16 Jun 2014

8 Threads to Weave into the Garment of Change

When I began to lose my eyesight, it was natural to fear losing so many other aspects of my life that I treasured. Becoming an artist and failing to see colour was one of them. But the hardest hurdle to overcome was knowing how to weave positive threads into the garment with the label of disabled.

Did you know that the dictionary defines disabled as: to make unable, weaken, destroy the capability of, to cripple, to have a lack of competent power or strength in either physical or mental abilities, to be disqualified and to make legally incapable: to be deprived of  the right to engage and, lucky last, to be rendered unfit.

Hmm, a pretty disturbing label to be given to anyone. No wonder, as an adolescent, it didn’t appeal as an image I wanted to aquire: but it seemed that Miss Puberty had other plans…

No one had warned me about the sneaky tactics of Miss Puberty, the way she could change the life of a perfectly normal teenager when she brought an exclusive offer to our household.

There she stood on the doorstep, bearing the garment of change, insisting I wear the new label of disabled.

‘Sign on the dotted line,’ she said, holding out an invisible pen. Miss Puberty worked with such authority, there was no option but to agree to the hidden terms and conditions of a membership I didn’t want but had to accept.

‘Welcome and congratulations,’ she said. ‘As you now have Retinitis Pigmentosa, whether you like it or not, you can spend the rest of your life freely indulging in any of the labels we proudly stock in our Blind-Bat Boutique. Please take your time to browse and choose carefully from our huge range of richly textured stigmas.’

I didn’t want a new image, or one of their ugly designer garments exclusive to Mademoiselle Black: Itza Shame: X-clude: Inferior Design: Kybosh: De Prive De Paris. I wanted to yell at Miss Puberty, “Take your unfashionable garment elsewhere and drape your labels over someone else’s life. I think you have the wrong house.”

She thrust the package into my hands. “Too late. Like it or not, it’s your designer image now, you have to wear it.”

Fashion the garment

Over many years of trying to cut the cloth to suit my image, with the label of disabled firmly secured to the fabric of my life, it has taken 8 qualities to thread the garment I can now wear with pride.

If you find yourself having to wear a particular label you consider quite unfashionable, let me introduce you to 8 colourful qualities essential to transform your dreary cloak of despair with chic threads of elegance.

1. Attitude is the key to accepting change in your life.

Cultivate a positive attitude and be aware of the choices you are making. Often it is fear and self-pride holding back your progress. When you take control of your attitude in a positive way, you begin to infuse your life with possibility.

Thread the colour RED into your new garment: it is the shade of glowing embers that will keep your fire alight.

2. Gather your support team

Don’t be afraid to gather around you a support team of loved ones, friends and colleagues and let them know how best they can assist you. In all truth, they really want to know how to co-operate in creating a balance in letting you take charge of your own life.

Asking for help when you could honestly benefit from their genuine support is not a sign of personal weakness but can boost the morale of the entire team. With balance and flexibility, you reach your goals with team work.

Thread the colour ORANGE into your new garment: it is the shade of joyful co-operation.

3. Courage to commit and courage to be creative

Once you have accepted a different way of doing things, and have a circle of supportive friends who understand your unique needs, you can begin to commit to certain tasks you want to achieve. You can set creative patterns into the fabric of your life.

You have renewed confidence, you muster a sense of inner strength that enables you to find creative solutions to the task at hand. With courage, you dare to persist when things go wrong. With a bold heart,  you insist on finding solutions.

Thread the colour YELLOW into your new garment: it is the shade of radiant sunlight, teaming with confidence, hope and good cheer.

4. Tenacity, persistence and effort

With any outcome you want to achieve, it requires a certain amount of focused effort. You may want to train to learn new skills, or adapt to a new way of doing familiar tasks. Effort, persistence, and tenacity can work together in shaping your reality by not giving up.

Thread the colour GREEN into your new garment: be as tenacious as Mother Nature in her attention to detail, in her cycles of consistent renewal.

5. Independence and freedom

Having woven the thread of acceptance, co-operation, commitment. courage and tenacity of spirit into the fabric of your life, you also can take brave steps toward reclaiming your independence.

