Special Occasions, This Day In Literature

Hemingway’s Havana

THIS DAY IN LITERATURe:
Born – July 21, 1899
died – July 2, 1961

On the trip I took to Cuba several years back I found myself in the famous city of Havana. A van was rented and a driver brought my parents, my brother, and myself to tour around for the day.

A huge part of this tour revolved around infamous American novelist Ernest Hemingway and the spots he frequented while he made his home there in the thirties and beyond.

I must admit I have never been a huge fan of his novels. I started to read The Sun Also Rises a long time ago and I didn’t make it very far. I found his writing a little too cold, distant, and lacking emotion. Perhaps I am too stereotypically a female reader, liking what women apparently look for in a well-written narrative, or else I just didn’t give it enough of a chance, but I was a teenager and I couldn’t escape or deny the boredom. Did Hemingway write more for men? That, supposedly, is a question for another post and time. (Clears throat) Anyway…where was I?

Oh yes…

Anyway, our tour featured some of the places he made famous, for tourists and locals alike. Being a lover of literature as a whole I was curious.

We stopped, at one of the bars he drank at, to have a sample of the drink he made famous: the mojito. I can’t say that this was my sort of drink either, but my mom was excited. I was excited to see our next stop on the tour.

We rode up in the open-air elevator with its screen, to check out the place where he lived and wrote. The Ambos Mundos hotel is visited by travellers from all over the world, every single day. I pictured him sitting there and writing.

“It is said that if a visitor stays in this hotel he or she will surely dream of the characters in Hemingway’s novels.”

I couldn’t deny that I felt brought back in time, in history to his life in that marvelous Cuban city, so full of inspiration.

The small room where he used to stay is obviously a museum now (Number 511) and it is there where it is said he was inspired to write For Whom the Bell Tolls. I haven’t got to that one yet.

Recently I tried once more; second time is a charm? I started reading The Old Man and the Sea and I got out on the open water with the old man and then put the book down, not to pick it up again. I hope to return to this story to complete it at some point.

I thought today, in remembrance of Hemingway and the fact that it would be his birthday if still alive, that I could share my one-and-only Ernest Hemingway related travel experience. Tomorrow is Tuesday and I often post about travel. Cuba was a special place and I hope to write more about the rest of my week on the island on a later Travel Tuesday. I will have to return to Havana one of these days to be able to not waste the opportunity to write about such a famous location and maybe even to visit his home there (Finca La Vigia), which is currently being restored. Now that I have this blog there are so many literary travel spots I need to visit and revisit so I can write about them and give them the appropriate attention they deserve.

Happy Birthday to a legend of a literary mind.

Note: I took a few of the details I was unaware of from this interesting post from a new travel writing site I just discovered.

Traveling Tales online travel magazine

Also: it appears that even if I could be headed for Crazy Cat Lady status, Hemingway was quite the cat lover himself. I can’t tell you what a huge comfort this is.

“Hemingway named all his cats after famous people so we follow that same tradition today. Cats are capable of learning and responding to their names, particularly if they have an affectionate relationship with the person who calls them.)

Hemingway and Kijewski

It’s amazing the sorts of things you find out when you bother doing just a little bit of research.

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Memoir and Reflections, Spotlight Sunday, Writing

Lumos

It has been an emotional month, or a few months actually. I don’t know how I am feeling from moment to moment still. When what I thought my life was going to be suddenly changed I had to pick up the pieces from a broken heart and decide what I would do. This might all sound cliche, but it is true nonetheless.

This is why when I suddenly decided to get a kitten and when I told my family they thought I was nuts, even a bit concerned for me probably. I have been thinking about getting one in the past. We talked about it. So last week when the opportunity suddenly presented itself, I jumped at it.

We were dog people growing up in my household. There was the mysterious stray who would magically appear out of the bushes on our back patio when I was young. It only seemed to like me and my brother and would run away again when other members of the family would come out. We played with it and fed it and I even started bringing it inside. This came to a tragic end when we came home one day to find the door of the bird cage wide open, our bird nowhere to be found, except for some scattered feathers. Oops!

Then there was the stray who showed up a few times when I was in high school. I begged my mom to keep him and I named him Homey, but he didn’t stick around for long.

