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Thunderbolts and Firewires: The Year That Was 2016, #Farewell2016 #Writing #Podcast

I am feeling a little like I am frozen, and I’m warm while I say that. I don’t need to be out in a snow bank to say it. It is January, a new year, and I am frozen by many fears. I am afraid I will accomplish nothing, that this year of 2016 will be empty and a blank void in my life. I feel frozen by indecision and by uncertainty, but I hope I can find a way to thaw from that feeling of being frozen by all of this, that I can find the courage to take risks and keep moving forward.
I am equal parts afraid and optimistic. I am a lot hesitant and somewhat hopeful. The fear that I could go a whole year and not get anywhere at all clings on tight. On the other hand, I see a wide open year ahead as full of unknown possibility and promise of something great.
You never know the experiences you might have, the events in life that you just can’t plan for, and the people you may meet, who may come into your life for all kinds of reasons, for the short term only or for longer.

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Here I am, a year on from the fear and those remarks I made on my blog at the start of 2016, and a good year for me personally and creatively, trying new things, all by deciding to focus on myself is how 2016 actually turned out.

And now, I end 2016 and begin 2017 by looking back, at the year I’ve just had and ahead to the year to come.

I did it at the end of 2015 with:
My Top Spills and Thrills
of which there had been enough of both to go around.

What a ride! Would 2016 be anything else?

And so, I give you – 2016!

JANUARY

As the January 2016 quote from my blog showed,
I began my year afraid and uncertain and on a bit of a lower note,
with a little
Just Jot It January fun.

Then, to kick things up a notch, I thought the best way to focus on my writing was to take a writing workshop with a Canadian writer I’ve admired since I began blogging and seriously writing.
Carrie Snyder – Obscure CanLit Mama
Her style to creative work was just what I needed and it made me open up and here I am, one year later exactly, off to broaden my writing workshop horizons.

In reality, my brother had just come off a close medical call and was becoming himself again. I had lots to be
thankful for.
I just needed a bit of a push,
some creative inspiration,
and a path for a new direction in my life.

The year 2016 would, by many, be labeled “The Year All the Greats Died…the cursed year” even if you look at that with perspective from other years, past or future.

It began with David Bowie, but for me,
it all started with Snape,
as Bowie hadn’t quite meant to me what he’d meant to many others who felt his loss.

A new year maybe, but a new month meant another
#1000Speak,
focusing on the subject of forgiveness.

With the start of 2016 I decided to start a new Friday tradition.

Thanks to Kristi from
Finding Ninee
I decided to participate in a new blogging exercise
for the first time.

Another first included
Dungeons, Dragons, and Sorcerer’s Spells
but, in the end, it wasn’t for me.

Turns out, the magic of this month has been that I could just write, jot really, and I started to see that I didn’t need to have the rest of the year all figured out in the first thirty-one days.

FEBRUARY

This second month of the year is designated for a cause I know well. It ended up to be my chance to speak my mind about my personal cause and became my first published article of 2016:

To the People Who’ve Never Heard of My Rare Disease – The Mighty

February would end up being a month of
mindfulness and music.

Ten days in, I turned thirty-two and decided to check a big one off of my
bucket list,
and so I went out and rented myself a violin.

Happy Birthday To Me!

I turned another year older.

Harper Lee dies

MARCH

This third month of 2016 would bring more music, as I would discover my theme song for the year and forevermore:
Scars – Emmanuel Jal Feat. Nelly Furtado
and I would officially begin to learn how to play the violin, with lessons that would challenge and reward me, in both big and small ways.

Then, in honour of International Day of Happiness, I wrote a piece for
March’s #1000Speak
about how music makes me happy.

By this point in the year, I decided to cut back on blogging and write more of the memoir I’ve always planned for.

This was the best I could do.

I will keep at it.

March brought with it guest blogging spots and more opportunities for publication, other places than my own blog,
with my second attempt at the #BeReal challenge.

Following this, feminism seemed to be the topic of March as a month.

An interview I’d done with
a proud male feminist
and then a piece I’d written on
International Women’s Day
were both picked up by
The Good Man Project.

As for those we lost in the month of march:

Rob Ford (former mayor of Toronto)

and

Patty Duke, at the end of Women’s History Month, March.

APRIL

I got myself a writing mentor and my lyrics were finally heard.

Don’t Look Back

I was trying to focus, to look ahead, and to plan for what I wanted.

Why Oh Why

The writing mentor was a big deal, for that, as great and knowledgeable as she is and as much guidance as she’s been so far, but it was a sign that I could make writing my future – only I could do that.

