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One Dot at a Time {VisionAware post}

Braille is the best!

Adventures in Low Vision

 Photo shows braille lettering on a white page. Welcome, 2017.  Resolution makers, breakers and those who don’t bother, we all face the sparkling promise of the year to come.  It’s invigorating to imagine shedding the dry skin of previous failures or poor choices and to begin with a smooth touch on new goals.

For me 2017 will be another year full of adventures–intentional and otherwise–as I live each day well with low vision. One of the fun challenges I’m doing is learning the braille alphabet. In celebration of World Braille Day as well as Louis Braille’s birthday, VisionAware published my piece, One Dot at a Time, on learning braille as a person with low vision.  Braille will continue to be something I value in 2017 as living well is all about choices and options.

How do you mark the new year? What resolutions or goals have you made for 2017? What do you think about braille?  What choices and options are you grateful for…

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A Variety of Various Positions, #LeonardCohen #TGIF #FTSF

This week, as is so often to be found in life, was full of both the expected and the unexpected. Change comes round, now and then, whether we want it to or not, whether we’re ready for it or we aren’t.

I expected that the US might bring round a change in things, from one political party to the other. I wasn’t all that surprised by their election results, to be sadly honest. As much as I hoped that the change would be for that country to elect their first female president, another white, rich male came out on top.

Anger is expected. It is felt by so many. So many people let anger cloud the fear underneath, at the heart of things. I admit, I have anger, especially after the events of a week as bad as this, but I am mostly afraid. I am afraid for our world.

The stories in the news this week, like for months, have been all about events in the US. I knew though that soon enough other stories would come along and shift focus, even for a few days time, and that happened with the announcement that Leonard Cohen was gone. This, I admit, I was not expecting.

When it comes to the unexpected or to change, I struggle, like most people. Can I right myself though?

If we tilt very far toward one way of living or thinking or being, we’re more likely to topple over. So, I try to remember to remain within some level of my own middle ground. Much of the world struggles with this, in terms of governments or communities or families or individuals.

Change, we think, often means progress, going forward. Suddenly, then along comes the kind of change that feels like it threatens to take us backward. What feels wrong to one person feels oh so right, like going home, back to the way things used to be, should be.

I am not a poet, or am I? I try harder. I try to learn from a man who was, a Canadian legend of a man, who wrote poetry, and novels, and lyrics.

I try to listen, even now, to his voice, in interviews. As he aged and his voice became lower and lower, and deeper and deeper, he kept on learning and discovering what it all meant to be alive.

As I experienced his voice, Growing up, his voice in the songs I had no real connection to, it made me uncomfortable. I can only describe the feeling as one of unsettled. It was all so somber and even frightening. Life, as I realize more and more, is often about allowing oneself to feel the discomfort and all that is often so very unsettling.

A lot of these things that happen, that happened this week, are unsettling in a whole new kind of way. They aren’t all about peace and live and let live, not like a batch of Leonard Cohen lyrics. I realize now that he was sharing all that life can feel like.

We all have our position on a number of issues, key issues that affect us. Some things don’t touch us, hardly at all, or not at all. We can’t possibly listen to every song ever made.

For a long time I have done my best to respect that everyone of us has various positions on the things that matter and those that matter not as much, perhaps, to different people. This becomes harder and harder, which just means the stakes are bigger and bigger.

I stay in my bubble of a life, surrounding myself with other people that often share my sentiments on most things. This can be dangerous, or has proven to be, for not just myself. No wonder, then, that it comes as a shock how other people feel. We do ourselves a huge disservice by not trying to learn what else there is, going on, that another person might just be feeling, in the place where another lives. It’s so very hard to meet another, somewhere in the middle of the road. Some of us would rather walk alone than even try.

Not everybody can write poetry. Not everyone wants to. I should say, anyone could, if they acknowledged the anger but allowed themselves to feel the fear. Art makes things that are so often unbearable, bearable, or just a little less unbearable anyway.