Again, this will require training, gathering of new skills but  you can make choices that best suit your lifestyle. You may want to have a guide dog as your seeing eyes or prefer to use a white cane in getting around.

Maybe it is time to gain skills in new technologies that can enhance your independence – it is totally your choice. This is an empowering place to be. It is a time to express your talents, and appreciate just how far you have come. Enjoy the sense of freedom as you stride out to conquer those daily challenges.

Oh, and if by chance you find yourself falling into an embarrassing moment, as you will surely do, take along your sense of humour – it will get you out of any sticky situation!

Thread the colour BLUE into your new garment: it is the colour of sky that will keep you boldly stepping onward over the horizon to meet your victories.

6. Organise the chaos

Thread the colour PURPLE into your new garment: it is the shade where two textures (of red and blue) combine to form one predictable strand.

In order to live confidently in a visual world when you are not equipped with sight, you will need a high
level of organisation. Not only do you need to be more mindful of just about everything you do and where you last put things, your support team needs a friendly pep-talk to understand how important it is for you to move through their sighted world. It is full of unpredictable obstacles. Much mental effort is required in remembering every inch of your dwelling place – bringing order into the world of chaos is a matter of your survival and happiness.

7. Trusting your intuition

Intuition is your inner voice, a direct perception of truth independent of any reasoning. Most people find trusting intuition extremely difficult, especially when eyes and brain dominate our sense of reason. As a person with very little sight however, I have learned to reflect and listen to the wise internal voice. It requires patience, stillness and letting go of reason and rationality. Sometimes it is a call to rest and place our own judgements to one side.

Thread the colour WHITE into your new garment: clarity of thought will become clear as you trust the pure guidance of your inner vision.

8. It’s a multi-sensory garment

You can touch your new garment of change, smell it, feel it, it has been skilfully woven by your life’s experiences thus far. It is your own designer garment fashioned from the threads of experience and skilled craftsmanship. Many threads are sewn into the fabric of your being, acceptance, co-operation, courage, tenacity, freedom, humour, patience, intuition,and trust.

How about you? What essential qualities have you woven into the fabric of your personal garment of change? Please share your comments, it would be great to know!

All images  © Harry Williamson 2014

Thanks to Lincraft, Malvern  for allowing us to revel in their colours

 © 2014 Maribel Steel 

1 Jun 2014

Who’s Driving this Low Vision Show?

“We can make it happen if we put our heart and spirit into it.”

Alvaro Gutiérrez

Who’s driving the Low Vision Bureau, you ask? Well, not me, I was given the opportunity to steer a bicycle built for three in France and I am not quite sure why, but after our exciting adventure through the streets of Brittany, Harry asked me if I could please leave the driving to the experts...

Today’s post is an invitation for you to hear the conversation between a new friend of mine from Colombia. Alvaro Gutiérrez from the Low Vision Bureau is an expert in the world of technology.

He interviewed me for a Podcast in which he posed thought-provoking questions on topics such as:

·       daily life for the blind community in Melbourne

·        becoming a guest speaker

·       the skills required in dealing with frustration

·       the process of self-publishing a book if you are blind or visually-impaired

·       the nine qualities essential for coping with losing one’s sight

·      - and much more!

The only thing Alvaro and I may have forgotten to include is the free offer of steak knives for
every new subscriber to the Low Vision Bureau!

If you have a few minutes spare and want to relax at the end of your long day or are seeking
inspiration at the beginning of a new one, let me introduce you to the LVB Show – a Bilingual
Podcast driven by Alvaro, containing links to dozens of interviews with ‘visionaries’ from all
around the world.

Join us here and if you gain an insight or two, please share your comments after the interview, it
would be great to know what was the most revealing topic we covered.

Link to live audio interview

 © 2014 Maribel Steel

25 May 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed,
to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten;
the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows:
he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.”
Vita Sackville-West

Tour de Blog – Writing across Continents

I am thrilled to have been asked by my good friend, poet and book designer, Bee Williamson, if I would take up the writing baton in what is going around creative circles as The Monday Writing Process Blog Tour.

The aim is to connect writers and readers around the world in a continual blog-hop, where writers are invited to reply to four questions about their writing process and then pass the baton to other writers.

