22 Sep 2014

3-Easy-Steps to Hop Scotch into Your Dreams

'Dare to Dream' illustrated by gregory mackay

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.
Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”   Gloria Steinem

Have you noticed how children have the ability to expect anything their hearts desire?

They dream big, persist with requests (which often involves nagging their parents to death), have the unshakeable belief their request is being attended to and sit back and wait for their dream toy, or other grand imaginings, to be delivered – and without too much delay!

They don’t stop for a moment to talk themselves out of their grand desires, even if as a parent, you point out, “Sorry, darling. We can’t afford it.” You can see their eyes glaze over with a defiant stare as thoughts tick louder in their warrior-like minds, and later, you are surprised to overhear them enrolling their grandparents into their plans.

You tell them off for continuing their crazy notions to achieve their impossible scheme.

But it works!

Next birthday and hey presto – their excitement is uncontainable. Not only did they manage to get what they wanted, they experienced something very special, another VICTORY!

Being blind is no different

What would it be like if as a person feeling limited by a lack of eyesight, we could adopt the same child’s innate ability to understand the law of attraction when reaching for our own goals? Well, here’s their secret formula…

Dream + plan = possibility.

Sounds too easy, right?

But as adults, somewhere in our growing up, we experienced the unthinkable – failure.

Our dreams were brought crashing to the ground and we became afraid to think big again, to reach for the stars, to launch another dream. The disappointment was so great, our mind took control of our heart and said, Trust me. You’re not doing that again.

In certain situations, this is great advice from the voice of reasoning, so you don’t make terrible mistakes over and over again. But your mind also likes to hold down your own dreams and has the canny ability to come up with dozens of excuses, in nano-seconds, why your heart’s desire can’t possibly come true. The booming voice of reason does its utmost to drown out your passions, creating an internal disquiet.

This is when the ‘fun’ begins

You have a CHOICE: you can either listen to reason, agree with the practical scenarios of why your desire is not going to happen, or you can be bold and hold on to your true feelings.

In my lifetime, especially as a visually-impaired person, I have seen how manifesting dreams to become a reality can work by following the same formula inherent in the child’s manifesto. It might be child’s-play to them but, boy, can it be hard work!

The three steps children play - try them!


Step 1. Your dream is believable.

Whatever it is you feel brave to dream, let the heart soar with the thought of potential.

Be like the child-warrior, knowing you want this is more real than knowing how to answer the doubting questions coming thick and fast. The warrior (not worry-er) believes with all their heart, and that is it. No asking how or what if; it is the phase of ‘I desire this because it feels right’.

Step 2. With effort, your dream is achievable

You have dared to dream and now it is time to make plans. You go on the quest to seek out those people who might be able to take you one step closer to your grand vision. You don’t need to convince them, you need to inspire them. The danger is taking ‘no’ from someone else as your answer. Keep going, throw the dice again and move forward (even if you feel you’re going no-where).  Remember, it’s child’s-play, they don’t give up easily.

Step 3. Hit and Miss

Your dream will take off and bring you to a place of amazement and uncontainable joy
OR, it may take you in a totally different direction than you had planned.
Either way, trust is your outcome. You played the game, you dared to dream and you learned to trust the warrior-soul.

You didn’t give up the quest. What you have gained is all the excitement and persistence of a brave heart to try again… Go on, you’ve got nothing to lose when you dare to dream….

Matty, Silver and Claire stepping out together

My thanks to Tania at The Shoe Alternative who first published my article online. She is always on the look-out for new articles – why not hop, skip and jump across Cyberspace and pitch your stories –
the shoe alternative

The wonderful surprise you get if your story is accepted is a unique drawing created by one of their talented illustrators. The image at the top of this post is the creation of Gregory Mackay -  I just love it!

Copyright © Maribel Steel 2014

8 Sep 2014

How to Flatter Your Editor

Brian, the thinker

Yes – meet the senior editor of all my blog posts, a man who ponders deeply about life, the universe and everything. A man who is dedicated to the craft of writing and the person who goes out of his way to help me at every stage of my writing career…and the dear man who has been devoted to caring for me and my kids over several decades…meet my father, Brian!

When I was recently invited to present a webinar for Hadley School for the Blind, by the Senior Vice President, Dawn Turco, my co-presenter, Maureen Duffy and I had many tips to share on the topic of blogging.

One of our points was about the importance of proof reading and asking a second editor to look over your work – especially if, like me, you are blind or visually-impaired.

Brian is a well-seasoned author and linguist and now in his semi-retired years, he is also one of the talented team members behind the scenes of this blog and my many writing projects. Being my collaborator, I can’t thank him enough for his impeccable editor’s eye, for his prompt proof reading and his skill in suggesting changes that stay true to my writing voice.