Finally there was the neighbourhood cat who began sunning itself on the warm stones of our front walk last summer and soon moved on to the comfort of the front porch swing. I began to come out to find it hanging out, every day at around noon and we became fast friends. It never made it into the house and soon the coldest of cold winters would drive it back to whichever nearby house it lived.

There is debate now why I got Lumos and if I truly know of the extra responsibility this will place on my shoulders. Dobby is already a handful and sending him to live with my sister and brother-in-law is no longer an option like in the past. I love them both now and it’s the three of us against the world.

I ask myself why like the others. Is it because I had been drinking at my brother’s open mic the night before and I was still a mess from a hang-over, not thinking clearly? Is it because I am still reeling from loss and rejection, causing me to made a rash decision which I will one day regret? Is it because I fear I will never have children, a family of my own, and someone to love and Dobby and Lumos are my way of having someone to take care of? Or is it that I am one step away from turning into

Crazy Cat Lady

from The Simpsons?

Perhaps it is some of this or none at all. We all have skeletons in the closet, monsters under the bed, and those voices inside our heads. Mine nag at me and taunt me and tell me I am no good and destined to end up alone. I have been using writing to help me cope and perhaps having the two of them to wake up in the morning for, knowing they need me…maybe that is what I need right now. Whatever else is to come I want to be someone who takes chances and experiences life. I know a lot of times I am the introverted writer who writes and reads about other people experiencing all the world has to offer, but I am constantly working on putting myself out there to have the kinds of experiences, in love and life, that will help me write with more clarity and direction.

I was reminded about all the cat hair I would have to clean up and I hear that person’s reminder loud and clear. Sometimes I care and I see how it is important to clean, if I ever want to have guests over. It is hard though, sometimes, to care too much about it. When I go about my day, most times, I don’t see the hair building in corners and all over the floor. It isn’t until I get down on the ground that I notice it. I often go about my day and think there are more important things to worry about. I am often stuck in my own head and unaware of my external environment. I look at the big picture and I now have one of each.

I debated over the name and, predictably, I went with a literary name to match the dog. I decided, in the end, to stick with the Harry Potter theme. I have previously written )on HerHeadache) with such titles as:

The Dark Mark

and

Dementor

I thought it was time I used a term from J. K. Rowling’s novels for something sweet and adorable. Lumos is a spell which is used to produce light with a wizard’s wand. I like to think of my new little kitten as a bright spot of light in some of the darkness I have been experiencing lately and hope, with the love and companionship of both animals, to climb out of some of that darkness and find my way forward.

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Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, Special Occasions

Angels

Today is a day to celebrate!

It’s one year since Brian’s kidney transplant and I wanted to share something I wrote only days afterward. There are ways to write a letter to the family of a donor. I hope I am not stepping over a line here, but this is my way of speaking to the people who gave my brother his life back.

***

July 20, 2013

Dear Anonymous Angels,

I will try my best to keep this letter brief, but because my gratitude to you is both endless and boundless, it can’t possibly really be expressed using any words to any real satisfaction. Yet, here I go anyway …

This is fresh because I am writing to you all one week after it happened, after the accident that would change your life forever…and the gift you would give to my family as a result. I go back and forth as to whether or not I want to write this, at all, but I am doing so now because I need to say this. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to hear it, but maybe that’s just my own guilt talking; maybe you’d grasp for what I have to say…if only because it is something to show for your loss, when there is nothing I nor anyone else could ever truly say to make your pain any less.

Before one week ago you were alive…full of life and laughter and love. You walked and spoke and thought. You had a beating heart. How do I know this? You signed your donor card. You spoke to your family about what your wishes would ever be if the unthinkable happened and your family had to make the ultimate in painful and heart-wrenching choices. The ethics of organ donation are so widely debated, but the real discussions are had between couples, families, and inside each individual’s own thoughts. I have been directly involved in such discussions, on the one side, for years and I still find myself torn deep to my core. Your selflessness is evident, no matter what else I could say or wonder about you. I don’t know you and never will, but I get to know a little piece of you now, inside my loved one.