April’s #1000Speak was all about vulnerability.

Once again, like during the spring of 2015, I was losing my tool for communication and self expression. This makes me feel vulnerable.

So I appreciated
the share from a friend
and another
guest posting opportunity
from a blogger, a young woman I really admire and have interviewed here before.

Spotlight On Single Strides

The end of April brought with it the death of Prince.

It also brought with it
the death of the loner laptop I was using
and a beautiful gift from a stranger, one which would allow me to write another day.

MAY

Back And Better Than Ever

I’d been pondering the idea of doing a podcast for a while, but couldn’t figure out how to make that work. Then, I brought up the idea with my brother and an idea, our idea, was born.

Taking A Chance

Next, it’s the month to celebrate mothers.

Solid As A Rock

I couldn’t do this without thinking back twenty years.

Frozen In Time

For May’s edition of #1000Speak I focused on
Loving My Self-ish.

The end of May and onward to June always causes me to pause and reflect.

Born Again and Forever Grateful

This time these thoughts would grow to become my next piece to be featured on The Good Man Project.

JUNE

My first Song Lyric Sunday on more than just any old Sunday day.

Following “the month of the Mother,” –
Her Dad Gave Her New Life and Rebirth–Where’s the Father’s Day Card for That?
June will always be a month for me and my father.

Electric Blue Compassion, #1000Speak

JULY

We started with a Facebook page,
and soon that followed with
Episode 1 – Intro To Us
with Ketchup On Pancakes.

On top of the release of the podcast, I jumped at an amazing offer, an invite, which would require a whole lot of planning and a wait of nearly six months.

Would the moment ever get here?

I bet my sister was thinking that same thing, we all were, but her good news was finally a dream come true.

A chance at independence and a new life for my writing and for me and a second child for her.

And so I applied for a newly updated passport and began to count down the months.

I read and wrote one of my rarer than I’d like book reviews.

Then I was approached and invited to write another
guest post
about my life and my day as a blogger.

What is courage anyway? #1000Speak

AUGUST

More lyrics for a second song written and, in celebration of and motivated by that accomplishment,
I decided to return to the visual art of my childhood and an old, familiar kind of creativity.

Up next, speaking of being reminded of being a child,
I reviewed a movie about motherhood,
that I’d gone to see, with my newly pregnant sister, in our own empty theatre.

Weeks before, at the end of May, the lead singer of Canada’s own Tragically Hip announced his fight with brain cancer and all his fans of Canada were listening, especially all across the country, one night in August.

The World Can Learn a Thing or Two From Canada – The Planet D

One beloved Canadian spoke up about his oncoming struggle and we lost someone in our family. I’m glad I got to meet Gerti, at least once that I’ll always remember.

As August came to an end, I made a few hard choices about my writing and what I wanted done with it.

If I made a mistake somewhere in there, I guess it will be mine to make and to own and to learn from.

The questioning would and will continue, no matter the month or the year I’m in.

SEPTEMBER

The first day of this new month was one I’d been waiting for, with the release of a new publication, focusing on what travel should be, the kind I’d like to see.

Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel

I remembered what it was like, moving into my house that I bought with my sister, ten years ago.

Collecting Furniture, Memories, and Emails

Ten years later, my nephew started school and my niece began the first grade. Another loved one passes away. RIP Erica.

I got to feature an interview I’d done with one of my favourite editors/writers.

The Other Awkward Age: My Interview with Jennifer Niesslein

This felt like a giant win and one of the best things to ever happen to this blog.

OCTOBER

Episode 2 – Ingredients Listed with Ketchup On Pancakes

But we weren’t the only ones with the idea of doing a podcast. Apparently, the idea had spread.

The Brevity Podcast

I took an autumn trip, to say goodbye,
with more than just the fall colours
as backdrop.

NOVEMBER

The U.S. makes a big mistake and it’s time to get writing – all the more reason to write.

Nano Nano Nano

“Regarding the influence from his poet-balladeer father, Cohen has said, “He’s tremendously helpful. Forget that I am his son. I was tutored in lyric-writing by Leonard Cohen and I had his sensibilities to draw upon. And I’m not just talking genetically. I could literally talk to the cat and he could lean over my notebook and point to a couple of phrases and say, ‘These are strong, these are weak.’ How can I consider myself anything but incredibly fortunate.”

Canada loses a great artist and the world all feels it, a distraction, in the form of
RIP Leonard Cohen,
just following the chaos in the United States.

Stalemate, #1000Speak

Could this possibly spell the end of 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion?