I see greed and fear and unbending, unyielding unwillingness all around, the unwillingness to let life teach us, to admit we don’t know it all. I label these things, as being what is, though I really can’t say, should not say, for sure, at all.

I want to never stop hearing beautiful things, as the ugly is so easy to find, and to produce my own lyrical thought. I want to learn what makes people do and say what they do and say. Human beings will never stop being fascinating to me, for what causes them to be and do it all.

So, why should I be surprised at both the expected and the unexpected in life anyway? I’m not, of either one.

It’s time for another
Finish The Sentence Friday
after a particularly rough week. Though, surprise surprise, whether expected or not, life was always like that.

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NaNo NaNo NaNo, #NaNoWriMo #SoCS

I want to write a novel and
this
is a small bit of what it will be about.

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Three years ago, this very month of November it was, I took a stab at writing my first
novel.

I took part in
National Novel Writing Month
because on their site it said: “The world needs your novel.”

Really? Mine? Hmm.

I had an idea for a novel in my brain for several years. It was a family story about how three generations of a family deal with losing someone they love.

I wrote fifty thousand words in thirty days. The website that year wasn’t all that accessible and so I did not get much farther off from registering. I did not keep track of my word count like everyone else online. I did it on Twitter instead. It didn’t matter that the website for the organization was a bit of a nightmare. All that really truly counted would be the words I would write.

No flashy completion badges for me once I crossed the finish line. I knew in my heart that I’d done it and that was all that mattered.

Three years later and I haven’t done it again, but I did buy the t-shirt.

I did not take a month or two, Christmas off, before returning to my first attempt at a novel like is suggested. I did what they said. I wrote to get to fifty thousand. I would edit later.

Or would I?

I have the words somewhere, I hope. I don’t keep track of all my documents on all the laptop switches since 2014, oops. I emailed a copy to myself, but that may be gone.

Was this one more in a long line of mistakes, failures, and regrets from my writing journey thus far?

I sent it to a friend, even as rough as it was, whom I trusted to give it her honest opinion. Maybe she has a copy still. I wouldn’t count on that.

I was not a planner, as is the case many times in the rest of life. I was a pantser. I didn’t have a plan. I just started to write from my themes of family, loss, grief, and resilience.

I can’t let that idea go, but a novel is such an enormous task to take on.

I would have loved to participate again this year. I have faith that the website has improved for visually impaired and blind users. I now know someone locally, one who is from my local writing group and is in charge of support for writers doing NaNo in our immediate area. My writing group is talking mostly all about NaNo all month.

I would have abandoned my first novel, still in progress somewhere, to try writing this newer idea which has shaped and formed in my mind in the three years since that first attempt.

This one is historical fiction, unlike that first one which took place in a more contemporary setting.

This one will be mostly fiction, but loosely based on family. It takes place in Europe during World War II. It’s about a woman who is a mother of three small children throughout the war. There is struggle and bravery all around her. Her decisions aren’t easy ones.

We who study history know all about the Holocaust, about big events such as D Day, which are both important, but what was life like for other people who were going about their business and living their lives when war broke out?

***Just practicing with early versions of my elevator pitch.

I would have taken a crack at this, but apparently I can’t handle a project of this size and my continual violin lessons at the same time. I haven’t got the brain power to muster for both.

Maybe next year, once I’ve been playing violin for more than a year. Maybe.

So much going on. World events are wild, whether it’s war in the twentieth century or world upheaval in the twenty-first.

My brain is full near to capacity at the moment.

When a story sticks in the head like this one and the one before have, I don’t think I will be getting them out of there anytime soon.

NaNo, NaNo, NaNo sounds like a taunt to me, that I couldn’t hack both writing and music lessons, but this isn’t your ordinary, everyday writing. This week is a tense one, and who knows where we’ll all be next week this time. Hopefully all those brave enough to take on writing fifty thousand words this month will still be writing. I do think it makes for an excellent distraction.