I went first. I got sick. That wasn’t what I wanted for my little brother. I want you to learn a little bit about the life you’ve just saved:

I have read and heard many a definition of the word “soulmate” and I know what most people think when they hear it. To me, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with romantic interest or attachment. My younger brother is my soulmate. He is one person out of billions that I have an attachment to which I won’t, don’t and will never have with anyone else. He is my brother, my support, my friend, my pal, my conscience, and my hero. He challenges me, calls me out on things, pushes me when needed and pulls back at just the right time. He is my best friend and my toughest critic. People make jokes about how they must be adopted…well I say my brother and I must be twins, but not fraternal or identical: just twins of every other name.

We are the youngest two born out of four: we share the same syndrome, with its lack of sight, damaged kidneys, and the rest. We think so similarly that it often frightens me to think of it. He knows me, sees me, and reads me more clearly than anyone I’ve ever met. We’re family, but so much more…we’re accomplices in crime and two-of-a-kind. We’re quite the pair. I am his protector and he is mine. No one has my back and my best interest at heart like he does. His humour makes me smile whenever I need cheering up. We laugh until our sides hurt, about our own private jokes, the private language we two alone share. We talk and philosophize about the world and everything in it, desperate to understand our place.

I want you to know all this about him because you gave him back to me. You have given him his new lease on life. Nothing will stop him now. His determination and his strength continually astonish me and they are there more than ever; now his physical limitations can’t hold him back.

We’ve done this before, been here before, but that last time was different. There’s no question in a parent’s need and desire to give a kidney to their child; my father and mother…I got his and my brother got hers. This was never the end of the story and we all knew it, but I could never have imagined how it would feel now. I ache for you all; I hurt, and for unnamed and unknown people somewhere out there whom I have never met. You didn’t know us, or have reason to help, but yet here we are and you did. Why …?

***

I realize the abrupt stop above. I got to that point and my emotions took over. That is as far as I got and thought it best to leave it there.

Please! Today take the time to be thankful for the life and health you and your loved ones have. Not everyone has that now.

Thanks for listening.

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Memoir and Reflections

Summertime Sadness

The wind was cool on that summer night as we drove farther and farther out of town. I found it soothing and refreshing, until my friend slowed down her van and we waited; a train was speeding by. This was the first time it happened.

This was on the night of the musical celebration in his honour, put on by family and friends. He always loved music and he was a gifted musician himself. This was the best way his loved ones could think of to celebrate his life, but that word doesn’t change the fact that everyone found it hard to really celebrate anything that year.

This was a celebration, or that’s the word often used to put a positive spin on things (on a person’s life after they are gone), but it was hard to be positive now and from now on. He deserved to be remembered. This was in memory of him, but he was not there and never would be again. He was younger than I am now and he was gone.

As the train sped by, a rush of anxiety and panic swept through me. I shuddered and shrunk away into my seat and wanted to flee. I would never again be able to hear that sound and feel quite right. That was now the sound of the end of his life and the end of so many things for people I loved.

***

It was touching to see just how many people showed up for his funeral service. The room was full and the line went out the door and down the hall. I had never been to a funeral quite like this one.

I was used to attending church funerals for grandparents and others, people whose deaths weren’t exactly unexpected, being that they were all near the end of life. This time was different. I never thought we’d seriously be here like this. We hardly ever all got together, but this was the last way I would have wanted to finally make it happen. This was surreal and so shockingly real all at the same time.

I can’t say we were ever particularly close, Morgan and myself. He was older and we didn’t really have the chance. That is just an easy way of justifying our lack of closeness and rationalizing why I don’t have the same right as others to feel any of this, but I am writing because I feel so much, for everyone involved.

***

As children we did get together at least once a year, at Christmas time. We would all sit on Oma and Opa’s hard cellar floor, eagerly awaiting our name to be called. Uncle Mike made it fun as he passed out the presents.

One year I remember Morgan having drawn my name in the gift exchange. He must have known, or my aunt knew, just how much I loved to draw, but either way I will always associate the scented Mr. Sketch markers I loved so much with Morgan. He gave me a set of four brightly coloured markers: yellow lemon, green peppermint, blue blueberry, and red cherry. I don’t know how many bright days he would have after that, in the years that followed, because I was not around most of the time to witness what his life was like. I heard things from other people, but when I would see him at an occasional family get-together he seemed quiet, hardly one to stand out in the crowd.