DECEMBER

Canada announces the first woman, other than the Queen, to appear on Canadian money.

Black rights activist Viola Desmond to be 1st Canadian woman on $10 bill

One month after November’s U.S. election, we share our Canadian perspective.

Episode 3 – The Great Gong Show of 2016 with Ketchup On Pancakes

I focused on my own personal growth for a greater part of 2016, but managed to fit in a little, last minute dating during the final days. Also, I made new and face-to-face connections with a few local women writers. So, a balance of personal and social, for good measure.

A few of the final famous deaths of 2016 would include daughter/mother pair Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but for me, it was the loss of this guy that brought me back twenty or so years:

I watched Days of Our Lives multiple days a week, while I was sick at home from school or stuck on dialysis. It was my favourite soap opera of the late 90s, as ridiculous as the storylines always were.

Joseph Mascolo, ‘Days of Our Lives’ Villain, Dies at 87 – New York Times

No villain was ever more evil than Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo).

Special Snowflakes and Safe Places – Wham! Bah Humbug! Whoosh! #10Thankful

I featured a George Michael shoutout, in my final 10 Things of Thankful post for 2016 and this was before the Christmas Day announcement of his passing.

I am no fortune teller, but some of my predictions did happen,
as I sit with what did indeed come to pass and look back on what 2016 became.

Ketchup On Pancakes (the podcast) had a final episode for the year, a catch up on all that was 2016, by a cozy fireside.

Episode 4 – Farewell 2016…By The Fireside with Ketchup On Pancakes

And now, here I am, and another January is upon me.

It is a bit of a contemplative month, with the new year so new and fresh, but I value it for its melancholyish quality. It is a quiet time of reflection and so much possibility ahead.
As a new year begins I search for the motivation I see all around me, the kind that is going to get me to the places I strive to get to. I feel the blueness of January and hope I can find some momentum in the months to come.

My 2016 Resolutions were:
I want to make more connections with writers, creative and smart women, and I want to keep writing. I want to not be afraid to keep putting my words out there, even though the fear of more rejection is a lingering one.
Some make resolutions, others pick one word for their year, but I resist doing both. If I have to choose one word though, I suppose I will go with “Adventure”. I do want more of this, as I believe life is one giant adventure, all the years we get to live it.

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Brevity Podcast #2 Andre Dubus III and Suzanne Roberts

One of these, all about writing, is very much needed today.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Bobby socks optimal for best listening experienceBobby socks optimal for best listening experience

We’re back on the air! This month’s Brevity Podcast is now available right here and on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher. If your fancy technical skills involve RSS feed wrangling, here’s our feed. And wherever you listen or download us, please take a moment to leave a brief review–it helps us show up in searches.

Episode #2 features an interview with Andre Dubus III on his memoir Townie, and the burning question of whether one must have an eventful life in order to write memoir. Suzanne Roberts talks about her retreat program Wordy Girls, and how she figured out that writing was not in fact her first priority.

Next month, we’ll be talking with Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm and Hotels of North America, and Athena Dixon, editor-in-chief of Linden Avenue.

Who else would you love…

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The Brevity Podcast Episode #1: Dani Shapiro & Thaddeus Gunn

Yay. Love these guys. Love to read them and now I get to listen. The podcast is where it’s at. There is nothing I love more than to listen to talk of writing.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Enjoy our podcast on the go!Enjoy The Brevity Podcast on the go!

We’re on the air! The brand-new Brevity Podcast is now available here and on Soundcloud. We hope you’ll enjoy our first episode, featuring interviews and readings from New York Times-bestselling author and noted memoirist Dani Shapiro, and Brevity author and Pushcart Prize nominee Thaddeus Gunn.

In upcoming (somewhat) monthly episodes, we’ll be speaking with Andre Dubus III, David Shields, Ander Monson, Rebecca Skloot, Roxane Gay and Cheryl Strayed, as well as more of our Brevity authors.

Soon, we’ll be invading the world of iTunes, Stitcher, iCatcher, and other podcast services, but for right now, we’re right here, and downloadable for listening on the go. If your fancy technical skills involve RSS feed wrangling, here’s our feed. If you’re on Soundcloud, please do follow us.

Let us know what you think—and we’d love…

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TToT: Da Da Da, Sa Sa Sa – Black Moon Yonder, #10Thankful

Here’s a little flashback to finish off the week and begin a whole new one.

me on bike
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For the record, I don’t generally like motorcycles. They are loud and they make me nervous, but this one wasn’t moving.

