Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Spotlight Saturday, The Insightful Wanderer

Spotlight Saturday, Holiday Addition: Down but Definitely Not Out

It’s almost winter and do you know what that means?

Yes, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, of course.

But it also means the dreaded body aches, chills, headaches, stuffy noses, and sore throats.

The jolly merry old illnesses and colds of the season.

Other than the movie review I posted the other day, I have taken a few blogging sick days, after being pulled down this past week with a pretty nasty cold, first of the season.

What are the odds I will be able to knock the number of these down from last year, from three to just one?

Happy Holidays to me. At least I should be back to my old self by Christmas.

Anyway…it has been quite the week for me, on a more positive note, with a list of the blogs I have been featured on lately. Also, my chosen story in a holiday short essay contest, and an interview I recently did with a fellow blind travel blogger/writer.

I hope you enjoy and feel free to check out any or all of the blogs and websites I list below, both for the work I’ve done and for those who have hosted or been interviewed by me.

***

I have met a lot of interesting people, bloggers, writers over this past year or so. One in particular is a visually impaired writer and traveler from Australia who was kind enough to feature me on her travel site back in the summer. Glad to be returning the favour I asked her if, I could interview her on my new travel website and here it is:

Interview with Maribel of Touching Landscapes

Next, sticking with the travel theme, I received my second chance to showcase my travel writing skills, with a guest post I wrote for a blogger, writer, and traveler who has just recently updated and consolidated three or so separate blogs into one. I thought the highly personal reason for why I hope to one day travel to the birthplace and the French village of Louis Braille and check off an important item on my WanderList would be the perfect fit for her newly put-together website:

Louis Braille – The French Inventor That Changed Blind People’s Life

To cap off that Friday full of guest posts and coming up on the end of the year, I was once again mentioned in a end-of-the-year round-up of a fellow blogger. She runs a style website for blind and visually impaired women and I contacted her earlier in the year. We spoke and from there she featured me on her Fierce Friday series, followed by me interviewing her for my blog a short time later. Well, now she has included me in the midst of two extremely talented visually impaired women of whom I look up to, a writer whose book I reviewed a few months ago and the talented writer and traveler whom I mentioned above:

Fierce Fridays – The Year in Review #1

I woke up feeling like crap a few days later, to a message that my holiday themed essay had been chosen. I still felt like crap, but this announcement made me smile in spite of that crap. A blog all about brevity, called Brevity and I didn’t think I could be that brief. Check it out here:

Sweet Sounds of the Season

And finally. I was thrilled when I discovered I was listed as #24 on a list of Bloggers to watch for in 2015:

42 Bloggers You Want to Meet in 2015

***

Thank you Sylviane, first for the guest post opportunity and to showcase what I am all about over on my new travel blog, and now this. What a pleasant surprise.

Thank you Brevity Magazine for picking my essay to be included in your Holiday Smiles contest and on your blog.

Thanks Stephanae for remembering me in your end-of-the-year review and for all the support you’ve given this past year.

And thank you Maribel for also giving me and my dream to write about travel a chance and for agreeing to be included in my Fellow Wanderer interview series on my new blog.

I hope for more blogging success both here and on that new site in the coming year and I wish for only good things to come to all these women who have given of their time and their talents.

This holiday season I have much gratitude for the opportunities shown to me by the generous bloggers and others who have shown me love on their own blogs and websites lately.

Happy Holidays to all who I may be blessed to have reading this, here and now.

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Happy Hump Day, The Blind Reviewer

The Corner Gas Movie: Movie Review

“I love this stupid town and I for one think it’s worth saving.”

Nobody could have said it better than Brent.

DOG RIVER FOR CANADA’S QUAINTEST TOWN?

It’s like no time has passed at all.

Dog River, Saskatchewan, the place where nothing ever happens.

We here in Canada have no blitz and glamour of Hollywood, no bright lights of Broadway, but we do have plentiful humour and Corner Gas.

The show ran from 2004 until 2009 and five years later comes The Corner Gas Movie.

We aren’t known in Canada for our celebrity film world, but with such institutions as TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) we are slowly gaining traction.

Corner Gas, the show and now the movie, they have become a bit of a Canadian staple, but the citizens of Corner Gas and the events of the town could be those to be found in any town, anywhere in the world.

It all started with an idea from creator, writer, actor Brent Butt. He wanted to write a show, based in Saskatchewan, in a fictional town known as Dog River, and with the centre of the town being the gas station.

