I was born November 10, 1970 at Ingles hospital in Harvey Illinois. Born 3 months premature, I was placed in an incubator where I got too much oxygen. That’s how I became blind.
I went to school when I was 3 years old and was put in special education classes with other handicapped kids who were mentally retarded. I started going to the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI) when I was 6 years old and learned a lot more there than I ever did in public school. I made a lot more friends at ISVI than I ever did in public school. I learned how to be independent.
My parents treated me like a normal child even though they were over protective of me. I did all kinds of activities like bowling, roller-skating, swimming, beeper baseball, basketball, track, and cheer leading. Piano lessons at the age of 6 along with choir, 4-H Club, and Girl Scouts. I went to a Lutheran church called Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and baptized when I was 3 years old; confirmed when I was 16 (May 10th 1987).
I liked it there at ISVI until my Junior year. I started having problems and that’s why I didn’t graduate from High School...
My mom passed away when I was 13 and my sister, three brothers and I lived with our Aunt Bonnie, Uncle Wayne and cousin Jeffrey. My Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Wayne are my mom and dad now as well as my God Parents.
I lived in Harvey IL, until I was 6 then moved to Hazel Crest - at 8 I moved to Park Forest. After my mom died I moved to Monee. In 2005 I moved to Monticello, IN. In 2008 my dad and I moved back to Illinois.
Growing up I went camping all the time with my family. When my dad retired in 2002 we did some traveling and stayed at different campgrounds - went to Florida during the winter months. Our family sold the camper when my mom got sick. She died on May 21st 2007.
My Dad started dating a woman named Linda in 2008 when we moved to Peotone Illinois. From there I spent the winter in Florida off and on from 2009 to 2010. It was after I came back when I started having health problems like rectal bleeding and numbness on my right hand and foot.
I scheduled a doctor's appointment for April 20th. On April 15th I had a stroke.
When it happened, my dad was on his way home from the hospital. He had had cataract surgery.
I was completely paralyzed on my right side.
I went to Riverside Hospital in Kankakee then transferred to Rush hospital in Chicago where I stayed for an additional two weeks. Eventually I went to a nursing home called Our Lady Of Victory where I was confined to a bed until I was strong enough to sit in a chair. I went to physical and occupational therapy in a wheelchair where I worked very hard. Over time I went from using a wheelchair, to a walker, then a support cane and ultimately a white cane.
On September 22nd, 2010 I moved into Friedman Place.
It is here where I started to share childhood memories like my mom who use to make my siblings and I Halloween costumes. I really liked dressing up for Halloween and would often go as a witch, gypsy, cookie monster, police woman, Pocahontas, a hula dancer, a cowgirl or soldier. I would also talk about how my mom use to decorate our birthday cakes and when she would take us to see Santa Claus and the Easter bunny.
I really liked living at Friedman Place but still had not fully mentally recovered from the stroke. Turns out it was birth control pills that caused my stroke. I was also eventually diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
When I got sick I was very angry at God. I almost had a nervous breakdown. I thought "God dammit! God, why did you let this happen to me?" And even though I was angry that I had to go through hell, I still had a positive attitude and the will to get better.
When I finally mentally recovered, I talked to my doctor about getting off antidepressants and will be getting off of them soon. I also asked about getting off the seizure medicine, but am not able to. My doctor is afraid that I’ll start having seizures again like I did when I had a stroke 4 years ago.
In High School I had lots of boyfriends and got engaged during my Junior year. We didn't go through with the wedding; we had feelings for other people. After I broke up with my fiancée, it never really worked out with the other people that I started dating after. Upon quitting school, I began to volunteer at nursing homes, senior centers and churches.
A month after I move to Friedman Place I started dating Wally Tomasiewicz and we got engaged on Valentine’s Day. At that time I also made plans to go to school to get my GED. In September 2011, I went to ICRE where I was placed in the General Program and took braille, keyboarding, mobility and more.
On May 5th 2012, Wally and I wedded at Friedman Place. My former Pastor, Scott Stephens, married us, about 70 people attended and my father walked me down the aisle.
On July 19 2012, I graduated from the program at ICRE. I continued studying for my GED and had tutors at Friedman Place.
Valarie tutored in reading, writing, and social studies. McKinzey tutored in science. Jockey tutored in math (a subject that I hate).
It took me 3 times to pass GED test at the Lighthouse for the Blind. I had to take the math & science test over again as well as do more tutoring. I thought I was being tortured! I still hated math and took to saying “yuck equals yuck!” My husband Wally kept teasing me about me being in that school forever.
After I retook the math & science test, I kept praying that I would pass this time – really didn’t want to take the test online. One day my GED teacher called and read me the results over the phone and I was so excited! A little later I received my diploma in the mail. Everyone was so happy for me!
After receiving my GED, I had more free time to do whatever I want. I had more time to do more activities. I did yoga at the Gaulter Center in the spring and started doing water aerobics in the summer. I started getting involved in an advocacy group at Friedman Place, attending Chicago Adapt and meeting at Progress Center for Independent Living. I even joined a Women’s Choir at Edgebrook Church
I truly believe that God wants me to be an advocate for both myself and for people with disabilities. I believe that God has called me to be an Evangelist - sharing the gospel of Jesus.
In all, I just like sharing what God has done for me.