I’m not enjoying this perpetually dreary start to October. I haven’t been enjoying this cold I’ve picked up and had for over a week now. And I’m certainly not and never have been enjoying the nonsense of the US election, as they count down, one more month to go.

Music will help. Music and good deeds and fresh fruit.

I am thankful for all the beautiful violin music that author Anne Rice shares on her Facebook page.

I much prefer this version to the original Coldplay song.

It’s a shame Anne Rice has quit posting political articles and she doesn’t even attempt to have discussions about politics right now. I miss her views, though I didn’t have to deal with all the nasty comments. Her page, her rules.

I’m glad she still shares music though, mostly violin stuff.

I am thankful for rough bikers.

me with bikers
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I used to hang out with quite the group, wouldn’t you say?

This was who sponsored my trip to California when I was sixteen, through
The Sunshine Foundation, Canada.

I am glad to see bikers, somewhere out there, are doing it again. This is where “don’t judge a book by its cover” couldn’t be more applicable.

A Cycle Broken – The Guardians of the Children

I am thankful that, despite my cold symptoms being rather irritating, the second episode of the podcast
Ketchup On Pancakes
is complete and we’ve beat our previous episode
(Episode 1: Intro To Us)
by extra time, going more like 70 minutes, instead of the previous one hour.

We went over time, but it is a good episode, which includes us adding in more sound and effect, compared to our first try.

We plan to create a shortened, all make-it-up-as-we-go-along episode next time though.

Actual new episode still to come in the next week or two.

I am thankful for an interview I finally got posted.

The Other Awkward Age: My Interview with Jennifer Niesslein

I am thrilled about this actually and have been for some time now.

I should have had this posted a while ago, but I was so over-the-moon that Jennifer had agreed to be a featured guest on my blog, that I wanted it to be perfect.

It’s up now and she even shared it with her Facebook friends/followers too. She has been so open to speaking with me. I try not to come off like too much of a stalker, but I really admire the work she does.

I am thankful for help in making it look more visually appealing.

My sister helped me to make the interview stand out from my usual blog posts.

I am thankful, though this cold has been bothersome, that it’s starting to ease up.

Thank goodness for tissues.

I am thankful for the black moon.

It was the perfect way to say goodbye to September and usher in October.

The Dark Side of the Moon

I am thankful for the autumn arrival of my favourite in-season apples.

DWZ0pTF.png

This is my diet for the time being. What else do you need?

I am thankful for a rather productive weekend, even with everything.

And finally this evening, I am thankful for
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
and another new episode, because he makes me laugh, even when talking about some pretty crappy things.

Off to see if I can find his latest thoughts on the week that just was.

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The Other Awkward Age: My Interview With Jennifer Niesslein

Would you consider yourself “full grown”? Do I? What does that really even mean?

I am getting much better at the idea of asking for what you want. After all, if you never take a chance, ask for what you want, you have no chance whatsoever of getting it.

I’ve admired her from afar. I’ve followed her and her role of running Full Grown People for two years now, ever since I discovered the website, that is.
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I made her aware of me, first by taking the chance to submit a piece of my writing, a somewhat hurried account of a bad breakup. And she returned my submission with a kindly yet direct email, stating how she felt my essay wasn’t the right length and did not feel fully fleshed out. I took this early rejection and I used it to become stronger, to start to develop my writerly thick skin, the one I would need if I were ever to survive being a writer.

When I found the courage to thank her for that early on rejection, she said this:

“I’m glad the rejection was a positive experience because, honestly, passing on essays is the worst part of my job.”

I’ve never forgotten and in some ways that early lesson as a writer, due to Jennifer’s role as FGP editor, it all stuck with me and I see it as a pivotal moment in my writing journey thus far. I was curious to find out more about some of hers.

I’ve respected Jennifer ever since and I considered it bucket list worthy to get the chance to interview her. I asked and she said yes.

Please introduce yourself a little and feel free to mention anything you think might be applicable here. What was your history before Full Grown People, just to set the stage?

I started out in the mid-nineties at an alternative newsweekly here in Charlottesville, Virginia. The staff was tiny, and so I got to learn every aspect of the business, from reporting and editing to layout to ad-to-edit ratio. I met the woman who’d become my business partner at Brain, Child there, the awesome Stephanie Wilkinson. (She was writing the book column while finishing her Ph.D.) We started Brain, Child, a literary magazine about motherhood, in 2000. (Our first issue came out in 2001.) It was great run. We sold the magazine in 2012, and in 2013, I started Full Grown People!

