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The Struggle Is Real, #JusJoJan

Perspective is important.

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Perspective is important and being a writer helps me find some.

I used to stare at the coloured fish, swimming around the long rows of tanks at the pet store. I wondered what they were thinking, through that glass. I still wonder, though I can no longer spot them.

Did we hold the power, us who looked at them through the glass and from our positions in the world outside?

Or did they hold their own kind of silent power, somewhere in there?

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother. Why do I bother to write at all?

Do words really hold a kind of silent power?

Or any power at all?

But I continue to write because it gives me a sense of power in a world where I feel mostly powerless.

Who really has the power and what were they willing to do, who were they willing to become, to get it?

You have the power! Just Jot It January #JusJoJan

Hosted, once more,
by No Facilities.

I jot things down anyway, so sometimes I am doing it here. One of these days I should share the to-do list I am working with for this most special first month of the new year. I believe that is allowed, if I read the rules correctly.

Today’s prompt came from this blog right here.

I hope I can soon have a week away from the temptation of time to check social media, to listen to the news on television. I hope to have no time to think about what might be going on between myself and the place I call home – Canada.

I hope I may soon find myself so busy trying new things that there is no time for everything that worries me.

Power to run one’s own life is the good kind of power. Any power over others can become dangerous, but we all have power over someone else, in a great number of ways, at one time or another.

I want to be free of the ways in which I may feel someone holds some power over me. I am doing this by focusing on myself.

I want to take back my own power. I don’t want to hold that power over anyone else.

I do worry that Canada and Justin Trudeau will be negatively influenced by the country which has always had more power on the world stage.

If my country has or has had power, it would be a less obvious power, one most people would refute. Maybe we will have the chance to show what we are made of here soon. Or, maybe we will be squashed by our close physical placement. If one country sinks under the weight of tearing itself apart, how long can Canada stay afloat on its own? Maybe we would become an island for the drowning and how long could that possibly last?

In certain situations, like on the school playground, the stronger, the one with all the real wisdom, is actually said to be the bullied. The bully is said to be the weak one. I know this in my heart. The world does not recognize this as a whole. We lecture our children that it’s wrong to bully, but we don’t model that belief.

Bravado is what makes noise and waves a lot of the time, but the really powerful waves come from those who feel oppressed, little, or unheard.

Who holds the power, really?

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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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TToT: Alliance, Maladies, Rare – “Quiet, Screaming Desperation” #10Thankful

The news coming out of certain places, parts of the world, like the fighting in Aleppo keeps getting worse and worse. The only way I can seem to deal with it is by acknowledging the reasons I am thankful.

I am thankful it’s this year and not last. Yeah, let’s start there.

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My animals love my tree. Dobby and Lumos.

I’m thankful for yet another medical checkup, my second last to my twenty-year anniversary checkup, which will come in June.

I didn’t ask what the record for that clinic has been. I don’t even think they are planning some giant party when I return in June. I just thought it worth marking.

Again, I felt like so many other patients needed the doctors a lot more than I did. I didn’t even see the head nephrologist, probably because I’ve been so stable, so I saw another doctor and he told me that, once again, my levels were good and I was out the door, after waiting for hours.

The service is not really something to complain about. It’s only twice a year. I didn’t mind sitting and waiting. And waiting some more. I know how lucky I am. It may not last forever, but until those numbers start going up, I am believing that it still could.

I’m thankful for my violin teacher’s patience as I don’t use enough of my bow or I don’t trust myself nearly enough.

We are learning Silent Night and I remember the notes, but my confidence is where the problems are.

She is always ready with suggestions for how I can keep improving.

I’m thankful for brave writers.

The Stripe – Full Grown People

Sometimes you read a piece of writing and you are immediately blown away by the guts it must have taken the writer to put those words out there.

When I read this essay I instantly felt floored at the gutsy person who would put such personal thoughts out into the world. I’m not sure I could. I don’t even know where a line should be, because not all people believe everything should be written about, and still people do it.

I’m thankful we finally got our newest episode of the podcast released.