Now I stop writing and it’s time to practice my violin. I just like to do an update on where I am, with every passing year, as November and NaNo again rolls around.

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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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TToT: Wave Form Audio – Drop and Drag, #10Thankful #RoaldDahl100

“Don’t analyze. Don’t analyze. Don’t go that way. Don’t live that way. That would paralyze your evolution.”

Analyze – The Cranberries

I love autumn and am glad when the days cool off from oppressive summer heat waves. Lots of waves. Waves at the beach this past summer. Waves of fear that I am making wrong choices or not making choices out of fear to begin with. There are audio waves too, I’m learning. Letting that wash over me.

September has arrived and I feel a lot of pressure. I feel tense a lot. I feel the turmoil going on everywhere around me, in this giant and complex world. I try to find my place in it. I try to not allow things I have no control over to drive me to even more stress and distraction. Such anxieties are common, universal, and I can get through and keep moving forward.

And so, here I am, I will try not to analyze everything and I am more thankful than ever.

I am thankful for the perfect title for an essay I’m working on.

It was provided by one of my brother’s friends on Facebook.

I know. I know. I need to finish writing the entire essay, but I get inspiration and a direction to my essays if I have the right title to begin with.

This one is just so perfect, so fitting, and then I took his idea and I ran with it.

I am thankful I have started to learn a new song on my violin. It’s a special one, something I’m learning for someone special who’s on the way, before we know it.

This required I start playing a new string, the D string. Up until now I was only playing on half of my strings, E and A, but now I need to learn to move my fingers over just a little more and to hold my bow on a slightly differing angle.

I am thankful to have such a smart niece, one who seems wiser than her nearly six years on this planet and who knows how and when to ask the right questions.

Okay, so she may have done that thing where you answer a question with another question, but when you have something important to ask, I say go for it.

I am thankful that we got the second episode of our podcast all done and recorded.

All we need to do now is a little bit of editing. We were aiming to keep Ketchup On Pancakes at sixty minutes, which episode one just magically seemed to be. This one’s looking more like seventy minutes, but we think we can cut it down a bit more before we release it.

We just need to research more about podcast platforms and how it all works.

I’m thankful, especially, that we got one segment in particular completed.

We decided to read one of the short stories I’d previously written on my blog, as more of a dramatic reading, and you don’t realize how difficult that is until you keep messing up words.

It took about eight or nine takes to get through the small story with the least amount of mistakes throughout. We were both reading from our braille devices and you can actually hear our fingers moving across the dots as they pop up, as we move through the lines. We decided we like that sound in the background.

I am thankful for awareness for pain.

It’s something I don’t talk a lot about on my blog. The stigma and judgments are out there and sometimes I feel like people don’t want to keep hearing about it.

September is Pain Awareness Month and I do believe that anyone living with pain should not have to hide away. I know that must sound contradictory, but I do believe fear of judgment is often what it boils down to.

I am thankful and grateful because I actually have a pretty wonderful support system, where others do not. I do want to bring this silent suffering out into the open.

I have found some things that help and that work to make things bearable, but I thought it worth mentioning at this time.

I am thankful for even more awareness of a different kind.

Whether it’s the awareness of feminist issues or disability awareness, this week I was reminded a lot and heard from those speaking out and up.

Rick Hansen Interview – CBC’s The National

Again, people fight it. They become angry and defensive, on both sides, but if you’ve never experienced something yourself, I would hope there would be compassion and a little understanding for something someone else may have gone through to make them feel they need to say something or do something.

There are some who say they don’t want to identify themselves as feminist. That probably means, once again, they haven’t had many problems with something, be that a woman who has lived a somewhat privileged life and has had no reason to feel the need to fight for something.

I don’t care what you call it. I call it feminism and people freak out. I use the word equality and it’s pointed out that nobody has total equality with everything. I just speak from my unique experiences. I’ve been lucky, but I’ve also felt extremely limited in the world. I am taking steps toward empowerment, but it’s not as easy as it might seem.