I stumbled upon that magazine somewhere, a year or so after Jennifer launched it. It has changed my life. There aren’t enough hours in a day to read everything, visit every site and blog of interest, so only a certain handful stick in the end. Twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday (give or take), I visit FGP to learn about the lives of others who have decided to write about becoming fully grown people. As the editor, I wanted to know from Jennifer first and foremost:

What has writing meant to you in your own life?

It’s meant different things over the years, but pretty much consistently in my adult life, it’s helped me figure out tough stuff. That said, I live a pretty charmed life, so I write less than I edit.

I was barely thirty years old when I started reading the essays to be found on Full Grown People. This meant I wasn’t feeling all that full grown at the time. I wasn’t so sure where I fit in actually, no longer being a member of the popular twenty-something age group of bloggers and writers, who were discovering the reach of today’s social media craze. I wasn’t a mother. I was newly single and on my own. I hardly felt like a grown-up with all the usual responsibilities that come with that. I was feeling child-like, but yet with my adult years and middle age looming, seemingly frighteningly close. I started reading Jennifer’s writers and their views on all the things that come with being full grown, so now that I’ve got the chance to ask her:

What does the “full grown” in Full Grown People mean to you?

In the thick of life. There’s a whole category of literature called “coming of age” stories, but I think the truth is, we’re all coming of age throughout our lives, adjusting to new realities. 

This is why it was that I likely gravitated to this publication amongst all the others found online, all the places where essays are found. I didn’t have to be a mother to fit in and to understand where so many of the writers were coming from. I could be who I was, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a writer, and a woman. I did wonder though, what the differences were between running a publication specifically for parents and one in which the whole package of life lived was being covered.

What does it take to run a publication like Brain, Child vs Full Grown People? Are they similar at all and in what ways are they or aren’t they?

Well, my caveat is, I’m describing Brain, Child as it was when Steph and I ran it. (We’re no longer affiliated with it, so I can’t speak to its current incarnation.)
In some ways, BC and FGP are completely different animals. BC was print; FGP is web. So the business models are completely different. And while personal essays were the bulk of what we ran in Brain, Child, we also ran reported pieces, fiction, humor, etc. FGP is strictly essays. I think the common denominator is a respect for the reader’s intelligence and some damn fine writing. 

All caveats aside, I wanted to know, “some damn fine writers” and “respecting the reader’s intelligence”, but what else does Jennifer look for in terms of the kinds of essays she publishes on Full Grown People?

What sorts of things do you look for in a piece you might publish on FGP vs a piece of writing that might just not be right for the site?

Whoo-ee. I never know how to answer this question. This piece that I wrote for Brevity is about as succinct as I can get:

Seven Essays I Meet in My Literary Heaven – BREVITY’S Non Fiction Blog
(Another publication I read and love.)

I can’t imagine what it takes to put something as fabulous as Full Grown People together on an almost weekly rotation. Her control over the entire FGP in its entirety has had me in awe since I learned of what she does with it.

How would you describe the job of editor/editing vs simply writing?

Editing and writing uses two different parts of my brain. (Okay, maybe not literally.) If I’m doing my job right, my editing is invisible to the reader—it’s taking a writer’s work and helping make it as close to the essay’s Platonic ideal as possible. I think of editing as a collaboration. Writing is me doing me. And if I’m doing that right, it’s also a sort of collaboration between me and the reader—that my words will somehow tweak the way the reader thinks about something.

I couldn’t imagine anyone could or would go through year after year of putting out such wide variety of people’s personal essays without discovering things about the universality of life. What has that been for Jennifer?

What have you learned since you started FGP, about the universalities we all experience or about those who’ve wanted to share such things with you and your readers?

I learned this at Brain, Child, too:  you never know what someone is privately going through. 

True. Oh so true Jennifer. I often think that.

Then comes the small visual aspect of every essay Full Grown People publishes, but I have a feeling, though I don’t see each photo, that the part these elected images plays in the accompaniment of every essay isn’t small at all. I couldn’t see the pictures, only reading the essays, but I have noticed, from the start of reading them on a weekly basis, that there is a definite bond of respect between words and visuals, between Jennifer and her main photographer.

You have a photo accompanying every essay you publish. Most of the time one photographer in particular.
http://ginaeasley.com
What do Gina Easley’s photographs, for example, what do you think her art adds to the essays?

I think Gina’s amazing work adds another dimension to the essays, like any time you combine two art forms.  


People are always going to be growing and going through things and thus I believe there will always be a place for someone and somewhere, wanting to share those experiences.

Where do you see Full Grown People heading in the future?

Hopefully, just growing and growing! We have two anthologies already and I hope to publish more.