Brent’s character runs the station, along with his employee Wanda.

Wanda is a tough little lady, always with a fowl mouth, backdoor scheme going and an angle to work.

Brent’s parents are Oscar and Emma, probably the worst example of a married couple there is. HE’s useless at just about everything he tries and she’s often embarrassed by what her crazy husband might be up to. The only way they have clearly survived this many years together…well, the both of them are just plain mean and miserable old geezers.

His favourite catch phrase is the ever popular: “Jackass!”

It’s actually a pretty simple insult, but it has become his catch phrase after all this time.

There’s Dog River’s resident jack-of-all-trades (lousy at them all), chronically unemployed best friend of Brent since childhood, Hank.

Then there’s the Ruby Cafe, owned and operated by Lacey. She’s the sweet one and probably one of the sharpest tools in the town shed, if not a little on the bossy side sometimes.

Finally, the whole town is policed by dynamic duo Karen and Davis. They spend most of their time policing where none is truly necessary. It isn’t quite clear what it is they do actually.

I was hoping this movie would feel like the show before it. I went to see it in its limited time release, extremely limited.

It was playing in theatres from Wednesday, December 3 to Sunday, December 7th only.

Before the start of the film is a live and interactive opening with Brent Butt himself and games such as:

Who said it?
Obama or Oscar?

The town is in a shambles when the movie opens: power, hydro, water, garbage are all piling up and falling into disrepair. Dog River’s mayor has been negligent and careless in his mismanagement.

In the condition Dog River is in, to be awarded the title of Canada’s Quaintest Town is their only hope, but its going to take a lot to become qualified.

This movie has more hijinks, as usual, but a softer side of Emma’s character. She is longing for a grandchild this time.

The show was never known for its romance and now Brent doesn’t seem like the best son to bet on for a hopeful future grandmother. Unfortunately, he is her only son. Maybe love really is in the air.

As things appear to look bleak for the town, Oscar is riding around on a horse, some mysterious real estate agents are going around offering people money for their homes, and Wanda is running an underground saloon/cassino behind Brent’s back.

A rift has opened between best lifelong friends Brent and Hank. Hank has come up with another one of his harebrained schemes and has just assumed Brent would back him.

Alliances seem shaky between police partners and pals Karen and Davis when his contract ends and he takes on a PI business, leaving Karen alone and pregnant and trying to police a dying Dog River.

All seems dyer and beyond all hope. Luckily this is a movie and not just a half hour show. More time to find a resolution.

:)

I got what I wanted. It felt like one long version of the TV show and I think that’s what all good movies made from television shows should be. Plus, no Canadian film would be complete without a brief clip, a little Kim Mitchell and Go for a Soda.

:)

The dry and sarcastic humour of Corner Gas and its entirely Canadian creator are clearly still the keys to the success and the familiarity here again. All the beloved characters are back and just as crazy as ever.

The movie only aired for five days and within two weeks it’s being aired on network CTV television.

At the heart of this film is Corner Gas and the man who runs it. Brent cares about his home and the people who live there. He may even be in love with one of them, the destruction of Dog River causing him to fear losing either Lacy or Wanda to a better life in the big city if Dog River is no more.

There is subterfuge and spy tactics afoot with a neighbouring town and perhaps the fate of their own could be left in the hands of townspeople such as Hank or Davis.

Meanwhile, back in dog River Lacey has been appointed leader of the Quaintification Committee.

It’s going to take more than a screw-up-of-a-town-mayor to destroy Dog River, not with its citizens all doing their best and being themselves, all in the name of saving the home they love.

As for this show and the subsequent movie, you may need to be Canadian to get the joke, but this Canadian is pretty proud of what we’ve got here.

I’m a sucker for romance and, no matter who ends up with whom in the movie, creator Brent Butt and costar Nancy Robertson (Wanda) met on set a few years after filming premiered. This gives Corner Gas an underlying love connection and special place in my own heart.

I love Brent’s unique writing style and his dry witty sense of humour, which resinates in everything he does. I was glad to see something like this made by Canadians and it was sweet to see, corny though it was at times, the audience who knew the theme song by heart and who sang unashamedly all around me in that theatre.

I don’t mean to suggest any true comparison, to any hardcore Seinfeld fans, but Corner Gas, in show or film version, is a show about nothing, but it’s the characters and the town’s overall personality that makes it memorable.