I am thankful for a relatively stress free visit to a school for the blind in a city not too far from me.

I did not go there for my education. I went there this week to check out some computer equipment, to see about getting some new technology.

A lot of that is now becoming more accessible with the introduction of Apple products. They don’t require, for the first time, extra software or programs to make things square. It’s all built in.

But there’s still the braille readers and they can be thousands of dollars. Here in Canada, in Ontario where I live, there is a governmental program which helps out with the cost.

I am thankful my nephew made it through his first full week of school.

We ask him if he likes school, if his teacher is nice, and we get mostly “yes” to our questions.

He’s probably wondering why we are so curious. Things are more likely to come out at more random moments, like the rocks from the playground he kept bringing home in his pockets, or the little girls who are likely a few years older than him and who help him with his backpack when it’s time to get off of the bus.

It’s both exciting and anxiety inducing. He’s getting so big. All the children in my life are.

I am thankful for the connection made possible through WhatsApp.

It’s how my friend living over in Ireland sends family back here in Canada photos and videos of her one-year-old daughter.

I am honoured to be added to such an exclusive group. She includes descriptions of the pictures when she sends them so I know what’s going on in them.

Oh, and, Happy Birthday Mr. Dahl, who would’ve turned 100 this week.

My grandfather Roald Dahl, the magician

This article written by his granddaughter in The Guardian made me miss my own grandfather, who never published a book, but who was a magical storyteller himself.

“I will not pretend I wasn’t petrified. I was. But mixed in with the awful fear was a glorious feeling of excitement. Most of the really exciting things we do in our lives scare us to death. They wouldn’t be exciting if they didn’t.” So says the boy hero of Danny, the champion of the world.

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Reviewing “Kindred” #SoCS #BookReview

If I used to doubt I could like a book about time travel, I sure have been proven wrong this week.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday, #SoCS

If framed in a way that reminds me of how time travel books are just stories about history, I am likely more willing to take a chance and read on.

My writing mentor has helped me see that I could travel to another country to have new experiences and go for my goals, so why not be the one to prove me and my dislike for time travel novels wrong too?

Travel. Time travel. These two share a few similarities.

With both (one fictional and the other super easy with the invention of aviation especially), we learn a lot about another place and people we’d never met otherwise.

I often wonder how I would react to find myself in the situation the characters found themselves in here.

I like to think I could cope. We all make do. I would adapt. I am good at that.

I don’t have practice living without luxuries like plumbing and running water and indoor toilet facilities. I guess I would do poorly in a time travel situations, not that anyone swept up by it in this particular book had much of a choice.

I do love history a lot, especially the history of the last few centuries.

My writing mentor shares books and I likely wouldn’t have found this one:

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler,

if it hadn’t been for her recommending it.

It was an audio book. I like to do the reading sometimes, but other times, I like to be able to just sit back and let someone else bring the story to life through their own storytelling ability. It’s like its own little piece of performance art. I’m not sure I would have the skill to make any story I might read come alive to the listeners in this way myself.

This story was a lot more than time travel, but really that has its place. I should have learned from the whole Lord of the Rings and fantasy genre experience.

Kindred is about an interracial couple in California in 1976. One day, while moving into their first home together, Dana is putting books away on a shelf when she starts feeling strange. Before she knows what has happened, the room, her husband, and the year she is living in all vanish and she finds herself on a riverbank.

After she suddenly hears cries and ends up saving a young child from nearly drowning, she finds herself in another time and about to embark on a strange back-and-forth adventure, from 1976 to the early 1800s. She and this child will become linked, through time and space, for reasons beyond either one of their comprehensions, until that link is finally severed for good.

I would recommend reading this book, as it is written so much better than I could ever sum up here, but instead I can speak to what this particular story ended up meaning to me.

Whether it’s 1819 or 1976 or 2016, some things are radically different and yet others aren’t really so different at all.