On some weeks, I may have more stories than usual to proof read especially when I am in a creative frenzy to enter writing contests. One day, I wrote him a poem in the desire to interest his curiosity with sweet words of praise to take on the extra work load…

Sweet Design

Hi father dear,
a pithy piece here,
won't take up too long,
you'll be free once it's gone,

and I promise not to send,
any more this weekend,
and if energy fades,
I have croissants and marmalade,

to bring with a smile,
as you toil for a while,
be assured no other man,
works as hard as you can

in polishing my prose,
heavens, it's worth it, you know,
because you can never tell,
who's reading the works of Maribel!

thanks to you, my talented scribe,
who plays his part, in keeping alive,
adjectives and adverbs and all things great,
a keen-eyed  editor, not afraid to fill his plate,

‘another one, Sir?’ I dare to ask,
‘bung it in’, you say, ‘I don't mind the task’
right, then, over to you,
to work your magic…
 as you always do!!

Lv, Poet-bel xxx
His reply?

‘Flattery will get you everywhere!’

Swapping ideas

With my thanks also to Dawn Turco and the web team of Hadley School for the Blind, you can listen to the audio webinar and catch our Ten Blogging Tips with a list of resources sourced by social media expert Maureen Duffy and myself, the link is: Webinar in Audio

You may also like:

Come on the Writing Journey

Being blind is the obstacle and the stepping stone

© 2014 Maribel Steel  -   Photos © Harry Williamson

23 Aug 2014

Tapping rhythm, teaching song. Part 2

 As a teaching artist for the Song Room, my week was consumed by preparing for the next session. It was a job I adored: scouting out new songs for my younger students, writing original lyrics for the older ones. My life was tuned to the sound of music!

 With Harry’s creative flame ignited by my passion to produce exciting repertoires for the two school choirs, he was my collaborative wizard, sprinkling magic into every musical arrangement he recorded in our studio. Dozens of songs with their lyrics soon filled several folders, CDs were piled high beside my desk. I worked with Jaws on my laptop and checked printed sheets with my CCTV.
Wizard Harry

Within a few months, and with the wizardry only Harry
possesses, we produced two lovely song books, complete with lyrics and accompanying CD. I felt so well equipped to teach my choirs that my nerves to find my way independently to the school each Friday was somewhat eased by being so well prepared and lovingly supported.

My briefcase bulged with song books and lyric sheets, CDs and mini-puppets which I knew would have my younger choir dancing around the music room.

The Big Sensation Concert 

One of the highlights for the senior choir (grades 5 and  6) under my choral leadership was an invitation to sing as part of a choir of three hundred children.

The Song Room funded The Big Sensation Concert, where they brought together seven school choirs from around Victoria to share the limelight in one colourful performance.

We had ten weeks to learn a repertoire of six songs chosen by the choir director, Bronwyn Culcutt, a talented musician and choir leader (and the friend who had suggested I contact the Song Room a few months previously).

She arranged the tunes into two-part harmonies, providing all the teaching artists a practice CD to follow when teaching the various choirs our respective parts.

The truly fun part was being given free reign to choose one song we would perform to showcase our choirs, in my case, a highly eager group of thirty-five voices. I presented an upbeat pop song called, Peace by Piece – and my choir was hooked.

We were soon rockin’ and bopping to the lively tune. The lyrics reverberated around my thoughts well after the session, and my white cane tapped in time, bouncing off city pavements and cobblestones, as I grooved all the way home.

 Sparkling eyes and flashing smiles 

 During weekly choir rehearsals, my group and I jived to the swinging melodies, all eyes watching my theatrical hand gestures and body movements. I marvelled at my choir’s ability to follow their visually-impaired choir leader and had to trust they were paying full attention to my ‘solo’ performance.

 I moved around with over-accentuated body gestures while mouthing the lyrics to each song so I could give maximum visual instructions for the group to understand when to sing softly, when to raise their voices, when to all come in together and when to finish on a clear single note, and above all, when to dazzle the audience with their flashing smiles!

 The girls sang their hearts out, being in their element as they imitated their pop idols. Teaching music was a sheer joy. They loved it as much as I did.

Part of me went into a time bubble, floating back to my teenage years when music blared from stereo speakers, little-miss-me, dreaming of becoming the next Olivia Newton-John!

Buzzing with pride 

Performance day arrived and the Melbourne Town Hall was a hive of activity. Over three hundred excited child-proteges were buzzing with anticipation. Supervising teachers from seven schools droned like ‘worker bees’, placing groups of choristers under colourful banners to form one huge hexagonal shape on stage.