Bee Williamson posted her answers last week  Bee's Article
who was tagged by writer and reviewer, Carol Middleton Carol's Article

So here I go, hop-scotching across Cyberspace carrying a baton (ditching the white cane temporarily) in this tour-de-force for writers everywhere. Keep reading to find out who is itching to go, preparing to receive the baton for the tour to continue next week. Writers, rev those creative engines...ready, set, GO!!

What am I working on?

When I’m not fiddling among Google Search Engines, I am either expanding thoughts for future short stories, polishing articles that need a final buff, updating my website and blog or planning my next strategic move. I like to divide my time between writing, networking and doing market research, depending on energy levels and my mood.

Currently, I am nearing the completion phase of an e-book – a collection of personal essays, a selection of posts that were either published here or on other sites, rewritten with brand new content. The intention is to provide readers with a download that can inspire them through personal anecdotes that show it is possible to take hold of this ‘blind thing’ and turn it into a positive experience.

My helper elves and I are working furiously to make my second e-book available in time to launch alongside International White Cane Day in October this year.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think my writing has differed from others as I have grown into the message of my work. Since taking up the craft of being a writer, the words and thoughts have not only shaped my writing on the page but have given me much to reflect on. The more I listen to the voice within, the more urgent it feels to write.

Think of a little pebble dropped into a still pond and how beautiful it is to watch tiny ripples move slowly out from the centre. This is how my writing seems to be moving too. The theme that has ‘dropped’ into my life, has resonated with many others and now I am being asked to teach, to mentor and to ‘speak my life’, not just write about it.

Why do I write what I do?

One – because I love playing with words and the magic they give to uplift, to move and inspire: writing for me is creating with colour and tone, capturing images for the mind to see.

Two – because it is truly a part of me, I see stories in everything.

Three – because I have stories worth sharing. It has been the frustrating times – when things have gone wrong – that have served as my life teacher, posing the greatest test to my ability to persist, to find other ways around annoying obstacles, to push me forward until I can see the light shining bright at the end of an oppressive tunnel.

By sharing the insights I have found to be most helpful, I hope to bring a lamp to lighten the darkness so that others may see.

How does my writing process work?

Imagine a butterfly flitting around to whichever flower takes her fancy, but wearing little red booties that keep her grounded. That’s a bit like me!

I love the freedom to choose which stories I want to work on when the inspiration is there and yet I can sit for hours and days, lost in time, to complete a writing deadline (yes, wearing my little red booties and sipping coffee to keep me grounded).

Writing energy does seem to flow best in the early morning, yet I also burn the midnight oil when the creative mind has packed up and gone home but the editor’s brain is committed to working in the quiet hours, to inspect the day’s writing.

Some days I work between two stories, allowing thought and inspiration to colour the writing, until I hit a blank. So I peer inside the other document, and stay there for a while.

Being a writer is a multi-faceted profession and I actually do enjoy the other sides of networking and marketing which some see as a necessary evil and interruption to their writing. For me it is an added pleasure to move into wider circles of fellow-creatives to learn from their successes and failures.

One part of the writing process I truly value is being able to block out specific time for writing, like J.K Rowling, who guards the time allotted to her craft, “ as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.” 

Now may I introduce you to two talented writer friends chomping on the bit to pick up the writing baton. We race from my home city of Melbourne to the United States to meet Amy Bovaird: and then fly across to the country of Colombia, to see what Alvaro Alvarito is up to hold on tight, this part of the run gets exciting...!Please check their blogs after 2nd June when they post their answers and continue the tour...

Amy Bovaird - is an upbeat vision-impaired author and experienced world traveller. She is legally blind with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). She worked as a specialist in second language acquisition for nearly thirty years, with a career taking her around the world. Amy views life as a personal adventure, and has traded her overseas experiences for an every-day adventure into blindness. Her book, Mobility Matters Stepping Out in Faith, is coming out very soon!