The biggest difference is, of course, that in the early 19th century, slavery was in full force in the United States of America. But, even if it was abolished one hundred years or more prior to the year 1976, a lot of the deeply ingrained cultural beliefs were still evident. Even though the 1960s was known as the decade of Civil Rights, things hadn’t evolved all that much by the 70s.

A lot of things take years and years to know in reality. A country hardly changes enough for all of its citizens in the years of any one person’s lifetime, or multiple generations.

All the racial tensions that seem to be building once more in the US of today have always been there. Rights have been fought hard for and laws eventually changed, but changing hearts and minds of a country’s people can’t be legislated.

Far from me to lecture, but denial that the problem was as bad or still is, this is more common than most people would like to think or are capable of even hearing.

So many of the scenes in the pre-Civil War era of Kindred involved life on a plantation and vivid descriptions of the mistreatment of slaves, the deep seeded ranking of white people and slave owners being above the dark skinned people they had control over, this was all stuff I’d heard about. How anyone could ever truly believe another human being who looked different was less human is beyond me. But that is the point I suppose. That time was beyond me. I like to take the holier-than-thou stance that I never would or could’ve stood for treating a dog let alone a person like people were treated then, but I know I can’t say that for sure.

My mind struggles to try and understand it. I can’t.

Even while I read and learn, even fictionally about that time in history, I can’t comprehend fully. Of course I can’t.

It was the repeated descriptions of whippings that were hardest to take. Many times I reflexively began to reach over to turn off the book or to get up, to distract myself from the words and the meaning behind them, but I couldn’t. Something held me there.

I felt as baffled when the black and white couple (Dana and Kevin) told their families about their plans to marry in 1976 and were met with nothing but disdain, as much as by many of the things I heard when time travel had taken them, (in a way me), back in time to 1819.

I think a lot of us would much rather live in a bit of a denial state, than to almost force ourselves to hear things we don’t want to hear and learn the facts that we can never unlearn. I know I would, but then my mouth would always be so full of sand from my head being stuck in it.

Linda Hill’s prompt for this week can be found here.

Not sure a so-called book review can be written through stream of consciousness writing. Most times, we think of book reviews as the book reports we were told to do in school. I don’t think this necessarily has to be so.

These are just a few of my thoughts while reading. I just wanted to take a moment here, on record, to make note of one book I am very glad I listened to. I think books like this are more important than ever.

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My Top Spills and Thrills of 2015

Okay, so instead of a movie review for the newest instalment in the Star Wars franchise (which I am postponing until 2016), I am attempting to sum up this past year: the good and the bad.

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It has been a year of huge surprises, stupid spills, and awful scares for myself and my family, but there were thrills to be had throughout. It all ended, with a bit of a bang, and now here I am. I see I am not the first to write one of these, but since I waited and just posted about my hopes for the coming year, last New Year’s Day, I thought I would follow that up with another review, of sorts, about how those hopes translated into one wild ride of a 2015.

First Day of the Rest of My Life

I say in that post that I am not a fan of resolutions at the end of one year, with the blank slate of a new year stretching out in front, but I did have a vision for what I hoped my year might look like.

Now that I can reread that post and see how I fared, I want to bring it all together.

This is how it’s done.

So I thought I would take a page out of this blogger’s book/blog and go month by month. Bare with me.

JANUARY

One of my first posts of 2015 was all about trying new things.

Speeding Up and Slowing Down

I hoped this would be a sign of things to come for the year.

I continued participating in something that matters to me, that is all about a subject near and dear to my heart and life. I would continue writing about awareness for equality and disability rights. This post was a kind shout-out to all that.

I Don’t Want Coffee. Here Are Some Links, Though.

This links to another blog hop I could participate in, if I had more time and more days of the week, but I read it weekly. I have found and left a few different circles of bloggers and blogging groupings over the last few years, but many of these circles intertwine with one another, here and there.

Speaking of blogging circles – January was the start of one of the best things I’ve gotten involved in in a long time.