Corner Gas is the quintessential story about quaint Canadian life in a quaint Canadian town. After five years since the show rapped up, this made for the perfect one last hurrah, showing that community, friendship, family, love, and tradition are important Canadian values. Also, that Brent Butt knows how to write just as interesting a story and a highly sweet movie as was his TV show all those years.

“Jackass!”

Enough said.

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History, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections

Human Rights Day 2014: Fragility

“Nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could.”

Sting, Fragile, YouTube

When I hear this version of the above song I always think of the IMAX film Sting wrote and performed the soundtrack for.

Starring my beloved dolphins: it was about the ocean and I sat in a theatre in Niagara Falls several years ago and was in awe.

The music and the lyrics touched me and moved me, not just because the enormity of something like an ocean dumbfounded me, but because I felt so completely tiny and insignificant in the vastness of everything.

The idea of the ocean has always beckoned because of all this, because I love it so much, but on a day such as this:

The United Nation’s designated HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, December 10, 2014,

I want to highlight Sting’s words and specifically the line from above.

I feel so small and insignificant on days such as this, but I especially like the theme of the 2014 Human Rights Day: everyday should be a day for human rights!

I wish I could shout this to the world because I know what I say here will only reach a minuscule segment of it, but I write this anyway.

I wish I could shake the world into finding respect for all human beings.

After thousands of years of the horrible things humans have done to one another and after two world wars.

The UN declared December 10th Human Rights Day in 1950, highlighting this with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

How many lives have been lost and human rights infringed upon since that time?

Whether it’s all the division and unrest in the US right now, in the midst of several disturbing incidence between young black boys/men and white law enforcement.

After what happened here in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, with the senseless killing of Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill.

Or in addition and by expansion, with ISIS and in the middle East.

The admissions of the CIA and their torture tactics revealed.

Whether it’s the growing racism in countries in Europe, all these years after such blemishes on our world as the Nazi regime’s atrocities.

Racism. Terrorism. Sexism. I don’t care. I want it all to stop!

Discrimination of Native people in my own country in the past and still now in the present.

, the helplessness and uselessness I feel living still as a woman with a disability in the 21st century.

Or all of the above.

I want more for us all. Much much more than the status quo.

“Nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could.”

I repeat this line from the start of this post because I can’t help tearing up when I think of it or hear it sung and my heart hurts so much, which leads me to write this now, as it’s all I have to do to even attempt to quell the hurt I feel.

I hear variations of the above stories I speak of, on the news every night, and I want to reach out and shut off my television, not wanting to hear any more.

I feel like I must fight for my rights and I know others are fighting more desperately for theirs.

It’s on days like this when I am just so so sick and tired of fighting.

Be kind to one another. Please!

As tough as a large portion of our world thinks they are and tries to portray themselves to be to the rest of us, I know the title of this song to be true.

Fragile. That’s all we really are.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday

Bad Day

I See Fire, Ed Sheeran, Youtube

Last week, for the

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge,

I described a

Good Day.

In life, with the good inevitably come the bad.

This isn’t easy to write and may be hard for some to read. I apologize.

Having a disability is already an extra stressor and can bring on times of depression about life. I am thankful, I must say before I continue, that I do not have clinical depression on top of that. Not having that allows the waves of depression and the bad thoughts and days to be outnumbered by what I know is good and joyous about my life.

***

Describe a bad day:

I am listening to:

Lord of the Rings, The Complete Soundtrack, on YouTube

as I write this week’s Memoir Monday post about a bad day.

I do this to provide me with some background music, yes, but also to put things in perspective.

Of course I will be giving you a glimpse into what a bad day is like for me.

There are plenty of dark and despairing parts in Tolkien’s tales, if you are at all familiar with that world.

But there are also those bright, cheerful, and hopeful parts and the music reflects both as I write.

***

I wake up and right away there is darkness, the day is black, but not because I am totally blind and see nothing at all. I still have the little bit of sight I had yesterday and the day before and the day before that.

It’s one of those bad days. They come and they go.

I want to look at myself in the mirror and all I see is a vague outlines staring back at me.

I want to jump in my car and go somewhere: groceries, errands, to visit someone, just drive aimlessly away from the life I am trapped in.

Oh wait! I can’t!

I don’t drive and there is no car other than the one that others must drive me in. The driving I sometimes do in my dreams taunts me when I am awake.

You are no good. You are lesser than, disability, disabled, unable, not at all capable.

You are helpless and you should hide away from others because you can’t possibly fit in, not when you lack the one sense valued above the rest.

