Tag Archives: creative


30 Sep

by Stella De Genova

Life is all about what we’re used to. We give it the title of “normalcy.”  My normal day is probably very different from yours.  What is normal to one person can be absurdly abnormal to another.  So what is normal and should we be too concerned about it?

The definition of normal in the dictionary is: 1. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural. 2. serving to establish a standard. 3. In Psychology. A. approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment. B. free from any mental disorder; sane.

Well OK, I’m pretty certain I would like to be thought of as “sane” but “usual” and “regular?” That doesn’t sound like much fun!  Even if you look at your own life, what’s normal never stays the same.  What was normal then may not be normal now.  For instance, when you lose a loved one or even a pet, life can’t get much more abnormal than that.  But people will tell you that in time, you will get back to some sort of normalcy in your life.  So, normalcy can be very different than you ever knew it to be.

And what about many of the readers of this blog who are blind? Our normal is about as far away from what a sighted person may consider to be normal.  Does that make us abnormal or just different?  Remember when you were a kid and teachers and parents told you to “dare to be different?”  Honestly, I can’t compare what I do to someone else that is so different because it’s not different to me at all.  True, I have to use a color detector and I listen to a good book instead of read it.  I can’t just zoom off in my own car to pick up some groceries and I don’t even work the job I was used to working for almost 18 years.  But what I do every day now is my routine and I still take care of my home and family.  I accept the challenge to find new ways to be creative and creative ways to do things in a new way.  As it turns out, my normal works just fine for me and that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Crafting Anew

11 Jul

by Maribel Steel

How would you answer this question – what have been the most important resources for you in adapting to vision loss? Maribel shares her thoughts…

Life is about developing our skills in whatever career or hobby we choose to master. The only difference with losing sight is that we didn’t choose this ‘vocation’. Obviously, as the organ of sight weakens, we are forced to rely on our other senses. Apart from these sensitivities, three qualities that have proven to be powerful resources in my life are attitude, intuition and memory. I have found trusting my intuition to guide me when sight cannot, and improving my ability to remember the smallest of details, to be the two best friends of attitude.

My firm belief is that as sight fades, we can become the artisan of our new life’s direction by seeing our role as an apprenticeship: learning new skills to buff and polish until we can craft the life we want to live.

“The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.” Michael Lee

A few years ago, I had a strong yearning to jot down my autobiography as a legacy for my children so they would know about my life’s journey toward going blind. Then after I wrote my two hundred page manuscript, I found a writer mentor. She commented, “It’s OK, for a first draft.”

First draft? I thought I had finished it. That was the beginning of my writing career.

On good writing days, inspiration can flow and often situations that occur as I travel or the funny things people say end up being my published stories. But on those very difficult days, I can feel like I’m stuck in a sand bunker slogging out words that won’t lift out of the sandpit of this writer’s despair.

I have learned, as in life in general, to let it go, take a break and come back later. The reward is being able to craft anew and see the potential of my initial story begin to emerge. “

Every single person has a challenge in their lives and they will be confronted to face it at some point. It may be a health issue, the diagnosis of pending blindness, a mental illness, a relationship incompatibility, a financial concern, a family crisis – we have been enrolled in the school of life, and when we find others in our similar situation, it is like opening a window to a heart-warming realisation: we are not alone.


So how have you learned to craft anew in the school of life? We’d love to hear your story…

Maribel Steel is an author, mentor and inspirational speaker living in Melbourne, Australia. She has been legally blind with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) since the age of seventeen. She writes articles and networks like a ninja to share stories on “The ART of Being Blind” (www.maribelsteel.com). Maribel is delighted to have recently been accepted as a peer advisor for VisionAware (AFB).

The excerpt above comes from a recent online interview with editor of Exceptions Journal – the art and literary magazine for students with a disability. You can read the whole article at: http://www.exceptionsjournal.com/2014/05/09/interview-with-maribel-steel/

What Do You See?

7 Oct

“Poetry is what Milton saw when he went blind.” 

We all have a need to communicate.  Finding your creative voice is a perfect way to do just that.  Artists speak through their paintings; musicians’ feelings show through their music; and storytellers and poets use words.  What is your creative choice of communication?  If you aren’t sure, give any or all a try.  The worst that can happen is that you find a new passion and a way to share with others!

Creative Person of the Week: Maribel Steel

20 Jul

Maribel Steel is a writer, blogger, mother and singer who  lives in Melbourne, Australia. As a person with Retinitis Pigmentosa,  she believes her life is about learning to trust her other senses: to hear, to touch, to smell, to intuit, to love and to laugh.

Maribel was first diagnosed with RP at age fifteen and up until then, it seemed that she was only shortsighted and required nothing more than glasses. Her family had not suspected anything was radically wrong with her vision at that point, even though she could not see stars in the night sky, a symptom of RP.