We All Need The Village

&

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

Thank you: Lizzi and Yvonne.

Also, it was a month of endings and beginnings.

Letting Go and Continuing to Write Another Day

The ending of an opportunity for the short story I’d written gave way for the beginning of a chance event, one for which I am so glad I snatched up my chance to be included in, in the months that would follow.

FEBRUARY

This, my birthday month, brought not only the day to celebrate my birth, but also the celebration of my first full year of blogging.

One Year and Counting: Kind and Generous

Then came

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

And after that, my first contribution of many for #1000Speak, there came more focus on kindness with a post I’d written, which was published on a site devoted to love and friendship.

A Friend In B By Kerry Kijewski

I continued to write about a vitally important cause to me, rare illness awareness

Rare Disease Day, 2015: Ventilation

There was a weekend in Ottawa with a friend. This I will never forget.

This year I took a step forward, in the right direction after lost love, and began dating again.

Dating in the Dark

This is my life.

MARCH

This was not easy for me and I didn’t want to do it, but I did it and hope to do more of it.

Microwave Popcorn For Dinner It Is

As the year went on I managed to keep a secret that I’d been keeping hidden for a few months. It would involve the struggle I constantly have inside about the fine line between truth and fiction, memoir or not?

Truth Or Fiction: Which One Is Stranger?

The first of two weekly blog hops I would soon come to depend on for both comfort and inspiration began as the third month of 2015 came to a close.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

And I finally published an interview, long worked on and awaited, with a female who is making a mark for herself as a smart businesswoman.

Keep Calm and Get Your Hair Done

There were three deaths this year, in the entertainment world, of which were sad ones to me.

The first was Richard Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. Edward Herman died almost exactly one year ago.

I did not write a post for this at the time, but wanted to include him here and now, with news recently of a NetFlix Gilmore Girls reboot, of which the man who played Mr. Gilmore will not be able to reprise his brilliantly portrayed role.

RIP Edward Herman

(He had an amazing voice and used it to read voiceovers, playing Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Ken Burns documentary, of which I watched near the end of the year, after Herman was gone.)

Second,

Love and Despair

with the shocking death of Jonathan Crombie (Gilbert), the man behind the portrayal of a great literary heroic character.

Third, Christopher Lee.

Into The West: RIP Sir Christopher Lee

APRIL

Babies are born and babies die everyday.

Departed and Demented

Upon hearing of the loss of one precious life, for which I had to rant about the unfair ways of the world, next came a re-blog from my own blog, written one year earlier, the worst kind of anniversary imaginable.

The Dark Mark

These few things from early in the month on my blog only served to show the contrasted miracle, the wonderful shock I would get at the end of the month

I had no idea I was about to learn of the upcoming birth of a sweet child in the month of spring’s renewed promise.

Let’s just say, to say I was shocked to learn of my friend’s pregnancy was an understatement. Best surprise all year and, as I continue on with this 2015 summary, that is about to demonstrate how much this brand new little girl means to me because she is a part of my oldest friend. No publishing achievement or literary goal met can possibly compete.

I saw my aunt twice this year, in her new home, a senior’s long-term care facility, sadly. My uncle, my father’s half-brother, he visited from Germany. He wanted to see his sister because nobody knows when it will be their final time together.

Milestones and Siblings

I spent lots of time with family, not only during the month of April, but I make a point to do this every month, any time during any given year. This year, 2015 was no exception.

Orphaned

It was only by doing this that I could think enough about how lucky I am to have family of my own, that I was able to write the guest post about famous orphans in literature.

MAY

Into the fifth month of 2015, nearly halfway now, and things really took a lousy turn.

I was distracted and although the first computer problem was a simple mistake, a fluke thing and a sign of my naivete with technology, it was only when I was careless enough to have a sticky drink next to my precious laptop that I really had something to kick myself over.