***

In the later years we would have a few brief conversations at family gatherings. I was having chronic headaches by this time and he was kind enough to ask me how I was doing. I suspect he could relate on some level to suffering in its many forms.

Everyone who knew him knew of his startling brilliance and gifts. He had a keen mind and a sharp intellect, but he had so much dark sadness, a weight I can not imagine but of which he carried with him most of his life.

***

His family and friends spoke of these gifts and these burdens. Journal entries were read and music was played. I learned a lot about him that afternoon, mostly things you never want to learn anyone has had to deal with. Some family could not speak and others spoke for them.

As we sat in that room, with its floor to ceiling windows looking out over the small lake, I hoped at least that he would love the view of nature we all saw as these sad things were spoken. He liked nature and found it peaceful. It was the rest of the world he could never quite see eye-to-eye with.

As we all mingled following the service, refreshments in hand, I sat observing the scene. Surreal wasn’t a big enough word now. Then suddenly my aunt was at my side. I hadn’t spoken with her yet that day. She had been unable to speak and now she was the one comforting me.

She bent down and asked me how I was doing and my throat closed up. It does this to me in extremely stressful or upsetting moments. I have been seen as rude or unresponsive when asked a question in just such a moment as this, I find myself unable to answer someone’s question or even get out one word. This time it made no difference.

“It’s okay. I understand,” she reassured me. “You don’t have to say anything.” Of course she understood better than just about anyone else in the room, but I wish I had been able to be the one to comfort her in that moment and not the other way around.

What could I say then and for these last ten years. I have wanted to write since that time, but ever afraid I might say the wrong thing I have kept it mostly to myself. Silence isn’t the answer, but I am still afraid and I never wish to hurt others with my words. I write for the same reason others play music. It helps tremendously, but never do I intend it to upset anyone.

***

It was a warm July day and my father was out cutting the lawn. It was in the midst of fresh pea season so I was happy; it was summer and most people were. The summer would, on that day, be shattered and forever coloured by grief and loss.

It was our job to go straight into town to break the devastating news to Oma. This was one of the hardest car rides I’d ever taken. I didn’t want to be the one to tell her one of her oldest grandchildren was gone. I didn’t know how she would react. I could guess, but she was getting older now and she was an unpredictable lady.

We found her down in her basement, in her favourite chair, keeping cool. One of my parents broke the news, but it must have been clear on our faces the moment we walked into the room. She immediately broke down and we had all been on the verge ourselves since we heard the news. This would make the list of the hardest things I would ever face.

I spent the rest of the day in a haze of pain and disbelief. I had heard about suicide before, but this brought it all so close to home. How did someone do this to themselves and to others? My headaches tended to get worse with stress, but this time it was not only that. It was my mind straining to understand.

I had been through my share of pain, mostly physical and I had thought of a way out in my worst moments of fear and frustration, but never would I have gone through with it. At times it may have been a matter of lacking the “guts” to follow through. It’s a good thing too because as the intensity of my physical pain passed, came and went, it would get better. Any depression I ever had was episodic and fleeting. It was caused by the situation I was in at the time and would not last. I had no real idea what long periods of depression felt like, what true clinical depression did to a person. I saw it barely at all and only heard through secondhand sources. What kind of pain did he have to be in to do this to himself? I asked myself that question over and over again, but I couldn’t say I had any answer.

Was it really anything to do with “guts” at all? I was angry when I thought about the people who remained behind to deal with the mess and the emotions. How could he hurt his family this deeply and permanently? Then I realized I knew nothing whatsoever about it and who was I to judge him for taking himself out of his pain, if that’s what he believed to be the only answer. I couldn’t really be angry at all.

I picture him sitting there beside the train tracks, reading his book, just before he took his life. I stop myself, most times, from imagining the sound of the train as it approached and what could have possibly been going through his mind in those precious precise moments before he took those last steps. The sound of a speeding train will forever cause my mind to go places I do not want it to go.

