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The Blue Sweater: Learning the Difference Between the Things I Say Are True and the Things I Just Want To Be True

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Loree Burns 4 copyBy Loree Griffin Burns

I thought I would bring a blue sweater home with me from Ireland. I mentioned the sweater in the final sentence of a short essay I wrote for a workshop during Bay Path University’s 2018 Summer Creative Writing Seminar in Dingle. The sentence read: Then I’ll walk back to my rented bed by way of the Dingle Strand woolen shop, where I’ve promised myself the slate blue wool sweater in the back corner, the one with the hood and the pockets, the one that felt like a hug when I tried it on, the one I am certain would never wrinkle, never, ever, amen.

But interesting things, hard things, happened after I wrote that essay. The workshop instructor told us to look for heartbeat lines in our pieces, and I knew that the blue sweater was not that. The heartbeat of that little essay was…

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, The Insightful Wanderer, The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge, Travel, TravelWriting, TToT

TToT: Yellow Gold and Paula Red, #10Thankful

“But the fall was beautiful, too. There was the joy of winds blowing in from a darkly blue gulf and the splendour of harvest moons. There were lyric asters in the Hollow and children laughing in an apple-laden orchard, clear serene evenings on the high hill pastures of the Upper Glen and silvery mackerel skies with dank birds flying across them; and, as the days shortened, little grey mists stealing over the dunes and up the harbour.”

ANNE OF INGLESIDE

I skipped this most helpful of gratitude exercises for a week or two, feeling like the odd one out with my lack of enthusiasm for summer and desire to see the end of the Labor Day long weekend, but I am thrilled that September has arrived because I have a feeling it’s going to be a most excellent month.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful we have a friend from Ireland visiting for a few weeks.

I’m thankful for my sister’s help on a contract for a writing assignment I’ve been given.

More to come on this next month, but the whole process is still an intimidating one.

I’m thankful for waves at the lake.

Such bodies of water are a beautiful show of nature’s power. I am awed by them.

I got to sit at the shore, on a chair with my feet in the water, and feel the waves wash in and then the pull of them going back out again.

I’m thankful for an especially intense violin lesson.

I was struggling to learn a certain rhythm in a certain part of the song. It was a challenge and I kept at it.

I’m thankful I could play along with my teacher.

I would have thought it would make me more nervous, but it seems to give me courage and encouragement.

I’m thankful for peaches in ice cream.

I’m thankful I got my story out on what made my summer special.

Tap to Travel: A Unique Reason to Visit Orlando

I’m thankful for a sunburn that’s healing.

Entirely my fault, but sun: I bow down to your mighty rays.

It was a particularly bad one, on both my legs, but I now have a greater appreciation for the pain burn victims endure. The skin is an amazing organ, but I really must stop putting mine at risk, as mine is an increased risk of skin cancer from being an organ transplant recipient.

I’m thankful I don’t have to start school this week, though I do have some plans.

I’m thankful for September.

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Blogging, Memoir and Reflections, SoCS, The Insightful Wanderer

Solidify, #SoCS

Round and round the seasons go.

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Okay, well there’s four seasons, which technically makes it feel more like a square than a circle, but I’ve always felt, myself, like a square peg that’s trying, always, to fit into a circular hole.

I like circular things: cookies, pizzas, etc.

Years come and go and my life, sometimes I feel like I’m going in circles, round and round.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday, #SoCS

Okay, so this is my first time back doing this Saturday blogging prompt in a while and I might be a little rusty at writing down my thoughts, stream of consciousness style, with a word to write from.

I just have to use the word, but I started with it as itself, as even a part of another word.

Ground. Around. Surrounded.

I enter September, gladly and enthusiastically, waiting for something to happen.

Years ago, this month filled me with dread. I never looked forward to school picking back up after a carefree summer vacation, like some kids you’d ask. Some were, at least, looking forward to seeing their friends and all that, but I was feeling the unsteadiness of the new and different that a new year of school brings.

Just as I’d found my footing, solid ground underneath, I’d be thrown for a loop and have to start over again.

That’s life, the starting over, as I’ve done dozens of times since I last set foot in a classroom. There is, I admit, that familiar sense of terror and now I feel such relief, that this month can remain my favourite transition into my most favourite month, rather than new everything, new grade, new teacher, new set of challenges with learning and keeping up and passing tests.

Socially, I could never quite find my footing, falling to my knees, to the ground for support, wishing I were smarter, friendlier, cooler like all the other kids were. Nothing to hold onto when I’d grab.

Constant interruptions meant I couldn’t count on much, trust in anything really. Since that first grade (kindergarten) where the September calendar was red and green, construction paper apple cutouts, right until I just couldn’t stay there any longer.

Now, I see school again, in my mind and I am there to learn, to make my life better. Along with that, back comes all that stress and I run from that possibility, trying to find meaning and purpose without any further education.

It goes round and round and round inside my head. I can do more, be more, learn more. I could.

