Spotlight on Kimberly White
“Strive for Joy”
I became acquainted with Kimberly through her positive posts in our vision support group and found the more I got to know her, the more I liked her. She’s upbeat, leads a busy life and is pro-active. Like me, she has Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and is losing her vision. And like others I feature in my Friday Friends column, she just gets on with life.
1. Can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself and where you come from?
I currently live in Portland, Oregon with my husband, Kevin. We have one child, Zack – a sophomore in college [and the apple of my eye – no pun intended]. I am an only child, born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Schaumburg, Illinois. I moved to San Diego, California following graduation and lived in southern California for a decade prior to relocating to the Great Northwest [my home of 20 years now]
2. What are some of your interests, hobbies, goals?
I love the ocean – my favorite places to unwind & rejuvenate are Cannon Beach [Oregon coast] and Ka’anapali [Maui, Hawaii].
Creativity soothes my soul and brings me enormous satisfaction – in addition, helping others fills my heart with joy.
I look for every opportunity to make a difference by supporting friends and family.
I re-purpose furniture – taking something old and making it new. I just finished a vanity for a friend, whose daughter loves zebra print. I also collect wine corks from local vineyards and create “korkz” designs – re-purposing corks in picture frames, wine bottle covers and even apparel! I’m always looking for new and inventive projects – with the caveat being “unique” or different!
3. I once read that you worked in the entertainment industry. What was your job?
When I lived in Los Angeles, I worked for Nike as the Music Director within the Entertainment Marketing division. Don’t let the title fool you, I have zero musical talent – my job was aligned under the Promotions department ~ product placement.
I was responsible for making contact and establishing relationships with high-profile musicians and record labels executives, providing apparel and footwear to artists for guest appearances, videos, CD covers, talk shows, etc.
On a daily basis I met with artists and nurtured my business relationships by supporting the wardrobe and special make-up needs for artists, band members and on-stage performers. It was an AMAZING experience! I was blessed to attend concerts, video & photo shoots and music award shows on a daily basis – hard to believe I called that “work!”
I will acknowledge, however, that it was a consistent challenge navigating all of the evening events – low lighting, dark arenas & unfamiliar venues!
4, Can you share a little bit about your vision and how you’ve coped over the years? Where are you now in your vision loss?
As an adult, upon diagnosis, I learned that RP was an inherited retinal disease. It was determined that my dad, my paternal grandmother and great grandmother all had/have RP. The mentality of the strong German family that I was born into prohibited them from talking about the disease. Apparently each family member knew that “something was not right” with their eyesight – but chose not to think or talk about it.
I have vivid memories of my grandma running into people, pets, furniture [pretty much everything in her way] but she was always on the go, so I simply chalked her “incidents” up to hurried and rushed movement. I share this background as my frame of reference – when I attempted to discuss the disease with my grandmother, she was quick to tell me not to let RP run my life!
My family basically ignored the disease and I admit that I did the same. As a child I felt “different.”
I consistently ran into trees while trick-or-treating on Halloween, tripped over and fell off of curbs when playing outside and had difficulty navigating low-lite spaces like movie theaters …it was confusing because I was very coordinated, yet I gained the reputation of being clumsy.
When I turned 16, I got my drivers license – at the age of 30 I stopped driving at night. Ultimately I relinquished my Oregon drivers license and began acclimating to a white cane three years ago.
I was surprised by the deterioration of my vision and NOT expecting to give up driving at 50. The transition was initially extremely difficult because I was used to being “on the go” But with the love & support of my extraordinary husband and friends, I overcame my fear of isolation and feeling burdensome, embracing my independence and focusing on ALL that was/is still available in life!
5. As a traveler, I’m always curious to see if other people’s vision loss holds them back. Do you travel here in the States or abroad?