Having to fall back and depend on an ex boyfriend to fix things was a hard thing to do. I knew he’d help, if I asked, but I didn’t wish to bother him. It was still hard to admit that he was the one person I would still need, in the desperation I was facing, when it came to computers and technology, the one person I would still trust most to help and help he did. He’s good like that.

If it weren’t for the honour of a request to write a post on a writer’s site whom I greatly admire, the month would have been a total disaster.

Writing the World, Sight Unseen

The girl’s got a way with coming up with titles. Oh, and she’s got the neatest sounding last name around.

🙂

Oh, and then there’s this.

The Second Chances Anthology

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At least some good came from the month of May.

Oh, and I can’t forget this either and never could.

Ten Things of Thankful

May was the month I joined this wonderful weekly blog hop. Many examples of what TToT stands for and looks like can be found in the comment section of this origin post.

There was, also, the series finale of a truly great show.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Men World

End of an era really, or several, from the 60s onward to the end of 2015 and the start of 2016.

JUNE

And I had a publisher. Yay!

Little Bird Publishing House

And with that, I had to attempt to put into words what writing means to me.

How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life

Still working on this, but I keep letting other things come first.

Close But No Cigar

The year 2015 was now halfway over. I was still working on both education and love.

New Month, New Me

Another milestone. I made it another year with my father’s kidney, working and keeping me well and off dialysis. Every year I avoid that is a reason to celebrate.

The year 2015 has been a spectacular one for music.

Every F****n Day – Lolawolf

“You must be curious. Even…just…a little.”

🙂

This song, among others, made my year and it was only half over.

Figure It Out – Royal Blood

I was trying.

This year, 2015, meant the anniversaries for my grandparents’ deaths:

**Five years for Grandpa

Ruby Red

**Five years for Oma

Gardens of Sunset

**And ten years for Grandma

You Are My Sunshine

Speaking of death, the composer of the wonderful Titanic soundtrack died, tragically, in a plane crash.

RIP James Horner

The US did make some progress this summer.

ROYGBIV

JULY

My country has made some much needed changes this year too.

Canada Day, 2015

We’re working on reconciliation and welcoming our differences, rather than hiding them away and spreading fear.

Life is all about the fireworks.

BANG!!!

Whether it was the stress of a first date or the unpredictability of a summer fling,

(Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus, and Then There’s Jupiter)

I had one hell of a summer.

One Last Kiss

I’VE BEEN PUBLISHED!!!

CHECK!

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That’s another item I can check off my bucket list.

Color, Light, and Magic

Plus another guest post on J.K. Rowling’s end-of-July 50th birthday.

AUGUST

It was a truly spectacular book and a fascinating study in literature.

Jean Louise The Silent: My Review of “Go Set A Watchman”, Part One

&

Jean Louise The Silent: My Review of “Go Set A Watchman”, Part Two

The summer was full of not only literature, but also some amazing theatre performances, culture, and history.

Read a review of the play here:

Stratford’s Diary of Anne Frank

And the summer ended with a bit of nature by Future of the Ocean.

Big Blue Live

And one more guest post I had published on Hasty Words.

Be Real

My summer of 2015 was full of new experiences, harsh realities, and missed opportunities.

Rural Pride, County Wide

Sometimes, some things just aren’t meant to be.

SEPTEMBER

When the anthology with my story first came out in the summer it was only available as an EBook, but finally I could hold a book with a story I’d written in my own two hands. It was an indescribable feeling and a dream come true.

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With the arrival of autumn there’s the twenty year anniversary for Jagged Little Pill.

Perfection

At the end of the month I had a trip to Toronto which was full of surprises and adventures.

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Faith and a Spinster’s Gratitude List – Harvest Moon

OCTOBER

I tried my hand at Writer’s Digest’s month long October Platform Challenge, but I messed it up and did not finish. Admittedly, it was a bit of a half effort and I misread the instructions.

Check it out here.

This year marks three anniversaries for television and music I’ve loved:

Gilmore Girls, A Boy Named Goo, Beverly Hills 90210

By the time we were nearing the end of 2015,

Canadians felt it was time for a change.