Jennifer Niesslein has made a huge impression on me as a “fully grown” woman and as a growing writer. From the success and popularity of Full Grown People that I’ve seen over these past two or three years, I know I’m not the only one.

You’ve made quite the impact in the world of literary and personal essays and a name for yourself and the website. What does that mean to you?

That’s kind of you to say, Kerry! It’s very gratifying. I’ve been a reader before I was a writer or an editor, so in a way, it’s an extension of who I’ve always been—the person who’s always saying, “You HAVE to read this!” And I’ve been so lucky to work with the writers and Gina—they set the bar high.

And finally, I wanted to ask Jennifer about the barriers for writers of different minorities, as she has seen a lot over her time in publishing. Things hopefully do evolve over time and I am sure, by now, it’s obvious how highly I respect her opinions on the always changing publishing and writing landscapes.

As a woman in the position you are now in, what might you say to the next generation of women who want to make a mark with their writing or some of the other things you’ve tackled? What sorts of barriers do you see less of over the years and which ones do you still see as potential problem areas for women in the world of writing and publishing?

That’s a good question (and, honestly, the first time I’ve been asked)! I’m a little leery of offering advice because there are such huge variables in women’s experiences and circumstances, and I don’t want to minimize the privileges I’ve had. But I would suggest learning as many writing- and editing-related skill sets as you can; I’ve had to wear many hats, and in the end, it’s given me greater creative control over my work. But the most important thing is having at least one person who will look at your work and tell it to you straight, with kindness. For a long time, my aspirations were a little, um, greater than my ability, and having someone or a group of someones to point out where I was flubbing and when a possible different approach could help was invaluable.
The best thing I’m seeing about barriers is just how many publications there ARE now—which means more opportunities for writers. The worst barriers are the same old things: the bias against women writers, and the even greater bias against disabled writers, writers of color, LGBTQ writers. I’m guardedly hopeful that the publishing climate will get better or get replaced—just because the conversations around equity have been more public than they were when I was a whipper snapper. 

I greatly value these views on equity, the existence of lingering bias, and the need for things like perseverance and determination, all of us just trying to survive in this world of publishing and self expression, as writers and creatives.

I want to thank Jennifer Niesslein for agreeing to do this interview. It has been a huge honour having her here.

Adulthood, all stages included, and we’re all just doing our best, trying to make it through “The Other Awkward Age”.

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Physical Place and Emotional Space, #SoCS #1000Speak

Whilst I complain sometimes that this new Facebook feature, going live, seems to slow down the voice program on my phone. On a day like today however, I see its benefits.

I am currently listening to a Facebook Live session from a nearby museum. Or is it at the theatre? in a town, not too far from me, but which I am not at this time.

I’d gone to this museum several times, the last few summers, for

Shakespeare’s First Folio.

I’ve gone for exhibits and talks about the world wars,

World War I,

and World War II as well.

But now I am listening to a panel of refugees. They are speaking about the countries they come from, how those places influenced them, and how being in Canada has allowed them to speak from a position of peace and yet with the right amount of noise and outrage for some of the human rights violations that go on every day, back in history into today.

Note: I mostly place *** ahead of any or all things said by the members on the panel, in place of actual quotes for things they said, things I heard, and the mashup in between. I hope I can make clear what are my thoughts and what are those experiences of the three experts I just listened to.

This post happened in the moment, but I realize it could serve as a post for any of the following:

Stream of Consciousness Saturday,

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion,

or even the Ten Things of Thankful post I write every weekend.

This was very much a stream of consciousness sort of post, as I was technically taking notes as I listened, but I wanted to go ahead and share them, plus my impressions and thoughts as I listened.

I didn’t realize this panel was taking place today, but I have access to Facebook and can listen in still. I feel deeply for anyone who has had to live through wars and governmental, religious, cultural upheaval.

This topic of refugees, “topic” sounds like a strange word for it, but I just don’t know, though words come easily in most cases. Not always, not here and now though.

This speaker came with his parents, exiled from Iran, at the age of nine. He lost loved ones, family and friends, back in Iran, to executions. Stuff I hear about in the news all the time, can’t fathom, and brush past the headlines to preserve my sanity. This is tough tough stuff. I feel helpless. I write so I have my own voice. I know I am lucky to have that.

My heart hurts. Those forced to leave their homes to survive and to save their families from further danger. He says we in North America are somewhat uncomfortable with pain and suffering. Struggling, he says.