You are as much of a burden as they say. Who are they? You know, them. the ones who don’t want you around, as a reminder of those poor blind people who must have a terrible, deprived existence. It’s one people don’t want to look too deep into and you would do best to just stay out of the way.

Stay hidden. It’s for the best.

You are constantly in the way and a drain on others. You can’t possibly contribute in any meaningful way, so don’t even bother trying.

You stand out like a sore thumb and people stare. You can’t see it, of course, but they do because you make them so uncomfortable and they would rather not look, but they can’t look away.

I am a freak.

I push everyone away. Why do people leave?

My blindness. Yes. It must be that. In a way it’s an easy scapegoat.

I have no future and nothing to look forward to, nothing but a dark, black void.

Why do I even bother to hope for something more?

I will lose the rest of my sight and I will be alone with my darkness.

That is how this story will end, as if it’s already been written.

The End

***

Quote from Stephen Fry:

There comes a time when the blankness of the future is just so extreme, it’s like such a black wall of nothingness.

It’s just nothingness, the void, emptiness and it’s just horrible. It’s like contemplating a futureless future and so you just want to step out of it. the monstrosity of being alive overwhelms you.

***

Daniel Powter, Bad Day, on YouTube

Of course this is an extreme example. I have many more good days than bad and the bad days are more like bad moments. the thoughts, they come and they go just as fast.

Next Memoir Monday:

Describe your baseline, or an average day.

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History, Memoir and Reflections, Throw-back Thursday, Uncategorized

TBT: Feeling Like a Freak

Today I returned to the office on the ground floor of the medical building. The place is so familiar to me, with the smell of the chemicals used to polish artificial eyes that hits your nostrils the moment you enter.. The smell may be strong, but the leather couches are just as comfortable as I remember them.

This took me back to myself as a twelve-year-old girl. I was scared, sitting in the chair, but out of pain finally.

What was going to happen?

I thought about the past, today, as I sat waiting for him to return with my artificial left eye.

It is an indescribable feeling. I tilt my head back slightly so my artificial eye can be removed. I still shudder at this thought.

It feels odd to even myself as he slides out the prosthesis and I am left with nothing but the place holder inside where my real eye once was.

It was being attacked by an unknown and unnamed virus of some sort. The doctors and specialists could not diagnose and the pain just would not stop.

Removal seemed like the obvious choice. I did not have to think about it for long and the surgery took place within a week.

Now eighteen years later and I can’t believe how long ago that was. So much has changed and I am no longer that little girl.

Six years ago was when I had a second eye made. They recommend making a new one every six to eight years.

My sister and brother were there, in place of my parents. My brother, with his photographer’s eye, stood in the room as the eye was skillfully made, formed and molded, fit and refit and resized until it fit just right.

This was a unique photo shoot, but one well worth capturing.

On this throw-back Thursday I still shudder at the thought of no eye there at all. It’s in my own head and I can barely stand to have anything to do with it. I don’t touch and don’t remove it if I absolutely do not have to.

Last time it was not in its place, where it should remain, was a few years back, one early morning when I rubbed a little too hard and it fell.

This isn’t easy for me to speak about. Something still makes me want to distance myself from my own eye, but I can’t. I can’t get away from it and most times I would not know anything different.

But when I am required to let this ocularist examine his creation, I sit alone in an examining room by myself and I wonder.

This still grosses me out. I feel somehow less feminine and like a freak, but why?

It’s fascinating even, depending on who you ask. Some may be grossed out too.

How can I expect everyone else to be totally fine with it when I myself never quite have been?

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Happy Hump Day, Kerry's Causes, Special Occasions

International Day for Persons with Disabilities 2014

MICHIGAN’S FIRST BLIND SUPREME COURT JUSTICE

The United Nations has set aside December 3rd as

International Day of Persons with Disabilities:

“Throughout human history technology has shaped the way people live. Today information and communications technologies in particular have impacted a lot of people’s daily lives. However, not all people have access to technology and the higher standards of living it allows.”

I know I am lucky. I have things some people, in other parts of the world, do not.

I thought I would take this occasion to explain how technology has helped me.

I am writing this blog using the Mac laptop I own. On it I serf the net and write my blog posts.

I use the Mac’s built-in voice software, VoiceOver it is called.

If you have a Mac, go ahead and press Command F5 on it right now and see if you hear anything.

:-)

Technology is continually being developed, with people like me in mind and that is a wonderful thing.

Why did I start off this post with the story about that blind Michigan supreme court justice?