Alvaro Alvarito - was born in Colombia, South America and grew up in Europe. He is legally blind, a disabilities advocate, a Podcast Host for nearly 4 years doing Low Vision Bureau (LVB) Show, a Bilingual Podcast where he talks with visually impaired and blind people and organizations from all around the world, raising awareness about the ABILITIES of the
visually impaired and blind community. He has been Blogging for years and is a Social Media and Assistive Technology enthusiast.

© 2014 Maribel Steel 

7 May 2014

Breathing in the Scent of Motherhood on Mother’s Day


“Love children especially. They live to soften and purify hearts
and, as it were, to guide us.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky

Little snuffles and unfamiliar gurgles filled our dimly lit bedroom. It had all happened so quickly, not even our homebirth doctor had made it in time. I slumped back into the pillows, grateful to hear our daughter’s first few unaided breaths.
“She’s beautiful, she’s so beautiful,” her father said, choking on tears of pride. Our hands touched as he presented me with the whimpering bundle: gently placing the baby onto my concave tummy as if handling precious porcelain.
We felt completely awestruck, as witnesses sharing the miracle of life. He moved slowly, covering us both, our sweet little daughter snuggled close to my heart, and whispered, “Well done.”
I was unable to speak, and unable to see her in the dark. My hands traced over her tiny body, feeling every little bump and wrinkle. She was perfect. I began to hum the soft sounds of ‘Amazing Grace’, as my newborn rested and I breathed in, deeply, the contented scent of motherhood.

 As a visually-impaired and inexperienced mother I was petrified that I would accidentally hurt my newborn baby, especially when changing her cloth nappies with sharp pins. I had to feel my way carefully into motherhood.
Despite fumbling through the first few months, inadequacy was eventually replaced by confidence, anxiety became acceptance, chaos was transformed into welcome routine but the need for sleep was, still, the need for sleep.
Claire’s crying settled more and more as she grew older, giving us the confidence, as parents, to attempt going out for regular outings. One night at the local pub, we were enjoying our dinner with bubba-Claire sitting between us. Feeding her little portions from my plate, my fingers guiding me like an arrow to the target. All was going well, or so I thought, until her father calmly said,
“You know you are putting the potato salad in her ear?”
“Don’t be stupid!” I glared.
He leaned back into the chair, smiling, and took a swig from a glass of beer. I checked Claire’s face and almost died. It was true! Gooey mayonnaise lined the outside of her ear lobe because she had turned her head at the crucial moment.
“You do it, then,” I growled, and tossed the spoon in his direction. My hands felt for the edge of the table, planning to make my escape and dive underneath the tablecloth to cry with embarrassment.

“Tarry a moment to watch the chaos of a playground,
crayola-colored shirts of running children, all trying out their wings.”

Claire at four

Blind Parent, Sighted Child

At weekly General Assembly in primary school, parents and students shared in the giving of awards and mini-concert performances. I was happy to be part of the audience with the other proud parents, all of us eager to witness our children’s glowing achievements.
I pretended to see as I tried to take in the scene on stage but, in actual fact, the stage was a blur and the children on it all appeared like dancing red blobs. I had no way of recognising a single face or body shape.
I knew my child was out there somewhere. It saddened me so many times to miss all the visual activity, but other parents kindly described the unfolding scene, allowing for my rich imagination to draw a picture of some sort.
On one particular presentation day, an elderly woman sitting directly in front of me swung around with great excitement. “Look! See that girl over there, the one in the red jumper, that’s my grand-daughter. See her?” The grey-haired lady was falling sideways off her chair with pride and added, “The one in red.”
‘They’re all in red,’ I thought, amused.
“No,” I replied.
“The little blonde one, on the end.”
“You can’t miss her.” The woman was astonished. 
Oh yes I can.’ “No, honestly, I can’t see her.”
The grandmother waved her finger vigorously in the air. “LOOK.”  She spoke through gritted teeth. “Over there in the front row! Are you blind or something?”
“Actually, yes, I am.”
With a jolt of her head, she stared at me, contemplating whether I was just being difficult. Then swinging around to face the stage with her little princess on it, she muttered,
“Blind as a bat, if you ask me.”

Claire and baby Silver

You may also like to read –  I Spy with my Little Eye.

Do you have a Mother's Day story you'd like to share? We'd love to hear in the comments.

© 2014 Maribel Steel