The following is an excerpt of an interview with Maribel Steel by writer, Amy Bovaird. Full details are given at the end of this article

Can you describe a little bit about what the doctor said, how he broke the news?

As my parents took me to seventeen specialists to confirm the diagnosis that I was going blind, the news filtered into our lives over a period of time. My parents were devastated with the final diagnosis and I personally felt confused. On one hand, I was still the same person, yet on the other, I had been cast into a different mould by the specialists and was to accept the new label, ‘legally blind’ – even though in my own way of thinking, I was not blind at all.

Can you talk about some of your biggest challenges, and any that you’ve overcome?

I think challenges are a part of everyone’s life, big or small, whether you are blind or sighted. The real challenge is not so much the situation that can completely halt you in your tracks, but choosing a positive outlook to find an alternative route when it might be easier to give up. Sometimes life requires determined action and at other times, it requires a gentle grace to accept one’s limitations. I try to find humour in the frustrating moments but this often occurs after the event.

Being a vision-impaired mother when my four children were growing up was a major challenge. I often felt inadequate and held back tears of deep frustration not to be able to guide my children like sighted parents can: to point out letters on signs, to read bedtime stories from a book, to drive them to parties, to watch out for their safety in the park or at the beach, to tell them when it was safe to cross the road. Instead, it became a natural routine for my children to be their mummy’s eyes.

How does your community provide support for you?

Melbourne is a vibrant city which I am pleased to say has made a huge effort to include people of all disabilities by providing good access to public places. Also I am often pleasantly surprised by the kindness of strangers who go out of their way to help me locate the right building or the right door or the right tram. My magic wand (white cane) attracts generous people almost every time I venture out of our front door!

What advice would you give someone who has been newly diagnosed with RP?

“To anyone who may be diagnosed with RP, it is natural to expect that you will grieve for the loss of sight. Share this grief with a close friend or partner who can truly listen to what you are going through. You may initially feel your dreams and aspirations have all been taken from you and it will take time to adjust to a different way of being. The key in dealing with such a daunting future, regardless of age, is in accepting the limitations and reaching out to others so you can feel really supported on the challenging road ahead.

Be proactive in seeking out technology and other aids that can help you maintain a sense of independence – you might be surprised at the amount of helpful gadgets out there. Approach agencies that specialise in helping people with vision loss, because they are there to offer support and valuable information – my little motto is ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’ and believe me, it really does!

Finally, be kind to yourself because you will most probably be your hardest critic. Trust your ability to be resourceful, even triumphant, as you face the challenges to see your life in a different light. And as my son, at the ripe old age of four, once advised me, “Don’t ever give up.””

For the full 3-part inhterview go to Amy’s blog: www.amybovaird.com

To learn more about Maribel Steel visit her website: www.maribelsteel.com

To read her regular blog posts go to: www.gatewaytoblindness.blogspot.com

Call for Creativity

6 Apr

Vision Through Words has posted something about creative people who also happen to be blind on a weekly basis.  The information I’ve found is about people who have made a name for themselves in one way or another.  But the archives are starting to run a little low, even with the assistance of Google.  I can’t imagine that there are only 50 blind people who are doing something creative in this whole world!  So I’m putting a call out to everyone to let me know about yourself or someone you know that does interesting and creative things due to or despite a visual impairment.  This blog is not about world-renowned people, it’s about us!  So let’s have fun and learn about each other.

If you have a story to share, please email it to visionthroughwords@gmail.com .  And remember, we also take submissions for short essays and poetry written by visually impaired and blind writers.

Creative Person of the Week

2 Mar

Ray Charles Robinson was the son of Aretha Robinson, a sharecropper, and Bailey Robinson, a railroad repair man, mechanic and handyman. Aretha Williams was a devout Christian and the family attended the New Shiloh Baptist Church. When Ray was an infant, his family moved from Albany, Georgia, where he was born, to the poor black community on the western side of Greenville, Florida. In his early years, Charles showed a curiosity for mechanical things and he often watched the neighborhood men working on their cars and farm machinery. His musical curiosity was sparked at Mr. Wiley Pit’s Red Wing Cafe when Pit played boogie woogie on an old upright piano. Pit would care for George, Ray’s brother, so as to take the burden off Williams. However, George drowned in the Williams’ bath tub when he was four years old. After witnessing the death of his brother, Ray would feel an overwhelming sense of guilt later on in life.

Ray Charles started to lose his sight at the age of five. He went completely blind by the age of seven, apparently due to glaucoma. He attended school at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine from 1937 to 1945, where he developed his musical talent. During this time he performed on WFOY radio in St. Augustine. His father died when he was 10 and his mother died five years after.

