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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

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WOTM 14 Featuring Sue Wiygul Martin

Remorse and Reconciliation

Sue W. Martin With Her Guide Dog Companion
Sue W. Martin

A book about suicidal depression and new blindness? Sounds, well, depressing. But it’s quite the opposite. At the age of twenty-six, Sue Wiygul Martin was deeply depressed. When the pain reached the point where she couldn’t stand it any longer, she did the only thing that seemed big enough, important enough, to end the pain. She tried to end her life. Her suicide attempt failed but resulted in Martin becoming blind.

When her rehab teacher, now called a vision rehab therapist, came to see her for the first time, she asked Martin to tell her a little bit about herself in an effort to decide where to begin teaching. “In the past,” Martin says, “I’d reach out and grab a few happy experiences and use them to tell somebody something about myself. I’d describe the thrill of arriving at the top of a mountain after a long and challenging hike. I’d describe the feel of mastery as I kayaked the toughest whitewater rivers in the Southeast. I’d share the thrill of speed as I galloped across a field mounted on a huge thoroughbred.

But how could I do that this time?”

Martin explains that she felt as though her entire way of life had been lost.

After thirty years, all of those activities, and then some, are, again, part of Martin’s life. And now she’s a woman on a mission.

“I’m passionate about suicide prevention,” Martin says. “I’m on a mission to de-stigmatize depression and suicidal thinking.” “Only when it’s okay to talk about depression will it also be okay to ask for help.”

Out of the Whirlpool Book Cover
Out of the Whirlpool

Sue W. Martin is a graduate of the University of the South and holds a master’s in blind rehab from Western Michigan University. Following a twenty year career as a blind rehab professional she now works for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in the office of Information and Technology. Martin has recently published her first book, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation.

Martin lives and writes in the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau where she lives with her husband, Jim.

The above entry written by Sue Martin for today’s post was so poignant to me I wanted to present it in its original format. Having dealt with depression for most of my life I was immediately drawn to Sue’s book Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation and purchased the Kindle version.

If you haven’t suffered depression first-hand you are most fortunate. Speaking from experience I have wanted nothing more than to be “normal.” The problem is I don’t really know what normal is but as Sue so eloquently puts it in her news station interview “even if you have to stay alive minute to minute and hour to hour – stay alive and ask for help. And life can just be so wonderful.” I’ve learned to live within the moment especially if I’m in the grips of depression.

…I awakened to the familiar feeling of paralysis. What was wrong with me? I should want to do this. I should be excited. I should be leaping out of bed in anticipation of a thrilling challenge. But I was none of those things. I was a failure. I had failed at marriage. I had failed in my career attempts. Now, I was failing to even get out of bed. ~Sue Martin

It’s difficult for me to find the appropriate words to describe the joy I derive from writing these Fierce Friday articles and Sue Martin’s is no exception. When I received an email last week about Sue being featured on CBS42 WIAT news station in Alabama and Maria Schriver’s blog concerning suicide prevention I instantaneously knew I had to reach out to her. To view the news interview you can click HERE. To read Maria Shriver’s blog How To Save a Life: Talk About Suicide you can click HERE.

Depression is so insidious and with the staggering numbers of over 8 million attempted suicides throughout the US on a yearly basis we have to get beyond the stigma associated with this disease. I’m so thankful that Sue had the courage to write about her struggle and is now speaking out on this serious issue. I’m also extremely grateful that she responded to me and granted me the opportunity to share her inspirational story with you. Like all of the women that I’ve profiled on Friday’s Sue is one fierce lady and I’m honored to present her to you.

Following are social media links to Sue’s website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Sue W. Martin, Author, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation
Website: www.outofthewhirlpool.com
Twitter: @swmartin
Facebook: Out of the Whirlpool