The Great Gong Show of 2016 – Ketchup on Pancakes

This was a show about politics, but just this once likely. It is not our area of expertise. I get far too emotional when talking about it. I just thought it was worth doing at the time. It was a serious subject, but I hope we ended on a positive and we tried to throw in a little bit of humour, where applicable.

I’m thankful we made the decision and went for a year’s upgraded subscription for SoundCloud.

This means we plan to keep going with this project into 2017 and who knows where it might lead.

I’m thankful for the chance to meet new people, local writers, to build relationships and connections.

By chance I came across a Facebook group about writing and it just so happened there were a few other writers there from my area. We all three decided it would be a good idea to meet up to discuss writing and local discussion about events with a literary theme.

It was so lovely to speak to a woman with older children, who has a longer career in writing for magazines and other publications, who is full-time freelancing. She was full of ideas and willing to share valued experiences with us.

The other woman has a science background, now with a young child at home, trying to get into the world of freelance writing. We all had something to contribute. I felt like people understood something about me, writer to writer to writer.

I felt like just one of the girls. I felt understood.

I’m thankful for a newly discovered place to shop locally.

The Closet

I’m thankful my cousin runs it and took the time to help me find a few new/used things for my upcoming trip.

I’m thankful I can challenge my long running phobia of used things like secondhand or slightly worn clothes.

I am sensitive to smells and to the idea of old things. I am learning that many things have value, that it’s important not to continually contribute to the rampant consumerism and material waste, and that everything has a story. Finding a deal isn’t bad either.

I am thankful for snow.

It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s kind of messy. I know all this and I complain in the moment, just like everybody else, but then I step outside on a silent, snowy night. I listen to the silence and I feel the light flakes falling on my hair and on the car. One hits the tip of my nose and I stick out my tongue. A snowflake falls there too.

I walk through the snow coated, snow-covered, cold ground. I hear my feet crunch in it. I love a snowy December night in Canada.

So much snow falling this week in Toronto, during rush hour, and the ploughs can’t possibly keep up. This is really what we choose to complain about?

It’s the kind of silence where chaos can begin and where any screams of parts of the world are too easily ignored.

I have so much to be thankful for and I know it. I don’t always feel like I deserve it, but I know.

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Chop Wood, Carry Water

Sharing from Canada.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

14324288_10155236661220558_5376449924283212640_oWe woke up and everything was different. Maybe we woke in the middle of the night, tried not to check our phone, checked our phone anyway, and spent the hours before dawn in a bleak haze, waiting for the moment it was late enough to decently call someone. Maybe a call came—your mother has died. Or, it’s time to let the cat go. Or, our country has elected a demagogue.

Maybe we woke to the memory of yesterday, the doctor saying, Let’s discuss your options, our lover telling us they’ve found someone else—found her, in fact, months ago. All we want is to go back to sleep, back in time, to the moment before the disaster, the break-up, the crash, to the moment of sweet unknowing, when everything was still OK.

How can we write? How can we read?

How can we possibly address the page with our life…

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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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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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A Review of Barbara Hurd’s Listening to the Savage: River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies

I listened, to hear things as they are. So many amazing books out there. Rivers lead to the ocean. Listen closely.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

41zGDljwFgL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBy Alexis Paige

About half-way through Barbara Hurd’s latest essay collection, Listening to the Savage: River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies, I find myself splayed across a granite boulder in the middle of the small river that runs through my backyard in rural Vermont. Obviously, I am listening for crayfish. An avid river watcher, I confess that until reading this beautiful, brilliant book, I had not considered the role of river listener, or river monitor as Hurd calls herself, pointing out that monitor derives from the Latin monere, which means to warn or advise—even to remind or teach, according to my old Latin dictionary. From my back porch, I often eye the river’s movements, its patterns, its shimmer and light; I watch for deer, wild turkeys, ospreys, foxes, bald eagles, and the occasional Great Blue Heron. Recently, in the shallows near the yard, a few kids appeared, pants hiked…

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