While I certainly don’t fancy myself as a jet setter, I’m blessed to travel to places that are important to me. My domestic travels include: Santa Clara, CA to visit my son, Cincinnati, OH to visit family, Chicago, IL to visit friends, Maui, Hawaii my favorite tropical destination [aka: Paradise], Texas to visit family & friends. I’ve also been to Alaska, London and Canada. On our bucket list is Italy, Spain & Greece – our goal is to visit these destinations while I can still “see” the sights – sooner than later!
6. How do you keep focused on the positive with your ongoing vision loss?
Life is filled with bumps, successes, challenges & joy! I believe that adversity, the hardships, if you will, is what defines people. Outside of dealing with the effects of RP, my childhood was negative & abusive but my commitment was to break the cycle and live life positively! The obstacles in life have strengthened my spirit. My outlook and approach towards life evolved over the years – I was blessed with amazing teachers, mentors and spiritual leaders.
My daily practice begins with meditation, while focusing on gratitude – I am human, therefore I find myself in an emotional “funk” from time to time; but in those moments I look towards faith and hope lifts me up!
6. You always seem to be thinking of the next innovative way of teaching others—i.e. the video you created about your RP, the creative simulated paper RP glasses you designed, etc. How do you come up with these ideas?
I believe education is both powerful and empowering – and very necessary. The reaction of society was eye opening for me when I began using my white cane. People are always posing questions to me about my vision [Are you really blind? If you can read a menu then why are you using a white cane? How do you look “so put together?].
It became quickly apparent to me that “blindness” was not understood – it was/is assumed that to be blind, one must see nothing!
I happily engage in conversations with strangers regarding RP, blindness and visual impairment; I also notice other folks shying away or reacting in fear of my need for a white cane. Our disease is difficult to explain but so often misunderstood because it’s an unseen disability – I “look” quite normal to the outside world.
It was my own life experience that forced me to help raise awareness – in hopes of making life easier for those affected and also to open the eyes & hearts of others who do not understand visual impairment! I contacted the FFB [Foundation Fighting Blindness] and established the Portland Chapter many years ago, in hopes of bringing our local community together for educational & support purposes.
As for the ideas I come up with … I simply put myself in the place of others and think about what I might need to understand and the innovations blossom from there!
7. What words of advice do you have for others walking the vision loss path?
Hmmmm … I would say be kind to yourself, ask for help, acknowledge your fears, explain to others your limitations so that they can better support you. Take care of yourself by using a white cane [for the purpose of safety & greater independence],
Embrace freedom and avoid isolation – visual impairment is NOT a death sentence.
See your retinal specialist regularly [even if currently there is no treatment – there are other conditions associated with RP and it’s important to maintain eye health], and lastly, maintain faith and hold hope!
9. How do you see your future? Are you a planner, take each day at a time, etc.?
Today, I feel hopeful about the future – much more so than I did twenty years ago. With research, technology and the advancements being made in medicine, I believe that one day [if not in my lifetime, certainly within my sons life] there will be treatments for RP. I continue to pray for restoration of vision lost, and preservation of current sight.
10. Do you have anything else you would like to share with my readers?
The eyes are useless when the mind is blind!
I am grateful for what I have and the life that I live. Yes, I have RP but the disease does NOT have me. Life is filled with many chapters. I am thankful for every lesson learned, each moment touched by love and for the light that shines and awakens me daily. As my sight diminishes, my vision expands … I “feel” more than ever before and I am fully “present” to all that is – I am truly blessed!
Kimberly White was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She grew up in Schaumburg, Illinois – a northwest suburb of Chicago and studied Design at the Art Institute. She has worked in a variety of industries: Retail, Entertainment, Interior Design and Non-Profit.
Kimberly is interested in making the world a better place, laughter, compassion, healing, flowers, sunshine, rainbows, sunsets, the ocean, deep & meaningful conversation, honesty, creating, glitter, live music, people – the individual and the whole, peace, red wine with chocolate and, above all, love.
Creativity soothes Kimberly’s soul. What kind of activity either soothes or rejuvenates you?
You have just read, “Friday Friends: Spotlight on Kimberly White.” Interview by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright April 3, 2015. Please Comment, Like and Share this interview!