 I waited in the foyer until my choir arrived and was grateful to be led by two of my ‘girls’ as we darted through the crowd and took up our spot on stage, avoiding the swarm of teachers and volunteers fussing with last minute preparations.

Lights on – wave those rainbow-coloured flags – we’re on! For the first few songs, I rocked and swayed with my choir, as if at a pop concert, feeling the adrenalin of live musicians pumping from the band to a thrilled audience, the three hundred voice choir trilling above the beat

 Then there was a hush as the audience shifted its gaze when a bright spotlight fell onto our group. I stepped out from the shadows with one of my Grade 6 singers who led me to take centre stage in front of my choir.

Panic struck momentarily – what if I’m not facing the right group? What if I bounce around so much during our performance that I don’t notice I’m going offstage? What if…?

 The band rocked into our tune and I felt a great surge of energy. Arms swung wildly, my face lit up to encourage my girls to perform their best for our début performance.

They gave it all they had and by the end of our pop-rocking song we were almost flying into the air with sheer happiness. Proud parents and teachers applauded their appreciation and the spotlight swivelled around the hall once more to highlight the next choir.

 I moved back to be closer to my group, giggles of delight greeted my ears and a warm touch on my arm from their class teacher tingled with appreciation. As I smiled from my heart, one of the girls tugged gently at my sleeve and said, “Hey, Maribel! We’re famous!”

“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” Dr. Seuss

You might also like to read Part One below…and share how music rocks your world…

Listen to and Download some tracks recorded by my quartet, The Lollipops 

 © 2014 Maribel Steel

29 Jul 2014

Tapping rhythm, teaching song. Part One

"To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable." Aaron Copland

It was often on our walks to school that I tapped out a rhythm with my white cane, partly to amuse my eight year old son (who was not amused), and partly to relieve my own boredom in travelling along the same uneventful streets every day.

Down quiet lane-ways, the cane tapped out my version of the Spanish bulerías, counting eight and twelve together in a bouncing pattern that echoed off our brisk footsteps.

Michael was used to his mother bursting into song and on one particular morning, as I moved swiftly to avoid a bin, a step, a pole and then a car – the words blended beautifully with the tapping rhythm of the cane and a new song was born!

bin – step – pole – car: bin – step – pole – car…

I repeated the new mantra and asked my son to continue the chant while I made up a melody.

He flicked a sideways glance at me and with the promise of a bribe of some sort, he indulged my new songwriting fantasy. Lyrics came easily.

“There are too many things in the way, too many things to avoid: all I want to do, is get, safely, to school: bin, step, pole, car, bin, step, pole car…”

Michael ran ahead to move some of the emptied rubbish bins strewn across our path.

“Hey, thanks, Michael. What a good Samaritan!” It suddenly occurred to me that my son might not know the meaning of a good Samaritan, so I asked him.

In his usual, lateral-thinking style, my son took a guess

“ A garbage collector?”

The reason why I was so keen to write original songs was because I had volunteered to ‘teach’ music at Michael’s school as there was no music program in place. As I could not offer to help with reading, I could at least enhance literacy through music.

Each week, as I taught the various grades songs from around the world, it was a new challenge to keep them engaged and participating as some students, particularly the boys in the senior grades, were too shy, or too cool, to join in the group activities. I brought in a variety of unusual percussion instruments from our recording studio.

Keeping them quiet long enough to listen to my instruction was impossible. They were thrilled to have a legitimate reason for banging loudly on drums and djembes, shaking the living daylights out of wooden maracas, and deafening us with cymbals and bells until the supervising teacher shouted them back into order. I prayed for the bell to ring before the next student uprising, smiling at the teacher, wondering why anyone would work with such rowdy children!

On some occasions I did manage to teach them songs they could perform for the whole school at general Assembly. Even though classes were often noisy and unruly, it felt deeply satisfying to be contributing to the school community, to teachers and students alike, bringing music into their weekly routine.

There was only one sadness in my heart. I wished I could greet the children by name. In a classroom of ever-changing faces, auditory recognition was impossible.

The Song Room

An opportunity came my way when a musician friend told me to apply to The Song Room as they were looking for a ‘teaching artist’ to run a music program at a city primary school. Really? I could get paid for doing what I loved?

I made an appointment, spoke with the Director and got the job!

The Song Room were eager to find an experienced  person who could begin  a music program straight away for the underprivileged school awaiting such an enthusiastic person. Being able to say I was currently teaching children at my son’s primary school played an important part in gaining their favour. On that day, an invisible badge was pinned to my chest, or to my glad heart, and I wore the new title of ‘teaching artist’ with pride.

On my first day at Debney Meadows Primary school, I counted thirteen steps up to the front door. Tap, tap, tap – around the front office to locate the stairs. Tap, tap, tap – down twelve steps and on through a long corridor, scattering little children to left and right. I noted it took sixteen paces to the music room. I felt for a door handle and congratulated myself on opening the right door.