I also decided to try something a little different, when I was invited to do an interview for an online radio program.

Travelling with the Speed of Sight

Canada’s one-and-only Major League team, Toronto Blue Jays, came closer than they have in more than twenty years, to winning the World Series. It was a wild ride.

NOVEMBER

The eleventh month of 2015 found me trying something new, something I’ve wanted for a long time.

Words with Friends

Being a part of a writing group is exactly what I have needed to progress with my own writing. I hope to continue with this in the year to come.

Remembrance Day and November 11th had a special significance this year.

In Flanders Fields: One Hundred Years Later

An unassuming Friday the 13th in November turned into much more, so much devastation,

with the attack in Paris.

Then came the first of the hospitalizations for my brother for 2015 and this one was frightening enough, but it was only a prelude to what was to come for our December.

And with one one hundred year anniversary there came a forty year one shortly after,

with a Great Lakes ship wreck and a song written more like a tale set to music.

It was time to celebrate a great man.

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My Father Turned Sixty

On the final day of November.

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DECEMBER

As Long As There’s Christmas: My Grownup Letter For Santa, 2015

We almost made it. We’d arrived at mid month, only a few weeks left in 2015 and then the bottom dropped out.

My brother had a bad fall and suffered a brain injury.

For a few days we weren’t sure what kind of Christmas we would have, but my family and his friends never stopped believing he would come out of it the same old Brian.

Decade Adrift

The doctors didn’t want us to get our hopes up, but we had a Christmas like the others.

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We were all together and Brian played music again.

My last guest post of 2015. – Advent Calendar Day 20: One Tradition After Another

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Now I end 2015 with a huge Happy Birthday wish for the most special five-year-old around and I ring in 2016 with a friend. Girl’s night!

In the world of feminism, 2015 was a fabulous year for discovering awesome female voices in music, literature, travel, social issues, and history.

FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE: NEW SINGLE PACKS A PUNCH

The Danger of a Single Story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Talking to Amy Gigi Alexander

He Named Me Malala

&

The 1994 Miep Gies Lecture

Not all of these are current, but the act of me finding them this year is the point. All examples, of females who are or were strong, which gives me the push to keep moving forward.

Women of the Year: 30 Canadians Who Rocked 2015

On the continually fascinating subject of wickedly special females, three albums and their artists are worth mentioning this year:

First, Vulnicura.

Black Lake

by Bjork.

Second, How Big How Blue How Beautiful.

Ship To Wreck – Florence + The Machine.

And third, Honeymoon.

High by the Beach – Lana Del Ray

As for The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge, it was an every Monday sort of thing for the previous half of 2014 and I continued, missing a week here and there, but I have not forgotten about its importance in my own world and here on my blog.

This coming year I plan on really starting something that I want to focus on though. The year 2016 will be 20 years since I began the journey that matured me before my age likely would have otherwise.

Let Them Eat Cake

I have imagined writing a book about it, memoir called Piece of Cake, for years. Now that I have this blog I will start by writing about those days, as the next few years pass.

I have goals and dreams for 2016 and beyond, but I hesitate to speak of them all out loud, in fear of falling short.

FGP’s Virtual Holiday Party

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.

I want to keep working on the one and only “resolution” from 2014/2015: jealousy. I hate that part of myself and I wish I could let that go. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the best for others and don’t cheer other people on. It just means I do both and feel conflicted.

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.

We in Canada made a change and took a stand in 2015 and, the question for 2016 is and will be: America, will you?

Okay, so I just went through my entire blog for the year, to prepare for this post. I know. It was a long one.

Wow, I wrote a lot. I did not receive an end-of-the-year WP blog stats report like I did last year though. Hmmm. Wonder if that means I didn’t do well with follows, comments, and views this year. Ah well. Staying true to myself and remaining authentic is all I can ask for.

Goodbye 2015…hello 2016. Be kind.

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