For now, I look forward to the month where I eat nothing but apples. I remember those construction paper apples and I hold the real thing in my hand.

Paula reds they’re called. Semi sweet perfection.

When, again, this month of starting over comes round, I meet it with all the hype it promises me.

My niece and nephews are starting school (third grade/first/senior K) and I know they feel nerves too, at the challenges (educationally and socially) that I felt before them. I am so proud. They have so much room to learn and to grow and I nervously await this first day of school, for each of them, though I know they will be awesome.

It’s the daily lunches and the packing the backpacks. For their parents, along with so many others, it is a bunch of feelings, watching them go off again, slowly or fast, becoming their own well rounded human beings.

Critical thinking skills. Socialization. Mathematics. Spelling. Reading. Science. History.

Problem solving. Teamwork. Independent learning skill.

I forget what it is that kids are learning now. I hope it will take them where they’ll eventually want to end up.

I have lots of regrets, and yet I haven’t given up on myself. I am a student of the kind of life long learning my active mind craves, though my body struggles to keep up.

I don’t miss the moment to moment stressors of an educational environment. I don’t miss waking up early to catch that bus. I may feel like I’ve missed it since then, some school years sticking out prominently in my memory, but overall feeling like I didn’t quite fit.

I had an education that I’m grateful for though. I was where I needed to be. I learned valuable things that have stuck with me.

Now I continue to struggle to find my place, where my square-shaped peg fits into the circular. Like we see when a small child tries, learning newly, how to fit a plastic shape into its appropriate slot. We have the urge to rush it, them, when really they need to learn it – and they will.

I must give myself that same room to figure things out. I must learn to be more patient. I don’t like to be rushed, by myself or by anyone else. Also, I am the most impatient of all.

I like to think of the ground, in autumn, starting to harden, to eventually freeze. Most people wish summer would not end. Me, I welcome the change eagerly. I look so forward to this September, like I haven’t in several years. Things are happening, and maybe I am on my way to being, not circular or square, but more well rounded and round and round and round we go again.

I don’t end up saying anything really profound in these, but that’s not the point of them and, as a writer, I have missed that.

As I try to focus on the few writing assignments I currently have, I do desire this stream of consciousness freedom. Though at the back of my mind I try to come to some sort of conclusion to things.

That girl, sitting at that school desk, she didn’t know she’d ever refer to herself as a freelance writer, a writer of any sort. Success, the kind we’re taught about as pupils, may be hard to achieve once we’re on our own. I know it continues to be for me.

So, yes, I don’t know if I have a point, what that might be and don’t know if I’d recognize it if I came to it.

I imagine I could go on doing this, rambling word after rambling word, without the fear of being graded or marked down somehow.

I could.

For the work I’m now doing with the Canadian Federation of the Blind, I do wish I’d been taught more about what’s going on and how the world works. History is important, don’t get me wrong, but how now do I approach my local politicians? How do I stand for myself? How do I speak on my own behalf?

The hamster wheel goes round and round inside my brain. All I’ve ever been taught doesn’t seem nearly enough to make a dent in the problems I see going on around me.

In my head, I run an endless track of ideas and possibilities and what if’s.

Again, it’s September, and I try to fit myself (the square that I am) into that circular hole, be more round. Feel the ground underfoot.

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Socialize, Strategize, Summer Social #Equality #Disability #FTSF

This photo is a section of people who showed up for an event I put on, in a park, at a handy picnic spot.

The weather that day was perfect. The food was enjoyed by all. Everyone seemed to be having themselves a wonderful time. I hadn’t ever really put on an event like that before. My brother (treasurer) did most of the work, sent out invites and got people to show up. We wouldn’t have had the 31 people attending if it weren’t for the work he did and the time he put in.

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lawn chair group photo of
Sarah, Brian, Jennifer, Kelly, Steven, Lisa, Sienna, Susan, Rob, Fred, Markus, Robin, Patrick, Emily and Darling

Great group of people having some great conversations.

I had meant to include this photo in a post the other day, here on my blog, and then I did what often happens to me. The first photo and the second photo were the same photo, not this photo, and multiple family/readers pointed it out.

Thank you because I can’t see which photo I’m posting.

As summer comes to an end, we from the Ontario chapter of the
Canadian Federation of the Blind
were so pleased our first summer social was so well received.

Of
box forts
and happy summer days we won’t ever forget on this
Finish the Sentence Friday
(photo edition).

In spite of the fact that I am blind, can’t see photos, and neither can most in the photo I’m sharing.

Thing we have to learn in the CFB is what we’re hoping to share with the wider world. We, as the blind must speak up and out, for our rights. Yet, this world of ours (as much as anyone’s) is most of all a sighted one.

Tricky stuff. Sometimes, the blind just wanna have fun.

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TToT: Level of Loose Lip Loggers, #10Thankful

“You can cast the first stone. You can break my bones. But you’re never gonna break…never gonna break my faith.”

—Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige

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Caption: my friend Anita and I – so glad she could come to our first CFB bbq.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for no rain on the day of an important picnic/bbq for my cause.

We at the Canadian Federation of the Blind of Ontario were putting on our first ever summer social.

I am thankful for the perfect park where we held the event.

I am thankful I could meet such a diverse group, of old friends and new ones.

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Caption: large group shot of some of our guests.

I am thankful for the help from my family. They are always supportive and always present.

I am thankful for friends who offer rides, help fetching supplies, capturing the special moments of the day, and to help us raise a bit of money to begin something more, just by showing up that afternoon.

I am extremely thankful that the day went off without a hitch.

Some days are a snapshot in time, of a beautiful gathering coming together. I sometimes lose my faith, and then something happens to help me find a little more to be getting along with again.

I am thankful for the 31 who attended our event and then the breaking off of smaller groups, from the bigger, that same evening and the next morning (for breakfast at a lovely spot) and the morning after that.

We discussed policies and plans. We discussed dreams and goals yet to reach.

I am thankful my brother and I could get our 13th podcast episode recorded, with likely something like three full hours of discussion, on transformative times gone by and the change we want to see for those who are blind in Canada.

We talk with the one who started the ball rolling on an Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of the Blind, our good friend and former roommate.

I am thankful for this literary film.

For a major Downton Abbey fan like myself, this one is a treasure.

I’d heard of it, come across the trailer online, and I knew, right away, it would be my kind of film.

It was the perfect way to end one wildly successful weekend.

So much work to do. Sometimes, I need a little time with a good movie on Netflix, a bunch of tears shed – a satisfying few hours spent.

And I am thankful for the first of the freshest apples of the season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iazIjFT9ZI

A legend with a powerful voice is gone and this one song was the one that affects me most. She has affected many others, such as
this writer.

RIP Aretha.

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Close My Eyes To See In The Dark, #SongLyricSunday

I heard the title of this particular post somewhere and thought it made sense when talking about some of our most common fears.

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This is the theme
for this week’s
Song Lyric Sunday post.

Fear is, for many people, losing the ability to see, to see clearly (often times) what’s right there, in front of them. Or what could be waiting for them, out there, somewhere up ahead.

I know this. I’ve heard this from everywhere. I understand it.

Fear of loving again. Or, perhaps, fear of life without seeing what we once could see.

The feelings of fear are everywhere. I don’t know how to avoid them. I don’t know how to quell them, how to quench their flames.

It’s one of my favourites from her extensive catalog of music. This Celine Dion song is the perfect song about the fear of letting someone in, again, after being hurt before, after losing love before.

***

Used to be that I believed in something
Used to be that I believed in love
It’s been a long time since I’ve had that feeling
I could love someone, I could trust someone
I said I’d never let nobody near my heart again, darlin’
I said I’d never let nobody in

But if you asked me to
I just might change my mind
And let you in my life forever
If you asked me to
I just might give my heart
And stay here in your arms forever
If you asked me to
If you asked me to

Somehow ever since I’ve been around you
Can’t go back to being on my own
Can’t help feeling, darlin’, since I’ve found you
That I’ve found my home, that I’m finally home
I said I’d never let nobody get too close to me, darlin’
I said I needed, needed to be free

But if you asked me to
I just might change my mind
And let you in my life forever
If you asked me to
I just might give my heart
And stay here in your arms forever
If you asked me to
If you

Asked me to, I will give my world to you, baby
I need you now (I need you now)
Asked me to, and I’ll do anything (anything) for you, baby
For you, baby
(if you asked me to)
I’d let you in my life forever
(if you asked me to)
All you gotta do is ask me to
All you gotta do, all you gotta do
All you gotta do is ask me to
(if you asked me to)
I will give you my world
I will give you my world
Everything, everything, baby!
(if you asked me to)
I couldn’t ask what you do to me
If you asked me to
(if you asked me to)

LYRICS

***

The risk of loving again is the risk of losing once more.

I can’t – can I? I couldn’t – could I?

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LOST AND (UN)FOUND by Laron Chapman

HASTYWORDS

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Many of us live with irrational fears (clowns, stage fright, spiders, etc.) They grab hold of us, paralyze us, and disturb our dreams.

Some of us live with a different set of fears (the fear of sexual assault, the fear of violence, the fear of death, the fear of abandonment).

Such fears characterize real-life teen activist Brianna Jonnie, the subject of the harrowing documentary short produced by my dear friend/poet/blogger/all-around angelic creature Hasty Dawn Words.

Jonnie, who seeks equal treatment, compassion, and acknowledgment of the countless “disappearances” of indigenous people in her environment has a beautifully strong voice and courage and nerve to spare in Canadian filmmaker Byron Hamel’s visually stunning, cautionary tale, and call-to-action short, “If I Go Missing.”

Featuring candid interviews with the affected community, Jonnie, her concerned mother as well as original music (written by Hamel and performed by “The Once”), the docu-short is an eye-opening exploration…

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