Kerry, I applaud you and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share such a small piece of your life on my blog. You are a positive role model for all young women.

“Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.”  ~Mary Kay Ash

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WOTM 16 Featuring Leigh Anne Focareta

The wonders of life and how so many pieces can come together so perfectly never ceases to amaze me. When one has OCD tendencies you tend to want to have control of your surroundings so when placed in a situation where there is no control you can feel helpless and lost.

Shelves containing books Photo credit: xandert from morguefile.com
Photo credit: xandert from morguefile.com

A good example of this lost feeling is when I began losing my vision and I had to learn how to focus only on what I could still see. When I allowed myself to think “I wish I could see further ahead” that was when the fear, helpless and hopelessness would set in. Looking at just the point where I was became so much more manageable. This learning process hasn’t been easy and it is ongoing.

While I am not capable of understanding why I lost my sight I do believe that it happened in part to bring me where I am at this moment. I’ve talked previously about some of the remarkable people I have met out here in the blogosphere so it was a welcome surprise that when my friend Marcel did my photo shoot he mentioned that he needed to introduce me to Leigh Anne, a friend of his. He said that she might appreciate my blog since she is also vision impaired. I immediately told him “yes” to get us (her and I) connected. And then I forgot the conversation.

Later that evening when I was looking over comments on my blog I came across one from a woman named Leigh Anne with whom I previously exchanged comments with on her blog. I thought “hmmm, could it be?” Having nothing else to go on but her name and location I sent her a comment asking if she knew Marcel. She did.

I must mention that when Marcel was talking about Leigh Anne he said she is just a wonderful person and one of his favorite people. There aren’t enough words to express how delighted I was to know that Leigh Anne was the same person Marcel spoke of so highly earlier in the day.

Leigh Anne and I talked via email and of course I asked her if I could profile her on Bold Blind Beauty because I love the way she writes. And the rest as they say is history.

Leigh Anne is a Senior Librarian in the Reference Services department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. She and her coworkers collaborate to provide accurate information to the over 13,000 inquiries a year that are received via in-person, e-mail, virtual chat, telephone, and regular mail.

As one of the book buyers for the current events collection, if you heard about a book on the radio, saw it featured on television, or read about it in print or online, Leigh Anne is probably one of the people who purchased it for the library.

Leigh Anne is also the lead editor for the library’s adult reading blog, Eleventh Stack eleventhstackwordpress.com – every weekday that the library is open, they publish news and information about great books, music and movies to check out, as well as other library programs and services.

In addition, Leigh Anne is part of the team who produces the monthly Reference Department newsletter, “Just the Facts,” which you can sign up for here www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/reference and which provides the inside scoop on the many different kinds of tools you can use to help get your questions answered. Her most recent special assignment is to serve on a work group that will investigate ways to make the library even more accessible for people with disabilities in the Southwestern PA region.

Offline, Leigh Anne is a playwright who has had work produced at Duquesne University, The Pittsburgh New Works Festival, and Pittsburgh Technical Institute. Occasionally her work touches on her experiences with congenital nystagmus. An extremely gifted writer, she also has two blogs at Be Less Amazing belessamazing.wordpress.com and Reading Challenged readingchallenged.wordpress.com.

Congenital nystagmus, a condition present at birth, is the cause of Leigh Anne’s vision impairment. With this condition, the eyes move together as they oscillate (swing like a pendulum). Leigh Anne’s nystagmus has rendered her legally blind in her right eye, and severely restricts her peripheral vision on that side. But as you can clearly see Leigh Anne’s vision impairment has not deterred her from being a person who goes above and beyond. I love what she posted on April 8 and wanted to share it with you. This was a writing challenge of 50 words:

Reading for Beginners
By libraryalchemy

Begin with the Bible, even if,
Later, you put it aside, because
In the beginning Was the word.

Next, pick texts lexiles ahead.
Show potential: Harriet the Spy.

For adolescence, shake up school:
Saga, Watchmen.

Graduate. Go gonzo.
Take this show On the Road.

Grow up. Read. Read more.
Repeat.

Have a wonderful weekend!!

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WOTM 15 Featuring Jennifer Rothschild

Jennifer Rothschild
Jennifer Rothschild

After my morning bible reading, on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, I then checked my email for my Encouragement for Today daily devotional. This morning’s post, You WILL be OK, by Jennifer Rothschild struck a chord within me.

You need a bilateral lumpectomy as soon as possible,…

Was only the fourth sentence into the article and the very next sentence: “My first thought was, “Seriously? I’m blind, for heaven’s sake! Haven’t I already met my quota for suffering?” gave me chills.

I knew before even finishing the article that I had to contact Jennifer. Every single person on planet earth has a story to tell for life is a series of ups, downs and uncertainties for all of us. No one is unscathed but I really like the very next thing that Jennifer has to say and it’s this:

It may not be OK, but I will be OK.

As soon as I read this entry “It may not be OK, but I will be OK.” I remembered the bible verse from Job 13:15 where Job says “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…”

If you are unfamiliar with Job he was considered by God to be “blameless” and “upright.” God allowed Job to be tested and tormented up to the point of losing everything but his life. Though he cursed the day he was born, in the end, upon conversing with God, Job acknowledges God’s unlimited power and admits the limitations of his human knowledge.

Jennifer Rothschild, an author, speaker, Bible study teacher, wife and Mom has appeared on Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Life Today, and the Billy Graham Television Special. She’s written 10 books, Bible studies and recorded several CD’s. The print version on her newest book, God is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, was released in late March and the Audio version is now available.

Jennifer, who lost most of her sight at 15 years of age, has the inherited eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). If you visit her website at www.jenniferrothschild.com she explains that “I have now lived longer in physical darkness than I ever did in physical light. Blindness is hard, but it’s been a place where God has shown Himself to be so kind, strong and faithful. That’s why I do what I do — Because God has made it well with my soul, and I want others to experience the same kind of peace.”

RP refers to a group of inherited diseases causing retinal degeneration. The cell-rich retina lines the back inside wall of the eye and it’s responsible for capturing images from the visual field. People with RP experience a gradual decline in their vision because photoreceptor cells (rods and cones) die.

Ministry for me has been received, not achieved. Where I am is where God placed me. What I apparently have accomplished is just what God has provided and brought to fruition.

In addition to the above referenced activities in 1998 Jennifer and Dr. Phil founded womensministry.net, an on-line magazine for women in leadership, with over 25,000 subscribers. Fresh Grounded Faith, a ministry founded by Jennifer, are conferences held in different parts of the U.S. The conferences are held about 10 times a year and are where local churches come together and bring kingdom-minded women’s event to their community.

Below today’s posts are links to Jennifer’s social media sites. If you are in need of encouragement or just need an uplifting word you must visit these sites. I was especially touched by her YouTube channel where she talks about the loss of her sight but more importantly what she has gained through her faith and relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jennifer is such an inspiration and I’m so blessed to be able to present such a small portion of her story on my blog. Thank you Jennifer for this wonderful opportunity, you are amazing!!

As a reminder, there are several links on the site to purchase Jennifer’s new book God is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense click HEREI bought my copy today from Audible.com and I cannot wait to dive in.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/JenniferRothschild
Twitter: @jennrothschild
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jennifer.j.rothschild
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/jennrothschild