This perhaps is why I shiver any time I hear a train. Why I have the impulse to put my hands over my ears or roll up the car window and crank the music way way up to drown out the roar. I don’t like to imagine too much further than that, but sometimes I can’t stop myself. What were his last thoughts before it was too late to change his mind? These are things I am sure I’m not alone in thinking about, but of which none of us will ever be able to answer or even want to know for sure. He was alone in these final moments and that’s the hardest part, but he must have been alone in so much more preceding those last moments and of which is impossible to fully comprehend. Who among us hasn’t felt lonely or hopeless at one time or another, but we get through it. He seemingly could not see a way out and how bleak must the world have seemed to him then?

I can’t imagine having a love so strong as the one a mother has for a child and also can not imagine what it feels like to lose that child. I feel it in the way my aunt and uncle speak about it sometimes, but as hard as I try to empathize I can only listen. I try to relate it by going from how much I love my niece and nephews, but I have never had a child who is a physical part of myself.

I do know what my relationship is like with my brothers and so I find it somewhat easier to relate with my cousins. I always say I don’t know how they’ve gone on with life since that July day ten years ago, but I know, with most of the hardest things in life, you find a way, somehow and amongst all that pain. Things make less sense, but I suppose that’s the best way I can put it. I think about what it would be like if I were to have to go on without one of my brothers. My cousins are tough, smart, and funny people, even after all of this; as if that day might have erased those traits in them. I am glad it has not and I think he would be too. For everyone who loves them this is enough, but it’s clear a piece of them both will be missing forever. The time doesn’t really slowly heal all wounds like the Hallmark cards might say. They are simply left with little other choice in the matter.

I try to focus less on the sound of a train and more on music, nature, and the people I love and I hope these things bring at least a little bit of peace to those who were closest to Morgan. That’s all we’ve got to remember him by and the ones who knew and loved him best could probably speak on most of this with more authority. It’s important to remember, today and every other day, that he was once a young man so full of life and who had many times of great happiness during his lifetime, not just sadness.

***

Five or six years later this sort of thing would strike again, on the opposite side of the family. I felt no better equipped at breaking the news to the people I loved the second time around than I did the first. Again I struggled to understand, but how can I or anyone else truly understand until we are the ones standing at the end of our own lives. Morgan was complicated in life and nothing will change that now. He must have felt like there was no other choice and the kind of pain he was in is the kind I will never know.

I think of him every time I hear a certain song, as I tend to do with certain songs, experiences, and people in my life. Sade’s haunting voice sings of great passion and deep deep despair. This particular song speaks of someone who feels like they were cursed to a fate of unhappiness and endless pain.

King of Sorrow

I don’t know if any tool in our age of medicine could have lifted him out of these things or if he was doomed to shoulder the things most of us are able to push off our own shoulders. Wherever he is, whatever you believe, one thing we all agree on is we hope he’s at peace now. He made an impression on all who were privileged to know and love him or even to speak with him for even a little while. How many people in the world can say they have had just such an impact on others like that?

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Memoir and Reflections, Poetry, Special Occasions, Writing

Sherry Baby

Two songs in particular come to mind with Sherry in the title and written about a girl just like my friend: “Sherry Baby” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and “Oh Sherry” by Steve Perry. There are very few people I’ve known who stick out in my mind like this particular bride. There are a few girls I have known who have seemed free to me, free spirits who were always attracting people to them with their bright sparkling personalities. This bride always seemed like this, almost like a female super hero who could take on the world and did.

This was unlike any other wedding I had ever attended, a good thing for sure. The real thing was done at City Hall, but a small gathering of family and friends were invited to help celebrate the happy couple, a real life love story to my wild imagination and literary mind. I was lucky to be one of these select few.

I grew up just outside of a small subdivision and, as a child, I was constantly looking in on this place, just up the road. I went to school with the kids here and became friends with many of them. I suppose it wasn’t much different for them than it was for my sister and brother. They pretty much grew up with me, having a blind girl in their class from the very beginning, unlike the kids I would meet at the school we would go on to attend later on. These kids knew me and accepted me, almost from the beginning.

I was never lacking in a friend or two for very long, a bit of a rarity for visually impaired kids in their neighbourhood schools. Many had trouble adjusting and socializing, not meeting and making friends easily. I would meet many of these kids and we would go on to become good friends.

This subdivision had a general store, a baseball diamond, a church, and a grammar school – a perfect start to introduce me to school and socializing. Sherry was one of these good friends. We started going to school together in kindergarten, but it was first grade when we started spending any real time together.