***an empty shell, suffering. To have that fire, you reach a point where you have no choice.”

He speaks of what is beautiful and inspiring. He’s seen crimes against humanity. He felt such a sense of helplessness as a child. Lost his uncle to torture. He saw horrifying images. He learned his instinct for wanting to end injustice.

***It’s not abstract. It cuts you open like a knife.

He went, fresh out of law school.

After World War II, Cold War, the forming of the UN.

Criminal tribunal. I know little about these things. He teaches me and all who listen.

That line, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That’s life for the world. Always.

I wish everyone could hear this man speak, all these speakers.

Humbling. He comes across that way. Futility, enormity. No [punishment is ever enough.

He refers to Nazi punishment at Nuremberg. I saw the movie., My father watched. The lawyers being there. I can’t imagine actually being there, attempting, given that responsibility to give punishment for unthinkable acts. Evil is the word that comes immediately to my mind, but they were all humans too. All of them.

I have the best life here in Canada. Circumstance. Fate. Luck. Whatever you want to call it. We don’t get to choose where and when we are born into this world. Personal past and the wrongs that are done. I see roadblocks. I see them clear. I see people knocking down roadblocks of all kinds. I have knocked down my share, but there are always more, more more.

Others do it. Grace. Genuine humility. Selflessness amongst the selfish world.

Life isn’t always the greatest for all humanity.

This FacebookLive thing isn’t bad at all.

***Living inside the fray vs living outside of it.

This woman has a platform to speak about what happens, good and bad, in her country of Kenya. Violations of treaties. Abuse of women and children. Discriminations. She speaks in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Her words are powerful in their truth. She wants her country to be equal in its society, eliminating fear, from her position here in Canada. These countries need to learn from each other.

Easy to be full of ideals. Getting into life and reality can shock. True meaning and purpose. This man teaches younger generations, from his experiences. Education.

***Emotion as a form of cognition. Privilege over intimacy. Intellectual rigour. If you don’t understand the reality. you will never have passion to use your ability to go and make a difference.

***Exploit. Own moral virtue. General empathy. Fruits of sorrow. Some do work others arrive for harvest. glamorization of human rights. Profound human experience. Account of suffering. Platitudes. Feel good activism. Idealism is about struggle and being wounded and continuing. Emptied ourselves of that understanding. To separate theory from practice.

Nelson Mandela comes up. Imprisoned for years:

“Sometimes I miss it. I got a lot of reading done.”

Spirit. Upside of suffering. Inspiring each other. Draw on that courage.

Kosovo. Bombings. Refugee crisis happened there too.

Orphanages and institutions all around the world with kids in need of a home and someone to love them. Earlier I watched videos about J.K. Rowling’s foundation,

LUMOS,

a spell to produce light from Harry Potter,

from which I named my cat.

I hope Canada can do our part. We are not innocent. We’ve caused suffering. I don’t know the half of it even.

How to help those who must flee is not a new question. I have no real answers. I write. Stream of consciousness, I use stream of consciousness to relieve some of the pressure.

***Silver lining inside dark clouds. Circumstances, didn’t kill them, made them stronger.

World at large scares me. Gives me hope yet still too. Flip flop. Flip flop.

Prominent human rights lawyers. Doing what they can. All my stereotypes of what a lawyer does and I can’t deny their knowledge and wisdom and influence.

Speaking on certain world leaders. Not an easy job, but so often filled with self interest. Naive and idealistic. It always comes back to that for many of us.

***Cynical short sided policies.

He’s bemused. Good word.

Corruption. Complicity. The west. Middle East. ISIS. His idealism is tempered by realism. The global village is a mess reality but is a reality.

He wanted simple corporate life, just before September 11th, in New York.

He speaks of it so soon after last week’s anniversary.

Policy makers. Theories. Clash of civilization.

***Complex diverse fabric. Took preparation to tear that apart.

Middle East politics. I know nothing about this.

Human rights. Rule of law.

***Refugees are the symptom. Not the cause.

HE says. I just I just…

***Ceasefire. Multi laterally.

Talk over my head. I feel like a child who does not comprehend such things. Of course, I comprehend, I do, I think, even if I do not understand.

I hope Justin Trudeau can do something. Is that possible? The EU. So much to keep up with and my head hurts. Meditation. My best option?

Governments need to work together, like we demand from children, siblings, at school. Leadership and resolve.

Compassion post? Where do we learn empathy and compassion from? How do some not learn it, or unlearn it later?

I believe I’ve learned that from my family and from my disability. You see things differently, or else blindness should force you to do so.

Africa feels so far away to me. The world, so large, west, east, north, south.