Making my way to the wall of windows, I opened the blinds to let the sun stream in to my new work space. Next, I folded up my cane, hiding it under the desk and away from curious little hands who would be arriving soon.

I took a few deep breaths as I danced around the floor, familiarising myself with any low desks at perfect shin-bruising height.

How can you see me?

Excited voices trickled down the corridor, a teacher hushed giggles just outside the door, threatening disciplinary action in the hope of containing the students exuberance.

Any minute now and it would be like the running of the bulls in Pamplona!

To my surprise, some children entered quietly in pairs, while the renegades made a mad dash to clang on the percussion instruments like monkeys scrambling up a banana tree!

I ask them to climb down off the instrument shelves and sit in a group on the floor. Their teacher greeted me warmly and her smile conveyed ‘yes, I know, they’re full of energy’.

We resume control of the group and I explain my new role as part of their exciting new music program. The children at this school were either new arrivals to Australia or came from refugee homes with little English knowledge, so part of my job description was to design and teach literacy through a fun repertoire of songs and musical games.

Twenty five small bodies sat huddled in a semi circle on the floor around me.

All I could see were little blobs with dark smiling faces, their white shining teeth beaming back at me. As far as they knew, I was just another teacher, until I brought out my magic gadgets: the white cane and talking watch had them mesmerised. Oh, good. Bonus – for me. I had them spellbound.

It was a time of curious questions and puzzlement on their part. They had never met a ‘blind’ person before, a blind person with clear blue eyes who seemed to be looking straight into their amazed faces. Questions toppled over one another in their haste to make contact with the blind teacher.

“Can you see me…over here, can you see me?” came a chorus of calls. I was overwhelmed. “Can you see me, can you see me? How can you see me?”

As I tried to respond individually to acknowledge their presence, those I could see in the front row sat smugly as if I had given them a prize: to be seen by the new blind teacher suddenly turned into an award-giving ceremony.

One dear child, trying to work out how best to help me see her, held a white piece of paper and tucked it under her chin. She quietly asked in a rare moment of silence, “Can you see me now?”

Indeed I could. I marveled at her ingenuity. The contrast of the page to her dark Somalian skin stood out a mile. She beamed with gleaming white teeth when she knew I really had noticed her.

The more I spoke about needing to be up close to things to see them, the more the group edged forward closer to my chair until they were almost sitting on top of my feet!

The younger students were completely fascinated by my talking watch. Total silence could be achieved in three seconds flat when I asked for quiet in return for the speaking voice to announce the time – whereupon one child even quizzed who lived inside my watch?

I was thrilled to know I could control an unruly grade during the chaos: an entire class would stop dead in their playful tracks, squeezing closer to my side to listen to the voice announcing the time. One by one, the teachers asked where they too could invest in such a wonderful silencing device!

Songs of Acceptance

Each week on my arrival to the school, children called out from every corner of the playground and
indoor corridors, “Maribel? Hello, Maribel. Maribel’s here!”

I even had to put my finger to my lips when tapping quietly past the lower grade classrooms so the children wouldn’t call out and disturb the lesson in progress.

The kind students and thoughtful teachers welcomed me so warmly into their school community, their acceptance stirred my heart with fervent purpose. I spent many a happy hour combing through CD’s to inspire my thoughts and plans for new repertoires.

It became a regular game to usher the younger students down from the instrument shelves as they flung their agile bodies like jungle monkeys swinging from wooden drums to be the first to make a clanging sound in the music room.

I loved it!

While sitting quietly on the train going home, exhausted but content, new music games and song lyrics couldn’t be silenced. The moment I arrived home, I had to scribble down the ideas to work on once I had recovered from my output of so much hyperactive energy.

Music flowed richly in my life at this time. My partner, Harry added his generous skills as a composer and musicianship and was amazing. He recorded sound tracks for my students, wrote original music and lyrics with me to make the learning of English fun (we still improvise on anything that amuses us, like losing a sock in the wash, called The one-sock opera!).

Teaching ignited such a creative spark within my sense of play, I composed a puppet musical, was invited to lead a music workshop, ran a two-day program at a youth camp and formed a fun and up-beat quartet called the Lollipops!

Here are three original tracks we composed for children…listen and enjoy!

All Different (Maribel vocalist playing her Celtic harp)

Jelly Cheesecake (Maribel & Harry vocalists. Harry on ukulele. Our take on Waltzing Matilda)

One Planet (Maribel vocalist. Harry composer. A funky rap with a ‘green’ theme)

How does music make a difference in your life, please share your comments…

The Song Room

© 2014 Maribel Steel