In school, Charles was taught only classical music, but he wanted to play the jazz and blues he heard on the family radio.[14] While at school, he became the school’s premier musician. On Fridays, the South Campus Literary Society held assemblies where Charles would play piano and sing popular songs. On Halloween and Washington’s birthday, the Colored Department of the school had socials where Charles would play. It was here he established “RC Robinson and the Shop Boys” and sang his own arrangement of “Jingle Bell Boogie.” He spent his first Christmas at the school, but later the staff pitched in so that Charles could return to Greenville, as he did each summer.

Henry and Alice Johnson, who owned a store not unlike Mr. Pit’s store in Greenville, moved to the French town section of Tallahassee, just west of Greenville; and they, as well as Freddy and Margaret Bryant, took Charles in. He worked the register in the Bryants’ store under the direction of Lucille Bryant, their daughter. It’s said he loved Tallahassee and often used the drug store delivery boy’s motorbike to run up and down hills using the exhaust sound of a friend’s bike to guide him. Charles found Tallahassee musically exciting too and sat in with the Florida A&M University student band. He played with the Adderley brothers, Nat and Cannonball, and began playing gigs with Lawyer Smith and his Band in 1943 at the Red Bird Club and Deluxe Clubs in Frenchtown and roadhouse theaters around Tallahassee, as well as the Governor’s Ball.


In 1979, Charles was one of the first of the Georgia State Music Hall of Fame to be recognized as a musician born in the state. Ray’s version of “Georgia On My Mind” was made the official state song for Georgia.[49] In 1981, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was one of the first inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at its inaugural ceremony in 1986. He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986.

In 1987, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1991, he was inducted to the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. In 1998 he was awarded the Polar Music Prize together with Ravi Shankar in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2004 he was inducted to the Jazz Hall of Fame, and inducted to the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame. The Grammy Awards of 2005 were dedicated to Charles.

On December 7, 2007, Ray Charles Plaza was opened in Albany, Georgia, with a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano. Later that month, on December 26, 2007, Ray Charles was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. He was also presented with the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, during the 1991 UCLA Spring Sing.

In 2003, Charles was awarded an honorary degree by Dillard University. Upon his death, he endowed a professorship of African-American culinary history at the school, which is the first such chair in the nation.[55] A $20 million performing arts center at Morehouse College was named after Charles and was dedicated in September 2010.

The biopic Ray, an October 2004 film portrays his life and career between 1930 and 1969 and stars Jamie Foxx as Charles.

The RPM International building is located on the corner of Westmorland Blvd. and Washington BlvD., which is also dedicated as the “Ray Charles Square”.


(To read more, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Charles)

Creative Person of the Week

21 Jan

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (August 7, 1935[2] – December 5, 1977) was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist who played tenor saxophone, flute and many other instruments. He was renowned for his onstage vitality, during which virtuoso improvisation was accompanied by comic banter, political ranting, and the ability to play several instruments simultaneously.

Kirk was born Ronald Theodore Kirk[2] in Columbus, Ohio, but felt compelled by a dream to transpose two letters in his first name to make Roland. He became blind at an early age as a result of poor medical treatment. In 1970, Kirk added “Rahsaan” to his name after hearing it in a dream.

Preferring to lead his own bands, Kirk rarely performed as a sideman, although he did record with arranger Quincy Jones and drummer Roy Haynes and had notable stints with bassist Charles Mingus. One of his best-known recorded performances is the lead flute and solo on Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova”, a 1964 hit song repopularized as the theme song in the Austin Powers films (Jones 1964; McLeod et al. 1997).

His playing was generally rooted in soul jazz or hard bop, but Kirk’s knowledge of jazz history allowed him to draw on many elements of the music’s past, from ragtime to swing and free jazz. Kirk also absorbed classical influences, and his artistry reflected elements of pop music by composers such as Smokey Robinson and Burt Bacharach, as well as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and other jazz musicians. The live album Bright Moments (1973) is an example of one of his shows. His main instrument was the tenor saxophone, supplemented by other saxes, and contrasted with the lighter sound of the flute. At times he would play a number of these horns at once, harmonizing with himself, or sustain a note for lengthy durations by using circular breathing, or play the rare, seldom heard nose flute. A number of his instruments were exotic or homemade, but even while playing two or three saxophones at once, the music was intricate, powerful jazz with a strong feel for the blues.

Kirk was politically outspoken. During his concerts, between songs he often talked about topical issues, including black history and the civil rights movement. His monologues were often laced with satire and absurdist humor.

In 1975, Kirk suffered a major stroke which led to partial paralysis of one side of his body. However, he continued to perform and record, modifying his instruments to enable him to play with one arm. At a live performance at Ronnie Scott’s club in London he even managed to play two instruments, and carried on to tour internationally and even appear on television.

He died from a second stroke in 1977 after performing in the Frangipani Room of the Indiana University Student Union in Bloomington, Indiana.