I found myself, the other night, sitting at a table and reminiscing with several of these children, all grown up now. There were inside jokes and old stories, lots of laughs and I felt a nostalgia I couldn’t quite put my finger on – a past long gone now and a simpler time. I was lucky enough to sit in on this remembering and, all those years ago now, on the lives of these people. I would go over to one of their houses and inevitably their neighbours would be other kids we went to school with. We would all play together.

The bride grew up with boys all around her. She had no sisters and her next door neighbours were a family of only boys. She always played with the boys and became one of the boys. I and some of the other girls at school were happy to fill that void; I was lucky. I witnessed and was just happy to tag along, to look in on the many adventures rehashed at that table the other night.

We’re all grown up now of course, but some things never really change. Sometimes the more things change the more they remain the same. Sure, there has been years of education, marriages have taken place, and babies are now the order of the day, but these people are all the same friends and classmates I once knew, including Sherry. We are adults and that’s hard to believe when I looked back on all the time spent with these people when we were just children.

I was honoured to receive a personal invite to this particular wedding celebration. I recently reconnected with Sherry over our love of writing. I looked to her, respecting her views and opinions, to read over the novel I started last fall. She provided essential feedback and a boost of inspiration and motivation. I find inspiration through witnessing her unique brand of creativity. Our little gathering, a dinner after Christmas, allowed us to get to know each other again, just a little. So many years passed and she had found her partner in crime. They make beautiful music together and are taking on the world together.

Listening to her speech I heard her say so much, but it was in her personal choice of every song her guests listened or danced to that I learned the most and felt the most about who Sherry was now and what this all meant to her. This was the soundtrack of her life and future with her husband. All the years we lost touch I could feel being filled in by listening to the songs she chose. Every song had personal and private meaning to her and I could relate with this more than anything because I would want to do the exact same thing. Music, memories, and love are so intertwined to someone as creative and artistic as Sherry and to me as well.

She’d hand-picked every guest in attendance and every song to be played over the evening. Rumour has it she spent ten hours making up the song list and proud of it (her new husband thinking her a little crazy and loving her for it I’m sure), choosing carefully each and every song for its meaning and dedicating specific songs for specific people. Even I got a song. I was touched to hear of the Lana Del Ray she dedicated to me. The music was different from that played at the usual wedding reception with its hired DJ (no Macarena to be heard). The music ranged from 50s and 60s rock and roll to 90s rap: The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Elvis, Frankie Valli, David Bowie, Neil Young, and Paul Simon. Then there was some Lauren Hill, and a little Gangster’s Paradise by Coolio thrown in there for good measure and Onto the most famous artists of today such as Lorde. Everywhere around me there was plenty of laughter, talk and dancing and I felt at home.

This was a wedding celebration of uniqueness, just like the bride herself. It was full of personality, just like the bride. It felt intimate and fun, fun like she always was. In inviting me to her celebration she did more than she could possibly realize. Listening and witnessing the love she has found and seeing all those people who love and care about her there to celebrate this love I felt better than I had in months. She gave me hope and showed me that love does exist and that when it’s right you know it.

Sherry Baby, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

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Special Occasions, Travel Tuesday

Oh Canada

Today is Canada’s 147th Birthday and so I wanted to celebrate by bragging about why I love my country. I don’t usually brag about anything, but Canada is worth it to me.

Okay, so I don’t like maple syrup or poutine, (yes, I realize this could get me kicked out). There are, however, plenty of things I do love in their stead. Here are just ten.

1. My Oma and Opa chose Canada and they came here and worked hard to make a new life. They raised a good family and that is how I came to be here at all. I love that they were welcomed here and that they were given the chances to make all this possible. They were proud to be Canadians and to raise their family here and I am proud because of them.

2. I love our flag. The red and white always made such a bright contrast for a visually impaired person like myself. Maybe my favourite colour is red because of this and my earliest memories of the main symbol of our nation.

3. I love the music Canada has produced. I love artists such as: Sarah McLachlan, Jann Arden, Neil Young, Bryan Adams, Chantal Kreviazuk, Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Blue Rodeo, and Alanis Morisette. These musicians represent Canada with their beautiful voices, their moving lyrics, and their distinct sounds. I love them for making me smile, making me cry, and for helping me deal with the hard things in life.