She’s proud to say she is Canadian now. We are proud to have her here. Her home is always on her mind. You can hear it in her earnest words and tone.

***Political will.

Hmm.

***Willing but their hands were tired. problems. Take care of their own, rather than others that come.

Hmm.

Camps. Refugee camps. Camps are the word I, here in Canada, feel most uncomfortable about. They are all there is for so many though.

I’ve heard from those in literature. From these activists and civil servants.

Those last ones look forward to the day when they are unemployed. Will that day ever come?

They can not be everywhere all the time. Nobody has that power.

Mass migration and mass movements. Here in Canada we can’t nor should we avoid thinking about it, facing its undeniablility.

We are apart of this world. How do we treat indigenous people here, mirrors how we do for others around the world.

He visits prisons in Iraq. Unsuccessful suicide bombers. Young young men. HE speaks to them. Eighteen and Syrian. Must kill enemies. Then he speaks of the violence he has seen and misses his mommy, his village, wanted to go to medical school. Understanding from an intimate position. How recruitment occurs. Highly corrupt. Religious extremism. We are, all of us, susceptible. We can’t run from this. We are all interdependent.

***Hold our leaders accountable. Resume responsibility. Assume it. Do our share. Impossible for a few to clean up any mess.

A lot of blaming of journalists. Media looks at one problem. Pay attention. Feel powerless. Then what?

How to get beyond colour, I am colour blind. This does not solve it entirely of course.

Robert Kennedy. Fifty years ago. Before my time.

Female genital mutilation. Gender based violence. We feel like we need to pick an issue. These are real, live human beings, silence no more.

Teachers teach and then those students go on to teach children.

I am here in the virtual audience. Big big biggest questions, heavy with importance.

Silly thought, but like my still growing in-box, I fall behind. We have fallen behind.

Justice isn’t always so easy. I watch a documentary on Netflix about the idea of Hitler escaping, and I wonder. What if he had? Conspiracy theories linger, nonsensically.

Ethnic. Ethic. How to obtain sustainable peace? Long term?

***Spectacle of ISIS.

Regimes. Atrocities. Don’t make it to social media. Refugees flee from government. ISIS is the word most people see and hear. Undoubtedly it is all causing such strife.

***Dabbling in feminism. Iran calls it. Complex transition. Authoritarian. Fundamentalist. Leaderships. Repress. Youth want democracy. What kind of a coward is afraid of a feminist?

No kidding. Time isn’t often on their side.

Our leaders, those in positions of power, they do abuse that. How do we fix it? My idealism and naiveté showing again.

Korea.

History straight from this speaker, this man, from those things I was not yet born to see.

***Rule of law and rule of force. How to be civilized.

North Korea. People starving. I have no clue.

Nothing makes you feel better. Well, listening to these people helps a little.

Darkness to light, from Korea, north to south.

Those images trouble me no doubt.

Genocide. Rwanda. Hatred. Dehumanizing. Calling human beings cockroaches. How could anyone, no matter who it is? Fifty years after the holocaust.

***In the moments of most tension people fail, their best intentions lost to history.

When we hear the window to prevent escalation of violence is mostly gone by.

This Iranian/Canadian human rights lawyer states any ordinary citizen should never feel we can’t make a difference, do something. Is this true? Can I help somehow?

Then, in Winnipeg, apologies for residential schools. Prime Minister gives this now. Elderly immigrant couple delivering cupcakes. Neighbours. Could barely speak English but they brought “transcendent humanity” to their indigenous neighbours.

“all that it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.”

I must check this Facebook page more often.

Stratford Festival

There is good being done everywhere. I need only seek it out.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Interviews, Kerry's Causes, Piece of Cake, The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge

ChronicBabe: living a kick-ass life despite chronic illness

It’s not easy. Pain is invisible. Life must, to a certain extent, go on.

Heart Sisters

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I first heard about the work of patient/advocate/blogger Jenni Grover Prokopy(pictured at left*) years ago when, coincidentally, we were each named by Our Bodies Ourselves of Boston as two of their 2009 Women’s Health Heroes. She describes her blog ChronicBabe.com as all about how to live a kick-ass life in spite of living with one or more chronic illnesses. Jenni has an up-close and personal relationship with this topic. First diagnosed with fibromyalgia 20 years ago, Jenni was terrified. She felt completely alone – medical resources were scarce, and none of her peers could relate to what she was going through.

“My life was turned upside down. I went from being a hard-charging, super-athletic chick to feeling so fatigued I couldn’t walk more than a couple blocks. Severe pain kept me from pursuing career opportunities and social activities. And within a…

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