I showed it to a friend the other day, a friend who is successful in his career and intelligent, philosophical, and writes poetry of incredible depth. He also just so happens to be going blind.

We talk about the difficulties he faces as a professional who just wants to do his job, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t made challenging.

We both agreed that it’s nice to see stories like the one from above, but that it’s a shame we are still at a place of being so amazed, as a society, that someone who just so happens to be blind could make it all the way to becoming a supreme court justice.

Headlines such as the one at the top of this post are eye-catching and awe-inspiring. This is not a bad thing, but it does single us out at the same time, keeping us separate, like we are some strange other species that most people wouldn’t have believed could have done the things men such as this clearly are doing.

The theme this year is

Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology

“With an estimated one billion people living worldwide living with a disability, and 80% of them living in developing countries, access to technology is key to help realize the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities. Under the theme of “sustainable Development: The promise of technology”, this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities will look at this issue in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.”

The Michigan supreme court justice couldn’t likely have come as far as he has without technology. I know I would be worse off, more isolated, and less informed.

:-)

This doesn’t mean I have to stop longing for a time where a day set aside, once a year for people with disabilities, is not needed, a day when the things most people do aren’t seen as some extra unbelievable feat for others.

A girl can dream.

For now I will simply take some deep breaths and remember that most people have nothing but the best intentions. That days set aside by the UN bring much needed attention to making things better for the future.

I need to remind myself to be patient and that the rest of the world will eventually see it, eventually catch up.

Alexi Murdoch, Breathe, YouTube

What do you say when you read articles such as the one I started this post off with? Is it still amazing to you when you read things like this?

What do you think the significance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities is? do you think it necessary at this point?

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Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections

Giving Tuesday 2014: All the Hope I’ll Ever Need

RESOLVE to Give Hope

It’s a bit funny to me that this, 2014, Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday are bookends to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The days for giving thanks and giving back kick off and end off a frenzy of mad shopping and heavy consumerism.

I guess a balance is needed, but I spent my Saturday feeling thankful for the blessings in my own life.

I felt a sense of discomfort and anxiety all day Friday and I didn’t even participate in the madness. I did not wish to be trampled, thank you very much, either here in Canada or across the border in the US.

Okay, so it probably wasn’t that bad, but oh wait…maybe it was.

Today is Giving Tuesday and the array of options on this day can be just as overwhelming as the options to be found in any store.

I see many charities that I feel could use the donation and I would vouch for them all: Infertility Awareness Association of Canada/RESOLVE to give hope for people with infertility, Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, suicide awareness and prevention, and countless literary journals and online publications promoting literacy.

I wish I could donate to them all.

I simply can not give to all these, but I can share my message of hope.

So back to Saturday…

A subject as touchy as infertility, in my family is not always an easy one, but we do not shy away from it. My family have faced it head-on and we have the miracle to show for it.

I spent my Saturday, in between the thankfulness, the shopping, and the giving, with my family. We ate, drank, and played with the children.

This was all capped off with an evening of classic Christmas movies.

RESOLVE to Give Hope

I don’t know if I will ever have any children of my own. This realization hits me, often on a daily basis, and I struggle to put those thoughts in their proper perspective.

If I never do, will I be okay with that?

Will I feel like I have lived a fulfilling life without?

How do I continue to handle the feelings of envy and resentment toward anyone who announces a pregnancy or who gives birth, while I continue to watch from the sidelines?

As I sat there with my niece and my nephews, I pondered these very questions.

My one-year-old nephew: so innocent, sleeping peacefully, nearby on the sofa.

My two-year-old nephew: sitting in my lap, happily singing along, moving his limbs frantically to the music.

FIVE LITTLE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED!!!

And my soon-to-be-four-year-old niece: playfully spinning me, around and around, in the office chair I sat in.

I was surrounded by hope, all the hope I will ever need.

Here is a list of the organizations I spoke of above and of which mean something to me (#GivingTuesday):

http://www.iaac.ca/en/giving-tuesday-3

http://www.resolve.org/get-involved/be-part-of-givingtuesday.html

http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2014/1121/Penguin-Random-House-launches-GiveaBook-campaign

https://www.rmhccanada.ca/emails/rmhc-celebrates-givingtuesday-on-december-2nd/

http://blog.childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org/2012/11/give-miracles-on-givingtuesday.html

http://suicideprevention.ca

http://www.covenanthousetoronto.ca/homeless-youth/Home.aspx

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