4. I love the literature of my country. I love brilliant writers such as: Lucy Maud Montgomery, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro. When Alice won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature I was so very proud and I felt honoured to be a woman, a Canadian, and an aspiring writer.

5. I love the land itself. I love how vast and sweeping it is. I love all the open space and our Canadian north. I love how we value nature and all its natural resources. I love the Great Lakes and the St. Laurence River and the oceans surrounding us. I love the Prairies, the Rockies – from the lush forests to the expansive Arctic .

6. I love the places I’ve traveled and the ones I have yet to explore. I love Niagara and its power which awes me every single time I stand at the railing overlooking the Falls. I love Toronto (Ontario’s capital) for its acceptance of all humans (coming off of 2014’s World Pride celebrations) and for the mixture of cultures and countries it houses all in one city. I love the Maritimes out on our east coast and Vancouver Island out on our west. I love having a little piece of another language and culture right in the middle of all the English-speaking provinces. Quebec is where I received my beloved guide dog all those years ago. I hope to see as much of Canada in the years to come as I possibly can.

7. I love the pride Canadians have in this country and as a result, in themselves. Despite the things the rest of the world think about us and the stereotypes that exist; it is true we are kind and welcoming, for the most part, and are known for it all around the world. We do come off quiet and reserved in contrast with some other countries, but as a quiet and reserved person I feel I am living in the right place. In fact, in my opinion these qualities are highly under-rated. We may not treated our native peoples properly over the years, but it is because of them that Canada is what it is today. I hope we are on the way to making it right and to righting the wrongs of our past. We disagree about the environment, politics, and when it comes to Canada’s role in foreign matters and militarily. Sure we have our problems and don’t always agree. We are by no means perfect but these disagreements just make for a successful democracy.

8. I love how this pride extends to our sports teams. Again, I could get kicked out for admitting I am not quite as enamoured with the game of hockey as the rest of the country, but I do love the image of a backyard or pond rink in winter. I have good memories of Saturdays at the arena with my family or late night roaming an empty one with my siblings while my father played. My brother loved playing hockey in his youth and my father loved being a part of a team as goalie. My family are not Leaf fans or any other Canadian team in particular, but what hockey means to our fellow Canadians it means to us too.

9. I prefer baseball over hockey. I love The Toronto Bluejays and no…I am not just saying this because they happened to win today of all days. I remember sitting tight between my father and brother in our basement, on the couch when Joe Carter scored the home runs to win the 1992 and 1993 World Series and I could hear the pride in their voices as they cheered. The Bluejays are our only team here and we have high hopes for them making the playoffs this year. Going to a game at the Sky dome is an experience in fun and an atmosphere of high energy and enthusiasm.

10. And last but certainly not least, I love the health care we are lucky enough to have here. Again, many could voice their complaints and sure nothing is perfect, but I know of what I speak. I am proud of innovators such as: Dr. Frederick Banting and Tommy Douglas for insulin and universal health care. I know nothing in life is completely free, but after all the surgeries, hospital stays, and medicines my brother and I have needed over the years I am thankful for the universal health care we have. I would feel forever guilt-ridden if I had caused my family to end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for the care I required. Not all countries around the world would have payed for all the care me and my brother received over the years and my family would be so far in debt if we weren’t living in Canada.

So there are just ten reasons why I love being Canadian. I will now enjoy a wonderful firework display from the comfort of my front porch with my nephew and be thankful I live where I do and enjoy the freedom and the beauty I enjoy.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians today and I want to wish my neighbours to the south an early Happy Fourth of July. We all need to be grateful for the blessings we have and celebrate our countries and how lucky we truly are to live where we live.

What are you most thankful for where you live?

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Blind All Around the World

Today I am featured on a brand new blog, started by a visually impaired photographer. She wants to start something, to highlight blind people from all around the world and what they have to say. I am honoured to be one of the first to post on this new blog and hope to help show the world that everyone has a story and something to contribute.

You can find my post

Here,

, and Chelsea’s photography blog can be found

Here.

Check her out.

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